A/N: So I've become a Trekkie. Or Trekker. Whichever. And it's happened, if you go from the very first time I've watched any kind of Star Trek, over several years, but it's really boomed over the last few months. It's kind of a hopeless case at this point. I regret nothing. Anyway, my first ever attempt at something Trek related with fanfiction. Enjoy it, let me know how much I've messed it up, I'm still figuring everything out. :)
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek, (damnit), nor the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.
'Half-breed'. Spock had never heard the term before that night, when his family had been visited by a respected neighbor, but the meaning had been self-evident, even to one as young as he had been at the time. He understood what it meant, that it referred to him, and by the slightest inflection of tone when it was spoken and the way his parents reacted to it – his mother stiffening and his father's neutral gaze becoming stony – he realized that the word carried negative connotations. It was a word used to refer to something distasteful, one his parents found offensive, and worse yet, one that applied specifically to him.
It was the first time Spock had seen his mother upset over something said about him, and the first time he'd seen anything like distress surface through his father's control at all. With a child's imperfect understanding, he knew himself to be the source of conflict, and had determined in that moment that he would not be the source of any more of the same. If the word 'half-breed' was the cause of his parents' distress, then he was determined to never give the opportunity for such a word to be used on him again. Obviously, with a human mother and Vulcan father, there was no way to change his heritage, but he could change others' perceptions based on his actions. He would give no one reason to think of him as a half-breed, he would choose a single path and dedicate himself to it whole-heartedly. He would not be a source of shame to his parents.
The path he chose was almost inevitable. Even had he not been raised on Vulcan, nor his father so resolved that he behave according to those traditions, there was his own physical appearance to consider. If he had chosen to model himself after his human heritage, his ears, his face, the very color of his blood would have betrayed him as alien, undermining his every effort. No matter how human he might be, there would be no mistaking him for one, no chance for complete acceptance in that culture.
And yet, somehow, he was never fully accepted by Vulcan culture, either.
His peers were the worst at making him feel like an outsider. While adult Vulcans were, by and large, masters of self-control, the same could not be said for the children. It took years of training to achieve the level of self-discipline an adult enjoyed, and while compared to a human of the same age a Vulcan child was quite contained, there was still some amount of 'acting out' to be expected. And there was another characteristic among many that Terran and Vulcan children had in common: the one who was different was the one singled out for taunts. Bullying was, for the most part, verbal, but it was hard not to rise to the bait, to give in to the impulse to lash out and fight back. It was hard because it hurt, and it was unfair; it was illogical that he should be the foci of abuse when the supposed reasons for it were outside his control. It made his young blood boil, but he couldn't let himself respond with anything more than calm, even words. To do so would only lend credence to the insults he received every day. Most of the time, he was able to keep his temper under control.
The worst blow, however, came from the mostly hidden contempt he was held in by his elders. The backhanded compliments, the condescension masked by sporadic praise, as though his mixed blood somehow made him feeble; the small looks out of the corners of eyes, the unthinking tendency to act as though he wasn't there, situated amongst his peers, all while pretending they were treating him the same.
It filled him with fury, a fury he instantly extinguished, for to feel fury was to give in to his more animalistic, Terran side.
Spock came up slowly from his meditation and opened his eyes with his awareness fully engaged. He scanned his quarters briefly to assure himself there was no one awaiting the cessation of his trance, nor that any message was awaiting him. When he was reassured that his privacy was complete, he allowed himself a deep breath, his spine relaxing from its rigid posture to stretch muscles that had been still too long.
It had been some time since he had meditated on the particular subject that had been his focus today, and it wasn't difficult to recall why he normally avoided it. Thinking too long on his youngest years and the circumstances of his birth usually only served to unsettle him, to disrupt his carefully fostered internal balance. Even after all his years, training and experience, old pains were hard to forget, to let go. He hoped one day to look back on it all with the same cold detachment of a pure-blooded Vulcan, but obviously that day was not this one. Not for the first time, Spock willed himself patience.
Spock glanced at the chronometer set on his workstation. It was, in the liquid time of deep space travel, which, without sun or rotation, only existed for the convenience of those aboard ship, still late in the evening, edging into honest 'night'. There were still many hours before he would be required on the bridge for his shift, plenty of time for further reflection or sleep. He took another deep breath. On anyone else it might have been a sigh, but of course not so with the implacable science officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise.
The option for sleep didn't seem viable, at present. His meditation had served to revive him somewhat, he was more alert than he had been before. Additionally, the subject of his meditation had, to use a Terran euphemism, 'ruffled his feathers'. It would be at least a few minutes before he was sufficiently tranquil to consider sleep.
So he stood, and began a slow circuit of his quarters. As the Enterprise's second in command, he was entitled to more spacious accommodations than was the norm, as well as private, but they were a long way from 'roomy'. Still, he had managed to impress it with a few personal touches that spoke completely of him. The area around his bunk was hung with fabrics of warm colors, meant to bring to mind the hot, blowing sands of Vulcan and its baking skies. One or two artifacts of lesser value but no lesser beauty stood at corners or hung on the walls, further stating that this was a Vulcan's place of repose. He paused beside his reh-retuka-tches, a three dimensional chess-set, deciding if he wanted to set out hypothetical problems to ponder over. The curves of the supporting arms, each holding a platform that made up the board gleamed in the low lights, beckoning him with the promise of logical problems, each with logical, safe solutions. Spock passed it by.
Next to catch his eye was an item closely tied to his home, his ka'athyra, a Vulcan musical instrument most commonly likened to a Terran harp or lyre, which had been given to him by his father years ago. Just looking at it filled him with a queer longing, a desire to settle its familiar weight against his shoulder and pluck haunting tunes from its strings. The sound of the ka'athyra was, to a human, not too dissimilar from its Terran counterpart. To a Vulcan's more acute and discerning ear, however, there were subtle shifts and complexities that Terran harps could only dream of emulating. It made playing the ka'athyra considerably more challenging than the harp, and any player who did not possess a Vulcan's hearing only achieved an amateur status at most. Spock ran a long, slender finger down the harmonic curve, fancied he could feel the instrument hum to his touch, ready to play. He was far from what would be considered a master, but he did enjoy coaxing the familiar, comforting music of Vulcan from the contraption of metal, wood and string.
He pulled his hand back. No, no music for now.
Try as he might, Spock couldn't seem to tear his thoughts away from his mixed heritage, or what it had meant to him over the course of his life.
Emotion was viewed as a kind of madness among the Vulcan people. Considering the details of their history, what Vulcan had been before Surak and the advent of logic over impulse, it was small wonder why. But Spock likened emotion more to an addiction. Emotions were, from a strictly biological point of view, mere chemical compounds released into the body in response to stimuli. And like any chemical, it was all too possible for the body to grow accustomed to it, to make adjustments for it, to eventually become dependent on it. A chemical dependency on how one felt, no outside sources required beyond stimulus; possibly the most insidious addiction known to any race.
The trick in avoiding this addiction, as in any, was to avoid the substance. Without the first dose, there would be no way to become dependent. The difficulty was that without major and debilitating surgery, there was no way to completely circumvent this drug. Even Vulcans, believed to be incapable of feeling by the more expressive races, were not immune. Vulcans were not exempt of emotion; indeed, compared to their Terran neighbors, Vulcans felt even more intensely, more intimately, and it was for that reason they had learned the techniques to discipline their emotions centuries ago. Self-control and coolness were highly prized, while displays of emotionalism were considered to be in bad taste, but Vulcans did feel. To allow one's control to slip, however, and show any of what one felt was seen as a very personal comment on the strength of the individual's character. Using the analogy of emotions as a drug, Vulcans were a race that was particularly sensitive to it, but whose philosophy and culture refused them the release of imbibing. Unlike humans, who flaunted their emotions, seemingly taking pride in their dependency.
Perhaps it was that human trait that made the Vulcan practice of repression so precarious for Spock. Half human, if that tendency towards emotionalism was genetic, it would go some way to explaining why he had such difficulty while his Vulcan peers never seemed to. Of course, to think in such a way was tantamount to admitting that they were all right: that his human heritage made him something less, that less was expected of him. That he was tainted with the 'inferior' blood of his mother's race. That was something he refused to do.
Spock plucked a string of the ka'athyra, the single sweet note trembling to every corner of his quarters. He listened quietly until the last of the sound was lost even to his sensitive ears. Without lifting up the instrument, he picked out a short measure, then paused with his eyes closed, drinking in the familiar sounds. There were some among the Vulcans who trained their hearing to a point where they could just detect the sounds distorting as the waves came against objects in the room. It wasn't enough to know where or what the objects were, just enough to hear the slight warps of sound. That high a sensitivity was meant to bring a kind of bliss when listening to even the simplest music. It was an appreciation for the subtle, as with many arts.
Emotions could be subtle, as well as overwhelming. The realm of feeling had a spectrum all its own, as full and dynamic as any of light, and it was in its subtler side where Spock's dilemma lay. If he had chosen the Vulcan way out of pure logic – as would be proper – choosing based on the merits of his father's culture, the advantages to be found in the education and training, and on the benefits he would enjoy, then all might have proceeded smoothly. But such was not quite the case. He had not chosen from a strictly logical perspective as a pure, 'true' Vulcan would have done. His decision had been shaded over with a need to prove himself, to his peers, his teachers, even to his parents that he was not less for his mixed heritage, nor was he to be considered so. That smattering of emotion, light as it was, was still complex, containing anger, pride, rebellion and a hint of shame, and it all overlay the very cold, logical reasons he'd considered. Whether or not he would have chosen as he did had the emotion been absent was unknown to him, and completely immaterial, as he had chosen, and that choice had been colored by his feelings.
To be driven to the path of logic and emotional control by the very emotions one sought to control… it created a cycle that was hard to escape.
It was not until much later that Spock became aware of the issue, and by then the habit had been thoroughly ingrained. In his training and in going through the various stages approaching adulthood, whenever he seemed to be drifting too close to his emotional, Terran side, he would pull himself back abruptly, reminding himself of his determination to prove everyone in error, to quash the illogical emotions and comport himself as a proper Vulcan. In the reminding, he would convince himself of the undesirability of emotion, to be ruled by fluctuating hormones. He would deliberately think of such a possibility with disgust, to further drive himself from it, to push himself toward the Vulcan way.
So foolish! How had he not seen it? In viewing his human half as something to be ashamed of, to desire distance from, even in rebuking himself with irritation whenever he chanced to stray in that direction, he was indulging in emotions to rid himself of them. He was partaking of that forbidden drug, and had become addicted while trying his hardest to evade it completely. In the very act of struggle, he'd fallen victim.
What was this situation called on Earth, a 'catch 22'? In his attempt to remain free of the addiction, he had fallen straight into it. Now, according to his own habit, the harder he resisted, the more deeply entrenched he became. There were ways to rid himself of emotion without falling prey to them, of course, otherwise the entire Vulcan race would still be as governed by their baser drives as they had in ancient times. In theory he could break free, were he willing.
But he wasn't sure he was willing, and that was possibly the most telling sign to how far he had fallen.
In Starfleet, and more pointedly, aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, Spock had met any number of strange species, explored unknown worlds, seen sights unimaginable and come to know interesting people. It was more than anything he might have hoped to gain had he remained on his home world, had he enrolled into the Vulcan Science Academy instead of Starfleet. What he had experienced here was much more than what a purely academic path could have offered; it was stimulating, moving on a level beyond the cerebral. Without this unexpected and admittedly undesired shift of perception due to his… emotions, he would not have been able to appreciate a tenth of all he had seen and done. In his heart of hearts, Spock was secretly glad of his slip, though the galaxy would grow dark before he admitted it.
Ironically, and somewhat to his relief, none of the rest of the crew seemed to note the entirely illogical sentiments he sometimes let show. In fact more than one member of the crew seemed to find a perverse pleasure in pointing out just how cold and reserved he was in comparison to his full-blooded human comrades, sometimes going so far as to claim that he was incapable of feeling emotion whatsoever. It was a fairly common misconception, but it didn't stop many fellow crew members from voicing their wish that Spock would show some kind of feeling. None seemed at all aware of just how much he did feel, how much slipped through his internal shields, or even his external ones to show on his face or in his countenance, albeit mildly compared to a human.
Belying his thoughts, a tiny smile snuck onto his face, a small twisting at the corner of his mouth.
Well, all seemed unaware save one. Spock wasn't sure when or how it was that this particular human had gained such a personal insight to him, but he found that after the initial chagrin and discomfort of realizing anyone could read him so clearly, that he didn't, in fact, mind. To the contrary, he found that the realization was accompanied by a certain measure of comfort, almost pleasure, as though he had been carrying a burden, and abruptly had assistance in shouldering it. It was an illogical impression, but it persisted. The fact that Spock's internal turmoil was never voiced before others, or even referred to directly save in airy jests went far in settling Spock's mind. To have the ship know how he struggled, giving opinions or advice, however well intentioned, was more than he was willing to endure. But no, the bearer of his 'secret' proved to be a soul of discretion as well as insight. He never showed any distaste over Spock's weakness as could have been expected from another Vulcan, and while he didn't fully understand Spock's need to control his obstinate emotions, he at least respected it, never attempting to convince him to simply give in and accept his human half. It was such an open, accepting, undemanding friendship that he offered, with such easy and genuine affection that, paradoxically, Spock found his inner turbulence calmed in his presence.
It was paradoxical because of all the humans aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, Captain James T. Kirk was possibly the one who felt the most openly, the most deeply. And this was the man who stabilized Spock.
The science officer was just considering a second attempt at meditation when a small light at his communications terminal alerted him to a message. The light was green, meaning the message wasn't urgent and Spock, if he were so inclined, could ignore it until a more convenient time.
Spock considered a moment, then pressed the accept key. "Spock here."
"Spock," came a familiar voice, slightly mechanized through the terminal. "I hope I didn't wake you?"
"Negative, Captain," Spock responded with a quick glance at his chronometer. "Though I perceive the lateness of the hour. Is everything alright?"
The reply was rueful. "Just a mild case of insomnia, Spock. I was wondering if you would be up for a late game of chess? If you aren't otherwise occupied, of course."
Spock's lips twitched again. "No, Captain. Sleep evades me as well, and I find I have nothing pressing to occupy my time."
"Good! Then I'll see you in a few minutes?"
The connection went dead and Spock allowed himself to feel some amusement, one of the few times such an allowance was made without begrudging it. He had come a long way since the days of his childhood, he reflected, and while he might never fully escape the effects of the less palatable portions, what was here and now more than made up for it.
Gathering up board and pieces, Spock walked quietly to the Captain's cabin for a night of agreeable company and uncomplicated thoughts.