Not Quite The Same

~o~ Scotty ~o~

When one of his engineers asked him, it was the first time he had considered that particular truth.

"Do you ever wonder," his engineer had asked innocently, "if things would have been different if you had been at StarFleet Academy with the rest of the command crew?"

Of course everyone knew that the rest of the command crew except Spock had been in the same class at the Academy. And if it hadn't been for the appearance of the Narada, they probably would still be there, studying for finals or going on about being students or working their way up the ranks until they achieved their respective positions the normal way. It was also acknowledged by one and all that nothing to do with Captain James T. Kirk was normal so why would anyone in their right minds expect his command crew to have gotten where they were through "normal" channels.

But come to that, Scotty had been made Chief Engineer in circumstances no one could ever consider normal. If Kirk hadn't rescued him from Delta Vega, he would have never ended up on the Enterprise to begin with. And since Olsen had been stupid enough to get himself killed, Kirk naturally made Scotty Chief Engineer. It made perfect sense to those already aboard and StarFleet could do nothing to change it once Kirk was made Captain, permanently.

So did Scotty think things might have been different if he had been at the Academy with the others in the command crew? There was an easy camaraderie they all shared that included those who were not part of the command crew, so no one ever felt excluded or as though the ones who had studied together were an exclusive clique. Kirk made sure of that. That the seven members of the command crew spent more time together than with others was a natural part of life on a starship. They depended on each other, laughed with each other, cried with each other in ways and for reasons that few others aboard experienced or could ever understand.

Still, when Scotty wasn't consumed with trying to make the Enterprise's engines more efficient, or trying to hold them together after the latest attempt by Federation enemies to blow them out of the sky, he did have to acknowledge that there was a difference in how the Captain interacted with those who had been in his class. They knew the whole truth of who he was before became "respectable," as McCoy always reminded him. They alone could tease him about his romantic escapades, his drinking, his less than stellar classroom attendance, and the myriad other details only they were privy to. And the Captain invariably took it in his usual good humor, laughing with them, reminding them of the things they had also done that they didn't necessarily want posted to their personnel files – or worse, repeated to their mothers.

So yeah, Scotty was an unquestioned part of the "inner circle," laughing and crying and caring. But his place in the circle was not quite the same as the others.

~o~ Uhura ~o~

That she still loved Spock was an undeniable fact of her life. Just as was the fact that she was glad that he was happy. And the fact that if James T. Kirk, Captain or not, did anything to hurt him, Uhura would make sure he suffered. And Kirk knew it.

She watched them together and knew it was true and right. Who could deny them that level of devotion, connectedness, joy? The brightness of their love was blinding from Kirk and visible from Spock, no matter how much he tried to pretend those particular feelings were the imaginings of his human companions. It made no difference. Anyone who saw them together knew they were meant to be. And she was happy for them both.

Spock still considered her his closest friend, still confided to her about things he could tell no one else, except for Kirk. But sometimes the words of a friend were truer than the words of the one who loved you beyond question. So Uhura listened and advised and did everything she could to keep her broken heart to herself. Because she cherished her friendship with Spock. And she knew in his own way he still loved her. Just not quite the same as he once did.

~o~ Chekov ~o~

Never had he thought he would be made navigator of StarFleet's flagship. Sure he knew he was brighter than most of his classmates, even though they were all brilliant in their own way. But when the Narada appeared and he had been assigned navigation on the Enterprise – well, what more could a 17 year old genius from Russia want?

As it turned out what he really wanted was the person who sat next to him each Alpha shift. He wanted Sulu in every way one person could want another – in his bed, in his heart, in his life – forever. But for all his brilliance with mathematics and astrophysics, he didn't know what to do or say or ask to make Sulu understand what it was he really really wanted.

Just tell him had been Uhura's advice when he had finally gotten up the nerve to ask the beautiful officer. That seemed simple enough but every time he tried to talk to Sulu, he got tongue-tied and flustered and knew his cheeks were a brilliant red that once again betrayed his youth.

Only one way to find out Kirk had said when he had asked the Captain, liquid courage making it easier to voice that question to the man he practically worshipped. Which was also incredibly embarrassing but he was grateful that the Captain took it in good humor, treating him like a beloved younger brother.

"Do you want me to ask him for you?" Kirk whispered to him one night when the seven of them were playing poker in Officers' Rec Room, some sure that Kirk was cheating or he couldn't have possibly won 8 hands in a row. Kirk just smirked at the accusations, upping the ante and taking their cookies when they one-by-one folded.

"Uhmm…" Chekov stalled, wondering if this was the night his life, or at least his hopes, would come to a horrible horrible end. "No sir."

"Alright," Kirk agreed, dealing the next hand before cleaning them all out of cookies, effectively ending the game to much grumbling. "I don't cheat," he claimed before distributing his winnings so they could all enjoy them.

"I must respectfully disagree, sir," Spock said, one telling eyebrow raised in accusation.

That earned him a cookie thrown in his direction, causing a cookie war to break out, sides chosen, armaments obtained, strategy planned.

Chekov and Sulu were hiding behind one of the overturned tables, out of weapons and unable to signal their comrades for reinforcements.

"Hey," Sulu said, turning his full attention to Chekov.

"Yeah?"

"Want to sleep over tonight? With me I mean?" Sulu asked with the widest, finest smile Chekov had ever seen.

"Yeah," Chekov said, nodding and smiling and gasping softly when Sulu kissed him. It was even better than he had imagined. As was their entire relationship, as it turned out.

And each day when they sat side by side on the Bridge of the Enterprise, following orders, doing their jobs, talking quietly during the in-between times, the atmosphere between them was not quite the same. And it made the rest of the bridge crew smile at the knowledge.

~o~ Sulu ~o~

To Sulu's everlasting gratitude, no one ever mentioned his first attempt at being pilot of the Enterprise. Good lord, if he never heard the words "parking brake" again, in this or any other life, he would praise all the omnipotent beings anyone might suggest to him. Pike had overlooked his initial nervousness with a kind, fatherly smile. Spock had not judged him for his lack of focus. Then-Cadet-Kirk, praise be to God, wasn't on the Bridge when it happened. Sulu knew Kirk had heard about his failure to disengage those damn inertial dampeners but had never mentioned it, not even when the entire Command Crew had gotten wasted on spiked eggnog their first Christmas together. Spock wasn't wasted of course but everybody else sure was.

Sulu also knew that Kirk thought it was hysterical that their first time off-ship together had almost gotten them killed. Only Kirk's quick thinking and Chekov's quick actions had managed to save them both. That was just one more reason that Sulu was near the top of the list for life-time presidency of the James T. Kirk Fan Club. Something else Kirk thought was mildly hysterical.

Sulu couldn't imagine serving any Captain but the one he had. The best Captain any member of StarFleet could ever hope for. Because he knew beyond any doubt that serving any other Captain would not be quite the same.

~o~ Spock ~o~

Nothing was ever quite the same after he admitted his feelings to his Captain, to Jim, to his t'hy'la. Some small part of him had known it was inevitable that he would have to be the one to speak the words. Because Jim was not going to try to make him someone he was not. For that, Spock would always be grateful.

He also knew it was inevitable that he would confess his love to Jim and he did not regret having done it for a moment. His only possible regret came from hurting Uhura but their relationship had ceased being truly meaningful to either of them months before he spoke the words to Jim.

"Yeah, I know," had been Jim's reply, a smile just for Spock on his mouth.

"You should have said," Spock responded, trying to figure out his human love.

Jim shook his head and kissed him and took him to his bed, proving the depths of his feelings, feelings which Spock soon realized were within him as well. He knew after that first night, he would never be quite the same. And he was glad.

~o~ McCoy ~o~

It wasn't that he wasn't happy that Jim and Spock had finally admitted their feelings, feelings which had been crystal clear to their friends for months. He was pleased that they had discovered the love and contentment they both deserved but never thought they'd find.

But being in love necessitated a change in all the other relationships in your life. Jim still talked to Bones and drank with him and laughed and cried with him. Just not like he used to. Because before, Bones was the only one he would talk with about his inner thoughts and dreams and hopes. It was Bones he told that he would one day be Captain of the Enterprise, because he knew Bones wouldn't laugh. It was Bones who took care of him when he came back to his dorm room, drunk and angry and babbling about Frank and his mother and how none of it was fair, goddammit.

Bones cherished all of those memories, of being Jim's closest friend and advisor and confidant. And he wouldn't ask that Jim not love Spock for anything in this or any other universe. Jim was still Bones' unqualified best friend. It was, however, a friendship that was no longer quite the same.

~o~ Kirk ~o~

Jim Kirk loved his life. He loved his ship. He loved his crew. He loved loving his first officer. He loved his life. It was a life most people in his past would have never guessed he'd have. But he always believed. Even before Christopher Pike convinced Jim that Pike also believed he was meant for greater things than drinking and brawling and drooling on the floor.

He loved spending time with his Command Crew, the six people in the universe he was closest to. None of them had to pretend when they were together – they could admit they were tired of loosing crewmembers or were sick of milk runs or that StarFleet Headquarters really was filled with mindless pompous bureaucrats should actual serve on a starship before trying to tell anybody how one ought to be run. Except Admiral Pike. They loved Admiral Pike.

Jim loved being Captain. He loved his chair on the bridge, the one nobody else could sit in without his permission. He loved giving orders and sometimes did it when it wasn't even necessary. He knew his crew laughed at him when he did it and he loved them for it. He loved them for the way they loved him.

Most of all he loved Spock. Every Single Thing about Spock. There wasn't anything about Spock he didn't love. And Spock loved him right back. To Jim, that was the greatest gift anyone could have. Because it made his life perfect. And that meant his life would never be quite the same. Yeah, he was good with that.