The Complexities of Human Pranks
Chapter One: First Officer
Disclaimer: I am a spy in the universe of Star Trek, not an owner-I look and report but make no money.
"I may have made a mistake."
Spock's comment is so astonishing that Nyota pauses, holding the knife in mid-air that she is using to cut vegetables for their evening meal. Gingerly she puts the knife on the cutting board, wipes her hands on the kitchen towel, and swivels around to look carefully at Spock.
His apartment kitchen is small but functional, and lately Nyota enjoys cooking with the tagine his mother gave him when he first come to the Academy. Tonight she has planned to try a new recipe she uploaded from a database of ethnic dishes, including species-specific foods, as a celebration of Spock's first official meeting as first officer with the staff of the Enterprise.
His face suggests that a celebration is premature.
"What happened?" she says, stepping across the warm tile floor to where he is standing.
Instead of answering, Spock turns and heads back into the living area, his arms at his side. He moves to the sofa and sits heavily, the lack of his usual grace a sure sign of his distraction. More than his words, his mannerisms worry Nyota, and she follows him and sits beside him.
"Tell me," she says, reaching up to stroke his brow. He inclines his head toward her and takes a breath.
"The meeting was….confusing."
She knows how he values his competence in anything he does. For Spock, confusion is an invitation to discover the truth of the matter—the drive behind his doggedness when he wants to know something.
But it is also a source of shame.
Not knowing something, not being able to do something—not being competent in anything—shakes his confidence in who he is.
Nyota pulls her legs up under her and prepares to wait for him to give her more details. Sometimes he's like this—reticent and almost withdrawn—not because he doesn't want to share with her, but because he needs time to organize his thoughts.
For another minute he says nothing but stares into the distance. A car horn outside the apartment building interrupts the silence, and muted voices filter in from the apartment next door. Still, Nyota waits quietly, listening to the sounds around them.
Spock takes another deep breath and then says, "I am uncertain that my presence was necessary. Nothing that was discussed was essential."
He frowns fractionally, as if remembering something, and Nyota leans closer.
"What sorts of things were discussed?" she asks, and Spock blinks twice and says, "Issues that do not involve me."
He blinks again and Nyota can see that he is deciding how detailed to make his account. She nods to encourage him, and he says, "Upcoming off-duty time by some of the officers, for instance. Captain Pike and his attaché spent fourteen minutes discussing their own itineraries, and then he asked each of us in turn to elaborate on our own plans for recreational travel before the scheduled launch."
Nyota puts her hands to her mouth to hide her smile, but Spock is looking away and doesn't notice.
"I have no interest in where other people are traveling and what they will do once they arrive," he says. "I could have been planning my lecture for tomorrow's class instead."
"And you told them that, didn't you?" Nyota says.
She sees him react to her tone of voice—she is careful not to sound either too scolding or too light-hearted—and he nods.
"We could make more efficient use of our meeting time without that sort of interruption," Spock says matter-of-factly.
With a sigh, Nyota reaches out to brush her hand along his arm.
"And Captain Pike? Did he say anything?"
Rarely does Spock ever look anything but sallow and collected, but he suddenly flushes, a tinge of green across his cheeks and at the tip of his ears. Embarrassment, then—so Captain Pike had not been amused and he had let Spock know. Nyota feels her chest constrict in sympathy.
Spock looks at her with the same intensity that he gives a difficult mathematical equation—a look she recognizes as his invitation to her to explain the world that still trips him up.
"Those sorts of niceties," she begins, "help groups of humans feel….connected to each other. Like part of a team. You need to know things about your teammates—"
"How will knowing the vacation destination of the chief engineer help me in my interactions with him on the ship?" Spock says with what sounds suspiciously like the edge of irritation.
When Nyota reaches to take Spock's hand in hers, she feels his reluctance, but she holds his fingers tightly and does not let him go. For a moment he shields his thoughts from her, but then his disquiet washes over her, and she has glimpses of the other officers, and Captain Pike, their expressions clearly annoyed.
"I know it's crazy," she says, "but it's true. Knowing the vacation plans of the engineer—"
"The chief engineer—"
"-the chief engineer makes him more….human….to you. And you to him. Don't say it. You know what I mean."
Spock pulls his hand back and says, "Indeed, I do not know what you mean. That is why the meeting today was so confusing."
"You're just going to have to trust me, then," Nyota says. "Some things you have to do in relationships—like chit chat when you don't want to, or share moments from your private life—"
Even though they are not touching, she feels his dismay. His brow wrinkles and he flushes again.
"You already do that with your friends," Nyota protests, but Spock says, "But the other officers on the Enterprise are not my friends."
"You make them your friends by being….friendly. Asking about their well-being, about what they are doing—"
"Even when doing so is a waste of time?"
"It isn't a waste of time if you are developing a good working relationship with them," Nyota says, finally sounding exasperated. Is Spock being deliberately uncooperative? She can't tell.
"I appreciate the need to have a working relationship with the other members of the crew," he says, and Nyota exhales dramatically.
"Good," she says.
She starts to stand up when Spock adds, "But a working relationship should not require the same level of intimacy implied in friendship."
She sits back down.
"Captain Pike is trying to help you feel like a cohesive group—the question about the vacation plans was one way to do that. You're getting hung up on the question because you don't care about where people are vacationing—but it isn't the question that matters. It's the thought behind it. See?"
Spock looks at her, unblinking, and Nyota feels herself squirm, almost as she had when she had first met him and he was an intimidating professor with an unfathomable gaze.
"As I said, I may have made a mistake."
X X X X X X X X
"I think I screwed up."
Christopher Pike is on his second scotch. Natalie Jolsen, his attaché, is on her second bourbon. She's been watching Chris and waiting for the inevitable rant. Here it comes, she thinks, signaling to the bartender to refresh her drink.
Not that Chris is wrong. Tapping Spock as the first officer of the Enterprise doesn't seem like such a good idea at the moment.
The bar is one they visit frequently, and the bartender knows when to approach and when to stay away, depending on Chris' decibel level. Right now Chris is still reasonably soft-spoken, and the bartender holds up the bottle of scotch and waggles it in question.
"Sure," Chris says, holding out his glass for a refill. Natalie hazards a glance at the chronometer over the door of the dark, dank bar. 2017—it certainly feels later. But then again, the afternoon seemed to last forever.
"I don't get it," Chris says for the umpteenth time and shaking his head. "I know Spock is right for the job, but he's so wrong, too."
He takes a swig and looks up at Natalie blearily.
"How is that possible? Huh? You tell me, Nat."
She doesn't rush to answer. She knows that Chris is remembering Spock's courage during the Feynman Conference in Leiden when he had carried a live sonic grenade out of a crowded building and risked losing his own life when it detonated. Chris had been impressed at how quickly Spock had assessed the danger and taken action—"I need someone like that at my back" Chris had told Natalie later when he explained why he was offering him the post—something that had surprised many people, including crew members he had worked with for years who were disappointed to be passed over in favor of a relatively untested young commander.
But Spock's awkwardness—his quirkiness—has thrown Chris for a loop.
Before she can answer, Chris continues.
"Spock's lived on Earth how long—and he still has trouble getting along with people? And his human mother? Didn't he learn anything from her?"
He takes another drink and sets his glass down so forcefully that it sloshes.
"Doesn't he know how to keep from getting on someone's nerves?"
"Maybe not," Natalie says, tucking her short auburn bob behind her ears.
She had spent most of the afternoon on the sidelines watching Chris and some of the officers getting progressively more upset with Spock's dismissal of their team-building exercises. Olson, in particular, had taken offense, though Natalie pegged him long ago as a hot-head.
On one hand she can understand Spock's impatience at the meeting. As far as Natalie knows, Spock is the only officer who is not working full-time on the pre-launch countdown. His prior commitment to teaching one course at the Academy means that he has to share his time—another source of irritation for Chris, though Natalie has mitigated that somewhat by agreeing to fill in when Spock is unable to be there.
That suits Chris just fine. Until Natalie had decided to resign her commission and start a family, Chris had always imagined her as his XO. And one of the main reasons Spock is her replacement is because she decided he should be.
She hasn't yet been able to articulate why she has advocated so hard for him—she's not a great believer in intuition, yet something tells her that Spock will keep Chris safe.
She tries not to think too hard about why that is so important to her, beyond her respect and admiration for Chris, of course.
Somehow she's going to have to have a talk with Spock, and soon. She saw several people bristle when Spock said that his time was better spent planning his Academy course rather than participating in—what did he call it? Events of questionable interest or value.
And that was during a refreshment break when everyone was sharing holos of their families—and Spock had pointedly refused.
"Yep," Chris says, finishing his drink. "I think I screwed up."
Chris needs to head home soon—Natalie has car fare ready—but she doesn't want to send him home in such a foul mood. He will brood when he's alone—she knows him when he's upset—and tomorrow he'll be completely out of sorts if he does.
"Maybe," she says, "but this was just the first meeting. Give him time. Remember how it took you awhile to warm up to him—"
"No kidding," Chris says, rattling the ice in his empty glass.
"I know this is hard for you," Natalie says, leaning her elbows on the wooden table, "but be patient. I'll have a talk with him. You'll see. He'll come around."
Chris puts his glass back on the table and says, "He better. He's your pick, you know."
He spikes his fingers through his graying hair—a tad long for regulation as always—and looks Natalie in the eye.
"And I'll tell everyone that you screwed up."
A/N: You don't have to read "The Interview" to understand this story, but "The Interview" goes into more detail about the reasons Pike tapped Spock to be his first officer.
Hang in there-this is a set up for lots of shenanigans later!
Thanks as always to StarTrekFanWriter for her helpful suggestions. If you haven't already, check out her newest story, "Tapestry," in my faves.