A/N: Well, this is it folks, the last chapter. I want to thank all of you who've dutifully come along for this journey and I'm thrilled that so many of you have enjoyed it. There won't be a sequel to this; I think it ends well with everything tied up nicely. However, there will be more stories in the future…I have one-shot h/c that's almost done and a few other longer stories brewing. Hopefully they'll be out soon!
"Booonees, hurry it up. I'm starving up here," Jim peered down over the edge of the cliff.
"Oh please, give me a break. I'm doing the best I can down here and you shouldn't have eaten all of the bars in your bag. I told you I hate rock climbing. It's a broken neck waiting to happen," McCoy growled as he stretched his arm to work his fingers in a small crevice.
Jim tuned out McCoy's continued rant to gaze at the stunning view over Yosemite National Park. It was a great day for climbing, spring was in full swing so the air was on the cool side making climbing was comfortable and the skies were a gorgeous blue. There wasn't a single speck of civilization as far as he could see. He took in a lungful of the crisp air and relished in his peace of mind. It's beautiful up here.
McCoy looked up the last ten meters or so that he had to go to see Jim staring off in the distance. The kid had come a long way since the past summer. He didn't pause for long, otherwise he would have to listen to Jim complain the whole time he finished the climb. With his fingers secure he pushed himself up to the next hold and drove a cam into the rock. He reattached his safety lines to the new anchor point and reached up another meter. The process continued until he finally hauled himself over the edge of the cliff and lay panting on the ground.
Jim's cheeky grin was hovering over him, "Nice to see you finally up here, Bones."
"Shut up you little shit," he pushed himself upright and emptied one of his two water canteens.
"C'mon, old man, don't tell me that wasn't fun!" Jim was already digging in McCoy's pouch for the food bars.
"You and I have very different definitions of fun," he unwrapped his own bar.
"At least we're taking the trail down, I think you'd toss your cookies if you had to repel down."
"Why couldn't I just take the trail up here to meet you?" McCoy inhaled his bar and Jim was working on his second.
"You do realize that it defeats the purpose of rock climbing right? Besides, who else would I want to torture?"
"I'm not above launching you over the edge for a quicker trip back to the camp."
"Please…" Jim rolled his eyes. "Let's get going, we promised Joanna we'd make s'mores when we got back. There's no telling what Uhura and Carol have gotten her into."
Jim held out his hand to McCoy and helped him stand. Nearly a year ago he couldn't even lift his head off a pillow and here he was pulling a grown man to his feet. He felt full of energy and life.
"Do you think we can get that green blooded hobgoblin to eat s'mores?" McCoy stretched out the kinks in his arms before following Jim down the trail.
"I think not, Bones. He knows there's chocolate in them."
"It'd still be funny."
They continued to walk in silence, just observing the scenes and wildlife around them. It would be a while before they got to do this again. The next time they would be doing this would be on an alien planet somewhere. Jim had been given the news in a surprise meeting with Command just after the Academy's winter break had ended. Him and his entire crew were shipping out for the first ever five-year mission on the Enterprise after the academic year ended.
McCoy broke the silence while they were taking a break to answer nature's call, "Are you ready for your big speech?"
"Uh, I guess," Jim answered from behind his own tree.
"Have you written it yet?"
"What do you think?"
"Jim, this isn't something you can leave off to the last minute," he finished and made his way back to the trail.
"I know what I'm doing, Bones," Jim joined him and they continued down the path.
"I for one don't want you to make an ass of yourself in front of the majority of Starfleet and the press."
"What, with this face?" Jim smirked. "Besides, I still have a couple of months."
"Bones, the Enterprise hasn't even undergone her warp trials yet, relax. I'll be ready for it."
"Are you taking her out for them?"
Jim looked a little disappointed, "Actually no. They're doing them in two weeks and I still have class. Spock and Scotty are going to be doing them."
"You're okay with this?" McCoy saw the flash of disappointment on Jim's face.
"I trust that Spock and Scotty know what they're doing."
"That didn't answer it."
"Yeah, I guess I'm a little upset. I wanted to be there when she comes back to life, but I owe it to my class to be there."
"How grown up of you, Jim," McCoy smiled.
"If I'm a grown up, what does that make you? Ancient?" Jim quickened his pace to get out of McCoy's reach.
"Why you brat!" McCoy chased after him.
"Uncle Jim!" was all the warning he got before an eight year old barreled at him at full speed.
He caught the blur of a child and threw her in the air before catching her giggling self, "Why hello, Miss Joanna. Did you and the girls have fun?"
"They're the best! They did my hair, nails, and toes!"
McCoy's eyebrow arched suspiciously at the neon polish on her finger nails and the intricate braid that wrapped around her head. It was certainly prettier than the simple ponytail that either Jim or him could accomplish during the child's weeklong visit. His week with her was coincidently scheduled at the same time as their trip so she was invited too so that the entire senior command crew could attend. The last weekend of the Academy's spring break was the only time all of them could get together to celebrate for their upcoming mission before the start of intensive training began.
"And what a fine job they did," Jim set her down so she could run to her father.
"Hey, sweet pea," McCoy picked Joanna up and gave her a kiss on her cheek.
"I missed you, daddy!" she wrapped her arms around his neck. "Did you and Uncle Jim have fun?"
"Of course we did, you see that cliff over there," he held the child with one arm and pointed to the cliff that they had just returned from.
"You climbed that one?"
"Weren't you scared?"
"Of course he was scared, Miss Joanna," Jim chimed in.
"Go get dinner started," McCoy smacked Jim on the arm.
"I will when Chekov and Sulu get back with…there they are."
McCoy turned to see the navigator and helmsman returning with a cooler between the two of them.
"Let me see," Joanna wiggled her way out of her fathers arms to the cooler that had been set down by a portable table.
Chekov opened the lid with a huge smile on his face, until the little girl shrieked with horror. The poor ensign was at a loss of what to do with the screaming child.
"What's wrong?" McCoy was at his daughter's side in an instant and the rest of the crew crowded around them.
McCoy looked into the cooler to find several trout swimming around in the water. He immediately started laughing.
"It's okay, sweet pea, that's dinner."
"We're going to eat them?" the little girl was truly horrified.
"You are welcome to dine with me as I do not eat meat," Spock offered.
"But everyone else is going to eat them?" Joanna was on the verge of tears now.
Jim stepped in before the rest of the crew's dinner plans were cancelled, "Let me see your hands."
Joanna offered her hands to Jim with complete trust. He put his larger ones around hers and guided them into the cooler; they closed their hands over one of the wriggling fish and pulled it out flopping. Joanna tried to pull back but Jim's hands were steady over hers around the fish. The fish stilled and Joanna wriggled her fingers over the scales.
"He's not so scary is he?" Jim kept his hands over Joanna's.
"No. Do we have to kill him?"
Jim drew in a deep breath, "Yeah we do, but remember that he ate a smaller fish, that ate a smaller fish, and so on. It's how life works."
"So we're bigger so we have to eat him?"
"That's how it goes. Don't worry; once dinner is ready it won't even look like this anymore. It'll look like what you get at the grocery store."
"Are you sure?"
Joanna looked hesitantly at the fish before nodding. Jim lowered their hands back into the cooler and let the fish go. Everyone let out a sigh of relief that dinner was back on. Uhura and Carol guided Joanna away from the table where the guys were busy getting the fish ready to cook. They all sat around a roaring campfire for dinner passing stories back and forth until Scotty pulled out bags of marshmallows and several chocolate bars. Sulu passed around some old fencing blades while Jim passed out packages of graham crackers.
"You're doing it all wrong," Joanna watched Spock hold his marshmallow directly in the flame only to have it burn to a crisp.
"I defer to your expertise, Miss McCoy."
Joanna huffed around to other side of the fire to help the Vulcan. She speared a new marshmallow for him and directed him to hold it over some embers on near the outside of the fire. After several minutes he had a perfectly roasted marshmallow.
"I will not be consuming chocolate, Miss McCoy," Spock said to the outstretched graham cracker and chocolate.
"You can't have a s'more without it."
"Yes ma'am," Spock agreed to everyone's astonishment.
Everyone was watching as Joanna held the chocolate and crackers ready for the marshmallow, and Spock took a small bite from the corner of the finished product. McCoy snapped a quick holo of the Vulcan with marshmallow cream at the corners of his mouth.
"Who would've thought your daughter could get a Vulcan to eat chocolate, Bones?" Jim was grinning ear to ear.
With Spock able to perfectly roast his own marshmallows, Joanna reclaimed her spot under a shared blanket with her father. Scotty, Sulu, and Chekov had already gone through a bag of marshmallows by themselves. Carol was tucked into Jim's side while he held the blade with several marshmallows speared on it. Uhura discretely had traded Spock a non-chocolate s'more and ate the rest of his. It wasn't long afterwards that Joanna fell asleep in her father's arms and the rest of crew passed out various bottles of beers while he went to put her in their tent to sleep. McCoy wasted no time in downing his first beer when he returned to his spot.
"Is she out?" Jim asked draining his own beer.
"Like a light," McCoy was already opening another.
"Does she know yet?" Uhura asked sipping her own beer.
Sadness crept across McCoy's face, "Yeah, I told her at the beginning of the week."
"How did she take it?" Carol buried deeper into Jim's side.
"Eh, as you'd expect. She cried for a while and then bounced back."
"My momma cried too when I told her," Chekov added.
"Ah all this sadness, we're going on a right grand adventure!" Scotty lifted his flask.
"To a grand adventure," Jim raised his beer. "The next time we do this it will be on a different planet."
Everyone followed suit, Spock raised his water canteen, and clinked the bottles with each other. Those drinking were pleasantly buzzed by the time the fire was extinguished for the night and everyone returned to their tents.
It was well into the wee hours of the morning when Jim finally gave up trying to go to sleep. Carol was sound asleep next to him despite his constant tossing and turning. He shrugged on his old academy sweatshirt over his warm pajamas and climbed outside the tent into the cold night air.
"Are you unable to sleep, Jim?" Spock was bundled up next to the fire embers.
"Yeah," Jim put the coffee canteen on the embers to warm up before sitting next to his First Officer. "You?"
"I was meditating using the embers."
"Oh, I can go—"
"That is unnecessary, I have achieved sufficient rest."
"Well that's good," Jim poked at the embers with a forgotten fencing blade.
"Are you still plagued by nightmares?"
"Not really these days, my counselor and I have been working on it. I've been okay for a few months."
"That is excellent news. Both your physical and psychological recovery over the past nine months has been remarkable."
"Considering I was actually dead, yeah I'd say so too."
"That is not—"
"It's okay, I'm good with it now."
"If I may ask a personal query, what is causing your inability to sleep?"
"Just wanted to look at the stars," Jim poured himself a cup of coffee.
"Are you experiencing anxiety about the upcoming mission?"
"I guess that's what it is. No one's ever done this before."
"Hence it being the first," Spock raised an eyebrow.
"Thank you Captain Obvious," Jim smiled. "I just, I just don't want to fuck it all up. I want to do it right."
"Despite a statistical likelihood of difficulties, the overall outcome will be successful. I have the confidence to presume that this mission will provide numerous benefits."
"Aren't you all sentimental all of a sudden. That chocolate must've hit you harder than you thought."
"Negative, Jim, I feel no effects from intoxication."
"I'm glad you and Bones are going to be there."
"I am curious as to how you convinced Doctor McCoy to agree to an extended mission in deep space? He has voiced his aversion to space flight on numerous occasions."
"Oh, like he'd ever want to be left behind on our adventures. He certainly complains a lot, but he loves exploring."
"It will be a memorable adventure."
"Yes it will, Spock."
The two of them sat in a companionable silence watching the sunrise over the valley, illuminating the rich colors of the stone and vegetation.
"Jim, hold still," Carol scolded the fidgety captain under her fingers as she tried to fasten the neck closure of his dress uniform.
"I'm trying," he blew out a deep breath.
"You're nervous aren't you?" McCoy smirked.
"What gave that away?" Jim snapped.
"You wouldn't be so nervous if you would've written your speech ahead of time, like I told you to."
"Yes, Bones, it's all my fault," he pulled at the tight collar. "I just want to get this right. I owe it to everyone."
"Stop it, you'll only undo it again," Carol smacked his hand away from his neck. "Don't worry, you'll do great."
"You all right, Jim?" there was genuine look of concern on the doctor's face.
"I'm good," Jim let out another deep breath.
"Sirs," an ensign interrupted.
McCoy pulled Jim into a crushing hug, "You got this, kid."
"Thanks, Bones," Jim clapped the man on the back. "Thanks for everything."
McCoy pulled back and patted Jim on his cheek, "We'll wait for you at the end."
Jim just nodded, knowing that if he opened his mouth that there was a possibility his breakfast could return. He watched McCoy and Carol leave the little preparation room while he was left with the ensign.
"As I'll ever be," he followed the ensign out of the room.
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