Our Hopes and Expectations
Summary: Being the captain is not all fun and games. Five ways Jim's new captaincy was not all it was cracked up to be, and one way it was completely awesome.
A/N: References the TOS episodes "The Corbomite Incident" and "Court Martial". I have borrowed some dialogue straight from "Court Martial". The title comes from "Starlight" by Muse.
Disclaimer – I don't own Star Trek, any of the canon characters, concepts or settings.
"Kirk," Pike says, face drawn and grim from the pain of multiple surgeries. "This is not the way I would have liked to see you promoted."
Kirk grins sardonically. "I guessed that, sir."
Pike grunts. "You did, huh? Well, there are some things you need to know."
Jim Kirk, Starfleet's newest, youngest and most inexperienced captain, cocks his head. "Go on, sir."
"It's not going to be what you expected." For a moment, Pike closes his eyes, rides out a wave of discomfort and dizziness. "You're a third-year cadet with less than six weeks of shipboard experience, and that's including the two weeks you spent getting back to Earth. At most, the Admiralty should have given you a medal and promoted you to lieutenant. Instead, public pressure forced them into giving you the Enterprise– and did you no favours thereby."
Kirk's mouth tightens. It speaks much of the discipline and maturity that the Academy has finally pounded into him that he says nothing, allowing Pike to say his piece.
"This is your one chance, Kirk. It may be nothing more than a publicity stunt, a sop to appease the media, but take it and make it work. You know they're expecting you to fail; don't."
"I'll make it work," Kirk vows, his brilliant blue eyes fierce. "By the time I'm finished, I'll be the best goddamn captain in Starfleet's history."
Or the most infamous, Pike thinks wryly.
"Oh," he says, almost as an afterthought. "One more thing. Listen to Spock. You'll last longer that way."
Listen to Spock.
Except that was much easier said than done, Jim thinks later.
Spock had resigned his commission to join the Vulcan refugees, choosing the good of the many over his own desires, though Jim couldn't tell why Spock would ever desire to serve under a jumped-up cadet who deliberately provoked him in order to seize the captaincy from his emotionally compromised hands. He had only the word of the old, heartbroken time traveller that they were destined for a partnership that would draw them closer than brothers.
Jim looks up to see a yeoman waiting outside the door to his temporary quarters. He has a brief impression of elaborate blonde hair, but is immediately distracted by the administrative red uniform showcasing truly spectacular legs – and then she clears her throat pointedly and he drags his gaze back to hers.
"Yeoman," he acknowledges her warily.
"My name is Rand, sir," she says, in a firm, no-nonsense voice. "I've been assigned to help you with your preparations for the voyage."
One of those. The Academy Command track has urban legends about administrative yeomen. They can make or break an officer, it is whispered: get on their good side, and they would smooth away even the most tangled snarl of administrivia. Get on their bad side… Well, it's not worth thinking of.
"Oh," Jim says, and ventures his most charming smile. "What can I do for you, Yeoman Rand?"
Jim soon finds out.
Yeoman Rand of the daringly short skirt has a mind like a bureaucratic Nazi. Over the next few days she takes him through all the paperwork involved in repairing, outfitting, stocking and crewing the ship: a dizzying volume of forms and reports (in triplicate) that he finds truly staggering.
Eventually he comes to the point where he simply can't take it anymore.
"This is ridiculous!" he scowls, dragging his hands through his hair. "I'm supposed to be the captain. Can't I just," he waves his hand, "order the ship to be ready by the launch date, say that I want these people on board, and then sit back and watch it happen?"
She gives him a long, assessing look. "You could, sir," she replies. "If you had a first officer. Until and unless you choose one, I'm afraid it's your responsibility."
Pike finally takes pity on him and tells him to request Yeoman Rand's transfer to the Enterprise and delegate everything to her. After that, he simply signs everything she puts in front of him and is properly grateful.
2. His 'peers'
Starfleet is the worst kind of Old Boys' Club.
Jim knows this already; with his record, he would never have been allowed into the Academy if he hadn't been George Kirk's son. But that had been as far as his father's name stretched; Jim had always been very much on the outside. Several times he'd been on the edge of expulsion from the Academy with only Pike's influence to smooth seriously ruffled feathers. But he'd never really cared that he wasn't part of the exclusive Starfleet club, not until the first time he walks into the Officers' Mess on Spacedock wearing his gold captain's uniform and sees the reactions of his new peers.
A hush falls on the crowded room, lieutenants and commanders and captains turning to witness his entry. Jumped-up cadet, he can see them thinking. Promoted over the heads of better, more experienced officers. The lingering memories of an older, steadier version of himself, Starfleet's golden captain, are like salt in an open wound. Bracing himself, he stands his ground; he's James T. Kirk, and he has as much right to be here as any of them.
To be fair, some of the officers make a point of greeting him and congratulating him on his promotion.
But the rest? Can go fuck themselves.
3. The distance of rank
It is ship's night, the first day of the Enterprise's maiden voyage under Jim's captaincy, and Jim is still keyed up and buzzing with excitement even two hours after end of shift. He had prevailed upon Spock to walk with him through the ship's corridors, and now they walk side by side, if not in harmony then at least in stride.
They've just swung past Maintenance when they first hear it: a great deal of noise and hilarity coming from the hangar deck. Puzzled, Jim turns to Spock.
"I believe they are celebrating what was once referred to as 'crossing the line', Captain," Spock says, eyebrow raised in Vulcan condescension. "Though what relevance the mythological Greek figure King Neptune has to the boundaries of the Sol system –"
"Spock," Jim stops him, laughing. "Hell, I completely forgot about that."
Where Earth-bound navies had held the ceremony every time a ship crossed the Equator, Starfleet celebrated it when a ship crossed the boundaries of the Sol system. Every crewman who had yet to pass beyond the solar system was initiated amidst (largely) good-natured revelry and hazing, and a good time was generally had by all. For various reasons, the Enterprise had not held the celebration during her first maiden voyage, nor during the slow impulse-powered return to Earth after Nero's defeat.
"A large percentage of the crew is made up of former cadets," Spock continues. "They did not have the chance to take the Academy's final deep-space training cruise, and so have yet to be initiated."
Including, Jim realises belatedly, himself.
(Of course he has been out of Sol system before. But there were no revels when the Starfleet rescue vessels brought the survivors of the Kelvin home, and he's never, ever spoken of Tarsus IV. It's easier to let them think him a deep space virgin.)
The hangar deck doors burst open, spilling out a cacophony of raucous noise and colour. There are crewmen everywhere, drinking, dancing, eating, laughing, calling out; the greatest crowd is gathered about a vat of what looks to be machine oil, slick and viscous. Four burly security crewmembers frogmarch a laughing, struggling ensign towards the vat and throw him in, much to the delight of his fellows.
Just then, the cry goes up as Jim is recognised. "It's Kirk!"
"Time for your initiation, Captain!"
That last one is Cupcake, advancing on him with an evil glint in his eye.
"Captain," Spock says, low and severe and implacable. Just one word, but he moves up to stand just in front of Jim. Jim can't see his expression, but he can see the effect it has on the advancing crewmembers all too eager to lay hands on him and toss him into the oil-filled vat.
"Captain," Spock says again. "You cannot."
And Jim knows that he's right. Just over three months ago he'd been a cadet just like the rest of them. He'd been reckless and hot-blooded and he'd partied too hard, drunk too much and slept with too many women (and men, and beings of indeterminate gender). Had things taken their natural path he would still be one of them, a junior officer slowly climbing the ladder towards a command of his own, revelling in the fun and silliness of the initiation. Hell, he would have been the life of the party.
But now, the braid on his shirt sets him forever apart.
"Spock," Jim says with perfect seriousness, "you do know I'll look like the worst kind of hypocrite."
"Nevertheless," Spock says calmly. "Discipline must be maintained."
"Well, can't you do it? You're much better at stern-faced discipline than I am. In fact, we can be like good cop, bad cop – you can scare the – well, terrify them, and I'll –"
There are times when Jim thinks Spock is one truly running the ship. To be fair, Spock is practically the only senior officer on the ship with any real shipboard experience; rather than provide support to an experienced commander, he'd had to practically teach Jim the everyday business of being a starship captain. Jim's almost afraid to swap notes with other captains without Vulcan first officers, in case his more fortunate peers tell him that Spock is holding him and the Enterprise to impossibly high standards.
Jim sighs. "Alright, Spock, I'll play the good captain and come down hard on them. Though how I'm going to keep a straight face –"
"Captain," Spock interrupts him, his voice low and intent. "It is not merely a matter of returning from shore leave drunk and disorderly. If that were all, I would have handled it myself before it ever came to your attention. Crewmen Hadley, M'Keth and Zztyn reported for duty while intoxicated, and when their watch supervisor remonstrated with them they assaulted him."
For the first time in the conversation, Jim drops his nonchalant pose and sits up straight. Spock is right; such behaviour cannot be tolerated, not on a starship on active duty in deep space. Not out here in the black, where 430 souls had only each other and the Enterprise to rely on.
"Alright," he says again, but in a very different tone. "I'll deal with them. What's next?"
Spock hesitates for a moment. "The matter of Lieutenant Bailey."
"Ah, hell," Jim curses.
5. The needs of the many
"Finney was an asshole," Kirk says, idly playing with his glass, savouring McCoy's best bourbon. "He was," he insists, in the face of the doctor's raised brows. "And probably an Admiralty spy to boot. But that doesn't mean I'd –" he trails off, mouth set grimly.
"Jim," McCoy leans forward, put his hand on Jim's shoulder, "you gave Finney every second you could before you jettisoned that pod. Waiting any longer would have endangered the whole ship."
Finney is not the first crewmember Jim has lost since the beginning of their five-year odyssey. But he is the first one whose death was directly caused by Jim's actions.
McCoy seems to think that something more is called for. "Now I'm gonna say somethin' that I will flatly deny if you ever ask me again," he says, deliberately exaggerating his drawl. "Spock has a point, you know, when he talks about the needs of the many."
Jim manages to dredge up the ghost of a smile. "Why, Doctor McCoy –"
"There are 430 crewmembers on this floating tin can, every one of us a hell of a long way from home. As the captain you have a responsibility to your crew, yes, but without the ship–"
"It's not always that clear-cut, Bones."
"Well, now, that's why you're the captain – when it comes down to it, someone has to make the hard calls. Tell me – do you truly believe, deep down in your gut, that you made the right decision? Could you have done anything differently?"
Jim thinks on this for a long time, reviewing the sequence of events that had led to Finney's death. He had delayed as long as he possibly could, giving Finney every chance to reach safety, until the ion storm intensified to the point where he had no choice but to sound the red alert and jettison the pod with Finney still trapped inside.
"No," he says, with slow conviction. "No, I did everything I could, but – it still wasn't enough, Bones."
McCoy's hand on his shoulder is a solid comfort. "That's all you can ever do, Jim."
"A man died, Kirk. He died when he shouldn't have, and your report and your computer log contradict each other. Can't you see how bad it looks?" Commodore Stone, tall and imposing, paces back and forth and glares at Jim as though he's still an unruly cadet. "Don't you know what kind of public relations disaster it will create?"
Jim flushes angrily. "I don't give a damn about –"
"They'll say Starfleet promoted you too early. They'll bring up your past, every single blot on your far from spotless record. It'll get very ugly very quickly." The Commodore drops back into his chair, fixes Jim with the kind of sincere, understanding gaze Jim has long since learned to distrust. "Kirk, listen to me. Command takes a lot out of a man, even a seasoned, experienced captain. It's perfectly understandable."
It takes him a moment to understand. "I'm sorry?" Jim asks, though he knows damn well what is coming.
"The overwhelming pressure of command, hundreds of lives weighed in the balance – Starfleet simply asked too much of you."
"Is that the way you see it?"
"That's the way my report will read, if you cooperate."
But Jim has made a habit of being uncooperative. He rises to his feet, eyes blazing. "You expect me to fall on my sword to save Starfleet's – face?"
Commodore Stone stands to match him, equally confrontational. "I'm telling you no starship captain has ever stood trial before and by God, Kirk, you don't want to be the first. I will not have the Service smeared by –"
"By what, Commodore Stone?" Jim takes a step closer, challenging, daring the Commodore to go on. This is Jim Kirk falling into an old, ugly pattern, a lifetime of confrontations with authority fuelling his defiance; this is how he broke Spock's control.
"Alright," the Commodore says with grim relish. "By an insubordinate, jumped-up boy wonder who couldn't handle the pressure, and who then tried to hide the evidence –"
"Well I'm telling you, Commodore Stone," Jim shoots back, "I don't give a damn what the computer says; I was there on the bridge. I know how it happened, and I know what I did. And I will not allow you to sweep this under the rug and me with it!"
They stare dangerously at each other for a long, long moment.
"Then you draw the general Court," Commodore Stone says heavily.
"Damn right I do," Jim says.
In the middle of the night a sharp whistle and Lieutenant Palmer's voice alerts him to an incoming communication.
"Captain," Spock's calm voice carries soothingly over the ship's communication systems. "There has been an…incident on the starbase."
Jim shoots upright, instantly alert. "An incident?"
"Yes, Captain. I request that you transport down to the security section." Something in Spock's voice gives him pause. Why, if there was an incident requiring the captain's attention, does Spock sound so calm, almost – amused?
"Right," Jim says, dragging on his uniform and boots and dragging his hands through his hair. "Give me five minutes, Spock; I'll be right there."
Five minutes later, Jim beams down to the starbase's security holding area. Spock is there, looking outwardly severe, with a livid starbase security officer and two Commanders, by their uniforms from the Potemkin and the Excalibur.
"Can't you control your crew, Kirk?" the Potemkin's officer greets him angrily. "If this is the sort of thing that passes for discipline on your ship…!"
The Commander from the Excalibur looks pained.
Spock's eyebrows arch indignantly, always a danger sign. "Captain Kirk," he says, with just the slightest emphasis on his title. The Potemkin's officer has the grace to flush. "This is Commander Senketh," the starbase security officer, "and Commanders Brophy and Chen." The officers from the Potemkin and the Excalibur respectively.
Kirk gives them a polite nod, and then fixes his attention on Spock, who despite his grave expression does not look nearly as severe as he should. "What's happened?"
"I am afraid that several of our officers were involved in a most unseemly brawl," Spock answers almost primly.
"A goddamned free-for-all," Commander Brophy mutters. "They wrecked the bar and put three of my best security men in the infirmary."
Spock spares him a look.
"Ah," Kirk says. "Is that so."
"Yes, Captain. The participants have all been arrested and placed in the brig, pending your arrival and that of Captains Taylor and Iwasaki –"
Jim assumes his gravest expression. "Yes, thank you, Mr Spock. Commanders," he says, nodding to the others. "I'll go in and see them now."
It is a sorry sight. Fifteen Enterprise officers, crowded into two holding cells, slumped and sprawled on the benches and against the walls, bruised and battered and still quite drunk. They stare down the officers and crewmen from the other ships – nursing their own wounds in separate cells – with magnificent, haughty contempt.
And then Sulu looks up and sees his arrival, and jumps to his feet. "Captain!" he says, drawing himself to painful attention, despite what look to be bruised ribs. The others follow suit with alacrity. Chekov has a split lip and a blossoming black eye. Scotty's eyes are bright and glassy. Cupcake – Cupcake! – and his fellow security goons sport various battle wounds, mostly bruised and bloody knuckles from pounding heads.
"Well, well, well," he says, drawing it out for his own malicious pleasure. "What do we have here?"
"Those Cossacks," Chekov spits out, glaring fiercely at the cowed crewmen from the Potemkin and Excalibur, "they said that you murdered Lieutenant Finney."
Sulu's hand twitches like he wants to reach for his sword. "We said that until they'd stared down a goddamned black hole with you while the viewscreen cracked and the whole ship seemed about to be sucked in, they had no right to judge you."
And how Sulu gets that out, drunk as he is, Jim will never know.
"And then they said," Scotty growls, "that we were a ship o' jumped up cadets and rejects under a baby captain an' a misfit Vulcan. There was a wee difference of opinion, ye might say." He drew himself up, weaving on his feet, grinning madly. "Captain, we wish to report the superiority of the Enterprise over any other starship in the Fleet, sir!"
"And the Enterprise's captain!" someone else chimes in.
There is a drunken, cheering chorus of agreement.
They will all regret this in the morning, Jim thinks, when their hangovers kick in and Jim sets Spock on them, the terrifying, stone-faced Vulcan disciplinarian. There will be paperwork, and official slaps on the wrist, and Jim will probably have to smooth things over with the other captains while trying to keep a straight face. There will be concerns about a too-young, too-insular crew that had bonded too strongly during the battle of Vulcan.
And even after all that, there will still be the court-martial hanging over his head.
But just for now, faced with the faith and trust shining from the eyes of his crew, with Spock's steady, calm presence at his back, Jim is truly happy to be the captain.