Title: All I Ask
Characters: Kirk, Spock
Word Count: 3,586
Summary/Warnings: Massive spoilers for Menagerie (both parts). What I would like to think took place after Kirk's closing line, where he tells Spock to come back and talk to him after he's seen Pike to the Transporter Room. Not fluff, like most fics I've seen of this nature - I think that episode was layered with far more tension and would have far deeper consequences than could simply be swept under the rug like the episode (and most fanfic) seemed to indicate. I believe that episode to be a key point in Kirk and Spock's early relationship, and the issues I saw in the episode were left entirely unaddressed. This is my attempt to address them in the way I believe it should have happened. No doubt my version will differ from others, but I'm extremely happy (for once) with the way this turned out.
This has been one of the hardest days of his entire Starfleet career, or of his entire life for that matter. He's faced genocide, ship-destroying doomsday machines, vampiric entities that can wipe out an entire crew complement, new cultures that are no more friendly than a cornered Rigellian spitting tortoise, and countless other minor, but no less dangerous, situations and creatures and sensations.
But none of them can compare with the idea, the incredible and impossible and yet so very existent idea, of his First Officer committing mutiny and freely admitting to doing so.
For his former captain, no less.
He refuses to acknowledge that that was part of the real sting in the betrayal; he is above such petty emotions (isn't he?), and why should he be jealous of a man who can only just now move more than an eyelid thanks to these Talosians and their abilities?
Nonetheless he is jealous, in a despondent sort of way, for he knows it may be years before he could ever inspire any of his new and incredibly gifted crew with as much loyalty as his First Officer has proven to hold toward his former captain; and who knew how many of those eleven years it had taken Pike to earn that.
Said First Officer will be returning shortly, and he has absolutely no idea what to say to him, what needs to be said, or what he even wants to say. He harbors no malice or anger toward the Vulcan for acting as he did; a sense of betrayal does not negate his common sense, and he knows that he would most likely have done the same in Spock's position. He is also aware of, and touched by, the fact that Spock openly admitted his reason for not taking Kirk into his confidence – ensuring his safety against Starfleet repercussions. He chose to bear the burden alone rather than involve his captain, and Kirk is not foolish enough to discount the gesture.
No, he is not angry, nor does he intend to make an event of the incident. Nevertheless, for professional and for personal reasons, certain things must be drawn out, put upon the table for both of them to see, or their relationship – for it is one, despite his knowledge that Vulcans do not admit to such lightly – may suffer for it.
It takes longer than he anticipates before Spock returns from the Transporter Room; long enough that he begins to wonder if his First is actually showing the very human emotion of nervousness and purposely stalling on his way back to face the music (and by extension, his captain). But finally the doors open, and the Vulcan steps through, hands rigidly clasped behind him and face set in granite.
In an uncharacteristically stiff (even for him) gesture, Spock snaps to attention before him, eyes locked upon the wall behind Kirk's head. "Reporting as ordered, Captain."
It hadn't been an order, per se, but if that's the way Spock wants to play it, then that's how they'll play it, for now at least. "Commander," he begins, and his tone is nothing but business with an icy edge, "I believe your computer programs are still controlling my ship. I should appreciate it if you would completely release the helm and life-support systems. Now."
Knowing the Vulcan as he does, he sees and notes the barely-perceptible wince that flickers through those unreadable dark eyes, one instant of pain before being concealed as swiftly as it had appeared.
But a crisp "Aye, sir," is the reply, and after a few moments of typing commands into the nearby computer the Bridge reports all systems showing normal. He breathes a sigh of relief, and then Spock turns to him, still standing ramrod-straight, and holds out several recording chips. "The programs themselves, and the recordings I tampered with in my…mutiny, Captain," he explains, and the stiffness of his tone would put his dress uniform shirt-starch to shame.
This is getting somewhat ridiculous, regardless of how much offense has been given or taken; Spock is behaving as if he's expecting to be booted out the nearest airlock, and while he can't blame him he'd hoped the Vulcan knew his captain better by now in their tenure aboard.
He reaches over, yanks the chip from the computer which recorded the mock court-martial. "How about I trade you for them, Mr. Spock?" he asks, cocking an impertinent eye up at his subordinate and indirectly extending the metaphorical olive branch.
Unfortunately, Spock either doesn't or won't respond to his effort, only remains staring pointedly just over his shoulder at the wall. "Unnecessary, sir."
Oh, for pity's sake. He rubs the back of his neck, breathes out a weary sigh against the headache building behind his eyes. "Mr. Spock, sit down."
"I should prefer to stand, sir."
"And stop with the 'sir,' will you?" he snaps back, more annoyed now than hurt as he was an hour ago.
Again, the Vulcan's eyes flicker in what amounts to a small cringe. "I…apologize, Captain."
Lord knows exactly what he's apologizing for, but considering the fact that Vulcans don't apologize, as a hard and fast rule, it's a start at least.
"And so you should, but we'll come to that in a moment," he replies coolly, for he can see now that the strict military stance and voice is a poor attempt to cover up the very real apprehension evident in every taut line of the Vulcan's body. "Meanwhile, I believe we need to discuss a few things and I'd prefer to not put a crick in my neck by staring up at you. Sit down, Commander."
Spock sits, instantly, and he wonders if he shouldn't have made his tone more gentle. But business has to come first, and he knows his friend too well to put personal feelings before duty. Besides, some deeper, darker part of his heart is whispering that Spock needs this formality, needs to hear from Captain James Kirk what the verdict for his alleged mutiny will be, not a reassurance that Jim is not angry with him for his actions. The latter he probably is already assured of if he will admit it to his logical mind; the former, he obviously doubts.
For Spock's sake, then, he must be the Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise and nothing more, at this moment.
"You're a lucky man, Mr. Spock," he begins, leaning forward on his elbows, hands clasped upon the table. "By all rights Starfleet should have had you in the brig by now following a successful court-martial, and that followed shortly by the death penalty."
A slow, measured blink; he can fairly hear the silent mantra of I-am-in-control whispering about the room. "I am aware of that, sir."
"And you are of course aware that as ship's captain I have the authority aboard ship to administer any punishment I deem necessary for the conduct of my crew, without needing to consult Command about it?"
A tiny flicker of apprehension sparks in the dark eyes, and he knows he's found the chink in the armor. "Affirmative, Captain."
Now to ram the blow home. He leans backward, consciously putting more distance between them, and tightens his jaw. "And what would you do in my place, Commander, if one of your senior staff – your second-in-command, no less – committed willful mutiny under your command, even if pardoned afterwards by Starfleet?"
Spock swallows, he can see the thin jaw working, and closes his eyes for a shadowy instant before answering. The apprehension is obvious now; there is no doubt in Kirk's mind that his First truly thinks he's seriously considering allowing severe repercussions for the mutiny. Nothing is further from the truth, but this exchange is necessary and as such he steels his resolve and continues, barking the order with more force than he truly feels.
"I am waiting for an answer, Mr. Spock."
The Vulcan snaps back into full attention on the instant, thin lips pressing together tightly before he speaks. "Logically, I would recommend an immediate transfer, sir," is the blank reply.
"On what grounds?" he presses with deadly ruthlessness, all the while hating himself, but doing it for the good of both of them.
"That of being unfit for duty due to…being undeserving of a commanding officer's trust," is the quiet response, and one that's by no means void of emotion – human or otherwise.
He forces more frost into his voice, though it is heartlessly chilling even to his own ears. "You believe that to be the logical course of action, Mr. Spock?"
The pain is still evident in his friend's face, even as his eyes shutter down into the usual Vulcan mask he dons when at his most vulnerable. "I do, sir."
He leans forward again, eyes intent upon his First's lined face; and whoever said that that race doesn't show emotions has never really looked for them. Why he hadn't seen the signs of mental distress far before the mutiny began he'll never know and will always regret, but Spock looks worn even to an un-medically-trained eye, as if he hasn't slept in too long even for a Vulcan.
"Then," he begins slowly, cold as the void of space itself, "it…is a very good thing for both of us and for this ship, that I am not ruled entirely by logic. Is it not, Mr. Spock?"
The Vulcan's head jerks up suddenly, for his gaze had dropped when Kirk began this last. Spock looks at him warily, unwilling to commit to any reaction without further data.
He finally allows his eyes to soften, for he hasn't the heart to carry this any further; what must be said must be said, but there must also be another way to go about it. "Spock, Spock," he finally sighs in surrender. "Who am I to censure a man for risking his life and future for another?" And how will I – how can I – ever be deserving of such loyalty from you? he wonders sadly but does not add aloud.
Spock's eyes widen, an obviously reflexive reaction that even Vulcan control cannot arrest, and his smile widens at the surprise that flicks across his First's stern features. "You…do not intend to institute the disciplinary measures my actions require, Captain?"
"What, and put down in the paperwork that I put you on report for no worse crime than absolute loyalty?" He snorts, for he wants very much to laugh at his First's endearing cluelessness. "I'd be laughed out of Starfleet, Mr. Spock."
He smiles, a real one this time, as he can see Spock relax in his seat, fairly melting into it in relief – he can hear the small squeak of the chair as the Vulcan permits his spine to lessen its rigidity. "Besides, what gives you the idea that I'd want to?" he then inquires quietly.
He receives a pointed look, a more familiar one (thank heaven), the what-foolish-humans-you-are look he sees regularly. "I did commit mutiny, Captain."
"Yes, well." He waves a languid hand, dismissing that part of the argument for now, and then leans forward, speaking with a fierce intensity. "I have no intention of transferring you, Mr. Spock, and if you have any notions about requesting one then save your time, because I'll deny it and fight it all the way up to the President of the Federation if I have to. I will not lose my First and Chief Science Officer without a fight, simply because of an isolated incident, no matter what that incident may entail. I fought to keep you when the Admiralty didn't want you taking both those positions combined in one, and I'm not going to give you to any other captain while I'm able to voice a protest."
The look of sheer gratitude and relief that he receives is enough to take him entirely aback at its open intensity, and he feels the tension in his shoulders begin to dissipate. It's been a long day, and a painful one for both of them – and there are still issues to be dealt with, but none that should permanently damage what he is beginning to realize is the most remarkable comrade-friend-who-knows-what-else-he-should-call-it relationship he has ever been involved in or even heard of. And he's not going to let one wrinkle in the fabric of their command service ruin it.
"However, Mr. Spock, there are a few questions I would like answered, both for and off the record." He retreats back into the familiarity of formality for the moment, as they both need this aired before they can move on.
"Aye, sir." Spock looks properly chastised, and slightly ashamed, but at least he doesn't look anymore like his world has just crashed down and buried him under the rubble. "I shall answer them…with the entire truth, this time," he adds, in what is probably meant to be a hopeful attempt at humor.
Kirk's eyes smile to acknowledge the effort, but he returns to business within the moment. "Mr. Spock, until today, if anyone had asked me to pick one person in the galaxy I knew I could trust implicitly, I would have answered without hesitation that it was my First Officer."
The Vulcan bows his head slightly, either in embarrassment or simply to hide the momentary pain betrayed by his eyes. However, he presses onward without relenting, for this must be resolved.
"And if you answer my questions correctly, then I believe I may still say that," he continues, not unkindly – but he does need to know. "Commander, is there any chance – any chance at all – that in the future you would again even consider mutiny against me or my ship."
"No, sir!" The answer is instant, almost heated, and so forceful that its sheer intensity shocks him into forgetting his surprise that the Vulcan used the word "no" instead of his usually calm "negative" – an indication of mental stress, definitely. He raises an eyebrow, and his First continues, more calmly. "There exists no other man in the galaxy to whom I owe my loyalty to the point of betraying my duty to Starfleet, the Enterprise, and her captain. This will not happen again, sir. That I can promise."
"Promises are not necessary, but I appreciate your making one," he replies gently, for he knew the answer before it was said – something had just told him Spock had needed to say it and wouldn't, not without proper provocation.
He stands, for he is growing restless, and moves to pace slowly across the room. His eyes drift unseeing over the blanked viewscreen, the spotless walls, the old-fashioned bell sitting on his briefing table. Finally he turns to face his First Officer, who had risen when he did and is now perfectly still, only watching him.
"Spock, I need to know one more thing," he says slowly, for he is not sure how to phrase it and not certain he truly wants to hear the answer.
He paces a few more steps, and then abruptly executes a smart military about-face, a few feet from his First. "Spock, I need to know…if that ever happened to me, my being so severely injured as to become a permanent invalid, and you weren't under my command any more – would you do for me what you did for Pike, commit mutiny under another commander, carry out the same actions that you did for Pike? If I were in his position, would you repeat your actions of today?"
A brief silence, one that rings loudly with his wondering if he really wants to hear the answer. Finally it comes. "Negative, Captain," Spock replies, and though the deep voice is gentle the words still sting slightly.
He is not sure why it hurts, as that is the answer he wanted to hear; he would not wish another captain to go through what he has the last twenty-four hours, forced to choose between duty and affection, loyalty to a cause or loyalty to a friend. And yet, some small, very selfishly small, part of him wishes that he could inspire the kind of loyalty that would cause this supposedly unemotional being to willingly risk his future, career, and even his life, for his former captain. He has only served with Spock for barely a year now, not long enough to even contemplate deserving such devotion, and yet it still stings to know that he does not, apparently, deserve it, not yet. He is young, slightly reckless, makes plenty of mistakes, and is a completely different man with a completely different command style from Christopher Pike – who is he to hope for such deep devotion so soon into his captaincy? It certainly isn't…logical, to borrow a phrase.
But Spock is studying him intently, and he realizes too late that his expressions have shown through on his face. He feels his ears grow warm in the knowledge, and is about to mumble some feeble words of dismissal when the Vulcan speaks again.
"Perhaps I should have phrased that more accurately, sir," Spock is saying as he fumbles to regain his poise, and he would swear the Vulcan's eyes are glinting with what he's come to recognize as fond amusement. "Allow me to clarify. I should have said, that that particular scenario would not arise, and therefore the question is itself moot."
He blinks, digesting this, and can't quite land on what the man is saying.
Spock finally takes pity on him, evidently, and moves across the room to stand within a few inches of him, at attention but not the uncomfortable stiffness of earlier. "Captain. Were you to become invalided in such a manner as Captain Pike was, I should not be in danger of court-martial for assisting you."
He is about to protest, not understanding, when the Vulcan continues.
"I would not be in danger of court-martial, for the simple reason that Starfleet cannot court-martial civilians, even former 'Fleet officers, Captain. I would not be court-martialed, for I would have resigned my Starfleet commission soon after your incapacitation."
That shocks him, along with all it implies – can't the Vulcan speak plainly maybe once a star system? He's vaguely aware that his mouth is moving, half-open like a dying fish's, and he promptly closes it to avoid looking more young and stupid than he already does in front of this brilliantly-layered personality. What exactly is he saying?
Spock doesn't need his question verbalized in order to answer it, and merely nods. When the Vulcan answers the silent inquiry, his voice has lost the edge which it has held all day, and is purely sincere, gentle, as close to being human as is possible to be. Kirk can only watch in wonder, reeling from the surprise of the transition and wondering how anyone could ever believe Vulcans do not feel.
"Were the scenario you depict to occur, I would not consign you to such a cold and," here he hesitates, as if struck mid-sentence by nervousness, but finally continues with resolution, "impersonal existence as that in a Starfleet Medical rehabilitation facility, nor would I permit your care to be resigned solely to its staff…Captain."
He knows, he could see that Spock almost, almost said his name, but tripped over it at the last second; the icy awkwardness that has sprung up over the last day or so hasn't quite crumbled yet. But it's cracking, cracking all over in an ever-growing web of weaknesses, and Spock's eyes are warm, have lost that apprehension of earlier, and he's suddenly not worried about anything in the universe, including his worthiness to inspire loyalty in this unique man.
He has no idea what to say, or even what to think – but he somehow he knows that Spock would rather he not do either, simply let it rest as all truth does, just below the surface and as firm as a stone foundation.
So this time, when he opens his mouth it's to force a quiet laugh around the object lodged in his throat, and he claps his First emphatically on the shoulder before chucking the recording of the faked court-martial in the nearest recycling chute.
"Well then, Commander," he finally says, smiling, and they both know the title is used solely in jest. "What do you say to ditching these dress uniforms and letting me beat you at chess in Rec Room Six in say…fifteen minutes?"
"I would say the former is a welcome and indeed logical course of action; the second, a highly unlikely eventuality," is the dry response, accompanied by a tiny – so tiny – quirk of the lips, and he could shout with relief that the ice has begun to melt at last. It might take a few days, possibly longer, for it to evaporate completely, but it is melting and will continue to do so.
They move into the corridor and walk toward the turbolift side by side, matching stride for stride, and as he passes crew members who wave and snap to attention he smiles. He doesn't envy Christopher Pike, not at all, for he's got his tall ship, and stars to steer her by; and as a bonus, someone to keep her – and her captain – on an even keel; to call his bluff and point out his error; to defend his actions and rectify his mistakes, to watch his back both now and, if he reads his Vulcan loyalty correctly, until the day he dies.
And that's more than he could ever ask for.