Title: Run Into The Bright Lights
Rating: PG-13 (drama, humor)
Characters: Janice Rand; assorted
Disclaimer: Not mine, making no profit; I'm only playing in the greatest sandbox ever. Title from Tom McRae.
Notes: I told a friend about a bizarre nu!Janice dream I had. She dared me to do it. Forgive me.
Teaser: A brief (alternate) history of Janice Rand. (side piece to 'the stars go on forever')
Janice Rand would have been raised in Michigan, the daughter of a Starfleet engineer and a stay-at-home father.
She would have gone to Starfleet because nothing seemed better at the time and would have stayed because she would come to love her work.
She would have met James Tiberius Kirk at the age of thirty-four and transferred off of the Enterprise within one year.
This woman is not that woman.
This woman is raised in Michigan for eight years before her mother is outsourced (the actual wording is a bit more refined but everybody that's been sent out so Starfleet can bring in the new engineers knows what's really going on these days) and the family packs up to join her on whatever colony she is sent to at the moment.
Janice meets Jimmy Kirk the first time at the age of fourteen, only two months before she becomes an orphan— but they won't become close enough to be considered friends until after she experiences this loss. (Following this incident, she will not see him again until he tracks her down in the library of Starfleet Academy years later.) Upon returning to Earth just before the age of fifteen, she's raised by her uncle on her father's side and denies any interest in joining Starfleet.
This denial works until it doesn't.
Rand becomes close friends with Hikaru Sulu (one thing that has not changed) after they begin a conversation while they are waiting in line together in the Academy cafeteria:
("You know, this place a few blocks away has a really great steak sandwich."
"Oh, yeah. Fries, too."
"Oh." A beat. "How far away is it?")
And decides she dislikes Nyota Uhura two days after they first meet (one thing that has changed):
("You spilled nail polish on my shoes."
"I'll buy you new ones."
"It's the principle of it, Janice."
"Don't call me Janice," and this is how it goes for two months until they find new roommates.)
Rand becomes friends with Helen shortly thereafter, who never pushes for information even though she clearly wants to and who regularly shows up to join her and Sulu for lunch (and sometimes a drink) when she's got some time on her hands. Helen won't admit to being uncomfortable around Beauregard and Sulu won't admit to being more wounded about this than he probably should be and Rand's just glad to have both of them while she drifts through the Academy, waiting for the pieces to fall together.
(None of this is sent back to her uncle, and she never even considers it.)
Kirk shows up at the library a few months later, his greeting consisting of a basic, "hey, how've you been?" before he drops down opposite her like they just talked the day before.
… only Jim.
The night after he shows up at the library, she dreams (remembers) him painting her toenails in the medical bay.
The feeding tubes had been gone but the IVs had still been there; he'd pulled his own over with him when he'd sat on her bed, obviously in need of company. "You're whoring yourself out," she'd said when she saw the nail polish he'd sweet-talked off one of the crewmembers, and he'd shrugged like he wasn't bothered by it. (Sam had been asleep a few beds over, as stagnant as he'd always seemed to be whether or not he was awake.)
Rand had poked too-bony feet out from under the covers, dropped them into his lap. "Make yourself useful," she'd said then, and had been too aware of how tension slid from his shoulders, left his face as he focused on his task. He'd done a good job, apparently as much a genius at this as everything else, and when he had finished both her toes and her fingers, he'd let her return the favor without a blink.
That had been the second to last time she'd seen him before they reached Earth.
"I wish you would rethink your decision towards your career," she hears an average of three times a month from the classmates, instructors and officers she's been on first name basis with for too long.
Rand ignores the comment, studies engineering and botany (she gets why Sulu is so captivated even if she won't admit it) to fill her spare time. She paints when she has nothing to study, spends too much time in the bathroom every day, and lets Sulu show her and Helen around San Francisco. She wears her mother's rings (wedding band and Academy class ring, both pressed into her palm years before) every day just like always and she spends too much time with Jim as the months pass.
He talks about McCoy the way he never talks about Sam, bitches and glows over grumbling affection shown to him and only him. She complains about Helen's habit of dissecting her psyche and admits how much she enjoys finally having a friend who spends as much time doing their hair as Rand does her own. He passes his tests without trying and then shows up at her room when he does have to study because he knows he'll have no temptation there (others would think "sex" but she knows he's just too easily amused by tormenting McCoy to focus on his work). She enjoys the awareness that she's more mature than him (he knows it and isn't bothered by it) and is too grateful that he's the only one not to push her towards the command track (he's the only one who would have any right to ask her to reconsider so it means almost too much that he never once questions her decision). Some nights they go out together with beer, talk too quietly about things that mean nothing in the dark under the stars.
When McCoy isn't around for lunch, she's the first one he looks for to share a table with.
This happens often enough that Giotto starts glaring at her as much as he does Jim. After this goes on long enough, she starts calling him Cupcake right along with Jim just so he can have something to glare about.
(Jim finds her art in the corner of her room one day when her roommate is out and she's shaking a bottle of nail polish, flips idly through the images until he finds Mouth and then abruptly turns away. Drops onto the bed and starts painting her toenails a truly shocking shade of blue-green while she ignores his moment of raw panic and he ignores the fact that her hand trembled when she handed him the bottle.)
When Jim finally snaps and goes after Finnegan one day because Finnegan won't leave a first year cadet alone during lunch (he'd never been stupid enough to go after Jim but he's still stupid, period), Rand is honestly just glad someone finally did it. But later, she realizes that the only difference between her and Jim is that she goes out of her way to hide It. (Jim doesn't hide anything but it doesn't seem to matter— nobody notices what any of it means.)
Not that it matters, since none of her history is hidden.
It's on her record, a clean line of text added and never removed.
Beyond that one line, both of her parents are marked as deceased and her medical history lists "malnutrition from prolonged semi starvation" as something for her physicians to be aware of when treating her in the future. Her psychological records list off a few words that she dislikes, ones that only have meaning when they act up which thankfully isn't often. (In the notes, there are comments regarding her habit of hoarding food in times of stress and carefully worded mentions of the "curious" and "instantaneous" anger exhibited when she sees anyone bothering anyone else when they're trying to eat.)
There's nothing in Jim's record. She knows, she's checked, been too curious not to; when Jim had asked her if she'd ever gotten nosy, she'd shrugged and hadn't denied it. Jim himself hadn't seemed bothered by her prying but she's pretty sure that has everything to do with the fact that she's her and not someone else.
In his record, there are some mentions of injuries too numerous from the ages of eight to twelve (if anyone cared, they could be matched to the slow decline of his concern with schoolwork) and he's marked as having been off-planet for a little under a year shortly after that— but there's no location given. Any further attempts to see where he was meets a neat screen that says "classified" and no way to get past it without a large amount of time she simply doesn't have. (Any interest he had in school seems to have died off completely after this trip.)
She's the one they pity despite the fact that she can keep her head better than many of the command golds while she wishes she didn't, and he's the one they disregard in spite of the test scores.
It's the same difference.
"The thing's a damn joke," she tells Jim when she finds out he's trying it a third time. She may have an unhealthy hatred of the simulation, sure, but she can't help it. It makes her want to tear her hair out, which is saying something. "Sit in the simulation and check off their list of the proper things to do and then sit back and die while they mark you on how gracefully you go. It's about scaring us, that's all."
"I'm doing it again."
Rand takes a deep breath, lets it out. "You're being an idiot."
"I prefer the term 'dumb blonde'," he shrugs, attention a little too focused on lines of data he's got up on the PADD gripped in one hand. "It lets me emphasize my good looks."
Rand is good at speaking Jim Kirk, ignores the comment. "You can't even meet my eyes— Jim!" she bites out as he ducks around a corner and tries to throw her off. It's a small victory that he looks intimidated when she easily catches up with him. "It's programmed to be unbeatable. That's the point—"
"Unbeatable programs are made to be beaten," he returns without hesitation.
Rand grabs his elbow when he starts to speed up more, yanks him back easily.
She's not a tiny woman, has known how to handle herself since she was young, and the violence experienced in her teens had drilled in the need to act when others would freeze up. She's learned a fair amount from Sulu and that isn't including the hints of barroom brawling that Jim obsessively incorporates into any hand-to-hand class the instructor lets him take over (more regular now, since the classes Jim takes higher command over perform better than others).
So she isn't surprised when Jim stops obediently now, doesn't even make a face.
"Can you just tell me what the hell is wrong with you?" she demands and he shakes his head with a smirk, ignores her. Except at the same time he taps the screen of PADD too hard and she catches it by accident, recognizes the frustration he can't hide in the motion even if he tries. And then Rand gets it so clearly she feels like an idiot for not getting it before. "Oh, for—"
He's been offended.
That's what this is about, he's been offended by the stupid test.
Which means he's prepared to get himself beat to a damn pulp to prove it wrong. And if he can't prove it wrong then he'll mock it, make it so much of a joke that it doesn't mean anything anymore.
"You're becoming obsessed," she says, torn between a bubble of exasperation and a surge of raw emotion, too-clear memory leaving her insides feeling hollow.
There's a moment of silence as cadets flow around them, a constant sea of red motion. "'A rescue attempt would be inadvisable'." Jim lists off the words not like he's memorized them but like he can't get them out of his head even if he wanted to. "They say a rescue attempt would be 'inadvisable,' Janice."
"They're just words." It tastes sour, saying that.
"They're just a way of giving someone a pass for taking the easy way out."
Rand wonders what upsets him more, the five years from the ages of eight to twelve, or the months she remembers, too. Then she wonders whether it matters since it seems to be the same difference to him.
Jim's still staring at her, waiting for an answer, and it says more than she wants to know.
"It's just a test." None of it matters anymore. It's over.
"None of us should have been there." Left there, is what he's actually saying.
Rattled, she looks away, acutely aware of the fact that this is where her mother was trained, one of the best until she was traded out; where both of his parents became officers, and where people throw around the name Kirk as if any of them have any grasp of what is actually being talked about any more when the Kelvin is talked about.
"A rescue attempt any sooner would have been inadvisable," she remembers hearing at the age of fourteen, body feeling too hot and mind disjointed with her grief. She remembers being able to read between the lines, hearing instead, Too risky. You're important but not to that degree, not like that. You're just lucky Winona snatched you up, kept you safe until we reached you.
She remembers Mrs. Kirk's quiet anger the last time she'd seen the woman, the too skinny body seeming somehow stronger than anyone Rand had seen in her life. She remembers how defeated Jim looked the last time she saw him, when he'd learned he was being taken back to Earth, that was that, it was over, that he'd lost his freedom after gaining it, that he'd be stuck yet again.
Rand wonders if it makes them masochists, that they're still drawn here anyway.
Wonders if it makes her an egomaniac for sometimes thinking in the middle of walking between classes she doesn't need but goes to anyway that they can somehow fix it, do something, her and Jim and Sulu and some of the others she's met since she came. Not many, Starfleet's just a career choice these days, but some.
"You're going to do something stupid, aren't you?"
"There's no such thing as a no-win scenario."
Translation: I'm going to keep throwing myself at this wall until I break it. Or myself, whichever comes first.
After another minute staring distantly at the cadets, she grimaces, prods, "What are you doing?"
"I don't want you involved," he states flatly, and pointedly doesn't meet her eyes when she lets her dread show on her face. "It's fine," he insists, and she can only grimace, feel vaguely ill. The feeling gets worse when Jim switches his attention too fast. "Bones still wants to meet you, by the way. Thinks you can't possibly be as smart as I say you are if you spend this much time with me."
Bones, Dr. McCoy, the best friend she still hasn't even met despite knowing the man's favorite drink and color and if she's a little irritated, she won't express it because Jim hasn't even met Sulu yet. She's sure they'd hit it off, the way she knows them both, so she's not completely sure why she keeps stopping herself right before her mouth opens to plan something.
What she and Jim share is— complicated, difficult to understand, feels too big to be real, and there's nothing complicated about her friendship with Sulu. Even after he'd found out about It by accident, and even though there'd been an awkward moment just after the realization had hit his eyes, nothing had changed for him. She was still Rand and he was still Sulu and they still went out for drinks whenever they could.
(Sometimes she feels like a woman who only knew a girl who died there.)
"Busy," she says, unsure why she does, and he nods, doesn't push. No doubt understands.
"I'll see you tomorrow."
"Don't do anything stupid," she finally tells him when he sets off again and he laughs but doesn't stop.
Rand doesn't learn what Jim actually did until the Vulcan brings him up on charges. Then she sits there in a sea of red-clothed cadets wondering what the hell's wrong with her.
Because listening to the words, remembering what she remembers, she can't help but side with Jim.
Janice Rand has her parents' love-hate relationship with Starfleet's newer protocols to the extent that she will be unable to commit to her decision to join— until, because of an error in the computer systems, she is sent to the Enterprise instead of the Hood the day they respond to the distress beacon from Vulcan. She's on her way to the bridge (surprisingly proud of the red uniform) with a stack of datapads in need of quick signatures from Pike when the ship rocks and people scream.
Rand breathes in burned flesh, hears alarms and whimpers around her, and can only sprawl there, trembling as her heart beats too fast in her chest.
(She thinks, with utter clarity, separate the living and the dead, get the living somewhere safe, move the dead to the side so repairs can be started. Thinks, with quiet detachment, don't let the cadets look at them, keep them busy, they'll freeze up.)
Then the fear passes.
Her palms ache but she pushes herself up, searches for the first person she can find.
The man who'd been walking beside her is lying too-still off the side where she'd been a few seconds before, where she'd be if she hadn't thrown herself down at the first alarm. The limpness is familiar, the blood less so, but she stagger-walks to check his pulse anyway, her mind settling into that disjointed alertness that she's never fully lost. There's nothing, skin already cooling under her fingertips, so she dismisses it and checks the next one and gets lucky, is pulling the other woman up to lean against the wall when more people arrive to help.
She kicks one of her datapads to the side as she bends to help, keep helping, do what she can here while the officers keep them from falling out of the sky.
Rand learns that Jim Kirk was also on the ship only after she learns that the acting captain has marooned him on Delta Vega from Sulu.
Sulu does not agree with the acting captain's decision.
Rand can't agree more.
("Kirk saved my life, just… jumped right after me. Who does that for someone they don't know?"
"He does that," Rand says without thinking, images of the so-small handful of Vulcans that are too-still in the medical bay flickering behind her aching eyes— and takes a grateful sip of the coffee Sulu offers that she just brought him.)
When Jim's voice fills the ship hours later, tone older but somehow no different than she remembers hearing so many years before, Janice isn't surprised at all. She hasn't slept and her neck aches (images flicker behind her eyes, billions and thousands blending together when she loses focus) but she's relieved, holds her breath as the hours tick down— and then throws her arms around the first person she sees when it finally truly sinks in that they've survived, that they're fine, that she was right to be relieved.
The person she flings her arms around happens to be Uhura.
(The words "course correction" will only have meaning long after she and Uhura have become inseparable, when she and a select few finally learn the truth about Ambassador Selek. The ambassador will refuse to say anything else but his eyes will flick to Sulu momentarily before he proceeds to... scuttle just slightly behind the captain. It's bizarre enough that she won't demand any further answers because Janice hadn't even known Vulcans were capable of scuttling.)
If Janice claps too hard when Jim gets his commission, she can't be embarrassed.
It feels historic, like it's a big deal, and Rand is alive and she's been told endless times there's no reason to be ashamed of surviving.
Standing among the survivors, Rand wonders if, crushing grief and numbing horror aside, this is how Starfleet is supposed to feel.
She swipes her eyes and decides to think about it later.
But later, after several glasses of wine and too many hours spent getting to know Chekov through Sulu (Nyota knows the kid better than she does through Gaila and she makes a note to ask her about him), Jim shows up at the dormitory that she's now sharing with Nyota. (Both of their roommates are gone and they get along now so why the hell not?) Nyota's off doing whatever it is she does so she lets him in, turns away before the door closes to finish undoing her hair and hears him drop onto her bed. After a moment, hearing him start to fiddle with the objects on her bedside dresser, she says, "Don't touch that" in the tone she'd learned early in life to use for anyone younger than her.
A melodramatic sigh and heavy silence behind her promises her that he has.
Without looking back, she asks, "What's wrong?"
Jim responds, because he's Jim, "Is that a new bra?"
Rand stops in the middle of dragging her comb through her hair, turns and stares him down. Doesn't bother to smirk when he breaks eye contact first and pouts at the ceiling, everything about his form suggesting too much energy in a body too tired to channel it. McCoy must have already dragged himself off to make himself useful at the hospital— but no, it's not that, Jim's mouth is twisted a little too much to just be restless energy.
His shoulders are tight, his left leg rocking back and forth, his fingertips tapping her bed.
"I want you on my ship."
"Captains don't traditionally pick their yeomen." Rand ignores the annoyed glance that says and that matters to me why? as she takes off her mother's rings and sets them very carefully on the bedside dresser. Gets out her lotion and smears some between her palms, spreads it up her arms. "How much did you have to drink?" Nothing much, she knows, maybe a glass at the most, but she has to ask.
"When we get out there, I'm not stopping."
Rand stills, lifts her gaze in a silent question and watches him sit forward, the tension in the lines of his body shockingly, painfully familiar. Restrained, cornered, the same restless defiant boy who had been given freedom and then been dragged back down to Earth— that, she knows, hurt him more than anything else. Well, almost more than anything else. "Jim," she starts, feeling as old as she did at fourteen again, and he licks his lips, swallows and shifts and visibly fights not to jump up and circle the room a few times. "You just—"
"It's going to take us years to recover, Rand, years. And we lost so much time sitting on our asses doing nothing but give the Vulcans dirty looks. I'm trying to get as many senior crew as I can but they're needed here." His legs flex, and he again barely manages not to jump up, move. "I need you at my back, Rand. You know when to let me do something crazy and you know when to put a muzzle on me and shove me in a closet."
"I'm only a—" She tries again, and hates that she can't really mean it. "You're making too big a deal out of—"
"Rand, when the Narada attacked, you helped several engineers extinguish fires so that they could focus on other problems. Then you personally escorted three injured crewmen to the medical bay while herding every yeoman around you to help with others. Then you found every crewmember on the deck with an understanding of more-than-basic first aid that could be spared and sent them to help Bones because you knew they needed manpower down there. You helped the Vulcan survivors and then you personally assisted in engineering for hours. Sulu says the whole time you were making sure that another yeoman was taking fresh coffee, real coffee, not that replicated shit they keep trying, to the bridge every half-hour like fucking clockwork." He stops, the corner of his mouth twisting in amusement. "Oh, and apparently you glared a hole in the back of Spock's head when you went to the bridge yourself to make sure the officers didn't need assistance."
"The commander's a jerk." She doesn't mean it. She can't. Janice Rand can't hate anyone with that emptiness in their eyes no matter how much of an ass they may be at times. Case in point: James Tiberius Kirk. "I'm not the only yeoman on the ship," she adds, staring at her nails against the cloth of the bedcovers. Because yeoman isn't anything special, especially these days, that was the whole point of her settling for it. "There are better—"
"I want you." Rand can't think of anything to say because she knows that look, the way his voice changes just slightly. "Nobody I've met keeps their head on their shoulders like you do," he finally says, and stares at a spot behind her head and pretends that they aren't talking about what they're talking about.
Rand waits for the frustration, the panic, but it doesn't come.
Instead her pulse quickens, anticipation beating a rhythm inside her veins.
Jim's the only one she'd trust to be her superior, the only one she can imagine truly serving.
Not just work for, but follow.
She's privately known it for years but the thought forms now and there's no longer any way to ignore how much it means. He's not like many of the captains (with the exception of Pike) that she's met since coming to the Academy, would die before he'd sacrifice his crew, before he'd give up and accept an easy answer. She knows it better than anyone else and she remembers the relief she'd felt when she'd heard his voice through the ship, heard the steel in the words and known that if it ended, he'd be with them until the end.
Jim's incapable of doing anything less, much as some try to deny it.
"I don't think anyone else knows what to do with you." Well, McCoy does, but it's different somehow— Jim's decided that the man's the brother he never really had, and Rand's been a bizarre mix of sister, friend and mother figure depending on whatever one of them happened to need at various points in their life. And they— they both know things that McCoy— doesn't. "I don't think even Nyota could rein you in," she adds, ignoring the slight waver to her voice, and doesn't have to look at him to know he's grinning.
And it'll be dangerous, yes, but she's been in danger before. And it'll be frightening, sure, but fear?
She's survived fear, and so has he.
They remember martial law and hearing that "it could have been worse" as if that made it any better.
They know why that simulation was so infuriating for both of them, felt like such a slap, an insult. Like someone had made a joke of it all. She knows why he had to mock the stupid program and he'd understand, if he ever found out, why she'd grinned so broadly when she'd heard that he'd "passed" the test.
Rand knows about violence and chaos and starvation that followed, knows about restless energy that nearly devoured him whole; she knows that no injury he's suffered has harmed him as deeply as being informed of his worthlessness between the ages of eight and twelve.
Jim knows that she blames herself for something that she had nothing to do with, that her uncle was no better to her than his stepfather was to him. He knows and understands that she is deathly afraid of being depended on and yet is the first one to step forward when no one else can, knows better than anyone that she cannot help herself. It's a quirk inherited from her mother that's been branded into her by trauma and loss, a trait that's developed as she's gotten older.
It's startling, and it shouldn't be, that she already knows her answer.
So even though Rand doesn't have to say it, she tells him, "If I tell you to do something, you're going to do it, off the record" and doesn't blink at the falsely offended glance he shoots her, most of his attention on the items on her dresser, his weak attempts to not be swallowed by the memories that have settled between them. "You'll be my captain, not my father," and when he grins, she feels something fall into place.
She'll never tease him about the naked relief on his face right then, decides instead to destroy the quiet meaning of the moment by prodding, "You said you already looked for your crew."
"Yep." Jim steals her lotion and sniffs it curiously, unashamed of his own nosiness. Then he makes a pleased face and starts smoothing some into his hands without a single moment's hesitation. The image is oddly endearing— but this is Jim and so she quickly smothers down her smile, hides it.
"Mind telling me who?"
"Guess," he says, genuine delight in his voice, and this time she doesn't bother to hide her smile when he lifts a bottle of nail polish off her dresser, shakes it and considers the color thoughtfully. "Now I'm just waiting for my damn First Officer to get back to me…" For a moment she's baffled, thinking that the response doesn't fit Sulu— she saw how they worked together, Sulu would be a good first officer— "Not that I'm worried, I already told Spock I called dibs on him," Jim finishes like they're talking about the weather.
"Spock—" Sulu, she'd thought Sulu, the way they'd worked together— "Co— Commander Spock?" She tries to think, to not feel like an idiot, because she herself had seen how they'd become inseparable through the long days they had struggled through space to get back to Earth after the destruction of the Narada. Whatever problems they may have still had with each other paled in comparison to how well they had worked together but still— well—
Now Jim is nodding as he studies another bottle of nail polish. Rand stupidly opens her mouth, closes it when she realizes he isn't fucking with her. Finally says after a choked minute, "He strangled you."
"Yeah." Jim notices her mystified stare, blinks like it's confusing to him. "But I needed him to."
She remembers, abruptly, thirteen-year-old Jimmy pushing Greg Page into attacking him in full view of their teachers with nothing but smirks and words to prove that Page actually was teasing the younger kids. She'd punched him in the arm in disgust and unease while helping him to the nurse but hadn't really meant it because she'd also been telling the teachers about the bullying and nobody had been listening. But she had meant it when she'd snapped and gone after the bigger boy when he had tried to sneak up on Jimmy a few days later between classes for some private vengeance.
"Make yourself useful," she says when she trusts her voice, lifting her leg and setting her foot on his knee, ready to dig her heel into his thigh to get his attention. But he's already got the little bottle of brilliant red polish open and looks comforted to have something to do.
After a minute, he says, "Next time you do mine, I'm going gold."
The night before the Enterprise leaves Earth the second time, they spend the night together in his captain's quarters. (McCoy snorts and says "sex" but doesn't actually mean it when they wander off together because he's learned the hard way that Jim defies things like generalization.)
The whole night Jim is sure that Spock will show up the next day ("His left eyebrow went up about two millimeters higher than usual, Rand, he's already admitted defeat") and Rand is still recovering from helping Sulu bring his most precious plants aboard ("he went straight for Giotto's ass, I've never seen Beauregard move that fast") and she steals the gold nail polish for herself on pure impulse after she finishes his toes.
Rand's wearing gold along with her operational red when the ship launches hours later.