spock: logic is sexy

Fic: Reality Bites (Kirk - gen)

Title: Reality Bites
Author/Artist: igrockspock
Pairing(s): Kirk & Spock (friendship)
Rating: PG
Summary: The fifth time the Enterprise slips into an alternate reality, Captain Kirk wants to stay
A/N: Written after I watched 3 episodes of TNG in one week where the crew gets sucked into an alternate time line.

The fifth time the Enterprise emerges from a mysterious subspace phenomenon to find the pattern of the stars faintly but visibly altered, Jim Kirk already knows what's happened. It's another alternate universe, and the thought makes him want to throw up in his mouth a little. Every universe teaches them the exact same lesson: that the mistakes they've made and the tragedies they've suffered cannot be undone without erasing the qualities which make them great, and which also make their universe a better -- if sometimes harder -- place to live. At first, it was a beautiful lesson for his still-grieving crew, but dammit if they haven't all learned it by heart already, and he'd rather not have it pounded into his head again.

When he shares his disgust with his senior officers in the mess hall, Sulu grins and Uhura frowns and Bones rolls his eyes and he knows what they're all thinking: five years of command and he still hasn't lost his wild streak, still can't be relieved when they get into a mess they know how to get themselves out of. It's not that, though he doubts he'll tell any of them the truth -- that these mirror universes are just too damn tempting. Every time they slip into one, he wonders if it's The One. The One where Vulcan never got sucked into a black hole. The One where he grew up with a father who lived to see him take command of the Enterprise. Leaving these alternate universes is never hard, armed as they are with the certainty that their suffering is somehow necessary for greatness, but Jim wonders if he'd ever find the strength to leave a world where his father had lived. Especially if it were The One where his father lived and he still somehow became great. At first, knowing that a world existed where he had lived a happy and idyllic childhood had been a balm, but now that they slide into these alternate universes so often, it's a dull ache that fades and flares with each new voyage. He alone among the crew knows that he didn't have to suffer -- or make other people suffer -- to become great; he could have been happy and great all along.

Once, in a moment of weakness over a glass of bourbon, he'd asked Bones if he would have hurt his mother so badly if his father had still been alive.

"Everyone's an asshole when they're 16. Doesn't matter how many parents they've got," he'd said. "Face it, Jim, you were destined to be the arrogant prick who makes mothers weep and fathers lock up their daughters."

Jim knew he was supposed to have laughed, but his one-sided smile must have come out looking as fake as it felt because then Bones had gotten all quiet and added, "The important thing is that you've changed. Your mom's proud of you, and your dad would've been too."

They haven't been in this reality for long before they discover that Vulcan still exists. Or rather, he discovers it. By unspoken agreement, the crew never investigates these things, so he does it himself on the night shift when all the ensigns are too terrified to tell Lt. Uhura that he's violated her station. He spends the rest of the night hailing passing starships and freighters to make sure no one is sporting goatees or handlebar mustaches or any of the other classic signs of evil, and then, at the earliest decent hour, he summons Spock to his ready room.

"Vulcan's here, Spock!" he exclaims.

Spock remains silent, forcing him to be explicit.

"Vulcan's here, and I'll take you back, and you can stay." Even he can feel the manic intensity radiating from his eyes. "I've already calculated. We're only 2 days away if Scotty gets us up to warp 8, and you know he can. What do you say?"

"Would you give all of us that choice, Jim?" Spock asks. "Would you seek out every crew member who lost a friend, a brother, a husband in the Battle of Vulcan and give them the opportunity to stay here and live another life?"

Jim stays silent because Spock already knows the answer: it hadn't occurred to him to find out about anyone else, just his best friend. If this universe doesn't give him his father back, he wants someone else, someone he loves, to have a chance to escape their personal tragedy.

"You know I cannot remain here, Jim," Spock continues after a long pause. "In our world, I am a member of an endangered species. I cannot neglect my duty to help rebuild it. I am needed there, but the 6 billion Vulcans here have no use for another one of me."

He wants to convince Spock to stay, to tell him that no one deserves to live with the pain of seeing their planet annihilated. He wants to make him understand that sometimes it's okay to choose things that are illogical and selfish. Instead, he murmurs dully, "the needs of the many..."

"Yes, Jim, the needs of the many," Spock echoes more firmly, looking him straight in the eye.

Jim feels a little stupid after that. Nobody else would voice it in that uniquely Vulcan way, but they are all living for the needs of the many. They dedicate their lives fallen comrades and vanished planets, and none of them will surrender that just to live an easier life.

Alone in his quarters, he thinks about all the things Spock did not say. That maybe Jim doesn't have a father, but he is a father to this whole crew, so he'd better quit crying into his beer and captain this ship right. Well, actually, Bones would have said that. Spock would have said that everyone on this ship has a duty to their reality, where Starfleet is stretched so thin that enduring the loss of the Enterprise, or even just her senior officers, could endanger the fragile safety of the Federation. He doesn't need Vulcan aphorisms to tell him that none of their happiness is worth that.

What Spock wouldn't know to say is that this is Jim's real no-win scenario. Losing his father didn't excuse any of his years of drunken self-destruction, years that left lines on his mother's face and her two marriages in ruins. He'd had choices, but he'd chosen badly. Living in a universe where he'd been one of the good guys all along won't erase what he did to his mother in their reality.

What Spock never would have said, but probably should have, is how wrong it was to taunt his best friend with a choice between doing the right thing and reclaiming the home planet whose destruction he had been forced to witness. Maybe that's the real difference between their home reality and this one: this place makes Jim selfish and immature.

Back on the bridge, he surreptitiously cancels the subspace transmission that would have told him if his father is still alive here.

Chekov's gotten them out of so many alternate universes by now that doing the equations takes him less than 6 hours. Then they're back at home, celebrating their 724th escape from potential disaster. This time, though, Jim's not really in the mood for celebrations. He's not the one who saved them from this mess; if not for Spock's logic, they might have been warping toward an alternate Earth right now. They play 3-D chess in his quarters instead. He's got things he needs to say.

"Hey, Spock," he starts, and earns a quizzically raised eyebrow. It's the exact tone he uses when he tries to finagle some information about what Uhura's like in bed, and for a moment, he's tempted to let their conversation follow it's familiar teasing track. But he presses on: "Thank you for not putting, you know, the whole Vulcan smack-down on me. I never should have suggested that you stay behind."

Spock stays silent for awhile. Jim imagines his response -- something about how 'smacking down' is not in the nature of Vulcans, and thanks are unnecessary because logic does not demand gratitude.

Instead, Spock says simply, "It was unnecessary. I knew you would come to the right decision, Jim."

Their game lapses back into silence. Spock's face is as impenetrable as ever. Jim thinks that this is the first time they have come home to a reality worse than the one they left behind, and that doing his duty has never felt more painful and less heroic.

"This is never going to stop hurting, is it?" he asks.

He knows the answer before Spock says it: "No, Jim, it will not."
Oh, this left my heart all achy. (Though I giggled at the mention of evil beards and mustaches.) Oh, Jim. Oh, Spock.
Thank you! This is my first foray into writing Kirk, and I did it after I watched the infamous episode about the mirror universe where Spock is evil and has a goatee, hence the mention of the evil beards. I'm glad you found it emotionally affecting.
Yay! This was my first foray into writing Kirk, and I agonized over the characterization. I'm glad it worked!
Very well done! This line had me cracking up: He spends the rest of the night hailing passing starships and freighters to make sure no one is sporting goatees or handlebar mustaches or any of the other classic signs of evil. Hah! Good comic relief.
Heh. I wrote this after watching the TOS episode about the mirror universe, where of course evil Spock sports a goatee. I'm glad the bit of humor was effective.
Oh gods, this was painful. O_O Perfectly bittersweet. Poor Jim. I do love the friendship they have here, though. That's exactly how I see it with them.

And I admit I cackled at the line about goatees and handlebar mustaches. XD
Oh, wonderful! That scooped out my insides a bit in that sad, bittersweet way. Love your Spock and Kirk.
Love Kirk's development and his insights in here. What a tough situation. The moment of understanding and friendship was such a nice touch at the end, too. Thanks so much for sharing this! *memories*
Thank you for the excellent comment! I really agonized over Kirk in this piece - I'm so glad that the characterization worked out well.
This was great. I love the way everything that's not said seems to hold even greater weight than what is.
Thank you! I really wanted to show the understanding Kirk and Spock would have reached by the end of their mission together, and hopefully the emphasis on what Spock chose not to say -- and why -- accomplished that.
God, that was gorgeous, and so heartbreaking. You captured the heartache so well.