The Stars Shine On

I have JadeMac2442 and her amazing stories to thank for my sudden plunge into the world of Star Trek 2009. I discovered the movie at the same I discovered her fanfiction (about six months ago), and the rest, as they say, was history. I didn't see it coming. I just collected the fandom.

This is my first foray into Star Trek fanfiction. I'm much more familiar with the reboot universe than I am with TOS, so if I write something rather ignorant…well, let's just say I'm asking for forgiveness in advance.

Special thanks to Watercolors2 for inspiring me to get my act together and write something. It's been a while since I've written for any fandom (though not for lack of trying), so I'm cautiously excited about this. Yay.

And of course, I do not own Star Trek. If I did then the sequel movie would have come out last year.

"Captain, the roster for the new crew members just arrived from Starfleet." Jim Kirk shifted and glanced up from the PADD he was reviewing to address his Communications Officer.

"Send it here, please, Lieutenant," he said, giving her a wink as he turned back to his report. She rolled her eyes, but there was a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.

In the year since the Enterprise had left for its five-year mission, the Command Crew had become a sort of family. It was a friendship forged through a combination of life-or-death situations and long periods of relatively boring space travel, the result of which was that everyone on the bridge had great respect and affection for one another. The winks Jim repeatedly sent Uhura were no longer flirtatious, but inside jokes. Bones called Spock a green-blooded hobgoblin as often as he called Jim an idiot. (Spock had long ago given up pointing out that hobgoblins did not actually exist.) Away teams beamed down to simple diplomatic meetings in full body armor, which usually saved a redshirt's life. The Enterprise family was the youngest and most experienced group in Starfleet, mostly because they knew that they should always expect something bizarre or life-threatening to happen.

But Kirk had never anticipated this.

He was in the middle of taking a gulp of coffee when he read the name on the list. The bridge crew looked up in alarm as their Captain choked and promptly went into a violent coughing fit.

"Are you alright, sir?" Sulu asked, a half-amused smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. Drinking coffee on the bridge always invited the risk of swallowing the wrong way, but their captain insisted on doing it anyway. Jim just coughed again, his mind reeling.

Kevin Riley.

He felt cold. He hadn't come across that name since…well, since he'd left Tarsus IV. That was years ago. Seeing a familiar name shouldn't make him feel like he'd just lost the pit of his stomach. It wasn't even the same Kevin. Jim was pretty sure Kev had died on Tarsus just before Starfleet arrived. Along with most of his other kids.

"I'm fine, Mr. Sulu," he managed, summoning a weak smile and promptly turning his attention back to his PADD. He closed the list of crew members without reading the rest of the names, trying to fight the sudden hollow feeling in his chest. He hadn't thought of Tarsus in months, dammit. It had been even longer since he'd felt this much pain when thinking of his kids. He'd thought he was getting better. The last time he'd ached this much was at the memorial ceremony for the genocide of Vulcan, which had hit a little too close to home.

"Captain," Uhura said again, and Jim forcefully pulled himself together. "You have an incoming transmission from Starfleet, classified."

"You mean we get to deal with another dangerous, one-of-a-kind, extremely important diplomatic mission?" Jim joked half-heartedly, because honestly, that was the only time Starfleet wanted to talk to him on a classified channel. He had the feeling that most of the Admirals didn't quite know what to do with him. Except for Pike, anyway.

"Very funny, Captain," Uhura said, ignoring him as usual. "I'm sending it to your ready room."

"Commander Spock, you're with me," Kirk said, getting up from his chair. "Sulu, you have the conn."

"Actually, Captain, the transmission's from Admiral Pike. He wants to speak with you alone," Uhura clarified. Spock, who had been about to stand up from the science station, shot her a curious look. Jim shrugged, fighting sudden apprehension. He hoped he wasn't about to get a dressing down for their last mission. He'd explained quite clearly in his report that there'd been no way to know their relations with the natives had been compromised. Not even Uhura had picked up on the fact that they thought blue-eyed people were cursed, and she was the best Communications Officer in the fleet.

"Alright, then. Mr. Spock, you have the conn."

Christopher Pike was on the screen when Kirk walked in. He didn't speak until Jim shut the door to the ready room and gave the security code for their conversation to go off-record.

"Sit down, Jim, this isn't a formal meeting," Pike said warmly when Kirk stood at attention. Jim relaxed and plopped down into the nearest seat, slightly confused.

"So I'm not getting a formal reprimand?" he asked jokingly. Pike looked at him in alarm.

"Were you expecting one?" he asked suspiciously. Jim grinned and winked.

"Of course not, sir."

Pike sighed and let the comment pass without questioning it.

"Actually, no, you're not in trouble. This has to do with one of the new crew-members you're going to pick up tomorrow. One of them's got some highly classified information in his file that the Admiralty feels you need to be aware of."

Jim felt a cold knot of tension start to form in his stomach. He desperately hoped this wasn't going where he thought it was going.

"I, ah – didn't get to read the whole list of people we're picking up tomorrow," he managed, fighting to keep his voice steady. His palms were starting to sweat. Fuck. He had a strange feeling about this.

"There's a Lieutenant Kevin Riley that's going to serve in the communications department," Pike informed him. "He is one of the Tarsus Eight – one of the eight survivors of the Tarsus massacre who can identify the governor Kodos. You're familiar with the Tarsus massacre, I assume. It's covered in all the cadet Morality and Ethics classes."

Someone had sucked all the air out of the room and sucked Jim's heart into his mouth in the process. He couldn't breathe. He couldn't have heard Pike correctly. It wasn't possible. Kev. He'd thought Kevin was dead. He didn't know which of his kids had made it, if any of them had made it. Kevin.

"Jim, are you alright?" Pike asked sharply. Kirk started, suddenly very aware that he probably looked like he'd just been punched in the gut.

"I – ah…I know about Tarsus," he stuttered lamely. Pike seemed to think this was an appropriate response, and nodded.

"Obviously this is a very delicate subject. Lieutenant Riley's status as a survivor is public, if not well-known, but his status as one of the Tarsus Eight" – Tarsus Nine, Jim thought – "is highly classified information. Needless to say, in the event that governor Kodos ever comes to trial, Riley's testimony would be vital evidence. Starfleet Command wants you to remember this if and when you assign him on away missions. It would not be…wise to put him on high-risk assignments, if it can be avoided."

Jim just sat there, mind reeling. He needed to get out.

"You don't want to risk his life…so you let him get assigned to the Enterprise?" Kirk asked, trying and failing to inject some humor into his voice. He sounded slightly hysterical and not a little incredulous. Pike looked at him in some surprise.

"There's always risk involved in Starfleet," he said, looking at Jim curiously. "We're not trying to prevent him from doing what he wants to do. We just want you to be aware of his situation – he shouldn't be assigned on high-risk missions if it isn't necessary."

"Are you saying that I have preferences when I put together away teams?" Jim asked, sudden anger surging to the surface. "That I don't care if certain people die? That I put 'expendables' on high-risk missions because other crewmembers are more important? That's bullshit, Admiral." He didn't know where his sudden vehemence was coming from. He was still in shock. "No one's life is more important than someone else's. You can't put a value on that, not now, not ever. Wasn't that what Kodos tried to do? He said some people were more valuable than others, and he was just plain fucking wrong."

Pike stared at him in undisguised surprise and concern. Jim realized that he'd somehow stood up from his chair and clenched his hands into fists. He blinked and took a steadying breath. Damn. Twelve years later, and he still couldn't handle reminders of Tarsus. But he was Captain James T. Kirk and he was not going to fall apart, especially not in front of a Starfleet Admiral. Even if it was Pike. He slowly sank back into his chair, rubbing his temples against a sudden headache.

"Sorry," he muttered lamely, not looking Pike in the eyes. "I know that's not what you meant."

"No harm done," Pike said placatingly, but he continued to study Jim with sharp eyes. He hesitated. "Are you feeling alright, Jim?"

"I'm fine," Kirk replied automatically. A bit too quickly. Damn. "I mean, I just had my annual check-up yesterday. You can ask Bones about it."

"I believe you," Pike said, but he clearly did not. There was a bit of an awkward silence before Pike sighed. "If you need advice about how to handle this situation, I'm available on my private comm channel," he said, and despite the situation, Pike's offer warmed Jim a little. Not that he would actually ever talk to anyone about Tarsus, but the sentiment was appreciated.

"Thanks," he said, offering Pike a half-hearted smile. "I've got to get back to the bridge, but I'll talk to you later."

"No doubt," Pike said dryly. He'd been forced to deliver too many official and unofficial reprimands to Jim in the past year. Jim merely winked.

"I aim to please," he said teasingly, and signed out to Pike's long-suffering sigh. The moment the screen went dark, he slumped in his chair and buried his head in his hands. He felt like his entire world had just been tipped upside down.

Kevin Riley was alive.