All Good Things
Kirk frowns around him at all the happy partygoers. He knows that, objectively, they have a lot to celebrate; returning from a five-year mission with the crew still mostly intact is no small feat. And yet he just can't seem to join in the enthusiasm. In two weeks the Enterprise will be back at Earth for the start of a two-and-a-half year refit, and he will be effectively out of a job.
He's been offered a position at Starfleet Command, one that comes with a promotion to admiral attached. There is a certain appeal in becoming the youngest admiral in history, following on from his record as the youngest captain, but Kirk has no plans to actually take the job. As much as it would be nice to be closer to his mother and nephew, he belongs out here in the black. All he's wanted for as long as he can remember is to be a starship captain, and he has no intention of stopping any time soon.
Still, with the Enterprise out of action for so long, his options are somewhat limited. He could take a temporary ground posting, perhaps teach at the academy for a few years until she's ready to be taken out again. Or he could try and angle for another command, but the chances of getting another assignment even close to the Enterprise are so low as to be not worth mentioning.
McCoy has made noise about going back to Georgia and opening up a little practice, but Kirk is sure he could convince him to sign on for another tour if it came to that. What concerns him is Spock. The Vulcan has been unusually tight-lipped about his future plans, and Kirk is reluctant to make any of his own until he knows where they stand.
He wouldn't be surprised if Starfleet has offered Spock a command of his own, maybe a science vessel. Spock has always stated that he has no desire for command, but Kirk can't think of anyone more qualified. The selfish part of him wants to keep Spock with him forever, but that wouldn't be fair. Spock deserves the best, and Kirk will support him whatever his decision.
He just wishes he knew what that decision was.
He glances over to where Spock is conversing with a few of his staff from the Science department, then turns away and begins making his way out of the room. He's had enough festivities for one night.
To his surprise, Spock appears by his side as he steps out into the corridor. "Are you leaving, Captain?" he asks.
Kirk forces a smile. "You know how it is, Spock. A captain's work is never done."
"Indeed," Spock replies. He hesitates briefly, then adds, "Would you perhaps like some company?"
Kirk's smile becomes more genuine. "You know, that sounds like an excellent idea."
Together they make their way to Kirk's quarters. Kirk opens the door and gestures for Spock to enter before following him into the room.
"Would you like a drink?" he asks.
Spock appears to consider it. "I believe I will have a kasa juice. Thank you."
Kirk gets out two glasses, filling one with the requested beverage and the second with brandy for himself. He turns and hands Spock his drink, and their fingers brush slightly. Kirk pretends not to notice. He's had a lot of practice at not noticing these things.
He sits down at the desk and watches as Spock folds himself gracefully into the chair opposite. The air feels thick with tension, the silence awkward in a way it never is with them, and Kirk feels his patience snap. "Have you thought about what you're going to do once we get back to Earth?" he asks.
There, he thinks. The question is out. He clutches his glass tightly as he waits for Spock's response.
Spock is silent for a long moment. "I have thought about it," he says eventually. "But I have not yet reached a decision."
The sheer relief Kirk feels at the words takes him by surprise. "Neither have I," he admits. "They've offered me a job at Starfleet Command, but I can't see myself being tied down like that."
"It is somewhat difficult to picture," Spock agrees.
Kirk smiles. "Was that an insult, Mister Spock?"
Spock's lips quirk. "Merely an observation."
"So what about you?" Kirk asks. "I'll be very surprised if they haven't offered you command of some science vessel somewhere."
"The Newton," Spock confirms. "I have also been offered a position at the Vulcan Science Academy."
Kirk frowns. "You want to go back to Vulcan?" It may be Spock's birth planet, but from everything Spock's let slip over the years, it seems like the place was never really home to him.
"I am considering it," Spock replies. "While it is not my first choice, it does have certain advantages."
"Such as?" Kirk asks. What could Vulcan possibly have that would mean more to Spock than Starfleet, than his friends? Than me, he firmly avoids adding.
Spock shifts slightly in his seat, a sure sign that he is uncomfortable with the conversation. "Potential mates," he says shortly, and Kirk swallows as the air seems to go out of the room.
"You don't have to go back to Vulcan for that," Kirk tells him, a little hoarsely. He feels like he's treading on thin ice, finally acknowledging the elephant in the room of their relationship.
Spock shakes his head. "The chances of finding a suitable mate elsewhere are-"
"Spock," Kirk interrupts him, wondering if the Vulcan can really be that oblivious. Gathering all his courage, he reaches out and covers Spock's hand with his own. "You don't have to go to Vulcan," he repeats, as firmly as he can manage.
Spock's gaze falls onto their joined hands and Kirk can feel his heart pounding in his chest. Then Spock pulls his hand away sharply, and Kirk swears he can feel it break.
"I must go," Spock says abruptly, his voice suddenly cold. "Good night, Captain."
With that he turns and is gone.
Kirk stares at the closed door, then at the half-finished glass of juice. Then he puts his head down on the desk and tries his best not to think.
* * *
When Spock's resignation arrives in his inbox the next morning, Kirk reads it with a dull lack of surprise. It's what he always secretly feared would happen if he told Spock of his feelings, after all. And yet there's still a part of him that can't understand what happened, that can't accept that all the touches and gazes and heart-to-heart talks didn't mean anything.
Alpha shift that day is slightly strained, with he and Spock talking to each other only when necessary. Kirk sits with a PADD on his knee, trying to complete some of the million-or-so forms that need to be filed before they reach Spacedock, but his gaze keeps straying over to the science station, wishing he knew what to say to make everything okay again.
He catches up with Spock after shift, managing to time things so that they are alone in the turbolift together. Spock stares straight forward at the door, as if he's attempting to pretend Kirk doesn't exist.
"I received your resignation," Kirk says. "I think we need to talk."
"I do not think that would be wise, Captain," Spock replies without looking away from the doors.
The 'Captain' rankles, and Kirk hardens his voice. "Would you like me to make it an order, Mister Spock?"
The doors open and Spock's eyes flicker briefly to his. "Very well," he replies tonelessly.
It isn't much, but it'll do for now. Kirk leads the way to his quarters and, when the door slides open, gestures for Spock to go ahead of him before following him in.
"So," he says, once the door has shut behind him. "You've decided to take the position on Vulcan?"
Spock clasps his hands behind his back. "I am going back to Vulcan, yes."
Kirk narrows his eyes. He's had five years to learn that with Vulcans, what they don't say is as important – if not more important – as what they do. "That wasn't what I asked," he says.
Spock doesn't look at him, his gaze fixed on the wall. "I have petitioned for a place at the monastery of Gol," he says quietly. "I intend to complete the discipline of kolinahr."
Kirk's learned a little Vulcan over the years, but he's pretty sure he's never heard that word before. "What's kolinahr?"
"It is a Vulcan ritual designed to purge all remaining emotion," Spock tells him, in a tone that most people would use to talk about the weather.
Kirk stares at him in horror. "But… you can't!" he blurts. He winces inwardly, remembering his decision to support Spock in whatever choice he made. But still, purging all emotion? Surely he can't be serious? He takes a breath and adds, "If… if this is because of what I said-"
"It is not," Spock replies, and for a second his mask seems to drop. "I was already considering the option. Your declaration merely showed me how necessary it is." Kirk doesn't have a chance to respond before he continues, "I have become far too… human of late. Something which I believe helped lead to your erroneous conclusion as to my intentions, and which I intend to rectify as soon as possible."
Kirk's cheeks heat. "Don't do that," he mutters. "Don't say 'human' like it's an insult." But of course, he thinks, with a sudden bright surge of clarity, to Spock it is an insult. And that's the problem. That will always be the problem between them.
He suddenly feels very tired.
Spock opens his mouth to say more, but Kirk cuts him off. "You know what?" he says. "Fine. Go to Gol. Turn yourself into a robot. See if I care." It's childish and petty, and he knows that, but he really doesn't care anymore. He leans against his desk and rubs a hand over his face. "There's nothing I can say to talk you out of this, is there?" he says, more to himself than Spock.
"No, Captain," Spock replies. He pauses briefly, then adds, "If there is nothing else…."
Kirk waves a hand. "No, go on. Go."
Kirk takes a long, slow breath, then turns on the computer and tries his best to bury himself in paperwork.
* * *
Spock leaves for Vulcan five days later. That evening, Kirk digs out the job offer from Nogura and reads through it again. Promotion, and a guaranteed position at Starfleet Command. A new start, with no reminders of what he's lost.
He drains a glass of brandy and sends back two words. I accept.