Jim frowns and shifts as a shock of cold energy floods her system and her senses. Her blue eyes open to the skewered view of a white ceiling, and when she opens her mouth, disgusting partially solidified liquid floods into her mouth. She flings herself up into a sitting position as she coughs and gags. She looks down at herself in confusion to see she's encased in some kind of goop that seems to be the same texture of raw eggs. It's pretty gross and confusing. She stands and notices she's still in her captain's uniform, but she's soaked from head to toe in translucent slime.
"This is like the first five minutes of a horror film," Jim mutters as she flings off the slime from her hands with a disgusted face. She stands and tries to blink the goop from her eyes as she notices she's in an all white room with machinery she's never even seen before.
"Captain Kirk, I am pleased to see you up and about," a voice says from the entrance of the room.
When Jim looks over, she spots a copper-skinned woman with white hair and glowing purple eyes. Needless to say, it freaks Jim out and sends her stumbling out of the tank as she attempts to apply more distance between them. Mitchell was the last person she'd seen with glowing eyes, and well, that confrontation hadn't worked out in her favor had it?
"Oh, no, don't be frightened. I am Doctor Guayule of the House of Jewel. I'm the leading healer for this infirmary. You are in good company, Captain Kirk. Your ship and its crew are being well looked after," Doctor Guayule assures with a placating voice.
Jim relaxes partially and nods unsurely.
"What do you remember?"
"Dying. Or doing something like dying," Jim replies as she wipes some slime from her cheek. Then she lowers her eyes to the empty tank with a thoughtful frown. "Then—Spock. He was—" Her eyebrows furrow as she recalls constant stream of Spock's presence in her mind through the cacophony of her memories. She looks up at Doctor Guayule, who is smiling softly.
"He saved your life, Captain," Doctor Guayule explains. "We barely had to do much."
"Oh, um—" Jim shifts her weight wordlessly as she wraps her arms around herself. "Yeah. He did. I remember that."
"Good, good," Doctor Guayule merely says. "Now, I have a group of very eager seamstresses waiting outside the room for you." She exits and lets in said group of five beautiful young women with matching faces, big red hair, silver eyes and flowing lilac colored ball gowns.
Before Jim can say much, they're all kneeling before her.
"Lady Kirk, it is an honor to serve you. I am Citizen Veona of the House of Dawn. I am the head seamstress for the Royal Court, and these are my sisters. I am the elder daughter," Veona introduces as she stands to her feet while her sisters follow suit. "Her Majesty Queen Sealsa, has instructed us to do a fitting for you. It would be our great pleasure to ensure you look your best for the festival honoring you on this blessed day."
Jim blinks rapidly in order to process the information. "Wait—festival? Am I—are we on—"
"High Master, yes," says the redhead to her right. "Pardon my interjection. I am Citizen Veoya, youngest daughter. You and your people arrived a little over ten hours ago. It has been said that you traveled a many three days through the guidance of Prince Jasel."
"Citizen Veola, second eldest daughter," Veola says with a quick courtesy. "I have also heard that the King and Queen were immensely pleased with being reunited with their children, and eternally grateful to you and honored by the brave lengths in which you ensured such a reunion."
"Oh—okay—I think I need to sit down for a moment," Jim says as she gropes her way to the nearest chair.
The red sisters seem alarmed.
"We've gone and upset you," says the redhead in the middle. "I am Citizen Veoga, third eldest daughter. I would like to apologize on behalf of myself and my sisters if we have brought you any distress."
"No, it's not that—I just—I'm very happy," Jim says as a bubble of laughter floats past of her lips. "A little delirious with it actually. I'm so glad that Jasel and Riesa and Leona are back home safe and sound. It's all I ever wanted for them."
The Red Sisters blush in surprise.
"Lady Kirk addresses the royal family so formally," Veola says with unconcealed awe.
"Oh, um, did I misstep my boundaries?" Jim says with a small wince and a scrunched nose.
"I am Citizen Veora, fourth eldest daughter—and no, not at all," Veora assures. "It just means that they consider you kin to allow you to address them as such. That equates you to royalty now."
Jim nods as she chews on her bottom lip and winces when she remembers she's covered in goop. "So, you'll be dressing me you said? For a festival in my honor?"
The Red Sisters all perk up with eager nods and wide smiles.
"We will meet all your desired specifications for vinaigrettes," Veona promises.
"Okay. When does this festival start?" Jim asks as she stands and lifts her arms obediently when Veora moves to remove her uniform.
"It's happening right now," Veola says. "But it wont officially start until you arrive."
"When we're done here, we are to take you to the Royal Family, and they will introduce you to the entire realm," says Veoga.
"Yes. Everyone in High Master are waiting out on the Blessed Grounds," says Veora. "And since our planet's population numbers in the millions, the royal guard had to cap the entrance since we're already at capacity."
"Which means everyone in the League of Realms will have to watch via transmission," adds Veona.
Jim feels sharp twinges of something like stage fright prod its way into her heart and she goes a bit green. It's only willpower that allows her to stammer out what kind of outfit she wants to the Red Sisters without hurling out her guts. She can't shake her nervousness when she's being cleaned and dressed for the better part of three hours. The red sisters do her hair and makeup as well after they craft her clothes out of virtually thin air. It's impressive, Jim has to admit, but considering how advanced their race is, it's no surprise really.
"So, what do you think?" Veora ask as she summons a full-length mirror and sets it before Jim.
Jim looks ate her reflection with impressed grin. Her hair is in a messy side ponytail, and her makeup looks very natural and elegant. She's wearing a maple sugar colored short sleeve turtleneck tucked into a black and nude laced pencil skirt. Her fingernails are painted a magenta that matches the colors of her toes, which are strapped in black sandaled open toe heels. On her neck she has rainbow colored beads the size of enlarged grapes. She touches them and they begin to glow.
"They are honor beads. They identify you as a special friend of the Royal Family," Veoga explains.
"They're beautiful," Jim says breathlessly as she continues to touch them just to watch them glow.
"You're beautiful, Lady Kirk," Veona gently corrects with a fond smile as her younger sisters murmur in agreement. "They reflect the very essence of you. The glow you see is you."
"Really?" Jim asks in amazement and the Red Sisters nod. "You don't think I'm undressed or anything? I don't know the fashion of your world here so—"
"No fashion," Veola assures. "We dress in a way that suits our personality. So no worries. You look as you are meant to."
Jim smiles gratefully at them and the Red Sisters take that as permission to surround her in a group hug that only lasts a few silent moments before they bulldoze her out of the room and out of the infirmary. When they get out into the street, the city is very quiet and vacant. Jim amusedly notices how the city is designed much like a motherboard cpu with its gleaming pavement and glass and steel structures with streets of blue electricity. She's not given much time to really observe her surrounds before they gently push her into a wide egg-shaped transport car that's hovering over the stream of blue electricity. The inside of this transport egg is like a limo—what with it's cushioned leather seats and mini-bar.
The Red Sisters do not refuse her when she makes a suggestion that they do a couple of shots. Jim mainly needs it to calm down her nerves, and three shots later of what has to be the sweetest vodka she's ever tasted, she's loose and a bit calmer than before. The ride itself takes another three hours—the Blessed Grounds are located in the widest empty plot of land on High Master—but Jim knows when they arrive because she can hear a cacophony of joyful singing and cheering that practically shakes the windows of their egg-shaped transport. When she looks out the side window she sees millions upon millions of people standing before a blocky structure at the top of what looks to be a hundred stairs made of clay and inscribed with strange symbols. It looks a lot like a Mayan temple.
The egg pod comes to a slow stop at the base of the steps of the temple. The door pops open and the Red Sisters climb out first before they help Jim out. With parting hugs and smiles, they disappear into the mass of cheering people, who, much like them, have glowing eyes.
Jim turns and is greeted by the sight of, who must be King Renin and Queen Sealsa, and they don't look a day over forty. King Renin is wearing sharp black suit with a satin tie and a gold crown with red jewels on his head. Queen Sealsa is wearing a strapless banana yellow dress with a floor length ruffle train. She has glossy brown curls falling around her shoulders as a crown made of yellow diamonds rests on her head. Jasel, Leona and Riesa are right beside them, and are dressed the exact same, like little miniature versions. She can see where their looks come from, aside from the clothes, the children are nearly identical in their facial features with their parents.
Leona and Riesa wave excitedly at her while Jasel straightens his posture into something more dignified.
Jim walks towards them with a nervous swallow and gives a jerky bow.
"That is not necessary, James," Queen Sealsa says with a soft voice.
"This is a day to honor you," King Renin says with a gentle smile.
Queen Sealsa, Leona and Riesa give Jim a courtesy as King Renin and Jasel press their right hand to their stomachs with a slight bow.
"If you'll follow us up to the Sacred Temple, we can introduce you to our people," King Renin says as his wife takes the arm he offers. They begin to ascend up the steps carefully.
"See you at the top, Jim," Jasel says with a little smirk and offers his sisters both of his arms.
Leona and Riesa take them and throw Jim a thrilled smile as the three of them begin to ascend.
Before Jim can lift her foot, she's jerked into a hug. When she pulls back she sees that it's Bones who's looking at her with red-rimmed eyes.
"You promised to keep the dying to a minimum," Bones grouches. He's wearing a very suave navy blue suit with a white tie and white dress shoes.
"I didn't actually die this time, you know," Jim points out as she studies him. "Wow. You're looking good."
"Yeah, well, you should've seen me three days ago. I looked better," Bones gripes with a pointed glare.
Jim rolls her eyes and notices the rest of her crew from over his shoulder. "It's good to see you're still a sourpuss," she teases as she pats his chest and walks around him.
Bones sighs long-sufferingly. "You're to blame for all my ulcers," he says.
Jim throws him a grin and a wink over her shoulder before she turns back to Chekov and gives him a hug. He's wearing a red and black suit with no tie. His hair looks as curly as ever.
"I am happy to see you awake, Keptin," Chekov says with a gentle smile when he pulls back. "I was very worried, but I knew you would be back."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence," Jim chuckles and pinches his cheek. She turns to Uhura who's wearing a one-shouldered devil-red cocktail dress with gold earrings, black heels, matching red lipstick and a messy bun of curls.
"You have a knack for trouble, you know that?" Uhura says while a gorgeous smile begins to blossom across her face. She hugs Jim and quietly says, "I'm glad you're okay."
"Same here," Jim whispers back as they pull away from each other with grins. She turns to Scotty and has to press her lips together because her Chief Engineer is sporting a kilt with a sunny smile.
"Never a dull moment with you, is there?" Scotty says.
"I was just thinking the same thing about you," Jim says as she eyes his blue and yellow plaid kilt, which happens to match his knee-high socks.
"Don't know what you mean by that but I'm happy you're okay," Scotty replies with a bemused grin.
Jim nods and pats his shoulder before she turns to Spock.
Spock stands with his hands clasped behind him wearing charcoal grey trousers and black tunic under a charcoal grey jacket that is draped over the left half of his body.
Jim takes a moment to admire how well his attire suits him. She is unused to seeing him outside of his usual science uniform. She steps before him and smiles unsurely.
"You know, I think we'll just start that climb now," Scotty quips and offers his arm to Uhura, who accepts graciously.
Chekov beams at the two of them before he follows after Scotty and Uhura, leaving Jim and Spock alone.
"You go first," Jim says as she shifts her weight and finger-combs her long blonde bangs from her face.
"I am—pleased to see you have fully recovered," Spock says in his usual monotone voice.
Jim smiles and says, "I'm told I have you to thank for that. Though I didn't really need them to tell me. I remember just fine."
Spock says nothing but his dark gaze is steady.
"I do want to thank you, for being there with me when you didn't have to," Jim goes on to say. She exhales shakily as she lowers her eyes. "Honestly, if had to have been anyone to—see all that—I'm glad it was you." She looks up at him. "I know before I was upset with you for perusing through my mind without my permission. And I just want you to know that I'm not upset now. I was in a vulnerable position and—I just—"
"No words are necessary, nor is your gratitude, Jim," Spock gently interjects. "You are my friend."
Jim inhales sharply in surprise. She presses against the tremble that tries to overtake her bottom lip as her eyes water. She stares at him and feels something warm and happy unfurl in her chest. She laughs a little as she flushes with a nod and says, "You're my friend too."
Spock straightens a bit more and his dark gaze twists with something that's as close to a smile that Jim's ever seen, and it makes her own smile grow wider.
"I'm going to throw up," Jim admits suddenly as her smile flattens out. "There are like a lot of people here and even more watching this whole event and they're all going to know my name pretty soon and I might throw up."
"You are experiencing anxiety," Spock notes with a furrow of his brow. "They will not seek to harm you. You have faced worst."
Jim turns towards the steps with a wry snort. "That's not exactly what's bothering me," she says as she begins to ascend. She wobbles a bit and flushes when a warm palm presses to her lower back to steady her. "Thanks," she mumbles and avidly hopes that no one saw her almost fall and break her neck.
"You must be careful," Spock states and doesn't remove his hand, much to Jim's surprise.
"You wear six inch heels and try to climb a hill of steps," Jim retorts with a weak glare. They continue on and Spock keeps her steady through all the times she stumbles and wobbles, which in turn makes her flush in embarrassment and glare at him as though it was his fault. He of course does nothing besides lift an eyebrow in patient questioning until Jim is forced to roll her eyes with a sigh and continue on. They make it to the top eventually, where the Royal Family and her crew are waiting beside a long banquet table full of food, and there is a bedazzled old woman, who Jim later learns is the grandmother.
King Renin and Queen Sealsa stand at the top of the stairs and they wave Jim to join them with smiles.
Spock removes his hand and clasps it behind him.
Jim exhales to rid her body of her nerves as she goes to join the King and Queen. They place her in between them.
King Renin lifts his hands to the mass of people stretched out around the base of the temple stairs and far out to the horizon. "Citizens of Simperion," he says, voice booming and spreading a shockwave of sound. "We have all the reason to celebrate on this day. The Everlasting has seen fit to answer our prayers and return my children to us. And the woman responsible stands before you now."
"Captain James Tiberius Kirk is a woman that embodies valor, bravery and justice," Queen Sealsa goes on to say. "For those reasons alone, on this day, on behalf of the Royal House of Upson, whom presides over the League of Realms—we offer our allegiance to the House of Kirk and the family line it produces. Your children and their children will be kin to our children and their children and on it shall go until the end of time."
"If you should ask, James," King Renin says. "We will take up arms and fight alongside you. Kin to my kin—blood to my blood—our houses shall be forever paralleled."
"There can be a true grandeur in any degree of submissiveness, because it springs from loyalty to the laws and to an oath, and not from baseness of soul," Queen Sealsa says. "The Sacred Woman of our house will come now and solidify the oath we have made today."
An older woman in brilliant robes of peach steps forward, and Jim recognizes her as the children's grandmother. She's holding a golden goblet. "Kneel child," she says with a kind smile.
Jim kneels before her and laces her fingers together expectantly.
Grandma Upson closes her eyes and speaks in whispers over the goblet before she hands it to Jim. "Blessed are the hearts that can bend—they shall never be broken," she says aloud. "Look upon this woman kindly. She gets up while it is still dark. She provides protection for her people and bargains her own soul for the souls of many." She smiles as Jim takes the goblet. She motions for Jim to drink.
Jim lifts the rim to her lips and the liquid inside pours across her tongue and down her throat like oil. Her hands shake as her heart warms with sudden joy.
"She is strong because she considers her choices and accepts them without a fuss," Grandma Upson says. "She sets about her work vigorously and never complains. Her arms are strong for her tasks. Out of her comes a song unheard. She is a righteous woman. She is a blessed woman. She is a woman that accepts the war she went through and is ennobled by her scars." Her golden eyes stare deep into Jim with a smile that reaches into the very essence of her. She takes the goblet back from Jim and says, "We love this woman."
"We love this woman," Queen Sealsa repeats and motions for Jim to stand, and when she does Queen Sealsa hugs her.
"We love this woman," King Renin echoes and shakes Jim's hand when she parts from his wife.
"We love this woman!" the masses shout with joy as drums and music and singing and claps breaks out all around them. Confetti rains from the sky and falls on the heads of the dancing people as fireworks explode overhead in the darkening sky. Large of dishes of food begin to be passed around them in the midst of the cheering and dancing.
"We love this woman," Uhura says and opens her arms to Jim.
Jim hugs her with a smile as tears well up in her eyes. She doesn't know why she's crying, she just feels happy and full of joy.
Uhura rubs her back comfortingly before they pull apart.
"We love this woman!" Scotty pipes and pulls Jim into a hug.
Jim laughs and hugs him back.
"We love this woman," Chekov chirps and steals Jim from Scotty to hug. He sticks his tongue out at Scotty as he snuggles up to her.
"Little bugger," Scotty mutters before he goes to take a seat at the banquet table.
Chekov releases Jim with a smile before he dashes after Scotty and begins to fuss at the Chief Engineer as if they were two brothers.
"We love this woman!" Leona and Riesa chime in unison as they wrap their small arms around her waist.
Jim crouches and takes her time giving them both individual hugs.
"We love this woman," a quiet voice says from behind them.
Jim turns to see a flushed Jasel who stubbornly meets her eyes. She smiles softly and stands before she puts her hands on either side of his face and slaps a nice wet kiss on his forehead.
The flush on Jasel's face intensifies and he looks almost in danger of passing out. He quickly scuttles away and joins his grandmother at the banquet table.
Leona and Riesa giggle and whisper each other as they move to join their parents at the banquet table.
"Guess we love this woman too," Bones grumbles as he pulls her into a half hug.
Kenya, who Jim hadn't noticed before, joins their little group hug. "We most certainly do love this woman," she assures with a wink before she pinches Bones's arm warningly.
"Easy, darlin'. Jimmy knows I'm jokin'," Bones says as he pulls back from Jim and wraps an arm around Kenya and kisses her temple.
Jim smiles faintly as she watches the two of them sit at the banquet table together. She takes a moment to just watch them all pass dishes of delicious food up and down the table. She looks to the side where the door of the Sacred Temple rests, and as covertly as she can manage, she slips inside and takes a moment to study the walls. They have interesting symbols engraved in them. She steps forward and traces her fingers over them.
"It is a prayer wall."
Jim flicks her gaze over to Spock who is crowding the open doorway of the temple.
"I am told it was built back in the dawn of civilization as a tribute to their God," Spock continues to explain as he steps forward. "Many citizens still come and pray here. They believe that there are still blessings within its structure."
"Huh," Jim merely says as she looks back at the wall. She only pauses for a second when she feels him stop right behind her, close enough that she can feel his heat, before she forces herself to relax. She lifts her hand again and presses it to the wall and closes her eyes. A moment of silence passes.
"What are you doing?"
"Praying for bigger boobs." Jim lets a slow grin spread across her face before she opens her eyes and turns to Spock who is studying her with amused eyes.
"Your body requires no modification," Spock merely states neutrally.
"I know that, but I'm not asking for anything huge," Jim explains making a gesture to her chest, and doesn't miss the way Spock refuses to even glance down. "I'm talking like a cup, two cups bigger, you know? Nothing drastic but something I can really show off."
"Jim, you have been incapacitated for an irregular amount of time. It would be within your best interest to partake of the banquet," Spock says instead, intentionally changing the subject. "I have estimated six dishes which are safe for you to consume—"
"Oh God, don't start with that," Jim complains with a woeful frown. "Spock, come on. Its my special day. I should be able to stuff my face with anything I want."
"The risk is too great," Spock insists, unmoved by her childish pouting. "I have saved you a seat. When you are ready, it will be waiting for you." Without anything further, he exits the temple and disappears around the corner in the direction of the banquet table.
Jim huffs and crosses her arm, not caring that it makes her seem like a big brat. She turns back to the prayer wall. She looks at it considerately before closes her eyes and presses her left hand to it. She exhales, and feeling a bit silly for it, she begins to pray for real this time. It's nothing big. She's just asking for an endless flow of strength and courage that will enable her to make the right decisions in the coming years as captain. She knows that her troubles are far from over. There are two wars coming.
One with the Romulans and the Klingons.
And one with Khan.
Jim hopes she has what it takes to face both.
(picture of scene above can be found in my livejournal in the same chapter at the end)
Author's Note: Oh gosh. This is it. This is the end. Wow. What a ride, huh? Well never fear my loves. I have a confirmed four sequels coming up. So this may be the end but it's not the actual end. And for those of you disappointed by the lack of hookup between Kirk and Spock, I did say that this was going to be a slow build. So who knows? It might happen in the third part of the series or it might not. We'll see. I'll be happy to see you stick around since we've come this far. And as always, thanks for reading!