Written for the 2014 Star Trek Friendshipfest over at AO3
At first, Jim can't quite pinpoint what exactly is different. It starts with some sort of shimmer, like all around him he's looking through air that is suddenly wavy and rippling, but then that's gone and nothing in particular is unusual, despite a prickling at the back of his neck that makes him sit up and take notice.
But Spacedock looks the same outside of his overly large windows in his overly large new Captain's quarters, and his half unpacked duffel is still on his overly large bed and his towel is still hanging on the door to what is – for a starship – an overly large bathroom. Not that he's complaining about that one, since if he'd known a captaincy came with a water shower, he might have told Pike two years instead of three.
He glances around once more, trying to find anything that would explain what just happened before deciding that the most Bones is probably right that he's just plain exhausted. Or maybe just that he's losing it. Which, he thinks as he resumes what he was doing, namely staring at the wall wondering what the hell he had gotten himself into, wasn't too unlikely of a possibility.
He's slipping back into his rumination of exactly what he's going to do for a first officer now that Spock has resigned his commission in the wake of All Things Nero when there's a chime at the door to his quarters.
"Enter," he calls, turning from the windows to find Chekov standing there and Jim thinks that the fall out of trying to put any semblance of normalcy back in place has dampened even the Ensign's normal enthusiasm.
"Sir, Engineering reports that the starboard isolinear phase actuator is malfunctioning. Comms and transporter capabilities are down," Chekov reports breathlessly and Jim wonders if Scotty didn't send him running up here to tell him that.
"Again?" Jim sighs. Having no comms and no transporters isn't a big deal while at Spacedock, but that feeling of having such key systems inoperational reminds him too much of dropping out of warp into a graveyard.
"Again? No, sir, they were working this morning, but one of the fuses blew, and-"
"No, I meant…" Jim just waves his hand in a vague gesture before realizing that probably isn't very captainly. Not that he exactly knows how to be captainly what with being able to count the days he's held the position on two hands. "Do Mr. Scott and Keenser have everything they need or do we need to request help from Spacedock's maintenance crew?"
Getting Scotty and Keenser assigned to the ship had taken some finagling, what with Archer's rampant dislike of the man, but it had been worth it the headache. Like Jim, Scotty was just learning the ship and it was refreshing to have one part of his job that he could do with someone as inexperienced as he is and as willing to learn. The three of them had spent more than one late night pouring over blueprints and crawling through Jeffries tubes, the mindless memorization of systems and diagrams so comforting after three years of schooling at the Academy that it is one of the few things Jim feels he actually has a handle on.
"Ensign Keenser, you've met him, right?"
Jim could have sworn that Chekov and Keenser had both been in the mess the other night, and with such a skeleton crew refitting the ship after the combination of the Narada and the Alpha Quadrant's newest worm hole did their best to rip it apart, it was hard to miss anyone. But, it was just as likely that after falling nearly to his death from a drill, being pummeled by Romulans multiple times, chased by no less than two reptilian monsters, shot up with various vaccines by Bones, and choked by his normally rather stuffy former-acting-captain-turned-first-officer, and then handed the reins of the Enterprise, his memory might be less than reliable.
"No, sir," Chekov says, slowly shaking his head. "Here is Mr. Scott's report on the incident."
Scotty has never struck Jim as a particularly report oriented individual, but he figures that maybe the new responsibilities are changing the man. God knows Jim has filed more reports and filled out more paperwork than he ever would have guessed came with the job.
He holds out his hand to take it and can't help but frown at the bulky, boxy padd Chekov gives him.
"No, sir, those are the same as ever."
"Really?" Jim asks, turning it over in his hands and running his fingers along the gray plastic casing. "It's so… big."
Chekov takes a careful step closer. "Are you feeling well, sir?"
Jim lets out a sound that's somewhere between a sigh and a neurotic laugh. "Well, long week, right?"
"You were on leave," Chekov says and Jim laughs again.
"I wouldn't exactly call that leave, Ensign," he corrects, thinking back to the debriefings, the funerals, the ceremonies, the crash course in suddenly being a captain that Pike had given from a hospital bed.
"You did not go back home to Iowa."
"Wouldn't exactly call that home, either," Jim says lightly and Chekov doesn't push the topic Jim has spent the last three years evading.
He's still examining the strange padd and it feels so heavy and oversized in his hands that it takes him a long moment to look back up at Chekov. When he does, and truly takes the time to study him, his first thought is that the ensign looks older, so much of his exuberant youth gone. He's quiet and contained in a way that Jim's never seen him and while he can still see a bit of that excited teenager in there somewhere, Jim can't help but think that Nero's attack aged Chekov as much as it did anyone.
"You doing all right?"
"Very well, sir," Chekov answers and his tone is chipper again, so that Jim smiles and dismisses him. It isn't until he's trying to scroll through the padd with it's antiquated interface that it occurs to him what an incredibly strange answer that was for the ensign to have given, considering everything that's happened.
Still, strange padds that could have belonged to his grandfather Tiberius aside, Jim is so exhausted and so busy mulling over who could possibly replace Spock that it's well past dinner time when he realizes his stomach has been steadily growling for a half hour. Imagining Bones' response to finding out Jim has been skipping meals makes him smile until he remembers that Bones is elbow deep in injured survivors still being shuttled back to Earth from the wreckage above Vulcan. Or what was Vulcan, Jim think, scrubbing a hand over his face. And more and more often in the last few days it hasn't even been survivors but just bodies, and the air of desperation of those checking the list of names of those who have been found has begun to shift to a dull resignation.
It's hard to think about, and harder to swallow, and more than once this week Jim has tried to fill up the hollow feeling in his stomach with food.
He gets halfway to the door, intending to hit the mess hall for some dinner and probably head down to Engineering afterwards to have a word with Scotty about how repairs are coming, when the door chimes again.
"Enter," he calls for the second time.
It isn't every day a beautiful blonde walks into his quarters with a tray of food that smells fabulous and Jim has to blink more than once at both the woman carrying it and the little curls of steam rising up from what he is pretty sure is a steak. A real steak, not the replicated rubbery cardboard that the Academy mess serves, but a steak from a cow.
He swallows hard, his mouth suddenly watering.
"Your dinner, Captain," the woman smiles. She sets it on his desk next to the funny looking padd and steps back from it. "Anything else for you, sir?"
"I, uh, no," he says. "I wasn't aware that…"
He waves at her, and at the tray, and then around the room, which feels sufficient to convey the fact he had no idea that there was a crew member assigned to bring him food.
"I wouldn't forget your dinner even though we're back at Earth for a few days," she says lightly.
"Sure," he says, nodding in agreement even though he has no idea what she's talking about. "Definitely."
"I didn't get a chance to ask you, how was your trip, sir?"
"Trip?" Jim shakes his head. "I was at HQ."
"Oh, what a shame you couldn't get back home," the woman says with a gentle shake of her head. "I know you were so looking forward to seeing your parents. Unless they were able to make the trip out to San Francisco?"
"No," he says, his tone sharper than he intends.
"That's too bad," she says and Jim can't help but think that it's just fine with him. He sent his mother a one line message letting her know he was alive and received an even shorter response. Considering the way they typically interact, he considers it a resounding success of Kirk familial relations.
"Is that all?" he asks, the desire to dig into his steak mixing with his lack of patience to discuss his family or this ostensible trip that she and Chekov assume he just took.
"Yes sir," she says, starting to back out of the room, looking at him with concern. "Is everything all right, Captain? You seem…"
"Long week, I didn't mean to be short," he says, making his tone gentler even though he thinks she probably doesn't need to be asking if he's all right since he's pretty sure nobody this side of the Delta Quadrant is technically 'all right' with everything that's happened. "And I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name."
"Sir?" she asks, stepping closer to him. "Are you ok? I can get Doctor McCoy up here if you're not feeling well."
"He's back on board?" Jim asks, feeling something in him lighten at the thought. Bones, here, on the Enterprise when Jim wasn't sure he would step foot in space again. Or, rather, he was entirely sure that he wouldn't, something that had been gnawing at him in conjunction with Spock's quick departure. Bones had never come to Starfleet to explore far reaches of the galaxy and more than once had intimated that he would be satisfied at a planetside medical outpost. Nearly getting blown up by a madman had only cemented his opinion that space was a terrible place to live and a worse place to die, leaving Jim faced with the fact he would likely be accepting his commission on the Enterprise without Bones there next to him.
"He never left," the woman tells him and Jim just shakes his head.
"What? Yes he did. He's-"
"Bridge to Captain Kirk," he hears and Jim is so distracted by hearing his new rank in front of his name that he just gives the woman a little wave when she backs out of his quarters, frowning at him.
"Go ahead, Mr Chekov."
"Comms are functioning again. However, Engineering reports substantial repairs are needed on the isolinear phase actuator and will take longer than previously anticipated."
"Very well." There's a pause and Jim winces, feeling like he's forgetting something very captainy he's supposed to be doing or saying. "Ah, um, you'll file the appropriate reports, I assume."
"I can do that," Chekov says and Jim wonders if he even knows how. Trust your crew, Pike always told them in command seminars. Let them ask questions, don't hold their hands. Jim tells himself not to meddle and that Chekov can sort it out and after leaving the ensign with orders to send along any more updates, settles down to his dinner.
The rest of the night is spent in a happy haze of rib eye, mashed potatoes, green beans – which he'll have to remember to tell Bones he ate all of, since any good news this week needs to be held on to with both hands – and a finally full, happy stomach that he rubs his hand over. It's late enough that he forgoes unpacking the rest of his things and just tosses his duffel towards his dresser before stripping down and flopping onto his mattress.
He has ages to unpack and he's not willing to give up his post steak drowsiness if it means he can catch a decent amount of sleep before his mind starts churning once again over what to do about a first officer, not to mention all the other strange things that happened that evening.
Somewhere between wondering who the woman was and why Chekov looked so different even if he sounded the same, he drifts off into a muddled dream of old fashioned padds containing the names of survivors and an entire stack of filmplasts with the notice of Spock's resignation on each one and then he's walking down a long hall way of a hospital, looking in room after room trying to find Bones but they're all empty, the entire place is empty and he's starting to get that same prickle on the back of his neck as he did earlier when he's half awoken by a warm hand on his shoulder.
"Jim?" he hears and he's so groggy and his body's so leaden and his mind so punch-drunk from sleep that his first thought is that the voice sounds an awful lot like Spock's.
Which is crazy, he thinks, plus there's probably nobody even there and it's just his exhaustion conjuring up a warm body laying behind him.
It's a lot harder to keep thinking it's crazy when that warm hand – which is seeming less and less like an apparition from a dream and more and more like an actual hand – slides from his back down his side to rest over his hip, long fingers curling into his skin in a way that simultaneously makes Jim want it to keep wandering to the front of his body and as his mind clears makes him wonder who, exactly, thought it would be a good idea to get into his bed and start touching him.
"Jim?" he hears again, that same deep, even voice and it makes him blink his eyes open since it really does sound like Spock.
"Mrrgghhff," he answers into his pillow and when the fingers tighten slightly in a way that is very real and not at all dreamlike, he jerks awake with all the grace of someone who was dead asleep, wiping at what amounts to quite a bit of drool on his cheek.
It takes him longer than it should to make sense of where he is and what he's seeing, namely quarters that are still unfamiliar, lit in the dim grayness of ship's night, the sheets tangled under him since he never properly pulled them back, and definitely – definitely- someone in bed next to him. Who is also naked. And Vulcan. And looking at him with one eyebrow raised and his hand still extended.
"Jim?" he – Spock, Jim thinks even though the name echoes around his head hollowly, like it can't quite find a place to lodge because it's so fucking preposterous – asks a third time, reaching for him.
"The fuck!" Jim shouts.
"What is wrong?"
"What are you doing?" Jim's body leaps into action so suddenly that he jumps from the bed even as he scrambles for the sheet, dragging it across his lap and backing across the room so that by the time the surge of energy is passed, he's got his back against a bulkhead and half of the bedding clutched in his hand in front of him as he tries to look anywhere that's not at Spock. Naked. In his bed. "Fuck," he half yells again. "What the fuck!"
Spock is doing the Vulcan equivalent of what must be looking at Jim like he's sprouted two more heads, which namely involves raising his eyebrow higher and tipping his head to the side.
"You asked me to wake you," he says simply and Jim really, really, wishes he would make some effort to cover himself, especially when some corner of his mind decides it's a good time to remind him what an excellent shot Uhura is. He clutches the blanket tighter to him.
"I – you – you're gone! You left!" Jim shakes his head to clear it, but Spock's still there, so he tries squeezing his eyes shut but when he opens them, Spock hasn't moved an inch, so Jim does the next best thing than just calling security and leans forward enough to grab a pillow from the bed and throw it at Spock's lap.
"Indeed," Spock agrees, looking curiously down at the pillow and then back up at Jim. "I had business at the Embassy today, which we spoke of at breakfast, when you asked me to wake you upon my return, since it would be after you had fallen asleep."
"I did not!" Jim's voice is dangerously close to squeaking it's risen so high. "You left," he says again since Spock is simply not understanding that logically, he should be nearly half way to New Vulcan by now. "I'm dreaming. This is a dream."
"While this is not a dream, I perhaps should have waited until you were not in the deepest part of your sleep cycle to wake you." Spock tosses the pillow back up to the top of the bed and somehow manages to rectify the mess of the bed Jim's made while he stands there staring at the utter improbability of Spock fussing with his blankets and then smoothing them back in invitation. "Come back to bed, Jim."
"Jim?" Spock asks.
"You're naked," Jim explains.
"As are you."
"And you're not supposed to be here."
"As I reminded you, you asked me to-"
"I didn't, I didn't," Jim says, starting to raise both hands, palms out, before feeling the sheet slip from in front of him and grabbing at it again. "Look, I don't know if this is some type of post traumatic stress thing you have going on, but let me… here, let me comm Uhura, I think she's back on board, and she can…" Jim trails off and waves at the general specter of all the nakedness, and the bed, and the eyebrow rising once again. "Let me just go get her," Jim mumbles, wriggling into his boxers in a way he hopes more or less preserves what little modesty he still has going for himself.
"I do not believe Lieutenant Uhura would be particularly useful in this situation," Spock says evenly.
"I'm pretty sure she has the naked you thing covered, actually," Jim corrects, fumbling with his belt. His comment seems torow Spock for a loop, or as much of a loop as Vulcans are thrown for since the eyebrow only climbs a millimeter higher, and as much as Jim wants answers about all the nudity, and the being in his bed, and when exactly Spock waltzed back on board despite having received an honorable discharge earlier that day which would have rendered any of his access codes unusable, he realizes he should probably explain. "Look, let me just comm her and you and your girlfriend can sort all this out."
"Jim," Spock says, slowly rising from the bed and walking over to him and if there's something Jim never, ever, thought would happen in his lifetime it would be Commander Spock approaching him in his bedroom, wearing a look of concern and exactly zero clothes. "You are unwell."
"And you're fucking crazy, man! You got into bed with me! And what is this, what do you think-"
"No you've had a bad week, I get that, but you have a girlfriend. Who is Uhura, I might add, since you seem to have conveniently forgotten that, and-"
"Nope. No. I'm comming her right now."
"Jim, you are confused. Lieutenant Uhura and I are not engaged in a romantic relationship."
"Not engaged in… yeah fucking right, Spock. Just hold on, ok? And maybe grab some pants? Let me get her, she'll know what to do with you."
"Jm, you and I have been in a committed, exclusive relationship for nineteen months and twenty six days."
It is not often that Jim finds himself at a complete loss of words but it seems, lately, that whenever it happens, it tends to be around Spock.