Balance by Cruz
Summary:

Earlier in the five-year mission, Spock struggles to reconcile the feelings his new Captain stirs in him.


Categories: Fiction Characters: None
Crossover Fandom: None
Genres: Kirk/Spock Pre-Slash
Other Languages: None
Specific movie: None
Story Type: Character Study
Trope (OPTIONAL): None
Universe: ST:TOS Original Universe
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 6311 Read: 9541 Published: 09/14/2010 Updated: 09/14/2010

1. Chapter 1 by Cruz

Chapter 1 by Cruz

It is difficult for a Vulcan to learn to express himself outwardly as an adult. Since I was old enough to remember, I conscientiously schooled myself to reveal absolutely nothing, to hide any and all of the raging emotions coursing through me.

For Vulcans do have emotions. Like any other sentient being with a katra - an immortal soul, using the human term - we have feelings. But we are taught to keep a tight rein on them so they do not interfere in our logical processes. Passions always get in the way and make life a constant, often intolerable struggle. They almost destroyed Vulcan. Until our father Surak found the Way.

Emotions always reminded me of how different I was, considering how effortlessly my peers came to master them versus my own seemingly uncontrolled displays. It was soon brought to my attention how difficult it would be to be acknowledged and respected, not only in my home planet, but everywhere.

On Vulcan, I was a Human amongst Vulcans. When I entered the Academy, I was a Vulcan amongst all types of species. In truth, I was a child of two worlds, part of both and belonging to neither.

But practice makes perfect. By then, and after years of strengthening my mental and emotional shields, my face had become the mask of nonemotion I had been striving for.

People fear the unknown, and when they cannot fathom other people’s reactions or lack of them, they use disdain and mockery as a self-defense mechanism. That is a constant all over the galaxy. And I used the mask of nonemotion to protect myself from a universe that seemed to hold no place for me.

Years passed. I served in three ships under four commanders. I had thousands of shipmates of many different races. And I was never anything but alone.

Until James Kirk entered my life.

The first time we met, he puzzled me like no other being ever had. Not only because he was the youngest Captain in the history of Starfleet, and for the first time I was going to serve under a commanding officer younger than me. When he materialized on the transporter pad, his eyes immediately looked for mine, and in them, I saw none of the wary, guarded expressions I had come to expect in everybody’s eyes. He regarded me with an open expression and keen interest. He actually seemed... pleased with what he saw. He stepped down the platform and when he was almost right in front of me, I extended my right hand in the accustomed Human handshake just as he was raising his own right hand, in a perfectly executed Vulcan salute.

That was the first time that James Kirk challenged my preconceived ideas. He was the first non-Vulcan to greet me thus, and when I lifted my hand in the split-fingered salute, he lowered his and offered me the Human handshake. He undoubtedly found our uncoordinated, awkward greeting amusing, because he chuckled lowly and his eyes filled with something that, since it was unequivocally directed to me, thoroughly astounded me.

Warmth.

I can put a name to that emotion now; but then, I found it disconcerting in the extreme.

He raised his hand in the Vulcan greeting again and uttered the formal words that sounded odd coming from a Human, but coming from him, they strangely fitted.

"Live long and prosper, Mr. Spock. I was looking forward to meeting you."

"Live long and prosper, Captain Kirk," I replied, returning his courtesy by extending my hand again, and preparing myself for the unwelcome intrusion of his unrestrained thoughts and emotions, that not even the strongest shielding could protect me against, especially when meeting someone for the first time.

His handshake was firm and assertive, and to my eternal astonishment, I was inundated with the emanations of a vibrant mind, totally accepting and open; full of curiosity and with no trace whatsoever of wariness or barely concealed distrust.

And then he smiled.

In my adult life, I have come across 2,860,129 smiles. Of those smiles, 197 have been directed at me. None of them ever stirred anything in me.

I could not tell what it was when he smiled at me, and I was not certain I wanted to experience it again. It was something akin to a stomachache that did not hurt at all.

In the following weeks, James Kirk made a habit of seeking me out, engaging me in illogical conversation and changing subjects with a speed that mystified me. He inquired about my interests, about all the ‘exciting’ missions I had been involved in, asking for my opinion on a myriad of subjects, and sharing his own opinions in return that, albeit often bewildering, seemed to hold a unique rationale, and even a special kind of wisdom that had me pondering over them while in meditation.

Everything about my new commander seemed genuine. His straightforwardness was refreshing. He never hesitated to let his crewmen know when their performance was satisfactory, and when it was in dire need of improvement. He demanded nothing but the best because he was the first to deliver nothing but the best.

One evening, he entered the recreation room and saw me playing chess against the computer. He sat in front of me, observing my game, and when it was over he asked if I would be ‘game’ to play against him.

To this day, I am still perplexed. His technique and approach to chess are the most illogical and random I have ever encountered, and yet our first game ended in stalemate. And he won the second by a narrow margin. Since then, our games have been varied, fascinating and very challenging. He has managed to ‘trounce’ me on occasion, as he enigmatically put it.

Our working relationship has been smooth and very satisfying. He never treated me differently from any other member of the crew, and I noticed that since he came on board, the subtle looks I used to receive and the derogatory comments towards my persona I had overheard in the past, all but came to an abrupt stop.

There were other changes that suddenly became evident. People laughed out loud in the corridors, they looked more animated and were more zealous in the performance of their duties. Somehow, the new captain had become the catalyst for many positive changes, that resulted in the Enterprise escalating in the ranking of the most efficient ships in Starfleet. It is my estimation that it will reach number one in 3,23 months if the steady rate of improvement continues.

I gradually noticed changes in my own performance and in my way of relating to my shipmates. My work-rate improved a 3,8%, which I simply cannot understand, because I consistently work at 100% of my capacity. My shipmates began to include me in their conversations and debates, and even though I personally find my conversations and debates with Captain Kirk more stimulating, their points of view are always meritorious and worth noting.

As months went by, the running of the ship was as close to perfection as a ship run by a mostly Human crew could be. I found myself looking forward to the evening chess games with the captain, partaking in his unique vision of life and responding to his more and more personal questions, that never trespassed where I did not want him to intrude. Conversely, he shared with me memories and events of his past, his family and friends, and his hopes for the future. I do not know why he chose to confide memories and events of such personal nature to me, when I was incapable of reciprocating in the way that I was slowly beginning to suspect he wanted me to. But that did not seem to deter him. He knew that I would never betray his confidences, and whether I understood what he meant by them and what he wanted me to do with them or not, he kept sharing with me.

On the bridge, the most unusual rapport developed between us. He showed supreme self-confidence in his ability to command, and yet he never failed to ask for input from his senior officers and any crewmember who had anything sensible to contribute. His self-confidence transmitted itself to the crew, and the work-rate increased to unprecedented levels.

I used to observe him, to try and infer his fascinating leaps of logic and the reasoning behind his most outrageous decisions, that invariably turned out to be the right ones. I came to the conclusion that those abilities were innate, and no study could ever hope to replicate them.

My private interest in the man also had a definite disadvantage. It was the most disturbing experience to witness firsthand the personal devastation that followed the loss of a crewmember. It did not seem to matter whether he could be held responsible for it or not. Starfleet missions are often dangerous, and death is a distinct possibility regardless of the preparation and competence of the person in command.

In the beginning I used to watch from afar, wondering at the tightening that I experienced inside on seeing the pain and guilt on his features, illogical as they were. Sometime later, and despite the fact that I still considered it illogical, I tried to offer some clumsy words of consolation that I knew were useless, since I was incapable of understanding the mental process that led to the aforementioned feelings of guilt over something that could not be prevented in any way. I do not know what made me approach him the first time. It is my guess that my main concern was his level of efficiency. A grieving commander was more likely to make an error that resulted in a fatality, or worse. My awkward attempt to assuage his pain was received with a mild look of surprise and an audible intake of breath, that were followed by a small smile and a sincere ‘thank you.’ I got the impression that there was also a shade of sadness and hope in his eyes that made no sense to me, but his gratitude was unfeigned.

By far, the most traumatic incident has been the death of doctor Elizabeth Dehner and Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell, a close friend of the Captain’s. It happened a month ago, but the events leading to those deaths shook the crew with their unexpected brutality. His heightened ESP powers transformed a competent although flippant officer into a ruthless being to whom the words compassion and benevolence were concepts below the divinity he had become. Self-control did not enter the equation either.

The captain did not make me privy to what transpired on Delta Vega, but judging from the final outcome and the injuries he sustained, the only logical conclusion is that he had no choice but fight and kill Mitchell.

To kill a t’hy’la. I cannot bring myself to contemplate the situation. Even knowing that it was the only choice available at that point, the mere notion is as repugnant to a Human as it is to a Vulcan.

For the first time I could understand what he was going through, and I found myself looking for him after my shift, attempting to... what? I do not know. I just wanted to not see that look of infinite pain and guilt in his eyes. I wanted to see that compelling, light-hearted expression on his features that had become so necessary to my equilibrium.

The dawning realization of my need of him was the greatest shock. Captain Kirk and I had formed an attachment that had slipped past my defences, past my shields.

I resented it with all my being, but there was no turning back for me anymore. Something in that man was inescapable, unavoidable. He pushed without seeming to push, and when you opened your eyes to what was really happening, it was already too late.

And here I am now, struggling with emotions I had thought buried deep inside for good, that are erupting inside me with a power I am helpless to control. Emotions that are getting in the way of my logical processes, reminding me once again of just how much human blood runs through my veins.

My instinctive reaction has always been withdrawing into myself, until I am back in control. And so, I excused myself from opening a debate on the Prime Directive that the crew had been looking forward to, and for an entire week I have refused the Captain’s invitation to a late game of chess in the recreation room.

In these times, I always seek refuge in meditation, but the balm it used to provide seems absent now. I am becoming increasingly frustrated with myself, my shortcomings as a Vulcan and my inability to overcome them.

This morning, Mr. Scott asked for my help with some failing power connections in access tube number six. I very much welcomed the privateness that working alone would present, and I made my way to deck four after summoning my relief to the bridge.

I had been working for 14,5 minutes when the approaching sounds of a conversation between two crewmembers reached my ears. Over time, I have learned to ignore those conversations and concentrate on the matter at hand, but a direct mention of my name had me looking up from what I was doing and listening.

 

"I swear I’ll never figure that man out. Just when you think he’s learned to be civil, he says or does something that leaves you wondering if he actually has a soul."

"He knows how to boost a miserable Ensign’s morale, that’s for sure."

"We hit the jackpot when Captain Kirk was given command of the Enterprise, but when that Vulcan is sitting in the command chair..."

"Oh, wait to hear this!"

"What?"

"Yesterday, the Captain ordered phaser crew drills and left our affable First Officer in command. The previous record was 92.5%, and the Captain congratulated us all for it. Well, when the exercise rating was brought to Mr. Spooky to be signed and he read that the final score was 92.7%, meaning that the previous record had been broken, do you know what he said?"

"Let me guess: he was displeased."

"I’m quoting him verbatim: ‘If the officer in charge of the simulator had entered the loading sequence in time, the final score would have been 93%’"

"What?!"

"Cross my heart."

A short silence followed.

"My goodness. He makes you want to jump out of an airlock, just to avoid the cold stare he gives you when he’s in a friendly mood, let alone..."

"In confidence: there have been several transfers since he was promoted to Second in Command after Gary Mitchell’s death. Young, inexperienced officers fresh out of the Academy have caved under pressure just serving under him for a single month."

"Some officers of the bridge crew have told me that when they walk in and see him in the command chair, they blank so fast they can’t even remember their mothers’ names."

"There’s something so unsympathetic about him, so forbidding and harsh, that it puts people off. In those conditions, hoping to carry out a mildly acceptable job is simply wishful thinking."

 

I had thought that after 35 years, I had heard everything it was possible to hear about myself, but I was obviously wrong. I had also thought that the sensation of having my chest cut open was a thing of the past, something only a Vulcan/Human half-breed child, with a limited knowledge of how to erect mental barriers against other people’s hostility, was helpless enough to feel.

The laser welder trembled in my hand, and I think my mind faltered for an instant, as I admitted to myself once and for all the indisputable reality that I would never be accepted by anyone.

And in another moment of insight, a voice inside my head amended my words.

‘Not even by yourself.’

If I was incapable of accepting myself, how could I expect to be accepted by others?

It was a true moral impasse I found myself entrapped in, and I closed my eyes in an appalling display of Human weakness that almost made me physically ill.

 

"If that’s your attitude towards other cultures with different outlooks on life, then you chose the wrong profession by coming into space, gentlemen."

 

My eyes opened and all of me focused on the voice that had just spoken.

 

"Captain!"

 

The two young men sounded startled at the Captain’s sudden appearance. He had undoubtedly taken them by surprise.

 

"Our travels and contacts with other lifeforms will force you to keep an open mind, and remember that the universe doesn’t always conform to our moral codes and personal views on how things should be, just because they make our lives easier."

 

A deathly silence that could not have lasted more than four seconds seemed to echo all over the deck.

 

"If you can’t coexist successfully with a member of one of the most venerable, dignified and benign races in the galaxy, you’re evidently not made for this job, and I’ll be happy to approve both your transfers, as well as any others’ who think like you. And for the record: I won’t tolerate any disrespect and any chauvinistic standpoint towards any member of my crew, is that clear?"

"Yes, sir."

"Yes, sir."

 

The two answering voices were barely discernible, and they sounded hoarse and guttural.

 

"Good. Carry on."

 

Soft, retreating footsteps started.

 

"Oh, by the way..."

 

The retreating footsteps stopped, interrupted by the Captain’s suddenly untroubled voice.

 

"...when Mister Spock is sitting in the command chair, it is me sitting in the command chair. His decisions are my decisions, his estimations are my estimations. To all intents and purposes, we are one and the same. Pass it on."

 

The footsteps started again, and although it was a totally subjective impression, I thought they sounded somewhat subdued.

When the two crewmen turned the corridor the Captain made his way to the turbolift, and his footsteps muted when the doors closed after him.

I remained unmoving for an inordinate amount of time. My mind would not stop turning over the scene I had involuntarily overheard.

One thing insistently stood out above all others, however. The emptiness that used to follow yet another merciless diatribe against my lack of tact and social graces was immensely mitigated by the Captain’s words. He had appealed to our differences instead of our similarities to make the most rational, vehement defense of IDIC I had ever heard coming from anyone before. His faultless argumentation would have made a Vulcan proud.

And his last words... his last words had definitely shaken something very deep within me.

‘When Mister Spock is sitting in the command chair, it is me sitting in the command chair.’

‘To all intents and purposes, we are one and the same.’

It was the first time since I could remember that I had been made a part of something, and the mere thought evoked an eerie sensation that quickly spread through every corner of my being. When it dissipated, there was no mistaking what it left in its wake.

Warmth.

Undeniable. Unquestionable.

I truly was warmer inside. Comforted in my loneliness. Alone as I literally was at this very moment, I did not feel alone.

The contradiction was staggering.

Suddenly remembering my duty, I proceeded to complete the repairs and return to my post on the bridge.

 

I found myself stealing glances at the Captain throughout the shift. I was strangely aware of him, strangely sensitive to his presence. Twice he caught me in the act of glancing at him. The second time, and before I looked away, I was taken aback by the gentle smile he gave me. His eyes met mine and I simply could not look away. Something in them was so kind, so reassuring, that only the beeping sound of the spectrometer announcing that it had finished processing the data I had put into it previously tore me away from those hazel depths.

When my shift was over I retired to my quarters for much needed meditation, that uncharacteristically failed to supply any answers. It occurred to me that I did not know what kind of answer I was looking for, and an answer to what precisely.

It was past dinner time, judging from the muffled noises coming from the bathroom I shared with the Captain.

All of a sudden, I was overcome by the urge to seek him out. After all, he was my commanding officer, and as such, any insight coming from him was bound to be useful. Also, the part of me I was sorely resentful of was actually imploring me to yield.

Rationalizing that any opportunity to become better acquainted with my superior officer could only result in the strengthening of our command team, I made my decision. When all sounds ceased in the bathroom, I calmly left my quarters and buzzed for admittance into his.

"Come in." The doors opened to me.

I walked in hesitatingly. He was standing at his desk, dressed in his black undershirt and pants, and unwrapping a large box carefully. His hands’ movements were deft and smooth.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Spock?" he asked with his customary smile that immediately put me more at ease.

"I am not certain, sir," I replied, deciding I had to meditate on the effect his smile had on my psyche.

He stared at me in surprise, arching his eyebrows.

"Fascinating!" he exclaimed, apparently forgetting about the box on his desk and turning fully to me. "Want some tea?" he asked, reaching down and holding out the cup on the table.

Since I had missed dinner, I considered it wise to consume some sustenance before sleeping. I nodded to him.

"Thank you, Captain." I clasped my hands behind my back.

"Take this," he said, offering me his cup. "I still didn’t start on it. I’ll make myself another."

"Thank you," I said again, taking the cup from his fingers and wondering at the familiarity that gesture conveyed, and my acceptance of it.

I took a small sip and tasted it. It had traces of sugar. Fortunately, not enough to affect me. And admittedly, the added sweet flavor was pleasant.

He walked back from the replicator, put the box on the floor by the wall and sat at his desk, signalling me to sit in the opposite chair.

"Go ahead." His smile returned.

"I am somewhat at a loss to explain myself, sir," I began, interlacing my fingers on the table. "I am both puzzled and curious about Humans’ ability to command the unshakeable loyalty and unswerving striving of their subordinates. How they manage to keep a steady balance between authority and accessibility, that makes them most proficient in their function."

"Are you talking about Humans in general or about someone in particular?" he inquired, bending slightly forward.

"I am talking about you, Captain," I specified.

He leaned back in his chair, looking pensive, and nodded slowly to himself.

"I see..." he trailed off. His eyes softened visibly and he stared at me with the kindest smile that once more, stirred something warm and painful within me. "Well," he straightened up in his chair resolutely, "I think that in my case it’s mostly inborn, and I honed those abilities at the Academy." He shrugged. "But I’m just one individual. The approach to command is different for everyone. To me, it was very instinctive at first. I got a feel of the ship and the crew, and then proceeded from there."

The Captain’s answer gave me very little to go on. Instinct and feelings were something I had trained myself to submerge and ignore. And that probably explained my incapacity to deal with the people under my command.

"All of us have different gifts," he continued in the most easy manner, pulling me out of my thoughts. "It’s just a matter of using those gifts to obtain the intended result, whatever it is."

I sat in silence, contemplating his words and how they could apply to my personal predicament.

I noticed he looked at me subtly while he took a generous sip from his cup. He swallowed slowly and seemed to ponder what he was going to say next.

"You know, I’ve observed that crews are very much like a single, living entity. In time, they find their own perfect balance. Some people come and some people go, and eventually, like in Darwin’s theory of evolution, only the best remain. It’s a painful process sometimes, but in the end, everything works out for the best, for everybody."

Our eyes met across the table, and I had the distinct impression that there was more to his words than it seemed at first sight.

"Our crew’s on its way to becoming the best it can be. It still needs some minor adjustments, but we’re getting there," he smiled with conviction.

I nodded, even though I did not know what I was agreeing to.

"I’m aware that commanding a mostly human crew must be very trying and frustrating for a Vulcan, but I ask you to be patient. Everything will fall into place. I have the utmost faith in both of us."

Again, the way the Captain phrased his statement, including me so naturally in the project he had in mind for the ship and the crew, caused the strangest reaction inside. I remained silent, not knowing what to say to such extraordinary display of certainty.

"We’re a good team, Mr. Spock, never doubt it. My enthusiasm and human impulsiveness often get the better of me, and you’re the best medicine for that. Sometimes I only have to look at you, and it’s as if my mind opened wide to all the possibilities and alternatives..." he halted in his words and a flush appeared on his cheeks. "Sorry, am I being too talkative?"

"No, Captain. I find your outlook very interesting," I replied, holding the cup of tea between my hands. "As a Vulcan, I base my opinions on facts, on empirical data I can draw conclusions from. And although your theory does not have a logical base, I still find your conclusions... logical." My eyebrows raised in startlement. How could that be?

"Does that mean I was of some help after all?" his eyes sparkled under the artificial lights, and I was momentarily distracted by the charisma he exuded with only a smile and a lightness to his demeanor.

Something seemed to reach out from my innermost self to that bright light, and connect with it at a level beyond my comprehension.

"You were indeed, sir," I nodded, meeting his eyes.

The Captain’s expression changed somewhat, and his smile wavered for an instant.

"That’s exactly what I’m talking about, Spock. There’s an undercurrent of understanding and empathy between us that I never felt with anyone before. A deeper truth vibrates between you and me, and it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever had the privilege to experience."

"I feel it too," the words left my lips before I could hold them back. The sting of yet another dent in my Vulcan upbringing left a bitter taste in my mouth; but somehow, the taste was also sweeter than anything I had ever known.

The Captain’s eyes flashed like lightning, and for an instant I wondered if he had perceived...

"We all strive for balance, my friend," he uttered softly, and I jolted inside at the word. "It’s the greatest struggle, and one that usually lasts forever. My grandmother used to say that when we find it, it’s never where we thought it would be. It always lies elsewhere. And ultimately, it’s the journey that counts. It’s the learning process that shapes and molds us."

"Your grandmother was wise," I praised sincerely.

"Most old people are," he said with an edge of poignancy in his voice. Shaking it off, he bent forward again and pinned me under his intense hazel eyes. All of a sudden, I found impossible to move.

"Spock, when you know that you have a valid point, don’t bend to outward - or worse - inward pressures. I won’t always be right in my decisions, and I’ll need you to make me consider a different point of view. That’s what you did when you made me see that marooning Gary on Delta Vega was our only option, if we wanted to survive." A painful wince marred his features fleetingly. "Oh, I know that you know it, but it never hurts to be reminded of it. Command can be a very ungrateful and heartbreaking responsibility, and we must keep that in mind at all times."

He looked down and took a deep breath. Reaching out, he took his cup and drank deeply. He made a grimace as he swallowed, and when he put it down, his hands shook for a moment.

"You probably saved us all by refusing to spare my feelings. At that instant, you became my first officer, and I knew that you’ll always be my voice of reason. Despite the pain, there’s a great comfort for me in that."

A lengthy silence followed. One that I did not know how to break. Waves of grief and regret emanated from him and penetrated my shields like daggers.

And for the first time, I did not shield from them. I welcomed them instead, wanting to soothe them... and him.

"I grieve with thee." The words left my lips in an almost inaudible whisper.

His eyes met mine and I was swept away by the tide of thoughts and feelings he helplessly broadcast. Gratitude, mostly. But also vulnerability, and relief, and warmth.

And through the sharing of his pain, I was warmed inside too.

It seemed unbelievable that the sharing of pain could engender so much beauty, like a flower blossoming in the desert. But it did.

"I know," he whispered back thickly, "and it helps me."

A part of my mind was in awe. Whether I wanted it or not, whether I fought it or not, James Kirk always managed to bypass my defenses and reach deep into me. Deeper than I had ever allowed anyone. His emotional state resonated so deeply with me that I could not detach. The very notion felt like a crime, a sacrilege.

What had started as a professional inquiry had evolved into a personal meeting of minds and souls. And looking into those eyes, the resentment that had made me withdraw into myself for the last few days simply... vanished.

In his presence, all my frustrations, struggles and contradictions seemed irrelevant, ludicrous, even absurd. I was pulled to him by a force that seemed written in my genes. He accepted me with no reservations; and I immersed myself in those healing waters just as unquestioningly, just as unreservedly.

"It is obvious that we both need some more time to achieve the balance you have been speaking of. Perhaps we will find it faster... together?" I offered, arching my eyebrows.

The change in the Captain’s expression was fascinating to observe. In a matter of seconds, the poignant sadness in his eyes lifted. Soon enough, he was laughing gently.

"Oh, Spock, you *are* good for me!" he said, taking a deep breath and letting it out in an exuberant sigh.

"The reverse is also true," I said, marveling at how impossible it was to hold back around him.

The laughter slowly died and his eyes fastened on me candidly.

"We’re good for each other," he stated.

Mesmerized by that look, I could only nod in acquiescence, knowing in the deepest part of me that I had found a fundamental truth, indispensable to my very existence.

I did not know what role James Kirk was destined to play in my vital fulfillment, but at that moment, all I knew was that I wanted to play a role in his vital fulfillment, in whatever form or importance.

Awkwardly, I finished the tea.

"I shall bid you goodnight now, sir," I announced, rising to my feet. "I thank you for your time and advice. Excuse my intrusion at this late hour."

The Captain rose as well, somewhat eagerly.

"You never intrude," he said softly. "As a matter of fact, I think you’d like to see what I was unwrapping when you walked in." His eyes twinkled conspiratorially, immediately arousing my curiosity.

"Indeed?" I asked.

"Yep!" he bent down, picked up the box from the floor and put it back again on the table. He finished opening it, reached inside and produced a magnificent set of three-dimensional chess. "What do you think?" he showed it to me before putting it down. "I bought it last week on Starbase Five and had it sent to the Enterprise."

I unwrapped the white King from its transparent folds and studied it, thoroughly impressed.

"Silver birch?"

"Yes," he nodded. "And the blacks are ebony."

"From the forests of Xirmia II?" I voiced my guess out loud.

The Captain’s eyes opened wide, evidently surprised that I had guessed correctly.

"I thought it fitting that I should buy the best chess set available for the best chess opponent I ever had," he bowed his head slightly in courteous acknowledgement.

I arched an eyebrow at the unusual salute, and he smiled at me in what could only be described as... fond amusement, if my assessment of human emotions was correct.

"Is it too late for a late game?" he invited hopefully.

"Redundantly put, but I accept the invitation." The words came out of my lips without having been processed by my brain first, and I started inside.

The Captain chuckled at the blatant confusion on my face, and giving me time to compose my features in private, he took the box and put it on the floor out of the way, for the second time that evening.

How could I tell that was the main reason behind his actions? Why did I know he had turned around to protect my privacy, even from his ‘prying’ eyes? I just did. And my insides trembled again with a sensation I now embraced wholeheartedly.

I would protect this man with all the strength and fierceness of my Vulcan heritage. The spontaneous pledge came to me unbidden, but also like the most natural progression of our ever growing rapport.

"I’m pleased to see that your sense of humor is finally developing, Mr. Spock," he commented, looking at me through long, thick lashes as we engaged in the act of unwrapping the chess pieces one by one, and setting the board.

"I doubt that insulting your subordinates is one of your prerogatives, Captain," I said in a serious tone of voice that did not quite match my current state of mind.

"Quite the contrary," he shook his head calmly. "I’ve come to believe that the more advanced the species the more developed their sense of humor."

"So you are insulting me," I stressed the word, placing the black King on the board with a dull thud, and meeting his eyes.

He bit his lips and made a gurgling sound from deep in his throat.

"Another tea?" he asked after a moment.

"If you please," I tilted my head to one side drily.

He walked over to the replicator and promptly returned with our two refilled cups. He put mine on my side of the table and took a sip of his own before sitting down. He looked at me with an impish grin and reached for the white pawn to open the game.

Automatically, I turned the board so I was playing with the whites, and moved the pawn he was reaching for.

Laughter exploded from him in a string of euphonious sounds that stirred an inexplicable reaction in my chest. A very pleasant sensation.

The Captain’s well-being was inextricably bound to my own. An eerie discovery for a lonely half-Vulcan.

To belong.

I watched him as the game progressed, and the pleasant sensation, the bubbling warmth in my chest continued. And when he won the game his eyes met mine and he nodded to me.

"Well played, Spock," he smiled appreciatively.

"Thank you, Jim," I replied. It was easier for me to utter his first name when we were alone. He had encouraged me to use it from the very beginning, and even if at the time it did not seem like the proper thing to do... it was different now.

Many things were different now.

Humans made no sense. They insulted you to show their trust and affection, they laughed when they were sad or embarrassed... Most of their reactions were illogical, if not downright contradictory.

And the strangest thing was that I was beginning to understand somehow... through him. Through his words, his eyes, his self. His smile, so wide now.

An undercurrent of understanding and empathy. A deeper truth that vibrated between us, he had called them.

This man was the door to a new world. A world I had been wary and disdainful of in the past, because it had brought me nothing more than scorn and contempt from the others.

Not anymore.

I was ready to cross that door and see what lay on the other side. There was no reason for me to be wary of, as long as James Kirk was there to guide me. For he meant only well, I could feel it in my heart. In my soul.

I only had to look at him, and it was as if my mind opened wide to all the possibilities and alternatives...

One day.

 

 

THE END.

This story archived at https://ksarchive.com/viewstory.php?sid=2183