Kirk and Spock are seated in Kirk's quarters, having a post-mission meeting after Kirk returns from Balok's ship; we join them in mid meeting:
Kirk looked at Spock with a mischevious gleam in his eyes. "What would you think about learning to play poker as your professional development project for next quarter? You could join Scotty's weekly poker game and learn to play from some excellent players."
Spock tilted his head to the side as he regarded his captain. "I believe that would constitute shirking the mandated professional growth, Captain. I learned to play poker while you were on the Fesarius."
Kirk smiled. "You may have memorized the rules, Spock, but you haven't learned to play. Half of learning poker is learning to bluff. I admit that you have the world's best poker face, but that's not all that makes a good bluff."
"As I understand it, a bluff involves intentional deception, luring one's opponents into believing that one's hand is better or worse than it actually is."
Spock regarded his captain with carefully concealed amusement. "Suppose that I make three statements, some of which will be true, and some of which will be false. If you can discern which statments are true and which are false, then I will join Mr. Scott's weekly poker game until I am considered to have learned to bluff. If you cannot discern their truth or falsity, then I will be judged to have mastered the necessary skill."
Kirk chuckled. "You could make a hundred statements about xenobiology or Tellarite history or any of the other thousands of things you know, and I'd have no way of judging the truth of any of them."
Spock raised an eyebrow. "Choosing such topics would leave you at a disadvantage and would thus be useless for our purposes. I will make personal statements."
Personal statements? Kirk looked at his first officer with concern. Spock was generally a reticent man, though he had been unusually forthcoming earlier in the day, volunteering — in front of the entire Bridge crew, no less — that Balok reminded him of his father. Did Spock hate the idea of joining the poker game so much that he'd do anything to get out of it? The Vulcan didn't look upset, but even Kirk couldn't always read him if he didn't want to be read. Then Spock relaxed slightly and allowed Kirk to see the twinkle in his eye. Ah, so he wasn't pushing Spock to the wall, then; Spock was playing with him, in his subdued Vulcan way.
Kirk smiled. "Agreed. Lay 'em on me."
Spock stiffened slightly, then became more inscrutable than usual. Kirk hadn't quite realized just how much Spock showed in the look in his eyes, in the way he stood, the way he tilted his head, the way he placed his hands, until he stopped.
"First statement," Spock said, his face and voice both completely impassive, nearly robotic. "My father disowned me when I entered Starfleet Academy, and we have not spoken as father and son for seventeen years."
Kirk nodded. "Got it."
"Second statement. I hope to captain a starship myself someday." Not a muscle moved in Spock's face but those necessary for speaking, and his usually expressive eyes were flat and guarded.
Kirk grinned. "Go on."
"Third statement. Sometimes I wish I were human." Spock remained impassive, not giving off any of his usual subtle cues.
Kirk smiled. "I admit that your manner didn't give much away, but an excellent poker face isn't the only thing you need to be able to bluff. A good bluff should be believable and should be something your opponent can't disprove, or the best poker face in the world won't help you."
Spock relaxed from his heightened impassivity and raised a brow. "You believe you know which statements are true and which are false, then."
Kirk leaned back in his chair. "Of course. Let's take statement one. You're the finest person I've ever known — human, Vulcan, Andorian, whatever — and since your father is a Vulcan, that means he's a logical man. Any logical father would be happy to have you for a son, so statement one is clearly false."
Spock swallowed, then lifted his head slightly. "What of the other statements?"
Kirk smiled. "Statement three is so clearly false that I'm surprised you had the gall to include it. You take every possible opportunity to remind us that you're Vulcan. You're clearly proud of being Vulcan and sometimes seem almost ashamed of your human side. I wish you didn't feel that way, but you clearly do, so statement three is obviously false."
"And statement two?"
"You said that some of the statements would be true, so that means that statement two has to be true. I'm surprised, though; I thought you were capable of command but not especially fond of it."
Spock relaxed even more, now looking mildly amused. "Jim, I regret to inform you that the truth is exactly the opposite of what you have guessed. Statements one and three are true; statement two is false."
Kirk's eyes widened. "Your father disowned you when you entered Starfleet Academy?"
Spock gave a brief nod. "He did. He believes that Starfleet resorts to violence too frequently to be compatible with Vulcan philosophy, so he refused to allow me to join Starfleet. I believe that my true crime, however, lay not so much in the choice I made as in the fact that I insisted upon my right to make it. I chose my own path, and it is that which he cannot forgive."
Kirk looked thunderstruck. "Spock, I ... I don't know what to say. I can't believe that any sane man would be other than grateful to have you for a son."
"Your disbelief in the statement — and your stated reasons for that disbelief — were most gratifying, and you have said all that needs to be said on the subject."
Looking at Kirk's distressed face, Spock could see that he, himself, needed to say more, however, or his captain would remain distressed. He tried to imagine the human reaction to the situation he'd described, in order to target the cause of Kirk's distress. "Jim, my estrangement from my father is news to you, so you are still assimilating the knowledge. I, however, have been living with this estrangement for seventeen years, and it is not news to me. Whatever wound you believe me to bear from my father's rejection scabbed over long ago; it is done."
Kirk thought about this; it sounded like Spock was asking him to leave it alone. Well, he could do that. Even being told this much was an unusual amount of sharing from Spock ... and he could always raise the subject later if he needed to. Kirk made a mental note to put Spock in for Starfleet commendations on the many occasions when he deserved them; if his first officer was forced to live without his father's approval, then Kirk would try to see that he got as much approval from other sources as possible.
"All right," Kirk said. "Moving on to statement three. Sometimes you wish you were human? Really? I'm ... I'm shocked, Spock."
Spock exhaled audiby. "I admit that the moments when I wish to be human are both few and fleeting, but they do exist. For the most part, I find it gratifying to be a Vulcan, but the need to continually monitor my behavior for appropriate Vulcan comportment, to analyze every thought and every action; this constant monitoring can occasionally become wearisome. During times when my energy is unusually low, I can occasionally wish for humans' lesser burdens."
Kirk smiled. "That's not part of being Vulcan, Spock; we all do that. I'm constantly second-guessing myself, wondering if I've done the right thing. Should I have talked to those hostile aliens as long as I did, or should I have pulled out my phaser sooner? Should I have promoted that ensign who doesn't seem to be doing as well, now that she's a lieutenant, or is that part of the normal settling-in process? Both Scotty and McCoy want new equipment, but there's only enough room in the budget for one of them to have what he wants. McCoy saves lives, but the engines save the ship that protects us all ... whose need is greater?" He laughed. "Gad, don't get me started on second-guessing myself, or we'll be here all night."
Spock shook his head. "I am aware that all sentient species think about their behavior and its ramifications; that is part of the very definition of sentience. But I suspect that you never question your species identification as part of this process. Nothing can stop you from being human, no matter what you think or say or feel or do. You question your behavior but not your identity."
Kirk sobered. "You're right, I didn't understand before. Thank you for explaining. But ... does being Vulcan depend on your behavior? Aren't you a Vulcan because you were born into a Vulcan body? Aren't there a lot of ways to be Vulcan, probably as many ways as there are Vulcans?"
Spock looked at Kirk silently for a moment, thinking about how to explain this so that the human could understand. Finally he said, "I have heard many humans say that certain kinds of actions are not the actions of a human, that anyone who would do a particular thing is 'a monster.' Throughout history, there have been those who have said that such people as Caligula, Adolph Hitler, or Colonel Green1 were not human but rather monsters. There are some actions so heinous that the rest of humanity attempts to rescind membership in its ranks, in spite of the fact that the person in question does possess a human body."
"Yes, that's right; I've heard people say that." Kirk stared at Spock for a moment. "Then what are you saying? Would abandoning logic make Vulcans repudiate you? Would allowing yourself to express a feeling or to be guided by emotion make you the Vulcan equivalent of a monster?"
Spock exhaled audibly. "Dubbing someone a 'monster' is primarily an emotional judgment, an instinctive revulsion against behavior too horrible to admit to the realm of humanity. The Vulcan approach is less emotional, but the results are similar: those whose lives are guided by emotions instead of logic are not Vulcans. Possessing a Vulcan body is not enough; one cannot BE a Vulcan unless one behaves as a Vulcan."
Kirk shook his head. "But you're half human. Isn't it illogical for Vulcans to insist that you ignore half of your genome?"
"If there were more human-Vulcan hybrids, we could carve out a place for ourselves in Vulcan society, but there are very, very few. I have no wish to be a member of a species which has a mere handful of members."
Kirk pointed at the insignia on Spock's shirt. "You're Starfleet! That's a species with thousands of members, and nearly all of them are people to be proud of."
Spock nodded. "As you say. It does seem that Starfleet has become my home in a way that Vulcan can no longer be."
"Vulcan's loss is our gain, Spock. Starfleet knows how to appreciate excellence, and you've got excellence in spades."
"Speaking of card suits, Captain, would you say that I have proved conclusively that I know how to bluff?"
Kirk laughed. "Yes, I should know better than to argue with you; if you say you can do something, then you can." He sobered and looked seriously at Spock. "Thank you for everything you've shared with me tonight. It means a great deal to me."
Spock inclined his head. "To me as well, Jim. I believed today that our deaths were imminent and certain, and when your brilliant tactics saved all of our lives, I decided that I would take this opportunity to share more of myself with you."
Kirk smiled. Spock would never say, "Coming so close to dying made me realize what good friends we are," but he didn't have to. He even made it clear why he could never say that, and Kirk got the message; he got both messages loud and clear.