New story time! I promised I wouldn't keep you waiting long! As usual, this is pretty much finished. It's not quite as long as Problem but should still be a fun ride. There will be angst because I can't not angst, but there will also be a lot more action and craziness. Yes, Jim gets beat up because that's what Jim does, but it's much more of a straight forward h/c than the emotional nastiness of the last story. Explosions, Klingons, spies, lies, and yes, the odd tribble.

Just so everything is nice and clear, the stories that feed into this verse are as follows:




A problem from hell

You probably need to have read at least A problem from hell to fully understand this one, but it's probably not completely necessary.

And to kick start the fun, Jim, Bones and Spock in tuxedos. Yay!


Do not panic.

Those were the only words circulating in Jim Kirk's head as he stared up in horror at the monstrosity before him.

Do not panic. You can handle this. This is not the scariest thing you have ever had to do in your life.

No, no good. He was panicking. "I am not wearing that!" He told Uhura firmly, arms crossed and his best I Am The Captain face on. Apparently his I Am The Captain face was for shit these days because she merely smiled coyly at him and advanced with the type of predatory gleam in her eyes that made Jim sympathize with small fluffy bunnies and other helpless critters.

"You'll wear it, Kirk." Uhura said firmly. "If you know what's good for you."

"I think I want a second opinion." Jim said, in no way backing away rapidly from his Communications Officer. His small, dainty, delicately boned Communications Officer. Who had no right at all to be so utterly terrifying. He turned a desperate eye on the other two members of this horrifying expedition.

Carol Marcus didn't try hide her glee, sliding gracefully over to Uhura and cooing over the tuxedo she was all but throwing at Jim. "Oh but that's lovely!" She said in her soft, charming accent. "It will look wonderful."

"Jo!" Jim yelped. "A little help here!"

Joanna seemed content to just stand and watch him being tortured. "Sorry, Uncle Jim." She giggled.

"Traitor." He hissed at her before turning back to Uhura and taking another hasty step towards the exit. "Why can't I wear my uniform? I want to wear my uniform!"

"It's a black and white ball, Kirk." Uhura said to him with the exaggerated slowness of someone who was questioning the intelligence of the person they were talking to. "Black and white. What color are our uniforms?"

"It's a military ball!" Jim ignored the question.

"It's a charity ball," Carol corrected. "And you really would look quite wonderful in this."

"I'd look like a penguin." Jim protested. "A really uncomfortable penguin." He might have spoken a little louder than intended because his protests won him several amused glances from shoppers and sales assistants alike.

"A cool penguin." Joanna added helpfully. Jim shot her a mock glare that did about as much good as it did when he used it on her father.

"How is this my life?" Jim moaned, grabbing the tuxedo from Uhura's hands and marching towards the changing facilities, his ego trying to maintain itself under her victorious smirk. "You all suck, by the way."

"Make sure you come out and show us." Uhura laughed at his retreating back.

"I hate you." Jim called through the petition.

"Is the shirt the right size?"

"How the hell should I know?" Jim yelled, holding up the shirt, half expecting it to bite him on the nose. Uhura muttered something very unflattering in Orion at him and Jim resisted the urge to respond. Gaila had taught him some awesome Orion insults. She's also been the only person to ever make him go shopping, and then it had been shopping for jeans and casual clothes and the odd pair of leather pants that came out whenever they hit certain clubs around town. Mostly Jim had lived in various Starfleet issue items and had done ever since he'd enlisted. When he'd been needed something he didn't own, he borrowed it from Bones.

He sure as hell had never had to buy a tuxedo before. The last time he'd worn a shirt with a collar had been his school uniform on Tarsus. He wasn't even sure he remembered how to fasten a tie.

"I feel stupid!" He shouted over the partition as he shimmied out of his clothes and into the shirt Uhura had picked out. It had taken nearly an hour just to find it, which made no sense at all. A tux was a tux was a tux.

"You are stupid!" Uhura yelled back.

"I want coffee after this!"

"We'll get you your coffee, Princess."

"That's Captain Princess!" He could hear the fits of giggles Jo was in as he and Uhura bickered and couldn't help but grin. Compared to some of the arguments he'd had with Uhura over the years, this was utterly tame. When they'd both been cadets they had thrown some real zingers at each other.

Bones had claimed it was sexual frustration and Jim had been inclined to agree. He thought she was one of the most beautiful women he'd ever met, and he knew she found him attractive. Now though, for all that those thoughts still existed, Jim couldn't for the life of him imagine actually sleeping with Uhura, and not even because she was with Spock. They still bantered and bickered and pulled each other's hair, but she felt more like a sister than a potential lover. It was nice, really. He'd never had that with a woman before.

"Stop preening Captain Princess!" Uhura teased him, pulling Jim away from his thoughts and into the tuxedo.

"I still think we should have taken him to a tailors." He heard Carol say.

"Nuh uh. No way. I am not spending half a year's salary on something I'll wear for one night, and I sure as hell am not allowing anyone near my inseam."

"So short sighted." Carol sighed. "I know a wonderful place on Saville Row."

"I'm not going to England just to get a tux, Carol!" Jim fastened the waist of the pressed slacks and slid his arms into the sleeves of the matching jacket. He'd sooner let Scotty pick his wardrobe than admit how soft and comfortable it was. "Okay," he thumbed the lock on the door and stepped out for assessment, "anyone who laughs is getting busted down to Ensign."

Carol and Uhura stared at him.

"Oh come on!" Jim whined. "Do I look that ridiculous?" He tugged at the jacket and fought the urge to shuffle his feet. Why did he even have to go to that stupid ball anyway?

"You look very pretty Uncle Jim." Joanna finally broke the silence.

"Pretty really isn't what I'm going for, JoJo." Jim pouted.

"Well tough." Uhura said. "Now get over here and let me fasten your bowtie."

"Bowtie?" Jim was pretty certain he squeaked. "Why can't I wear a normal tie?"

Carol and Uhura shared a pitying look then ignored his protests completely. "Hold still." Uhura scolded, reaching up to play with his collar.

"Why aren't you bullying Spock?" Jim protested weakly. "This isn't fair!"

"Spock has impeccable taste and already has a tuxedo." Uhura said primly.

"Of course he does." Jim muttered under his breath. "Damn Vulcan. What about Bones? Go bug Bones."

"Daddy already has one." Joanna informed him. "He looks very handsome."

"Hey!" Jim waved an arm in the air. "Why does Bones get to be handsome and I have to be pretty? Not fair."

"It's those baby blues of yours." Uhura grinned at him. "Now stop being a child." She finished her work and herded Jim over to the large mirror.

He looked… well he sure as hell didn't look like himself. He looked poised and dignified and not pretty, thank you very much. Smart though, as if he belonged at those fancy dinner parties with their expensive drinks and butler service. He'd cut his hair back into it's usual style and had caught up on a great deal of rest in the eight days since he'd been recovered from Kodos. Bones was force feeding him some disgusting drink filled with all kinds of healthy crap, which helped since his appetite was still as non existent as ever. The tuxedo managed to hide the fact that he'd lost so much weight and he almost felt like a normal human being again.

"I look like a penguin." He said grumpily.

"But a very pretty penguin." Uhura wasn't even trying to hide the fact that she was laughing at him.

Jim spent a moment judging how childish it would be if he stuck his tongue out at her before thinking screw it and going for it.

Once again, the girls ignored him.

"Okay, go get changed." Carol smiled, not quite as obviously amused by Jim's squirming as Uhura. She didn't know him quite well enough to be so at ease with mocking him. "Shoes next."

The door slid closed before Jim could escape. "What's wrong with my shoes?!"

"This is stupid." Jim grumbled for the hundredth time since entering the hotel.

"Yes Captain." Spock had said equally as many times, not so much humoring Jim as taunting him. Like Jim, he wore a beautifully cut tuxedo, though unlike Jim's it was designed more to reflect Vulcan traditions than human ones. He managed to look utterly at ease, while Jim still maintained he looked like a penguin.

"Stop saying that." Jim protested, grabbing the first glass of champagne that passed him by and downing a hasty gulp.

"Then stop whining." Spock said evenly. "You look like a child."

Jim grumbled under his breath and tried not to tug at the tight collar around his throat. "Why do I even have to be here again?" He protested, spying Bones at the entrance, equally as well attired and equally at ease with his surroundings. He'd always known that Bones came from a very well to do family, Spock also, but it never showed more than when it came to these kind of things. Neither particularly liked attending them, but they could pass an evening by without fidgeting nervously or making a fool out of themselves.

"Because," Spock informed him, "the support of the people in this room will be paramount to the success of tomorrow."

And that right there killed any possible hope Jim had of getting through the night without copious amounts of alcohol.

Tomorrow morning he would be holding a press conference at Command. He'd managed to put it off the entire time he'd been back, but could delay no longer, despite Bones giving very vocal excuses for him.

Tomorrow evening marked the start of unprecedented negotiations between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Starfleet had been most adamant that there would be no unresolved scandal hanging over them that might adversely affect the talks, and Jim had been in agreement. Opening up the floor for communication between the two systems of government was paramount to continued prosperity for both, especially in light of growing tensions between themselves and the Romulans. Open war was still a far looming threat, despite what Marcus had believed, but hostilities had been escalating and it was only a matter of time before casualties started clocking up on both sides.

Jim wanted to be at the talks himself, but neither Archer or Bones would clear him for any kind of duty and in truth he was content enough not to really fight for it. He wanted to spend time at home, with family. He'd never had either before and so drank up both greedily.

He had agreed to speak publicly though, which was all he could do to help. The scandal around his life was no less manic now he was back.

"Right." Jim said morosely. "Of course."

The ball was full of very wealthy, influential people, many of who Jim knew from previous Starfleet gatherings. A lot of them had dealings with Carter Winston and were madly scrambling to distance themselves from his legacy, which meant Jim had to get them on his side while they were still floundering.

Politics. He hated politics. This was why he preferred blackmail and bribery. Yes, that said probably very bad things about the kind of person he was, but at least people knew where they stood with him.

"Well now," Bones's accent was out in full thanks to the goblet of burbon in his hand, "don't you scrub up well, darlin'?"

"I hate you." Jim glared at his friend who wore the biggest shit-eating grin ever. "So much hate."

"I told you." Uhura approached, stunning in a sweeping white gown, and slipped her arm though Spock's. "You owe me, Leonard. Do you have any idea how much of a pain shopping with him is? All he did was bitch."

"I'm standing right here!" Jim protested.

"Drink your champagne, Jimmy." Bones smirked at him. Jim did. Begrudgingly. Because he was thirsty. Not because Bones was an asshole.

Bones was an asshole.

"Fuck my life." Jim moaned.

Two glasses of champagne later, and Jim was schmoozing with the best of them. Given what he was there for he couldn't have found a better dance partner, and currently had his arm around the waist of Magda Marlantes, President of the United Federation of Planets and a particularly gifted waltzer.

At just north of fifty, she was considered a young woman to hold such an esteemed office, and her coal dark hair was untouched by silver. Jim respected her as much as he did anyone who had such a demanding position and did a halfway decent job of things. He didn't agree with all her policies, but aside from being a fairly decent woman – for a politician especially – she was also his ultimate Commander in Chief.

"Stop looking so nervous, Kirk." She scolded him as they looped around the room. "You twitch any more and people are going to think I'm doing all kinds of naughty things to you." She had pale green eyes that crinkled with amusement at the thought and Jim couldn't help but laugh. "We don't want any more scandal, do we?"

Jim could just imagine that one. Captain Kirk seduces President. Archer would kill him.

"Ah, I could never complete with your beautiful wife."

"Save that charm for the public, Jim." She chuckled. "You've already got me in your corner."

"Even though I got one of your key sponsors killed?" Jim asked, his voice pleasant.

"You exposed a criminal," she corrected him, "and for that I will always be grateful. I can find new sponsors."

Jim had to hand it to her. If she'd had any knowledge of who Carter Winston really was, she played her cards very close to her chest. Jim could easily believe her innocent of all knowledge.

"Of course." He said smoothly. The song ended and they stepped apart. He kissed her hand as was expected and she smiled back, as she should.

"I'll miss you tomorrow." She said as they changed partners. "Negotiations would be far more entertaining with you around."

"Entertaining is one word for it." Jim grinned. She laughed as she started to dance with the Minister of Intergalactic Trade, while Jim glanced up at his next partner.

His smile froze on his face as the woman, his age and utterly radiant in white silk, stepped into his arms. "Hello Jim." She purred, red lips pulled into a seductive smile.

Lenore Karidian had her father's blue eyes and pale blond hair. She also had his batshit crazy. He hadn't seen her in nearly two years and had been thankful for it.

Jim swallowed, fingers clenching on the fabric of her dress. "Len."

Her smile was dangerous and her eyes cool. She ran one slender finger down his neck in a gentle caress. Jim shuddered. They might have been intimate. Very intimate. But they sure as hell had never been gentle with each other.

"What are you doing here, Len?" Jim said, trying to find his brain and not think of her father laying at his feet, his throat ripped open.

"I was invited." Lenore smiled at him and he practically heard the axe swing. "I hear you've been a very busy boy."