Common Touch by Jane D
Summary:

When a diplomatic crisis threatens the relationship between Vulcan and Starfleet, will Kirk and Spock manage to stay on the same side?

 

 


Categories: Fiction Characters: None
Crossover Fandom: None
Genres: Kirk-Spock Friendship
Other Languages: None
Specific movie: None
Story Type: None
Trope (OPTIONAL): None
Universe: ST:TOS Original Universe
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 13 Completed: Yes Word count: 66109 Read: 167935 Published: 10/22/2012 Updated: 11/24/2012
Chapter 6 by Jane D

 

Spock was as punctilious as ever and Kirk found that the details of the encrypted Romulan communications channel were accessible through a link sent to his computer station by the time he entered his quarters that night.   If anything, this made him more depressed, although he knew it was illogical.   Perhaps it was because complete distance from the Vulcan would have been easier to bear than the ready and precise compliance with all official functions, combined with the total absence of the personal.  Kirk was used to Spock’s occasional withdrawals, he regarded them as being part of the territory, an inseparable component of what he had always seen as the unique privilege of their inter-species friendship.  But this was different and, in his heart, he thought it was final.  Without really understanding how they had got to this stage within less than a year since You are irreplaceable to the ship and you are entirely and permanently irreplaceable to me personally, he felt intuitively that, whatever happened with the Seleya mission, it was the end of the road for Spock and him, that they would not be able to claw back their former closeness.

 

He tried to cheer himself up with the reflection that they might all be dead any time soon.

 

With personal nostalgia and professional admiration, he watched and read over the next few days as Spock reached out delicately to the Romulans, with courtesy, with respect, with an extraordinary combination of the subtle and the straightforward – almost, Kirk thought, as though he were stalking wild animals, gaining their trust.  The Faltonians would have conceded on all points with every diplomatic obstacle successfully overcome within approximately thirty minutes of meeting you.  He caught his breath in pain as, without warning,there flooded back into his memory in minute detail their mutual tease about the Faltonians the day the news had first broken about the Halcyon affair – the day, unknown to him at the time, that Kirk’s life had started to unravel   But for all Spock’s compliments on the subject, he knew that their diplomatic talents were very different.  He, Kirk, was capable of the personal manoeuvre, the charm offensive, the ambassadorial equivalent of sleight-of-hand in a way he knew that the Vulcan was not.  His view for as long as he had known Spock had been that the Vulcan’s absolute integrity prevented this sort of approach and he had honoured and loved him for it.  But he, for his part, did not have Spock’s depths of patience and respect - the genuine, layers-deep tolerance to which he had seen so many responses from so many species over the years.  He had always believed that this was simply one more of the many manifestations of what made them unique as a partnership - their absolute compatibility, the fact that between them they held all the skills, all the aces, and could cover every eventuality.

 

Yet one more thing which would not be again.

 

The Romulans were not falling over themselves to withdraw from the alliance, Kirk noted, but they had agreed to meet Spock on Gamma Fortuna, a small planet the other side of the system in which the dilithium study was being conducted.  This in itself was a major concession, Kirk realised immediately, since for Spock and the Seleya to undertake any significant journey into Romulan space would be all but impossible on many fronts.  Away from his personal musings about the Vulcan, Kirk felt his spirits rise slightly.  Could Spock actually pull this off?  He remembered his words to Wesley - I rate Spock above almost anyone in the known universe for almost any purpose.  If anyone could do this, it would be the captain of the Seleya.  And Kirk felt a sudden pride and affection that was entirely unaffected by his current alienation from Spock.

 

His thoughts were interrupted by the whistle of a call from the bridge, where Sulu had the conn.

 

“Captain Kirk to the bridge,” Sulu’s face said, tense through the viewer. “There is a Klingon battle cruiser in the sector.”

 

In Gamma sector?  he thought.  What in the name of heaven were the Klingons doing in Gamma sector?  What on earth could be of interest to them in Gamma sector?  And then he thought – us, of course.  The Enterprise and the Seleya.

 

“Red alert - shields, Sulu,” he snapped.  “And hail the Seleya.  Tell Spock, tell them to raise shields, they’ll only have about a minute.”  And he was off, running for the turbolift.

 

As he entered the bridge, Mike hard on his heels, Uhura was on the hailer.  Kirk tensed in his seat as he waited, fingers drumming on the arms of his chair.  And then Uhura turned, said (and only Uhura, he reflected affectionately, even in that moment of crisis, could have managed that mixture of urgency, anxiety, disbelief and disdain):

 

“The Seleya is refusing to raise shields, sir.”

 

“What?” he said, incredulously.  “Get me Spock – now!”

 

“Yes, sir.  Captain Spock is not on the bridge, sir, he is apparently in Engineering and I have Commander T’Mala, who has the conn, sir.  Shall I -?”

 

“Patch me through, Uhura.  Commander T’Mala?  Commander, I do not know if we have made ourselves clear, but there is a Klingon battle cruiser on an intercept trajectory and you must raise shields, I repeat, you must raise shields now.  Please confirm, Commander.”

 

T’Mala’s cool tones came over clearly to everyone on the Enterprise bridge.

 

“Captain Kirk, I am unable to raise shields.   We are not at war with the Klingons and there is no evidence they are poised to attack this ship.  Raising shields would be seen as an aggressive act, tantamount to declaring the other party a hostile force.  Not only would this be in breach of the ethos of the VSA and the Seleya, it would be open to misinterpretation by the Klingon vessel and we could reasonably be accused of escalating hostilities.”

 

Torn between frustration, fury and an unexpected admiration at her courage (and acknowledging to himself that she might well be right) he snapped:

 

“Then at least release the Enterprise from her current orders so that we can take action ourselves to protect you in case you are misjudging the Klingons’ intentions.”

 

“That is impossible, Captain Kirk.   Not only would it be in flagrant breach of protocol but only Captain Spock –“

 

“Then get me Captain Spock!” he thundered.

 

“Captain,” Harding said sharply, “incoming from the Klingon vessel!”

 

Kirk whirled, bracing himself.  But it was not the Enterprise in the firing line.  Not this time.

 

With a sick fear in his stomach, he watched the phaser fire shoot across and hit the Seleya midships, with a small explosion.  The Seleya reeled.  Kirk swore.

 

“Commander?  Commander T’Mala, are you all right?”

 

Enterprise, we have suffered a direct hit to Engineering and no longer have shield capability,” T’Mala’s tones filtered through the ship-to-ship channel.

 

Which left the Seleya only with offensive options – options they were unlikely to adopt.  Kirk turned, swiftly.

 

“Sulu, you can do this.  Put the ship between the Klingons and the Seleya.  Do not return any fire, Mr Chekov, at least not until I order it – Sulu, just keep the ship moving so the Klingons don’t have a clear line of sight – is that understood?”

 

Sulu was already moving, his fingers dancing over the helm, and Kirk thought, gratefully, watching him – he may be the only helmsman in the Fleet who can actually make this happen.  Thank God for Harding – if I’d promoted Sulu last year, I’d have some less experienced officer at the helm and we might not pull this off.  They still might not, but he wouldn’t let himself think of that right now, would not begin to consider what he would do if forced to choose between disobeying Spock’s orders and saving Spock’s ship.

 

The Klingon ship moved starboard and Sulu followed it.  It veered towards port, and Sulu stuck to it like a shadow.  Kirk wondered if Klingons got motion sickness.  He wondered what it would take for the Klingon commander to give up on the Seleya and attack the Enterprise.   He might just not be prepared to risk it – he might have been unable to resist a Vulcan pacifist ship flying with shields down, but a properly defended and armed Fleet vessel – the Enterprise, especially – would be a different proposition.  Kirk could destroy him, and he knew it.  What the Klingon commander didn’t know was the orders Kirk was under and whether Kirk would follow them.   And Kirk wasn’t sure that he knew the answer to that one any more than the Klingon did.

 

“Uhura, patch me through to the Seleya again.  Commander T’Mala, please may I speak to Captain Spock?”

 

“That is impossible, Captain,” T’Mala said, expressionlessly.  Your favourite expression of the day, he thought.

 

“Commander, please!  I appreciate the protocol and my orders, but this is a life or death situation and there are more than eight hundred lives at stake on both our ships.  I must speak to Captain Spock immediately.”

 

“You misunderstand me, Captain Kirk.  It is impossible for you to speak to Captain Spock because he was a casualty of the attack on the Seleya by the Klingon vessel.”

 

 

***

 

 

He did not remember visiting the Seleya sickbay on any of the previous tours; it was entirely unfamiliar to him.  He remembered McCoy making a rather stupid joke about it; suggesting that they didn’t have one because Vulcans weren’t as frail as humans.  Except it turned out that they were.

 

The Klingon ship had given up mercifully quickly, shortly after news had come through about Spock – and Saredin as well, also hurt.  Kirk had found it surprisingly hard not to react, not to order a spread of photon torpedoes hurled after the departing Klingons, his mind full of the Seleya sickbay, the Seleya medical team even now carrying out treatment and procedures.  Instead, he had waited till it was clear that the ship had really gone, suspecting that the Klingon commander was probably keen to make a quick getaway, that firing on a Vulcan ship, assuming he and Spock were correct about the basis of the Klingon-Romulan alliance, might well have been in breach of orders.  Kirk wasn’t exactly in a frame of mind to condemn any breach of orders in of itself (in fact, a slightly unhinged voice inside him said “If he can, why can’t I?”); he signalled T’Mala and asked permission to beam over to the Seleya to see Spock.

 

“That will not be necessary, Captain Kirk,” T’Mala replied.  “Nor will you be able to converse with Captain Spock.  The captain is in a healing trance at this point.  Sickbay reports that he is likely to survive.”

 

Likely to survive didn’t quite cut it for Kirk.  And he knew it was wrong to visit Spock – wrong like the corbomite reference had been wrong, wrong like reaching for Spock’s shoulder had been wrong, but he was still going.  He found, however, that he had changed his mind about T’Mala.

 

He thought it was because she had refused to raise shields and that he had understood.  That in the midst of that crowded moment, Uhura’s reaction had been the human one, the natural one – even his own, instinctive one – but, in fact, T’Mala had been right.  Under her own protocol, it would have been wrong to raise shields and (again, if he and Spock were correct, and in advance of the fact that the Klingons had fired regardless) could have destabilised the entire political dynamic.  He found himself remembering that he had always admired and respected Spock’s pacifism.   And T’Mala’s decision had been taken with enormous personal courage and without hesitation.   That cool exterior, which he had assumed had concealed disdain and contempt, evidently concealed much more besides, or perhaps instead.  What else had he got wrong?

 

Was it possible that when she had expressed a desire to visit the Enterprise to view the recreational facilities it had not been out of scorn for human frailty but out of interest, out of the desire to learn, on the part of a Vulcan who had never served in Starfleet, had never visited a human ship? 

 

Was it possible that when he had been placed under Spock’s command he had entirely imagined that she was pleased, triumphant?  It had hardly been something which could have been deduced from the expression on her face and it was not as though he knew her sufficiently well to read it.

 

Was it possible that he could have learned more about her if he had spent less time, those six weeks, reading reports and more time with Harding’s opposite number?

 

Was it possible that his views on Spock’s First Officer were simply never going to be as objective as he would like to think they were?

 

She met him at the transporter room with neutral courtesy and he found himself wondering, as they walked to Sickbay, if she were distressed by Spock’s condition.  Santini met them at the door to sickbay.  He looked dishevelled and upset.

 

“Are you hurt, Lieutenant?”

 

“No, sir.  Just minor burns, Captain.  Captain Spock saved my life, sir.  Mine and Lieutenant-Commander Saredin’s.  When the Klingons fired, we were working on the dilithium experiment and the crystals exploded and we couldn’t get out in time, and Captain Spock came after us, sir.   He dragged us both out but there was another explosion, and – and –“

 

“All right, Leo,” Kirk said, gently.  “I want you to beam back to the Enterprise now.  Get McCoy to have a look at those burns.  Captain Spock is in good hands.  I am quite sure that you have done everything you could.”

 

“Indeed,” T’Mala said, beside him.  “Lieutenant Santini has conducted himself admirably in every way since coming on board the Seleya and in particular during the recent incident.”

 

He shot her a grateful and appreciative glance and wondered, very fleetingly, if he saw a reaction, an understanding in her face, or if it were more transference on his part.  But he was through the doors of sickbay now, and had no eyes for anyone but Spock, only dimly aware that T’Mala had left (and even then he wondered whether this was out of consideration for the privacy she might have guessed he wanted, where once he would have assumed a lack of interest in Spock’s welfare or his company.  Was it possible that out of this calamity the two crews might finally forge some level of mutual understanding?)

 

The Seleya’s sickbay was a long, cheerless, bleak-looking room and the Seleya’s captain lay on a Vulcan biobed at one end.   No doctors were within sight.  Kirk moved to the bedside and looked at the motionless face, the watchful machines, and his heart turned over.  Instinctively, he wanted Spock back under McCoy's care, away from Vulcan doctors who would not understand the human elements of his physiology, who had not made a study of his hybrid medical needs, but he knew that Spock was being well cared for, that a good part of that desire was irrational, was simply born of the need somehow to reclaim, to make safe the friend he had lost anyway and nearly lost for good in an entirely different way to Klingon fire.  He remembered the depression earlier that day of feeling excluded from every part of Spock’s life but the strictly professional; now, he had to accept that he was excluded from the responsibility and the privilege of caring for the Vulcan (even of caring about the Vulcan) when Spock was hurt.  Worse still, he wanted very badly to touch Spock, to feel the pulse under the pale skin, to reassure one of them (he was not sure which) - but he was not about to make that particular mistake again.  All the same, he kept his fists clenched by his sides, in case they got any ideas of their own.  It seemed like another life in which he had ever wanted to hit the Vulcan.

 

A voice spoke quietly behind him, and Kirk nearly jumped.  It was Saredin.

 

“Captain Spock is in the healing trance.  He will not recover full consciousness for approximately thirty six hours.  There is no reason for your presence, Captain Kirk.”

 

Kirk turned and looked at Spock’s Chief Engineer, lying on a bed nearby, unseen by him previously.  Reflecting that he should not have been carried away by the recent improved understanding between T’Mala and himself to make any assumptions about this extending to the rest of the crew, he said:

 

“Lieutenant Santini told me you were hurt in the explosion.  I trust you are recovering well?”

 

“Did the lieutenant tell you that Captain Spock was instrumental in saving both our lives?”

 

“That was my understanding, yes,” Kirk said.  “It would not have been an untypical act.”

 

Saredin stared at him.

 

“I imagine, Captain Kirk, that were Captain Spock himself not to recover you would regard this as a poor exchange.”

 

Kirk raised his eyebrows, thinking too true, ignoring were Captain Spock not to recover and decided that diplomacy called for a robust lie.

 

“Captain Spock would not agree, evidently, and I would not debate his wisdom.  He is my friend and I naturally wish for his recovery.  I am glad you and Santini are safe.”

 

Saredin said:

 

“Permission to speak freely, Captain?”

 

“I have not noticed that you normally require anyone’s permission in that particular regard,” Kirk said drily, “but certainly, if you would like mine, you have it.  Am I to expect any change in your conversational style as a result?”

 

“Would you regard the mission over the past six point one five weeks to have been a success, Captain Kirk?”

 

How can someone talk like Spock and yet be so utterly different?  he thought.  Spock’s ability to talk in five decimal places was endearing because it was washed through with his humanity.  Saredin had none.   He realised, belatedly, his choice of words, thought Does that make me a bigot? - said,

 

“Funny you should say that.  Until the last few minutes, I would have said – no.  But I wonder whether, in fact, we might be making progress.”

 

“In what way?  Your crew have shown not the slightest interest in the Seleya personnel or culture.  It is abundantly clear that you regard us as extremists, as dysfunctional and as difficult.  Your personal attitude is most damaging of all, because you persist in regarding our Vulcan Captain as your human subordinate and friend.”

 

Kirk blinked.  He moved slowly away from Spock and towards Saredin, studying the full Vulcan as he did so and reaching to seat himself on an unoccupied neighbouring bed.  He knew he had a latent antipathy to Saredin and, just now, after the encounter with T’Mala and suffused with anxiety over Spock, he wanted very much to be fair to him, perhaps even to use this opportunity to reach out to him.  He sensed, though, that Saredin was a very different character from T’Mala and that, while he might have been imagining hostility towards himself on T’Mala’s part, any dislike in this instance was less likely to be fictional.  He said slowly:

 

“I do not regard Spock as either human or Vulcan.  He is simply who he is.  I do not regard him as my subordinate – he knows that I viewed his promotion as infinitely well deserved and well overdue, and I have obeyed his orders since the collaboration between the Seleya and Enterprise started.  But I do regard him as my friend, yes.”   The only part of this paragraph which caused Kirk the slightest twinge of conscience was the last sentence.    But he was not about to share with Saredin, of all people, the taste of despair over the end of their friendship.

 

“What you call friendship is not a true relationship, nor can it be,” Saredin said.  Kirk flushed with anger.  The fact that Saredin might well be right made it worse and not better.  He said,

 

“Please do not tell me that Vulcans have no emotions.”

 

With another faint echo of Spock, Saredin raised an eyebrow.

 

“That was not my intention.  You will know from Spock that Vulcans have as many emotions as human beings, they merely control them properly.  The reason that you do not have a true friendship with Spock is that a necessary ingredient of what you regard as friendship is equality and this is not present between you and the captain.”

 

Kirk wondered how far his orders of diplomacy and non-aggression would stretch.  He suspected that hitting the Seleya’s wounded Chief Engineer in sickbay would not be covered.  He reflected that he must be in a worse way than he thought to have wanted, within the space of twenty four hours, to hit two of the senior officers of the Seleya, and effortlessly concluded that this was not a thought he would like to share with Saredin.  He said, pleasantly,

 

“Spock has many virtues, whether Vulcan or otherwise, which are highly admirable and which I would be happy to characterise as superior to my own.  However, I doubt that he would regard the matter in the same way and I believe we have always been content to regard ourselves as different rather than better or worse than each other.  Surely we have all evolved beyond the need to categorise ourselves in any other way.”

 

“Really?” Saredin asked.  “I would describe the captain as physically stronger and with greater powers of intellect than you or any other human being.  Yet he has served for many years as your First Officer.  It has been very difficult to understand why, unless it is the case that you are holding back his advancement.  That is not an equal relationship by any description.  And it has been clear since Spock assumed command of this ship that you are uncomfortable with the change in your relative status.”

 

Kirk opened his mouth and then closed it again.  Because of his exchange with T’Mala, because of some obscure feeling that while Spock was hurt it was incumbent upon him to improve relationships between the two crews, he was trying hard to be fair.  Was there any truth at all in what Saredin said?   He had not wanted Spock promoted; further, he had, truth be told, found it extraordinarily hard to accept his orders.  True, the reason he had not wanted Spock’s promotion was because it equated to losing him, and the reason it had been hard to accept Spock’s authority over him was because he regarded as highly flawed the entire history of the past ten months which had led to the Enterprise being placed at the disposal of the Seleya.  This was all true; but was it also true that Spock being his subordinate was somehow inherent to his feelings for him, to the partnership which they had shared?  He remembered the six months after Spock had left the Enterprise, how Spock’s very physical absence had seemed a death blow to their friendship, how he failed to see a way forward for them.  Had it really all been about being Spock’s superior officer in the Enterprise command team?  And, if so, was it possible that Spock had in some way divined this, resented it and that this – this – was what was causing Spock’s withdrawal from him?

 

Saredin, watching him, pressed the point.  He said:

 

“Part of what you call friendship, what you call regarding Spock as neither human nor Vulcan, what you call equality – part of this was the exploitation of his Vulcan abilities as part of what you regarded as the resources of your command team.”

 

Kirk’s chin came up.  This was easier to defend.

 

“That is not true.  I have never exploited Spock; would never do so.”

 

“Forgive me, Captain Kirk, that is not accurate.  How many times have you claimed the credit for an unlooked for success or rescue on the part of the Enterprise as a result only of Spock’s unique abilities?  I could challenge your version of events on one issue and one alone – you have repeatedly ordered Spock into telepathic contact with alien beings; this has both endangered Spock and been essential to the successful conclusion of the mission in question.  If that is not exploitation, what is?”

 

And you were court-martialled, Kirk thought – you preferred a court-martial to the choices Spock made.  He thought back – to the Horta, to Nomad, to the Melkotians, to others still.  He wanted to say that it hadn’t been like that, that being with Spock had never been about exploitation, nor even about ordering so much as a natural implementation of a shared choice, a shared decision – choices which had saved the Vulcan’s life as well as his own, as well as the rest of the crew.  But the thought of the Horta conjured up, suddenly and painfully, the afternoon he had spent with Spock in the Janus Six tunnel complex – it came sweeping back over him as he sat in the Seleya sickbay and it cut like a knife, because it was one of his most affectionate, most treasured memories of Spock.  Fifty of Vanderberg’s engineers had been killed and he had been worried that Spock would upset Vanderberg and destabilise the operation because the Vulcan had been concerned about the scientific imperative to save the Horta, the last of its kind – more than that, it had been about Spock’s abhorrence for unnecessary violence, so often, as now, at odds with the rest of the universe and so necessary a balance to Kirk’s rather more ruthless streak.  In order to protect the Vulcan from whatever was coming, he had made a half-hearted attempt to persuade Spock to leave the cave and go instead to work with Scotty on repairing the circulating pump; Spock had quoted some preposterous, entirely fabricated comic statistic about the probability of them both being killed; in a ludicrous but not untypical interlude from critical danger they had broken into the most ridiculously nonsensical conversation, standing there together in the middle of that death-baited cave opening, and then he had met the Horta, alone, and Spock had completely forgotten in rather less than a nanosecond his lifelong commitment to the  twin principles of non violence and increasing the boundaries of scientific understanding and said Kill it, Jim.  Your life is in danger.

 

Spock.

 

He closed his eyes, opened them, came back to the so-different present and said, with an effort:

 

“I never ordered Spock to do anything which made him uncomfortable.  What Spock did was part of his duty to Starfleet.  He accepted that.”

 

“That’s exactly my point, Captain Kirk,” Saredin said and Kirk thought, tiredly, I’ve given up on ever hearing Spock use my first name again, but this is ridiculous.  I wish to heaven the Seleya crew could bring themselves to address me without using both my rank and name.  “In Starfleet, Spock was defined by being Vulcan, and his Vulcan abilities were what distinguished him and made him valuable to you and the Fleet.  In turn, Spock was dependent on you because in a human environment, he needed your support to negotiate his way around life with an alien species.   That is not a relationship between equals and that is why in the end it is a healthier situation where Vulcans and humans lead separate lives.”

 

Kirk stared at him.

 

“You’ve just defined friendship, as far as I’m concerned, Lieutenant-Commander.  Spock has always been there for me when I needed him and I hope I have been there for him.  It is our differences which make us stronger and it is sharing them which brings us together.  We threw out segregation a long, long time ago.  Your way is a recipe for disaster – for hatred, for misunderstanding, for violence.”

 

“Even now?” Saredin asked.

 

“I’m sorry?”

 

“Even now?  Do you feel that sharing differences with the Vulcan captain of a Vulcan ship is making you stronger, Captain Kirk?”

 

That’s the million dollar question, Mr Saredin, Kirk thought.  A vanishingly small part of me still hopes to have that conversation with Spock one day.  I’m damned if I’ll have it with you.

 

Only the combination of the Klingon-Romulan war and the estrangement of Vulcan from Starfleet could have induced him to discuss his most personal relationship with any other being at all, least of all the Chief Engineer of the Seleya, and it was enough.  There were things, he thought, deliberately in someone else’s voice, which transcended even the discipline of the service and he said, coolly, knowing Saredin would hear all this in his response:

 

“I once told Spock that anything of value could be learned to optimal effect from him.”  In the same conversation, I told him that you were an idiot.  “That includes by me, and our change in status has absolutely no bearing on my views.” 

 

Saredin lay back slightly, and Kirk wondered how badly hurt the Vulcan was and how little he might be prepared to admit to it.  With a bit of luck, he thought cavalierly, the appropriate thing might be to leave very quickly and allow him to rest and heal.  Saredin said:

 

“Captain Kirk, I had not expected you to be prepared to enter this discussion with me and I both appreciate that and find it encouraging, despite our fundamental disagreement.  However, understand that I will not hesitate to oppose you if you continue to attempt to use your personal relationship with Captain Spock to influence him towards a military solution.”

 

Kirk stood, fighting outrage, ignoring the inner voice that took the wrong moment to wish fervently that he still had either a personal relationship or any influence with Spock, and said

 

“Lieutenant-Commander, I have taken up far too much of your time and it is evident to me that you require rest.  I have enjoyed our little chat.   If you have time on your hands during the recovery period, you might like to reflect on the fact that the current military escalation has almost certainly come about as a direct result of your personal actions on the Halcyon a year ago.  Furthermore, not only have I entirely and unaccountably failed to kill anyone at all for several days now, I have been doing what I could to look for a peaceful solution and I admit to having used whatever means at my disposal to have enlisted your captain’s assistance in that regard.  I do, however, of course, strive to be open-minded at all times and if I am presented with a potential target for hostile action, I will consider alternatives, whether that involves launching a full-scale hostile military offensive after lunch - or just hitting someone close to hand.”

 

Stupid, stupid, stupid, shouldn’t have said that, he thought, but couldn’t bring himself to retract.    What was it with him and diplomatic missions, anyway?  He hadn’t asked to be sent to make overtures to a ship full of Vulcans; he regarded himself as a peaceful person, though not a pacifist, and yet continuous contact with the pacifist crew of the Seleya was bringing out the most unaccustomed aggressive impulses in him.  He thought wryly of Organia, of Kor, with a bizarre pang of sympathy.  (And where was Kor now?  Out there, somewhere, perhaps looking for them, part of a military build up from which it felt odd to be secluded.)  Perhaps Saredin was right about him, after all.

 

Before he left the room, he returned briefly to Spock’s bedside.  There was no change in the still face and, once again, Kirk resisted the temptation to reach out to him.  Instead, he said to the Vulcan, in his mind:  If that’s the company you’ve been keeping the past six months, Spock, I cannot for the life of me fathom how you’re finding me so difficult just now.

 

And he turned and left sickbay for the transporter room.

 

 

***

 

 

Reassured that the sector was once more quiet, he gave Scotty the con and went to his quarters.  Struck by a thought, he logged on to the encrypted link to the Romulans and read the most recent communications – all sent, of course, before the Seleya had been fired on.  And, from the look of things, before Spock had read them or had the chance to reply.

 

And that was when he found out that the Romulans had arranged a meeting for Spock for the following morning on Gamma Fortuna.

 

Spock, who had said I will go to the Romulan High Command and I will go alone without you. 

 

Spock, of whom he had said categorically to Saredin in sickbay I have obeyed his orders.

 

Spock, whom Saredin had said would be in a healing trance for another day and a half. 

 

And Kirk recognised, with a lurch to his heart, the name of the Romulan Commander.  He had last seen her at Starbase 51 on the border of the Neutral Zone where they had left her after he and Spock had stolen the cloaking device from her ship.

 

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