My Own Backyard
"Well, I guess that's all of it," Boyce said. He looked around the sickbay. "I probably should say I'm going to miss the old place. But--" his mischievous eyes met the Vulcan Science Officer's. "I don't think I will."
"Having chosen to retire," Spock said, turning away from the shared glance and running down a standard Starfleet checklist on his computer pad instead, "It would be illogical to have regrets."
"Illogical, but entirely human," Boyce said. He gave the Vulcan a searching look. "How about you?"
"I don't understand," Spock said, hiding behind his Vulcan reserve. It was a ready and convenient ploy when he wanted to avoid personal issues.
"It's a lot of changes for you," Boyce said, refusing to be forestalled. "As you're already discovered, Mitchell is the antithesis of Number One. Flamboyant, macho, aggressive. Kirk himself has a very personal style of command from all I hear. In Pike and Number One, you had a fairly reserved Command Team, for humans that is. Are you sure you want to stay?"
Spock's shoulders had tensed. He had not met Kirk yet, but Mitchell had arrived, and despite his service record, he had a cocky irreverence that Spock found jarring. And Spock hadn't missed Mitchell's evaluative and then dismissive assessment of himself. They had barely served together two days and already Spock sorely missed Number One. If Mitchell, Kirk's friend and preferred choice for First Officer, was any indication of Kirk's personality, Spock considered himself in for an exceedingly miserable five years. And yet, he had promised… "I have committed to another term of duty."
"When I did your certification for the next five year mission, I saw the notation in your record that you accepted against your clan's – and your father's-- professed wishes. There was some political hoopla behind the scenes about your signing on again."
"I promised my Captain I would stay through Kirk's transition," Spock said stubbornly. "It is my duty."
"Captain Pike was a good CEO for you. But your duty – and responsibility – to him ended with his transfer. That part of your career is over."
"Yes. He's no longer your Captain."
"He will always be my Captain," Spock said.
Boyce closed his eyes at this. If anything confirmed in his eyes that the Second Officer and Science Officer of the Enterprise was still a mixed up human/Vulcan adolescent, even after more than ten years on the Enterprise, that did it. "Spock, he was your superior officer. He was not your family."
Spock drew himself up. "Personal remarks are…"
"Well within my purview. I am your Chief Medical Officer."
"By your own evaluation, you were," Spock said precisely. "You have retired your commission."
"Not till 17:00 hours. Until then, I have something to say to you, and it's your duty to listen to it."
Spock set his face in severe Vulcan lines but didn't argue.
Boyce sighed. "I don't want to do this. I really don't like to get involved in the personal lives of my charges. A doctor needs to keep perspective. Especially on a starship, where we live so cooped together. All I'm really supposed to care for is if and when your personal issues might prevent you from functioning."
"Which is not the case here."
"Maybe not this moment, no. But in the future—"
"In the future, you will not be my CMO, and will have no authority over me."
"Well, maybe I should have spoken in the past. I've had these concerns quite some time. Pike had a habit of hanging onto his officers too long. I suppose the best captains do. It wasn't a danger in most cases. Number One, well, she was wise enough for both of us. But you, Spock, are just an adolescent in many respects." He waved off Spock as the Vulcan drew breath to protest. "I know, you consider yourself more mature than most humans."
"Vulcans eschew emotionally based reasoning."
"That's what I told myself. Against all evidence to the contrary. And no, don't prate to me about your Vulcan reserve. It's what is hiding underneath it that concerns me. And now that's a double edged sword for you. Because I think you were too attached to Pike. And now you've lost what was essentially a father figure to you at a very vulnerable time of your life and on top of that loss, you have to adjust to this new command team."
"Do you think that I, a Vulcan among humans, have not adjusted before?"
"Of course you have. And brilliantly, I might say. No one expected you to succeed so well in Starfleet, a Vulcan among a human crew."
"Then there is no danger I will not do so now," Spock said. But there was something in his dark eyes that said even he was uncertain in this.
"The gulf between you and your command officers was no so wide before. Pike was a generation older than you in command terms. He plucked you out of a sea of command trainees, and he's kept you under his wing all these years. I'm not saying he should have transferred you to his new command. It's past time, well past time, for him to let you go. But you have to consider, now, the huge difference in command styles between Pike and Kirk. While Pike was a …father figure, of sorts to his young officers, Kirk will be a contemporary. Your relationship will be different in that respect. And in others. From my review of his psych reports, Kirk is a more intuitive commander. And I suspect you'll have trouble getting used to that too."
Spock didn't let on that he had, in his own review of his commanding officer's record, developed similar reservations. "I am aware of that. However, I don't see how that makes any difference in following orders."
"Spock," Pike chided. "You're a command officer. Lieutenant Commander – Second Officer of the Enterprise. Two lives from Command of a Starship. You're expected not merely to follow orders, but to interpret them. Anticipate them. Give them. And for a very different style of Captain with a very different philosophy of command."
Spock lowered his gaze a moment. "It was my understanding from Captain Pike that such concerns about my …lack of nascent ability to deal with varying command styles was one reason why I was held back from promotion. And from transfer with Captain Pike."
Boyce nodded. "More or less. You're Vulcan, and I won't pretend that isn't a strike against you in this service, regardless of your abilities as science officer. Most humans are comfortable with like officers, and you're …unique. There's no question of your excellence as a science officer, though even that is no sure sell of your talents to prospective captains. But you'll never make captain without strong recommendations from captains other than Pike."
Spock bridled at this. "As I told Captain Pike, I am not interested in Starship Command."
"So you've said. But unless you want your career to dead end where you are, then you'd better make Command interested in you. Spock, it's standard procedure for a command officer to be given experience under several different captains before he's gets within hailing distance of flag rank. And you haven't had that. This position is meant to be good for you. As well as for Kirk, to have a senior officer who knows the Enterprise so well."
"So I have been made to understand. I will do what I must," Spock said. "I will gain the necessary experience. And then…then I will transfer."
"What?" Boyce asked, startled.
"To Captain Pike's command."
Boyce shifted. "I think you don't understand, Spock."
"He told me--"
"I'm sure he did. I'm sure that he honestly meant what he said to you. But you have to understand that he's a Fleet Captain now."
"And must therefore have an even greater need for personnel. He will find a place for me." Spock said it with comfortable assurance.
Boyce sighed. "It's not going to be that easy. I expect, if things go the way they usually do in 'Fleet, you'll get at least another two postings under other command officers before you're even considered for a transfer to Pike's command."
"That is not what Captain--"
"Are you telling me that you – you –didn't research this? That you don't know exactly how these things work?"
Spock said nothing for a moment. But then he said, "Captain Pike will manage it."
"By then, Pike may be on a deep space long term mission, far from where you could pick up and get to him. Or he might be an Admiral, on desk duty, which you don't want. Fate willing to keep him alive and in service, which in this business is problematic. And what if you can transfer? Your relationship, if any, as Captain to Admiral will be much different than the quasi-parental relationship you have had with him. He'll be at a different stage of his life. Even you might be, long lived as you are. You have to resign yourself to the idea that your service with Pike, is, for all purposes, over."
Spock shook his head. "No."
Boyce looked hard at him. "There's a saying among humans, Spock. You can't go home again."
Spock drew himself up at that. "I fail to see the relevance."
If you're looking to recreate what you had under Pike's command, that definitely applies. And if you are looking for a substitute father figure, may I remind you that you have a real one on Vulcan, more appropriate to your needs, who'd be more than willing for you to go home."
"That's enough, Doctor. I am here to evaluate your departmental readiness for your successor, not for you to--"
"And it's because I am leaving that I can say this. That I must."
"You have no concept of my needs."
"Maybe I do. Maybe I see you –through all your Vulcan control, better than you believe."
Spock said nothing, appalled at this.
"Let me say this, just once, Spock and then, if it doesn't apply, you can forget it forever. Vulcans have a long adolescence and you're still in yours. A lot of people are in the service because of family history, tradition. Their fathers, uncles, brothers are in Fleet and they gravitate toward it, they understand its traditions, and it is home to them."
"Starfleet accepts any qualified applicant."
"That's the official line. That's what is said. You probably know better than anyone the gulf between myth and reality."
Spock's shoulders tightened anew at that.
"More than a few …young adults…end up in the space service because they had trouble at home. A sense of wanderlust, a sense that they didn't belong where they were, whatever. Captain Pike was a service brat. He understood both reasons, but his style of command was what you needed for this time in your life. Kirk's father was also in fleet. But that doesn't mean he will also understand. He's reputed to be a perceptive commander, but you'll be one of his senior officers. Not a trainee brought along from his first deep space assignment. If you are expecting the same sort of relationship you had with Pike in Kirk, you won't find it."
Spock had lowered his gaze. "I would never expect anyone to replace Captain Pike. No one ever can. Or could. Or will."
"You won't even find that with Pike, if you meet again."
"When we meet again."
"If, Spock." Boyce was silent a moment in kind. "What you're looking for – Spock, I'm not saying it's incompatible with a Starfleet career. But it isn't the primary reason to go into Fleet."
"I am a scientist."
"You're looking for a home."
Spock just shook his head, refusing to react.
"You don't fool me, Commander. And you found one, for a time. But in Fleet everyone …moves on. I'm not sure you have what it takes to make it in Starfleet. You found yourself a niche, but that's gone now. Rather than frustrate both you and your new Captain, perhaps you'd better reconsider your position. What you're really searching for, in Starfleet. And given Mitchell and perhaps even Kirk, may not be the best fit for you, perhaps you'd better go searching in your own backyard, so to speak."
Spock had looked down at his hands, clenched on the compad. "I am not unfamiliar with the allusion, Doctor. But I am not searching for… happiness."
"We all are, Spock. Call it fulfillment, call it home, call it family. You had it here, for a while. And that was good for you. Good for Chris Pike, at least in some respects. But Pike moved on. Perhaps…so must you. Staying here, with Chris gone, well, you realize that is going to be hard."
Spock was silent a moment. Then he sighed, almost a human sigh. "What you request is not possible. I have promised my Captain to accept this posting. In honor I must."
"Chris made that recommendation because it was best for your career. But you've just told me you're not interested in Command. Your reasons for being here are very different – you admit that. What about your needs?"
"I made my decision to join Starfleet long ago."
"Things change. Perhaps it's time to reconsider what brought you to space. Face the real demons that drove you into Fleet. Time to make peace with who you are. Who you were. Who you will be. Maybe what you've been searching for here in Starfleet, has really been there, all along."
"I…think not," Spock said softly. "I have not changed. I think nothing else has."
"How can you know if you don't go back and see? Back for more than a few days visit."
"How can you be sure if you don't try?"
"I know because….Vulcans…do not have back yards."
Boyce sighed. "I won't deny my analogy was probably invalid. But Spock, though you still have some time, adolescence doesn't last forever, even for Vulcans. Sooner or later, from what I understand, you are going to have to go home."
Spock looked startled and then a faint green flush suffused his features. Then he shook his head. "Not yet."
"Wouldn't it be better to go back, on your own terms, than …compelled, by a fact of nature?"
"You are…unusually well informed, Doctor."
"I served a stint with a trade delegation that included a Vulcan in the group. Fortunately we had a fast mail courier that picked him up and got him back to Vulcan. I understand the reasons why there are few Vulcans in Starfleet. And fewer mature ones. And those all bonded and their bondmates in service with them. That's not the case with you."
"I am …years….from such concerns."
"And you have a five year mission ahead of you."
"I am young."
"You're also half human."
"Doctor, the risk is small, it is mine and I choose to take it. This is not your concern."
"It's also your commanding officer's."
Spock looked alarmed. "You would not speak of such a thing. Such things are private."
"By regulations, I can't, without a good reason. And I don't have one. But I can't help but have some concern. You're still my charge."
Spock drew a breath in relief. And then in something like triumph. "Wrong, Doctor. It is now 17:00 hours, precisely. I am no longer your concern. And you have not even a medical authority over me."
Boyce sighed. "That's my point. The clock moves on, Commander. Just, do me a favor and…think about it. You're going to have to go back to Vulcan eventually. You have family there. A career and a life waiting for you. You even have a fiancée. Maybe what you've been searching for here, is in your own backyard there." He looked at the Vulcan's stony expression. "What heart's desire are you looking for in Starfleet?"
Spock met his eyes evenly. "Acceptance."
Before Boyce could reply, there was a bustle at the door, a muffled oath, and a dark haired, blue eyed man appeared, smiling in greeting in spite of his previous muttered epithets. "Sorry, I'm late. This tin can is like a labyrinth, the corridors all look the same and I must have gotten turned around ten times. Never seen such a ship so topsy-turvy, half the crew as green as me and not knowing bow from stern. I can't imagine what I've let myself in for." He held out a hand, indiscriminately. "Leonard McCoy, M.D."
Spock drew back a pace and put his hands behind his back, dark eyes flaring. "This …tin can…is the Enterprise, Doctor. The finest starship in the Fleet. If you were unsure of your destination after leaving the transporter room, you could have requested a guide."
"After getting my molecules scrambled in that confounded beam, I consider myself lucky to be here at all, sir," McCoy said testily.
Boyce dove into the fray and took McCoy's hand, introducing himself.
"I'm afraid my shuttle is leaving shortly, Doctor, so I don't have time for much of a tour," Boyce apologized.
"After that transporter, what I need more is a drink." McCoy tugged at his color. "For all they look like pajamas, these uniforms aren't that comfortable. I'm already reconsidering this junket."
"Oh, don't give up yet. Surgeons have a few alternate shirt styles open to them. And I think I can accommodate your thirst. Let's go to my – your –office." Once there, he tapped open a panel, revealing bottles of various liquids. "I believe in occasional restoratives myself. I'm leaving you what's left of my stock."
"That's kind of you, sir."
"Doctor, may I remind you that you--"
"I'm not on duty, Spock."
"Neither am I," said McCoy. "I have hours before I'm required to report in." The two plied bottles and glasses. He quirked a brow at their disapproving escort. "Are you a drinking man, Mr…?"
"Spock. No." But he didn't leave, standing watchful over the pair.
McCoy shrugged. They went through the sickbay, finally settling down in chairs. "There's been a good bit of staff turnover in the medical section," Boyce said, finally. "But Mr. Spock is Science Officer, and thus is tacitly over the medical department."
"There is nothing tacit about my authority, Doctor," Spock said.
"He's really not that overbearing," Boyce confided. "Faints at the sight of a hypospray," he grinned to let McCoy know he was teasing, while Spock merely bridled. "But he can tell you anything you need to know."
"I merely have no need for questionable Terran medical arts, that much is true. Arts, not science."
"Vulcan, aren't you?" McCoy asked, eyes narrowing. "You're a long way from home. I can see I'll need to brush up on my alien medicine if I'm going to stay on this tin can."
The repeated reference irritated Spock. "I am home, Doctor." Spock said. "Although Vulcan. But as I am never ill, I will have no use for such skills. So your …brush up…is unnecessary. I do not offer myself up to amateurs. Surgeons or psychologists."
"Spock," Boyce chided.
"I will leave you two to your …tour. Doctors. Such as it is." He looked from the physicians to their open bottle, turned his back and left.
"Friendly cuss, isn't he," McCoy said, eyes narrowed.
"I'm afraid calling the Enterprise a 'tin can' didn't put you in his good graces. And he's a bit out of sorts with me, and I'm afraid you put your foot in it just now."
"Doesn't seem like he has any. Good graces that is."
Boyce smiled. "Well, I don't know. I think some would disagree with you. But he's been responsible for getting the Enterprise ready for the new Captain, and I'm afraid you attacked his professional reputation – and seeing as how he's been with the Enterprise more than eleven years, his ship as well."
"I wouldn't think Vulcans would feel loyalty. Even to another machine."
Spock's an unusual Vulcan." Boyce hesitated, then added, "You'll see the notation in his chart soon enough, so I suppose it breaches no medical ethics to add he's also half human."
McCoy gave a long low whistle. "My god, what a mix! That must be trouble. They didn't tell me I'd be in for hybrid genetics as well as space and alien medicine."
"On a starship you pretty much get used to having anything and everything thrown at you. But actually as far as Spock's concerned, he was correct in that he's never been ill since I've known him. About five years. He's actually quite personable, once you get past his Vulcan reserve." Boyce eyes were meditative. "He was devoted to the previous Captain. All Pike's officers were, of course, but Spock was under his Command since his first Academy posting."
"Devoted? A Vulcan? Or is it the human in him?"
Boyce sidestepped that discussion. "You know the present Captain, correct?"
"Jim Kirk? Sure do. Him and me go back a few years. He's the one that talked me into starship duty." McCoy sounded a little disgruntled over that.
"Is he all the reports say of him?"
McCoy eyed the doctor evaluatingly. "All that. And more."
Boyce was silent a moment, thinking "Starship captains have to be exceptional. And Spock is… Perhaps they will make a good team."
"Jim…and a Vulcan? Half Vulcan? Anyway, Mitchell is First Officer."
Boyce sighed. "Well, it's not my concern anyway. And as of 17:00 hours, past my doing anything about it."
McCoy grinned. "Do you have any plans for your retirement?"
"Just to go home."
"That's great." McCoy added morosely. "For those of us that have one. I'm divorced myself."
"Well, people go into space for a lot of reasons," Boyce said, with a perceptive glance at the doctor. "And eventually we all end up home one way or another. Sometimes we lose it. Sometimes we wander pretty far and it takes a while to find it. And sometimes, it finds us."
"I hope so," McCoy said doubtfully. "But I don't think I'll find one here. I'm an old country boy, myself. Can't stand ships. Can't imagine why I let myself get talked into this."
"Oh, it's easy to get used to them." Boyce held out a hand. "Here's hoping, at least for the next five years, you find the Enterprise – tin can that she is – is a good substitute for home. Like I said, there's been a lot of turnover, but she's a special ship. Very special. Under the right Captain, of course. Pike was one. I hope Kirk will make her one too. She deserves it. And so do her crew."
"It's just a ship." McCoy said, seemingly startled at the sentiment. "I never could understand people getting all emotional over steel decks and a bunch of computers." But he took the hand. "Safe home to you, sir."
"Thanks. I suppose I didn't give you much of a tour. But Spock will be able to answer any particulars you might have. Oh, and Doctor?"
Boyce hesitated then figured he might as well go for it. "Don't let Spock's reserve get to you. Underneath, I suspect he's not much different than you or me."
"Except I happen to believe in good old fashioned human emotions. Which Vulcans don't."
"You don't think much of Vulcan philosophies?"
"Much I don't think of them at all," McCoy returned. "Little as I know of Vulcans. I'm a humanist, myself."
"Well, you're shipmates with a Vulcan now. And the Medical Section is under the Science Officer so you'll be working closely with Commander Spock. And Spock does believe in Vulcan philosophies – and efficiency. So I suspect you'll be dealing with something of them now."
"I can hardly wait," McCoy said dryly. "I'm beginning to think I should have never left home."
"Well, here's one home you both have in common, Doctor." He laid a hand on a bulkhead. "The Enterprise."
"Mmmm." McCoy agreed non-committedly.
"You'd be surprised, Doctor," Boyce said, not missing McCoy's skepticism, "how much of a home it can be. And how many people consider it such," he added, hinting as broadly as he could. "If you happen to find what you're looking for here."
"Here? On a tin can?" McCoy said doubtfully.
Spock appeared at the door of the office enough for Vulcan ears to pick up McCoy's last statement. He gave McCoy a frosty glare. "Doctor Boyce, your shuttlecraft is ready."
"Thank you, Spock." Boyce turned back to McCoy, who was watching him narrowly.
"You didn't." McCoy said succinctly. "Find it here."
"Actually, I did. For a while. The Enterprise was my home." Boyce smiled. "But now, I intend to find home in my own backyard."
Spock stiffened and gave Boyce a wary look, looking from him to McCoy. "It is time to go, Doctor Boyce."
Boyce turned to McCoy. "Goodbye, Doctor. Think about what I said. And good luck."
"Luck is illogical," Spock pronounced.
McCoy winced. "Sure there isn't space on that shuttlecraft for another passenger?"
Boyce gave Spock a look. "I don't know, Commander. What do you say?"
"The Enterprise crew is complete, Doctor," Spock said, refusing the opening. "Come, Doctor, it is time to leave." He glanced at McCoy. "I will return shortly, Doctor, to answer any questions you might have regarding your department."
"Don't hurry back on my account," McCoy said, watching them leave, and shook his head. "A Vulcan. A half Vulcan. Jim, you crafty devil, you didn't tell me what you were letting me in for."
Spock and Boyce walked down the corridor in silence, until they reached the shuttle deck. And then Spock halted. "It is time for us to part, Doctor."
"Sure you don't want to reconsider?"
"Well, just remember a Starfleet officer has the right to resign. If things get too uncomfortable here."
"I will manage."
"I'm sure you can. But will you want to?"
Spock just shook his head, not in denial but in refusal to entertain the subject.
"All right, truce. Just keep it in mind, Spock." Boyce held a hand out. "And take care."
For a moment Spock looked at the hand. Vulcans did not shake or clasp hands. Chris Pike had not offered him a hand on leaving. But Boyce was the last vestige of the old Enterprise and with his leaving, an era would have passed. Spock visibly resisted a moment longer, and then, when Boyce kept his hand out, unrelenting, Spock gingerly put a hand out in return and took the cool human hand in his, shielding firmly, repressing a shiver at this most improper gesture on Vulcan -- between any but bondmates.
"Not so very hard, was it?" Boyce asked, grinning.
Spock released the hand, grateful the gesture was past. "Yes. It was."
Boyce chuckled. "Good for you though. Since you're planning on staying."
"Perhaps. I will…miss you, Doctor." He was surprised to find it was even true.
"I'll miss you too," Boyce said, and his old eyes filled with tears. He shook his head. "Getting sentimental in my dotage, I guess." He drew back. "Take good care of the Enterprise, Spock."
"Believe me, Doctor, I shall."
Boyce nodded once more and disappeared into the Galileo.
"She is, after all, home." Spock said, softly, admitting it, though no ears but his could hear. And watched through the portal as the doors cycled and the Galileo took the last officer of the old crew on his first leg home. "My home. Regardless of her Captain." He said it with the barest trace of fierceness, human sentiment and Vulcan stubbornness mixed.
And Spock turned down the corridor. Already home. At first. At last. And he would stay. And find what he was searching for, here. He must. He already knew it was not on Vulcan.
"My own backyard," he said to the gray steel corridors, which echoed the words back to him. And went to help Mitchell get her ready for her new Captain.