Art by Amanda Culver.
When Stiles is commissioned to the Monitor (most boring name ever for a starship, but it is an awesome ship), he doesn't actually expect to be the youngest member of the crew. There have to be more than a few teenage geniuses in Starfleet, right? He knows of two, off the top of his head - Ensigns Chekov and Martin, the former being one of the great heroes of the recent battle against the Romulans, and the latter being Stiles's astrophysics crush for the better part of his time as a cadet. Seriously, her brain. And her body. And her… yeah. The one thing he sort of misses about being a cadet is being able to see her in her reds, sitting ramrod-straight in the first row, eyes flashing with righteous wrath at some mathematical error made by the TA. (Stiles privately thought the TA did it deliberately, just to get her to look at him.)
But Lydia Martin was assigned to the Liberty, and Stiles was assigned to the Monitor, and never (or hardly ever) the twain shall meet. Oh, well. He still keeps tabs on her career in a totally non-creepy way, over Starnet, and catches occasional stills and holograms of her doing mission-type things, with this annoying jock by her side. Ensign Whittemore. Damn him and his perfect cheekbones. And his mouth. And his… yeah. Wait, Stiles is supposed to be perving on Lydia. Not that he's perving on her. That would be wrong.
"Ensign," says a low, gravelly voice behind him, and Stiles snaps to attention. He hopes to hell he managed to hide what he had on his screen (a close-up of Jackson Whittemore's fine ass, clad in snug Engineering gold).
"Yes, sir." Stiles tries not to hyperventilate. Because it's Commander D'rek, First Officer D'rek, scowly and sour-faced as usual. Aren't Vulcans supposed to be expressionless? D'rek always looks like he's dying of man-pain. Not that it isn't a good look on him, but still.
"You have been selected for the away mission Beta-Four-Nine as an auxiliary technician. You will report to the transporter room at 2145 hours. Full objectives, translator settings and weapons specifications pertinent to the mission will be made available on your console." D'rek's eyes flick to Stiles's console, and his eyebrows twitch, which, shit, probably means I Am Judging You in Vulcanese. Because, as it happens, Stiles hadn't managed to minimize that image of Whittemore's ass.
"Sir, I'm - "
"It appears that you have completed your calculations, as you have time to engage in recreational… activities."
"Uh. Yeah? I - I was done with the calculations, like, an hour ago."
D'rek's eyebrows twitch again. They're really bold eyebrows, for a Vulcan, not the slinky little things Stiles often sees on Vulcan faces. Hell, those aren't just eyebrows; they're ultimatums. Stiles kind of feels like he should be putting his hands up and surrendering all his gold. To the eyebrow highwaymen. The eyebrow pirates. The eyebrow buccaneers. "Your work is swift."
"I… um, not to toot my own horn, sir, but - " teenage genius, here " - decoding transmissions is sort of my specialty. I'm still really sorry, though, for wasting crucial ship time on - on personal interests of, uh, a personal nature - "
"After the mission, you will accompany me to the bridge and assist Ensigns Markov and Patel in their calculations."
The bridge? Wow. Markov and Patel will resent the hell out of him, though. Most of the ensigns do, sooner or later. Which is why Stiles usually eats alone in the mess hall. Which is why he hardly ever eats at the mess hall. "Thank you, sir." I think.
"In the future, if you have completed your work in advance of the given deadline, you will report to me and ask to be assigned new tasks. Further… leisure pursuits during your rostered shifts will be seen as a dereliction of duty, and will lead to disciplinary action. Have I made myself understood?"
"Yes, sir." Oh, crap. He's on the commander's black-list, now. On the one hand, he's really lucky that Commander D'rek is being lenient enough to give him a second chance, but on the other hand, most people on the commander's black-list don't survive their first rotation without time in the brig or on-record reprimands. Careers have been ruined.
D'rek moves his fingers over Stiles's console, ignores the pseudo-pornographic image and studies Stiles's calculations, instead. They're pretty goddamn elegant, if Stiles says so himself, because subspace transmissions are a bitch to decode when you're dealing with interference and gamma rays from a mile-wide neutron field. "There is not a single error in these equations," D'rek murmurs, and looks up at Stiles.
Yes? Thanks? Eek? What's he supposed to say? "That's, um. That's - "
D'rek's eyes are a cold, assessing blue. "As of tomorrow, you are permanently reassigned to the bridge."
"Ensign Markov will take your station."
"Um. Sir, maybe Ensign Markov might, like - " kill me in my sleep? " - want to keep his station? The station he was originally assigned to?"
"Sentiment is irrelevant. Utility is paramount."
"I will advise the captain of this change. He will agree with me, once he sees the quality of your work."
This is either the biggest compliment Stiles has ever received, or the most subtly vindictive death trap ever constructed. Forget eating alone in the mess hall - Stiles will end up lynched in some random cargo bay. "Thank you, sir." Why is thanking D'rek for fucking up his life becoming a pattern? Shit. Shit.
"Gratitude is irrelevant. Utility - "
" - is paramount, yes, sir. Uh. Sorry for interrupting."
"Your role in the away mission has also been revised. You will now be the primary technician."
"Who was the primary technician, sir? Who'll, um, now be an auxiliary?"
Great. Just great. Maybe by the time this week is through, Stiles's body parts will actually be found in less than five separate containers.
"Do you disagree with your reassignment."
Whoa. That wasn't even a question. That wasn't even pretending to be a question. There was no question-mark at the end of that sentence. "No, sir. I follow orders, sir."
"That is as it should be. Report to the transporter room at the aforementioned time."
"You will now return to your quarters and spend the remainder of the evening preparing for the mission as per your new role. Ensure that you have all the necessary supplies. The authorization code for the Requisitions replicator, should you require it, will be sent to your PADD."
So. Stiles is dismissed. Stiles is also very likely sentenced to death, so he'd better write a brief letter to his dad telling him how awesome life is and how many friends he's made on his new ship, so that when he does end up dead, at least the last memory Dad will have of him is a happy one.
He isn't, miraculously, dead by the end of the week. Or the end of the month. He's settled down on the bridge, and even though all the other ensigns hate him, none of them dare to mess with his results or try to get him into trouble, because Commander D'rek is right there, glowering down at them like the world's most logical hawk.
Stiles… likes his work, here. He doesn't get bored. There's always something going on, whether it's First Contact with a species of jellyfish-headed religious extremists, or asteroid clusters that turn out to be sentient mineral-beings.
And Captain Argent, while scary in a whole 'nother way, has this dry, ribbing sense of humor that tends to get D'rek's back up, and that alone is worth being on the bridge for, just to see D'rek get wound up like that.
For someone who calls emotions 'irrelevant', D'rek sure has plenty of them to go around.
Is it just Stiles, or is Commander D'rek getting more and more constipated?
Turns out, it isn't just Stiles. He doesn't have access to the grapevine, mostly because he's a pariah among the ensigns, but Stiles has overheard the odd, muted complaint about how anal-retentive the First Officer is becoming. More so than he used to be, even. People tend to vanish whenever D'rek walks down a hallway, like ghosts before an oncoming exorcist, and it'd almost be funny if it wasn't kind of sad. D'rek's an asshole, but he isn't evil, Stiles doesn't think. And Stiles knows what ostracization feels like.
Stiles doesn't know what to do with that - he isn't exactly supposed to be sympathizing with the bane of his existence - so he just acts like he always does, and chitters and chatters about equations and anomalies and the provability of increasingly ridiculous theorems, until the line of D'rek's shoulders eases, a bit, and he replies in a voice that resembles his normal one, instead of the tight, strained whip of a voice it often is, nowadays.
It's on his third away mission that things go to hell.
They've been trying to obey the Prime Directive, they really have, but with deceptively anachronistic spear-lasers waving in their faces, they've had to blow their cover, and in the ensuing escape, the planet's natives have managed to use something resembling a mine to bring a fucking landslide down on them.
And so Stiles is left contemplating his demise with Commander D'rek unconscious and spilled across Stiles's lap, bleeding bright green from a deep gash in his forehead, while Stiles himself has his leg crushed under a rock the size of a small shuttlecraft.
He hurts, but mostly, all he can think of is what a relief it is that the rest of the team got away, and how fucked up it'll be if D'rek dies here, with his head cradled in Stiles's arms, when he should be shattering boulders with his bare fists. D'rek is frankly badass. When he's conscious, anyway. Shit.
"You better not die," says Stiles. "I mean, I may never walk again, not without a prosthetic leg, but you are not going to be the first corpse I get intimate with, you hear me? …Ugh, that sounds gross and vaguely necrophiliac. Relax, I'm not into corpses. Not even the hot ones. And you'd be a hot one. But, just, no, dude. I don't swing that way. Deathly pallor? Not a turn-on. Rigor mortis? Nuh-uh. Jesus Christ, Corpse Bride, wake up."
But D'rek doesn't stir. Green blood seeps out of his cut, sluggish and sharp-smelling, like something out of that twentieth-century post-apocalyptic holovid that Scott had thought was hilarious, what was it called? Soylent Green. Stiles tears off his sleeve with his teeth and tries to staunch the bleeding, but maybe Vulcan blood just doesn't clot, or something, because soon, Stiles's hands are slick and trembling and slipping on D'rek's face.
"Freakin' A. As if reassigning me and turning my life upside-down wasn't enough, you've gotta become my worst memory? Come on, man. Vulcan. Vul-man. You don't wanna give an innocent ensign nightmares for the rest of his life, do you? That'll be cruel. Even for you. I mean, you're a harsh taskmaster, but - fuck, is that blood bubbling out of your mouth? Since when're you bleeding from your orifices? Oh, crap, when you wake up, you're going to court-martial me for being a necrophiliac. A zombie-lover. I can't stop talking about holes - you have a giant one in your head - I'm grossing myself out and I can't even stop - "
And so it goes. For minutes. Hours. Maybe even days, Stiles can't be sure, but there's the sound of phaser-fire overhead, above where the landslide happened, and then it stops, and then it starts again, and Stiles is dizzy with weakness and desperation and a stark, solitary agony. His leg feels like crushed glass. His stomach is an acid pit, boiling away in hunger, and his throat is parched because he keeps talking, but he can't stop talking, not if it means leaving D'rek alone in there, in the darkness inside his own head. It's totally unscientific and medically unproven, but Stiles gets the feeling that if anyone's left alone in there, they'll never come back.
So he talks. He talks about everything. About Lydia's fabulous tits, not that he's ever actually seen them, but still. About his best friend back home, Scott, who couldn't get into Starfleet but resigned himself to working as a barista at the biggest Starbucks on the base. About Allysonne, Scott's Amazonian alien girlfriend from a matriarchal planet, who is, apparently, also the best in her Projectile Weapons class. About Stiles's dad, who's the best dad ever, because his hugs are better than deregulated anti-depressants, and Stiles should know, because he'd been on them, once. (After Mom died.) He talks about the best pizza in the known universe, which is clearly the marinara from Geppetto's down on Fifth, and about the worst souvlaki, also from down on Fifth, which nearly killed Stiles after two weeks of unbearable diarrhea.
"Man, lemme just say, if that souvlaki didn't kill me? Nothing will. Not even this. A landslide in the middle of a hostile planet on which the chances of rescue are near-nil. You don't have Post-Traumatic Souvlaki Disorder, like I do, so you'd probably say survival is statistically unlikely, or whatever. Well, go to hell, Commander. No disrespect. Logic has no place in the utter insanity of this world. Then again, your supernaturally ripped abs don't have any logic to them, either. Seriously, which gym do you go to? The one on Mount Olympus? Does Hercules check you out from a nearby treadmill? What?"
But before Stiles can get to his best lines - he's a conversationalist bar none, obviously - something blasts through the rocks overhead, and Chief Engineer Finstock booms down at them.
"You alive down there?"
Stiles squints up at him, through the drifting post-explosion dust, and hoarsely shouts an answer. The next thing he knows, he's been beamed up to sickbay, and the lights are fucking bright, boring through his skull like screwdrivers. Dr. Deaton's next to him, prying D'rek from Stiles's surprisingly stubborn fingers, murmuring quiet things, soothing things.
"How long were you touching him?" Dr. Deaton asks, as Nurse Yska runs a full-body scan on D'rek. Stiles's leg has been immobilized on the biobed, and he can't feel it, but at this point, he doesn't even care. He just slurps from the cup of water they've handed to him, sloshing it everywhere, cold and stinging over his torn knuckles. Not enough to wash the green away.
"The commander," repeats Dr. Deaton, gently. "How long were you touching him, Ensign?"
What is this, the 'bad touch' spiel? Does Stiles suddenly resemble a nasty old lech? "Look, I was just - I dunno, how long were we down there?"
"That's how long, then." His head is swimming. He needs to sleep, but he can't seem to take his eyes off D'rek.
"Hm," says Dr. Deaton, and it's exactly the same 'hm' Stiles had come to dread from his dentist, because it had always meant losing a tooth. Fuck.
"What? What does that - is he gonna be okay? Shouldn't I have touched him? Did I - did I damage something?" Oh, no. No. If D'rek dies - if it's Stiles's fault -
"No, no, nothing like that," the doctor rushes to assure him. "Nothing bad, at all."
Nothing bad. But not nothing worse?
Before Stiles can ask about that, he's jabbed with a hypospray, something that makes him all woozy and light, and he only just manages to stretch his hand out toward D'rek - still and quiet on the neighboring biobed - before he passes out.