It is my humblest privilege to accept the command of the USS Enterprise, and my deepest honor to have the opportunity to serve with you.

And that's how Jim Kirk had begun his first briefing to his new crew after taking command of his ship. His beautiful ship. The crew of the Enterprise was the best. The absolute fucking best in the Federation. And when Jim had been given command of the flagship and her crew after the tragedy and triumph with the Narada, he'd been just as much shocked as he'd been honored. Maybe even a little bit terrified, which he'd only admit behind closed doors after several rounds of liquor. But yeah, believe it or not, it had humbled him in a way that nobody had thought possible for James T. Kirk.

The bridge crew had speculated about an honorary promotion of Kirk to Lieutenant Junior Grade, perhaps. Maybe a full Lieutenant. Maybe he'd serve at Tactical on the Enterprise, because surely they wouldn't take him off the ship and away from the people who had fought alongside him. But not only had they let him stay with the ship, they'd given it to him as well. Politics and publicity played a role, sure, and so did the severe losses amongst the ranks of Starfleet, but at the end of the day, Jim had stepped onto the bridge as if he belonged there – as if the bridge was simply wrong without him.

The uncertainty of his command was as overwhelming as the vastness of space. He was younger than most of his crew, and many of them were ridiculously young themselves. Wide-eyed hope was matched equally with harsh skepticism, and it had taken months before he felt that they'd really accepted him as Captain. In those moments when he slowed down long enough to let himself consider it, it had seemed even harder for him to accept himself in that role. Still, he'd never doubted that it would come eventually.

He'd been sure that whatever might come his way, he'd find a solution for everything.

There was always an answer.

As you know, this assignment is as unexpected for me as it is for you.

We hadn't expected trouble. The planet was half a sector away from the border of Klingon space. The Enterprise was to stop there for a preliminary survey before continuing its mission towards Omicron Theta. Boradis III was uninhabited, with fertile soil, but otherwise minimal resources. It was beautiful though, and Jim had even authorized a few hours of shore leave to let the crew stretch their legs after four months on a deep space run. I stayed onboard. Told Jim that I had no interest in being a guinea pig to see what sorts of viruses and bacteria might be on the surface. I'll be honest though - I'm not sure why I didn't beam down. I missed the feel of open air and solid dirt beneath my feet as much as anyone. I'd seen pictures of the planet, and yeah, it was beautiful. It was no surprise that the Federation had its eye on the planet for a new colony.

Apparently, so did the Klingons.

There were maybe about one hundred fifty left aboard, and the rest of the crew was down on the surface, either as part of a survey team, or simply having a picnic. I was in sickbay, prepping equipment to deal with the inevitable twisted ankles and strained muscles that always came in after a planetside jaunt.

"Bones!" Jim swaggered into sickbay, grinning broadly. "Your group for shore leave left a half hour ago! You can't tell me that you prefer being cooped up in here."

I shook my head and shrugged. "I've got some stuff I wanted to do, and this is giving me time to do it." I kept my hands busy with a diagnostic check on an osteo-regenerator unit.

"And you expect me to believe that?" He leaned against the workbench, arms folded casually across his chest. He was every bit the Captain. Every bit the man who felt joy in letting his crew indulge in some well-earned recreation. "Come on, Bones, I went down there earlier for the initial survey. You'd love it. Just what the doctor ordered, right?"

I put down the regen unit and looked at Jim, feeling the same indefinable uneasiness that had led me to skip my turn down on the planet. "You're right, Jim, but... I don't know... you ever get that strange feeling like -"

And that's when the first Bird-of-Prey decloaked practically on top of us. The red alert klaxon surged to life as the ship's comm system projected Sulu's voice: "Red alert! All hands to battlestations! A Klingon vessel has dropped out of warp and they are locking weapons on us. Shields are up. Captain to the Bridge. All hands to battlestations! All hands to battlestations!"

I can not promise that there will be nothing but smooth sailing ahead, but I don't believe you would ask for that any more than I am capable of giving it.

The ship rocked with the first volley of weapons fire from the Klingon ship. The equipment I was working on flew off the work bench and crashed to the floor. I barely managed to catch the edge of the bench to keep from falling over. Jim went flying into the wall with a grunt.

"Jim!" I ran over to him, but he was shaking his head, his eyes burning with the cold fire of battle focus.

"I'm fine, Bones," he growled, steadying himself. He slammed his hand against the nearest comm panel. "Captain to bridge. Sulu, I'm on my way." Then he was running for the door of sickbay. "I've got to get to the bridge."

I don't know why – habit or instinct, I guess – but I grabbed a med kit and ran after him. The ship took another weapons impact, throwing Jim sideways into the wall as he ran, stumbled, and ran again. I just scrambled to keep up with him. Crew members passed us in the corridor, hurrying towards their own battlestations.

Sulu's voice cut through the melee again. "A second Bird-of-Prey has decloaked. A third. We are being hailed."

Jim skidded to a halt in the middle of the corridor - I barely managed to keep from colliding with him - and he activated the screen on the nearest comm station. "On screen, Mr. Sulu."

The gravelly voice of a Klingon was broadcast over the ship's comm system as his sneering face came up on the small screen. "Federation ship Enterprise. This is Captain Koloth of the Imperial Ship Gr'oth. You are attempting to take possession of a planet which has been claimed by the Klingon Empire."

Jim rapidly punched in his authority code. "Captain Koloth, the Federation does not recognize any claim by the Klingon Empire over this planet. The Boradis system is within Federation territory." He was breathing hard, but his words were steady.

"Traditional borders of the Empire place this planet within Klingon territory."

For a long moment, Jim stared at the screen, jaw clenched. I could almost see the gears turning in his head. "Withdraw your ships and we will contact Starfleet for authorization to open negotiations."

At that, the Klingon actually laughed. Made me want to punch the comm screen just to get rid of his ugly mug. "You are in no position to negotiate, Captain Kirk. We claim this planet... all property in orbit of this planet in payment for your act of trespassing into our star system."

Jim's shoulders flexed, and I could almost feel the burst of raw fury radiating off of him. "You have no claim on the Enterprise. If you fire on this ship once more, we will be forced to destroy you."

The bastard laughed again. "I would love to see you try, Kirk. It would make this far more entertaining for us. Easy prey is so dull."

"Then you clearly know nothing about this ship," Jim growled.

"Oh, but I do, Captain," he said, with a smug tilt of his chin. "Perhaps it is you who lacks information about your ship's status."

For just a split second, Jim's eyes caught mine before he tabbed one switch on the comm panel to cut audio to the Klingon ship, then another switch to open a channel to the bridge. "Kirk to Sulu. What is our current defensive status?"

"Captain, I hate to say it, but we're in a bit of trouble." Sulu's normally calm voice had an edge of real fear that I'd never heard from him before. "Our shields were down when they came out of warp. They took out our main phaser banks and primary shield generators. The torpedo crew is planetside, and we might as well be happy that they are because that section depressurized. I'll be honest with you, Captain - we're defenseless."

A grim look of certainty came over Jim's face - a look I'd never seen on him before - a look I imagine his father had once worn. "Thank you, Mr. Sulu. Kirk out."

I can't promise that our ship, however powerful she may be, will always be strong enough to protect us, but there is no place in the galaxy that is truly safe, and as Starfleet officers, our thrill is to face danger boldly as we seek new discoveries and frontiers.

"Jim, what are you going to - " I didn't even get to finish the sentence before he turned and looked at me, eyes like stones.

"I've got one chance, Bones." He turned and looked down at the comm panel and brought up the Klingon's face again, which had a brash look of triumph already painted there.

"You see, Captain Kirk, you are helpless. You will drop your shields and prepare to be boarded, or we will drop your shields for you."

To my shock, Jim nodded. I couldn't fucking believe he nodded. "Okay. But you've damaged my ship, and I can't access the shield controls from here. Allow me to get to my bridge."

The Klingon's face was smug with the confidence of a being who was convinced that he'd already won. "You have five of your minutes, Captain. That should give you enough time to hang your head in shame at the loss of your ship. We'll put her to good use, Kirk. The Empire always needs additional garbage scows."

Jim's eyes were an icy response. "Computer, close frequency. Internal countdown, five minutes. Begin now." A five-minute timer appeared on the screen, and the computer's voice acknowledged the command as the numbers began to run down, second by second. With a nod, Jim spun away from the screen, grabbed my arm, and said, "Come with me."

"Jim! Jim, what the hell are you doing?" It was hard to keep my feet under me as he dragged me down the corridor, away from the turbolift to the bridge. "Have you lost your mind, Jim? You can't just let them onto the ship! What's the countdown for?"

"So I can keep track, Bones."

"Keep track of what? Good god, Jim, you didn't initiate a self-destruct, did you?"

I can't promise that we won't face losses.

At that, Jim laughed bitterly. "Did you hear me initiate a self-destruct?"

"No, but... Jim, where are we going?" I've been nervous plenty of times on board that ship, but never had I felt fear the way I did as Jim led me straight to the main transporter room.

"Scotty!" Jim called out as we burst into the transporter room.

"Aye, Captain!" Mr. Scott was on his hands and knees underneath the transporter control console. A acrid whiff of smoke and burning circuitry was tingeing air. "Those bastards shorted out some of the circuits, but I rewired them already." He thumped his hand affectionately on the console. "She's ready to work for you, Sir."

Jim nodded, his face still set like stone but his eyes grateful. "Thanks, Scotty. Am I ever glad you're on transporter duty today. I need you to set up transporter locks on every crew member still on board. Got it?"

For a moment, Mr. Scott's eyes unfocused, as if he was trying to work out the logistics in his head. Slowly, he began to nodd. "Aye. We can do that."

Jim didn't blink. "Except me."

"Captain!" I couldn't stop my own outburst. "If you're evacuating the ship... are you insane? Are you planning to go down with the ship?"

I can't promise that my decisions will always make sense.

"Bones," he said softly, finally looking me in the eye, "I don't have time to explain. You need to trust me, okay?"

"Four minutes," the computer chimed neutrally.

I trust Jim. Even when I don't, I do. And I trusted him then, even though I didn't. But all I could do was nod. His eyes thanked me, then he strode over to the comm panel on the wall and activated it.

"Attention crew, this is the Captain speaking. In just under four minutes, we will drop our shields and the Klingons will begin to beam aboard. Their intent is to take over the ship, and we can not permit that to happen under any circumstances. I will not permit that to happen." He took a deep breath, steadying himself. "Remain as stationary as possible, beginning immediately. We are establishing transporter locks on every crew member, and as soon as the shields drop, you will be evacuated to the planet below. Once on the surface, regroup with the rest of the crew. Commander Spock is already planetside; he is in command on the ground until further notice."

I hated the tone of finality that underscored Jim's words. Hated it, hated it, hated it. "Jim..."

But Jim just shook his head, tapped in a different set of commands, and spoke again. "Kirk to Spock."

"Spock here, Captain."

"We've got a bit of a situation up here. I'm evacuating the remainder of the crew to the surface. You're in command of all personnel on the surface. Take up a defensive posture, and prepare for the possibility of Klingon attack."

"Aye Captain. Would you elaborate on the nature of the situation?"

At that, Jim actually laughed. It was a pained sound. "Remember that test of yours I took about a year ago? Three Klingon ships surrounding us, shields damaged, no-win scenario?"

"I would be unlikely to forget the Kobayashi Maru, Captain."

"Well, Spock, looks like I've got to beat those odds again. Kirk out."

"Jim, would you stop for a second and think this through?" I grabbed him by the shoulder. "What the hell are you planning?"

He looked at me evenly, his eyes and jaw set with such determination that I almost couldn't remember that this was Jim - the same Jim I'd known for almost four years now. "I'm planning," Jim said flatly, "to keep my crew alive, and to stop those goddamned Klingons from taking over this ship." Something in his eyes softened, just for a moment. "I still don't believe in no-win scenarios, Bones."

"Three minutes," the computer said.

He pulled his arm out of my grasp and turned back to Scotty. "Progress, Mr. Scott?"

"Aye, Captain," Scotty nodded. "I've got the transporter's computer system running an evacuation program I've been experimenting with. It'll line up the transporter locks in sequence and automatically activate transport on everyone in the queue once we set 'er in motion. Site-to-site transport, sir."

"Has it ever been tested?" I asked.

"No, Doctor, but she'll do the trick."

Jim clapped Mr. Scott on the shoulder. "Good man, Scotty. You're a miracle worker."

Scotty beamed. "Aye, sir. But now... if you don't mind... what are you planning to do to the ship once I evacuate the crew?"

Jim's face turned deadly serious again. "The ship will be fine, Scotty. Here's the second part. Can you modify the deflector dish from here?"

Frowning, Scotty pulled up a different control display on the console. "I can access all the functions, Captain, but I cannae make major modifications. What do you have in mind?"

Jim leaned forward and pointed at the schematic diagram. "I need you to invert the polarity of the deflector dish so that it can project a barion particle burst back in through the ship."

"Aye, we can do that."

"BARION PARTICLES?" I must have said it louder than I thought, because both Jim and Scotty stared at me like I'd lost my mind. Personally, I thought they had. "Are you mad, Jim? Barion particles will destroy any living tissue aboard."

"I know, Bones," he said flatly. "Including Klingons. Scotty, prepare the deflector dish. As soon as the shields go down, initiate the evacuation transporter sequence, and make sure it notifies me when transport is complete. Set up the barion particle burst to activate on my command."

I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach. "On your command?"

"Two minutes."

"Aye, Captain," Scotty said. He gave Jim a meaningful look. "Good luck, Sir."

"Thank you, Scotty." Jim grabbed my arm again. "Come on, Bones."

But I can promise you that this crew and this ship will always come first.

As soon as the transporter room door slid shut behind us, Jim began to talk rapidly. "I need to make sure all the Klingons are aboard the Enterprise before I initiate the barion burst. When a Klingon crew takes over another ship, their whole crew beams aboard as a show of complete victory. I can take them all out, but only if I wait until I'm sure they're onboard, so I've got to stay. Otherwise, the Enterprise and our crew on the planet are still a sitting duck for three Birds-of-Prey."

"Jim, you can't go down with the ship!"

"I'm not, Bones," he said, with a strange lilt of humor in his voice. "The ship will be fine."

"Goddammit, Jim!" I couldn't help it - I felt a hot flush of emotion squeezing my throat, burning my eyes. I didn't want to hear this. "You can't be serious!"

Jim strode onto the turbolift. "Bridge." He looked at me, his eyes clear and unafraid. "I've never been more serious in my life, Bones."

"No," I said hotly. "No. Don't do this, Jim. You get off this ship, Jim. Blow up the goddamned ship if you need to, and we can regroup on the ground and fight off those Klingon bastards, but get off this ship!"

"Tactics, Bones?" He gave me a quizzical look of amusement. "If there are still Klingons manning those ships, you won't get a chance to fight them off. They can find our people with their sensors, and wipe them off the planet from orbit."


"I've thought it through, Bones. It's one of those things that Captains do - contingency plans, worst-case scenarios. I've planned for this." A determined spark lit up his eyes. "But it's not a no-win scenario. Never a no-win, Bones."

I was ready to argue more, but the turbolift door opened and the bridge spread out before us.

"One minute."

Starfleet promises the unexpected, and it promises challenges.

"Mr. Sulu," Jim said, marching onto the bridge, every inch the Captain, "casualty report?"

"Only minor injuries, Captain," Sulu replied, quickly clearing the command chair and standing aside.

"Good," Jim said. "Let's keep it that way. When you get to the surface, give Commander Spock a full briefing. Tell him that I'm initiating a barion particle burst to clear out the Klingons once they come aboard. The ship will be fine. There are two shuttlecrafts on the surface with the survey teams. Use them to return to the ship after a half hour if you don't hear from me by then."

The hesitation in Sulu's eyes didn't reach his voice as he replied calmly, "Aye, Captain."

I couldn't believe I was hearing this, seeing this. I couldn't accept it. "Jim, there has to be a way that -"

"Give me your communicator, Bones."

"Jim?" Almost automatically, I pulled my communicator off my belt and handed it to him.

He flipped open my communicator, then pulled out his own and repeated the motion. A few knobs were adjusted, a few codes tapped in. "Computer," he said, "activate protocol Kirk-Alpha-Omega-McCoy-Two."

"Protocol activated."

"What the hell is that for, Jim?"

"A backup plan, Bones. You need to trust me."

"I do, Jim," I said, feeling my throat choke slightly again. "You know I do. But... I don't understand... well... okay, I do understand. But Jim..."

Jim looked back at me for a moment, then handed me back my communicator. Without looking down, his eyes still locked with mine, he reached for the control panel on the arm of the command chair and toggled a switch. "Kirk to Mr. Scott."

"Scott here, Captain."

"Is the deflector dish ready?"

"Aye, Sir."

"And the transport protocol?"

"Every other remaining crew member is locked into the transport cycle, Captain, all 147 of them, including Doctor McCoy."

"Thank you, Scotty. Kirk out." Still, without looking down, Jim flipped another switch, and spoke.

"This is the Captain speaking. We are about to drop shields and initiate transport. All crew members, please remain as stationary as possible. And..." Jim hesitated, and took a deep breath. "It has been a pleasure serving with you. Captain James T. Kirk… out."

I truly believe that we are at our best when confronted by the insurmountable, the impossible, and the perceived no-win scenario.

"Jim..." My stomach clenched and twisted, and I wondered if the air pressure on the bridge had dropped.

"Ten... nine..."

"It'll be okay, Bones."

"No, it won't, Jim... but... we'll manage."

"... six... five..."

"I know." He smiled then, reached out, and shook my hand. "Be safe."

"... three... two..."

I couldn't even reply. Just stood frozen as Jim took a step back from me and said, "Computer, drop shields."

The last things I saw as the transporter beam locked onto me were the first shimmers of the Klingons appearing on the bridge, and Jim sitting confidently in the command chair, on the bridge of his ship, where he belonged.

That is why we must seek out the insurmountable and the impossible - to prove who we are in the face of that, and to show that we are greater than the challenges we might face.

I rematerialized in the middle of a picturesque hillside clearing. Trees along the edge of the field, and a river below. God damn Jim for being right, but it was gorgeous down there. Perfect summery evening with a light breeze, sun almost ready to set. Looked a bit like Earth, really.

I wanted it to rain. I wanted the wind to howl, the thunder to crash, and the skies to rip open and flood down the sort of anguish that I couldn't let myself show. "Spock!" I spun around, watching the remaining crew members materialize around me. It looked like everyone was there. "Goddammit, Spock, where are you?"

"Doctor McCoy," called the familiar voice, calm but forceful. Spock was standing at the edge of the field, uphill, and most of the senior staff had already found him.

Gritting my teeth and telling myself not to lose it, to hold it together, I hurried up the hill to find Sulu and Scotty briefing Spock.

"... and so he had me modify the deflector dish to produce a burst of barion radiation, Commander, but to aim it back into the ship." Scotty was speaking quickly, which made his accent seem even thicker.

Spock inclined his head. "A fascinating tactical maneuver."

Sulu spoke up. "I'm guessing that he's waiting for all the Klingons to beam aboard the Enterprise before activating the burst."

"Klingons employ their entire crews in boarding parties. Captain Kirk's plan should be effective."

"Effective?" I snarled. "Effective? Goddammit, Spock, a year later, and your Kobayashi Maru finally got through to Jim. He's going to sacrifice himself because of your test!"

Spock raised an eyebrow. I wanted to rip that eyebrow off his forehead. "I am not responsible for the existence Kobayashi Maru training, Doctor. I merely proctored and programmed the test at the time when the Captain took it. It has been standard training for decades. Effective training, I might add."

Several things I wanted to say just then sprang to mind, but in uniform, in a crisis, was not the time to begin swearing at senior officers... especially our new Captain. The thought made me sick. "He's up there right now, Spock, getting ready to blast himself with radiation that will kill him in about four agonizing seconds. And he's doing it because he's convinced that he has to face his fear in the face of certain defeat and conquer it."

"Unlikely, Doctor. He is doing it because his actions will save the entire crew of the Enterprise... including yourself."

A bright flash suddenly pulsed in the sky, and everyone glanced up in response. Lit by the setting sun, four bright dots in orbit - one larger and brighter than the other three - sailed serenely through the deepening purple of the evening sky. The flash of light had been the visible spectrum discharge that came with the radiation burst.

The ship was still there, still hanging in the sky as of nothing horrible had happened.

Jim was dead.

I couldn't think. I couldn't breathe. It had all happened so quickly. Less than ten minutes ago, I'd been in sickbay, tinkering with equipment that didn't need to be fixed anyway. The world had been so normal, so dull, so everyday, and now everything had been turned upside down and shattered. And it had happened so fast.

Then I heard the familiar sound of a transporter beam behind me, and caught a faint glimmer of light.

And then, to prove that there is no such thing as a no-win scenario.

I spun around in time to see Jim collapse to the ground in front of me.

"JIM!" I was on my knees next to him before my brain could catch up. Automatic responses kicked in, and I pulled my tricorder from the med kit - glad I grabbed it from sickbay now - and scanned him. "Jim, you crazy bastard, how the hell did you do it?"

Jim laughed weakly, and coughed. His hand had a little spatter of blood on it when he pulled it away from his mouth. "Hey Bones. Good to see you, too."

I couldn't think of what else to do, so I scowled at the readout on the tricorder. "What happened to you?"

"The Klingons didn't like the fact that I'd beamed everyone else off the ship, so they decided to fight dirty." He coughed again. "Klingons smell bad up close, d'ya know that?"

I didn't know whether to laugh at the man or groan. I settled for loading a hypospray with a painkiller and stabbing it against his neck just a bit harder than necessary. "Well, your olfactory nerves and the rest of you will recover just fine. Just need to get you back up to sickbay to patch you up. A couple of cracked ribs and bruises, you reckless, suicidal... goddammit, Jim. How did you do it?"

Jim smiled and pointed at my communicator. "Transporter protocol Kirk-Alpha-Omega-McCoy-Two. I created that program after our second away mission. It taps our communicators directly into the transporter system. I activate my communicator, and if we're in range, it sends me to you."

I stared down at Jim, feeling too hot and too cold all at once. I dropped the hypospray and stared at him. "Jim?"

"I figured," he said carefully, "you've been with me since the beginning. And in a crisis, when all else fails, I want to be where you are."

I didn't know what to say to that, but Jim didn't seem to mind. He reached over and patted my knee, speaking in a low tone so only I could hear him. "I promised that I'd keep you safe, Bones. If you're safe, and I'm where you are..."

"I understand, Jim," I whispered. "I just... I thought you were dead. I thought you were going to... you know."

A sad smile twisted his mouth. "It might not have worked, Bones. But..." He looked up, and I followed his gaze to see that Spock was standing by, watching. "I learned your lesson from the Kobayashi Maru, Spock," he said, a bit louder. "To control one's emotions... in the face of certain death... and to still change the parameters of the situation so that the game plays by my rules."

I looked between Spock and Jim a couple of times, watching some subtle, unspoken conversation play out between them - the serene Commander standing with his hands folded behind his back, defeated, and the grinning Captain bleeding on the ground, triumphant. And then, I swear to the almighty powers that be, the goddamned Vulcan smiled. Okay, so it wasn't much of a smile, but his lips did this strange quirking thing, and he tipped his head slightly.

"In light of this evidence, Captain, it seems like a logical solution."

We have already faced one of the greatest challenges ever encountered by the Federation, and while there is nothing that can undo our losses, I am fully confident that this crew, and this ship, will be ready and able to meet any challenge that we might face in the future.

"Thank you, Commander," Jim said.

I felt as though I was witnessing the closure of a conversation that had begun a year ago, in a hearing at Starfleet Academy, and had finally resolved itself. I'm not sure what I thought of it, but the peaceful expression on Jim's face as he let his head rest against the ground seemed like the right sentiment.

"Did everyone get off the ship?" he asked.

"Aye, Captain," Scotty chimed in from somewhere behind me. "The whole crew, all planetside, Sir."

"Well," Jim said thoughtfully, "I did say that I wanted everyone to get some shore leave."

"Captain," I said softly, touching his arm, "shore leave or not, we need to get you back to the ship."

"I know, Bones." He glanced to the side. "Sulu, you and Scotty go get one of the shuttles. Let's pack up this party."

"Aye, Captain," they said together, and hurried off into the deepening shadows.

"Spock," Jim continued, "go check in on the crew. Any casualties should go up on the first shuttle. Have section leaders gather their people together."

"Yes, Captain." And then Spock was gone.

"Just us, huh Bones?" Jim said lightly, looking up at the sky above, and at the stars that were beginning to speckle the deep purple backdrop around the Enterprise. "Take a look, while we're stuck here. Look up at her, Bones. Our ship. Space. It's worth it, you know."

That childlike sense of wonder that sometimes came out in Jim's voice, sometimes twinkled in his eyes, was enough to make me feel both exhilarated and humbled as I looked up at the stars, and the brighter dots of light that were the ships in orbit. And for all the danger… well, we were all still alive. Jim was still alive. "Yeah," I said, looking back down at his face, which seemed so deeply satisfied and peaceful, despite the bruises and spatters of blood. "Yeah, it's worth it."

Jim smiled, and as he heard the whine of the shuttlecraft engines approaching, he closed his eyes. "Come on, Bones. Let's go home."

The galaxy is a place filled with both dangers and wonders, and I am aware of how deeply privileged I am that I will be able to encounter both with you aboard the Enterprise. It is my intent that our ship may become our home away from home, and our crew a family. I can only hope that I may prove myself worthy of both.

"Yeah, Jim," I said, resting a hand on his shoulder. "Let's go home."