I. And one time he was only too glad to put the uniform back on.
Spock of Vulcan finally understands the human emotion, the state of being, which is called fascination.
Had someone asked him a year, a month – even a week – ago, what he might be feeling at this point in time, he would of course have answered with the usual Vulcan platitudes about human emotion; he had expected to feel nothing after the Enterprise's new captain boarded the ship for the first time, to take command of the Federation's primary exploratory vessel in a command move that has been heralded in the public eye as the promotion of the decade.
A change of command is simply that: a change. Nothing more, nothing less, and certainly nothing to be sufficient cause for any initial sensation other than a technical transfer of loyalty. Spock has, from the time he learned of the change, expected to merely fulfill his duties as Science officer under Captain Kirk as thoroughly and efficiently as he did under Captain Pike.
Kirk's reputation precedes him; the man is reportedly the 'shooting star of the Academy,' the youngest man to ever take captaincy of a Constitution-class starship, with only fourteen years of post-Academy experience under his metaphorical belt. James T. Kirk is a charismatic young human, reportedly able to charm his way into the hearts – and otherwise – of women across the galaxy; he is characterized in official reports as impulsive and somewhat unorthodox in diplomacy, yet highly intelligent and resourceful, for a human. Based upon First Officer Gary Mitchell's enthusiastic singing of Kirk's praises, Spock expects the captain to be quite annoyingly self-confident, even arrogant, in his own charm and abilities.
All in all, James Tiberius Kirk appears to be by reputation the antithesis of Vulcan calm and logic. Spock does not anticipate the man becoming anything but a mild annoyance at times when compared to Captain Pike's polite aloofness toward all but his Number One. This change of personality is not a great hardship; Spock is quite accustomed to remaining apart from all human companionship, and indeed prefers it that way. He is well able to handle an arrogant young human flying high on adrenaline and good luck.
Spock does not see the new captain the first day and night Kirk comes aboard; he is quite busy in the laboratories, overseeing the installation of new long-range sensors in preparation for their shakedown cruise to the edge of the known galaxy. Instead, Spock is forced to listen at Officers' Mess the following morning, to Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott (the only human who really has ever shown any communicative interest with him aboard) fairly overflowing with exuberant praise for the new captain and Kirk's apparent interest in Engineering.
That the captain would discard Gary Mitchell's invitation to a final round of alcoholic beverages their last night over San Francisco in favor of touring the Engineering Deck until late in ship's night is rather unusual. Spock is, however, aware that the way to Scott's heart is through his warp core, and so takes this with the grain of salt humans are so fond of mentioning in their peculiar little metaphors.
Scott finally finishes breaking his fast and leaves Spock to his own devices, which are a small bowl of combined Terran and Vulcan fruits, and a fairly lengthy set of reports and requisitions for him to sign before they depart dry-dock. Many of them, Spock notes with interest, already bear the captain's signature, though the man has hardly been aboard for even twenty-four hours. Many more of them, he notes with far less interest, and more Vulcan disdain (disgust is an emotion, disdain is merely reaction to a stimulus), are various reports from his Science labs saying that Captain Kirk apparently decided peering over his engineers' shoulders was not sufficient, and instead spent the hours from ship's midnight to 0500 doing the same to his unprepared Science staff.
The idea that Kirk toured his departments without warning is not necessarily the frustrating occurrence it would be to a human, who would be less prepared at all times for such an inspection. However, Spock would have preferred to be notified, and to have conducted the tour himself. Kirk obviously has a habit of doing what he likes, where he likes – and, judging by the glowing reports addended by his primary Science staff, the human is on a one-man mission to charm his way into the hearts of every crewman aboard.
Spock refrains from sighing with annoyance, as he signs off on a review of Science Lab Nine's installation of their advanced bio-thermal imagery scanners, complete with glowing comments about the captain's interest in their capabilities.
Captain James T. Kirk is already fast becoming an annoyance, and Spock has yet to even meet the man.
Engrossed in his work, he nearly drops the PADD on the table in surprise as a tray is plunked down beside his, followed by a command-gold blur of energy and sparkling hazel eyes that are suddenly just scant inches from his startled face.
"Commander Spock, I presume," the captain says, smiling with what looks to be genuine interest. At Spock's slightly dazed nod, the human continues, blithely ignoring the fact that he is breaking every law of Vulcan personal space which has ever existed. "Your reputation among your colleagues at the Academy was not exaggerated, Mr. Spock. I've spent a very enlightening night with your Science departments."
In eleven years, no human has ever voluntarily sat with Spock over a meal, unless it is to discuss business matters aboard ship or unless no other seat was open during a peak meal time.
Nor has anyone of command rank ever given him the courtesy of calling him 'Commander,' when technically he is merely Lieutenant-Commander despite his length of service in the ‘Fleet.
Nor has any human ever commented on his not-insignificant reputation as a Vulcan scientist, the foremost in his field in Starfleet's ranks.
Nor has anyone, human or otherwise, simultaneously invaded his personal space while still unconsciously transmitting a telepathically tangible aura of respect.
Happily unaware of Spock's astonished thought processes, their new captain cheerfully prattles onward about what he has seen aboard in the last twelve hours, how impressed he is with the Science departments and their efficiency scores over the 'Fleet average, etc., etc.
Spock is only just recovering enough to make his own diplomatic attempt at conversation, when Kirk suddenly freezes dramatically, eyes wide over a piece of replicated turkey bacon now halfway to his mouth.
"I forgot, your people are vegetarian, aren't they! Am I completely ruining my first impression, Commander?"
Spock sets his PADD down resignedly (at the dynamic and speed Kirk is talking, Spock will never get his work done without the aid of auditory dampeners), and answers in the negative, resisting the urge to smile at the human's obvious relief when he returns his full attention to his meal.
Apparently, Kirk's reputation for charming his way past any and all cultural barriers is, indeed, quite accurate.
Spock of Vulcan finally understands the human sensation of relief.
In the six months he has served under Captain James Tiberius Kirk, Spock has utterly, irretrievably, and dangerously fallen under the man's almost hypnotic charisma. It is a phenomenon most inexplicable, and yet it does exist; he has, much like the rest of the crew, suddenly found himself drawn to Kirk like he has never before been so to another commander. Kirk is the first human in his experience to treat him with whole-hearted and totally unaffected acceptance – completely without bigotry, prejudice, or even the expectation that Spock be anything but precisely what he is.
Not even from his mother, has Spock ever received such acceptance; for even she, as loving and practically perfect as she was – not even she had been able to quite erase all indication that Spock was expected to perform under certain parameters, certain Vulcan expectations which he had no hope of meeting satisfactorily. But from Kirk…from this particular human Spock has only received warm smiles, the occasional teasing which indicates friendship among these humans, and an odd protectiveness of his Vulcanity which is totally alien to him, in his experience with humans.
In return, and perhaps the progression is logical after all…in return, Spock has discovered, much to his dismay, that his loyalty to this man is fast approaching a very dangerous level of intensity.
It is this knowledge, which makes his decision to mutiny, to abscond with the Enterprise and all aboard in order to see Captain Pike to Talos IV, seem so much worse a punishment in comparison with the mere death penalty of Starfleet. It is this knowledge, that he has broken an already fragile but all-important trust, which causes him to return to the briefing room after seeing Pike to the planet's surface, feeling actual, physical illness at the thought that Captain Kirk has every right to dismiss, transfer, and even court-martial him for his crimes (for they are dual: mutiny, in technicality; and the breach of a sacred trust, which is far less forgivable).
Kirk looks at him for a long moment, and then asks him to sit down; and when Spock refuses, because it would be a liberty he does not deserve, the captain stands to his own feet, looking wearily but calmly up at his betrayer.
Spock is expecting a censure to start, at the very least; for however understanding Kirk is, however humanly affectionate toward his crew – this is a crime that Spock certainly will never forgive himself for. Why should a mere human be any different? He expects condemnation, and at the least a severe official reprimand, which will basically destroy any chance Spock has of ever making the rank of full Starfleet Commander. And that is only what he deserves; he had expected to pay a far higher price when he first undertook this mission of mercy for a man to whom he had sworn loyalty eleven years before.
At the worst, Kirk has the power to still enforce the death penalty (though he does know the captain will never do so, the severity of the offense is not lost on him), to transfer him to another ship, and to even court-martial him aboard this one, without the formality of a Starbase hearing.
All this, runs through his thoughts with the rapidity which comes from escalating guilt and a Vulcan-quick mind.
Kirk looks up at him for a long moment, and then –
"You look like you haven't slept in a week, Commander," the human says quietly, his eyes far too knowing, far too understanding. "You are relieved for two duty shifts, in which I expect you to release my ship from the programs controlling it, and to get some rest, or whatever you prefer as a Vulcan equivalent."
Spock blinks, taken totally aback by both the calmness of the statement, and also by the total lack of condemnation in the captain's eyes.
"After you look a little less like you expect me to boot you down to ensign aboard some trawler headed for the delta quadrant," Kirk continues, eyes glinting with fondness as Spock stiffens under the perceptive words, "then we'll talk about this. I've no intention of giving up the best First Officer in the 'Fleet over a technicality, compounded by nothing more criminal than blind loyalty to an office I hold myself."
Spock exhales in a very embarrassing, very human sound of relief, which he was previously unaware he was even capable of making.
Kirk smiles at last, sunshine through a cloud barrier. And just like that, Spock knows that whatever obligation brought him to rescue Captain Pike, has now been replaced with a far more intense sense of loyalty, and perhaps something more.
Something far more unVulcan, and therefore far more dangerous.
Spock of Vulcan finally understands the human emotion of contentment.
It is a state of being which, logically, has no place in a Vulcan's mind; for contentment stems from the emotions of happiness, of self-satisfaction – and those have no place in the Vulcan Way. However, he cannot bring himself to believe the feeling is unjustified; for it is merely a response to circumstance, and as such it is actually quite logical for him to…feel good.
His opinion might be slightly impaired, some more rational part of his mind suggests, by the fact that the only pain medication which does not react poorly with his hybrid physiology has the unfortunate side effect of making him slightly talkative, and that with less inhibition than he would normally employ.
Dr. McCoy only laughs in his face when Spock complains about this side effect, and informs him that 'high on painkillers is still better than puking on painkillers, and if Spock knows what's good for him he will put up and shut up, or McCoy will put him in an induced coma until his blood count comes back to a normal reading.'
Spock replies, quite seriously, that the doctor has a bedside manner which would get him summarily executed in at least three Federation alliances, to which Sarek agrees with a little too much alacrity and enthusiasm (obviously, Spock is not the only Vulcan who reacts poorly to standard Starfleet pain medication).
He is prevented from further verbal volleying in medical matters by Captain Kirk, who has been quietly giggling into a pillow (he has been given medication of his own) while the insults are being yelled across their now-crowded ward in Sickbay. The captain apparently has managed to twist himself into a position from which he cannot untwist without wrenching his back and thereby the healing injury, which McCoy points out was already exacerbated from an extremely foolish venture in self-sacrifice, taking command of the Bridge when he was clearly not physically well enough to do so.
Spock agrees with the doctor now quite emphatically, as emphatically as he can from across the room. It was a most foolhardy venture, and though the outcome did achieve desirable results it nonetheless was an extremely foolish and human act of emotion. Only an overly emotional human would ever do such an illogical thing for someone he barely knows, ambassador or no ambassador, and first officer or no first officer. The fact that Jim is Spock's captain and friend – Vulcan horror of horrors, but to admit the facts is only logical – should not have been sufficient grounds to persuade an otherwise sensible man to act so recklessly.
In addition to that, Spock is quite annoyed with continually having to worry about this particular human's propensity to pretend he is invincible. Jim really should cease such behavior post-haste, as it is Not Kind to those around him.
He only realizes he has been saying at least most of these things aloud, when Jim's eyes grow wider and wider over the top of the blanket pulled up nearly to his nose, and when Spock's mother cannot keep back her quiet laughter.
Ears burning in mortification, he finally manages to interpose a firm barrier between his mind and his mouth, and slides down in his bed, promptly following Sarek's example in pretending to be asleep so as to avoid these horrible humans and their illogical thoughtlessness.
"I daresay you don't need that translated from Vulcan-speak, Captain," he hears his mother say, her very voice lighthearted and smiling.
"…No, I believe the meaning was quite clear, Lady Amanda. Bones, what in the world did you give him, anyway?"
"I'm gonna look up the exact dosage now, because that was a tantrum to tell the grandkids about, eh Mrs. Sarek?"
Spock ignores his mother's laughter and the doctor's encouragement, with ease that comes from years of practice. Amanda is a good woman, a particularly good and gentle human; yet she seems to have rapidly degenerated under the bad influence of Dr. McCoy.
"You are good for him, Captain," he hears his mother say quietly, after a moment of calm silence.
"He more than returns the favor, Lady Amanda," Kirk answers, voice warm with affection. "There's very little I wouldn't do for your son. Faking my way through a space battle was not a hardship."
Spock snorts quietly, because it would certainly have been a hardship had the idiot human re-opened the incision on his left lung, compromising the operation's success and setting his recovery time back by several days.
Kirk's voice is tinged with repressed amusement. "Even if he doesn't necessarily agree with my 'illogical' methods of achieving our mutual goals," he adds, and Spock is well aware the captain is grinning in his direction.
McCoy's voice abruptly breaks the pleasant lull which follows, when he returns with supplies for their depleted stores. "Time for you to follow our Vulcan patients into naptime, Jim. Lady Amanda, can I get you anything, or do you have your own ways of passing the time alone with these three?"
"I am certain I will be able to entertain myself, Doctor," is the much-amused reply.
There is a very loud yawn, and the creaking of a bio-bed followed by McCoy's mumbling about idiot captains not staying still when they're supposed to be healing up. "Bones, leave me alone," Kirk mutters grumpily. "I'm perfectly fine."
"Right, and I'm the Federation Vice-President," the doctor snorts. "You're the only person I know that I can't knock out right away with that much of a sedative. Give it up and go to sleep, will you Jim?"
"That's better." Footsteps approach Spock's bed, and he hears the tweak of instruments calibrating slightly over his head.
Jim's voice, slurred over the space between them. "Get him another blanket, Bones, he always wakes up in the middle of the night freezing in here."
McCoy grunts something about not telling him how to do his job, but Spock feels the added warmth a moment later of a second thermal blanket, much welcomed after his recent bout with extreme blood transfusion. He will indeed require the additional warmth, if he is to rest properly in this Sickbay.
But he rather thinks, as he follows the captain muzzily into sleep, that it is not the blanket which is responsible for the feeling of warmth and contentment which makes that sleep pleasant and…oddly safe…
Spock steps back, hands slowly falling from their positions, and drops his head in weariness. He is reeling from the effort of keeping a dual mind-meld under firm control in the face of such emotion and simultaneously attempting to return to reality to face the consequences for what has just happened.
Jim has fairly rocketed out of his chair, and is now leaning shakily on the bio-bed's protective steel rails. His head hangs low between his shoulders, and when he finally looks up, blue eyes brim with unshed tears.
He gestures almost helplessly toward the bed, trying not to totally lose it in front of the galaxy’s least emotional species. "I…Jesus, Spock, he's so – so happy! What the hell even was that."
"Indeed," Spock replies softly, for he is still trying to assimilate the depth of emotion which he cannot believe he would ever trust himself enough to feel, even a century into his future. "And, by this time…I believe he deserves to be, Captain."
Jim's eyes blink rapidly for a moment, as he looks up at the bio-bed sensor indicators. "He's not even here, is he, Spock. That was all just…memories. Echoes. I’m in the dark here with how this works, is it possible he’s still in there somewhere?”
Spock is silent, processing what he has just learned from this medically permissible mind-meld. Finally he shakes his head. "I do not believe so, Jim. His katra – the Vulcan soul – has clearly already left the body. There only remains the mind, in this case primarily the memory, to indicate life; and if brain function alone is not sufficient to keep the body living, but rather the use of such medical devices as life support systems…"
"I have to let him go, don't I."
"That is your right, as James Kirk is still listed as the ambassador's legal power of attorney, despite the difference in universe. His medical directives specifically state the decision falls to you alone."
Jim turns to him, eyes glinting in the dim lighting. "I'm not making a decision like that unless you're in agreement with me, Spock. That's one thing I have learned the hard way," he says softly, the tone tinged with regret, struggling to recover from the darkness that threatened to swallow them both forever, not very long ago.
Spock regards his captain for a moment, still marveling that Jim is here, standing before him, relatively healthy and able to make decisions at all. The human is still weak, still recovering, from recent events; it will most likely be nearly a year before physical therapy can fully restore what was a healthy body and mind, now irreparably changed, altered by what Dr. McCoy is diplomatically calling 'alternative medicine,' in order to keep them under Section 31's radar.
Kirk's death, saving the Enterprise just three months before, had been a brutal, merciless stab to the heart, to both Spock and his elder counterpart; but it had been the news that Jim had been returned to life, which had apparently struck the final blow to a very old half-Vulcan already weary of a borrowed life, and who was apparently also secretly battling a hereditary heart condition.
"Were I in this position, Captain…" Spock glances down at the still figure on the bed, sleeping peacefully and happily ensconced in the safety of the katra already finding its afterlife. "I would wish to be released. To a Vulcan, the mind is all. If the mind is no longer able to sustain the body, the body is simply a shell, preventing the next step in the necessary processes of life."
Jim exhales in a loud, shaky breath, equal parts relieved and grief-stricken. "Okay. Okay," he manages, surprisingly steady.
He leans over the fragile form of the person responsible for altering their destinies – and the one who has done more than enough to atone for that mistake. "Spock says you're already gone, but just in case you're still in there somewhere – you listen to me, old man," he says, voice only shaking slightly with earnestness. "Your Jim had better be out there somewhere ready to find you, or so help me I will have some sort of inter-dimensional séance and kill his katra-spirit-thing if he doesn't, you hear me? We’ll be having words."
"Captain, the science of séances is dubious and highly suspect at best, and besides that –"
"See what you're leaving me with?" he adds with a choked laugh. A tear rolls down his nose to drop on the elderly Vulcan's aged hand, and he covers it with a brief squeeze of his own. "Thank you," he whispers, and finally steps back from the bed.
His elbow brushes gently against his own Spock's, alive and well and looking far sadder than any full Vulcan ever would.
"By Vulcan standards, he is already gone, Captain," Spock ventures quietly, and Jim nods, taking one last look at the peaceful elderly Vulcan.
"Get out there and raise hell in someone else's universe, Spock," he murmurs with an unsteady grin, and finally turns to the medical technician who has been waiting discreetly just inside the door. "Let him go, Doctor. It’s time."
The young Vulcan nods with what looks like genuine respect and sympathy, and one by one begins to shut off the machines which are the only things keeping the body of Ambassador Spock alive.
"'Bye, old friend," Jim whispers into the air, and if he somehow hangs onto his Spock's hand a little too hard when they finally shut off life support, well. Uhura's awesome, and he doubts that she'll mind too much him being a bit clingy with her boyfriend after a long, emotionally draining day and an even longer, emotionally draining shuttle flight out to New Vulcan.
Oddly enough, he feels strangely at peace with all of this. He knows how out of place the elder Spock felt, how much guilt continually hung over the aging Vulcan for an error in judgment which anyone could have made. The ambassador had never intended to alter their destinies, and he'd spent the rest of his lifetime here trying to atone for that. But for all that, the elder Spock had never belonged here, and had had to live a borrowed life in a borrowed name, with nothing but memory and regrets to keep him company during his last few years.
The universe depends upon universal constants, Jim firmly believes, after many long talks with both Spocks on that subject; and when destiny, fate, or mortal intervention alter those constants, the worlds are forever out of balance.
Now, when the room goes silent at last, the universe is at peace.
Spock of Vulcan finally understands the human concept of coming home.
Who's to say we can't go one more round? By the last tally, only twenty five percent of the galaxy's been charted.
I'd call that negligent. Criminal, even – and an open invitation.
You once said being a starship captain was my first, best destiny. And…if that's true, then yours is to be by my side.
And if there's any true logic to the universe, Spock? We'll end up on that Bridge again someday.
Admit it. For people like us, the journey itself…is home.
- Deleted William Shatner voice-over scene for ST:XI