Hello, my loverly ones! I am sooooo sorry that it's been so long. There is no excuse (well, actually, there are a few, but none of them seem good enough looking back).
You reviewers have been so wonderful and patient, and I really adore you all.
As it is, I obsessed over this chapter for far too long, hoping it would end up good enough for you lovely people.
I'm still not satisfied, but I don't think it will tolerate any more change at this point.
So, without further delay, here is the latest chapter of Misunderstood - Confrontation.
At 0900, Enterprise is gliding smoothly through space at Warp 3. Their mission isn't urgent, and they won't exhaust the dilithium cores until they (inevitably) need to.
So for now, she drifts peacefully as her crew go about their daily duties.
Engineering is quiet for once, with only small inconsequential work being done, which the Chief Engineer isn't needed for.
Medical is equally slow, the only patients suffering from nothing more than sunburn and sprains received during shore leave.
Thus, the entirety of Enterprise's command crew is on the bridge, enjoying the chance to work and banter together without the stress of danger looming.
Scotty sits on the floor between Chekov and Sulu, occasionally darting underneath one or the other's panel, fussing with something, and reappearing with a wild grin. The three are speculating and theorizing jovially, getting more absurd with each passing minute.
Spock hovers far closer to Uhura's station than his own, but no one wants to mention it. Besides, the Science Officer still seems to know exactly what he needs to, as evidenced by his quick correction of McCoy's estimation as to how close the ship is getting to the dwarf star visible on the view-screen.
The Chief Medical Officer is leaning against the back of Jim's chair, hands repeatedly brushing his Captain's shoulders as he gesticulates, muttering about disgustingly literal hobgoblins between teasingly critical comments on the bridge crew's operation.
Jim smiles as he surveys his domain, his people, his slice of happiness. And that's exactly what the Enterprise is to him: happiness, pure and simple.
He has his ship, his crew, his command, and Bones. All is well.
Then the comm at Uhura's station beeps, signaling an official hail.
Without a word from their Captain, all present settle back into a professional bearing.
"It's Admiral Pike, Captain, on his private channel."
Uhura's announcement earns large grins from the whole command team, and much of the bridge crew.
"Awesome! Put him through, Lieutenant."
There is a brief moment of delay, and then Chris Pike's image appears on the screen.
He's the same as ever, seemingly untouched by the year that has passed since the Enterprise set off. He is standing behind his desk – testament to Bone's miraculous talents – in his private office at home… and he is pissed. The livid glare he is sending the comm should have fried the electronics, and Jim is suddenly very, very glad he's a quadrant and two systems away.
"Uh, I'd say something smart about how glad I am to see you, even if the comm does add a couple pounds, but, uh, I'm thinking now's not the time."
"You would be correct, Captain. Lieutenant Uhura, transfer this call to the Captain's quarters, and enable every god damn encryption you have, and a few you officially don't."
Struck dumb by the unprecedented behavior from the generally calm and friendly Admiral, Uhura immediately complies.
Just before he is cut off, Pike snaps out one last cryptic, shocking addendum.
"And Captain, you might want Mister Riley to join you."
Blinking at the blank view screen, Kirk sits for a moment in shock. Then his mind catches up with his ears, and he pales.
McCoy and Spock both step toward him, worry shining clear in their eyes.
Before they or the rest of the bridge can blink, let alone react, Kirk is moving again, racing toward the turbo-lift.
"Jim, hold on, let me," "Captain, perhaps I should accompany,"
Both men freeze as the panicked shout explodes out of the Captain, keeping them at bay far more effectively than his outstretched hand.
There is a moment of heavy silence as Kirk recoils from his own reaction in horror and immediately forces unto himself a semblance of control.
"Doctor McCoy, you are to remain here or return to medical. Commander Spock, you have the conn."
Blue eyes still stormy and horrified – a total contradiction to his firm and commanding tone – he lurches forward to slam the lift's panel, then falls back against the wall, knuckles white where he grips the rail.
McCoy blinks at the doors that suddenly separate him from his rapidly fleeing friend, a terrible sinking feeling settling in his gut.
If there's one thing Leonard McCoy recognizes, it's running away.
Kevin Riley is in the process of stripping off his Fleet-issued work-out gear when his door flies open and a blur of something crashes into him.
He falters a step, but manages to remain upright, arms instinctively curling around the solid weight that is now slamming him against the wall of his quarters.
There's only one person aboard the Enterprise who knows he understands Cardassian, let alone is daring enough to speak it.
He tries to push back from the command gold shirt he's being crushed to in order to see his unexpected visitor, but Kirk's grip only tightens.
"They know, Kevin. They fucking know!"
Kevin isn't sure what to make of the situation. Kirk is clutching at him as if their lives depend on it, hissing in goddamn Cardassian that someone knows something.
His shirtless state and the trembling of Kirk's shoulders only make it all that much more surreal.
"Kirk, what the hell is going,"
"Don't know how, but they fucking figured it out."
Mind racing, Kevin tries to narrow down what could possibly have driven the captain to come to him.
It can't be anything to do with the Enterprise, because Jim has Doctor McCoy and Commander Spock for that kind of thing.
It's not a past transgression coming to light, because Kirk lost any shame he may have had long ago.
No, it has to be something that involves him, something bad enough to draw this feral, defensive personality to the fore.
That's when Kevin realizes what he should have the moment this man burst into his quarters in a panic.
Because this isn't Kirk, not anymore.
This is JT.
And if JT is back, it can only mean one thing.
His knees start to wobble, and it's only by JT's frightening reflexes and wiry strength that Kevin doesn't crumple to the floor.
As it is, he's lowered gently to sit leaning against the wall, with JT hovering protectively over him.
"How? We were so careful!"
Kevin wants to moan, to sob, to pitch a fit and beg JT to just make it go away, like he did the guards that ventured too close to their hideout.
But he's not a little boy anymore, and this isn't that place.
This is the Enterprise.
He is a Starfleet Officer.
So, he steels his resolve, straightens his spine, breathes out his fear and panic and anxiety, and looks up at JT.
"What do we do?"
It's not so much a smile, really, rather a slight curling of the lips that manages to convey pride while remaining dark and threatening, but Kevin's chest swells all the same.
"You warn the others. I'll cover our tracks."
"And if they don't back off?"
JT's smile went from dark to outright malevolent.
"Then I kill as many as it takes for them to change their minds."
Kevin wonders of maybe it makes him a monster, being comforted by such a dark, gruesome promise. He decides he doesn't really care either way.
Well, there it is. Not sure it lives up to the rest of the story, but, eh. That just means the next one will have to be better, doesn't it?
Anyway, hope you all enjoyed.
Oh, and I also want to reassure (or possibly disappoint) y'all: this will not focus on romance. I'm not going to promise that I'll keep it out completely, because Jim often insists on changing things about as I write (he's impossible, really). So if there are subtle hints of relationships anywhere (possibly of the slash variety), I apologize, but rest assured, they WILL NOT take over the story. This is about Jim and his trauma with Tarsus and the crew's reactions when they find out. I won't be giving Jim hot sweaty lovin time – no matter how much he whines!
That is all.