Title: Human Behavior
Characters: Kirk, Spock, various
Word Count: (this bit) 5000
Warnings/Spoilers: Spoilers for Operation – Annihilate!. Reference to theme of Stockholm Syndrome referring to the neurological parasites. References to deleted scenes and script of OA. Speculation for this and other parts of the arc. Shameless H/C and character exploration. Lack of plot. The usual, in other words. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Summary: Five human behaviors Spock did not understand, and one that he definitely did understand.
I. That one's family is not necessarily those beings to whom one is legally related
One very unique ability Captain Kirk possessed, which had fascinated his First Officer from the very inception of their five-year mission, was the human's uncanny ability to ascertain intimate details about his ship without consulting the Enterprise data-banks.
Spock had personally seen the captain regain consciousness in the Enterprise's brig (a very long, and overly complicated, story for another time) and demand the reasoning behind being put in a high-security cell – all without even opening his eyes to visually determine his location. Kirk shared something of Lieutenant-Commander Scott's eerie instinct of knowing when something was dangerously amiss in Engineering, though none knew the condition of the ship quite like their Chief Engineer; and at any given time, the captain could name within just a few seconds precisely where he was aboard and what the closest access junctions to that location were, despite the ship's considerable size. Call it captainal instinct, call it an almost ridiculously thorough knowledge of the Enterprise's schematics and inner workings – but whatever the reason, it was a quality which equal parts fascinated and baffled the ship's Chief Science Officer. Even he, with an eidetic memory and a scientific curiosity to match, did not quite see the point in cultivating such a complete knowledge of the ship's inner workings, nor was he quite able to develop such an ability to the extent that this peculiar human apparently had.
It should not have been a surprise, therefore, when Kirk picked up on their recent activities only moments after beaming back aboard from Starbase Seventeen, the location to which the Enterprise had returned to retrieve him eight days after his departure – one day later than their original plan, due to delays in the public transport schedule from Terra.
Spock had waited in the transporter room while Scott performed the beam-up, both to welcome the captain back and also to ensure that the Chief Engineer's reassurances regarding the machinery repairs were indeed accurate. Scott's tolerant eyeroll did not escape his notice, but he ignored the human expression as it did not seem to be a gesture of disrespect, more of exasperated fondness. Scott was the only human of his more-than-casual acquaintance who had remained aboard the Enterprise after the captaincy switchover, and as such Spock was slightly more able to read (and, for that matter, tolerate) the man than he could the typical human crewman.
Slightly, being the operative word.
The transporter did appear to be perfectly operational, and indeed he had no real doubts on that point; Scott would never endanger the captain in any way. Kirk materialized a moment later in the shimmer of a dissipating pattern buffer, and soon was stepping off the transporter pad, small carry-on bag by his feet and another wrapped parcel under his arm.
"Welcome back, sir!"
"Thank you, Scotty." Spock noted that the smile reached the man's eyes, a good sign, and he looked markedly less ill than when he had departed a week prior. "It's good to be back. Mr. Spock."
"Captain. I trust your return voyage was uneventful?"
"It was, thankfully." Kirk paused in the act of stepping toward the transporter, and tilted his head, listening. "Is something wrong with the impulse engines, Scotty?"
Scott's eyes widened. "Uh…no, sir?"
Spock resisted the very human urge to shake his head, because the man was a terrible liar and even a Vulcan could do better. Besides, the captain could ferret out an untruth faster than any Starfleet computer program or truth serum, as many an unfortunate crewman had discovered within the first few weeks of their mission.
Kirk carefully set his parcel down on the transporter console, and then leaned over it into Scott's personal space. "That was not a no, Mr. Scott," he said dangerously.
"Well, sir, y'see…" Scott cast his First Officer a helpless look, obviously begging for assistance.
"Captain, we were forced into a minor altercation with a renegade pirate vessel in the Phoenician Nebula, as you suspected might occur," Spock smoothly interjected, taking pity on the poor engineer. "In the process, we sustained minor damage to the impulse engines, resulting in a power drain which is currently being repaired while we are in orbit around Starbase Seventeen."
Kirk's eyebrows climbed slightly. "Is that Vulcan understatement, or an accurate assessment, Mr. Scott?"
"Well, Cap'n, I would say 'twas fairly accurate. Sir."
"Hmm." Obviously, the man was letting the matter go, for the present. "As long as she's still in one piece, gentlemen."
"Well, there is –"
"Mr. Scott. I believe the captain requires his luggage taken to his cabin while he makes his way to the Bridge; perhaps you might call for a yeoman to do so?"
Scott swallowed. "Aye, sir. I'll see to it m'self."
Spock exhaled slowly, and turned from the console to see the captain watching him curiously. "Sir?"
"Walk with me, Spock?"
"Of course, Captain."
The fact that the man could identify an irregularity in the impulse engine flow just by listening, but failed to notice that he'd been beamed up to transporter room three, the most remote of their transporter rooms, was indication that while the trip had been a step in the right direction, the captain was still not quite himself.
"So, pirates?" Kirk asked conversationally, as they moved toward the transporter room doors.
"Yes, sir." Spock hesitated before triggering the door sensors, for the first time uncertain about the wisdom of the next few minutes' preparations. "They have been dealt with satisfactorily, and the reports are awaiting your perusal."
"I wasn't worried." The captain smiled briefly, and almost unconsciously accepted his deference, moving first into the corridor. "Although I am looking forward to hearing – "
The words broke off abruptly as the doors slid open, and Spock nearly collided with the human's back as Kirk halted mid-sentence, actually taking a step backward out of total shock.
Because the long corridor outside was lined on both sides with colorful rows of scarlet and blue and gold.
From somewhere halfway down the corridor, a lieutenant in Science blues snapped out a hasty "'Tention!" when he saw the doors had opened, and the crew scrambled to a loose parade rest and grinned nearly as one at the surprised expression on their captain's face.
"Welcome back, sir," one brave young ensign piped up from near the front of the corridor, leaning forward slightly to be seen, and another waved nervously from halfway down the line.
Spock could tell that if it had been possible, the captain probably would have been a flight risk; this was why he had instructed Scott to beam the man up to transporter room three. As the most remote of the three rooms, it was at a dead-end corridor, and the captain would be forced to walk the corridor if he wished to ever leave the room.
Now, he could tell that Kirk was uncomfortable with the attention, but was not going to let his crew know, after the trouble they had gone through to welcome him back. Spock had gambled upon that being the outcome, as he knew Kirk's character well – and he had not been wrong. The man summoned a smile that was only half-forced, and set off down the corridor, pausing for a moment with those who wanted to speak with him and smiling and nodding to most, who only wanted to stand in a show of moral support. The corridor branched off toward Engineering halfway down, and Spock saw those who had already spoken to the captain leave by those junctions, no doubt to replace some of their fellows who had not been able to leave their posts.
With these activities, it was a full twenty minutes before the captain made it through the three corridors which lay between transporter room three and the primary turbolift – where he said goodbye to the last of the Science personnel with a smile and a wave, leaving a very happy and relieved crew complement when the doors finally closed behind him and his XO.
Spock frowned slightly when the man then exhaled in a rush and leaned against the side of the lift, fingers pressing at his eyes in a gesture of painful exhaustion.
"Tell me you were not the one that set that up," Kirk muttered.
"I was not; I am aware that solitude is most likely your preferred state at the moment. However, when a group of junior officers approached me with the request that it be permitted upon your return, Captain – I thought it best, for their sake, to permit the gesture. I apologize for the liberty, sir, but I am aware that humans are in need of reassurance by their superiors on occasion. And, as Lieutenant Garrovick pointed out when discussing the possibility with me, you have been missed by your crew."
The captain glanced up, and gave him a rueful smile. "You've been a better captain than I have, the last couple weeks, Spock. Yes, you did the right thing. Thank you."
"Thanks are unnecessary, sir."
"Well, I'm going to give them to you anyway, so you may as well indulge the poor human his idiosyncrasies, Commander."
The lift slowed, pinging to notify them of their stop on the Bridge.
"You didn't also tell the alpha shift they could have a surprise party or something for me, did you?" Kirk asked dryly, as the doors opened.
Spock gave him a look that clearly told what he thought of permitting that situation on the Bridge, and exited before the captain, which seemed to put his mind at ease. Kirk chuckled and followed him out, tugging absently at his tunic.
"Captain on the Bridge!"
The now-obsolete exclamation (Kirk had abolished it his first week aboard, saying the formality was both unnecessarily divisive between ranks and disruptive to efficiency) startled them both, but only for a moment; the room soon broke into a chorus of enthusiastic applause. The captain's face turned the color of Lieutenant Uhura's uniform before he smiled shyly, and nodded in greeting to his primary Bridge crew before moving toward the command dais.
"I believe you're in my seat, Mr. Sulu."
"Yes, sir." The young helmsman scrambled out of it and gladly fell back into his usual place at the pilot's station. "Welcome back, Captain."
"Thank you, Mr. Sulu. How have things been, gentlemen? Mr. Spock's been doing some space swashbuckling, I hear?"
Spock's eyeroll could be heard clearly from the science station, and that with his back turned.
Chekov cleared his throat. "It did get, how you say – a little hairy, Keptin. But the Commander soon showed the pirates you do not want to mess with the Enterprise."
"Did he now."
"Da. It was glorious."
"Mr. Chekov, I believe you were supposed to have correlated those data reports and sent them to my station over an hour ago. I am still waiting."
"Aye, sir." The young navigator turned a peculiar shade of crimson and hastily fell to work, shooting his Vulcan superior glances over his shoulder every few seconds.
Kirk stifled a laugh. "Speaking of, I'd like to see a damage report from that glorious encounter, Mr. Spock."
Spock's look was carefully neutral. "The reports have already been filed with Starfleet Command, sir; an abbreviated copy is, as I said, awaiting perusal in your inbox. There was nothing of great interest to report."
"And by abbreviated, you mean…what, exactly?"
"Simply that there was no need to, I believe the expression is, bore you with the details?"
The captain did not miss the incredulous look that his pilot and helmsman shot each other. He slowly swiveled his chair toward the science station; arms folded, fingers tapping impatiently on his upper arm.
"Mr. Spock. Did you break my ship?"
Dark eyes blinked innocently at him. "Such an assumption would be illogical, Captain, as you can see that the Enterprise is perfectly functional."
"Mmhmm." Kirk's look was distinctly unimpressed. "You know, gentlemen, that I have a way of –"
"McCoy to Bridge," the intercom blared angrily beside them.
Highly amused at the conversation going on below her, Uhura leaned over and clicked the receiving switch. "Bridge, Lieutenant Uhura here. What is it, Doctor?"
"Lieutenant, how long've we got 'til the captain beams back aboard? I'm not gonna get Reynolds out of here for another hour or so, he had a bad reaction to the very last inoculation. And he was the one who was supposed to be space-walking for Scotty to fix the fracture in the Observation Dome."
"Scotty's not answerin' me in Engineering, Masters said something about him still being in Transporter Room Three. But y'know Jim'll have a cow if he finds out before we can get it sealed..."
Spock sighed and reached over the library console to the communications switch, ignoring the spluttering from the command seat. "Doctor. Mr. Scott was in the transporter room because the captain beamed aboard thirty minutes ago. He is currently on the Bridge, within hearing range of your communication."
Spock's expression clearly told the entire bridge crew what the Vulcan opinion was of cowardice, but no amount of hailing could raise Sickbay for the next few minutes.
Sulu finally lost it, giggling like a lunatic with his head down on his sleeve.
"You fractured the observation dome? It's sixteen inches of reinforced transparent tritanium – how does that even happen?!"
"They were wery angry pirates," Chekov said solemnly.
The ensign working the engineering station choked on his coffee, hastily turning his attention to the output relays when a Vulcan glare sliced his direction.
"Is there anything else you conveniently forgot to tell me, categorized under that 'minimal damage' report, Commander?"
Kirk's gaze narrowed at something in the tone. "Anything you purposely forgot to tell me?"
Spock looked suspiciously cagey.
"Did we have any casualties?"
"Do we still have the necessary parts to run the ship, Mr. Spock?"
"Of course, Captain."
"And the damage is being repaired."
"And I am not going to, say, find a tribble in my sock drawer or something when I return to my cabin?"
"Well, then." The captain spun around in his seat, vaguely reminiscent to Spock of a child playing with an adult's desk chair, simply revolving it in a rapid circle for his own amusement. "Outside of the, you know, crack in the observation dome, I'd say you took pretty good care of her, gentlemen. I'm in a forgiving mood, this evening."
Sulu grinned. "It's good to have you back aboard, Captain. And yourself again, sir, if you don't mind my saying so."
Kirk looked briefly surprised, and then smiled, settling back in his chair. "Not at all, Mr. Sulu. I appreciate the sentiment, and your candor. I am aware I was not the easiest person to live with, during the last few weeks – and for that, I owe my primary command crew an apology."
"You've nothing to apologize for, Captain," Uhura spoke up softly from behind them, and Kirk flicked a grateful glance over his shoulder, meeting her eyes with a further apology unspoken between them; she had been the unfortunate recipient of his short temper more than once during those tense days of the Deneva mission disaster. He was a fortunate man indeed, to have forged such relationships as he had, during this first year of their projected five.
"Thank you, Lieutenant." Kirk looked up as a yeoman approached him with a very tall stack of data-padds, no doubt needing signature after a week of absence, and met the young man's hopeful look with a rueful smile of his own. "Might as well get it over with, Mr…Oc'thrae, is it? Hand them over."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
"You're a new transfer, from 'Base Seventeen, aren't you?"
"Yes, sir. Just transferred in yesterday evening, Captain."
The yeoman's eyes were wide with surprise, that the captain knew his name already despite being absent from the ship for a week; he had no way of knowing that one of Kirk's habits was to review all incoming transfers for at least a week beforehand until he could at least match names with faces – especially those who were not Terran-born, as this young half-Andorian was.
"Enjoying your stay so far? Crew treating you well?"
The young man looked slightly scandalized at the idea of the situation being otherwise, his skin flushing a delicate shade of blue. "Of course, Captain!"
"Good. Make sure you tell Lieutenant Kalov in SS&R if you require anything other than standard requisitions due to your hybrid physiology; I don't want to hear it from McCoy rather than you, if your health suffers from our unfortunately specist environmental conditions aboard ship."
Kirk glanced up over the top of the padd he was signing, in time to see Oc'thrae's antennae nod vigorously, obviously pleased at the attention. "Will do, sir."
"Excellent. There, I believe that should suffice for now, unless you've another pile for me hidden around somewhere." The yeoman shook his head vigorously, taking the stack of padds back from his captain with a smile. "Dismissed, then. And welcome to the Enterprise, Mr. Oc'thrae."
As the young man scuttled into the turbolift, eager to be on his way, Kirk stifled an exhausted yawn and aimlessly revolved the central chair to survey the Bridge and his crew, all working busily but with an air of relaxed comfort which had been missing the last time he had been in command here. The tranquil feeling of home was sufficient to put his mind at ease, safe where he belonged, and he barely noticed when he started to drift mentally, eyes on the star-scape before them, the starbase's pristine buildings and twinkling lights slowly revolving in and out of sights as they orbited its various structures.
It was the slight vibration of his chair shaking, which suddenly jolted him out of what had to be a very embarrassing impromptu nap right in the middle of his own Bridge. He shot upright in what he hoped was less of a drastic gesture than it felt like, eyes flying open, and glanced around to see if anyone had noticed him falling asleep on duty, so to speak – but his crew were still quietly working all around him, thank goodness.
All except one, who – of course – had been the one to thankfully come to his rescue and ensure he did not embarrass himself in front of his crew the first hour he was back aboard.
He cleared his throat somewhat awkwardly, and felt the color rising in his neck under the calm scrutiny of a raised Vulcan eyebrow.
"Yes, I know, Mr. Spock," he muttered gracelessly, and started to stand. Spock's expression changed to one of mild alarm as his balance teetered slightly, but he shook his head in reassurance, rubbing the drowsiness from his eyes. "Mr. Sulu. Think you can handle the conn for the rest of the evening?"
"Of course, sir. Good night, Captain." Sulu's words were echoed in quick order by the rest of the crew, and none of them appeared in the least surprised to see Spock following him from the Bridge; perhaps his little nap hadn't been as unnoticed as he thought.
"Dinner, Mr. Spock?" he inquired, as they exited the lift onto Deck Five.
"You are fatigued, Captain. Perhaps another time."
"I can't argue with that, unfortunately." He managed a passing nod and smile to a young lieutenant in Engineering reds who was hurrying from a cabin near the lift, before the expression fell away into exhaustion once again as they approached the higher officers' quarters. Both doors opened at their approach, but Kirk gestured at his cabin before Spock could bid him goodnight. "But at least come in for a moment, Spock, I have something I want to show you."
"As you wish, sir."
The door closed behind them, and Spock was once again intrigued by the immediate vanishing of what had evidently been a flawless performance for the sake of the crew; the captain-persona disappearing like it had never existed – and here, this was the man he had seen leave the Enterprise eight days previously. Certainly not in the same emotional or physical state, a marked improvement on both; but nonetheless still a grieving man.
It was oddly flattering, to think that the human felt that he no longer need pretend to be otherwise, in his presence.
"Captain," he spoke after a long, somewhat fragile silence, during which the captain did nothing more than fidget with items on his desk, moving them about aimlessly. What was the phrase, humans used in these instances, one which made no logical sense to a Vulcan but was the standardly accepted sentiment? "How are you doing?"
Kirk's eyes widened, as he froze in the act of setting down a small tower of dicta-padds. The man slowly turned and leaned against the desk, arms folded loosely across his chest, and relaxed somewhat. "Small talk, Mr. Spock? From you?"
Spock gave the minutest of eyebrow-shrugs, acknowledging but not admitting to both the dismal failure and the sentiment behind it.
"Well…" Kirk sighed, dragged a weary hand over his face. "Better than I was, Spock. And that's due in no small part to your magic-working this past week so I have you to thank for that much."
"And the boy?"
"Peter seemed to be okay, actually, when I left New York. He said to tell you hello, and to ask if you minded if he wrote to you occasionally about 'sciencey stuff'." A small smile quirked the captain's lips. "I took the liberty of assuring him you would not, Mr. Spock; I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all. The child's curiosity and intelligence should be encouraged as much as possible."
Kirk nodded, somewhat absently. A sudden thought then occurred to Spock, one which he had not hitherto acknowledged. "Captain, were the two elder Kirk children close to their off-world father?" he asked quietly. He had not thought of the fact that Jim would have to bear that burden as well, the communicating of the news to the elder Kirk boys, left behind on Terra when their father and step-mother moved to the Deneva system.
The captain winced, and it did not escape Spock's notice that the man dodged the question with characteristic ease. "That wasn't the most pleasant of days, I will admit, although they were really wonderful about taking care of Peter even though they barely know him. He was only six when Sam and Aurelan left Terra, and they had just married then; Andrew and Jacob had only even met Peter a few times. But he wanted to stay with them instead of my mother, and they were willing to assume legal guardianship. I have to admire that; they're so young, still just children themselves…"
"One might argue that after such events, they are no longer 'just children,' Captain."
Kirk settled wearily into his chair at the small table where they were accustomed to playing Tri-D chess, and Spock followed suit after a moment. He then noticed that the board was set up for play, though at a second look the pieces appeared different from the standard-issue set they always used, requisitioned from the quartermaster.
"A very human sentiment, Mr. Spock," the captain answered lightly, but with a genuinely questioning look across the untouched board. "Have you been practicing while I was away?"
Spock did not dignify the inquiry with an answer, nor did the captain expect him to. Instead, he lifted one of the black playing pieces and examined it with curiosity. The small rook he held appeared to be genuine wood, hand-carved if the slightly uneven texturing were any indication. The detailing was quite intricate, and the set had obviously taken a very long time to complete, done by hand. Spock as a musician admired art in all forms, and this type was a skill which he and most of his people did not possess.
After a moment he set the piece back on the board, and looked up to see Kirk watching him.
"A gift, I assume, Captain?" he inquired, further lifting a white knight to examine.
Kirk's eyes softened. "Not quite," he said quietly.
Spock halted his scrutiny, and carefully replaced the piece in its original position. It was no great feat of logic to extrapolate the items' previous ownership, or why they only now had been put into place in the captain's quarters. "You inherited your enjoyment of the game not from your father, but from your brother."
It had been a statement, not a question. The brief look of surprise on the human's face soon faded into a fond amusement. "You are quite certain you are only touch-telepathic, Mr. Spock? Of course you are quite right. Sam was my teacher, beating the pants off me from the time I was five years old. Taught me everything I know about the game; so every time I annoy you with an unconventional strategy, you can blame him for that."
Spock's eyes flicked briefly back to the playing pieces. "And these?"
"These were his, apparently," Kirk said, picking up the white queen and running a finger along the tip of her crown. "Wood-carving was something he picked up in college, I had no idea he still had an interest in it – but I found this in the house. Peter has no interest in the game, and he was more than happy to let me take it."
Spock was uncertain the purpose of this conversation, unless simply talking about it was helpful to the captain's state of mind; if that were the case, he was more than willing to listen for as long as needed. But if not, he was quite at a loss as to how to proceed.
"Are you not too fatigued for a game at this time, Captain?" he inquired cautiously.
"Mr. Spock, I couldn't strategize my way out of a paper bag right now. That's…not what I was getting at."
"Sir?" He repressed all but the thinnest thread of impatience from his voice; he would never understand humans' predilection for vagueness when direct communication was infinitely preferable.
A flat wooden box, intricately carved in a delicate floral pattern, was pushed hesitantly across the table; upon opening it, he saw a series of indentations in faded dark-green velvet which were obviously meant to house the playing pieces in question.
Kirk cleared his throat. "I'd like for you to have it, Spock," he said softly, tracing the outline of a carving with one finger.
Completely taken aback, he could only stare at the man for a moment in some consternation, frantically debating in the back of his mind the correct protocol for such a situation.
To his surprise, the captain laughed, and patted his arm briefly before sitting back in his chair, legs stretched out before him. "Mr. Spock, you look completely spooked – has no one ever given you a gift before?"
Direct questions, he could answer. "Not of this magnitude, sir."
A sandy eyebrow rose slightly. "Spock, they're just a few pieces of carved wood."
"Not to you, Jim."
The white queen wobbled as she met an unsteady resting place on the highest tier of the board. Kirk sighed ruefully. "Your emotional perception is becoming increasingly accurate, Mr. Spock. It can be quite annoying, you know."
"I would not know, sir," Spock pointed out dryly, though not without a trace of humor.
"Touché." The captain looked up at him over the board. "However, my request stands. I would ask that you consider accepting it as a gift, from me and Peter. Of thanks, if you will, for what you've done the past two weeks."
Kirk stood, obviously intending to end the conversation, and Spock followed suit, knowing that exhaustion had to be pulling at the human's last reserves of energy. He looked down at the chessboard for a few moments, eyes roving over the fine detailing of the wood-work on the playing pieces, and was vaguely aware of the captain moving to his dresser to remove sleeping-clothes from a drawer.
"Jim," he said quietly, as the man made to enter the adjoining bathroom.
The captain glanced questioningly over his shoulder.
Spock hoped that the bluntness of his words would not be too impersonal, but he did not wish the man to in future regret a decision made out of pure emotion. This was an unnecessary gesture, and one which Kirk most likely did not even himself understand his reasons for making; some unnecessary sense of obligation was the primary catalyst, and that was unacceptable.
"While I am…honored by the gift, would you not prefer to keep such a personal item, within the remains of your family?"
Triggered by motion, the bathroom doors opened, spilling soft light into the room. Kirk paused for a moment, silhouetted in the doorway.
"I am, Spock," he said simply, and the door shut on his smile.