I don't own Star Trek. Thanks to everyone who's been reading. This is the last chapter.
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Uhura's group went first. Jim hadn't planned that, but he was honestly so grateful that she would start things off with a bang. If anyone was reliable for making him look good and making this go off without a hitch, it was going to be the first group, and her. They looked good standing there, and Jim tried not to smile. This was really happening.
Uhura touched the PADD in her hands lightly and the lights dimmed dramatically. A deep rumble sounded through the speakers and a bright light flare crossed the screen, revealing the team names and group number as well as the very prominent number designation of a planet. Her introduction of her group was succinct and she made no hesitation in the face of the large audience.
"Today we will detail our proposed plan for the terraforming and colonization of planet designation Tr76-I4N, referenced from here on out as Trillian." She smiled as a round of chuckles went through her fellow students.
The officials and teachers Pike had brought in, however, were speechless. They could barely keep their jaws up, as the presentation waned on. Jim could barely keep his jaw up, and he had known this was coming. He was relieved to find it perfectly detailed. She and her group launched into a perfect explanation of how the planet could be made hospitable. The timeline would undoubtedly make Spock proud with its preciseness. If he didn't have such utter faith in Spock's integrity, he'd have accused him of helping.
To Uhura's eternal credit, she even reined her group in and kept them just barely within the time limit. The lights came back up, and she offered everyone a chance to ask questions. Jim and Spock immediately launched in, picking apart little details, because there were no glaring weakness that needed addressed. Even McCoy offered a few good questions, making Jim incredibly grateful for having brought him. The defining moment, however, came when she actually bit her lip, looking nervously at the many teachers who had nothing to say.
"Have you considered the ramifications of using Starfleet ships to handle basic deliveries? Don't you think there could be a better option?" Pike finally asked, breaking the silence.
As the group launched into answering, Jim glanced back for the first time. He met Pike's eyes, and they held that for a moment, sizing up each other's reactions. Pike finally broke his gaze to devote his full attention to the answer he was receiving. When Jim returned to facing the group, he had a shit eating grin in place. That was it. That was his win right there. They didn't realize it, yet, but there was no possible chance for it to go wrong. That was all there was too it. He had won.
The next group came and went, and the one after them as well. With each presentation, more teachers and officials opened up, digging at the students' knowledge and not coming up with many holes. The presentations overall, for the class, varied very little in quality, all being exceptionally well thought out. The presentations themselves, however, were so fantastically different. There wasn't a moment of dullness. By the end of the presentations, people were on the edges of their seats, muttering amongst each other about what they had just witnessed.
Jim's favorite was hard to pick, but he definitely had a soft spot for Giotto's, as it included a section on disaster scenarios and responses.
He brought the lights back up as he headed to the front of the class. "Thank you everyone, both our presenters and our audience. Give yourselves and everyone else a big round of applause."
Even if it was his win, he was a bit surprised that no one hesitated. They'd all gotten so into it as to initially forget that they weren't here on his request. He waited a minute before trying to calm them down. When they didn't, he flashed the lights on and off until they shut up.
"Alright." Jim smiled. "To my students, thank you for your presentations. I was impressed by what I saw today. I'm fairly certain you'll be pleased with your grades. I'll have them to you by the end of the week. As for my other decision, that may take a little bit longer. It won't be easy to decide, thanks to all the wonderful things I've seen today. You're dismissed for now. Good luck with the rest of your finals. Ladies and gentlemen of the audience, if you would please stay a moment longer?"
His class filed out, speaking excitedly and casting furtive glances back at him. He smiled the whole time, waving them goodbye, until the door shut behind the last student.
Immediately, Jim's innocent, pleased look dissipated and he turned a hard, commanding look on his crowd. "I'd thank you all for attending, but I don't think that is what you had in mind when you came in. I hope you'll forgive me for the small act of duplicity. My students weren't in on this little…shenanigan. Now, I certainly hope, after those presentations, you don't think I've been wasting your time today."
"What is this, Kirk?" Pike asked.
"This is a demonstration." Jim smiled at the exasperated look on his face. "You had me take this position, because you thought I would be a good teacher. I think it's safe to say I've succeeded at that. Mind you, I've had to take a few creative routs in order to get what I needed from everyone, but now that we're here, I think you'll agree everything was absolutely necessary."
Pike shook his head, sending quite the look at Spock before standing. "I'm certainly glad I gave you the leeway I did." The strain in his voice was clear to Jim, a subtle hint about how they would be having words later. "You exceeded my expectations. I'll admit though, I didn't see this coming. Do you mind telling me what you were thinking?"
"Well…" Jim grinned, rubbing his hands together.
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"Oh My God I love you."
Jim blinked, pinched himself, glanced back up at Uhura, and frowned. "I thought I was the prankster."
"Shut up." She ordered, plopping down across from him and waving at the barista to bring her a coffee. "I still hate you. But right now I could kiss you."
"I could work with that." Jim muttered in contemplation. "It'd be a first for me, I'd admit…"
"Okay, fine, not really."
"Why did you pick my group's presentation?"
Jim shrugged, looking mildly apathetic as he stirred his coffee. "You guys were the best. Honestly. I thought it was the most likely to work and the one with the most reasonable outlook."
She smiled. "You didn't. There's no way you actually thought that. I saw how much you loved it when Giotto's group got to the point of security and disaster preparation in their presentation. You loved that."
"I did, which is why I made a note that your group might like to talk to his about a few alterations to your presentation before the big day. Well, okay, I made a few notes, but it's up to you if you want to follow them or not. I just think that Giotto's little blurb will make it stand out and be unique. It doesn't necessarily make their entire presentation better, alright?"
"You almost sounded competent there." She teased. "Thank you, though, for this opportunity. I'll admit I had never even thought of proposing an actual terraforming plan to the Federation. I had never thought it would be relevant to my career, but having the plan out there is something I can put on my resume. Thank you, Kirk."
"Careful, you almost sound like you think I'm competent."
"Don't push your luck."
Jim smiled, shaking his head and thoroughly enjoying the banter. "For the record? What really sealed the deal was your communications plan. Something like that can avert disaster entirely. That kind of thinking, that's what Starfleet needs. People like you are proactive, not reactive, and I like that."
She blushed, glancing down at her coffee. "Thank you, Kirk."
"Please, call me Jim. And tell me your first name while you're at it." He leaned forward on the table, sultry grin in place.
She furrowed her brow at him. "My name was on your class registry, you already know it."
"Is that so? Hm. I must have missed it. Tell me anyway."
"Heh." Her half laugh was accompanied by a fake smile as she stood. "I have work to do on our presentation. Just because it aced your class doesn't mean it's anywhere up to par for being officially submitted to the Federation for genuine consideration."
Jim smiled as she started for the door. "Knock'em dead Uhura."
She ducked her head as she headed out the door, a big smile on her face, as exasperated as it was. Jim stared down at his black coffee for a moment, considering his next move. There was someone he needed to talk to.
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"Jim." Spock answered his door with a modicum of surprise, directed mostly at the fact that Jim had apparently found his rooms even though he hadn't been told them. "Come in."
Jim grinned. "Hey. Thanks. I wanted to talk to you about how the last of our plans were shaping up."
Spock stood at a parade rest to his side, one eyebrow raised microscopically. "You have successfully taught the required curriculum to your students. You advanced several of their careers by encouraging sponsorship of their terraforming plans and the subsequent submission there of to the Federation for consideration. You enacted a change, through the suggestion by several respected members of faculty, which allowed student teachers to have teaching advisors and a unique uniform. You have fundamentally altered the curriculum for terraforming classes of that level as well as starting a tradition of student competition for the chance to present a terraforming plan to the Federation officials. Finally, you have proven to the staff, students, and yourself that you are a capable, competent, and indeed excellent teacher."
Jim smiled at that last part, ears turning red. "Yeah, well, I couldn't have done any of it without you. You know that, right?"
"I will refrain from differing with you on the matter as it is a futile gesture."
Jim shook his head. "I have to go see Pike again tomorrow. He's going to want to lecture me about this whole thing in more detail, I'm sure. Do you want me to tell him just how involved you were?"
"I have already done so, though I am grateful for your concern." Spock noticed the surprised look on his face. "You forget that I have a long professional history with Captain Pike and felt no need to hide my assistance as I agreed with everything you have done."
Jim scratched the back of his neck in embarrassment. "Yeah, well, thank you. Really. I can't say it enough."
"I believe you already have, Jim."
"So what did you say to him, anyway, that managed to get him to bring so many people along?" Jim grinned. "He seemed really interested in being in that room with as many witnesses as possible."
Spock's ears darkened a shade. "I believe it was the…emphasis with which I spoke that encouraged his actions. He has since indicated that I have lead him to believe that my interest in you is more than professional."
"Are you embarrassed to be my friend?" Jim asked teasingly, a sly look on his face. "You are my friend, right?"
Spock lifted both eyebrows at that question. "Undoubtedly, Jim."
"Good." Jim didn't even try to fight the smile, though his cheeks were beginning to hurt from the constant action. "You, me, and Bones are going for coffee tomorrow after my meeting with Pike. Just a little private celebration for being able to make the changes we did. Consider it an order if I have to in order to get you to spend time with Bones."
"Very well. However I do not drink coffee."
"So order a tea." Jim narrowed his eyes at him. "Stop being intentionally difficult."
"Yes, Jim." Jim could swear he was smiling under there.
"You're doing the emotion thing again." Jim said teasingly, well aware he was crossing a line he hadn't toed in quite a while.
"There is no need to be insulting." Spock told him, but with amusement.
"Just you wait you sneaky little Vulcan." Jim warned. "I'll catch you being funny one of these times in front of other people and then you'll be busted. I'll let everyone in on this big secret that you're actually a witty and clever man with biting comebacks."
"I am unsure as to what you are referring, Jim." Spock's lips twitched in and out of the smallest smirk. "I am in no way small."
Jim didn't quite manage to stop his laugh. "Evil, evil man. I have to go. I have a meeting with the uniform designers, who want to take a look at the one I planned out. Not sure why they actually need me there, I think this is just more punishment from Pike for not telling him. Last time we talked he started rambling about saving up all my pranks for the semester into one really big one."
"Very well Jim. I will see you tomorrow." Spock pointedly ignored the largely irrelevant information Jim spouted out after saying he had to go.
"Bye, Spock." Jim felt like, for once in his life, everything was going his way.
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"Come in." Pike ordered, watching the way Jim was lurking around his door. "You're early."
"Wasn't a crime last time I checked." Jim plopped down, a plastic spork in his mouth.
"Take that out of your mouth when you're talking to me." He demanded, sighing when the mutilated thing was tossed on his desk.
"Wanna talk about sporks?"
"Actually, I want to talk about what you did." Pike noted the mild concern in his eyes. "You haven't pulled another prank, have you?"
Jim relaxed instantly. "No. I was just worried we were going to go over the whole thing again. You've already chewed me out for pulling that stunt on you during the final. Twice. Once with illustrative slides. Which I'm not sure how you got on such short notice. But no pranks."
"Mmhm." Pike held his suspicions, but moved on. "What are your plans for next year? Will you teach again?"
"Actually," Jim grinned, scooting forward in his seat, "I plan to devote the majority of my time to figuring out that damn test."
"That…" Pike furrowed his brow. "You can't possibly mean the Kobayashi Maru."
"Exactly. I've already made an example of myself for the students." Jim snorted at that. "There's no reason not to prove to them that they can achieve good things if they work hard enough for it."
Pike frowned outright at him there. Something was distinctly not right, but he couldn't put his finger on it. Still, Jim loved Starfleet. There was no way he was going to go straight from the best semester he had ever had at the academy to a complete and utter fall out. Honestly, Jim wasn't that bad…right?
"Will you be asking for Spock's help?" To keep you out of trouble, was the unsaid addition hanging off the end of that sentence.
Jim immediately caught some other undercurrent in that tone, but filed it away for later. "No. This is for students only. He can help me some other time, as my future first officer."
Pike fought down a smile. "Ambitious as ever."
They had a genuine moment of silence between them, fully acknowledging that that ambition had always gotten him exactly what he aimed for. He was shooting for the stars. His method just dragged them out of the sky sometimes to make them easier to get to. Carefully, Jim stood, understanding fully that the discussion was over. There was nothing left to talk about. Pike had already spent hours chewing him out for not telling him, for honestly not thinking he would be on his side, and for corrupting Spock in the process.
Most everything that needed to be said between them had been said, and there was nothing left to go over. Anything more would be redundant or a waste of time. Jim had almost made it to the door when Pike stopped him.
"Kirk!" He paused and found himself smiling when he turned around. "Jim…I'm proud of you."
Jim swallowed hard and nodded once. "Thank you."
His voice was trying to crack, and he quickly vacated the room. If either of them noticed little dabs of water welling up in the corners of Jim's eyes neither of them felt it needed commented on. Pike absently wiped at his own eyes, wondering how dust had gotten in his vents, because it was making his eyes sting.
Outside, Jim stared up at the sky, taking a deep breath as he watched the transports fly overhead. Any hypothetical tears were gone from his eyes as a genuine sense of relief and comfort flooded him. He closed his eyes, imagining for just a moment his own starship, whisking him away to far off galaxies and amazing adventures. Now, he could practically feel it. No more reaching out towards a dream, he was going to grasp reality and make it his.
First, he needed to go get coffee with his future CMO and XO.
Tomorrow, he'd start on his plan to beat the Kobayashi Maru and prove once again to the entire academy that nothing could stop James T. Kirk, trouble maker.
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A bit of a short chapter, but I felt that if I had tried to cram all of this into the last chapter it would have felt too rushed or made the chapter too long.
To stop the questions now, I won't do a sequel for this fic. It'd basically be a retelling of the movie, and I don't want to do that. Sorry if any of you were really looking forward to it. I suppose I could make it even more AU and have it not follow the movie at all, but that would end up as a long spanning epic and I'm afraid I don't have time for one of those right now,
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this fic. Thank you to everyone who's stuck with it, especially those of you that reviewed. And thanks for the well wishes for my cat. Have a great time and have fun. I hope to hear from you around my other fics and I hope to produce more stuff you guys like in the future.