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Spock doesn't stand at attention, or let me correct that, if he's standing at attention, there's trouble. He stands with an unself-conscious noble bearing. It was probably the first thing I noticed about him. In a line of officers trying hard to please their new captain, he stood as one possessed by the space he was in, by the ship.


I mistakenly believed the captain to be an emotional being. I was misled by the way he smiled and touched, by his expressions of urgency when lives were at stake. I have since come to understand that he keeps his emotions tightly bound up. What he reveals is released to expression under conscious control. This is a finer sort of control than any Vulcan could sustain long term.


The captain has one primary emotional weakness. His command and his ship are more important than his own life. He will fiercely defend his right to this weakness. The only time he is impatient with others is when this right is questioned. This does not stop me from calling it into question, as circumstances necessitate. I have no desire to cause the captain emotional disturbance, but it is my duty to point out there is a limit to his right to put himself in harms way when there are options.


Spock prefers to be alone. He's alone now at oh two hundred. He's in the lab reconfiguring equipment. I am sweating onto my uniform shirt which is tied around my shoulders, shedding the residual heat after an hour-long run on the treadmill. I should shower. I should get to sleep. I'm thinking about him there alone and doing nothing.


When Spock is reluctant to follow orders I am stronger for it. The ship is stronger for it. No one at Starfleet Academy, no mentor in leadership, no one has ever told me this could be the case. When Spock pushes back against a plan multiple times, even in front of the crew, I'm challenged and bolstered inwardly, not weakened outwardly. The universe is going to push back against my plans. Spock is the harbinger of that. The trick is to know it's going to happen, optimism be damned, to make what's available work, even if it means making a miracle out of it. Spock will eventually fall in line, no matter how anathema to his logic my orders are. I just have to get him to that point. And always keep in mind, for myself, that it's not personal for him. Or, check that. It's personal, but not in a human way. He wants a rightness to the world around him. The desire for that is personal.


I pull the captain aside, despite the urgency of time. I suggest that the security team is capable of adequately handling the situation. He need not beam down and lead the team. He doesn't become impatient or express frustration with me. Not this time. He looks away, watches weapons being distributed. "I'll be careful, Spock." These are not words for the first officer of this vessel. The tone is not official. He's figured out it's personal. He confirms this by patting my arm as he walks away. Strangely, almost emptily, there is no shame. There is a drive to be released to return to my bridge duties, to do my part to recover the landing party before they've even departed. It's all I am allowed to do. I am laid bare. And I am illogically relieved by it.


I'm expressly relieved to see the transporter room appear around me. Injured crew are helped off the platform and into the arms and floating gurneys of the medical staff. No one's dead. A few are vocal in victory, a few congratulate their captain and I return a nod and a reserved smile. I'm relieved to be solidly here in the transporter room for the wrong reason, and I can't not admit that to myself. It's not these lives, the mission, or even this ship. It's that I cannot bear the thought of bringing Spock that kind of pain. It's my fault he feels.


Impatient with the process. Impatient with the simple need for it. The captain sits on the edge of a diagnostic bed while a laceration is cleaned and bandaged on his arm. He asks questions of me, wants to know every detail of the bridge crew's actions and thoughts while we coordinated with the landing party. This is what makes him an effective, exceptional leader. He knows what others will do before they know they will do it. I deeply respect this. And I am an unbiased reciter of events both positive and negative. The doctor grows angry. Tells the captain to behave or else. Kirk quiets, head lowered, face set. I continue describing events, the pleased surprise of his officers at his successful strategy. He doesn't gloat often. Over chess at times, an activity which ramps up his competitive emotions in ways I find illuminating, such that this gloating is a part of knowing him. Unlike Dr. McCoy, who seems to live for the opportunity to gloat in a way that gets revenge on others. "And you, Mr. Spock?" I raise a brow because the captain expects it. "Captain?" He smiles knowingly, face younger by several years, wiped of duty. "Think I had it in me?" This is new territory, and I wish the overly observant Dr. McCoy were not present. "I am learning to dampen my expectations, Captain. In light of their being not useful." This isn't the answer he wants. He wants to be charming and that requires a certain kind of counter conversation. I see it now that he has fallen silent again and watches the wound being closed with a protoplaser. I want to recover his smile. I estimate I will be inept in the attempt. I wait beside him so I may return to the bridge with him. It's all I can do.


The captain moves through the officers and crew of this ship as if they are all are an extension of himself. No matter how many times I've observed it, I continue to be fascinated. He works off apparent instinct that I know is in actuality learned and fine tuned. I am envious of how effortlessly he incorporates this into his social DNA. He offers special attention to a few, assurances of the pleasure that they and he are on this journey together. He'll do it to a few others next time. They will remember it for a long time. I know because I overhear them when they do not think it possible. I wait for him so that we may walk through the ship together to check on second shift. He never tires of this. He is made of them.


This responsibility makes it hard to breathe. It's oh two hundred again. Something about this time of artificial ship's night. What have I done? I never resort to asking myself this, but I am doing it now, again. James Kirk wasn't going to commit to anyone's emotional needs. He's gone half a galaxy out of the way to avoid anything of the sort, careful always to avoid giving anyone time to really fall for the actual James Kirk, whoever that is. I'm good at this, picking lovers who fit this mold. I can spot them the first time they look over at me, look up coyly at me in the way that communicates they are thinking exactly the same thing. James Kirk is not the commitment type. I'm maybe not proud of it, even if I'm proud of the skill of it. Why then does the weight of this responsibility threaten to crush me?


Spock is more than my right hand, more than my entire right arm. He's my living interface to the ship, the coordination of the crew, and the meaning of the overwhelming streams of data coming through the sensors. I prize him. I don't resist savoring his presence. I don't resist anticipating being near him. With any other officer I would consider it an unhealthy emotion to cultivate. I imagine at times that I sense something similar in him. Or I need to believe I do. Maybe I do that to avoid feeling I am out of line. He's a world to explore, just like all the others out here. Just seeing Spock across the bridge reminds me why I am out here.


The Captain puts his hands behind his back as he approaches me, mimicking my pose. "Mr. Spock. Status on the astronomical readings?" I do not hold back on technical explanations. He understands far more than most in his position. He does not mind needing to ask for explanations. He's a seeker, open and curious. His eyes grow shiny when the discussion becomes interesting to him, as if he is responding physically to learning. "How's the probe holding up so close to the radiation source? Mr. Scott's modifications are working?" The captain continues making conversation, holding my attention on him. I do not mind it. On the contrary, I too am a seeker of knowledge and he is a more interesting subject than a gravity-well distorted pulsar.

 

Chapter End Notes:

Author's Note: This experimental piece was originally intended to be read as part of the feed at karajstorm dot tumblr, interleaved with original screencap content and reblogs, mostly random ones so they echo the story serendipitously. Might seem highly concentrated in all text.

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