Title: Running Before the Wind
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world is not.
Summary: The first few days after the Enterprise's return are a blur for most of her crew. 1500 words.
Spoilers: Star Trek XI
Notes: Back in 2009 when I was active in STXI fandom, I wanted to write a long fic dealing with the events after their return to Earth, but my muse ran out of steam. So: a bit of summary from the scrapfile in keeping with my gapfiller series, before the new movie renders it all moot.
The first few days after the Enterprise's return are a blur for most of her crew, and not just because of everything they've seen, done and lost in the effort to stop Nero.
There is coursework to be completed, first of all; despite the fact that all of the former cadets, even Jim, are recognized as commissioned officers upon their return, Command wants to make sure every t is crossed and every i dotted before they officially unleash them on the galaxy. The fact is, they can't afford not to put every available warm body into service- but they can afford gross incompetence even less, and an orgy of tests and sims and paperwork seems to be the official compromise. On top of that, there are countless debriefings, private memorials, and wakes disguised as parties to attend.
All in all, the cadets barely even have time to breathe, much less think about their futures. The non-cadets, Jim notices when he surfaces to check on them, are even busier. It's a good thing the press has been restricted from campus for the time being; the crush at spacedock had been exhausting enough.
Spock still has simulations to run and classes to teach, and in his spare time liaises between the surviving Vulcan elders and Starfleet in their efforts to determine how many of their people have survived. Not that, as far as Jim can tell, that last is his job; his father's the ambassador to Earth, and like hell Jim thinks the old guy's going to stay out of it once the 'Fleet investigators backtrack Jim's story to Delta Vega and rescue him.
Still, his Spock was the first member of his father's species to put on the uniform, so Jim gets why they keep going to him. They see him as more symbol than officer, and Spock's a loyal sort of guy. He has yet to announce whether he will join the inevitable new colony himself, though; Uhura looks like she's doing the stiff upper lip thing every time Jim spots them together.
Scotty, who wasn't lying about being a Lieutenant Commander or persona non grata, seems to spend most of his time expounding on the equations supporting transwarp beaming before the skeptical eyes of his colleagues at the Academy. There is no beagle involved this time; Admiral Archer is still pretty frosty, but the man is at least listening, and the math is pretty amazing. Jim sneaks into a couple of Scotty's lectures between command course exams to get a glimpse of what he's like in a less pressured setting, and is totally bemused to find no real difference.
Several of the other professors interrupt his lectures with avid questions about the other so-called miracles he performed whilst temporarily in charge of Enterprise's engineering crew. Scotty confides privately, later, that he didn't know how to tell them it was mostly seat-of-the-pants instinct and an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything to do with Constitution class starships that got him through the ordeal, so he'd dressed up all his answers in as much dry technical language as possible. He doesn't seem quite sure how to deal with all of the incredulous praise, either; he says he was just doing his job, same as he's always done, same as got him exiled to Delta Vega in the first place.
All he'd ever needed was a commander who would let him, he smirks at Jim. All right, and a bit of a boost, too: he asks Jim to thank that old Vulcan the next time he sees him again.
Jim's a little torn about that. Without Spock the Elder, Jim would never have been in place to stop Nero; the Academy he and his makeshift crew are trying to placate wouldn't even exist. But then again- without the old guy, stopping Nero would never have been necessary at all. Jim would like to be angry at him for that- except that he can't, because the accidental time traveler had shared all the guilt and grief of good intentions gone horrifically wrong during their brain-share, along with everything else.
(Including a few... unrelated subjects. Jim has wondered whether the warm affection he feels for his Spock is due to the way the other felt about his Jim Kirk, or if Spock the Younger is actually just that awesome. In the interests of sanity, Jim's decided to come down on the side of awesomeness, at least until events prove him wrong.
And he has a vested interest, now, in events not proving him wrong. Pike would tell him not to get a swelled head, but if there's anything his past has taught him, it's that there's very little the universe can do to stop a determined Kirk from achieving his goals.)
Pike is still spending most of his time either in Medical under the gimlet eye of Dr. Boyce, or in his own extended debriefings. All he's passed on to Jim is that they'll both be asked to say something at the public memorial service to be held when the new monument's finished, and that all other pending ceremonies will be delayed until afterward- but he'd have to be deaf not to have picked up which way the wind is blowing. Gossip's the only thing in the 'Fleet that moves faster than Warp Ten.
For the time being, though, Jim's still wearing Lieutenant's stripes. Like Sulu- who's been sneaking him reports about the ongoing repairs as he has time. Sulu's class had graduated the term before Jim's, and the navigator had mostly spent the time before Enterprise's launch ferrying diplomats around, but as the sole member of Jim's hastily promoted senior crew without other, more pressing duties- not to mention one of the few surviving officers from any shift of the original bridge crew available- he's been assigned to hold down the fort while their great gray lady's in the Yards. Jim saves the messages to sneak peeks at when he's pretending to take notes in stultifying meetings and lectures, and they never fail to help motivate him to stay the course.
He shares the reports with the other veteran cadets, too, when they cross paths. All of them, but especially the officers who'd helped him hold the ship together and become something like family over the course of those crazy days. Bones, who barely shows up in their rooms long enough to catch a few hours of sleep a night. Chekov, who has multiple years' worth of exams to complete, not just one- but might actually be brilliant enough to pull it off. Gaila, who rips him a new one the first time they run into each other, but smiles at him anyway. And Uhura, who still won't give him her first name.
Despite her attitude, though- or, if he's honest, partly because of it- Uhura's the one he goes to for help with his speech for the memorial. He trusts her linguistic instincts and ability to cut through the bullshit more than any of 'Fleet's suggestions. She gives him a long, assessing look, but eventually agrees.
He may not have the sharpest ear in the world, she says, and he may have joined her xenolinguistics club mostly to piss her off, but he's no slouch, especially at nonverbal cues; he can read, and project, more without ever opening his mouth- when he's paying attention- than most nontelepaths she's ever met. He'd done all right during the shipboard service; he might have been able to get through the 'Fleetwide one without embarrassing them all. But he was wise, she concludes, to come to her to make sure.
Jim takes that backhanded compliment- and her suggestions- with a smile. Whether or not she'll still be a part of his crew when everything's decided, she's part of his crew now, and he's tried to take the lessons Pike's been drilling into him to heart.
It's not about you anymore, and it never will be again, the Captain had said.
It is about him a little, of course; he can't not affect the outcome of events just by being who he is. He may have finally surpassed his father's reputation, but he has no doubt that the Narada Incidents will continue to affect the Admiralty's decisions for the rest of his career, no matter what else he may achieve. Still, Pike's right that he couldn't have stopped Nero without the others, and that he was, and will be, accountable to everyone serving under him from then on.
On the one hand, the concept is a little terrifying: he's never exactly been known for his responsibility.
But on the other? The irrepressible part of him that had leapt at Pike's challenge in the first place is revving back into gear under his skin, ready to prove himself to the whole galaxy, if he has to.
His name is James T. Kirk; and he's finally found his destiny.
Nothing and no one is going to stop them now.