Title: The Fields That Make a Man
Fandom: ST XI
Characters: Kirk, Spock, Sarek, Spock!Prime (as Ambassador Selek), Winona Kirk
Warnings: Kirk’s got a mouth on him. Also, philosophy and rehashing of sad things.
Notes: Commission for Nim, who was terribly non-specific. Kirk drags Spock to Iowa with him, on vacation. Spock comes to some uncomfortable realisations about himself and his captain. This is the beginning of an epic bromance.
"Look, come on. Your dad’s on some diplomatic function with Selek, and it’s not exactly like you can go home for your leave. I’m not trying to be a dick. If I was trying to be a dick, I’d let you stay here and do paperwork, like you keep trying to."
James Kirk was a persistent individual, Spock had noticed, and regardless of his intention not ‘to be a dick’, he was doing a fine job of landing himself on the very wrong side of this particular Vulcan. Possibly, because he was right. That was, in the end, the thing that irritated Spock the most about him: he was an intelligent and irrationally intuitive person, but twice-damned if he’d present himself as anything but drunken, lazy, and promiscuous. What was the purpose of hiding one’s better qualities?
"Spock, you’re not listening to me." Kirk snapped his fingers inches from his first officer’s face. "Quit staring into space and say yes, already. Selek informed us both that you were coming with me, so stop pretending you’re not, and start packing. We have a shuttle to catch."
"Captain, I object. I am not Selek, for all that he was once me. I do not have any desire to go to Iowa. I wish to stay here, on the ship. It is the only home I have, as you have pointed out." Spock’s ears lifted, slightly, flattening against his head. It was a tiny movement, but conveyed the entirety of his vast annoyance all too clearly.
"Yeah, I figured you were going to be like that." Kirk leaned over and tapped a button on the communications console, with a smirk. "So did Selek."
The main viewer flickered to life, presenting the image of two Vulcans, the older one looking tolerantly amused and the younger one looking mildly displeased.
"I told you he was going to do this," Kirk defended himself, jerking a thumb at Spock. "He’s going to work himself to death."
Ambassador Selek fought off a smile, and raised an eyebrow at his younger self. "Spock, please, go to Iowa. You need this time. You also need to avoid underestimating the stubbornness of James Kirk." He glanced at Ambassador Sarek’s watch. "If I am not mistaken, your luggage has already been shipped. It is what my captain would have done."
Spock’s eyes widened, and his ears pulled back even farther. "Starfleet will not find all the pieces of your body, Captain," he muttered, under his breath, before returning his attention to he screen. "Father, are you going to permit —"
"Ambassador Selek has spoken, and we are in agreement on this point. I may not agree with the methodologies being applied, but the necessity and sentiment are both clear. Your mother would have wished it. She always wanted you to see her world, when you were old enough to understand it." Sarek raised his hand. "Do not tell me that the Academy counted. It did not. Let your captain show you the Earth, as your mother once showed it to me."
Selek smiled sadly. "I would show you, myself, but I think you know that would destroy us both. So similar, and never quite the same."
Spock’s face softened, slightly. "For you, sa-kai. I will do it for you."
"Be well, pi’sa-kai. I promise to look after our father."
Sarek raised an eyebrow at Kirk.
"I don’t understand them, either, sir," Kirk laughed. "Thank you both. I’ll let you get back to that conference."
He saluted the screen and turned back to Spock. "So, I hear we’re going to Iowa."
"I hear you have touched my things," Spock retorted, looking slightly annoyed.
"I assure you I did no such thing. I also assure you that you will have no need for anything in your cabin, unless Vulcans wear weird underwear." Kirk patted Spock on the shoulder as he led his first officer toward the turbolift. "I talked to Selek, and he didn’t mention any weird underwear, so I’m going to assume I’ve got everything ready. All I’m missing is you."
"Well, Captain, you have me. I would like to be returned to my family in one piece, if you don’t mind." The hiss of the lift doors closing punctuated Spock’s sentence.
"That’s the idea, Spock. That’s why they sent you with me."
"The very thought makes me wonder if my father is suffering early-onset Bendii syndrome."
An hour of heckling and sniping later, the shuttle touched down at the municipal pad beside Storm Lake. Kirk stepped down from the shuttle, proudly, deeply breathing the air, a smile firmly printed on his face.
A look of confused dismay crossed his face, as he glanced around. "Sucks to your auntie!" he shouted to the empty looking landing field, as Spock stepped down, behind him.
"I never have understood why your world needed to be so excessively humid," Spock offered, sulking in his distinctly Vulcan fashion. "And how are we supposed to get—"
He stopped, as a young man walked up and tossed a keyring to the captain.
"And sucks to your ass-mar. Just what you ordered, sir. With a full tank of gas. That’s on me, for saving the world."
"All in the line of duty, kid. You’d have done no different," Kirk said with a smile, shaking the young man’s hand.
"Parked her by the hangar, so the shuttle wouldn’t… you know."
"Thanks." He cocked his head at Spock. "Don’t mind the Vulcan. They’re naturally bitchy once you add water."
"Captain, I protest. I am not, as you say, ‘bitchy’. I am a desert creature. I … dislike the sensation of drowning in the open air." Spock turned his attention to the young man. "Thank you for providing the captain with a means of transportation. If you will excuse us, I believe we have somewhere else to be."
Kirk waved to the young man, as Spock dragged him toward the hangar, with an iron-tight grip on his arm.
"You’re either going to love this, or you’re going to kill me. According to Selek, this could really go either way," Kirk chattered, as the hangar grew closer. "Oh, there! Aw, this is a gorgeous piece of machine."
Spock allowed himself to be dragged to the captain’s new motorcycle. "I am, I think, going to kill you. You are quite clearly directly out of your mind."
"Come on, Spock. Your dad had one." Kirk pulled a jacket out of the saddlebag and a helmet off the back of the seat, passing both to Spock.
"I am not my father, nor am I Ambassador Selek. This is absurd." He rubbed his thumb against the coat. "And this is leather, isn’t it?"
"Don’t put the touch telepath in dead animals. I’m not stupid. It’s fake. So’s mine. It’ll keep the cold off you." Kirk shrugged into a similar, but heavily worn jacket, taking a pair of gloves from the pockets, and sliding them on. "You going to stand there, all night, or are we going to do this?"
"I want it noted that I do this under protest," Spock grumbled, pulling the jacket on, awkwardly.
In under a minute, they had mounted the bike, Spock’s protests about having to hold onto Kirk having been squelched through rational discourse. If he didn’t hold on, after all, he would fall off, and that would be even less pleasant. As the motor roared to life under them, Spock felt his body tense, and his arms tightened around Kirk’s chest, only to loosen again when Kirk elbowed him, and he realised the captain couldn’t breathe.
It felt reckless. Once again, Spock had put his life in the hands of a man who seemed to regard life with a level of respect generally reserved for pop cans. He understood the physics of why the motorcycle worked, and how Kirk’s method of driving it was actually viable, but that in no way altered the rush of ice-cold terror that flashed through him, every time the ground approached, on a sharp turn. It was terrifying, but the feared end never came. Kirk was in perfect control, for all that it appeared otherwise, and for that, Spock’s regard for him raised, subtly. It was the captain’s way, he realised, to always be underestimated — to appear reckless and daring, when he was actually applying a delicate and hard-learned skill. It was, he saw, that Kirk viewed his intelligence as a secret weapon, with which to make himself more popular. No one would notice it, under the daredevil act. In fact, that point had nearly escaped Spock.
He came back to the present when Kirk nudged him, to get his attention. He’d learned, over the last several miles, that that meant he should hold on. With a glance over his shoulder, Kirk shifted gears and swung the bike around, coming to a stop on the opposite side of the road, beside a wooden fence. Spock took a long moment to stop vibrating with terror, from that unexpected move, and when his fingers were, at last, capable of opening the snaps on his helmet strap, Kirk was already standing beside the bike, helmet off, looking up at the boughs of the tree that grew just on the other side of the fence.
"Black cherries. I’d almost forgotten this was here," Kirk muttered with an unmistakeable reverence, hopping onto a fence post, helmet still dangling from his fingers. Spock watched him contort, lithely, until he stood, perfectly balanced, on one foot, stretching up to pull down the cherry-laden branches. For a few minutes, the captain picked cherries, dropping them into his helmet. Finally, he returned to where Spock leaned against the motorcycle, watching him with faint amusement.
"These are the best food in all of Iowa. These cherries, right here, from this tree." Kirk said it as though it were a well-established fact, but Spock knew there was some personal bias attached to the statement.
He held up a hand, shaking his head, as Kirk held the helmet out to him. "Vulcans do not eat with their fingers, Captain."
"First of all, we’re off duty. I’m not the captain of anything, here. You can call me Jim." Kirk tossed a cherry into his mouth and spit out the pit, with a satisfied hum. "And second? You’re half human. It’s why you’re here. Humans eat lots of things with their fingers, cherries among them."
With a half-hearted glare, Spock carefully lifted a cherry by the stem, and placed the fruit into his mouth. As Kirk had done, before him, he spit the pit into the grass. It was an unsettling experience. He felt like a barbarian. But, the fruit was quite good, and he said so.
"See, I told you it was good." Kirk perched on the bike, using one leg to supplement the kickstand, and leaning his other heel against the frame. "Still going to kill me for getting a motorcycle instead of a car?"
Spock reached over and took another cherry, before answering. "Possibly. You do seem to have some deep seated desire to have me inflict pain on you."
"I do not. I just like reminding you that you’re human, too."
"Perhaps it is you who needs the reminder, Jim." Another cherry pit joined the growing pile. "You are neither indestructible, nor are you a fool. I fail to understand what could be worth pretending to be both of these things."
"Everyone needs a hero — something unreal, someone who makes no sense, but can do anything, and it doesn’t matter, because it’s canon. By the book, that’s what happened." A few more cherries disappeared. "I’m that hero, and you and I are the only ones who know I’m cheating."
"That must be a human need. Vulcans do not —"
"Bullshit. I call bullshit. I can speak six languages and hit pressure points on more things than I know how to talk to, but if there’s one thing I understand it’s the relationship between man and god, whatever species those two may be. You strive for unattainable ideals just as much as we do. Your heroes are different since the Enlightenment, but they’re still there. And even now, you hold with ways that should have died under Surak’s teaching, because they are vital to the survival of the species. You need something to believe in, some higher achievement to chase, or there is no progress. You need a hero to show you what you can become, if you try, even if it’s not actually possible." Kirk clapped a hand on Spock’s shoulder. "And you could do worse than Selek and Surak, I’m sure."
"Selek is an annoyance, not a hero," Spock protested.
"Then you need to open your eyes. He’s the only one like you, in all the world. He’s the only one who is truly your kind. And whatever it is, he’s been there and done that. And maybe he can’t tell you the answers, but that’s fine, because I don’t think you want the answers. But, he can tell you that there is no dishonour in being what you are. You’re not like me. You’re not like your dad. And I don’t think you’re like your mom, either, even though I never met her." Kirk gestured with an open hand, as if to smear the broad panorama of Iowa. "You are neither man nor fish, and yet you live among us."
"Cat. Not fish. If you must align Vulcan evolution with human evolution, you are looking for felines, not piscines," Spock corrected, with a raised eyebrow, reaching for another cherry.
"Feline? No wonder you get bitchy in water," Kirk laughed.
"I protest. I am not bitchy." Spock spat two more cherry pits. "That would be canine."
Kirk gaped, open-mouthed, for a lengthy moment, before he doubled over in gales of laughter. "You … you just … Sucks to anyone who says you don’t have a sense of humour."
"I would prefer that fact to be kept between us, Jim." Spock raised an eyebrow, gazing out at the beginnings of a blazing sunset, in the distance.
"It’s not like anyone would believe me, any more than they would believe you, if you told them I had a functional intellect. We all have our secrets." Kirk tossed another cherry into his mouth. "Come on and help me finish these, so we can get back on the road. We’ve got another hour, even if I dodge the city and its traffic."
Spock was quick to comply, belying an eagerness, to which he would never give voice. The remaining cherries vanished quickly, and they were ready to take to the road, before the sun had sunk much farther.
"My mother’s never met a Vulcan, but I warned her that you don’t eat meat. I promise, if you can’t eat her cooking, I’ll take you to this place I know, in town."
"Your concern for my well-being is duly noted," Spock commented, dropping the visor on his helmet, before Kirk started the bike, and they pulled out into the road.
Spock found the second hour of their journey relaxing. The setting sun lit everything they passed in a warm gold, and the rumble of the engine, beneath him, was soothing. He found himself trusting Kirk’s instincts, this time, leaving his eyes open to absorb the sights of rural Iowa. Everything was covered in plants, as far as the eye could see, which was odd. Even in San Francisco, which had been too wet for his taste, he knew he was only a few hundred kilometres from vast reaches of desert. It had been greener than Vulcan, but most things were. All the same, it had been nothing like this.
Kirk slowed down as farmland gave way to suburban structures. It dimmed Spock’s enjoyment, somewhat to have re-entered civilisation, but in a few minutes, suburbia gave way to a tree-lined road. This was like nothing he’d seen in person. He wanted to stop and touch the trees, to take the time to understand something to which his own lifespan was a flash in the pan. The fractal patterns that slid past, in green and brown, were a glorious re-introduction to a world he never thought he could appreciate.
Spock felt his centre of gravity shift, instinctively, as Kirk slowed to take the turn into his mother’s farm. They coasted to a halt on the other side of the steps from an old pickup truck, most likely from the 2210s, given the design. A woman about the age his own mother would have been rushed through the screen door letting it bang closed, behind her.
"Jimmy? Oh, Jimmy, you’re home! How was your trip?" She dashed down the stairs, still holding a damp dishtowel and wrapped her arms around Kirk, just as he got his helmet off, then stepped back to pat him on the cheek.
"Mom, wow, chill out. It’s not like you didn’t know I was coming." Kirk laughed, embarrassed, and rubbed the back of his head. "Mom, this is my first officer, Mr. Spock. He’s a Vulcan, so he’s only got one name. Spock, this is my mom, Winona Kirk. She’s retired ‘fleet. Kick your ass, if you do wrong in her house."
"James! The things you say!" Winona laughed, swatting her son with the dishtowel she carried.
"I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Mrs. Kirk." Spock bowed, gracefully, keeping his hands behind his back. "Second Lieutenant, Security, aboard the Kelvin, correct?"
"Yes. Yes, I was. I’m surprised you know that." Winona paled, slightly. "But, let’s not talk about the past. It’s good to meet you Spock. You can call me Winona.
"Let’s get you boys inside. I made some of that fried squash you always liked, Jim. I hope your friend, here is as fond of it as you always were."
Dinner passed easily, in conversation on innocuous events and vegetables. Spock told stories about his time at the Academy, but never a word about Vulcan. Jim talked about learning the business of being a starship captain, but never a word about how he got there. And Winona just talked about the farm and the neighbours. Finally, Spock said something that could be construed as humorous, and Winona reached out and squeezed the back of the hand he rested on the table. The colour drained out of his face, and the fork dropped from his other hand.
"Excuse me," he said, pushing his chair back, stiffly. "I will return, shortly."
Winona turned a baffled look to her son, as the Vulcan stepped out onto the porch. "Was it something I said?"
Jim lowered his voice. "No, mom. It’s something he didn’t say. Don’t worry about it. I’ll be right back, and he’ll be with me. Just give us a few minutes."
Spock heard the screen door close. "Why are you here, Captain? You are on Earth to enjoy your mother’s company. I am not suitable for public consumption."
Jim could hear the thickness in Spock’s voice. "I’m here because my thickheaded first officer is failing to keep his shit together, for a pretty good reason, if I’m right."
"There are no good reasons for a loss of control," Spock insisted, not loosening his white-knuckled grip on the porch railing.
"For just a second, she reminded you of your mom, didn’t she? There are some things that all human mothers have in common, and you just met one of them." Jim stepped up to the railing, leaning back against it, and not looking at Spock, at all.
"You don’t know what this is like, and the way you live, you never will. You’ll die long before your mother. You never have to worry about being left behind, do you?" The words poured out of Spock’s mouth, before he could stop them.
"Funny you should mention that. Tell me the day my father died. I know you know it. You knew my mother was a Second Lieutenant aboard the Kelvin." Jim’s voice was low and cold.
"March twenty-second, twenty-two thirty-three." The answer came back flat, and without comprehension.
"Tell me the day I was born."
"March tw—" Spock stopped, finally looking at Jim. "I apologise. I was not thinking clearly, but I did warn you I was unsuitable for public consumption."
"I’m not the public, Spock. Sometimes, I like to tell myself I’m your friend."
For a moment, Spock looked like he was going to contradict that proposition. Instead, his eyebrow lifted and his ears laid back in wry amusement. "You are the closest thing I have to a friend. In fact, it might be fair to say that for as much as you irritate me, you are my only friend."
"What about Uhura? You’re … whatever-it-is-you-guys-do-ing her. That has to count for something," Jim protested, unwilling to believe that his ultimately rational first officer was in it for the cheap fling.
"She is very intelligent, as are you and I, but the affair lacks a certain resonance. You may push my limits, Jim, but you know where they are. She has still not adjusted to the fact that I was raised Vulcan, and some things are culturally inappropriate. Or more to the point, she has focused on the wrong things." Spock breathed sharply and deeply, finally prying his fingers from the railing, slowly. "I am not what she truly wants, nor what she expects. I thought I had done well with her, because no Vulcan female would ever take me seriously. I shamed my family with my choices. But, you make me wonder if there is not something more to hope for, even among our kind, as opposed to my kind."
"She is kind of bitchy. Arrogant, too. But, she’s hot and she’s crazy about you." Jim hopped up to sit on the rail, beside Spock’s hands. "But, at the same time, you’re also right. You can do better. Even among our kind."
They remained in silence, a long while, staring at the stars. Spock reflected that in all the years he’d been alive, no one had ever treated him as both a decent human and a decent Vulcan. He had always been that broken Vulcan. The one that wasn’t quite right. But, Jim regarded him as ‘good enough’ for either, not that he really had the context to make that judgement from the Vulcan perspective, but even to be regarded as a reasonable facsimile of a human, by a member of that species he could respect, was vindicating, somehow. He wasn’t half of something good, he was two parts of a divergent evolutionary scheme, rejoined. A hint of a smile touched the corner of his lips as he considered it.
But, one thing still bothered him. "You defended my relationship with Nyota, despite your desire to copulate with her. This is … a peculiar choice."
"Not really…" Jim looked down at Spock, bemused. "She’s yours to keep. I don’t keep girls. I just … you know, borrow them. I enjoy them, but I don’t want to keep them. You have, you know, a thing, there. I’m not going to stick my foot in it, just to get a chance to stick something else somewhere entertaining, for a night. And she wouldn’t have me, anyway."
"That is not entirely true. She wouldn’t have you, because she had me, at the time — something she would have told you, had you not gotten punched in the face, at that moment." Spock’s eyes belied his amusement. "You are, as I understand it, a rather handsome example of the human species."
"Why thank you, Spock! I didn’t know you’d been looking." The rest of the words sank in slowly. "She told you? She went home, that night, and told you? This is exactly why I defended it. She knew you would find that amusing, instead of threatening."
"I … did find it threatening." Spock looked away. "You are human, after all. And then, when I found out you’d come to the Academy, I hated you more. It is entirely illogical, but I could not make it stop. You violated my sense of the world. You upended what I believed was good and right. And then you cheated on my test."
Jim grinned, broadly. "I didn’t cheat, I changed the rules. I’m good at that."
"Yes, you are. I only wish I had known that, sooner. You had to fight me to save your world, and if we had listened to you, sooner, my world might still be intact, as well. My homeworld was annihilated, because I was too proud to listen." One of Spock’s hands tightened around the railing again. "It is a terrible price to pay for arrogance, but one I am not likely to forget."
Jim coughed. "Not to break up the pity party, before lights out, but you’re forgetting that you were not the captain of that ship. It was not up to you. And more than that, if we had arrived sooner, we would have been just as dead as everyone else — not that that was my doing. If we had acted sooner, there’s no guarantee it would have been soon enough. We were too late, and we tried just the same. We couldn’t have been early enough, because he’d been waiting since the day he killed my father. And, still, we managed half a win, even there."
"Half a win? Vulcan imploded."
"Sure it did. But, you got the council off the planet. And that was all you and Chekov." Jim looked down, smile fading. "And now, we’re back to where we started. Your mother."
"No, now we’re back even further. Your mother." Spock stepped back from the railing and turned toward the door. "Come, let us finish dinner. I do not wish your mother to believe I do not like her cooking. It is quite good."
Jim laughed and jumped down, to follow. "You should tell her that, yourself! She’d love to know she did right."
"I shall." Spock stopped, holding the screen door open. "I think that Selek may have been correct. You are an unpredictable man, and I should be pleased to call you my friend."