Title: Balance of Power
Characters: Kirk, Spock
Word Count: 1495
Warnings/Summary: What needed to be discussed and resolved, in my opinion, at the end of the episode The Galileo Seven.
"I concede the game."
Startled into an unplanned blink, his first officer raised an eyebrow. "Captain, it is highly illogical to cease play when you are obviously winning by a considerable margin."
"That's why I'm quitting," he agreed, pushing the board slightly to one side and folding his hands on the table expectantly. "There's no fun in winning just because you aren't concentrating, Spock."
"I assure you, Captain, my mind is fully –"
"Bull." The fact that the Vulcan's response consisted solely of concentrating on a speck of dust on the tabletop bore out that succinct analysis, and he waited. "Not to sound like Bones, but do you want to talk about it?"
"Most certainly not, Captain."
"Do it anyway, Mr. Spock." The use of titles escaped neither of them. "And don't force me to make it an order." He received the closest thing subordination would permit to a frosty glare, and promptly ignored it. "The Galileo?" he prompted, when no answer was immediately forthcoming.
A barely perceptible nod of resignation. "The behavior of the shuttle crew I found to be…quite puzzling."
"Yes, I've read McCoy's report," Kirk responded, a single frown line deepening between his eyebrows. "The insubordination has been dealt with, by the way, despite your concealing those facts in your report."
Spock cocked an eyebrow his direction. "I concealed nothing relevant, Captain. And, if I may speak freely, Doctor McCoy was of the same opinion regarding my ability to command as the crew members were."
Kirk's lips twitched for a moment. "I know."
"He placed himself on report, Spock."
Eyebrows disappeared momentarily into the first officer's hairline. "Fascinating. I fail to see his reasoning for such behavior, however."
"I think he's apologizing to you, Spock, in his own bizarre way. But somehow I doubt your 'feelings were hurt' by dissatisfied crew members and that's the reason you've been morose – even for you – for the last two days," he quipped, mellowing the intrusion into the Vulcan's intensely private thoughts with just that perfect touch of lilting banter. His tone softened after the confirming silence. "Command isn't as simple as it looks sometimes, is it?"
"Simple is something of a colossal understatement, Captain." The long-suffering chess board was shoved impatiently to the side of the table, and the first officer adopted a mirroring pose to Kirk's; arms folded expectantly upon the tabletop. "I presume you are preparing to enumerate to me the points in which I evidently failed to perform correctly despite sound logic, so that the mistakes will not be repeated if there is a future incident."
Kirk shook his head, made a small noise of exasperation in the back of his throat that momentarily perplexed the Vulcan. "For Pete's sake, Spock," he sighed. "Lectures are Bones's department, not mine."
"And yet," Spock pointed out, "one is certainly in order, according to regulation. Two of your crewmen are dead."
The pain, fleeting from poignant agony into concealment behind a Captain's mask, did not escape his notice, and he wondered for a moment if he should have been quite so blunt. Kirk took the death of any member of his crew deeply, more deeply than Captain Pike ever had.
And these two had died while entrusted to his command. It was not a pleasant thought.
"Their deaths were not of your doing, Spock," Kirk finally said quietly.
"That I am aware of, Captain, for I wielded no physical weapon against them. Nevertheless," he continued, soberly meeting the pained gaze, "the responsibility for their safety was in truth mine, and evidently the remaining crew believed I should have performed my command duties in a different manner."
"The crew is sworn to obey command without comment or question, Mr. Spock," Kirk snapped, "and I intend to remind them that said command is not up for debate!"
He bowed his head in acquiescence; it was logical that the subordinates occasionally be reminded of regulation and protocol, though personally he cared not either way. However, the fact that Jim seemed to be more furious with the members of the shuttle crew for their reluctance to accept his leadership, than with Spock himself for failing so abysmally on his first command, was oddly calming. And, if he could be permitted to acknowledge the crude sensation, strangely reassuring.
Still, the problems must be addressed, and in an orderly fashion. "As you wish, Captain. But be that as it may, I stand still in need of instruction." The admission had taken less effort than he had anticipated, but it still evidently flabbergasted his captain.
Kirk's eyebrows did a gentle mimicry of his first officer's. "If I can help, I will, Mr. Spock. In what area?"
"The chiefest of the remaining crew members' concerns seemed to be with my acceptance of death in the manner I did," Spock mused, recalling the unreasonably emotional outbursts of the others. "I fail to see either their reasoning for such feelings against my judgment, or what I should have done differently as commander of the vessel; I should appreciate your enlightenment on the subject, Captain."
Uneasily running a hand over his hair, Kirk huffed out a thoughtful breath. "That's not easy to explain, Spock," he said, frowning. "You must command as yourself, as you – not as what you think a commanding officer should be. You have to be yourself, and you dealt with the situations as they happened in the best way you knew how. I can't give you a mathematical formula to follow if you want to change that."
"Jim. That is considerably unhelpful."
He chuckled wryly. "I know. But what would you have me tell you?"
"What you would have done," Spock replied simply, and without hesitation.
He sat up, the smirk fading, and looked absently off toward the opposite wall for a few moments, listening to the powerful thrum of the engines behind the walls and corridors, and for a moment so very grateful that they could even be sitting here, safely, and having this conversation. For several hours, he had been deathly afraid he would never have a chance like this again. Finally he brought his gaze back to the table, and the tense figure waiting patiently opposite for his advice – and very possibly his judgment, if he could read the minute indications as correctly as he thought he had learned to.
"What I would have done?" he repeated, smiling a little sadly. "Spock, do you know what I would have done?" He waved off the exasperated response to the negative, continuing as he leaned forward over his clasped hands. "What I would have done, would have been to just kneel there by the body, in shock, just staring at him – wondering what I should have done differently, afraid that we were all going to end up like that, thinking of all the time we'd had aboard ship, planning how I was going to have to tell his - his friends and family…" he broke off, voice wavering, and looked down at his hands.
He heard restless, uncomfortable shifting, and brought his head back up in time to cut off the murmur of apology for causing distress. "I would have done that, Spock," he continued, looking straight at the Vulcan's intensely concentrated features, "until you would have put a hand on my shoulder and reminded me that I needed to start using my head, and to focus on the remaining crew that needed a captain."
Whatever advice he had been expecting, that last revelation was certainly not it. "Captain, I…"
Kirk shrugged, giving a slightly nervous laugh. "Unhelpful, I know, Mr. Spock. But it's true, even so." He took the silent softening of a tensely clenched muscle in his friend's face as permission to explain. "You can't command on logic alone, Spock…or on gut instinct or a good poker face, for that matter," he added with a self-deprecating grin. "It just doesn't work to have one or the other, and there are precious few ships in the 'Fleet that are lucky enough to possess the balance of strengths that the crew of the Enterprise has."
"I believe that is the reason why I wish to never command a vessel of my own, Jim."
"Perhaps it may sound heartless, Mr. Spock, but for the same reason part of me hopes that you never will."
Though somewhat taken aback by the human's words, he ensured his voice was perfectly calm and to the point despite an inexplicable sensation of disappointment. "You believe me to be incapable of finding the balance, then, Captain." It was, after all, a flat statement of fact; he should be pleased that his captain was so forthright in his evaluation. Why, then, was he not?
He heard a most undignified snort, and raised his eyes questioningly back to Kirk's face, which was apparently struggling between amusement and affectionate exasperation and something else he could not quite identify due to a complete lack of knowledge and experience – something softer, more vulnerable, than he had ever seen before.
And then the combination blended into one warm smile that suddenly melted the icy discomfort of the last two days spent in wondering what had gone wrong, what should have happened.
"No, Spock. That's not what I meant." Kirk met his eyes in frank honesty. "I believe myself to be incapable of finding the balance alone."