Author: Cimorene (cimness)
Summary: "But I will say one thing for sure: you've inspired a hell of a lot of loyalty in the crew. Commander Spock has spoken with me personally, and he hasn't stopped there, either. I'd say that you've been lucky to win his confidence, but I know Commander Spock too well to attribute it to luck. With his connections," said Pike, and trailed off significantly, leading to something he clearly assumed Jim knew. Jim didn't know: he knew almost as little about Spock's connections as he did about tin roofing, and Pike couldn't possibly be talking about Lieutenant Uhura.
Fandom: Star Trek: Reboot
Pairing: gen, but Spock/Uhura is mentioned and Kirk/Spock implied
Original story: Still Waters by medie
Still Waters (Hypothetically Speaking Extended Dub)
For practically the first time in his life, on the Enterprise's triumphant return to Earth, Jim Kirk found himself wanting to visit his mother. The impulse didn't fade when he remembered the old-fashioned wireless broadband and lack of secure terminals at the farm in Central Nowhere, Iowa and didn't vanish when he forced himself to face the possibility of some new boyfriend hanging around the place.
When he vid called and was confronted by the tiny square of live feed, Jim didn't change his mind, even when she touched the screen and said, with a noticeable waver in her voice, "Jim, you are alive."
"In peak form," Jim confirmed. "You can trust Starfleet to tell you the truth about that, Mom."
"As far as I can throw them," she agreed, in a more steady voice. "I don't know about peak form. What did Dr. McCoy tell you about that eye? Are you going to lose it?"
Jim fingered the blackening bruise and briefly regretted escaping Bones before he could finish healing it. "It's nothing, Mom – just a few scrapes I haven't had time to get healed. It's been pretty busy around here."
"If you can't get free long enough to get your face fixed up, I hope you've taken the time to eat and sleep." There was a look in her face that suggested she was using the word "hope" only in the most distant sense, and it put Jim's inner little boy on the defensive.
"I feel great, actually," he said. "Surrounded by the collective authority of the Federation, I'm completely relieved of the notion that I could be responsible for anything. They hardly let me out of Sickbay under my own steam. I'm not sure that I don't temporarily belong in custody of Bones or Admiral Pike while the higher-ups fight over whether to hand me a reprimand for pulling an insubordinate damn fool stunt or pat me on the head for saving our asses. I think going by the letter of the rulebook, both are required, so with any luck they'll manage to cancel each other out."
Expansiveness had carried him away a bit, there, and the mention of reprimands had made his mother's mouth tighten up (or possibly it was the word 'Admiral' - Winona Kirk was a reasonable woman, supportive of her son's unexpected decision to follow his parents' career path due to intimate knowledge of Jim's stubbornness. Once he'd made up his mind she'd have had a better chance of being elected to the Federation Council than changing it, and she hadn't tried; but her husband's death had left her with an irrational aversion to space and a certain bitterness towards 'Fleet). Jim supposed it was a little much to expect someone to be completely on his guard with his own mother, especially in the face of the pregnant suspense of the week of enforced inactivity he was looking at.
"Seriously, Mom," he said, going consciously for charm, "I'm never going to be every teacher's favorite, but I'm going to be fine. And I'll be even better once I'm home," he added. His strategy with women was flattery-heavy, and he'd practiced (most of) it on her first.
"You always did step on toes," she said wryly, and Jim relaxed, because Mom was relaxing. She was even laughing at him. "Just let them alone with you for a while and you'll charm all their socks off and leave with their wallets."
"The thing is, they haven't let me alone with them yet," he confided. In this case, the joke overlay a core of solid truth, although it was pretty certain that a few Admirals were going to be keeping a firm grip on their socks, like Komack, for example, who had probably been born with his head so far up his rectum that he walked on his hands, or better yet all fours, which could explain his death grip on his hosiery.
Or it could have something to do with that incident involving Dubal Manq-Sith's prizewinning heritage giant fly-trap, the password-protected files from Komack's Inner Sanctum, and that Ferengi trade delegation, of course. But they'd never prove anything.
His mother twinkled at him. "If you'll be coming home with a few extra wallets, the barn could use a new roof."
Jim frowned. "Hard times?"
"Not really," she said. "I've just got my heart set on old-fashioned tin. And I'll have to go into Iowa City and buy up the supermarket if you're coming home, Jim."
"A week's leave," he said, calculating mentally whether his bonus would actually stretch to a tin roof for the barn. He'd decided to buy it for her if he could, but the problem was having zero idea of the price of tin roofing. "I was thinking I would show up tomorrow, maybe the day after, unless something comes up."
Figuring out how to put a tin lid on a barn and a week of manual labor should just about fit the bill to keep his mind occupied while waiting for judgment from Starfleet Command, and keep him from enduring the unabashed curiosity everywhere he went. Jim was used to being the subject of gossip - usually intentionally - but he didn't have the stomach for autographs with the galaxy still reeling from genocide (with the personal context of his brief and rather tempestuous acquaintance with two versions of Commander Spock). (He hadn't seen either version, the Commander or the old man, in the day since beaming down; was Spock closeted with Command, testifying for or against him? With the Vulcan refugees? Possibly not even on Earth any longer?)
His mother was agreeing to his plan, talking about Texas steak and strawberry season and his old room, which gave Jim a momentary rush of displacement, a bit like culture shock, and he ended the call mechanically, not sure if he'd agreed to sleep in the sewing room or upgrade the security fence or stop by Texas and pick up a live steak.
Already at the terminal, Jim was on the verge of investigating restoration roofing techniques when the message from Pike bleeped in. Not a call, a recorded voice message. Considering Jim hadn't heard anything about Pike being released from Medical, that was easy enough to understand.
"Jim, I wish I had better news for you," Pike's voice said. He sounded tired, tense, but weary and not urgent. "But even at a time like this, especially at a time like this, there's... politics. The Federation Council's going to be tied in emergency session for God-knows-how-long; interviewing refugees. And Starfleet Command's not exactly business as usual right now. I can promise you one thing: you aren't going to be formally disciplined." A wet-sounding cough and a rustle; Jim wondered if Pike recorded this in Medical, and whether his doctor knew he was doing it. For that matter, he wondered how Pike was keeping up with the rapid speed of Federation politics from his biobed.
"I have Admiral Nogura's word on that," the message continued. Jim startled. Nogura? Good news. "He's apparently arguing that if you're a charged phaser, Starfleet Command should be aiming and firing you. Others have suggested that you're a powder keg, however, and you're not the only issue on the table. But I will say one thing for sure: you've inspired a hell of a lot of loyalty in the crew. Commander Spock has spoken with me personally, and he hasn't stopped there, either. I'd say that you've been lucky to win his confidence, but I know Commander Spock too well to attribute it to luck. With his connections," said Pike, and trailed off significantly, leading to something he clearly assumed Jim knew. Jim didn't know: he knew almost as little about Spock's connections as he did about tin roofing, and Pike couldn't possibly be talking about Lieutenant Uhura. "Make yourself scarce," Pike finally said, firmly. "I'll let you know."
Jim sat at the terminal in a daze, mechanically requesting records on Spock from all the usual and obvious and almost-legal sources, too caught up in wondering what the hell Spock was saying about him, why, and to whom to devote any more energy to tin.
~ \\//_ ~ _\\// ~
His first try, after Spock's official record of course, was hacking his way up the command tree to successively sealed records. Jim couldn't help wishing that Spock himself were available to do the hacking. The Kobayashi Maru had been a nice piece of programming. Jim himself was characteristically self-taught when it came to hacking, as with everything. He'd picked up a few things in his time, of course, but if 'Fleet kept good protections on anything it was security clearances.
He managed to find out that Spock's father, Ambassador Sarek, was a bigwig of some kind and not just an ordinary Ambassador, unless maybe Ambassadors were very few and uniformly bigwigs on Vulcan, because besides being the Ambassador to Earth for several decades, he had kept a mysteriously high security clearance and a lot of activity on his name at both 'Fleet Command and the Federation Council. That was another thing: what, exactly, was Sarek's relationship with the Federation Council? He wasn't on it, and he wasn't regularly employed by it as, for example, a troubleshooter or consultant. But on the other hand, he had authored enough flagged and tagged papers on its servers that Jim couldn't read to completely fill a PADD if he had been able to unseal them.
Spock himself was no slouch at paper-writing, but most of his papers were publicly published and concerned things like the phonology of Klingon, the life-cycles of the Betelgeusean cattle fly and the Andorian princess moth, the Reform poetry of Vulcan compared to the post-modern freeverse novels of Earthman Salvador Dali Qi, pulsar physics, Universal Translator programming, and microbotany. (Jim skimmed a few abstracts and downloaded a selection to read at a later date, but they didn't look like helping him much at present.)
Jim's second strategy was to check out what the grapevine had to say about Spock. The tabloids were useless; Spock was as good at avoiding gossip as Jim was at attracting it. All the mentions on the SFA boards were his students despairing of his classes or their personal chances at getting into his pants. Some of them were unwarrantably optimistic about the second, and Jim knew a compassionate impulse to break the news to them about Spock's partner of choice and the way she combined valedictory honors in both her majors and most of her minors with legs up to here; but the other cadets generally put paid to these threads with the kind of logical assumptions about Vulcans' lack of sex lives that Jim himself might have been tempted to make, if he hadn't laid eyes on a couple of steamy interludes himself. So in other words, the Academy grapevine was a wash, except for providing an entertaining hour's reading.
The more elite sections of the grapevine were harder to lay hands on. A vid call from an old acquaintance (especially a club bathroom acquaintance, which was what too many of them were) seeking council gossip was bound to look a little funny. With a sigh, Jim resigned himself to submitting to Bones's cosmetic plans for his face: he needed to look pretty if he was going to hit the swanky clubs tonight.
"Jim," McCoy answered his page, with awful sarcasm, "my favorite patient. Fancy hearing from you so soon."
"Bones, my favorite Medical staff member," said Jim cheerfully. "I need a favor!"
"Oh, well, mystery solved! A long-distance favor, I bet. I know your aversion to the incredibly quick and painless work of medical scanners, and who could blame you? I mean, they reduce your chances of contracting a staph infection or some bizarre alien flu to almost nothing."
"Hey," said Jim, allowing himself to be distracted, "that was one time, and you weren't even in town - it had nothing to do with medical scanners!"
"Besides, after that lingering goodbye yesterday..."
"Sorry to vanish on you like that, but I got a message notification from home marked Urgent, and what with how busy you were I thought you wouldn't even miss me," Jim lied. "Anyway, I've been meaning all along to come back as soon as I had a minute free."
"Hmmmmmm," Bones grumbled. "How is your mother doing, then?"
"Getting into historical barn reconstructions. Says I'm needed to put a tin roof on. And worried out of her mind, probably. She looked a little tense around the mouth. Also it seems she, uh, didn't much like the look of my eye."
"Now we come to the reason for the call."
"Well, I was hoping to go home tomorrow. So since you haven't had lunch yet, you could just meet me and bring your little machine along."
"Not had lunch? Jim, it's practically eighteen hundred hours! It's only idiots like you who haven't had lunch. The sane among us like to do that earlier."
"I bet you just had a sandwich or something from the replicator, right? Didn't even sit down, you're so busy. You probably forgot all about it and left it under a microscope somewhere and had to throw it away. Come on, my treat," said Jim, not forgetting to pull back on the charming smile (more useful for getting Bones's back up than charming him) and lay on the serious face.
So he spent a pleasant half hour in the Medical Quad with his closest friend, wolfing down pizza from the nearest kiosk and submitting to the unnecessary itchiness of having his face healed up by a medical scanner, trying to surreptitiously pump him for information about the Vulcan refugees.
Jim had made up his mind to go straight to the horse's mouth if he could. The older Spock was probably still on Earth, somewhere, since most of the refugees were. If Jim could just ask him, it might save a lot of time. A gamble, of course, since the man wasn't eager to tell him much of anything. But at least he definitely knew, which was more than Jim could say for most of his potential sources.
Unfortunately it was also more than he could say for Bones, at least when it concerned the whereabouts of the mysterious silver-haired old Vulcan whom nobody seemed to know personally (except for Jim) and who just so happened to be the alternate-universe, mind-meld-happy counterpart of their temporary First Officer.
Not that mind-meld-happy was necessarily a bad thing. A little shocking, sure, and not the kind of thing you usually go for without warning right after "Hello", but Jim wasn't really sure what the big deal was, and why the Vulcans weren't doing it more often. Because, after all, telepathy was pretty great. And he couldn't still like Old Spock as much as he did if the man had done anything too drastic to his mind while poking around. (Unless that was what he'd done - made Jim trust him for some sinister purpose. Technically possible, yes. But it wasn't a possibility he could seriously entertain, even on his limited knowledge of the two Spocks. Besides, what purpose?)
Jim spent several hours putting out feelers and meeting more Vulcans than he'd ever met in the rest of his life put together. They weren't an extremely friendly race and didn't tend to come up and introduce themselves if they didn't have something to talk about. Jim found them perfectly understanding, if not informative, when they knew he was talking to them for a reason. They all knew who he was; but none of them even told him whether they knew who he was talking about. If Jim was right about the Vulcan gossip network, though, and his intuition was rarely wrong, Old Spock would know he'd been asking as soon as he came out of meditation or the Vulcan sauna or woke up from his nap, or whatever he was doing.
In fact, he probably knew already by the time Jim had finished combing his hair, kohling his eyes, and wriggling into his slimmest, richest-looking tunic, and over that his leather bike jacket (the sea breeze could get nippy in sleeveless synthsilk).
Starfleet issue boots were, contrary to all appearance, just about the most comfortable for trekking in uneven terrain, like the pleasure gardens and vintage paving stones of the upscale residential district and the glass and steel catwalks joining the trendiest downtown clubs. He couldn't risk them being recognized, though, and had to borrow a pair of fashionable suede footwear from Remy Sharif (whose prowess at boxing was surpassed only by his shoe collection). In fact, Jim didn't go into more than one or two hotspots; he was hunting clerks and attaches first, politicians and the powerful and well-connected second.
At Club Elvis he learned that Ambassador Sarek had been closeted with the President in the morning from a drunk aide, and from the background noise that the Vulcan High Council was possibly going to start a motion on the subject of the recent occurrences (but exactly what about it no one knew) which would be political disaster because, under the circumstances, everyone would have no choice but to listen to them.
At Red Door he had the good luck to fall into the circle of a socialite. The gossip was the heaviest around sources of money, like gravity and black holes, and there were a whole tangle of various celebrities in various stages of undress sharing the couch with her and a number of dazed-looking citizens of all sexes and species culled from the dance floor. The socialite herself wasn't known to Jim, but the cosmetic surgery and the nearly-full-body skin tint in pale blue were enough to identify her. He slipped the DJ a chit and a well-placed dance in which Jim shared the spotlight with a pair of young Deltans who might or might not have been identical twins, and he was sitting at her feet, having his bone structure complimented and traced with artificially pointed nails.
"All natural," Jim laughed, accepting an unidentified smoking cocktail from an unidentified hand.
"Don't tell then," she pouted, and turned to eat a cherry without taking her hand off his shoulder.
"Just dumb luck," Jim pursued, turning his face up to the light while sweat trickled into his hair, "not all of us can be blessed with the taste guiding every aspect of your appearance. The tinting is inspired. And these tattoos! Are they permanent?"
"Semi-permanent," she corrected, bored but pleased, "I designed them myself. Do you really think they're lux? Because I'm starting to get bored of blue."
"No, they're great," said Jim. "Absolutely lux. I don't know much about it, but," and he turned over and prowled up onto the couch beside/above her, "I don't think you should change a thing."
The socialite laughed, looking up from vertical-pupilled cat eye implants at him. "Tina, I like him," she announced. A holo star was moved aside to make room for Jim on the couch.
The socialite's name turned out to be Vega Blue (Jim found out the next day that she was a singer-entrepreneur better known for buying a planet, and then naming herself after it), and Jim got the most valuable piece of information about Spock yet from her. "He absolutely can't be bought," she drawled, which Jim already knew. But she was still speaking: "He's some kind of Vulcan royalty, darling," she offered by way of explanation. "That's the picture I get. Chock-full of connections, however Vulcans do it. Stunning, isn't he? Somehow the ears never come out right if you get them done. I've tried. They say Vulcans have so many nerves in the ear tips, they can get off from that alone. I've never been able to test it, disappointingly." She sounded deeply regretful. "Vulcans are so difficult. That mouth," she added, unwittingly echoing one of Jim's less apropos observations on the subject of the Commander.
A few mutually satisfactory hours in the company of Vega Blue, and Jim escaped much the worse for drink, but with no free body modifications, not even a manicure, and riding a buzz so intense the trivia about the Vulcan government he'd picked up was just sloshing around in his head (there was a lot more gossip to be had on Vulcan in general than on Spock in particular).
The Vulcan system was both elective and hereditary, which is why T'Pau, well-known to be "all of Vulcan in one package", was the head of the High Council even though all councilors were of equal rank and Vulcans were generally assumed to run things by logical consensus, "And she's got rather a reputation for backing up the dear Ambassador, actually. It's almost scandalous, except nobody has the juice to complain when she's so logical, and anyway it's political suicide, arguing with the Vulcans, darling." T'Pau was also head of the House of Surak. Surak having been dead for thousands of years, Jim hadn't thought he still had a house; it sounded like one of those medieval Earth religious cults, the last surviving descendant of Jesus or something. Vega Blue disclaimed all knowledge of how it worked, but she was positive about the name. "I have it on my wedding invitations somewhere, you know."
How they got to T'Pau from Commander Spock was a little fuzzy in Jim's head, and he didn't remember how they got back from her to him either, but he distinctly remembered Vega Blue licking her lips and offering him a taste of Saurian brandy mixed with her lipstick. Not bad, but Saurian brandy without lipstick was better, not that Jim told her that. Fortunate, really, that she was a woman. Jim's methods were rarely so effective at winning information from men.
In any case, he walked halfway back to SFA in Remy Sharif's thin, fashionable suede toe-pinching boots, letting the cool wind clear his head, and hoped the puzzle pieces would fall back together once he was sober again.
~ \\//_ ~ _\\// ~
Iowa was beautiful this time of year. Wind rushed through the golden sea of corn under quick, scudding clouds, and whipped Jim's hair in his face as he buzzed down the highway on a rented bike. The news ticker on the bottom of his helmet screen was dragged down to 10% opacity to allow him to enjoy the ride. A summer thunderstorm threatened, lumpy black piles of it in the direction of Des Moines, but how far off it was was hard to say. The land was rippled like a living quilt shaken and wrinkled, dotted with trees and the tiny colored dots of grain elevators and barns, and the gentle swells of earth faded into the distance.
The storm chased him into Washington County at a fair distance, only coming a little closer though Jim kept watching over his shoulder and mentally daring it, Come on, hit me. Summer thunderstorms were a nostalgic pleasure, but he was doomed to enjoy this one from indoors. The little Kirk farm was visible before the pressure differential was strong enough to feel it in his head.
There was the signpost, a relic of the days of metal mailboxes for communiques on paper delivered by truck. The mailbox long gone, the post was encircled in rainbow-hued zinnias to draw attention to the coordinate plate. After all these years, the weathered KIRK of Jim's childhood, in old-fashioned block letters with smooth edges just like the labels on his clothes and schoolbags, had been replaced at last. The new sign was of white durasteel, an unpretentious "Winona Kirk" over the address in black serif newsreader letters.
Jim sat and stared at it through his helmet, wondering why the change seemed so momentous to some emotion-driven, impulse-filled and highly illogical part of his mind; finally he shrugged and kicked off the ground, continuing down the dirt lane at a more sedate pace.
The small paddock was empty, both horses locked up away from the storm. The barn was blue as ever. The oak shadowed the front porch, and hid all the windows on one side of the house from the drive. His mother's front garden was a splash of color on a stripe of sun-baked green grass, fading into a wild patch of mulberries. The shutters had become deep green. The windvane on the roof spun wildly. His mother stood on the path in her blue jean overalls, watching him come. He drove the bike in the garage, in case of lightning strike, and pulled off his helmet.
His mother attacked while he was turning around, having snuck in soundlessly behind him, and threw her arms around his neck. "Sneak attack! Mom!" Jim protested, hugging her tight. Her brown hair was lightly streaked with gray, tied at the back of her neck, smelling of potting soil and white flour. Winona just hugged him tighter. If she made a sniffle, it was covered up in the sound of the rainstorm coming closer.
"Okay, Mom?" said Jim after a while. Ever since he'd gotten taller than her (age 16) he'd often thought that he could pick her up and carry her. He didn't make a habit of it, though. He didn't want to mess with her Mom mystique too much if he didn't have to. Besides, she definitely didn't like feeling helpless.
"Happy," she said, muffled in his shoulder. "I'll get over it sooner or later."
"Because it's going to rain," said Jim, "that's why I asked."
That gave her the opportunity to disengage without loss of dignity. "Look at you, spaceman, afraid of a little water?"
"That's right, Mom," he agreed solemnly. "I haven't had a real water shower since I signed up at Starfleet Academy."
She fed him biscuits and gravy, sausages and eggs, and milk and orange juice. "You're trying to fatten me up, aren't you," he accused, in between stuffing his face.
"You're going to need lots of energy for rewiring the fence," she explained.
"And the barn," said Jim. "This roofing business looks like fun. And I found some of that tin sheeting in Des Moines. They deliver by hovercraft, too."
"Don't worry, Mom, I didn't steal any wallets," he promised. (At least, not recently.) "Command doesn't know where I stand, but if there's one part of Starfleet that's not confused it's the Bursar. And it's not like I need it for anything else."
"Just don't think you're going to get away from your mom by spending all day in the barn, James Tiberius Kirk. I'm going to stick to you like glue." His mother was the determined type and usually kept an eagle eye on all repairs on the farm herself, though not to the extent of climbing around like a monkey and burning the back of her neck to a crisp, as she informed him. But she was strong and wiry, not much softer around the edges than when he was a little boy, and still fixed the toilets, and shoveled the snow, and painted the shutters, and kept her horses and garden in condition herself. She clung to the good ladder, wielding a hammer and passing him tin from the float pallet, for two days while they hurried to outrun any possible further threat of rain.
She learned the story of Jim's adventure by heart, too (all the parts he could tell her, which didn't include the origin or identity of Old Spock, obviously), and came and informed him on the third day, "I just made a triple batch of blueberry muffins, so if you want anything else for lunch I guess you can get some cold cuts from the fridge. I just downloaded your message dump along with mine and there's a sealed message from your Admiral Pike and a plain text note stamped an hour earlier complaining why we don't have a private secure terminal here. You could tell him that the term is hicks, not hillbillies." She was smirking with superiority. Mocking the culture shock of city-dwellers unaccustomed to life on the farm was a popular pastime in rural Iowa.
Jim tended to Pike's point of view, but in all fairness could hardly blame his mother's habits (she preferred to encrypt and decrypt manually, and didn't want more terminals than she knew what to do with) on Iowa, which was pretty well saturated with uplinks, towers, and high-speed cable, in spite of being low on things to do on a Friday night. "I'm sure he knows Iowa doesn't have hillbillies, Mom," said Jim. "He probably misspoke."
He climbed down the ladder to accept the blueberry muffin she held out to him wrapped in a napkin, still steaming from the oven when he bit into it. He was caught in mid-blueberry-moan with his eyes closed when she added, "And you got a private call, too, on my new phone."
Jim blinked. "You have a new phone?"
Luckily, his mouth was full of muffin, and she didn't understand him, because next she said, "I don't know why you gave my number to your friends instead of your communicator code, but he's a very nice man. Not what I'm used to from Vulcans at all!"
The odds of anyone calling, well, any Vulcan Jim had ever met "nice" with the exception of Old Spock were, well, infinitesimal. Commander Spock would probably have said they were seven thousand, five hundred and sixty-eight point four to one or something. (He made up at least half of his statistics, Jim was sure, but no one except him seemed to have noticed.) Also, the odds of any other Vulcan not using his communicator code were about the same. Old Spock, on the other hand, could have several reasons for not using the obvious, Starfleet-monitored channels.
"Yeah, he is, isn't he?" said Jim lamely.
In his inbox, there was Pike's sealed message; a few incredulous mails from old sexual partners and dates demanding what he had done or whether he was okay, largely depending on how they parted; and a crotchety voice recording from Bones complaining about his personal hygiene, calling him a damn fool infant, accusing him of drinking up Bones's last bottle of Jim Beam and putting it back in the cabinet empty (that one was probably true), and reluctantly wishing him luck and sending compliments to his mother.
Jim typed a vague and upbeat response with one hand while eating six muffins with the other and sent it to all his exes, then, saving Bones for last, unlocked Pike's message with the old-fashioned thumb-reader (his mother's house not being equipped with retinal or DNA scans):
"At least I'm glad that you took me literally when it comes to making yourself scarce. I hope you'll be able to access a transporter site, though, because when this is over you might want to be back in San Francisco on short notice. Disciplinary action of any sort is off the table now, for you and your entire bridge crew, you'll be glad to know - and I don't mean literally only - you won't be sent to a remote station or anything like that. But it seems the Federation Council is in a two-day recess requested by T'Pau of Vulcan personally." Jim dropped his muffin, napkin and all, completely unintentionally, and fumbled to pause the message.
No way, he assured himself. No way. There was being cocky, an accusation he cheerfully accepted, and then there was being so self-centered it bordered on paranoia. Just because one of the richest women in the galaxy got you drunk and implied T'Pau is likely to act for Ambassador Sarek, who is Commander Spock's father, and Commander Spock has apparently been in touch with Starfleet Command on your behalf, does not mean the Vulcan Head of State putting the breaks on the entire governing process of the Federation has anything to do with you. She has other things to worry about, Jim reasoned.
On the other hand, being paranoid had paid off for him in the past.
"The Vulcan High Council appears to be in extended session at the main refugee site," Pike continued. "It's presumed they'll be making some more definite statements about the disposition of Federation aid when the Federation Council reconvenes. In the meantime, Command won't be making any moves - just in case. Komack's still trying to make trouble, but Commander Spock can be persuasive. Admiral Varasashvili has added her support, vocally, to his arguments. Most of Command is in favor of promotion for you, at this point."
Jim went through the kitchen out to the back porch. His mom was in the garden, picking peas and tomatoes and weeding. He took a long drink from the cup of iced tea at her feet and said, "There's an unofficial rumor that most of Starfleet Command is in favor of a promotion for me at this point."
Winona Kirk turned away from her peas, shading her eyes from the sun, and looked up into his face, searchingly, for a long minute. Then she stretched her arms out to him, and said emphatically, "You deserve it!" He pulled her up and hugged her, still a little dazed.
~ \\//_ ~ _\\// ~
It took two more days of phone tag before Jim caught up with Old Spock, even though he called back right away. He guessed all the Vulcans were probably busy right now, although he wasn't sure exactly with what, and it was doubtful (though possible) that the phone Old Spock had used to call Jim's mother was actually his. The surprising thing was that Jim felt his stomach drop sharply with relief the first two times he didn't reach Old Spock. He liked the old man, but he'd been going over the adventure in his head (that stunningly warm, un-Vulcan smile that creased his face into a maze of wrinkles) and matching the pieces up (the way Jim was completely unafraid of mind-melding on any level whatsoever - not that he had a habit of being afraid of things, but he knew most humans would be), and wondering about some of the things he'd said. For example, would Jim ever really be friends with Commander Spock? It was looking more likely. Old Spock had proved to be pretty trustworthy in other matters. Whatever strings he was pulling, the fact that they were in Jim's favor was probably a good indication of lack of hate.
On the other hand, why in the galaxy he was trying to pull strings in Jim's favor at all without telling Jim anything about it, before or during, was driving Jim slightly crazy. It wasn't out of line with Commander Spock's other behavior, or anything, it was just incredibly, frustratingly logical.
"I'm getting good and sick of logic," Jim told his mother from the safety of the barn during the next rain. He had to shout to be heard over the strangely soothing, but incredibly loud, metallic hissing noise created by the water on the new roof.
Winona, busy with a curry comb on Ulysses, hummed encouragingly. "I know, Jimmy."
"A celebrity socialite named Vega Blue told me that you were 'some kind of Vulcan royalty'," Jim had accused Old Spock when they finally talked.
"I suppose that would be true, from the human point of view," Old Spock had said calmly. "To a Vulcan, of course, matters are quite different. Vulcans do not have a hereditary system of absolute governance based upon a feudal division of labor."
"Are you telling me you're not some kind of Vulcan royalty?" Jim said suspiciously.
Old Spock had chuckled and said, sounding surprised, "Not at all! The Vulcan High Council is Vulcan's governing body, but it is true that the influence held by T'Pau as the seniormost councilor - what you might call our elder stateswoman -"
"I would never call anyone an elder stateswoman," Jim interrupted, making a face at the phone that Old Spock probably couldn't see. It had sounded like something a conservative would say.
"Point taken," said Spock calmly, "it is no doubt a somewhat antiquated term. As I was saying, her influence as senior councilor and head of the House of Surak is comparable to that of the head of state in a hereditary monarchy, and it is true that T'Pau is head of my father's house."
"Wait just a minute," said Jim, "You're - what, the - scion of the House of Surak?"
Old Spock had laughed heartily at that. It really sounded like Jim had provided him with the best time he'd had in a couple of years or, going by the look of him, decades. Once he calmed down, though, he straightened out Jim's "understandable but fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of Vulcan lineage", which he suggested Jim learn more about for homework even though he admitted there were no published works on the subject in Standard. Even though T'Pau was Sarek's Head of House, it appeared, Sarek himself was head of Spock's house, and besides that, her relation to Sarek predated her accession to Head of the House of Surak.
He refused to explain himself more fully, perhaps thinking it was unfair to come in from another universe and steal the laughs at Jim's cluelessness which rightfully belonged to his younger counterpart. But the impression Jim got was that Spock was in fact some kind of Vulcan royalty, in the eyes of Vulcans at least, though not literally in human terms, but that Vulcans were too logical to call it that.
"Do you know what the other - what Commander Spock has been up to for the past week?" Jim had demanded. Old Spock had disclaimed all knowledge, but he wasn't surprised when Jim told him, either.
"He is acting fully in accordance with logic," said Old Spock. "He does not know you well enough, perhaps, to discuss the matter with you in advance."
"The matter is me," Jim protested.
"On the contrary, old friend. The matter is the Enterprise's actions in crisis, many of which are his responsibility as much as yours. It is logical, and right, that he do all in his power to ensure the most logical outcome of Starfleet Command's assessment, and the most logical outcomes in the future."
Jim didn't tell him that the Vulcan idea of logic might be logical, but it was also frequently crazy. Vulcans: all prim and trustworthy on the outside, when in the name of an abstract like logic they were just as radical as Jim himself. It was actually very impressive.
And that was why when Admiral Pike finally messaged him back, Jim wasn't nearly as surprised as he could have been that he opened with: "Congratulations, Jim. The Enterprise is yours."
Which didn't mean that he wasn't surprised. Jim was, actually, more or less dumbfounded, and he couldn't stop grinning. He had to play the rest of the message back two times before he absorbed it.
"The Vulcan High Council sent an extremely complimentary message about you directly to Starfleet Command, and I think they put some pressure on the Federation Council as well. You're going to be awarded command of the flagship and your field promotion confirmed. I'm not sure you won't be getting a commendation, too. T'Pau hasn't visited the Federation Council in person in over two hundred years. You've probably seen it in the newsreels by now - if you get newsvids in Iowa. Well... congratulations again, Kirk. I wouldn't pick anyone else to take my place."
Pike was a bit choked up at the end - awkward to hear that in a recording, Jim thought distantly. He was getting choked up himself. Just as awkward in person, probably. Oh well.
He wanted desperately to message Spock, and damn the awkwardness. You couldn't let a man do something like that for you and not thank him! But a vid call would be disastrous, Jim had enough logic to know that for certain.
Instead he went out and put a saddle on Ulysses, and rode until the wind in his face made it feel like he was going faster than a motorbike, Iowa streaming by him blue and gold and green, blurry like space flying past the screens at warp speed.
~ \\//_ ~ _\\// ~
Jim has his ship and his commendation and even his medal pinned to his chest before he has a chance to thank Spock. Hunting the man down, as matters stand between them, in the middle of their one week's leave just to thank him would have been too much. Jim's always preferred to wait for his opening, and when Spock vanishes after the ceremony he's found it.
He follows him out to the shore of San Francisco bay, right onto the sand of the beach, at a decorous distance due more to the need to sneak out without alerting anyone else than to patience or consideration.
But when he finds Spock sitting in the sand, a tiny blue and black figure still in his dress uniform dwarfed by the wide curve of the water, he's struck by such an unexpected wave of emotion at the image that he wonders if consideration wouldn't have been appropriate after all, and stands back for a time, watching the wind ruffle the smooth cap of Spock's hair. His head is bent, his knees drawn up. His boots are still on, on the California beach at the height of summer. It's just Jim's human imagination that imbues the pale tint of the horizon with melancholy, and the shrieks of seagulls with mourning. Spock looks fragile, but he isn't, of course. He's seven times as strong as Jim, they say. He's only emotionally fragile.
Instead of thank you, Jim wants to tell him that he's sorry. He does neither.
"You know," he says, approaching slowly, "it's kind of against the law to wear boots on the beach."
The line of Spock's back moves subtly, a flex of muscle across the shoulders. As Jim stops next to him, he turns his head and says, "I am aware of no such ordinance, Captain." Captain. That's very new. Jim looks forward to getting used to it.
"Yeah, well," he says, "it's an unofficial one." And he pulls off his own boots, tossing them aside, and spreads his toes demonstratively in the warm sand. Spock is watching the procedure expressionlessly. Jim rolls his eyes and jerks his chin impatiently. "Well, Commander?"
Spock complies with an expressive sigh for Jim's benefit. He's really got a great sense of humor, Jim realizes. It's easier to see when you've seen Old Spock laugh.
"Better," Jim concedes. "You know, Spock, you've got to learn to relax! You're wound a little too tight - just a touch. You explode on me and I'm pretty sure Pike will have my ass." Spock is watching him quizzically now, obviously alarmed that Jim thinks the commanding officer of a victim of spontaneous combustion can be prosecuted for it. Or possibly he's going to ask for the etymology of "have my ass", which is a conversation for another day. He's opening his mouth, logic at the ready, when Jim shushes him by pressing a finger over his mouth.
Spock freezes, hopefully not too deeply offended, and Jim explains, "I was joking." Nothing doing. Spock's impression of a Spock-statue continues. So does the staring.
He's not sure if the signs are encouraging or not, but having adopted a light-hearted tone he's got to try to get through with it before switching tactics, right? Besides, he has a feeling about Spock. That sense of humor isn't for nothing. Lobbying the Vulcan High Council and the Federation Council and Starfleet Command for him wasn't nothing. They're going to be friends - they have to be. He drops his hand to Spock's shoulder, watching carefully for a reaction. He can feel the lean muscles tensing under his hand, but Spock doesn't move away or even throw him off, and, Jim reminds himself, he obviously could. An unwelcome advance on a Vulcan is a ticket to a swift and efficient loss of consciousness.
"Anyhow," says Jim, "I've heard that 'I'm a Vulcan! Vulcans do not relax!' line before. When Vulcans relax, you meditate. And chant." Do Vulcans chant? Jim's not sure he remembered that right, suddenly. Maybe that's Tibetans or Illyrians? Spock doesn't look like the chanting type.
"The Terran practice of expending energy in pursuit of rest is illogical, Captain. If one wishes to rest, then it is logical to conserve energy." Definitely not the chanting type.
Jim tries a slight massage, kneading the shoulder under his hand gently but firmly. "Ah, but that's the point, Commander. It's about blowing off steam and having fun." Spock actually leans into his touch. He is obviously on the right track.
Jim tugs a little harder, coaxing Spock to lie back, and meets a brick wall. It even feels like tugging on a brick wall, more or less. He tries again, harder, and is well on the way to hurting his fingers. "For fuck's sake, Spock, just lie down! I'm trying to have a moment here."
Spock thinks about it - Jim can see the thought process, now that he's looking, in the eyebrows - and then agrees with a stiff little nod. He lowers himself backwards to lie in the sand with all the grace of a wooden folding chair, and looks obediently up at the sky.
"Now, isn't that better?" says Jim.
"It is... interesting."
There's something subdued about Spock, definitely. Jim has never had a real conversation with him before, not like this, but he knows all the same that the grief has pushed something off balance. Spock's not crazy or unfit for duty anymore - presumably he's out of denial, or properly into it, however Vulcans deal with grief - but he's not back on his feet, either. He's a little abstracted, for one thing, and for another, Jim has a feeling he's going along with this little bonding session way too easily. That won't stop him from taking advantage, of course, but -
Spock's turned his eyes from the sky - slowly turning pink and gray from the sunset - to Jim, and is not just watching him but studying his face carefully. Now he frowns, sudden and intent, as if he's just discovered some logical discrepancy in the vicinity of Jim's eyebrows.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" Jim says cautiously.
Spock raises an eyebrow. "I am uncertain as to what you mean, Captain."
"The hell you are." Jim pushes up on his elbow, a less vulnerable position, and stares down into Spock's eyes, hard. "Why'd you do it?"
Spock looks back at him, unblinking as a cat, for long enough that Jim starts to wonder if they're actually in a staring contest. Then he mutters, under his breath, "It seems my logic is flawed where you are concerned."
Jim laughs. "Oh, so you strong-arming 'Fleet into giving me the ship was - what? The Vulcan idea of candy and flowers?"
"No," says Spock, deadpan and uninformative.
"No? You go and pull every political string you've got -- and, by the way, don't think I'm not freaked out by the fact that you're 'some kind of royalty' - to bully Starfleet into giving me the Enterprise, and it's not about sex?" He adds an eyebrow wriggle for good measure. He's almost sure Spock knows he's joking, because if he thought Jim was seriously accusing him of such an illogical act, he should probably be fighting mad.
"It was not," Spock insists. "It was... it was... I do not know what it was." He frowns to himself some more. It's a rather endearing expression on him. Jim raises his eyebrows pointedly, and he finally says, "It was the right thing to do."
That Jim understands. He won't break it to Spock just yet that it's called "intuition", though. "Okay," he agrees. "I can go with that."
Spock nods, shortly, and Jim puts his chin on his hand. They watch one another companionably and it's the first moment of perfect sympathy Jim has felt, with anyone, since beaming off the Enterprise. The last time was with Spock, too.
Jim can definitely work with this. "Spock, if you were a woman," he confides, "I think I'd try to kiss you."
Spock raises one eyebrow, and says "Indeed, Captain?" politely.
Jim grins. "Oh, I'm fairly certain I would. The Enterprise is worth at least a kiss. - Only if you weren't already involved with Lieutenant Uhura, or anyone else, of course."
Spock smirks. "Indeed? Our acquaintance has not led me to expect such a degree of diffidence on your part." The bastard.
"Hey, I'm not that bad!" Jim says indignantly.
"No insult was intended. If, as you say, hypothetically speaking, I were female and not involved in a monogamous relationship, your impulse to 'move fast' might, indeed, pay off. - Excuse me, Captain. It has been an... informative conversation."
He picks up his boots and strolls back the way they came, and Jim stares after him, going over that parting shot again in his head, and doesn't even notice until he's gone that Spock actually said "pay off".
~ The End