His knuckles aren’t bloody anymore, scabbed over a dirty green and stiff when he stretches them. The pain sparks up Spock’s nerves, a reminder of his final failure, the mistake that has sealed his fate. He stretches them again, mouth pinching at the pull of tender muscle and cracked bone.
The fact of the matter is, no matter how hard he tries, he will never be a true Vulcan. He’s too volatile, too… human. He is too weak to hold back the rage that boils under his skin, the bitterness that pulses behind his eyes, the spite that coats his teeth and spills across his tongue.
The metaphor is a borrowed one, something from a Terran author that his mother has hidden away in her office. Spock never really understood it until now.
His mother is watching him. She’s worried, she’s miserable, she’s suffering, and she’s projecting. Sarek has already taken steps to block her out— and to block Spock’s bond with him as well— but Spock makes no move to do the same. He lets his mother’s emotions wash over him, and takes selfish comfort in her sorrow.
Spock knew this was going to happen, but he still has trouble wrapping his mind around the fact that he is leaving Vulcan, he is leaving the older boys who tease him and the teachers who peer at him like a failed experiment.
He is leaving his mother.
The thought makes something twitch under his skin. He turns his mind elsewhere.
Sybok hasn’t visited since Spock was eight, happy with occasional comms and the odd message. From what Spock understands from his father, Sybok is something of a disappointment. His mother prefers to call him as a free thinker, someone who marches to the beat of his own drum. Spock doesn’t quite understand her meaning with either of those phrases, but he feels he will learn relatively quickly in his new home.
“You’ll be alright, Spock,” his mother assures him for the thirty-eighth time since their departure from his childhood home. “We’re just a comm away, you know. And Sybok will be there.”
Sarek’s eye twitches at the mention of his elder son, but Spock ignores his obvious discomfort.
“I’ll be fine, mother,” he offers her quietly, shifting his bag carefully on his shoulder. “But I will be late for departure if I remain any longer.”
His mother sniffs, but thankfully doesn’t cry.
“Call me when you’ve settled,” she tells him. “Sybok will be waiting for you.”
Spock nods, gently shrugging off her hand.
“I will, Mother.”
Nodding to Sarek, the teen turns away and makes his way towards the shuttlecraft.
He does not look back.
Sybok is unusually tall, which makes him easy enough for Spock to spot. His long hair is pulled out of his face in a tangle of beads and knotted string, and he’s wearing sunglasses despite the orange-colored sky.
He grins when he sees Spock.
“How’s it going, rebel?” he says, throwing his hand up in a lazy ta’al. “Amanda said you’d been misbehaving.”
Spock surveys his half-brother carefully. Sybok, for all his father’s attempts, has shown a less-than-exemplary standard of the Vulcan way. It is logical to assume he will not report any perceived breaches of the teachings of Surak to Sarek or anyone else of note.
“Older children attempted to embarrass me,” Spock explains calmly. “I subdued them.”
Sybok seems to stare for a moment, mouth slightly open in surprise, before his face splits into a smile again.
“Awesome,” he says. “I knew you had it in you to stand up to those stiffs. Come on, I’ve got dinner waiting for us. We can catch up.”
He leads Spock through the crowds, arms swinging as he walks. Spock is struck by the odd picture his brother makes, but otherwise doesn’t comment. His brother has long since embraced his failure as a Vulcan. Any illogical behaviors are explained with that fact.
“Here we are,” Sybok says, coming to a stop in front of an…
“Can that be classified as an automobile?” Spock inquires gravely.
“Of course!” Sybok pats the hood of the black monstrosity warmly. “She’s an antique— approximately two hundred years old, give or take a decade or two. She’s safe to drive, though.”
“The object is not female, Sybok, and it does not have doors.”
“That’s what makes it fun. Hop in— the apartment’s less than ten minutes away. I’m sure you’ll survive that if you buckle up.”
Spock arches an eyebrow and his brother laughs, slapping him genially on the shoulder.
“Sassy,” he chides, still grinning. “Come on.”
Wordlessly, Spock obeys, carefully stuffing his bag between the seats before climbing in and buckling his seatbelt.
Sybok fixes his sunglasses, throws the car into gear, and speeds off into traffic, ignoring the white-knuckled grip his brother has on the oh-shit bar.
Spock’s hair is unusually short, which is an intriguing alternate route for him to take. When Sybok had begun his own descent into illogical thinking, he’d grown his hair out. By the time he’d left (been forced) out of his father’s home, it had brushed against his elbows when he walked.
Spock, though… It seems his little brother is far more subtle. It’s only a half an inch’s difference, but that half inch would mean the world to his father, to everyone.
The violence is another thing altogether. Sybok had never needed violence. His telepathic ability had always done him well.
But still… The fact that his brother is acting out in such a way… While much of it can be attributed to his mother, Sybok is certain, it is interesting that both of Sarek’s sons have proven themselves… Incompatible, with the traditional Vulcan way.
He may have to look into that.
Sybok leaves Spock to unpack in favor of heating up their dinner, for which Spock is grateful. Since his father’s decision was made, Spock has been watched at all times. Now, in the privacy of his new, cramped, mint green bedroom, he can relax the careful blankness of his face.
His heart aches.
He’d never understood what it meant, for a heart to ache in such context. Regardless of the music his mother had introduced him to and the colorful phrases she used, he’d never understood. Now, though, separated from her and her warmth, he thinks he knows.
He palms his side carefully, swallowing hard.
This will be difficult. This will be agony.
Spock is unprepared.
Sybok can feel the pain emanating from his little brother, lapping like waves at the edge of his consciousness. It’s tinged with other feelings— relief, loss, fear, to name a few— but for the most part it is an… overwhelming fury.
For all that Sarek has said that Spock takes after Amanda, Sybok has yet to meet a human as angry as his little brother.
Sybok is full of laughter and smiles, of endless conversation and anecdotes that Spock promises never to pass on to Amanda or their father.
Spock appreciates his attempts to lighten his mood. His brother has always had astonishing telepathic capability, far beyond anything Spock— or any full-blooded Vulcan— has ever accomplished.
"You call it a mood," Sybok remarks when he clears the dishes. "Sorry, I couldn’t help but notice."
"It’s what Mother calls them," he murmurs. "Do you often apologize for your abilities?"
"It’s the polite thing to do among Terrans," Sybok explains, smiling slightly. "Normally I wouldn’t bring it up, but… it’s become habit, now."
"When did you start to think like that? Using words like moods… and rage."
"It seemed silly to deny an intrinsic fact of my existence."
"Very wise of you, little brother." Sybok sets the dishes in the sink. "Does it make you feel better to know emotions aren’t an intrinsic fact in only your existence? All Vulcans have them."
"Of course they do."
"You seem to have missed an important day at Vulcan school." Sybok grins. "Deny, deny, deny. Vulcans have no emotions, Spock— but you don’t think of yourself as a Vulcan, do you?"
"I…" Spock pauses grasping for an explanation he has never needed to give. "I tried to be."
Sybok’s hums sympathetically.
"You seem like a good kid," he says. "You’ll do well here, once you find your feet. There’s plenty of space for oddballs like us."
"I… Yes, Sybok."
"Come on. I’ve got some classic holovids in my room. You can soak up some Terran culture before I let you loose in the big, wide world."
Spock would rather go back to his room, but Sybok seems to be uninterested in allowing his little brother to go off in a sulk.
Sybok’s hand snakes around his bare elbow. Spock flinches, and his brother lets go.
"You’ll have to get used to touch, little brother," Sybok remarks. "It’s just about all that Terrans do. No matter, though, I’ll help you. Has Amanda ever played you any films?"
"Well, I bet she’s never played you American Pie."
"I do not believe so, no."
"It’s a classic." Sybok grins. "Come on, it’ll be fun."
Sybok’s hand finds Spock’s elbow again, and this time, Spock doesn’t twitch quite so violently.
"You… Like this film?" The vibrations that spark across Spock’s consciousness feel like amusement, stronger than he’s ever felt from his mother.
"It’s a classic," Sybok repeats. "You’ll see."
Spock lets himself be lead away, into the sweet-scent of Sybok’s bedroom. The distraction, silly as it may be, is welcome.
Sulu likes to think himself a good judge of character, if not a good man. So when he sees the kid at the bar— Terran, blond, handsome, in a leather jacket and blue jeans just a touch too tight— stand up for the honor of an Orion stripper, he’s… impressed. Intrigued.
The kid’s thin, waifish compared to the three hulking men he’s standing against.
"Listen kid, maybe you can’t hear." The leader grins menacingly. "She wants to go with us. And even if she didn’t, well, who are you to stop us?"
"Just an upstanding citizen, is all." The boy has a soft, midwestern drawl, his grin crooked and his pose seemingly relaxed.
Hikaru isn’t fooled.
"Look, kid," one of the others pipes up. "There’s four of us, and only one of you."
"Yeah," the boy agrees. "So get a few more guys and we’ll have a fair fight."
The leader swings, and the fight starts. Hikaru watches from his place at the bar, peering over the top of his sunglasses to watch as the boy gets pummeled.
That isn’t to say he doesn’t put up a good fight, but he gets pummeled. For every blow he strikes, he gets four in return, and in the end, he’s overtaken, fast as he appears to be.
"They’re gonna kill 'im," Scotty mumbles from where he’s leaned against the bar. Hikaru has no idea how Scotty can tell with the way his face is pillowed in his arms.
"Yeah, probably." Hikaru huffs a sigh and finishes his drink, pushing himself to his feet. "I’ll handle it."
Scotty doesn’t answer him, hand reaching blindly for his empty glass.
Hikaru leaves him to it.
"Alright, boys," he calls, voice carrying over the fight. "That’s enough now, leave him alone."
"Look at this little prick."
Hikaru sidesteps his first attacker, drawing his weapon and skewering the second.
"You’re on Hoshimoto turf," he says as the music cuts out, cleaning the steel before retracting it properly. "And that means you play by the rules."
The men straighten, and— shit, cadet uniforms. Oh well.
"Take this piece of trash with you when you go," he adds, kicking the fallen cadet. "He might even live if you hurry."
The cadets scamper, only stopping to pick up their fallen friend.
The music resumes, and the boy struggles to get up, careful of what Hikaru assumes are broken ribs.
"You alright, kid?" he asks, tucking his weapon back in his pocket and helping him up.
"Nothing a little ice can’t fix." The boy grins through a bloody mouth, wincing as he tries to straighten. "And don’t call me kid. You’re like, a year older than me."
"You’re probably concussed," Sulu remarks. "They were aiming for that pretty face of yours."
"Aw, shucks, now you’re making me blush."
"Are you? I can’t tell under all that blood. Come on. I know a guy who owes me a favor."
"I’ll be alright."
"Right. Come on." Hikaru hooks an arm under the boy’s shoulders, ignoring his hiss of pain. "I’ve got a pretty car and a leather passenger seat with your name on it… Just keep the blood to yourself, huh?"
"I don’t need your help."
"I’m offering it anyway. Idiot kid like you’s too stupid to see what’s good for him."
"Stop calling me kid," he grumbles. "I’m not an idiot."
"Alright, what should I call you."
"Well, Just Jim, I’m Hikaru Sulu, and you’ve got an appointment with the Doc."
Jim huffs a laugh.
"I’m toast if you take me to a hospital," he says as Hikaru dumps him into the passenger seat of his car. "They’ll catch me."
"Who said anything about a hospital?" Hikaru shuts the door and slips into the driver’s seat. "I know a thing or two about authority, Jim, and believe me when I say I won’t sell you out. McCoy’s mean, but he’s not that mean."
"Shut up before I change my mind."
Jim shuts up.
Hikaru is under the impression that’s a victory.
Leonard McCoy was a surgeon, once, but a divorce that led to alcoholism that led to a malpractice suit stripped him of the title 'Doctor' a little less than a year ago. Since then he’s stopped drinking so much, but the smell of whisky clings to every terse word he speaks as he looks Jim over.
"What’s the verdict, Doc?" Hikaru asks from where he’s leaning against the doorframe. "Will he live?"
"He’ll be just fine, with some rest," McCoy says, blue eyes intent on the regenerator he passes over Jim’s knuckles.
"Then I’m off." He pushes up off the frame. "Might be around sometime next week, Doc."
"Stop callin’ me Doc, ya little shit," McCoy grumbles. "Get out."
Hikaru shrugs, waves at Jim, and takes his leave.
"How’s a drunk like you get your hands on a regenerator?" Jim asks when they’re alone.
"Sulu works for some interestin’ people," he grunts. "In return for my services, they keep me well stocked."
"So he’s like, yakuza, or something."
"Yep. Stop squirming, you’ll jostle your ribs." McCoy straightens. "You got anywhere to stay tonight?"
"What’s today? Thursday?"
"Then, um…" Jim licks his split lip thoughtfully. "Golden Gate Park."
"You— haven’t you got a family, or somethin’?" He demands. "Friends to stay with?"
"Well, if it were Thursday I’d stay with Bulger, but Wednesday he prefers an Orion girl," Jim says. "Sundays and Tuesdays I stay at the mission on Fourth. Mondays are the subway station on Cherry, Wednesdays are Golden Gate, and Friday’s and Saturdays—" he shrugs. "I work all night, so it doesn’t come up."
McCoy rubs a weary hand over his face.
"For Christ’s sake," he groans. "Stay here, kid, I’ve got a couch."
"Seriously?" Jim’s eyes narrow. "What do you want?"
"To not feel like a shitheel for letting a kid sleep on the streets." McCoy glares at him as he lifts a bottle of Jim Beam from the table. "What are you, fourteen?"
"Still a minor." McCoy’s jaw juts out with the strength of his contrariness. "I could call social services— I won’t, kid, don’t go all stiff on me— so do me the favor of sleeping here at least tonight, okay? For my own conscience."
Something changes in Jim’s face, intensity shifting into something like understanding.
"Okay," he says simply, settling gingerly back onto the couch. "I’ll stay."
McCoy sighs and checks the time. It’s three-thirty in the morning, great. At least he doesn’t have a day job anymore.
"Don’t bother trying to steal anything," he says, taking a long pull from the bottle. "There’s nothing here worth the trouble. The ex-wife took everything but my bones."
"I’ll keep that in mind."
"Holler if you need me," he calls over his shoulder. "I’ll be in the back."
"Good night. Thanks."
McCoy rolls his eyes and disappears into his room.
Anything the kid steals can probably be replaced.