Fandom: Star Trek: TOS
Word count: 5,300
Summary: Kirk is pretty in touch with his emotions. Except for when he isn't.
Notes: Much love goes to zulu for betaing and to hannahrorlove for listening while I was wrestling this thing into shape.
A much as Jim loved the Enterprise, nothing quite beat a bright, sunny day with a cool breeze. He could tell that the rest of the landing party felt the same. Lieutenant Johnson and Ensign Patel were grinning and tilting their faces up to the sun, only barely holding on to their Starfleet decorum. Patel looked so delighted she was almost about to burst into laughter.
The planet, Cradow, was a particularly lovely one, with huge, rolling plains and a bright yellow sun overhead. The Cradoans were a cheerful, happy people, eager to learn more about the Federation. They'd welcomed the away party with open arms, a step up from the hostile greetings the Enterprise had received on the last three planets they'd visited. The Cradoans weren't very tall humanoids, the tallest only reached Jim's chest. Other than the height differences, they greatly resembled humans. They all had spiky blond hair, which was cut into identical styles for men and women. Their natural speech, untranslated by the universal translators, reminded Jim of the brooks that would run past the farmhouse where he grew up, burbling and soothing.The Cradoan's architecture had also come as a bit of a surprise. Their buildings were made of sturdy, brightly-colored plastics, so that their main city resembled an incredibly elaborate children's playground. A couple of the buildings even had their own slides. Jim had almost asked the Cradoan Chief if he could try one out, but he wasn't sure if the Cradoans would take offense at his request. A few missions ago, Jim had not erred on the side of caution. After that incident, the entire away team was forced to march around the central city square covered in green paint in order to show the truth of their apologies. It was not one of Jim's finest moments.
However, this mission had been a rousing success. The only member of the landing party who did not seem thrilled by the experience was Commander Spock, whose expression was as neutral as it was every day on the bridge.
To be fair, Spock was a Vulcan, and Jim had not learned to read their moods. But Spock was his first officer, and as a new captain, it was Jim's responsibility to get to know him better. The survival of their crew could depend on it. Not that Spock's Vulcan disposition had harmed the negotiations in any way. In fact, when the Cradoans had remarked on the odd shape of Spock's ears compared to the rest of the party, Spock had taken it upon himself to provide a twenty-minute lecture on the differences between Vulcans and Terrans: biological, cultural, and political. The Cradoans had eaten it up, burbling happily with follow-up questions when he had finished.
At the moment, the landing party was waiting for the Cradoan farewell delegation to arrive, and Jim figured he could squeeze in a little small talk. "Mr. Spock," he said. "Pleasant day, isn't it?"
Spock's expression didn't budge, though he did turn to face Jim, those dark eyes fixing on Jim's face. "While this weather may be pleasant for Humans, it would be considered cold by Vulcan standards," he said, his voice as calm and as monotone as it usually was. But then Jim noticed the slight tension that was not normally there in Spock's shoulders and back. Of course, Jim had known that Vulcans had a higher body temperature than Humans, but this was the first time he'd been confronted with it in the real world.
"I apologize for my thoughtlessness," Jim said. Sure, it was an easy mistake to make, when Spock controlled himself so tightly, but that was no excuse. He'd be sure to remember next time.
"Captain, I do not see the logic in apologizing for something you cannot change," he said. For a moment, Jim wondered if he should be offended, but then Spock arched an eyebrow.
That startled a grin out of Jim. He hadn't quite been prepared to see the trace of teasing humor in Spock's eyes. He was about to fire back about Vulcans and hidden depths when the farewell delegation approached. The upper levels of the Cradoan government were in the center of the crowd, surrounded by a group of the Cradoan military forces in dress uniform, swinging tinkling bells in their wake. Jim composed himself, trying to present the appearance of a respectable diplomat.
The Cradoan Chief burbled a greeting and half-bowed to Jim. "Captain Kirk, we are glad to have made your acquaintance. We wish you and the Federation good fortune." He held out a metal object about the size of Jim's palm that looked like a closed flower, made up of rounded metal plates the came together at a single point. A gift, then.
Jim half-bowed in response and accepted the present with outstretched hands. "Thank you, Chief Cladin. It has been an honor working with you."
Chief Cladin then turned to Spock and offered him a metallic flower-object as well. Spock accepted it with the proper, if slightly stiff half-bow as well. "Thank you, Chief Cladin," Spock said. "We wish you and your planet good fortune."
The Cradoan Chief burbled and smiled. "It is customary for guests to open their gifts before they leave," he said.
Jim went first, awkwardly prying at the edges of the casing until one of the other Cradoans showed him the correct way to fold back each metal petal until it revealed the golden gem within. It was a godo, one of Cradoans' most precious gems, cut so it caught and scattered the light all over Kirk's hands and arms. The Cradoans clicked their teeth in applause.
Spock was next. He had been paying attention to Jim's difficulties, it seemed (not that Jim expected any less from him), because he removed the metal casing as if he'd done it a hundred times before. Jim was struck by the sight. There was something to the way Spock peeled back each petal with the utmost care, his fingers long and thin and precise. Spock's expression was controlled, but there was a look in his eyes, curiosity with a dash of wonder as he held the teal-colored godo up so that he could inspect it more closely. The sunlight caught in its edges cast Spock's face in a blue-green light, and Jim felt something inside him shift.
It was if Spock's features had been rearranged, subtly, so that instead of looking strange and alien and Vulcan, they resembled a work of complex engineering, as if each part could not fit together better in any other way. His tilted eyebrows, his sharp nose, the straight line of his mouth, all of them working together to make up Spock. And once he saw it, Jim couldn't unsee it.
Spock half-bowed again, and Jim turned back to the Chief and half-bowed himself, determined not to let his distraction get the better of him. "Thank you again, Chief Cladin. They're lovely," Jim said with a smile.
The Cradoans clicked their teeth in response.
They were running through a forest this time which, Jim thought, was a rare and unwelcome occurrence. Most of the time, they ended up running through city streets and underground bunkers. Generally, there were a lot fewer bugs on city streets and in underground bunkers. Sulu had his communicator flipped open, yelling into it so he could be heard over the gunfire, his yellow uniform darting between the trees somewhere to the right of where Jim was running himself. Spock was a few feet in front of him, pulling ahead slightly, and the enemy faction was behind them, and there was no way the Enterprise would be able to get a good lock on them with all this interference. The forest floor was thick with vegetation and fallen leaves. Jim would have loved to have the time to just wander through the trees, have a chance to see the sights, hear the sounds, smell the smells.
Preferably when no one was trying to kill him.
He was trying to get a good look at Sulu, make sure he knew where the other man was so they wouldn't get separated, when the blue Spock-blur in his peripheral vision disappeared from view. Jim's heart sank, but at the moment, he had to move on.Sulu was fine, having managed to find good cover behind a huge rock formation covered in dark green moss. Jim would have attempted to join him, but there was a clearing between them, and Jim would most likely lose a body part if he attempted it.
The enemy faction (of course founded by a stranded Starfleet officer mad with power) didn't have energy weapons, but they did have bullets, and Jim had seen how much damage those could do up close when the leader of the enemy faction had put ten of them into Lieutenant Stein right in front of him. Fortunately, Sulu had taken advantage of the distraction and gotten the three of them out of the make-shift prison. Unfortunately, the guards were still chasing them.
Jim was so caught up in trying to find Sulu as he was running forward that it was really not his fault that he tripped over that tree root. He made a mental note to have that reflected in the log entry he would make later.
The ground on the far side of the root was lower than the near, so Jim fell about three feet farther than he expected to, landing flat on his face next to a hiding Spock. Jim breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the familiar points of Spock's ears. He was okay.
It was as good a hiding place as any, so Jim tucked himself down next to Spock, trying not to let his heavy breaths give them away. There wasn't much room, barely enough for two grown men. They were forced into each other's personal space, their bodies shoved up against each other. Jim was suddenly aware of the press of Spock's thigh against his own, solid and tensed, and of the inhuman heat that emanated from Spock's skin. Spock smelled like dirt, like sunburned sand, like wet leaves, like red mountains. Jim could feel Spock's breath against his skin, could measure time by the rise and fall of Spock's chest.
The gunfire stopped. A voice called out, "They've got to be in this forest somewhere. Keep looking, you lazy pigs!" Jim blinked to get his focus back on the task at hand.
It was the adrenaline. It was making Jim tense, hyper-aware. It was making him stupid. Jim could hear one of their pursuers coming closer, his footsteps loud over the fallen leaves. Jim kept kept himself as still as possible. One wrong move and they were all dead. The footsteps came closer and closer until they stopped. Jim held his breath and hoped that Sulu was okay, that he was still hidden, that they hadn't found him. He glanced at Spock. His forehead was slightly creased with what may or may not have been the Vulcan approximation of worry, and his body was still rigid with tension, but his eyes were calm and alert. Almost against his will, Jim felt calmer, too. Spock was a steadying influence like that.
Then the footsteps started again, moving away this time, and Jim let out his breath. He let his body slump against the solid wood of the tree, feeling exhausted, wrung out. Spock remained silent.
"That was a close call," Jim said, wanting to fill the air with something other than his shallow, panting breaths.
"Indeed, Captain," was Spock's only reply.
The silence that came afterwards was too quiet. For a moment, Jim wished Gary were here to lighten the mood a little with some black humor, but he pushed that thought aside as soon as it popped into his head. It was unfair to both of them. Jim was just still smarting from the way he lost Gary on Delta Vega. That was all.
Spock, almost as if he knew Jim's line of thought, raised an eyebrow that could either be a question or a comment. Jim wasn't entirely sure. But he wanted to be, he realized. He really did want to find out what each of Spock's eyebrow twitches meant. He could write a dictionary of them and sell it to Bones for a modest profit when he was done.
"Captain!" Sulu called out, sounding perfectly fine, much to Jim's relief.
He and Spock stood up, brushing stray leaves from his pants. "We're here, Mr. Sulu," he said. He tried not to let how much he wanted to get off this crappy planet show.
Sulu just grinned at them and flipped open his communicator. He said the magic words, and it was music to Jim's ears. "Three to beam up, Mr. Scott."
Jim, as a rule, was not a big fan of diplomatic social events. Sure, he was more than capable of handling all the niceties of one, smiling and shaking hands and engaging in the proper greeting rituals for five different species. Even more, he understood the importance of diplomacy to the Federation; it was the very foundation the organization was built on. But he couldn't help but find the events dull and taxing. Who would want to stand around, smiling and shaking hands and engaging in the proper greeting rituals when their were new planets to explore, new species to meet, new people to save?
Apparently diplomats, but Jim thought that they hardly counted.
This particular event was being thrown by the Altarians. Their peace talks had concluded the day before without any hiccups; both parties agreed to the terms of the treaty. During the day, there was a lot of fanfare around the signing, and in celebration, this banquet was being thrown that night. Kirk and the other Starfleet captains were required to attend (in the interests of diplomacy), but most of the senior staff of the Enterprise, at least, had decided to show up as well. Over the past hour, Kirk had caught sight of Sulu on the dance floor, Scotty flirting with one of the yeomans of the Defiant by the bar, Uhura discussing xenolinguistics with the Andorian ambassador, and Chekov was trading war stories with some crewmen of the Excalibur.
And to be fair, the Altarian government had spared no expense to throw this party. The location of the event was the largest and more extravagant dance hall on Altair V, and they had lined the roof with blinking colored lights that almost seemed to change the shape of the carved stone. The drinks flowed freely, and the music was a good mix of modern day Altairian pop songs and older Altarian classics. Still, Jim wasn't enjoying it, and he couldn't quite put his finger on why.
Somewhere into the second hour of the banquet, McCoy came up to where Jim was hiding near the buffet. "The Altairians sure do know how to throw a party," he said.
Jim looked around at carved figures on the roof, the bright patches of light, the swirling crowd of dancers. He smiled on reflex. He could admire good work when he saw it. "Yes, they do. Though I can't say it was entirely necessary for us to be here."
McCoy snorted. It was hardly the most dignified sound for the occasion, but it was so purely Bones, Jim had to laugh. "Starfleet Command doesn't always have its head out of its ass," McCoy said.
Jim glanced over to where Spock was deep in a conversation with the Altarian Science Minister. Spock had been looking better and better since leaving Vulcan. There was something calmer about him, something no longer at war within himself. He even seemed at ease in these particular circumstances, surrounded by all these people. Then again, Spock had always been unnaturally comfortable in diplomatic situations. It was completely unlike his usual discomfort with high-strung emotions, since diplomatic situations were as high-strung as they came, like any other event that gathered together too many people who were just a few steps away from trying to kill each other. One day, Jim wanted to find out why that was the case for Spock.
Still, Spock was good at hiding things when he wanted to, and after that scare on Vulcan, Jim was pretty sure he wanted to. Jim turned to McCoy. "So tell me, Bones, how's Spock holding up?"
McCoy shrugged as he spooned three or four cubes of Andorian cheese onto his plate. "Still a little shaken from, well, thinking he killed you, But other that, physically, he's returned to Vulcan norms."
About what Jim expected, which was fair enough. Spock was okay. Jim was okay. Starfleet hadn't court-martialed anyone. It would be another seven years before they'd ever have to deal with that again. Still, it was hard to forget the feel of the ahn-woon tightening around his neck, the red sands of Vulcan underneath his knees, the quiet grip of terror as he wondered if they'd reach the planet in time. He tried not to think too hard about how close they'd come to losing Spock.
Jim glanced up, trying to spot Spock amongst the press of bodies. He was even further to the edges of the party than he was before, standing underneath a beautiful, stylized painting of a bedorza , the symbol of Altair VI. The Science Minister was no longer with him. Even though Spock was standing there by himself, he did not seem lonely. Spock never looked lonely.
With what was probably his uncanny Vulcan senses, Spock looked up in Jim's direction. Their eyes met.
And maybe it was the champagne Jim was drinking or maybe it was the feel of so many people in so small a space or maybe it was the fact that Jim hadn't slept very well the night before, but Jim felt his stomach clench, his feet rooted in place. Spock's eyes were hard to read, too far away for Jim to pick up on the minor shifts in expression that gave him away. It shouldn't have been anything -- he and Spock looked at each other all the time -- but this time it tore at something inside him. His skin prickled, and he felt off balance, ready to fall.
But then Spock turned away, and the moment broke into pieces. The Science Minister was back, another Altarian physicist in tow. Jim turned back to the buffet table. The detour to Vulcan was still getting to him, an itch at the base of his spine. Maybe he should talk to Bones about it, eventually. McCoy had wandered off to Chekov's table, and Jim wasn't going to ruin a perfectly good party for him over this.
Jim just needed more time, that's all. This feeling would pass in a few days, and then everything would be fine.
He helped it along with a plate of Tellarite meatballs.
It always annoyed Jim when people tried to take the Enterprise from him. The time, it was the colonists of Delta Korris, who were upset that Starfleet would not take action against the native energy beings on the planet, and they had taken the bridge after a skirmish with the energy beings had brought tensions to a head. Jim was hiding in sickbay, trying to formulate a plan. He wanted his ship back. He wanted his ship back now.
Jim was pretty sure the colonists were still combing the decks, trying to locate him, but they didn't know the ship half as well as he did. They'd never stand a chance. Still, they had done better than the guy from Starbase 16 who had tried to take the Enterprise by hypnotizing Jim in front of his entire bridge crew. It had taken Spock about five seconds to end the whole thing by giving the guy a nerve pinch so that they could hand him over to the Starbase authorities.
This time, the solution wasn't so simple. Jim leaned against McCoy's desk and went over what he knew. The colonists may be organized and dangerous, but they were hardly soldiers. They didn't have the training to really take on a security team. Unfortunately, Jim didn't have a security team, since most of Security was down on the planet, assisting the colonial leaders in their recovery efforts. And Jim couldn't take them all on by himself. He just didn't have the manpower to risk a full-on assault.
His best bet would be to try to reason with the hijackers. They weren't bad people, just scared and desperate, and it was possible that they would come around, once Jim had a chance to try to talk them out of it. Unlikely, but possible.
The sickbay doors slid open with a hiss. Jim ducked behind Bones' desk, mind spinning with ways he could deal with the intruder. McCoy was on-planet at the moment, treating the injured there. The on-board medical staff was most likely confined with the rest of the crew in Cargo Bays One and Two. Anyone entering sickbay at this point was probably one on the hijackers, purely based on statistics.
He set his phaser to stun and leaned close to the edge of the desk, listening. There were footsteps on the durasteel floors, coming closer. Jim waited until it felt like the steps were so loud he could almost feel the intruder's presence right next to him, and then stood up, pointed thephaser in the direction of the noise, prepared to fire.
But it was only Spock, as calm and as put together as ever.
Jim couldn't help but smile. "Mr. Spock," he said. "You're quite a sight for sore eyes." Jim resisted the urge to hug him, because he knew hugs made Spock uncomfortable.
On a normal day, Spock might tease Jim a bit by pretending not to understand what Jim was saying, but today was not a normal day. Spock simply said, "I am pleased to have found you here as well, Captain. I was able to contact Lieutenant Uhura in what little time I had, and she has informed me that the away team on the planet has not been harmed."
"How did you manage to escape?" Jim asked. "Last I heard, they'd already found you in the science labs."
Spock's lips twitched, almost a grimace. "There was an altercation. Unfortunately, some of the equipment was irreparably damaged."
"Perfectly understandable, Mr. Spock," Jim said. He placed a hand on Spock's shoulder, more for his own benefit than Spock's. "I was hoping you might have a plan to get us out of this mess."
"I believe the best course of action would be to release the crew. Then we may have a better chance of retaking the bridge as well." Spock raised a questioning eyebrow, asking if Jim approved.
Jim nodded. "I agree." By himself, it wasn't feasible to try to free the crew, but with Spock right beside him, it might just be. Together, they were unstoppable. Jim had always found it easy to forget just how much he relied on Spock to be there, day after day, crisis after crisis, a cool head whenever he needed a steadying opinion. Always at Jim's side, the way Edith had said. It humbled him, sometimes.
He looked at Spock, his stiff posture, his almost-neutral expression, his dark eyes, and felt an almost overwhelming wave of affection. For Spock, for their slightly unorthodox friendship, for all they'd accomplished together. As much as it annoyed Jim when people tried to take the Enterprise from him, these were the moments he lived for. Just him and Spock against the rest of the universe, side by side, unbowed, unafraid. There was no one else in the universe he'd rather have with him right now.
Well, he wouldn't say no to having his entire senior staff with him right now, either.
Spock glanced up. "Captain, may I suggest we use the access tubes? It is less likely that the hijackers will know to guard them or know how to guard them effectively."
"You took the words right out of my mouth," Jim said. He felt that urge to hug Spock rise up again, just lean in and draw that body close so that he could feel each breath Spock took, each beat of Spock's heart. So that he could feel the reassuring weight of Spock's body against his own. He pushed the thought away.
"There is an access point to the tubes further into Dr. McCoy's lab," Spock said, gesturing in the general direction of the access point.
"Let's go then, Mr. Spock," Jim said, feeling giddy, the rush of adrenaline that always came with a dangerous mission. They could be caught. They could be executed. Anything could go wrong.
But Jim felt no fear as he climbed into the access tubes, because he knew that they could do this, because he knew he was going to get his ship back, because he knew Spock was only just one step behind.
As much as Jim loved the Enterprise, nothing quite beat a bright, sunny day with a cool breeze. This time, they were on a beach. There was golden sand underneath their feet, a wide blue ocean stretching out next to them. The planet, Halos, was mostly ocean, with the humanoid aliens living on the many small islands that dotted the surface in interconnected groups.
A few of the larger, wealthier, more populous islands had developed warp technology, and so Starfleet had advised the Enterprise to make first contact. The Prime Minister, a handsome, older woman, had seemed surprised to have met them via the viewscreen, but she did not seem displeased. It was still important for diplomatic envoys to be greeted on beaches for the Halosian people, so Jim had agreed to meet her on one. Not that was Jim was complaining about that, mind you.
The Halosians seemed welcoming, but Jim hadn't forgotten the many times they'd met a group of people who hadn't been what they seemed. While Jim had no reason to doubt the Halosians' honesty, he had brought along a few security officers on the away team with him and Spock, just in case things didn't go as smoothly as they hoped.
The away party had beamed down to the meeting point slightly early, so they all had a moment to enjoy the warmth of the sun, the smell of the sea. Even Spock, with his typical Vulcan love/hate relationship with water, seemed pleased as he inspected a few of the strange sea creatures that crawled along the beach. One of them looked almost like a turtle, but with protective shells covering its legs, its head. It dived into the water as the away team moved towards it.
Further down the beach, the Halosian greeting party was approaching them. They were on time, thankfully. Any longer and Jim would have risked taking off his shoes and socks to wander into the surf, feel the waves lapping at his feet. At the head of the Halosian greeting party was the Prime Minister, the only Halosian Jim had seen before. She was dressed in black robes and wearing a tall, blue hat which was most likely a symbol of her office. Another woman was next to her, but slightly further back, wearing similar robes and a pointed yellow hat. An associate minister, perhaps. They were flanked by a few guards carrying ceremonial-looking spears.
"Greetings, Captain Kirk," Prime Minister Kaza said. She smiled. It was nice smile, Jim had to admit.
He held out a hand. "Greetings, Prime Minister Kaza. In our culture, it is a traditional greeting to shake hands."
Kaza nodded and grabbed Jim's hand for an enthusiastic shake. "On Halos, we have our own greeting as well, the kala dun, the coming from the water."
She smiled again and kissed Jim on the lips, which took Jim by surprise, but there was nothing sexual or romantic about the touch. It was a ritual, nothing more. She pulled away and then kissed each one of her guards, their lips meeting for mere moments before separating again. The associate minister was last, and Kaza kissed her differently. Not anything inappropriate, but her hands cupped the associate minister's face, and the kiss was probably deeper than what was necessary for a diplomatic function like this.
After Kaza had stepped back, she turned to Jim and indicated that he do the same. Jim was less bothered by it than he thought he'd be. Sure, it was a little strange, but it wasn't any stranger than the planet where people greeted each other by shoving their fingers in each others' mouths. This was downright normal by comparison.
So Jim kissed Kaza the way she kissed him, formal and impersonal. Then he gave Lee and Stasiak quick pecks so that he didn't feel weird about kissing them as their commanding officer. Thankfully, neither of them seemed to take it badly.
That left Spock for last. He didn't seem uncomfortable or tense, but Jim could feel his own objections rising up in his throat. He could make up some excuse about Vulcans and their taboos regarding touching. Kaza, in all likelihood, wouldn't take it too badly. But it would be silly to do that, because Spock wasn't raising any objections of his own, and Spock was perfectly capable of figuring out what came next.
Jim wasn't sure what exactly was making him feel this way, but he just needed to push through it and get this over with. He pressed a hand against Spock's cheek, stood up on the balls of his feet, and kissed Spock.
It was a mistake, Jim realized too late. Because it was too good, too much, a deep yearning for more opening up in his chest until he felt almost choked by it. He pressed closer, deepening the kiss. Spock didn't kiss back. Spock's body was stiff and still, and Jim wondered if he'd managed to ruin everything by doing this. The heat from Spock's cheek felt as if it were scalding Jim's palm. And then he felt something else, the soft, familiar brush of Spock's mind through the kiss, an echo of Jim's want ebbing and flowing with the slide of their lips against one another. It was amazing and terrifying and awe-inspiring. The feeling filled Jim up until he was full of it, until he couldn't take any more, until he had to pull away.
"Spock," he whispered, just loud enough for Vulcan ears. "Spock." He felt dizzy with joy, relief, a million other things for which he had no name.
Spock's lips were twisted into an almost-smile, and his eyes were bright in a way Jim hadn't seen since the planet with the alien brainwashing plant spores. "Captain, we should probably put this conversation aside until after our business with the Halosians has concluded," Spock said back. The tone of his voice was soft and teasing. Teasing for Spock, anyway.
Jim grinned, because he couldn't keep the expression off his face. "Why, you're absolutely right, Mr. Spock. Why don't we continue in my quarters after we return to the ship?" he said.
Spock tilted his head in a slight nod and said, "That would be most acceptable."
Jim composed himself and turned back to Kaza, whose smile had turned into a bit of a smirk. She raised her arms in a welcoming gesture. "We are glad to have you with us, friends. Come with me."
And so they went.