I think this is where I dig myself a hole of shame and crawl into it. But considering that I've made you wait seven months already, the hole of shame can wait for its turn.

This honestly wasn't on purpose. And I'm really sorry, INCREDIBLY sorry if I scared some of you into thinking that his story had been abandoned. I know I've said it before, but I will say it again- I will never, EVER discontinue this story. Even if updates may take me longer than any of us would like, you can always rest assured that this story will have an ending. My goal is to finish before the end of this year, and considering how we have 2, MAYBE 3 chapters left after this one, that goal doesn't seem too impossible for me.

Because I'm still too busy to put all that I want into this chapter, I'm going to leave you with a short update.

It isn't much, and it's not exciting, but it's enough to let you know that I'm still here for you.

And as usual, I am always amazed by the support you all show in your reviews. Heck, not even just your reviews. If you've read, favorited, or added this story to your alerts, you've given me more confidence than you could ever imagine. Thank you so much.

Please let me all know what you think with reviews. Or maybe you want to throw mud at me for making you wait so long. That's okay too.

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Chapter 21

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Nyota was highly perceptive. Perhaps it was her ability for picking up the tiniest nuances in speech that carried over to her observations of everything else, but whatever it was, her ability of deduction was freakishly good. The moment Jim and Spock's boots had touched the floor of the bridge, she swiveled around in her chair and before a full second had passed, her eyes widened. Quickly afterward they reduced to accusatory slits as they fell on Jim's face, and her expression was clearly saying 'what the fuck are you thinking' but Jim gave her a grin and a small shrug in response. He had nothing to apologize for. After all, he was the one who somehow found the control to pull himself away from Spock's body. Who knew what they would be doing to each other right now if he hadn't.

...Okay, not the best time to think of things like that, Jim.

Once Nyota was done glaring at Jim, she looked to Spock, who tried his best to keep his face devoid of any emotion, which would have worked had it not been for the fact that his heart was still pounding against his chest. It had only been moments ago that he had had his captain in his arms and was engrossing him with kisses. He flinched under her gaze. Not because she was angry, but because she was worried. He felt the shock and concern within her, and almost felt guilty for it.

Both commanding officers took their respectful seats, reminding themselves of the situation ahead of them.

Other officers in the bridge gave curious glances but didn't let their gazes linger for too long. Jim was glad for this, but Spock was infinitely more relieved.

Over the next hour, the two would occasionally glance at each other, locking eyes for just a second before trying to divert their attention elsewhere. For Jim, Spock's presence was more distracting than it had ever been.

Now, he was still able to snap right back to attention and command the ship if anything crucial happened that moment, so he told himself that his behavior was perfectly normal and that he could allow himself all of the sideways glances of Spock that he wanted. Spock appeared to be allowing himself the same liberty.

But could anyone really blame them, Jim thought. He and Spock- they had something now. In fact, they'd probably had something all along, but the realization only hit them that day. Spock's fingers still ghosted over his skin, and the taste of his mouth lingered on all of his taste buds, making his skin tingle every time he vividly recalled the memory. He could have died happy that moment, although living was always the more desired option.

He was finally snagged out of his thoughts when Nyota spoke up. "The USS Sheperd has arrived in the vicinity and is sending us a transmission. Do you want me to patch it through, Captain?"

"Yes, Lieutenant. Open up the transmission."

Before him appeared an older looking man with a scowl glued to his face. "This is Captain Malik of the USS Sheperd. Am I speaking to Captain Kirk?"

"That would be me. You are one of the reinforcements, right?" Jim responded, trying to decipher the scowl on Malik's face.

"That would be us, but may I ask a question before we discuss anything else?"

Jim nodded. "Of course."

"Are you aware of the Romulan ship following you?"

Oh, right. He kind of didn't tell anyone else about that. "They're our allies in this fight," Jim quickly responded, hoping to get rid of the hostility in the air.

Malik looked as though he were stuck between crying and laughing. "Normally I would question anyone who believes he can trust a Romulan, but you've gotten us out of a mess before so I'll just go along with it."

Jim opened his mouth to speak, but was once again interrupted when he heard Nyota announce another incoming transmission. "Patch it through, Lieutenant."

Right next to the screen containing Malik, another one appeared, revealing Commander Tavel looking more annoyed than Jim had ever seen her. "I demand to know why this ship has its weapons locked on to me."

Captain Malik responded quickly, "It's not a question of 'why.' It's a question of 'why shouldn't I?"

Jim momentarily wondered how this guy ever got through negotiations. He also considered grabbing some popcorn and watching the argument about to ensue in front of him, but he decided better against that. He needed everyone's cooperation. "Captain Malik, please. I already explained why she's here."

"You explained nothing," he quickly threw in.

"Commander Tavel is our ally. Already she has a small fleet of her ships holding off the Klingon's advancement. Her intentions are the same as ours." Even as he said it, Jim contemplated the truth of the last sentence, but he already decided to let her true intentions slide when he agreed to fight along side her. There was no point in doubting his decisions now.

Directing her speech toward Malik, Tavel spoke up, "What the young captain here says is true. My fleet has been battling with the Klingons, and from the updates I've received from them, they are doing a good job of it." When Malik's suspicious glare didn't let up, she continued, "If it is any consolation, Captain Kirk has a member of my crew as hostage. The hostage is the second highest in command on my ship, in fact."

Malik shifted, setting his eyes on Jim. "This is true, Captain Kirk?"

"Yes, sir. And I have reason to believe that this wasn't just a trick to get me to trust her," Jim Replied.

Both Jim and Tavel saw Malik running all the facts again through his head and deciding for himself if he wanted to trust the Romulan woman or not. His dark eyes once again turned their gaze to Tavel.

Tavel repressed a sigh. "Am I going to have to do the same for you?" She narrowed her eyes upon asking the question.

"No, that's not necessary," Malik finally admitted, letting his shoulders drop and turning to face his crew. "Take your weapons off the target," he commanded. Afterward, he turned his attention back to the screens in front of him. "Just so you know, if she so much as turns in the wrong direction, she'll have lost all my trust."

Jim nodded, "I understand," then added, "Thank you, Captain Malik." He was just relieved to know that the two weren't going to be at each others' throats for the rest of the trip.

Malik nodded his head in acknowledgment, accompanied with a low grunt. "Moving on to business," he began, "I received a very brief explanation of the situation before they sent me and my crew off, although the Romulans obviously were not mentioned. So would you mind telling me what's really going on right now?"

Jim shifted nervously. He knew that Malik would not approve of his decisions. Or Spock's, for that matter. Maybe he would leave the part out where he beamed on to the Romulan to grab Spock's defiant ass and drag him back but neglected to grab Ambassador Selek while he was at it. "The Enterprise was on its way to investigate a Romulan ship that was sighted near the Vulcan colony. The commander of the ship, Commander Tavel here, was on planet, making an arrangement with Ambassador Selek. I don't know the terms of the arrangement so don't go asking me." Jim had to quickly add the last sentence when he saw Malik open his mouth, obviously ready to question him.

"Unaware and suspicious of the commander's purpose for being planet side at the time, I sent down one of my officers to find her and stop her from returning to her ship." He saw Spock and Tavel glance at each other out of the corner of his eye. "However, the commander made it back to her ship, with both Ambassador Selek and my officer as..." Here he hesitated, because using 'hostages' would just alarm Malik again. Tavel finished the thought for him.

"The ambassador had come to an agreement with me and was my guest, while the officer was my hostage."

Jim flinched, since that still made it sound bad. But it was the best it would ever sound, he supposed.

Malik focused his eyes on reading Jim's expression. He saw the hesitation and knew that the young captain was not explaining everything. "How did your officer end up in her hands?"

"Quick reflexes," Tavel answered. "But do not worry. Neither of the men were harmed."

"That didn't answer-"

"It was because of my inability to follow direct orders, Captain Malik," Spock interrupted. "Tavel took my moment of hesitation and used it to her advantage, obtaining the weapon I had attempted to use against her and using it to insure my cooperation."

Jim refrained from assuring Spock that it wasn't his fault, but he held his tongue in front of the elder Captain.

Malik pursed his lips. "From what you've been telling me so far, seems like I should have kept my weapons aimed at the Commander."

"No, wait- let me finish. It's not as bad as it sounds, I promise." Once we has sure that an argument wasn't going to break out after a few moments of silence, Jim continued. "I'm just going to make this quick, considering our time frame. Commander Tavel released Spock, kept Ambassador Selek and flew away. We stayed behind when Starfleet commanded us not to do anything except stand by and keep an eye out for more Romulan vessels. Not to mention, if I tried to ignore their orders—their stupid orders—again, I would probably lose my command."

"Why would they keep you on Vulcan when the threat was obviously gone?" Malik threw in. "Why the hell would the Romulans come back if they got what they wanted?"

"I've been questioning those guys ever since they started commanding me. That whole time we were sitting around, the Klingons were making their way to the colony. We only knew of their planned arrival because my communications officer, Lieutenant Uhura, picked up one of their transmissions, in which they clearly stated that they were on their way. Starfleet didn't know what to do about it so we took matters into our own hands."

Malik nodded, finally starting to understand the situation. "It's a good thing you did, otherwise they'd still be discussing their next plan."

Jim frowned, knowing that what Malik said was true. "Why are they doing this? Why don't they just take some action for once?"

"Normally I'd call it cowardice, but I know these men and women better than that." He sighed, shaking his head in pity. "But from what I can tell, they're scared. Scared out of their wits. We still haven't recovered from the Narada attack, and it will be a long time before we do. They've been so focused on trying to repair all the damage that's been done, they haven't paid any attention to the bigger dangers out there, but now that the threat is near and very real, they don't know what to do."

Jim clenched his jaw. "So they've chosen to do nothing? They don't get that we're the only ones left who can keep this side of the galaxy safe. Scared or not, we have lives to protect."

"And I think you've finally drilled that into their heads, Captain Kirk. No longer are we wounded animals. That's why we're all here right now, with more enforcements on their way, ready to face whatever our enemies throw at us."

Jim allowed himself a small smile, "Then what are we waiting for? Let's show those Klingons who they're messing with."