Title: Taking the slower path (we'll get there in the end)
Fandom: Star Trek XI
Characters: Kirk/Spock pre-slash, Uhura, Bones (Spock/Uhura)
Rating: PG-13, but for violence and angst rather than kissing.
Length: 7,400 words
Spoilers: Just the 2009 movie.
Summary: They're not friends yet. That takes time, more than a few really disastrous missions, two anniversaries, and quite a lot of bloodshed. Jim's never been the patient type.
AN: This was meant to be a slow pre-slash to slash kind of thing. It's still mostly that (except it never really breaks 'pre') but also ended up being the story of James T. Kirk's first year in command of the Enterprise.
He is somewhat reluctant to admit it, but he and Spock still aren't actually friends. Jim doesn't fight with him any more – they work together well enough on the bridge, and there have been no punches thrown since that first time. When he turns to Spock after Scotty (or, God help him, Chekov) has explained something that would be incomprehensible even without the accent, Spock translates. He's even lost about fifty-percent of the mild condescension. Jim can deal with the other fifty-percent; he's had enough women berate him for his arrogance to understand a healthy pride in your own abilities.
It's the other times that bother him. The times when they simply miss each other. Jim speaks, and Spock is looking right at him, but Jim feels as though he is being stared through. Spock says something, and if it were any other person on the ship Jim would think it cruel, or callous, but it is Spock, so he shrugs and ignores it.
None of this would matter if Jim didn't know bone-deep that they are supposed to be better than this. He would be content with this slow shift into something which is grounded in respect and consideration if not yet affection. But the mind-meld has left some indistinct impression on him, spun out with the other Spock's words. There is a gulf between where they are and where they will be, and it troubles him. Their world is different than that one, and perhaps even Jim's knowledge is enough to shake it loose.
Every time they almost get along, he thinks it: is this the moment? Is this where it starts? He finds himself waiting for those times, counting them off in his head.
On the bridge, Spock turns to him, after Bones uses some arcane human colloquialism that flies over Spock's head. And Jim is so struck by surprise, by the novelty, that he doesn't respond. (Is this it?) Uhura answers Spock, and frowns her impatience at Jim, as though it was spite that led him not to recognise the question. It might have been once, before Nero's ship, before the careful, uncertain look Spock gave him when he asked to be considered as first officer. It isn't now.
But it's not friendship either, yet, and everything they do seems to take them farther away from it.
Bones laughs at him, when Jim mentions it as casually as he can manage. (There isn't really a casual way to ask why Spock won't just be friends with him damn it.)
"Spock?" Bones says. When Jim nods, he says it again. "Spock?"
"Commander Spock," Jim clarifies. "My first officer. My ship's science officer."
"Lieutenant Uhura's boyfriend."
"Jim, if Spock has any emotion to spare, and I'm not conceding that he does, Uhura's the only one who gets to see it."
"You got him to try and kill you."
"That doesn't count."
"Emotion's emotion, I call it a win."
Bones shakes his head, and laughs at Jim again.
Jim ignores him, and changes the subject. It's not like there's a shortage of other things to worry about. The shift from only needing to look after himself (and sometimes Bones, when Jim was the reason he needed looking after) to a ship full of people… It's no wonder he's fixating on the other thing instead. In theory, convincing one Vulcan to like him should be easier than keeping a ship on course and its people not dead. But Jim knows really really well that sometimes you need to say 'screw theory'. Real life doesn't work that way.
Jim's been doing this captain thing for three and a half months now, and he's learning quickly. Some missions go off without a hitch, and some, well, some turn out like certain bars in Iowa.
The landing party varies from mission to mission, obviously. This time he brought Spock and Uhura, along with some security personnel, and a few more cultural experts. The two inhabited planets of this star system have been at war for decades, and someone finally decided to ask for Federation assistance to negotiate a treaty. They're meeting representatives of Ayen today, and Rodtan tomorrow. Jim really wishes it was tomorrow.
For the first hour, it had just been looks. At Spock, and at Uhura, and then between Spock and Uhura. And Jim has no fucking idea how they know, since it had taken him actually seeing them kissing on the transporters to get a clue. But they know.
One of them asks, "And the Federation will guarantee the enforcement of the agreement we reach?"
Jim sighs, and says, "As Mr Spock already said…"
"I want to hear it from you. His promises mean nothing."
"Hey, be careful. That's my first officer you're talking about."
"Of course," another of them says (Celo? The leader, anyway. He needs Spock and Uhura just to keep the damn names straight)
Jim exhales. "Why don't we take a break? Clear our heads. God knows I need it."
He walks out of the negotiating room, and doesn't check to see if anyone else has followed his instruction.
They do, of course, because he is their captain, and he is in charge. So they file into the other room, where food and drink has been set out. Jim pours himself a glass of something which damn well better just be fruit juice, and goes to stand outside.
He must be getting better at this captain stuff, because he feels the tension before the fight breaks out. When he gets back into the room, Spock and Uhura are halfway-surrounded. It's not like Jim doesn't know that the pair of them would win any brawl that resulted, but he also knows that neither of them will want it to get that far. They're too polite for that.
"Everyone knows Vulcan got what it deserved."
"Thinking they're better than the rest of the galaxy."
"Everyone knows they attacked Romulus first. Why else would they-?"
"Your father forced himself on a human woman and now you want to do the same?"
Before Jim can get to them, a bell chimes.
Celo opens the internal door. He coughs mildly. "Recham, stop that please. Negotiations will resume shortly."
They back away from Spock and Uhura, following Celo into the negotiating room.
Jim sees Uhura run her fingers down the inside of Spock's arm. He's close enough to hear them, if he concentrates. Uhura asks, "Are you okay?"
"Hmm? Yes, Uhura, I'm well."
Spock raises a wry eyebrow. "I learned a number of years ago that I could not react to every attack laid against my heritage."
"Yeah?" she asks, smiling at him.
"I will confess, at a younger age, I held an unsurpassable record for the number of juvenile altercations I found myself involved in. I would like to believe I have matured since then. Although it has been some time since anyone was quite that obvious about their distaste."
"Idiots," she murmurs consolingly, and tucks her hand into the bend of his elbow.
"Quite," Spock agrees.
The bell rings again just as Jim is reminding himself that he and Spock are not friends. That they'd had a yelling match (Jim had yelled, Spock had been pointedly calm) just that morning. When Jim had said he needed both Uhura and Spock on the planet, in case he caused a diplomatic incident, and Spock had wanted to stay on the ship in case Jim needed to be rescued.
He listens to Celo for a little while – not with all of his attention, but Spock or Uhura will tell him if he misses something important.
Spock says something about trade regulations and each planet's desire to function independently. Recham laughs, and Jim knows his name now.
Jim says, "Yeah, this isn't working for me."
The chorus of "Captain?" would amuse him any other day.
"I'm not gonna be able to listen to any other demands until we get an apology."
"Captain Kirk," Celo says, "if we have offended you in any way I assure you it was…"
"Not me, for God's sake. Spock."
Jim picks the voices out of the hubbub. Spock: Captain, that's quite unnecessary. Celo: I fail to see why an apology is required. Uhura: Captain, we don't want to start a… Recham: no.
He keeps his eyes on Celo. "An apology to my first officer, Councillor. From you, or your cackling friend over there. But an apology, or I go tell Starfleet to back the other guys."
"Captain Kirk," Celo says again. "Surely you won't derail these talks for the sake of a small cultural misunderstanding."
"Oh, I'm pretty sure I'll do exactly that. See, I was briefed about all the 'cultural misunderstandings' I could get myself into down here. Clearly someone didn't do the same for you guys." Jim gestures at Spock, and doesn't look around. "This is my first officer, the science officer of the USS Enterprise, and a member of Starfleet. And if you can't muster up a little respect for every one of those things, I don't think we can work together, no."
Uhura is shaking his arm, but Jim is on a roll now.
"Because rest assured, the only reason I'm not challenging you to a duel, or a fist-fight, or a mud-wrestle – whatever it is you do here – is that Spock would stop me. And then he'd declare me emotionally compromised, commandeer the ship, and drag me back to Starfleet. And no one on my crew would stop him, partially because he could squash them like a bug, and partially because after me he's the ranking officer."
"Apology. Now. And please remember, that because Uhura for some reason thought I would insult someone, I know what a formal apology from you guys should look like."
Celo looks at Recham for a long moment, and then nods. Recham sputters, and comes to whisper furiously in his leader's ear. Celo steps away from him, and points at the ground.
Spock doesn't look like he knows what to do with the guy making obeisance on one knee before him.
Jim prompts, "And then you say…"
Spock says, "Honour is satisfied."
"Good." Jim grins. "Now, back to negotiations."
He goes to talk to Bones after that, because both Uhura and Spock seem to think he endangered the talks. Personally, Jim thinks a show of strength is just what he needed to prove to them he wasn't going to be walked over just because he's the youngest Starfleet captain. He tells Bones this, sitting in the medical bay.
"So really," Jim says, "That was pretty good diplomacy, don't ya think?"
"I think if you were trying to get yourself killed, then yeah Jim, it was a good way to go about it."
"Please. Like I couldn't have taken that guy."
"Aren't they renowned for their ability to kill things? Wasn't that why we were called out here in the first place?"
"Sure, they're good. I'm better."
"Miracle to me you don't end up dead more often."
"That's why I keep you around. You'd fix me, right?"
"Of course, Jim. I'm known for my goddamn resurrection techniques."
"Pssh," Jim dismisses him. "I had it under control."
There is a polite cough. "Captain."
"Spock," Jim answers. "What's up?"
"The ship is functioning as it should be. We are prepared to resume the peace talks in ten hours time."
"You could have told me that over the comms. What's wrong?"
Spock looks between Bones and Jim. Bones makes to stand, and Jim pushes him back down again.
Jim says, "Spock, no offence, but if you're going to dress me down for today, I'd rather keep my CMO here as a witness."
"I was simply looking for an explanation."
"They were being assholes, there's your explanation."
"Captain, I do not believe that is an adequate justification for-"
"And they can tell all their friends, too."
Spock tilts his head, ever so slightly.
Bones sighs. "What he means is: the message can spread around this little patch of nothing space that you don't mess with Jim Kirk's crew."
It's nothing close to how Jim would have explained it (not out loud, anyway) but Bones can beat Uhura in translation some days.
Spock looks between them both again. He makes his excuses with a nod, and Jim is sure he doesn't imagine the quiet, "Fascinating."
Jim calls, "This doesn't mean I like you, you know." Spock doesn't respond.
Bones leans his head back and laughs. Jim tries to punch him and Bones dodges. They reach a truce, eventually – Jim because he doesn't want to hurt Bones, and Bones because Jim is becoming kind of pathetic about this.
Jim isn't taking Bones on an away mission again. He sits on the edge of the bed, looking at the screens that monitor Bones's heartbeat. The nurses walk in and out, but they've long given up on trying to chase him out of the medical bay.
He can hear the footsteps come to the edge of the bed and stop. "Not now," Jim says.
"Get the hell out of here, Spock."
Jim looks up, to see the half-step Spock takes away from him. Spock has something balanced carefully in his arms. Jim blinks. "Chess?"
"I heard that you played."
"Yeah, I… yeah."
"I thought perhaps you would welcome company. I see I was mistaken."
Spock puts the Tri-D board down, and turns to leave the medical bay.
Jim stops him. "Wait. You were right. Just don't get too excited about it."
Spock looks at him like that's the most unlikely thing Jim has said in an already long history of unlikely things. "I will contain my boasting, Captain."
"Good. That's good. So sit down."
Spock obeys, and lets Jim take the first move. They play in silence for a while, and Jim is the one to break it.
Jim says, "He shouldn't have been there."
"The mission required medical expertise. Dr McCoy was the logical choice."
"He shouldn't be here at all. He's a doctor, he hates guns and he's got the worst aviaphobia I've ever seen."
"Yet he was aware of all of those things when he enlisted."
"Yeah, well, he didn't have a lot of choice in the matter."
"I believe that you would find many Starfleet officers who might describe their career path in not dissimilar terms."
Jim looks at Spock, testing for anything pointed in that remark. Spock's gaze is fixed on the board.
He waits, and eventually Spock says, "There was nothing you could, or should, have done to prevent what happened."
Jim looks at Bones, lying still in the bed. "Try telling him that."
"When Dr McCoy wakes, I'm certain he will tell you just that."
"Thanks." Jim's hand hovers over his knight.
Spock says, "You're welcome. Also, I would reconsider that set of moves, unless you wish this game to end extremely quickly."
Jim has long suspected that the universe is fucking with him, and this latest mission does nothing to dispel the theory. Playing at trust exercises with a planet-sized telepath is not his idea of a good time.
But Jim is the captain – it leaves him with few excuses for cowardice.
"If he doesn't need to," Jim puts out his hand in an approximation of telepathic touch, "why did he – she? – even bother asking?"
Spock answers, "Courtesy dictates-"
Jim cuts him off. "Yeah, yeah." He looks at the viewscreen, which at least gives him something to look at. "So we do this, you start letting Federation ships through the area and down to the planet unaccosted."
He hears the response in his head: when I have an understanding of your character. And, accordingly, the character of those you represent.
"That's a little ominous," Jim murmurs, and ignores Bones's questioning look. "All right. Go on then."
He's expecting, somewhere unvoiced, that it'll be like the mind meld. It's isn't. There's an immensity to this mind, and an accusation. Jim feels its presence forcing a way in, and along every dark pathway, through every burning furious patch of rage. It stops, suddenly, pulls at one thread and lets him spin. No. No.
He doesn't know how long he wanders in the grey and the silence.
When Jim wakes, his face is wet. Bones is shaking his arm, calling, "Jim," over and over.
He is sitting at the foot of his chair, and Bones is alternating his name with cries for Uhura to call a medical team. With the instruction for Spock to, "Get that goddamn thing out of his head."
Spock's hand hovers by Jim's shoulder, as though he might be about to try.
Jim jerks back, and gets his head turned to look at Bones. "Hey."
"Hey yourself. What the hell did that thing…?"
"The ship was empty."
Bones blinks at him uncomprehendingly. "What?"
"The Enterprise. The ship was empty and I was… The ship was empty." Jim's hand finds Bones's. He folds his clumsy fingers into Bones's hold.
"Oh, Christ, Jim," Bones sighs. He uses his other hand to work the scanner.
Jim remembers. "Did we pass?"
The voice is in his head again, quieter now. You have been successful. You may proceed to the planet-side, as may your Federation.
"It's not really my…" Jim says, and then shrugs. "Fine. Good."
He's not sure how he can tell, but the mind goes away.
Bones tries to pull his hand free.
Jim allows it, but repeats, "The ship was empty." This is important.
"I know," Bones says.
"So you're not allowed to die, you got that?"
"I got it."
"That goes for all of you," he says vaguely, trying to get to his feet. "Not much point being captain without a…"
Spock is hovering close again, ready to take Jim's weight.
"Don't," Jim says. "I've had enough of people messing around inside my head today."
"Yeah, well, I can hear you anyway."
Spock raises an eyebrow.
"You will feel fear," Jim quotes heavily. "You just have to be right, don't you?"
Spock steps back, the line of his mouth tightening.
"Jim," Bones says. "Medical. Now."
"Really? Okay, so I can see you're serious about this. Put down the hypo, Bones, I'm coming. Mr Spock, you have the conn."
Jim finds Spock in his quarters. He's been there before – their quarters are close enough together that it's often easier to grab him from them en route to the bridge than send a ship-wide page to find him. But he hasn't simply visited very often.
Spock's quarters are warm, and more decorated than Jim would expect. He would blame Uhura's influence, but it's all little Vulcan pieces. More and more of his home on the ship; a permanent reminder of what's gone.
Jim sits on the chair by Spock's desk. He fiddles with something small and metallic, probably violating some kind of cultural taboo. Jim says. "So."
"Captain," Spock says.
"So," Jim says again, "I think I maybe, I don't know, hurt your feelings before. Maybe."
"Don't tell me that's a human thing, Spock. Look, I just… I didn't mean to, okay? It freaked me out."
"Telepathic communication often has that effect."
"Yeah. Well. I shouldn't have taken it out on you. Not on this you, anyway."
"I'm not so easily offended, Captain."
"Sure. Okay, so I came to see if you wanted to try chess again."
"Actually, Captain, I believe Dr McCoy was looking for you. He mentioned something about a crew poker night."
"Bones is a mother hen," Jim mutters.
"Excuse me?" Spock asks.
"Never mind. So, you play poker?"
"The rules have been explained to me, yes. But I believe it would be considered unfair. Mr Sulu intimated I would be likely to count cards."
"I wouldn't need to count them."
"But you're coming along, right?"
Spock nods once, and stands. Jim extends his arm, and waves his hand imperiously at Spock. Spock watches Jim's hand, exhales and catches it in his own. Jim lets Spock pull him out of the chair, skin-to-skin contact without the rush of control slipping through his fingertips.
He gets to the rec room, where McCoy is sitting around a table with Scotty, Sulu and Chekov. The room is busy, noisy, and generally pretty much like a working starship should be.
Jim breathes out, and walks to their table. He asks, "You couldn't get Uhura to play?"
Slim fingers land on his shoulder, using him as leverage while she pulls out a chair. "I needed a drink first. I've got to give you guys some advantage."
Scotty says, "Captain, I've been meaning to ask you about the stabilisers…"
"Scotty, I think we're stable enough as it is, thank you."
"Really, Captain, because I think if you'd just let me take them apart a wee bit, I'm sure I could…"
"We're due to dock in three months. You can take the whole ship to pieces then if you like. Just as long as she's back together by the time I'm debriefed."
"Aye sir," Scotty says, enthusiastically. Jim can see engineering diagrams on the datapad on the table in front of him. He wonders, not for the first time, what would have happened if he had refused permission. This is the problem with having a crew who, in their own specialisms, are all at genius-level. Luckily, Jim's quite willing to defer to their expertise.
Bones growls, "No more shop-talk. Are we gonna play or aren't we?"
Sulu smirks at Chekov. "You sure you want to deal, kid?"
"I am sure," Chekov answers, and the cards fly from hand to hand. He smirks right back. "At home, I am considered quite proficient."
Spock had been sitting quietly at the end of the table, examining a datapad which could be showing algebra, Vulcan, or both. He watches Chekov deal and then says, "I believe in this company you may be able to drop the 'quite'."
It's a broad, sweeping insult, and Jim doesn't know whether he's laughing at the joke, or at the reactions of everyone at the table bar himself and Uhura.
Chekov's eyes are comically wide. "Sir," he manages.
"Call, Ensign," Jim says, and leans back in his chair. He smiles. If he loses, he can just pretend it was for the sake of crew morale.
Jim doesn't want to admit it, but he's starting to believe that he's the common factor in away missions ending up in kidnapping or gunfights. Sulu and Chekov are going to have to be the rescue team again, and at least now he's fairly confident in their abilities in that regard.
At the moment, he's still a little dizzy and drunk on whatever they had been slipped. Something calculated to make them more pliable, more likely to run their mouths on Starfleet's intentions towards the planet. As Starfleet had no particular intentions towards the planet, they had rather thwarted the ambitions of the strict separatist faction of the government. And now they were locked up in what looked pretty much like a drunk tank, and Jim is trying to pressure Spock into some inebriated truth-telling. It's in the grand tradition of drunken stupidity across the known universe, after all.
"You're the one who said we all joined Starfleet for some bad reason or another."
"I don't believe that is what I…"
"So spill," Jim says. "What was your reason?"
"Starfleet offered me a place, and I accepted," Spock answers. "I had a number of potential career paths, and their offer was the most palatable at the time."
"Liar." Spock shifts, and Uhura beside him, and now Jim has to know this story. "Go on," he prompts.
"It was, perhaps, not my first choice."
"The science academy did offer me a place."
Bones spins around from contemplating the ceiling. "And you turned them down?"
"I thanked them for their consideration, and respectfully declined."
"And why," Jim asks, "would you do a thing like that? Isn't the Vulcan Science Academy the most prestigious school in the universe?"
"It was very well regarded, yes."
"I didn't want to be…" Spock trails off. It's such an unusual sight that Jim starts to worry. Spock says, "The term you would use, I suspect, is 'charity case'."
Jim is about to interrupt, about to ask how Spock – with his intellect, with his father – could ever be defined as a charity case.
But Spock is talking now, finally. He says, "A 'curiosity'," and his lip curls, and Uhura rests her hand on his shoulder. "I believe that they offered the place because they had no other option. My progress was exemplary and, other than a small number of misdemeanours at a much younger age, I had mastery of the logical path. So it was an opportunity, as it were, to see if one so genetically ill-favoured could still be valuable. I believe my refusal of the position was all the proof they needed that I could not."
"You told them where to shove it, right?"
"As I have said, I politely declined." Spock pauses. "Although I understand that some members of the council did not see it that way."
Jim laughs, and then looks at Spock. "Sorry."
"For pushing. They were jackasses though, you know that, right?"
"It doesn't matter now," Spock says. "And if I had taken their offer, no doubt I would be dead now, and the elders with me. I hold no grudges."
"Still," Jim says. He wants to say jackasses again, even if he's speaking ill of the dead and Spock's dad. He wants to say, sure you hold a grudge, and don't I know it. Instead he looks at the walls again, and wishes Sulu and Chekov would hurry up.
"What about you, Captain?" Uhura says.
"A secret. You forced one out of Spock, the least you can do is…"
Which is true, but he doesn't think he has anything like that to tell. Lots of small, embarrassing stuff, which is the point of the damn game, but nothing… Jim stops. He says, "When I was twelve, I tried to drive our car off a cliff."
There's a moment of silence before Bones chokes out, "You did what?" He looks like Jim slapped him.
Spock says, "Clearly you were unsuccessful."
"Well," Jim replies, "the car went over. I jumped out at the last minute. Grabbed onto the edge and decided a rocky end wasn't for me. I want to leave a pretty corpse, you know."
"Why would you…?" That's Bones again, not quite recovered the power of speech.
"Because I was twelve, and it seemed like the only way out of whatever fucking nowhere path I was on. Didn't really want to stay a dumb hick in Iowa, but nowhere else to go." He looks at Uhura and smirks when he says that. She doesn't smile back, her dark eyes troubled.
Spock says, "Captain, that was a most-"
"So help me God, if you say illogical right now… I'm just saying – you were right, Spock. We've all got our reasons for wanting to fly."
Spock inclines his head in mute agreement. Thankfully, that's when phasers start firing outside, and they don't have much longer to wait for rescue.
It's almost certainly because of the people involved, but Jim seems to hear about Uhura and Spock ending things a long while after the event.
Uhura is reserved at her post, even for her. Spock is a little more stilted when he speaks to her. It adds up, eventually, and when Jim asks the question, Spock answers.
Spock confesses, "Lieutenant Uhura and I ended our romantic relationship ten days ago." He says nothing else when Jim pushes.
So Jim is forced to track Uhura down, on her own in one of the labs. She's listening to recorded languages, and startles when he stands behind her. "Captain."
"Lieutenant," Jim answers.
"Did you need me?"
"You want to tell me what happened?"
"You and Spock. Couple voted most likely to. Did he…?"
Uhura, whose expression had been looking more and more like he was about to have his ass handed to him, suddenly lightens. "You're asking if he was cheating on me?"
"Not just that. I just wanted to know if he…"
"And what, you would go and beat him up for me?" She pauses, smothering laughter. "You would, wouldn't you? Jim, I can take care of myself, even if Spock did do anything. Which he didn't."
"I just assumed that he was the one who did the actual, you know, breaking. You seemed more cut up about it."
She stares at him. "You based your assumptions on monitoring our emotional reactions?"
He flushes. "Which I realise now was incredibly stupid. So I'll go now."
"Wait." She spins in her chair to look at him properly. "It just wasn't forever. Lots of things aren't – you should know that. It doesn't mean anyone did anything wrong, or that we don't still… care for each other, very much. You don't need to get angry on my behalf."
"Or his?" Jim tests.
Uhura frowns at him again. "Or his. Now are we done?"
"Yeah. As long as there's not gonna be any more weirdness on the bridge. Not that you two being weird actually matches anyone else's standards of…" He's babbling, so he stops himself, and heads for the door.
"Captain." Uhura stops him again. "However ill-founded and reliant on gender-stereotypes it was…"
"Thank you for the concern."
"The blood's not mine, you know," Jim says. "Well. Most of it isn't."
"I know that," Bones says. He turns to the nurse and says, "Son, it doesn't take a medic to figure out that if the blood that the Captain's covered in is green, it's probably not his."
"Unless something's gone really wrong," Jim says. But his heart's not in it. They lost good people today, and Spock is still getting medical attention. Jim had known intellectually that Vulcans bled green, but he's not sure that he ever had the evidence run over his skin like that.
Bones says, "Was the girl at least worth it?" And it's obvious that he's not quite ready to joke either, but neither of them know what else to do.
"Not worth people getting killed over, no. Not worth Spock getting sliced up into little pieces of Vulcan."
"I don't think the girl was the reason he ran in all guns blazing," Bones says, and stabs Jim with the sedative before he can respond.
"I didn't think Vulcans did 'all guns blazing'," Jim says, before he finds himself flopping onto the bed. He's tired, and this was not a good day.
He hears Spock answer him before he falls into sedated sleep. "We do when it is the logical course, Captain."
Bones is still talking when he walks over to Spock's bed, his voice wrapped up tight in worry for both of them. "Funny how 'the logical course' and Jim getting himself into trouble overlap so often."
"I have no comment on that," Spock answers, and Bones sighs.
"Of course you don't," he says, and there's a little breath like maybe Spock is being sedated too. Jim falls into uneasy sleep.
Jim has forgotten anniversaries before. With Bones, Jim will steadily wonder why his friend is getting more and more irritable, until eventually he recalls the date of Bones's marriage, or his divorce, or of his little girl's birthday.
He doesn't forget this one. It's going to be a day of mourning across the Federation: the day Vulcan died. Jim is taking the Enterprise to the Vulcan colony. He'll keep them near the planet until Spock is ready to leave. But he has one more thing to do.
"Uhura," Jim says. Then: "Nyota?"
She opens her mouth a fraction at that.
He says, "So, I have a question for you. I'd say feel free to tell me where to stick it, but I've known you long enough to know you don't need the permission."
"What is it, Captain?"
"Would you be okay with going down to the planet with Spock? Or is it still weird between you two?"
"You mean for the ceremonies?"
"Yeah. As long as it's not… I mean, you can go, right? It's not an all-Vulcan thing?"
"I don't think so, no. You're fine with us both…?"
"Look, I'd take the whole crew down if I thought he'd appreciate it. But I wouldn't know what to… and you would. I'll have the Enterprise in orbit – we'll pick the two of you up as soon as you're ready."
She smiles at him – not the white brilliant one he pursued for so long, but small and pleasantly surprised. Uhura hugs him one-armed. And despite her pointed glares and occasional sarcasm, it isn't like her to be so familiar. Jim pats her hand.
Uhura says, "Thank you, Captain. He'll… this is the right call. I'm glad to do it."
He nods at her, and she walks to tell Spock.
Jim spends an uneasy three days with his ship in orbit around the planet. He reads political speculation about how the Federation will continue with Vulcan such a diminished presence. He does his own mourning, though he finds himself more and more thinking about Spock's outstretched arm, and the sombre atmosphere in the ship these past weeks. Without anything specific to latch onto, in the face of overwhelming tragedy, the human mind picks something to link it to. Jim mourns Vulcan, and his friend's loss, and cannot detangle the two.
He is in the transporter room when Uhura and Spock return. Uhura squeezes Spock's hand, and says something to him too quietly for Jim to hear. Spock touches her shoulder, and replies. Then he looks up, sees Jim, and nods. Jim nods back, and leaves them to their last moments before re-entering the bustle of the ship.
The next anniversary seems to come much too quickly after that one. It has been almost one year since Jim was officially handed the Enterprise to command. He is expected to return to Headquarters for review.
Jim is a little nervous about this. Well, okay, so he's terrified. It's probably not what Spock meant.
They have a gym up here, and lifting weights is therapeutic enough that he doesn't notice Spock come in.
"You should be asleep, Captain," Spock says. "You'll need to be well rested to give your report."
"Really?" Jim gasps, heaving the weight up. "I hadn't noticed."
Spock pauses. He knows it was sarcasm, but has clearly missed the 'why' of it. Spock considers that for a moment and then asks, "You are apprehensive about the results of the review?"
Jim sits up. "Yeah. Wouldn't you be? We haven't exactly had a perfect first year. People have died under my command. Our diplomatic record must be about fifty-fifty, and I don't think we've gone a week without something weird happening to a crew-member, or to the ship. I think we might be cursed."
Spock lifts the weight easily from Jim's hands. "I find that most unlikely."
"Yes. Premature death is an unfortunate but unavoidable consequence of what we do. Diplomatic missions are always subject to the particular whims of the parties involved. And as to the… unusual occurrences across the ship, I can only conclude that the nature of our missions results in a higher than average incidence of these anomalies."
Jim looks at him. "So you think I'm a good captain?"
Spock answers almost before Jim has finished with the question. "Yes, of course."
For a moment, Jim gapes at Spock. "I was expecting you to ask me to define my parameters or something."
Spock shakes his head sharply. "We have the same basic understanding of what constitutes a good captain. The Starfleet criteria, as with the criteria of both Earth and Vulcan, lend us the same definition. Which I feel that you fulfil without question."
"Without question, huh?"
Spock nods, but now there is a little question in his expression. Jim suspects that he is the subject of the inquiry, rather than the definition of a good Starfleet captain.
Jim laughs and says, "So I guess I should go and get some sleep before I have to convince the brass that you're right about that one."
Spock's expression when Jim leaves is still puzzled. Jim thinks about it while he tries to get to sleep, but at least he's not thinking about the review anymore.
Jim has to laugh, when he gets back to the Enterprise and finds his first officer working quietly in the transporter room. "Were you waiting up for me, Spock?"
"I was not."
"But you're not on shift, right?"
"I am not."
"And how is this different from waiting up, exactly?"
"I was reading some scientific journals."
"Yeah," Kirk drawls, "that's pretty much just waiting up and lying to yourself about it."
Spock shuts down the screen he had been poring over, and looks at Jim. "I found your anxiety distracting."
"Well, I'm sorry about that," Jim starts to say.
"It had not occurred to me that your record could be considered less than exemplary since taking command. But you were particularly adamant in your apprehension. I became somewhat apprehensive myself."
"No need to worry," Jim assures Spock, resting his hand briefly on Spock's shoulder. "Starfleet agreed with your assessment. Mostly. They're a little concerned about the number of away missions that end up with me getting shot."
Spock nods at that, and for the first time Jim doesn't feel the need to joke about Spock showing his concern. He knows Spock gets anxious, or worried or whatever this is, when Jim gets into trouble. You only need to look at him now.
Spock says, "Dr McCoy is awaiting your arrival in the recreation room. As, I believe, are other members of the crew."
"Don't tell me," Jim says, "my 'anxiety' distracted them too?"
Spock says nothing, just walks out of the room, leaving Jim to follow in his wake. Somewhere before the rec room, they change places, so Spock follows Jim inside.
There's something of a carnival atmosphere here, with the ship safe in dock. They're almost all due leave, but few have left yet. Tomorrow, he'll lose them all for a little while, but for the moment his crew are loud and approaching drunkenness in celebration of a year without destroying the ship.
Scotty doesn't seem to be drunk, although he does have grease all over his arms.
Jim says, "You started taking her apart already?"
"No time like the present, Captain!" Scotty replies. "I've been wanting to get my hands inside those stabilisers for months."
Jim tries very hard to ignore the gleam in his chief engineer's eyes. He says, "As long as she still runs when you're finished."
"Better than ever, Captain, I promise you that."
He makes his way through the room. Sulu is trying to beat Chekov at poker again. "Give it up, Sulu," Jim advises him.
"I don't know how he does it," Sulu says.
"Maybe it's because his face is frozen on 'innocent' and whenever you get a bad hand, you look like you want to beat him to death with that sword of yours. Just a suggestion."
Sulu manages an expression which suggests both extreme insubordination, and the very real possibility that he's going to beat Jim to death with the sword.
Bones is watching them indulgently from the nearby table. Jim sits beside him. "What's it like being the only grown-up in the room?" Jim asks.
"It gives me flashbacks to the academy," Bones answers, "why do you ask?"
"No reason. So, Starfleet think I'm doing an awesome job, and that I'll probably make Admiral in another year or so. What do you think?"
"I think you need your head examined, and that I just might do it myself if you don't stop playing cock of the walk."
Jim shrugs, and leans back.
When he turns his head, Bones is smiling at him. "Congratulations, Jim," he says.
A little way away, Uhura has an instrument in her hands. Jim isn't surprised to see Spock walk across to her, and help her tune it. It's clearly Vulcan, and clearly precious. Spock hums and she plucks the string until it sounds right to both of them.
"Man of many talents," Bones says.
"Yeah." Jim takes the glass Bones offers him. He's content, this once, to watch the world move on around him.
The room empties slowly. The crew goes to bed, or on to other activities. Jim doesn't question too much who might be going to which bed.
Chekov leaves with Sulu, the one threatening the other with violence if he doesn't reveal his poker secrets. Chekov just smiles, and still gives away nothing.
Scotty disappears to the engine rooms again, grinning happily to himself. Jim's going to have to enforce shore leave for him at some point.
Bones stands and says, "I'm going before today turns into tomorrow. I have to see my ex-wife tomorrow – I'll need the energy."
Uhura gets up too. "Yes, I'm going to sleep as well. Goodnight, Spock. Goodnight, Captain."
They nod at her, and at Bones, and suddenly they're alone. Jim takes another drink.
Jim says, "Well, who'd have thought we'd get here?"
"This is where we started," Spock points out. The spacedock, on a stationary Enterprise, with earth below them.
"I'm going to say, 'you know what I mean' and really hope I'm right," Jim says.
"I believe you're referring to our successful first year. Possibly also our elevated positions in command of the vessel. And, perhaps, our own personal relationship?" Spock looks less than certain about the last of those.
"Yeah, Spock, that's what I was referring to. I wouldn't have made it sound like that, but okay."
"How would you have put it, Captain?" Spock says.
"Well, first of all, I might have said 'Jim' since it's just us, and I know you know how to say it. And then I would have said, maybe, that I'm sort of glad you asked to be first officer. And that… I'm kind of pleased we're getting to be friends. Are friends, I think. Most days."
Spock is quiet for a moment and then says, "I fail to see how that was more eloquent."
Jim flushes, and looks at the table. Something makes him look back at Spock's face. "Dammit, Spock, was that you teasing me?"
Spock shrugs - an eloquent one-shouldered movement. It makes Jim laugh, which makes Spock raise his eyebrow, which just makes Jim laugh more.
"Yeah," he says through his laughter, "we're friends. And it's only gonna get better."
Spock looks at him, right at him, like he doesn't really need the touch to be telepathic. His eyes are dark, and very still. Jim is hit with a flash of someone else's memory. It's been so long since the last one that he had almost forgotten that punch to the gut feeling. This one is more vivid. Okay, so it's going to get worse as well. But it'll get better too. More everything.
On the bridge, with the crew all back from leave, Jim calls on each section.
"Scotty? My ship better be in one piece again."
"Aye, sir. One hundred and twenty percent of previous capacity."
"Just get us out there already, would you, Jim? The suspense is worse than the damn takeoff."
"Communications functioning, all departments reported in." She adds, "Captain," at the last moment, and he grins at her.
"Course plotted and set, Captain."
"Ready for warp, sir."
Jim turns last to Spock, not to check anything in particular, but because it has become a habit.
Spock tilts up one corner of his mouth, very slightly, and nods. "Ready, Captain."
"Okay," Jim broadcasts on ship-wide, "if anyone wants out before year two of this ride kicks off, this is your last chance. No one? All right Mr Sulu, punch it."
Jim rests his hands on the arms of his chair, and watches the viewscreen as space flies past them. God, he has the best job in the world.
FIN. Comments welcomed.