Pairing: (eventual) Kirk/Spock, mention of Spock/Uhura
Disclaimer: Not mine, more's the pity.
Summary: When the Enterprise is asked to transport Vulcan colonists to their new home, Spock Prime comes with them. His presence changes everything – even the things Jim isn’t sure he wants to change. A story about growth, change, and new beginnings.
Thank you toawarrington for her kind suggestions and her beta work! I'm so excited to have her helping me out with my editing - she's been great!
By: Ragdoll / Keshka
Summary: Where Jim's Human compassion plays a very big part.
The next day was a tense affair for the majority of the Enterprise crew.
The afternoon became something of an unusual game for most of the bridge shift; a game in which each person tried to maintain a fine balance between completing his or her duties without overt clumsiness or overt efficiency. It quickly became apparent that either state was likely to draw the attention of their superior officers – and that unfortunate side effect was to be avoided at all costs. Several of the engineering crew, after having been introduced to the sharper side of the captain’s displeasure, found themselves praying for some sort of minor catastrophe to provide a distraction – an enemy attack, a sudden outbreak of Veleran Fever, or possibly a small moon exploding. Any of those would have been acceptable.
The captain was by far the worst. After staggering in looking as though he’d gone three rounds with a Klingon – and lost – he’d slumped into the center chair and proceeded to spend his entire shift glaring at anyone who dared approach for more than a few seconds at a time. Commander Spock was a near second, although for different reasons: this particular morning he appeared to forget that most of the Enterprise personnel were only Human, with Human limitations, and more than one ensign had suffered the wrath of his impatience as they scrambled to obey his orders. Uhura was studiously ignoring both of the men in question, and they were ignoring her, a feat she was greatly envied for as this, unfortunately, meant that the rest of the bridge personnel were fair game.
In the face of such obvious insanity, everyone was thankful that Dr. McCoy, either through divine intervention or good old-fashioned luck, chose not to make an appearance.
What the rest of the crew couldn’t know, but certain of the passengers on board did, were the reasons behind this wildly suspicious behavior. Ambassador Spock knew that it was only a matter of time before Jim Kirk, a man he knew to have both passionate and often conflicting feelings, found the stubborn determination to once again approach him. But even he could not have predicted how quickly the captain would come to his conclusions. There were some ways in which he did not, it seemed, know his new friend as well as he thought. This version was by far more damaged than his own, and one of the pervading results of the damage seemed to be an even faster and more pronounced habit of jumping without looking; a habit which also, thankfully, translated into a tendency to very quickly forgive and forget perceived injuries.
In the afternoon of the fifth day of his stay aboard the Enterprise, Jim sought him out.
“Solkar.” Spock turned at the name he had assumed, recognizing the voice that spoke it. He was surprised to see him, but not shocked – pleased, but not astonished.
The other stared at him for a long, hard moment, as if debating, then truly did startle him by smiling easily, shrugging his shoulders in a loose sprawl and leaning against the doorway. “Jim.”
The aged face did not smile, but his eyes did. “Jim.”
“I’m on a lunch break at the moment. Do you have time for that talk about your new Vulcan colony I’ve been wanting to quiz you about?”
“Of course. Walk with me.”
So they discussed, among other things, the merits of the planet chosen for Vulcans’ new home, and Jim was grateful to discover that his faith in himself had proven true: the longer he was with the older man the more he relaxed, yet again, in his presence. Tarsus was, and would always be, an enormous ghost in his life, and if this man was to be believed, it was a ghost he would, in time, learn to share. But for now, he’d said all he wanted to say about that nightmare, and he was content to move forward, strangely and surprisingly glad to realize that someone knew the truth.
Their conversation took them for an entire circuit around the lower aft quarter of the ship, far beyond the gardens, past the viewscreen on the observation deck, into the Ambassador’s quarters. Some topics were avoided – it seemed nothing personal was to be suggested unless Jim brought it up first – but, for the most part, everything was fair game. Jim couldn’t help but be astonished every time at the depth of acceptance this man projected to him, gave to him so freely, even knowing so much of his ugly history. And he suspected that this older Spock felt rather as though he was repaying a favor that his Jim Kirk had paid to him – by providing the younger version with a haven of quiet, supportive affection he himself had received so many years into the past.
Jim was glad to note, though, that their conversation at the end had strayed mostly into neutral topics, because when they entered the older mans quarters T’Sai was there, waiting for them. He’d been in the midst of telling the Vulcan about the results of his future transwarp formula – namely a very wet and uncomfortable Scotty – but he broke off at the first sight of that young alien face regarding him so solemnly.
“And how are you today, T’Sai?” he asked, noting that she was perched with a quiet stillness on the low bench extending from the wall, a structure that was particular to these guest quarters. This was the first chance he’d really had to look at the girl up close and he did so now, noting that she was, in the manner of her people, very delicately pretty, with the same dark hair and eye tones that most of them sported. Her eyes seemed somewhat large for her face, but that could just be because they stared at him so blankly following his question. Even as he turned toward her, those eyes slid closed, blocking both him and his scrutiny out.
“T’Sai had undertaken a period of silence since her mischief of several days ago. Though it is over now and she is welcome to speak, she chooses not to.”
“Mischief?” He remembered that she’d been in the cargo bay the last time he’d been in these quarters. Surely she hadn’t done anything…?
“Yes. She was attempting to locate a certain piece of luggage that we have since discovered is buried too far beneath the supply crates to easily access. Her attempts endangered the safety of her temporary guardian and herself, though no malice was intended.”
“I am given to understand that she wished to retrieve a parcel that had belonged to her mother.”
Oh, Christ. Jim had to close his eyes against the sudden wave of compassion that generated. He opened them when he felt he had control, seeing reflected at him from Spock’s eyes a degree of understanding that left him unaccountably grateful.
“And she was punished for that?”
“It was not my decision. I have already informed her caretaker at that time that his assessment of the situation was in error; however, T’Sai appears to feel that it was justified.”
Yeah, Jim could see where, from a Vulcan standpoint, that might make sense. But from where he stood it just seemed unnecessarily cruel.
Suddenly realizing how little he actually knew about the girl’s situation, he glanced at her and then back at the older man. Pitching his voice low, he murmured, “I assume that both of her parents were… when Vulcan...”
“Yes. They were in one of the Southern provinces at the time of Vulcan’s destruction, but T’Sai was fortunate enough to have been attending a class on applied sciences with her yearmates in the central city, and was evacuated in time.” Though Spock lowered his voice accordingly, Jim doubted that their conversation could fail to reach sensitive Vulcan ears. He ached in sympathy for what he imagined she must be experiencing, hearing the fate of her parents discussed so baldly; somehow he doubted that she felt at all ‘fortunate’. He cursed himself for bringing the subject up.
“I see,” he said at last, scouring his mind for a more suitable topic.
“Indeed,” Spock said slowly, and eyed him in a contemplative fashion that made Jim eye him suspiciously in turn. “T’Sai has conducted herself most admirably during these times of hardship. She has maintained her control to a remarkable degree.”
Jim looked at the child, with her stiff posture, tightly clenched eyes and very deliberately still hands. He had no doubt that if he and Spock weren’t present, she would have them fisted into tight balls, possibly pounding the floor, and even where he stood he could see her tightly wound form vibrating with energy. For all his worldly knowledge, if Spock thought his young charge was maintaining control, he had a lot to learn about body language. She might appear calm, but beneath the stillness in her eyes Jim had no doubt a violent storm was raging.
He thought of his Vulcan first officer, the mirror of this older man, reigning himself in by the barest of margins, agony and rage and heartache seething just beneath the surface, only the thinnest thread holding him to calm. This girl was like that. Screaming on the inside while the world at large looked on her control with favor, asked her for more and more and more until she’d soon snap precipitously and dangerously beneath the pressure.
Quite suddenly, he couldn’t stand another minute of her perfect control being so sorely challenged.
“Solkar,” he said, grinning in his most charming manner. “I wonder if you might do me a favor.”
An errant eyebrow went up. “A favor, Captain?”
“Yes. As part of our contribution to the relocation project, Mr. Spock (Spock the Younger, like some ancient English lord, he thought gleefully) has stocked our memory banks with a variety of Vulcan foods and recipes. Would you mind selecting a few dishes that you think might be suitable for a human palate? I’ve had several of my crewmen express an interest in your cuisine, and of course my first officer is far too busy to take the time.”
Both eyebrows were up now. “Indeed. I would be pleased to provide you with a list of potential dishes for your crew, Captain. When would you like it delivered to you?”
“Oh,” he said pleasantly, blinking in puzzled innocence. “Now would be delightful, if you wouldn’t mind.”
“Yes. I’m sorry if that’s terribly inconvenient. If you have another duty to see to first, I will of course understand.” Jim had no idea how this Vulcan telepathy thing worked, but if Spock possessed even a grain of empathic ability, he should surely be able to sense Jim’s complete and utter desire for him to be out of this room as soon as possible.
“No, Captain,” the Ambassador said, a look rife with speculation aimed in his direction “I am at liberty to see to your request at this time.”
“Ah, good. The processors in rec. rooms three and seven, both two decks up, are in the process of being recalibrated. You should be able to find what you need there. I’ll wait here.”
“Thank you. T’Sai, if you would please refrain from leaving this room, so that I may more easily find you upon my return.”
The child opened her eyes, like dark pools in her face. “Of course, elder. I will remain.”
A long moment of silence wavered between them, as the older man stared hard at Jim and Jim stared back at him. The request was ridiculous, of course. That information could be accessed from any computer terminal with maintenance functions, and they both knew it. Spock looked between him and T’Sai, the contemplation not fading from his features, and then with a simple bow he left, heading first into the small common area and then out the sliding door, the trail of his footsteps cutting off abruptly.
The girl cut her eyes to him without expression, as though realizing this now left the two of them alone, but with no reaction to that realization. Her hands, no longer under the quiet eye of her guardian, curled tightly into fists. He took a moment to congratulate on himself on his perception, then walked silently to the bench she sat on and perched himself beside her, not touching, but close enough to touch if she’d wished it.
She very obviously did not wish it, as she leaned away from him, tensing her spine until Jim wondered if it might not break. She didn’t get up and find a new place to occupy, but from her frigid distance, she might as well have.
They sat in heavy silence for a few minutes as he considered carefully what to say. This was a Vulcan child, not at all like a human, who might already have been bawling into his uniformed shoulder at the first sign of his compassionate silence or support. He’d been this girl at one time, angry and alone, with only adult expectations to rebel against, while she seemed to cope by bowing beneath them. He knew nothing of Vulcans, a fact that he should perhaps remedy, but in the meantime he had only his Human instincts to go on. And those instincts were screaming at him to give this girl a place of comfort to smash her sadness in before it consumed her.
“I’m Captain James T. Kirk, commanding this vessel,” he began, feeling his way slowly through. “And you are T’Sai, a refugee from Vulcan. We now know an equal amount about each other. I wonder if you’d be willing to share a bit more about yourself with me. I have a – particular interest in the lives of passengers aboard my ship.”
“I do not wish to converse at this time,” came the reply, as tersely offered as Jim could ever remember his First speaking in times of high stress or disdain. He struggled not to let loose the sudden grin that almost rose to his lips at her ultra-Vulcan response. A truly remarkable child, indeed.
“Well, I do. And as captain of this ship, I do believe it’s my prerogative to pull rank.” No response. Obviously Vulcan didn’t teach its children humor in their grand quest for universal understanding of all things logical; that was unfortunate, as a sense of humor was something Jim considered of paramount importance for any being living in this galaxy.
“What does it mean – ‘to pull rank’?” she asked finally, glancing at him when it became obvious he was neither deterred by her dismissive behavior, nor intending to fill the silence.
“It means invoking my authority as the captain, but it was only a joke, T’Sai.”
“Ah.” From her expression, he garnered that no one had ever attempted to joke with her before. Abruptly reminded, Jim could feel his natural compassion softening his features, and the very slight widening of her eyes as she observed this.
“Well,” he said, as gently as he knew how, “I suppose it’s not really true that you know as much about me as I do about you. I know what happened to your parents on Vulcan.”
White knuckles clenched whiter, and for a moment Jim thought she might strike out at him. He had a most bizarre urge to defend himself, remembering the feel of adult Vulcan hands hammering down on his arms, the inhuman strength of Spock’s fingers wrapped around his throat, choking him, filling him with equal parts triumph and panic –
Enough. He shook that off, turning back to T’Sai’s face, where her eyes were again clenched closed, her brow a thundercloud of anger and anguish for anyone willing to look beyond the rigid lines of her control.
“So I suppose it’s only fair that I share the same. My mother still lives,” he offered, glancing down at his own hand and recalling a time when, like T’Sai, making fists and smashing that fist into something, preferably something with the give of an angry Human body beneath it, seemed the only possible outlet for his anger. “But I never knew my father. He died – before I was born.” As I was born.
She opened her eyes to regard him again but her mouth remained closed, and for a moment he thought she might refuse to answer, fall back on her stoic Vulcan training and snub him in silence, leaving him bereft of options. But her fingers slowly relaxed, resuming a looser fist, her eyes blinked away the angry squint, and, curious, she turned more fully toward him, bumping their knees together. He considered it a small victory.
“You did not know your father?”
Hadn’t that always been the biggest issue of his short life? “No, I didn’t.”
“How did he die?”
Giving me life. “Saving lives, in the line of duty. His friends, his crew. My mother.”
“He died heroically then?” She asked, without malice. He blinked through the dull pain, a very old pain, that struck him at her innocent question, then thought better of it and let some of it flicker through. If he meant to encourage her to accept her own burden of emotions, he could hardly be seen suppressing his.
“Yes. He lived and died a hero.”
She studied him a moment, as solemn as any Vulcan he could ever recall seeing, but for different reasons than her compatriots. “My mother was a minor healer at the Temple of T'Panit, but my father, like yours, was an officer, serving aboard one of Vulcan’s deep-space science vessels.” She took a deep, bracing breath, and the gesture looked so Human that he blinked in surprise. “The timing of his visit home was – most unfortunate.”
Though she delivered the sentence with no emotional inflection, he could see that the effort cost her. What a terribly accurate method of describing the tragedy at the center of both their lives – most unfortunate.
“Solkar seems to think you have your grief under control,” he said, expressing out loud what she seemed unwilling to. And he wasn’t actually sure if the elder Spock truly believed that, or whether he’d said it merely as a sop to her terribly bruised pride. “But I’m not so sure. Grief is one of those very unique, very tricky emotions that, when bottled up on the inside, has a tendency to grow stronger exponentially, rather than weaker. Or that’s been my experience, anyway. What do you think?”
She stared at him, his open face, his gently compelling eyes, and he could see the moment her control faltered, like a hairline crack in a fault line. He wondered at the similarity of their species, that familiar capacity to maintain calm until the point of actual confrontation. She looked down, hiding the depths of her reaction and he reached out involuntarily, though he knew it might be a mistake, and tipped her chin up again, until their gazes met, hers in turmoil and his in perfect accord.
“Yes,” she said faintly, the sheen of tears not reflected in the steadiness of her voice. “That has – quite been my experience also.”
He put a hand on her small shoulder then, though he could feel her stiffen alarmingly, tucking her into his side as his mother used to do for him, one stranger offering comfort to another, without judgement, without censor. He did his best to radiate only the most compassionate of feelings. In a moment, she would either push him away or melt into him, overwhelmed by what he suspected was her first opportunity to openly express her pain. But none of that mattered just then. She was hurting, and he could give her a comfort she’d likely seldom received. Whether she chose to accept it was beside the point. He was here, and so was she.
The wavering, half-choked noise as her control shattered wasn’t quite audible – it rang more like a subliminal note, pressing against his ears with sorrow, and it was the most heartrending thing he thought he could remember hearing. Followed closely by Spock’s trembling voice when he’d had to verbally relinquish command after trying to kill Jim. She turned fully into him, pressing into his chest as though she wished she could crawl inside it, and he wrapped both arms around her, feeling an anguish not his own tickling at the edge of his consciousness, much as Ambassador Spock’s had days ago. Recognizing the signs of her involuntary telepathic projection, he relaxed, letting it flow over and around him, sending her his understanding and support as the pain wracked through her.
It went on for some time; he didn’t know how long. Though tears soaked his shirt, she made no further sound – he might not have known she was crying if not for the periodic shakes and shudders that swept through her. Duty tried to trickle into a small corner of his mind after a while, but he shut it out. He had a duty as a sentient being, to this girl and to others like her, who needed a momentary safe haven where it was safe to give way to their fears. Being a captain could take a back seat, if only for a moment, to simply being a man.
When he opened his eyes, Spock was standing in the doorway.
Jim almost had a heart attack. This was not the Spock he’d expected to see back in these quarters sometime in the next little while – rather, this was his younger, less wizened counterpart. Jim felt his pulse rate skyrocket. He tightened his arms unconsciously around his small burden, darted a quick glance down at her, and was instantly relieved to note that somewhere in the mad scramble of emotions she had succumbed to sleep, probably exhausted from her extensive release of emotion.
“How long have you been there?” he whispered furiously, flushing and trying not to show it. Not that he had anything to be embarrassed about, but he’d thought this was rather a private moment, and Spock’s presence made it – not unseemly, far from it, but uncomfortable, certainly.
“Approximately 15.76 minutes.”
Jim closed his eyes, wondering if he himself was going to need a momentary safe haven here. Fifteen minutes was more than long enough for Spock to have observed the better half of his conversation with T’Sai. And he hadn’t said a blasted word. If Jim hadn’t been so focussed on the kid he probably would have noticed him sooner, although perhaps not. These crew quarters, as with all the Vulcans’ suites, were crowded with cargo and supplies. When could he possibly have arrived unnoticed? He reminded himself to remember in future that Vulcans were like cats – at times superior, always getting into things that they shouldn’t, and with an irritatingly silent manner of walking.
“Where’s Sp – er, Solkar? I sort of sent him on a wild goose chase.”
“Indeed.” Obviously Spock had been peeking at the passenger manifests, or maybe he and his counterpart had done a quick introduction with new name included when Jim hadn’t been looking. In deference to the sleeping child, his First modulated his voice to a quiet murmur. “The Ambassador is attempting to fulfill your request of him and is indisposed at the moment; a condition he is likely to remain in for the majority of the day.” One slanted eyebrow crooked upward in an impressive imitation of hidden amusement.
“It is my understanding that shortly after leaving here, he arrived at rec. rooms three and seven and discovered that they were in an unusable state of disrepair. He then took it upon himself to begin a systematic search for functional processors, boarded one of the turbolifts to begin, and encountered me – quite by accident, of course. He consequently provided an explanation and asked me to return here in his stead to explain his delay.” Jim thought brief, unflattering, murderous thoughts about the older Vulcan. Meddling old man.
He forced himself to let that go and pay attention; Spock was still speaking. “Though I advised him as to the futility of the attempt, he seemed quite determined that the best course of action would be to physically search all available rooms with installed food processors, in hopes that one of them had received the necessity subroutines. He will not find them, of course, as the coding has not yet been implemented. The processors are not required until we reach the new colony.”
“And so you came, wanting to see for yourself what all the fuss was about,” Jim concluded, grumbling, and shifted around to lift T’Sai into his arms as smoothly as possible. Oblivious to what was taking place, she slept on. Damn Spock – both Spocks, but especially that one – and his heavy-handed, unnecessary interference. If Jim wanted his First to be privy to the kind of information he’d just imparted, he’d do it in his own time, and no thanks to the old man disguising himself as a Vulcan chess master, playing his two pawns together.
“Indeed. I was – curious as to your reasoning behind sending one of our, ah, esteemed guests on a, as you so eloquently described it, ‘wild goose chase’.”
Jim placed T’Sai on the bed, settling her among the thin Starfleet-issue blankets, hoping that when she woke she would feel no shame for her release. He resolved to seek her out later, let her know that there should be no censor for emotional indulgence in times of great need, and the hell with whatever Vulcan philosophy said otherwise.
Oh, damn. He had the feeling that stepping on the philosophy of an endangered sentient species was probably not as kosher as he’d like. He hoped he hadn’t just created some terrible diplomatic issue here. Even if he had, it had been worth it. Still. Something to keep an eye on.
“I didn’t care so much that he follow that particular goose Spock, just that it take him a while to find it. I was counting on that Vulcan stubbornness to keep him going for a while.” Vulcan stubbornness and an almost human understanding about the depth of emotion that the elder Spock seemed to possess while his younger self had yet to find it.
“I see,” the Vulcan said quietly, watching as the other rearranged the blankets around the small form with tenderness and affection. Such a gesture towards someone that could only be a stranger to his captain – and a stranger of a different species, besides – made something visceral in Spock ache sharply. Nyota had tried to reach him in a similar manner, but the grief then had been too horrifying, too overwhelming. He’d feared to hurt her if he released the storm of emotion inside of him.
Instead he’d released the grief in fists and anger on the bridge of this ship, and it was not Nyota he’d hurt. Abruptly disturbed to recall the incident, and Jim’s seeming acceptance of its necessity, he put it aside. What a curious Human his captain was – this man who so bravely and fearlessly stood in the face of Vulcan rage and Vulcan grief, unbowed and unharmed, but not unaffected. Spock had never met another Human, to his knowledge, who so easily circumvented all of Spock’s attempts to categorize him, or who so swiftly found the chinks in his armor and so easily drove beneath his shields.
It occurred to him, unexpectedly, that here was a man built on such passionate discipline and depth of character that he could extend his unwavering support to others and still maintain his own core of strength. It was, of course, one of the first things cadets in the command line were taught: control of themselves in the face of overwhelming situations.
Perhaps the captain might also be amenable to providing a different sort of assistance to his first officer, if Spock could only bring himself to ask. He doubted, after witnessing this astounding display of sensitivity (James Kirk, sensitive? He must tell Nyota; she might possibly expire in laughter) that he would be turned away outright. As T’Sai even now slept more deeply than she likely had since the destruction of Vulcan, perhaps there could be no shame in asking such a man as James Kirk for help…
Jim turned, and Spock tried to wipe his face of all uncertainty, but something must have lingered. The other stepped up to him in concern, laying a gentle hand on his shoulder in that way of casual contact Humans sometimes had. Spock decided that with this man, this human, he would not try to avoid it.
“I’m sorry Spock, that conversation couldn’t have been easy for you to hear.”
He could have, perhaps should have, shrugged off that reaching, comforting hand, but he didn’t. Wouldn’t. “Easy? No,” and it took every ounce of humanity inside him to admit that so freely to this man, the edges of a grief he’d revealed only to his father, “but – enlightening.”
“And the path to enlightenment is the prerogative of all Vulcans.” The smile Jim gave him, full of warmth and camaraderie and a fellowship that Spock had never before experienced, left him almost breathless.
“Indeed,” he murmured. Jim’s hand slipped from his shoulder and Spock immediately noted, quite disconcerted, that he felt its absence sharply.
“Jim,” he said.
The captain stopped, in the act of pressing the door release. “Yes, Spock?”
“Your academic hearing. The Kobayashi Maru. Your father. When I said – that is, when I argued the necessity for every command officer to understand the particulars of the no-win scenario, of facing death, I had not intended –“
“Spock,” Jim said, replacing his hand, and Spock wished he didn’t savor the sensation of the other’s positive regard quite so much. He accepted the grin turned in his direction, falling quiet. “It’s all right. I’ll be the first to admit that wasn’t exactly my fondest first meeting, but thankfully Starfleet ruled in my favor, regardless of your apparently legendary status among the academy instructors. And to be fair, your point was – quite logical, from your perspective. Even if, at the time, all I wanted to do was wring your scrawny neck.”
“’Scrawny’ is an incorrect word choice, Captain. My neck is of proportionate size to the rest of my body. And for the sake of accuracy, I should perhaps also point out that my parents –“ He took a breath, the memory of his mother’s gentle eyes and time-laden face jumping immediately to mind. He felt the hand tighten, the other coming up to grasp his elbow, and he was amazed at the controlled compassion he could feel projecting towards him, devoid of pity. Instead it was crowded with an understanding he now realized they shared, as two survivors with no outlet to their pain but to go on, as best they could. The resonance that sprang up between them gave Spock such a feeling of unexpected security that he could scarcely contain it behind his formidable shields. He had to close his eyes to refocus his thoughts on the moment.
“My parents,” he continued, opening his eyes again and fixing his commanding officer with his most wry, unblinking expression, “were married at the time of my birth, and I cannot therefore be, as Dr. McCoy is frequently fond of referring to me as, a ‘pointy-eared bastard’.”
He hurriedly pressed the door release and lead the captain out of the room, before his stammering and red-faced sputtering could wake T’Sai, sleeping the sleep of the exhausted behind them.
End Chapter Five.
A/N: I know there wasn't a lot of K/S interaction - but that's because the next 3 chapters have it in BOATLOADS. I believe in building tension slowly, so if anyone is annoyed by that, I hope the last three parts make up for it. =) Cheers!