Hikaru Sulu is not a proud man.
He is not a proud man at all. He is not arrogant, and he is never smug. He is satisfied with who he is and that is enough. He likes his accomplishments, of course. He likes them even better when they mean he can use his abilities and skills to dodge a crisis or save a life. He learns things and skills for the pleasure of learning them and is certainly pleased when they later come to his rescue in a strained situation.
However, there are things he is proud of.
He stands proud now, back straight and hands folded at the small of his back, chin up. He stares straight ahead to the irritated face of Admiral Komack, his own impassive and calm. He’s learned tricks from his smooth Vulcan Commander, and he is not above using them.
“You realize, Lieutenant, that you are violating Starfleet protocols.”
“I don’t do it out of insubordination, Admiral, sir. I’m guided by my sense of loyalty and what I believe is required of me according to my charge and station.”
“What is required of you, Lt. Sulu, is the truth.”
“I have not lied, sir.”
Komack waves his hand in the air dismissively.
“You’ve lied by omission.”
“No precisely, sir,” Sulu replies mildly. Commander Spock always says the key to understanding one another is precision in vocabulary.
“You’re picking up Kirk’s quirks now, too?” Admiral Chase arches a fine blond eyebrow, her green eyes amused but sharp.
Sulu is proud of being on the best crew of Starfleet, on the best ship. He’s proud of serving under the best Captain. Most of all, he’s proud of serving under James T. Kirk and Commander Spock. He’s also proud of the man he’s seen Kirk become, right in front of his eyes as he grew into his command. Spock’s helped, of course, everyone’s helped—it’s taken a village to raise their captain—but in the end, Kirk is the kind of man he wants to be, and they’re all proud of him.
Sulu allows a barely-there curl of his lip. “If you spent four years in space with him, Admiral, you would understand that picking up Captain Kirk’s, as you say, ‘quirks’, is unavoidable.”
“Indeed,” she mused, imitating his lip curl.
“What about unofficially, Lt. Sulu? What have you to say regarding the Captain’s and Commander’s behavior off the record?”
“Off the record, sir?”
“If it’s unofficial, and it’s off the record, sir, it’s irrelevant.” He’d make Spock proud yet.
There is a moment of stunned silence.
“Did you just dismiss me, Lieutenant?”
“Not at all, sir,” Sulu replies evenly. “But I was informed this was a formal hearing in regards to the charges presented against my commanding officers concerning the infringement of fraternization rules aboard a starship. I wish that everything I say about this matter is kept in records, so that I can rest assured I’ve done my best to defend them.”
“About this, Lt. Sulu,” Admiral Archer pipes up, leaning forward and lacing his fingers. “You mentioned earlier that loyalty is required of you as a Starfleet officer, and of course I agree completely. However I would like to make the distinction between loyalty to Starfleet, and loyalty to your commanding officers. Starfleet should come first, Lt.”
Sulu frowns slightly.
“I understand that, Admiral Archer. But I ask you to understand my position. I’ve spent four years in space under the command of Captain Kirk and Commander Spock. In that time, several times my life has depended on them and as you can see, they have always come through for me.”
He hesitates, swallowing, searching for words. He knows eventually, if he doesn’t speak up to the contrary, Kirk will hack the mainframe and watch this audience, probably with Spock looming over his shoulder as he is prone to do.
Though he is at loathe to admit it, Spock hovers. He’s always hovered, but lately more than ever. Two months ago Kirk sustained injuries that left him at the edge of death, was unconscious for two weeks, confined to Sickbay for another two. When he first woke up, he didn’t remember who he was. It shot a hole right through Spock’s chest so big, even Sulu saw him tremble. Luckily Kirk had regained his memories within two days. But Sulu still remembers the way the Vulcan’s hands shook when he gently released Kirk’s, stepping away to give him space. He’d walked his Commander to his quarters and not mentioned anything about the way his shoulders shook, or the way his too-human eyes were fixed on the floor.
Sulu had debated whether he should allow his commanding officer his valued privacy, or simply go with his instincts to be there for a friend, to hold vigil with him in his pain.
Pasha and him had spent the night in Spock’s floor, curled up on the cushioned meditation mats, drowsy because of the scent of incense and the soothing roll of quite conversation between Uhura and Scotty while Spock sat cross legged at Sulu’s right. Sulu hadn’t slept, alert to Spock’s movements in case he was needed. He’d been watching the Vulcan through half-lidded eyes, thoughtful, when Spock finally opened his eyes and looked directly into his.
For the first time ever, that night in the floor, Spock had reached over and laid his hand gently, very gently, on the pilot’s shoulder, and left it there for a while. As if using the structure of muscle and bone beneath the skin and uniform to anchor himself in his meditation. Sulu had held vigil for him for a while yet, and only fallen asleep an hour before his shift. He’d woken up well into the afternoon when, in his dreaming, Pasha kicked his thigh.
He wants Kirk and Spock to be able to watch this audience and feel proud of him. Still, he reminds himself it is not them he is speaking to, but six Admirals intent of finding out if they have broken the rules and regulations.
“When you chose Captain Kirk to command your flagship,” he starts. “and decided to allow Commander Spock to be his First, clearly you thought that they deserved to be the faces of Starfleet. That’s what the flagship’s Captain is; that’s what he represents. You saw something there; call it potential, call it talent, give it whatever name you want. But there was something there.”
He smiles faintly, “On our ship we call it Kirk Effect. It’s kind of a centrifugal force. Captain Kirk has a kind of character that crosses the line from ‘charismatic’ and steps right into ‘gravitational pull’. I’m pretty sure that’s what you saw in him. That’s one of the things you first notice about him.”
“Charisma is not enough of an explanation to justify the fact that you value him more than Starfleet.”
“I wouldn’t put it in those terms,” Sulu replies carefully. “But I won’t lie to you. Yes, my loyalty comes to him first.”
“Again, Lt. Sulu, I have to point out that your priorities are skewed.”
“Admiral Komack, I don’t think you fully understand my position,” Sulu replies politely. “Starfleet is a vast military organization with outposts and starbases littered throughout the Universe. Though it has plenty of physical manifestations, well… the fact is Starfleet is more of an abstract in space, when you’re on a ship. Out there in the black, you focus on the little things. I understand what you mean about the difference between loyalty to the man and loyalty to the cause, but that’s an intellectual distinction that blurs over in a starship, in a voyage as long as the one we embarked on. I love Starfleet. I love the Federation. My work makes me happy.”
He takes a deep breath, tilts his head. “At the end of the shift every day, though, on the bridge sitting on that chair, bruised and bloody and worse for wear, always looking worse than everyone else… that was Kirk, not Starfleet. It was Kirk that sky-dived off a drill in the atmosphere of Vulcan to catch me and save my life. It was Kirk that jumped right in front of the path of a bullet twice. Threw me out of the way when a beast charged us. Climbed down a cliff to grab me and pull me up when I toppled over the edge. That was Captain James Kirk. I owe my life to him a dozen times over. I love Starfleet. But my loyalty rests with him. I’m not sorry for that.”
The Admirals continue to stare at him silently for a moment that stretches into an eternity, and Sulu wonders if this is the end of the road for him. If he’s just tossed down his career and stomped on it with all the strength of a determination built by belief, fueled by faith.
Then again, James Kirk has given him his life, almost dying more than once to ensure he survived. What’s a career, compared to that?
“Lt. Sulu, to get back on track,” Admiral Chase says, not unkindly, “About the relationship between your commanding officers. Now I want you to answer these questions directly, and I hope you understand lying will be harshly reprimanded. Is that understood, Lt. Sulu?”
This is where the tricky part begins. Sulu will have to navigate his way around the answers without lying but without telling the exact truth. Dodge and deflect will have to be the strategy.
“Understood, Admiral, ma’am.”
“Did you ever witness any kind of unprofessional behavior between Captain Kirk and Commander Spock?”
Sulu thinks of brief glances and random smiles, the stretch of lips as reply to a thought sailing through a telepathic bond. But what are looks, what are smiles, to someone who doesn’t know them as well as he? “They have never been anything but professional in front of me, ma’am.”
“Did they ever touch in such a manner that might strike you as romantic?”
Kirk was a tactile creature. He often brushed his fingertips over Spock’s hand, laid his hand lightly on his shoulder. Then again—his hand had been on Sulu’s shoulder often enough, as well. He was a tactile creature in general. “In my presence, he never indulged in any kind of contact that he couldn’t have indulged, and did, with me.”
“Did they ever refer to each other in a tone or with words that might imply a more-than-professional closeness to one another?”
Spock and Kirk are different with each other than they are with everyone else. The small nuances and mannerisms they share are private and small, details barely to be noticed. Internal jokes. “They’re close friends. They don’t always speak like mere professional acquaintances. But I’m also close to the Captain, and tones he uses with Spock, he uses with me.”
Not all of them. There are tones that are exclusively Spock’s. But that’s not what they asked, is it? And they request no clarification.
Dodge and deflect. Pay attention.
“What about outside your presence, Lt. Sulu?” Archer presses, catching onto Sulu’s careful maneuvering.
Sulu frowns, “Outside my presence? I wouldn’t know.”
“But surely you have heard. A ship like the Enterprise, so long in space, rumors must be aplenty.”
Sulu refrains from rolling his eyes, “Yes, sir. I have also heard rumors about me deriving sexual pleasure from my plants. I can assure you, I’m quite certain that one’s not true.”
Chase grins. Komack ducks his head to hide his smile.
“I’ve heard similar rumors about you and Pavel Chekov, I admit,” Admiral Cirona mused, thoughtful.
Sulu arches his brows, unimpressed. “Pavel and I are close friends. We spend a lot of time together, on and off duty. He’s teaching me Russian and I’m failing at teaching him Japanese. On shore leaves we normally go together, and we normally get smashed drunk at least once. He holds his liquor well, but he’s young and I’m overprotective, so when we go back to the ship I often let him crash in my quarters to make sure he goes through the night without trouble, or I crash in his. We’ve shared a bed. I’ve never touched him in anything but brotherhood.”
Chase nods her head, her eyes half-lidded.
“You misunderstand, Lt. Sulu,” Chase chides gently. “I’ve seen Kirk and Spock together. I have no doubt they are in a relationship. We called forth these audiences not to determine whether they are a couple, but rather to determine if being a couple affects their command abilities.”
Sulu is thrown off balance, momentarily panicked.
“Relax, Lt.,” Komack arches a brow. “Nobody expected anyone to follow the no-fraternization rule for five long years. That’s not our concern. We’re worried about the command of the ship.”
Sulu distrusts. They might be telling the truth, they might not. Maybe they’re just looking for a way to make him tread on a stick and make noise. He’s never heard about them not being concerned about Starfleet regulations before. They could be understanding. Or they could be setting him up to slip.
“I have no confirmation to say with any certainty that they are or not together,” he says firmly.He believes it’s about time they drew this audience to its end. McCoy, Chekov, Scotty and Giotto are waiting outside for their turns.
Uhura was, of course, the first in line.
“You haven’t seen anything that would ascertain it?” Archer insists.
“And what do you believe?”
Sulu’s impatience flares. “I believe my personal observations and speculations are indeed personal, biased, and subjective, and can’t be trusted to paint a reliable picture of the situation. Nevertheless, you called me here to have them, and I have given them to you.”
He breathes in, closing his eyes, opening them again more calmly.
“Permission to speak freely, Admirals?”
A pause. Then, Chase waves her hand in invitation, interested.
“Admirals, the bottom of this matter for me is as follows,” he looked at each of them in turn, his black eyes like black velvet-covered steel. “I have no confirmation of whether they are a couple of not. My opinion on that is my own, and as it’s my opinion I will not share it. What you called me here for, though, is to ask me if I believed the possibility of them being together might pose a threat to the efficiency of their joined command of the Enterprise.”
He stops, sets his jaw.
“It doesn’t. Captain Kirk and Commander Spock are an outstanding command combination. They balance each other out. They complement one another. They work as a unit and as a remarkable one, might I add. If that’s your doubt, then as far as I’m concerned, you can lay it to rest. Captain Kirk and Commander Spock are nothing short of professional, brilliant, and efficient.”
He stops again, frowning.
“That’s if you’re asking me if a hypothetical relationship would endanger the ship due to lack of professionalism in their interactions in front of the crew or in moments of stress.”
He stiffens, “Unless you’re asking me if that relationship would endanger us merely by its nature and the gender of those involved. In which case, this is a completely different conversation.”
There is a hard, cold glint to his previously soft black eyes that the Admirals don’t fail to notice. Sulu seems like such a malleable man, but there’s steel like the blade of a sword beneath the pliant skin.
This is the case, they have discovered, with most of the Enterprise crew. Kirk has created a new breed of officers altogether.
“No, Lt. Sulu,” Chase says softly, smiling. “That is not the case at all.”
There are two Admirals here that, to Sulu, look like they might disagree. Bigotry is apparently not one of the many undesirable traits that humanity has rid itself of in the last few centuries. Neither is racism.
There is another long moment of silence, and Sulu waits, standing straight and regal in front of the Admirals, like a rock in a stream. He will not be moved. He’s spoken his part, said his peace. He’s defended that which he feels he must defend.
“I believe that will be all, Lt. Sulu,” Admiral Komack says, thoughtful. “Thank you for your assistance in this matter. Of course, you understand what was discussed here is a confidential matter, and not to be discussed with anyone outside this room.”
He’s dismissed. He gives a formal salute, turns on his heels and heads to the door. For a brief moment, he goes over everything he’s said, desperate to believe he hasn’t made any mistakes that will hurt anyone.
He thinks he hasn’t.
For the first time since he was a kid, Hikaru Sulu feels proud.
Pavel Chekov is tall and thin, flat muscle stretched over graceful bones.
He is no longer a boy. Though slender and lanky, he has grown over six feet tall, and his shoulders are square, his spine straight, his bearing elegant. There is a white, short scar above his left eye that cuts his blond eyebrow in two. Somehow, it fits him.
Chekov sits. His right knee-cap, shattered by a phaser shot two weeks ago, is nowhere near ready to hold his weight and Leonard McCoy threatened to set on fire whoever made the man stand for more than ten minutes.
McCoy does not bluff. There is plenty evidence of this.
“I understand, Lt. Chekov, that you spend a great deal of time working alongside Commander Spock,” Archer begins.
“That is correct, Admiral, sir.”
Chekov no longer has his famously strong, thick Russian accent, but there is a definite lilt to his words, a melody that speaks of foreign countries.
“Would you care to define what your duties with him consist of?”
“Commander Spock often asks for my input in problems involving theoretical physics and abstract mathematics. We work well together, as I tend to make leaps of reasoning that he, in turn, can manage to apply or discard. A lot of my ramblings need to go through a filter of his calculations before we can actually use them.”
“As someone that has worked with him in close quarters for a long time, Lt., I assume you can say you know the Commander well?”
“I know him as well as I can know him,” Chekov replies.
There is a sharp glint to his sky-blue eyes that is entirely too Kirk, and speaks of some measure of disregard for authority that was not there when Archer last saw the Russian. There is also, much to everyone’s surprise, an elegant grace and subtle mannerisms that reveal that Pavel Chekov became a man under Commander Spock’s careful scrutiny and tutoring.
There’s also the way he learns to deflect questions, answering without really answering. This could come from either of his commanding officers, but most likely has been picked up from Nyota Uhura, whose talent for communication is equal only by her talent for miscommunication.
“Have you observed any kind of change in the Commander’s behavior ever since he became romantically involved with Captain Kirk?”
“I wouldn’t know when and if he became so involved,” Chekov says pleasantly, “But I have not noticed any kind of change in him, except in the earlier years as he became more at ease with his Terran crew, and later on as he became closer to us in friendship.”
“You maintain, then, as in your report, that you have not witnessed anything that would prove our suspicions?”
“Have I changed my mind regarding the truth?” Chekov arches a brow, “No.”
Chekov is stonewalling, fast and efficiently, and they can all see they’re going to get nothing out of him if they let him close off. It is painfully clear Kirk has schooled his command core to manipulate interrogations in a way previously only he could. They have all been diligent students.
Archer grunts, “Lt. Chekov, don’t make me bring you up for insubordination and insolence.”
Chekov relaxes against the chair, consciously schooling his features back into easy blankness. “My apologies,” he says.
The Admirals have already interviewed Uhura, Sulu, McCoy and Giotto. Though they have all been a challenge, Chekov proves to be particularly difficult. Whereas Sulu is Kirk’s man, and McCoy is a creature entirely of his own creation, Chekov is completely Spock.
“I was in Vladivostok a week ago,” Admiral Cirona says suddenly, in an attempt to make Chekov more at ease.
The Russian smiles widely and boyishly, “I haven’t been home in years. Las time I visited my little brother Anton was just beginning to speak coherently. Now he’s in college in Saint Petersburg.”
Cirona glances down at the file open in her hands. Anton Pavlov Chekov is twelve.
“Lt. Chekov, what if we were to tell you that we already have confirmation that they are a couple?” Komack tries, getting back on track because, quite frankly, Chekov’s super-intelligent bloodline scares everyone. Even scarier is the thought that the youngest Chekov has already announced intentions of joining Starfleet.
Chekov inclines his head, “If you have proof, and you find it conclusive, then you should believe it.”
Archer looks baffled, though really, at this point, he has suspended disbelief when dealing with the Enterprise. “Are you saying you don’t believe us?”
“I am saying I have no proof, and therefore can extract no conclusion.”
“We’re giving you the proof, Lt.”
“You are giving me the result of your observations, which I have not personally witnessed. I am a scientist, Admiral. I make my own experiments and draw my own conclusions.”
“Scientists are also required to believe the investigations conducted by others.”
“And if they find they disagree with the results, they are expected to conduct their own investigations to confirm those very results.”
“As a scientist, then, you’ve proven not to be observing much around yourself.”
“I observe enough,” Chekov replies, calm and composed even though he can obviously tell they are trying to goad him. “I simply do not judge.”
The Admirals stiffen.
“Watch yourself, Lt. Chekov.”
“My apologies,” Chekov says again, politely enough that they know he’s not apologizing at all.
Chase sighs, “Getting details out of you people is harder than pulling teeth out of a camel. It’s like you try to antagonize us.”
Chekov grins, “In Russia we say, Beshenoy sobake sem' vyorst ne kryuk. This means, if you are passionate about something, you will not notice the extra work.”
Komack arches a brow, “So you admit you’re stonewalling?”
Chekov shrugs, as if saying ‘you already know I am’.
Archer sits back and rubs his forehead with his fingertips tiredly.
“I think it’s incomprehensible how protective you all are of those two. They are grown men. They can face the consequences of their actions without the need to hide behind a boy.”
“I’m not a boy anymore,” Chekov’s eyes narrow, “And they are not hiding behind anything. Also, I feel protective of them, like we all do, because they are good men and they are, in turn, protective of me.”
Captain Kirk almost never took him on away missions, too caring to allow even the thought, but Commander Spock had reasoned that if they didn’t let him, he would never learn. Chekov remembers little of this mission he now thinks of, except it went, as they often did, disastrously wrong, and somewhere along the way he got shot and the wound infected.
He awoke in Sickbay, stretched out in a biobed hot and sweaty, uncomfortable in his skin. His vision had been blurry and unfocused, but someone had been hovering over him. Then, relief, as something cold and damp was pressed gently to his forehead.
You are well, Ensign, Spock’s voice murmured, and Chekov felt the long hot fingers carding gently through his damp curls, You are safe.
And that cut, Pasha, Kirk’s voice, filled with laughter and warm, That’ll make a badass scar. You’ll be cooler than me, now!
The water from the cloth Spock held to his forehead dripped into Chekov’s eyes, and Kirk reached forward and wiped it away, gentle like he was handling delicate glass. Get some sleep, Pasha, he said, cobalt-blue eyes smiling. We’ll all be here when you wake up, promise.
Chekov knows why Captain Kirk and Commander Spock complement each other so well. Where Kirk is vibrant and ablaze and full of life and energy, Spock is quiet and calm and gentle, patient. The Commander is the unmovable object against which Kirk’s unstoppable force continues to collide, and in their peculiar, unexplainable way they make it work.
When the disciplinary hearings first came up, Chekov had revealed this opinion to his Commander, as they sat in the gardens in the Academy basking in the sun, watching Kirk and Sulu wrestle sloppily on the grass. They had begun fighting for the last chocolate cookie, which, in their distraction, had been eaten by McCoy.
As always, Pavel, your observations are accurate. Jim is volatile, and I am grounded, and so we steady each other as a command team. The Vulcan’s eyes had turned to him then, the corner of his long lips curled slightly up in a smile only his closest friends could spot. Some day, when you leave the Enterprise, you will be for Hikaru what I am for Jim, professionally.
Chekov had said he had no interest in leaving the Enterprise and Spock had arched a brow in that way that the Captain insisted meant ‘I am listening to your silly human ramblings, but my superior Vulcan brain knows I’m right and you, little boy, are so very, very wrong, and time shall prove me right because I am fucking awesome that way’.
Captain Kirk liked to pin subtitles to pretty much all of Spock’s subtle facial expressions. This normally elicited Spock’s response of ‘I do not need translation, Jim. Desist.’ Which invariably wound up in them bantering back and forth, and everyone else laughing.
“Furthermore,” Chekov continued, dragging his mind back to the present. “I’m not sure what consequences you think they should be facing, for what actions precisely.”
“This is about their behavior and conduct while in the presence of others.” Komack says tiredly.
Chekov gives Admiral Archer what might pass as a bored look behind a mask of almost eerie imperturbability.
“Admirals, permission to speak freely?”
The following silence nearly vibrates with the power of six repressed groans. Every single Enterprise crewmember they have interviewed asked for this exact thing. Obviously Kirk likes having people give him their opinions, and his people like it right back.
“Go ahead,” she says, helpless.
“Have you met Commander Spock?” he asks, tilting his head. “Do you really think he would allow for any kind of improper or unbecoming behavior from any officer in any situation in which professional conduct is required? I’ll agree that Captain Kirk likes to push the rules, but do you really believe the Commander would play along with him, if he did in the way you like to imply he does?”
“Commander Spock obviously gives Kirk a great deal of leeway.”
“He knows how to pick his battles. He knows where he can give and where he has to rein him in. They know each other. The Captain knows the Commander would never be comfortable with public displays of affection in front of the crew. Admirals—please. Have you read Commander Spock’s reports? You think someone that writes reports like that would be inclined to randomly hug a friend in the middle of the bridge?”
The Russian has a point. Where Kirk’s reports are normal size, around two pages each, Spock often waxes formal over every detail for over a dozen. Were he human, they would think him very deeply anal retentive.
“I think I know the answer to this already, but is there any point in asking if you’ve observed anything pertaining this case when off-duty?”
“To clarify: you ask, have I seen my personal friends indulge in shows of affection when in my company, free of any obligation to Starfleet?”
Komack looks at the ceiling.
Chekov smiles, gentle and slow and dangerous, “Is there anything else I might be of assistance with, Admirals?”
If anyone ever asked themselves what the love child of a Vulcan and a madman would look like, now they know.
Leonard McCoy’s honey-like southern drawl spills across the room, charming and pleasant.
“Dr. McCoy, if you will, describe to me your relationship to Captain James Kirk.”
“In my own terms, or terms you’ll like?”
He can’t help but be contrary. He doesn’t like this audience, or the reason behind it, and he doesn’t like that they’re making him testify against his friends.
Chase looks amused, “Dr. McCoy, I find myself doubting there is a soul about the Enterprise that would describe anything in any terms but their own.”
“Jim Kirk’s my brother and my son.”
There is a long silence.
“How can someone have such a deep friendship with someone so different to them?” Chase wondered aloud.
“We’re not that different. When we met I was coming out of a very bad divorce and Jim’s floating around in an ocean of emotional issues deep as space. I needed a child to take care of and he needed a father. It’s so classic it’s almost cliché.”
“And what of Commander Spock?”
McCoy’s lips twitch. He could say Spock’s like a brother, too, but then that would be complicated and sappy. Not to mention incestuous.
“To say we started off with a bad foot is to put it mildly. But he grows on you.”
Like a fungus, he thinks ruefully.
“I understand as a close friend of both your Captain and Commander, you have been able to observe them interact off-duty. Do you have anything to say regarding those observations?”
Mildly, “That they were off-duty, and that means off-record and, if you’ll excuse me, none of your business.”
Leonard McCoy might have become a soldier, a small part in the intricate mechanism of a huge military operation. But he is, first and foremost, a doctor, and a friend.
“You Enterprise people are remarkably tight-lipped,” Archer says, rather frustrated.
“Something about loose lips and sinking ships. Sir.”
Cirona and Chase hide smiles. Komack looks exasperated but amused.
“Admirals, let’s be quick about this. I have several injured crewmen I want to check up on, and I have a date with my daughter in” he checks his watch, “Two hours.”
He spreads his hands, tilting his hair so his rich, dark hair sways slightly in a luscious way that is not at all ignored by the two female Admirals on the bench. McCoy’s hazel eyes are sharp with an intelligence that makes him almost dangerous. He’s a valuable, almost irreplaceable asset to Starfleet, a medical genius that remains unmatched.
“What is it you want from me, exactly? What are we discussing here?”
Admiral Komack leans forward, painfully aware that he has to be careful with McCoy in ways he didn’t need to be with Uhura and Sulu.
“We’re discussing whether the nature of a hypothetical relationship between Captain James Kirk and Commander Spock might or might not place the Enterprise and her crew in danger.”
“Permission to speak freely, sir?”
The Admirals indulge in a moment of amused annoyance. He’s the third Enterprise crew member they have interviewed. They’ve all asked for such permission. They are not entirely sure this is a good thing.
“We welcome it, Doctor.”
“Everyone always says that, and almost everyone regrets it. Fine. I’m a doctor. There are certain things I know you people are just not meant to know. It’s called doctor-patient confidentiality, and you can’t make me break it and I don’t want to, so you’re getting no cooperation for me in that front.”
Yes. McCoy knows very well that they need to tiptoe around him. The only reason he even managed to last in Starfleet all this time is Kim Kirk. Going after his best friend, his brother and his son, is a dangerous move.
I urge you to exercise calm and patience in this process, Leonard. It is not conductive to a thorough investigation if you attempt to thwart Command at every turn, and I do not wish to see you reprimanded.
If I’m thrown in prison, though, you’ll come get me, right?
Without a doubt, but that is not—
What do you want from me, anyway? I’m tryin’ to protect you pair of morons!
The truth is protection enough, Leonard, and it does not endanger your career. I wish you would listen to me in this as my expertise is greater than yours in matters of legal concerns. I do not know precisely what you have in mind, but I have reasons to believe it to be unwise. I advise you to tread carefully.
Spock, just give it up. Bones will be Bones, nothing you’ve ever said has made any difference.
Jim, are you saying if I get kicked out of Starfleet—
Bones, I’m not going anywhere without you, let alone space. If I have to stow you in, I’m doing it. I don’t know, Spock, are you gonna throw me in the brig if I sneak Bones in?
A pause, That would imply my relinquishing the possibility to press an advantage upon you at a later date.
Blackmail, Spock? A startled laugh, A man after my own heart!
“What I’m saying is everything I might or might not have observed during the stay of either or both of my commanding officers on my Sickbay—and they’ve been there a lot, trust me—is something you’re never gonna hear from me. You also need my authorization to roll up the videos of the Sickbay, an authorization I’m not giving.”
Arches looks like he wants to huff, but he refrains. “This is dangerously close to insubordination and lack of cooperation, Dr. McCoy.”
“You’re welcome to tell Jim to lock me in the brig as soon as we’re in space, for however long you have to. Mind you, I won’t be there a day. My two on-board doctors and three of my nurses are still on stretchers. I have to recruit at least two other doctors and six more nurses, not to mention run scans of my equipment, check inventory, make sure—“
“Dr. McCoy, you have yeomen who will do that for you.”
“It’s my Sickbay. My problem.”
McCoy is a hands-on doctor. Everyone knows that. His ability to decipher symptoms without tricorders and his unbelievably creative and efficient solutions are nothing short of awe-inspiring. His Sickbay is a clean, controlled environment where nothing is ever left to luck that can be taken care of. When it comes to his territory and his patients, he is very much a control freak.
“You’re aware we can overrule your authority and get the videos anyway.”
“You’re aware I can make a suit for that on grounds of your breaking confidentiality agreements, not to mention I might infer from your actions that you don’t place a lot of trust in me and what happens in my Sickbay. I might get offended. I’m a sensitive Southern gentleman.”
A long moment of quietness.
“To get back on track,” McCoy continues, honey-like voice covering the razor-sharp blade of contempt.
“Whatever happens in my Sickbay stays there. As to personal observations I might have incurred in whilst off-duty and in the company of friends, well. No one’s told you what I’ve been up to on my own time, so I don’t see why I should be running my mouth about anyone else’s.”
He shrugs. There is a definitely aggressive edge to his attitude, a rather violent discontent to the situation his friends finds themselves on, and he spares no effort to conceal it. He’s a man confident in his value and his convictions. He speaks truly and he speaks frankly, and damned the consequences.
“What we’re down, to then, is what I’ve seen of my commanding officers whilst on duty, outside my Sickbay. I don’t see much of them. I’m hardly ever out of anything to do in Sickbay, as you can probably imagine. Busy ship.”
He looks briefly up to the tall windows at the side of the room, where the sunlight streams in and breaks across the furniture like molten gold. He thinks of Joanna and the park, and feels warm inside. His sweet girl’s heavy Georgian drawl reminds him of his father.
He remembers a long-ago conversation in the light of the afternoon sun, dying orange against the wide windows of the McCoy country house. His father’s pipe tobacco hung in the air, richly scented and spicy. His eyes, Leonard’s eyes surrounded by laugh wrinkles, looked up from his newspaper when his son came closer for an inquiry, a question about a word he had overheard.
Faggot’s an awful word I ain’t ever want to hear comin’ from your mouth, Len McCoy. It’s a bad term bad gents and ladies use to hurt people who fall in love with people of the same sex. Like your Aunt Maggie.
In the honey-like, sweltering heat of that Georgian summer, his father had put an abrupt end to a long-respected family tradition: homophobia. Timothy McCoy had done his best to raise his sons and daughters as best he could manage in his circumstances, lacking the gentleness of a mother to help shape their ideas. To instill in them tolerance and patience, kindness to others and infinite compassion had been his way of honoring his dead wife’s memory.
“I’ve seen enough, though,” he says, back in the present in a sunlit room standing in front of six Admirals while in his best dress uniform, tall and broad-shouldered and confident. He turns his hazel eyes back to them, fixing them on Komack.
“I believe, Dr. McCoy, that there is a phrase of Southern precedence for what you are doing right now,” Chase says, sighing.
McCoy grins a rare, wide grin that makes him almost boyish, “That I’m going ‘round my elbow to get to my thumb, I think you mean. And ain’t it true, lady. But I’m arriving at my point, now. Us Georgia people have a rhythm to stuff, if you know my meaning.”
She does. Chase is from Kentucky. He knows, and he’s making good use of this knowledge and her natural liking of him.
Chase realizes the crew of the Enterprise is not at all above manipulating, if it means protecting Kirk and Spock.
“Well, I’ve seen enough to know that Kirk and Spock are the best command team you have had to date. The Enterprise has the highest efficiency and success rates of the entire Fleet. It’s the best flagship the Fleet’s ever had, with the best crew you can come up with, and with a total amount of knowledge and experience you can hardly shrug at. Now I’m not going to go into detail about how professional those two are, ‘cause you’ve heard it, and you’re gonna hear it again, before this is all over. What I’m gonna tell you is this: nobody cares.”
He shrugs again, half a smile stretching his lips.
“Seriously. Nobody cares. In love or not in love, Spock and Kirk are invaluable as a unit, and they’re the most efficient command pair you can think of. I don’t know what makes ‘em tick, and if I did I wouldn’t be about to tell you fine gents and ladies, but let me tell you this. They work together like summer and sweet tea. Who gives a damn if they’re together or not? Don’t you think you might be looking at a gift horse in the brilliant, teeth-full mouth?”
He spreads his hands again, looking firmly at them in turn.
“You also need to understand you kick this hornet’s nest, you’re gonna be facing a lot of fangs. The Enterprise loves her Captain and Commander. She ain’t about to let them go down in a blaze. You have your brightest and youngest unsettled and restless in the absence of their beloved leaders. Gotta be mindful of your word choice.”
There is an underlying threat there that he doesn’t bother to try to hide. McCoy is older than the average age of the crew of the Enterprise by about eight years, having enrolled in Starfleet at the age of thirty-two, already a brilliant physician. He has a standing in the Fleet that few can boast of, and he knows he needs not fear retaliation for his words or tone. If anything, they will give the order to lock him up for a couple months, and then Spock will trot along and present several compelling, logical arguments for his release, and he’ll be out and about in no time flat.
“So I guess in the end, it all comes down to this: whether you’re willing to pursue this subject to its last consequences and see whose side your brightest and finest will pick… of you stop trying to stick a thorn in your own eye.”
The following silence stretches so long McCoy thinks he just might be late to coffee with Joanna. Minutes tick by. Not a word is spoken.
“I believe, Doctor, that it is pertinent to remind you that though you were initially a civilian physician, you have signed a contract that bonds you to the laws and regulations of a military entity. You must watch yourself.”
McCoy smiled ruefully, and dives his hand in his pocket to pull out a small data that he shows them briefly.
“This,” he says calmly, “Is a formal complaint by the crew of the Enterprise, issued to me as Chief Medical Officer, concerning the procedures of these disciplinary hearings. It has lots of technical terms and psychological research, and a few very pretty statistic numbers and calculations with bright colors and pop-ups, so I’m not gonna ruin it for you and all. But suffice it to say it’s been brought to my medical attention that your ongoing investigation has made some damage upon crew morale that… concerns me.”
The Admirals stiffen.
“And this… complaint, has been signed by how many crewmembers? You are aware over half of the crew must be in agreement for the complaint to stand.”
“Of a crew of four hundred and seventy-three, and that’s counting the yeomen, four hundred and seventy-one have signed. The other two aren’t aware this is in my power, and if have a saying on it they’ll never get wind of it.”
“The complaint was first brought to my attention two days ago, by Ensign Arthur LaFlair. Ensign LaFlair seemingly studies Federation law in his free time, something I believe goes to show hobbies are as diverse as you can think ‘em. Anyway as per protocol dictates, I made an announcement and called all and any worried crewmembers to my quarters in the Academy to sign or dispute the complaint. Well, the next couple of days were rather interesting. Ever tried to entertain four hundred or so people in a one-room apartment? No? Don’t. There ain’t enough sweet tea in the ‘verse.”
“Additionally,” McCoy continues, and a chuckle escapes him, “I had to go through a lot of goddamn trouble keeping it away from that sneaky Commander of ours. It’s like he smells secrets in the air, I swear.”
Komack sighs, “Just because it’s a point of interest,” he says, “I’d like to point out that whilst most of the previous crewmembers also offered threats, those were veiled and subtle. You’re going full-out, here. Threat’s right on the table with you.”
“I’m a busy man, lost of idiots to patch up and stuff, don’t have lots of time to waste. Besides, you’re messing with my brother and my friend. How did you think this would go? If you want someone to attack, I’m right here, being the worst military man you can probably think of. Come at me, see what it gets you.”
Chase considers this. The core Command crew of the Enterprise is willing to go to great lengths to protect their commanding officers, that much is clear; however, Kirk and Spock themselves have been curiously silent on the matter at hand, choosing to remain calm and patient. Chase knows well how little this audiences would last if Kirk decided to call everyone’s attention to this matter, as the Enterprise and her crew are currently the Federation’s favorite, most cherished toy. Kirk has not played all his cards, at least not yet, and Chase believes this reluctance stems from Spock’s cautious, calculating nature.
Nothing, however, would stop either Kirk or Spock if Command were to attempt to go after one of their subordinates, and especially not McCoy, who is closer to them than beings that share DNA with them. Kirk’s self-preservation instinct may be sorely lacking, but he is fiercely, desperately protective of his people.
“Just so we’re all on the same page, if I present this complaint to the Federation Chamber of Justice, people’ll start hissing fits. Starfleet Command still responds to the Federation, and the Federation has to bend to the will of its citizens. And I happen to know for a fact that eighty-nine point sixty-three percent of the Federation citizens in its many worlds hold Kirk and Spock in very high esteem indeed. Yeah, I’m sly enough to fool Spock into researching stuff without telling him what the hell for, we’re all very shocked. Anyway, this complaint here could accidentally fall into the wrong hands, and then well. You don’t want this kind of attention, do you? I can see the headlines: First hypothetical gay couple in Starfleet harassed by bigotry and facing glass ceilings. Sound god-awful.”
“I am very shocked indeed,” Chase says, livid.
“You’re probably the only ones in the whole world who didn’t imagine the lengths we’d go to help these two. Have you any idea how many times I’ve had their blood splattered across my hands? I’ve had to manually re-start Spock’s heart five times, and Jim severed his spinal cord once and I spent twenty hours in surgery fixing it so he could go run along and get shot again like he loves to. I’m invested here, is what I’m saying.”
“I am sure your current re-acquaintance with your ex-wife has significantly helped.”
McCoy laughs warmly, “Joss is an amazing attorney, yeah. You wouldn’t know the kind of ideas her dozen in-buffet lawyers can come up with.”
He shrugs, and places the data chip very pointedly back in his pocket, but carelessly enough they understand that is not the only copy of the complaint.
“Now that we’re over that bump, I’d like to discuss some additions and improvement to the Sickbay design aboard the Enterprise, and I still have,” he checks his watch, “An hour and a half before I meet Joanna. Let’s start with medical tricorders, and why they should have built-in communicators whose signals don’t jam when you sneeze.”
Leonard McCoy’s newly acquired self-confidence is a mixed blessing.
Montgomery Scott has a fresh, snow-white bandage wrapped around his left hand.
Doctor McCoy has planned an aggressive, rather ruthless recovery plan to regenerate the damaged nerves and tendons that will begin this afternoon, and Scotty is much more concerned over the upcoming torture than the present one.
“I don’t know anything,” he starts without hesitation, his Scottish accents as heavy as ever. “I’m not very observant at all, yeah? I know my machines, but people’s a little over my head, ye see.”
“But Captain Kirk spends quite a lot of time down in Engineering with you.”
“Oh, aye. Kirk likes to help down there, he gets along fine with the machines himself. His second track after Command was Engineering, after all. And it’s a blessing, when he comes around, he’s a smart lad and he’s nay afraid of getting dirty.”
“Then surely you saw him interact with Commander Spock.”
“Oh, but ye see, Commander Spock is almost never in Engineering, unless we expressly ask for his help. He’s a scientist, eh, not a mechanic. And he loathes getting filthy, he does. He’ll do it in a pinch if he has to, but he ain’t goin’ to volunteer for it.”
“As third in the chain of command, however, you have had the chance to see them work together.”
Scott shrugs, “I’m third in the chain, but when they leave usually it’s Sulu that’s got the conn, or Uhura, or wee Chekov. I don’t leave my land much, is the truth. A ship the size of our silver lady, she needs quite the attention.”
The Enterprise demands a lot of Engineering attention indeed, and it is true that Kirk’s second love is engineering. The sight of the Captain covered in oil doing this or that amongst the humming mechanical parts of the engines, nacelles and warp cores was not unfamiliar. Scotty is slightly bending the truth when he said Spock is rarely down there, though, since the Vulcan often came to drag Kirk off to eat, sleep, go to Sickbay, go back to the bridge, just stop working already.
What? I’ve been here fifteen minutes!
Jim, it’s six hours past the end of your shift. You should be sleeping.
I’m not on duty, so I can do what I want, right? I wanna fix this so I we have it out of the way already.
This does not require your immediate attention, Jim. Anyone can fix this. Even I, were I willing, could take care of it. I am not, however, because it is not my duty, and unlike a certain individual I am thinking of, I know where my duties and obligations end and concern for my own health must begin. As you seem to lack this ability for distinction, I will assume the responsibility in your sake. You will retire to bed, or else I will nerve-pinch you and take you to bed.
Why, that sounds rather kinky, Commander.
Thank you for the invaluable input, Mr. Scott. I assure you an irritated Vulcan is not conductive to sexual gratification of any kind, unless deprivation of it is in any way pleasurable.
Are you telling me if I don’t go to bed now, you’ll, what, you’ll withhold sex from me?
I am saying no such thing, Jim. I am merely pointing out that going to some extent to keep me on your good side might be beneficial to you.
Kirk had turned to Scotty, eyes wide and lips parted.
Can you believe this conversation?
Well Jim, he does make a compelling argument, he does. You go on to bed then, there’s a good lad, and I’ll finish this up, yeah? Good night, Commander.
Spock had given him a tolerant look, Mr. Scott, your own shift ended almost nine hours ago. Retire immediately, or I will be forced to wake Nyota and have her come looking for you. I can assure you, whatever I am prone to do to my irritating mate, it will pale in comparison to Nyota’s creative punishments.
Scotty’s face broke in a grin, “A stellar man, that Vulcan. I think a lot of the time he feels like he’s the teacher in the kindergarten.”
Archer chuckled, “I understand he recently prevented you from being charged of murder, Lt. Commander Scott?”
Scotty remembers being in prison, sitting in the corner of a cell, hands shaking and mind fractured. He remembers Spock towering over him, a dark silhouette against the light.
I didn’t do it, Scotty said, knowing it was pointless, useless because whoever had framed him had done so well, and the only man who could have fought claws and teeth over him was lying in Sickbay, electric-blue eyes closed under doses of sedatives.
Spock crouched down, elegant and graceful as a feline, hands hanging loosely between his legs. I know you did not, Mr. Scott, he said softly, brown eyes gentle. I have never doubted you.
But the evidence…
I have circumstantial evidence that would imply you are the culprit. I, on the other hand, have countless instances of data that spans over years of observation, that enable me to believe I know you well enough to doubt the evidence. You do not want Jim to come to any harm, Mr. Scott; you never have.
Scotty pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes, pushing back the tears of relief. If Spock believed him, then he had a chance—the Vulcan was impossible to get off a bone once he had it between his teeth.
What are you doing to do, then?
I requested you to be transferred onboard the Enterprise, and was denied. I requested you to be released unto my custody, and was also denied. I then requested to be allowed to post Enterprise guards to accompany you and secure your safety, and was, again, denied. In light of the circumstances, however, I am not comfortable leaving you in solitude.
Sound like you’re slamming against walls there, lad.
Indeed. In the end, of course, I found a satisfactory solution. I have argued that as you are my subordinate, it is my responsibility to keep you in good behavior and it was my failure that allowed for this unfortunate situation to develop. Therefore, by assuming some of the guilt placed on your shoulders, I have been allowed to join you in your imprisonment, and will remain in the cell until it is satisfactorily resolved.
Scott stared at the Vulcan in horror. You said it’s your fault, man? Are you mad? What if I can’t get out of this one? The Enterprise needs you!
The Enterprise needs a great deal of things, not the least of which is as brilliant an engineer as you. You are innocent, Mr. Scott, and I will not let you pay for someone else’s actions. I will clear you.
The Vulcan shifted, settling on the floor next to the Scotsman, leaning his elbows on his knees and lacing his long, clever fingers.
And if I cannot, then at the very least, in the end, you will not be alone.
“There’s a good, kind-hearted man hiding under all those layers of repression and calm,” Scotty says at length. “A man that cares about justice and what’s fair. He has a lot more faith in us humans than we have ourselves, sometimes.”
And the patience of a predator waiting to tear into his prey, Scotty adds in his mind. He knows Kirk is planning literally nothing to get himself out of this mess, since he believes it’ll work itself out in the end. But Commander Spock had never been known to rely on chance and luck, especially not when it comes to Kirk.
Spock is simultaneously the son of a diplomat, the member of an endangered species, the high-praised member of a high-profile starship, one of the heroes of the Narada massacre, a terrifyingly intelligent individual with an unflinching resolve to protect his people that can be rivaled only by Kirk’s own.
That is altogether a staggering sum of influence that he is not reluctant to use when he deems it necessary.
They are men of different breeds, Kirk and Spock. Whereas Kirk is like a mountain lion, leaping to the kill the moment he has his prey on sight and secured, Spock is more like water snake, slinking beneath the surface and striking when least expected, an invisible threat, lethal in his single-mindedness.
Scotty smiles, “May I speak freely?”
The air vibrates with the flinches the Admirals ruthlessly suppress.
“Go ahead,” Arches says helplessly, “But mind your words, Lt. Commander.”
“Aye, sir. As I said before, most of the time I don’t know what’s going on in the bridge. I get my orders, I do my duty, I get us out of trouble in a pinch, and then I get the full report from the Captain or from one of the officers. Mostly I swim in the dark, yeah?”
He shrugs, “I attend the pre-mission briefings and the post-mission debriefings, and in the meantime unless I’m required I stay in engineering where I can deal with whatever emergency needs to be dealt with at the moment. So on duty, I don’t see my commanding officers interact much at all.”
He makes to cross his arms, and then flinched when his injured hand spasms painfully. He sets his jaw, stills his hand and breathes deeply.
“Off duty,” he continues a little more breathlessly. “people do a lot of things you probably don’t want to know about, and that aren’t strictly forbidden by Starfleet rules.”
Scotty knew pretty well what was expressly forbidden, because throughout the years Spock had provided him with a detailed list. It went on for six pages.
Were you to find yourself for some reason inclined to do something included in this list, the Vulcan had said, I would urge you to make sure I am not aware of it. There is something known as plausible deniability, Mr. Scott, something I believe you would derive a great benefit in investigating.
But you’re aware of everything, you are. You smell secrets like sharks smell blood in the water.
An interesting, if rather hyperbolical, turn of phrase. If I do not have hard evidence to back my speculation, I have not authority to do anything about it.
Ye’re a good man, Mr. Spcok, a jolly good man with a big, big heart.
The Vulcan arched a brow, I assure you the size of my heart is within normal parameters. Nevertheless, I am gratified to meet your approval, Mr. Scott.
Scotty shrugs again, “I’m sure a lot of people have been giving you fine lads and lasses a lot of disguised and undisguised threats, some of which might have been scarier than others, so I’m not going to overlap. Commander Spock did make me promise him I’d be in fine behavior, for some reason the lad thought I was going to cause trouble, but I’m not going to, not really. I can’t make any threats ye see, because I promised Captain Kirk that if he lost the Enterprise, I’d make sure his silver lady stays whole and unharmed. I don’t have any material to offer as leverage against ye. But I don’t have any insightful information, either.”
“Since we are all speaking freely,” Archer said tiredly. “I’d like to know exactly how much Kirk and Spock know of the way you and your peers have conducted yourselves in these audiences.”
“Nothing, sir,” Scotty answers promptly. “Captain Kirk has been keeping himself deliberately away from the process so as to not influence anyone, and Commander Spock’s following his lead. Although like I said, the Vulcan can scent trouble in the air, and he’s been hounding us attempting to make sure no one gets themselves in trouble. I don’t think anyone’s listened to him.”
“I can assure you no one has.”
Scott smiled, “Aye, I thought as much. Ye haven’t been speaking to anyone that might give an inch when it comes to those two.”
“We have had all manners of reactions, though I have to say the most shocking one was Lt. Uhura. And possibly the discovery that Lt. Chekov is most certainly no longer a child.”
“Oh, that he’s not, no. I don’t think there’s any children left in the Enterprise, frankly. And Uhura, aye. She was very angry. She’s been very angry for a while now. Ever since the Kodos incident, I’d say.”
His tone is still easy-going and his smile is still there, but there is something lurking behind his eyes, hanging in the way his brows pull slightly together. They think they know what it is, as it is the same that has been lurking quiet and dangerous behind the eyes of every Enterprise crewmember they have interviewed.
It’s a deep, black anger directed to anything and everything that threatens their commanding officers.
The simple mention of Kodos that Scott has just dropped on them is a reminder that while he is not an angry man, and can hardly harbor as deep a wrath as Uhura, he has most certainly not forgotten.
He could not have, because it was Scott that first found Kirk, clinically dead in his quarters, and made a desperate attempt at CPR that had broken a rib and bruised the Captain’s chest, but ultimately saved his life.
“If I may ask, Lt. Command Scott,” Komack says curiously. “What precisely is it that has braided the Enterprise crew so tightly together? I have never seen such devotion in a crew.”
Scott smiles, “Ye ever heard of St. Crispin’s Day Speech, by William Shakespeare?”
When the Admirals confess they have not, Scott’s eyes soften so much it is nearly painful, and his smile is soft and loving. It is clear he is thinking of something that does not include the Admirals, and is looking inwards into his memories.
His voice, thick with his Scottish accent, rolls softly through the room.
“From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.”
Scotty remembers idly checking on the Jeffrey’s tubes one afternoon, his shift curiously quiet, and coming surprisingly upon his Captain sitting there alone. The Scotsman had stared at him, stunned, nothing the way the younger man was seemingly curled into himself, shy like a scared bairn. He’d crawled across until he could sit next to his Captain, and tipped his head back.
Anything I can do? He’d asked.
Kirk shook his head, swallowing with an audible click, and pressed the heel of his hand to his forehead. I’ll be fine in a minute, I just… need some quiet.
Scotty made a noncommittal sound, blinking up at the curved surface.
They’re planning a party, the yeomen, ye know.
You know, Jim, Scotty said, slipping his arm around the man’s shoulders and brining him closer to his side, ignoring the way he stiffened, or how he moved his face away. That’s too bad you don’t want to hear what I have te say, but I’m going’ to say it anyway, because I want you to know. I’m very, very happy you were born, and I’m even happier I got to meet you, and I really care about ye. It’s my privilege to be able to share this life with ye, and I’m bloody proud of you, and of serving with you. I don’t care about your da, or your mum, or anything else. I care about you, and this might be a bitter day for you… but for me, ye see, it’s the day a good friend and a brilliant man was born, and I’m not bitter at all.
Jim hadn’t said anything, except simply swallowing again. But when Scotty insisted, Jim had allowed him to bring his head to the Scotsman’s shoulder, and pat his cheek tenderly.
“You don’t understand,” he said kindly, looking at Komack. “We’re not a crew, not anymore. We’re a family.”
Nyota Uhura’s hair is loose, falling in a cascade of molten chocolate across her shoulders and chest.
For an expert in communication and xenolinguistics, Uhura is remarkably clipped in her answers.
“Commander Spock and I terminated our relationship within the first six months of the deep space mission.”
“May I inquire as to the reason for this separation?”
“You may not.”
Archer gives her a stunned look.
“Lieutenant, watch yourself.”
“Admiral, my previous relationship with Commander Spock is not currently on discussion. Our reasons for terminating it were our own.”
Chase tilts her head, willing to let the subject drop for the moment. “Lieutenant Uhura, as a communications expert, what could you tell us regarding Captain Kirk’s overall behavior?”
Uhura’s head tips only an inch, so that her long glossy hair sways.
“It’s difficult to take on such an endeavor without more specific parameters. Kirk is a complex, multifaceted man. What exactly would you like me to expand over, Admiral?”
“How would you describe his take on missions when he first took his captaincy, as opposed to now, Lt.?”
Uhura considers this for a moment, looking down to the floor so that her heavy lashes fall over her eyes.
“When Captain Kirk first took on his captaincy, he was willing to take on risks few other men would have dared. He was careless of his own personal safety, often reckless, and an individualistic, self-sufficient man. He insisted on being the lead of all away missions, and on having an active part on the comings and goings aboard the ship and off it.”
“He didn’t trust his fellow officers?”
Uhura’s eyes flick away, then return. “There are different kinds of trust. When it came to them being able to adequately perform their duties, yes, Kirk trusted them fully. But he often said he wouldn’t send someone to do something he could do himself, and he would not ask anyone to do something he would not do himself. He’s a hands-on kind of man. Hyperactive, hyper-vigilant, overprotective, dominant.”
“That has since changed.”
“What precipitated the change?”
“A multitude of things. He’s learned a great deal along the way and what he’s learned has changed him. As it did all of us. Also, eventually Commander Spock convinced the Captain that his lead was not necessary on every away mission.”
An interesting thing that had resulted from that argument, one of the two times Uhura had ever heard Spock raise his voice in anger, had been that Kirk sometimes allowed Spock to beam down alone, whereas Kirk never left the Enterprise without either Spock’s or Sulu’s company. This constituted, as far as Scotty and Uhura were concerned, as Spock’s win. That took the count to Spock: 212 – Jim: 189.
“You made a distinction between kinds of trust,” Cirona said, frowning. “What precisely did you mean?”
Uhura looks away to the windows for a long time, seemingly gathering her thoughts. When she finally speaks, her voice is even, calm, and cold as frost.
“There are two ways I can answer that question. One, I can do it from an objective point of view from a communications expert, expanding over the concepts of personal and professional trust. Two, I can stop pretending we don’t all know Jim Kirk is the last survivor of Tarsus IV, and that I don’t have firsthand knowledge of the kind of damage that experience left on his psychological profile.”
It seems, Nyota… it seems to me, in a rather illogical, unfathomable way, that life itself has been greatly unkind to Jim. I feel an anger that I cannot explain, and I do not know who to direct towards. I have no face for this enemy I hate, that I have only just discovered. I do not mean Kodos, though I feel an unmistakable loathing for him. It is—something else. A sense of restlessness, as though I have witnessed proof that a great injustice has been committed, and I can do nothing to right the wrong that has been done upon the victim.
You feel like the Universe turned its back on Jim. That’s what this is. A pause. I felt like this, you know? When we lost Vulcan.
“There was a reason we removed that information from his file,” Chase says gently. “We didn’t do it to hurt him, or to protect anything but him and his anonymity.”
“Had that information been on his file for his CMO to access, what happened a year and a half ago could have been prevented. Not only was valuable information denied to pertinent individuals who should have had it, but the gross negligence indulged by Starfleet Security that allowed for Kodos to escape his prison endangered an innocent man and nearly cost him his life. Protocols demand that when an inmate escapes custody, all and any persons of interest in the case that resulted in the inmate’s imprisonment be immediately alerted, but since Kirk’s identity had been protected, we never even knew Kodos was after him until Captain Kirk was in Sickbay and Doctor McCoy was struggling to keep him alive.”
Uhura tilts her head, eyes narrowed.
“But I guess Starfleet Command has better things to deal with rather than something as petty as the escape of a deranged mass-murderer with a personal vendetta against a high-profile Starfleet Captain from a high-security prison colony. Such as this hearing we are present in right now.”
The Admirals are stunned into silence. Komack goes from blank shock to thunderously angry in half a second, and he opens his mouth, but Uhura straightens even further, and speaks right over him.
“Professionally, Kirk trusts everyone in the Enterprise because he’s read each and every one of our files. He knows the names of every man and woman aboard that ship, and he’s made sure we are all competent enough to be trusted with our responsibilities. Personally, he trusts very little people in the world, and that trust took a lot of time building. I am proud to say I am one of such individuals. I am not afraid to say the way Starfleet Command has occasionally handled the situations involving Kirk has been poor at best, offending at worst.”
“Lieutenant Uhura, you will watch yourself, or you will be reprimanded and suspended.”
Uhura looks at Admiral Archer stonily, not even flinching at the threat. She knows the Enterprise will never leave dock without her, and she knows what Kirk is capable of doing to protect his people.
“One more thing that I find offending,” she continues, “Is the fact that I was called first into these audiences when protocol demands the CMO be the first to be consulted in matters of personal interaction between commanding officers. It could be argued that this was because I am an expert in all kinds of communications, but I doubt this to be the case. I believe the reason I was called first is that I had a previous relationship with Commander Spock.”
There is something else seething under the calm exterior of Uhura’s open dislike, and the Admirals shift in their sits. Beneath the eloquent words and frosty tone, a word lurks: sexism. It would not be a far stretch from the point she is now in for Uhura to question that Starfleet believes her to be interesting only because, as a woman, she dated a man, that they are now interested in.
Uhura is a Kenyan goddess, a woman of staggering intelligence and admirable character, with a fierce independence that allows her to define herself as she sees fit. She sticks to no parameter anyone has ever defined for her, choosing instead to make her own parameters and live up to her own expectations.
That’s why I think you guys are so close, you know? You guys get each other. He’s not a Vulcan, of a human, or a half-vulcan-half-human hybrid, he’s not a scientist or an officer, watever… he’s… he’s a Spock. Y’know? And you’re an Uhura. And… you’re a race unto yourselves. Sometimes it’s cool, and sometimes it’s harsh. I get it. But you have each other, at least.
And you’re a Kirk, she’d replied, amused, and I think you’re in love with Spock because if there were more Kirks or more Spocks, your races would be natural enemies. On the other hand, now that I think about it, I don’t think the galaxy can handle more than one Kirk, so scratch that.
If you think about it, Kirk had said with a strange tone of voice, the galaxy already couldn’t handle more than one Kirk.
That memory still chills her to the core. Uneasy and upset, the first thing she’d done after leaving the rec room that night had been finding McCoy, and getting Chekov out of bed, and hunting Sulu down from the gym, and prying Scotty from his beloved nacelles, and dragging Spock out of meditation. The next morning the replacements for all of them but the Vulcan had had to be called, because the core command of the Enterprise had spent the night in an impromptu demonstration of how glad they were there as at least one Kirk in the galaxy, and it was this one and not the parent.
Uhura, who had never seen Kirk sleep before, had spent a long time looking at him then, curled on his side on the bed like a child, back to the wall, breathing deep and even. In an impulsive, affectionate urge, she’d reached over and smoothed his crazy hair down. The reaction had been explosive, immediate, and deeply disturbing.
Hyper-vigilant sleeper, Sulu had said quietly that afternoon as they were alone in the turbolift. Hyper alert, overprotective, prone to violence. He forgets to eat more times than he remembers. Spock’s reminding him all the damn time, Nyota. He used to be sexually promiscuous. He ran away from home at sixteen. He has issues letting people get emotionally close. You know what this all sounds like to me, Nyota? Abuse. I think Jim was an abused child. And I know what you’re thinking—but no. There was a reason he went to Tarsus in the first place, Nyota. I think he was trying to get away from something at home. You know what I feel like? I feel like murdering a lot of people right now.
Hikaru had been all gentleness and smiles when he’d showed up at the bridge the next day, though, none of that repressed violence showing through. And if the Enterprise had lost gym equipment sometime in the night, it having been savagely attacked by something with sharp edge and a lot of feeling, Spock had never pointed it out to Kirk.
“Permission to speak freely?”
“This wasn’t speaking freely!?” Komack sputters.
Uhura flicks her eyes at him, “That was me being honest and forthcoming about my personal views regarding the situation we are now in. I thought what you wanted was to hear my observations regarding the conduct of my commanding officers. I haven’t been over that yet.”
The undisguised hostility is taking everyone by surprise, as is the cold burning of well-controlled fury in Uhura’s eyes. The Admirals expected reluctance in the cooperation with the process; they did not expect a direct, unapologetic attack to themselves and Starfleet Command. Uhura, who has never been anything but composed and polite, is suddenly an incontrollable, untamed mass of incensed contempt.
They wonder, not for the first time, if they were completely insane in allowing Kirk to take on the Enterprise. He’s taken this fine, calm, exemplary officer and turned her into a person that knows her most dangerous weapon is not a phaser, but her mind. And she is not afraid to use it.
Uhura looks restlessly for something that will help her calm down, taking deep breaths, and she finds a memory that will serve.
“You ask me to be an officer of Starfleet and behave like one, and I will. I have nothing whatsoever to say that would compromise Captain Kirk or Commander Spock’s positions. They have been unfailingly loyal and kind to one another and to everyone in the Enterprise, and they have never engaged in reprehensible behavior.”
“As a person, though, and as a woman, I will say that I am very, very angry and Starfleet Command. I resent several things, and all of them center around the treatment Kirk has received from you. You never trusted him, not really. I don’t know why you gave him the Enterprise, and I’m glad you did, but since then you have showed nothing but—“
“—contempt and distrust and condescension!” Uhura’s clear voice thunders. “You’ve treated him like a child all along! He’s proved himself hundreds of times, but it’s never enough for you. As a person, as a human, my answer to your accusations against Kirk and Spock are insulting and deeply offensive.”
“His father died in space the day he was born, his mother was never there for him, his step-father used to beat him bloody, he went to Tarsus, he saved the Earth—and you have the gall to judge him on a purely personal matter that is none of your business? And that’s not even bringing Spock into the equation—Spock, a half-Vulcan who was raised in a planet who saw him as an inferior, who made a meteoric career of two years in the science track and became one of the most intelligent people to have ever graduated from this Academy, who saw his mother die and his planet cave in on itself and disappear?”
She breathes heavy now, eyes alight with fury, fists curled. She looks at them, evaluates them and finds them deficient.
“Who,” she grits out, “gives you the right to pass judgment on these two people? And so what if they’re together? And so what if they’re in love with each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together, doing what makes them happy and doing it brilliantly? Personally, I think they’ve earned that right. They deserve happiness. And if they find it in each other, then so be it!”
She gives them one last, long look, trembling from head to toe, living and magnificent in her anger.
She remembers a day on a far-away planet, lounging under the sun in a private little beach. Sulu and Chekov were in the water, McCoy slept stretched out in the shade, Scotty was reading from a PADD, on his stomach on the sand. Uhura had been applying sunscreen to her arms and, glancing up, saw that Kirk had fallen asleep, curled on his side as he often did, his forehead touching the side of Spock’s thigh as the Vulcan meditated lightly.
You may touch him, Spock had said gently, and she’d snapped her eyes up.
I’ll wake him up. He doesn’t get nearly enough sleep.
He will not wake, if I am close. He is safe with me, and his sleep is deep. I know you feel the need to reassure him, and Jim is a tactile creature. Your affection would not be unwelcome, Nyota.
A long moment of silence, as Uhura hesitated, getting to her knees.
He likes it when people touch his hair. You have seen Leonard do it often.
I tried once, and he woke up.
Spock had reached down, gently carding his long fingers through Jim’s golden hair, soothingly, with exquisite gentleness.
Jim welcomes the reassurance of touch, Spock had said quietly, because it was never freely given to him. Your previous experience is unfortunate, Nyota, but you may trust me in this. Jim craves affection in ways that sometimes concern me, because they speak of deep-seated traumas. The touch of strangers alarms him, but the touch of friends comforts him. You are a friend; you are my sister.
Spock had looked up then, brown eyes soft and sad.
I believe the only thing Jim has ever really wanted is love, Nyota. And it fills me with pain that he has learned to do without. You need not refrain from showing him that you care, Nyota—if anything, I would urge you to make it known often.
Heartbroken, Nyota had held back tears as she held onto one of Spock’s hand, and with the other one discovered that if you stroked his hair right, you could make Jim smile, giggle, and sigh.
Now, in Starfleet Academy, in an audience room, standing fierce like a lioness in the face of six white-faces Admirals, Nyota Uhura gifts them with one last stab.
“Don’t you think you have all failed him enough?”
Then she turns, and leaves without another word.
“Why are we stopping?” Pasha asks, rubbing his eyes sleepily.
Sulu sits forward in the seat, clicking his seatbelt open as the hovercar settles on the dust of the road, under the orange light of the Iowan sunrise. His onyx-black eyes take in the sight, and zero-in on the right side across the road. He glances forward briefly and sees Kirk is staring at the same thing, his face carefully blank.
He gets out of the car without another word, just as McCoy settles his own hovercar behind them, his expression somber. The Doctor exits his car with deliberate slowness, hazel eyes tight and lips pursed in a scowl. Nyota and Scotty follow his lead, both as puzzled by the event as seemingly everyone else, except Jim and Len.
Sulu crosses the road to the blackened remains of an old farmhouse that stands alone in a wide field. It used to be elevated upon a platform, as old farmhouses used to be, and must have been quite impressive when whole. The charred beams of the wooden structure are completely black, no traces of white ash clinging to them. It’s clear the ruins have been left alone to the effects of weather for a long time.
Hikaru whistles, “Burned to the ground.”
Jim nods, crossing his arms as he comes to stand next to him. Pasha moves past them, irrepressible in his curiosity, and carefully hoists himself up onto the blackened porch elevation, careful to avoid the spots where the boards have caved in.
“Hey, watch that knee, you brat!” McCoy predictably grumbles, glaring at Chekov. The Russian chuckles low, acknowledging the warning with a tilt of his head.
“My dad loved this house,” Jim says quietly, looking at the ruins with an odd sort of cold detachment, as if clinically analyzing something he is familiar with but at the same time knows little of.
“This was your house?” Nyota asks, bewildered, looking at the destroyed property. “What happened to it?”
They watch as Chekov moves further into what he imagines might have been the kitchen, studying everything with his avid ice-blue eyes.
Hikaru moves to follow him, carefully navigating the crumbled steps onto the porch, and turns around curiously when Jim doesn’t answer.
There is a strange calm about Jim. It isn’t even the calm before a storm, or after it; it is simply serenity, a kind of acceptance that comes with the remembrance of pain and the knowledge that it can no longer reach you. The pain Jim is thinking of is one long since left behind, and here in the sun of the Iowan summer surrounded by his friends, the family he’s chosen, he knows himself to be safe.
“I set it on fire when I was fourteen,” he says softly, cornflower-blue eyes clear and bright.
Chekov and Sulu freeze.
“It was a year after the first time Frank touched me. That was about the time I realized I didn’t have the patience to let people fuck around with me,” he indulges in a wry smile, “Literally and figuratively speaking.”
Hikaru jumps down the steps, urgent in his need to get away from the ruins. The blackened remains have suddenly taken on a dark malevolence, a feeling of horror and cruelty. Once his boots hit the ground he turns again, staring at the house as if it might reach over and attack him. Pasha, impulsive by nature but tempered down by habit, follows in a more subdued manner.
Spock simply and silently moves forward until his shoulder brushes Jim’s, and without hesitation reaches down and wraps his long-fingered hand around Jim’s wrist.
“Hikaru, you’re the one that figure out about Frank, weren’t you?” Jim says easily.
Hikaru’s shoulders stiffen, but he turns around and faces his friend with an open expression and sincere eyes.
“I used to work at a shelter with my mom before joining Starfleet,” he says, black eyes serious. “I know what abused children look like. And I know what they grow into.”
“I think we can agree I got off well enough,” Jim smiles gently.
Hikaru looks away, to the far-away horizon where the green of young crops meets the pure blue of the sky, and considers his answer. When he looks back at Jim, his eyes are intent.
“You threw yourself off a drill to save a man you’d known for half an hour, Jim. When you were marooned on Delta Vega, you left your pod even though you knew it wasn’t safe. Then you tried to get a Vulcan to kill you, and nearly made it. After that, you invaded a Romulan ship with a single-man backup, which you then sent away. You’ll have to put a lot of effort into making me believe you weren’t suicidal back then, Jim.”
“Let’s not forget the infamous four-on-one fight the night before he enlisted,” McCoy supplies, settling down on the dirt and bracing his elbows against his knees.
“Well, alright,” Jim accepts, “Maybe I was a little off my rocker when we faced Nero. But I did get better though, didn’t I?”
None of them say it would take a man off his rocker to do what Jim had pulled off back then, but only because that would imply it would take someone equally off their rockers to follow him on it, and Spock is a pain to argue with. He always wins.
“You mean did you climb your way up from rock bottom?” Pasha arches his brows, leaning down to carefully massage his kneecap. “I’d say so.”
“You guys are all amazing at pep talks, you know that?”
“Didn’t even know that’s what this was, Jim-boy,” McCoy gives his friend a look.
“It didn’t start that way, it evolved, but fine, whatever. I’m trying to be heartfelt here, you bunch of heartless harpies.”
“So you set your house on fire after you stepfather abused you,” Pasha concedes with a matter-of-fact tone that is much too Vulcan for his soft blue eyes. It seems to him that Jim is not willing to make a real issue out of this, and is being gentle only because he thinks his friends might be shocked and hurt at his past. Jim has never had a victim’s mentality, after all, even if the after-effects of the abuse are certainly there. If Jim thinks he needs to be careful for them, though, he is mistaken.
Pavel continues, “Was this before or after you threw his car off the quarry?”
“I told you about that?”
“You were drunk.”
Jim looks at Spock, “I’m a terrible influence for young impressionable minds, aren’t I?”
“Quite. I am, therefore, gratified that Pavel spends much more time with me than he does with you.”
“Like you’re better. Hello, you were beating bullies at Vulcan when you were twelve. Vulcan bullies. Seriously, only you.”
“There were precedents,” Spock refutes with a tilt of his head.
“It was a serious question about the car,” Pavel interrupts.
Jim grins at him, all himself again now he can see that his friends will not treat him like a fragile little creature now they have confirmed his stepfather was pedophilic scum. It seems within the realm of possibility they might get unbearably angry and set something on fire, but they won’t treat him any different, and that’s what he’s worried about. He and Spock can probably get them all out of jail with some kind of underhanded diplomatic barely-legal move that Spock can pull off because it’s been a while since he was ashamed of using his father’s influence. It’s Jim’s fault, and he’s not sorry.
“I was so angry back then. It was an interesting succession of events, actually. I threw the car off the quarry and unsurprisingly got arrested. Frank came and paid my bail, so I knew what was coming next. I managed to get away from him and went to hide at a friend’s house,” Jim pauses to look off into the distance, over his shoulder to the right. “Johnny Malcolm, a friend from school that knew Frank beat me up. I was really pissed off, and that anger helped me get through telling his parents that Frank hit me.
“Johnny’s parents were good people; they went right up to the station and told the chief of police what was going on. Obviously the chief suspected already, since Riverside’s a small town and the chief wasn’t stupid. He got to the house and arrested Frank, and then he came looking for me at Johnny’s to get my statement.
“I admit I had it all thought out since before I even got into the car,” Jim says thoughtfully, walking carefully closer to the house, slipping his hands into his pockets. He lifts his foot and prods gingerly at one of the pillars holding the porch up, leans against it more confidently when it doesn’t cave in.
“I watched when the chief manhandled Frank into his hovercruiser, and when I stopped hearing the sirens in the distance I snuck in, got some clothes together in a pack. I got the fuel cans in the garage and spread them all over the bottom floor of the house. I punctured the gas pipes in the kitchen.”
He turns back to them smiling wryly, “I used Frank’s lighter to light it up. Let no one say I’m not sentimental.”
“You are certainly sinister,” Spock murmurs, crossing his arms over his chest. He can see the images drift through his imagination, of a small, thin Jim Kirk carefully planning the thorough destruction of his childhood house. “You left nothing to chance. Once the gas caught fire, there must have been no way to save the structure.”
“You see how it ended,” Jim nods.
“Did you get caught?” Scotty asks, blinking in the sun as though he could see the orange glow of a house turned into a fireball.
“I didn’t get caught because I didn’t run,” Jim shrugs. “I just stood here watching it burn until the firemen came, and then the police, and I stayed until it was smoking ashes. I remember we both leaned against the cruiser, the chief and I. I had my hands in my pockets and his arms were crossed. We didn’t leave until the sun was up.”
Jim sighs and looks up to the sky, thoughtful and at peace.
“You were then offered the chance to go to a juvenile detention facility for two years for theft and destruction and arson,” Spock took over. “or attend to a newly founded rehabilitation program for troublesome but promising youngsters in the young colony of Tarsus IV. You thought your best option was Tarsus.”
“The rest, as they say, is history.”
Jim takes a deep breath, and releases it slowly.
“I was so angry. God, so fucking angry, for so long. Years and years, it was like it never seemed to stop. It never exhausted itself, that anger I felt. After Tarsus, everything just… got out of proportion. I was tired, and numb. I realized people felt sorry for me, that they were uncomfortable around me… so I started copying the way other kids behaved, you know? Imitated their behavior thinking that way the adults would get off my back. I got really good at it.”
“As you do when embarking in any endeavor,” Spock says quietly, eyes half-lidded.
“Yeah,” Jim smiles, “I took all the aptitude tests and shit they threw my way because they wanted me to and it was easier to do what they told me and just get them to leave me alone. But I started really getting in trouble when I was seventeen. Small-time crimes, nothing big. A couple break-and-entry, a few charges on assault, several automobile-theft,” he suddenly grins, eyes sparkling, “I stole a few rural machinery from the museum just for the kicks of it. I had to work on it until the old engines started, it was awesome.”
“It’s like a law of the universe,” Uhura says, smacking her forehead, “The cute ones are gay and the smart ones are criminals.”
“Are calling me cute and smart, Nyota?”
“I also called you a criminal, but somehow that’s what you focused on?”
“Anyway, my biggest problem was probably that I was bored. And by the time Pike came around and challenged me, which was really fucking juvenile but ridiculously effective, I’d pretty much convinced myself I needed a change before I lost my mind. Pike’s timing was impeccable, really.”
“So… that’s the story of my life, in a nutshell.”
There is a long moment of silence.
“Knowing is good,” Pavel says finally, nodding. “Now I know for sure you don’t feel sorry for yourself.”
“Sorry?” Jim laughs. “Look at this place. I don’t think I know how to be a victim and feel sorry for myself. Mostly when I get hurt I get really, really angry. That’s how I learned to cope with being attacked, and I know it drives you insane, Spock, but for a long time it worked really well for me.”
“That’s not how you cope anymore, though,” Bones says carefully, eyeing his friend. “I remember those first few times I saw you drinking. You were a mean fucking drunk, Jim. And now the most you do is maybe babble a little and cuddle with your green-blooded overstuffed pointy-eared teddy-bear.”
“That is a rather long winded insult, Leonard.”
“I get bored of calling you hobgoblin all the damn time.”
“Hey, I do not cuddle!” Jim protests.
“You cuddle,” Pavel replies firmly. “You’re a hugger, too.”
“Fucking hell, I’m losing my edge,” Jim runs a hand through his golden hair.
“What edge? I know spoons with more edge than you.”
“Bones, you’re an awful friend.”
“And you’re awfully roundabout this fine day, Jim. I appreciate your autobiography, but I assume there was a point to you bringing us all to the middle of rural no-where to look at a pile of charred rubble.”
Jim looks at the house for a moment, thoughtful.
“People’ve been trying to buy this thing off me for years,” he says finally. “Or even rent it and make something out of the terrain, or whatever. The land’s big enough, and with it being so close to the shipyards, an apartment building here would be very viable.”
“Why not sell it and get rid of it?” Nyota asks, crossing her arms. “It’s obvious you don’t like it here. You haven’t placed a foot in Iowa in all of the assignments and shore leaves we’ve had on Earth for as long as I’ve known you.”
“I guess I never sold it because… well, my dad did love this place. He grew up in that house, you know. My mom and him were very happy for a while. I burned down the house, but I guess I always felt the land itself belonged with my family. I think it feels right for it to be a Kirk’s land.”
“I’m more partial to the Enterprise, meself,” Scotty muses, eyes dancing over the ruins with curiosity. “That’s yer land, lad.”
“Well, that’s my deck if you’re getting technical,” Jim replied, “but okay. Yeah. The Enterprise is my home. But this, you know, this land’s been on the Kirk family for generations. It’s the one legacy that has nothing to do with my dad’s death. It’s not the Kelvin, it’s not Nero, it’s not me being an orphan with a mother that looks at me and sees the man she lost. This is just… a place he loved. He wasn’t a martyr here, wasn’t a self-sacrificing captain for twelve minutes. He was just George Kirk.”
“You make a distinction between the man and the legend,” Spock says pensively.
Jim nods, “People here have always told me my dad was a very up-beat kind of guy, joking around, being nice. The kind of guy who’ll stop his hovercar at the side of the road to help put off a crop fire.”
“That is perilous and unwise,” Spock arches a brow. “It is not a trait of your father’s I would encourage you to adopt, Jim.”
“How many crops are we ever around?” Hikaru laughs. “And anyway, I think you’re missing the point, Spock.”
“Indeed I am not,” Spock replied, giving Hikaru what could only be described as a Vulcan long-suffering look. “Jim’s point is that not all memories here are dark and undesirable.”
“Mixed feelings,” Nyota summarizes easily, nodding.
There is another long pause as everyone considers this, simultaneously imagining the domesticity of George Kirk hand-painting the now run-down picket fence and pushing back images of Jim, fighting off Frank.
“I’ve been thinking for a while,” Jim says finally into the silence. The sun is beginning to set, the sky beginning to shift from the deep blue of Jim’s eyes to the deep orange of wood fire. Quite appropriate.
“I’d like to tear it down, make a new one.”
He walks over to Spock and wraps his hand around the Vulcan’s, eyes lingering in the house, filled with calculations and plans.
“We could put in a large lab somewhere.”
Spock arches a brow again, “The chances of my being here for an amount of time that would justify its existence for my experiments are low enough to be negligible.”
“I’m sorry, how many times have you woken me up in the middle of the night because you Vulcan brain is wired all wrong and you get your epiphanies at the most inconvenient hours?”
“No hour is, per se, inconvenient,” Spock says, because he’s not going to start arguing with Jim about how his Vulcan brain is ‘wired’ to perfection, or start throwing comparative charts in intellectual performances between their neurons because he knows Jim will count it as his win. Which it is not.
“Your logic, however, is sound. Should we happen upon shore leave in this house.”
“Make good memories of your own here,” McCoy says, nodding approvingly. “Sounds like a great idea, Jim.”
“Yes,” Pavel says, turning to the house speculatively, his eyes alight with the flow of ideas. “It will be very big. The lab will have to be on the top floor, of course. We can put the study next to it, with big long tables for calculations and even a small astral observations device.”
McCoy’s eyebrows went up, and he stared at the Russian, “Who invited you to play house with Spock and Jim, tovarisch Chekov?”
Hikaru shrugs, black eyes bright as he grins at Jim.
“He wouldn’t have brought us all along if he didn’t plan on including us all in his domestic life. There’s going to be a huge garage for Scotty, right? We can make a dojo above it.”
“I want a pool,” Uhura grins, “All this Iowan sun, and nothing to dip in? Criminal.”
“Forget the garage,” Scotty mutters, looking around at all the available space. “I’ll need a warehouse for all the things I have in mind.”
“We’ll need a garage anyway, I miss working on hoverkibes and cars,” Jim says.
“A library must be furnished,” Spock raises his other hand to scratch idly at the back of Jim’s neck, knowing it will make him nearly purr in pleasure. “Doctor McCoy has a collection of two thousand five hundred and seventy three paper books that will require much space to be organized adequately.”
Bones sputters, getting to his feet and blinking. “How the hell do you know about my collection?”
“In much the same way I know about your predilection for bourbon, Leonard. Extended yet unfortunate exposure to your company makes it impossible for me to ignore certain details of—“
“You mean like I know what you’re allergic to, and how to disguise it so you won’t notice it’s there when you eat it?”
“Vulcan have allergies?” Scotty swings around, bewildered.
“Vulcans don’t, Spocks do.”
“For the eleventh time, Jim, Spock is a name, not an appropriate designation of—“
“I’m totally bringing my ancient weapon collection to the dojo,” Hikaru says gleefully. “I have tons I couldn’t fit in my Enterprise quarters and it breaks my heart to keep them in storage in Chicago at my mom’s.”
“I have the feeling no one’s even communicating with each other at this point,” Uhura waves down Spock’s reply to that.
Hikaru, Pasha and Scotty are already plotting the shape and dimension of the house. Pasha breaks away from the group to run to the hovercar and comes back with a PADD, and that’s when Jim knows he’s lost them all, because they’re not emerging from that until they need an architect to make the blueprints.
Nyota and Leonard make their way to where he and Spock are standing, looking over the three overgrown children with indulgent amusement.
“I know we’re not all going to be here together, probably at any given time,” Jim says after a while, “But it’s somewhere to come back whenever, you know? A safe place for everyone.”
“It’s a different kind of family,” Nyota agrees, smiling affectionately at Jim.
“I guess I like it more because I got to choose it,” Jim says softly.
Spock disentangles his hand from Jim’s to tug at his lover’s neck and plant a gentle kiss against his temple.
“As we chose you,” he says firmly, before turning Jim around towards the hovercars.
“I believe it is time we retire, gentlemen, Nyota,” he calls out, “We must check into the hotel before 1900 hours to ensure our individual bedrooms. We may further discuss plans for the house at a later hour.”
Pasha and Scotty slip by him, still deep in conversation, too fascinated by the possibilities to contemplate looking up from the PADD in the Russian’s hands. Leonard and Uhura follow, speaking in low tones about the doctor’s extensive book collection as Jim slings an arm around each of their shoulders.
Spock stays behind for a moment, looking at the remains of the house and acknowledging, without the shame Jim has stripped him off, that the idea of tearing down what’s left of the old structure gives him satisfaction. It is something Jim detests, and its destruction can only be beneficial.
He then becomes aware that Hikaru Sulu is standing next to him, hands behind his back imitating Spock’s normal pose quite unconsciously.
“Is he dead?” the Japanese asks quietly, not looking away from the house.
Spock takes a moment and then replies, “Revenge is a most illogical pursuit, Hikaru.”
Hikaru gives him a look, “Good for us I’m not against being illogical from time to time, then.”
The half-Vulcan gave the pilot The Eyebrow.
“And should I supply you with this information, what precisely would you use it for?”
“I’d probably beat the shit out of him.”
“Jim turned thirty a month ago,” Spock points out. “It has been sixteen years since Frank Moldo hurt him. I rest assured Jim is now perfectly safe, as you and I had made sure he is never without one of us. What would be the point of beating a man that no longer poses any threat to him?”
“You think just because time’s gone by, there’s no point in finding this piece of shit and skinning him alive? You know better than anyone else that Jim’s got more emotional scars than planets we’ve visited. I’m surprised you’re trying to dissuade me, of all people. What was that thing you nearly tore apart that time, looked like a dinosaur? That thing that split Jim’s eyebrow.”
“It was a reptilian indeed similar to a velocirraptor, and I did not nearly tear it apart. I simply encouraged it to leave. I might remind you Jim had a severe concussion.”
“Point is, you’re a murderous son of a bitch when it comes to Jim being hurt, but I try to instill some universal justice, and I’m just being illogical.”
“You are illogical,” Spock pressed, exhaling a little in a Spockian put-upon sigh. “Furthermore, there is no need to lay a hand upon Frank Moldo, as I have already sufficiently insured, by various means, that justice is served.”
Hikaru thinks on that for a moment, blinking. His lips stretch in a slow grin, teeth white in the setting sun, eyes sparkling with mischief.
“You made his life impossible, didn’t you.”
“I admit to no such thing,” Spock replies, turning around to start back to the hovercars, where the others are staring at them impatiently. “Although it has come to my attention that his bank accounts have collapsed and his criminal records have been disclosed. I also know his previous place of employment did not look kindly upon men who abused children.”
Hikaru laughs loud and long, and he still has a huge smile when he finally climbs aboard the hovercar.
He still wants to beat Frank Moldo bloody, but he thinks perhaps Spock’s brand of revenge is more lasting, and all-encompassing.
Pasha looks back at the ruins of the house one more time before they leave it in the distance, and when he looks back at Hikaru his blue eyes are bright and he’s smiling with the crazy grin that only a Russian raised by a Spock and a Kirk can manage.
“This is going to be awesome, Hikaru!”
The pilot grins, “Yeah. Yeah it will.”