Title: Only Human
Characters: primarily Kirk & Spock, bits of others
Word Count: (this bit) 2419
Warnings/Spoilers: Basic TOS spoilers and speculation for all sections (spoilers for Obsession and total KCS-speculation for this section), Major STID spoilers in the last section
Summary: Five times through the centuries that Spock of Vulcan was surprised by Jim Kirk's human selflessness, and one time he was not at all surprised.
Spock of Vulcan has not yet fully assimilated the presence of a new being into his limited circle of acquaintances.
This is partly due to the fact that, though he oddly feels like he knows this man from somewhere, he has in actual fact only been serving under Captain Kirk for a little over four months. It is also due in part no doubt, to the fact that every time Spock believes he has fully discovered just what drives this human, just who he truly is, Kirk goes and does something which upsets the entire equation and throws Spock's logically ordered mind into total imbalance once again.
He has never in his life met someone so distracting to his well-ordered senses, mind, and way of life. Kirk is that one crack of chaos in a finely-tuned tricorder screen, capable of driving the most logical of minds to madness. How Spock is supposed to find a way to work with the man, after eleven years of an amicably distant relationship with his previous captain, is a very good question, and one whose answer promises to be far different than Captain Pike's reign aboard has previously produced.
And to make matters worse – Spock finds that James Kirk's frustratingly innate ability to distract him to be…not entirely unwelcome.
He truly has lost the war, with not a single shot having been fired.
Captain Kirk is the pleasant antithesis of Captain Pike, who had been a brilliant, but ultimately withdrawn and aloof, commander, who believed in leaving his crew to their own expert devices and spending his free time with the very few people in his circle of close acquaintances. It had been a quite successful working relationship between Pike and his officers; and to have that atmosphere of cordial solitude upended with so little effort by their new captain has completely thrown Spock off his game.
Kirk appears to be an amiable enough commander: gregarious, sociable, and almost unreasonably charming, as evidenced by his crew's nearly overnight infatuation with the man. Spock is, of course, immune to such human charisma, although he has discovered his own reactions to the captain to be more indulgent, more amused than annoyed, than he would be toward any other human of his acquaintance.
He has no one to turn to, no mentor from whom to request advice, to help explain this phenomenon. No Vulcan would deign to answer such an inquiry, and he well knows his mother would be of little to no assistance in helping him understand how a human can project such power without psychic aid; and yet he knows better than any crewman aboard, that Kirk is completely and totally psi-null, an otherwise humorous flaw in such a successful personality. Kirk has little to no telepathic perception and apparently cannot be influenced by psychic force in any way, as evidenced by the fact that he has still not grasped the fact that Spock has been, gently but firmly, rebuffing his advances toward what the humans call "friendship."
No, somehow the captain has missed the point altogether. Spock's polite refusal to have dinner together in Officers' Mess was met the next morning with the man bellowing outside his door, asking if he was going to tour the Science Labs as planned this morning and would he like company. Spock's completion of paperwork three hours ahead of schedule did not earn him three hours of silent meditation; on the contrary, it gained him a far too cheerful human showing up through their adjoining bathroom with a tri-D chess board, asking if he wanted to play a game. Offering to perform a shuttle inspection during alpha shift in an effort to put some distance between them only resulted in being saddled with the same insatiably curious human, who apparently believes him to be the end-all of all things technical.
And when Spock resorts to hiding in out-of-the-way laboratories and computer rooms in an effort to remain apart from the small dynamo of human chaos which seems to be stalking him, he forgets that he is attempting to do from the only human – the only being – who received both a warning and a citation from Starfleet Command for re-programming a supposedly invincible computer in order to conquer a test long thought unbeatable.
Why did he ever think himself to be more able to withstand such a man?
Somehow, from the moment his new captain visited his quarters for the first time, exclaiming in surprise at the increased gravity and falling flat on his face in front of his new Science Officer, Spock has found himself curiously unable to resist the immoveable force which is Captain James Tiberius Kirk.
It must be the scientist within him that is subtly attracted to such an ever-changing presence; no doubt it is simply the allure of an unknown and therefore radical force in the constant world of cold, precise science.
Quite logical, really.
Kirk continues to surprise him at every turn, as if the man is making it his singular goal in life to destroy every logical construct Spock has ever formed regarding the human race as a whole. Spock tolerates this with as much equanimity as he can muster, until one day when a simple act leaves him nearly speechless with surprise.
They are checking in with one of the newer Federation members, the inhabitants of a planet simply called Beta 141/5 until the Federation can translate a Standard equivalent of the name from the barely-written language of its natives. Their universal translators ensure that they can communicate with no difficulty verbally, and it is their first mission of this kind since they left Terra four weeks ago, after recuperating from that disaster of a shakedown cruise.
Spock is settling slowly into his role as dual First and Chief Science Officer, at Kirk's own request, and he is the logical choice to lead a landing party of this sort. However, it does not surprise him by now that the captain insists upon leading the party himself; Spock suspects this will become the pattern for the duration of their five-year mission, and that in another few decades there will be new regulations on the books due solely to this human's ridiculous penchant for getting his hands dirty.
But it is not for him to question his commander, and so the two of them and a diplomatic/medical party take one of the new shuttles down to the capitol to check in with the High Council. They board the Copernicus at the captain's insistence, and Spock is forced to agree with the human in that their transporters have been tested multiple times but their shuttles have not yet; and what better time to do so than on a non-urgent, peaceful mission? He is surprised once again when the captain takes the navigation controls himself, but slips easily into his role as co-pilot while they run through pre-flight checklists.
The look on the human's face as they prepare to take off is so utterly gleeful that Spock's eyebrows incline of their own accord.
"Dare I presume, Captain, that your insistence upon taking one of the refurbished shuttlecrafts today was not entirely due to a concern for its in-flight performance?" he inquires dryly.
Kirk's eyes glint in the starlight-reflection as the shuttle bay decompressurizes and they lift off. "You caught me, I'm afraid, Mr. Spock," he answers easily, grinning sideways at his co-pilot. "I've been wanting to fly one of these things for months."
Ten minutes later, when the captain easily maneuvers them in an increasingly tight spiral through some intense downdrafts in the upper stratosphere, he hears the unmistakable sounds of an unfortunate crewman's gag reflex vocalizing his preference to have taken the transporter. Spock can only hope that he never finds himself in any vehicle smaller than a shuttle with this human at the helm.
Having only been inducted into the Federation shortly before the Enterprise left on her shakedown, there has been no noticeable Federation presence in this sector as of yet, and so their arrival has been heralded with much excitement, or so said their pre-landing briefing.
And it looks to be so, for there is already a smallish crowd gathered when they emerge from the shuttle, the captain already bounding down the shuttle's four steps before the magnetic seals have even finished detaching. Spock refrains from expressing exasperation with the human, feeling oddly like he is attempting to control a small but extremely enthusiastic canine, and merely follows close at his captain's heels.
The natives are a humanoid race, their primary differences being in their internal physiology and in various odd shades of hair and eye coloring. Having only just broken the warp barrier, they are eager to learn and even more eager to meet others like them in the universe; both traits which Spock highly respects. He therefore steels himself for the inevitable onrush of inquisitive minds and most likely physical touches (their briefing mentioned that they are a very tactile species) which will no doubt shortly ensue during formal and informal greetings.
Captain Kirk is already being vigorously shaken by both hands by the smiling woman who apparently is the High Councilor, if Spock reads the symbolism on her jewelry correctly.
"We are so pleased you have come, Captain!" Her voice is pleasant, with a lyrical quality to it that makes Spock suspect music plays a large part in their cultural heritage. The words are accompanied by a quick kiss to the check, still a greeting in many humanoid cultures. "We welcome you and your crew to -." The universal translator stutters with a chirp, which Spock guesses represents the closest Standard approximation to the native word for the capital city, or possibly the planet itself.
"We are in turn pleased to have been given the honor of meeting you and your people, Councilor," Kirk returns, smiling in response. "You will forgive, I hope, our inability to properly pronounce the name of your beautiful city?"
The Councilor merely laughs, still holding the captain's hands. "Of course, Captain Kirk. There will be no offense taken. And this is your crew?" Soft golden eyes flicker to the small group standing just behind their leader, and Kirk nods, smiling.
"My medical team for the day, Nurse Anya and Ensign Li. Lieutenant Rivers, whose specialty is in Universal Translation technology. He will be working with Mr. Spock on bettering communication between our species and on forming a rudimentary algorithm to begin written translation of your language for our Federation Standard data banks."
The Councilor performs the same double-handed greeting and kiss on each crewman as she walks the line with their captain, pausing to briefly ask Lieutenant Rivers a question which unaccountably makes the man blush, for what reason Spock does not know.
"And lastly, my First Officer and Chief Science Officer, Lieutenant-Commander Spock," Kirk says, as they come to the end of the line. "Mr. Spock is the foremost Vulcan scientist in Starfleet, and he will be overseeing the majority of our interactions while in orbit."
Spock braces himself, mental shields locked down severely in place, for the far too tactile greeting of the planet's High Councilor – but to his surprise, Kirk shifts his weight just slightly so that he is standing partly between the woman and his second-in-command.
"Mr. Spock is a Vulcan, whose diverse culture is one of many respected and embraced by the Federation," the captain says without skipping a beat, in the same diplomatically pleasant tone. "His people are touch-telepaths, and therefore refrain from casual physical touch. Mr. Spock, may I present the High Councilor, with whom you will be communicating regarding the categorization of their scientific data bank."
Spock barely pulls himself out of his total shock in time to return the polite bow which the Councilor offers him in lieu of the more tactile greeting. "It is a pleasure to meet a new species, Mr. Spock," she offers with a smile, completely unoffended. "I look forward to collaborating together on our scientific achievements."
"The pleasure is ours, Madam Councilor," he answers, finally finding his voice again, and to his ears at least the universal translator had added the correct syllables to indicate added respect to the title; a compensation for avoiding the physical greeting. "We will learn much from such a peaceable culture as your own."
A few more moments of pleasantries, and they leave their landing party in the safe hands of the Councilor and her people. Anya, Li, and Rivers will be staying on the planet in the scientific facilities, and while Spock is returning with the captain to the Enterprise for an initial report to Starfleet, he will shortly beam back with a larger landing party to begin work on data categorization and translation.
It is not until the captain has once again lurched the shuttle sickeningly through the upper atmosphere and into the quieter vacuum of space, that Spock feels he can voice what still shocks him to his core.
Oddly enough (or perhaps not odd at all, given who this unusual human is), Kirk beats him to it, setting the re-docking controls on auto-pilot and then spinning his chair slightly toward his First, boot-toes squeaking on the new durasteel. "Well, spit it out, Commander. I daresay as a Vulcan you don't feel surprise very often, since it's plain on your face right now."
"I am…surprised, Captain." It is a reaction to a stimulus, not an emotion, and therefore permitted, though he does not bother to explain the difference, not to this human.
"And what have I done to warrant such an unusual reaction from a Vulcan, Mr. Spock?" The tone is light, teasing – Spock can finally identify the nuance, after months in this man's company.
"On the planet, sir. You…prevented the High Councilor from delivering to me the standard diplomatic greeting in such circumstances."
Kirk raises a sandy eyebrow, appearing genuinely puzzled. "Of course I did. It's a completely inappropriate greeting for a touch-telepathic species. Why does this surprise you?"
Spock glances down at the controls, though his fingers make no move to change them.
The creak of shifting plasticene draws his attention back to his captain, who is now leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, frowning. "Are you saying this has never happened before, Mr. Spock?"
"Has what, sir?"
Kirk's voice has risen, a note of what sounds like genuine anger tingeing it. "Are you saying that in eleven years of Starfleet service, you have been expected to participate in alien rituals on landing parties, without any concession to your Vulcan way of life?"
"I have rarely been part of non-scientific landing parties, sir, and so the situation has rarely –"
"That was not an answer to my question, Commander." A note of steel threads through the voice now. "Answer it."
Spock glances back to the controls once more, a futile effort to avoid that piercing gaze. "Affirmative, sir."
A huff of breath as the captain leans back forcefully in his chair, glaring at the screen in front of him as if it is solely responsible for his irritation. "That is inexcusable, Spock."
"Sir, a core value of diplomacy is that of compromise –"
"Disregarding someone's cultural beliefs over a trivial difference of – of gesture, or greeting, is not compromising, it is a violation of civil rights!" Kirk's eyes flash angrily his direction. "When the Federation lands on planets whose natives communicate through telepathy, humans are not forced to submit to a telepathic probe when that is the standard form of greeting on that planet!"
"Nor should they," Spock interjects mildly.
"That's the point!"
"I do not see it, sir."
There is a loud clump as the captain's boots thud down to the ground, as he turns once more in the revolving chair to face his First. "I've long held that Starfleet needs a lesson on what bigotry and selectivism truly are, Commander," he says quietly, fire still burning in his eyes but no longer infusing his tone. "There are far too many all-human starships out there, and we both know that."
"Sir, there are all-Vulcan ships, and all-non-human ones as well, and for very good reasons; primarily that a starship's environment cannot be adapted to non-human species for extended periods of time, such as five years. Most species are not meant to be in deep space for that long, and to make adaptations to a starship in order to accommodate that would be far more time- and funds-consuming than they would be worth."
"And that makes it okay?"
Spock has no answer; up until now, no one has even asked this question.
"I just…" Kirk shakes his head, running a hand uneasily through his hair. "I can't believe you've been subjected to something like that on every landing party you've gone on."
Spock studies a smudge on the gleaming durasteel floor. "I was given to understand, Captain, that one…how do you humans say it. Puts up with, such things? For the sake of diplomacy, and the needs of the many. I am certain you yourself have been forced to endure things on landing parties which were not entirely voluntary."
"Spock, making myself look a reptilian species in the eyes despite a fear of snakes, is compromising for the sake of diplomacy," Kirk retorts dryly. "Having someone violate my core set of cultural beliefs as a different species is not compromising, it is being taken advantage of. And it is highly disrespecting."
Spock chances a glance up, and sees no pity in the man's expression, only firm resolve. "You are the first human I have met who has vocalized that particular opinion, sir."
"Are you telling me that's what the Academy is teaching in those non-human diplomacy classes? That you're expected to set aside your own species' cultural differences if it disrupts the well-worded script of a landing party?"
Spock flinches, barely discernibly, but it is enough for this ridiculously perceptive human.
"You can't be serious!"
"Sir, the diplomatic premise is certainly reasonable, indeed logical –"
"Screw your logic, Commander! Er…I apologize for the emotional outburst, Mr. Spock, but there is never an excuse for permitting the majority to decide the minority's differences are to be overlooked instead of acknowledged. What are we teaching our officers!"
Spock's lips twitch suspiciously, and for the first time something warms him deep inside – something a human did, and that strange sensation is something he had never thought to feel.
"For one, we are apparently teaching them to overshoot their re-docking targets," he ventures mildly, indicating the Enterprise now disappearing over their port bow.
Kirk swivels back to the controls with a muttered curse, fingers flying to disengage the safety measures which had swung them around in a second approach run rather than auto-dock without verbal confirmation.
Spock merely leans back in his chair, content to watch this strange young human work. And if that day stands out in his mind for decades to come, well. Surely the novelty of the incident renders it worthy of a place even in a Vulcan's memory.