Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom. This story is the creation and property of Pat Foley and is copyright © 1988 by Pat Foley. Rated PG.
Kirk left the briefing room and its remnants of a court martial behind him and headed for his quarters, his thoughts still back with Chris Pike on Talos IV. It kept him from thinking about the impending meeting he had so casually ordered with Spock, in the lightness of a moment that had now faded. After Spock had left with Pike, the reality of the past week's events had come rushing back to him, and he wasn't totally sure that he could dismiss them so easily. Time, he thought, for diversionary tactics...
He changed into standard uniform; he checked the bridge; he gave the orders that would eventually take the Enterprise out of the Talos star system, reveling a little at finally being back in command. He was startled at his own leap of tension when the door signal buzzed, and unconsciously steeling himself, he pressed the door release and said, "Come."
Spock entered. He too had changed into standard uniform. The blue science tunic seemed to hang more loosely on the lean frame than Kirk remembered, and Kirk frowned at yet another reminder of Spock's single-minded determination to get Pike to Talos IV. Naturally he wouldn't have eaten, and now Kirk suspected that the Vulcan had slept less than he had himself. Kirk tried to meet Spock's eyes, but his first officer purposely avoided his captain's gaze, remaining downcast, set-faced.
"Please excuse the interruption, sir," Spock said stiffly; "I came only to give you this." The Vulcan extended a tape to Kirk, who took it from the out-stretched hand with an uneasy frown. Not another tape.
"And because I asked you to," Kirk reminded, striving for an even tone.
"Yes, sir." Spock's voice was pitched low enough to be nearly a whisper.
"What's on this?" Kirk said, waving the tape. He really didn't expect an answer. He wasn't sure that he wanted one. It couldn't be anything good.
"If you would play it," Spock suggested cautiously.
Kirk sighed and snapped the tape into his viewer. His eyes roved over the display several times before the words had any reality. It was a formal letter of resignation, executed exactly according to regulations, and it was signed by Spock.
Kirk's gaze went to the Vulcan, still standing near the doorway.
"The reasons must be obvious to you, sir."
A classic Vulcan avoidance. Another ever present "sir". Spock had "sir"ed him more in the last week than he had since his first days about the Enterprise. Perhaps fitting, if they had indeed come full circle... Kirk felt numbness burning away under his own flaring anger. "Another immigrant for Talos IV, Spock?" Kirk asked bitterly. "I wouldn't have believed it of you. I can understand why Pike wanted to go, in a way. He had nothing left." Kirk stopped for a moment, surprised at the sudden relish with which he had said those last words. Spock was staring at him. frozen for the moment, and Kirk pressed his attack. "But you have a life ahead of you still ... to live, not to spend drifting in an illusion. This reassignment request can't be for Chris. He doesn't need you anymore, and if he does, he'll dream you up with the rest of his illusions. To go down there is misguided loyalty, Spock, and I won't permit it. Starfleet may have bent the regulations for Chris Pike, but not for you!"
"Captain--" Spock interrupted.
Kirk stopped the tirade and faced Spock. For the first time a flicker of astonishment had replaced the set expression -- the opaque gaze was more readable. "I had no intention of returning to Talos IV, Captain."
"No, sir. Illusion may be the best recourse for Captain Pike, sir, considering his condition..."
Kirk tried to ignore the pain in Spock's soft voice.
"But I could not lend myself to that way of life."
Kirk sat down in his chair, trying to ignore his own relief. "Why this, then?" He waved the tape cassette.
"It is obvious, sir." Again Spock's gaze dropped. "You require a first officer whose loyalty is unquestionable."
"And is yours questionable?" Kirk asked softly. He steeled himself against Spock's next words, and the anger, and yes, jealousy that flooded him. Did you ever really think that you could measure up against Chris Pike? he asked himself bitterly? It's surprising Spock took this long to come to the conclusion that you don't.
But Spock's next words were a surprise. "An officer guilty of instigating an act of mutiny cannot be trusted."
Kirk frowned, puzzled. He wasn't going to make light of what Spock had done -- the thought of it still rankled -- but Starfleet had dismissed the affair. "You were not found guilty, Mr. Spock. In fact, there hasn't even been a trial."
"My guilt is an established fact, Captain, a fact of which you are well aware."
"Just what do you intend to do?"
Spock avoided his gaze. "I am somewhat ... undecided."
"I thought that you were the one who had every move planned out?" The rancorous words were out before Kirk could stop them. Obviously Spock's planning had stopped short after ensuring that Pike was safely delivered to Talos IV. Apparently he hadn't taken time from that planning to care about what was done to him afterwards. It was a further example of Spock's devotion to Pike, and another thorn in Kirk's side. Was it worth the trouble to try and salvage this officer? Kirk found himself wondering? Never mind the friend. He had apparently already lost that.
Spock flinched, then took a moment to gather himself before answering, more firmly, "Starfleet is closed to me. Therefore the most logical alternative is to return to Vulcan."
Kirk listened to the bleakness that crept into Spock's quiet voice at the last few words, and momentarily shelved his own anger. "Spock, you can't really want to do this, can you?"
"My desires ... are not the issue presently at hand, Captain."
Kirk sighed. There were moments when he despaired of all Vulcan logic. "Spock, remind me ... what is the issue presently at hand?"
"You require an officer whose actions are not suspect, with whom you can trust your ship and your command implicitly. I have proven myself unsuitable for that position."
"Don't you think that should be my decision?" Kirk said, his voice dangerously quiet. For a moment, his temper flared, a temper that he'd been forced to keep in check for too long, and that was becoming more difficult to control. He leashed it again with a conscious effort. The figure before him was hardly defiant or scheming, and Spock was not trying to take the decision out of his hands. He seemed more tense, more apprehensive, if that word could be applied to Spock, than even at the court martial, and Kirk thought that he knew why.
Spock was well aware of his captain's flaming temper. Kirk had unleashed it against him for relatively minor transgressions on the captain's ground, many of them well within the pursuit of a first officer's duty. Spock probably, and logically, expected something much worse now, an explosion in proportion to the enormity of the crime. Perhaps this resignation was an attempt to avoid what must seem an inevitable confrontation to Spock ... one he had no doubt grown tired of experiencing.
If that was true, Kirk reflected, and his temper was going to cause the loss of a valuable officer, then he had better work harder at controlling it. And perhaps Spock would someday learn not to try to evaluate emotional responses by logical means ... at least in this instance ... because after a week of scenes, anger, and a deliberate attempt at retribution through a court martial, Kirk was tired of the whole situation. He wanted nothing more than to sweep the whole mess under a rug and forget about it. But first, he had to deal with Spock.
Kirk looked up.
"It was not my intention to preempt your decision," Spock said hesitantly. "I anticipated that you would desire my resignation. I regret my assumption was in error."
Kirk studied the tension in the lean frame. He gestured to a chair. "Sit." He waited till Spock complied, despising himself for how much that quiet compliance reassured him. then he got up to pace. His anger and -- admit it -- jealousy of Spock's devotion to Pike was fading. Now, more than ever before, Chris Pike was a back number, no longer competition in any sense of the work, and any desire Kirk might have had to see Spock leave had faded. If he could only be sure of Spock, as sure as Pike had apparently always been of his science officer...
"I don't want your resignation, Spock. At least," he qualified, "not yet. And if I ever should want it, I'll ask you for it. Don't offer it first. I can't condone your actions regarding Talos ... you should have told me, and you know it ... but I'll accept your motives. Right now, you're too valuable to me as an officer to lose because I disagree with your methods." Kirk felt that he had struck the right tone ... balanced, thoughtful -- and impersonal. Leave friendship out of it: particularly since he was not sure any friendship had survived this incident.
Spock looked a trifle relieved, or at least less tense. "I shall, of course, accept any disciplinary actions you care to take, Captain," he offered.
Kirk nodded, tired. Again, Spock was ahead of him. Kirk had not thought that far, nor did he care to at the moment. "All right," he said. "We'll leave it at that. For now, I want you to see McCoy, and have him check you over."
Spock's eyes widened in surprised protest; clearly he had not expected this. But at Kirk's level look, he held his tongue.
Kirk smiled a little, wondering if Spock were merely acknowledging the order, or if he were, in fact, agreeing that a visit to McCoy was a punishment. "We'll settle the rest of this tomorrow, then. For now, see McCoy." Kirk hesitated, as if he were about to add something, but reconsidered. "See McCoy," he repeated.
The Vulcan took that as a dismissal and rose. moment, then added softly, "Thank you, Captain."
Kirk met Spock's eyes evenly, wondering if he would see the same look in them that Spock had shown for Pike, but there was only quiet acknowledgment in the dark depths, and -- oddly warming to Kirk -- gratitude. Spock turned to go, and Kirk dropped back into the desk chair, angry at himself and at Spock by turns. The personal betrayal that he had felt was still strong. Yet did he have any right to feel such a sense of betrayal? Any disciplinary action taken against Spock would be a joke -- nothing balances the scales against mutiny -- except the unthinkable action of a real court martial. And Starfleet had glossed over the incident. Yet they had the advantage of distance. His own pain and anger demanded retribution, and he could not brush those feelings aside so easily. Spock had mutinied: cold-blooded, premeditated mutiny, and by all accounts he'd do the same thing, in the same way, again. Could he serve with Spock, trust him in the future, with the knowledge of this in their past? And of all of his officers, he had to trust his second-in-command. The ambivalence that he felt regarding Spock had to be settled and soon.
Kirk sighed. His head was throbbing with the conflict, and he was tired. He had spent every spare minute away from the court martial trying to break the navigational hold that Spock had on the computers, and that failure still rankled. Head pillowed on his hands, his thoughts drifted in uncomfortable circles until he was almost asleep.
The door signal jerked him to painful wakefulness. It took a moment to realize that his problems were not a dream and, sighing, he pressed the door release with a muted, "Come."
McCoy entered, cautious, but curious. He opened without preamble. "I've taken Spock off duty for a day or so, Jim. You were right to send him to me; he hasn't had a calorie or a moment's rest, I think, since all this began."
"It looks like he's not the only one. Are you' all right. Jim?"
"Fine." He removed a bottle from his cache. "Have a drink?"
"Sure." McCoy waited until they were both comfortably ensconced with glasses of the amber fluid. "So, is Spock staying?"
Kirk looked up, astonished.
McCoy shrugged. "Most of the crew says that he is, of course, but then a lot of them had served with Pike also, and are sympathetic. But there's a fair faction who are betting against it. One of them almost had Christine in tears," he added conversationally. "Considering that you've been as mad as an Arcturian bear-cat all week, I thought that he might have had a point."
Kirk grimaced disgustedly.
"What side did you make book on?"
"What do you think?"
"Of course he's staying." Kirk struggled to put a ring of conviction into his voice. The silence stretched for a bit, in testimony to his failure, until Kirk said challengingly, "You disapprove?"
"Actually no," McCoy acknowledged. "Frankly, I think that you could do a lot worse."
Kirk shook his head ruefully. "A lot worse." He hesitated, "You know, Bones, at the court marital -- when we thought that it really was a court marital--"
"Yes?" McCoy prompted.
"I looked at Pike--" Kirk took a deep breath, and doggedly went on, "He was a fleet captain, a rank above me, glory and recognition behind him, and with still a good part of his life ahead of him, and yet trapped inside that chair" unable to move, to speak..."
Misinterpreting, McCoy said, "It must have been hard for you, Jim."
"No, you don't understand, Bones," Kirk said slowly. "Before we knew about Talos, and what it meant for Pike ... in spite of all that..."
"Go on," McCoy prompted.
"Spock was so desperate, so frantic really. I wouldn't have believed that he could be that way, though I had heard of his loyalty to Pike." Kirk swirled his drink. "As bad as it was for Pike, he had that."
"I'm sure that it was a bit of a comfort to him," McCoy said, a little confused.
"You don't understand, Bones. Pike was a cripple, horribly trapped, especially considering who he was, and what his future could have been. And all that he had left was one Vulcan, whom everyone admitted must have gone crazy with grief, and yet Bones ... I ... envied him. Envied him. In a way, I still do."
McCoy frowned, and after a moment said, "That's foolish, Jim."
"Is it? I suppose that it is, considering."
"If you're talking about hero worship, which is what Spock obviously has for Pike, you can't expect that from Spock. Pike took him from the academy, and brought him through the ranks as his protégé, gave him guidance and security that he desperately needed. I would be surprised if Spock didn't hero-worship Pike. But since Spock will never be young, scared, and alone in quite that way again, I'm not surprised if Spock doesn't hero-worship you."
"Jim, Spock respects you as an officer, and, if I'm any judge, he values you as a friend. But hero-worship is like puppy-love; it only affects the very young, and it never quite goes away. You've shown a few instances of it yourself, Jim, so you ought to understand. I'll wager that you developed yours about the same time Spock developed his -- childhood, and young adulthood. I wouldn't expect you to develop any others, and you can't expect Spock to, either. If you can't accept what Spock does give you, then maybe you should ask for his resignation. But, Jim, isn't the respect of an equal worth more than the hero-worship of a child? I hope so, for your sake. One is valuable, and the other is worthless."
"If you say so, Bones."
"Is it really so hard to acknowledge Spock as an equal? Not as a slavish follower?"
Kirk looked at him sharply, and McCoy pressed the advantage. "That is a problem for you, isn't it? If Spock is an equal, then he's a potential threat, isn't that right?"
"No," Kirk said crossly.
"No? Look how easily he took control of your ship. Could you have done that? You never did break the lock on the computers, did you, and that was no illusion."
"Let it go, Bones," Kirk warned. "I don't want to talk about it."
McCoy shrugged. "Sure."
After a few moments, Kirk sighed and said, "I'm sorry, Bones. I've been tied up in knots about this thing, and I guess that I've lost my perspective. "
"It's not a situation with a lot of choices open to you, really. But they are your choices, Jim."
Kirk smiled grimly. "You mean that I'm back in command?"
"That bothers you?" McCoy asked. "Fact one. If you want Spock court-martialed for mutiny -- for real this time -- you could file charges. Starfleet would have no choice but to comply."
"You know that I don't want to court-martial Spock."
"Fact two. If this has destroyed your trust in him as a Starfleet officer, but you don't want to press charges, then you can have him transferred. He could be off this ship tomorrow."
"Spock didn't betray Starfleet."
"Then we're right back where we started. You need to decide whether Spock betrayed Captain Kirk of the Enterprise or Jim Kirk the friend -- or if he betrayed no one at all."
Kirk frowned, "And if it's the first two?"
"Then you have to decide how badly your working relationship has been damaged. That comes first. Do you trust him with your ship, as your first officer, knowing how easily he took control from you? If you decide that you do, and you want him to stay on in that capacity, then how do you intend to deal with what you consider to he his transgressions from duty? Either ignore them, issue a reprimand, set a discipline..."
"Just what type of discipline would you suggest?" Kirk asked ironically.
"I don't know -- send him to the bottom of the promotion list, dock his pay, ground him for a while--"
Kirk was shaking his head. . "And if he betrayed Jim Kirk the friend?"
"Then you work it out, as friends, only as friends. But Jim, work out the official line first, then the personal. Don't punish Spock officially for a personal betrayal. Keep the books straight."
Kirk nodded. "It isn't always that easy. I'll try. But you know, Bones," he hesitated, and then went on grimly, "it's the personal betrayal that galls the most ... and what I want most to strike back for."
McCoy hesitated. "I'm sure it's what was most difficult for Spock as well, Jim."
Oddly enough, Kirk found that comforting. The most comforting words McCoy had said so far. "I'll think on that awhile."
It was early morning when Kirk walked into sickbay, searching fruitlessly for Spock, and he finally came across McCoy, who took in the situation at a glance.
"I sent him to his quarters to rest, but I doubt that he's resting all that much. Go on, Jim, and get it over with."
Kirk nodded, grateful that McCoy for once was asking no questions. His resolve was new, and he didn't want to subject it to any outside deliberation. But maybe McCoy could tell that from his face.
Spock answered the door signal with a quiet "Come" and Kirk walked in after carefully schooling his features. He motioned Spock back to a seat, but remained standing himself.
"McCoy told me that you're on the sick list for a while," Kirk began quietly, "so I expect you to follow his orders."
"As far as my official actions go regarding the Talosian incident, I've decided that if Starfleet can afford to be magnanimous then so can I. I'm not going to pursue any official disciplinary action."
"Thank you, Captain."
There had been a touch of relief in Spock's tone, Kirk noted. So he had been expecting something. Kirk studied the bent dark head, more than a little amazed that so much power and vulnerability could exist side by side in one person, and sighed quietly. "I'm glad that's over with," he said in a more conversational tone. "There's only one thing I wonder, Spock."
Spock raised his eyes, meeting Kirk's cautiously, and asked, "Sir?"
"I wonder if Chris Pike envies me as much as I envy him?"
Spock looked truly puzzled at the question, his eyebrows raised, the centers drawing down into a flaring frown. "I don't know, sir."
Kirk smiled, and reached over to lightly catch Spock's arm. "It doesn't matter. Let's get some breakfast, and then I can go back to captaining this ship ... and later on ... you can help..."