Hi people! So I'm uh...alive? Ish? I'm still playing catchup with my horrible grades, so updates will still be slow, sorry. But I hope that you all still stay with me!

I got my head full of this idea after I wrote the introduction to The Rules of a Good Man, so I just took off running with it. I don't have anything planned for the next time around, but I haven't had Uhura in the picture for a while, so I want to bring her back in. Anyone have any ideas for that? Cuz I've got none.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy this chapter, and as always, please review!


Disclaimer: I do not own any Star Trek franchise.


XII

Buried Six-Feet Under

"For the record, I want to say that this was not my fault," Jim said lightheartedly, shifting slightly against the ropes that were bound around his torso and arms to get more comfortable.

"I truly beg to differ, Captain," Spock snapped back, unpleased with the slight burn that the movement had invoked onto his side of the bondages. "Please desist in struggling. It is only making our situation worse."

Jim snorted, clearly still amused, "You realize that I'm trying to get us out, right? 'Stop struggling'…it's like telling me to not to antagonize Bones. It just isn't done."

"I have advised you against it, have I not? At this juncture, escaping may result in a direct war against the Federation and Admiral Pike has explicitly informed me that you are over your quota for the month on that subject."

"Testy, testy. I got it. No trying to escape."

"I would also prefer that you, as you would say, 'shut up'."

"Excuse me? Is that any way to talk to your Captain?" Jim shot back, mirth in his voice.

Spock wanted to smack him, but he was more dignified than that and settled for a patronizing tone. "Need I remind you that we are to be buried alive in less than five minutes, Captain?"

"Yes, I'm aware. I'm watching the Nayahians dig our graves."

Jim still sounded so gleeful with absolutely no worry. No doubt the genius had a plan, but Spock wasn't exactly pleased on the fact that he was going to be buried alive. Quite honestly, Spock really thought that most people under their circumstances would panic, but Jim wasn't exactly normal, was he?

He sighed. "I do not understand why this is amusing for you, Jim."

"I've never been buried alive before!" Jim said excitedly. "I've always wanted to try it!"

There was a moment of pause as Spock digested his words. "You…" Spock struggled to find the words. "You are certifiably and most absolutely clinically insane."

Jim just flashed him a bright grin and Spock found himself regretting accompanying Jim on this mission.

Really, Spock never even should have left his bed this morning.

That was his first mistake. Everything just snowballed from there.


There was someone out there that was horrifically angry at Jim, he just knew it. For the past two weeks, the Enterprise had been assigned milk runs - simple deliveries and missions that didn't even require Jim to beam down. He was being punished for something that wasn't even his fault (probably) because why else would he be so freaking bored out of his mind?!

And his crew was hiding something from him. He was like ninety percent sure he knew what they were "indiscreetly" trying to keep from him. He wanted to snort at the thought of their not-so hidden side glances at him and the various chances to just check on him. They were keeping such a close on him that they wouldn't even let him leave his goddamn ship!

Don't get him wrong. He loved his ship. He really did, but he did not appreciate being stuck on her for a seemingly indefinite time. Especially when his crew thought that they were keeping him safe from whatever unknown danger Pike had warned them about. Sometimes, Jim wondered if they actually remembered that he was a genius and was more than capable of hacking and figuring things out, but that was beside the point.

At least his crew did give him enough space to get over Frank and whatever crap happened in Germany. His psyche was now perfectly content to bury the events somewhere he would never touch again. His body was completely healed as well and he was back to full strength, which meant that he was getting antsy, aching for some sort of action. Even with the imminent danger hovering over his head, Jim needed to stretch his legs and breathe some sort of fresh air. It didn't even have to be oxygen!

Jim had made his boredom quiteclear to his crew. He wouldn't put it past them to find something for him to do soon, and he was counting on it.

He heard a chuckle close by him and Jim didn't have to look to know that it was Scotty that had joined him in one of the observation decks where he sat, leaning backwards on his arms with his legs stretched out comfortably in front of him.

"Ya look bored, lad," Scotty greeted as he joined Jim on the floor.

The room itself was dim and Jim relied on the stars' lights to illuminate Scotty's figure beside him. "What gave you that idea?" he responded, his tone light on the sarcasm.

"Tha way you're tapin' tha floor with yer foot. Careful, yer gonna make a hole and ah ain't gonna be pleased by tha. Whacha doin' here anyway? Weren't ya supposed ta be gettin' lunch with McCoy?"

Jim shrugged. "He had a patient."

Scotty grinned, understanding "Jim-speak" well. "Meanin' ya ran from him."

"He was brandishing a hypospray! I had to initiate some sort of self-defense mechanism!"

"And why was he tryin' ta hypospray ya?"

"I may have been getting on his nerves," Jim said sheepishly. "In my defense, I was bored."

Scotty chortled. "Tha ain't a good defense, Jim. But have no fear. I bring great tidings!"

"Yeah?"

The hopeful look on Jim's face was like a puppy waiting for a treat. It was absolutely priceless and Scotty wished that he had something with him to take a holo of it.

"Spock says tha a new mission just came in and tha yer required ta beam down."

"Yes!" exclaimed Jim, launching to his feet as he did a tiny happy jig, completely ignoring Scotty laughing openly at him. Then he paused and peered suspiciously at Scotty's face. "Did you guys purposely look for a mission for me? Isn't that against the whole 'Jim is banned from leaving the ship again'?"

Scotty threw up his hands. "It couldn't be helped! You were gettin' on everyone's nerves!"

Jim grinned. "Good enough for me!" He jovially high-fived Scotty's still raised hands and practically waltzed out of the deck to burst onto the Bridge to see Spock, Sulu, Chekov, and Uhura already at their stations.

"Aw, you all waited up for me? You shouldn't have," teased Jim, plopping down into his chair.

Uhura rolled her eyes as she turned to look at him with a fond exasperation in her expressions. "Pike wants us to negotiate a trade with the planet, Nayah. We're entering their atmosphere soon."

"Sounds good. I don't even care about the details. Just happy to be going somewhere." Jim happily swerved around in his chair before glancing up at his friends who were all judging him silently with amusement in their eyes. "So…who tattled to Pike about my 'insufferable' behavior to get this mission?"

"That'll be Spock," Sulu said. "Or McCoy. It could've been all of us. You'll never know."

"So cheeky so early. I think that's insubordination, Sulu," quipped Jim. "You're lucky that I'm in a good mood. Spock, what's going on with Nayah?"

"Nayah wishes to become a part of the Federation and Starfleet believes that trades will solidify a relationship before any progress on that matter can be made," Spock dutifully replied, turning to speak directly to Jim.

Jim nodded. "So a diplomatic mission, in other words."

"Correct. As such, there is a need to inform you of the Nayahians' culture."

"Give me a crash course."

Spock raised an eyebrow. "I should hope that we do not choose a course that will lead to irreparable damage to the ship."

Jim raised an eyebrow back. "I swear you're doing that on purpose, Spock. There's no way that after hanging out with me for two years, you still don't understand slang."

"Perhaps my mind has been too preoccupied with blocking out unwanted distractions to remember clearly."

Uhura snickered. "That's his way of saying that if you annoy him, he has every right to annoy you back."

"I feel like I should be offended. Should I be offended?"

"Of course not, Keptin," Chekov said, winking at him.

"Et tu, Chekov?"

Chekov just grinned at him.

"Alright, that's it. No more snark from the rest of you, ya hear?" But Jim was all smiles. "So what's the culture like for the Nayahians?"

"They are similar to that of the ancient Greeks of Earth in clothing and tradition. I do believe that their customs are comparable to the Classical Period. Politically, however, the royal family holds all the power. Currently, King Acacius and Queen Elpis are on the throne with their daughter, Princess Xenia, and their son, Prince Nikias, next in line." Spock paused, thinking of all the possible ways that Jim could get into trouble with. "Also, the Nayahians do not indulge in ferocious entertainment, such as gladiator battles."

"Well, at least there's that. Wouldn't want a repeat of the last time we encountered a race that had that." Jim didn't pause to let his friends mull over what he just said. If he did, no doubt they would panic again. "Sulu, how long before we land?"

"One hour at most, sir."

"Great. Anything else I should know, Spock?"

"The Nayahians have made it clear that they prefer to deal with Starfleet in small numbers on our end. I suggest that your landing party be composed of at most three individuals."

"Any volunteers?"

Sulu raised his hand. "I'll go. I need to stretch my legs a bit too."

"Spock, you should probably go with them too," advised Uhura. "The two of them together is never a good thing and you know how Kirk is around people."

"Hey! I'm charming!" protested Jim.

Spock actually looked crestfallen at the prospect of joining Jim down on-planet. He had been hoping to catch up on some of his research that he had set aside for a quite some time now. It would be quiet while Jim was gone and Spock could work in peace, but Nyota had a point.

He let out a quiet huff that was equivalent to a Vulcan sigh. "Fine. I will join you, Jim."

"Don't look so happy, Spock. It'll put me off," Jim said carefully. His tone was light and joking, but there was a wariness in his body language, as if he was afraid that he really had upset the Vulcan somehow.

It was unbelievable that Jim – possibly one of the brightest and strongest men that they knew – still had such a low self-esteem of himself. Granted, he was cocky and arrogant on a normal day, but behind that mask was a sense of such low worth and hatred of himself that his crew usually tried to spend every minute of their time with him to prove that he was important and worth every second. Even Spock, the "emotionless" Vulcan indulged in this practice to show Jim that despite what the world and his past said, they cared for him, and nothing would change that.

"It will be my pleasure," Spock affirmed sincerely as he stood. "You should get ready, Jim. Lieutenant Sulu and I will be waiting for you at the transporter pad."

Whatever trepidation Jim had in his eyes instantly disappeared (much to the pleasure of his crew) and he jumped to his feet, clapping once. "Right! Sulu, Spock, I'll see you in ten minutes." He rubbed his hands together gleefully. "This is going to be fun!" he exclaimed as he bounded towards the turbolift.

Sulu groaned. He hated when Kirk said that. It always meant something was going to go wrong. "I'm going to regret this, aren't I?"

Chekov just slapped him on his back encouragingly. "Hawe fun, Hikaru!" he laughed.

Yep. He was definitely going to regret this, and boy, was he right.


Upon beaming down, Jim, Spock, and Sulu were greeted warmly by the thinly dressed Nayahians. They closely resembled humans with dark skin, only they all had varying lengths of antennas erupting through their heads like insects. They all wore white togas, tied together with different colored cords. Gold was reserved for the royal family, as Jim noticed. Blue was probably for those of the council and purple was for priests. Dirty brown indicated a peasant status. Ones without any cords were slaves.

Though deeply upset about the sight of that (it made Jim remember his time on Tarsus and he loathed anything that ever reminded him of that horrid time), Jim plastered a smile on his face and greeted the King with all the cheer he felt for finally being off his ship.

"King Acacius, it is an honor to meet you," Jim said, reaching out to shake Acacius' hand.

Acacius was a tall, slender man with curly black hair. He was full of power and charisma. He had a chiseled face and well-defined features; his antennas were long and jittered as he got near Jim. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Captain Kirk. We have heard of your stories," Acacius greeted warmly. Though he had no accent, his Standard was overly enunciated. Clearly, he had trained hard for the Enterprise's appearance.

"All good things, I hope," Jim grinned. "This is Commander Spock and Lieutenant Sulu," he said, waving at his friends.

"We have also heard of you, Commander Spock," Queen Elpis breathed, her voice smooth and soft like honey. The middle-aged woman stepped around her husband to come fully into view. Her long white toga trailed behind her; it wrapped tightly around her gorgeous figure. Her long, silky black hair was tied into a side braid and pulled forward to rest in front of her shoulder. All of her attention was devoted solely on Spock, her brown eyes sparkling with interest.

Jim wanted to laugh at Spock's apparent discomfort at the scrutiny, but he got distracted by the sight of the young princess standing quietly by Elpis. She was tall and thin, but with curves that would make any straight man turn his head. She had olive skin – not quite as dark as Elpis or Acacius – but she still had some of the same features as the royal couple. Her angled face resembled that of her beautiful mother; she had the same nose and eyes as her father. Long, wavy black hair tumbled around her shoulders; her skin was completely unblemished and glowing. She was absolutely gorgeous, to say the least.

Without really thinking about it, Jim stepped forward and took the princess' hand, kissing it once as he gave her his best smile.

"Princess Xenia, it is a genuine pleasure to meet you. You are much more beautiful in person. The stories do not do you justice," Jim smiled.

He could see her immediately intrigued and charmed. She shyly tucked her hair behind her pointed ear and smiled gently at Jim.

Sulu rolled his eyes at Jim's coy antics, but said nothing.

King Acacius didn't seem to notice the silent flirting going on between Jim and his daughter and stepped forward to shake Spock's hand. "I apologize that my son is not here to greet you. He is currently occupied with other matters. This is my Prime Minister, Iason," Acacius introduced.

Iason, a middle-aged man that was probably slightly older than Acacius, bowed his head in greeting. He was bald and wrinkles were clearly drawn on his owlish face. The Prime Minister was draped in more cloth, hiding his more roundish figure, with a blue cord with strands of gold woven through it - the blend was a signal that he was ranked above a councilman, but not quite part of the royal family.

Jim glanced at him, tearing his eyes away from Xenia. Instantly, Jim felt something was off. He couldn't pinpoint it, as if there was something shielding the Prime Minister from his ever intuitive eyes. As Jim continued to cold-read Iason, he felt a certain foreboding emitting from the alien, but he hid his frown and smiled with decorum.

Politely, Jim nodded at Iason. "Prime Minister."

"Captain," Iason returned, his voice monotone. "It is an honor to meet you."

An awkward silence fell as introductions ended, but Acacius quickly filled it. "You must be tired from your long trip. Please, come in and rest for a night."

"I appreciate the offer of hospitality, your Highness, but we couldn't possibly overstep our boundaries. We are more than happy to return to our ship if you are not yet ready to conduct the negotiations," Jim said carefully.

"Nonsense. We merely want to extend our hand in a welcoming gesture, Captain. It is not often that we get such highly respected guests. My son was in San Francisco when Nero attacked, so my wife and I are most thankful for your heroic acts. You saved his life."

Jim squirmed slightly uncomfortably. He still didn't know how to take compliments, particularly for something that he didn't feel he should take credit for. Nero was an accident; he was just lucky. Extremely lucky, and he still felt the guilt of losing those hundreds and thousands of lives, including Gaila's. He had never gotten the chance to apologize to her for using her skills to cheat on the Koboyashi Maru or tell her that she meant something to him.

Sulu nudged him and he realized that he had frozen imperceptibly. Instantly, he plastered a cocky smile on his face. "Well, I do what I can."

"Come, we have prepared our best rooms for you and your men." Acacius signaled his people and Jim, Sulu, and Spock found themselves being ushered into the palace.

It was grand and ostentatious – like a Byzantium palace with its walls covered in glittering mosaics of significant Nayahian historical events. Servants bustled around – a few glanced at the foreign party to their home, but most ignored Jim and his friends as they continued to do their work. It was obvious that Acacius kept a tight ship here. Eye contact was avoided at all costs, even towards the gorgeous Princess Xenia, which was something that Jim was having trouble with.

But Jim wasn't called a genius for nothing. From the interactions of the Nayahians, Jim knew that flirting with the royal family was completely and one hundred percent forbidden. Despite his reputation, Jim knew exactly when and where he was allowed to have a little fun. Back at the Academy and the years before that, Jim used sex as a coping method – there were no repercussions to his string of one-night stands (except for that occasional ex that would try to castrate him when he broke everything off). Now, he actually had responsibilities. He had people to care for and burdens that he couldn't set down. As Captain, he couldn't keep up that reckless behavior and maintain the integrity of his position.

He was going to stay the hell away from Princess Xenia while he was here – there was no point in tempting himself with something that he knew couldn't happen. Ah, sometimes being Captain sucked, but what could he do? In his position, it meant that he had to be wary of every move and every word, and if that meant being all alone? Well, that just came with the territory.

Still, he didn't miss that sly smile that Princess Xenia sent him before his bedroom door was closed behind him with a polite order that Jim remain there until dinnertime. It was a little unusual that Jim had been sequestered into his quarters in broad daylight. He would have to ask Spock if that was a specific Nayahian custom, but it would have to be later seeing how Spock and Sulu were sent to their own respective rooms. He didn't even have the time to object before his door was closed shut in front of him.

He'd think about that later. For now, he had to play on a hunch that he had gotten when he was greeting the royal family. The King and his wife looked a little bit nervous at their arrival. Perhaps it was just because Jim was Jim and the Enterprise was starting to gain a reputation, but he had taken note of the slight pull on the Queen's brow – a sign of anxiety and worry – and the King's darting eyes, as if he was scanning for assassins up on the roofs.

Jim had an inkling of what they could be concerned about. Someone that they cared about – maybe themselves or those on their council – was in imminent danger.

How did Jim know that? Well, he just did. He couldn't explain his reasoning behind it all even if he tried, but that was beside the point. He had an idea of who could be behind it all, and if he could stop it before it occurred? Pike might give him a freebie the next time he screwed up (because he just knew that was going to happen sooner or later).

He waited around his room for maybe ten minutes; during which, he stripped down to his black undershirt to become more inconspicuous before quietly opening the door. Poking his head out to glance at the empty hallways, Jim took a couple of deep breaths before stepping out. He proceeded to disappear into shadows a second later.

This was what Jim was best at – not diplomatic relations or being the leader of hundreds and thousands of people – it was hiding in the darkness, planning and plotting.

And damn did it give him a rush.


The moment Jim was ushered into his room and the door closed tightly behind him, Spock and Sulu started protesting to the King.

"King Acacius, I would prefer that we are not separated from our Captain," Spock said quickly, even as their small welcoming party started to shoo them down the hall. "It is our duty to protect and keep our Captain safe, but we cannot do so if we are apart."

"Nonsense," Acacius dismissed it with a wave of his hand. "Our palace is safe. Captain Kirk will come to no harm as long as he remains in his quarters."

"What if he doesn't?" frowned Sulu.

Acacius paused. "My guards may not recognize him and may attack. Though I have announced your arrival, my people are a little overprotective of my family and me. It is the safest for your Captain to be placed in his own quarters."

They came to a stop a good distance away from Jim's room and one of the servants politely opened the door for them.

"This is your bedroom," Acacius said.

"The two of us are sharing?" asked Sulu, the words spilling out before he could stop them. "Then why can't we share with Kirk too?"

Acacius' eyes narrowed slightly at Sulu's tone, a little put-off by his seemingly disrespectful manner. "It is our custom to separate the castes. Your Captain is your 'King', no? Those not in the same hierarchy as him should not be overstepping their boundaries."

Sulu opened his mouth to argue some more, but Spock beat him to it. Spock hastily shoved Sulu into their room, his strength making the Asian man tumble backwards and lose his footing. "Thank you, King Acacius. We appreciate your hospitality."

Queen Elpis smiled at Spock, "It is our pleasure. Dinner is currently being prepared and will be ready in a couple of hours. We shall send for you and your Captain when the time comes. If you need anything, please feel free to ring the bell by your bedside and a servant will respond. For now, rest well."

"Thank you, Queen Elpis, and you as well," Spock returned smoothly as he stepped into his room.

A servant closed the door and he was left staring at the white wood with an unsettled feeling in his stomach. Jim alone on Earth was not a good thing, let alone on a foreign planet. He was a magnet for trouble and Spock worried that they might get thrown into the same situation as the time that they had tried to make an alliance with the Kalians. Jim fighting tooth-and-nail and bleeding for him again was not something that Spock wanted to be repeated.

"So, what do we do now?" Sulu questioned as he flopped onto the bed with a resignation that wasn't there a minute ago.

"We do as we are asked and remain in this room until otherwise notified," Spock responded, turning around to glance at the pilot.

"And Kirk? You know he's got a tendency to get himself into a pickle."

"If he remains in his quarters, things should progress, as you say 'without a hitch'."

"How much do you want to bet that he won't? I mean, did you see that look on his face when he saw Princess Xenia? I wouldn't be surprised if he sneaks off to uh…'get to know her better'."

"I should hope not. The Nayahian royal family is considered demi-gods. They are sacred and metaphorically untouchable. There are dire consequences for those that overextend their desires."

Sulu felt something akin to deep concern and panic flash through him. "Did you tell Kirk that?"

"I did not find it necessary."

"Are you serious? Do you not know about Jim's reputation as a womanizer? He slept with more than half the female population back at the Academy! He was a legend!"

"I was led to believe that those rumors are fairly exaggerated."

"Right. So he maybe slept with thirty percent, but you realize that that's still a ridiculously high number. Flirting is his natural default and if flirting with the royal family here isn't allowed? Well then, we've got a problem."

Spock fell silent, pondering Sulu's logic. It seemed sound, but he had noticed that Jim had purposely stayed away from Princess Xenia after the initial contact. Jim was a brilliant man who read people, seeing through their darkest secrets, and adjusted his behavior in accordance. He should have noted the wide personal space that the royal family had and the lowering of eye contact after a couple of seconds; Jim should know to not to get too close to Princess Xenia or Queen Elpis.

His thoughts were interrupted by another question from Sulu. "What happens if Kirk gets caught giving a little bit too much affection to Princess Xenia?"

This made Spock pause. He hadn't read anything in the reports regarding that matter. It was just assumed that the punishment was severe because no one in hundreds of years had made the fatal mistake of flirting with the royal family.

"I do not know."

"I hope we don't have to find out then."

Spock shot a look back at the closed door, worry pinching his features. "I concur."

It wasn't that he was worried about Jim doing something stupid – it was that something stupid would happen to Jim, particularly when he was alone and that spelt trouble for all of them.

Not for the first time that day, Spock wondered whether or not it was a good idea for him to leave the comfort of his bed that morning. He had no doubt that he would find out by the end of the day.

It was still early, after all, and that was absolutely worrisome.


Whispering voices reached Jim's ears as he crawled unnoticed on the rafters high up in the wine cellar that was located in the lower levels of the palace. He paused, his senses tingling. He had been wandering around for a little over two hours now, seeing most of the inner workings of the Nayahian palace.

It was a stereotypical Victorian British kingdom with the sects of classes clearly defined. Servants worked in the kitchens, cleaned clothes and quarters, and ran baths for the lords and warriors. The slaves kept away from everyone, never making any eye contact with those that walked past them, and in turn, everyone avoided them, giving them huge girths of space as if they were terrified to even touch them. Warriors trained in their respective courtyards – even Jim was jealous of the six-packs that all these soldiers had, and he had a fairly in-shape body. Priests stayed more congregated near the temples, constantly chanting and burning incense. Jim bailed on that as soon as he could – incense always gave him a headache (a byproduct of him staying with Tibetan monks for a month after Tarsus). He barely caught sight of the councilmen and the royal family – they all kept to themselves in their own quarters, except for Queen Elpis who had tended to a small garden and Prime Minister Iason, who Jim had yet to find.

Overall, nothing really seemed to be out of place and it took him a while before he found any signs of what could explain why he felt that something was amiss. And he finally found the Prime Minister skulking in the dank basements of the palace.

"Is everything set?" came Iason's familiar voice in the native Nayahian language. Jim was somewhat surprised that he could understand it without an issue. He recognized it to be a weird mix of Greek and French. It was a little bit confusing, but Jim translated it easily in his head, as if both those languages were his first language. He wasn't a genius for nothing.

Lowering his body further onto the thick piece of wood and staying absolutely silent, Jim glanced down into the dimly lit room. At that angle, he could clearly see Iason talking to another Nayahian who was dressed like the Prime Minister. He was wearing a purple cord, meaning that he was at least the level of a priest. Like the rest of his people, the Nayahian was dark-skinned with antennas sticking out from his head. They were particularly long, similar to that of Iason's, but unlike the Prime Minister, he had a head full of graying curly hair. He was short for a male – probably around five foot five, but he was also thin, like skin and bones.

"Yes, sir. The bomb has been placed in Prince Nikias' quarters. It will be detonated at your command. The other members are ready to take out King Acacius, Queen Elpis, and Princess Xenia so that you can take the throne, sir."

"Good, good."

"But what of the Starfleet dogs?"

"We have spent two years planning this. We cannot stop this even if Captain Kirk and his crew are here. We will wait for an opportune moment before we strike."

"What if they get caught in the crossfire? Even we cannot handle the wrath of Starfleet if they choose to avenge their people. I hear that Captain Kirk is a truly terrifying force to be reckoned with."

"It is of no matter. We can pin the whole unfortunate situation on the good Captain." Iason took a couple of steps away from his comrade. "No one knows of this, correct?"

"No, sir. I covered my tracks well."

"Good. Because we know what will happen if you are discovered…" The threat was thinly veiled, but it still made the other Nayahian shiver. "Wait for my signal, Myron."

"Understood, sir. What shall you do until then?"

Iason flashed the now-named Myron a sinister smile. "I have a welcome dinner to go to."

Immediately, Jim felt like someone had slapped him in the face. The dinner…he had almost forgotten about it. Shit. He had to be back into his room before anyone checked on him. If he was absent when they sent for him, it may cause unrest between the Federation and the Nayahians.

The Prime Minister was already gone, leaving Myron behind. Jim scrambled to follow, but in his haste, his foot scraped against the wood.

Instantly, Myron's head jerked up, his eyes narrowing as he peered into the darkness. There was a moment of pause before realization and recognition set in his features. Even with the dimness, Jim could see that his cover had been blown.

There wasn't much Jim could do at that point anymore, especially not when Myron was already pulling out some sort of communication device – no doubt to call backup – as well as a phaser-like gun that was much smaller than what Jim was used to seeing. His own had been left behind on the Enterprise as a sign of good faith and good will.

Jim probably had about two seconds before Myron's fingers pressed the dial button, so he acted swiftly. He rolled to his right, tumbling straight off the rafters and falling a good six feet to land a close distance in front of Myron. Jim didn't even hesitate as he emerged from his crouch, sweeping one leg under Myron's. The Nayahian fell over, unable to keep his balance, and his communicator when tumbling from his hand, but his other waved wildly in Jim's face. Jim winced slightly as the phaser went off centimeters from his ear.

In retaliation, Jim slammed his fist into Myron's face and the Nayahian went slack, unconscious the moment Jim's hand made contact. Stepping back, Jim looked for the communication device and found it an arm's length away. Jim got up to pocket it and searched the nearby vicinity for anything that he could bind Myron with. He was lucky enough to find some rope hanging off the wall and he grabbed it. Tying Myron in knots that even he couldn't loosen, Jim then crammed the Nayahian into an empty wine barrel before shoving it into the back corner of the room.

Iason was going to notice Myron's absence, but hopefully, not before Jim had time to formulate a plan against the Prime Minister and save the royal family's life. Jim wasn't sure of what the circumstances of why Iason was going to throw a coup, but Jim couldn't let anyone come to harm if he had the means to stop it.

Oh, this was going to bite him in the ass. He just knew it. Bones did always say that he meddled around a little bit too much. Jim had to concur, but he couldn't help himself.

Pulling out his boot knife, Jim carved out an airhole for Myron, double checking that it was enough to sustain the Nayahian for a day or two. Jim then slid out of the cellar. Utilizing his skills working under Komack and hiding from Kodos, Jim made it back to his room without any difficulties or encountering any servants or Nayahians along the way.

He barely had time to throw on his gold uniform and smooth down his messy hair before he heard a knock on the door.

"Come in!" Jim called out.

A Nayahian servant opened the door, bowing, "Sir, the King awaits you in the Great Hall."

"Thank you," Jim smiled and breezed past him to see Spock and Sulu waiting for him along with a couple of servants.

"Captain, I hope your stay was restful," Spock said. There was a glint in his dark eyes, and Jim could almost hear Spock's real question of "I hope you stayed out of trouble, Jim."

Jim resisted the urge to roll his eyes, because really, he couldn't exactly deny that. "It was lovely. Had a nice little nap."

Instantly, Spock and Sulu were on alert. Jim never slept in front of people he didn't know or in places that he wasn't familiar with, at least not by choice. If he was exhausted and trapped in the middle of a wilderness, he would only let himself have a couple hours of sleep only because it was necessary. With all that he had gone through, Jim just didn't take 'naps' in foreign locations.

For Jim to have said that he did, it was a subtle hint that something wasn't right, but Jim couldn't exactly say it without being obvious.

Spock gave Jim a small nod, signaling that he understood and he fell into step right next to Jim, close enough to step in if anything went haywire. Sulu followed suit, staying by Jim's left side.

The three were quickly ushered down the hallway, no doubt looking like a force to be reckoned with. As they stepped into the dining hall, Jim slyly managed to brush past Spock and whisper into his ear unnoticed. "Watch out for Iason," he breathed in Vulcan.

He pulled away quickly, almost as if he had never even got close to Spock. He didn't give Spock any time to react to his warning.

Instead, Jim smiled broadly at the royal family who had stood from their respective seats in a greeting. King Acacius and Queen Elpis were at the head of the long, rectangular table, with the King on the right side and the Queen on the left. Princess Xenia was to the left of the Queen while her brother was across from her on their father's side.

The Prince was a new face. He, like his sister and parents, was fairly handsome. His hair was cropped short, almost in the same style as Jim's. There was a strength hidden about him, quite like his father, but there was far more benevolence than Jim had seen in Acacius. Where Acacius was hard and cruel, Nikias was generous and kind. Perhaps Nikias' time in San Francisco had opened the Prince's eyes to new ideals, breaking himself away from the harsh traditions of his people.

Jim had absolutely no doubt that this man would change the foundation of his kingdom for the better. Sometimes, being trapped by customs and history could be crippling to a culture that wants to grow and expand. Though Acacius was taking the first step and reaching out to the Federation, Jim knew that he would never have done so if it wasn't for Nikias whispering in his ear.

Another line connected. No wonder Iason wanted to take down the royal family. They were about to revolutionize their people, but the fear of change was consuming the Prime Minister and the rest of the council. To them, something had to be done in order to maintain their livelihood, and if they had to get rid of the royal family, then so be it.

It wasn't going to be as simple as disarming the bomb hidden in Nikias' room now. Jim would have to expose the Prime Minister and all his cohorts if he was to ensure the future safety of the royal family.

As if Jim didn't already have enough problems. He still had Myron trapped in a freaking barrel, for heaven's sake!

But he plastered on a smile, particularly when he saw Iason looking his way, and swept forward, his gait graceful and elegant – every inch of the leader that he was.

"Captain, please, take a seat," King Acacius said, smiling and waving a hand to the empty chair next to Xenia.

Jim wasn't sure if he was pleased or exasperated that he was to be placed next to the beautiful Princes, but he didn't let that show, and he gave Xenia a charming smile as he sat down.

Spock sat down beside him, and next to him was Sulu. Iason took the seat directly before Jim, his dark eyes constantly watching the young Captain with an obviously fake, yet polite expression on his face. The Prime Minister was so consumed with watching Jim's every move that he didn't notice Spock doing the same to him.

"Thank you for your kind hospitality, King Acacius," Jim started as food was starting to be placed before them by silent servants.

The food was leafy and green with odd looking yellow chunks of…something integrated into them. Exotic fruits and meats decorated the table and their glasses were filled with some sort of alcoholic beverage. The royal family dug in heartily, as did Sulu, but Spock and Jim were tentative of joining in with gusto. Spock was vegetarian, after all, and Jim wasn't sure if any of these foods were going to set off an allergic reaction. They hadn't bothered to research into the Nayahian food because they hadn't thought that they would stay long enough to eat.

Jim spent the entire dinner pretending that he was eating and nodding vigorously at the correct points in Acacius' stories, keeping up the pretense that he was listening to him. Through the entire evening, Jim felt Iason's eyes on him – watching him like a hawk. It was unnerving, to say the least, and it made all him feel on edge, as if he was seconds from lunging headfirst into a brawl.

Yet, it wasn't quite enough to distract Jim from the smooth, elegant hand that was currently resting on his right knee.

He barely glanced at Xenia's hand, not wanting to draw attention to it, but he could see her blushing face from the corner of his eye. The Princess kept her eyes glued to her plate and for all intents and purposes, she looked as if she was merely too shy to join into the conversation.

A few times, Jim had subtly moved his leg away from her, but she continued to reach out for him under the table, and each time, her hand moved further and further up his leg until it was resting on his upper thigh.

Under normal circumstances, Jim would have loved this display of affection, particularly from a beauty like Xenia, but he knew that it was against the law in Nayah. If he was caught, there would be consequences, and Spock and Sulu could be dragged into it as well. The relationship between the Federation and Nayah will become strained, if not broken, and Jim simply wasn't going to risk any of that.

He was about to push her away again when Iason suddenly sprang to his feet, a look of outrage on his face.

All chatter immediately stopped as his chair scrapped loudly against the floor.

"Is something the matter, Iason?" asked Acacius, frowning with obvious irritation. The man had no patience for disrespect, which was something that was going to be so troublesome for Jim in just a few seconds.

Iason pointed a finger at Jim. "How dare you?!"

Jim gave him a confused look, hiding away the slight panic that was rising. "Excuse me?"

"How dare you lay your hand on our kingdom's beloved Princess?!" he spluttered. "You dare touch our land's treasure?!"

Xenia flinched away from Jim, immediately acting horrified and innocent, even though she was the clear instigator. It was easier to blame someone than face the disappointment and anger of a parent, but that left Jim as vulnerable as a deer in highlights.

Shit. This was going to end so well…

Acacius sprang to his feet, his dark complexion flushing purple with sheer fury. Elpis reached for her daughter, pulling the girl closer to her and wrapping her arms around her, as if she could shield Xenia from Jim by her presence alone.

Jim had expected all that and raised both arms high in the air in a sign of surrender. He did note Nikias shooting Iason a look – he didn't have time to decipher what was in that one glance, but it was interesting. It meant that Nikias had an inkling that this may be one of Iason's manipulative plots. Filing that away for later, Jim put on the most innocent mask that he had. He widened his big blue eyes, showing the King and Queen his confusion.

"Your Majesty, I assure you, I have no idea what Prime Minister Iason is speaking of. I would never touch your daughter, sir," Jim said slowly, his voice cajoling.

But even as Jim spoke, he knew that he wouldn't get through. Acacius was a stubborn bull with a one-track mind. The moment an idea was placed in his head, he would never be able to move from it. No doubt that was how Iason managed to get to where he was – he used Acacius' faults to his advantage.

"Guards! Seize him!" roared Acacius.

Jim sighed and stood, resignation clear in his body language. Spock and Sulu followed suit, but Jim gave them a hard look. "Don't do anything stupid, you hear?" Jim hissed. "I'll fix this somehow, but the two of you need to stick around and smooth things over. Do you understand me?"

Spock and Sulu just looked at him like he was crazy.

This was going to spiral downwards quickly.

"Your Majesty, I must protest against this unjust arrest of my Captain," Spock called out. "I have been watching over Captain Kirk for the entire evening and not once have I seen him reach out for the Princess."

"Of course he would say that!" Iason retorted, pointing furiously at them. "He is merely trying to protect his Captain! I saw Captain Kirk touch the Princess under the table! My King, I would not lie to you – not about this."

Spock continued to argue on Jim's behalf and as he did, Sulu glanced over at Jim. Jim didn't seem to be paying attention to the conversation, but there was a look on his face as he stared at Iason. Sulu wanted to groan in exasperation. He knew that look – it was the one Jim always had on when he was piecing together a puzzle. There was a reason behind Iason calling Jim out, even though he clearly hadn't done anything, and Jim had figured it out. Only, the genius was going to let things play out so he could confirm his suspicions, which meant that Sulu and Spock were going to be dragged around as the loyal friends that they were.

Really, they should have known better than to let Jim beam down.

"Spock, Sulu, stand down," Jim said loudly before King Acacius had the chance to speak. "My King, it is obvious that nothing we say will prove my innocence. I do not want to strain our relationship over a mere misunderstanding. Do what you want with me, if it will make you feel better, but leave my crew alone. If you so wish, they will continue to conduct our business in peace."

"You are an honorable man, Captain," Nikias said, rising to his feet. "I admire that. Father, perhaps we should listen to what he has to say."

"The law is the law, Prince Nikias!" exclaimed Iason. "Sire, you cannot possibly allow this man to make a mockery of our traditions. What will that say to our people?"

"The punishment is too dire, Father!" Nikias argued. "The Federation will not be pleased."

"You will choose the Federation over your own people, Prince?"

"I will choose whatever is right, Iason," Nikias snapped back. "Father, you cannot possibly condone Captain Kirk to his death."

"Whoa, death?" Sulu piped up, but he was completely ignored.

King Acacius waved the guards over who grabbed Jim's arms and forced it behind his back as they held him captive. "Captain Kirk, it is unfortunate, but I must uphold our traditions. For desecrating our treasure – my daughter – I sentence you to death by burial."

Sulu frantically tried to reach for Jim, but was held back by Spock. "Death by burial? What does that even mean?!" yelled Sulu.

"It means, Lieutenant Sulu, that he will be buried alive," Iason replied with a slight smirk.

"Oh, hell no!" Sulu tried lunging forward again as Jim started to be dragged away. Spock's steel hands on his upper arms kept him back.

"Lieutenant," Spock whispered lowly into his ear, "I have no doubt Jim will have a plan. I expect you to come to our aid when the time comes. Until then, stay low. We will need you."

Confused, Sulu stopped struggling. "What are you talking about, Spock?"

"Disappear, Lieutenant. Now!"

Spock released Sulu and in a few bounding steps, he lunged for the men holding his Captain. With precise movements, Spock incapacitated two of them with the Vulcan pinch, leaving one last one who pulled out a taser of some sort and jabbed it into the Vulcan's back.

Wordlessly, Spock flinched and twitched as the electricity coursed through his body. He fell to his knees, blackness creeping at the edges of his vision. The last thing he saw was Sulu slipping out in the midst of all the chaos. He felt Jim's hands on his shoulders and Jim pulling him closer, snarling at anyone who came near. Spock had no doubt that Jim had fought off everyone in order to get to him. Despite having his consciousness wane, Spock felt safe in Jim's arms, even with the threat of being buried alive hovering over their heads.

He let a small smile touch his lips as he felt Jim's hands tighten. Now that Spock was part of the equation, Jim's self-preservation instincts were going to have to kick in, because he would have to stay alive to keep Spock safe.

Jim may be a genius at strategy, but it didn't mean that Spock wasn't one either. He could play the game just as well as Jim, especially when it came to Jim.

It all rested on Sulu now and whether or not he could hide in the shadows well.

He heard was Jim whispering into his ear. "We're going to be alright, Spock. Sulu got away. It's going to be fine."

Of course Jim would know exactly what Spock had planned. Hopefully, it didn't throw Jim's own plans off.

Darkness took over Spock and the last thing he felt was his body being pulled away from Jim.

Then, all that Spock knew was that he was more worried about being apart from Jim than his imminent death.

So much for being logical.


There was an annoying, incessant poking in Spock's back. Irritated, Spock tried to swipe whatever it was away, but his body was still sore and unresponsive. He had just realized that his eyes weren't even open yet.

"Hey, you awake yet? You're going to miss all the fun, Spock."

The voice was one that Spock would recognize, even half-conscious and dazed out of his mind. It drew him out of the fog that he was in, and slowly and achingly, he opened his eyes.

Sunlight shone brightly against his face, forcing him to blink a few times before his pupils could adjust and shrink properly. A throng of Nayahians were surrounding him, all shouting loudly in encouragement. Beyond them were slaves, efficiently and diligently digging two separate holes – just large enough for him and Jim.

Speaking of which, Spock could feel his friend against his back. They were both tied upright against a wooden pole. If he shifted slightly, he could turn and look at Jim whose bright eyes were staring at him with concern deep within those blues.

"You okay?" he asked.

Spock was absolutely unsurprised that that was Jim's first question. "I am alright," he assured.

"For the record, I want to say that this was not my fault," Jim said lightheartedly.

All of a sudden, Spock felt irritation blooming through his chest. Though he was sure that Jim was not directly responsible for their current situation, he knew that Jim could have easily found a way out of this whole thing without even batting an eye.

That meant that Jim had something in the works, which was not something Spock was against, but he hated being in the dark.

Jim started squirming again.

"I truly beg to differ, Captain," Spock snapped back. "Please desist in struggling. It is only making our situation worse."

Jim snorted, clearly still amused, "You realize that I'm trying to get us out, right? 'Stop struggling'…it's like telling me to not to antagonize Bones. It just isn't done."

"I have advised you against it, have I not? At this juncture, escaping may result in a direct war against the Federation and Admiral Pike has explicitly informed me that you are over your quota for the month on that subject."

"Testy, testy. I got it. No trying to escape."

"I would also prefer that you, as you would say, 'shut up'."

"Excuse me? Is that any way to talk to your Captain?" Jim shot back, mirth in his voice.

"Need I remind you that we are to be buried alive in less than five minutes, Captain?"

"Yes, I'm aware. I'm watching the Nayahians dig our graves."

Spock sighed. "I do not understand why this is amusing for you, Jim."

"I've never been buried alive before!" Jim said excitedly. "I've always wanted to try it!"

There was a moment of pause as Spock digested his words. "You…" Spock struggled to find the words. "You are certifiably and most absolutely clinically insane."

Jim just flashed him a bright grin and Spock found himself regretting accompanying Jim on this mission.

"Please tell me you have a plan, Jim."

There was hesitation, and that never meant anything good for Spock.

"I'm sorry that you got tazed, Spock. I didn't mean for that to happen. I wasn't expecting you to act as bait so that Sulu could get away, but thanks, that helps me out quite a bit," Jim said lowly.

"Did Lieutenant Sulu manage to stay hidden?"

"As far as I know, but half the population is looking for him. Hopefully, he remembers all my training."

"What training?" asked Spock, suddenly curious.

"Don't worry about it. I swear I didn't touch the Princess."

"I believe it."

Jim twisted around to glance at Spock, scanning for any inclination of a lie. "Really? With my reputation, I wouldn't have blamed you if you thought that I did something."

"I have no reason to not believe you, Jim."

"What if I tell you that we're probably going to have to be buried alive?"

A beat later. "Excuse me?"

"Iason is plotting a coup against the royal family, and I need to lure him into a false sense of security before I fight back."

"Why do you not just tell the family what the Prime Minister is about to do?"

"You think they'll believe me at this point? And I don't have proof."

"How do you know this then?"

"I may have uh…crawled around and overheard a conversation."

"And why does that lead to our immediate predicament?"

"Well, first of all, you weren't supposed to go all mother-bear on me and attack the guards. This was just supposed to be me."

"Do you truly think that we would allow you to be purposely put in danger?"

"Yeah, I really should have seen that coming. That was my mistake. Won't repeat that again."

The two saw Nayahians approaching them, making Jim speak more quickly.

"This is going to be ridiculously dangerous, Spock, and I'm sorry."

"What about you?"

Jim gave him a strained smile. "I survived Tarsus. You think I can't survive this? Please. I'm James fucking Kirk."

"That does not make you invincible, Jim."

"No, but it makes me damn near close. The moment you're under, go into a trance. You use less air and you can last longer. Stay alive, Spock, or I'll drag you back just to kick your ass. Do you understand me?"

"You as well, Jim."

They didn't have time to say another word before the guards grabbed each of them. Spock and Jim went with no fuss and allowed themselves to be manhandled to their wooden coffins.

King Acacius stood before them, a stony look on his face. "Captain Kirk, Commander Spock, do you have last words?"

Jim smiled, a hint of coldness and threats hidden in his passive expression. "Please be careful, King Acacius. There are dangers that go past these graves, sir."

Not knowing what to do with that, Acacius just nodded to his people who shoved Jim and Spock into their respective boxes.

The sound of the hammer nailing every last centimeter of freedom away echoed in Jim's and Spock's mind.

And then there was nothing but silence.


Not for the first time, Sulu thought that Jim Kirk was one crazy son of a bitch. Even from his safe distance, he could see Jim smiling and joking with Spock. He couldn't hear what was being said, but he was sure that Jim's cheekiness knew no bounds.

Sulu pressed his chest closer against the ground, subtly drawing the nearby leaves of the bush towards him. He froze as a Nayahian passed by a few feet before him. Jim's words echoed through his mind: Human eyes track movement. If you want to be unnoticed, blend into your surroundings and above all, don't move.

It was one of the many pieces of advice that Jim had given him during their training sessions. A few days after the wisps incident, Sulu had approached Jim about teaching him how to be more useful in operations. After all that they had gone through, Sulu was tired of being completely unable to help and rely solely on Jim. Half the time, that was why Jim ever got hurt in the first place – protecting someone because they couldn't do it for themselves.

Sulu and the rest of the crew had had enough of it.

Chekov worked directly under Spock, learning all that he could with programming and cyber intelligence; Uhura trained emergency triage under McCoy and Scotty had sought out Sulu to teach him some fighting skills. Sulu, on the other hand, went to Jim to learn the abbreviated version of "how to be a spy". It had taken several months of harsh, vigorous training before Jim had declared Sulu passable.

Frankly, Sulu was surprised that Jim had agreed to teach him that particular skill set. As far as he knew, Jim hated being an undercover operative and he would never wish it upon someone else. Yet, Jim was more than happy to show Sulu all his tricks and trade secrets.

But even with all that he learned, Sulu was fairly certain that he couldn't take the entire Nayahian population down to save Kirk and Spock. He wasn't Jim. And while he knew that with the Enterprise backing him, saving them would be no problem, he wasn't sure that that was what Jim wanted.

Jim wasn't the type to let himself get into these kind of dangerous situations without a plan. He would never have let this happen to him and Spock unless he meant to, which meant that Sulu had to play along.

He would have to wait until the crowd dissipates and even longer if Sulu wanted to dig them out in peace.

Sighing, Sulu laid his head on the crook of his arm, almost inhaling the dirt beneath him, as he mentally prepared himself for a long haul.

Hopefully, Jim and Spock could last that long.


The darkness and silence was deafening and it made Jim more anxious than he thought it would. The air was stifling and stale. It had only been an hour and Jim already felt like the world was crushing his chest.

He closed his eyes (didn't make a difference), but the simple act of it allowed him to calm down. Sulu was out there, no doubt waiting for the perfect time to dig him and Spock up. He was a little worried that Sulu would call in the cavalry. If it was Bones or Uhura, Jim knew things would never have progressed this far, but Sulu? He was a man after his own heart. Sulu didn't let emotions rule him. Jim was seventy percent sure that Sulu would wait to see what he would do.

The other thirty? Well, Jim only had so much time and life left before Sulu and the rest of his crew blew up the goddamn planet to save him.

Jim started testing weight of the box. It was heavy, as expected, and there were no weak points. If he managed to break through, the sudden rush of soil was going to suffocate him. He would have to work fast.

Working with the small space that he was in, Jim reached for his boot knife and started to poke at the corner to the left of his ear, close to the top of his head. The entire process was slow-going. He had to be slow so he used less oxygen. He estimated that he had probably another two hours before he passed out from the monoxide.

Slowly and achingly, Jim chipped away at the same point, ignoring the stream of dirt that was quickly trickling down.

Minutes passed, turning into an hour and more. A headache start to throb behind his eyes and he knew that it was a symptom of oxygen deprivation. He worked faster.

His knife suddenly broke through and a rush of soil dropped down on top of him. Coughing and gasping, Jim quickly ripped through the box above his chest while simultaneously started digging his way to the surface, but the velocity at which the dirt was falling was faster than what he could remove.

He was literally being buried alive.

With panic rising in his lungs, Jim reached upwards, clawing and grasping, thinking that this was the end. (He had survived Tarsus and he was going to be taken out by this?! The irony was ridiculous.) But out of nowhere, another hand grabbed onto his, pulling and dragging him until his head popped out above the surface.

The burst of fresh air slammed against Jim, shocking his idled mind. A goofy smile spread across his face as he tried to get his breathing back under control.

"You do not know how good it is to see you, Sulu," breathed Jim as his friend kept working around him to free the rest of his body.

"You crazy bastard. You couldn't have waited for a few more minutes before you tried to break out of a fucking coffin?!" snapped Sulu. "I was already digging for you, you damn son of a bitch! Imagine my surprise when the ground under me started shifting and your freaking hand pops out of the ground like a zombie!"

Jim could do nothing but laugh giddily, a little too happy on having fresh oxygen. "You use a lot of swear words, you know that?"

"Only when it comes to you, you crazy bastard," huffed Sulu, plopping down on the newly dug up soil beside Jim. "You okay there, man?" Concern laced through Sulu's words. "Sorry it took so long. I had to wait until everyone left."

"Yeah…yeah, I'm good. Thanks. You gonna get Spock now? I don't know where he's buried though."

"I got it," replied Sulu, nodding to another shovel that was stuck in the ground a good ten feet away from where Jim was buried.

"He should still have about an hour of air left if he did what I told him," Jim said, his breathing a little bit strained as he got to his feet. "But it's damn near uncomfortable in one of those things, so let's say we get him out?"

"You take it easy, Kirk. You look like you're about to keel over."

"I'm fine…" But his vision swayed the moment he was standing. He felt Sulu's hand supporting him and he shook his head. "You may have a point. I'm just…going to sit here and let you…" he waved a vague hand towards Spock's area. "Do your thing…"

Sulu snorted at Jim as he helped him back down and headed towards Spock's grave. He grabbed the shovel and began digging. "So, why did you let yourself and Spock get buried alive again? I never got to hear that part."

"In my defense…"

"Like that ever ends well," muttered Sulu.

Jim continued like he hadn't heard Sulu at all. "Spock wasn't supposed to be involved."

"And why did you guys have to be thrown under the bus?"

"Iason is planning a coup and he really didn't want me to know about it. Hence the accusation. He's trying to get me out of the way so that he can do what he wants and then pin it on me when I can't argue against it. But he has to be careful because the Enterprise is still floating up in their atmosphere."

"Iason?" grunted Sulu, digging in deeper. "That man disappeared as soon as the last nail was hammered in your coffin. Haven't seen him since."

Jim's head snapped up. "What?"

"Yeah, he ran out like his weird little antennas were on fire."

Jim leapt to feet, shoving down the feeling of vertigo, and almost tripped over Sulu's abandoned shovel.

"Kirk?" frowned Sulu, pausing in his movements.

"Get Spock out as fast as you can and then come find me."

"What the hell are you talking about? I can't let you go running off alone!"

"You can't let Spock suffocate either. I have to go, Sulu. It's a matter of life and death."

"Yours?"

"Don't be so melodramatic. I already had my one close-death incident of the day."

"Doesn't mean that you won't have another. Explain, Kirk!"

"They're going to kill Nikias."

"What? How do you know?"

"Long story. Get Spock out, ASAP. Oh, and go free that Myron that I've got trapped in a barrel in the basement. I'll need him."

"You've got who trapped in what? And where the hell do you think you're going?"

"I'm going to go stop a bomb."

"A bomb?! WHAT?! Oh, hell no, Kirk!"

But Jim didn't wait around to hear whatever Sulu had to say. He was sprinting off into the distance long before Sulu even had time to react.

He had a Prince to save, and hopefully, he would be there in time.


Jim's lungs were burning as he pushed him faster and faster to the palace. It was almost like that brief period of time after Germany when he was trying to recover from the scarring that pneumonia had left on him, but the air around him was fresh and full of oxygen. He would have been fine if he had just sat down and let his deprived mind soak in all that it needed before he decided to sprint his heart out.

As he neared the castle, guards had started to spot him and were yelling at him in their native tongue to back off or they would have to take drastic measures. They all raised their spears menacingly, but that didn't deter Jim. It didn't make him slow down. No, he sped up and instantly barreled through them with a few well-placed jabs and throwing one over his shoulder. He barely broke his stride as he made his way into what was supposed to be the most secured place in Nayah.

By this time, an army of soldiers were starting to gather, chasing after Jim. He completely ignored them, leaping around the castle and clambering upwards using the marble pillars because he just knew that the staircases were going to be blocked.

It only took about ten minutes for Jim to reach Nikias' bedroom – a testament to how scrupulous the Nayahian's defense was. If it was any other place, Jim probably could have gotten there in half the time, though perhaps being almost buried alive a few minutes ago also had something to do with how slow his muscles were moving.

He burst into Nikias' room, blatantly ignoring Nikias' surprised outburst of, "How did you escape?!"

Jim waved a nonchalant hand towards Nikias' direction. "That's not the right question, Prince."

He gave Nikias a quick look: the Prince had been sitting in his chair by his desk when Jim came in and had gotten to his feet, shock and slight anger on his face. But Jim didn't have time to explain. He knew that he had a few minutes left before all the guards in the palace came rushing in so he kept on searching.

He started to rifle through everything that Nikias owned. The dresser was shoved over with a loud thud; chairs were overturned and even the desk was flipped onto its back.

"Captain Kirk! I demand to know what it is that you're doing!" shouted Nikias, "Or I will be forced to take you down!"

Jim ignored him as he got onto his hands and knees and checked under the bed. A grin spread on his face. "Bingo!"

"Captain Kirk, I demand you leave this instant!"

"Oh shut your face," Jim snapped. He got onto his stomach and inched his way under the grand four-poster bed.

"Excuse me?!"

Jim pulled away and in his hand was a beeping contraption with a timer clearly ticking down on the display. There were three minutes and forty-two seconds left. "I'm trying to save your life, Prince," Jim stated.

He glanced up at Nikias. All the blood leeched from the Prince's face, leaving it stark white. Fear and alarm was clear on his expressions. The royal had frozen, unable to move.

"Keep your men back, Prince. I'm sure that I can disarm this, but I don't want to risk it. Get out and make sure no one comes near, got it?"

When Nikias didn't move, Jim got up into Nikias' face. "Prince! The timer is still going down! You must leave!"

Dumbly, Nikias nodded and shuffled to the door. Jim heard him leave and bark orders to his men to clear the area, leaving Jim in peace to deal with an impending explosion.

It was intricate, but crude. Jim probably could have been able to disarm the bomb, but as it was, he only had one minute and thirty-eight seconds left. Not enough time to completely stop it, but Jim could maybe rig it so that the explosion was smaller and get away before he got caught up in it.

He started ripping into the wires, reconnecting several. He could hear people shouting for him in the distance – no doubt Sulu – but Jim's whole world had narrowed down to these few wires and timer.

Sweat dripped down Jim's brow; the pressure was overwhelming.

The timer kept ticking.

Forty.

Thirty-nine.

Thirty-eight.

Jim was about half-way done. There wasn't enough time.

He moved faster, his nimble fingers dancing over the controls.

Twenty-eight.

Twenty-seven.

Twenty-six.

Shit. Shit. SHIT!

And suddenly, the whole thing was ripped from his hands.

Out of the blue, Spock was beside him, cooling snatching the bomb away from him and walking off with it.

"Wha…?" Jim was so shocked that he was left blinking dumbly at the emptiness in front of him before he actually registered what happened. By then, Spock was already out of arm's length.

Jim leapt forward, panic rising in his throat. Where the hell did Spock come from?! "Spock! That thing is about to blow!"

Twelve.

Eleven.

Ten.

"I'm aware," Spock replied. He leaned over the open window for a brief second before he threw the bomb outside with all the strength that he had. Without missing a beat, he lunged forward and tackled Jim to the ground, shielding him with his body.

Three.

Two.

One.

A large explosion rocked the very foundations of Nikias' tower room, but it held steady. And for once, Jim's luck didn't hold up and he managed to get out of the whole thing unscathed. No debris or shrapnel managed to get through and Spock's warm body didn't leave him until he was absolutely sure that there was no more danger.

Jim sighed in relief as Spock moved away from him, both staring at the wide, open sky. "Good to see you, Spock."

"And you, Captain. What were you trying to do with a live explosive device in your hands?"

"Two seconds and the nagging's already started. I think that's a record."

"I would not have to 'nag', as you've said, if you had a little bit more self-preservation instincts than a mayfly."

"Excuse you, I definitely have more self-preservation instincts than a mayfly. I take offense to that." But Jim was amused, just as Spock was, now that that they were sure that they were safe.

"You guys okay?" gasped Sulu, running in and doubling over as he tried to catch his breath.

Jim chuckled. "Are you okay?"

"You try running after a Vulcan and see if you'll be okay," Sulu snapped back, straightening back up.

"I have. No issues here. You must be out of shape, Sulu."

"Well, not everyone can be superhuman like you."

"Do not inflate his ego, Lieutenant. We may not be able to fit him back onboard otherwise," Spock said.

"Hey!" protested Jim just as Sulu nodded and said, "Good point."

Their banter was interrupted as Nikias and his personal guards came back in, staring at both Spock and Jim who were on the floor and Sulu who had stepped around to defend the two of them.

"At ease, Lieutenant Sulu," Nikias said calmly. "I am not here to arrest or harm anyone. I am here to give my thanks."

Jim waved a dismissive hand. "No thanks needed. I was just doing my duty."

"Even still, you have saved my life despite my father sentencing you and your friend to death. Thank you."

"It was my pleasure, Prince."

"Still, I wonder who it was that planted that bomb. This is attempted murder on a member of the royal family and heir to the throne. We cannot let the culprit escape this easily."

"Ah…I think I have an answer to that," said Jim, "Sulu, did you get that little present I told you about?"

"No. I was too busy trying to chase after a Vulcan and make sure that you didn't get yourself blown up." Sulu sounded fairly exasperated, and Jim was pretty sure that it was directed at him.

"Right then, I guess we'll have to take a little field trip."

Jim stood just as Iason came running into the room with both King Acacius and Queen Elpis behind him.

"Sire! I heard about the attempt on your life! Are you alright?" exclaimed Iason.

"I'm alright, thanks to Captain Kirk."

Iason stiffened as he saw Jim, Spock, and Sulu all standing there, and Jim just smirked at him.

"Spock, will you do the honors?" Jim said sweetly.

"Of course, sir," Spock replied, his expressions as venomous as Jim's was saccharine. The Vulcan stepped forward just as Sulu walked around and shoved Iason's arms' behind his back.

"Prime Minister Iason," Spock said, "For the attempted murders of Captain Kirk, Prince Nikias, and myself, I place you under arrest under Federation laws. If the Nayahian government should choose to pursue a course of action instead, the Federation will relinquish our hold of you to them. Do you understand?"

"Captain, these are some serious allegations. Do you have evidence to support your accusations?" asked King Acacius.

"Yes, where's the proof?!" screamed Iason, immediately struggling against Sulu.

"If you resist, I will be forced to take action," Spock threatened.

"Those Vulcan pinches aren't pleasant, Prime Minister. I advise you to listen to him," Jim smiled. "As for your proof, I have it secured down in the cellar. If you would all follow me."

Without another word, Jim swept out of the room with the royal family, their guards, and his crewmates following behind him. The passing Nayahians once more gave them odd looks as they passed by, but they all ignored it as they made their way to the wine cellar.

Once there, Jim made a beeline to his marked barrel and jacked it open. He reached in and pulled a shaking Myron upwards.

Before anyone had any chance to speak, Jim leaned down and whispered into his ear in the Nayahian's native language. "I am sure you know who I am and what I am capable of. That was why you were worried when I landed, wasn't it? Now, if you do not tell the truth, I will be forced to show you what I am truly capable of."

Myron hissed back. "I am not afraid of a mere human such as yourself."

Jim's blue eyes went cold and hard. "This mere human survived the massacre of Tarsus IV." He paused, his tone sending shivers of gut-wrenching fear down Myron's back. "Are you afraid of me now?"

Waves of bloodlust and icy anger rolled of Jim, literally terrifying the wits out of Myron. The alien couldn't even respond verbally anymore.

Jim just smirked. "Will you tell them what you and Iason were talking about earlier?"

Myron nodded.

"If you lie, I will act on it," Jim said, letting the blank threat hover over Myron's head.

Jim pulled away and glanced back at the confused King and Queen who had not heard what Jim had said. "He's my witness. Myron, tell the King and Queen what your dear friend, Iason, was planning. In Standard, if you could, so my men can understand what you're saying."

"Prime Minister Iason, a few other members of the Council, and I have not been pleased with the direction that our kingdom is going. As such, we plotted to remove the source of these changes to maintain the integrity of our traditions and customs," Myron whispered, but then his voice got stronger. "However, it was Prime Minister Iason who laid out the plans. We were forced into it!"

"Liar! You are a part of this as much as I am!" yelled Iason.

"So you admit to the whole scheme, do you?" grinned Jim.

It looked like Jim slapped Iason in the face. "What? No. I…I didn't…"

Jim tilted his head, smirking. "That sounded like a confession. Spock, did that sound like a confession?"

Spock resisted the urge to roll his eyes, but responded nonetheless. "Yes, sir. It did."

"My King, you cannot listen to these outsiders!" yelled Iason in the native tongue. "I have been your friend and adviser for thirty years! You'll trust them over me?!"

"Your Majesty, despite being falsely accused and subsequently buried alive, I still came back to save your son's life," Jim shot back, "Sir, have I ever given you a reason to doubt me?"

Sulu nudged Spock. "When did he learn the Nayahian language?"

Spock looked just as surprised as Sulu was. "I do not know."

"Father, Captain Kirk did save my life, despite the danger to his own. I do not believe that Captain Kirk would accuse Prime Minister Iason of such a dire crime," Nikias reasoned. "I believe in Captain Kirk."

King Acacius and Queen Elpis looked at each other and had a seemingly telepathic conversation in the heads before King Acacius turned back to Jim, Nikias, and Iason. "Iason, you are under arrest by the laws of Nayahian. Guards, take him away until we decided what his penance is."

Spock easily relinquished his hold on Iason to the Nayahians; Sulu also passed Myron to them as well.

As soon as they were gone (they didn't go quietly – both yelled and struggled the entire time), King Acacius approached Jim.

"Captain Kirk, I thank you for your services to my kingdom. You can be sure that our trades will go well. We will continue to remain on good terms with the Federation," he said.

Jim beamed. "Thank you so much for that, sir. I do believe that my superiors will be glad to hear that."

"And for saving my son, I would like to knight you for your duties to Nayah."

"I appreciate it, your Highness, but it is not necessary."

"No, I insist."

Jim just grinned, "Well then, I humbly accept this high honor."

Sulu sighed behind him. "How the hell does this happen to Kirk? We are never going to hear the end of this, are we?"

Spock felt a headache growing behind his eyes. "No, we will not. I really should not have left my bed this morning."

The two watched Jim, who was completely covered in dirt and grime, laugh and joke with the royal family. Just a half hour ago, Jim was buried six-feet under, and now, he was about to be knighted by the ones who had tried to kill him off earlier.

Only an ingenious idiot like Jim could pull this off.

Seriously, they should not be surprised anymore.

Spock smiled a little as he watched Jim animatedly talk with Nikias. There was a huge difference from the Jim before them right now and the one that felt entrapped onboard. And it made Spock feel illogically happy to have been a part of lifting up his friend's spirit.

Perhaps Spock had it all wrong.

It truly was a good day to have gotten out of bed.


I hope this chapter was okay. It took me so long because I couldn't completely get into this chapter. I got too busy with school and worrying whether or not I was going to pass one of my classes (that's still up in the air at the moment...). But please review and let me know how I did please! And also, shoot me some ideas for the next chapter. My only stipulation is that Uhura has to be in it - I don't think she's really been involved since the beginning, so I want to bring her back in.

So as always, I hope you enjoyed this chapter! Please review!

Cheers,

Yuna