Deus ex Machina
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek. Sadly enough.
Warnings: Language, definite spoilers for the recent movie, allusions to other Star Trek series
AN: Based on a prompt from the first st_xi_kink meme. And damn if I didn't quite make the DVD release date in the US. Also, the title is very intentional.
The first time Jim Kirk sees him is coming back from his triumph of a Kobayashi Maru. He's high on life, on winning and beating the unbeatable, at showing them that their no-win scenario is defeatable. With only the sharpest twinge of guilt that he used Gaila, that he betrayed a friend in such a heinous manner.
But that's driven back as he all but smacks into someone on his way to Bones' apartment. The man is middle-aged, neither young nor old, falling somewhere in the center with his dark hair and eyes. Yet, Jim can't help but notice the oddly bluish-purple color to his lips. Vaguely cyanotic were it not for the fact that he is clearly still standing.
He brushes off Jim's apologies. Just gives him a wicked grin and wink before walking away to a whistled tune. Jim soon forgets about him, however. Lost in the rush of Bones' ongoing shock and curses and back slaps. And the incident is driven even further from his mind in the days following. In the face of his academic hearing and then sneaking aboard the Enterprise. Swept under thoughts of Vulcan lost to the dark of space and ice planets and too many Spocks. In the rage of a son who has lost his mother and the feel of hands on his neck and the fact that he sees spots but still wins in the end.
Too much is going on at that point to even really see the man in command golds who Jim rushes by on his way to the transporter room. Jim barely notices him or the fact that he has three bands on each sleeve, which is crazy since he sure as hell isn't the captain, but he's too busy to think further as he hurries off to his destination. And the thought leaves his mind entirely as he arrives to find Mr. Scott, Spock, and Uhura.
And then, there's kissing between a Vulcan and his subordinate. Nero's ship. Fighting and being choked yet again. Rescuing Pike. Saving the Earth. Beaming back. A black hole sucking them in. Their frantic tries to escape even as they watch Nero's vessel be torn apart.
They're being dragged in, and the warp core is somehow refusing to eject. And there's absolutely nothing Jim can do as he and Spock the younger stand together and stare out at the sight before them in absolute horror. As his eyes drift to all the terrified but somehow still resolute expressions around him. Chekov and Sulu and Uhura and all the others. All of them frightened but stoic in the face of certain doom.
A true no-win situation.
There's literally nothing he can do as death rushes in on black wings. As he thinks of his life and Gaila, who's certainly dead now too, and Bones all those decks away. His best and closest friend, who he'll never see again. All the things he should've said and done but never did. There was always tomorrow after all. Always the opportunity then.
But now, there are no more tomorrows. Only regrets.
"I'm sorry," he murmurs to himself. To Bones in the sickbay. To Spock beside him. To everyone in the room. On the ship.
And if the strange man by the science station has a smile on his lips, Jim barely has time to consider it as everything dissolves into a haze of white.
They're not dead. Which comes as a pleasant surprise. They're not dead and are somehow mere hours into the past. Spock the elder and Nero are sucked into a black hole and receive decades. Jim and company don't even get a full day. Barely eighteen hours to patch the Enterprise as best they can and try to come up with a plan that doesn't get them, a good chunk of the fleet, and six billion Vulcans killed.
Naturally, the plan's completely insane with odds so infinitesimal that Spock won't even say what they are. No matter though. They still have to get it done.
Time passes in a frenetic blur. Of trying to wrangle the Enterprise into shape with the opportunity they've been given. Of he and Spock being everywhere but nowhere as they run around fixing and modifying and just stealing a moment to breathe. Of watching with a knowing smirk as he sees Uhura tug Spock into a handy supply closet and the fact that the Vulcan returns to the bridge ten minutes later with a decidedly green tint to his ears. Of being manhandled to the sickbay by Bones seconds later and all but shoved into the office he's claimed as his own.
Hyposprays to the neck. More bandaging for his hand and some for the weird claw marks on his back and side. A dermal regenerator for the cuts on his cheek. And then, the feel of fingertips touching his face and lips pressing against his with something beyond gentleness. A hand on his hip and kissing like the world will end tomorrow. Bones whispering his name in his ear afterwards. Foreheads pressing together and doing what he's wanted to do from the very beginning.
Just hold on.
They wait in the shadow of Vulcan for Nero to arrive. Hiding just as they did earlier and hoping to sneak aboard. After all, it'd worked the first time, and it wasn't like this version of Nero was expecting it either. And really, if they can have two Spocks – not that anyone other than Jim and Mr. Scott know that – they can have two of everyone else. Except they're going to end up with a third version of Spock that way. Which is still sort of weird. But aside from the whole choking thing and calling him before the academic board and well, stranding him in the third level of hell – and yes, he's actually read The Divine Comedy thank you very much. Aside from all of that, Spock's an okay guy.
Most of the time. If he squints.
He'll be an okay guy one day. Far, far in the future. And will apparently think that he – James T. Kirk – is just about the most awesome person ever. So take that Uncle Frank and Carol Marcus and Governor Kodos and stepfathers one through three. Time traveling Vulcans think the universe of him. Enough to help him emotionally destroy their younger selves.
And yes, he really wishes he could tell somebody about that. Maybe Bones won't think him completely crazy when he brings it up after this is all over.
The seconds tick down as they wait for Nero's approach. Jim knows in his very soul that they only have one chance at this. A single shot. That they need Nero to be distracted. That they need every advantage they can get. That they can merely wait for reinforcements. And pray that the coded message Uhura sent gets through. That they believe and come in with guns blazing and shields on full.
The armada arrives together. A subtle but important difference; Sulu apparently remembered the parking brake this time. And their shields are up. Approaching from an angle and not directly towards Nero. Just far enough away from the drill for a staticky message to get through. And Ambassador Sarek is with Uhura. Trying to convince every Starfleet vessel in range that this isn't a joke and not to fire on them. It's only through the quick intervention of Pike the younger that they don't. But even he is skeptical.
Not that he has long to dwell on that fact. Not as everything falls into place. Not as they see Nero's ship for themselves and have it start firing on them all.
It's the moment of truth. Communications down. Transporters down.
They can't transport now. The drill interferes with it. Not now… but Spock left the Enterprise right before it was turned on. And Jim knows that he's made it through perfectly, that the coordinates he gave to Mr. Scott were accurate when a small ship bursts free from the inside of the Narada and attacks the drill.
Then, it's utter chaos.
Light. Fire. The Enterprise rocks around them. Jim grips his armrests to keep from being knocked to the floor. The science station explodes with sparks, and the woman there is tossed to the ground. A middle-aged man pulls her away and puts out the fire. The same man then saves Ambassador Sarek and Uhura from a similar fate as the station next to them bursts into flame.
Complete chaos. As the drill is destroyed in a rush of energy. As Uhura rips off her earpiece and frantic and crazed Romulan floods the bridge. As Nero fires on everything in range. Most especially both ships bearing the name Enterprise.
Pike's version takes a direct hit to the bridge and immediately begins to list to the side. To be pulled into the gravity well of Vulcan before another shot takes out her warp core. She dies in a mass of fire and radiance that's sucked into the void.
And agony squeezes Jim's chest. Presses in on him. Digs into his soul as the ship jolts violently around him.
The Enterprise – his Enterprise – can't take much more of this. Sulu is piloting for all he's worth. Weaving and diving and soaring. Evading as best he can. But some still get through. Engineering takes a glancing blow. Sparing most of the area and much of the crew. But when Uhura comms for a damage report, it's not Mr. Scott who answers. He's beyond answering. Beyond life.
Then, Spock the elder's ship is once more piloted into the Narada. Once more impacts and explodes outwards. Spills her red matter into the very heart of the Romulan vessel. Spells doom for Nero and his crew and anyone else who thinks that they can murder six billion innocents, nearly a dozen Federation starships, and Jim's own father and get away with it.
And Spock the younger strides onto the bridge moments later, taking his place beside Jim. Something a lot like satisfaction, like triumph, glitters in his eyes.
Nero's vessel is dying. Again. Being sucked into the black hole in the distance. Again. Thankfully far enough away that nothing else is going in with them this time. That's a relief. Breaking into pieces even as they muster enough hate and rage to fire off a single shot. That's bad. Really bad.
Only they aren't aiming at the Enterprise.
Jim nearly braces for impact before he understands that and can just watch as the green beam soars toward Vulcan. His stomach sinks to his ankles as he realizes the most likely target. As he yells for Chekov to beam them out, already knowing that there's no possible way for him to make it in time. As he sees Spock's stiffen beside him and knows that his own hand on the man's shoulder is the only reason that he hasn't sunk to the floor. As he feels the Vulcan tremble beneath his fingertips and comprehends that he's on the edge of breaking entirely.
Even as he steadies Spock and guides him to the command chair, Jim can't help but glance back to see Ambassador Sarek somehow sitting in Uhura's seat. Face and eyes eerily blank. Empty. Shattered in the way of a husband who has lost his wife not once but twice within the span of a single day.
And the bridge is silent. Deathly so.
But the comm chirps, and Uhura absentmindedly activates the speaker. The room fills with the sound of Chekov babbling. A mixture of Russian and Standard that doesn't make any sense. High council and gone and survivor and Mr. Spock and mother.
Then, there's a scream in the background. Completely drowning him out. High and female and so full of anguish that Jim feels his own heart ache in response. Ringing and impossibly loud, and Jim nearly jumps out of his skin as Spock practically flies to his feet. As he races for the turbolift and all but crashes into his father, who has the same destination in mind.
Jim has seconds to tell Sulu to take the conn before he races after. He knows that this will be bad. That having not one but two rampaging Vulcans on board his ship is going to be a nightmare of epic proportions. And that's all he can think about as he waits for the turbolift and slips inside as soon as it arrives. Turning around to see that same desperate knowledge on the faces of everyone else. As Uhura rises to her feet but stills as he shakes his head. Telling her with his eyes to wait a minute. To give him a chance to talk them down. She doesn't need to see this. Doesn't need to see Spock or his father self-destructing.
Still, the only thing that keeps her in place is the hand on her arm, the man dressed in gold standing beside her. And Jim has a second for his eyes to widen as he takes the man in – three stripes on his sleeve and smirk on his lips – before the door slides shut.
He doesn't know what to expect when he gets to the transporter room. More screaming perhaps. Maybe a pair of pissed off and grieving Vulcans.
What he gets is Chekov looking on in amazement and absolute wonder. Tears streaming down his cheeks that he doesn't even seem to notice. Not once looking away from the spectacle as Jim comes up to him.
Jim all but stares himself.
A thin but not frail woman is on the transporter pad. One hand cupping Ambassador Sarek's face as he kneels before her. The other arm is wrapped around Spock's back as he presses in on her right side. Head lowered so that his hair brushes her temple.
They do not cry. There are no tears from them, only from the seventeen-year-old Russian watching, but even Jim feels his throat tighten and eyes burn from the emotion in the air. He's forced to glance away at her expression. At the sound of the ambassador's voice as he whispers her name. At the visible trembling to Spock's body as he embraces his mother. At the sight of husband, wife, and son clinging to each other on a broken ship.
Not caring for their audience. For their triumph over impossible odds. For anything but each other.
And the no-win scenario that they've defeated utterly.
Back on Earth, Jim wants nothing more to kneel down and kiss the ground. To thank every single deity in his considerable memory and knowledge – and a few he's just made up – that they haven't lost more with their crazy ass luck. That they haven't lost everything.
He's already kissed Bones. Kissed the Enterprise. Would've kissed Spock and Uhura if he didn't think he'd get punched or choked again. Would've kissed Sulu if he hadn't been so determined to cling to his station and Chekov if he were legal. Perhaps the ambassador and his wife if they hadn't been too busy finger-kissing each other.
And afterwards, they both stagger back to Bones' on-campus apartment and collapse into bed. Too tired to do much more than curl around each other. Rinse and repeat for a full two weeks interspersed by visits to Pike's hospital room. Meetings with every admiral and their brother. His mom turning up within hours of their landing and weeping openly onto his shoulder. Then Bones' shoulder. Then Amanda Grayson's shoulder. And she probably would've gone on to Spock and Ambassador Sarek and just about everyone else in range had the other woman not held on.
He expects disgust at that. Disgust from the two Vulcans standing near him. But he only sees Sarek nod and move closer to his wife. Only sees silent understanding and shared camaraderie in Spock's countenance. Only sees Uhura give him a soft smile. Only feels Bones' fingers grip his arm.
And as they lie together that night and the ones following, all Jim can think about is how fortunate they are. How lucky. How goddamned improbable it all is. Impossible to the extreme.
It fits together too perfectly. It's all too convenient. Time travel a second time and saving Vulcan. But the high council is attacked. Yet, Spock's mom somehow manages to survive when she hadn't before. And the other version of the Enterprise is destroyed, the only ship they lose. And Mr. Scott dies, but there's another him conveniently on Delta Vega. Not a second copy of anyone but Spock, and the other one's so old that no one save his mother even recognizes him. Knowing him for who he is the moment their eyes meet and all but suffocating him in her embrace.
So neat. So clean. So utterly and completely fucking impossible. A pure fantasy made into reality. Not even vids end this well. Even Archer's damn dog has turned up, tail wagging and no worse for wear. Neat and orderly. Almost like it was planned. As if some great and merciful hand directed every movement. All of it orchestrated down to the microscopic level, to the very last detail. Nothing left to chance.
And it makes so much sense. But he can't prove it.
And he knows it with every part of himself. But can never tell anyone. No one but Bones and maybe Spock – both versions – would ever believe him.
And he wakes with a start in the darkness. An arm is curled around his stomach, loose enough in sleep that he can slide free and sit up. Bones grumbles and burrows into the warm spot just vacated, but he's ignored as Jim rises and staggers toward the kitchen, needing something for his dry throat.
He drinks down his glass of water with shaky hands and sets it on the counter in case he comes back later. Jim's just in the process of stumbling back to bed when the hairs on the back of his neck rise and a chill shoots down his spine. The abrupt and unexpected sensation that tells him he's not alone. And he's pretty damn sure it's not Bones. A fact that is confirmed when his eyes scan the living room.
There's a man sitting on the chair in the corner. A very familiar and smiling man who clicks on the light beside him suddenly, forcing Jim to blink at the brightness. He's dressed differently this time, in an unfamiliar uniform that's black save for the stripe of deep red at the top. His hands are steepled in front of his stomach, legs crossed, and elbows resting on the arms of his chair as he reclines like a king upon his throne. His smile is very much a smirk. Full of pride and with a hint of mischief. An expression Jim's all too familiar with.
"What are you doing here?" Jim questions in that moment, too shocked to even make it a demand. "And how did you get in? Who are you?"
It's all so strange. Jim standing there in his boxers and nothing else. This stranger sitting in Bones' favorite chair as though he owns it, the apartment, and the entire universe as well.
The man just keeps smiling.
"Me?" he asks in a voice that isn't deep but somehow resonates. "I am no one of particular consequence as far as most are concerned."
Jim feels his eyes narrow automatically. And he's absolutely certain that this has to be the same man from before. The one from the ship.
"You're that guy," he says. "The one I keep seeing everywhere."
This only makes his guest even more amused.
"Oh? Recognized me, did you?" He rubs a hand across his chin as his grin widens. "You are a clever one, aren't you? Just as they said you'd be. I knew to anticipate great things."
And like ten thousand puzzle pieces abruptly snapping into place, it all makes sense. All the individual strands and threads – Vulcan and black holes and how did we all survive? – weave together into a tapestry of complete and absolute clarity.
"It was you," Jim accuses then. "This… This was all your doing. It's all too neat otherwise. Too easy."
The man lets out a laugh and claps his hands together. "Impressive, Captain Kirk. Very impressive. Can't say that I'm surprised. After all, I've heard ever so much about your brilliance. That intuitive grasp. I must say that you've lived up to my every expectation and then some." The twinkle in his eyes is bright like the stars and all that much more powerful.
Jim just gapes. "Why?" is all he can think to ask. "Why would you do this?"
Like the sun gone behind clouds, the twinkle is gone. The man sighs then. Long and deep. Studies him as a grandfather would a favored child.
"Because there is a lovely and fiery lady by the name of Kathryn who deserves to be born, which would be very difficult if her grandmother dies on the Farragut. And stodgy though they may be, I do have something of a soft spot for Vulcans. So very passionate underneath. You should be careful of that in the future," he adds in a winning tone.
But at Jim's expression, he sighs again. And looks at Jim for a long moment. Face serious and completely unreadable. Shadowed even in the lamplight. Quiet and watchful.
"Nero disturbed much with his mad quest," the stranger continues after a time. "He changed things. Made them different in a way that I did not at all like. Less pleasant. Less fun. Kept certain people from living and ensuring that some who should die didn't." His tilts his chin up loftily. "It was utterly unacceptable. I simply had to set things to rights."
Jim blinks. And blinks again.
"Er… Thanks?" he put in hesitantly.
The man waves it away as he rises to his feet. "Think nothing of it. The least I could do for my friends."
His emphasis on the word isn't lost to Jim, but he isn't quite sure what to make of it. Isn't quite sure what to make of any of this. Time travel. And insane Romulans. Vulcan dying. And more time travel. And the Enterprise dying.
And some weird almost god-like person there the whole damn time. Being there – on his ship! – helping them. Saving them. Saving everyone.
And no one but he and Jim will ever know.
Jim glances at the man. And sees that same realization reflected on his face. That same knowledge in his eyes and his posture. In the way he tilts his head.
"It was a pleasure serving with you, Captain Kirk," he says then. "I'm expecting even greater things of you in the future. Don't disappoint me."
He offers a salute that isn't entirely mocking and stands silently for a heartbeat before smiling once more. But this time, it is warm and genuine and reaches his eyes. Only to turn crooked as he gives a sudden and almost naughty wink.
"Tell Picard that I'll be seeing him."
And just like that, he's gone. Leaving Jim, still only in his underwear, standing in the middle of Bones' empty living room. He can only stare at the place the man had been. Can only stagger back into Bones' bedroom – their bedroom – and sit on the edge of the bed with his head in his hands.
"Jim?" Bones mumbles, still mostly asleep. "What're you doin' up?"
"Nothing," he quickly replies. "Just… getting some water."
Bones is too far gone to even notice his stumble. He just scoots over and uses a hand to pull Jim down and in closer. Half-curling around him and pressing a kiss into the skin of Jim's shoulder.
"'S cold without you," he murmurs, burrowing in deeper as he slides one arm around the body next to him. "Feels wrong."
Jim closes his eyes tightly. "Well… I'm here now."
"Yeah, you are. Where you belong." Bones whispers, already drifting away. "Night, Jim."
But he's asleep again by the time Jim is able to respond. By the time he's capable of responding. Breath puffing against the bare flesh of Jim's neck. Arm warm against his ribs. Hair tickling his nose as Jim starts to drift. As thought and what-might-have-beens and gratitude fall away. Until he floats free of consciousness and is lost to everything but the feel of Bones next to him.
For the rest of the night, Jim sleeps the sleep of the exhausted but victorious.