Poor Kevin, right? :( I know, I know, I'm a bad person. And apparently the last chapter DID end of a cliffie. Oops. It's not like anyone died! Other than Kodos. Does anyone care about Kodos?! Shame on me and whatnot.
Anyway, we made it! FINAL PART! Thank you all so much for coming on this long-ass adventure with me! Your encouragement and threats have been an utter delight to behold, and I'm astonished by your support, so thank you!
As always, plot points will carry over into the next story as themes continue to be dealt with. This part just rounds up the emotional arc of this journey and seemed the best place to end. Cy will be back, Sam is still around (though he might be taking a field trip to Iowa...), and there's the not so small issue of Section 31. There will also be a few little one shots popping up in the next week – Jim addressing the press, and our favorite triumvirate dealing with the aftereffect of the meld. For that reason though, I'm going to post the next arc of the story before I post the Academy fic. I'm going to be absent mid October for a few weeks, so I figured it would be less evil to do it this way around :p yes, LESS evil. Now for the love of god, please remove the tribbles from my yard, they are confusing my puppy!
"So let me get this straight," Twelve hours after retrieving Jim from Kodos's clutches, twelve hours after Kevin Riley had slit the maniac's throat, they were piled into Archer's office, dressed in full greys, ramrod straight and waiting for the man to pass judgement.
Jim, Spock and McCoy were sat at the chairs in front of Archer's desk, Jim out of necessity and the other two out of solidarity. Nyota, Sulu and Scotty stood at attention behind them. "After bringing Kodos into custody, he tripped and slit his own throat?"
"That's correct, sir." Jim said calmly, his expression absolutely impenetrable.
"You're kidding, right?" Archer growled. "Some of the brightest minds Starfleet has on offer are at your disposal and 'he tripped' is the best bullshit excuse you can some up with?"
"It's the truth, sir." Jim continued expressionlessly. "No bullshit involved."
"There's always bullshit when you're involved." Archer said darkly. "Alright, I'll play ball. He tripped. How the hell do you expect me to explain that one?"
"Clumsiness and an unfortunately placed set of pruning sheers?"
"What exactly would you like me to say here, Admiral?" Jim asked, genuinely interested, the dark amusement of the whole scenario fading behind the reality. "Because that's the only answer I'm giving you."
Archer rubbed his eyes tiredly. "You know I'm starting to feel remorse for all the times I chewed Pike out because of one of your stunts." He muttered.
"I can take full responsibility for my own actions, sir." Jim said. Nyota ached for him, but her admiration was almost impossible to contain. While they had all been left stunned by Riley's actions, Jim had taken control instantly. He'd ordered McCoy to take Riley into a separate room then called Archer himself.
When SFPD. JAG and Interpol arrived – half the world had been looking for Jim and he had his own special task force, for all the good they had done – Jim had practically convinced them that the sky was green before Kodos's body had cooled. They'd taken one look at Jim, his frail, haunted features and in their own minds imposed the images still being shopped around by the media. Like Archer, they hadn't believed his excuse, and like Archer, they believed Jim had killed Kodos out of either trauma or self-defense. No one even knew who Kevin Riley was, let alone what Kodos had ordered done to his family.
There was no precedent for dealing with the kind of situation Jim had presented them and hadn't been in several hundred years. The only thing that could decide was that this was, and remained, a Starfleet matter.
Which was how they ended up in front of Archer, polished and pressed and waiting for the hammer to fall.
"That's never been your problem, Kirk." Archer grunted. "I am going to have to investigate this, you know that."
"And I trust you'll put your best on it, sir." Jim nodded, completely at ease with the cover up he was spinning. In fairness, there wasn't a single person who knew the truth who would ever admit to it. Kevin Riley was safe, protected by Jim Kirk just like when they were children.
And Jim was, for once, protected by his own name. Even if he did put his hand up and say 'I did it, arrest me', there wasn't a judge on Earth who would convict him for it. Not after what Kodos had done to him.
"Of course." Archer said darkly. "And what about you, Kirk?" There wasn't a hint of concern or sympathy in his voice, but Nyota remembered how quickly he'd jumped to Jim's defense with the media, and how hard he had fought to get Jim back. She didn't think the two of them would ever like one another, but no one could deny they respected one another.
"I've been better, sir, but I'm on the mend."
"I see." Archer looked him up and down. "You look worse than you did the last time I saw you."
"About that," Jim said evenly, moving smoothly on to the next item on his agenda. "You're giving me back my ship." They all waited with baited breath, believing that Jim can do the impossible but still reeling from one too many hits to be entirely without tension.
"Oh," Archer said, matching Jim tone for tone, "I am, am I?"
"You are." Jim said pleasantly.
"And what happened to our agreement?" Archer asked.
"Your threat, you mean?" Jim's voice remained pleasant. "It still stands. Doctor McCoy will be meeting with me once a week and he'll forward you the recordings."
"Doctor McCoy is hardly an impartial third party, Kirk."
"He's also the only medical professional I will ever consider talking to, so I'd take it." Jim's voice was slowly staring to sound less cordial. "I don't eat and I don't sleep. I'm paranoid and have issues with authority. I have no formal education and a criminal record. A spy, a pirate and a psychopath raised me and in any other situation I'd be the last person you'd want commanding your flagship."
"In any other situation." Archer sighed.
"You said it yourself, sir. I belong to Starfleet. You made me what I am, and you're going to put me where I'll do the most good."
"And that's on the Enterprise I suppose." Archer asked, his eyes narrowed. Nyota could see the tension in both Spock and Leonard's shoulders, but Jim was eerily calm.
Jim nodded. "It is."
"And if I say no? What brilliant piece of blackmail are you planning on using this time? Even you've got to be running short by now." Archer looked over Jim's shoulder to Scotty, who managed not to twitch.
Jim didn't even bother trying to deny it. He leaned back in the chair, his poise so achingly familiar in it's casual arrogance. "Kodos's real name was Robert April, and he really liked the sound of his own voice."
If she hadn't seen it with her own eyes, Nyota would never have believed Archer could look so suddenly sick. In one sentence, Jim had aged him twenty years. The name Robert April meant nothing to her, but it clearly did to Archer.
He swallowed. "She'll be ready for a shakedown in five months." He said flatly, resigned and outmaneuvered. "Make sure you are fit to board her. No cheating your way this time."
Jim stood up and snapped to attention, clearly not about to push his luck. "Thank you sir." Spock and McCoy followed and the six of them saluted.
They had their Captain and their ship back. As they left Archer's office, Nyota felt the sigh of relief flow through them all. They could go home.
Chekov and Riley were waiting for them back at the Embassy. Though clearly dead on his feet, Jim walked straight up to Riley, who was pale and shaky, his eyes filled with tears he had not shed when slitting Kodos's throat, but that hadn't stopped since.
"It's alright." Jim told him. "I took care of it. It's alright." He opened his arms and Kevin folded himself into the embrace, sobbing against Jim's shoulder.
Nyota just heard his whispered apologies and the gentle reassurances Jim whispered back.
Despite her professional feelings on the matter, she couldn't be sad that Kodos was dead. He'd done too much harm to deserve that. She'd marveled at Jim's resolute decision that he should face trial, if only because she knew he could have hacked Kodos to pieces and they'd have lied about it to protect him. He could have had his revenge, but chose the higher path.
But should could not blame Riley for choosing blood first. If it had been her mother she'd watched being murdered, no force in the universe would have stayed her hand, nor the hands of any of them others in the room with her. Of them all, Jim was the only one who had proved he could be the better man. Allowing Khan to live after what he did to Pike must have cost him part of his soul, but he'd done it. Even Spock had not shown such restraint. If it hadn't been to save Jim's life, not even she could have stopped him from murder.
Instead she felt only sorrow for the two men who clutched each other so tightly. They were still so young, but they had suffered so much.
"He's gone." Jim whispered to Riley. "He can't hurt anyone else." The words sounded so calm and certain when Jim spoke them, but she alone stood close enough to them to see into his eyes. Kodos might be dead, but she had a feeling he'd be hurting Jim for the rest of Jim's life.
Jim always had been able to lie so prettily.
Nyota was quietly playing solitaire on her PADD when the suite door opened and McCoy entered, Joanna at his side. She'd always been a serious little thing, but she clung quietly to McCoy's arm, head down and shy in a way she hadn't been before Cerberus. Nyota's heart ached for her. She was such a sweet child, and she'd not deserved any of her pain. And of course, Jim's abduction had hit her hard. McCoy had done his best to shield her from the reality they had all faced, but after a week of no contract from Jim, Joanna had started to think her favourite uncle had turned his back on her. In the end the truth, though painful, had been less damaging.
Now that Jim was safely back, McCoy wasted no time in bringing Joanna to him.
Nyota smiled at Jo from where she sat, and though the little girl returned the gesture shyly, her eyes were only for Jim.
He and McCoy had argued for a good twenty minutes after returning from Command. McCoy wanted him to get some sleep. Jim complained that he'd done nothing but lay on his back for the best part of a month and he wasn't tired. They all read the truth of his words – Jim was exhausted and anyone could see as much – that he was afraid to sleep as opposed to unwilling. In the end they had compromised. McCoy gave Jim a light sedative, just enough to help the process, and Jim took over the couch, surrounded by the rest of them should his sleep become troubled.
He had stubbornly tried to catch up on everything he had missed in the three weeks he was with Kodos, but had eventually fallen asleep with his head on the arm of the couch. Nyota had tucked a blanket over him and he'd barely stirred, a clear sign of how drained he really was.
So the rest of them had stayed close by, Riley sat with his shoulder against Chekov's, the two youngest members of their group huddled together as Chekov tried to show his support.
They all looked up as Joanna made her way over to Jim, cautiously stopping at the edge of the couch.
Blearily, Jim cracked open his eyes and a slow, sleepy smile spread over his face. He lifted the edge of the blanket and Jo was crawling on to the couch in an instant, burying her face in Jim's chest and crying her heart out.
Jim tucked the blanket around them both, then encircled her with his arms, his hands moving carefully through her loose hair.
As they two of them curled up on the large couch, Nyota shared a smile with McCoy, who made his way over to Riley and spoke to him in a low, gentle voice. He, like Jim, had a way to go before he could heal. Like Jim, Nyota had no doubt that he would find his way.
Their family was back together again, whole and safe. They might be a little bit fractured, a little bit battered around the edges, but they'd survived.
She felt Spock sit down beside her and pushed aside her game in favor of resting her head on his shoulder. They'd never needed many words to understand one another, and she could feel his relief and contentment. Neither of them was under any illusions that life would be easy now, but even the laofest if obstacles felt manageable when they were all together.
The room fell quiet again as each small group continued with their own thing, and an hour passed easily by.
Then, startling them all with its unexpectedness, they heard Joanna giggle. "Uncle Jim," Joanna had her father's rich accent and the devastatingly effective whine of a seven year old – poor Jim had no hope. "I know you're awake."
Jim's smile was small, but utterly blinding. "Am not," he whispered, "totally sleeping."