A/N: Written for the K/S Valentines community on LJ. Somehow it grew a plot and proceeded to enslave me for days on end in a desperate attempt to finish it on time. For those of you who don't know, this fic springs off of the TOS episode "The Squire of Gothos." WATCH IT.
Chapter Rating: PG-13
Sometimes Jim Kirk thought he had lost his capacity for surprise. Between the talking, omniscient time gate, the giant, planet-eating weapon, and the tribble incident, he occasionally entertained the delusion that nothing could shock him anymore. Of course after awhile, the universe always caught up, and that was one of the things he loved about his job. There were difficulties, to be sure, but endless wonders and opportunities as well.
That morning, on his way to the bridge, the latest surprise from the universe was as unappreciated as it was unexpected.
"My most sincere salutations, Captain Kirk!" The man in the Napoleonic uniform grinned smugly at him from where he had appeared in a flash of light in the middle of the hall. "Thought you were rid of me forever, hmm?"
Jim gaped for what felt like several seconds, almost paralyzed by the insane rush of adrenaline. He reached instinctively for a phaser that wasn't there, and clenched his hand at his side instead. "Trelane," he murmured, hardly able to believe his own assessment.
"You do remember me! Oh, how delightful!" Before he could comprehend what was going on, let alone react to it, Trelane had clapped him on the shoulder and started steering him down the hall, as if they were old pals out for stroll. "It's been ages,Captain, ages. Well, for me anyway. I'm sorry to drop in like this, but I just happened to be in the quadrant and noticed you were passing by. Now tell me, how fares your lovely little vessel?"
He wasn't waking up. Why wasn't he waking up? Jim finally snapped out of his daze and dove toward the nearest com panel.
Suddenly he was diving for the floor of his quarters instead, just managing to avoid an appendectomy via desk corner. He hit the floor at an awkward angle, and the breath was knocked from his lungs. Somewhere above him, Trelane was still chattering away. "A less distracting setting, I should think. But oh dear, are these really your quarters? I wasn't expecting something so Spartan."
"You." Jim panted between his gasps for air, as he uncurled himself and glowered at the ostentatious being peering down at him. There should be a law against having that much gold embellishment as part of an outfit.
"My goodness, is that hostility I'm detecting?" Trelane offered his hand with an unnecessary flourish. "Come now, Captain. Can't we let bygones be bygones?"
Jim ignored the hand, hauled himself to his feet, and promptly backed against the wall, crouched into a fighting stance. He scanned the room for something, anything he could use to confuse or give Trelane pause just long enough. Long enough for what, he wondered vaguely. "What are you doing here? Where are your parents?"
"I'll have you know I am over twelve years old. Million, that is. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself."
"That's not how I remember it." Jim's mind was racing, but it felt more like a hamster on a wheel than anything else. Could he throw a vase? Duck behind his desk? Try to shout out computer commands at auctioneering speeds? Every immediate option seemed absurd.
Trelane gestured in enthusiastic dismissal. "You knew me when I was but a lad of half an epoch. Time changes us all, my dear captain – well, time and the right connections. I have been to the farthest edges of the universe and back. I have seen into the past and the future. In short," he gestured toward himself as though he were presenting a work of art, "I have matured."
"And I'm just supposed to take your word on this?"
"But of course! Now where is that sourpuss Vulcan of yours?" Something positively devious lit up Trelane's face, and he glanced around the room as though he expected Spock to emerge from some hiding spot. "I should very much like to meet him again."
"I don't know."
"Why would he be? These aren't his quarters."
"Oh." Trelane gave him dubious look. "It appears I've assumed too much."
Five minutes with him, and Jim was already developing a headache and a half. "What?"
Trelane continued as he paced about the room and studied the furnishings, talking more to himself now than Jim. "How peculiar. It seemed so obvious. And it worked beautifully too! Complete and immediate cooperation." He rounded on Jim, eyes narrowed. "You're sure?"
"The only thing I'm sure of," Jim said carefully, "is that I have no idea what you're going on about."
Trelane frowned for a moment, but then shrugged and continued exploring Jim's quarters like he owned the place. He turned his back to study the chess board, halfway through the game Jim and Spock had started the night before, and Jim inched his way toward the console keypad to type in the red alert code.
His wary eyes were fixed on Trelane, so when his hand hit something cold, damp, and squishy, his head almost hit the wall in his frantic leap backwards. On his desk, in place of his console, was a large and elaborately molded gelatin dessert.
"It's strawberry." Trelane wheeled around, grinning triumphantly. "Do you like strawberry, Captain? I am told it's a popular flavor of sustenance amongst your species."
"Put my console back right now!" Jim tried not to think about how much he just sounded like a kindergarten teacher.
"Captain, you wound me! Don't you like my gift?"
"In return for hosting me."
/Captain./ A monotone, highly welcome voice sounded over the com. /We've just picked up a minor energy disturbance in your quarters. Is everything all right?/
"There's that old killjoy!" Trelane laughed in an unsettling manner.
"Mr. Spock, red alert," Jim barked, seizing his chance. "Beta five nine–"
"Now Captain, if you want to talk to a man, do be polite and meet him face-to-face."
There was another flash of light, the hiss of an energy discharge, and suddenly Spock was bending over the jello the exact same way he stood at his scanner. If Jim weren't so irritated, he would have laughed; seeing Spock react to such an abrupt and inexplicable change of scenery was priceless. Seeing him react to Trelane's presence came in a close second, as he schooled his face into such a stone cold expression that anyone who wasn't a nearly omnipotent being would have balked.
"I assume you didn't get a chance to call the alert," Jim murmured out of the corner of his mouth.
Suddenly the siren started blaring, and the red lights flashed, and Spock gave him a sidelong glance. "I assume that in light of my… sudden departure from the bridge, Lieutenant Scott would have taken the most logical course of action."
"'Course he would." Jim nodded and allowed himself a brief smirk at Trelane. Even if Trelane shut the alert down now, the crew would be on their guard, and Scotty would know something was wrong.
Trelane didn't seem particularly concerned, only displeased. He scrunched up his face and frowned. "Zounds, Captain! Is that unseemly racket really necessary?" Sure enough, he waved a hand and said racket ceased. "That's better. Now then. We're all civilized men, there's no need for a fuss."
"What, precisely, is he doing here?" Spock murmured.
"Your guess is as good as mine."
"I already told you, I'm here to experience the famous Federation hospitality," Trelane said, sizing up Spock with a shark-like grin. "Tell your first officer not to fret. I have no bags for him to carry. All I require is one of your best rooms and access to your databanks."
"I don't suppose telling you to leave us alone would work?" Jim already knew the answer, but a man could hope, after all.
"My thirst for the sweet waters of knowledge will not be denied by plebian paranoia." Trelane declared. "I am a citizen of the universe, an explorer, like your Magellan. I admire your Magellan very much, very much indeed."
"The last time we met, you were a soldier enamored with Napoleon." Spock crossed his arms. "Your uniform suggests that you still are."
"Well," Trelane looked down at himself, "it is a very fine uniform. But I assure you, dear Captain, I merely wish to learn more about your species. Only for a handful of Earth days, three at the most. I have business to attend to, after all." He looked at them attentively as he waited for a reply.
Jim turned to Spock, oddly grateful that Trelane had teleported his first officer into the situation. He always felt more comfortable in tough spots with Spock at his side. Then again, he felt more comfortable in general with Spock around, but that was and always would be an issue for another day's contemplation.
"Senior staff meeting?" He suggested.
"I agree." Spock gave Trelane an especially arctic once-over. "We shall give your request our most careful consideration." He picked up the jello, no doubt intending to subject it to every scan imaginable.
"Wait here, and don't… err… transmogrify anything else." Jim said sternly and took Spock's arm, steering him out of his quarters as fast as possible to escape any possible retorts. They weren't quite fast enough.
"Innocent until proven guilty, Captain!" Trelane shouted gleefully after them before the doors closed.
"I can't believe I'm saying this, but maybe we should give him a chance." Jim had hardly finished his statement before the incredulous protests started.
"Now Jim, you can't be serious."
"Sir, I can't speak for you, but I know Sulu sure didn't appreciate being a wax figure."
"What if he decides to play with the warp core?"
Jim lifted a hand to silence them. "He almost ran me through with a sword, but I still think we should give him the benefit of the doubt. We're ambassadors of the Federation, and like it or not, he represents a rather unique alien species." He shrugged, and continued reluctantly. "His enthusiasm for learning seems genuine."
"He may have enthusiasm in abundance, Captain, but the fact remains that he is a dangerous and unruly being who takes pleasure in causing disruption for others." Spock's tone was just as clipped as when he had been addressing Trelane himself.
"Took the words right out of my mouth," McCoy jabbed a thumb at Spock.
"But so far his disruption has more in common with practical jokes than war games. Has he hurt anyone? Threatened us?" Jim waited for someone to challenge him, but no one could. At least, not yet. Jim sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "He claims he's grown up since we last met him."
McCoy started to snicker, but stopped when he saw that Jim was completely serious. He cleared his throat and fought to regain his composure. "Well, has he?"
Jim surveyed the conference room and the expressions of his most trusted advisors, mostly severe with the exception of McCoy, who looked like he was about to burst into laughter again. "Honestly, I couldn't say. He still acts like a spoiled brat of a child, but either his cruel streak has waned, or he hides it well."
"I vote for 'hides it well.'" DeSalle grumbled.
"Your concern is shared, lieutenant," Jim said. "But right now we need to focus on how we're going to deal with him. Assuming he is telling the truth, he expects a response from us."
"If he won't take no for an answer, what's the point? All we can do is put up with him and hope he doesn't kill anyone," DeSalle said, brow knit and eyes fierce.
"We can try to get the better of him, trick him somehow," McCoy suggested, attempting to ease the tension in the room with a casual tone that did not quite fit their situation. "We managed it before, if only for a little while."
"Indeed, if his presence here is inevitable, we would do well to discuss potential weaknesses," Spock said.
"I dunno if this is relevant, sir," Scotty offered, and Jim turned to find him poking at a wobbly exhibit A in the center of the table, "but this isn't strawberry." He licked a red-coated finger tentatively. "It's cherry."
"You mean it doesn't taste like nothing?" McCoy shifted in his chair.
Jim leaned across the table and pinched off a piece of the dessert, taking a cautious taste for himself. "Cherry it is." It had more in common with cough medicine than the actual fruit, but there was a definite flavor present.
"That doesn't bode well for us, if he's learned how to put more substance to things," McCoy's clinical calm was slipping at this new development, and Jim aimed for damage control.
"Still not omniscient, though." He settled back in his chair, watching the jello mold quiver with residual movement, as if their scrutiny were making it nervous. "I'd call that a point in our favor."
"Let's keep it that way. We can't let him loose with the databanks," DeSalle said.
"What he doesn't know can't hurt us," Scotty quipped in agreement.
"And for an immaterial being, he's pretty materialistic," McCoy offered, some of his humor returning. "He had quite the collection at that palace of his."
"He has an illogical interest in observing human rituals," Spock added. "Dueling protocol, hospitality, dancing."
"Good, everyone." Jim paused to review his mental list, but he decided to save connecting the dots for later. Their 'guest' was no doubt getting impatient. "Anything else we should keep in mind?"
"What about his fixed power source?" DeSalle frowned, and began to glance at their surroundings suspiciously.
"We'll keep our eyes open, but he might not have one. I never did figure out where he drew his power from after I broke the computer." Jim pointed out, then stood up briskly and planted his hands on the table. "All right, here's what we're going to do. We welcome him. We play nice. The second he starts to cross into old territory, we manipulate him however we can. I'll challenge him to a rematch, if it comes to that."
"Captain–" Spock started to object.
"This is non-negotiable. If he threatens the ship, we need a last resort." Jim hated brushing off Spock's concern, but now was not the time for indecisiveness. "In the meantime, no one breathes a word of this to Starfleet, not yet. I don't want them getting involved and attracting his attention toward Earth. As far as they know, we're still on our uneventful course to Vallar 3." Jim turned to his chief engineer, glad for an excuse to look away from Spock. "Mr. Scott, head down to my quarters. You're going to give Trelane a tour of the ship."
"Show him the nonessential areas, and walk slow. Take him to meet me on the bridge in half an hour. That should give Mr. Spock enough time to conceal any sensitive information in the databanks."
"Aye, sir. I'll tell him more than he ever wanted to know about the history of power conduits," Scotty said triumphantly.
"Bones, program the computer to send you status updates on every crewmember. If anyone's life signs change or vanish, I want an exact time and location."
"You got it, Jim." Bones followed Scotty out the door with that miniscule southern gentleman's nod.
"DeSalle, if there's even the slightest wobble in our course, tell me immediately. And tell the quartermaster to find our guest a room so we can get him out of mine." The head navigator nodded once and made his exit, leaving Jim alone with his first officer.
Spock had already busied himself at one of the conference room consoles, sifting through files, hiding some and giving others nonsense keywords. Jim could sense his displeasure by the boxed-in way he held himself, the sharp edge to his movements. "Well, Mr. Spock?"
There was the slightest hesitation in the flow of commands from Spock's fingers. "I maintain my disagreement, but I support your decision."
Jim placed a hand on Spock's shoulder, which relaxed marginally beneath his touch. The instinct to lean in and lower his voice was strong, even though no one was around to eavesdrop. "Look, I don't trust him as far as I can throw him either. But learning is a two-way street."
"As he learns about us, we'll be learning about him. We can run scans every minute of the day. We can evaluate him psychologically. We can assess the true extent of his powers. Even if we glean nothing, maybe we can convince him that humanity is more than a plaything or a curiosity."
Spock paused to consider this for a moment. "A most logical approach, captain," he conceded, if somewhat reluctantly.
That kind of complement always thrilled and humbled Jim more than a hundred 'Fleet metals ever could. "Thank you, Spock." He gave his first officer's shoulder a gentle squeeze before letting go, leaving him to his work. "I'll see you on the bridge."