Pairing: Kirk/Spock Pre-slash, mentions 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 – and leads to life-altering revelations for Jim and Spock. A story about growth, self-discovery, and new beginnings.
By: Ragdoll / Keshka
Summary: Convergence - where everything begins to come together. And fall apart.
The following morning he wasn’t surprised, though he was a little amused, to note that Spock chose to spend his bridge shift below deck, seeing to the Vulcan passengers and assisting the sciences department with a variety of projects. He didn’t think his First was avoiding him – exactly – but he wouldn’t have been surprised if it’d been a factor in his decision to complete his duties elsewhere.
Human. Vulcan. There were certain constants that existed between them, and it seemed that the discomfort leading to the well known ‘morning-after’ phenomenon (although, there’d been far less sex involved in this exchange than what Jim was used to) was one of them.
He tried not to let it inflate his mood too greatly. His ego, Bones would no doubt tell him, needed no more boosting, even if Jim thought being asked to provide emotional support to a Vulcan was kind of the equivalent of the ultimate demonstration of prowess. Too bad he couldn’t tell anyone.
He went in search of the Ambassador that night, but he had quite a time tracking him down. It seemed he was as involved as his younger counterpart in the scientific efforts of Jim’s crew – a fact which made him grin uncontrollably when he thought about the decades of futuristic information that man could probably pass on if he so chose. In the process of trying to find him, he got Shanghai’d into helping Scotty with several repairs in engineering (“Well cap’n, so long as yer here, might I convince ye’ to lend a hand, we’re short a man t’day –“), and it was a while before he could extricate himself from there.
Didn’t Scotty ever sleep, he wondered grumpily. Ridiculous how that man could live off the sustenance of those engines alone.
He finally managed to catch up with Spock (the older one) as it was getting well into the night. Exhausted and wishing tiredly for a long, hot shower and a good night’s sleep, he spotted the other talking to one of the maintenance techs, looking once again surprisingly regal in Vulcan’s formal robes.
Jim took a moment to wonder where he’d gotten those robes (wasn’t he sort of, well, lacking resources in this new timeline?), and then he was sidling up to his crewman’s side, throwing a congenial arm around the startled ensign.
“Solkar!” he greeted, firmly capturing the attention of his friend. “I’ve been looking all over for you. Thank God I found you before Scotty could press me for more help. My chief engineer is a scary man. He had me scrubbing out jefferies tubes. Jefferies tubes, I tell you!”
Well, there hadn’t actually been jefferies tubes, but Jim got the impression from the way Scotty’d been eyeing him as he left, that it was a close thing.
“Indeed.” The age lines on this Spock’s face gave him a particularly Human look of amusement as he regarded the captain. “I apologize for causing you such ignoble difficulty, Jim.”
“Forgiven,” he said instantly, patting the unwitting ensign on the shoulder. “I’m just about ready to turn in, but I was hoping you’d join me for a late dinner in the mess.” He turned a blinding smile on the man he had hold of, noting his dazed look and inwardly congratulating himself on still being able to charm the socks off of anyone he chose to set his sights on. Even his own crew, all of whom had doubtless heard the rumors about his particular brand of insanity and should probably know better by now. “You don’t mind if I borrow the man for a quick meal, do you Ensign?”
Speechless, the blond head shook in a hesitant ‘no’.
Jim unobtrusively steered him away, still smiling. “Excellent. Go ask Mr. Spock what needs to be done in the meantime. I’ll return Solkar in perfect condition when I’m done with him.”
“Aye, sir,” trailed after him faintly, but Jim was already moving away, the elder matching his stride with thoughtless familiarity, as though this was something they had done a million times. It was almost eerie; it was moments like this where he occasionally wondered if his mind were truly as clear of the meld's influence as the Ambassador claimed. But that worry seemed a very vague and distant concern as they strode down the corridor together.
It reminded him, surprisingly, of just yesterday morning, only that had been a younger version of this man, and the same actions had had a distinctly different flavor. This was the comfort of old friends settling into a familiar pattern. With his First, it had been – nothing near as comfortable, and unsettlingly thrilling.
He put that aside, to be looked at another day. “So,” he said presently, feeling as cheerful as he ever had, “having fun holding yourself back from inadvertently giving my sciences department unlimited access to the wonders of the universe?”
“I have found the experience enlightening,” Spock said, wise eyes crinkling with expressionless laughter. “Though there are moments where I wonder if I am doing your timeline a disservice. As we have proven with Mr. Scott's transwarp formula, no temporal catastrophe seems likely to occur if I do reveal a limited knowledge of future events.”
“That reminds me – how are you keeping Scotty in the dark? You weren’t exactly discreet with your whole ‘time-traveler-from-the-future-and-yes-t
“As Mr. Scott is aware of the nature of my temporal displacement, but not the details of my identity, I have already taken measures to ensure his cooperation on this matter.”
Jim stared at him, sure that he couldn’t have meant that the way it sounded. “You didn’t, like, threaten him or anything, did you? Isn’t that – unethical? Immoral? Not to mention illogical?”
“Mr. Scott has always struck me as an eminently practical and discerning man. He is in the unique position of having access to a font of information the rest of Starfleet is unaware of – and he is quite willing to put aside his personal questions in exchange for further insight into the discoveries of another chief engineer I once knew.”
Jim put on the breaks, coming to such an abrupt halt that the other man had to turn and face him, having continued some further steps down the hall.
“You bribed him?” Jim blurted incredulously.
“We came to a mutual agreement.”
“What did you offer to tell him?” Jim asked, fascinated at the inner workings of the Ambassador’s rather devious mind. “And hey, I know way more about your dirty little secrets than he does, how come I’m getting shafted in the future happenings department?”
“I seem to recall that accidentally providing you with knowledge of your other self’s ‘future happenings’ resulted in some rather unfortunate consequences.”
“Yeah, but – this isn’t the same thing at all!”
The older Spock’s eyes were twinkling at him again; it was really annoying that he could do that and somehow manage to maintain no other expression on his face. Jim knew he was going to both love and hate the day his First added that little skill to his arsenal.
“Jim, I do not believe it is merely flattery when I tell you: the incentive I am in the process of offering you is worth far more than the information I will give to Mr. Scott.”
“Do they give Vulcans training on how to be deliberately cryptic?” Jim demanded, somewhere between amused and irritated. “I hope you picked that up later in life, because if Spock starts up with it I’m going to maroon him on the nearest planet experiencing an ice age.”
“Perhaps old age has begun to affect me more than I previously anticipated,” the Vulcan agreed, without actually agreeing. “Or perhaps I merely wish to limit myself to a very small, very particular sphere of influence. Though, as I mentioned, there have been times where I was – tempted.”
“So why not give in to temptation? You said it yourself; your interference has already been proven free of universe-ending consequences. So what stops you from just – revealing all?”
They walked a moment in silence, approaching the mess, and Jim could almost swear that when the answer came, it did so with a self-depreciating smile. “Perhaps it is only that I am finding that – ‘old habits die hard’. This world is at once foreign and familiar to me; given a lack of data, I believe it best to err on the side of caution. Of course, as I now posses the gift of perfect hindsight, I will always have the opportunity to reevaluate this conviction in future, should the position prove untenable.”
“Well, if you decide to take advantage of those opportunities, I hope I’m first on your list to contact with the latest scoop,” Jim commented.
This time it was definitely a very small turning up at the corners of Spock’s lips. “You will always be first on my list of beings to consult, Jim. Always.” Then the smile faded into an intense stare of concentration. Jim stared back, wondering what that look could mean.
“I am pleased my counterpart found the courage to approach you,” the Ambassador said with a carefully crafted tone of nonchalance. “I had wondered at his increased stability today.”
The Vulcan studied him with an air of personal approval so strong that it bordered on smugness. If he’d been Human, Jim would have called him proud. Meanwhile, the actual Human found himself struggling not to give in to the flush trying to work its way under his skin. Not that he had anything to be embarrassed about, but he’d never been at his best when confronted with something that touched on his own feelings.
Emotional insecurity? Him? Never!
It occurred to him that he hadn’t spoken to this man since just before his foray into Vulcan emotionalism, beginning with T’Sai and followed by Spock (he reminded himself to ask about the girl at the first available opportunity during dinner). Could telepaths tell when some kind of empathic contact had happened? Did it linger like a color in the air around his skin? The thought made him quickly squash the very unhelpful picture that popped into his brain of his First examining, quite studiously and with all seriousness, the depth of his captain's 'aura'.
Jim forced himself to blink casually and continue on as though nothing important was being discussed here. “I hadn’t noticed any instability before today, to be honest. Spock said something similar, but it sure wasn’t obvious to me before he said something about it.”
“You forget that my familiarity with him is something of an aberration. While you attempt to observe another person, I observe myself – younger perhaps, but still, nonetheless, me.”
Jim grinned, thinking about how strange it would feel if he were in the elder’s shoes. Of course, given the opportunity to inform his younger self about future happenings, he doubted he'd have quite such an honorable set of convictions as the Ambassador did. “I bet that would make bluffing hell-on-skates. I’ll remind him never to play poker with you.”
“Poker is, once again, something I will have to rely on you to teach him, my old friend. I have no doubts that given time, you will prove a formidable instructor.” The way he said ‘instructor’ implied more than just the game of poker. Jim didn’t turn quite as red a tomato as they stepped into the mess and the doors closed behind them, but it was a close thing (and why was it that he could talk sex without even a twitch of embarrassment until it came to his first officer…).
Somewhat further down the hall, another Spock, this one in science blues, not black, observed his captain speaking with mystifying ease to his older counterpart, and told himself that what he was feeling could in no way be related, even remotely, to the Human emotion of jealousy.
~ * ~ * ~
Jim had been hoping to catch a quick lunch with the Ambassador the next day, but it proved far too busy. As they drew closer to the Vulcan colony, preparations for disembarking their passengers began in earnest, with the entire crew scrambling to finish all manner of duties. Officers were seen reorganizing and replacing luggage, rechecking all passenger manifests, storing necessary food items, textiles, and construction supplies, and readying all of the haphazardly stowed storage containers for transport. Jim spent most of the day filling out the rest of the paperwork in his in-box, then the evening he’d thought to have free assisting in engineering, once again commandeered by Scotty (“Och, cap’n, just a few more repairs, it’ll hardly take a moment-“).
Meanwhile, most of the sciences department was busy retrofitting the Enterprise shuttlecrafts to carry their new and unusual burden of a living forest. Some of the Vulcans, it seemed, had created experimental cross-cultures of vegetation suitable for their new colony using the ship’s artificial greenhouse environments, and the plants were well on their way to maturity, but were still too delicate to be delivered via the transporter.
Jim found himself scrambling through the ship (and it seemed that today there would indeed be jefferies tubes) alongside midshipmen, ensigns, and engineering crew, as they all struggled to remain just far enough out of each other’s ways to work, but not far enough for anyone to be completely comfortable.
He considered that a captain should really be exempt from this sort of grunt work, but any time he tried to suggest it – politely, because he was still too new at this captain gig to bark it – he was stared down from about five different directions. He thought he might have gone a bit overboard on the whole crew informality thing – wasn’t he supposed to be the one giving orders around here?
Scotty obviously didn’t think so; he might be content to listen to his captain in times of dire emergency – swimming through water coolant systems, hovering on the event horizon of a black hole – but when it came to general maintenance, he seemed pretty assured that he was King. As he finished the mindless task of repairing one of the environmental control panels, Jim resolved to dig up one of the man’s skeletons to blackmail him with in future, or he was shortly going to be handing over command to his chief engineer.
The spike of excitement that drove through Jim at the sound of his First’s voice was really very unseemly. He pretended to tinker for about fifteen seconds longer than he actually needed to, so that he could regain some semblance of self-respect and nonchalance. He popped his head over the top of the station he was repairing, aware that the grease and dirt caking his skin and clothing were somewhat less than flattering. Then he told himself to stop acting like some pimply-faced adolescent with a crush and grow up.
“Hey, Spock,” he said, grinning lopsidedly.
The Vulcan eyed him speculatively in a way that made Jim want to check his teeth for the remains of his lunch. You know, just in case. A quick glance at his chronometer showed him that it was late – late enough that Spock was off shift, meaning the captain had probably put in more than enough hours of free labor, thank you very much. He dug through the pile of scrap next to him and picked up the access panel, fitting it neatly back into position and sealing it in place. He wasn't quite finished with the console, but it would do in a pinch, and Scotty could do the rest himself, that old slave driver.
From somewhere above his head, he could feel Spock watching him. After a moment, the Vulcan said, "I was unaware of your apparent proficiency with precision maintenance equipment, sir. I see now that my initial doubts and wish to verify this information, when given it by Mr. Scott, were in error."
"Spock!" he gasped in mock outrage. "You doubted me?"
"Frequently, Captain." Issued from another face wiped so totally blank, the comment might have been extremely offensive, but Spock's innocently widened eyes gave him away.
Jim laughed, clanking his heavy handful of tools down on the station and straightening up from his crouch. His back whined in protest and he took a second to stretch it out, half-turning from side to side and then extending his arms until his spine make an ominous cracking sound. Satisfied, he shook his hands out briskly and regarded his First, who stared at him in solemn, riveted attention.
“It's not good practice to doubt your commanding officer, Mr. Spock," he admonished, beginning to pack away the repair kit with neat efficiency.
"I shall endeavor to inform Admiral Komack of your feelings on this matter at the first available opportunity."
Jim tripped over the kit, stubbing his toe in his effort to whip around incredulously. He hopped about in a great show of pain, regarding Spock in astonishment.
"How the hell did you know about that?"
Spock observed his exaggerated acting with cool disinterest. "Before I received my promotion to Lieutenant-Commander, I spent many months on Earth, instructing cadets in the various levels of advanced computer programming. I am certain no one at Starfleet Academy during that time could possibly be ignorant to the level of animosity between yourself and the admiral."
"I thought Vulcans were above the gossip grapevine!"
"Of course. However, we are not without ears, nor the ability to use them. In particular, the incident with the admiral's office -"
"I didn't know that was his office! I was drunk! It was only the one time! And he never conclusively proved that it was me, anyway."
"A fact I am now in a position to rectify."
Jim stared at him in wide-eyed, betrayed horror, almost unwillingly impressed. "Spock, are you trying to blackmail me?"
"Negative. Vulcans do not blackmail. I merely state facts."
Jim peered at him, his stoic face, his comfortable stance, his uniformly positioned eyebrows. Huh. The Ambassador might have an easy time of it reading his younger self, but it seemed like he had a lot to learn. Speaking of which, maybe Vulcans didn’t blackmail, but at least one Vulcan was known for his bribery, and he resolved to remain doubtful over any claims they made that said otherwise.
"Well, come on then," he said finally. "If you're going to stand there and pester me, we might as well grab a bite to eat. I'm starving. You can tell me what other good pieces of gossip you're too high and mighty to know about."
"High and mi-"
"Oh, shove it."
Jim knew he was too ragged looking for a public meal – talk about setting standards of informality for the crew – but that sort of limited his options, and he had to do some quick thinking on their way to the turbolift. He could take a quick shower, but that would leave Spock cooling his heels, and the thought of leaving him to hold a table for them in the mess was somehow extremely awkward. He could invite Spock in to wait for him, but that seemed unexpectedly intimate – the idea of him hopping naked into his fresher and the Vulcan free to examine his rooms with impunity. And not only were his rooms a disaster (he was the youngest captain in the fleet, not the cleanest, that was certain), but he had no doubt Spock would be as unwillingly fascinated with his captain’s quarters as Jim had been with his, though maybe more restrained about showing it. They were both the sorts of people who had streaks of curiosity a mile wide. Did Vulcans admit to having prurient curiosity?
He scrutinized Spock out of the corner of his eyes, noting that the other man was also in uniform, though looking somewhat more pressed and professional than his captain. An idea popped into his head.
“You weren’t actually planning to eat in that, were you?”
Spock turned to him slightly as they rounded the corner. “To what are you referring?”
“That.” Jim gestured disdainfully to the clean lines of his uniform. “Just because we have to work in them doesn’t mean they should double as casual wear, you know. Let’s make this a meal between friends instead of a meal between colleagues. Go grab something a little less blue and meet me in my cabin; I’ll have a yeoman bring something up for us.”
They’d walked the remaining few feet to the end of the corridor and pressed the call button for the turbolift before Spock spoke. “You are extending an invitation for a private dinner in your quarters?”
Jim could feel a slow flush crawl its way up his neck. Okay, that sounded a little more suspicious than he’d actually intended (well, mostly more than he’d intended). And it was ridiculous how all his usual pomp and swagger seemed to fizzle when it came to pursing, er, conversing with this Vulcan. “Well, only if you’re free. And only if you actually own something that’s a little less blue.”
“I own many possessions that are not blue.”
“Any of those possessions clothes?”
Spock seemed to give this matter a great deal of thought. “My wardrobe outside of uniform and dress uniform contains no articles with any variant of blue coloring.”
The turbolift arrived and they stepped on, thankfully alone. Somehow a conversation with his First on the merits of textile design was something he’d rather not have anyone be witness to. “Let me guess; it’s all black.”
Spock lowered his eyebrows in a haughty, superior looking non-frown that somehow managed to express extreme displeasure anyway. “Black is an efficiently neutral shade for all manner of occasions –“
“Yeah, yeah. Well, go put on something black and then head over. I’ll even give you first crack at the menu; what would you like? I’m not picky, and I’m so hungry I could eat a horse at this point.”
Spock looked vaguely horrified by this notion. “Do you truly intend to consume –“
“Spock. What do you want? Name it and I’ll have it sent up for us. Mind you, if you’re thinking Vulcan cuisine, go easy on me, and pick something you think my delicate Human palate can handle.”
“Vulcans are vegetarians. Anything that meets that requirement would be acceptable, though I feel I should point out that this would eliminate the possibility of your partaking in equine meat products.”
Jim rubbed a hand over his face in a bid for sanity before realizing that it had likely resulted in a thick smear of grease gracing his left cheek and forehead. Last time he ever stepped foot in Engineering before making absolutely sure Scotty wasn’t there to finagle him into more grunt work. Oh, and last time he attempted verbal tag with his First while under the influence of a hard day’s work.
The turbolift slowed as it reached the senior crew quarters, the doors sweeping quickly open. “Civilian clothes, Spock. Ten minutes. Go.”
Spock nodded to him without a word, perhaps taking the new dirt creasing his captain’s face as proof that he’d succeeded in driving him to distraction, and set off for his own quarters. Jim, half-certain that this was a mistake and half-certain that it was the opportunity of his lifetime, scrambled for his own, reaching them in moments and hopping into the fresher the second his cabin door swished shut behind him.
As he finished up, having taken possibly the fastest shower in the history of showers, he brought up the ship’s store of vegetarian recipes. The list was surprisingly small and he reminded himself to expand it the next time they put in to a starbase. He settled on pasta, Penne Rigate, with mushroom, tomato, and miscellaneous green seasoning. If he couldn’t have his ‘equine meat products’ he was at least going to eat something substantial; none of this salad nonsense.
It was strange to set up his quarters for a casual meal that nonetheless required him to quickly clear away the terrifying mess of his cabin. Thank God he had a very large closet. It hadn't been like this with the elder Spock – he’d felt so comfortable with him, so old-hat, that it hadn’t seemed to matter what his quarters looked like or that his appearance might be something less than impressive. The unconditional acceptance that another Jim Kirk had spent a lifetime cultivating had been so easily bestowed on him that it had felt like – like sharing a quiet drink with his brother Sam, or the father he’d never known, or a long-ago lover who was now just a friend. Or some combination of those three. It had felt like family.
This didn’t feel like that at all. In fact, the stomach-churning tension and the obsessive way he kept trying to comb down his hair into some semblance of order reminded him suspiciously of his usual preparations for a date. Which was impossible. Obviously. But that didn’t make it any easier for him to stop shoveling the mess and garbage into his unfortunate closet.
Dinner arrived shortly after that and only the thought of what Spock would say if he caught his captain stuffing his face made him put it aside to be devoured shortly. Although, he thought, kicking his Starfleet-issue luggage container across the floor, a load of wrinkled clothing gathered haphazardly in his arms, if the man doesn’t show up soon I might just waste away here.
The ring of the buzzer nearly made him leap out of his casual, civilian-issue, white-cotton socks.
Oh, you have it so bad, James T. And you’re setting yourself up for such a hard fall.
He pasted a grin on his face before he could get maudlin and held the dangerously teetering tower of his personal possessions upright while letting the closet doors swoop shut. He reminded himself to let Scotty know there was something wrong with his storage area tomorrow and that he needed him personally to look in on it. He was the captain. He could order things like that. Even from scary chief engineers who seemed certain that the title of captain was an honorific only.
“Come!” he called.
The doors shifted aside to reveal Spock, in civilian clothes, surprisingly not completely black. Pants, yes, and the main body of the shirt, but the front closure to the tunic was semi-formal, closing with a shoulder clasp, and trailing the edge of the seam was embroidered silver lettering – since he couldn’t read it, Jim assumed it was Vulcan. Curious, he peered at it.
“Does that say anything I should know about? Insults on the dining customs of Humans, dire warnings, death threats?”
Spock looked down at his own person, apparently unused to having his attire questioned (and for the second time tonight, even). “No.”
Jim rolled his eyes. Vulcans: the most annoyingly succinct people in existence. If Spock was looking for another way to irritate his captain, he’d found it. “Come on then. If that’s true, I’m definitely too hungry to stand here and waste time talking about things that don’t exist.”
Spock trailed him further into his quarters. “Is it not counterproductive to mention a topic in conversation that you do not wish to pursue?”
“What, like shooting myself in the foot by bringing up subjects I didn’t want to talk about in the first place?”
“Funny; that sounds like diplomacy to me. Maybe this means I’ll be good at it.”
Even though he had his back to Spock as he arranged their dinner plates, he could almost feel the pause where the Vulcan tried to decide if this insult could be taken as a personal affront, since Vulcan’s were well known for their diplomatic prowess.
“Here we go!” Jim said before Spock could get a word in edgewise. “Bon appetit.” He gestured the Vulcan toward the small table setting, which he tried not to feel strange about – it was where Jim had sat just a few days earlier to enjoy an evening with Spock’s older counterpart.
This was getting downright odd.
Their dinner conversation was surprisingly enjoyable. If anything, Jim had expected the majority of it to center around work, and some of did, but Spock seemed to take his suggestion about a meal between friends seriously and avoided talking shop. It was probably the first casual encounter he’d ever had with the man that didn’t revolve, in some way, around their respective ‘fleet ranks.
Even so, he’d never have thought to find himself volunteering personal information to his First (to anyone) of his own free will. He certainly didn’t expect to be comfortable enough to start talking about his family, but that’s what he ended up doing.
“Mom had a rough time of it, raising me after the Kelvin was destroyed,” he found himself saying over a bite of pasta that he classed as a serious contender to his preferred meals of steak and potatoes. He might have to invest some time into sampling a few more vegetarian dishes if food like this was the result. “I don’t remember a lot about the first couple years, but I know I didn’t make it any easier for her when I got old enough to open my mouth and stick my foot in it.”
“Vulcan children lead a somewhat more structured life, even in the initial stages of childhood. My people are born with various levels of eidetic recall, and begin physical and psychological development at a very early age.”
“One of my first clear memories is of my father outlining the Vulcan tenants of privacy and personal discipline.” Jim thought the utter lack of expression on Spock’s face was a little telling, and he kindly did not point out that he thought this was a little tragic. While his own childhood hadn’t exactly been sunshine and puppies, there’d been a lot of good moments to go with the bad. He hoped that whatever the equivalent was in a Vulcan’s upbringing, Spock had had his share of fun times.
“How old were you?”
“Two Earth years; as I said, Vulcan development begins very quickly.”
“No kidding. At two I think I was pretty busy trying to get my chubby fingers into every potentially dangerous gizmo we had in the house. When you were off learning how to control your emotions, I was probably off wreaking havoc with mine.”
Jim watched as his First reviewed that statement with solemn attention. Though it flew in the face of his own do-first-regret-later mentality, he was always impressed with the deep consideration Spock gave to each of his comments. It was like he wanted to have all his T’s crossed and his I’s dotted before he made any sort of verbal commitment.
“I have no doubt that your childhood was far more prone to uncontrolled chaos than mine,” Spock said at last.
Jim grinned, impishly. “What, not even one moment of chaos? Not a single unintended emotional outburst? I don’t believe you, Spock! No one could survive a childhood as boring as that!”
He wasn’t sure what exactly changed in that face that alerted him he’d hit a sore spot; maybe it was the barely perceptible purse of thin lips, or maybe it was the crease at the corner of those dark eyes as they winced, just slightly. Whatever it was, it lit up for Jim like a red light, and he froze with a forkful of pasta halfway to his mouth.
“Sorry,” he muttered, frowning because it often felt like he never said anything right around this man. “The foot to mouth thing is kind of an instinct at this point; sort of hard to shut off.”
“Your apology is unnecessary,” Spock said, laying his utensils next to his plate evenly, gaze fixed on something over Jim’s shoulder, though he probably wasn’t seeing anything actually in these quarters. “The fault is mine.”
“I doubt that,” Jim said.
There was a long period of silence as Jim awkwardly finished off his pasta and Spock didn’t look at him while he did so. The moment stretched like a piano wire between them, tension coiling as the captain tried to sift through the hundreds of implications of his words, discover which one of them had his First sitting across from him so stiffly.
He hadn’t quite managed to come up with any likely scenarios – though he had many unlikely ones – when Spock spoke.
“Did your mother ever remarry?”
Jim blinked at him, startled. “No, though she came close once or twice. She had kind of crappy taste in boyfriends, actually. I probably didn’t help by making them all want to run for the hills.”
“You disapproved of her choices?”
“Not – disapproval, exactly. More like – outright hatred.”
Spock looked at him as though this thought was completely and utterly foreign to him. Maybe it was.
“How does the family structure work with Vulcans?”
“Vulcan society has always been somewhat more rigid than Earth’s. Familial authority is considered paramount, particularly in adolescence, when hormonal fluctuations can result in erratic behavior. My father was the head of our family, and governed our household relatively free of discord. Challenging or disrespectful behavior such as what you describe might be tolerated in adulthood, when parental authority wanes, but before that such a rebellion would be unheard of. I was considered something of a maverick for my rejection of typical Vulcan mores when I accepted my commission at Starfleet Academy.”
“I don’t think I’d make a very good Vulcan, Spock,” Jim admitted.
“A remarkably accurate summation.”
“You wouldn’t make a very good Human, either,” he pointed out swiftly.
The squint was back in Spock’s eyes. Jim felt his own eyes trying to follow suit, and he wondered what he’d said this time to justify that look. He thought it might be literally impossible to have an entire conversation with a Vulcan and not feel at the end that he’d somehow managed to screw it up in about fifteen different ways.
“There are some Vulcans who would disagree with you,” Spock remarked in a low voice, completely without inflection. “My mixed heritage was often a point of censure among my peers. Though I tested higher than most of my yearmates, my progress was generally seen as inferior to full-blooded Vulcans, or accomplished in spite of my disadvantage – instead of because of it.”
Jim stared at him, taken aback. “That sounds like prejudice to me.” He waited to be told that this was clearly a faulty conclusion to draw, and the fact that Spock didn’t even bother to try said far more than it didn’t.
“I don’t get it. Isn’t prejudice pretty much the height of irrationality?”
Spock tipped his head in a tiny nod. “While discrimination is often devoid of reason, it can be a powerful driving force. Vulcan was a very insular planet, with a rich historical background and very strict standards of acceptable comportment; it did not always integrate new customs well.”
“So what, you were just the new custom on the block? I’ll bet your mother had something to say about that.”
“She often tried to exert her authority in my favor, but her success was marginal.” Jim watched as his dinner guest fiddled with his serving fork – a type of fidgeting he’d never exhibited before. The distance in those dark eyes grew, and the captain could imagine the memories passing through that impressive mind.
“I was always grateful that she put forth the effort at all,” Spock said quietly, regarding his utensil with disturbing intensity. Something like grief bled over into his impassive voice. Unable to stand the mounting tension, Jim reached forward and plucked the fork away, pressing his fingers lightly against the hotter-than-Human hand until it fell gently to the table, trapped under his own. Something sparked between them, a vague notion of connection, a pull at the back of his mind that reminded him sharply of the last time he’d physically touched Spock in a moment of emotional vulnerability. He expected his First to pull away, and he did, after a long, suspended moment of silence.
They regarded each other from across the table, and the energy that had sprung up didn’t dissipate; it seemed, instead, to hang in the air, like the low rumble of thunder, or the pressure of a coming storm. Jim met those bright, inquisitive eyes with his own and felt the sluggish pounding of his heart rate double.
“Tell me about her,” he said. “Your mother. It’s obvious she loved you. Tell me why you loved her.”
Spock closed his eyes and his lips parted in a soundless breath of air. When he opened them, the peace there made Jim thrill to see it; it was a peace he hoped he had many chances to witness in the future.
Then the peace gave way to the closest expression to a smile Jim had ever seen on Spock’s face, and he barely heard the words as he began:
“Her name was Amanda.”
End Chapter Six.
A/N: This chapter was actually supposed to be much longer, but the second half of it mutated... and is now another chapter altogether. So, the story will actually have nine parts, not eight. Oops?
Btw, huge thanks to awarrington for both her reflections on each chapter and her proof-reading! She's been a God-send!