Hey everyone! So this story is kind of, sort of linked to my series of one-shots, Ingenious Idiot. You don't really have to read it before you read this story, but it might help a bit because I'm basing the characters' personality, quirks, and pasts off that. For those of you who are my awesome readers and are following this story because you've already read Ingenious Idiot, then feel free to skip to the actual chapter. The mystery of who was after Jim in chapter 10 is going to be revealed sooner or later. :) Oh, and to those who read the preview, remember how I said there were chunks missing in them? They're important pieces, so you can just skim through the chapter and read all those parts, if you want, of course.

For those of you who don't want to read it, that's fine. All you really need to know are these key facts to get the way I depicted the characters (particularly Jim):

1) Jim is an absolute genius with boundless talents. Seriously. In my mind, he's like the crazy guy who can do absolutely everything with splendid skill. He's pretty much a ninja physically and he's ridiculously smart. Strategy is his game and he rocks it. He's also had a bit of a rocky past and after Tarsus, he wandered Earth for a while, picking up various skills, such as aerobatics, card tricks, languages, and a numerous amount of martial art skills.

2) Komack is a bit of a jerk in my stories. Kind of. Basically, he likes to use Jim as an undercover agent and throw him into dangerous situations because well, Jim is the best and he can do everything and more. Jim does get out of it after a particular mission in Germany that went sideways by threatening Komack. If you're interested in that story, it's chapters 8 and 9 of Ingenious Idiot.

I may list out some more later on as the story progresses. I may have forgotten a few things that I kind of took from Ingenious Idiot. If there's any confusion, please let me know in a review or PM and I'll explain it either in an edit or in the beginning of the next chapter.

Meanwhile, for those who reviewed Ingenious Idiot and requested a few things, most of those requests will be included in this. Tarsus will be mentioned, an overprotective crew will be involved, and of course, lots of Jim whump and his brilliant brand of ingenuity, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy! As always, please review!

Disclaimer: I do not own any Star Trek franchise.

The Rules of a Good Man

"Good men don't need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many." - Doctor Who

Chapter 1


All across the universe, there was a single name was synonymous to both hope and destruction. Just a single utterance of it could send shivers of fear down one's spine and yet, uplift spirits when everything seemed lost. The very presence of James Tiberius Kirk swayed worlds, bending logic and reason however he saw fit. Rumors and stories of his extraordinary prowess had spread in the three years that he held the Captain's seat of the famous Enterprise and rapidly, his influence had started to change the universe in ways that could not be fathomed by all but a few.

To many, the young Captain was a shining beacon at the summit of an unreachable mountain, but even the brightest of lights cast shadows, and Jim's were far darker than anyone could have expected. His secrets were buried so deeply that he could count on two hands the amount of people he had told about his turbulent and unforgiving past. His record was far from clean and though the Admirals of Starfleet had turned a blind eye in order to let him take command, he knew that someday, his history was going to come back around to haunt him.

No matter how far he flew or how many lives he saved, he could never escape from the scars of his past.

Sooner or later, he would have to face his worst fears. He could only hope that when it happened, he would be strong enough to make it through it just one more time.

"Am I awesome or what?" grinned Jim as he settled back comfortably into his Captain's chair as soon as he returned from the most recent mission that had, of course, gone sideways.

The Enterprise had been ordered to negotiate a trade with Nayah – a planet that was being considered as a new addition to the Federation. In his usual flair, Jim managed to get him and Spock arrested within the first day: Jim, because he flirted with the King's daughter (Jim claimed that the Princess flirted with him) and Spock, because he tried to protect his Captain.

Jim was still covered from head-to-toe in dirt and grime with Bones hovering next to him with a scowl on his face. The rest of his Command crew was also in a similar state as the grumpy doctor, and with good reason. Sulu and Spock were just as disheveled as Jim, their uniforms torn and scratched and their expressions halfway between exasperation and incredulity. Chekov and Scotty both looked as though Jim made their day (like he usually did) while Uhura was torn between slapping Jim in the face and bashing her own against the wall repeatedly.

Spock raised an eyebrow. "I do not believe that qualifies, Captain," he said, clearly leaning more towards frustration.

Jim laughed, the sound bright and light. "You're just sore because they tried to bury us alive."

McCoy was about to explode. "Because you just couldn't keep it in your pants, could you, dumbass?!" he snapped.

"Hey, I fixed it, didn't I?"

"You wouldn't have been able to if Sulu didn't dig you two out," Uhura commented off-handedly.

"Uhura, you wound me," Jim said dramatically, clutching at his chest right above his heart as his blue eyes twinkled with amusement.

"Ya tellin' Pike any of this?" asked Scotty, chuckling softly.

"Hell no. He'd just scold me." Jim looked thoughtful for a second. "Well, I might tell him how the Prince is now forever indebted to me after I saved his life."

Chekov bounced in his seat. "I can't beliewe zat you managed to get out in time to sawe ze royal family from a coup."

"I also got knighted for my services," Jim added, but McCoy silenced him with a glare.

"You also almost got your arm blown off for your services, moron. If Spock didn't manage to wrestle the bomb away from you and throw it as far away as he could, you wouldn't even be here right now," the doctor snapped.

"Captain, I still cannot understand how you knew that the Prime Minister was plotting to strike against the royal family. How did you know?" Spock questioned.

Jim shrugged. "Just didn't get a good feeling off him from the beginning, so I followed him around and overheard him talking to some of his goons. I didn't get a chance to tell anyone before I got arrested and buried." The lightheartedness on Jim's face dropped as he looked at the Vulcan with slight anger in his eyes. "By the way, Spock, thanks for having my back, but if you ever try to protect me like you did, I will write you up for insubordination. We can't have both of the Command officers taken out at the same time."

"You shouldn't talk, Kirk," Sulu said as he crossed his arms. "Imagine the position I was in. You and Spock were buried in two separate graves. I had to choose who to save first. You think I was happy about that?"

"I don't think we ever thanked you for that, did we, Sulu?" Jim cocked his head. "Thanks for saving us. And sorry. But since you dug me out first, I guess that means that I'm more popular than Spock! Yes! I win!"

Sulu rolled his eyes. "Yeah, that's the entire reason why I got you out first. It has nothing to do with the fact that Spock's a Vulcan and probably could have lasted a good few hours longer than you."

Jim pouted. "You ruin all my fun."

"We should really change your definition of 'fun', Kirk," sighed Uhura, turning to look at her console that had just beeped.

"But then you'd all get so bored."

"We'd have normal lives for once," McCoy retorted.

"Exactly, Bones. Exactly. Normal is boring."

"I am sure the Admirals would disagree," Spock said.

"Speaking of, Pike is calling you," Uhura announced, glancing back at Jim and raising an eyebrow at his unruliness. She smirked, knowing full well that Jim was going to have to bullshit his way through Pike's questions. With Jim's sharp mind and wit, that was always amusing to witness.

Jim looked down at his dirty state. There was no time to scramble and hide, least of all from Pike. "Shit. I guess there's no hiding this now. Put him on screen, Uhura. The rest of you, stations."

The crew immediately obeyed just as Pike's elderly face appeared before them.

Instantly, Jim felt his stomach clench. There was a hardened look on his mentor, but Jim could see the fear, panic, and hurt bleeding out.

He plastered a polite smile onto his face and nodded. "Admiral," he greeted. The word felt foreign as it rolled off his tongue; it had been a while since Jim had called Pike by his title.

Pike stiffened at Jim's response, knowing full well that the young man had read his body language and was reacting accordingly. With Jim, it was always strike first before any harm could be done to him. He watched those blue eyes stare at him with wariness and distrust and though it pained him, Pike could only steel himself for the news he was about to dole out. "Jim, I need to speak to you privately. Now."

His tone bore no argument and the crew felt fear lick at them. Pike had always been someone they could count on and be on their side – he was someone that Jim considered a father-figure, and that alone spoke volumes. For him to suddenly be so cold could only mean that trouble was on the rise.

Jim stood, his movements too controlled. "I'll connect to you from my ready room."

Pike nodded and hung up, leaving silence behind.

By the time the crew turned to stare at Jim in disbelief and confusion, Jim was already gone from the Bridge.

"Any idea what that was about?" Sulu asked Spock.

"None," Spock responded, frowning faintly. "Nyota, can you bring up their feed?"

"Already on it," she said, her fingers moving rapidly at her console. "Here we go…" She pressed a button and suddenly, Jim's and Pike's voices filled the air.

"Jim, I don't have much time. I'm here with a warning and you're not going to like it."

"Just give it me straight, Pike."

"Admiral Dreyes has invoked Section 31, Jim. You know what that means, don't you?"

There was a pregnant pause. "Yeah…I do…" Jim said breathlessly. He took a deep breath. "Give me a sec, Pike. My crew is probably listening in."

Jim pressed something and then the feed suddenly cut off.

"What the…?" exclaimed Uhura. She started to type frantically, but nothing she did could bring back that ongoing conversation. "Kirk locked us out!"

"Section 31? Vhat is zat?" questioned Chekov, turning to Spock.

Spock was just as baffled as the rest of them. "I was not aware of such a regulation."

Spock, who knew all the regulations from A to Z and backwards to front, didn't know of such an article?! It was like the world was coming to an end. Again.

"Well, shit," swore McCoy.

"Aptly put, Doctor." Spock glanced at the door to the Captain's ready room, unease rising despite his Vulcan heritage. "My sentiments exactly."

Pike was already onscreen when Jim locked the entrance behind him. Pike didn't waste any time. "Jim, I don't have much time. I'm here with a warning and you're not going to like it."

Jim walked towards his chair and started to pull it out. "Just give it to me straight, Pike."

"Admiral Dreyes has invoked Section 31, Jim. You know what that means, don't you?"

Every muscle in Jim's body froze as he realized the true meaning behind Pike's words. "Yeah…I do…" he replied quietly, falling onto his chair. He pulled his PADD that was on the table towards him. "Give me a sec, Pike. My crew is probably listening in."

He opened a program that he had wrote and initiated it. He made sure that it had wiped out any connections Uhura, Chekov, or Spock could have implanted before setting the device back onto the wooden surface. "The rest of this is going to be in private, Pike, so hold nothing back. How the hell does Dreyes have power to utilize me in Starfleet's clandestine service? He's only been in that position for a couple of years!"

"I don't know how, but Admiral Dreyes got hold of Komack's files on you – the ones regarding your missions under Section 31."

"Any idea why he wants me?"

"He was also given the reports of Frank's testimony. He's aware that there may be moles in Starfleet and he's determined to flush them out. He probably wants you because you are the best that Starfleet has ever seen."

"But if he has Komack's files, he knows that I'm very adamant about staying out of Section 31."

"I know, but when I refused him, Dreyes made a compelling case to the Admiralty that my judgment regarding your Captaincy is biased because of my closeness to you. I'm temporarily being pulled off your chain of command. You and the Enterprise will be reporting to Dreyes until further notice. It was the only way he could go around my authority and bring you in."

"And I'm supposed to just I get in line and do what he wants. Shit." Jim ran his fingers through his hair. "So Dreyes knows that there's some underlying plot in Starfleet that wants me, and yet, he's still willing to put me out in the open? Am I bait or something?"

Pike pondered it. "That is a possibility, but I don't know for sure. Even among the Admirals, Dreyes' motives and actions are not always what they seem."

"Basically, I'm going in blind with no way out. Goddamn. I thought I was through with Section 31."

"I did too, son, and I'm sorry I couldn't stop it."

"You did what you could, Pike. Thanks."

There was a moment of silence before Jim looked back up at Pike. Something akin to sorrow flickered in Jim's blue yes. "You know that Section 31 is going to kill me one day, don't you? One of these times, I won't be coming back," he uttered softly, defeat heavy in his voice.

"Jim…" Pike started.

"You know it's true, Pike, especially after that Germany fiasco. Don't deny it. I know that I can't get out of it as long as I'm under Starfleet's command. If I want my ship and my crew, I have to do what Dreyes wants. I can't run forever. Section 31 never bothered me before in the Academy, but now…" Jim exhaled shakily. "I just…can't do this anymore. Not with my life on the line."

Any other person would have taken Jim's statement as one borne from fear of death, but Pike knew better and he completely understood where Jim's trepidation originated from. "It's harder when you have people you care about and can't leave behind, isn't it?" Pike said quietly.

Jim thought of Bones, Spock, Uhura, Chekov, Sulu, Scotty, and the rest of his crew. He thought of all the laughter, all the tears, and all the hope as they wandered through the vast galaxies. And he couldn't let any of it go. It was the reason why he had gone as far as to threaten Komack to get out of Section 31. He had thought he was in the clear, but he should have known that nothing ever truly went his way. Sooner or later, he would have to face the facts, but he'd be damned if he took it lying down.

"Are you going to tell them, Jim?"

Resolve was hard in Jim's eyes. "No."

"They should know."

"You know them. After all that shit with Komack, they know that what I'll be doing is going to be extremely dangerous. You think they'll let me go willingly and without a fuss? Just a couple of hours ago, Spock let himself get buried alive alongside me because he tried to protect me. If they do something drastic like that again for me, I don't think even you can save them. They'll all lose more than their commissions for interfering with Section 31."

Jim's PADD suddenly began ringing and Admiral Dreyes' name flashed on the screen. "That's him." He glanced up at his father-like figure. "Pike, I don't know what I'll be doing or where I'll be, but no matter what, you better make sure I have my crew and ship to come back to," he said with all the gusto and confidence that he wished he had.

Pike could hear the solemn promise in Jim's words to try his damnedest to get back to all of them alive. He smiled, "I promise to protect your family, Jim, so give them hell."

"Don't I always?" Jim grinned. "I'll talk to ya later, Pike."

"Be safe, kid."

Jim swallowed hard and nodded. He touched his PADD and ended Pike's call as he answered Dreyes. The Admiral's face appeared before him. The man was young for his position – just a mere forty-seven years old – having come to power after the whole Nero incident. He was on-planet when the drill had struck and had been horrifically injured trying to save several Cadets from a collapsing building. For his heroic acts, Dreyes was promoted from Captain to Admiral a few days after Jim was given the Enterprise.

Now, Jim watched the middle-aged man before him. Dreyes was bald and light-skinned; even the scars maiming his face, like a tiger had scratched him from his left temple to his lower lip, were white. Though his strained posture spoke of years of fatigue and burdens on his shoulders, Jim could see right through his façade. There was such strength and ambition left in the man that it draped and enveloped Dreyes like a cloak. He was smart, cunning, and in the two years he had been in office, he now held a massive amount of power within the Admiralty that it was frightening, which made Dreyes a very dangerous contender. It was the whole reason why Jim had tried his hardest to avoid interacting with him up until now, but he had a feeling that this was not the first time Dreyes was interfering with his life.

Jim sat up straighter, clearing all his expression of any emotion. "Admiral," he greeted coldly.

"Captain Kirk, let's skip the pleasantries, shall we?" Dreyes responded in a Manchester, British accent. "I have recently reviewed all of your missions to date."

"Any particular reason, sir?"

"It has been brought to my attention that a great number of your missions result in chaos and unrest. In almost every case, your officers and/or you personally have caused civil wars, diplomatic strife, and needless bloodshed."

"Sir, have you also noted that my crew and I have successfully completed each and every single mission with good, if not outstanding, results?"

Dreyes went right on as if he didn't even hear Jim. "Starfleet wants to understand if these events are occurring due to the conditions of the missions itself or due to your leadership. Therefore, we are temporarily bringing the Enterprise back on-base for a two-week shore leave while we determine a satisfactory substitute for you."

Jim felt his stomach drop out completely. "And what of me, sir? During this temporary situation, that is."

"You will be conducting missions on your own, Kirk, under Section 31. I expect you back in San Francisco in three days. That is all. Dreyes out."

The screen zipped black. Dreyes' words repeated as if it was a broken record in Jim's mind. He felt numb, still shocked at what had just transpired. And then the weight suddenly sunk in, taking away Jim's breath like someone had sucker-punched him in the gut. Knowing that the idea of Section 31 was going to be met with resilience by Jim, Dreyes had made it so that there was simply no other path that Jim could go. If Jim didn't do as commanded, this 'temporary' situation that was about to happen was going to become permanent. Whoever was taking over for Jim in these few weeks would be there to stay and Jim would lose his ship and worse, his crew.

Fury filled him, consuming him like a wild fire. Dreyes was playing like a fucking marionette – he wasn't someone that Jim could easily bullshit his way through. Dreyes was smart and he knew how to manipulate people almost as well as Jim could. And worse, he had all the power and authority in the world to hold over Jim's head.

There was literally nothing Jim could do but obey Dreyes like a fucking dog.

"ARGH!" he shouted, frustration pouring out like water erupting from a geyser. Without thinking, he grabbed his PADD as he leapt to his feet in one movement, and chucked it across the room. It hit the opposing wall with a resounding crack as it shattered into pieces.

He stood there for a couple of minutes, breathing hard through his nose as he tried to get his rampant emotions under control. Fuck. He was going to lose his ship, his family, and maybe even his life if Dreyes got his way.

Panic swiftly ran through his system and he could feel his hands start to shake even as he tried to force himself to focus. He had to figure this out; he had to play the game and somehow come out the other end victorious. Otherwise, he was going lose everything.

Even Jim couldn't come back from that.

Not again.

More than half-an-hour later, Jim shut the door firmly behind him and walked back to his chair as if nothing had happened. All of his agitation had been suppressed for the moment, but it threatened to bubble to the surface, exploding like a cork popping out from a champagne bottle. He could feel his crew's eyes on him so he quickly slid on an extra mask, seemingly ignoring their stares as plopped down into his Captain's chair with his usual grace.

"Sulu, plot a course to Earth. Warp speed four," he said as normally as possible. "Oh, and someone get me another PADD please."

Spock and McCoy crowded Jim. "What did Pike want, Jim?" asked McCoy.

Jim shrugged, nonchalant. "He was just giving me a warning."

"Why are we returning to Earth?" Spock questioned. "Orders have not come in yet."

"They will in a few seconds. From Dreyes himself."

"Admiral Dreyes? Not from Admiral Pike?"

"Thank you, Chekov," Jim said as the teenager handed him a new PADD. He immediately started playing on it, launching some program and typing away furiously on it. He was hacking and searching for any loose ends that Dreyes might have left, anything that stuck out.

A minute later, he realized that Spock and McCoy were still waiting on him. They weren't going to leave him alone until he answered them. "We're being temporarily reassigned," Jim said off-handedly.

"Excuse me?!" protested Uhura. She stood and stormed over to Jim, crossing her arms. "What are you talking about, Kirk? Are we losing the Enterprise?"

Jim barely managed to suppress his flinch, but he kept his expressions neutral and aloof. That innocuous sentence was raising a sliver of panic within him and it was rapidly growing.

He never took his eyes off his PADD as he replied. "You're not losing the Enterprise, promise." He wasn't lying. They weren't going to lose this ship. Him on the other hand…it was a totally different story. "You've been granted a two-week shore leave and then we're being reassigned missions, that's all."

Sulu frowned. "Any particular reason why?"

"None that you'd like to hear."

"And vhat is Section 31?" asked Chekov, swinging around in his chair to look at Jim.

At that, Jim paused, thinking. What was the best possible answer he could give to avoid suspicion? They couldn't know any more of the existence of Section 31 or Dreyes would take action against them. Partial truth it was then. "You remember those missions I did under Komack? Dreyes got a hold of them and decided to review them, so he invoked Section 31."

"I have never heard of such a regulation," said Spock.

"If you had, I would be worried. My missions were conducted under the utmost secret, remember? So the review board must be done covertly too, don't you think? If anyone asks, you still don't know anything about any of this either."

Scotty made his way around to stand right in front of Jim. "Why are ya bein' reviewed, laddie? Sumthin' ya ain't tellin' us?"

"It's nothing to worry about. It's pretty much just a formality – to make sure that I haven't gone to the dark side and all." Jim abruptly shut his PADD off. He couldn't think with his crew nearby; he hadn't quite settled his own panicking feelings yet and couldn't keep his expressions blank anymore.

He stood. "Well, if that's all, I got some reports I have to file. Procrastination and all. Spock, you have the conn. Message me if you guys need me."

Jim patted McCoy's shoulder as he made his way to the turbolift. He flashed them a smile as the doors closed before him, leaving like a whirlwind. His crew was left so dizzy and confused.

"Uh, anyone want to explain what just happened?" asked Sulu.

The rest sat there in silence, except for Scotty who wandered into the Captain's ready room, hoping that it could lead to clues.

"I do not know," Spock crossed his arms. "Doctor?"

McCoy frowned. "Jim hasn't told me anything about Dreyes. He's never even mentioned the man so I didn't think he would cause any problems."

Uhura turned around. "Is he even causing problems? For all we know, he's just covering for Jim."

"The Keptin didn't seem particularly stressed either…" trailed Chekov. "Are ve overthinking zis?"

"It's true – we do tend to get a little bit overprotective and suspicious of Kirk," Sulu agreed. "Maybe, for the first time, it's actually nothing as Kirk says."

There was a loud thud as Scotty emerged from the ready room with a worried look in his face. "Lads, I think we 'ave a problem."

"What is it, Mister Scott?" asked Spock.

Scotty held up the pieces of Jim's broken PADD. "There's sumthin' he ain't tellin' us."

Sulu sighed and rubbed his face tiredly. "Well, so much for that theory…"

McCoy shook his head. "I'll go see what's going on with him. The rest of you, put a sock in it, alright? If Jim ain't telling us stuff, that means that we can't go about talking about it either, got it?"

He didn't wait for a response before walking straight into the turbolift. As it whirred around him, McCoy took a deep breath. He leaned back and almost sank against the wall of the lift.

Section 31. He was hoping that he would never hear that combined with Jim's name again. Not after the last time when Jim came back clinging to the edge of life.

Fuck. This was not going to end well. For any of them.

McCoy hesitated for a few moments outside of Jim's door. With Jim, it was always a toss-up on when to confront him. Sometimes, Jim just needed some space and time to simmer down; others, he needed almost immediate physical contact for comfort. His behavior on the Bridge earlier was confusing: he was so aloof and nonchalant that no one could get a proper read on him. Even McCoy wasn't too sure what he could expect from his best friend, but there was only one way to find out.

Leonard knocked on the door. "It's me, Jim."

There was no response, as McCoy expected, but the door chimed as it unlocked. McCoy frowned as he stepped in – Jim being willing was never a good sign.

When it shut behind him, McCoy found himself shrouded in darkness. Not even the usual glint of Jim's numerous PADDs could be seen. It took a moment for McCoy's eyes to adjust to the blackness.

"Before you say anything or start to psychoanalyze me, I let you in because you would've just overridden my code anyway," came Jim's tired voice to McCoy's left.

McCoy knew Jim's quarters like the back of his hand – he probably spent more time in Jim's room than he did in his own. Drawing a mental picture of the location of Jim's furniture, he figured that Jim was more than likely sitting by his desk, which was unusual for him. Bones only ever found Jim on the floor if he was bleeding out and unconscious or if he had a particularly hard puzzle he was mulling over with.

The heavy feeling in Bones' gut sunk more.

"You could've easily overridden my code, Jim. You've done it before," Bones said, his tone completely neutral.

"And then you would've panicked and called in the cavalry. Can't have that, can we?"

Bones sauntered forward and felt for the chair, sitting down with a sigh. The chair creaked as Bones leaned back. There was still no sign of Jim yet.

A moment later, he felt a slight nudge against his leg as Jim shifted. Though Bones couldn't see Jim fully, he could make out the side of his best friend's figure from where he sat on the floor. Jim was leaning against the side of his solid wood desk, no doubt staring into the darkness, thinking and planning.

In the dark, Jim's thoughts were no longer as scattered and he could smother any rising emotions that he had on this matter entirely. Back in the ready room, Jim was filled with anger that he wasn't being given a choice. He was naturally rebellious and the more someone tried to push him into a corner, the more he wanted to fight. Then the realization that he may lose more than he could bear had sent him spiraling down with fear. It was too overwhelming all at once and Jim couldn't even hear himself past the turmoil.

Here, now that he was calmer, lines had started to connect in his mind. The missions and the rumors that he had been keeping an ear out for were all leading to this. He didn't know everything, but he knew enough that whatever was going to happen was revolved around him. That was it. Everything else was shrouded in blackness. He didn't even know what Dreyes motives were – he couldn't even begin to make sense of what Dreyes' plans were, and that made Jim extremely nervous and wary.

Jim rationally knew that Dreyes was not someone that he could fight against easily. There was no telling how much collateral damage there was going to be if Jim did, and he wasn't willing to risk that.

He would have to go back into Section 31 and cover his hands with blood once again. There truly was no other choice, but it didn't stop him from wracking his brain for some other possibility. There was too much red on his ledger already.

"So…Section 31?" Bones ventured. The doctor knew perfectly what Section 31 was, despite his charade on the Bridge. It wasn't something that he could nonchalantly say aloud. Secrets and shadows surrounded the entire organization and Starfleet fully sanctioned its surreptitious nature, protecting it with a giant stick that threatened anyone who know if its existence. When Bones learned of it (by accident because Jim had just come back brutally injured from a mission and wasn't allowed to go to a hospital for treatment), he was sworn to secrecy by pain of death, exile, or whatever the hell Starfleet deemed a horrible punishment. So yes, Bones knew about Section 31, but most importantly, he knew what it meant for Jim.


"Komack still in charge of it?"

"Nope. Dreyes is."

"I still have clearance?"

"Probably not."

"So what's really going on?"

There was a moment of silence as Jim debated on what to tell his best friend. In the end, this was the time for honesty. Sooner or later, Bones would figure this whole thing out and give him those disappointing and hurt eyes that Jim never could bear. It was easier to just rip off the bandage in one go – minimize all the pain at once.

Jim sighed resignedly. "I'm being pulled back."

Bones felt like the floor had disappeared from below him. "When?" he breathed,

"As soon as we dock."

"If he's trying to keep this inconspicuous, he's not doing a good job with it. What the hell is Dreyes thinking?!"

"That's what I'm trying to figure out."

"What did he say exactly?"

"That our missions are too wild and he wants to figure out why shit hits the fan almost every single time. He's saying that it's because of my leadership as an excuse to pull me away from the Enterprise."

"You know why?"

"I can only think of two scenarios. One: there's something going down and they need me, so they can't afford me to weasel my way out. The second is that Dreyes has something against me and is using Section 31 to get rid of me once and for all."

"Which one are you leaning towards?"

"Don't know. The second one? But I can't think of anything that I've done to piss Dreyes off."

"What are you going to do?"

Bones heard a thud as Jim presumably hit the back of his head against the wood. He heard an exhale. "I don't know…"

It was the most unsure Bones had ever heard Jim before, and that unnerved him. Jim Kirk was never unsure. Jim Kirk was always confident in himself, no matter the circumstances. "Jim?"

"Any way I play this out in my head, I lose so much."

The scenarios flittered behind the back of Jim's eyelids like a movie screen: each choice leading to another path branching off to another. If he agreed, Dreyes would have complete control over him and though he may have the Enterprise and his crew, he wasn't sure if he could live under someone else's thumb again. Not after Frank and certainly not after Kodos. But if he disagreed and fought, Jim had no doubt that Dreyes would not only take away his ship, he would also take out his anger on his family.

Jim knew exactly what he had to do. The problem was: he had gotten soft. The love of his friends had made him cautious – more wary for his life because he now had something to live for. He had tried to push his crew away and though they did give him space when he asked for it, it erased none of their past or their bonds of friendship.

Back when he was in the Academy, he had nothing to lose, nothing to fear. Though he wasn't quite as strong as he was when he was J.T. on Tarsus IV, he was still a force to be reckoned with. Now? He had gotten complacent; he could barely feel the blood on his hands anymore. He should've known that he was never going to escape; he was never going to catch a break. Blood, chaos, and misery always followed him.

And damn was he tired of it. Tired of all the havoc, all the grief that he was ever a part of, and even worse, of those that he had caused. He was tired of all that he had lost and all that he would and could lose.

"I'd rather leave than be left behind…" he murmured tiredly. He couldn't help it. He was only human. After all that had happened in his past, who could fault him for being selfish? He was more than ready to just give up, regardless of the consequences.

"What was that?" asked McCoy. "I didn't hear that."

Jim almost forgot that Bones was there. "Nothing. It was nothing…"

He peered through the dark to glance at Bones. With his perceptive vision, he could barely make out the intense lines of concern on Bones' face; the jitteriness of his bouncing leg and his clenched fists. Bones was just bursting with worry and questions for his best friend, but he was holding it back because he cared far more for Jim's wellbeing than for answers itself. Because Bones was unconditionally and unequivocally Jim's best friend and brother, and he always would be.

And then Jim was reminded all over again why – no, who – he was fighting for in the first place. It didn't matter how dirty Jim got or how broken Jim would become, his friends would never leave him or let him leave. They were family, which meant that Jim couldn't just leave this be.

If Dreyes wanted to Jim to play, fine, he would. But he sure as hell was going to make Dreyes regret it.

His resolve hardened and all fears and indecisiveness faded away. He smiled, despite himself. "It's nothing, Bones. Just saying that I think I have a plan now."

"You sharing?"

"If I told you, it'd spoil the surprise, wouldn't it?" Jim joked, getting to his feet. He patted McCoy on the shoulder and trotted to his closet, pulling off his gold uniform and stripping down to the black wife-beater he wore underneath. "I'm going to go workout for a bit, blow off some steam. We good?"

"Depends. You good?"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm good."

"You're not doing anything dangerous, are you, Jim?"

"Even if I was, do you think I could tell you, Bones?"

"And that's what worries me."

"Relax, Bones. We'll be back on Earth in like two days. Go see Joanna while you're on leave."

Bones got up and came up quietly to stand directly behind Jim, who stiffened minutely out of nervousness, like a rabbit caught out in an open field with nowhere to run. "Jim, I know that you're entitled to your own secrets and you clearly don't want to talk about it, so I'll respect that, but can you just tell me that you'll be alright? And I want the truth or nothing, Jim. The truth. You owe me that much."

Jim thought about what he was about to do: he was going to throw himself into the throes of the unknown that was fraught with dangers, with no plan and no backup. He had to, otherwise he would never figure out what the hell was actually going on, and if he didn't know, he couldn't protect the people that had somehow become so very precious to him.

So he turned and smiled at Bones even though he knew that Bones could tell when he was lying through his teeth. "You'll be fine, Bones, don't worry."

"I wasn't asking about me, Jim, and you know it."

Jim didn't even hesitate. "Fine then. I'll be okay, Bones." He leaned over to reach the bed behind Bones and grabbed a small towel. He patted Bones' shoulder as he headed out. "I'll catch ya later."

He was illuminated in a bright light for a brief moment as his door opened and Bones could see every tense muscle in his back and neck – his toned deltoids and triceps were taut with stress. How heavy of a burden was sitting on Jim's shoulders? It looked as though the whole damn world was weighing the kid down. And then Bones was drowned in the darkness once again as Jim stepped away and let the door shut behind him.

Bones sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, worry eating away at his insides. "Rule number one: Jim lies," he recited quietly.

There was a flash of memory of Jim grinning at him, so bright and so cheerful, over a beer. He couldn't even remember what they had been laughing about, but all he could recall was Jim clapping him on the shoulder and saying, "Number one rule of knowing me is that I lie. All the damn time."

"Yeah?" Bones had chuckled. "Got a rule for everything?"

"Pretty much. Stick around and maybe you'll learn them all."

"How many you got?"

"Enough to last you two lifetimes."

"Sounds like a lot of work. I think I'll pass."

Jim had laughed. "Yeah, I would too, if I were you."

"So what's rule number thirty-four?"

"You pull that number out of your ass?"

"You gonna pull a random rule outta yours?"

Jim had chortled, but answered anyway. "Rule number thirty-four is never trust the brass. They always got something up their sleeve. They're always out for themselves and it's the people down here who suffer."

His words at that time had been ludicrous, considering that Jim was on the Command track, but now it seemed strangely prophetic.

He pulled out his communicator and comm'ed Spock.

"Spock here."

"Spock, it's McCoy. Can you do me a favor and dig up everything you can on Dreyes?"

"Do you suspect something, Doctor?"

"Not yet, but rule number thirty-four and all."

There was a pause as Spock realized to what McCoy was referring to. "Understood. I will be as discrete as possible. For now, please keep a watchful eye on Jim. If he is in fact reverting to his own set of rules, then perhaps he may be more prone to spontaneous and crass decisions."

"Got it."

"Good luck, Doctor."

"Yeah, yeah. You too. McCoy out," he grouched as he hung up.

He took a deep breath and straightened his shoulders as he prepared to follow his best friend to the ends of the universe.

"Well, here goes nothing. Geronimo."

To be continued...

I know this was short, but I'm building it up. I've got this entire story planned out and written out in my head, but not on paper, so updates will be sporadic. I'll update as soon as I have the next chapters typed out and stuff. Reviews always help encourage me! *wink wink, nudge nudge*

Oh, and to those who may or may not have seen the Doctor Who references: yes, that was on purpose. I love Matt Smith and I'm so upset that he's no longer going to be the Doctor, so this is kind of, somewhat a tribute to him. It's mostly just because I fell in love with the whole quote of: "The anger of a good man is not a problem. They have too many rules." followed by: "Good men don't need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many." Gives me chills every time I read it and I have no idea why, lol! In fact, this whole entire story started forming in my head after that episode of Doctor Who on that quote alone. It was brilliant...and add on to the fact that I'm a little bit crazy and out pops this one. I'm nuts, but oh well. C'est le vie.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this chapter! There will be more to come. :)

Thanks for reading and please review!

~ Kanae Yuna