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I've just left a meeting with the Junior Minister for Federal Expansion, amongst others, and this can't wait.
I realize that the Enterprise is stationed in Beta Aurigae for another four days, but I'm going to have to cut that short. Your new orders follow - Fitzpatrick out. Fitzpatrick's image abruptly disappears and the room darkens for a moment as the screen blanks. And then there's another Federal crest and a new document that opens with a destination, a mission objective and a timescale before devolving into a detailed background summary.
In the shadowed semi-darkness, his eyes widen for a moment and a smile spreads slowly across his face. He reaches for his comm port. Spock allows himself to stare at the ceiling in an ambivalent afterglow for 3.
He is standing in an unsatisfied haze beneath the sonics when the sounds of occupation suddenly erupt behind the second door. It's a little too much of a reality check, with the warm cloud of orgasm still lingering in his groin, and he scrubs quickly and exits as quietly as he can. He is dressing himself in the loose robes he wears for meditation when his comm port buzzes. He knows who it will be, of course. Theoretically it could be one of many people, but statistically, at this time of the evening and with the ship so secure and functional she's practically humming a jaunty tune, the odds are upwards of 98 percent that it will be the Captain.
Spock is Feedback - 7L / Max Bedroom - The Throwback (CDr) certain he is ready to face the object of his self-reproach just yet, but he doesn't have much of a choice.
He opens the channel. There is a tinge of breathless excitement to Kirk's tone that piques Spock's curiosity and earns another interested twitch from his lethargic cock, which, fortunately, is still heavily invested in the refractory period and can do no more than quirk a metaphorical eyebrow at present. Nevertheless, Spock diverts a portion of his focus to stabilizing the blood flow to his groin and says, "Of course, Captain.
I will join you momentarily. They have never openly declared an embargo on using the bathroom as a thoroughfare, it's just never happened. In the early days of Kirk's captaincy, their relationship was so overtly hostile that it simply wouldn't have occurred to either one - they barely acknowledged that they even shared a bathroom, let alone that the opposite door led into the other's quarters.
By the time the freeze had thawed sufficiently for them to voluntarily spend off-duty hours together, it had just become one of their established courtesies, like the median temperature setting and the observance of each others' traditions.
So he lets himself out into the corridor, startling a passing Ensign whose face flashes panic and then immediately schools itself into studied innocence before she scurries out of sight. He buzzes formally at the Captain's door. It was something of a surprise to discover, in the first stages of infatuation, that it is the smallest of details that deliver the most blinding assaults on reason and emotion.
When Kirk is at his ease, he absently toes his boots off his feet and leaves them scattered haphazardly around the room, canted at all angles, and pads about in his stocking feet.
It is both shockingly intimate and staggeringly mundane, and yet it never fails to elicit a lightning tug of yearning from his First Officer that he suppresses only with great difficulty.
Kirk glances up and flashes him a brilliant smile. Kirk absorbs the information perfunctorily and beckons Spock to his desk. Kirk nods. I trust we're just about wrapped up with the gravitational measurements? A day ago, the idea of abandoning his unfinished project would have been a source of consternation.
Today, it's a manifest relief. The computer banks have stored sufficient data to allow him to process the results at his leisure, but it is no longer enough to occupy him on a full-time basis and he badly needs distraction. He says, "Affirmative. What little information remains to be gathered can be easily accomplished by the science staff aboard the Potemkin. Might I inquire as to the nature of our new assignment?
Kirk's grin widens and he swings the terminal around to face his First Officer. Spock leans carefully across the desk, close enough to allow himself to read the text on the screen but far enough away that the heat of Kirk's body only slightly intrudes into his personal space. He focuses on the document. The Captain's face is shining with delight. Spock," he says.
I think this calls for a drink, don't you? Spock raises an eyebrow and Feedback - 7L / Max Bedroom - The Throwback (CDr) himself into a sitting position. Presently, he says, "This is unexpected, Captain.
His hand hovers over the replicator button. Or tomato? Or I think Scotty said he'd programmed gespar We're off duty. I don't think the chain of command is going to break down if you call me Jim. Spock knows better than to trust a replicator with gespar juice. He says, "Pineapple will be satisfactory, Jim. No excuses. I can handle the diplomatic side of things for a few hours. Spock sips from his glass. He's prevaricating, of course, because he knows what reaction his next words are going to produce.
Nevertheless, he says, "Thank you, Jim, but that won't be necessary. He sets his drink on the desk and leans forward, clasping his hands in front of him. That's not my place. All I'm saying is - when was the last time you visited your homeworld? Spock knows precisely how long it is since he last set foot on Vulcan. This is part of the problem. He says, "Jim, unlike Humans, Vulcans do not feel a strong emotional connection to our native soil. It is important in terms of ritual and ceremony, but I do not experience any particular longing to return.
Spock, you're leaving this ship for three hours while we're in orbit around your home planet, so you might as well find some way to justify it to yourself. Spock privately doubts that, but extracting himself from Kirk's plans typically involves a modicum of misdirection and the appearance of acquiescence, so he offers a non-committal nod and sips from his glass.
You can explain to your mother why you haven't left the ship if you like, but you can rest assured that I won't lie to her on your behalf. Spock," says Kirk. We simply didn't have time to beam everyone down and I could hardly grant myself a privilege that I denied to my crew.
Moreover, I'm not exactly starved for Terran culture aboard the Enterprise. But, really, the most important factor, Mr.
Spock, is this: it's different because I've ordered you to spend some time planetside, and you lack the authority to make a similar demand of me. And don't think I don't know that you wanted to. I know your attachment to Vulcan is ambivalent at best. But who knows how long it might be before you have the chance to visit again?
But you will beam down. For a moment, Spock debates the merits of leaving it at that, since there will be at least two days in which to consider his options. But there is something in the Captain's eyes that makes him press further.
It's the right question. He sees that in the same instant that he realizes he won't get an answer. His voice doesn't waver and he doesn't hesitate, but it's still not the full truth.
Something eases momentarily in the Captain's fixed expression, but it's gone almost before it registers and a darkness floods back in. Kirk covers it quickly with a smile and raises his glass. Kirk barks a laugh that chases the shadows from his expression and spreads his grin more firmly across his face. Spock," he says happily, "You're a stubborn man. This works great for them but is less than conducive to conversational repartee when a psi-null species comes calling.
Therefore, the Veleth Hai were the opposite of impressed when the Human crew of the USS Merrimac made first contact a little over three Terran months ago, and it turned out that the new guests had the collective psi-ability of a damp brick.
After the Veleth Hai made it abundantly clear that, as far as they could tell, the Human race was a collection of dribbling, barely-sentient knuckle-draggers whose command of warp technology was a development of questionable security for the rest of the galaxy, sole tactical authority for the Ilion project was, begrudgingly, ceded to the Vulcan High Command.
Kirk thinks he has a fairly clear picture in his head of how that conversation proceeded, but anyway. That was a little over a week ago. It did not take anyone seven days to work that out, Kirk is privately certain. Nobody knows what the Veleth Hai think. In much the same way that there is a thriving academic population on earth devoted to deciphering cave drawings and Mayan hieroglyphs, there is a branch of anthropology in the Vulcan Science Academy whose singular fascination is the study of ancient Vulcan emotionality.
Sorelan trensu is Professor of Morpholinguistics at the Vulcana Regar campus and is widely regarded as the leading scholar in his field. He has been hastily conscripted to the project against a backdrop of furious negotiation, threats and concessions, not least of which is, apparently, a substantial Federal funding injection directly into the Department of Morpholinguistics at Vulcana Regar that speaks of a certain reticence on the part of the professor himself.
Kirk is unsure of the precise reasons that anyone wants the Enterprise to do the honors in terms of transporting Sorelan from Vulcan to Ilion VII, but it seems to be the one thing everyone actually agrees on at the moment, and the question of whether or not it actually makes sense to send a Constitution-class starship into taxi-duty is not his to ponder.
It should be interesting. His quarters seem smaller now, cloistered and claustrophobic, still two shades too warm from where he surreptitiously turned up the heat a little over an hour ago. He roughly strips off his uniform and lowers himself onto the covers of his bed.
Brandy swims in his brain, soothing but not quite narcotic, and he wonders idly how Spock plans to gracefully wriggle his way free of obligatory shore leave.
That may have been a tactical error. Subtle is harder to counter, and Vulcans have subtle written into their genetic code. But it was a good question. Why does it mean so much to Kirk that his friend spends time on his home planet? Like, for example, as soon as the current mission ends. From the head comes the gentle sounds of Spock preparing for sleep: a clink of metal against metal, the splash of water into the sink, a muted cough.
Kirk closes his eyes. The First Officer swings around in his chair to face the bridge. The ship is about to drop out of warp on the edge of the Eridani system, which means that Spock has known about the existence of Sorelan trensu and his Department of Morpholinguistics for a full sixty-seven hours now.
Kirk waits. Kirk purses his lips around a smile that Spock ignores. It seems likely that there is no scholar on Vulcan better suited to attempting communication with the Veleth Hai. Earlier this morning, Lieutenant Afaeaki obviated a Vulcan hijack of the data processing project in Labs 1, 2 and 4 by virtue of steely-eyed determination and an innate talent for deftly charting the fine line between duty and insubordination.
It seems a little too obvious to be the main thrust of Spock's offensive, though, and the Captain is on his guard. I believe that the professor's expertise in this area will act as a guide in interpreting their telepathic communication.
Spock inclines his head. This is probably not a good sign. The fact that there's not even a token protest about the Captain's use of Terran history to elucidate a point means he's almost certainly plotting something. A code-breaker of sorts may well be required. Only a Vulcan could take a neutral verb like adduced and load it so heavily with disdain and implied reproach. Decoding emotionality may require a scholar at the level of Sorelan trensubut the general population seem to manage the encoding part pretty well all by themselves.
Maybe it takes a Human to notice it, though. Kirk feels a smile twitch the corners of his lips. Sulu," says Kirk. As the star streaks coalesce into Eridani's filigree backdrop and the engines scrape mournfully down the octaves from their supersonic warp-speed whine, Spock stands and crosses to stand at the right of the command chair. Sulu," says Kirk, turning his head to throw a smile towards his First Officer.
Spock folds his hands behind his back and trains his eyes on the viewscreen, which is dimming by degrees as 40 Eridani A expands across the upper right quarter. Two pinprick shadows are just visible against her heavy, yellow bulk. Implies that Spock's wedding was ever anything but. He's going to reference pon farr on the bridge? To your liking? Well, for a start, they're not, and besides, that phrase conveniently combines the very worst semantics of the previous two options.
He settles for, "a little more agreeable than our last visit," and knows even before he's finished speaking that his words will earn him an imperious glance and an eyebrow arched so high it's practically disappeared off the top of Spock's head. Kirk contents himself with plastering his most ingenuous expression across his face and returning the gaze until his First looks away.
He is now. Spock," says Kirk, because he can't resist. Yes, he'll pay for it eventually, but right now he can't resist. The look he receives confirms the certainty of retribution at some point in the future, but Spock says, "Thank you, Captain.
He straightens almost imperceptibly, so that instead of standing poker-stiff he now approaches a quantum state of collinearity. There's something a little bit thrilling to be forcibly reminded that this is a man born into another race from another world, a man with whom he shares virtually no common cultural referents or experience, and still, still they have managed to forge the strongest and most complete friendship that Kirk has ever known.
Stand by to receive orbital co-ordinates. Requesting permission to make ship to surface contact with the Vulcan Science Academy. Another silence, this time stretching long enough to trail a sideways glance from the Captain towards his First. Spock meets it and offers a raised eyebrow in return. A hiss from the turbolift announces Bones' arrival on the bridge and Kirk turns his head to acknowledge the Doctor as he takes up a position to the left of the command chair.
He glances towards Uhura, who is watching the ceiling with a look of furious concentration on her face. She catches the Captain's gaze and offers a tiny shake of her head. Kirk opens his mouth to repeat the question and gets as far as drawing breath before the steel voice finally cuts him off. Interference is expected due to weather conditions in the Raal region. Kirk darts another quick glance at Spock, who is regarding the blank viewscreen with consternation.
The Captain sighs. He purses his lips. Uhura, see if you can raise the VSA on either of those conduits and patch it through to my quarters. Spock, I want you to join me for the call and on the away party when we beam-down.
Spock, but I'm afraid you'll have to set it aside for now," he says. Interference is too strong. Kirk curls his hand into a fist and gently strikes the arm of his chair.
Keep trying, and call Mr. Scott to the bridge. Sulu, you have the con until Mr. Scott arrives. Have him complete the final formalities with Quarantine and Borders. I'll be in my quarters. An on-duty Jim is always cause to take note of what follows, and Kirk twists his head to train an evaluative gaze on his First Officer.
Spock is facing resolutely forward, hands folded tightly behind his back, and only the lines of tension in his face betray his distress. He says, gently, "I'm sorry if it makes you uncomfortable, Spock Whoever decided that Vulcans don't lie obviously didn't count prevarication under that general rubric.
I believe that my presence will unduly complicate matters. Kirk smothers a mutinous grin that is determined to worry its way across his face, because now is clearly not the time. The doors slide open onto Deck 5 and he says, as they step out of the lift, "But you feel that your decision to turn down your place at the Academy two decades ago is likely to exacerbate our Feedback - 7L / Max Bedroom - The Throwback (CDr) diplomatic difficulties?
Spock doesn't sigh, but Kirk can tell he wants to. They have reached the Captain's quarters and he opens the door. I'll play it Feedback - 7L / Max Bedroom - The Throwback (CDr) ear, but it strikes me that it would look very odd not to include you in these talks. Especially if there are issues of cultural sensitivity at stake. No visuals but the VSA are standing by on an audio-only channel. Professor Sorelan was unavailable. The Captain straightens, pressing a hand to his forehead.
He didn't feel this tired fifteen minutes ago. Have Uhura patch them through. Spock flicks open the port. The Captain is ready to receive the transmission from Professor T'Pilak. Kirk winces. The Captain closes his eyes and takes a breath. We have a lot of interference at our end. Kirk looks at Spock, who has already quirked an eyebrow at the comm.
He is not expecting a reply, and the sudden muted hum that speaks of a conduit still open against the odds is something of a surprise.
The voice, when it follows, is distant and distorted, with a disconcerting split-second echo, but there is no mistaking a note of iron-willed intransigence that does not bode well for the conversation. To whom am I speaking? Even across a blind channel and some thousand kilometers of atmosphere and planetary surface, it palpably does not. Spock nods and steeples his hands. There is a long, uncomfortable pause. Professor Sorelan is unavailable for transfer to your ship at this time.
In the absence of the appropriate Vulcan to glare at, Kirk transfers his wide-eyed fury to Spock, who furrows his brow in the direction of the comm port and sits forward in his seat. For a sparse, two-syllable sentence, it is so heavily inflected with censure that it convincingly refutes Spock's earlier denial of the Vulcan capacity for grudge-holding. I regret that you have had a wasted journey, Captain Kirk, but the fact remains: Sorelan is unavailable at present.
Kirk leans forward, elbows braced on the desk, and schools his features into something approaching patience. He says, "You must appreciate, T'Pilak, that we can't simply turn the ship around on your say-so.
My orders stand until such times as they are officially revoked by my commanding officers. Frustration colors his tone freely now, but there's not much he can do about that. Live long and prosper.
T'Pilak out. She is gone before he can open his mouth to respond and the sudden absence of electrical hum sucks a vacuous silence into the room that makes the Captain's ears ring. He takes a deep breath and leans back in his seat. He straightens his spine, and rests his hands on either side of the chair. However, it is impossible to determine its cause. I do not believe my presence contributed significantly to the antipathy already manifest in Professor T'Pilak's tone.
Then, "Fascinating. I see no logical reason to oppose this mission. However, T'Pilak's hostility need not reflect an overall policy shift. Moreover, we are neglecting to consider one pertinent fact. Now Spock looks up, and it's not quite amusement in his eyes and not quite mischief, but there's a glint of something. Kirk huffs a small laugh.
He crosses his hands across his chest and lets a wide smile break across his face. It's an interesting experience, facing the wrath of Admiral Komack while not being its primary target. Kirk would be better placed to enjoy it, however, if he wasn't industriously biting back on his own impotent rage, because the target is currently Spock and that's actually worse.
The Federation's not going to be held to ransom by a bunch of intellectuals with a bug up their ass. Commander Spock! If Spock is startled by the abrupt re-focusing of the Admiral's attention, he gives no sign. Only the set of his jaw reveals his diminishing patience, and Kirk is fairly certain that Komack will miss that entirely. I want to know what the hell they're playing at. Our only commonality is that we are of the same homeworld.
Why the hell do you think we sent the Enterprise? Unseen beneath the desk, he digs his fingernails into his hands. It is vitally important to strip it free of the tumbling fury coiling in his belly. I have submitted a formal request for a meeting with the Vice-Chancellor in ShiKahr as soon as possible. However - it wouldn't hurt to have a little diplomatic pressure exerted from HQ.
I'm not certain of our standing in Vulcan political circles at present. That's your standing. Komack's eyes narrow. You let me worry about what goes on behind the scenes. Two pairs of Human eyes converge on him, one openly hostile, the other startled. The words have been uttered on record. She will find it difficult to retract them now. Sixteen light-years away, Komack leans back on his chair and trains a sceptical gaze on the Enterprise 's commanding officers. He says, "I'm not buying it, Spock.
Maybe the High Command knew what she was going to do in advance and maybe they didn't, but they've closed down tight behind her now. If she retracts, they'll back her. And if the blaze in Kirk's belly was nuclear before, it's now the heart of a bright-burning, newborn star. It's as much as he can do not to turn a wide, open smile on his First for that staggering act of rebellion, and so he fixes his gaze on his desk for as long as it takes to steady his expression and re-collect his thoughts, and then lifts his eyes to meet Komack's.
I am simply suggesting that there is merit to Commander Spock's appraisal of the situation. I want you to do your damn job, and your job at this minute is to move one Professor of Morpholinguistics from Vulcana Regar to the Ilion system.
Now, I don't much care if you have to beam him up naked from his bedroom to accomplish that, but you've got your job to do and I've got mine. Take your meeting in ShiKahr, Kirk, but don't tell me to pin any hopes on Professor T'Pilak's pinkie-swear that Sorelan's going to be good to go by the end of the week.
She doesn't want him gone and by all accounts he doesn't want to be gone. I don't need to tell you that I'm not expecting you to take no for an answer, Kirk. The screen blanks so abruptly that Kirk is obliged to blink a couple of times to persuade his eyes that they haven't gone blind. He lets out Feedback - 7L / Max Bedroom - The Throwback (CDr) long breath. It was the fact that agreeing with you contradicted him. Joy - ridiculous, unbidden, and almost completely inappropriate - bubbles in the Captain's chest and floods his head with a kind of reckless energy.
He turns a huge smile on his friend, the smile that he wanted to show him a moment earlier. If there is one thing that Vulcan authority figures understand really well, it is the psychological power of symbolism. Spock is privately certain that the Vice-Chancellor of the Vulcan Academy of Science does not typically conduct his business in a cavernous hall that sucks the rapid-fire clip of their footfall up to the distant ceiling as he and his Captain cross the wide expanse of floor to a forbidding wood-effect desk that sits in the shadows of the furthest wall.
But there is a subtle but tangible advantage to be gained by making them walk the empty meters, while Solvis and his associates watch mildly from their privileged position and radiate an air of infinite patience that manages to imply that their guests could really move a little faster.
Spock is sure that the Captain's thoughts mirror his own, and, while the feeling is uncomfortably akin to being caught out in a species-wide lie, there is also a warm sense of satisfaction curling in his chest at the unruffled, pleasant smile of greeting fixed to Kirk's face as they approach the dais where the Elders wait.
In his many years of living and working alongside Humans, it has been Spock's experience that their default position around Vulcans is either manifest impatience or intimidation. The Captain is the only man he has ever known who has taken Spock's people so calmly in his stride. It's his nature to assume that the world will simply orient itself around him, and the amazing thing is that it generally does.
Perhaps if he spent more time worrying about cultural observance and niceties he would be more vulnerable to their ideological bite, but Kirk has always just preferred to think of the multiplicity of galactic life as different shades of the same essential brotherhood: he treats everyone with the respect he expects for himself and his crew, and that's actually a much more powerful technique than simpering political correctness.
Spock fully expects that it will be as effective as a concrete enema against the grim tenacity of the leaders of the VSA, but, really, out of every Human on planet Earth and her combined colonies, Kirk is the only one with even half a chance of success here.
They draw to a halt in front of the long desk. Spock estimates that they have walked meters from the door to the dais, and decides that this room must be used for formal functions, although he cannot imagine what kind. In tandem with his Captain, he raises his hand in the ta'al.
Solvis alone returns the gesture. The empty air catches his words and twists them into the shadowy heights. He is perhaps one hundred and fifty years old, elegantly slipping into middle age and wearing his authority like the ermines of an ancient Terran king.
His eyes slide economically to the right and meet Spock's. Solvis probably doesn't notice, at least. It would be inaccurate to say that Spock hasn't pondered this very moment for many years. He does not often revisit the circumstances of his departure from Vulcan, and less so now that there is an entente of sorts between himself and his father, but - lately in particular - he has occasionally found himself indulging in idle speculation about the path along which his decision has inexorably led him.
There is another life, another Spock, hovering ephemerally on the horizon of his choices - a Spock who followed Sarek's wishes and applied himself to the Vulcan disciplines and sciences. A Spock who never joined Starfleet.
A Spock who has never known Kirk. There are days when that knowledge prickles bullets of cold panic along his spine, the knowledge of how close he came to never finding the means to slot together the disparate pieces of his soul into one coherent whole, and even now, with unrequited emotion tugging a hole in his belly and rending his chest inch by inch, day by day, he knows he would not have had this other life, not for anything. His voice is deceptively light. Spock has heard that tone before, and Solvis would be very foolish to mistake it for capitulation to the semantics of big rooms and impressive desks.
Why no-one bothers to do their homework before meeting with James Kirk is a mystery to him, but he recognizes the universal language of underestimation in the Elder's tone, and things are likely to go downhill quickly from here. Spock waits. Solvis obliges:. The smile has not moved, not even fractionally.
Solvis is not exactly lacking in the arts of cordial evisceration himself, and his eyes barely narrow. Kirk raises his eyebrows and turns them back to the dais. Solvis folds his hands on top of the desk. I'm here to collect Professor Sorelan. Professor T'Pilak informs me that he is unavailable. He is, therefore, unavailable. If you imagine that the Vice-Chancellor of the Academy is in the habit of interrogating our most eminent scholars, then I regret to inform you that this is not the case.
The Captain is far too practiced to share a triumphant look with his First Officer, but something warms in the air between them. The folded hands are retracted and disappear beneath the desk. Well, that does it. His anger flares brightly in the dim room and agitates the torpid air. Solvis locks down like a starship entering battle. His expression barely shifts, but the shadows freeze around him. He says, "I believe that concludes our meeting, Captain.
If there is nothing further? If the VSA wants to retain any credibility within the United Federation of Planets, I'd advise you to think very carefully about the consequences of breaking your word. Enterprise will be in orbit for another two hours. I'll expect your communication before we depart. He turns on his heel while Solvis is in the process of nodding a glacial goodbye and strides savagely into the indistinct depths of the hall.
Spock raises his hand in the ta'al and derives a small measure of satisfaction from the distaste that flashes briefly in Solvis' eyes as he's obliged to return it. Alpha shift has just concluded and the corridors are filled with crewmen easing into leisure time, passing between their stations and their quarters or on their way to various off-duty pursuits.
Even after four and a half years, the sight of the Captain among them is enough to temper the atmosphere with something that's a few parts respect, a few parts awe, and a few parts open admiration. It never ceases to fascinate Spock, the easy assumption of the mantle of responsibility that straightens Kirk's back and fixes a warm smile to his face no matter how difficult an interview with the VSA he's just passed. He cannot help but be drawn to it, and the brutal reminder of his relative place on the Enterprise versus the planet of his birth does not exactly moderate the rush of affection it elicits.
They do not speak until the turbolift doors cocoon them from listening ears, and then Kirk releases a weary puff of air and sags a little and says, "I think I'd better comm Admiral Komack and tell him we'll be here a little longer than planned. Fatigue tugs at his shoulders and drains the color from his face. Spock says, "Jim, there will be time for that later. I believe you require rest. I'd prefer to get the ball rolling now. The doors open onto the residential deck, and McCoy abruptly halts in the act of stepping forward.
How'd it go with friend Solvis? He falls into step alongside them as they make their way along the corridor to the Captain's quarters, and Kirk says, "It could have gone better, Bones. That earns him a sharp glare from Kirk, and Spock quickly puts in, "My duties do not include harassing the Captain regarding his health, Doctor. I believe that falls under your remit.
Kirk turns a wry smile on his friend. Bones is unfazed. The question takes Spock by surprise, and he realizes that his routine with the Captain has become so entrenched into his personal worldview that it would never have occurred to him that he wouldn't be included in the invitation.
He says, "Thank you, Dr. I believe my duties do include protecting the Captain from the over-zealous ministrations of the ship's Doctor. I shall be glad to join you for dinner. They follow Kirk into his quarters, and the Captain busies himself in dragging an extra chair from the sleeping area and arranging it in front of the desk.
McCoy sits, and Spock, after a moment's hesitation, follows suit. There is a glint in his eye. It wasn't live. McCoy," says Spock, but he sounds stiff even to himself. A slow smile spreads across Kirk's face. But just Amanda is expecting your call. I have no doubt she has endless respect for your duties and obligations to Starfleet, Spock. But she's Human, and she's your mother.
Trust me - you'll save yourself a world of grief if you take five minutes out of your evening to let her know you're alive and well and thinking about her.
The food'll be a little while. Go and do it now. Spock folds his hands in his lap to give himself a moment's grace. He says, "The time in ShiKahr is approaching the evening meal.
It is considered a serious breach of decorum to intrude upon mealtimes. I will make the communication later tonight. The Captain's eyes sparkle. Now, Bones - brandy or bourbon? It doesn't matter how hard she tries - and she does try, he knows that - Amanda is never able to strip the warmth from her voice or her eyes when she addresses her family.
It's something her husband has learned to live with over the years, and something that her son has slowly learned to cherish. She doesn't often send him a private communication because she knows that her tendency towards demonstrative affection makes him uncomfortable, so when she does she's inclined to allow herself a little emotional wriggle-room.
As her face fills his terminal screen, the first thing he sees is the tenderness of her smile and its untroubled baptism of contentment and love. Her skin is a little paler, a little more lined in the cheek and creased around the eyes than he remembers, but her voice is unchanged.
She says, "Spock, by the time you get this, Feedback - 7L / Max Bedroom - The Throwback (CDr), you'll be in orbit around Vulcan. Welcome home, dear. I hope you'll have a chance to spend a little time planetside, but of course duty comes first. I had hoped so much that I'd get a chance to see you before you leave, but, sadly, that won't be possible. Know that you're never far from my thoughts. I won't say the words and embarrass you, but I know you already know what's in my heart.
Stay safe, dear. Regardless of McCoy's needling or the Captain's declamations on the expectations of the Human matriarch, Spock knows his mother well enough to know that, in the first place, she has made her peace with Vulcan priorities and will not seek to interfere in matters of duty, and in the second place, she will actually want to see her son while he is within beaming distance of her. At the very least, he'd expected some sort of open invitation, qualified with the understanding that it was unlikely to be fulfilled.
He stares at the blinking text for a moment, then flicks open his comm port. Amanda has never pressed him to respond in kind to her emotional advances, nor has she ever expected any particularly Human display of filial devotion. But she will have wanted to see him, he is certain of that.
She would never expect him to prioritize her over the multiplicity of conflicting demands on his time, but the fact that she has essentially precluded any possibility of a visit is I have a gentleman by the name of Taaval standing by.
A subtle sonic shift indicates the transfer, and then his screen lights up with the impassive features of his father's assistant. Spock nods a greeting. Terran Standard is the lingua franca of Sarek's household, whether it finds itself on Earth or Vulcan. There is a short pause, mirror of Spock's own.
Then Taaval says, "I regret that the Lady Amanda is If Spock were Human, he might be inclined to wonder if all of Vulcan had collectively disappeared on an impromptu vacation without leaving a forwarding address. Since he is not, he contents himself with a brief reflection on his new least favorite word in Standard. Taaval does not reply, but simply regards him dispassionately. It is not unusual for Sarek to be abruptly called offworld, and, wherever possible, Amanda will accompany him, but if this were the case, then Taaval would have said as much.
Spock feels the first pricklings of unease. He says, "Might I ask when the Ambassador and his wife are expected to return? There is the tiniest, faintest intake of breath, but the momentary dip of the eyes and tightening of the shoulders that it accompanies are reminiscent of a teacher losing patience with a particularly obtuse student.
Nevertheless, when Taaval speaks, his voice is level. He says, "I estimate perhaps 1. It's not particularly late, but it's been a trying day and there's no work outstanding - or, at least, nothing that's going to be fixed tonight - so Kirk has decided to try for an early night. His brain is firing haphazardly in a way that suggests that sleep will be elusive, but he lacks the energy to run it off in the gym and so he's sought out his battered old Melville and tossed it on the bed, and is preparing for a warm shower to try and soothe some of the restlessness away.
The buzz at his door is, therefore, neither wholly welcome, nor wholly disagreeable. Not that it matters. Part of being the Captain is that you don't get to decide when you want to actually be Captain. He knows it's Spock before he turns, before his First Officer speaks. There's just something about the way he carries himself into a room, something about the way the air shifts around him. But it's still a pleasure to step into the living area and have it confirmed. He smiles. What can I do for you?
Then he waits a little bit more, and finally he quirks an eyebrow. He radiates discomfort, and Kirk is obliged to restrain the urge to lay a placatory hand on his friend's arm. It seemed likely that he and Professor T'Pilak had come to the conclusion that the Veleth Hai project was outside of Sorelan's field of expertise, and were unwilling to subject Vulcan pride to any further humiliation.
Kirk waits, but finds he's disinclined to let the hiatus linger this time. Spock tilts his head back. The height differential means that he's really very good at avoiding the Captain's eye when he wants to. He says, "The symptoms of pon farr typically require four to five days to fully resolve.
There is a moment of silence. And then a small laugh escapes him, bordering on the hysterical. Spock says nothing. Kirk finds, horrifyingly, that he wants to giggle. He buries the urge with pacing. When he thinks he can trust himself, he says, carefully, "That would It takes his First a moment to work out what he's talking about and then his eyes abruptly widen.
Perhaps space travel And then, "Excellent. The Captain hesitates by his desk, lifts a stylus, stares at it for a moment. He says, "Is everything all right, Spock? He's not looking at his First, so it's a feeling rather than an observation that alerts him to the subtle shift behind him.
Kirk looks over his shoulder. Nothing about Spock's expression has visibly changed, but there is a palpable aura of distress that is quite separate from the discomfort of his revelation. Spock says, "I have nothing further to report, Captain. Without thinking, he takes a step forward. And the Captain wouldn't be the Captain if he didn't step forward now and close his fingers around his friend's arm, and he expects Spock to gently extricate himself and move away.
It's not just a surprise when he doesn't, it's actually astounding. The glance lasts a second, no longer, but it pins Kirk to the spot and freezes every muscle in his body. Still Spock makes no effort to pull away and Kirk realizes he's holding his breath, but he can't release it now, not without calling attention to the sudden suspension of everything familiar. Something twists in the Captain's belly, long-suppressed and all but disregarded, and he's certain - he'd swear - that he just saw it mirrored in Spock's eyes.
Air rushes in to fill the vacuum, cold and colorless, and the Captain lets himself breathe again. He amends it quickly: "It's been a difficult day for you, Spock.
I'm sorry. He's at the door now, eyes still hooded, and he nods once. The door opens and Spock looks up, once, briefly, but for the power in that tiny glance it might be the eye of a telescope, pointed into infinity. Then he's gone, and Kirk is left in the sudden silence, standing motionless by his desk. He knows she knows this. Amanda steps out of the closet with three tunics, assorted undergarments, and a travelling cloak slung over her arm and rolls her eyes in impatience when she sees him sitting placidly on his bed, hands folded in his lap.
They settle into a neat fabric-strata with a billowing puff of must-scented air. Amanda moves like a Terran swan — stillness and economy of motion belying a furiously-working mind and a capacity for industry entirely at odds with the face she presents to the world at large.
This makes it all the more disjunctive when extreme emotion disrupts her typical air of unruffled contentment — like now, when her eyes widen and her mouth tightens into a thin line of anger. Do it now! You just do it, Spock, do you understand me?
He has never seen her angry. Sarek seems to spend half his life at some level of disappointment with his son, but Amanda has never lost her temper in his presence. Taaval takes him to the transport station, and Spock finds that his controls are faltering. A porter takes his trunk at the gates, and Spock turns to his companion, sucking in a breath that puffs out his chest and straightens his spine, buying him perhaps half an inch of extra height.
I will be glad to know of your safe arrival. Spock mirrors the gesture, and it takes some considerable effort to ensure that his fingers do not shake. It is a modest, comfortable villa, cooled by the ocean winds and built around a pleasant, leafy courtyard in which she spends at least half of her day in pursuit of Golic meditation.
After a brief interview on his arrival, Spock has found himself conscripted to a mat by her side for four hours of every day; clearly, whatever she found in the meld has convinced her that his parents are woefully remiss in their instructions in the Vulcan disciplines. He has no logical objection. The courtyard is almost completely canopied by the heavy, spreading branches of four ancient trees, and the sunlight that streaks through their leaf-blanket is tepid, dilute, like a high summer day in San Francisco.
Salt breezes sweeten the air and the sand beneath his mat is comfortably warm, like a pot that has been left in the morning sun. His objection, therefore, is not logical; it is emotional. Meditation is ointment to his troubled mind, but a true kohl-tor is impossible to achieve in his current state, and hours of silence and struggle are entirely too conducive to a runaway thought-train of panic.
It has been five days since Spock was unceremoniously ejected from his home. Even accounting for the vagaries of Standard, he is certain that constitutes more than a fewand yet there has been no mention of making arrangements for his return.
His studies are suffering and, worse, he can no longer suppress the niggling doubt that there is no home for him to return to. Why else the secrecy? Be still. Invisible above the tree-blanket, marine birds trace their path on soaring thermals in the rise and fall of their mournful cries. He forces his Self inside, into the quiet place of darkness and knowledge, and reaches for peace even as logic shakes its metaphorical head and whispers that peace cannot be grasped at, that it shrinks from the clutch of desperation.
In this shadowed anteroom, the meditative trance is a locked door for which he has no key, but thoughts play like an ancient Terran film strip across the whitewashed walls of his mind. Meditation spits him violently back into the lazy sunlight of the courtyard, gasping for breath, and his spine sags his neck forward, crushing his head towards his chest.
For a moment he cannot speak, and he turns his head towards her and knows that he stares at her with Human eyes, in which she reads entirely too much. She stands abruptly in one easy, fluid motion and he hears the soft clip of her footsteps on flagstones as she disappears into the house. He is left alone in the shade of the in-du-kabeating ineffectually at a hurricane of panic and confusion, belly and cheeks burning with a furious shame. He expects her to make some reference to his lineage. But she only fixes him with an unwavering stare — a stare that has, sadly, passed unaltered to his father and has been regularly employed in lieu of words in those long, uncomfortable interviews that inevitably follow any kind of misdeed — and waits for him to speak.
Amanda has asked him the same question more times than he can count, and the sudden association forces another frantic wave of agitation to swirl in his belly. There is clearly nothing to be gained by pursuing tvi-sochya this morning. We will turn to your studies for now. Her second daughter is only months older than Spock, so she has always tended to treat him as though he were an extension of her own family, watching him with the inscrutable, all-seeing eye of Vulcan matriarchy.
Your grandmother is talking to her now. Samaris watches impassively as he scrambles to compose himself, straightening his back and folding his hands in front of him, viciously suppressing a rising tide of emotion. She swivels to follow his movement and raises a meaningful eyebrow as he hesitates in the corridor. She allows her silence to register her disapproval for one long moment, and then nods. There is much to do. It is difficult to suppress the urge to tear haphazardly along the short corridor and down the stairs.
It is her. He grips his hands tightly behind his back, feeling his fingernails bite deeply into his palms, and acknowledges at last the prickling dread that had wondered if he would ever hear that voice again.
A small, self-deprecating laugh. The risks to your wellbeing are… immoderate. I am surprised Sarek agreed to your departure. In the loaded silence that follows, Spock is abruptly aware that he is eavesdropping. Quickly, he raises his hand and knocks on the door.
The pause that follows is so pronounced he can practically feel the consternation from inside the room. Why are you not upstairs? He turns towards her, and registers her appearance for the first time. Amanda has always been small, sparsely proportioned and almost bird-like against the strong, robust lines of her Vulcan contemporaries. He has always been aware of her relative fragility, and he has seen the way his father instinctively hovers close by her side, as though he can surround her with his superior strength like a forcefield.
The smile wilts on her face. His mother lowers herself back into her chair with a valiant effort at insouciance, but her movements are too practiced, too pronounced, too performative, and he does not miss the tiny grimace that escapes her before she can suppress it.
Run along and do as your grandmother says. Spock leaves the room, closing the door quietly behind him, and waits for a moment in the corridor outside. But they have either finished speaking or else they distrust his easy acquiescence, because no sound escapes the electric silence in the room beyond. Something is wrong; that much is clear. He turns and crosses to the stairs, but a lingering unease is worrying a hole in his belly and spreading little tendrils of doubt into his disordered thoughts.
Confirmation of their amended orders has just blinked its arrival on his terminal, and the Captain spends less than half a second wondering whether or not he ought to pull on his uniform and head up to the bridge. He acknowledges receipt with a click, and his hand hovers over the power down command for a second, while little zig-zag lines of fatigue shoot across his straining eyes.
Whatever that moment was. He knows what that moment was. It may interest you to know that we are to remain in orbit around your planet for four Vulcan days. Strike that last sentence.
Crew will be granted leave to beam down to the planet during this period. I would be delighted to offer you the hospitality of the Enterprise at any time during our stay. Message ends. Spock will be furious, and rightly so. There is no way he ought to transmit this. All things considered, it has been a horrible evening.
First there was the message from Taaval that catapulted him back into memories he seldom revisits for the crushing weight of impotent rage they engender, and the panic, and the fear.
It just seems to be a Human thing. Or until Spock just gives up and tells him. He could have coped with the distress. Spock is used to being known. He could have coped with that. He knows what was in his eyes when he looked up, and he knows that Kirk saw it. He also knows his Captain too well to believe that he read it as anything other than what it was.
This is why meditation eludes him tonight: because there is simply no getting past this point. He supposes he ought to be grateful at least that he managed a full two hours since the last burst of wakefulness.
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