Author: by CatalenaMara
Relationship status: First Time
Word count: 13,474
Summary: Inspired by and a sequel to the novel "Ishmael". Originally published in 2009 in the print fanzine Legends # 5. My thanks to my betas – Debbie Cummins and Greywolf the Wanderer.
Spock entered the transporter room with Aaron Stemple. McCoy and Kirk had accompanied them here, but hadn’t entered the room with them, and for that Spock found himself peculiarly grateful.
Aaron looked around the transporter room with interest; the same interest he’d shown in everything he’d seen in his limited exposure to the Enterprise since he’d regained consciousness back in Sickbay. He’d been particularly shocked – and said so – not only at the presence of so many female crewmembers, but their attire. “Now I understand where your attitudes about what is suitable work for women come from,” he’d commented.
Spock busied himself with the transporter coordinates before turning the console back over to Lt. Kyle. After having studied every corner of the transporter room, Aaron turned to Spock. “Do you have some kind of small starboat to take me home?”
“It is... more complicated, and more immediate, than that.” He stepped up onto a transporter pad and indicated that Aaron should do the same.
Aaron did so, regarding his surroundings with an equal part of suspicion and interest.
“Do not be alarmed. This is a mode of transportation which will take us directly inside your cabin. Be prepared for an unusual sensation.” Spock looked at Kyle. “Energize.”
Aaron turned startled eyes to him just as the beam took them, then staggered and took a quick gasp as the familiar surroundings of his parlor materialized around him. Spock grasped his arm and led him to his chair; Aaron stumbled back and sat down heavily, his gaze unfocused.
Spock sat in the other chair. The cabin was silent around them, the fireplace cold. It seemed oddly uninhabited. They had been away for only a few days, and yet the stillness around them suggested a much longer period of time.
Or perhaps, Spock thought, he was still indulging in fanciful human concepts. The cabin had not changed. He had. There were now centuries between him and this cabin; he was now a stranger, apart again, as he had been when he had first regained consciousness here all those months ago.
Aaron shuddered and focused his gaze on Spock. “Marvels indeed. May I ask how that device works?”
“The concepts behind the principles will not be developed for many years.”
“Yet one more thing you won’t tell me about.”
Spock smiled slightly. “You understand why. I’ve told you everything you need to know about the Karsid invasion.” Once he had recovered from the worst of the effects from the Klingon disruptor blast, Aaron had been full of questions. Spock had been able answer a judicious few – but there was much he had kept from Aaron. The one piece of information he regretted not being to impart to his friend the most was the true connection between them: that this man was his centuries-removed ancestor.
“And you’ve refused to tell me so much more.”
“I cannot.” Spock ducked his head. “As you know.”
“Yes. ‘To preserve the future’,” Aaron quoted.
“Aaron...” Spock hesitated. “I must leave soon. I wish to say – thank you – for everything you did for me.” He was aware of a certain awkwardness in his phrasing. Aaron, too, seemed aware of his discomfort.
“I’m glad you found your home,” Aaron said. There was a roughness in his voice.
Spock stood up suddenly. “Biddy is approaching the cabin.”
“How far?” Aaron asked, standing himself.
“Approximately...” Spock started to explain the exact distance – over two dozen meters downslope, steadily climbing the path up the hill to the cabin. He caught himself. “Not far.” The image of a fleur-de-lys necklace flashed briefly through his mind; a necklace worn now by Biddy Cloom; an heirloom that would be treasured centuries later by her distant descendant, Amanda Grayson. A necklace that he had held in his hands in both eras, unknowing of its true significance until now.
Aaron smiled and shook his head. “I will miss you. You were the best accountant I ever had.” He chuckled, and Spock permitted himself to smile.
“Live long and prosper, Aaron.” He held out his hand in the human way, and Aaron shook it. Their hands fell to their sides.
Spock met Aaron’s gaze again. “Goodbye, Aaron.” He flipped open his communicator. “Spock to Enterprise...”
A moment later he was back on the ship. It did not surprise him to find Kirk at the transporter controls, and no one else in the room.
Sudden emotion threatened to overcome his composure. He focused his entire attention on stepping off the transporter platform without stumbling. He kept his gaze away from the dangerous sympathy in Kirk’s eyes.
“Scotty says the ship is at peak performance, ready for the slingshot effect. We’re ready to go back home, Mr. Spock.”
He was grateful that Kirk’s words were strictly ship’s business. “That... would be most welcome,” he replied, and took his position by Kirk’s side. They left the transporter room together.
Kirk heaved a huge sigh of relief. “Well done.”
The Enterprise still shuddered and moaned from the stresses of moving through time. Uhura’s board was lit with dozens of damage reports; her attention was solidly fixed on the steady stream of messages that she consolidated and reported to the captain. Spock correlated dozens of damage reports and passed along this information as well.
The next several hours passed quickly as the Enterprise crew efficiently pinpointed and repaired the most crucial systems and set up a plan that would bring the remaining systems up to speed within the next two solar days. Numerous highly encrypted messages were sent out to Starbase 12 and the Starfleet command.
“ETA to Starbase 12 3.5 solar days, at Warp Factor 5,” Sulu reported.
“Steady as she goes,” Kirk said. As their beta shift replacements emerged from the turbolift, he got up and stretched. “Well, gentlemen, I’m ready for dinner.”
Uhura interrupted. “Captain, it’s Admiral Mathews.”
“Spock, meet you in mess hall three?”
Kirk sat back down in the command chair. “Put him on the screen.” He was peripherally aware of the sound of Spock’s footsteps as he joined the others in the turbolift. The admiral’s face appeared on the viewscreen just as the turbolift doors swished shut. He focused his attention entirely on the matter at hand. “Admiral Mathews…”
Spock entered the mess hall with Uhura and Sulu and as they crossed over to the food dispensaries, he saw and sensed every eye in the room upon him. Conversations ceased and as he turned he saw that he was surrounded by familiar faces, all smiling, all welcoming.
It was almost too much. He wanted to retreat completely behind his shields; he wanted to open them and welcome the warm positive emotions emanating from all these crewmembers.
He stood, frozen for a moment, choosing the best responses. He settled on a brief nod of acknowledgment. This seemed to satisfy most of them; they turned back to their meals as he headed to where Sulu and Uhura were already seated.
The captain had a favorite table; the closest to the door in case he had to run out because of an emergency. It was generally left empty for Kirk’s use, even during the busiest times. Uhura and Sulu had already started their meals. He collected a tray, chose his standard evening meal as a default, and joined them.
Sulu immediately engaged him in a discussion of the logistics involved in traveling forward through time to their era and he relaxed into the familiarity of discussing technical matters. Reaching for his meal, he paused briefly after his first bite. Even after being back on the Enterprise for the last few days, the taste and texture of replicated food was startling.
Uhura grinned. “Starship food takes a bit of getting used to, doesn’t it?”
“Replicator food provides all necessary nutrients,” he responded. “Moreover, chemically the food the Enterprise replicators produces is identical to what is colloquially termed ‘home-cooked’ food.”
“From the look on your face a moment ago it was obviously you could tell the difference.”
He raised an affronted eyebrow, and she chuckled. “I apologize for my illogical greeting earlier,” Uhura said with a smile.
“Human illogic…” he began, and paused, considering, enjoying the sparkle in her eyes. “has its own consistency. A fascinating study.”
Her smile, impossibly, broadened, but when she spoke again he was relieved that it concerned matters much easier to discuss: the linguistic issues of dealing with the Karsid records.
They spent some time in pleasant conversation, with both Sulu and Uhura filling him in on what had occurred during his absence.
“…and the Imperial Representative nearly created an interstellar incident when he thought we were transporting live tribbles!” Sulu and Uhura shared a laugh, and Spock allowed his lips to curl slightly upwards.
He found himself relaxing into the normality of shipboard life, into the ease of camaraderie he’d experienced for many years. Prior to his journey to the past, he had found other ways and terms to deal with human social situations. Those old ways seemed inadequate now. Would it be possible to use as a guide the knowledge he’d gained in Earth’s past?
This is community, he reflected. I know what that means now. But it’s not new knowledge. I didn’t need Aaron and the Bolts and Biddy and Candy and all the residents of Seattle to show me this. I knew it already. I just could not acknowledge it to myself.
That last night on Starbase 12 at the Wonder Bar he had been comfortable in his accustomed role, always the observer of illogical human foibles, never the participant. But in the past, without his memory, with no knowledge of Vulcan, he had nothing to guide him but Mr. Stemple’s advice and observing the humans around him. And several months of living among humans as a human had changed him from observer to participant. At the very end, at Candy’s wedding, he’d taken part in their group celebratory dance and felt himself wholly one of them, truly part of their community.
It would be difficult to set those months aside. It was difficult now to remind himself why returning to his old ways was desirable.
It was easy, however, to “talk shop” as the humans put it, and he quickly found himself sharing what he had discovered about the Klingon plot to alter Earth history when he had hacked into the computer system on the Klingon ore freighter and how this correlated with the extensive information the Karsid records had revealed. They had nearly finished their meal and were in the middle of a particularly fascinating discussion about the minutiae of their endless search through the Karsid records when the captain finally entered the room, McCoy on his heels.
Spock sat back. He felt a smile touch his lips; he could find no reason to conceal it. Behind Kirk, McCoy gave him a big grin. The doctor had been doing that frequently since his return, followed just as quickly with a curmudgeonly frown and a sarcastic remark.
Kirk’s attention was taken momentarily by Scotty, who was relating additional details on ship’s repair. But when Kirk surveyed the room and his eyes lit on Spock, he smiled - and his smile warmed the room.
Spock relaxed even further, his gaze entirely taken by Kirk’s. The captain did not take the time to go to the food dispensers, not even for coffee; he walked over to where they were seated.
The world seemed to oddly narrow to Jim’s smile, Jim’s eyes. He was aware that he was truly smiling, in public, in front of others. Jim was returning his smile, his gaze on Spock alone. He stood to meet him.
The door opened again. He glanced over at the two beings who had just entered the room - and slammed down his shields and forced his features into absolute nonemotion.
“Spock?” Jim’ expressive face radiated concern. He turned - and when he saw the newcomers he looked back at Spock with a rueful, private smile.
Spock did not acknowledge Jim’s smile. He stood and waited while Trae of Vulcan approached, followed by the Enterprise’s History Officer, Lt. Gilden.
Spock had known, of course, that another Vulcan was on board. He had already scheduled a meeting with Trae tomorrow; he had been anticipating a stimulating discussion regarding the Karsid records.
He had not anticipated being caught in a public indecency like this, to be witnessed displaying obvious emotion - and the cause was not sufficient.
Shame burned through him. To an elder like Trae, the cause would never be sufficient.
Trae stopped a few feet away from Spock. His hair was utterly white; his face lined with markings testifying to his great age. Spock knew that Trae was well into his third century. As was proper he greeted him in Golic, with the phrases indicating his acknowledgment of Trae’s status, and his own. “Greetings, respected and honored one, I come to serve.”
Trae regarded him for a moment, revealing nothing behind his calm, emotionless eyes. “Lieutenant Commander Spock.”
Spock drew in a quick breath. Trae was within his rights not to respond to him in the appropriate manner. By choosing to use his Starfleet rank instead of his clan name, and to use the human pronunciation of his name, Trae had indicated he considered Spock to be of an inferior status - not worthy of the customary reply that he would ordinarily be entitled to due to his family’s standing.
And by reacting as he did, with that quick indrawn breath, he had confirmed Trae’s opinion. “Sir,” he said, acknowledging what had passed between them by lowering his head briefly.
He was aware that Kirk was standing next to him. He was grateful that Kirk did not take any other action, or speak.
“I shall await your attendance at 15:00 hours tomorrow.” Trae switched language to Standard.
Spock’s face felt stiff. His lips felt numb. “Acknowledged.”
Trae turned, Gilden in tow, and went over to the food dispensers.
Spock made sure his shields were firmly in place before he turned to face Kirk and the others. They were all watching him, all clearly aware that something had just transpired. Every one of their faces mirrored concern for him.
Flooded with shame, he wished, not for the first time, that human faces were not so expressive. He wished that part of him did not recognize, did not desire to respond to their visible emotion.
“I shall be in Science Lab # 3,” he said abruptly, steeling himself against the pain in Kirk’s eyes. All of the information on the Enterprises’ recent two passages through time was being correlated there; it was a logical destination. He often spent time with the beta shift personnel part way through their shift, being informed of and directing their work. It was logical he be there.
“Spock…” Jim said.
“But you haven’t finished your dinner,” Uhura put in.
“We need to get some more meat back on your bones,” McCoy interjected.
“I haven’t finished telling you about what happened when the Klingons thought we were transporting tribbles,” Sulu added.
“Another time,” he said. “With your leave, Captain.”
Kirk’s eyes had hardened; he glanced briefly in Trae’s direction, then studied Spock’s face. “Of course.
He forced himself to walk in his usual manner to the door. Nevertheless, it felt like he was fleeing - and not just from Trae. Part of his soul grieved for what he was losing; part of his mind insisted this emotion be cut off.
He went directly to the lab, determined that after he was briefed he would retreat to his cabin and spend the rest of the night in meditation.
But he faced the same situation in Science Lab # 3. His staff immediately leapt to their feet when he entered and insisted in crowding around him and inundating him with welcoming emotions.
He shut his eyes briefly, suddenly exhausted, then opened them again to find Lt. Enid Nhussi, Astrophysics Department head, looking at him with concern. “Sir, we’ve already prepared all of our reports; you’ll find them on your computer. Since you just got out of Sickbay we figured we’d have everything ready for you to review in your quarters. Unless you’d prefer we brief you here?”
Ensign Randy Owen, always willing to talk at length on any subject, reported, “You’ll find some fascinating information regarding the slingshot effect that correlates the data we just gathered with the information we gathered in our previous incursion into Earth’s history to the year 1969.” He rattled off a string of information that Spock would ordinarily have found irresistible, yet now he found it difficult to focus his attention on.
“And we’ve completed the analysis of the readings when the Klingon ore freighter disappeared - ” Lt. Travis, never tactful, abruptly shut up when Lt. Cheng dug him in the ribs. He glared at her. “It’s important data.”
Spock nodded in acknowledgment. “I believe I will review the data in my quarters. Department meeting tomorrow, 0900 hours.”
They were all still grinning at him when he left, even Randy, who often had to be dragged by force away from his computer readouts.
He retreated to his room, welcoming its hot, dark sanctuary, an escape and a haven away from the Human environment and Human emotions. And yet after the rain and cold of Seattle, the clean crisp brightness of the rest of the Enterprise, it somehow held a note of rejection, a trace of Vulcan’s - of Trae’s - dispassionate, disapproving presence.
He attempted meditation, with no success. Another failure, he thought tiredly, and finally picked up his ka’athyra. The mathematical and musical progressions often assisted meditation; he hoped that would be the case this night.
His fingers found familiar strings, and he began to play.
1.3 hours later the door buzzer sounded. His fingers stilled on the strings. “Come.”
Jim walked in and looked at him inquiringly. That expressive Human face showed a multitude of emotions: concern, friendship, a trace of anger though not, Spock decided, directed at him.
He rose and hung the ka’athyra carefully in its antigrav cradle. He turned to face his friend.
“I was thinking perhaps a game of chess?”
Though part of Spock still wanted to find refuge in silence and solitude, part of him still felt acid-touched by shame at his overt emotion toward this man and toward his fellow crewmembers, he was forced to acknowledge that his primary reaction was one of joy: Jim had joined him, after all.
“That would be agreeable.” He ordered the computer to change his cabin’s environment to standard Enterprise norm.
“You don’t have to do that.” A droplet of sweat on Kirk’s face belied his offer.
“I have… grown accustomed to colder temperatures.” He took out the chess set and set it up on his desk. He took some satisfaction as the room began to cool and Jim visibly relaxed.
Spock set the pieces in their places while Jim took a seat. As Spock moved the pieces to opening positions on the various tiers, he remembered playing chess in San Francisco mere weeks - and several centuries - ago. Even then, he’d felt something wrong about the flatness of the board, the lack of dimension in the play.
Even then, he had wondered – who was it that he missed playing chess with? He’d known there’d been someone he was accustomed to facing across a chessboard. Someone important to him. And yet Jim’s face, like everything else from his former life, had been hidden behind the veil of pain his struggle to evade the Mindsifter had imposed upon him.
Now, as he settled the chess pieces in their proper places, his new reality also seemed out of sync.
He sat. “Your move,” he said.
Kirk glanced at him. He didn’t bother to contemplate the pieces; he selected one and began his advance.
Spock responded, and piece by piece, pawn by pawn, knight and bishop and king and queen, the game proceeded with every challenge met and answered.
Kirk made one of his illogical moves and settled back with a smile. Spock contemplated the board and lifted a piece.
“I had an interesting conversation with Mr. Stemple the night before we returned him to his home,” Kirk commented.
“Ishmael Marx sounded like an excellent man. Ethical, honest. Heroic. I hear he saved some lives.”
Spock contemplated the chess piece in his hand.
“Courageous, as well, to face all the challenges he did with no memory of his past. A man of integrity. Reserved in manner. Interestingly enough, a vegetarian.”
Spock closed his hand around the piece. He could not meet Jim’s gaze. He was filled with emotion. It was too much, too complicated. His knowledge of Jim’s desires - and his own - made it even more difficult to consider what he should say or do. Part of him wished to seek refuge in his habits of the past. He was filled with shame over his recent behavior. He was filled with bewilderment over the conflicting needs for honesty in what he spoke. Emotional honesty. A truly alien concept. And yet, did not Vulcan value IDIC?
“I had thought…” he began, and then found himself seeking out the words. Jim listened in patient silence, and when Spock dared look up he found it nearly impossible to bear his look of concern. He resumed his study of the chess piece he had selected. A rook, to claim Jim’s queen.
“I had thought that were I ever to lose control, I would become a barbarian.”
“But you didn’t.”
Spock said nothing further, and Jim broke the lengthening silence. “From everything Mr. Stemple told me, Ishmael Marx was very much like you. You have a core of integrity and honesty, decency and courage. These qualities are essential to who you are. Not Vulcan. Not Human. Just Spock.”
“I indulged in unseemly displays of emotion.” He could not keep the shame out of his voice; he felt fresh shame at that revelation.
“With your friends, Spock. With your community. Both then - and now.”
Spock opened his fingers and contemplated the rook. He made his move, and Kirk’s queen tumbled.
He finally met Kirk’s gaze. “Checkmate.”
Kirk gave him an indulgent smile. “For this round, yes. Will you meet me for breakfast?”
“I will, sir.”
Something flickered in Jim’s gaze at the word “sir”. “Good night then.”
“Good night.” It was easy, at least, to say those human words, but when Kirk left and the door slid shut behind them he wished he’d been able to find other words; words to ask Kirk to stay; words to explore the many things which had been silent between them for so long.
Words he did not possess. He put away the chess set. He picked up the ka’athyra and began to play.
Spock arrived at his meeting with Trae at precisely 1500 hours. He did not pause before entering the room; he knew that Trae would be able to hear the slightest hesitation in his gait, and would interpret that as an indication that Spock had allowed emotion to influence his actions.
The door slid shut behind him. Trae sat motionless at a conference table containing a monitor and a PADD. Trae’s ancient eyes regarded him without emotion.
“Greetings, respected and honored one, I come to serve.” Spock repeated his words from the previous day, pronouncing every syllable with the proper degree of deference and respect due to such an Elder.
“Lieutenant Commander Spock.” Trae also repeated his words, his voice without inflection; his gaze entirely free of emotion.
Spock did not permit himself to react to Trae’s repetition of his insult, nor did he permit himself to feel any degree of shame. Kaiidth. I myself have aspired to that level of control. And yet Trae, for all his wisdom, chooses to address me with disrespect. He took his place at the table. “I have reviewed your work on the Karsid Empire, specifically their intended incursion into Terran affairs during the era known at that time on the North American continent as the 1870’s. I found several items of specific interest.” He kept his manner and posture entirely correct.
The elder Vulcan responded in equally precise and correct terms. He offered data; Spock responded, and chose several points to ask for additional data and clarification. He noted that at some level he was pleased that their conversation continued to focus entirely on matters relating to the Karsid Empire.
When the appointed time for their meeting to end arrived, Trae shut down the computer and focused his remote gaze on Spock. “You have lived many years among the Humans.”
Spock gave him the precise amount of time, down to the hour.
“It was the correct choice.”
Spock did not permit himself to react to the insult. “Honored sir, I accept your wisdom in this matter. You have lived among Humans for some time yourself.” There was, he knew, irony in his voice. Another failing on his part. Another cause for shame. And yet he found his sense of shame much diminished from the previous day. Ishmael Marx was very much like you. Kirk had spoken these words. In the hours since then, he had begun to understand their meaning.
Trae heard the irony in Spock’s voice if the tiny flicker in his eyes was any indication. “Vulcan honors IDIC.”
Spock’s eyebrows flicked upward in surprise. “I have found that Vulcan honor for IDIC finds its most common expression in abstract intellectual ideas.”
“That is logical. IDIC is best practiced off planet.”
Spock stood. “Agreed.”
Trae remained seated. “S’chn T’gai Spock,” he said, and this time he used the Vulcan pronunciation. “You made your decision long ago, when you joined Starfleet. It is logical to acknowledge and abide by that decision.”
“Honored One,” Spock acknowledged. “Your logic is impeccable.”
Trae acknowledged Spock’s words with a tiny bow of his head. But his eyes showed his understanding of the meaning behind Spock’s words, and his dismissal of the emotion behind it.
Experiencing an odd sensation, as if he had just put down an overheavy burden, Spock walked out the door. Trae, of course, was correct. He had already made his choice, long ago. It was, perhaps, past time he acknowledged that decision and explored it for the many things of value which it offered.
(Concluded in Part 3: