AN: TA-DA. The one time he DIDN'T. Are you excited?

So, I have this habit in other fandoms of being like, "I have another great idea I'll write and post right after this one!" And it's like a curse of some kind, because I inevitably get distracted by some other shiny new fandom, so the story never gets posted. It always happens that way. SO: I am NOT telling you that I have a Super Epic idea I'm playing with that is NOT probably going to be called Atlas and should in NO WAY appear within the next 30 days. It will NOT be set during and post the end of the movie, NO characters will experience growth, and there is NO way I'd develop a deep and spiritual relationship between two officers who shall NOT be mentioned and are NOT sometimes called Jim and Spock.

So there. I didn't say it. It's NOT a promise. (Will someone out there NOT shake my hand on this, so it DOESN'T feel more like an agreement and less like a passing fancy?)

Act 6

In Which Jim Takes Part

In a Deadly Situation

"This is the very last straw!" Bones snarled. "After this, that man is going to be lashed to his chair for all eternity!"

Spock wondered about the logic of that statement, but didn't say anything since the doctor seemed willing to do physical harm to anyone who offered him the least provocation. Instead he turned to the head engineer. "How are you progressing, Mr. Scott?"

"I'm giving it all I've got, Mr. Spock," the Scotsman retorted tersely, keeping a steady hand as he attempted to torch his way into the storage bay of the Enterprise where Captain Kirk was currently being held captive by escaped renegade mercenaries.

"We have to get in there before they kill him," Sulu murmured, vibrating with the need to rescue his captain.

"You think I don't know that?" Scotty snapped.

"Calm down," Uhura ordered, checking her phaser for the hundredth time. "We need to at least appear to be in control when those doors open, or we'll never be able to negotiate his release."

"You think I don't know that?" McCoy snarled.

"Doctor," Spock said, a single word that forced Bones to settle. McCoy scowled down at his kit instead, making sure every item was exactly where he needed it to be for triage. Minutes later, they broke through the door.

To the sounds of laughter.

"…What the hell?" Bones pushed his way into the holding bay, gaping at the scene that met his eyes.

Kirk was seated, hale and hearty, at a large packing crate that had been turned into an impromptu poker table. The mercenaries, all five of them, sat with him, joking and complaining and accusing him of cheating. Jim's pile of chips, made of small bits of paper and bottle caps and other assorted trash, easily doubled what the other players had collectively. After a last round of dealing, everyone went all in. Cards were shuffled, decisions made, and hands revealed.

"And that's a straight flush," Kirk announced casually, spreading his cards face up over the crate. He slapped the nearest mercenary's shoulder consolingly as the others all groaned. "Good game, boys."

The mercenaries muttered good naturedly, ribbing Jim and each other as they gathered the cards. What appeared to be the leader stretched his hand across the table for a firm shake. "One more round, Jimmy?" His eyes flickered to the doorway where the bridge crew of the Enterprise hovered, looking like they meant business, even if they weren't sure what that business was anymore. "For the road?"

"I'll have to pass this time, Jack." Jim grinned back at his officers. "I think I'm gonna be in trouble for a little while. At least games of poker with potential enemies in the storage bay of the Enterprise isn't on the DND list."


"Do Not Do." He shrugged. "I'm on restriction from death."

Jack laughed, standing with his men. "Well, I suppose that's only fair." He held out his wrists. "Are we gonna do this formally?"

The captain shook his head as he rose. "We'll hold you in the brig, of course, but you won't be locked in." He lifted a quieting hand when every one of his officers began an outraged protest. "We should meet up with your ship within the next few days, and you'll be free to go."

"Fair enough." Jack and his men filed out of the storage bay, following a bewildered Chekov as he led them to the brig.

"It's a long story," Jim said to Spock, including the others in a brief sweep of blue eyes, "and I'm starving. I'll brief Dr. McCoy and Mr. Spock in my quarters over dinner, and they can inform the rest of you later." When refusal began to darken several faces, Jim dropped his smile. "That's an order. Back to your posts."

Once the trio of men were safely in Jim's quarters, food spread before them like a banquet, Jim told his story. The mercenaries were actually fairly honest traders from a nearby planet who had been separated from their ship by a mix-up in a cargo hold, which began a confusing but desperate adventure that had ended upon Enterprise, with the panicked capture of the only Starfleet captain in the Federation who actually listened instead of just attempting to kill them.

"But by the time we got things sorted out," Kirk concluded, pouring himself another glass of water, "the bay was already locked down, and we had to wait for you to get in before anything could be done for them. So I promised to get them back to their ship, provided they didn't try anything funny, and we killed the remaining time with some friendly hands of poker."

"Let me get this straight," Bones said calmly. "You've been blown up, kidnapped, nearly offered as a ritual sacrifice to a pagan god, caught in a landslide, drowned, and shot, all during routine low-hazard missions, and the one time you're threatened by honest-to-god mercenaries, you walk away without a scratch."

Kirk considered for a moment before grinning widely and lifting his glass to Bones in a salute.

"Damn it, Jim!" McCoy stormed from the room, muttering about vaccinations and three-day tranquilizers and high grade ulcer medication.

"Captain," Spock said when he was gone, waiting for Kirk's attention to swing his way. "You should know that the crew's risk for stress-related health problems increases with each of these…adventures in which you take part."

Jim blinked. "Oh?"


"Oh." Kirk ran his hands through his hair, scratching brusquely. "Well, Spock," he admitted, "I'm not sure what I can do about that."

"My best recommendation," the Vulcan informed him intently, leaning forward a little to make sure his point was taken, "would be to give the appearance that you understand your own value in relation to the ship and her crew."

Jim Kirk's too blue eyes lifted to Spock's, filled with the wild calculations that were never too far from the surface. "Mr. Spock," he replied softly, "when have I done otherwise?"

For a moment, Spock could almost see the world as Jim did, an endless parade of choices and options all bent beneath his hand to form a future where the Enterprise always flew, always pushed boldly into the unknown, cared for by the best and brightest of every generation. Sometimes that would require Jim to put his own life on the line; sometimes it wouldn't. When it did, it would be up to the crew, the officers, those who gave their loyalty to no one above James Kirk, to make sure their mad and brilliant captain kept the helm.

He would sacrifice anything for them. They could do no less than fight for him in return.

Spock let the barest smile curve his mouth, shutting his eyes as he offered a slight bow.

Mission accepted, Captain.