Title: Command Respect
Characters: Kirk, Spock
Word Count: 1877
Summary/Warnings: Episodes like The Galileo Seven and The Tholian Web have always intrigued me with the difference in Spock's command style, and episodes like Charlie X with this apparently unsociable Vulcan quite calmly taking part in crew entertainment. This is by no means canon, but merely a what-if fic. Kirk and Spock discuss the chain of command while returning from the Galactic Barrier - set sometime post-Where No Man Has Gone Before but before Charlie X and The Galileo Seven. If I've messed up the timeline let me know; my knowledge of episode times is shamefully sketchy.
Vulcans were, by definition, neither a sociable nor entertaining species. As such, he had never given a thought to spending evenings in pursuits not involving one of his scientific researches or an engaging thesis. His Vulcan sensibilities had therefore been properly scandalized the first time his new captain breezily suggested they not only dine in General Mess, but follow that with an hour or so in Rec Room Three, fraternizing with the lower decks.
He at first endeavored to bring up unfinished work in Science Lab Two, which was promptly overruled, and then reminded the Captain that that particular Rec Room frequently broke out in hostility from unhappy, bored crewmen. The human's stern response was that this last was part of the reason he wanted them to keep a personal eye on the men; a bored crew was a danger to themselves and to the ship. He could hardly argue that point, as the truth was only logical.
But surprisingly enough, the captain seemed to sense the source of his discomfort and rescinded the suggestion temporarily; but with a warning that the crew needed to see more of their commanding officers and that he would expect his First to set an example in that area in the near future.
It was the remembered disappointment in Kirk's eyes, more than the instinctive obedience to orders, that caused him to yield the next time the suggestion was made, one week later.
The Rec Room went dead silent at their entrance, producing a very embarrassingly human urge to turn and flee from the wide-eyed staring, but he stood his ground behind the shorter man as Kirk looked affably about, waving at the men and women under his command.
"Mind if we join you for tonight, gentlemen?" he asked winningly, flashing the famed Kirk smile at the closest knot of stunned crewmen.
Spock was relieved when the silence was broken by a few coughs and nervous laughter, followed by a buzz of increasingly animated conversation. Thankfully, the captain knew better than to drag his First Officer into a poker game or something even more ridiculously puerile, and merely steered them to a small table at one side of the room.
A passing yeoman, nervously eager to oblige her COs, brought them coffee and, in the Vulcan's case, tea from the selector. The Captain flashed her a smile of thanks and downed the cup in one gulp, a nervous habit Spock had noticed weeks ago. When relaxed, as in on the Bridge, Kirk tended to drink slowly, almost absently – when working or in a briefing, he drank as fast as courtesy permitted.
This brought a mental frown to his face. The purpose of this venture was, ostensibly, for recreational purposes – and yet the human was obviously ill-at-ease.
"Captain," he began cautiously, and Kirk turned his wandering attention back from an arm-wrestling match between the department squads of Food Preparation and Environmental Control. "I fail to see the enjoyment humans derive from such frivolous and pointless pastimes such as these being enacted here."
"Frankly, Mr. Spock," Kirk finished the last sip of his coffee and looked as if he were debating having another, "I'd rather be holed up in my cabin with a good book, myself."
This was highly illogical; not the reading portion, but the fact that the human felt the need to participate in an activity that benefited him nothing nor caused any human enjoyment. "Why, then, are you here, sir?"
A sandy eyebrow inclined, beating him to the punch. "Because it makes the crew happy, Mr. Spock. And on better behavior, too. Haven't you noticed the change in atmosphere?"
Indeed, he had noted that the tension and air of lethargy that inevitably bred animosity aboard a starship's close quarters had faded somewhat into a more pleasant buzz of conversation and amiability. "I do not understand how your presence can effect such a change in the crew's mood, Captain," he answered honestly.
"Our presence, Mr. Spock," Kirk replied with a smile, folding his arms on the table. "A unified front needs to be seen in places other than just the Bridge. One job of a starship captain is to make sure his subordinates are happy – or at least as content as they can be. They need to see that we're not too superior to fraternize with the lower decks."
He absorbed this instruction carefully, analyzing it for credibility. The results seemed to speak for themselves, and yet he found them hard to acknowledge. Possibly that was why he knew he could never command properly.
He voiced that statement to his Captain, with the view in mind of informing the man that he would not be capable of performing such frivolous tasks without good reason, but was somewhat disconcerted to see a frown form across the previously amiable features.
"Mr. Spock, your belief that you are incapable of commanding my crew is unacceptable," he said with a harshness that the First Officer had never heard before. "I will not have a member of my command staff unable to command in my absence, is that clear?"
"Quite clear, sir." He had unconsciously snapped to rigid attention in his chair, for some unidentifiable reason troubled by the disapproval of this man he had only known for a few months.
Kirk's eyes softened, and he leaned back in his chair. "Relax, I'm not going to throw you into the next mission as Acting Captain – not by choice, anyhow," he amended with the ghost of a smile. "Look, didn't Captain Pike ever give you the chance to command a mission?"
"In eleven years?" the human asked incredulously.
He nodded simply. "I was proven to be incapable of successfully commanding a human crew, and was informed that my status as Science Officer would not require I do so again. Captain, had Mr. Mitchell not died recently I would certainly never have been put in the position of Acting First Officer," he reminded the younger man.
"I have every intention of keeping you as First Officer, Mr. Spock, so you may get that through your brilliant head right now," Kirk snapped emphatically, wincing at the mention of the former of that position. "And I've seen the note Starfleet put in your personnel file about the incident. It is unacceptable for you to have never been given a second chance to command, no matter how disastrous that mission was."
He bowed his head in mild acquiescence, for that seemed to be the most rapid way of appeasing the Captain's quick temper.
"I won't stand for it on this ship, Mr. Spock," Kirk said quietly, leaning forward slightly with his arms on the table. "I need to know if you are willing to learn how to properly command, or if I need to be contacting Starfleet about finding a different First Officer when we get back to Earth. I want you…heck, I need you…and this crew already knows you – but if you can't take charge when a crisis hits then I can't permit you to remain as my First Officer."
The chaos in the room made it difficult to analyze his thoughts, much less the sensation of deep disappointment and slight fear he could sense radiating off the captain's tense posture as he waited for an answer – but nonetheless, the trepidation of earlier seemed to disappear when in this man's company for long. Possibly the wariness of attempting to command this crew would also disappear in such circumstances; it was as logical (or illogical) an eventuality as the first.
"I am willing to learn, Captain," he replied solemnly.
Relief fairly spilled over into the expressive eyes before him, and Kirks' smile widened enormously. "Good," he answered softly, letting the one word hang in the air for a moment to fill in the rest of the conversation.
"I shall be in need of instruction…from you, quite possibly, Captain," the Vulcan ventured after a moment, calmly enough for there was no shame, apparently in Kirk's eyes at least, in his admitting to the inefficiency.
"Of course you will, and if I can be of any help you'll have it gladly," the young man said with a smile. "Then in that case…as part of the process," he went on after a seconds of comfortable silence, "I want you to do this more often."
Puzzled, he studied the human's expression. "Do what, Captain?"
"This," Kirk replied, gesturing around in a sweeping arc. "Be more sociable. Mingle with the crew instead of hiding in your Science Lab or meditating in your quarters. You're a brilliant conversationalist, Mr. Spock, and I've been told you play a musical instrument of some kind?"
His eyes narrowed in wariness. "As a hobby; nothing more, sir."
"Then when you're comfortable with it, I think you should bring it down here and play for everyone," Kirk said cheerfully, apparently not noticing – or choosing to ignore – the look of horror on his First's face. "There are two ways to command a crew, Mr. Spock," he added gently. "Out of intimidation, or out of loyalty. I will leave it to you to decide which you believe to be more effective."
While loyalty was an emotion, it was once that could be embraced without shame or consequences; pure good, without a trace of evil. Unlike most emotions, which were volatile at best, Loyalty was the most stable of them and therefore the most logically controlled.
"Loyalty, of course, is the proper way to command, Captain," he answered firmly.
"And to gain loyalty, you have to have the trust of your crew," Kirk continued, indicating the chattering room about them. "And they can't trust you if they don't know you. Which brings us back to the reason we're sitting here instead of in our quarters reading or something."
Ah…then there was an element of intentional logic involved in the captain's actions – not just to boost crew morale nor break up animosity.
A fascinating study.
"I see," he mused thoughtfully.
The smile on the human's face grew wider, and his golden eyes glinted with pleasure. "Think about it, at least, Mr. Spock. You know I won't make it an order, but it would do you good to socialize once in a while – and I think you'd be surprised at how many of the crew would absolutely love to have you around," he finished warmly.
That was highly illogical, and he said so quite bluntly.
To his slight discomfiture, the brash young captain only laughed. "I'll let you puzzle it out for a while before I suggest this again," he finally managed between chuckles. "In the meantime, if I go get a chess board will you promise to let me move four pieces at least, before you beat the pants off me?"
"I have no desire to carry a victory to that indecent extreme, Captain. Especially in front of the lower decks," he added, and wondered briefly what the humans found so hilarious in his purposeful reminders that their speech patterns and expressions were logical only to themselves.
He filed that information away for later; if the Captain could scarcely keep his balance for laughing, then possibly the same sort of wordplay would be amusing to the rest of the crew as well, next time…