The Loneliness of Command
by Gamin Davis
TOS K&S, angst, hurt/comfort [G]
Missing Scenes from "The Galileo Seven" in which Spock, while
recovering from his leg injury, tries--with Kirk's help--to deal with his
feelings of shame over losing the lives of two men on the Murasaki 312
mission, his first away mission command.
DISCLAIMER: For lo, the Deity Paramount doth own these characters; I do but
frolic briefly with them in their playground.
As soon as Spock had beamed back aboard the Enterprise with
remaining members of his scientific team from the rapidly-disintegrating
shuttle orbiting Taurus II, McCoy immediately ordered the Vulcan to Sickbay
to have his ankle treated, telling the others that he would also want to
examine them after they'd had a chance to clean up and get some rest.
Spock, his mood unusually subdued (even for him), acquiesced without
comment, but insisted on hobbling through the corridors on his own,
refusing McCoy's offer of assistance.
And McCoy, reduced to watching anxiously, was
relieved when they
finally arrived; he knew the ankle was hurting Spock--had known it back in
the shuttle, though Spock had, as usual, managed to suppress the pain--and
he had a growing fear that the bull-headed First Officer was now
aggravating a probable crushed ankle.
He quickly directed Spock to an examination table
and went back to his
office to contact the Bridge, knowing that Kirk would want to know if any
of them had been injured. As McCoy had expected, when Kirk discovered
Spock was the only apparent (surviving) injury, he inisted on coming down
to Sickbay personally to see what had happened. By the time Kirk had
arrived, McCoy had finished his examination and told Spock to stay where
was while he went to his office to talk to Kirk.
"How is he?" Kirk asked, as soon as McCoy
stepped through the office
"He'll need to stay off his feet for at least
the next day or so. His
ankle is pretty badly fractured--swollen, bruised...it looks worse than it
is, and it was almost crushed, along with most of his lower leg," McCoy
"How did it happen?" Kirk asked anxiously.
"A giant boulder was thrown at him. It
landed on his leg."
"The big, hairy anthropoids our reconnaisance
team reported," Kirk
McCoy nodded. "It could've been a lot worse--for
all of us," he
asserted quietly. "Anyway, I don't want him walking on it until it's
chance to heal. He should be confined to his quarters until then."
"All right, I'll see to it." Kirk studied
McCoy hesitantly. "I
understand you're missing two men. What happened to them?"
"That's one thing I want to talk to you about
before you see Spock,"
McCoy told him, slowly and carefully. "When you take his report, try
to be too hard on him. He was...trying to command the only way he knew
how, I suppose...by being overly Vulcan. It backfired on him, but we
weren't much help, either--and that includes me. Boma should be on
report..." He went on to summarize the difficulties of Spock's first
command assignment. "He's already feeling guilty about it. I'm
that you can spend some time with him while he's recovering and talk to him
about it--he needs to talk to you. You're his Captain and his best
he thinks he's let you down."
Kirk nodded understandingly. "I'll do the
best I can, Bones," he
promised. "Can I see him, now?"
"Sure. And go with him--he's going to need
help getting back to his
cabin, and I'm pretty sure he won't accept it from anyone else."
McCoy followed Kirk into the examination room
and over to the table
where Spock was still sitting. By now, his right boot and sock had
removed, and Christine Chapel was in the process of bandaging his obviously
swollen ankle and lower leg; Spock was focused on her efforts, clearly in
no hurry to go anywhere. At length, he became aware of Kirk's and McCoy's
presence and looked up briefly, quickly lowering his eyes again as he
caught sight of Kirk.
"There--all finished," Christine announced finally.
Kirk came closer as she carefully slipped Spock's
sock back on over
"His ankle was so swollen, I thought we were
going to have to cut his
boot off," she told Kirk, with forced casualness, as she moved out of the
"I've set the fractures. How fast they
heal will be largely dependent
on how successful you are in getting him to stay in bed," McCoy put in
Kirk nodded to each of them in turn in acknowledgement,
eyes on Spock. "McCoy told me what happened, Spock. You have
to stay off
your ankle for a couple of days," he ventured cautiously.
Spock slowly picked up his boot in one hand,
still unable to meet
Kirk's eyes as he nodded in response, still remaining silent.
"And I want you to let Jim help you back to your
cabin--no argument on
that, and none of that Vulcan do-not-touch-me stuff, either; this is a
medical order," McCoy admonished firmly. "I want *no pressure* on that
foot. Is that clear?"
Spock nodded again, still not speaking.
He fairly radiated shame--not
for the injury that had left him so physically dependent, but for the way
he had failed so miserably to justify his Captain's trust in him.
Kirk and McCoy communicated silently for a moment,
then McCoy and
Christine left the room to give them some privacy. Once they were gone,
Kirk came close enough to be within easy reach, standing immediately next
to the Vulcan. "I can have the corridors cleared between here and your
quarters, if you like," he offered, watching Spock uncertainly.
"That will not be necessary," Spock replied stiffly.
"Come on, then..." Kirk offered an arm to him
as Spock swung his
injured leg off the table. He grabbed onto Kirk's arm as he slid
cautiously off the table, down onto his good leg, leaning against his
Captain's arm as it quickly slipped around his shoulders. Spock waited
a moment to accustom himself to the physical contact, reinforcing his
mental shields against any shame or disapproval that might filter into him
through Kirk's touch, then slowly tightened his own arm around his friend's
back and let the Human help him across the examination room to the door.
Spock ignored the occasional passers-by in the
corridors, for once not
caring that he might be an object of pity; he had already shamed himself
far more than this would. He focused his full attention instead on
touch and their joint efforts to get him to his cabin without him putting
weight on his right foot, slipping and falling. Kirk, however, never
go of him, managing to guide him safely all the way to his cabin, despite
the slowness of their progress.
Once there, Kirk guided the Vulcan into his bed
chamber and helped him
sit down on his bed. "I'd like to stay for a while, if you don't mind,"
stated then, remembering his promise to McCoy to discuss Spock's mission
with the latter.
"As a matter of fact, Captain, I had intended
to ask you...if you
could remain for a time...I do wish to speak to you," Spock admitted
"Good." Kirk sat down next to him on the
edge of the bed.
"You may wish to alter the temperature--I kow
the heat to which I am
accustomed would quickly become uncomfortable for you," Spock suggested.
Kirk did not come to his quarters often, for just that reason, and Spock
had resolved to try to make him feel more welcome when he was here.
Human was his friend as well as his Captain, and Spock had concluded that
he was willing to endure the lower temperature if it would make Kirk more
willing to come to a setting in which his First Officer was at least
*physically* comfortable when he insisted on their discussing something
that he found personally difficult.
"Are you sure?" Kirk asked uncertainly,
getting up slowly.
Spock nodded. "I am not certain just how
long this may take."
Kirk went into the study and adjusted the cabin's
controls accordingly before coming back to resume his previous place,
sitting beside the Vulcan on his bed. "All right, I'm here, now.
"I am not certain...where to begin," Spock confessed
trying to gather his thoughts.
"Then *I* will," Kirk offered, noting worriedly
that his friend was
still avoiding his gaze. "McCoy's report was fairly detailed.
shuttle was pulled off course and you lost contact with the ship, then you
managed to land on Taurus II. I know about the big ape-creatures, too--we
sent a rescue-and-recon party down as soon as the transporters were
functional; they didn't find you, but they found those creatures all over
the place. Is that how Latimer and Gaetano were killed?"
Spock nodded slowly. "If you had not managed
to beam us up when you
did, we would *all* have died. Fm the moment we lost contact with you,
everything...went wrong. I made what I thought were the best and most
logical decisions possible...only to find out that each and every one was
wrong," he revealed softly, his voice full of pain. "Two men died because
I was incapable of comprehending the reactions of the creatures indigenous
to the planet--reactions based on emotion, not logic, as Dr. McCoy tried
He drew the knee of his good leg up under his
chin, resting his arm on
his knee. "I could not even maintain the respect of my crew...they
constantly challenged me. In retrospect, I cannot blame them; had I
in their place, burdened with such an incompetent senior officer as
myself...why Mr. Scott did not relieve me of command, I do not know.."
"Spock," Kirk interrupted anxiously, reaching
to take his First
Officer by the shoulders. "Look at me."
Spock shook his head in refusal. "I...I
dare not. I failed you. I
do not wish to see your...anger and disappointment," he responded, his
voice full of controlled but apparent apprehension.
"Do it. *Now*," Kirk repeated firmly, making
it an order.
Spock lifted his head hesitantly. Once
eye-to-eye with Kirk, he
searched his Captain's eyes and face for any sign of disapproval; what he
found there was mostly concern.
"This was your first command, Spock. You'll
learn from your
mistakes," Kirk assured him.
"I do not even understand what my 'mistakes'
were," Spock countered
doubtfully. "I had thought that logic would be a most efficient basis
which to form command decisions--surely far better than the Human
'intuition' you use so freely. I do not...possess that capacity, anyway,
so it seemed to me that I had no choice."
"But you *do* have it--in your Human half.
*That* was your mistake;
you're going to have to learn to *use* that part of you if you're ever
going to be an effective commander--especially of a Human crew," Kirk
explained patiently. "Don't let your Vulcan half isolate you from them."
"But I have always lived as a Vulcan. How
can I be anything else?"
Spock asked, almost plaintively.
"The point is that you *can*. You'll learn
how," Kirk reiterated,
squeezing his friend's shoulders as he looked into the unusually large,
They were lowered abruptly as Spock's shame again
"When we first landed, I told McCoy that I neither enjoyed nor feared the
prospect of command," he recalled faintly. "Now...despite the illogic,
wish with all my being that I might never command another mission."
"That'll change, with time and experience."
Spock looked up at him again sharply, but the
expression in his eyes
was one of entreaty. "Will it, Jim?" he questioned. "You
say I will
learn. Two men died this time. How many *more* lives are you
risk in the attempt to make a commander out of one who has no such
aptitude? I accept limited shipboard command duties as part of my position
as your First Officer, but I am not you; I was never meant to
command...especially not outside missions."
"I think it's a little soon to be jumping to
that conclusion, Spock,"
Kirk advised quietly. "And for God's sake, don't assume you'll lose
every time you command. *I* don't; I trust you."
"Perhaps, in this, you trust me too much," Spock
proposed, still not
Kirk released the other's shoulders finally.
"Listen, if it helps
any...it's not uncommmon to lose people on your first command."
Spock regarded him uncertainly. "That sounds
like something you might
say to...I believe the term is, 'cheer me up'," he observed.
"It is. It also happens to be the truth."
Spock studied him in silence for a time, his
head cocked sideways,
still suspicious. He had never known Jim to consciously lie to him--
*except* when he was trying to give encouragement or protect his Vulcan
friend's "feelings". "Did *you*...lose anyone...on your first command?"
he questioned challengingly.
"As a matter of fact, yes," Kirk recalled slowly.
"I hadn't been out
of the Academy that long--I was on the Farragut and had just made
Lieutenant. I was asked to lead a first-contact team exploring the
--the Captain and another team woulf be following us down later. We
into this dragon-like creature that turned out to be telepathic--it could
anticipate our thoughts and actions and was definitely bent on our
destruction. But by the time I reallized that and figured out what
about it, eleven people were dead. So, you see, you *didn't* do so
Kirk's voice had taken on that all-too-familiar
tone of self-
recrimination that it adopted whenever he became too conscious of being
responsible for someone's death; Spock's instincts were to inquire further,
but something about Kirk's manner seemed to forbid it. "Still, you
that...command instinct. I do not," Spock pointed out, instead.
"Maybe not, but at least give yourself the chance
to get some more
command experience." Kirk watched him in sudden puzzlement as the Vulcan
lowered his leg finally, shifting his position. "I suppose it does
explain why you were never given a mission command before. I never
understood that, until now."
Spock lowered his eyes once more. "I apparently
arrived on the
Enterprise with an addendum attached to my service record--"
"Yes, I read it--very vague. Something
about you not being
recommended for command except in certain controlled circumstances because
of some 'inability to inspire trust in those you lead'," Kirk interrupted
"Captain Pike took it literally, and since he
had several officers
senior to me, there was no reason for me to command when I did not offer
do so," Spock elaborated ruefully. "Whenever I was on a planet-side
mission, he was with me."
"Well, you're not a junior officer, now.
You're my senior Science
Officer and second-in-command, and this was a scientific mission; it was--
and is--time for you to start commanding, Commander," Kirk admonished, his
voice chiding but affectionate.
"I remind you that I am not yet a full Commander,"
Kirk nodded. It was a battle he was still in
the process of fighting
with Starfleet Command; he had recommended the Vulcan for promotion and won
him the right to at least wear the stripes of a full Commander, but--for
reasons that Kirk suspected had to do with the very command difficulties
they were discussing--Starfleet seemed unconvinced enough of Spock's merits
to have left him listed on all official and pay records as Lieutenant
Commander. Kirk would *go on* fighting the bureaucracy war, too, until
Spock received official acknowledgement of the rank his Captain believed
"I know I am ranking Science Officer," Spock
"but at the moment, placing me in command of *anything* hardly seems
desirable or logical. Or wise." He was clearly still disconsolate.
Kirk sighed, uncertain what more he could say
to his friend without
repeating himself. Clearly, Spock needed time to consider what the
had already said, and Kirk needed time to come up with something else in
the way of reassurance for him. Reprimanding him was unnecessary, since
was painfully obvious that the Vulcan already fully understood the
seriousness of losing lives under his command and was punishing *himself*
far more than any form of discipline Kirk would have considered for him.
What he needed to do was keep Spock's self-confidence--never
regarding his command abilities, despite his usually impenetrable facade
control--from bottoming out so badly that Spock really *would* be afraid
ever command again. "It's getting late--I want you to get some rest,
Think about what I've told you, and I'll be back to check on you tomorrow,"
he told Spock finally, getting up. "Is there anything else I can do
for you? Remember, you're supposed to stay off that foot."
"You might turn the temperature back up," Spock
"Right. Anything else?" Kirk asked,
heading for Spock's study.
"No, thank you, Captain."
Kirk glanced back at him one last time, still
worried. All right, but
if you need anything, you call me. Understood?"
Spock nodded silently in response.
Kirk made the requested temperature adjustment
on the life support
controls as he departed, leaving Spock to contemplate the situation alone.
Spock found himself unable to fall asleep until
the wee hours of the
morning--and when he did, his sleep was disturbed by noghtmare images of
his Galileo 7 crew shouting at him, attacking him with the same spears
thrown by the creatures that had killed Latimer and Gaetano. The images
repeated every time he tried to go back to sleep, and he always awoke
shaking and on the verge of tears.
To make matters worse, Kirk was not able to come
"check on him" until
around 1400, forcing the Vulcan to deal with it with only his own Vulcan
background and training--which had never taught him too many ways to
overcome nightmares, since true Vulcans weren't supposed to have them--to
rely on; Spock, in the mean time, tried his best to comply with McCoy's
instructions, getting up only occasionally to hobble his way to the
bathroom, holding onto various pieces of furniture, shelves and bulkhead
sections as he went. His ankle was still sufficiently swollen that
not yet want to test it by putting his weight on it.
He was trying vainly to play his Vulcan harp,
unable to concentrate
well enough even for that, when his door buzzer sounded. "Come," Spock
responded, his voice edged with frustration as he set the harp aside.
Kirk entered the bed chamber cautiously.
"Sorry I couldn't come any
sooner--Ferris has been on my back all day," he apologized sincerely.
"You mean *Commissioner* Ferris?" Spock
questioned. He had almost
forgotten that Ferris had been aboard since before the mission began, to
oversee the transport of the medical supplies that the Enterprise was
finally on course to deliver to Makus III.
Kirk nodded. "I didn't make him too happy
by sticking around Murasaki
312 to search for you."
"Oh. I had wondered how you managed to
"--your distress signal?" Kirk finished
knowingly, striving to soothe
his friend's embarrassment. "I stalled as long as I could. When
finally ordered me to start for Makus III, I had us get underway on impulse
instead of warp drive."
"I see." Spock nodded approvingly and appreciatively.
"How are you feeling, Spock? How's the
ankle?" Kirk asked then,
noting how swollen it still appeared.
"Still somewhat sore," Spock replied evasively.
"And how are you--otherwise?" Kirk inquired
again, coming to his
Spock sighed, remaining silent for a time, reluctant
to discuss his
nightmare with Kirk because he was uncertain of how the latter would react.
"I...did not sleep well," he admitted hesitantly, at last. "I
kept...seeing my shuttle crew...angry with me, attacking me with spears..."
Kirk sat down quickly beside him. "Spock--"
"They...they hated me, Jim. I did everything
wrong, and they hated
me," Spock told him painfully, his voice hushed. "I...felt the emotion
"No, Spock..." Not knowing what else to do, Kirk
reached out, opening
his arms to his Vulcan friend.
Spock reached out to touch Kirk's arms apprehensively,
needed to find out if his Captain's emotions toward him had changed any,
but inwardly afraid that Kirk, too, was really angry with him for the
ineptitude that had cost the lives of two men. He rubbed Kirk's forearms
hesitantly for a moment longer as his Human need for reassurance warred
with his Vulcan training to avoid physical contact--then clasped them in
final desperation, letting Kirk draw him close. Spock still was not
accustomed to being held every time he was in some kind of emotional pain,
as Kirk seemed occasionally unable to resist holding him, since it was the
custom of Vulcans to seek emotional control from within themselves--but
since the nightmare, he had gradually come to realize that this was, at the
moment, exactly what he needed.
"Nobody hates you," Kirk was telling him soothingly.
"In this case,
they were out of line. I've already logged a reprimand for Boma, and
have a talk with the others later." He began to rub Spock's back as
Vulcan lowered his head onto Kirk's shoulder.
"What about *you*, Jim? Are you angry with
me, too?" Spock asked,
failing to suppress his anxiety as he cautiously lowered his mental shields
and awaited Kirk's answer.
"Not angry. Disappointed, maybe--after
all, I always thought you were
infallible." Kirk immediately stopped the gentle teasing when he felt
friend's muscles tense instinctively in renewed shame. "It's all right,
Spock...you're still my best officer. I'd still trust you with my life."
This was just what Spock had needed to hear,
and he instantly relaxed
in Kirk's arms as the emotions behind the Human's words filtered into him
through his shields--compassion, affection, and trust. "I did not...fail
"No, my friend. It's all right to make
a mistake--even one as big as
this--if you learn from it," Kirk assured him kindly, carefully rubbing
Spock's back again. "Unfortunately, you've just had a hard lesson in
a lonely thing command can be."
Spock's voice as he responded was husky with
more emotions that he
could no longer fully suppress: "I experience enough of that emotion
without it being compounded by command duties."
"I can't argue with that," Kirk concurred quietly.
"But there *are*
ways of coping with that loneliness, and of getting your crew to believe
and support you. If you'll just let me, Spock, I can teach you how."
Spock considered this for a long time.
When he finally answered, it
was only with great difficulty that he did so. "Could you also teach
me...to draw upon my Human half in the manner you suggested?"
"That would certainly help you with the rest
of it. If you're sure
you want to learn."
"Ever since our Psi 2000 mission. I *have* wished
I could...let myself
feel and express...*some* emotion...without shame," Spock admitted softly.
"I have not told you this because it is...so difficult. It may be
Kirk knew Spock was thinking of his virus-induced
revelation that he
was ashamed of their friendship, for he had been trying ever since to live
down both the truth of the revelation and the fact that his Human Captain
now knew about it. "I think, Spock, that you're going to have to overcome
the shame on your own," Kirk remarked carefully, having been none to
pleased, himself (if also not surprised) by Spock's revelation. "But
promise I'll do my best to help you. Just don't be afraid to ask me
"Thank you," Spock murmured sincerely.
"I wish *I* could promise
success...but I am a Vulcan, and a lifetime of training in suppressing my
Human half will be difficult to overcome. It...always has."
"I know." Kirk was surprised that his Vulcan
friend had made no move
to withdraw from him, but he also suspected he knew why. This first
command experience had left Spock mentally and emotionally exhausted, and
he had not been able to sleep last night--doubtless adding physical fatigue
to the rest, despite Spock's usually more resilient Vulcan stamina.
tired?" he guessed.
He felt Spock stiffen just perceptibly in his
"It's all right," Kirk assured him gently, reading his thoughts.
don't have to move if you don't want to."
The tension remaining in Spock's muscles clearly
indicated that he
remained unconvinced that it would be permissible. "You would...let
stay here...like this?" he questioned warily, still unaccustomed to
"As long as you want," Kirk reiterated, in the
same gentle tone as
"I should not. I should lie down," Spock
chided himself, trying to
put himself into a state of proper Vulcan disapproval. "A Vulcan should
not permit...such extended physical contact..."
"Even if the one he's in physical contact with
"You do seem determined to act as...devil's advocate.
That *is* the
appropriate phrase, is it not?"
"Yes." Kirk almost laughed as he thought
what McCoy would do with an
opening like that.
"Very well. I...I could sleep, Jim, if...you
are truly willing to
permit it," Spock confessed finally, slipping his arms, one after the
other, awkwardly around his Captain--his first attempt to respond to Kirk's
"That's fine, Spock...just rest, now."
They fell silent as Spock closed his eyes and
concentrated on what he
could feel of Kirk's emotions, rather than his own persistent
embarrassment. //It is not illogical, nor is it an invasion of his
privacy,// he told himself firmly. //Not when Jim gave me permission.
emotions for me are so strong...but shame is not among them.// At the
moment, even with his mental shields fully lowered--something he would
never have dared to do in anyone else's presence--all he could perceive
within Kirk was deep affection and concern. He should have been
uncomfortable with his awareness of these intense emotions, but instead,
Spock found that it relaxed him and helped him reflect on his ill-fated
Murasaki 312 mission.
Now that Jim had offered to help him--and it
had never before occurred
to Spock to *seek* his help, so confident had he been in his own Vulcan
logic--perhaps he could at least learn to command competently. He would
never achieve the same excellence in that area as Kirk, but at least he
could make himself worthy of the trust he now knew that Kirk still held for
Suddenly, Kirk spoke again. "Are you still
"Yes," Spock sighed softly.
"Is it my imagination, or is it cooler in here
"I had...been expecting you since this morning,
so I...turned the
temperature down for you when I last awoke," Spock admitted hesitantly.
"Ah--*that's* why you didn't object to my holding
you. You're cold,"
Kirk concluded humorously.
This time, Spock accepted his friend's playful
teasing. "I am--I was-
-a little cold," he replied awkwardly. "But you...offered...and I do
the physical contact...pleasant."
"You're comfortable, then?"
"Yes. I am not certain why, but...yes."
Abruptly, Spock thought
again of the useless deaths of Latimer and Gaetano--and shamed tears burned
behind his eyes, threatening what remained of his normal emotional
controls. "Jim," he managed to say, then.
"The families of Latimer and Gaetano will have
to be notified. I am
not certain...what to say to them...and I would appreciate your
"You'll have it," Kirk assured him understandingly.
"I know it's
hard--about the nastiest command duty there is."
Spock was silent. He felt his eyes filling
with tears he could no
longer suppress--both for the dead men and for the the ineptitude and
arrogance that had led to their deaths--and he buried his face against
Kirk's neck. "I am sorry. They never should have died," he whispered,
"Shh," Kirk soothed, instinctively moving a hand
to rest on the dark
head, beginning to stroke the ebony-silk hair as he sensed the Vulcan's
increased distress (though he had no idea Spock was crying because there
was no audible evidence of it). "No one who respects life as much as
do could really be a bad commander--especially if you can grieve for lost
crewmen," he told Spock kindly. "After all, that last little trick
yours of jettisoning and igniting the shuttle's fuel *saved* the majority
of your crew. You'll do all right, my friend, even though I know all
really want to be is my Science Officer; I'll help you as much as I can--
always. For now, just sleep...sleep..."
Eventually, Spock did sleep, lulled into it by
Kirk's soothing voice
and touch; Kirk sat with his Vulcan friend partially curled up asleep in
his arms all afternoon and well into the night. By the time Spock awoke,
he was ready to let Kirk help him test out his ankle. It proved to
be difficult for him to walk on, so Kirk went to the nearest Rec Room and
brought them both back some food--which he insisted that Spock eat--before
finally feeling confident enough in the Vulcan's mental and physical
condition to leave him alone for the night. He went to see McCoy before
retiring, giving the Doctor a rough outline of how his talk with Spock had
Two days later, Lieutenant Boma was confined
to quarters when not on
duty, Kirk had essentially read the riot act to the rest of the Galileo 7
crew, and Spock was ready to face the Bridge crew with only a slight limp.
By that time, despite the First Officer's original expectations, it was
obvious to those who knew them best that his relationship with Kirk had
again grown a shade deeper.
END OF STORY
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