The first time Kirk met him, was only weeks after the start of his first five year mission.
They’d been lazily exploring the galaxy up until now, surveying only two planets and were unexpectedly bored out of their minds. He would have thought the life of a Starship Captain way more... adventurous. That’s at least how he had dreamed it to be all those years, so he was kind of disillusioned to just be conducting surveys of normal-to-boot Class-M planets.
His crew, too, seemed to get a little uncomfortable with the ongoing peacefulness and everyone had decided to turn deaf at the constant nagging of their CMO Leonard McCoy, that they are gonna wish it’ll be that quiet and dandy as soon as we’ve got our asses handed to us by a bunch of Klingons, damn it!
Kirk almost was glad, when Starfleet seemed to take pity on their brand new flagship and offered them a treat by sending them towards Vulcan in order to not only show off their wonderful, gleaming Enterprise, but also to take cargo as well as politicians with them on a ride through the galaxy to a gaggle of planets that were assigned for some conference-or-other.
Unfortunately, the Captain had next to nothing to do, while Chief Engineer Scott was conducting the storing of the cargo and Communication’s Officer Uhura was dallying with the Vulcan representatives. Later that day – going to night, really – he would be needed for the official welcoming banquet, but until then Kirk had free reign of his time as long as he was in contact with the ship.
So the young Captain made his way through ShiKahr, looking at the exotic buildings, shops and the native residents. However, all of it was so... severe; so strict. It made him feel pressured and shackled for some reason. Vulcans were nice people, but living on the dreary planet? He could never imagine it. His feet dragged the human unthinkingly to the outer reaches of the huge city, seeking a more natural environment in all the functionality surrounding him.
He had to rub his eyes every now and again – the dry, fine sand was making them itch and the heat radiating from the red sun was enough to make his breath short and kind of sticky in his lungs. It wasn’t before long, that the human saw a structure at the huge stone wall towering on the edge of the city, where little houses were huddling together on the outskirts of ShiKahr. The structure was a roughly hewn stone arch, made out of red stone and leading the way further into the massive mountain it was carved into.
The Captain reached up with one hand, shading his eyes against the diffuse light surrounding him and trying to work any details out of the picture. Was that an abandoned structure? It kind of looked like it – very old and almost invisible against the craggy surface of the stone wall. Not at all like the shining efficiency of ShiKahr, that was towering in his back and being strangely quiet all the same – because Vulcans did not seem to make any noise at all.
The young man felt his heart leap a little at the prospect of finding some diversion, after all. His stride was confident and a mixture between hurried anticipation and cool, lazy negligence, as he sauntered towards the huge stone wall and the arch, someone must have hewn into the very rock endless time ago.
The arch was plain and simple – there were no ornaments, safe for one face at the very top. However, the face was so withered, that Kirk couldn’t even tell which expression it had once sported. Only the pointed ears seemed to be a dead giveaway that it was of Vulcan origin.
Shallow steps were leading into the inner area – they were full of the red, fine dust, which was whirling all over Vulcan, but they seemed well trodden and were very smooth to the touch, as Kirk could discern after bending down and feeling it.
He raised his head again, looking into the dark corridor leading into uncharted territory and felt a giddy tingling in his stomach. This was exciting! He raised one foot, while his hand went for his utility belt, where a lamp was attached, as he saw further down the corridor a flickering. Kirk immediately stopped and blinked in surprise. The flickering had looked like – there it was again! – it looked like flames!
Was there someone, after all?
“Hello?” Kirk called into the darkness. He got no response whatsoever. The Captain frowned, one hand at his phaser on his hip, while he made his way up the shallow steps and gingerly into the corridor. “Someone there? Heyyyy?” he called again, while slowly walking into the corridor, his eyes now fixed on the flickering at the end – it was constant now.
The corridor was filled with cool, moist air and after the oppressive heat of the world outside it made him shiver and elicited goosebumps all over his arms. The little hair prickled against the sleeves of his golden command tunic.
“Helloooo – oh!” he called, coming to an abrupt halt, his eyes widening startled, as he was about to round a corner and came suddenly face to face with another man.
The first thing Kirk could make out, was a pale face with a greenish tint to the creamy skin and large, dark eyes fixing him in curiosity. The next was immaculately cut, coal black hair, pointed ears and a long, black – or maybe dark brown – robe the man was wearing.
“Woa!” Kirk panted slightly, one hand pressed to his chest, where his heart was beating in a fast staccato. “Could’ve warned me, man! You freaked me really out.”
The Vulcan cocked his head slightly to one side, scrutinizing the Captain and saying with slow deliberation, “That was not my intent. I am grieved to have caused you distress, Sir. However, would you kindly remove your weapon from my person? I am unarmed and I can assure you – quite harmless.”
Kirk blinked a few times and felt unbelievably dumb in the face of this eloquence directed his way, while all he could think of was, ‘His voice is very nice.’ It took him two seconds before he realized the last part and followed the downward gaze of the Vulcan towards his phaser that he had pressed against the midsection of the other man. His eyes widened and with a startled, “Oh! I’m sorry!” he drew the weapon hastily away and stored it at his utility belt. He cleared his throat, taking one step back and straightening his shoulders.
“I assure you I was not intending to...” he faltered slightly, searching for words. The corners of the Vulcan’s eyes seemed to crinkle in amusement in the flickering light of the torch he was holding up.
“...to shoot me without warning?” he amended and –yes, Kirk was pretty sure there was a mischievous tone in the dark silky voice. He felt a slight tingling deep in his stomach. Before he could answer, though, the Vulcan continued, “You are from Starfleet, if I’m not mistaken? Your uniform seems familiar. Are you a helmsman? Or navigator?”
Kirk blinked a few times, slightly taken aback by the strange questioning, before his mouth curled into a grin and he raised one arm in order to show the golden stripes at his sleeves.
“No. I am the Captain of the Enterprise. James Tiberius Kirk – at your service.”
There was another slight crinkling at the corners of the eyes and Kirk was reasonably sure he did not only imagine it due to the flickering light.
“Ah... I see. Are all Captains as trigger-happy as you, Mister James Tiberius Kirk?”
Kirk felt himself flush slightly and cleared his throat.
“Maybe you could tell me your name, before you go and mock high ranking Starfleet personnel?” he asked without any ire in his voice. Nevertheless, the face of the Vulcan immediately went emotionless and he took one step back.
“Of course. My apologies – it was not my intent to be mocking. My name is Spock.”
Kirk raised his eyebrows slightly and nodded. He waited for more, but the Vulcan was quiet and just looking at him with placid patience.
“Well, Spock?” he said at last, looking around the dark corridor they were standing in, “Uh... where are we? And what are you doing here?”
The Vulcan cocked his head slightly to the side and slowly but surely Kirk got the feeling that this Vulcan was not like the other Vulcans. His big, dark eyes were more expressive than the once he had seen all day in placid, shut off faces and the little mannerisms – like the cocking of the head – seemed strangely out of place. He was... intrigued.
“This is a temple for Kir-alep,” Spock intoned and after Kirk had stared at him without reaction for about five seconds, the man raised one slanted eyebrow and explained, “The Vulcan God of Peace.”
Understanding dawned in the Captain’s face and his lips formed an ‘O’ of enlightenment, before he frowned.
“I did not know Vulcans had Gods.”
A strange expression flitted across Spock’s face and the Vulcan turned slightly away, pointing with the arm holding the torch into the darkness, where he probably had come from.
“Maybe you’d like to see the inner sanctum, Captain Kirk?” he suggested and Kirk grinned. He was no religious man, but somehow it was only too easy to say congenially, “Of course! Lead the way, my friend!” And wonder about the almost startled look thrown his way over a shoulder.
They did not have to walk long – soon the corridor gave way for a chamber that was way smaller than he would have expected. It was about as big as the Enterprise’s chapel and very sparsely furnished. The only real ornament was a big statue at the head of the room, showing off a regally standing individual; the face, however, was smiling and benign.
“Is this Kir-alep?” he asked. Spock, who had put the torch on a hook at the wall, was turning towards him, folding his hands in front of his body in the depths of his large sleeves.
“Yes. Kir-alep, the God of Peace and... Acceptance,” the Vulcan intoned. Again, there was a strange expression flitting over his face before it smoothed back into placid lines. Kirk slowly looked around, but his eyes were all the time drifting back towards the strange Vulcan at his side. There really was something – unusual about Spock. He just could not put his finger on it right away.
“And what are you doing here?” he asked. Spock looked towards the statue and stared a long time at it, before he answered, “I am a Priest.”
Kirk waited, but nothing more was forthcoming. He looked around – there was only one door hidden in a little niche, nothing else.
“Where are the other priests?”
“There are no other priests,” Spock said, sounding slightly surprised and looking back towards the Captain, who raised his eyebrows.
“You work here alone?”
“Isn’t that... lonely? Don’t you get bored?” the man spluttered exasperated.
For a few seconds he thought he had insulted the Vulcan, for the expressive eyes were totally shuttered for a split second, but almost as fast, there was a little crinkling at the corners and Spock shook his head.
“No... I am quite adapt at keeping myself occupied. I am also living nearby.”
“In one of the little houses on the edges of ShiKahr?” Kirk asked in curiosity. He could not say why he found the life of a little monk so interesting. Spock nodded slowly and lapsed into silence, while Kirk gazed around. The Captain slowly went up to the happy looking statue. The face was really strange – it was Vulcan and so it simply seemed out of place in its obvious mirth.
Spock spoke directly behind him, startling the human once more, “The Vulcan Gods are from pre-Surakian times. Only... few believe in them anymore or pay them respect.”
The Captain blew a long breath out and turned around, finding himself nose to nose with Spock. From this close proximity he could make out the deep brown iris of his eyes – it looked very soft and gentle. Spock hastily took a step backwards.
“You believe in it?” Kirk asked idly. The Vulcan turned his gaze once more up into the smiling face and very pointedly did not answer the question, rather asking one himself, “Why are you on Vulcan, Captain Kirk?”
Kirk filed that information away and grinned at the priest.
“I’m loading cargo and a few delegates onto the Enterprise and then we’re off delivering them to some congress,” he said, trying to sound cool and as if he wasn’t unbelievably excited about his first mission in which he was to protect someone. However, from the slight crinkling at Spock’s eyes he could discern that he probably hadn’t succeeded entirely in hiding his enthusiasm.
“So you will be departing soon, I take it?”
“Yep. Tonight is a feast and tomorrow afternoon we’re off into the stars.”
There was a twitch in Spock’s right eyebrow and his lips parted a little bit, but he said nothing. Kirk, however, had the unmistakable feeling of having said something wrong.
He blinked a few times, searching the Vulcan’s face for clues, but Spock was turning around and walking to one of the few mats scattered about the room. He knelt down in a motion Kirk could only describe as graceful and his black robe was pooling about him. Spock looked small all of a sudden, kneeling there in the unrelenting black.
Kirk licked his lips nervously.
“Am I interrupting?”
“I was about to enter meditation, when I heard you calling,” Spock did one of his none-answers. Kirk nodded slowly and drew out an “OOOokaaay...” not entirely sure if that was a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Spock closed his eyes and seemed determined to ignore him all of a sudden. The Captain cleared his throat and sauntered to the entryway.
“Well I... won’t be troubling you any longer. Uh...” he stopped and turned to Spock again.
“You coming to the feast tonight?”
Spock turned around, a split second of surprise on his features, before the corners of his eyes crinkled slightly and he shook his head.
“No. I am quite sure that only the Vulcan Elders are allowed,” he intoned. Kirk deflated a little and nodded.
“Oh.. right... yes,” he said and extended his hand towards Spock for a parting handshake, “Well, see you around, eh?” he enthused with a little forced happiness.
The Vulcan was looking at his hand in obvious puzzlement, slanted eyebrows slightly rising, before understanding dawned and the corner of his mouth curled a tiny bit upwards. He raised one arm, causing the long, wide sleeve to slide down, bunching around the crook of his elbow – and Kirk was struck by how pale and perfect that arm looked and how long and graceful the fingers were, that were spreading right now into a strange V form.
“Live long and prosper, Captain Kirk,” Spock intoned.
There was again that tingling in Kirk’s stomach.
He somehow wasn’t present with his whole heart at the feast. The food was excellent – even though there was no meat – the music was strange but agreeable and his crew seemed fascinated with the Vulcans and happy to be out of the confines of the ship.
But Kirk couldn’t help thinking that he did not quite like the emotionless faces and monotone voices. He had to think of the priest in his run down, little temple to a God no one seemed to follow and thought he liked him way more than the rest of this bunch.
It was a surprise even to Captain Kirk, when he found himself around midday again in front of the arch into the Temple of Kir-alep – thinking it hilariously funny, because he always thought of ridiculously big buildings, when he heard temple and this little thing was more a storeroom – and slowly strolling inside.
He lit his path with his flashlight this time and called, “Spock?” before entering the ‘inner sanctum’ (and that was also a hilarious name).
The Vulcan was kneeling on one of the mats again and turning around, his slanted eyebrows raised.
“Captain Kirk?” he said in what the human thought disbelief and he grinned in response.
“In the flesh,” he intoned, swaggering inside and looking at the kneeling alien.
“What have you been up to?”
“Meditating,” Spock said, looking a little at a loss for words. Kirk reached one hand towards him and after a few seconds of Spock just looking blankly at it, he said insistently, “Come, I’ll help you up!”
“I assure you, I need no assistance,” the Vulcan said with great dignity and stood in one fluid motion. Kirk smirked and shrugged his shoulders.
“I thought you would have already departed,” Spock said slowly, watching the human with sharp, intelligent eyes. Kirk smiled and nodded.
“Yep – they are putting on the finishing touches. I don’t have much time.”
“Why are you here?” the Vulcan asked in obvious confusion, cocking his head slightly – and Kirk refused to think it looked adorable.
“Uh... I...” he started and faltered slightly, not sure anymore. He had just wanted to see the priest after having been confronted with so many utterly Vulcan individuals last night. But that was sounding kind of sappy and idiotic, so...
“I wanted to know more about Kir-alep,” he blurted out. Spock slowly raised his eyebrows and said nothing, obviously waiting for the other shoe to drop. Kirk cleared his throat and looked the Vulcan up and down. It was impossible to tell the shape of the body underneath the robes – they were too wide and asexual to give any indication.
“You’ve got some... ah... books?” he said, desperately looking for something to say; he did not want to seem like an idiot, after all.
Spock got a strange look at that and nodded slowly.
“Indeed I have some books... however...”
“Can I have one? I’ll give it back to you as soon as I’m in the quadrant again!” Kirk interrupted eagerly, somehow the thought of having a legitimate cause to come back to this little temple was making him feel giddy again.
Again a strange look on the placid face, but Spock nodded his assent.
“Of course. Please wait a moment,” he said and disappeared through the almost hidden door at the side. Only moments later he emerged with a dusty looking book in his hands.
Kirk was not looking at it, when the Vulcan offered it to him with an air of utter adoration towards the writings – he was looking into Spock’s face.
The corners of his eyes were crinkled again.
“I hope it will enlighten you, Captain Kirk. Please take utmost care with it,” the Vulcan intoned. He sounded utterly grave and as Vulcan as the individuals yesterday at the feast.
Why, then, had the human the feeling there was a good portion of mischief concealed somewhere?
Only three days later could Kirk sit down in his quarters and pull the book towards him. It was a lot of work, to have guests on board his ship and the Vulcans were letting him know everything that was not up to their liking. He also had found out that they were not amused when someone touched them even casually. And he had observed some of them make the strange V-shape with their hands that he had seen Spock do.
He would ask Uhura about that.
Now, however, he wanted to utilize his time to find out more about the God his strange Vulcan priest was worshipping and...
Kirk flipped the book open and was startled into a laugh, which sounded at first a little strained but gave way to a real, mirthful belly laugh.
The book was written completely in Vulcan.
He should have expected that. He could not read even one word.
He was utterly delighted at the quiet prank the Vulcan had played on him and leaned back in his chair with a broad grin, one arm behind his head, the hand of the other arm, gingerly stroking the pages.