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Star Crossed

Chapter Text

Everyone knew that humans stopped aging until they met their soulmates. It seemed odd at first, but there were also multiple telepathic species in the Federation, a rumor that Orions were capable of mind control through pheromones, and some stories of species that could shapeshift. So really, it wasn’t necessarily the weirdest thing in the galaxy that many humans looked 18 but could be years or decades older, just waiting to meet the right person.

Less known was the fact that if your soulmate died after you met them, you would stop aging again. Jim knew that one first hand. His mom had looked the same age for his whole life. Supposedly she’d stopped aging the moment his dad crashed the Kelvin into the giant ship that attacked them the day Jim was born.

Despite all this, Jim was still somewhat skeptical. Sure, there was a part of him that was a bit of a romantic, but he’d buried it under layers of cynicism and one night stands. So even though that small part of him wanted to buy in to the whole idea of soulmates, for the most part he was ready to dismiss it as BS. He’d been physically 18 for a few years now and that didn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. Plus despite centuries of people studying it no one had found an explanation for how it worked. The not aging could be explained, but not why the aging started again after meeting someone. So Jim was skeptical.

But regardless of his views, he saw it happen. Not much went on in a small town like Riverside, so people starting to age would usually be the hot topic for the week unless Starfleet started building something new. But while others found people all around him, Jim’s life stayed the same. As soon as he hit the drinking age (or maybe a bit before, no one could tell anyway) he started going out. He’d get a drink, find someone for the night, and maybe get lucky. But it didn’t change anything. No matter who he went home with, he’d still look 18 when he looked into the mirror the next day, week, or month. It had been like that for a few years now.

Then his routine got disrupted by a fight with some Starfleet cadets and a challenge from a captain who was supposedly a big fan of his dad’s.

When he decided to ship out to San Francisco, he still looked 18.

Chapter Text

When Jim boarded the shuttle, he saw a lot of other people who looked 18. Who knew how old they actually were. He smirked as he passed the cadets he’d fought with the night before, enjoying how annoyed they seemed to see him. He spared a moment to throw a flirty comment at Uhura, but it seemed like her interest level hadn’t changed much from the night before.

Jim settled into his seat only to be distracted a moment later by a shout of “I don’t need a doctor, I am a doctor!” from the end of the shuttle.

He looked down and saw someone else in regular clothes rather than a cadet uniform. The man also appeared 18, but had a layer of scruff and was having a heated conversation with an officer. He was saying something about fear of death while flying, but she quickly shut his complaints down. Defeated, the man shuffled over into the seat next to Jim. He begrudgingly sat down and strapped himself in before pulling a flask out of his pocket.

He glanced at Jim then said, “I might throw up on you.”

Jim felt his eyebrows scrunch together in confusion. “I think these are pretty safe-”

“Don’t pander to me kid.” The other man interrupted Jim and turned to face him, a wild look in his eyes. “One tiny crack in the hull and our blood boils in 13 seconds. Solar flare could crop and cook us in our seats. Just wait til you’re sitting pretty with a case of Andorian shingles, see if you’re still so relaxed when your eyeballs are bleeding. Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.” His point made, the man turned back to his seat and took a sip from his flask.

Despite the somewhat terrifying content of the onslaught, Jim bristled. “I might look 18, but I’m not a kid. And I don’t know if you realize, but Starfleet operates in space.”

The man next to him snorted. “I’m not 18 either, kid. I’ve probably looked 18 since you were still hanging out on playgrounds. And don’t remind me.”

“I doubt it.” Jim glanced over at the man next to him. “I’m 22, you can’t be that much older than me. Why the hell are you joining Starfleet if you hate space so much?”

“Because I’m 28 and look 18.” He sighed bitterly and took a drink from his flask before continuing. “My now-ex-wife decided that not aging meant it just wasn’t meant to be. Hell, I thought we were happy. Had a kid and everything. But nope, not good enough. And since everyone else is as caught up as she is in this damn soulmate stuff, she got the whole damn planet in the divorce.” He took another sip. “All I’ve got left is my bones.”

“Well,” Jim hesitated, realizing he still hadn’t learned the other man’s name, “I’m not a big believer in that stuff either. Mind sharing that?” He pointed to the flask.

The man glanced between his hand and the flask cautiously for a moment before passing it over. “Why not. The name’s Leonard McCoy.”

“Jim Kirk. Here’s hoping you manage to not throw up.” He raised the flask in a mock toast before taking a sip and wincing a bit at the strong taste.

Chapter Text

The next three years at the academy were exciting if relatively uneventful. Bones, as Jim had nicknamed his friend from the shuttle ride, had stayed friends with him as they went through their courses. It occurred to Jim that that may have been in part due to how concerned Bones was when he saw the list of things Jim was allergic too. Given that and how reckless he could be at times, Jim figured it probably didn’t hurt to have a friend who was a doctor. Over the years Jim slept around a bit and Bones dated some, but neither of them showed any signs of aging. But that wasn’t really what was important to Jim; he’d come here for a reason and it wasn’t to get laid. And just as Jim had promised Captain Pike, it looked like he’d be done with the academy command track in three years instead of four. There was really only once obstacle that he couldn’t quite overcome: the infamous Kobayashi Maru test.

Jim had already taken it twice, but he’d failed both times. He knew that they said everyone failed it and it shouldn’t be a big deal, but it still bothered him. So he was gonna try it one more time, but this time he had a new plan.

He knew Bones could tell that something was up, but he’d dismissed his friend’s worries easily enough. Bones still seemed suspicious but he probably still had no idea what Jim was about to do.

The next step of his planned involved getting Gaila’s access code so he could slip his program into the test. Jim felt like a bit of a dick for using her like that, but she was the only person he knew who worked on the test so he decided that he'd have to set his feelings aside for a bit. He and Gaila had started off as a one-time hookup that just kept happening, but by now Jim considered her a friend. So he figured that it was better if she didn’t know what he was doing because if she didn’t know what he was up to she’d get into less trouble.

Of course there was the option to not use her access code at all and try to get into the program for the test another way, but that would be far more difficult. And with his test tomorrow, he didn’t have time to try to hack in to set up his subroutine. It would be easier to do with Gaila’s code. Plus, they’d both get some great sex out of it, which was hardly a downside.

Jim had to get his code in. It wasn’t just about him not liking to fail (which he admittedly wasn’t a big fan of). The test itself was bogus and someone needed to do something about it. What kind of message did it send that that was one of last things cadets did before graduation? Was the final message Starfleet wanted to send really “No matter what you do everyone will die, now go have fun in space”?

No. Jim was not going to let this go unchallenged. He’d find a way to get Gaila’s access code, get his subroutine into the program before it was his turn to go, and hopefully it would all go smoothly.

By this point he’d reached the door to Gaila’s room. He still felt a little nervous about doing this to her, but he tried to think of something else before he buzzed to let her know he was outside so she wouldn’t pick up on it. Even though it was her code he was using, if she didn’t know anything then she couldn’t get in trouble for it. He put on his best smirk as he heard her come to the door. He was ready.

Chapter Text

Despite Uhura, who Jim had noticed also still looked as 18 as the last few times he’d seen her, interrupting him and Gaila, Jim had managed to get the access code he needed. He was now sitting in the captain’s chair of the simulation bridge. Uhura and Bones were there as well, but he didn’t know the other people there as well. He shifted in his chair as the signal for the simulation starting flashed. Time to show Starfleet that not everyone accepted their bs test. He tried to appear as calm as possible to not raise any suspicion.

Uhura’s station lit up and she listened to her earpiece for a moment before turning around. “We’re receiving a distress signal from the USS Kobayashi Maru. The ship has lost power and is stranded. Starfleet command has ordered us to rescue them.” She didn’t seem especially distressed by this news, but everyone knew how this test went. Or at least usually went.

Jim smirked at her. “Starfleet command has ordered us to rescue them, captain.” He could almost feel her eye roll as she turned away.

“Sensors are detecting ships approaching from the other side of the Neutral Zone.” Bones turned around expectantly.

Jim shrugged and didn’t let his smirk drop. “That’s ok.” He got confused looks from everyone but didn’t let it phase him. “Seriously, not a problem.”

Bones looked back at his console. “The ships are Klingon warbirds, and they're now decloaking and preparing to fire on us.” He looked back and raised an eyebrow. “Is this enough of a problem yet?”

After making an exaggerated thinking face for a moment, Jim shrugged. “Nah.”

“They’re firing on us.” Jim swiveled his chair to see someone he didn’t recognize at a tactical console.

Jim turned back and addressed Uhura, making sure to stay calm enough to piss everyone else off. “Tell sickbay to get ready to receive everyone from the damaged ship.”

Uhura looked back at him, annoyance clearly outweighing any confusion she felt. “How do you expect us to rescue them when we’re being attacked by Klingons?”

“Alert Sickbay.” Jim said calmly, taking an apple out of his pocket as she turned back around.

“We’re getting hit.” Bone looked over his shoulder from his console. “Our shields are at sixty percent.”

“Alright.” Jim looked out at the mix of confusion and alarm around him.

Bone had now turned around to face him fully. “Should we at least fire back or something?”

“Nah.” Jim took a bite of his apple.

Just then all the screens flickered for a moment before returning to normal. Jim could practically feel the confusion and alarm, this time coming from the control booth overlooking the fake bridge. He spared a glance up there before looking back to his simulation crew. “Arm photon torpedoes and prepare to fire on all of the Klingon warbirds.”

The tactical officer nodded and turned to obey. Bones didn’t seem as convinced. “Jim, their shields are still up.”

“Are they?” Jim raised an eyebrow and looked toward Bones’ console.

Bones turned back to his console, speaking up with confusion a moment later. “They aren’t.”

Jim turned back to the tactical officer, who seemed to be just accepting and enjoying what was happening. "Fire on the enemy ships. One photon torpedo each should do it; we wouldn’t want to waste any ammo.”

“Yes sir.” The tactical officer turned to his station with a smile and fired, taking out the Klingon ships with one torpedo each.

Jim watched the explosions before getting up from his chair and walking around the bridge. “So. We managed to eliminate all enemy ships, save everyone aboard the Kobayashi Maru, and didn’t even lose any crew members.” He looked up at the control booth and took another bite from his apple. “Now what?”

He knew that no one knew how to answer this question. This was unprecedented. Jim was just glad that it had worked out. Someone had to stand up to the most bs test at Starfleet Academy.

Chapter Text

Turns out Starfleet didn’t like it when people stood up to their bs tests. Not long had passed since Jim’s Kobayashi Maru and now they’d gathered everyone into one of the big assembly halls. Jim doubted that he was about to get a commendation for original thinking.

“You’ve all been called here today to resolve a troubling matter.” Admiral Barnett, who was sitting in the middle of the academy council, looked around the room. “James T. Kirk, please step forward.” The room broke out in whispers and everyone started to look around.

Despite the conviction he’d been feeling earlier, Jim was a bit nervous as he got up and walked towards one of the podiums in the front of the room.

Admiral Barnett spoke up again. “Evidence has been submitted to this council that you have violated the ethical code of conduct pursuant to regulation 17.43 of the Starfleet code. Do you have anything you’d like to say before we begin?”

“Yes.” Jim swallowed to clear his throat. “I believe I have the right to face my accuser directly?”

The admiral nodded and Jim followed his gaze as he heard someone in the audience behind him stand up.

The first thing Jim noticed about the person who stood up was the bowl cut, then the pointed ears and slanted eyebrows. So the person who caught him was a Vulcan. Jim’s eyes moved over the rest of his face and he corrected his earlier thought. A young, attractive Vulcan. Jim felt himself unable to look away as the other man stood up, adjusted his well fitted gray uniform, and began walking forward. After taking a second to take in just how well fitted that uniform was, Jim’s glance returned to the other’s face, where a pair of deep brown eyes met his.

Time seemed to slow and then pause for a moment; somewhere deep inside of himself, Jim felt something click into place. It felt like something had just restarted, but also like the beginning of something new and important.

He returned his attention to the front of the room in time to hear Admiral Barnett’s introduction. “This is Commander Spock, one of our most distinguished graduates. He has programmed the Kobayashi Maru for the last four years.”

Jim stole another look as the admiral prompted Spock to speak. That weird feeling Jim had hadn’t fully faded away yet, and it definitely wasn’t just nerves now.

“Cadet Kirk,” the Vulcan’s smooth voice began, “You somehow managed to install and activate a subroutine in the program code, thereby changing the conditions of the test.”

“Your point being?” Kirk tried to remain externally calm despite the conflicting feelings inside him at the moment.

Admiral Barnett spoke up again. “In academic vernacular, you cheated.”

Trying to ignore the weird sensation inside as well as all the muttering in the room, Kirk leaned into the mic on his podium. He could fake confidence. God knows he’d done it before. “Let me ask you a question-even though I think we all already know the answer. The test itself is a cheat, right? You programmed it to be unwinnable.” He looked over at Spock expectantly.

“Your argument precludes the possibly of a no-win scenario.” Spock responded calmly.

“I don’t believe in no-win scenarios,” Jim replied without missing a beat.

“Then not only have you violated the rules of the test,” Spock looked over at him, “You’ve also failed to understand the principle lesson.”

“Enlighten me.” Jim returned his gaze, going for a challenging look but it felt like he was just staring.

Spock, however, somehow managed to look superior without changing his facial expression at all. “You of all people should know, Cadet Kirk, that a captain cannot cheat death.”

And things just got personal. Jim looked down at his podium, not wanting to make eye contact with the asshole who was definitely not his soulmate. “I of all people?”

Jim could feel Spock’s stare on the side of his face. “Your father, Lieutenant George Kirk, assumed command of his vessel before he was killed in action, did he not?”

He really didn’t want to go there right now. Or ever. Time to change the topic and bring back the bravado. “I don’t think you like the fact that I beat your test.”

“Furthermore,” Spock continued as if he hadn’t been interrupted, “you failed to divine the purpose of the test.”

Now Jim was just getting annoyed. He looked back at Spock and said, “Enlighten me again.”

“The purpose is to experience fear.” Spock looked at him with that continual calm of his that Jim was really starting to hate. “Fear in the face of certain death. To accept that fear and maintain command of oneself and one’s crew. This is a quality expected in every Starfleet captain.”

Before Jim could respond, a door on the side of the auditorium opened and someone brought a padd to Admiral Barnett.

The admiral quickly scanned it before looking up again. “We’ve received a distress call from Vulcan.” Jim felt Spock’s eyes leave him to snap to the front of the room. Admiral Barnett continued, “With our primary fleet engaged in the Laurentian system, we will need all cadets to respond. This hearing is on recess until further notice and all cadets are ordered to report to the hangars to receive assignments immediately. Dismissed.”

At the admiral’s words everyone stood up and began to move in an orderly but urgent manner. Jim, however, stood still and watched Spock’s retreating form. He only snapped out of it when Bones came up and stood next to him.

Without looking away from the doors Spock had just disappeared through, Jim asked, “Who was that pointy eared bastard?” It was a question that had been bouncing around his head since the two of them had first made eye contact and that weird feeling happened. If that meant what Jim thought it did, he’d just started aging over someone he didn’t even like.

“I don’t know,” Bones’ words drew him out of his thoughts. “But I like him. Now come on.” Bones led him out of the auditorium and towards the hangars.

Chapter Text

Once in the hangar, Jim assembled with the other cadets and waited for his name and assignment to be called. Still waiting. That was odd, they’d passed the Ks without saying him. He heard “McCoy, USS Enterprise!” but still nothing for him. The officers in the front finished, welcomed them all to Starfleet, and started to walk away but his name hadn’t been called. It had to be some sort of mix up. Jim ran after one of them.

“Excuse me, commander!” He caught up to the officer. “You didn’t call my name. Kirk, James T?”

“Kirk.” The commander didn’t even turn around from the panel he was entering information into. “You’re on academic suspension, that means you’re grounded until the academy board rules.” He walked away without sparing a glance at Jim, who watched him leave.

“Jim.” Bones had followed him over without his noticing. “The board will rule in your favor. Most likely.”

He could tell that Bones was trying to help him feel better, but Jim wasn’t feeling all that cheered up. He glanced back at his friend before turning back to where all of the higher ranking officers were assembling. A shuttle passed over them.

“Look Jim, I gotta go.” Bones seemed hesitant, so Jim turned around to face him, trying to hide his disappointment.

“Yeah. You go.” Jim attempted a smile but it didn’t feel quite as convincing as he was going for. He shook hands with Bones. “Be safe.” He tried to smile again, hoping it came across a little more genuine.

It must have worked, because Bones turned and started to walk away. Jim watched him for a bit before turning around. He wasn’t really sure what he was supposed to do now. He’d just get in the way if he stayed here, but he really didn’t want to wander around the academy campus as it got steadily emptier either. God, this day was terrible. He got called in front of the school and couldn’t even really defend himself because of that asshole who was totally not his soulmate, one of the major Federation planets was in distress, he was stuck here while everyone else got to go into space and possibly into danger, and now there was nothing he could do about any of those situations. Seriously, not a good day. He watched another shuttle take off, really wishing he could be on it.

Suddenly there was a hand on his shoulder and Bones was back, saying “Come with me,” and pulling Jim off toward another part of the hangar.

“Bones, where are we going?” Jim followed his friend through the crowd, momentarily distracted by Uhura walking past looking pissed. Having been on the receiving end of that look before, Jim was not jealous of whoever she was trying to find.

“You’ll see.” His attention jerked forward again as Bones responded while continuing to drag Jim by his arm.

The finally slowed as they neared the hangar infirmary and went in. Bones had released Jim’s arm as soon as they were out of the crowd, and once they were inside Jim backed out of the way as Bones began to rummage around on one of the shelves.

“What are you doing?” Jim climbed onto the exam table nearby, watching his friend warily.

“Doing you a favor. I couldn’t just leave you there, looking all pathetic.” He seemed to finally find what he was looking for, so he filled a hypospray and turned back to Jim. “I’m gonna give you a vaccine against viral infection from Melvarian mud fleas.” He jabbed it into the side of Jim’s neck.

“Ow!” Jim winced at the pain in the side of his neck, but he was still confused. “What for?”

“To give you the symptoms.” Bones had walked toward a different part of the infirmary and was doing something Jim couldn’t see. “You’re going to start to lose vision in your left eye.”

Wait, it wasn’t just that Jim couldn’t see the area where Bones was. He couldn’t see out of one eye at all. “I think I already am.”

“You’re gonna get a really bad headache, and flop sweat.” Bones said this with a calm professionalism that meant he’d officially switched into doctor mode. He walked to the exam table, grabbed Jim’s arm to help him up, and started walking them out of the infirmary.

What happened next got a little blurry for Jim because his vision was horrible right now and Bones really wasn’t kidding about that headache. His focus became breathing to deal with the pain and trying to take in what he could see through one eye. He was aware of Bones arguing with an officer, maybe the one from earlier, but the next thing he knew they were getting strapped in in the shuttle and preparing to head to the spacedock.

As they took off and started to make their way out of Earth’s atmosphere, all Jim could focus on was how terrible he felt. He leaned over to Bones, hoping he wasn’t dripping flop sweat everywhere because Bones hadn’t been exaggerating that either. “I might throw up on you.”

Bones, however, didn’t seem all that alarmed by space flight for once. He was staring out the window and seemed as awed as his gruff demeanor would allow. “Jim, you gotta see this.” Without taking his eyes off the window, he slapped Jim’s arm. “Jim, look.”

Jim, despite the pain and the sweating and the one not working, leaned in to see what Bones was looking at. Just above the blue curve of the Earth, the space dock stood out against the black darkness of the sky. Smaller subsections sprawled out from the circular central section and each had a few starships attached.

As they got closer Jim tried to remember which ship Bones had been stationed on, but his question was soon answered as they came up on the spacedock. He could see that they were approaching one of the new constitution class ships that had caused so much talk in Riverside when they’d started to be built. The shuttle turned and went over the saucer section, making Jim glad for the artificial gravity on the shuttle otherwise he’d definitely have puked by now. Still, he appreciated the view as they passed over her, still far enough away that he could read what was written on the hull clearly: USS ENTERPRISE NCC-1701. Figures Bones would make it onto the flagship. Still, Jim couldn’t help the “wow” that escaped him as they circled around her once more and finally headed to the shuttle bay in the back. She was a gorgeous ship, and he really wished he’d been assigned to her.

Goddamn pointy eared bastard getting him on academic suspension and definitely not being an attractive person who was maybe his soulmate.

Chapter Text

Once the shuttle landed in the hangar, they got off with the rest of the crew and started to make their way through engineering. Bones was rushing him along again, holding on his arm half to guide Jim and half to keep him from falling down. Bones leaned in to his ear to be heard over the sound of the other arrivals. “We need to get you changed.”

Of course. On an active starship cadet reds would stick out too much. Still, that wasn’t Jim’s highest concern at the moment. “I don’t feel right. I feel like I’m leaking.”

And that wasn’t Bones’ top priority at the moment. Since both of his eyes were actually working, he was on the lookout. So when Jim heard him say something about seeing “That pointy-eared bastard,” he was grateful that Bones pulled him out of the way. Despite his reputation and his time before Starfleet, there actually was a limit to the amount of trouble Jim wanted to get into in one day.

The headache and the half blindness made it a little unclear where they went next, but Bones led him down some corridors and in a turbolift. At one point they also ducked into a room where Bones replicated Jim a standard issue pair of black pants and an undershirt he could put on to get rid of his cadet reds. While Jim changed Bones got his own uniform. After that Bones put Jim’s arm over his shoulders and led him to what seemed to be their final stop. Jim had no idea how Bones actually knew where he was going.

Jim had no idea where they were now, actually. He decided to ask Bones. “Where are we?”

“Sickbay.” Bones continued to guide him through the room.

Sickbay made sense, because Jim felt so sick. Also Bones was a doctor. Right. Still, Jim felt terrible. “This wasn’t worth it.”

“A little suffering’s good for the soul.”

Jim wondered if this was how Bones treated all of his patients or if it was just him. Still, there was something new going on. “My mouth is itchy. Is that normal?”

“Those symptoms won’t last long.” Bones deposited him on a biobed and pulled a hypospray out of seemingly nowhere. “I’m going to give you a mild sedative.”

God, Jim forgot how much he hated being sick. He was sure whatever Bones had given him was giving him a weird reaction. “I wish I didn’t know you.”

“Don’t be such an infant.” For the second time that day, Bones jabbed him in the neck with a hypospray.

Once again, Jim cried out in pain. He really hated those things. Still, sleeping didn’t sound like a bad idea right now. “How long’s it supposed to ta-”

Before he could finish his sentence, Jim felt darkness overtake him, and it wasn’t just the partial blindness now. In what felt like a split second he went from being awake to being unconscious.

_________

Jim wasn’t sure how long he was out, but it was the weird kind of state where you’re definitely not fully conscious, but snippets of what’s going on around you manage to make it through. He caught bits of someone with an accent giving a briefing and one phrase stuck out to him: “a lightning storm in space.” The voice continued on, providing other information, but that phrase stayed in Jim’s head. Why was it so familiar? It tugged at some half-forgotten memory, his mom telling him a story she clearly didn’t want to tell... And he’d also read it somewhere, some academic thing he’d read recently… Wait. The story, the paper, they were both about the destruction of the Kelvin on the day he was born. This could not be good. Jim had to warn them…

“Lightning storm!” He startled awake and shot upright, then became aware of the fact that he still felt horrible as all the pain and other symptoms came rushing back at once. Well, they were a bit better, but still there. Except the blindness, that seemed gone. Bones must have given him something. But still, he needed to remember this. He had to warn them…

“Ah, Jim. You’re awake.” Bones walked over casually, clearly not understanding the urgency of the situation. “How are you feeling?” Before Jim could answer, Bones let out a shocked, “Good God man!”

“What?” Jim was distracted from what he needed to remember and confused by what Bones said for a second until he looked down. His hands were huge. “What the hell is this?”

“A reaction to the vaccine, dammit!” Bones, now alarmed, ran off and started to give orders to a nurse, but Jim’s focus was elsewhere.

He slid off the biobed and hurried across the room to one of the computer consoles, accessing the ship wide transmission that just went out and trying to find the part that jogged his memory. It had started to slip as soon as he woke up, but he remembered that it was important. It was urgent. They were all in danger somehow… Bones returned with a tricorder and began scanning him, but Jim was too focused on the transmission to really notice. This was important. Here it was! The part that he needed to warn them about: a lightning storm in space. That’s what had happened right before the Kelvin was destroyed by something they’d never seen before and had been no match for. This was bad, this was so bad.

“Bones.” He slapped his giant hands on his best friend’s face. “We gotta stop the ship.”

Jim took off running out of sickbay.

Chapter Text

Bones, of course, had grabbed the nearest medkit and chased him. He was a good doctor after all and wouldn’t let Jim just go running through the ship. He hadn’t said anything about noticing Jim aging though, but maybe it was too early to tell. Or maybe it was just that other things were still more pressing at the moment. “Jim,” Bones shouted, still a bit behind, “I’m not kidding, you need to keep your heart rate down!”

Jim ignored him because this was more important, dammit. He slid to a stop at one of the computer terminals in the corridor. He activated it and quickly demanded, “Computer, give me the location for crewmember Uhura.” She was a genius, there was no way she’d end up on another ship. God, Jim hoped she was here…

While the computer loaded, Bones finally caught up with him and began going through his medkit and muttering something about Jim’s reaction to the vaccine. Still, this was bigger than Jim.

The computer finally finished processing his request and gave him the information he needed; she was on deck four. Jim repeated it to himself to help him remember and took off again, trying to remember how to navigate the ship from the schematics he’d seen at some point. He had to do this; they were flying into a trap.

Bones finally caught up again as they arrived at the communications monitoring stations. “Dammit man, stand still!” He jabbed another hypo into Jim’s neck as Jim looked around the room, trying to find Uhura.

“Ow! Stop that!” Jim glared at Bones momentarily before continuing to scan the room. Finally, he saw Uhura. He ran across the room and stopped at her station. “Uhura!”

“Kirk?” She stood up and seemed very surprised to see him, which wasn’t all that surprising considering he wasn’t supposed to be on the ship, let alone in this section. “What are you doing here?”

He didn’t have time to explain. “The transmission from the Klingon prison planet, what exactly did you-”

“Oh my god, what is wrong with your hands?” She looked down at his hands and seemed very alarmed.

“It-look-” There was no time to explain. He was faintly aware of Bones behind him scanning him again, but he needed confirmation. “The ship that attacked the Klingon p—who was responsible for the attack and was it Womwan.” Suddenly talking became difficult; his tongue didn’t want to cooperate.

“What?” Uhura had been following most of what he was saying, but the ending just confused her.

Dammit, this wasn’t working. Jim turned back to Bones and tried to ask, “What’s happening to my mouth?” but he wasn’t sure how coherent he actually was.

Luckily, Bones seemed to understand. “You’ve got numb tongue?”

“Num tung?” Jim really didn’t need this now.

“I can fix that.” Bones started digging through his medkit again.

“Was the ship what?” Despite everything going on, Uhura seemed to get that this was important. Jim was so glad she was so perceptive.

“Womwan.” She still didn’t seem to get it, so he tried again. “Womoowan.”

“Romulan?” She seemed confused, but at least she’d gotten it.

“Yes!” Jim’s excitement was interrupted as Bones shoved yet another hypospray into his neck, this time on the other side. “Ah! Shtap it!” He was lisping now, but at least that meant whatever Bones had given him was acting quickly. He turned back to Uhura. “Was it?”

She still seemed confused and now more alarmed, but she nodded. “It was. How did you—is that important?”

“Very important.” He started her down for a moment, glad that she grasped the urgency of the situation (and that he could talk again), before realizing that telling her wasn’t enough. “We have to get to the bridge. We have to stop the ship.”

Jim took off running again, this time with both Uhura and Bones chasing him. They both called out to him as he ran out of the room and through the corridors, trying to find a turbolift that could actually take them to the top deck where the bridge would be.

Finally he found one. He slammed the button to call it there, fidgeting and tapping the wall as he waited for it to arrive. He didn’t have time for this, dammit. None of them had the time. Uhura and Bones arrived just as the turbolift doors opened and he rushed inside. They followed him.

“Kirk!” Uhura’s voice snapped him out of his pacing. “What is going on? Why are you so riled up? Why do we need to get to the bridge and stop the ship?”

He paused and looked at her and Bones, who looked equally concerned but slightly less worried now that whatever he’d given Jim seemed to have effectively made him better. Jim took a deep breath to calm himself before speaking. “We need to stop the ship because we’re going into a trap. I gotta tell Pike; I know he’ll believe me. He has to listen.”

They still looked alarmed, but there was a certain solemnness there too. He must have been able to convey how serious this was.

Before either of them could respond, the turbolift doors opened on to the bridge.

Chapter Text

“Captain! Captain Pike, sir, we have to stop the ship!” Jim ran onto the bridge towards the captain’s chair in the center.

“Kirk?” Pike turned and stood up from the chair. “How the hell did you get on board the Enterprise?”

Bones stepped between them and held a hand out in front of Jim as if trying to tell him to stop. “Listen, Captain, this man is under the influence of a severe reaction to a vaccine-”

“Bones. Bones!” Jim tried to cut off his friend, but Bones was still talking. Jim wasn’t reacting to anything anymore; Bones had made sure of that. He was back to as good of shape as he'd ever been in. And this was important; he had to warn Pike and get him to stop the ship. “Vulcan isn’t experiencing a natural disaster. It’s being attacked by Romulans.”

“Romulans.” Pike didn’t seem convinced. “Cadet Kirk, I think you’ve had enough attention for one day. Mccoy,” he turned to the doctor, “take him back to Sickbay. We’ll have words later.” He turned and started to go back to his chair.

Jim heard Bones say, “Aye captain,” and try to guide him off the bridge but this was important, dammit.

“Sir!” Jim pushed past Bones toward Pike again. “That same anomaly, the lightning storm in space-”

“Mr. Kirk!” As he was talking Jim saw someone come forward out of the corner of his eye and a now-familiar voice said, “Mr. Kirk is not cleared to be aboard-”

Not the pointy-eared not-soulmate. Jim didn’t even want to look at him now. “Look, I get it, you’re a great arguer-“

“-this vessel. By Starfleet regulations that makes him-“

“I’d love to do it again with you too-“

“-a stowaway. I can remove him from the bridge-“

“Try it!” Jim snapped, ignoring Pike’s warning “Kirk…” because he really needed this Spock guy to just let him talk. “This cadet is trying to save the bridge.”

Spock finally looked at him instead of Pike. “By recommending a full stop mid-warp on a rescue mission?”

Pike was who he needed to talk too, not Spock. Jim turned back to the Captain. “It’s not a rescue mission. Listen to me. It’s an attack.”

“Based on what facts?” Spock asked sharply. If Jim didn’t know any better, he’d say Spock was getting mad, or at least irritated.

The bridge went silent. Jim decided that it would be better to face Spock directly at this point since he wouldn’t stop interrupting. It definitely wasn’t because some part of Jim wanted to get a better look now that they were standing so close. “That same anomaly, the lightning storm in space, also occurred on the day of my birth. Before a Romulan ship attacked the USS Kelvin.” Jim turned back to Pike. “You know that, sir, I read your dissertation.” Jim looked back to the brown eyes he could feel staring at him still. “That ship, which had formidable and advanced weaponry, was never seen or heard from again.” Jim looked away before he was drawn into that solemn stare too much. Back to Pike. “The Kelvin attack took place on the edge of Klingon space, and around the same time as the recent lightning storm, there was an attack. 47 Klingon warbirds destroyed by Romulans, sir, and it was reported that the Romulans were in one ship, one massive ship.”

“And you know of this Klingon attack how?” Pike was taking him seriously, but he still seemed skeptical.

Jim looked around for Uhura, who was still on the bridge. Jim had to give her credit, she had guts.

“Sir, I intercepted and translated the message myself,” Uhura said solemnly. “Kirk’s report is accurate.”

“We’re warping into a trap, sir.” Jim knew that he almost had Pike convinced; he couldn’t give up now. “There will be Romulans there, I promise you that.”

Almost reluctantly, Spock spoke up after a short pause. “The cadet’s logic is sound. And Lieutenant Uhura is unmatched in xenolinguistics; we would be wise to accept her conclusion.”

Pike finally seemed convinced. “Scan Vulcan space. Check for any transmissions in Romulan.”

“Sir, I’m not sure I can distinguish the Romulan language from Vulcan.” The communications officer looked up from his station as Pike approached.

“What about you?” Pike stopped next to Uhura. “Can you speak Romulan, Cadet...” He trailed off, waiting for her to identify herself.

“Uhura. All three dialects, sir.” Despite the overwhelming situation, she was staying controlled.

“Relieve the lieutenant.” Pike waited for her “yessir” before turning to the rest of the bridge to continue giving orders. “Hannity, hail the USS Truman.”

“All the other ships are out of warp, sir, and have arrived at Vulcan, but we seem to have lost all contact.” She looked at Pike with confusion.

“Sir,” Uhura adjusted something on the communications console, earpiece already in place. “I’m picking up no transmissions in Romulan. No transmissions at all.”

Jim hoped he was wrong, but that probably meant the worst. “That’s because they’re being attacked.”

Pike’s look was still somewhat skeptical, but he paced back to the captain’s chair and sat down. “Shields up. Red alert.”

“Arrival at Vulcan in 5 seconds,” the helmsman called out. “Four, three, two!”

Jim found himself turning to Spock, who was still standing next to him and had turned toward him too. Their eyes met again.

The ship dropped out of warp and lurched to avoid the debris field that was formerly the other Starfleet ships. Pike began to shout orders as everyone on the bridge leapt into action.

Everyone except Jim, who had nothing to do and could just watch as they tried to avoid getting destroyed by the remains of the other ships. He didn’t even want to think about what the casualties would be. Sure, Starfleet had been very careful with ship design and placement of shuttles and escape pods post-Kelvin, but these ships were torn to pieces. The odds of everyone making it out unharmed weren’t great.

Jim really hated being right sometimes.

Chapter Text

The Enterprise continued to turn and drop, trying to avoid as much debris as possible, while the controlled chaos on the bridge continued. Everyone was shouting readings and status reports, or trying to get in touch with other parts of the ship, or giving or following orders. Jim still had nothing to do but watch.

Finally, they cleared the bulk of the debris and were able to see Vulcan’s red orange surface clearly. But that wasn’t all they saw.

Floating above the surface of the planet was a giant, dark ship. It seemed to be made of hundreds of spindly black sections trailing off of one end of the main body of the ship like tentacles from a squid. It matched the few descriptions Kelvin survivors had been able to provide and was most likely what had destroyed the other ships today.

“Captain,” Spock called out from his station, “They are locking torpedoes on us.”

“Divert auxiliary power from port nacelle to forward shields.” It was hard to tell how anyone could make out specific people here, but Pike had clearly heard and responded to Spock.

They managed to avoid one volley though evasive maneuvers, but the ship rocked as the second round made contact. Jim knew the damage reports would be in soon and it probably wouldn’t be good.

Pike braced himself on the arms of his chair. “Mr. Sulu, status report.”

The helmsman clicked through the display on his console urgently. “Shields at 32%. Their weapons are powerful, sir, we can’t take another hit like that!”

Pike was somehow remaining at least externally calm amidst the chaos. “Get me Starfleet command.”

“Captain.” Spock turned from his station toward the center of the bridge. “The Romulans have lowered some sort of high energy pulse device into the Vulcan atmosphere. Its signal appears to be blocking our communication and transporter abilities.”

Pike turned back to the front of the bridge. “Full power to the shields; prepare to fire all weapons.”

As suddenly as they had started, the torpedo showers stopped.

Uhura stood up from her station. “Captain, we’re being hailed.” The danger seemingly stopped, the bridge fell back into uneasy calmness.

As soon as clearance was given, a face appeared on screen. He was bald, with slanted eyebrows, pointed ears, and odd tattoos on his face. “Hello.”

“I’m Captain Christopher Pike. To whom am I speaking?” Pike’s voice was calm and just authoritative enough.

“Hi Christopher, I’m Nero.” Nero. So Jim finally had a name for the person responsible for the destruction of the Kelvin and his father’s death.

“You’ve declared war on the Federation. Withdraw, and we’ll arrange a meeting with Romulan leadership at a neutral location-“

Pike was cut off by Nero. “I do not speak for the empire. We stand apart.” His eyes seemed to move over the bridge. “As does your Vulcan crewmember. Isn’t that right, Spock?”

Spock stood up and walked toward the center of the bridge. “Pardon me, I do not believe you and I are aquatinted.”

“No, we’re not.” Nero confirmed. “Not yet.” He paused. “Spock, there’s something I would like you to see.” His attention shifted once again. “Captain Pike, your transporter has been disabled. As you can see by the rest of your armada, you have no choice. You will man a shuttle and come aboard the Narada for negotiations. That is all.” Nero swiped his hand and the transmission cut out, revealing the ominous bulk of the Narada on the viewscreen once again.

All eyes turned to Pike. After a moment he slowly stood up.

Jim couldn’t believe this. Pike knew what happened on the Kelvin. “He’ll kill you, you know that.”

“Your survival is unlikely.” Spock finally seemed to be on the same page as Jim.

“Sir, we gain nothing by diplomacy. Going over to that ship is a mistake.”

“I, too, believe you should rethink your strategy.”

“I understand that,” Pike said gently, stopping them both. He turned to the rest of the bridge. “I need officers who’ve been trained in advanced hand-to-hand combat.”

“I have training sir.” Sulu, the helmsman, raised his hand cautiously.

Pike looked at him for a second. “Come with me.” He turned back toward Jim. “Kirk, you too. You’re not supposed to be here anyway.” He started walking toward the turbolift. “Chekov, you have the conn.”

Jim heard the navigation officer hesitantly reply “aye, Captain” as he followed Pike.

Chapter Text

Pike talked as they walked through the corridors. “Without transporters, we can’t beam off the ship. We can’t assist Vulcan; we can’t do our job. Mr. Kirk, Mr. Sulu, and Engineer Olson will spacejump from the shuttle. You will land on that machine they’ve lowered into the atmosphere that’s scrambling our gear, you’ll get inside, you’ll disable it, and then you’ll beam back to the ship.” During Pike’s briefing, Jim felt Spock’s eyes drift toward him again. Why did this keep happening?

Pike continued talking, oblivious to the way his first officer was staring at Jim. “Mr. Spock, I’m leaving you in command of the Enterprise. Once we have transport capability and communications back up, you’ll contact Starfleet and report what the hell is going on here. And if all else fails, fall back, rendezvous with the fleet in the Laurentian system.” Pike stopped at the turbolift they’d just reached and turned toward Jim. “Kirk, I’m promoting you to first officer.”

“What?” Had Jim heard right?

“Captain?” Even Spock looked confused, if only for a split second. “I apologize, the complexities of human pranks escape me.”

“It’s not a prank, Spock.” Pike looked at him seriously. “And I’m not the captain, you are.” He turned back to Jim and Sulu. “Let’s go.”

Jim couldn’t help a slightly smug look at Spock as they passed. Sure, he'd questioned Pike’s decision too. But he’d just been starting to get along with that pointy eared bastard and then Spock suggests that him being first officer could only be a joke? At least Pike had some faith in Jim. He and Spock were certainly going to make an interesting captain/first officer team.

Jim followed Sulu and Pike into the turbolift. “Sir, after we knock out that drill, what happens to you?”

“Well, I guess you’ll have to come and get me.” Pike looked back at Spock. “Careful with the ship Spock, she’s brand new.”

The last thing they saw as the doors closed was Spock’s eyebrow raise.

----------

They rendezvoused with Olson on their way to the shuttle and Jim, Olson, and Sulu changed into the suits for the space jump. Once they arrived at the shuttle Pike got into the front to prepare for launch and the three of them got into the back.

Jim was sitting in the middle seat. He looked toward Olson. “You’ve got the charges, right?”

“Oh yeah.” Olson’s wild-eyed excitement was a bit excessive given the severity of the situation. “I can’t wait to kick some Romulan arse.”

“…yeah.” Jim wasn’t sure this was the kinda guy he wanted as backup. He didn’t feel like this was as exciting as Olson seemed to think it was.

“Oh yeah.” If Olson noticed Jim’s attitude shift, he wasn’t fazed by it.

Pike received clearance for takeoff and carefully piloted them out of the shuttlebay and then away from the Enterprise.

Jim turned toward Sulu. This guy had seemed pretty confident and in control on the bridge, so hopefully he was better off than Olson. “What kind of combat training do you have?”

“Fencing.” Sulu, at least, wasn’t overly excited about this; he’d remained as calm as he’d been on the bridge.

Still, Jim hoped the incredulous look on his face wasn’t too obvious, but he felt like it was. He was doing this dangerous mission with one person overly excited for what could be a suicide run and one person whose combat experience was an ancient style of sword fighting. Looks like Jim might not have to worry about aging after all.

Once they were about halfway between the Enterprise and the Narada, Pike gave the order for them to get ready and sealed off the cockpit of the shuttle in preparation for opening the back for them to jump out of. “Gentlemen, we’re approaching the drop zone. You have one shot to land on that platform.” As he spoke they put on their helmets, got up from their seats, and approached the back of the shuttle, where handles dropped from the ceiling. They held on as Pike continued. “They may have defenses, so pull your chute as late as possible.” He began to count down as he continued to prepare to drop them. “Three.” They could hear Pike moving around the front section. “Two.” Jim adjusted his grip on the handle above him. “One.” The section they were in depressurized and lost artificial gravity, sending all three of them against the ceiling. “Remember the Enterprise won’t be able to get you back until you turn off that drill.” Pike paused for a moment, probably reaching for the final release. “Good luck.”

With that, the floor of their section of the shuttle dropped out and folded to the sides, creating an opening. They launched themselves out of the shuttle and began to descend along the giant black chain that connected the Narada to the platform below.

Chapter Text

Although he knew they were probably traveling at ridiculously high speeds, the descent felt somewhat slow to Jim in the way that things always feel slow when it was quiet and the scenery around you isn’t changing much. There was the red orange of Vulcan below them, the blackness of space around them, the bright point of a sun off to the side, and the constant presence of the dark chain linking the drill platform to the Narada above. It was hard to determine how fast they were going with reference points that general.

Jim focused on breathing and staying in the proper falling position as the atmosphere began to thicken. It was still very thin (it was Vulcan after all), but the difference was still noticeable.

They began to get closer to the platform. Still thousands of meters away, but closer. Plus, despite what it seemed like before, they were going very fast; they’d definitely accelerated more as they fell thanks to Vulcan’s high gravity. The meters were going by too quickly to count except in intervals of hundreds or thousands now.

Around 2000 meters Sulu shouted to pull the chutes. He did his own and Jim followed a moment later, but Olson didn’t.

“Olson!” Jim yelled while trying to stay stable and on target with his own open chute. “Pull your chute!” He heard Sulu shout something similar.

“Not yet!” Dear god, Olson was still enjoying this too much. He shouted, “One thousand meters!” and still made no move to open his chute.

When Olson finally did pull his chute, it looked like he was less than 100 meters from the platform. It was far too late for him to make a proper controlled decent.

Jim could only watch as Olson’s chute got caught in a gust of wind oddly, causing him to go horizontal and making his body slam against the drill platform in a way that had to hurt. Before Olson could recover and grab on to anything, his chute got caught in another current of air generated by the exhaust coming off of the drill platform and pulled him off of it completely. He disappeared under the platform.

Jim shouted “Olson!” but he kinda knew to assume the worst at this point. Olson had had no control over his descent before, and the giant flame or plasma stream or whatever it was that was doing the actual drilling into Vulcan had probably already caught him. There was no way Olson had survived that.

Jim landed on the platform seconds later and was almost blown off by the same currents that got Olson. He got knocked off his feet and onto his stomach by the jerking of his chute and he slid along the platform, trying desperately to grab on to one of the vents or pieces of metal in the surface as his chute pulled him along. Finally, once it felt like his feet were nearly over the edge, he was able to get a good grip on a vent. While still holding on with one hand he hit the button to retract his chute with the other. Once he was no longer in danger of getting blown over the edge, he pulled off his helmet and the hood of the suit underneath. Those things made it almost impossible to hear or see. They’d had the targeting program that had helped him get on the platform, but he didn’t need that now.

Before he could even get up, he saw that one of the raised pieces of metal he’d tried to grab earlier was actually a trapdoor and it was now opening to let out a Romulan. Great.

Jim stood up as fast as he could and charged at the Romulan, who was starting to pull some sort of weapon out of a holster on his back. Jim tried to grab it and they struggled with it over both of their heads, causing it to start to fire wildly. Jim really hoped he didn’t just accidentally hit Sulu.

He didn’t have time to think about that though. He managed to wrestle the weapon out of the Romulan’s hands and throw it aside. He backed up to get space between them and tried to throw a punch, which got blocked. He pulled out his phaser only to have it knocked out of his hand before he could fire. While it flew over the edge he scrambled back to where his helmet had landed and grabbed it and began using it to hit the Romulan in the head repeatedly.

That seemed like enough to temporarily throw the Romulan off because he stumbled to the side. However, that just enabled Jim to see that the trapdoor had opened up again and a second Romulan was now climbing out. He really hoped Sulu would land soon and safely, because there was no way he could beat two Romulans on his own. He started swinging his helmet again, but then one of them looked away and went to another section of the platform. Hopefully that meant Sulu had arrived.

Still, the Romulan he was fighting had finally managed to knock away Jim’s helmet and now the two of them had each other by the arms and were trying to throw each other. When that didn’t work Jim threw a punch that barely seemed to faze the Romulan, who threw one that knocked him down but not out, luckily. Damn Romulan strength.

Before Jim could get up on his own the Romulan grabbed him by the back of his suit and pulled him up to start hitting him again. He landed one punch before Jim started to dodge, but still managed to grab Jim and throw him a moment later.

Jim landed on his stomach and didn’t have time to dodge the kick from the Romulan. It sent him flying toward then off the edge of the drill platform when he couldn’t stop his momentum. Jim somehow managed to grab and hold on to the edge, but with the Romulan leering down at him that didn’t seem like it would last long.

Sure enough, the Romulan began to stomp on the edge of the platform, making Jim have to move his hands constantly to avoid having them crushed.

Until he didn’t move fast enough and his left hand got stomped on by a Romulan boot. Now he was only hanging on with his right hand and the Romulan was still above him.

Chapter Text

Sulu must have been having more luck than Jim was, because before the Romulan standing over Jim could raise his foot again a slender sword coated in green blood poked out of his chest. Sulu pulled his sword back out and the Romulan’s body tipped over the edge, narrowly missing Jim. If his life wasn't still on the line Jim might have laughed. Turned out fencing wasn’t so useless after all.

Jim was still hanging onto the edge by one hand, but at least there wasn’t a Romulan trying to kill him anymore.

Instead there was Sulu, shouting over the wind for Jim to give him his hand so he could pull him up. For a moment Jim hesitated, because if they messed this up he was gonna fall to his death. But still, this could also end up with him relatively safe on the platform instead of hanging onto it for dear life.

Jim reached up his left hand, which had been dangling by his side since the Romulan stepped on it. Sulu managed to grab his hand and began pulling him back up over the edge. Once Jim was up enough, he swung a leg up onto the platform surface and Sulu helped him get all the way up.

They’d managed to survive the fight, but they were here for a reason and it wasn’t just to fight some Romulans. But there was one problem with part two of their plan now.

“Olson had the charges!” Sulu shouted over the gusts from the drill.

“I know!” Jim shouted back. Time to improvise since plan A probably literally went down in flames with Olson.

“What do we do?”

Jim looked around quickly, searching for anything they could use. Finally, he saw something. “This!” He grabbed one of the disruptors that the Romulans had dropped during the fight and saw Sulu follow his lead by grabbing the other. Together, they started firing on the main body of the drill until sparks flew and they heard the plasma below them shut down.

They had a minute to try to figure out what to do next before something came flying along the chain that connected the drill to the Narada.

They didn’t seem to be its target, though, because before they could even get a good look at the projectile, let alone try to stop it, it flew past them, toward the planet’s surface, and into the hole the drill had made.

That couldn’t be good. But with the drill down, communications had to be back up. Didn’t hurt to try. Jim went for the communicator in the gauntlet of his suit. “Kirk to Enterprise. They just launched something to the planet, in the hole they just drilled. Do you copy Enterprise?”

There was no initial response.The line seemed clear, so maybe they just weren't sure how to respond. Jim waited a moment. Still nothing. He hoped that their message had gotten through, or at least that with the jamming gone the sensors had picked up whatever just got launched into the core of Vulcan.

But still, this was probably going to be an even more dangerous place to be in a few minutes than it was now. He and Sulu needed to get off of this platform, and hopefully with the drill gone they could use the transporters again. No time for pleasantries now. “Kirk to Enterprise, beam us out of here!” Pike making him acting first officer meant he could give orders, right?

Finally, they seemed to have heard him. A calm voice said, “Stand by, locking on your signal.” It might have been the best thing Jim had heard all day.

But of course today couldn’t go well. What seemed like mere seconds after they’d successfully reached the Enterprise, the drill platform lurched violently. Jim and Sulu both stumbled, unable to maintain their balances on the wildly moving platform.

Jim fell onto his stomach for what felt like the hundredth time in the past hour, but he still got off easier than Sulu, who went tumbling over the edge of the platform.

Sulu’s shout of “Kirk!” suddenly seemed so much more important than the faint voice from his comm telling him to stay still because they were having trouble locking on to him. Sulu’s chute was on the platform, clearly not attached to him anymore, which meant that he was gonna plummet to his death. Like hell was Jim gonna let the death count today grow if he could help it. It was already way too high. He got up, ran to the edge, and jumped off after Sulu.

Jim kept his arms by his side and his legs straight, trying to be as aerodynamic as possible to catch up to Sulu, who was spread eagled to resist the fall as much as possible. Jim finally caught up to him and tackled him mid-air, causing them both to go tumbling uncontrollably without slowing down much at all.

“I got you!” Jim held on as tightly as possible to Sulu, who was doing the same. “Pull my chute!”

Sulu did as he was told, but the chute expanded for a mere moment before snapping off because it was meant to handle one person, not two.

It fluttered off above them uselessly as they continued to fall farther from it and closer to the planet. With his arms still around Sulu, Jim started shouting into his comm again. “Kirk to Enterprise! Beam us up! Beam us up!” He continued shouting, probably drowning out any response from the ship, but they hadn’t dematerialized yet so it wasn’t the response he wanted anyway.

“Beam us up! Enterprise where are you?” Jim honestly didn’t care what they had to say at this point. All he cared about was the red orange of the ground that was getting steadily closer and would kill him and Sulu on impact if they didn’t get beamed up now. “Now, now, now, do it now!”

They had to be less than one hundred meters from the surface when he gave up on the comm and just started screaming along with Sulu. Right as it seemed like they would be added to the casualty count, the bright light of the transporter surrounded them. Instead of hitting the planet’s surface at terminal velocity in a way that would definitely be terminal, they hit they hit the transporter pad with enough force to hurt, but nothing a trip to Sickbay wouldn’t fix.

Distantly, Jim was aware of the Russian kid from the bridge shouting in celebratory Russian, but he was more focused on making sure he could actually move.

“Thanks.” Sulu seemed a bit slower at getting up than he had been, but it looked like he was still moving. Plus, Jim had landed on top of him.

“No problem.” Jim ached all over, but hey, he saved someone. Few hundred more and maybe people would finally shut up about his dad. Shaking off that thought, Jim looked up to the transporter technicians accusingly as he got up. He knew this probably wasn’t their fault, but he had adrenaline to spare right now and he’d nearly died. “What the hell took you guys so long?”

The lieutenant in a red dress spoke up first. “If you’d stayed still like you’d been told, we wouldn’t have had to calculate the lock to beam you up. Also, Commander—Acting Captain Spock ordered us to beam him down to the surface before you asked to be beamed up and we had to do that first.”

Before Jim could snap at her for telling him to stay still on a drill platform that was being retracted in lurches, let alone how staying still would mean letting Sulu die, the last part of her statement went through. “Wait, the surface of the planet? Is he mad?”

“He said something about needing to save people who protected the culture of his planet before leaving the bridge,” Jim remembered that Chekov had been the name of the Russian at navigation when the kid spoke up again. “It must have been important for him to leave since we’d just found out they were creating a singularity at the center of the planet.”

“Wait.” Jim needed a moment to process this. “The planet is about to implode because they made a black hole in the center, and he still beamed down?”

When all anyone in the room could do was shrug or nod, Jim ran a hand down his face in disbelief. Figures he would get the one Vulcan that was as batshit as him as a soulmate instead of one of all the ones who were calm and rational.

Chapter Text

As soon as he had understood what was happening to his planet, Spock knew he would have to transport down and rescue the Elders. No transporter could penetrate the thick rock around the Katric Arc, and they would not know the danger they were truly in.

The sight that greeted him upon his arrival to the surface would most likely be described in terms like “horrifying” or “terrible” if described by a human. The air was thick with smoke and the ground still seemed unstable. Fires could be seen in some places. In others, the rocks that stood out from the ground were crumbling. The destruction of the planet was already beginning.

But Spock could not allow himself to be distracted. There was no time. He still had to climb the crumbling rock up to the entrance to the Katric Arc, reach the inner chamber, warn the Elders of the need to escape, and get them to a position where it would be possible to be transported out. With no time to waste, he began to climb.

Finally, he reached the entrance, went inside, and navigated the corridors to the central chamber. As he expected the Elders were congregated there. Before all of them could even break out of their meditation, Spock spoke. “The planet has only seconds left. We must evacuate.” He felt something like urgency leak into his voice, but he could not be faulted for a slight loss of control under the circumstances.

They looked between themselves for a moment before seemingly deciding to believe him and leaving their meditation. There was already evidence of calamity in the chamber; the statues around the perimeter were shaking and there were loose rocks on the floor that must have fallen from the ceiling or walls.

Spock began to lead the Elders out of chamber, but he was aware of the statues that lined it starting to fall. He heard someone behind them get crushed, but there was no time to go back. They needed to get out. Attempting to prevent one loss could cause the loss of all.

They raced through the carved corridors. Spock was aware that his father seemed to be closest behind him, but the two of them had not acknowledged each other. This was no time to settle old disagreements. The rock of the corridors was already showing signs of stress and cave-ins could be imminent, resulting in them getting crushed or trapped. They had to continue moving.

They only stopped when they were on the ledge outside of the entrance. The falling rocks from higher on the mountain would have impeded their progress, so they would have to be transported from here. Spock pulled out his communicator. “Spock to Enterprise. Transport us up now.” He was aware of the command in his voice as he spoke, but the situation was urgent and he was acting captain, so it was allowed.

“Locking onto you, stay where you are, do not move.” Ensign Chekov’s voice responded from the other end of the comm. Spock wondered why he had left the bridge but was more focused on the crumbling rock of the mountains around him and the Elders and their precarious situation.

Spock heard Ensign Chekov counting down as the light of the transporter began to surround them, but he remained focused on the edge of the ledge in front of him, which was beginning to crumble. With that rate of erosion, he could be over the edge if the transporter took too long.

However, they transported off of the surface successfully before the edge could reach them. Spock saw the gleaming white of the transporter room instead of the continued death of his planet. In the transporter room were the usual technicians for this shift as well as Ensign Chekov, Lieutenant Sulu, and Cadet Kirk, the latter two having must only recently returned from the drill.

Spock felt his gaze turn to his father, possibly from the surprise of seeing him. He did not know that Sarek would be with the Elders during a crisis, he would have thought that his father would prefer to be with-

His mother was still on the planet. Spock could do nothing to stop the fear and panic that ran through him at that moment. His mother would most likely be at their home or somewhere else in Shi’Kahr. There would be no time to search for and save her; the planet likely only had moments left before it would implode. Spock felt himself unable to calculate the precise time or even fully concentrate against the intense grief he felt knowing that his mother was about to die and that there was nothing he could do to prevent it. His only hope was that she could have gotten on one of the ships that had been around Vulcan or one of the ships that were held in reserve on the planet in case of an emergency. However, it was also possible that Nero had destroyed all such ships. The chances of his mother’s survival were infinitesimal, and Spock found himself unwilling to calculate them. For the moment he could draw reassurance from the psychic link he had to her that did not seem to be gone yet, but he did not know how long that reassurance would last.

The transporter room was silent. No; it was not, he had been too internally absorbed to notice that Chekov had been calling out to him. “Sir, the planet’s collapse is imminent. We need to leave immediately to avoid destruction.”

“Yes.” Spock looked up, but felt unable to completely shake off the emotion that had taken hold of him. “Tell the bridge to take us away from the planet immediately.”

He stepped off of the transporter pad and began to leave the room. He heard Chekov call the bridge and relay his orders. Spock knew he did not have time for regret or grief now. Pike had made him acting captain, and he needed to fulfill that role. He could not allow himself to be emotionally compromised.

Still, he could not help the stumble that followed only moments later in one of the ship’s corridors. One hand braced himself against the wall of the corridor and the other went to his head. There was intense psychic pain as billions of Vulcans died, causing a sudden severance of mental bonds that was nearly overwhelming the collective psyche of the remaining Vulcans. Spock saw the Elders seem similarly affected; many of them had stumbled and put their hands to their heads and Spock even seemed to hear slight momentary groaning. He was surprised that none of them had collapsed completely; he was finding it difficult to remain upright himself.

As the intense pain began to subside somewhat, possibly due to the survivors beginning to shield more intensely, Spock became aware that he could no longer feel his connection to his mother. It was hard to focus around the still immense pain, but the comforting presence he had felt all his life did not seem to be there. His mother was gone.

They were nearly at Sickbay. Although Pike’s CMO had been killed in Nero’s initial attack, the Dr. McCoy who had responded to his earlier call to Sickbay from the bridge should prove adequate to check the remaining Elders for injuries and treat any they might have. However, it was unlikely that the doctor would be able to do anything for the psychic pain.

As they reached Sickbay, Spock paused and allowed the Elders to enter. He hesitated as his father was about to enter. “Father...” Sarek was fully Vulcan, unlike him. Perhaps he would be more able to distinguish…

“What is it, my son?” Sarek stopped close enough to the doors that they remained open, and although he looked calm, Spock could tell that his father was struggling to maintain his composure.

“My mother-”

“Amanda had planned to spend her day working at the house. I did not have contact with her after the planetary communications were blocked.” Sarek seemed to hesitate, and when he spoke next his voice seemed slightly quieter, weaker. “I cannot feel her either. The collective psychic pain of the broken bonds and loss is strong, but I am unable to sense her as I normally can.” He stepped closer as if to offer comfort, but stopped at the last moment.

Spock nodded and tried to fight the wave of complex and indescribable emotion that threatened to overtake him. He could not give in to emotion, especially not now. He straightened his posture, not realizing he had begun to curl in on himself. “I am needed on the bridge. You should report to Sickbay.”

Again his father seemed to hesitate, but then nodded and entered Sickbay. After a moment Spock turned and began to walk in the direction of the turbolift that would take him to the bridge.

Chapter Text

Jim and Sulu had still been in the transporter room when Spock and the Vulcan Elders had beamed up. He saw the way Spock looked around the room before pausing as his face seemed to go blanker than usual. He didn’t know if it was because they were supposedly soulmates or what, but Jim just knew that something had happened. He could practically feel it.

His suspicions were confirmed not much later. He’d gone to Sickbay to get patched up since between falling on the drill multiple times, fighting Romulans, and nearly falling to his death Bones would probably kill him if he didn't get a check up. Jim's biobed was close enough to the door that he’d been able to overhear Spock’s conversation with the older Vulcan who was apparently his father.

So Spock’s mother had died along with the planet. Jim couldn’t imagine how that felt. Sure, he also had the half-orphan thing going on, but it was probably different if you actually knew your dead parent. Some people out there could probably debate whether losing someone before you could know them or after you already did was worse, but Jim was pretty sure that they both sucked in different ways. It wasn’t about who had it worse; both were shitty situations.

Still, Spock definitely had it worse than Jim here. Losing a parent and your planet all at once had to be indescribably difficult. Although Jim hadn’t always liked the guy in the day or so they’d known each other, he wouldn’t wish what had happened to Spock on anyone.

Even though his injuries were pretty simple, it still took a little while for Jim to get out of Sickbay. As soon as the transporters had been back online, every transporter room had started beaming up as many Vulcans as possible to save who they could. Because most of them were injured or at least in pain, Sickbay was flooded. And because it had been hit when they’d been attacked, Sickbay was understaffed. Some of the Vulcans who had beamed up and were less injured had started to help the severely injured, but the situation was still not looking good.

Eventually, Jim heard an announcement for all senior officers to report to the bridge. Since Pike had made him first officer, Jim realized that that included him now. And since Spock was the one making the announcement, that meant that Pike probably wasn’t back yet. Jim got up since they’d already finished patching him up. He was surprised to see Bones starting to leave too.

Once they were in the turbolift, Jim turned to him and raised his eyebrows. “What are you going to the bridge for? Aren’t you needed in Sickbay?”

“They called for senior officers.” Bones’ voice and posture were tense. “Pike’s CMO didn’t survive the attack on the ship and somehow I got a field promotion.”

“Oh. Wow.” Jim turned back to the front of the turbolift. “I would say congrats, but it seems like you’re not very happy about this.”

“You know I’d rather be in Sickbay than in a meeting now, Jim.” Bones snapped, clearly annoyed with the situation. “What are you doing going to the bridge?”

Jim hesitated, not sure if he should tell him about Pike’s last minute promotion, but before he could answer the doors opened to the bridge and they saw Spock looking at them.

“Everyone has arrived; we should begin.” Spock walked over to Uhura. Jim, taking advantage of the opportunity while Spock was pacing, decided to test out the captain’s chair. Despite Pike’s faith in him, ending his academy career with a cheating scandal meant that it could be a long time before he got to sit in one of these, if he ever did at all. Better get comfortable while he could.

Spock, meanwhile, was focused. “Lieutenant, have you confirmed that Nero is headed for Earth?”

Uhura seemed to shrug slightly, but it seemed more like exhaustion than uncertainty. “Their trajectory suggests no other destination, Captain.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.” Spock paced to the front of the bridge.

This situation didn’t seem so simple to Jim. Nero gave off that ‘angry and unbalanced’ vibe that he’d seen in too many people before bar fights. Like the kinda aggressive asshole who wouldn’t stop fighting after the initial person who pissed them off was down. “Earth may be his next stop, but we have to assume every Federation planet is a target.”

Spock turned and paced back toward him, muttering, “Out of the chair,” in the kind of calm but annoyed voice that reminded Jim of someone telling their dog to get off the couch.

This guy would never let Jim have his moment, would he? Jim rolled his eyes and stood up.

“Well if the Federation is a target,” Chekov spoke up from the navigation console, “why didn’t they destroy us?”

“Why would they?” Across the console Sulu seemed both irritated and exhausted. “Why waste a weapon? We obviously weren’t a threat.”

“That is not it.” Spock’s pacing had now taken him around the navigation console and between it and the viewscreen. “He said he wanted me to see something: the destruction of my home planet.”

“How the hell did they do that, by the way?” Bones had on that particularly annoyed face he got when the solution to a problem was eluding him. “Where did the Romulans get that kind of weaponry?”

“The engineering comprehension necessary to artificially create a black hole may suggest an answer.” Spock had finally stopped his pacing; He turned from the viewscreen to face the bridge. “Such technology could theoretically be manipulated to create a tunnel in spacetime.”

“Dammit man I’m a doctor not a physicist.” Yep, Bones was annoyed. “Are you actually suggesting they’re from the future?”

“If you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Spock did an eyebrow raise that Jim wasn't quite able to decipher.

“How poetic.” That Jim could decipher. Bones was annoyed. Time to cut this off before it went all day.

“Then what would an angry, future Romulan want with Captain Pike?” Jim didn’t want to think that Pike was dead just yet. He knew they’d killed the Kelvin’s captain pretty quickly, but there had to be some reason they’d wanted Pike to come over besides murder, right?

“As captain, he knows details of Starfleet’s defenses.” Sulu looked around from his station before finally settling on Spock.

And that could be very bad. Jim pushed off of the rail he’d been leaning against since Spock kicked him out of the chair and started walking to the center of the bridge. “What we need to do is catch up to that ship. Disable it, take it over, and get Pike back.”

“We are technologically outmatched in every way; a rescue attempt would be illogical.” Spock turned and looked directly at Kirk.

“Nero’s ship would have to drop out of warp for us to overtake it.” Just when Jim was starting to like Chekov, the kid starts poking holes in his plans. Damn.

“Then what about assigning engineering crews to try to boost our warp yield?” Jim was nothing if not able to come up with new plans constantly. Nero’s ship was huge, there was no way that thing could go that fast. They’d be able to catch it if they tried, probably.

“Remaining power and crews are being used to repair radiation leaks on the lower decks-” Spock really seemed to specialize in stopping Jim’s plans.

“Okay, okay-” Jim tried talking over Spock, who was now going on about contacting Starfleet. Jim walked to the front of the bridge where Spock was. “Alright! There has to be some way-“

“-We must gather with the rest of Starfleet, to balance the terms of the next engagement-“ Spock almost seemed to be getting angry.

“There won’t be a next engagement!” Jim was definitely getting angry. “By the time we’ve gathered, it will be too late.” Jim made eye contact with Spock again, but he looked away. “You say he’s from the future, knows what’s going to happen, then the logical thing is to be unpredictable.”

Spock paced into Jim’s personal space as he talked. “You are assuming that Nero knows how events are predicted to unfold.” He paused and stopped within arm’s distance of Jim. “The contrary, Nero’s very presence has altered the flow of history, starting with the attack on the USS Kelvin, cumulating with the events of today, thereby creating an entire new chain of incidents that cannot be anticipated by either party.”

“An alternate reality.” Uhura had gotten up from her station and walked to the center of the bridge as she seemed to process what Spock just said.

“Precisely.” Spock looked from her back to Jim with something that Jim couldn’t quite define but definitely didn’t like in his eyes. Spock walked back to the center of the bridge “Whatever our lives might have been if the time continuum was not disrupted, our destinies have changed.” He paused again and began to sit down in the captain’s chair. “Mr. Sulu, plot a course for the Laurentian system, warp factor three.”

That was definitely not what Jim thought they should be doing. “Spock, don’t do that.” He walked from the viewscreen back toward the captain’s chair. “Running back to the rest of the fleet for a-a confab is a massive waste of time-“

“These are the orders issued by Captain Pike when he left the ship-“

“He also ordered us to go back and get him. Spock, you are captain now, you have to make-“

“I am aware of my responsibilities, Mr. Kirk-“

“Every second we waste Nero’s getting closer to his next target!”

“That is correct and why I am instructing you to accept the fact that I alone-“

“I will not allow us to go backwards,” Jim could feel himself starting to should louder.

“I, alone,-“ Spock was also raising his voice.

“-Instead of hunting Nero down!” Jim’s hands were in fists at his sides.

At that Spock finally stood up and made eye contact. “Security, escort him out.”

Jim glared right back at him as he heard the security officers approach and didn’t break eye contact as they grabbed him. As they started to lead him off of the bridge, each holding an arm, Jim decided that he really didn’t need this today. He struck one officer in the stomach, successfully getting him to release Jim’s arm, which he used to punch the other officer in the face. He’d managed to grab the phaser from the officer he’d hit first and was struggling to get it from the officer, who didn’t want to let go, all while trying to fend off the other officer with his other hand.

Suddenly, Jim felt a strong pinching feeling in his shoulder near his neck. He felt himself go limp as everything went dark.

Chapter Text

When Jim came to, he definitely wasn’t still on the bridge. His brain was a little foggy, so he was having trouble figuring out exactly where he was. Whatever had knocked him out had been worse than one of Bones’ hypos.

Taking in the space around him, Jim saw that it was small. Not small like a cell in the brig would be though. Dammit, had that pointy eared bastard actually shoved him in an escape pod and thrown him off the ship? So uncool. And definitely not how you were supposed to settle disagreements between captains and first officers. Jim had to admit that he was probably a bit out of line for starting a shouting match on the bridge, but still, marooning him? This was Starfleet, not a freaking pirate ship.

Jim realized that he should probably figure out where he’d actually been marooned. All he could see out of the window on the escape pod was different shades of white, which really wasn’t helpful.

He activated the console in the pod. “Computer, where am I?”

“Location: Delta Vega. Class M planet, unsafe. There is a Starfleet outpost 14 kilometers to the northwest. Remain in your pod until retrieved by Starfleet authorities.” The computer’s voice seemed like it was meant to be soothing, but it really wasn’t helping Jim now.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me.” Jim knew that the computer wouldn’t respond, but still. Of all the places he could have been marooned, that pointy eared bastard couldn’t even pick a fully habitable planet? Jim should probably be grateful that it was Class M instead of something completely uninhabitable, but still, they hadn’t been near any safe Class M planets? Or they couldn’t have just thrown him in the brig or sedated him?

Jim opened the doors of the pod and was met by cold that would easily put Iowa winters to shame. And thanks to the crash landing of his pod, he had a several meter deep hole to climb out of with sheer ice for the sides. He grabbed the emergency supplies in the pod and started climbing.

When he finally got out, he was greeted by an endless white expanse of snow and ice. Somehow he was supposed to travel 14 kilometers in this and keep his sense of direction. Great. Freaking pointy eared bastard. Jim opened up the emergency pack to get out the parka that should be there and picked a direction to walk that he hoped was northwest.

Because this day just kept getting better for Jim, he hadn’t been walking on the uneven icy terrain long when a blizzard hit. He pulled out the communicator they’d helpfully given him even though it would be useless in weather like this and decided to start making a log so that if Starfleet found his frozen corpse they would know who to blame.

“Stardate 2258.42.” Jim realized that he’d been out cold and he didn’t know how long he’d spent in that pod. “Or, uh, 4… whatever.” Probably didn’t matter anyway; the Enterprise would have a record of throwing him out. “Acting Captain Spock has marooned me on Delta Vega in what I believe to be a violation of Security Protocol 49.09, governing the treatment of prisoners aboard a starship…” Jim paused. He’d heard a howling noise that didn’t sound like it was just the wind.

He turned around to look behind him. Between the wind and all the ice it was hard to tell where the sound was coming from, but maybe if he turned around from the wall of ice in front of him he’d be able to pick it up better instead of getting thrown off by echoes.

It was hard to tell because of the blizzard, but it looked like something was coming toward him. He couldn’t tell if it was far away or just really small, but it seemed like it was getting closer either way. And it was also starting to seem like it was really big. Not good.

Despite what most people would say, Jim actually did have some sense of self preservation, which kicked in as the beast got closer and made him start to run. He didn’t care if he was going northwest anymore; he just had to get away from that thing.

Jim ran as fast as he could, but the thing was still gaining on him. He stumbled a bit where the ice was uneven and saw that it had to be nearly two meters behind him now. Freaking pointy eared bastard marooning him on a seriously unsafe and questionably Class M planet.

Before the first beast could get to him, though, the ice behind Jim cracked from beneath and an even bigger monstrosity broke through and caught the first thing in its giant red mouth. The force of it breaking the ice had caused Jim to fall back on his ass and he saw as it tossed the other thing aside like it was nothing.

He’d just gotten back on his feet when it turned to him and opened its giant mouth again, this time close enough for him to see that it opened in a star shape with jagged teeth on each arm of the star. It roared and that was enough to terrify him into running again because he really didn’t want to find out if those things ate humans.

It started chasing him because apparently nothing wanted Jim to survive to the end of this day. If Jim survived this, he was so petitioning for Delta Vega to have its status changed. Nothing about this planet was remotely safe for humanoid life.

He continued to run, screaming now because there was no point in pretending to not be scared when he was about to die anyway. He looked behind him, seeing that it was alarmingly close because it was apparently faster than beast number one had been, and he missed the slope in front of him where the ice shifted from being flat to being at around 45 degrees. Or at least that’s what it seemed to be at as he went tumbling down it.

In the direction that must have been the top of the ice sheet, but again, hard to tell when tumbling down an uneven ice slope and bouncing around, he heard the monster beast number two roar again before hearing a sound that must have been it starting to fall and taking half of the ice sheet with it. Jim now had the option of getting crushed to death by an avalanche, great.

Jim finally slid to a stop on the ice somewhere at the base of the hill. He was completely disorientated and maybe a little stunned, like he’d just been hit by a phaser on its lowest setting. Or hit by a whole hillside of ice. Like that time he’d tried to go sledding as a kid and Sam had pushed him down the icy hill before he was ready. No, this was way worse than either of those.

Jim barely had time to for the world to stop spinning around him when he heard the roaring again. He lifted his head to see that monster creature number two had indeed fallen down the hill too and was about to start sliding to where he was. Time to get up and start running and screaming again.

Monster beast number two managed to get up and running again a lot quicker than Jim had. He looked behind him and saw that it was gaining on him again. Luckily, when he looked forward he saw a small opening in the ice, possibly the entrance to a cave. It looked like the opening would be too small for the creature to get through, so hopefully Jim would be able to hide in there until it lost interest and gave up.

Jim ran inside and he was wrong, god he was so wrong. Not only could the creature fit through the entrance to the ice cave, it followed him in and seemed to be gaining on him despite all of the obstacles around them. Jim dodged around the giant pillars of ice but he could hear it gaining on him oh god—

Jim felt what must have been the creature’s tongue wrap around his ankle and knock him down, this time on his stomach again. God, he was gonna have so many bruises if he woke up tomorrow.

That seemed increasingly less likely though. The creature was dragging him in toward its mouth and no flailing, kicking, or screaming Jim could do could dislodge its tongue from his ankle.

Just when it seemed like he was finally done for, someone bearing an actual flaming torch stepped between Jim and the creature and began waving the fire in the thing’s face, successfully making it back away. The beast released Jim and the other person pressed forward, waving the fire at it until it turned and ran from the cave.

Now that Jim seemed like he wasn’t about to die, he took a moment to catch his breath and take in his savior. The other person’s back was turned and they were wearing a parka, but from where the hood was down, Jim could make out dark hair and…pointed ears?

The other person turned around, revealing a Vulcan who looked early-middle-aged at the oldest . Jim figured it must be a survivor of Vulcan’s destruction who didn’t make it out of the solar system, but then the Vulcan almost seemed to smile and softly said, “James T. Kirk,” in a smooth voice that was somehow familiar.

Chapter Text

Jim had no idea what was going on. “Excuse me?” How did this random Vulcan know Jim’s name?

“How did you find me?” The Vulcan seemed unfazed, or maybe didn’t even notice Jim’s question.

“Woah, woah, woah.” Jim finally stood up, putting a little more distance between him and this stranger. “How do you know my name?”

The stranger paused for a second as if they were surprised Jim didn’t recognize them. “I have been and always shall be your friend.”

This was too much. First the most intense and ridiculous day of Jim’s life, starting with maybe meeting his soulmate, a whole load of every variety of horrible in the middle, now a random Vulcan claiming to know him? This was too much. “Wait, wait. Ah—look. I don’t know you.”

This made the Vulcan stranger look even more confused. They spoke slowly and clearly, as if concerned Jim had a head injury, which was entirely possible really. “I am Spock.”

That just didn’t make any sense. This guy had to be at least 20 years older than Spock, plus there was no way Spock would be claiming they were bffs. Nope, Jim was not gonna believe this. Had to draw the line on what he’d buy today somewhere, and he was drawing it here. “Bullshit.”

The Vulcan claiming to be Spock sighed. “You were always stubborn. Let us make a fire to keep warm; it will take some time to explain.” He turned and walked away before looking back at Jim. “Follow me.”

After cautiously hesitating a moment, Jim shrugged. This guy had saved his life, Jim could at least repay him by listening to his explanation. Plus, he was curious now. He was still super wary about this guy and the situation in general, but he was curious.

Once they’d gotten a fire started and settled around it, Jim sitting opposite the stranger, the Vulcan began to speak.

“It is remarkably pleasing to see you again, especially after the events of today.” He didn’t look up from the fire as he spoke.

“Uh,” Jim still wasn’t sure what to call this guy; Spock just didn’t seem like the right name. “Sir, I appreciate what you did for me today, but if you were Spock you’d know we weren’t friends. At all.” Jim hoped he didn’t sound as bitter as he felt. “You hate me, you marooned me here for mutiny.”

“Mutiny?” The Vulcan seemed surprised. Was Jim getting better at reading Vulcans or did this guy show more emotion than usual for Vulcans?

“Yes.” Jim pushed the thought aside to focus on the conversation at hand.

“You are not the captain?” The Vulcan still seemed surprised.

Was he taunting Jim? God, the universe was really out to get him today. Jim couldn’t help the slight bitter laugh that escaped him. “No.” He looked down, unable to look at this stranger who evidently thought a lot of him. “No, um.” He looked back up and decided to roll with what this guy said about being Spock. This guy seemed to trust him, so why not return the favor? “You’re the captain.” Jim stood up. “Pike was taken hostage.” Jim walked away from the fire.

“By Nero?” Maybe-Spock’s question caught him by surprise.

Jim turned around. Maybe-Spock knowing his name was weird enough, but they only found out Nero’s name hours ago. Unless he’d been in that pod for longer than he’d thought and that name was known throughout the Federation now. But that seemed unlikely, so he was back to square one, which was knowing nothing. But Maybe-Spock seemed to know something. “What do you know about him?”

Maybe-Spock turned from him to the fire. “He is a particularly troubled Romulan.” Well, he got that much right at least. Maybe-Spock stood up from his seat by the fire, walked over to Jim, and held a hand out near Jim’s face. “Please, allow me. It will be easier.”

Jim leaned away. He was starting to trust this guy because something about him put Jim at ease, but that didn’t mean that he could do whatever he wanted. “Woah, woah. What are you doing?”

“It is a way to connect minds and convey information.” Maybe-Spock held out his hand again. “May I?”

Well, it wasn’t like Jim had a lot to lose anyway. Plus, he wanted to know what this guy knew. “Go ahead.”

Maybe-Spock started speaking some chant that Jim didn’t recognize. “Our minds, one and together.” He put his hand on Jim’s face in an odd way, not cupping it like Jim would expect but instead with each finger poking him in a different spot on his face. “One hundred and twenty nine years from now, a star will explode and threaten to destroy the galaxy.” Something in the Vulcan’s expression shifted, and suddenly Jim wasn’t in the ice cave anymore.

Instead he was racing through the stars, but it didn’t seem like he was in a starship. Maybe-Spock’s voice narrated the experience. “That is where I’m from, Jim.” His voice seemed to echo as they continued to fly along. “The future.” They closed in on a solar system, passing through an asteroid belt to focus on a large star that was glowing brightly. “The star went supernova.” The next words he said were distorted as the star exploded and began to suck in and destroy the asteroid belt they’d seen before as the shockwave went flying out. “I promised the Romulans that I would save their planet.” The picture shifted to several Vulcans in a warmly-lit room with geometric architecture, then to an odd-looking ship in a dark hangar. “We outfitted our fastest ship.” Now they were in the ship, where in a circular room there were several people performing inspections and a large clear cylinder with a glossy red sphere inside it. “Using red matter, I would create a black hole that would absorb the energy of the star.” There were more vocal distortions and echoes as the view changed to the ship from before hurtling through space in a way that was completely unfamiliar to Jim. “I was en route when the unthinkable happened.” Now they saw Maybe-Spock inside the ship, piloting it. “The supernova destroyed Romulus.” A dark brown planet appeared, momentarily intact before a wave of glowing energy and matter from the star approached, causing it to disintegrate and then get completely destroyed. Now they saw Maybe-Spock working desperately in the room from before with the glossy red sphere in the clear cylinder. “I had little time.” In a strange suit, he prepared a canister before using a needle at the end of it to get a small drop off of the glossy red sphere. “I had to extract the red matter and shoot it into the supernova.” He was loading the canister into a metal cylinder. They saw the ship from outside again as they skirted the edge of the wave of energy and matter from the supernova before turning and launching the canister from before back into it. The canister flew back before detonating, creating a black hole in the middle of the wave. The ship seemed to getting safely away. “As I began my return trip, I was intercepted.” Again they saw Maybe-Spock piloting the ship, but this time he turned toward a console by his side. “He called himself Nero, the last of the Romulan Empire.” The name echoed as the face of the Romulan from the Narada appeared. “In my attempt to escape, both of us were pulled into the black hole.” They saw the view of the massive black hole from Maybe-Spock’s ship, then the Narada getting pulled in. “Nero went through first. He was the first to arrive.” Here Jim felt his own thoughts guide them to the destruction of the Kelvin as he’d pictured it so many times, now shaped by what he’d actually seen of the Narada and its weapons. The view shifted from the Kelvin getting rocked by explosions to Nero’s angry face once more. “Nero and his crew spent the next twenty-five years awaiting my arrival.” Nero seemed to be in some sort of labor camp. “But what was years for Nero,” now Nero faded and they saw the odd ship from before futilely resisting getting pulled into the black hole, “was only seconds for me.” They saw Maybe-Spock at the conn, bracing himself. “I went through the black hole; Nero was waiting for me.” The view was looking out from the controls of the ship; the only thing visible through the viewscreen was the black bulk of the Narada. Then they saw Maybe-Spock walking off of his ship to the waiting Romulans in what must have been a bay in the Narada. “He held me responsible for the loss of his world.” One Romulan, Nero, broke from the group and approached Maybe-Spock, who seemed to surrender. “He captured my vessel and spared my life for one reason.” Nero was now looming over Maybe-Spock, who had fallen to his knees. “So that I would know his pain.” The rage was clear on Nero’s face. “He beamed me here.” Now they saw Maybe-Spock on the icy surface of Delta Vega. “So that I could observe his vengeance.” Now Maybe-Spock was looking up at the sky, seeing in the distance Vulcan crumbling in on itself and imploding into nothingness. “As he was helpless to save his planet, I would be helpless to save mine.” Maybe-Spock’s voice broke here at the memory of watching Vulcan’s destruction, as if he was going to cry. Now the focus was on Maybe-Spock’s devastated face. “Billions of lives lost, because of me, Jim. Because I failed.”

At that the connection broke off and Jim found himself back in the ice cave. He gasped; there were tears running down his face.

Chapter Text

“Forgive me.” Maybe-Spock’s voice seemed a bit rougher than before, as if he too was affected by seeing the story of him and Nero in the mental connection. “Emotional transference is an effect of the meld.”

Jim stumbled away, feeling like he could collapse from the roiling emotions inside him and still struggling to breathe regularly. This was completely different than what he was expecting. “So you do feel.”

“Yes.” The way he said it was so matter of fact, as if Vulcans feeling was common knowledge.

“Going back in time,” Jim felt more complicated emotions, maybe anger now. “You changed all of our lives.” There was still so much there, so many emotions he didn’t know how to handle it.

“Jim.” Maybe-Spock said his name, and Jim was reminded of the feelings of warmth and affection and maybe even overpowering love cut with overwhelming sorrow and new joy that he had felt in the meld whenever Maybe-Spock had said his name, as well as the brief flashes of a face that was different than his but that he somehow knew was also Jim Kirk, a face that had looked the same age as Maybe-Spock.

Unaware of everything Jim was remembering, Maybe-Spock continued. “We must go. There is a Starfleet outpost not far from here.”

“No.” Jim turned around and planted his feet and tried to school his features into something besides the mess of emotion he was feeling inside.

Maybe-Spock turned around, seeming confused. “No?”

“No.” Jim tried to fight all the emotion and questions inside of him but he couldn’t. “I’m not going anywhere with you until you answer some questions for me.”

Maybe-Spock seemed to sigh. “Jim I know you can be stubborn but we must go; there is not much time.”

“No.” Jim gritted his teeth; he wanted to scream and cry and collapse all at once but he needed answers, dammit. “Your story doesn’t add up. If you really are Spock—and that’s still an if for me, by the way,” Jim saw Maybe-Spock’s face fall a bit at that but continued on because he had too, “how the hell could you be from over a century in the future but only look a few decades older than Spock does now? And why did I feel,” Jim hesitated, still unsure how to describe what he had felt whenever Maybe-Spock had said his name when they were mentally connected or whatever that was. “Why did I feel so much whenever you said my name in that whatever it was? And who was that face that would flash whenever you said my name and why does it feel like it was me and not me at the same time?”

Maybe-Spock sighed and seemed to deflate at the questions. “I had hoped that not all of that would be conveyed to you when we melded; however it seems that our minds are too compatible for me to hide anything from you.” He returned to the fire but seemed reluctant to do so. “Please, come sit with me. This explanation will not be simple, but it is what you deserve.”

Jim eyed him warily. “I’ll stand for now.” He tried to ignore how he felt when Maybe-Spock’s face seemed slightly hurt at that.

“Very well.” Maybe-Spock seated himself on the same block of ice he had been seated on earlier. “Before I begin, what do you know of the Spock of this universe? I presume you have met?”

“Yeah, just recently though, so I don’t know much.” Jim ran his hand over his face and exhaled loudly. “He caught me cheating on the Kobyashi Maru and called me out over it in front of the whole school, when we made eye contact at that hearing I felt… something… so I’m pretty sure I’m aging now, but I can’t really tell because I’m pretty sure it’s been less than a day and in that day he’s gotten me in trouble, my best friend had to smuggle me aboard the Enterprise by giving me allergic reactions, Pike put the two of us in charge of the Enterprise, I fought some Romulans and nearly died, his planet was destroyed and his mom died, Pike, who I thought was actually important to us both, got captured but that pointy-eared bastard—no offense—refused to go back to save him, we fought over it, he marooned me, I nearly died a few more times, and then I met you. Besides my general impression that he’s smart but an asshole, all I have to go off of are rumors.”

“Amanda has died? Spock’s mother?” Maybe-Spock seemed to be experiencing a new wave of grief at the news.

Jim hesitated because suddenly seeing this grief made his eavesdropping earlier feel a lot more like intruding on something personal. “…I mean I can’t say for sure, but I overheard a conversation between him and his dad and his dad mentioned not being able to feel her, whatever that meant, so I think so?”

“Then that is a death that weighs particularly heavy on my head.” Maybe-Spock looked down and although he didn’t show much externally, Jim could tell that the news really seemed to be affecting him. After a moment, Maybe-Spock looked up at Jim. “Amanda was my—Spock’s mother, and she was human. I am—he is half human and half Vulcan.”

“Huh.” Jim took a second to process that. “I’d heard about that, but I didn’t really connect it. He just seemed Vulcan, not human at all.”

“To explain the reasons for that would take much time.” Maybe-Spock took a deep breath. “What you need to know is that Spock, both myself and presumably the Spock of this universe, is mainly Vulcan in physiology, but that I—and most likely him as well—have inherited the human trait of soulmate based aging. Although I am physically only forty-six years old, I am actually one hundred and fifty-seven.”

Chapter Text

At that revelation Jim did sit down, sinking down on a chunk of ice still slightly out of arm’s reach from Spock. “So that means… you had a hundred years without…”

Maybe-Spock sighed. “My soulmate was the Jim Kirk of my universe. Perhaps it would be easier to show than tell, if you will permit me again.” He cautiously held out his hand again.

Despite not feeling fully over the effects of the first time, Jim wanted to, no he needed to know. He scooted closer until Maybe-Spock was within arm’s reach. He nodded. “Do it.”

Maybe-Spock reached out and gently placed his hand on Jim’s face, muttering the words to initiate the connection.

This time Jim was prepared so it was less jarring. He felt himself guided past many memories until he was standing in what he somehow knew to be an Enterprise transporter room even though it looked so different from what he knew. “This was where we met. He had just been promoted to Captain of the Enterprise, and thanks to Captain Pike’s recommendation I was to be his first officer.” Jim saw through Spock’s eyes as an eighteen year old he knew was actually older than that and also himself but not materialized on the transporter pad. As hazel eyes different than his own blue ones surveyed the room they landed on Spock, and when their eyes met that captain smiled at Spock and there was the feeling of something important beginning. “That was the day we both began to age, although we did not yet know it.” Then there were just flashes; warm smiles over chess games, serious or affectionate looks across the bridge, protecting each other on strange planets, waiting for the other to wake up in Sickbay. “We grew close over the years of our mission, but ultimately nothing came of it then. When he approached me at the end of the mission and offered, I became overwhelmed by the emotion I felt and in fear of it I rejected him.” They saw that smile fade and some of the light leave those twinkling hazel eyes. “It is something I deeply regret. He took an assignment on Earth and I went to Vulcan to purge myself of emotions.” A harsh landscape of endless desert and even harsher conditions, like the monks of old who attempted to deprive themselves of all worldly pleasures. “Still, I felt him call to me.” The moment of the test, failing because of the voice, the presence reaching out to him and the realization of how much he missed it. “I returned to the Enterprise and found he had taken command of her once more; again I treated him far too harshly.” The bright smile and hope and love in those hazel eyes at the moment of their reunion once again fading at Spock’s cold response. “This too, I regret, but I would soon accept that the path I had been on was not sufficient.” Here it was harder for Jim to tell what was going on because it seemed like Spock was trying to hide the secrets of the future from him, but he felt that Spock had experienced pure logic without emotion and found it wanting; he felt the completeness Spock had found later when they switched to a memory of what must have been Spock in some sort of Sickbay taking his Jim’s hand and the simple gesture feeling far more intimate and more emotional than any encounter Jim had experienced. “After that we did get together.” The joyful responses when they told their families and friends the news, flashes of quiet moments in an apartment together, reading paper books while holding hands, smiling at each other while planning work, glimpses of more intimate encounters where bodies and minds connected. “But there were difficult times; I was lost then found again and all the while he was what guided me back.” This Spock seemed especially reluctant for Jim to see; there was darkness and pain and confusion until a moment of clarity amid it all: a burning red landscape and looking at that familiar face with sudden recognition as the wariness on it melted into relief and the light in those hazel eyes and the smile returned. “Once we had survived that, there were more good times doing what we both loved to do.” Moments flew past, some trying and others triumphant, nearly kissing on a Klingon ship and sweet reunions on transporter pads; peaceful moments of staring at stars flying by through the windows in quarters; supporting each other through grief from parents' deaths and others lost; bodies changing but love only growing; finally holding hands and looking out the viewscreen of an Enterprise for what was the last time. “We retired together, but we did not realize how limited our time truly was.” A parting kiss and a longing look as they separated for what neither of them knew would be the last time; Spock dropping to the ground, alone in an apartment meant for two, as sudden pain ripped through him. “He had not truly died, but been taken into what could best be described as another dimension. While mentally I could still faintly feel him, physically it was as if he was truly gone.” Nearly a century of wondering if he had gone mad because of the faint presence in his head that was not gone even if he felt gone and aging had stopped; the pain and confusion of it all. Losing others in that time and mourning but drawing on the faint connection for comfort; finding new work to focus on to remove himself from the constant reminder of what was steadily growing farther from him. “One day, even the faint connection I had left was taken from me.” Dropping to the ground as the final connection he’d had was ripped away and being surrounded by others who could not truly understand because no one could or ever would; returning to those he knew even though there were so few left. Attempts at comfort that did not fill the hollowness he now felt because nothing ever would again. “For nearly two decades, I had to live with this new, complete loss. I tried to distract myself and knew that nothing would truly make me feel complete again.” Working, some of the same people Jim had seen in the previous mind meld. “Then came the incident with Nero, and I was pulled into your universe.” The destruction of Vulcan and the crushing grief that accompanied it because it was his fault; looking to an amulet that he carried with a hologram of the hazel-eyed Jim Kirk for comfort but only summoning that grief anew because that man was gone just like his planet. Finally feeling completely overwhelmed and empty and retreating to the ice cave only to see a stranger in distress and rushing to help. Ensuring that the beast was gone before turning to see who he had saved. The instant recognition despite the slightly unfamiliar face and the surprise and joy that came with that realization of who he had found. An old hollowness deep inside finally starting to fill.

“Oh god.” Jim was glad that he was sitting for this time, because if he had been standing he definitely would have collapsed. His face was flooded with tears that he had to quickly wipe away before the cold air of the ice cave made them freeze to his face. Inside of him, an ache that he’d tried to ignore made itself known again. Deep down he knew he’d always wanted to have some sort of happy ending, but damn he’d never expected to have all that. That was… that was an epic love story for the ages and he just hoped he could have a fraction of what his other self and this Spock had had. It seemed to go beyond the average human stories of soulmates; it had to be more…

“He was my t’hy’la.” Older Spock’s voice seemed solemn. He was looking down at a familiar amulet that he held in his hand. “It is a very old Vulcan term that means friend, brother, lover, and represents a very deep and very rare connection.”

Unsure of what to say, Jim just nodded and continued to wipe his face. He felt as if everything he knew had just changed. All he could think of now was that he craved something like that with just about everything he had, but he felt like with how this universe was he could never have it. Not with an Enterprise that would never be his and not with a supposed soulmate who seemed to hate him. Jim could never have that life, but god did he want it. Plus, there had been a moment there where Jim was pretty sure he’d seen the happy couple talking to a man who must have been his dad. That other Jim Kirk seemed have had everything.

Jim ran his hands down his face and took a deep breath. “We should… we should get moving. Nero and all that.”

Older Spock seemed to be watching him warily, as if aware of the raging storm of emotions inside of Jim. “Are you sure you are alright?”

“Fine.” It probably came out harsher than Jim intended. He felt bad, but he really didn’t want to sit and talk about everything he could have had. “Time crunch, remember?”

“Very well.” Older Spock seemed to hesitate for a moment, but nodded and stood up from the block of ice he was sitting on. “I will lead us to the base. It is not far.”

Jim nodded, took a deep breath, and wiped his face once last time before standing up and following.

Chapter Text

It was a long trek from the ice cave to the outpost, but not as bad as Jim was expecting because it turns out his running from murderous beasts one and two had been mostly in the right direction. Jim was a little glad for how long it took though, because as he followed Older Spock across the ice it gave him time to regain his composure some. Plus, it reminded him that there was something bigger at stake here; preventing Nero from destroying the Federation was more important than Jim ruminating about the life he could have had.

Finally, they reached the top of a hill and the base was in sight. Luckily they hadn’t encountered any murderous beasts this time. They went down the hill and crossed the valley until they reached the doors, which had surprisingly little security to get through before they were inside.

They opened the doors to a long, poorly-lit hallway that was damp, probably from all the snow that got tracked or blown inside and melted. Jim struggled against the wind but finally managed to close the door behind them. He pulled off his hood since it was actually warmer in here, but still cold. Between the dampness, the flickering lights, and everything else it seemed like Starfleet didn’t care a whole lot about this outpost.

A voice echoed from the end of the hallway, but Jim couldn’t hear what was said. He called out to get their attention. “Hello?”

Someone stepped into the end of the hallway. It was hard to make them out at first, but they approached and got clearer. They were a little over half Jim’s height and seemed to be Roylan.

The Roylan took them in for a second before turning around and gesturing for Jim and Spock to come with them. The three of them walked down the hallway and turned the corner at the end into a larger room that looked like it was mostly used for storage. Again, it seemed like most of the lights weren’t working, or that this place was just meant to be dimly lit.

Finally, they reached what seemed to be a workstation. There were multiple monitors on desks and several lights seemed like they’d been dragged over so it was actually possible to see clearly. Sitting with their feet up in on one of the desks was a person in a heavy coat who had a hat over their eyes and seemed like they were trying to sleep.

The Roylan poked them in the side, causing the person to move the hat. “What?” They looked at the Roylan, who just directed their attention to Jim and Spock. The person at the desk looked at them and seemed annoyed. “You do realize how unacceptable this is.”

“Fascinating.” Older Spock must have seen something Jim missed, because he seemed oddly interested in the individual before them.

“What?” Jim looked at Spock, hoping he’d be willing to share what was so fascinating.

“I know you’re just doing your job, but could you not come a wee bit sooner?” The feet came off the desk. “Six months I’ve been here, living off of,” the person disdainfully grabbed a handful of packages sitting on the desk and threw them in the air, “Starfleet protein nibs and the promise of a good meal.” The person pointed at them accusingly. “And I know exactly what’s going on here, okay? Punishment, isn’t it? Ongoing. For something that was clearly an accident.” The person spoke emphatically, hands waving wildly.

“You are Montgomery Scott.” Older Spock seemed slightly excited but overall still calm, and Jim wondered again if this Spock just showed a lot of emotion for a Vulcan or if Jim was just really good at reading him for some reason.

“You know him?” Jim decided to focus on the question at hand rather than thinking about him and Spock, which really wasn’t his ideal topic at the moment.

“Aye, that’s me. You’re in the right place.” Montgomery Scott still seemed a bit annoyed. “Unless there’s another hardworking, equally-starved Starfleet officer around.”

The Roylan made an annoyed sound, causing Scott to turn around to face them.

“Get it! Shut up! You don’t eat anything.” Scott still seemed annoyed, but not genuinely angry. “You can eat like, a bean, and you’re done.” He turned back to face Jim and Spock. “I’m talking about food.” He threw up his hands in frustration. “Real food.” He got up from his chair and walked toward the other desk with monitors. “But, you’re here now, so thank you. Where is it?

“You are, in fact,” Older Spock walked toward Scott and Jim followed, “the Mr. Scott who postulated the theory of transwarp beaming?” It didn’t sound like a question; it sounded like a statement.

“That’s what I’m talking about.” Scott threw his hands up in frustration again. “How’d you think I wound up here? I had a little debate with my instructor on the issue of relativistic physics and how it pertains to subspace travel. He seemed to think that the range of transporting something, like a grapefruit,” Scott began to talk with his hands again, “was limited to about a hundred miles. I told him that I could not only beam a grapefruit from one planet to the adjacent planet in the same system—which is easy, by the way—I could do it with a lifeform.” Jim looked skeptically at the Roylan, who shook their head. Scott continued, “So, I tested it on Admiral Archer’s prized beagle.”

Jim remembered that dog; he’d seen the admiral walk it around campus in his first and second years at the academy, but then not recently. “I know that dog; what happened to it?

Scott looked a bit sheepish. “I’ll tell you when it reappears. I don’t know. I do feel a bit guilty about that.”

“What if I told you that your transwarp theory was correct, that it is indeed possible to beam aboard a ship that is travelling at warp speed?” Older Spock still had that note of excitement under the calm.

“I think that if that were possible it would have been discovered and I’d have heard about it.” Scott sounded confused and maybe a little annoyed.

“The reason you haven’t heard about it, Mr. Scott, is because you haven’t discovered it yet.”

Scott’s face shifted to disbelief and he looked between them distrustfully. “Ah—ts—wha—it—are you from the future?”

Jim felt the need to jump in and clarify at this point. “Yeah. He is, I’m not.”

Scott seemed a bit impressed. “Well that’s brilliant. Do they still have sandwiches there?”

Chapter Text

After doing a full round of introductions and Jim and Older Spock explaining their situation, Scotty lead them to the outpost’s transporter room. “She’s a little old and not in the best shape, but she’ll do.” He opened the door and gestured for them to go inside. “On you go.” As they walked in, he continued talking. “So the Enterprise has had her maiden voyage, has she? She is one well-endowed lady. I’d love to get my hands on her ample nacelles if you’ll pardon the engineering parlance.”

Once they were inside, Older Spock began to enter something into the computer on the console. Scotty leaned next to him and continued talking.

“Except, even if I believed you, right? Where you’re from, what I’ve done. Which—I don’t, by the way—you’re still talking about beaming aboard the Enterprise while she’s traveling faster than light without a proper receiving pad.” He paced the room, stopping when he saw Keenser climbing on a shelf. “Get off there! It’s not a climbing frame.” He grabbed some parts from a different shelf and switched back to talking about their current project. “The notion of transwarp beaming is like trying to hit a bullet with a smaller bullet, whilst wearing a blindfold, riding a horse.” He began tinkering with the transporter control panel, but paused as he got to Older Spock and the computer console. “What’s that?”

Older Spock seemed to be about done entering it into the computer. “Your equation for achieving transwarp beaming.” He finished entering it and stepped away from the console.

Scotty skeptically looked at him walk away before stepping in front of the console and looking at the computer screen closely. After a moment happy surprise spread across his face. “Ah! Imagine that. It never occurred to me to think of space as the thing that was moving.”

Jim had been pretty quiet so far since Scotty had been talking so much, but there was one thing he wanted to know. He walked over to Older Spock and spoke softly so they wouldn’t be overheard. “You’re coming with us, right?”

Older Spock turned to face him. “No, Jim. It is not my destiny.”

That was not the answer Jim wanted. He wanted Older Spock to come with him. “Your dest—he—the other Spock is not gonna believe me. Only you can explain–”

“Under no circumstances can he be made aware of my existence.” Older Spock seemed very serious. “You must promise me this.”

That was really not what Jim wanted to hear. “You’re telling me I can’t tell you that I’m following your orders?” That was gonna make this so much harder for Jim. “Why not? What happens?”

“Jim this is one rule you cannot break.” Older Spock seemed even more serious now. “To stop Nero, you alone must take command of your ship.”

Again with the talk of the Enterprise like she was his. Jim was getting frustrated, almost angry now. “How, over your dead body?”

“Preferably not.” Older Spock remained calm despite Jim’s anger, unlike his modern counterpart. “However, there is Starfleet Regulation 619. 619 states that any command officer who is emotionally compromised by the mission at hand must resign said command.” He looked at Jim expectantly.

It took Jim a moment to process what he said. His anger faded somewhat. “So you’re saying that I need to emotionally compromise you?” From his little experience with current Spock, that didn’t seem like it would be easy. Sure, he'd seemed annoyed, maybe even mad earlier, but that was a far cry from emotionally compromised.

Older Spock spoke softly. “Jim, I just lost my planet and my mother.” He looked Jim in the eyes to make sure he understood. “I can tell you, I am emotionally compromised. What you must do is get me to show it.”

“Aye then laddie, let’s get this over with.” Jim heard Scotty speak up from behind him before he could respond. Jim found himself reluctant to look away from the man standing in front of him. It occurred to him that this could be his last time seeing this Spock, or that if this transwarp thing wasn’t as proven as Older Spock said this could be his last time doing anything. But he doubted that he was really in danger now; he trusted Older Spock for reasons he couldn’t fully explain. Somehow he felt that it wouldn’t be their last time seeing each other either.

Jim walked onto the transporter pad, keeping his eyes on Older Spock for a moment. Scotty was already there and was pushing Keenser off, telling them that they couldn’t come with them.

Spock was going to the controls, but Jim reached out to stop him while Scotty was distracted. “You know, coming back in time, changing history?” He looked Older Spock in the eyes. “That’s cheating.”

Older Spock did that little smile again. “A trick I learned from an old friend.”

Without really thinking of it, Jim held out his pointer and middle finger to Older Spock in a way he remembered seeing in the mind meld. After a moment of hesitation, Older Spock touched his pointer and middle fingers to Jim’s gently, but quickly pulled back his hand. “You must go.”

Older Spock went to the controls and prepared to operate them, but then he paused. He raised his hand and held it in what Jim recognized as the Vulcan salute. “Live long and prosper.” After a moment he began to operate the controls; Jim smiled at him and Scotty waved goodbye to Keenser, then everything faded as the light of the transporter surrounded them.

Chapter Text

The next thing Jim knew, the light of the transporter was clearing and he was in what looked somewhere in a mechanical area of the Enterprise. His initial thought was Holy shit, it actually worked. Jim smiled; he hadn’t really doubted Older Spock, but it was still nice to actually be alive and not scattered in particles in the great void of space.

Then he remembered Scotty, who didn’t seem to be standing next to him. If the transport had worked for Jim, it must have worked for Scotty, right? “Scotty!”

Jim’s smile dropped completely when he heard a banging noise from behind him. Behind him in one of the giant tanks that filled this room.

He turned around and pressed his ear to the tank. “Scotty, can you hear me?” Jim was vaguely aware that he was shouting, but it wasn’t his main concern right now.

Before Jim could get an answer, there was the humming and hissing of something mechanical starting up.

Connected to the tank was a giant clear pipe, and as the water started flowing along Scotty appeared in the pipe. Jim rushed over, trying to see if there was anything he could do. Scotty looked like he was trying to say something, but also couldn’t because his mouth was closed to hold his breath. Jim had to help him. “Hold on a second!” Jim started to scan the room, noticing out of the corner of his eye when the water’s flow moved Scotty farther along. “Oh no.”

Jim ran along the pipe, trying to keep Scotty calm while looking for a way to get him out. He really hoped that whatever he was shouting was reassuring; Jim remembered some old tv show saying that it took longer to drown if you were calm or something.

Jim followed the pipes as they twisted and turned, shedding his parka as he ran because he certainly didn’t need it now. Suddenly the pipe took a turn and Scotty was carried up vertically. That couldn’t be good. Jim heard himself shouting but dammit, he needed to focus.

He stopped running for a moment because it’s not like he could run up the pipe anyway. Well, he could if they shifted the artificial gravity, but that’s not important now.

Jim followed the pipe that Scotty was in with his eyes, trying to see where it led. What he saw was not good.

The pipe Scotty was in connected to a giant turbine. He still had a little bit, but the blades were spinning to help propel the water and Jim really did not like Scotty’s odds of making it through there unharmed. Dammit, there were only like 3 people in Starfleet that liked him; Jim couldn’t let this guy die.

Luckily, right before the spinning turbine of doom was an emergency hatch. If Jim opened it at just the right time, Scotty would be safe. Jim just had to time it right and do it before Scotty could get past it.

Jim ran to the nearest computer console, hoping that it wouldn’t be too difficult to enter the right commands. It was an emergency hatch, it was probably designed to be done quickly with no questions asked, right?

Jim may have never been more grateful to be right in his life. He only had to enter a few commands before he heard the computer announce that the emergency hatch was opening, followed by the sound of falling water and Scotty’s shout as he dropped to the floor.

Jim ran over, not caring about the slippery floor because between that fall and holding his breath so long something could have gone very wrong for Scotty. He hadn’t moved yet. Jim dropped the floor and grabbed Scotty’s arm. “You alright?” He shook Scotty’s arm a bit, then asked again, louder, “You alright?”

Finally, Scotty sat up and coughed out a mouthful of water. “My head’s buzzin and I’m soaked, but otherwise I’m fine.”

Jim nearly sighed in relief. He wondered absently if it still counted as saving someone’s life if you were the reason they were in danger. He was still hundreds behind his dad either way. Still, not the focus of the day. He clapped Scotty on the back. “Glad to hear it. We’ve got a murderous Romulan to stop; we gotta get to the bridge.”

“Right.” Scotty nodded and they both started to stand. “Which way is that exactly?”

Jim paused; he’d seen this ship get built in Riverside and he’d studied her schematics, but the only time he’d really been through her was when he’d been affected by whatever Bones had given him to smuggle him aboard. Plus, he had no idea what their exact location on the ship was. “Let’s start by finding our way of here and into a turbolift. We can go from there.”

“Sounds good.” Scotty followed him as he began to navigate through the room.

Once they were past the water spill, Jim started running. They had limited time and Earth was in danger, so it wasn't really the time for a leisurely stroll. He heard Scotty trailing behind him as he tried to find a turbolift, a way out, or both. They ran over catwalks and up and down stairs in the catwalks. Jim ran past some redshirt only to round the corner and see a whole team of them armed with phasers. Not good.

Jim was vaguely aware of them shouting at him as he turned around and started running back the way he came, nearly running into Scotty on the limited space of the catwalk. However, he didn’t get far.

Blocking his path was an especially stocky redshirt, this time with his phaser at the ready and an angry face that was somehow familiar. Angry Redshirt shouted, “Come with me, Cupcake!” and it clicked. This was one of the cadets Jim got into the barfight with the night Pike recruited him.

Had he really not let that go yet? It'd been like 3 years. Jim decided to drop the thought and put his hands up. Better not to piss off the guy with the phaser any more than he should. Or at least, any more than he apparently did just by existing. As the security guys grabbed Jim (and by the sound of it, Scotty as well) and began to take them away, Jim decided since they didn’t actually shoot him he could risk asking a question. “Where are you taking us?” He really hoped the answer wouldn’t be an escape pod this time.

Cupcake was the one who answered. “To the bridge. Captain Spock’s orders; I’d rather throw you in the brig myself.”

Jim decided not to answer because again, don’t piss off the guy who has a phaser when you’re unarmed. He'd learned that on Tarsus. But he really didn't need to go down that particular memory lane now. Jim had to focus on the present and his mission; he and Scotty got caught but at least they were getting to the bridge.

Chapter Text

To say that it had been a difficult day for Spock would be an understatement. The thought seemed like something his mother would say, so Spock quickly directed his thoughts away from that entirely. In an effort to maintain control he had been avoiding any thoughts that could provoke any emotion; it was a challenging task, but Captain Pike had given him the duty of running the ship and he had to maintain control to fulfill that duty. He would not disappoint Pike.

There had been some moments that were more trying than others; immediately after the destruction of his planet Nyota had followed him into the turbolift and kissed him in what he knew was an attempt to comfort him despite their relationship being so new; they had only begun a romantic relationship recently because although she had impressed him intellectually when she was his student, it was against both Starfleet protocols and his own ethical codes to date a student.

Still, even though her actions were intended to have a positive effect on his emotional state, after the day’s events he could not allow himself to even consider his emotional state. He must remain in control.

Another difficult moment had been his conversation with Dr. McCoy after he had ordered Cadet Kirk be sent off the ship; the doctor was clearly upset by Spock’s decision regarding his friend and was rather rude after given permission to speak freely. However, Spock had again managed to retain his control over his emotions. He had had to expel Cadet Kirk from the ship; the cadet tested his control in ways that no one else seemed to and Spock needed to maintain his control.

After his conversation with the doctor, Spock had called his father to the bridge. While he and his father did not always get along well, when he was younger Spock had looked to his father as an example of Vulcan control and had sought to emulate him. It seemed logical to seek his counsel now; his father had seemed to still be in control earlier despite the loss they had suffered.

However, before he could speak with his father Spock’s attention was once more drawn to ship’s matters as Ensign Chekov alerted him to a security breach in the water turbine controls. He had instructed Ensign Chekov to show the visual recordings of the incident.

If he allowed himself to experience emotion, Spock might say he was shocked. But he could not lose his control, so all he could focus on was that Cadet Kirk had somehow gotten aboard the Enterprise at warp with another person, who appeared to be another human around 18 years of age, although with humans appearance was not necessarily an indicator of actual age. Regardless, this person and Kirk had gotten aboard the Enterprise at warp. This could not go uninvestigated, so he had sent security teams to find and capture Cadet Kirk and his companion.

The teams were efficient and soon delivered Kirk and the other to the bridge. Spock needed answers; he walked away from where he had been still standing near his father to where the security team stood with Kirk and the other.

Due to Kirk’s general effect on him, Spock found it logical to focus on the other first. “Who are you?”

Kirk answered, “He’s with me,” and the other simultaneously said, “I’m with him.” Neither were satisfactory answers.

Kirk could not be avoided. Spock looked directly at him, attempting to control his emotions. “We are traveling at warp speed; how did you manage to beam aboard this ship?”

“You’re the genius, you figure it out.” Kirk’s response and tone were flippant.

“As acting captain of this vessel I order you to answer the question.” Spock looked Kirk in the eyes; Kirk met his stare with a challenge.

“Well I’m not telling, Acting Captain.” The defiance was clear in his voice and how he said Spock’s title. “What, now that doesn’t frustrate you, does it?” His expression shifted to a smirk that grew to a taunting smile. “My lack of,” he hesitated for a moment, either thinking or pausing for dramatic effect, “cooperation. That doesn’t make you angry?” Kirk did not break eye contact.

Focusing on Kirk was futile. Spock switched his focus to the other; he was wearing heavy winter clothes that did not appear to be Starfleet regulation. He was also drenched, most likely related to the incident with the water controls. “Are you a member of Starfleet?”

“Uh, yes.” He had glanced nervously at Kirk while answering; fascinating. Spock would need to find out the implications of that. Before he could the person spoke again. “Can I get a towel please?”

Spock would not allow this investigation to be delayed while a towel was retrieved. He needed—they all needed to focus. “Under penalty of court martial I order you to explain to me how you were able to beam aboard this ship while it was moving at warp.” Spock could feel Kirk still staring at him, but he could not focus on Kirk now. He had to maintain control.

The still unnamed Starfleet officer seemed nervous. “Well-”

“Don’t answer him.” For once Kirk seemed uncharacteristically emotionless. Or perhaps focused in a way that made him lose his usual careless air.

“You will answer me.” Spock was aware of his voice slowing down to make the command clear; he had not intended it but most of his mental resources were currently devoted to controlling his emotions. He could still feel Kirk’s gaze boring into the side of his face like the drill had—he could not think of that. He must maintain control.

There was tension in the room now and officer seemed to be responding to it; he seemed to physically back away and said, “I’d rather not pick sides.”

Kirk, however, was not backing down. “What is with you, Spock?” He stepped into what Spock knew was less than an acceptable range of personal space. Spock turned his gaze from the officer to Kirk. “Hmm?” This close Spock could see clearly the damage done to Kirk’s face in his earlier fight against the Romulans; Spock found himself almost wanting to add to it but suppressed the urge. “Your planet was just destroyed, your mother murdered, and yet…” Kirk’s expression was an unreadable mix of interest, calm, and something like superiority. He shook his head and spoke again, his voice soft due to the close distance but still challenging. “You’re not even upset.”

This was a clear taunt, but Spock could not lose his control. “You are presuming that these experiences in any way impede my ability to command this ship; you are mistaken.” He was distantly aware of the silence that had fallen over the bridge, but he could only focus on the face less than a foot from his.

“And yet you were the one who said that fear was necessary for command.” Kirk’s eyes did not leave his face, even as he gestured to the viewscreen. “Did you see his ship, did you see what he did?”

“Yes, of course I did.” Spock felt that his voice was not as level as he would have wished.

“So are you afraid or aren’t you?” The challenge was still present in Kirk’s stare.

“I will not allow you to lecture me about the merits of emotion.”

“Then why don’t you stop me?” Kirk remained frustratingly calm.

“Step away from me, Mr. Kirk.” Spock was not sure if it was a command or a warning.

“What is it like not to feel anger, or heatbreak?” Kirk’s stare was unwavering and unnerving; his voice was level. “Or the need to stop at nothing to avenge the death of the woman who gave birth to you?”

“Back away from me.” Spock could feel his voice getting lower, almost like the growl of a cornered animal.

“You feel nothing!” Kirk was screaming now, and still so close to Spock’s face. “It must not even compute for you!” He almost seemed to get closer before shouting again. “You never loved her!”

Spock felt his control snap.

His fist swung toward Kirk’s face; he was distantly aware of shouting but unsure if it came from him or elsewhere. Kirk went tumbling backwards from the blow but before he could fall Spock grabbed him, threw him toward the center of the bridge. Kirk made some feeble attempts at hitting Spock but he blocked all of them; Kirk’s strength was no match for him. He shoved Kirk back once more, the force of it causing Kirk to double over. Spock took advantage of this by swinging his hands above his head and striking Kirk once more; each of Kirk’s reactions simply became a new opportunity to hit where he was vulnerable. Kirk fell back against the navigation console in the center of the bridge, winded from the hits Spock had just landed on his ribcage. He gasped and attempted to get up and fight once more, but again Spock easily deflected his attacks and struck back. A new hit sent Kirk rolling across the navigation console once more. Spock was distantly aware of the sounds of something breaking, but that did not concern him; he was solely focused on Kirk. While Kirk was still sprawled across the navigation console Spock leaned in and grabbed him by the throat, cutting off his air supply. Kirk began to gasp and his hands went to Spock’s at his throat, but his efforts were useless. An uncertain amount of time was passing; Kirk’s gasps turned into weak coughs and still Spock did not let up pressure.

Spock heard someone behind him call his name; it took a moment to realize it was his father.

It was as if the control he had lost was very suddenly regained, as if how he had been in the past…he could not say the precise time, which illustrated his lack of control. He looked down at his arm and his hand which was still on Kirk’s throat as if that arm did not belong to him. He quickly removed his hand; he had not lashed out violently since the childhood incident with his classmates.

He backed away as Kirk coughed and began to take gasping breaths, as if desperate to regain the air in his lungs. Spock found himself breathing deeply as well, agitated by the fight and what he had just nearly done. He had nearly killed Kirk. The bridge was silent except for his and Kirk’s breathing and the equipment that was still running. Spock turned around and saw Nyota looking shocked and perhaps slightly afraid; she was standing next to his father, who looked shocked and slightly disappointed. Spock could not remain on the bridge.

He glanced back at Kirk, who seemed to be recovering, even if his stare toward Spock was unreadably emotionally charged and he was still breathing heavily. Spock approached Dr. McCoy but found himself unable to meet his eyes; He stared at some point above the floor as he spoke. “Doctor, I am unfit for duty.” He was still breathing heavily, as if he had been the one attacked. “I hereby relinquish my command based on the fact that I have been emotionally compromised.” Spock could feel the eyes of everyone on the bridge on him, but he could not meet them. “Please note the time in the ships log.” With a nod, he left the bridge. Nyota attempted to follow him, but he stopped her with a look.

He could not be around others at this moment. He had lost his control, with dire consequences. He still did not have full control of his emotions. Spock felt ready to collapse.

Chapter Text

Spock walked through the cooridors of the ship, not acknowledging the crew who passed him. They did not acknowlege him either. He was aware of Kirk making an announcement over the ship’s intercom, but he did not pay attention to it. He could not.

Without intending to, he ended up at the very transporter room that he had used when he had resued the Elders. It was the same room where he had realized he would be unable to save his mother and that she would surely perish. It was here that he realized he was helpless to stop her death and would never see her again, and that he had never told her he loved her, despite her telling him numerous times.

He was alone in the room because the technicians did not stay in the room when the transporter was inactive while they were at warp. Spock found himself grateful for the solitude; he could not imagine facing others at this moment.

His solitude was interrupted only moments later. While his focus was on the transporter pad in front of him, Spock was aware of footsteps behind him. Familiar footsteps. Spock did not turn around; he was unready to face anyone, especially the person he was expecting.

A moment later the footsteps stopped, still several meters behind Spock, and his father spoke. “Speak your mind, Spock.”

There was too much on his mind. Thoughts of his mother and his planet and the uncontainable grief and anger because of what was done to them, thoughts of Kirk and the rage he had felt and the shame for what he had nearly done. There were too many thoughts in his mind, and they were all too tied to the emotions he had just lost control of. Spock could not share those thoughts with his father. “That would be unwise.”

“What is necessary is never unwise.” Sarek still sounded so in control, so calm, despite what he had told Spock as a child about emotions running deep in Vulcans.

“I am as conflicted as I once was as a child.” It was true; Spock was not sure if it was a human or Vulcan failing that had caused his outburst, just as he had been unsure before. Or perhaps it was merely a personal failing.

“You will always be a child of two worlds.” His father paused; if Spock did not know better he would think his father was hesitating. “I am grateful for this.” Sarek paused once more, but when he spoke there was no wavering in his voice. “And for you.”

The revelation surprised Spock, but it did not defeat the other emotions inside him. Spock turned to face his father. “I feel anger for the one who took Mother’s life. An anger I cannot control .”

Sarek began to advance towards the transporter pad where Spock was standing. “I believe,” he reached the transporter pad and stopped alongside Spock, “that she would say, do not try to.” Sarek paused once more, observing Spock. “You asked me once, why I married your mother.” He paused once more, and when he spoke next there was a vulnerability and openness that Spock was not very familiar with. “I married her because I loved her.”

Sarek began to leave the room, but Spock was still frozen on the tranporter pad. This was a more personal conversation than he had had with his father in many years, yet he still had so many questions. “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Sarek paused and turned back towards the transporter pad.

“Do you believe in the human concept of soulmates?” Again, Spock could not turn and fully face his father.

“I know that there is scientific evidence of a phenomenon in the human race related to their idea of soulmates.” Sarek paused. “Many cultures, including our own, have had concepts similar to the mythological idea humans attach to that scientific phenomenon.”

Spock paused; his father’s answer was related to his question but still not fully satisfacory. He could almost hear his mother making a joke about Sarek always remaining diplomatic. When Spock spoke again his voice was quieter. “Did you believe that you and Mother were soulmates?”

Sarek seemed to pause for longer this time, as if genuinely unsure of how to respond. It seemed unlike everything Spock knew of his father. “I know that she believed we were. All I can truly know is my own feelings towards and thoughts of her, which ran so deep within me that they were often nearly overwhelming.” Here Sarek’s voice did seem to waiver; after a moment he took a breath and spoke again. His voice was soft. “I must go meditate. Do you have any more questions, my son?”

Spock wanted to ask his last question, Do you think I have a soulmate, but he feared seeing his father breakdown would render him completely unable to regain his control. So he did not ask. “No, thank you Father.”

Out of the corner of his eye Spock saw Sarek nod and leave the room. Once the doors closed it was only him and the quiet of the transporter room once more.

He felt his mind wander to what had happened on the bridge. He was beginning to be able to process it without being overwhelmed by emotions now that he was away from the scene of it and all of the other people. Many things had happened, many things that Spock had not wanted to ever experience or for others to ever see.

But most peculiar had been what had happened while he was—while he was strangling Kirk. One of his fingers had strayed from the cadet’s throat and ended up on one of the psi-points low on Kirk’s face. He had only been able to get fragments of what Kirk had been thinking and feeling, but it was still nearly overwhelming.

The emotions Kirk had been experiencing were confusing to Spock. There had been fear, yes, but also an odd sense of determination. And perhaps a note of regret or apology. Spock had also gotten trace fragments of thought, barely any words. There was the expected swearing and calls to a deity that Spock doubted that Kirk actually believed in, but also “mission” and Spock’s name and, without context Spock was able to get through the limited contact, the phrase “my soulmate.”

Spock wondered who Kirk’s soulmate could be. Kirk did not appear to be past age 18 physically, so it would have had to have been someone Kirk had met recently. Perhaps it was someone who had perished on one of the other ships during Nero’s attack and that was why Kirk was so desperate to go after Nero. Or perhaps it was someone on Earth that Kirk was trying to save before Nero could reach the planet and destroy it.

Most of Spock’s memories of Earth had come from his time at Starfleet, but there were some earlier ones, mostly with his mother. A few times they had slipped away while his father was on diplomatic missions on the planet, other times she had just taken him to show him her home planet.

Spock remembered his mother telling him about the human concept of soulmates on one of those visits when he was very young. She'd taken him to a park while his father was in a meeting and they'd been doing what she called "peoplewatching." He had asked her why there were so many teenaged people on Earth, and she had smiled and told him that not all of them were actually that young.

“Some of them may actually be much older, but they just haven’t met their soulmates yet.” Spock remembered her gentle smile as easily as he remembered the greenery of the park they were sitting in.

“What’s a soulmate?” He had been so young at the time; a child not even old enough to be bonded or tested in the desert yet. It was far before Vulcan schools taught about other species as well.

His mother had paused, thinking. “It’s a person who will be very special to you. A person you love very much.”

Spock had nodded solemnly. “Do you have a soulmate, Mother? Will I?”

She had smiled widely again, much freer with her emotions when they were on Earth than when they would return to Vulcan. “I believe I do, my dear.” She stroked the top of his head. “And as for you I can’t say for certain, but I believe and hope that one day you will too.” With the open emotional expression of the other humans all around her, she was bold enough to lean in and press a quick kiss to the top of his head even though they were in public. He could feel her affection and love for him through the contact as well as through the bond they shared. “C’mon,” she smiled at him and leaned back, starting to get up from the bench they were sitting on, “your father must be done with his work by now. Let’s see if we can all go out to dinner together.”

Spock realized that rather than just being an early memory of his mother, this could soon become one of his only memories of his mother because he would not have the chance to form new ones. The thought of all that he had lost caused a new wave of emotion to rise in him.

His father had told him to not try to control his anger. Spock believed that his mother would agree, that she would tell him to use his anger. He would.

Spock would use his anger, and he would not channel it improperly like he had on the bridge. He would use it to protect the planet his mother had called home, the place that she had shared with him along with her culture and heritage, the place his time at Starfleet had made even more familiar for him. He would preserve that place before it too could only exist in memories. He would preserve it for everyone who still had a soulmate who might be on that planet, even if he did not know if he would have one.

Spock would preserve his mother’s home; it might be the only home he would have left after today.

Chapter Text

Spock’s departure from the bridge was met with silence. Jim was sure that the loudest thing in the room was his own breathing. He really hadn’t expected Spock to nearly kill him; Jim really didn’t know what he was expecting when he’d agreed to follow through with Older Spock’s orders to emotionally compromise him or get him to show it, but maybe a little less violence. Still, saying the guy never loved his recently murdered mother was probably crossing a line. If Jim ever saw Spock again, he would apologize and maybe try to explain. Except somehow without mentioning Older Spock, which would be hard. Jim really wondered if anyone else had a relationship this difficult with their soulmate; for a moment there he thought his last thought would be that he’d failed the mission from Older Spock and that he was going to get killed by his soulmate.

The bridge continued to be silent and tense for a few moments. Then Scotty spoke up.

“I like this ship!” He still had his hands raised even though the security guards had stood down. “You know, it’s exciting.” He continued, either oblivious to the tension on the bridge or trying to break it. “And she’s a real beaut too. Just walkin through her I think I’ve started aging.”

Despite Scotty’s comments, the tension on the bridge was still thick. It had loosened just enough, however, for people to feel like they could speak.

“Well congratulations, Jim.” Bones was uncharacteristically solemn but as grouchy as ever. “Now we’ve got no captain and no goddamn first officer to replace him.”

Well, now or never. Jim may as well claim his destiny or whatever Older Spock had said he should do. “Yeah, we do.” He got up from where he was still half leaning on the navigation console and began to walk toward the center seat.

“What?” Bones sounded incredulous but still a little annoyed.

“Pike made him first officer.” Sulu himself sounded a little stunned, but he was the only one on this ship besides Jim or Spock who was there for Pike field promoting Jim.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me.” Bones’ tone seemed to have shifted to just annoyed in the time it took Jim to settle into the captain’s chair.

Well that was a vote of confidence. “Thanks for the support, Bones.”

Uhura was next. As everyone began to take their places again, she walked past his chair on the way to her station, pausing when she was next to him to look down at him. “I sure hope you know what you’re doing.” Her tone was cold, almost menacing. “Captain.”

In most other situations, Jim would respond with snark, but that just didn’t feel right after what had happened and what was at stake. He’d become captain and he needed to act like it. He should probably start by being serious and honest with his crew. He looked up, not quite able to meet Uhura’s eyes but making sure he wasn’t staring at her chest either. “So do I.”

She walked away from the chair to her station, and he hit the button on the arm of his chair to address the crew. He should let them know what was going on. As soon as it signaled it was ready, he began to speak. “Attention crew of the Enterprise, this is James Kirk. Mr. Spock has resigned commission and advanced me to acting captain. I know you were all expecting to regroup with the fleet, but I’m ordering a pursuit course of the enemy ship to Earth. I want all departments at battle stations and ready in ten minutes.” Jim paused, unsure how to finish now that he’d started but knowing that he had to finish strong. “Either they’re going down, or we are.” He paused again, unsure how to sign off, but decided simple was best. “Kirk out.”

Jim looked around the quiet of the bridge for a moment. He knew that all the humans here could be any age, but just about everyone still looked 18 or close to it. Even the non-human crewmembers looked young; most were probably cadets recruited into the rescue mission as well. He wondered if everyone else felt as young and lost as he did. But someone had to take charge and figure out what they were doing, and apparently that someone was him. He was the Acting Captain after all.

Jim realized that he didn’t really know that many people here. Sure, there was Bones, who still looked like he couldn’t believe what had happened and was pissed at the universe for making his life like this, Uhura, who still didn’t seem to respect him, not that he could really blame her for it, Sulu, who he only knew from diving into danger with and saving each other’s lives, but that had to count for something, Chekov, who seemed like he might be smarter than the rest of them combined in certain areas, and Scotty, who he’d just met but seemed like he’d have wild ideas and just enough recklessness to try them and just enough genius to make them work. Everyone else Jim vaguely recognized from seeing around the Academy or maybe having a class or two with; he wondered how many of them had even spent real time on a ship outside of simulators and practice runs. But if they were on the bridge of the Enterprise it had to mean something. Pike had a reputation as a good captain, and he wouldn’t have picked subpar crew. Jim just had to get their support; with a good crew even a mediocre captain could do great things.

“So.” Jim looked around again, not wanting to get out of the chair just yet in case this was all actually a mistake and someone else had more of a right to it. Hell, if he got up now he might chicken out and never sit back down. “We’ve gotta stop that ship, save Pike, save Earth and maybe the Federation as well. First things first, Chekov, Sulu, plot a course for Earth and go as fast as we safely can, maybe a little faster. Time is not on our side here; Nero already got a head start. Once we’re going the right direction, we’ve gotta come up with ideas for how to stop Nero and save the day. This isn’t a training simulation and we aren’t at the Academy anymore; this is real. A lot is at stake. But you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t earn it,” Jim paused, wondering if saying that made him a hypocrite since he definitely didn’t earn his way to this chair, but he continued anyway, hoping everyone else just thought that he’d paused for effect, “so let’s prove our worth here. I told the crew battle stations in 10 and we’ve gotta have at least part of a plan by then. Clock’s ticking, so start thinking.”

Chapter Text

Something that he’d said must have had the desired effect, because sure enough brainstorming broke out. Most people split into small groups to work together and a few people worked on their own. Jim wandered between groups, trying to act captainly and in charge and encouraging. It got a little awkward at times when people would ask him questions that were way beyond what he knew, but usually someone else nearby would overhear and chime in. Jim’s specialty was strategy, not physics or whatever form of advanced calculations some of these people were doing. He liked to consider himself smart, but that didn’t mean he knew everything.

The group he was currently at consisted of Uhura, Bones, and Sulu. Hopefully the mix of skills there would lead to something great because god knows they all had the brains in their areas of expertise. But currently they were trying to change his plan, and that was the one thing he knew he knew best here. While Jim was usually a fan of a bold approach or a dramatic entrance, it was a bad idea to go in guns blazing when you were seriously outgunned. “Whatever the case, we need to get aboard Nero’s ship undetected.”

“We can’t just go in there guns blazing.” Bones seemed to be agreeing with him and started to talk with Sulu again while Uhura looked over what they had on the console so far. Jim was about to ask her what she was doing when he heard a voice behind him.

“Keptin Kirk, Keptin Kirk!” Chekov started to tap his shoulder repeatedly; he must have found something if he’d left where he’d been doing calculations toward the back of the bridge.

“Yes, Mr. Chekov, what is it?” Jim turned around and put his hands on his hips, hoping he looked authoritative and not like an annoyed parent. Not that he really knew what that looked like.

“Based on the Narada’s course from Vulcan, I have projected that Nero will travel past Saturn.” Kirk looked over as the others began talking at that, but turned his attention back to Chekov when he continued. “Like you said, we need to stay invisible to Nero or he’ll destroy us. If Mr. Scott can get us to warp 4 and if we drop out of warp behind one of Saturn’s moons, say Titan, the magnetic distortion from the planet’s rings will make us invisible to Nero’s sensors. From there, as long as the drill is not activated we can beam aboard the enemy ship.”

“Aye, that might work.” Scotty had come back aboard the bridge without any of them noticing; he was now in a regular uniform and seemed to have finally gotten the towel he’d asked for earlier. As if to emphasize his support he nodded encouragingly.

Bones was less convinced; he looked at Chekov skeptically. “Wait a minute kid, how old are you?”

“Seventeen, sir.” Chekov’s little bounce when he spoke really didn’t help with how young he seemed.

“Oh good, he’s seventeen.” Bones looked back at Jim, the slight edge of why-did-the-universe-do-this-to-me-this-is-probably-your-fault creeping in.

Before Bones could fully go off though, an unexpected (although not entirely unwelcome if Jim was being honest) voice came from the back of the bridge, where Chekov had been working. “Doctor.” Everyone turned and saw Spock, who seemed to have a slight edge of awkwardness around him as if he was unsure if he was welcome on the bridge, but still seemed to be masking the feeling well. He'd somehow gotten to the bridge without them noticing and must have looked over Chekov's work while they talked. “Mr. Chekov’s calculations are correct. I can confirm his telemetry.” He began to walk towards the rest of them and Uhura stepped toward him. “If Mr. Sulu can maneuver us into position I can beam aboard the ship, steal back the black hole device, and, if possible, bring back Captain Pike.”

Jim didn’t like this plan. He didn’t want anyone under his command, soulmate or no, doing something as risky as beaming onto a ship full of Romulans alone. “I won’t allow you to do that, Mr. Spock.”

Spock’s mostly emotionless façade was back but Jim thought he saw a flash of something like irritation. “Romulans and Vulcans share a common ancestry. Our cultural similarities will make it easier for me to access the ship’s computer to locate the device.” He paused a moment and something vulnerable flashed across his face before it was quickly contained. “Also, my mother was human, which makes Earth the only home I have left.”

No one spoke for a moment at that; Jim was going to speak but Uhura beat him to it. “You shouldn’t be going alone. I can speak Romulan and read it; I could probably access the computers faster than you could just because of some cultural similarities. Besides, Earth is home for the rest of us too.”

“Your accompanying me would be unwise.” Spock focused on Uhura and Jim thought he saw Spock’s gaze soften in a way that Jim definitely didn't wish was directed at him. “This mission will be highly dangerous and you do not have the requisite combat training. These Romulans have shown hostile intent and a pronounced lack of mercy toward Federation personnel, and speaking their language would most likely not be enough for them to spare your life.” They maintained eye contact for a moment and seemed to be communicating silently or maybe just having a battle of wills. After a moment her shoulders seemed to drop slightly.

She still looked like she was about to protest, though, so Jim spoke up. “Spock’s right. This will be extremely dangerous and there’s a chance that it could be a one-way trip. Your skills would be better served here, coordinating things on the bridge and finding a way to get through their jamming signal because I know that if anyone can do it, it’s you. If things go south we’re going to need someone to warn Earth and every other Federation planet about what’s coming.” She still didn’t look convinced, so he figured he’d pull the card he’d rather not play. “I will order you to stay if necessary. I’d rather not have to because I want all of you here on the bridge working out backup plans rather than trying to sneak into danger, but I don’t want anyone risking their lives when it isn’t necessary.” That seemed to settle her and the other members of the bridge crew more, so he turned back to Spock. “Still, she does have a point. This will be dangerous and you’ll need backup who can fight, which is why I’m coming with you.”

Somehow Spock seemed slightly surprised at that, as if he wouldn’t expect Jim to risk his life for him after what had happened earlier. Jim really needed to find a way to explain that and apologize. Still, after a moment Spock’s face settled. “I would cite regulation, but I know you will simply ignore it.”

Jim couldn’t help but smile at that because this time Spock’s tone had seemed almost playfully exasperated rather than just annoyed. If Jim didn’t know any better he’d have thought Spock was attempting a joke. “See, we are getting to know each other.” He walked past Spock, giving him what he hoped was considered a friendly slap on the arm rather than another hostile act. While he still doubted that he could have what Older Spock had shown him, it seemed like with more time and work he might at least have a friendship with his Spock. Who knows, maybe they were just platonic soulmates after all. That wasn’t exactly what Jim wanted after seeing all he could have had, but he’d still prefer it over hating each other.

Still, his soulmate drama was not what he should be focusing on now. Earth was in danger and they might just be the only ship that could save her in time.

Chapter Text

Because they’d been heading in the wrong way for a bit, they still had some time until they’d reach Earth. Jim hoped they’d get there soon enough. While not all of his memories on Earth were all that great and there were certainly some bad ones, it was still far from the planet with his worst memories. But that planet was uninhabited now, so Jim should really think about something else. Like saving his home planet. He didn’t need to fill his head with negative thoughts right before the mission .

And right. The mission he was going to go on with Spock. His soulmate, who he’d hated less than a day ago because they had a terrible start until an older version of that same soulmate showed him everything they could have together. Jim wasn’t quite sure how he felt about the Spock of this timeline at the moment; he still liked Older Spock more because that guy was great and had been nice to him from the start to the extent that it was almost overwhelming, but also understandable given everything he’d been through. But this Spock… Jim looked over to where he was doing something at one of the computer terminals. Spock had stayed on the bridge, which Jim had to admit took guts, but he’d been avoiding Jim in a way that had to be intentional. Ever since the brainstorming session finished he hadn’t so much as made eye contact with Jim. He’d also been staying toward the edges of the bridge, staying as far as possible from the captain’s chair where Jim had been sitting.

Jim really wasn’t sure how he felt about this Spock. Yeah, he’d been annoyed with him for catching him changing the code on the Kobayashi Maru, bringing him up on charges in front of everyone, and landing him on academic probation, but after the encounter with Older Spock all that had changed. While with the timeline change there was no guarantee that Spock would turn out like that (and Jim was certainly different than his counterpart seemed), it still gave Jim something like hope for the future. And while during their time on the ship Spock had mostly been a dick to him, given the events of the day it was pretty understandable. Plus, he’d been a lot better once he came back to the bridge after getting time to cool off. And Jim had to admit, he was impressed by the fact that Spock did come back to the bridge. So, so far the mental soulmate pro/con list was this:

Pros:
Smart
Attractive
Doesn’t give up easily
Really strong (although like hell was Jim going to admit to anyone that that was a turn-on for him. Well, it’s not like there weren’t people who already knew…)

Cons:
A bit of a dick
Likes rules too much
Doesn’t seem to like me very much
Did try to murder me (although was seriously provoked)

And that reminded Jim that he was about to go on a mission with Spock when the last really one-on-one moment they’d had had been him telling Spock that he didn’t love his own mother. Not that it was really one-on-one, they’d just been so focused on each other that everything else kindof faded away… Still, might be good to clear the air there. Jim didn’t think Spock would try to kill him again, but he also would understand if Spock left him to die somewhere. Were the positions reversed, Jim wasn’t sure how merciful he’d be.

So yeah. Clearing the air might be good. Jim looked over to where Spock was now bent over looking at the readings from the science station. After sternly reminding himself that this was not the time to admire the view (as much as he wanted to), Jim cleared his throat. Time to act captainly again. “Mr. Spock, can I have a word with you? Alone?”

All eyes on the bridge went to him as Spock slowly rose from the station and turned around. He seemed to hesitate a moment before speaking. “…Of course, captain.”

Jim could practically feel Bones worrying from where he was still lingering on the bridge, but he waved him off. He didn’t think Spock was going to hurt him. Or at least, he hoped not. Jim supposed he could have security officers wait outside the door of wherever they ended up just in case, but he wanted to build trust and that didn’t seem like the way to do it. He looked back at Spock. “Come with me then.” Jim got out of the captain’s chair and made his way to the turbolift, glancing behind him to make sure Spock was following.

Once in the turbolift Jim realized he didn’t know where to go. He briefly considered going to his quarters, but then he realized that since he wasn’t supposed to be there he didn’t have assigned quarters. Plus, having an emotional, apologetic conversation was not really how Jim pictured his first time alone in his quarters with his soulmate going. So not quarters then. Jim briefly considered staying in the turbolift, but it was already starting to get claustrophobic and they were very likely to get interrupted. Finally it occurred to Jim to use one of the briefing rooms. That could work. A neutral, professional environment that was still pretty private. Jim gave the deck number and activated the turbolift.

Jim could practically feel the tension rolling off of Spock. Not sure whether it would help or hurt, Jim decided to tell him what they were talking about at least. “I just want to talk about what happened on the bridge earlier. When…” Jim trailed off, unsure how to finish the sentence. A lot had happened on the bridge today. “After I beamed back aboard the Enterprise.

Spock seemed to get slightly tenser at that, but thankfully then the turbolift doors opened. It wasn’t far to a briefing room, and once they were inside and the doors were closed Jim turned to face Spock.

“Look, I’m really sorry about-“

“Captain, I wish to apologize for-“

Jim had to smile a bit at them talking simultaneously yet again. “I’ll let you say your piece, but I really feel like I need to get this off my chest, especially before we go on the mission together. I’m really sorry about what I said earlier; I was way out of line. I never should have said that about you or your planet or especially your mom. I’m sure you cared a great deal about her.”

The tension in Spock didn’t seem to decrease that much and his hands stayed firmly clasped behind his back, but he still seemed to sag a bit at that. “I do—I did.” He looked down for a moment before meeting Jim’s eyes. “I too wish to apologize for what happened on the bridge. While your comments were harsh I should not have violently lashed out at you like that. It was a highly regrettable loss of control and I am… I am glad I was stopped before it went irreversibly far.” Spock’s eyes were avoiding Jim’s again and Jim really didn’t want that.

“Hey.” Jim reached out to touch Spock’s shoulder but stopped himself at the last minute. “Don’t beat yourself up too much; I’m still alive and I’ve had far worse for lesser reasons. I just wanted to let you know that I didn’t really mean any of it and I that I’m sorry for saying it."

Spock’s eyes finally met his again and there was a certain curiosity there now. “If you did not mean what you said and you regret saying it, why did you say it initially?”

Jim sighed and ran a hand through his hair, unable to meet Spock’s eyes this time. He spun around one of the chairs from the conference table and plopped down. “It’s probably a longer story than I have time for, but basically on Delta Vega I met…” Jim trailed off, Older Spock’s warning echoing in his head, “…a friend, who convinced me that the only way to save Earth and stop Nero was to take command by getting you to show you were emotionally compromised. And since staring fights with my big mouth is one thing I definitely know how to do, I guess I just went with that approach.” He looked up at Spock, who was still standing with his hands behind his back but seemed to be a bit less tense now. “I just wanted to clear the air before we went on the mission together. I have no idea if we’ll survive going over there or if we’ll ever see each other again after this, but I just wanted you to know that.” The thought of never seeing Spock again and not being able to have even a small portion of what he’d seen was painful, but if it was what Spock wanted he would understand. He wouldn’t be happy, but he’d do it.

Spock seemed to be dealing with some internal conflict but after a moment he met Jim’s eyes. “Your apology is accepted. Do you accept my apology as well?”

Jim felt like there was still a bit unresolved in between them, but what they'd done was still enough that he felt some tension he wasn’t aware of drain from his shoulders. “Yeah, I do. Like I said, I shouldn’t have provoked you like that; your reaction was understandable given the circumstances.”

Spock looked like he wanted to speak again, but he was interrupted by a whistle from the comm system. Uhura’s voice followed a moment later. “Bridge to Kirk and Spock.”

Kirk hit the button on the table console. “Kirk here, what’s up?”

“Sulu wanted me to tell you that we’re approaching the Sol System in case you wanted to return to the bridge. Are you and Spock done...talking?” Her voiced sounded wary on the last bit, like she was unsure that they would just talk and not try to kill each other again. Given all their interactions that day, it was a reasonable concern.

“Thanks for the heads up. Also, you can just ask if we’re ok if you’re worried, but don’t be, we’re both still alive and no fighting happened this time.” He looked up at Spock and thought about adding that things seemed better between them, but he didn’t want to presume anything. “We’ll report back to the bridge; Kirk out.” He shut off the comm line and got out of the chair. “Well Spock, you ready to face the crew?”

Spock hesitantly nodded. “Are you certain you wish for me to return to the bridge with you? At the moment I am not actively holding a position on this starship so I have no place on the bridge.”

“You’ll always have a place on the bridge.” Jim said it without really thinking of it, possibly influenced by what he’d seen with Older Spock and possibly just wanting to be reassuring. Either way, he wasn’t going to take it back. “C’mon, let’s go.” He led the way out of the room and back to the turbolift that would take them to the bridge, glancing back to make sure that Spock was following him.

Chapter Text

Once they got back to the bridge Uhura got up from her seat and looked at Spock with concern and something else Jim couldn’t quite read on her face as she walked over to the two of them. She and Spock got into the turbolift together while Jim went back to the captain’s chair. He made a mental note to figure out what was going on there; despite being pretty close with Gaila and her being roommates with Uhura, Jim felt that he didn’t really know her. Admittedly most of the time he was in Gaila’s room Uhura wasn’t there because what they were doing wasn’t something they wanted her there for, but still. There were times they weren’t doing that, even if those times they were usually elsewhere.

But again, not what Jim should be focusing on right now. Especially if he didn’t want himself distracted by the fact that he didn’t know what Gaila’s fate was but that it probably wasn’t an assume the best situation. Which was why he should focus on what was going on now; Sulu and Chekov were about to do something a bit risky that could just be what they needed to help them save Earth.

Jim decided to hang back and let them handle getting the ship within transporter range; it was their area of expertise anyway. Chekov would know the course to plot since it was his plan and Sulu now had the most experience of anyone at the Enterprise’s helm, even if that did only mean less than a day’s worth of total hours spent at his station. Still, Kirk was trusting them.

“All stop,” Sulu’s hands flew across the panel in front of him but his eyes were focused on the viewscreen, “in three, two, … one.”

They dropped out of warp and seemed to be in a giant dust cloud that made it impossible to really tell where they were; for a moment Jim felt himself worry that they’d somehow messed up and were now inside one of the gas giants, ready to be pulled into the core by the planet’s gravity. It was impossible to see anything besides swirling brown around them.

“Give me one quarter impulse burst for five seconds; I’ll do the rest with thrusters. On my mark.” Sulu was remarkably composed given the stakes; Jim was impressed.

“Aye.” Chekov nodded slightly but remained as laser focused as Sulu.

With a little more urgency to his voice but no less calm, Sulu gave the command. “Fire.”

Slowly but surely the ship began to rise and the dust swirled around them until it was gone. Despite having faith in their plan, Jim felt like he wasn’t the only one who breathed a small sigh of relief when he was able to see with his own eyes that they were in the right place.

Still, that meant it was time for Jim to do his part. He left the bridge, confident that Sulu and Chekov would find a way to get them close enough that Scotty could beam them aboard the Narada easily. Sure, he and Scotty had probably gone much farther than the distance from Saturn to Earth when Older Spock sent them to the Enterprise, but Jim still felt a little safer when they were close range.

Jim made a quick stop on his way to the transporter room to pick up a belt to hold the communicator and phaser he’d be taking. While there he ran into Spock and Uhura and the three of them walked to the transporter room together, Jim still with no idea what was going on between them.

The three of them reached the transporter room together, where Scotty seemed to be just finishing talking to the bridge. Jim walked over to the transporter console while Uhura and Spock walked to the transporter pad. “How are we, Scotty?”

“Unbelievable, sir. The ship is in position.” Despite his words there didn’t seem to be much disbelief in Scotty’s voice, just excitement.

There was one more thing Jim had to take care of before he could leave the ship. He leaned over the transporter console and hit the comm button. “Whatever happens Mr. Sulu, if you think you have the tactical advantage, you fire on that ship even if we’re still on board. That’s an order.” Jim doubted that their weapons would be much more effective than they had been before, but if it would get the Narada distracted long enough for Earth to evacuate or retaliate he’d have to count that as a victory in the long run. And if the Narada did get destroyed with him aboard, he’d hardly be the first Kirk to die of self-sacrifice.

Still, there was a moment of hesitation before Sulu spoke. “Yes, sir.”

“Otherwise we’ll contact the Enterprise when we’re ready to be beamed back.” Jim hoped they’d make it back, but still, there was more at stake here.

Sulu’s voice was solemn when he responded, but it still seemed a bit hopeful rather than completely grim. “Good luck.”

Jim ended the comm link and stepped onto the transporter padd. He was still caught up in his own thoughts, but out of the corner of his eye he noticed that Uhura was still there and she was standing awfully close to Spock. Wait, his hands were on her waist and hers were on his face. Were they kissing?

Well that answered his question from earlier. Jim felt like he might be staring with a weird look on his face, but it seemed like they were too absorbed to notice anyway. Besides, it was surprise and not judgement he was feeling. Sure, she was technically kissing his soulmate, but it’s not like Jim had any real claim to Spock since they’d only just moved past being completely antagonistic. It did sting a little bit to see it right in front of him so blatantly, but if Spock and Uhura were a thing he figured he didn’t want to interrupt their goodbye.

Although still, he was right there, less than a meter away, and this was getting awkward, soulmate or no. He could probably order them to stop, but then he’d seem like a dick and probably a hypocrite since god knows Uhura had probably come in on him and Gaila doing worse…

Still, his probably dead friend-with-occasional-benefits was not what he needed to be thinking of now. There was a mission at hand.

Luckily at that point Uhura and Spock separated. Jim tried not to eavesdrop, but he was close enough that he could hear what they were saying even though they were whispering.

“I will be back.” Spock’s voice was low and solemn but still seemed to have that openness that Jim couldn’t help but wish would be directed at him.

“You better be.” Uhura’s whispered voice was a little unsteady, but it seemed like she was trying to keep it together. “I’ll be monitoring your frequency.”

“Thank you Nyota.” Spock’s voice was soft in both volume and tone, but Jim still noticed that he definitely hadn’t called her Uhura. So either Vulcans did pet names, which seemed unlikely, or that was the elusive first name Jim had never managed to get from Uhura.

She went in for another kiss, much shorter this time, before turning and leaving the padd. She made eye contact with him briefly and all Jim could do was nod, both because he had no idea how to respond to what he’d just seen and because her stare was a bit challenging and he really hoped she wasn’t still mad at him for telling her she shouldn’t come with them.

Still, Jim was curious now and he was always in favor of breaking the tension before a mission. Once Uhura was on the other side of the room he glanced at Spock. “So her first name’s Nyota?”

“I have no comment on the matter.” Spock’s response was quick, the way he always seemed to be when Jim was starting to annoy him.

So much for breaking the tension that was starting to mount as that pre-mission mix of anticipation and anxiety filled Jim. Thankfully, Scotty was still there. “O-kay then, if there’s any common sense in the design of the enemy ship, I should be putting you somewhere in the middle of a cargo bay. Shouldn’t be a soul in sight.”

Jim nodded in acknowledgement. It was time to get this over with once and for all. “Energize.”

He saw Scotty work the controls, and then everything was surrounded by light as the transport began.

Chapter Text

Despite what Scotty said, they definitely did not materialize in a cargo bay. Jim had a few seconds to take in that they were in the middle of some sort of control center as he got overwhelmed by the higher gravity and thinner air, making him glad that he’d stopped in to Sickbay to get a hypo to prepare him for the conditions of the Romulan ship. They hadn’t known exactly what to expect, but since Romulans were apparently closely related to Vulcans Jim had gotten the type of hypo they would normally give humans preparing to go to Vulcan.

He really was glad for it as he had to spring into action right away, running out of the range of disruptor blasts and firing his phaser at any Romulan who still seemed standing. This would have been a really bad time to get winded and have to stop. Jim glanced back quickly to check that Spock was following him and hadn’t gotten hit and was relieved to see that he was also still running and shooting.

There didn’t seem to be any method or logic to the layout of the room; Jim ran along consoles and over random raised areas to try to find somewhere that would be somewhat protected, all the while dodging shots, firing back, and occasionally glancing back to make sure Spock hadn’t been taken out.

Finally, he saw some sort of giant pipe or something running horizontally along the ground that looked like it would be big enough to hide behind. He jumped behind it and was relieved to see Spock next to him a second later. Once they were covered they both came up and started firing over the top of it, aiming for any Romulan within sight.

Above the chaos and noise of the fight and all the machinery in the room, Jim thought he heard one of the Romulans call Nero, but he didn’t have time to think about that since it seemed like they were actually making a dent in the amount of distuptor fire headed their way, which meant that they must have gotten most of the Romulans already. Looks like mandatory Starfleet target practice for command and security tracks paid off.

With most of the threat gone, Jim ducked down behind the pipe and slapped Spock’s shoulder to get him to do the same. Spock fired one last shot and then joined him ducking behind the pipe.

“So what was your plan for finding Pike and the black hole device?” Jim really hoped that Spock did have a plan, but if not it would hardly be the first time he had to come up with a last minute plan. “Were you going to use one of the computers or something?”

“That had been my initial plan, however due to my lack of proficiency in Romulan that does not seem possible. There is, however, another option.” Spock seemed to hesitate a moment. “If you stun one of the Romulans, I could initiate telepathic contact with them and obtain the information.”

“Alright.” Jim nodded. “Let’s do plan mind meld.” Ignoring the flash of confusion on Spock’s face, Jim climbed up and over the pipe, quickly checking that his phaser was on stun before shooting the next Romulan he saw. He heard Spock fire as well from behind him, but then the room seemed quiet.

Spock ran up next to him and Jim didn’t hear any shots, but he didn’t trust that no more Romulans would show up. He nodded to the Romulan he’d stunned to indicate to Spock where to go. Spock seemed to hesitate a second longer, so Jim whispered “I’ll cover you,” hoping that Spock wasn’t actually doubting that Jim would have his back.

“Are you certain?” If Jim didn’t know any better, he would say Spock sounded slightly nervous under all his Vulcan calmness.

“Yeah, I’ve got you.” Jim had really hoped that their talk earlier had actually cleared things up. He wanted Spock to be able to trust him, but it looked like there was still some work to be done. Considering the impression Jim had made since they’d met, he figured he shouldn’t be too surprised.

Spock cautiously advanced on the Romulan Jim had stunned. Jim stayed behind a moment, listening for anyone. Right after Spock reached the stunned Romulan and put his hand on their face to initiate the meld, Jim saw another Romulan sneak up and pull out a disruptor, ready to aim it at Spock. Jim quickly ran out of where he had been hiding and shot the Romulan before they could get Spock.

Jim kept his phaser at the ready and crouched down next to Spock, who still seemed to be in the meld by the way he was concentrating with his eyes closed. When he seemed to be coming out of it a moment later, Jim asked, “Do you know where it is? The black hole device?”

“And Captain Pike.” Spock did not look back at him to confirm but instead got up and began moving toward what had to be an exit from the room.

Jim followed him through what seemed like the lower decks of the ship. He had no idea what the room they’d been in had been, but after a few twists and turns through a dimly lit and damp corridor they entered what actually seemed to be a cargo bay.

Spock stopped short and Jim ran up behind him, finally catching up. When he saw what made Spock stop, he almost grinned.

It was the ship from Older Spock’s first mind meld. Unless Nero’s crew had found a way to move the red matter, he and Spock had found it. And if it was still on the ship, he and Spock had a way to get it away from Nero too. All they had to do was fly it out. And with no red matter, there was no way the Narada could destroy any other planets, including Earth.

“Is it on there?” Jim looked over to Spock. He would have seen in the Romulan’s mind if it had been moved, right?

“I believe it is.” Spock eyed the ship warily.

“Then let’s move. We don’t know how much time we’ve got.” Jim began to jog toward the ship and glanced back to make sure Spock was following him.

Chapter Text

The run up to the ship was short. Jim periodically turned around to make sure they weren’t being followed, but it looked like they were in the clear. Luckily the door to the ship was open, creating a ramp that allowed them to just walk into it.

Inside it was bright and white in sharp contrast to the dirty dimness of the Narada around it. Since the interior space was pretty small, it wasn’t long before they were in the room with the red matter.

“I foresee a complication.” Spock was clearly studying everything as he looked around the room, trying to understand it. “The design of this ship is far more advanced than I’d anticipated.”

Before Jim could say anything, the ship’s computer spoke in a calm, feminine voice. “Voice print and facial recognition analysis enabled. Welcome back, Ambassador Spock.”

Crap. How was Jim going to hide the existence of Older Spock now? He just had to say something to dismiss it. “Wow, that’s weird.” Jim mentally berated himself. He was supposed to be good at thinking on his feet.

Jim walked to the front of the ship, but Spock remained where he had been since the computer had spoken. Clearly Jim’s attempt at brushing it off hadn’t stopped his curiosity. “Computer, what is you manufacturing origin?”

“Stardate 2387. Commissioned by the Vulcan Science Academy.” Jim just heard the reply before the doors to the cockpit closed behind him. This was not good.

He went into the cockpit to start looking at the controls and it wasn’t long before Spock followed him, seeming irritated again. “It appears that you have been keeping important information from me.”

Why did Spock assume Jim knew about this? He totally did, but why did Spock suspect that? Had his acting been that bad in the red matter room? Still, not what they needed to focus on now. “Since it seemed to recognize you for some reason, you get this ship out of here and I’ll get Pike and beam back to the Enterprise. You’ll be able to fly this thing, right?”

In the narrow space of the cockpit, he and Spock were within an arm’s reach of each other. Spock still seemed slightly irritated when he responded but with more acceptance this time. “Something tells me I already have.”

Jim nodded, hoping it didn’t seem like he was confirming that Spock had flown it before. “Good luck.” He started to turn and leave the cockpit, but was stopped when Spock called out to him.

“Kirk.” Spock waited until Jim had turned around to face him once more. “The statistical likelihood that our plan will succeed is less than 4.3%.”

That sort of defeatism was not what they needed right now. “It’ll work.”

Spock began to walk toward him. “In the event that I do not return, please tell Lieutenant Uhura-“

“Spock.” Like hell was Jim letting either of them die or carrying his soulmate’s last love message back to someone else. Well, he would take the message if it came to that, but it wouldn’t come to that. “It’ll work.” He looked him in the eye, hoping to convey his confidence in the plan and definitely not just trying to get one last good look at his soulmate just in case. Definitely not. “Now, which way to where Pike is?”

Spock didn’t seem all that convinced, but he at least still seemed willing to go along with the plan. “Follow the corridor we were in past the control room we arrived in. Eventually you will encounter a large open room that extends for multiple levels and has one entire wall occupied by a fan. You must cross it to find a room slightly smaller than the one we were transported into. There they have Captain Pike secured to some form of table. I am unsure of the state he will be in; you may need to provide medical assistance.”

“Got it.” Jim was never more glad for his good memory than now; at least the directions were simple enough.

He left the ship the way they’d come in and stayed in the cargo bay long enough to make sure that Spock figured out the controls and started to fly the ship. Jim got clear of it and looked up to the transparent cockpit to see Spock starting to work the controls as the ship slowly but surely began to power up completely. After a moment the ship began to rise and turn around to face the other way, presumably towards whatever way it had come it. The odd spinning motion started in the back half of the ship; Jim still wasn’t sure how the ship propelled itself. Still, it looked like it had in Older Spock’s mind so that must have meant that Spock was doing something right. Sure enough a moment later the ship began to move toward the cavernous expanse beyond the ledge it had been sitting on. He watched it fly away, dodging the oddly laid out structural elements to hopefully get out of the Narada.

Once it seemed like Spock would be able to get the ship clear, Jim turned and began to go back to the tunnel-like hallway they’d been in.

The directions had been simple enough. Follow the corridor past where they’d beamed in until he found a large open room that extended for multiple levels with a fan on one wall, then cross that room to find the interrogation room. Still, this ship was ginormous and Jim felt like he’d been running forever before he even passed the room they’d beamed into.

From there he had to keep running, thanking Bones again for suggesting that he take the hypospray to help him with the reduced oxygen and increased gravity of the stimulated Romulan environment. He really hoped his time aboard the Narada wouldn’t outlast the hypospray’s effects since he hadn’t thought to ask to take one with him.

Finally, Jim rounded a bend in the corridor and the space opened up. He saw that he was now in a giant room and sure enough there was an equally giant fan taking up one wall. Silhouetted against the light coming through the fan was a lone figure in a long coat.

Jim wasn’t sure how he knew, but he felt like he was finally coming face to face with the person responsible for the attack on the Kelvin and the destruction of Vulcan. The person who could be blamed for the loss of billions of lives, including Jim's dad and most of the population of Vulcan.

Nero.

Chapter Text

Jim immediately raised his phaser. He wasn’t sure if it was set high enough to kill at this point, but he found he really didn’t care if it was. This person was responsible for so many lives, including his father’s and an entire planet and most of its population. Jim didn’t really consider it a situation for mercy.

Nero just stood there, watching him without moving.

Jim kept his phaser pointed at him, but he couldn’t fire just yet. There was more at stake than just Nero’s life. Earth was still in danger. “Nero, order your men to disable the drill or I will-“

Jim had been too focused on Nero to notice the Romulan sneaking up next to him, so the hit to his head took him by surprise. Thanks to Romulan strength he went tumbling to the ground and dropped his phaser, which slid out of his reach and off the ledge he was on.

Before Jim could get up, the other Romulan backed away and Nero ran over to them. He stood over Jim where he was sprawled on the ground and looked down at him. “I know your face from Earth’s history.” Nero leaned down and grabbed the front of Jim’s shirt and picked him up only to throw him farther down the platform. Nero grabbed him again and began to punch Jim in the stomach repeatedly.

Between the environment, the pain, and the difference in their strengths, there was really nothing Jim could do to fight back. He shouted in pain as Nero threw him once more and he landed roughly on the metal platform again. This time he was able to get up before Nero got to him. Jim threw a few punches, hitting Nero in the face and side, but Nero seemed completely unaffected and just hit Jim across the face, causing him to go sprawling onto the ground once more.

Jim had been in bad fights before, but not one with the conditions so against him. Before he could get up, Nero was looming over him again. “James T. Kirk was considered to be a great man.” He wrapped his hands around Jim’s throat and Jim absently wondered how many times a person could get strangled in one day without getting brain damage. Nero started to tighten his grip. “He went on to captain the USS Enterprise, but that was another life.” Now both of Nero’s hands were around his neck and starting to grip harder; Jim struggled against him but it didn’t seem to be doing anything. “A life I will deprive you of just like I did your father.”

God, couldn’t Jim go a day without someone mentioning his dad? Now Jim was gonna die with the thought that his death would be meaningless; he’d never save anyone or live up to his father’s legacy. Jim knew he didn’t have much time now; between the thin air and tight grip that was crushing his windpipe it wouldn’t be long before he blacked out and then died. Jim could already see darkness creeping in at the edges of his vision…

He just hoped that Spock would already be able to save Earth.

----------

Spock found piloting the ship to be strangely intuitive. Although it was designed to be piloted by a single person and thus different from any space vessel he was familiar with short of a shuttlecraft, he did not find himself struggling with the controls. Everything was where he would expect it to be, almost as if he himself had had a hand in designing it…

Spock dismissed the notion. Kirk had seemed to know something of the craft based on his reactions to it and Spock’s confusion about it, so Spock would question him about it after the mission was over. Presuming they would both survive.

The odds of both of them surviving were quite low. Spock had told Kirk the chances of both of the plan succeeding were only 4.3%, but that was only the odds of the plan succeeding completely and Kirk, Pike, himself, and the Earth all surviving. The odds were overwhelmingly in favor of some or all of them dying.

Spock knew he did not wish for Pike to die due to the fact that he held the man in high regard, and he knew that he did not wish for the Earth to be destroyed because it was his mother’s home planet as well as the planet that he had lived on for nearly the past Earth decade, but he was surprised to find that he did not wish for Kirk to die either. The cadet had irritated him when he had cheated on the Kobayashi Maru test Spock had designed and infuriated and later enraged him while Spock had been acting captain. At every turn he challenged Spock’s emotional control in ways Spock did not wish to experience. However, once Kirk became acting captain he showed a competence, intelligence, and control that Spock found impressive. Despite his young age, Kirk showed strong potential to be a truly great starship captain someday. His insight about going after the Narada rather than meeting with the rest of the fleet as Pike had ordered may have been what would save Earth. Additionally, Kirk had seemed to show genuine regret over what he had said to provoke Spock into attacking him. Spock may have misjudged him when he initially dismissed Kirk as brash, arrogant, and unsuitable for command.

It was, after all, Kirk’s plan that had him currently transporting the black hole device away from the Romulans who intended to destroy Earth just as they had destroyed Vulcan. Spock only needed to remove the device from the Narada; after he had powered up the ship and watched Kirk watch him take off, illogically wishing he could return the sentiment of the “good luck” that Kirk had said to him, Spock had begun to pilot the ship through the cavernous expanse of the cargo hold of the Narada, which had given him time to think and mentally prepare for what he must do.

Finally, Spock reached what appeared to be a massive cargo bay door. Because there were no controls to be found and Spock did not truly care if he caused damage to the Narada, he activated the weapons systems of the ship he was on and fired at the cargo bay door until there was a hole of sufficient size for him to escape.

Once he was free of the trailing mechanical arms of the Narada, Spock turned the ship to target the drill that had been activated and was currently boring into the Earth’s crust. The drill had been damaged on Vulcan, but evidently the damage had been insufficient to fully deactivate the drill. In order to prevent the loss of future planets should Spock fail his mission and Nero regain control of the black hole device, Spock decided that he must destroy the drill beyond repair.

With this goal in mind, Spock aimed not for the drill itself but for the chain that connected it to the Narada instead. If that link was severed, assuming there was only one drill the Narada would be unable to reach the depth necessary to destroy any other planets. Spock readied the weapons systems and fired, watching as the bottom portion of the chain and the drill itself plummeted towards Earth before turning his vessel and leaving the atmosphere.

Chapter Text

Before Jim could fully pass out, an announcement on the ship’s intercom reached him. “Captain Nero: the Vulcan ship has been taken and the drill has been destroyed.”

Jim gasped as Nero’s hands suddenly left his neck and he was able to breathe again. He tried to process what he’d just heard as he struggled to regain his breath, grateful for the renewed air supply. If the ship was really away from the Narada and the drill was destroyed, that must mean-

“Spock!” Nero screamed, clearly having reached the same conclusion as Jim. “Spooooock!”

Despite still being half stunned on the ground below him, Jim could see the crazed look in Nero’s eyes. Even though his own odds of making it out didn’t look great right now, Jim hoped that Spock would get away ok. Maybe he’d stay with Uhura and be happy with her even though they wouldn’t make each other age. They could stay in Starfleet or live on Earth now that Spock had saved it.

Jim watched as Nero got up and leapt to another platform below the one they were on. He had to follow him to make sure he couldn’t get Spock or destroy Earth somehow. Jim rolled over to attempt to get up and saw that the other Romulan, the one that initially attacked him, was still there.

Despite the sneer on their face and the giant disruptor rifle they were holding the Romulan didn’t shoot at him. They seemed perfectly willing to take their time before attacking. Jim decided to take advantage of it.

As quickly as he could, Jim pushed himself to his feet and ran and jumped to the platform Nero had gone to. However, he forgot to factor in the fact that he did not have the same strength as the Romulans and that he was fighting against stronger gravity than he was used to. So instead of landing on his feet on the platform, he awkwardly caught his torso on it and nearly fell off, clinging to the edge with all his might and trying not to look at the immense abyss below that he could fall into.

A moment later the other Romulan landed on the platform, on their feet with a sort of ease that Jim envied. Jim’s worries about falling into the abyss being the cause of his death were soon gone as the Romulan grabbed him by the throat and held him up with one hand, effectively restricting Jim’s air supply once more. Jim was really getting tired of getting choked at this point. Couldn’t they end it in a quicker way?

But then, just like the villains in all the holomovies Jim watched as a kid, the Romulan decided to start monologuing instead of just killing Jim. Definitely not going for a quick death. Instead the Romulan eyed Jim with a level of disdain that made Jim feel like a bug about to be squashed as they began to speak. “Your species is even weaker than I expected.”

One of Jim’s hands had gone to the hand on his throat out of instinct to fight the grip on his neck, but he knew he needed to find a better way to get out of this. With the other hand he started trying to feel along the Romulan’s belt for anything he could use to help himself.

He must have been making noises, because the Romulan narrowed their eyes. “You can’t even speak.” They looked unbearably smug.

Well if they wanted a show Jim was certainly ready to give them one. His hand hit what seemed to be the handle of a disruptor, but he wasn’t quite close enough to grab it. “I- I-“ it was hard to talk with someone’s hand crushing your windpipe.

Thankfully the Romulan actually seemed interested in what he had to say. They pulled him closer and leaned in, the smugness still present. “What?”

That was all Jim needed. His hand closed on the handle of the disruptor and he started to slide it out of the holster. “I’ve got your gun.” He pulled the disruptor out of the holster and fired it into the middle of the Romulan’s torso, hoping he was hitting something vital.

He must have, because the Romulan froze, their grip on Jim’s throat breaking and causing him to drop again as they fell into the abyss below. Jim dropped the disruptor in favor of clinging to the platform with everything he had and trying to pull himself up onto it.

He managed to pull himself up onto the platform and paused for a moment to regain his breath. He’d been strangled three times today by three different people who were all stronger than him. It really was not as fun as it sounded. He hoped the repeated loss of oxygen to his brain hadn’t caused permanent damage. He’d have to get Bones to look him over if—when he got back to the Enterprise. He’d get off this ship, even if it was only because Nero wanted him dead and he wanted to spite that murderous bastard.

It took Jim a second to feel like he was ready to get up again. He was definitely ready to be back in the familiar environment and comfortable environmental settings of the Enterprise instead of on this nightmare of a ship with its murderous crew, near-unbreathable air, and almost unbearable gravity.

But still, Jim had to rescue Pike before he could leave. He really hoped Pike was still alive; he couldn’t afford to lose both his actual dad and the man that was like a father to him to the same person. Not without some sort of payback at least.

Wherever he was, Pike probably wasn’t in great condition, which meant that Jim needed to get up and keep moving now. The sooner he got to Pike and got out of here the sooner he could somewhere where he could receive medical treatment. The sooner Pike got treatment the better his odds of survival were. God knows what Nero and his crew had done to Pike to get the information they needed out of him; Jim needed to get going now so he could help Pike.

Despite the pain he was still in, Jim grabbed the disruptor where it was lying on the platform and forced himself to his feet. He had to save Pike. If it was the last thing he was going to do, he was going to do it.

He was probably in the right place now that he’d crossed the room just like Spock had told him he needed to; he just had to find the right room. But still, he was armed and had his goal; Jim could do what he needed to do.

Chapter Text

Once Spock had ensured the drill would be disabled beyond repair and had shut down Nero’s attempt to call and intimidate him, Spock’s priority was getting the ship clear of Earth in case Nero did manage to find him and destroy both the ship Spock had taken from the Narada and the unknown substance it contained that seemed to be what was used to generate the black holes. The evidence that the ship was from the future was compounded by the speeds it was able to generate; the warp speeds it was capable of were beyond what even the fastest contemporary ships could attain.

Spock was able to safely distance himself 2 lightyears from Earth and 1.3 from any known habitable planet. While the unknown substance did not seem to generate a permanent black hole, the singularity created by igniting the entire quantity of the substance would be sufficiently large to cause gravitational distortions and possibly endanger other planets should they be within a range of .9 lightyears. That was a situation Spock aimed to avoid.

Spock was unsurprised when the Narada appeared only moments after he himself dropped out of warp. Nero had seemed fixated on him and Spock planned to use it to his advantage to save his mother’s home planet even if it would only be in her memory.

Spock also planned to use the unknown black hole substance to destroy Nero’s ship and the crew aboard it. They posed a danger to the Federation and galaxy at large and needed to be eliminated. His father had told him to use his rage and Spock would use it to rid the galaxy of the murderers who had destroyed his planet and killed his mother.

Kirk had proven himself clever; Spock found himself confident that the acting captain would find a way to transport himself and Captain Pike off of the ship before it was destroyed. Spock would likely not survive the impact, but he would not be the only life lost that day. Many from Starfleet and billions from Vulcan had already perished, not to mention his mother. Spock’s death would serve a purpose; by eliminating the threat Nero presented no more lives would be endangered or lost. The continued survival of the many outweighed the survival of the one.

He turned the ship around and aimed it at Nero’s vessel. Even if Nero fired upon the ship and killed him, the destruction of the ship would create an inescapable black hole that would consume Nero and his crew, preventing them from causing more harm. Spock’s sacrifice would not be in vain.

Nero’s ship did fire, but Spock knew that it no longer mattered; he had done his calculations. Nero’s ship would be unable to avoid the black hole generated by the destruction of the vessel Spock had taken. Spock himself would also be unable to escape, but his sacrifice would save other lives.

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Jim had finally found the room where they were holding Pike. While initially it looked like just another cluttered and dingy room, Jim realized he was in the right place when he saw a gold shirt out of the corner of his eye. With the disruptor he’d taken at the ready, Jim quickly but cautiously advanced into the room. It looked mostly clear; Pike was strapped down to the table and there was Romulan standing over him but otherwise the room looked empty.

Any chance at stealth that Jim would have had was ruined by all the water on the floor that made every step he took slosh and splash, so Jim shot the Romulan as soon as he was within range. It wouldn’t do to come this far only to get shot down because he wasn’t stealthy enough.

With the threat neutralized, Jim tucked the disruptor into his belt and ran forward to undo the straps holding Pike down. Thankfully Pike looked mostly intact, but Jim still needed to get him out as soon as possible; who knows what sort of internal damage there could be.

As soon as Jim reached the table he was strapped down to, Pike noticed him. “What’re you doing here?” He seemed a little dazed or confused, but his voice still had a certain authoritative edge to it suggesting he was still in captain mode.

The Enterprise could probably use her real captain again, as much as Jim had enjoyed his stint in the chair. “Just following orders.” He quickly started undoing the straps holding Pike down, grateful that they didn’t have some sort of complicated locking mechanism.

Although he’d seemed a bit out of it, Pike must have been paying more attention than Jim, because while Jim was still focused on the restraints Pike grabbed the disruptor off of his belt and fired it a few times, taking out the Romulans who had started to rush into the room. Jim looked over just in time to see them drop to the ground before turning back to the last of the restraints, which were over Pike’s shins.

Once he had Pike free, Jim helped pull him off the table and draped Pike’s arm over his own shoulders to help support the other man’s weight. Jim had no idea where they were anymore; he thought he’d felt something that could have been the ship going in and out of warp but since he didn’t know the ship it was hard to tell. No matter what, Jim really hoped that the Enterprise had found them.

Holding Pike’s arm on his shoulder with one hand, Jim reached for the communicator from his belt. He flipped it open and hoped the ship was standing by and within range. “Enterprise, now!”

He’d gotten Pike and Spock had gotten the red matter away from Nero; all they had to do was safely return and the mission would be done.

After a moment the light of the transporter began to surround them and Jim swore he was going to thank every member of the Enterprise crew individually after this. Could an acting captain put people up for commendations? He could always tell Pike to do it.

That was his thought as he finally reappeared in the bright white of the transporter room. He glanced over to see Spock on the spot next to him, looking slightly surprised.

The sight of his soulmate in one piece made Jim grin. All of them had made it back to safety.

Chapter Text

Jim couldn’t contain his grin as he watched Spock, who looked like he might be in the best shape of all of them, rush off of the transporter pad. Jim looked up to the transporter console and saw a familiar face. “Nice timing Scotty.”

Scotty just laughed and looked about as exhilarated as Jim felt, gesticulating wildly as he spoke. “I’ve never beamed three people from two targets onto one pad before!”

Jim started to help Pike off of the transporter pad. Before he could respond to Scotty the transporter room doors opened.

“Jim!” Bones rushed into the room, followed by two of the Sickbay staff.

“Bones!” Jim knew that he should probably get checked out, but Pike was in way worse shape.

Bones seemed to pick up on that as well, because without even breaking stride he went to take Pike’s other side to help support his weight since it seemed like Pike was struggling to move his legs. “I’ve got him.”

One of the other people from Sickbay moved to take Pike’s other side, so Jim carefully passed him over as a nurse began to scan Pike with a tricorder as that group rushed out towards Sickbay.

Jim looked over to Spock, who was speaking quietly with Uhura. They were holding each other loosely and were close enough that they could probably start kissing again.

Jim really didn’t want to see that again. “Spock.” Once his soulmate’s eyes were on him, Jim continued. “What did you do with the ship and the black hole device?” He’d seen Spock get away, but from there the windowless interior of the Narada prevented him from seeing what Spock did after that.

Spock moved away from Uhura slightly, letting go of her and holding his hands behind his back. “After removing the vessel from the Narada, I set it on a collision course with the ship. I was transported off the vessel before I could make contact but the complete destruction of both ships due to the black hole generating matter is inevitable.”

Despite himself Jim grinned a bit. “Well done. We should get to the bridge; I bet Nero will want to talk to us.” Jim nodded at Spock and Uhura. “Let’s go.” He led the way out the door, sure that the others were following him.

Once they got to the turbolift it was a little awkward; Jim signaled for them to go to the bridge but then it got quiet. There was definite pent up energy from wanting to see the Narada destroyed, but it was also clear that Uhura wanted to check in with Spock and would rather be alone than have Jim there, and Jim was feeling less confident he wanted to be there.

Thankfully, at that moment the turbolift doors opened on the bridge. Uhura went to the side to return to the communications station while Kirk tried to act confident, like he hadn’t just had an awkward turbolift ride with his soulmate who he still wasn’t completely sure he liked but was definitely warming up to and his soulmate’s girlfriend who didn’t seem to like him. All that after Jim possibly interrupting or preventing a reunion kiss between said soulmate and girlfriend. Yep. Awkward.

But the bridge crew didn’t seem to notice, meaning that Jim must have been better at the faking confident thing than he thought. He could tell that Spock was still behind him, probably looking as unreadable as ever.

“Keptin!” Chekov almost seemed to perk up at the sight of him and Jim tried to keep his serious captain expression in place instead of smiling. “Enemy ship is losing power; their shields are down sir.”

“Hail them now.” Jim was still trying to figure out what to do as he and Spock walked in front of the navigation console; from there he had a good view of the Narada getting consumed by a black hole on the bridge’s viewscreen. Jim knew he wanted Nero dead and that Nero probably deserved it for all the destruction and death he’d caused, but Jim felt that maybe he should try to be diplomatic and find a way to spare Nero's crew. Weren’t captains supposed to think about long term consequences and things like that?

Chekov acknowledged the order and after a moment the sight of the Narada getting destroyed was replaced by Nero’s enraged face. The signal seemed to flicker in and out, probably because the Narada’s systems wouldn’t last long with the damage it was taking on.

Time for captain mode. “This is Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise. Your ship is compromised. You’re too close to the singularity to survive without assistance, which we are willing to provide.”

Next to him, an odd look passed over Spock’s face for a moment before he turned his back to the viewscreen and spoke quietly. “Captain, what are you doing?”

Jim turned around so he was facing Spock more than the viewscreen and responded equally quietly. “We show them compassion; it might be the only way to earn peace with Romulus.” While Jim didn’t really want to do it, it seemed like it might be one of those situations where you put your issues aside for the greater good or whatever. “It’s logic Spock, I thought you’d like that.”

Spock’s lips actually downturned briefly. “No, not really.” He looked Jim in the eye and shook his head. “Not this time.”

Before Jim could respond, Nero spoke up again. “I would rather suffer the end of Romulus a thousand times—I would rather die in agony than accept assistance from you.”

Spock was right; Jim decided that this was the kind of situation to screw diplomacy. Nero had been trying to kill him less than a half hour ago and the Narada’s body count was already in the billions. Jim faced the viewscreen with a smirk. “You got it.” Jim turned back to the crew. “Arm phasers, fire everything we’ve got.” Jim knew it probably wouldn’t do much and that the black hole would probably be what actually did Nero and his crew in, but if Nero wanted to die in agony Jim was willing to try blasting a hole in his ship to help him out.

Sulu acknowledged his order with a bit of a smile as Jim made his way to the captain’s chair in the middle of the bridge. From there he was able to watch as the combined forces of their weapons and the black hole made the Narada start to come apart and collapse in on itself. Finally, it finished crumpling in on itself and then there was nothing left but the black hole. Jim breathed a sigh of relief that Nero and his crew were finally gone.

But a moment later a warning began to flash on the viewscreen, reminding Jim that there were still other threats. Like the massive black hole they’d created that was now starting to draw them in.

Chapter Text

“Sulu, let’s go home!” Jim really hoped that they were still far enough away from the black hole that they could escape. They needed to start moving now.

“Yes sir!” Sulu was rapidly working the console in front of him, as was Chekov next to him. The Enterprise began to turn, the scene out the viewscreen shifting from the massive black hole that had just swallowed the Narada to the open space that was now in front of them.

Still, their view didn’t change beyond that. None of the characteristic visual distortions of the ship jumping to warp showed up. This was not good. Jim tried not to let the alarm into his voice but he felt like it was still there. “Why aren’t we at warp?”

“We are, sir.” Chekov was also sounding a little alarmed as he began to look over the console in front of him frantically.

Yeah, this was not good. Jim opened the comm line on the arm of the captain’s chair. “Kirk to Engineering, get us out of here Scotty.”

“You bet your ass captain!” Scotty sounded frantic and the noises of the engineering section were loud behind him. Really not good.

Despite all the artificial gravity and other controls of the ship, Jim almost thought he could feel the black hole pulling them in.

Scotty confirmed his concern a moment later, shouting to be heard over the cacophony behind him. “We’re caught in the gravity well Captain!”

Maybe sticking around to fire at Nero had been a bad idea. But like hell was Jim becoming captain only to lead the whole ship to death. “Go to maximum warp! Push it!”

Still, nothing happened.

“I’m giving ‘er all she’s got, captain!” Scotty’s voice was laced with panic and frustration.

Cracks were starting to appear on the bridge and the ship was groaning audibly. This was seriously not good. “All she’s got isn’t good enough. What else you got?” Despite the sudden urge to start pacing Jim stayed seated in the captain’s chair, white knuckling the armrests. If he freaked out the crew would probably freak out more. He had to keep them calm. They’d get out of this. They’d have to.

“Ok.” The edge of desperation in Scotty’s voice was almost drowned out by the sounds of the engine room all around him. “If we eject the warp core and detonate, the blast could be enough to push us away but I cannae promise anything though!”

The viewscreen was staring to crack. If that broke everyone on the bridge would be sucked into space. It was time to test any possible ideas, no matter how implausible. “Do it! Do it now!”

“Yes sir!” Scotty shouted and then the comm line went quiet. Jim really hoped this would work.

For a moment nothing happened and Jim hoped that Scotty was working as quickly as possible. They wouldn’t have any time to spare.

Then there was the warning for the warp core being ejected. It flashed for a moment then they were surrounded by a cloud of blue-white light. The warp cores had exploded.

It felt like hours ticked by with nothing around them but the exploded warp cores. Deep down Jim knew it was probably closer to seconds, but it felt like it dragged on and on as they waited to see if they’d broken free.

Finally they saw the great dark expanse of space once more, dotted with stars in a way that reassured Jim that it was actually space this time and not the inside of the black hole.

The relief on the bridge was palpable. Jim felt himself breathing heavily, not even aware that he’d been holding his breath during the explosion. For some reason he couldn’t really name he felt himself turning around to look at Spock, who had returned to the science station.

They made eye contact and although Spock’s facial expression didn’t change much, Jim felt like he must have been relieved too. They’d made it. They’d survived.

Jim turned back forward and couldn’t help his grin. He made eye contact with Sulu, who was also smiling. He smiled back at his friend, then paused. Were they friends now? He vaguely remembered being in the same command class as Sulu a few times. But they’d saved each other’s lives and been in multiple near death situations together now, so that probably made them friends, right?

Jim couldn’t help but laugh a little as the last of the relief flowed through him and the reality began to set it. Yes, they’d just cheated death, but now they were on a starship that had been through a battle (or would it be considered multiple battles at this point?) with a ship from the future and now they had no warp core. They needed to figure out what to do now. Jim looked around the bridge, wondering when the last time anyone here had rested was. Had it really only been a day or so since they’d been at his hearing? Jim ran a head down his face. Everyone else on the bridge seemed to be realizing their situation as well. Time to do the captain thing again.

“So.” Jim looked around the bridge; everyone was looking at him now. “How far are we from Earth? Or even the closest Federation planet or starbase?”

Spock spoke up first and Jim spun in the chair to look at him. “When I was piloting the ship taken from the Narada, I achieved a distance of 2 lightyears from Earth and 1.3 lightyears from any known habitable planet. With our movement away from the singularity that formed at that location, we are now,” he paused and reviewed information from the display in front of him, “2.1 lightyears from Earth, 1.1 lightyears from any known habitable planet, and 1.43 lightyears from any established Federation location.”

Jim attempted to do mental math in his head. If the best the impulse engines could do was ¼ light speed, the impulse engines could be damaged from everything that had happened that day, meaning they might not get that speed, and they were that far away from everyone, that meant that they had a long trip ahead of them. Hopefully someone would come give them a hand before then. “Uhura.” He shifted the chair to look at her station directly. “Send out a message on all Federation channels with our location. Contact engineering to see what parts we need and include that in your message. They’ve gotta be looking for us, so we may as well help them out.” Jim turned back to face the front of the bridge. “Chekov, Sulu, figure out a course that will get us to wherever we can get repairs and talk with engineering to see how fast we can get there.”

Everyone made sounds of acknowledgement and went to work. Jim got up from the chair and walked over to Spock’s station. His maybe-soulmate was looking at him expectantly. “Yes, captain?”

Jim paused a second. Had Spock actually called him captain? Never mind, there were other things to do. “I know that everything here was super last minute because it was an emergency situation, but do you know if Pike had any sort of duty roster? I think it’s about time for the next shift to start.”

“I am uncertain.” Spock turned to begin going through the computer at the console. “I do not believe Pike had the time to complete one.”

“Great.” Jim ran a hand down his face. “We’ve gotta do that then, these people need rest.”

“I concur.” Spock nodded and began to stand from his seat. “We should visit Pike to assess his condition and see if he had anything prepared.”

“Good idea.” Jim backed off as Spock stood up. “I think I’m about ready to hand command back over.”

Spock raised an eyebrow at that but otherwise didn’t respond as they made their way to the turbolift to go to Sickbay.

Chapter Text

The ride in the turbolift and the walk to Sickbay afterwards was quiet. Jim still wasn’t quite sure where he stood with Spock. It had been an emotionally turbulent…however long it had been since they’d met. First he’d hated Spock for calling him out in front of the whole academy, then on the ship together Spock seemed to constantly be trying to tear him down, then Jim had met Older Spock, who showed him that he and Spock could have so much together, then he’d provoked Spock into nearly killing him, but then after they talked things out they’d worked together really well while taking down Nero. Still, tentatively having an ok working relationship and an uncertain personal relationship wasn’t exactly what most people wanted with their soulmates, Jim included. He wanted something like what he’d seen in Older Spock’s mind meld. It would probably take more than a day to get that.

They’d finally arrived at Sickbay. Jim looked around for a moment, unsure where Pike would be. Would he even be done getting treatment? He’d seemed like he was in pretty bad shape when Jim had found him, and who knew what kind of injuries he may have had that Jim wouldn’t have been able to see. Still, Jim was ready to hand control back to Pike. Now that the adrenaline was out of his system he was starting to panic a bit about the fact that he was technically captain still. Hell, he hadn’t even actually graduated from the academy yet. Was someone who was technically still a cadet even allowed to serve as a captain? Before Jim could freak out too much more, Bones appeared.

“Well look who finally decided to show up. Are you two here for physicals? Because you’ll both probably need full workups after going over to that nightmare of a ship.” He looked between Jim and Spock expectantly. “Well, what are you waiting for? Get to biobeds, both of you.”

Jim mentally froze up at that. While he might need some medical attention, what with getting attacked and strangled by two separate Romulans, a full physical might reveal more than he wanted. Would Bones be able to tell that he’d started aging? Jim knew that in some places they had equipment specially designed to figure out exactly when a person started aging to best determine if two people had started aging started at the same time and were actually soulmates. He knew the Enterprise Sickbay was supposed to be state of the art, but would they have that? There was no way Jim was doing that physical now. Jim put on his best charming grin, knowing that Bones would probably see through it anyway. “Sorry Bones, but that’s actually not why we’re here. We came to see Pike. Is he in any shape to get visitors?”

“Really Jim?” Bones crossed his arms over his chest. “God knows how many people with how many times your strength have used you as a punching bag today,” his eyes flicked to Spock momentarily and Jim noticed that Spock looked away to avoid eye contact, “and you’re still avoiding your physical?” He glanced back at Spock. “And you don’t get to avoid it either, commander.”

“C’mon Bones, we’re here on ship business.” Jim really hoped he sounded less petulant than he felt. “We’ve got to talk to Pike about official things, right Spock?” Jim looked over at Spock hopefully.

“He is correct.” Spock was back to standing with perfect posture and his hands behind his back. “We need to speak with Captain Pike about important official matters. Is he in a condition to receive us?”

Bones deflated a bit at that. “He’s stable now, and I think he just woke up after we had to knock him out for surgery, which by the way would have been a lot easier if you two had kept the ship steady rather than making her jerk around wildly.” Bones glared at them both for a moment before relenting somewhat. “If he is awake and if I do let you see him, you have to promise that you’ll keep it short and that you’ll report back to me or other members of the medical staff afterward to get checked out, alright?” He looked at them expectantly.

Jim sighed and looked at Spock. “Does that work for you?” When Spock nodded he turned back to Bones. “Alight then, you’ve got a deal.”

“Ok.” Bones started to turn and jerked his head for them to follow him. “He’s this way.”

They followed Bones over to an area of Sickbay that had been partially curtained off for privacy. Bones ducked in first after signaling for them to wait while he made sure Pike was in good enough condition to see them.

Jim awkwardly glanced over to Spock while they waited. If Pike took over as captain again, would Spock be back to first officer? What would Jim do then? He wasn’t even really supposed to be here; they’d have to rearrange some to find a job for him on the ship. Of course, it was also possible that since he was technically acting captain, Jim could end up being first officer when Pike took over as captain again. That could work. Spock would just go back to being a science officer for the time being, so he’d still have something to do. Jim could make being first officer for Pike work probably. It could be good; Pike could show him the metaphorical ropes and Jim would get to observe what being captain was like without actually being responsible for hundreds of people. That could probably work out pretty well. Really, Jim hadn’t even finished at the Academy. He did well enough in an emergency with a clear goal to focus on but was he really ready to command a whole starship and run everything? With the reality of it setting in he was starting to panic a little. That probably meant he wasn’t ready yet, right?

Once again Bones was the one to interrupt Jim’s thoughts. The doctor stepped back out from the curtain and looked at Jim and Spock sternly. “Alright, he says he’s good to see you two and his vitals seem steady enough, but remember that you have to keep it short and report for physicals as soon as you’re done, right?”

“Affirmative.” Spock nodded.

“Jim?” Bones raised an eyebrow expectantly. He was getting that look like he was mentally running through all the hypos he could stab Jim with.

“Yeah, of course.” Jim tried to project his usual confidence but hoped he didn’t come up short.

“Okay then.” Bones looked between the two of them skeptically. “I reserve the right to cut this short at any point if it seems like you’re stressing him or if his stats start to do weird things because he does need to rest. But you can see him now.”

“Thanks Bones.” Jim smiled and clapped Bones on the shoulder as he and Spock walked past him to where Pike lay.

Chapter Text

Pike didn’t look too great, but he looked better than before. Still, surrounded by so many people who looked 18 his 30-something face stood out and looked old, more like his actual age. Some food and rest would most likely help and Bones could probably lay out best how much Pike would recover, but at least Jim had managed to get him back in one piece and he was still alive. Jim honestly wasn’t sure how he would have dealt with it had Pike died.

But he didn’t have to think about that now, because Pike was still alive. He was propped up on the biobed and looking over Jim and Spock. “Well gentlemen,” Pike looked between them, “It seems like the ship is still in one piece and running.” He looked at Spock with a smile. “Good job captain. I knew you had it in you.”

“Actually captain, I am no longer in command.” Spock seemed to straighten up slightly more, something Jim hadn’t thought was possible. “It was not my plan that led to your successful rescue and the destruction of the enemy vessel.”

Pike’s eyebrows rose in surprise before he grinned at Jim. “Well then congratulations Captain Kirk. I always believed it would happen, although it looks like you’ve surpassed even my expectations on how soon it would be. Good job son.”

“Thank you sir.” Jim couldn’t help but smile back a little bit, glad that he’d made Pike proud. He hadn’t actually said those exact words, but Jim could tell. “Although as great as this has been, I’m ready to turn command back over to you.”

“That’s not happening.” Pike actually seemed to deflate slightly for a second before looking back at the two of them and returning to his usual posture. “According to our grumpy new CMO, I need to stay in Sickbay for a while for recovery and monitoring. You’d have to get the full report from him, but I think the short story is that medically I’m in no shape to command. So as much as I’d love to get back on that bridge, it looks like she’ll be in your hands a while longer, Kirk.”

“Are you sure about that?” Jim didn’t feel ready. He was only 25; that was way younger than anyone else who’d made captain. Never mind that some of them had been physically 18 at the time and he was now getting past that; he still felt too young. “I haven’t even technically graduated from the Academy yet. Can a cadet be an acting captain?”

Pike paused for a moment. “I’m actually not sure. Spock, you probably know the regulations better than I do. Is there anything?”

Spock hesitated before answering. “I am uncertain as to what regulations may apply and which may be superseded by exemptions in these circumstances. Captain Kirk was acting first officer and thus in the chain of command and in position to become acting captain should the acting captain, myself in these circumstances, prove unable, which did happen.”

“He has a point.” Pike nodded thoughtfully. “Our chain of command was a bit shorter than usual since my typical first officer got her own ship to respond to the emergency. Plus, it’s not like we had many people on this ship who weren’t cadets.”

Spock nodded in agreement before continuing. “Additionally, Captain Kirk is responsible for preventing the destruction of Earth, which means that Starfleet will likely be willing to allow his being acting captain.”

Jim was beginning to feel like they were talking about him like he wasn’t there. “That’s not really true.” He turned to Spock. “You were the one who got the black hole device away from Nero and destroyed his ship. You saved Earth, not me.”

“I may have performed the actions that prevented the destruction of the planet, but I was merely following your plan while under your command.” Spock met his gaze and held it. “It is still you who deserves credit for saving Earth, as if I had still been in command and my plan had been followed the Enterprise would not have been in the Sol system to intercept the Narada, leading to the destruction of the planet.”

“How exactly did you end up relinquishing command, Spock?” Pike looked between the two of them curiously. “You didn’t mention that earlier.”

Jim sighed. “It’s a bit of a long story.”

Pike glanced down at the biobed he was sitting on then back at Jim and Spock. “I think I’ve got nothing but time at the moment.”

“Alright then.” Jim ran a hand down his face then looked over at Spock. “Do you want to start or should I?”

“I can begin.” Spock nodded at Jim then turned to Pike. “After you were captured, we witnessed the destruction of Vulcan. I was able to save the Elders to preserve the culture of my planet, but I realized that my mother had most likely perished along with billions of others on the planet. After leaving Vulc—the place where my planet had been, Kirk and I expressed disagreement about the next course of action the ship should take. This led to me ejecting him from the ship.”

“You marooned him because of a disagreement?” Pike seemed incredulous.

“In all fairness, I was disagreeing rather aggressively.” Jim rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly.

“As acting first officer it was your duty to challenge decisions that you deemed unwise.” Spock clasped his hands behind his back more tightly. “I should not have reacted so aggressively.”

“Alright, we can discuss blame later.” Pike looked between them. “How did this lead to Kirk gaining command? Seems like it would be awfully hard from off the ship.”

“Well, I ended up on the planet Delta Vega. There I met…” Jim really wasn’t sure how he was supposed to explain Older Spock since he couldn’t mention him in front of Spock. Time to cover things up a bit. “I met a friend. He pointed out that Spock’s actions and the events of the day most likely meant that Spock was emotionally compromised, which meant that I should take command. So we went to the Starfleet outpost on Delta Vega and beamed back aboard the ship from there.”

“What he fails to mention was that the ship was at warp at that time.” Spock looked back at Jim, his gaze sharp. “You failed to answer my earlier questions about how you were able to beam aboard the Enterprise while she was at warp.”

Pike’s surprised expression had Jim rubbing the back of his neck again. “So I’m probably not the best person to explain the physics of it, but my friend on Delta Vega was able to help Scotty work out his theory of transwarp beaming. So that’s possible now.”

“Wait a second.” Pike held up his hand. “This is all a lot to take in, but who’s Scotty?”

“Right.” Jim straightened up. “Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott. He’s an engineer who was posted to Delta Vega, but I think now he’s helping make repairs to the ship. It was his idea that actually got us out of that black hole.” Jim hesitated at Pike’s confused expression. “But I think you were in surgery then. We almost got sucked into the black hole that destroyed the Narada, but Scotty was able to get us out of it. We just don’t have a warp core now.”

Pike sighed and closed his eyes for a moment before opening them again. “It seems like I have a lot to catch up on. But for now, let’s get back to how you ended up in command, Captain Kirk. What happened next?”

“Well, once back on the ship, Scotty and I were taken to the bridge. There I…” Jim hesitated, not sure what was the best way to say that he ran his mouth until Spock nearly killed him.

“He provoked me in order to make me realize and reveal that I was emotionally compromised by this mission, leading to my resigning command and his assuming command.” Again Spock seemed almost ashamed, but still in a subtle way. “Again, I believe I was too aggressive in my actions.”

“What happened?” Pike looked between them, clearly curious and confused.

“We fought on the bridge.” Even though he’d never really experienced it, Jim kinda felt like this is what telling a parent you’d done something wrong must be like.

“Captain Kirk’s report is incorrect.” Spock shifted slightly; he seemed uncomfortable. “While he did attempt to fight back, I maintained the upper hand and nearly killed him.”

Pike’s eyebrows really rose at that. “Mr. Spock, you know that you could be court martialed for that.”

“He was emotionally compromised. I’m not going to do anything about it.” Both of them looked at Jim, surprise evident on both of their faces. “Besides, he didn’t actually kill me, and without his help we never would have been able to stop Nero and save Earth or you, sir.” Jim felt himself straightening up a bit. He really didn’t like being the center of attention in situations like this. “Plus, I fought back, which would mean that I should be court martialed too. And if both of get court martialed, who’d run the ship?”

Disbelief was still pretty clear on Pike’s face, but eventually he shook his head and made a sound that was somewhere between a laugh and sigh. “Well I guess you’ve got a point. No court martials for now.” He looked between them. “Anything else to report?”

“Probably.” Jim looked over at Spock, who made eye contact but didn’t say anything. “But we were told to keep it short, so we’ll have to give you a full report later.” He looked back at Pike. “Everyone who’s on duty now is probably about ready to be relieved, but we don’t know who the next shift is supposed to be. Did you happen to start a duty roster or anything like that?”

“Well, it was an emergency situation, so duty rosters weren’t my priority.” Pike looked at Jim sternly for a moment before his expression broke into a small smile. “But since we were supposed to launch soon anyway, I’d already started. You’ll probably need to make some modifications, but if you get me a padd I’ll send it your way.”

“Thank you sir.” Jim smiled at him. “Spock and I will get on that right away.”

“Not right away.” Jim turned to see Bones at the entrance to the curtained off area around Pike’s bed. “You two both need physicals. After that I’ll let you get him a padd, but only because I want to get off duty and crash as much as everyone else. Still, you two need to get checked out before any of that can happen.” Bones pulled open the curtain enough to let them through. “No excuses. Let’s go.”

“Alright then.” Jim turned back to Pike. “I guess we’ll be getting back to you later.” He turned back to Bones and followed him to a different part of Sickbay, hoping that it was still too early for his friend to detect his aging.

Chapter Text

Jim looked around Sickbay. It was pretty empty. He wasn’t sure if there were any other doctors he could go to to avoid Bones; Jim knew the doctor that was supposed to be the CMO got taken out in one of the hits to the ship, but he wasn’t sure how many doctors there were total and if there was anyone else on duty now. It could end up being pretty difficult to avoid Bones.

“Alright then.” Bones walked in front of Jim and Spock and looked them over. “Spock, you get one of the nurses to start you off. I’m the only doctor on duty now so you’ll have to be a little patient. And as for you, Jim,” Bones looked at him seriously for a moment, “I’ll just handle your examination myself. You’re allergic to too many things. I don’t want one of the nurses to accidentally send you into anaphylactic shock or worse just because they were trying to give you pain medication or something.” He surveyed Sickbay for a moment before heading to an open biobed. “Jim, follow me. Spock, find an open biobed and a nurse.”

Jim spared one last glance at Spock, who was headed towards a nurse who was checking in with an injured crewmember. He wondered if Spock would show any signs of aging. While Spock was half human, physically at least he seemed to take after his Vulcan half. Older Spock was affected by the aging thing, but who knew if that was true in this universe. Spock still looked young, but Jim knew that Vulcans could live to be around 200 or more, so it would make sense if they just aged slowly. Jim kept staring at Spock even though his back was turned. This Spock did look younger than Older Spock, but Older Spock said that physically he was in his 40s so that made sense. Still, for being physically in his 40s Older Spock didn’t look that old. Especially considering he was really in his 150-somethings.

“Dammit Jim, stop staring at that pointy eared bastard and get on the biobed. The sooner we finish here the sooner I can finish with Spock, and then after you make duty rosters you two can stare all you want while I finally get to rest because my damn replacement knows to show up.” Bones was standing next to the biobed with his arms crossed and a tricorder in one hand.

“Right. Sorry Bones.” Jim walked over and hopped onto the biobed, sitting with his legs over the side. “I think I was zoning out. Maybe I do need some rest.”

“That or one of the people who beat you up gave you head trauma.” Bones pulled the small scanner out of the tricorder and began to wave it in front of Jim’s face. “You already got checked out after Pike had you go down to the drill on Vulcan, right? No need for me to treat any of that?”

“Yeah, that got taken care of.” Jim fought the urge to slap the scanner out of his face. The buzzing sound was reminding him of a fly. “So now you just have to worry about me getting marooned on an ice planet where I got attacked by monsters, the fight with Spock, getting attacked and strangled again on the Narada by two separate Romulans, and any potential lingering side effects of all the hypos you got me with when trying to smuggle me onto the ship.” Jim hoped that that would be enough to distract Bones from noticing his aging.

“Lie down on the biobed, it gets better readings that way.” Bones seemed entirely focused on the tricorder but spared a moment to glare at Jim. “I hope that’s the full list of stupid things you’ve done today and you’re not trying to hide anything that I’d need to know.”

Jim grinned as he laid down on the biobed. “I think that’s it for today, but no promises for the future. Maybe I’ll challenge a Klingon to a fistfight.”

“I will be the only 18-looking person to get gray hair and it will all be because of you,” Bones muttered absently as he looked between the tricorder and the biobed readings.

“I’m touched you think that we’ve got enough of a connection to make each other age, but you’d think we’d have noticed by now if that were the case.” Jim was relieved that it was still easy to slip into banter with Bones; also he hoped that if he acted natural enough he could cover up the fact that he was trying to hide that he’d started aging.

“You’re dense enough that you would have missed it, but I would have noticed.” Bones set the tricorder down and looked at Jim. “Well the good news is that you seem to have avoided any major trauma, so I’m confident enough to let what’s left heal on its own, even if you will end up with some bruises most likely. Still, come in if it feels like there’s something I missed.” Then he picked up a hypo before stabbing it into Jim’s neck. “That should fight off anything you could have contacted on Delta Vega,” he picked up another one and repeated the motion, managing to get Jim in what felt like the same spot. “God knows what you could have come across on that Romulan ship, but that should help regardless.” He picked up a third hypo and looked at Jim. “You’re wincing in that way where you’re in pain but not telling me. I could give you this painkiller, but only if you need it.”

All the hits he’d taken that day were starting to catch up to Jim now that the adrenaline was wearing off. “Yeah, that could be good. Nothing strong enough to make me loopy though.”

“Alright then.” Bones pressed another hypo to Jim’s neck but stopped him when he moved to get up. “One more thing Jim.” Bones turned to a computer console and started tapping through it.

“What is it?” Jim stayed on the biobed, hoping Bones wasn’t picking up on the aging. It’d been maybe a day; there was no way he’d be able to tell so soon.

“Some of your readings are a bit off.” He glanced down at Jim in a way that was probably supposed to be reassuring. “Not enough that I’m concerned, but enough that I’m curious.”

“What’s off?” Jim tried his best for nonchalant; he hoped that if he missed the mark he would just seem worried.

“Nothing too major, just some hormonal changes from your previous baselines.” Bones looked back at the biobed for a moment. “And now your heartrate’s beginning to pick up, but I’d assume that’s just you getting stressed by this conversation.” Bones looked down at Jim. “Are you feeling stressed?”

“Well I just realized I have to run a ship when I’ve never even technically served on one as an officer, so I’d say maybe a little.” Jim hoped the sarcasm came across. He was stressed about that, but he didn’t want Bones to think he was getting overwhelmed by it and declare him unfit for duty or something. Jim could probably handle this with a little help from Spock and Pike. And maybe a call to Older Spock if he could manage it.

“Alright then, I’ll let you get to captain things.” Bones backed off enough to let Jim start to get up but made him stop when he was sitting up with his legs hanging off the side. “But I am curious about those readings. I’m not going to make you come in daily or anything, but I would like to monitor you from here on out. Check in at least every two weeks, preferably weekly. And definitely come in if you feel off in any way. I don’t want you collapsing on the bridge or anywhere else because of some delayed reaction I missed because you were being stubborn.”

“Got it. Anything else or can I go talk to Pike now?” Jim tried not to seem impatient, but it seemed like he might be getting away without Bones realizing he was aging. He didn’t want to get called in for last minute further tests.

“You can go. Just don’t overwork yourself and make sure to come back in for those other appointments I mentioned.” Bones looked at him sternly for a moment. “And of course, get some food and rest. I’ll know if you haven’t.”

“Of course Bones.” Jim waved him off. “Now go deal with your other patient so I can get him to help me with duty rosters so we can all rest.”

“Don’t tell me how to do my job; you’re not my boss.” Despite the words there was no actual heat to Bones’ tone.

“Actually I am, acting captain remember?” Jim grinned just to see Bones roll his eyes.

“I don’t care. Now stop pestering me and do whatever it is acting captains do.” Bones walked off towards the biobed where a nurse had started tending to Spock.

Jim laughed as he walked back over to Pike.

Chapter Text

Jim paused to snag a padd before he got to Pike. He knew that Pike could have probably used one of the consoles, but Jim wasn’t sure how mobile Pike would be after he’d been struggling to stand when Jim rescued him. A padd would probably be easier. Less moving around to access the console, plus if Bones thought Pike needed rest he could take it away and wouldn’t complain that Jim was interfering with his patient’s recovery.

Jim poked his head around the curtains to make sure that Pike was still awake. If Pike had been asleep, Jim wasn’t sure what he would have done. He probably could have hacked Pike’s account to get the information he needed, but Jim really didn’t want to get in trouble for hacking again. True, his academic trial got shoved aside for graver matters, but Jim still wasn’t sure if he’d get in trouble for that or not.

Thankfully, Pike was awake and Jim didn’t have to enter any new moral dilemmas. Pike smiled when he saw Jim. “That was fast. Did the doctor give you a clean bill of health?”

“More or less.” Jim stopped and stood next to Pike’s bed. “I’ve got some minor things, but nothing that will keep me confined to Sickbay.” He held out the padd. “Here’s this. I figured you could pass the duty rosters along and Spock and I can work on them so everyone can get some rest.”

“Thanks son.” Pike took the padd and began to connect to his account, keeping his focus on the padd with a nonchalance that felt a little forced. “So you’re going to keep working with Spock?”

“Yes sir.” Jim felt himself tense up a little bit. “He’s a great officer, and his experience will definitely help me out when it comes to running this ship.”

“You don’t foresee any problems working with him?” Pike’s eyes flicked up to Jim briefly.

Jim could see where this was going. “No sir. I think we’ll work well together.”

“Jim, drop the formality. It’s me and I’m worried about you.” Pike dropped the padd to his lap and looked at Jim seriously with concern evident on his face. “You and Spock both admitted that he tried to kill you earlier. You really think you can get past that so easily? If you were scared to press charges earlier with him there I understand, but it’s just us now. Do you want him court martialed?”

Jim dropped into the chair next to Pike’s bed with a sigh and ran a hand down his face. “No, I don’t.” He looked at Pike through his fingers. “I mean it when I say that he wasn’t in full control of his actions and shouldn’t be held responsible for them. I provoked him.”

Pike’s expression turned wary. “Jim this sounds like…”

“It’s not like that.” Jim dropped his hands to his lap and looked at Pike seriously. “If it was that kind of situation, I wouldn’t hesitate to report him and throw him in the brig before he could even blink.”

“Look Jim, I know your history.” Pike looked extra tired now. “I know about your stepfather and what he did to you. And it’s not uncommon for people who have experienced that sort of thing to end up in those situations again.” He sighed. “I’m just trying to help. This is an out if you need one.”

Jim sat up straight. “I don’t need an out. I need you to trust me when I say that this isn’t that kind of situation, and you know that I’d know it when I saw—or experienced—it.”

Pike held up his hands in a placating gesture. “Alright. I’ll back off, but I’m here if you need me.” He picked up the padd again. “I’ll get back to sending you the duty rosters.”

“Thank you.” Jim felt some of the tension leaking out of his shoulders as he slumped back into the chair again. “It really isn’t like that, you know. We talked it out; cleared the air. We actually worked really well together as a team once we got past that.”

Pike eyed him warily for a moment before returning to the padd. “If you say this was a one-time thing, not going to get repeated in any way, shape, or form, I’ll believe you. But if it ends up being not like that, know that I’m here for you.” Pike looked up again and handed him the padd again with a small smile. “Here’s the duty roster drafts.”

“Thanks.” Jim took the padd and hesitated for a minute. “I’m sorry for getting so short with you. I think I just need some rest.”

“Rest would probably be good, but I also understand that this is a sensitive subject and I may have been pushing a bit.” Pike smiled at him softly again, maybe a bit regretful.

“It’s ok.” Jim sat up a little straighter again, holding the padd in one hand. “Spock and I will finish these up and then everyone can get some rest. It’s been a long day.”

“That it has.” An odd look crossed Pike’s face for a moment. “Jim, you weren’t officially registered to this ship, were you?”

Jim winced. Looks like he was getting in trouble after all. “No, I was not.”

“Relax, I’m not mad at you.” Pike waited until Jim met his eyes before continuing. “I was only asking because I realized that that might mean you never got assigned quarters.”

Jim paused for a second to think. They’d been a bit too busy with the crisis situation to handle all the bureaucratic things, but it would be nice to know where he could crash. “I don’t think I did. I bet someone would let me bunk with them though.” He wondered what kind of room Bones had; they were roommates back at the academy (however long ago that felt), so Bones would probably be ok with Jim sharing his room for the night.

“That won’t be necessary.” Pike looked at him with a slight smile again. “You can take the captain’s quarters. It’s not like I’ll be using them anytime soon.”

“Are you sure?” Jim sat up a little straighter. “I wouldn’t want to disturb your stuff.”

“Moving in wasn’t really a priority, so I doubt I have much stuff in there for you to disturb.” Jim couldn’t really believe it but Pike continued. “You’re acting captain, might as well get the full experience.”

Jim couldn’t help the grin that broke across his face. “Thank you. Thank you so much.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Pike smiled about him but then he looked to the entrance to the curtained off area and his expression shifted to warm but professional. “Mr. Spock, what can I help you with?”

Jim tried to hide his wince. Spock and Pike had seemed pretty close before; he hoped he hadn’t damaged their relationship with what happened today.

“I have been cleared for duty and was wondering if you had passed the duty rosters to Captain Kirk.” If Spock noticed the shift in Pike’s behavior, he didn’t seem to respond to it.

“Yeah, I got them.” Jim stood up, sparing one last glance at Pike before turning to face Spock fully. “Let’s get these done so everyone can rest, alright?”

Spock merely nodded. “We can work in one of the conference rooms.”

“Sounds good.” Jim turned back to Pike. “Goodnight, or good whatever part of the ship’s day it is.”

Pike laughed softly. “Goodnight to you too Jim. And you as well Spock.”

Jim waved one last time before he and Spock walked out of Sickbay.

Chapter Text

Once they were out in the hallway, Jim hesitated. Sure, they had the stuff to work on the duty rosters now, but where would they work? His first thought was a rec room, but that would probably have too many distractions. They’d need somewhere more private. Jim looked over to Spock. “So where do you want to do this? Pike offered me his quarters while he’s recovering, so we could go there…” Jim trailed off. Did he really want his first time in his quarters with his soulmate to be filling out duty rosters? Not really. Sure, it seemed like his chances with Spock weren’t great at the moment, but still, a little work/life separation could be good. “Actually how about a briefing or conference room? It might be a better place to work.”

“That would be adequate.” Spock nodded. “Additionally, we could use the computer console there to see which crewmembers are currently working as well as who is unable to serve currently.”

“Good point.” For a moment Jim let his mind wander to everything the latter half of Spock’s sentence could mean. Sure, some people could be unfit for duties because of injuries that had them in Sickbay or confined to quarters to rest, but there still would be people who died in one of the attacks. Would Jim have to write the notification letters to their families? He really hoped not. He was acting captain, but he wasn’t ready for that. Maybe Pike could handle it. Jim just really didn’t want to have to deal with them. It’s not like he was unfamiliar with the format; he’d seen the (highly unnecessary) letter his family had gotten about his dad during one of the few times he’d gone to his Grandpa Tiberius’ house before the old man kicked the bucket. He’d only seen the letter briefly, but that was the kind of thing that stuck with him.

“Captain?” Spock’s voice jarred Jim out of his thoughts. It sounded like he’d been trying to get Jim’s attention for a little while.

“Sorry Spock, I guess I’m more tired than I realized.” Jim smiled weakly at Spock to try to cover it up, but he wasn’t sure how much of an effect it had because Spock’s face remained impassive. “But I guess if I’m tired, everyone else must be too. So let’s get to work so everyone can rest.” Jim turned and began to walk to the nearest turbolift, trying to remember what deck all the briefing rooms were on.

Thankfully once they were in the turbolift Spock gave the deck number and the turbolift began to move. Silence fell over them, but it wasn’t really uncomfortable. It just seemed like Spock wasn’t the talkative sort and Jim had too much on his mind to make small talk.

As soon as they reached the correct deck the turbolift stopped and they both walked to the nearest briefing room. Inside Jim sat down and put the padd from Pike on the table. He unlocked it and started going through it while Spock logged into the console on the table and began to pull up the relevant information.

“Well, the good news is that it looks like Pike got pretty far in setting up a duty roster.” Jim looked up at Spock from where he’d been skimming the shift lists on the padd. “Bad news is that I have no idea how accurate this is compared to who’s actually working or even onboard now, but I get the feeling it’s less than 100%.”

Spock just nodded and gestured to the console screen. “I have brought up the lists of personnel who are currently working as well as the list of who boarded the ship. We can cross reference the lists to make accurate duty rosters.”

Jim grimaced at how long that would probably take. “Better look up the casualty lists too; we’re gonna have to know who to exclude from the duty rosters.”

Spock nodded and searched on the console for a moment. “I have that as well. Shall we begin?”

“May as well.” Jim dragged a hand down his face. “The sooner we start, the sooner we finish.”

----------

After what felt like hours but was probably less, it finally seemed like they were finishing with the duty rosters. Jim rolled his head to stretch his neck before resting his cheek on his fist. He’d found that he and Spock seemed to work well together and it was nice to know that they could still get along after everything, but duty rosters were painfully monotonous. “Next time around, we’re delegating this to the department heads. They probably know who should be working when better than we would anyway.”

Beside him, Spock stilled. “We, captain?”

Jim straightened up when he realized what he’d said, letting his hands fall onto the tabletop. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to presume that I’d be captain or that we’d be working together again anytime soon. Not that I’d mind it though.” He looked over to Spock cautiously, but Spock was avoiding eye contact.

“I did not think you would wish to work together after my earlier conduct toward you.” Spock’s eyes were fixed on the tabletop. “I was not expecting you to assign me more duties after we returned from the Narada.”

Jim’s mind flashed back to the transporter room. Spock had looked like he wasn’t expecting to make it back from their mission at all, but that wasn’t what Jim to needed focus on now. He’d want to come back to that at some point, but not now. “Yeah, I was a little wary at first, but I think we’d both agree that given the circumstances you weren’t really at your peak today. It’s understandable.” Spock was still focusing on the table. “Besides, I kindof like working with you. I feel like we balance each other out well. It’s why I decided to make you acting first officer again once you came back on the bridge during our planning session to take down Nero.”

For a moment Jim thought he saw confusion cross Spock’s face, but then it was gone. “I am acting first officer?”

“Yeah.” Jim thought back over the day. He’d been mentally referring to Spock as his first officer and including him in things that a captain and first officer would do together, but had he ever made it official? Jim tried to think back over the time since he took command. Maybe he hadn’t officially done it. “Ok so I can’t remember officially reinstating you, but we can add it to the duty rosters now. If you’re interested, I’d like to have you as my acting first officer.” He paused and glanced at Spock. “Do you want to be acting first officer? I would understand if you say no.”

There seemed to be something like surprise on Spock’s face for a moment before he regained his composure. “I will be your acting first officer. I was just…”

“Not expecting this?” Jim couldn’t help but smile a bit at Spock. “Well why else would I have you helping me out with all the ship’s business like this?” Jim gestured to the duty rosters in front of them. “Besides, I meant it when I told you that you'll always have a place on the bridge.” Jim stopped himself before he almost added a ‘with me’ to the end of his sentence. He didn’t want to overwhelm Spock. Instead he cleared his throat and changed the topic. “Alright then, let’s get to the bridge to make an announcement and post these. I think everyone on this ship could use some rest.” After a quick glance over to Spock, who still was not making eye contact, but now in a deep-in-his-own-thoughts way rather than an avoiding Jim way, Jim got up and started to head to the bridge. After a quick glance to confirm that Spock was actually following him, Jim led him back to the turbolift for what felt like the hundredth time that day.

Chapter Text

Spock followed the captain out of the turbolift and onto the bridge. He still could not comprehend why Kirk had made him acting first officer. Spock had nearly killed him, but Kirk seemed to have no difficulty trusting Spock or harbor any ill will toward him. Kirk was even behaving in a way that could be considered friendly. It was odd behavior indeed.

Kirk had paused in front of Spock and looked at the padd holding the duty roster. “So what’s the best way to put this out so everyone can access it? Is there a specific server we should upload it to?”

“Yes.” Spock nodded and held out a hand. “I can upload the new roster while you make a shipwide announcement.”

Kirk smiled at him. “Thanks Spock. I’ll get on that.” He handed over the padd.

Spock noticed that while most humans did not pay attention to such small details, Kirk seemed careful not to accidentally make contact when handing over the padd. He had even shifted his grip to ensure that there would be no touching. Spock added it to his mental list of odd things Kirk had done that he would have to consider in depth later.

As he went to his station and began to upload the duty roster from the padd, Spock observed Kirk as he made his way to Nyota’s station, presumably to request that she open the proper shipwide channel for him to make an announcement.

Nyota had spoken with him about Kirk prior to Spock meeting the cadet in person. After Spock had found the subroutine that allowed Kirk to succeed in the Kobyashi Maru, he had met with Nyota for dinner as they had agreed to go on a date the previous week. When he had told her that he had found that a cadet had hacked into the test he’d designed, she was quickly able to correctly guess what it was.

“It was Kirk, wasn’t it?” She looked at him expectantly as she took a sip of her wine. They’d finished their meals and were now just talking, but her relaxed mood had taken on a note of interest when he’d told her the news about the test.

Spock took a sip of his own drink. “Why do you suspect him?”

She laughed slightly, an incredulous look on her face. “For starters, I was there and I saw it happen. The simulation definitely wasn’t supposed to go like that and he was way too cocky at the end.”

“Do you believe he would do such a thing?” Spock was curious now; he had looked into Kirk’s Starfleet and other records when the cadet requested a third attempt at the test because that was unusual behavior; 78.4% of command track students accepted the first failure and 21.5% attempted it a second time, leaving only 0.1% of students to ask for a third test date. Kirk was a high achieving student, although Spock had also found arrest records from his time in Iowa prior to attending Starfleet. Spock had also found a recommendation letter from Captain Christopher Pike that had been attached to Kirk’s admission files. It was a fascinating mix of information.

Nyota seemed to be thinking seriously about Spock’s question. “I’m not sure if he would. He’s smart, but he’s also a bit of an idiot. The night I met him was when we stopped in Iowa on the way here. He started flirting with me and was coming on a bit too strong for my tastes. But then he showed me that he had a bit of brain under that hick exterior and it changed the game a bit. Pair a smart mind with a pretty face and suddenly I’m interested.” She smiled at Spock at that, a bit ruefully.

Spock had not heard this story before. “What transpired next?”

She sighed and took a sip of her drink. “A couple of security track cadets decided they needed to come defend my honor like I was some medieval maiden.” Nyota rolled her eyes. “That sort of white knight stuff should have died out centuries ago; I’m perfectly capable of handling some guy at a bar and so are most other women.”

Spock nodded, both in agreement and to prompt her to continue.

“Long story short, Kirk ended up getting into a fight with them even though they outnumbered him. He also got shoved toward me during the fight and briefly groped me, but shockingly,” the sarcasm was clear in her voice, “I was able to knock him away myself without any help from the others.” She took another sip of her drink. “They seemed to be getting a little too intense with the beat down, but then Pike came in and broke up the fight. I thought that’d be the last I’d see of Kirk, but the next morning he was on the Starfleet shuttle, still wearing his clothes from the night before.”

“Had he shown any interest in Starfleet the previous night?” Spock was interested in this new information; it was helping him create a better profile of the cadet.

“I’m not sure; he was able to recognize my cadet uniform but that doesn’t mean much.” Uhura seemed to think for a second. “Rumor has it that Captain Pike talked him into it. Everyone knows the Captain has a thing for George Kirk; I bet he was excited to find the guy’s son.”

Spock recalled what he knew of George Kirk; the man had been young when he’d been forced to take command of the USS Kelvin and fend off an attack from an unknown ship that had never been seen again. Kirk had died but nearly the entire crew, excepting those killed in the initial attacks on the ship, had managed to survive, including Kirk’s pregnant wife who gave birth in a shuttle. “He was the child born while escaping the Kelvin?”

“The very one.” Nyota nodded. “So since then I’ve seen him around campus now and then and it seems like he’s pretty much thrown himself into school and maybe a few other cadets, but first impressions are hard to shake. On a certain level he’ll always be that arrogant if somewhat charming guy at the bar I guess. My friend Gaila knows him and says he’s a good guy though.”

“Interesting.” A profile of the cadet was forming in Spock’s head. James Kirk was intelligent yet reckless, a combination that could result in both the skills necessary to hack into the test and the desire to do it. He seemed to have strong interpersonal skills and came from a Starfleet family, both of which would have less bearing on the situation at hand. Still, Spock was awaiting seeing how Kirk would behave when his academic dishonesty was exposed.

The mental profile Spock had compiled did not fully compare to the real James T. Kirk, although he supposed that records and rumors could rarely present a fully accurate account of a person. Spock looked to his console to see the duty roster upload completed; a survey of the bridge revealed that Nyota had returned to her station while Kirk was now sitting in the captain’s chair, the announcement to the crew presumably already made.

Perhaps Spock needed be relieved more than he had anticipated; while Vulcans could go without sleep longer than humans could, the events of the day seemed to have fatigued him enough to cause him to lose mental control enough to let his thoughts leave the bridge despite the fact that he was still on duty. He would need meditation soon.

Spock spent the remainder of the time until his relief arrived focusing on the sensor readings at his console, not allowing his thoughts to drift back to their previous topic. He would further examine the day and its revelations during his meditation prior to sleeping.

Chapter Text

When Lieutenant Crosby came to relieve him at the science station, Spock allowed her to take the station and walked over to the turbolift. Nyota was waiting there for him and they entered it together.

Once the turbolift was moving she began to speak. “It has been a long day.”

“Indeed.” Spock held his hands tightly behind his back.

“How’re you holding up?” She looked at him, concern evident in her eyes.

Spock was unsure how to respond. He knew in these situations most humans would make a dismissive and likely untrue statement about their emotional state, but he did not wish to lie to Nyota. “I require meditation.”

She nodded sympathetically and then hesitated for a moment. “Look, I know it’s not exactly the Vulcan way, but I’m here if you ever want to talk about anything. Or even if you just need someone to sit there and be with you.” Nyota looked him in the eyes to show him she was serious. “I care about you Spock, and whatever you need I’ll do my best to do it for you.”

“Thank you.” Spock had been told that gratitude was not the Vulcan way, but it was the appropriate human response to the offer and Spock did wish to convey how much he appreciated Nyota. “However, at the moment I believe solitary meditation will serve me best.”

“Ok then.” Nyota eyed him warily as the turbolift slowed a stop at the deck with her quarters. She bit her lip and it was clear that she was still worried about him. “Just know that that’s a standing offer, so whatever you need, whenever you need it, let me know.”

“I will.” Spock returned her gaze. “Additionally, you should know that the reciprocal is true. I shall also be there for you.”

Nyota smiled at him, his seemingly normal behavior causing some of the nervousness to leak out of her only for exhaustion to begin to seep in. “I know. And I appreciate it.” She started to step out of the turbolift doors as they opened but paused in the doorway. She turned back and held out a hand with her pointer and middle fingers extended.

Spock returned the gesture, touching his fingertips to hers but taking it no further. “Rest well, Nyota.”

Without disconnecting their fingers she leaned in and gave him a soft kiss on the cheek. “I will. Make sure you get some rest too.” She looked him in the eyes again for a moment before dropping her hand. “Meet in the mess hall for lunch tomorrow? Maybe 1200 hours?”

Spock nodded and held his hands behind his back again. “That would be most satisfactory. I shall meet you then.”

“Good.” She smiled again, but her concern was not fully gone. “I’ll see you then.”

He watched Nyota turn and walk down the corridor until the closing turbolift doors obscured her.

Once he was fully alone in the turbolift, Spock began to plan the rest of his evening. It was currently 2027 hours and he would require food before meditating. He did not wish to be around any large groups of people, so Spock decided to use the replicator in his quarters. He would allow himself until 2100 hours for his meal, then he would meditate. Given the numerous impactful events of the day, his usual hour of meditation would be insufficient. He would allot himself two hours of meditation and add additional time as necessary. Once he had completed his meditation, Spock would perform his nightly preparations for sleep then sleep by no later than 2330 unless he required additional meditation time. Spock would allow himself to sleep for longer than usual because he too was experiencing the exhaustion affecting his human crewmates. Still, he would have sufficient time the next morning to inspect the science labs prior to meeting with Nyota.

By this time the turbolift had stopped on the proper deck for his quarters and Spock had exited and proceeded to them. Once he arrived at his quarters, he entered the necessary combination to unlock the doors and entered.

The quarters themselves were large, with a work station with a desk on one half and a sleeping section on the other half with a partition between them. The quarters were bare as most of Spock’s personal effects were still in his apartment in San Francisco. Spock walked to the replicator adjacent to the desk, but found himself hesitating about what to request.

He considered ordering a Vulcan dish as he normally would, but the thought of anything related to his home planet would challenge the tenuous control Spock currently had. The next logical option was an Earth dish, but most Earth dishes that Spock knew he had been exposed to by his mother, and thoughts connected to her were equally compromising.

Spock found he did not have much of an appetite. He had consumed sufficient nutrition throughout the day, so a meal now was not necessary.

Meditation was more necessary. Spock moved to the other half of his quarters and assumed a mediation pose on the bed before closing his eyes.

He was uncertain where to begin his meditation. The events of the day rendered his usual practices of examining his thoughts insufficient. His mental landscape was a disordered jumble of thoughts tainted by strong emotion; they did not readily form an order. To attempt to extract a single thought would be akin to pulling on a lose end of tangled thread; it would either cause it to unravel or cause it to knot together even more tightly.

Perhaps another approach was necessary. Spock considered going through the events of the day chronologically. It would provide some order.

The day had been as a typical day until the academic hearing concerning then-Cadet Kirk’s behavior during the Kobayashi Maru examination. He had not expected Kirk to ask to see his accuser, but Spock was prepared to face the cadet.

Spock mentally brought himself back to the hearing. As he had first looked at Kirk and the two of them made eye contact, there had been an odd sensation that Spock had mentally filed away to examine at a later time. Now would be that later time, but his recollection of the sensation was now buried under his experiences with the more traumatic experiences of the day. The sensation was most likely no more than what the sort of odd sensations humans often reported upon facing a situation they had been mentally preparing for. His experiencing that would suggest a loss of control, but perhaps that had been an early indication of the psychic stress developing in the collective Vulcan psyche as the attack on their planet began. It was only minutes later, still during the academic trial, that the news of the distress call came through.

That was the likely cause of the sensation. Spock decided to move on from that incident, although he would perhaps return to his mental exploration of Kirk with the addition of the later encounters he had with the human.

After the distress call, Spock had assisted with the assigning and transporting of cadets to postings. He had shown favoritism towards Nyota in changing her posting, but given that it had aided the mission and quite possibly assured her safety from the destruction of Starfleet ships around Vulcan, Spock found that he did not regret his actions.

More encounters with Kirk had followed once they were on the ship and it was proceeding to Vulcan. He would also process those later.

That brought him to the moment of realization that his planet was doomed. That word seemed melodramatic compared to the rest of his thoughts, but given the fate Vulcan met it seemed accurate as well. The planet had been doomed.

Spock had managed to save the Elders. In them much of Vulcan’s history and culture would be preserved. He had accomplished something for his people.

But his mother… His mother was likely dead. Despite that that was the logical and likely outcome of the situation, Spock could not accept that his mother was dead.

Perhaps he should try to sense her again. He had been shielding strongly all day, so much so that he could not feel any mental connections, even the one with his father that he knew to be strained but intact. Cautiously, Spock began to lower his mental shields. Due to her psi-null status, his bond with his mother had never been exceptionally strong, even if it was still a constant and comforting presence. Spock lowered his shields completely to have the best chance of sensing her.

Chapter Text

The wave of psychic pain that greeted him was strong enough that Spock physically recoiled and cried out. The collective Vulcan psyche was still so agonizingly raw and inflamed from the loss of so many lives and the sudden severance of so many bonds. Although it had lessened due to so many people beginning to shield heavily, the pain was still immense. After an unknown but likely brief moment of paralysis from the pain, Spock was able to raise his full mental shields.

Spock found himself unable to resume meditation immediately. He stood up and walked to the replicator in his room to get a cup of tea. It was something that his mother used to do for him when he was young and upset. The thought of his mother did not help calm him like it used to; due to her uncertain but likely grim fate thinking of her was only more upsetting. Spock did not want to be upset, but he also found that he lacked the control at the moment to avoid it.

He must attempt mediation again. In order to attain a state of sufficient calmness to meditate, Spock sat at his desk and drank his tea while looking at reports from the science departments aboard the ship. He had not technically been reinstated as Chief Science Officer, but he did still have access. Spock made a mental note to talk to the Captain about reinstating him as CSO the next day.

There was not much in the reports. During the battles, gathering data had not been the primary focus of anyone on the ship. Still, some of the physicists on board were beginning to analyze the data from the destruction of Vulcan. As that report was having the opposite of the desired calming effect on Spock, he moved on to other reports. Many were using the now abundant free time they had to begin experiments, but because the experiments were still in the initial stages there was not much to report. Spock made note of the experiments that interested him to visit when he went to the science labs.

Having finished his tea and now feeling sufficiently calm, Spock returned to the bed portion of his quarters and attempted to resume meditation. He even changed into his meditation robes to aid in the effort. He resumed his meditation pose and continued progressing through his day.

The next chronological moment after the destruction of Vulcan would be his time as acting captain. Spock had been struggling to maintain his control the entire time, and Kirk had exacerbated his issues. His action of jettisoning Kirk was an excessive response due to his lack of control. Spock took a deep breath. He would fully process all the encounters with Kirk later.

Once Kirk was off the ship, it was calmer. Dr. McCoy had proved irritating when berating Spock about his treatment of Kirk, but he had not challenged Spock’s control as strongly.

The next major encounter was once again with Kirk. Spock had lost control and nearly killed him.

Although he wanted to move past the incident, Spock felt himself hesitating. Not since he was a child had he had a violent outburst like that, and even as a child he had not caused such extensive damage. Kirk had insisted that he was fine, but fine had variable meanings. Fine was insufficient.

However, Spock had decided to process his interactions with Kirk later. He must move forward.

That led to his conversation with his father in the transporter room. That had been…a unique experience.

His father had admitted to not only experiencing emotions, but to loving his mother. Admitting that was highly uncommon, indeed nearly unheard of among Vulcans, even among pairs who had been bonded for decades. And his father had acknowledged that his mother believed they were soulmates, although it was still unclear if his father believed the same.

Again Spock wondered if he had a soulmate. He knew that supposedly all humans had soulmates, but for Vulcans there was no real equivalent. The closest possible concept he could think of was the pre-Reform concept of t’hy’la, but that was so rare that many believed that they did not truly exist. It was most likely that he did not have a soulmate.

Spock still had much of the day to process. He could not dwell on soulmates now; he must rest eventually and he must meditate to settle himself for sleep.

He had returned to the bridge after that. The bridge crew had been remarkably accepting despite his show of violence earlier. Even Kirk had been fascinatingly accepting of him. Their conversation in the conference room had added an odd layer to Kirk that Spock was still uncertain how to deal with.

Then they had been on the Narada. He and Kirk had worked well together. Spock still believed that Kirk was withholding information from him regarding the ship that contained the black hole generating matter. Kirk’s behavior there had been abnormal, even from the limited baseline of him that Spock had. Why would a ship, most likely from the future, recognize Spock’s voiceprint? And why did it call him Ambassador?

The logical conclusion was that there was some future version of Spock who had been an ambassador and worked on or visited that ship. However, anything beyond that would be baseless speculation.

Then Spock had enabled the destruction of the Narada. He remembered flying toward the ship with no intention of stopping until his ship and the black hole generating matter it contained destroyed Nero’s ship. His father had told him to use his anger, and Spock was undeniably fueled by emotion at that moment. The destruction of Nero, his crew, and his ship would not be true revenge for what Nero had done to Vulcan, but Spock was willing to give his life for it. Why should he survive when his mother, his planet, and billions of his people had perished?

But Spock had survived. The Enterprise had been able to retrieve him just in time to prevent his death. He supposed there had been some satisfaction in living to watch Nero and the Narada be destroyed.

Their near-deaths in the black hole that had consumed the Narada had ultimately been only one of Spock's near death moments that day; he had been prepared to die destroying the Narada, so the panic afflicting his crewmates had not affected him.

Then it was back to ship’s business. Working alongside Kirk had felt oddly natural. While Spock wanted Pike to fully recover, he believed that Kirk would make an adequate acting captain. He had been able to handle the emergency situation well and additionally was proving able to handle the mundane tasks.

There had also been Nyota. Spock was looking forward to meeting her for lunch the next day and was grateful that she had survived the day. She seemed quite concerned for his wellbeing, which was understandable given the circumstances. However, Spock did not wish for her to neglect her own wellbeing in attempting to care for his. She too had witnessed horrific events, even if her connection to them was less personal, she had likely lost people in the mass deaths of cadets around Vulcan, and she had had a close encounter with death when the ship was nearly destroyed. Spock would have to make sure that Nyota had someone to help her process these events, even if it did not end up being him.

Spock’s meditation was suddenly interrupted by a noise coming from his bathroom. He got up to investigate. The bathroom was shared, but the only other quarters that had access to it were the captain’s quarters. Pike did not seem to be well enough to leave Sickbay, which could mean a possible intruder aboard the ship. Spock was now near enough to open the door and cautiously advance, ready to face a possible intruder.

Chapter Text

All he found was James T. Kirk with a mouth full of foam, evidently in the midst of cleaning his teeth.

Kirk seemed surprised to see Spock, so he spat to clear his mouth before rinsing it out with water. He turned back toward the door. “Hey Spock. What’s up?”

Spock found himself uncertain how to respond. “I was not aware that anyone would be in the other quarters adjoining this bathroom due to Captain Pike’s continuing recovery in Sickbay. Thus I was surprised to hear a noise from here and decided to investigate.”

Kirk smiled at him. “It’s just me. Pike’s letting me crash in the captain’s quarters since I technically never got assigned quarters and he isn’t using them.”

Spock nodded. “As you are the acting captain, I suppose it is logical.”

“Thanks?” Kirk looked slightly confused.

Spock shared the confusion. “Why are you thanking me?”

Kirk’s face seemed to fall slightly. “For a moment there it seemed like you were saying I deserved the quarters.” He made a dismissive hand gesture. “Nevermind, it doesn’t matter.”

It did seem to matter to Kirk. “While quarters placement is not necessarily a matter of ‘deserving’ a specific location,” Spock paused, mind flashing to the meditation of his day that he had not fully completed, especially in regards to the man before him, before giving his assessment. “I believe you have been preforming well as acting captain.”

A small smile spread across Kirk’s face and for a moment Spock believed he understood what humans meant when they said a smile ‘lit up’ an individual’s face. “Spock, if I didn’t know any better I’d say you just complimented me.”

Spock raised his eyebrow. “I was merely stating a fact based on my observations. You have shown focus toward your duties and care towards the crew and ship, which are marks of a good captain.”

Kirk’s smile did not wane. “Thanks Spock. I’ve still got a lot to learn though.” Before Spock could respond Kirk looked him over before turning back to the mirror along the wall, his expression shifting. “I’m hogging the bathroom, aren’t I? You probably need to get in here to get ready so you can sleep.”

“There is no need for you to rush.” Spock remained in the doorway, not wanting to give Kirk the wrong impression by advancing farther. “I still require additional meditation time prior to resting. You may spend additional time in here if you so wish or require.”

“Thanks.” Kirk met his eyes in the mirror and smiled slightly again. “I should be done soon anyway.”

Spock nodded. “I shall return to my meditation.”

“Ok.” Kirk’s eyes continued to meet his in the mirror. “Night Spock. Sleep well.”

“Goodnight Captain.” Spock nodded before turning and leaving the room. Once he was far enough from the door that it closed he paused.

In a way, that encounter served as an ideal transition into his next phase of meditation; he had been meaning to reflect upon his encounters with Kirk. This was just an additional encounter to add to what he must consider.

Spock settled back into a meditation pose on his bed. He would go through the encounters with Kirk in sequence, then form a final conclusion about the captain.

His initial impression of Kirk had been quite negative. The then-cadet had cheated on an important exam and had a reputation for arrogance and promiscuity. While Spock would not judge a person for their sexual behaviors, that reputation combined with cheating suggested that the cadet did not take his academics seriously, which Spock did see negatively.

However, at the academic hearing Kirk had come across differently than expected. True, he carried himself with confidence, but it was not the arrogance of his reputation. Kirk had also shown poise when countering Spock’s points, even if he had lashed out slightly at the mention of his father. However, having now lost a parent and reacted poorly to the mention of them, Spock could understand Kirk’s response.

When Kirk had come aboard the bridge of the Enterprise the first time Spock could admit that there had been something like irritation. A suspended cadet coming onto the bridge uninvited and demanding to speak to the captain? It had seemed like Kirk’s reputation for arrogance was actually earned. However, Kirk had shown intelligence and had been correct in his assessment that they were going into a trap. While Nero’s fixation on Spock himself may have been what saved the Enterprise from destruction, the preparation due to Kirk’s theory most likely helped them survive long enough for Nero to notice them.

Spock had not understood Pike’s promoting Kirk to acting first officer at the time. Kirk was merely a cadet and there were others aboard the ship who had already graduated the academy and reached officer ranks. Kirk would not have been within the chain of command under normal circumstances, but Spock supposed these were not normal circumstances. Some could accuse Pike of favoritism in choosing Kirk, perhaps rightfully so, but perhaps Pike had merely seen that Kirk showed great promise as a commanding officer. Yes, Kirk had expressed his concerns about being young and inexperienced, but he was doing well so far.

Spock was getting ahead of himself. His next encounter with Kirk had been while Spock himself was acting captain, not Kirk. It had been when they were attempting to plan their next move after Vulcan had been destroyed and Pike had been captured. Again, Kirk had shown remarkable arrogance; he had sat in the captain’s chair, something Spock had not been able to bring himself to do yet, and he had been almost unwilling to listen to other options, instead insisting that he was right and his plan was the correct course of action, even if it contradicted what Captain Pike had ordered.

But Kirk had been right and his plan had been the correct course of action. Had they not eventually followed Kirk’s plan, Earth might have been lost. Spock paused, not wanting to think of what could have happened if Earth had been destroyed. The implications for the Federation would have been catastrophic.

However, that did not happen. Because of Kirk, Earth had survived. He had proved himself an incredibly skilled tactician with a particular skill for understanding the enemy. That would prove valuable when or if Kirk became an official rather than acting captain.

But Spock had not seen the value of Kirk’s insight. He had been too emotionally compromised to think straight. He had overacted to Kirk’s disagreement by marooning him. That was an erroneous action. Kirk had been suggesting an alternate course of action, which was well within the duties of a first officer. He had been aggressive and arrogant about it, but the punishment did not fit the crime.

Kirk had returned though. Spock would have to speak with him and Mister Scott further about this discovery of transwarp transporting. It was truly a remarkable discovery, but at the time Spock had just seen Kirk back to challenge him again just as he had been doing all day. And this time Kirk’s arrogance had morphed into aggression. It would prove unable to match Spock’s own aggression ultimately, but it was still present.

And yet that had been what was required to make Spock acknowledge that he needed to relinquish command. It had proved beneficial that Kirk take command because without that the Federation could possibly still be in grave danger due to Nero.

Spock could admit that a part of him enjoyed being able to be part of the effort to take down Nero. While a drive for vengeance was considered decidedly pre-Surakian among Vulcans, giving in to it had helped Spock resolve the anger he felt much more satisfyingly than attacking Kirk had.

He had tempered his anger upon his return to the bridge after speaking with his father. Spock knew that his best chance of taking down Nero would be working with the crew, and the crew and Kirk had proved remarkably able to accept him despite what he had done. Even though he had been the victim of Spock’s violence, Kirk had not seemed to have a problem trusting Spock. He did not even seem afraid of him, which was unusual for humans facing a person who had harmed them.

Their conversation in the briefing room had been quite illuminating. Again, Kirk had had a plan that seemed reckless but had proved both tactically sound and necessary. And he had not meant his words, which provided some comfort to Spock.

A new view of Kirk was forming in Spock’s head. He was not quite as arrogant as his reputation would lead some to believe, but he did carry himself with a definite confidence and believe in his plans once they were formed, possibly to the point of stubbornness. He was willing to take risks, some excessive perhaps, but it was not without good reason generally. If he had someone more controlled to balance him out and occasionally reign him in, he could become a truly incredible captain.

That led Spock to Kirk’s comments when he offered Spock the position of acting first officer. They truly had worked well together while infiltrating Nero’s ship, while defeating him, and while running the Enterprise together afterward. If Spock chose to remain in Starfleet, he would accept serving under Kirk again if he was so assigned.

There were too many variables to predict that future option though. It was unclear how Starfleet would accept a cadet becoming captain, even if Kirk had performed most admirably, and it was unclear if Spock would remain in Starfleet. He felt a duty toward Vulcan to assist in the rebuilding of their civilization even if Vulcan civilization had rejected him in the past.

However, Spock was beginning to feel weariness seep into his consciousness, reminding him of his strong need for rest. Those questions would have to be answered another day.

Spock changed from his mediation robes to his sleeping garments and walked to the now vacant bathroom to begin his nightly ritual.

Chapter Text

Jim woke up with a groan as his alarm went off. It still felt too early, but he’d already hit the snooze button on his first alarm. He cracked open one eye and looked at the time. He’d need to get up and moving soon if he wanted to get food, check in with engineering, and get to the bridge on time for his first official day as acting captain. It would be interesting to see if he could do this outside of a crisis situation.

As Jim got up and went through his morning routine, his mind wandered back to the previous night. Once he and Spock had finished their work on the duty roster and the first shift change happened, Jim had met up with Bones for dinner. Jim was a bit worried that his friend would badger him about his health, but luckily Bones seemed as tired as Jim so he didn’t bring up anything, even the abnormal readings he’d gotten which Jim was pretty sure was a sign of his aging, not that he was ready to tell Bones that.

And then it was off to the Captain’s Quarters. Jim still felt a little weird about staying there. He’d spent a while sitting at the desk, deliberating if he should take the bed or not. It still felt like it should be someone else’s quarters, and Jim had always felt weird sleeping in someone else’s bed, unless of course the other person was there and they’d worn each other out first. But that definitely wasn’t the situation here.

But eventually Jim’s tiredness had won out. Pike had told him it was unlikely he’d be using the quarters anytime soon, so Jim may as well make the most of it.

But he’d needed to get ready before he could sleep, thus a visit to the bathroom. He really hadn’t expected to run into Spock; while he’d seen the other door in the bathroom he hadn’t put much thought into where it led.

All in all, the encounter with Spock wasn’t as awkward as it could have been. Spock had even sortof complimented him. Plus, he got to see Spock out of uniform for the first time, even if it was just what Jim assumed were mediation robes.

Jim just hoped that he hadn’t disturbed Spock too much when he’d hopped into the shower afterward. He knew that despite how the worked sonic showers were pretty quiet, but still he didn’t want to disrupt Spock’s unwinding time. Jim needed the shower though. A full day of stress, running, fighting, and strange environments left him feeling a little gross and a lot tired. For once he was missing Iowa, if only because the sonic showers never quite helped relax him the way a nice hot water shower did. And he seriously needed some relaxing today.

He had managed to get to sleep eventually, and thanks to the exhaustion he’d managed to sleep ok. He was sure that Bones would be bothering him about his sleep eventually.

Jim paused as getting dressed made him switch off of autopilot. He’d have to replicate a shirt since there weren’t any in the closet yet and even if there were, he wasn’t sure if he and Pike were the same size.

What should he do? He was only acting captain and possibly still technically a cadet, so going for the full command gold with captain’s stripes seemed a bit…arrogant. Despite his reputation, Jim was only confident when he knew he’d earned things or was certain he was right. It didn’t feel like he’d really earned this yet. Was there protocol for this? Jim doubted it; as far as he knew it was unpresented for a cadet to get bumped up to such a high position.

Ultimately Jim opted for a command gold shirt without the stripes. After all, he was still command track, so he’d earned that much at least. And at first glance it would probably look fine to most people. Plus, if he was sitting in the captain’s chair people would probably be able to figure out what he was there to do.

Once he was fully dressed, Jim headed out to the mess to get breakfast. He wasn’t sure who’d be there; the shift schedule was skewed by how long everyone had been on duty the day before. They could probably just reset the ship’s day to match, but that didn’t seem like the kind of thing Jim would want to tamper with lightly. Maybe he should talk it over with Spock.

But for now the equivalent of Alpha shift, which would be basically everyone who was on duty for the whole Nero thing, would be starting around 1300 ship’s time.

Jim reached the mess and looked around inside. It was still pretty empty because of the odd time; he’d been exhausted enough that he’d slept through the usual breakfast time but it was still a bit too early for lunch.

So Jim went over to the replicator and paused, unsure what to get since it was too late for breakfast but still felt too early for lunch. Ultimately he opted to just get a burger. Bones might get on his case for not eating healthy, but what Bones didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.

With the mess so empty, Jim finished eating without talking to anyone. There were a few people on the ship he knew from classes, but no one he knew really well besides Bones and maybe Uhura. Plus with the sudden rank difference, it seemed like there was some sort of weird barrier between him and the others.

Jim went to Engineering next. It wasn’t time for Alpha shift to start yet, but he still wasn’t surprised to find Scotty there. He was doing something to the warp core when Jim walked up.

“Hey Scotty, what’s up?” Jim looked over, trying to figure out what he was doing.

Scotty seemed startled to see him but smiled when he turned around. “Hello Captain.”

Jim looked over the warp core. “What were you doing? I thought we didn’t have a working warp core because of how we had to get out of the black hole.”

“We don’t, but I still wanted to take a look at her.” Scotty smiled at the warp core. “I want to know how this ship works. I don’t plan on going back to Delta Vega and I’d like to stay on this ship if I can.”

“Well,” Jim paused, thinking back to Olson missing the drill and going up in flames. “I know there’s at least one engineering job open on this ship, and since it was your idea that helped us survive I bet people would be willing to listen to where you want to be.”

Scotty’s eyes lit up. “You think so?”

“Probably.” Jim shrugged. “I would offer to put in a good word for you, but since I was in the middle of an academic hearing before this I have no idea where I’ll stand with the Admiralty after this.”

Scotty made a considering face at that. “Well I wasn’t in good standing either, so I guess we’ll see how it turns out.”

Jim smiled at that. “I guess we’ll see.” He looked around. “So how’s the ship doing? Anything I can help with?”

“She’s doing alright. We might want to monitor energy usage since we don’t have a warp core, but right now it’s mostly just repairing battle damage to keep us in good shape.” Scotty looked around. “Not sure what you can do besides keep things running from the bridge.”

“Alright then.” Jim looked around as well. He really didn’t have a reason to stick around anymore, so he may as well get to the bridge. Time to start doing actual captain things. “I’ll see you around Scotty. Feel free to comm me on the bridge if you need anything.”

With that Jim turned around, headed to the turbolift, and started to make his way to the bridge.

Chapter Text

The bridge was still pretty empty when Jim got there; he was still a bit early and the only people there were what would have been the night shift, which was always a smaller crew.

Jim relieved the shift’s commanding officer and settled into the captain’s chair. He was a little unsure what he was supposed to be doing. Sure, he’d taken classes about what captains were supposed to do while he was at the Academy, but actually doing something in real life was way different. He knew that there were reports and other things he’d need to do at some point, but was he supposed to save them for after his shift? There wasn’t exactly a convenient console attached to the chair, so he’d need a padd if he really wanted to work on anything. Or was he just supposed to sit here, watch what everyone else was doing all shift, and wait for something to demand his attention? It would leave him more ready to respond if anything did come up, but that also seemed super unproductive.

Well there wasn’t much to do now, so Jim decided to just sit in the chair and watch for how. He could always get something to work on later in his shift if he felt too unproductive.

Slowly but steadily the rest of the Alpha shift bridge crew came in and relieved their counterparts. Jim couldn’t help but notice that Spock and Uhura arrived together, but he tried not to let himself think too much of it. They’d probably just gotten lunch together or something. He was on duty; he shouldn’t let himself get distracted by thinking about the personal life of anyone on the crew, not even if they were his soulmate.

It’s not like he and Spock were going to getting together anytime soon anyway. Jim wasn’t even completely sure at this point if he wanted to get together with Spock. Sure, their counterparts had had some sort of epic love story for the ages, but that didn’t necessarily mean anything here. He and Spock seemed to have a pretty good working relationship once they’d gotten past the initial bad blood between them, but Jim still wasn’t sure if he actually liked Spock or if it was just residual emotional transference from that mind meld with Older Spock. And Spock was still pretty standoffish toward him. Not exactly the kind of thing that made for epic love stories. Plus, they barely knew each other still. And of course, Spock was dating Uhura.

Jim realized he was doing the very thing he’d told himself not to do and letting himself get distracted by thoughts of personal matters. More his own than other people’s, but still. He needed to focus. There was probably some ship business that needed to be attended to.

He spun in the chair toward Uhura’s station. “Good afternoon, Lieutenant.” He waited for her to turn around to face him. “Any response yet to our message with our location and status?”

She tapped through her console then shook her head. “Nothing yet.”

“Alright then.” Jim shifted in his chair. “Keep broadcasting on all Federation frequencies and let me know if we hear anything.”

“Yes sir.” She turned back to her console.

Jim spun back around to face the front of the bridge. Not much to do but watch the stars go by now. He’d already checked on engineering and communications, which seemed like the only things that were really important to monitor now. May as well get comfortable and stare out the viewscreen until someone needed something from him, however long that would be.

Someone ended up needing something sooner than he’d expected. Less than an hour into the shift, Spock came and stood next to the chair. “Captain.”

Jim straightened up from where he’d been starting to slouch and turned to face Spock. “Hey there Spock. What’s up?”

“I would like to inquire about the position of Chief Science Officer.” Spock was standing perfectly upright with his hands behind his back like usual. Jim wondered what he would look like more relaxed. Or what it would take to make him relax…“If you do not have someone else selected, I would like to be reinstated in the position.”

Jim had to reign his thoughts in for a moment. They were talking about the position of Chief Science Officer, not any positions related to relaxing. “Did that not come up when we were doing duty rosters last night?”

“It did not.” Spock shifted slightly. “As the position is still open and I held it under Captain Pike, I would like to formally submit myself for your consideration.”

“Well you’re currently running unopposed, and you’re both highly qualified and have done this before.” Jim shrugged a bit, trying to keep himself on task now. “I see no reason not to reinstate you. Consider yourself acting First Officer and Chief Science Officer for the remainder of…” Jim paused, unsure what to call whatever they were on now; ‘mission’ didn’t seem like the right word anymore, but nothing else really fit either. “Until we get back to Earth.”

Spock’s eyebrow rose. “Do you intend to select a different science officer or first officer upon our return to Earth?”

“I don’t know.” Jim looked away, unable to meet those deep brown eyes suddenly. “It’s more that I think Starfleet will want to select a new captain, which would make my choices for who does what not matter much. We’ll see I guess.”

Spock raised his eyebrow again and Jim became aware of most of the bridge crew either listening in or outright watching them. So much for his reputation of complete confidence. He glanced around the bridge, noticing how everyone tried to look away and act like they weren’t just eavesdropping, before looking back to Spock. “Is there anything else?”

“No captain, that will be all.” Spock stood still, waiting to be dismissed.

“Alright then.” Jim nodded at him. “As you were.” He watched Spock walk away, making sure his gaze wasn’t lingering too much because he was on the bridge and eyeballing your first officer didn’t seem like the best way to set a professional atmosphere. His brain’s comments about Spock ‘submitting himself for consideration’ be damned.

When he turned back to the viewscreen Jim saw that Sulu and Chekov were both looking back at him in a way that was probably supposed to be subtle. “What is it?”

They looked back and forth between each other for a moment before Chekov looked forward and Sulu turned back to look at him. The helmsman seemed like he was trying too hard to be nonchalant. “Nothing.”

“Okay…” There was definitely something. Jim could tell. “As you were then.”

“Yessir.” Sulu turned back to the helm, leaving Jim wondering what was going on. He really hoped that they weren’t picking up on him staring at Spock. Because while Jim wasn’t sure if he liked him, he was definitely attracted to Spock on a physical level if nothing else.

Chapter Text

Jim would find out what was going on a few hours later when it was time to take his lunch break, which fell closer to dinner with how off all of their shifts were. He’d just settled down at a table with his replicated dinner when Sulu and Chekov appeared across from him.

“Can we join you?” Sulu spoke up first.

“Of course.” Jim gestured to the open seats around him. “Sit wherever you like.”

“Thank you Keptin.” Chekov took a seat on the side opposite Jim and Sulu settled next to him, directly across from Jim. “How are you today?”

“I’m good.” They were both acting a bit off. Jim wondered if it had to do with earlier that day on the bridge. The real question was if it was because of the ‘thought Starfleet would take away his captaincy’ thing or the ‘maybe checking out Spock’ thing. Jim wasn’t sure which one he wanted to talk about less. “How about you two?”

They both responded with some variant of “good” or “fine” but still seemed a bit antsy.

“You know, this doesn’t have to be this weird.” Jim put down his fork. “Just because I ended up acting captain doesn’t mean I’m not still that guy who talked too much in all of the basic command classes.” Maybe shifting talk to the Academy could make them avoid more awkward topics.

“We know.” Sulu glanced over at Chekov. “That’s kinda what we wanted to talk about.”

“Do you really think Starfleet will make you give up command?” Chekov’s tone was curious and had something else Jim couldn’t quite place.

So much for avoiding awkward topics. “Like I said before, I don’t know if they will.” Jim took a bite and thought while he chewed. He swallowed and looked between the two of them. “I mean, I wasn’t exactly in great standing with the Admiralty when we left. Just because Pike has a soft spot for me and gave me a field promotion doesn’t mean it’ll stick.”

“But you did save the Earth.” Chekov leaned in, as if he was trying to make Jim understand. “If it was not for you, many people would be dead.”

“Spock was the one who actually got the black hole device away from Nero and destroyed the Narada.” Jim looked down at his food for a moment before looking back up. “He really deserves more credit than I do.”

“It was your plan though.” Sulu was also looking at him with something Jim couldn’t quite place. “He may have done the actions, but it was under your orders. That counts for something when giving out credit. Or promotions.”

“Weirdly enough, that’s what Spock said too, minus the bit about the promotions.” Jim took another bite and washed it down with a sip of his drink. “Still, it’s not like I was some brilliant tactician doing this all on my own though. We all came up with that plan together.” He gestured at Chekov. “You were the one who came up with how to sneak up on them. Without you we wouldn’t have been able to do anything without getting destroyed first.”

“Thank you.” Chekov beamed for a moment before his expression settled. “Still, you were the one who decided to go after Nero. It was your initial plan, so you should get the credit. Starfleet will see that.”

Jim sighed. “Field promotions don’t always last, guys. Especially not cadets becoming acting captains. That kinda thing probably isn’t even supposed to happen in the first place.”

“Well whether it is supposed to happen or not, it did work out.” Chekov smiled at him encouragingly. “Do not put yourself down so much; you have been a great keptin.”

Jim smiled back at him. “I’ll trust your assessment more when I’ve been captain for over a day.”

“You will be good.” Chekov nodded at him. “I have faith in you.”

“Thanks.” Jim turned to Sulu with something that felt closer to his old confident smirk. “Are you gonna get in on this too, Sulu?”

“I don’t know.” Sulu shrugged, but his expression was friendly. “I think the kind of guy who would risk his life to save mine by jumping off of a drill toward an imploding planet is the kind of guy I’d be willing to take orders from.” He paused to think. “Actually, that was super reckless, but you saved my life so I can’t complain.” He laughed a bit as he went back to his lunch.

“You’ve definitely got me on the reckless thing.” Jim smiled and sat for a moment with his jaw propped on his fist. “That’s part of why I decided to make Spock first officer. I figured he could balance me out some, although I doubt there will be too many major decisions to make now that we’re just coasting toward Earth.”

“So he is the first officer?” Chekov looked interested.

“Yeah.” Jim thought back over the day. “Is there something I need to do to make that official? I keep forgetting all the paperwork steps that there are for everything.”

“I don’t know.” Sulu shrugged. “Pike would probably be the one to ask.”

“Good idea.” Jim started to mentally plan out the rest of his day. “I’ll go do that after my shift, assuming they’ll still be letting visitors into Sickbay then.”

“You could always go during.” Sulu looked at him earnestly. “You already handed the conn off to Spock to come here; you could just leave it with him a while longer while you go to Sickbay. It’s technically ship’s business, so it’s not like you’d be wasting duty time.”

“That’s true; I think Spock can handle the ship a while longer.” Jim was basically done eating at this point; he may as well head to Sickbay. “Can you two pass the message along to him or do you think I should comm the bridge?”

“We can tell him.” Chekov was still finishing up so he stayed seated. “Although if you want, you could comm him.”

“Nah, I’ll let you two let him know.” Jim stood up and smiled at them. “Thanks for joining me and everything.”

“No problem.” Sulu smiled back at him. “Let us know how Pike is once you get back to the bridge.”

“Sure thing.” Jim nodded at them as he dropped off his tray and headed back out of the mess hall toward Sickbay.

Chapter Text

The first person Jim saw when he got to Sickbay was Bones. He really shouldn’t have been surprised by that; it was where Bones worked after all and Jim himself had set up the duty roster assigning him this shift. Still, as much as Jim loved his best friend that wasn’t what he was here for. It was too late though; Bones had already spotted him.

“Well look who actually showed up on their own instead of getting dragged here.” Bones crossed his arms over his chest and his expression looked smug. “I know I told you to come back so I could monitor those anomalous readings, but I honestly didn’t expect you to come in of your own volition, the next day no less.”

“Sorry Bones.” Jim grinned. “But I’m out of your clutches for now. I’m on duty and here on ship’s business.” He waved the padd he’d brought as if that would prove his point to Bones. “I can’t take the time for another physical; I need to talk to Pike again. Is he up?”

Bones’ eyebrow rose and his expression shifted from smug to distinctly unimpressed. “I should have known it. Although you know, I could argue that the health of the acting captain is ship’s business, which would mean that being on duty wouldn’t be a valid excuse. I think it may even be within the regulations that I could order you to do it.”

“Wow, only a day in and you’re already abusing your powers as CMO.” Jim tried to look serious but his expression broke and he smiled at his friend. “Seriously though, I do have to talk to Pike. And you told me my check-ups could be weekly. I already got checked out this week if you count yesterday, so I’m free even by your rules.”

“I told you you could come in more often than that and you know it.” Bones was scowling, but in a why-do-I-care-about-you-you-idiot way and not in a genuinely angry way so Jim just grinned back.

“Yeah, but you said I should do that if I felt like I needed to. I feel fine.” Jim hoped that this wasn’t just making Bones more suspicious. Maybe Jim should just come clean about the aging thing; Bones would know soon enough anyway. Plus, finding your soulmate seemed like the sort of thing you tell your best friend about, even if in this case it didn’t seem like one of those meant-to-be romances. Maybe it would be better to not tell Bones yet. After all, all he was going off of was that weird feeling that seemed significant when he and Spock first made eye contact at the hearing. And also Older Spock’s account of things in his timeline. And the fact that he and Spock seemed drawn to each other and worked really well together. Or at least Jim felt a little drawn to him; it was still hard to tell on Spock’s end. OK so maybe there was at least some evidence. It didn’t mean that Jim had to tell Bones. Besides, he was here on ship’s business. “Anyway, I did come here for a reason besides bothering you or getting bothered. Can I talk to Pike?”

Bones grumbled a bit but nodded. “I’ll see if he’s in any state to see visitors, but last time I checked, which wasn’t long ago, he was awake and seemed to be in good shape. Follow me.” With that his friend turned and walked deeper into Sickbay, back toward the curtained off bit where Pike was. When he and Jim arrived Bones held up his hand to make Jim stop before going in to check on Pike.

After a moment Bones reemerged, seeming having decided that Pike was actually in good enough shape to receive visitors. He crossed his arms over his chest and gave Jim a stern look. “Alright, you can go in there, but nothing too strenuous. If I think you’re working him up too much, I won’t hesitate to kick you out. Or give you a physical.”

Jim nodded, deciding that the latter would probably be worse. “Dully noted. Can I see him now?”

Bones stood blocking his way for a moment longer before uncrossing his arms and stepping aside with a small sigh. “Go ahead. Just don’t make a habit of bothering my patients in the future.”

“I think I’m bothering you more than I’m bothering him.” Jim grinned at Bones. “I bet Pike finds a friendly face refreshing after getting that scowl all day.”

Bones mumbled something in response, but Jim didn’t hear because his friend had started to walk away and he had started to walk into Pike’s area.

Pike looked about the same as he had the day before; while he was definitely better than he had been when Jim found him aboard the Narada, but he would still have a while to go before he was back to peak shape. If he ever would get back into peak shape. Jim hadn’t managed to get the specifics out of Bones the night before at dinner because Bones had started to evoke doctor-patient confidentiality to get Jim to stop asking questions, but it sounded like Pike was seriously affected by his time on the Narada in a way that would have long term consequences.

Still, for now he was awake and alert and hopefully ready to answer Jim’s questions. Jim took the seat next to the bed, setting his padd next to him, and nodded at Pike. “Captain.”

Pike nodded back and smiled a little, clearly happy to have a visitor. “Captain.”

“Acting captain.” Jim wasn’t quite sure why he felt the need to correct Pike, but it felt like he should.

“Regardless of rank, anyone in command of a ship gets called captain.” Pike had a certain proud expression that made Jim feel both happy and a little uneasy because he didn’t feel that he’d earned it. “You should know that; it’s an old rule.”

Jim shrugged. “I’ve heard of it. Not like I’d really served on a ship prior to this and gotten to put it into practice though.”

“I guess that’s true.” Pike nodded before his eyes went down to Jim’s sleeves and his eyebrows rose. “Where are your stripes?”

Jim felt a little awkward then and covered the wrist of one hand with the other. “I didn’t add any when I got the shirt out of the replicator. While I may be holding that position on the ship, I feel like I haven’t quite earned that rank yet.” Jim sat back and ran a hand through his hair. “I mean, just a couple of days ago I was a cadet. If you told me that over the course of a day I would skip over three ranks and go straight to captain I probably would have laughed in your face.” He remembered who he was talking to and his eyes snapped back to Pike’s face. “No offence, sir.”

Pike seemed to pick up on his discomfort a bit and smiled at him to let him know it was ok. “None taken. And while your rise in rank was a bit more meteoric than most, I still think you deserve it. And I get you not feeling ready, but honestly I don’t think anyone truly feels ready. There’s always going to be something to catch you off guard, but I think you have the ability to adapt in a way that some others may lack. You’re going to be a good captain, Jim.”

“Thanks.” Jim smiled at Pike and it felt a little more genuine this time, a little bit of his nerves gone. “It helps having you here so I can ask you questions.” Jim shifted in his seat, sitting up a little straighter. “That’s actually why I’m here. Unfortunately this is a business visit, not a social one.”

“That’s alright.” Pike nodded at him. “Fire away.”

“Thanks.” Jim smiled at him. “I’ve got a couple, so this may be a while.”

Pike smiled back at him. “It’s ok, I’ve got the time.”

Jim nodded and pulled out his padd, ready to start going over his questions.

Chapter Text

It took Jim a little while to get though all the questions he had for Pike. But now he knew all the proper paperwork he needed to do, the right procedure for certain situations, and all of those other things that you really only learned once you made captain. He leaned back and set aside the padd. “Thanks for… all of that. While I wish it was under better circumstances, it really is nice having you on board.”

“I’m glad that I could help you out.” Pike smiled at him, but it was a small smile and Jim realized how tired Pike looked. He hoped Bones wouldn’t bother him about wearing out his patient.

“You really have helped a lot.” Jim glanced down at his padd that now held his command cheat sheet. “I think I was more productive in the time I spent here than I was in the whole first half of my shift while I was on the bridge. I don’t know if there was anything else I was supposed to do, but just sitting there I felt like I was there for decoration.”

Pike laughed softly at that. “It can feel that way before the paperwork starts to pile up on you. Even then a lot of captains still just spend their bridge time waiting for an emergency to react to or just being in a set place so the crew knows where to find them if they need anything.” He smiled a bit and something wistful entered his eyes. “The quiet times can be nice. When there’s nothing but you, your crew, your ship, and all the stars out there to explore. It’s hard to grow used to a sight like that. It’s one of the best things there is.”

It was Jim’s turn to offer a comforting smile. He put his hand on Pike’s and squeezed softly. “I’m sure you’ll end up on a bridge again someday. I doubt Starfleet would ground you just because you got injured.”

Pike’s answering smile had something a little bittersweet in it. “It may be time for me to be Earthbound, Jim. I’m not as young as I once was, and I think Starfleet is going to want a lot of people close to home to help them sort out what to do next.”

“You aren’t that old. You haven’t even hit forty physically yet, have you?” Jim addressed the only part he could; he didn’t want to consider a Starfleet that restricted their exploration just because of what they might encounter.

“Not physically, but my actual age is past that.” Pike smiled at him. “Maybe they’ll put me in recruiting. After all, I did find the kid who went on to save Earth.” A gentle pride shone from his eyes.

“Nah.” Jim smiled and hoped he wasn’t blushing; he wasn’t used to someone being this… soft toward him. Even his mom didn’t usually get this emotional with him. “It was a group effort; I couldn’t have done this without the crew. Which you put together I might add, so that’s more points toward you being a good captain.”

“Or it shows that I’m good at spotting young people with promise.” The pride hadn’t left Pike’s eyes.

This was getting a little too sappy for Jim. “Are you gonna keep breaking up bar fights to find people? Because as someone who has been in a few, I don’t think all of the people involved should be Starfleet contenders.”

Pike laughed. “No, I’ll only go after the ones with famous parents.” Despite the joke a more serious mood fell over the room. After a moment Pike spoke up again, this time looking away from Jim with his voice quiet. “He would have been proud of you.”

Jim found himself suddenly unable to take his eyes off of his hands in his lap, the command gold instead of the cadet red of a few days ago a little jarring now. “Thanks. I’ll have to take your word for it.”

“He would have been.” Pike reached out toward Jim and paused until Jim was looking him in the eyes. “You’re a good man and you saved a lot of people. You’re gonna be a great captain. He’d be proud of you.”

Jim dropped his eyes again. “Thanks.”

“And while I’m sure it’s already come across, I’m proud of you too.” Jim glanced up and saw the sincerity on Pike’s face. “I meant what I said, Jim. You’re gonna be great.”

“Thank you.” Jim took a deep breath then grabbed the padd next to him again and looked back at Pike, trying to smile to cover up the mood he’d slipped into. “Any last captain tips?” He smiled, a little more genuine this time. “I say that as if I’m not going to keep coming back here to see you.”

“Well, I’ll be here if you need me. And even if I’m not on the ship, I’ll just be a comm line away.” Pike smiled at him. “As for advice, keep doing what you’re doing. Care about your crew, trust your gut, and listen to your officers. Pick a first you can trust and rely on who will balance you out so you’re stronger together.”

“Alright.” Jim nodded. “I think I’m good there.”

“I’ll admit, I was a little hesitant about you choosing Spock after I heard what happened.” Pike’s expression was serious but his eyes were still gentle. “But after hearing a little more from other people who have come in and having some time to think it over, I think you two could be good together. He can keep you from being too reckless and won’t back down just because you’re being stubborn. You’ll challenge him a bit too and be ready to act when necessary for the times logic isn’t enough. I think you’ll both help each other grow to be better officers and people.”

Jim tried to stop himself from blushing, thinking of how those words could also fit for a soulmate pair rather than just for a command team. “Thanks. Your approval means a lot to me.”

“Well, you’ve got it.” Pike smiled at him.

Jim cleared his throat and shifted in his seat. “I should probably be getting back to the bridge.”

“Alright.” Pike shifted a bit as well. “I bet your doctor friend is starting to lurk out there waiting to check on me anyway. I’m sure he’ll have some complaints about how long we spent talking.”

Jim laughed. “Yeah, Bones could probably work on his bedside manner a bit, but I trust him as a doctor. He’s good at what he does.”

Pike nodded. “He probably saved my life, so no disagreement here.”

“Why do I get the feeling I’m being talked about?” Both captains turned to see Bones standing at the opening to the curtain with his arms crossed over his chest.

His friend was sounding his usual grumpy rather than actually annoyed, so Jim just smiled. “Were you eavesdropping out there Bones?”

“No.” Bones stayed where he was and his expression didn’t shift. “I was just waiting for you to finish bothering my patient. I’ve done the rest of my rounds and need to check on him.”

“I assure you doctor, he wasn’t bothering me, just keeping me company.” Pike looked at him before turning back to Jim. “We were just about done though, right?”

“Yeah, I think I’ve got everything.” Jim skimmed over what he’d written on the padd before looking back at Pike. “Thanks again.”

Pike’s expression softened. “No problem. I’m happy to help.”

Jim adjusted his grip on the padd and stood up. “I’ll see you later, or at some point.”

Pike nodded. “See you Jim.”

Jim nodded at him once more before starting to leave.

As he passed Bones his friend put a hand on his arm to stop him. “By the way, the hobgoblin commed Sickbay trying to reach you, maybe about ten minutes ago. I told him you were with Pike.”

“Thanks for letting me know. I’ll comm him before I head up.” With one last glance toward Pike and Bones, Jim nodded at them both in parting before heading out of Sickbay. He wondered what Spock wanted to talk about.

Chapter Text

Jim stopped at one of the hallway comm panels between Sickbay and the turbolifts. “Kirk to Spock.”

After a moment he got a reply. “This is Spock.”

“Hey Spock.” Jim paused, feeling oddly like a teenage girl making a phone call in one of the old movies he watched as a kid. “I heard you were trying to comm me earlier. What’s up?”

“You had not returned after your meal.” Jim wondered if Spock was in the captain’s chair or if he was at the science station. It would probably be easier to talk at the captain’s chair. The comm in the armrest could come in handy. “I was curious as to your current location and activities.”

“I went to see Pike in Sickbay. Didn’t Chekov or Sulu tell you?” Jim could have sworn that they’d said they’d tell Spock for him. Should he have commed anyway? Was he violating some protocol?

“I was informed.” Spock paused for a moment. “What was the purpose of your meeting with Pike?”

Did Spock think he was playing hooky on his first day as captain? “I had some questions for him about official business.” Jim wasn’t sure if that sounded too vague or questionable. “Just a few captaincy matters.”

“I see.”

Jim wished he were back on the bridge; as unreadable as Spock’s face could be it was still better than just his voice. He couldn’t tell if that was Spock’s usual neutrality or if he was disapproving of Jim. It wasn’t like he really could claim to know what was normal for Spock anyway; they’d known each other for such a short time. “Well, I’m done meeting with Pike now, so I’m headed back to the bridge. I should be up momentarily.” Jim paused, unsure if he was supposed to give Spock time to respond or not. He was probably fine; he’d be on the bridge within minutes anyway. “Kirk out.” He shut down the comm line and headed to the turbolift.

As the turbolift took him to the bridge, Jim found himself thinking of Spock once more. He was really wondering at this point how much of what he felt for Spock was really him and how much was residual emotional transfer from the meld with Older Spock. He’d considered Spock physically attractive from the moment he’d stood up in that oh-so-flattering instructor’s uniform at the hearing, but Jim really wasn’t the type to claim love at first sight. Lust maybe, but not love.

Still, he couldn’t deny that there was more than that now. He was starting to trust Spock and rely on him far faster than Jim normally would with anyone. Was it because Older Spock set him up to expect friendship with Spock? Prior to his encounter in the ice cave he’d kinda hated Spock’s guts. But they’d also worked all of that out together and started to work together as a team almost perfectly despite knowing each other for such a short time. That had to mean something, right?

But Jim didn’t know if he was idealizing things either. As soon as he’d seen that amazing, epic love story in Older Spock’s meld there was something deep inside him that started to long for it, almost crave it. But was that making him try to force things between him and Spock? It wasn’t even like they could get together now; Spock was with Uhura and Jim didn’t want to start their relationship with him being a homewrecker. Despite what some people might think because of his reputation for sleeping around, there were some things Jim didn’t do.

Still, Older Spock and his Jim had started as friends. Their relationship had a strong platonic foundation and grew from there. They’d been friends, then become as close as brothers, and then they were lovers.

The turbolift doors opened and Jim decided that this wasn’t the kind of thing he should be thinking about around his telepathic first officer. He knew Vulcans were touch telepaths and that Spock shouldn’t be able to pick up his thoughts without physical contact, but Jim didn’t want to take any risks if their minds really were as compatible as Older Spock said.

Jim paused at the back of the bridge and looked over the bridge crew. Most people were either working at their stations or talking quietly to the person next to them. Older Spock and his Jim had had much of the same crew. If that was a universal constant, or at least a parallel between this universe and theirs, what if Jim and Spock were too?

And he’d said he wasn’t going to think about that on the bridge. Jim should keep his mind to captain things. Like the crew. They were a great group of people and they’d been through a lot together. The day Jim made captain, whenever that would be, he was going to try to bring this crew together again.

At that point Spock turned around in the captain’s chair and stood up when he saw who it was. “Captain.”

“Mr. Spock.” Jim nodded his head in greeting and walked up to the center of the bridge. “How’ve things been?”

“The crew and ship are performing well. We have encountered no anomalies and have received no answer to our communications.” Spock stepped aside as Jim got to the chair and sat down.

“Keep broadcasting on all Federation frequencies, and maybe throw in some other ones if you think it’ll help. They’ve gotta be looking for us.” Jim looked over at Uhura, who had looked over when he returned to the bridge but nodded and went back to her station now. Jim really hoped that they actually did have people looking for them; while it wasn’t generally Starfleet policy to give up on people without a thorough search first, it was possible that now all of their attention would be focused on finding survivors around Vulcan, both from the planet and the wrecked ships. Plus the rest of the fleet had been so far away, which is why they’d scrambled cadets and untried ships to Vulcan in the first place. Jim noticed that Spock was still standing next to him. “Anything else, Mr. Spock?”

“Yes.” Spock shifted slightly and if Jim didn’t know better he’d say Spock seemed worried or concerned. “What is the current state of Captain Pike?”

Jim slumped a little in his seat but tried to straighten up before anyone saw it. Pike had told him that he could be permanently affected by what had happened, but Jim wasn’t sure if Pike wanted everyone to know that. “He’s still recovering. He looks better than he did yesterday, but I think it’ll still be a while for him.”

Spock nodded and it seemed like the rest of the crew had been listening intently as well. Jim hoped that one day he’d be able to command that sort of loyalty from a crew.

“Alright then.” Jim consciously sat up in the chair. “I’ll let you get back to the science station now. When we’re just drifting along like this it’s probably more interesting than the captain’s chair is anyway.”

Spock’s answering expression was unreadable. Jim honestly wasn’t sure how he would have responded if their positions had been reversed. Had he really just made it sound like he didn’t want to be in the captain’s chair?

He put on his biggest grin to cover it up. “Or at least, that’s how I imagine it is for you. I’m perfectly happy where I am.” Ignoring his own insecurities that might invalidate that, Jim spun the captain’s chair around to indicate that the conversation was done and pulled out his padd. If he was going over his notes from Pike he wouldn’t have to see if anyone was judging him for panicking because of what he first said or being for too cocky because of what he’d just said.

He’d figure this out eventually, right?

Chapter Text

After his official day of captain and all the awkward moments it entailed, Jim just wanted to be somewhere he could relax and not embarrass himself in front of the crew anymore. That ruled out the rec rooms, but Jim didn’t feel like going to his cabin either. He decided to find somewhere quiet where he could watch the stars. He’d always liked watching the stars; the one nice thing about the farmhouse in Iowa (besides the water showers) had been that unless he left lights on in or around the house, there was almost no light pollution when he went outside. He’d been able to see so many stars in a way that he generally couldn’t when he’d gone to San Francisco to attend the Academy. Back when he’d been growing up in Iowa, he’d just stare at the stars for so long he’d lose track of time, sometimes even falling asleep outside. Some days he’d stare up and wonder which cluster of stars was where he’d been born in; knowing it also served at his dad’s final resting place. Still, no matter what was going on, Jim found some sort of solace in staring up at the stars.

So when he’d heard that there was an observation deck where you could basically just go look at stars, Jim decided to do it. He’d heard that they kept the lights low and dampened most of the ship’s noises so it would be a quiet place perfect for viewing the stars or some quiet contemplation.

He wasn’t expecting company, but when he saw Spock there staring out into the black he decided that it could be worse. Maybe Spock just liked staring out at the stars like Jim did. But then he remembered what he’d heard about the last time Spock had been alone and staring at stars, which would have been when he was kamikaze-ing the Jellyfish into the Narada. Which Jim wanted to talk to him about actually; he wasn’t sure if he was way off about this, but something told Jim he might be closer to the truth than he thought if how surprised Spock had looked in the transporter room was any indication. He walked up and stood next to Spock, staying quiet for a moment.

“So how have you been today?” Before Spock could give him a look, Jim held up his hand. “I know, stupid question. You don’t like people to know you have emotions, and if you wanted to talk to anyone I would be pretty far from the top of the list.” Jim turned to look at Spock and wasn’t surprised to find his first officer looking at him with an odd, unreadable expression. “But still, I saw how surprised you were yesterday when Scotty got us all on the transporter pad before the Narada was destroyed. And I’ve been there. Not your exact situation, but something similar.”

“I am afraid I do not understand.” Spock’s voice was quiet.

Jim found himself raising an eyebrow. “Afraid?”

“I was using a human expression.” Spock’s eyes shifted back to the stars and his voice dropped a little more. “It was something my mother used to say.”

“Ah.” Jim turned his gaze back to the stars before he could be distracted by that profile illuminated only by their light. “That is sorta what I was here to say. I know I can’t even begin to possibly imagine what you went through, but I heard that you were on a collision course with Nero and showed no signs of stopping or slowing down. I don’t know if you knew the Enterprise would be able to get you or not, but you seemed surprised that you appeared on a transporter pad rather than getting turned into the heart of a singularity. And that’s the bit I do get.” Jim paused, looking around for the nearest bench. The room wasn’t very big but people still liked being able to sit and watch the stars. Once he spotted it he went to sit down. “Come sit with me for a second.”

“Very well.” Spock came and sat stiffly at the opposite end of the bench, keeping distance between himself and Jim.

While he kindof wished Spock would get closer to him, that wasn’t what Jim wanted to focus on now. He looked away from Spock to his own hands, which were loosely together between his knees. “Before I joined Starfleet, I’d only been off Earth once. When I was 13 I got the chance to go to a colony. I was so excited; at that point my mom spent most of her time in space and my brother had already left, so it was just me and my jerk of a stepdad back in Iowa. I would have done anything to get out of there, see the stars, and have an adventure, but I got a little more than I bargained for.” Jim took a deep breath. “The colony I went to was Tarsus IV.” Out of the corner of his eye he saw Spock stiffen even further, going unnaturally still; Jim was glad that it didn’t seem like he’d have to explain too much. “I was there from the start, and I was still there when things got bad. I saw people I knew get called to Kodos’ palace and never come back; it didn’t take a genius to figure out what happened.” He took another deep breath and risked looking over at Spock. “I saw his face, you know? I saw Kodos. No one who saw him made it out, but since I was the hero’s kid they let me go. Didn’t want to cause a scandal if word got out.” Jim looked away before he could see the pity that usually came when he talked about Tarsus. “It wasn’t long after that that the ships arrived. It was too late for half the people there, but I got taken back to Iowa not much worse off than I’d arrived.” He paused again, getting close to things he really didn’t like to talk about. “My mom stuck around for a bit after that, but she got pulled back into space eventually. My stepdad was better when she was there, but once she was gone it was back to normal. Nothing to protect me there. He didn’t give a shit who my dad was, so it got me wondering why anyone on Tarsus had. Why did I get spared when so many others weren’t as lucky? Why should I get to keep on living?” And now the part Jim really didn’t like talking about. He took another deep breath; he could feel Spock’s eyes boring into his face but couldn’t meet them, staring at his hands on his lap instead. “So my stepdad had this really great antique car. Some people said it used to be my dad’s, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is I took that old car.” Jim almost laughed; that almost made it seem like this should be one more mark against his record. “I took that old car, and it was a bit of a joyride but I was headed for the old quarry. They’ve dug that thing out real deep, and that old car was a land vehicle, not a hover car.” He glanced over to Spock, but Spock had begun to stare forward out the windows once more. “I was ready to drive that car off the edge of the quarry and never look back. So many others hadn’t made it off of Tarsus, so why did I?” Jim licked his lips and rubbed his hands together; he could almost still feel his white knuckle grip on the steering wheel. “At the last minute, I realized that if I ended it I would be making my dad’s sacrifice that they always held over my head all for nothing. I wasn’t as worried about that, but I also realized that I would be proving Kodos right if I went through with it. I would be showing that I couldn’t survive, just like he’d predicted. And family connections be damned, I wasn’t about to let that bastard win.” Jim took a slow breath, trying to avoid the unpleasant emotions this brought up. “The front wheels were probably already off the edge by the time I opened the door and threw myself towards that cliff. I nearly slid off; I had to cling to it with everything I had to avoid falling.” Another deep breath. Jim looked over at Spock, meeting those deep brown eyes; something was stirring in their depths but Jim was internally relieved that it didn’t seem to be pity or even concern; it almost seemed like understanding. “But I pulled myself up off that cliff because I didn’t want to give the people that wanted me dead the satisfaction. Sometimes it seemed like that spite was the only thing keeping me going. But it kept me going when I had nothing else.” Jim slowly stood up, not breaking eye contact. “Look, I can’t say if what was going through your head yesterday was the same thing that was going through my head that day. I’m not the telepath here.” He shifted until he was standing in front of Spock, who continued to stare up at him, neither of them breaking eye contact. “What I do know is that Nero wanted you dead, and that if you’d gone through with what you may have been going for, you might have beaten him but he would have known that you hadn’t made it out either, so he would have died satisfied. Don’t let that bastard get the best of you. We can’t let them win. Live to spite him if you have to, but I hope you can find a better reason than that. But at the very least, live. Understand?”

Spock looked like he may have wanted to say something, but eventually he just nodded solemnly.

“Good. You know how to reach me if you did want to talk.” Jim started to walk away, but paused and walked back. “Also, what was shared in this room doesn’t leave this room, alright? I don’t really want everyone knowing…” He trailed off, not sure what exactly was what he wanted kept secret the most.

Before he could decide, Spock interrupted his thoughts. “Understood.” He looked at Jim but his eyes also seemed far away.

“Thanks.” Jim felt his shoulders drop a tension he hadn’t realized they’d taken on. “I’ll just be going then.” With one last nod to Spock, who remained seated on the bench, he walked out of the quiet of the observation deck and back into the bright lights and noise of the ship, although his mind strayed back to the once more lone figure silhouetted by stars.

Chapter Text

Spock stared out at the stars, unsure what to think. He was still surprised by what Kirk had revealed to him. It added an additional dimension to Kirk to discover that he had been a survivor of Tarsus IV. Spock had overheard reports of the colony from his father, even beyond the media coverage of what had occurred. Although definite numbers were difficult to determine, most reports stated that approximately half of the colonists had been killed under the orders of Governor Kodos. There had been some doubt as to if he was truly responsible because most of the colony had not been told what was happening, being told various cover stories instead. However, a small number of eyewitnesses had heard Kodos ordering deaths and survived.

James Kirk was one of those eyewitnesses. Their identities had been concealed because several of them had been minors and because there was some fear of Kodos’ supporters making an attempt on their lives even though Kodos had been presumed dead. However, no incidents had occurred, or if they had there had been no coverage of it.

But Kirk had made an attempt on his own life. An aborted attempt, but an attempt nonetheless. This was not information that easily fit with the image of Kirk Spock had begun to develop.

And he had seemed to fear that Spock would make an attempt on his own life. Spock had heard of the phenomenon known as survivor’s guilt in humans, but he did not know if the same was true of Vulcans. He supposed that he may not necessarily be immune to problems that afflicted humans however.

A short mental review of the past day’s thoughts and actions could support that conclusion, but Spock did not have sufficient knowledge on the phenomena to be certain.

Kirk’s advice had been solidly based on emotion, but Spock still found himself hesitant to reject it. Perhaps there was a need to address psychological trauma, but that was not a matter Vulcans would speak to others about. However, Spock would monitor his emotional and psychological state more closely.

Despite the clear pain and discomfort it had brought him to speak of the topic, Kirk had been willing to share this with Spock, a person he did not know well, out of concern for Spock. Kirk was truly an odd human.

However, this was not necessarily negative. It showed a level of caring, even to those he did know have a strong connection to, which was valued in many cultures. Spock himself saw it as a beneficial trait in both a person and a captain.

James T. Kirk was far more complex than Spock had initially presumed. Spock was curious and found himself wishing to know more about Kirk.

-------------

About halfway between the Observation deck and the Captain’s Quarters Jim began to wonder what the hell he’d just done. Even Bones didn’t know the full story of Tarsus and what happened afterward. Admittedly, Jim had hardly told Spock the full story of Tarsus. Still, he told him way more than he’d told anyone else. The only other person who knew that much about Tarsus and after was probably Jim’s mom, but that was really only because she’d been the one who he’d told at the time after a long period of avoiding it.

She’d come back again after the whole incident with the car. Jim had been in his room, trying to avoid Frank as much as possible after he’d found out about the car, but he’d been able to hear the screaming match the two of them had gotten into. He hadn’t been able to make out the words, but he could tell that by the end his mom was doing more of the screaming. By the time he cautiously came downstairs, his mom was on the couch watching a holovid and Frank was nowhere to be seen. He’d never seen Frank after that actually; once his mom got the full story of what went on while she was in space she divorced Frank and had apologized profusely (well, profusely for her) for what Jim had gone through.

She really hadn’t known what was going on back on Earth while she was away; Jim was actually pretty sure of that. He knew other people would have doubted it, but he and his mom and an understanding. They didn’t see each other much, but when they did they didn’t bs each other. Well, initially he’d left out details about Frank, but he’d told her eventually. And they’d both agreed to blame Frank for making Jim think he couldn’t tell.

She’d actually offered to take him into space with her when her leave of absence started to run out. Jim had been tempted, but at the time with Tarsus still fresh in his head he’d decided that it was better to view the stars from afar.

Looking back, Jim almost snorted. Here he was, back in space, almost dying again, desperately trying to protect others again. He just couldn’t get out of this kinda situation, could he?

He’d reached his quarters and went inside, his thoughts wandering back to his mom. She’d also offered to try to track down Sam so Jim could stay with him. Jim suspected that she actually knew where Sam was and was using her connections to check in on him now and then, but he’d never bothered to ask. If Sam wanted to be out of all their lives, he’d be out of all of their lives.

So Jim had stayed in Riverside. Initially she’d set Jim up with a family that she knew that had been old friends of his dad’s. It had been nice, better than Frank for sure, but Jim still felt like he couldn’t stay. He'd felt like he was imposing, even though they always put in effort to make him feel welcome and comfortable. Still, they always looked at him with an odd sort of sad wistfulness; he was expecting a “you look so much like he did” comment every day, and did get those kinds of comments on occasion.

So as soon as he’d reached his late teens, Jim moved back to the old farmhouse. Surprisingly, it was less haunted by the ghost of George Kirk than the rest of Riverside had been, even though he’d lived his whole life there and it’d been where he and Jim’s mom lived when they were married. Still, Jim’s mom had said the place was his if he wanted it and Jim decided to take her up on it. He’d even gone back now and then when he was at the academy, mostly just to check on the place and see the people he’d known while in school.

If or when they made it back to Earth, Jim would have to go back out there. Depending on his fate within Starfleet, he’d either be spending a whole lot of time out there or practically none.

But that was a can of worms Jim really didn’t feel like opening now. Even though he’d already revealed his doubts about his future to the whole bridge crew. He bet the whole ship knew by now; if the ship was anything like a small town, gossip spread fast. And since both were small groups of people isolated from others without a lot to do, the whole damn ship probably knew he was doubting himself by now.

Great. And he’d also gone and opened up about one of the worst experiences of his life to his soulmate who might still hate him. It really wasn’t Jim’s day.

He sighed and ran a hand down his face before flopping onto his stomach on the bed. Today had sucked, but he still had a shift tomorrow. May as well get sleep so he can actually have it together then.

Chapter Text

Jim woke up before his alarm again. That was probably because the shift rotation was still so off that being up before his shift was probably the easiest it would be for all of his career. Hell, he could get up at noon and still be up in time for Alpha shift. They really needed to fix that. But again, it could probably wait. There wasn’t really an easy fix.

Jim let his mind wander as he got ready. He could talk the shift shift over with… whoever would be best to consult. Spock at the very least, since that seemed like the sort of thing that would concern first officers as well. Possibly the whole group of senior officers, even though most of them were also ungraduated cadets like him at this point. He could talk to Pike, but Jim didn’t want to feel like he was relying on Pike too much. He knew Pike didn’t mind at all, but Jim would still like to be able to feel like he could solve a problem on his own without running to ask for help every time.

But that wasn’t Jim’s main concern for now and he really didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole right now. Today was going to be the day he acted completely professional and captainly. He could do this. Even if it meant sitting on the bridge staring out the viewscreen for hours, he’d do it. After all, this was what he’d made his goal. May as well stick with it. He was gonna prove himself as captain or die trying.

Well, hopefully he wouldn’t die. The day to day of being captain was supposed to just be a lot of sitting in the chair and watching over things with occasional interruptions for handling ship’s business. It sounded like it could even get a little monotonous without the occasional mission or emergency to take up his attention.

But after the day he’d had before, monotonous could be good. Plus, there could always be the excitement of someone actually showing up to rescue them. That would be better than drifting until they had to worry about rationing resources. Jim really wasn’t sure how well he could handle being in charge of people with limited food. It would probably start to bring up unpleasant memories…

Memories he’d told Spock about. Great. At least Vulcans were probably even less likely to bring up emotional things than humans with issues were. So Jim would probably be safe, and he trusted Spock not to go back on his word about telling other people. Jim still wasn’t sure why he trusted Spock so much when they’d known each other such a short period of time and hated each other for half of it, but here they were.

So that only left the problems of captaining the ship and avoiding Bones. With no current mission besides drift home, there really wouldn’t be much for Jim to do on the captain front. That could be good; it might be better than having a lot to handle at once. But nothing to do also meant that Bones probably had nothing to do, which could mean he’d be after Jim sooner than expected. He wouldn’t put it past Bones. He was just as stubborn as Jim himself, and if he genuinely thought that the abnormal readings could be a sign of something wrong it could drive him to check up on Jim more. Which would make Jim hiding the aging all the more difficult. Bones would have to catch on eventually; all doctors who treated humans were taught signs of aging so they could help people figure out who their soulmates were as soon as possible. Jim’s giant list of potential medical problems could only act as red herrings for so long.

As Jim finished getting ready, he wondered if it would be best to just tell Bones and get it over with. Maybe he could use doctor-patient confidentiality to make Bones not tell anyone. But if he went to Bones and said he wanted to talk to him as a doctor, Jim would be getting hauled to Sickbay before he could even finish his sentence. He could tell Bones as a friend sharing the news, but then Bones might think it’s odd that he didn’t want to tell anyone.

Or maybe not; ever since it cost him his marriage and time with his little girl Bones had been just about as bitter about the soulmate thing as Jim was. He would probably keep it a secret if Jim asked; Jim could trust him.

Jim might just leave out the little detail about who he thought his soulmate was. Most people said they didn’t know right away, right?

By this point Jim had reached the mess hall and went inside. He got breakfast from the replicator and looked around before seeing Bones, who seemed engrossed in whatever padd he was reading.

Jim decided to join him anyway. He plopped his tray down noisily. “Hey Bones.”

His friend glanced at his tray for a moment before turning back to his padd. “Breakfast food at this hour Jim? It’s closer to lunch you know.”

“Don’t judge.” Jim cut off a chunk of his pancakes and chewed with his mouth open just to annoy Bones. “I like breakfast food and it’s not like I was up early enough for normal breakfast hours since the shifts are off. Brunch maybe, but I felt like breakfast food.”

Bones raised an eyebrow, clearly unimpressed. “You could do something about the shifts you know. You are supposed to be in charge.”

“What, and mess up everyone’s days?” Jim took another large bite and shook his head. “I’m not going to do that to everyone.”

“The captain’s supposed to mess with everyone.” Bones still wasn’t looking away from his padd and Jim was half tempted to take it to see what was on it. “It’s basically your job.”

Jim decided to ignore that for now. “What are you reading anyway? You’re looking at that padd like it holds the secrets of the universe.”

“Unless my current patient rotations are essential to the universe, it doesn’t have that.” Bones looked up at Jim finally. “It turns out suddenly becoming CMO when your ship has been through battles and also picked up people from a planet that was getting destroyed makes you pretty busy.”

“Makes sense.” Jim nodded before an idea entered his head. “Too busy to do checkups on certain cadets who become captains?”

“Nope.” Bones stared him down like he knew Jim was trying to avoid him. “Most people are in stable condition and just require monitoring or periodic treatment, which means that I have plenty of time to figure out whatever is going wrong with you this week.”

This could be the moment of truth. Jim could tell Bones he was aging right here and now. But then again, they were in the middle of the mess hall. There was no telling how many people could overhear. Jim really didn’t want to be the subject of gossip more than he already was usually. So he just smirked at Bones. “I’m telling you, I feel fine. The only times I didn’t was when you were hitting me with nonstop hyposprays. And when I was getting beaten up or strangled.”

Bones glared at him. Jim recognized it as a why-are-you-like-this-why-do-you-make-my-life-so-difficult look. “How are you not dead yet?”

Jim pretended to be very seriously considering. “Mostly luck probably.” He cracked a smile at Bones. “Probably doesn’t hurt that my best friend is an overprotective doctor.”

“You’re gonna be the death of me.” Bones shook his head in exasperation and looked at his padd again. “Alright kid, I think it’s almost time for our shifts. We should get going.”

“Aww, are you getting too stressed by the thought of my recklessness? Are you trying to get away?” Jim smirked again, not quite done teasing his friend.

“No.” Bones looked his straight in the eye. “I can’t leave you alone for too long anyway. God knows what you’d get up to.”

“I’ll be on the bridge. There’s people to keep me in check there.” Jim grinned at Bones. “But I bet that if I told Sulu to do a barrel roll he’d do it.”

“No.” Bones put down his padd. “If you do that, I would tell the Vulcan to nerve pinch you. I don’t care if that’s mutiny. You’d have to come down to sickbay and help me treat all the injuries and upset stomachs.”

“C’mon Bones.” Jim grinned and tried to hold in his laughter. “There’s artificial gravity. As long as we did it gently you wouldn’t even notice.”

“I’m not afraid to hypospray you and declare you unfit for duty right here.” Bones was glaring but there was still affection there. “You better keep the shenanigans to a minimum.”

“Alright alright.” Jim smiled back. “Minimum shenanigans, I promise.” He glanced at Bones’ padd to check the time. “We probably should be reporting for our shifts. Let’s go.”

They picked up their trays, Bones still mumbling about “idiot captains” and “reckless schemes,” and headed out of the mess hall.

Chapter Text

Jim made it to the bridge early enough to get there before his shift started, but still late enough that he wasn’t the first Alpha shift arrival. He walked up to the captain’s chair, surprised its occupant didn’t notice him. “Mr. Spock.”

Spock stood up and turned the chair toward him in one smooth motion as Jim mentally added ‘graceful’ to the list of things he could appreciate about Spock. “Captain .”

“How’s the ship been?” Jim sat down without breaking eye contact with Spock, not entirely sure why. It didn’t feel like a challenging thing either; it just felt natural.

“I arrived on the bridge merely 3.24 minutes prior to you, Captain.” Spock had shifted to stand with his hands behind his back, but didn’t break eye contact with Jim either. “However, the commanding officer of Delta shift, whom I relieved, reported no changes in status from the ship and no messages from elsewhere.”

“Alright then.” Jim finally broke eye contact with Spock to turn the chair toward the viewscreen. “Still drifting along waiting to be found then.”

“Indeed.” Jim glanced over his shoulder to see that Spock was still standing next to the captain’s chair. He was looking out toward the viewscreen but Jim couldn’t help but feel like he was being observed.

“Anything else?” Jim looked up at Spock, waiting for him to look back at Jim. He really hoped Spock wasn’t going to say anything about their conversation on the observation deck.

Spock did look back at him, but his expression was professional; there was no hint of something changing because of their conversation the night before. “No, Captain. I will return to the science station.”

“Sounds good.” Jim held eye contact with Spock. He couldn’t tell who broke it a moment later. He looked back at the slowly passing stars as he heard Spock return to his station.

----------

The shift dragged on a bit. Jim felt himself wishing he’d brought a padd so he could work on something, even if it was just duty shifts or other ship’s business. He probably even had work to do for some of his classes since they’d been getting close to the end of the term. That all felt like years ago though…

He really needed to stop zoning out. Jim was trying to appear competent and captainly, dammit. He could practically feel members of the crew watching him. They were probably trying to be covert, but he could still tell.

Spock was definitely watching him. Jim really hoped he wouldn’t regret telling him everything. If it helped Spock, it would probably be worth it, but Jim didn’t like telling people his secrets. He didn’t want them getting out mostly, but he really didn’t think that would be a problem here; he trusted Spock to keep his secrets. It was more that he hated it when people pitied him.

Jim didn’t feel like that would be too much of a problem here though. Yeah, Spock seemed to be looking at him a lot this shift and Jim could practically feel those brown eyes burning a hole into the back of his head, but all that Vulcan emotional control probably ruled out pity. Plus, Spock most likely hated pity as much as Jim did since he was probably getting a ton of pitying looks from the crew with the loss of his planet and his mom. Jim wasn’t sure how many people knew about that last part, but Jim making a scene on the bridge probably hadn’t helped with the gossip on that one. He almost winced but stopped himself last minute since he didn’t want questions from the crew. He knew all of his bruises from his various fights of the past few days were starting to really show now. He’d spent at least part of his time getting ready this morning just poking at them, especially the ones around his neck that his collar just barely managed to not completely cover. So since he was looking a little black and blue, he didn’t want wince in case the crew mistook it for pain. None of them could order him to do anything, but they could still call Bones on him.

And ending up in Sickbay in Bones’ clutches was not what he needed now. If anyone found out he was aging, he’d be the topic of gossip again. But this time it wouldn’t be pity, it would be everyone congratulating him on meeting his soulmate. And then asking him who he thought it was. And that would just get awkward since not only did his soulmate probably just barely tolerate him, his soulmate was also in a relationship. With someone who definitely just barely tolerated him.

Jim resisted the urge to look over at Uhura. She was a great officer and he really wanted her on his ship when or if he got one. But that would mean that he’d have to improve her impression of him so that she’d actually want to work with him, much less be his subordinate. Stealing her boyfriend probably wouldn’t help with that, even if it used to be perfectly acceptable and even encouraged in some places to break up a couple if one of them was your soulmate.

So Jim would have a lot of people to impress. Spock was still pretty high up on the ‘to impress’ list, even if Jim still wasn’t sure if he wanted a romantic relationship or just to have Spock as his first officer. Either way, impressing him would probably be a difficult task; Jim bet he had a long way before Spock would see him as more than the cheating cadet who taunted him about his dead mom.

He really had made a bad impression there, hadn’t he? It was gonna take a lot to make that up. Jim had heard that despite swearing off emotion, Vulcans could still hold grudges like no one else.

So yeah, even if he just wanted a working relationship with some of the people on this bridge Jim would have a lot of work to do. His first impressions with most of them were pretty horrible.

Well, he was starting to try to change their views now. He was going to be a competent and professional captain. It could take time but he’d fix the image some of them had of him. Jim knew his reputation. People thought he was just arrogant, immature, maybe even nothing more than a womanizer (even though gender had never really been an obstacle for him). He’d even heard some people saying he’d only made it into the academy because of his dad or because of Pike’s favoritism.

There may be a little bit of truth to that last one; he knew that Pike had streamlined the process for him a little bit and that people who were legacies had an easier time getting into the academy. But still, once he was there he’d worked hard and showed that he deserved to be there.

And that was what he’d do now. Some people might think that Jim was only captain because Pike liked him, and there may be a little favoritism at play, but Jim would show that he deserved to be there. This was what he’d been training for the past few years after all.

Jim could do this. He’d prove to everyone that he deserved to be captain.

Chapter Text

That shift ended up passing uneventfully. So did the next few shifts after it. Slowly but surely, everyone was settling into a rhythm, even with the weird shift schedule.

The crew was doing well. Even though this had been the first real assignment for most of them, everyone was adjusting to life on a starship with real duties instead of the busywork cadets usually got during their mandatory duty term.

The science people were probably the closest to enjoying what they were doing. Or at least, the physicists were. While they all talked about it very carefully since it had been their commanding officer’s planet that got destroyed, a lot of them were clearly excited to go over the data the ship’s sensors had gathered during the conflict with Nero. It would probably yield some of the most interesting papers on gravity and singularities in years, although Jim bet that they were a long way from figuring out how the red matter worked. It probably would have been easier if they’d gotten ahold of a sample of it, but Jim thought that it was for the best that all the red matter got destroyed. They’d already seen the kind of havoc that a single drop of it could wreak; the less risk of it falling into the wrong hands again the better.

The rest of the ship was generally more occupied with mundane things; everyone in communications was just trying to see if anyone had responded to them yet. Jim didn’t envy them for that; doing nothing but sending out the same message and waiting for a response would have to get monotonous after a while.

Engineering had the difficult task of keeping the ship running without a functioning warp core. They were doing the best they could, but Jim was betting that the energy reserves they had would start running low soon. He made a mental note to check in with Scotty about if they should start cutting back on anything soon. It was a little difficult because most of the things considered non-essential for the ship’s functioning were the kinds of things keeping the crew calm and entertained, like trying new replicator meals, running experiments and simulations, or spending excess time in the rec rooms. Jim really hoped they would be found before their energy levels got low enough that he’d have to start cordoning off decks or handing out rations. Anything like a food shortage still made him…uncomfortable.

Sickbay was probably the next busiest area. Between the people they’d evacuated off of Vulcan and the people injured the various times the ship had been hit, there were a number of people in there for more long term care. There were also a number of people coming in for smaller things, mostly when people were looking for different ways to destress after what they’d been through or trying to kill their boredom and got a little bit too reckless. If this continued for too long Jim was sure Bones would be on him about making an announcement to the crew about safety.

Maybe it was because it was so busy, but Bones hadn’t been bothering Jim about coming in yet. They were about to reach the end of a week though, so Bones would probably be on his case soon. Jim could only avoid him so long.

In his defense, Jim had been pretty busy. He’d given himself alpha shift every day and he was also quickly finding ways to fill his free time. He’d spend his meals with Bones usually, but occasionally he’d eat with Chekov and Sulu or Scotty instead. He was sometimes tempted to try to join Uhura and Spock, but the two of them usually ate together with just the two of them. Jim didn’t want to crash their dates uninvited. And when the two of them weren’t together, they were usually with people from their departments. Jim decided that it would be best to wait for one of them to invite him rather that intruding.

Outside of shifts, meals, sleeping, and the occasional visit with Pike, Jim spent most of his time wandering the ship. Part of it was that he wanted to see where there were problems in case he could help, but a lot of it was just him wanting to familiarize himself with the ship. He didn’t know if it was just because of what he’d seen in the meld with Older Spock where he’d seen that other him as the captain of the Enterprise, but he really did feel a connection to the ship. When he was walking the corridors, climbing through Jefferies tubes, or even just staying in one place and feeling the hum of her systems resonate through him, it just felt… right. Like he was meant to end up on this ship. He’d felt the pull from when he’d seen her rising above the Riverside shipyards. It had been part of what made him decide to take up Pike on his offer.

Admittedly, his first mission with her hadn’t gone so well. It could have been worse, but it wasn’t great either. He hoped he’d have the chance to make some better memories with her.

But for now he spent his time trying to be the best captain he could, even if it meant spending most shifts just watching the stars pass and waiting for something to happen. He refused to give up the possibility that someone was looking for them. He would understand if most of the attention was focused on looking for survivors around Vulcan, or at least around where it used to be, but surely there was one ship to spare to look for them.

No matter what, they would make it back to the Federation. Jim had everyone who worked helm, navigation, or anything related to astrometrics or stellar cartography for this area trying to figure out where the best destination would be for them to try to reach. The goal was to get to Earth of course, but if no one found them they might need to stop where they could.

But for now, they were drifting toward Earth and there was no one looking for them that they knew of. Jim figured that he might have to mark this as the seventh shift spent with him staring out the viewscreen waiting for something to happen but expecting nothing.

“Captain.” Uhura’s voice pulled him out of his thoughts; there was a note of urgency there that had him spinning around to face her. She was listening intently to her earpiece.

“What is it?” He was squeezing the armrests of the captain’s chair in nervousness, hoping he didn't bump any buttons.

She stopped listening long enough to look him in the eye. “We’re being hailed.”

Chapter Text

Jim jumped out of the chair, filled with a mix of nerves or excitement. Since they’d fired just about everything at the Narada and blown their warp core getting out of the black hole, they’d be sitting ducks if an enemy ship came by. But if it was someone friendly this could be the best news they’d get all day. A quick glance at the viewscreen revealed no ships in visual range. “Who is it?”

Uhura listened a moment longer; when she spoke there was a little bit of excitement and a lot of relief. “It’s a Starfleet vessel. The USS Defiant says they have received our distress call and are asking for our current coordinates.”

Jim felt his shoulders slump in relief a little and leaned slightly against the railing dividing the workstations along the raised perimeter of the bridge from the lower central section. “That’s great news.” He turned to the center of the bridge, not surprised to find all eyes on him. “Sulu, do a full stop. It’ll be easier for them to meet up with us if we’re stationary. Chekov, send Uhura our current coordinates.” He looked back at Uhura. “Once you get them, send them to the Defiant.” He looked around the bridge; people were beginning to look excited. “Once we get confirmation that they’re coming, everyone reach out to your departments and let them know. Someone should comm engineering once we know for sure; they’ll need to get ready.” He looked back at Uhura. “Give us updates when you hear more.”

She nodded and Jim went back to the captain’s chair and hopped onto the seat. There was a definite thrum of energy on the bridge now. People were excited. Hell, Jim was excited. They were gonna make it out of this ok after all. For some reason the ship name Defiant rang a bell, but Jim couldn’t put his finger on why. Maybe they’d been talking about a ship with that name in one of his classes before everything happened?

It probably wasn’t important. What was important was that now they’d be back at Earth before any real emergencies could break out. Whether the Defiant had something that would fix their ship or if they’d just be able to tow the Enterprise back to safety, it looked like things were finally starting to go their way.

After a moment the Defiant dropped out of warp in front of them. It felt surprisingly good to see another Starfleet ship, especially one that was whole rather than in pieces.

“They’re hailing us again.” Uhura looked toward the center of the bridge. “This time with visual, not just audio.”

“Put them on the viewscreen.” Jim nodded at her as she hit a few buttons before looking forward again just in time to see the bridge of the other ship fill the viewscreen.

“This is Captain Nicole Davison of the USS Defiant. We’ve received your distress call and are here to help you.” The captain’s face shifted to confusion after a moment. “Who are you? What happened to Pike?”

Jim hopped out of the captain’s chair, feeling a bit nervous at having to explain everything. “I’m acting captain James T. Kirk. It’s a bit of a long story as to how I ended up in command. Pike was seriously injured by the same people who destroyed Vulcan, but he’s recovering in Sickbay now.”

“You fought the people who destroyed Vulcan?” Captain Davison looked interested now. “I’d heard reports from Earth that the Enterprise and another ship were the ones fighting the enemy ship when it attacked Earth, but what happened to the other ships?”

“Both the enemy ship and the one helping us got consumed by an artificial black hole.” Jim wondered if this story would even sound believable to people who weren't there. "It was pretty dramatic."

“I look forward to reading the reports about it.” Captain Davison looked impressed before shifting back to business. “So your distress call said that your warp core was gone. What exactly happened?”

“We had to jettison the warp core and explode it to create a shock wave that would push us out of the gravity well of the black hole.” Jim sat back against the captain’s chair. “Like I said, it’s a long story. I’m sure the reports will be interesting to read.”

“I’ll bet.” Captain Davison smiled. “We’re sending over our chief engineer and some other crewmembers to assess the damage. I can’t promise that we’ll have the necessary supplies to get you fully functioning again, but we’ll see what we can do. Anything else you might need?”

“I’ll check in with the various departments and get back to you.” Jim thought over any immediate needs. “Our sickbay did get hit in the early attacks and we have a lot of wounded, so maybe medical personnel and supplies. I’ll get back to you when I know for sure what else we need.”

“Understood. We’ll send over the engineering team first and you can let us know what you need from there.” The captain nodded. “Davison out.”

As the viewscreen switched back to stars and the other ship, Jim looked around the bridge. “Alright everyone, each department should go over what they need that the other ship could feasibly provide and then report to me with the results. I’ll relay that list to the Defiant.” He looked around, making sure that the crew seemed to be complying, before getting up from the captain’s chair. “I’m going to meet the engineering team as they transport over.”

“I will accompany you.” Spock stood from his station.

Jim raised an eyebrow. “I’m not objecting, but as chief science officer don’t you need to check in with your department?”

“I have already alerted them and they are performing internal checks now.” Spock stood by his station, hands behind his back.

“Alright then.” Jim shrugged and started to walk over to the turbolift. “You’re free to accompany me if you want.”

“I shall.” Spock joined him and they entered the turbolift together.

As the turbolift began to move Jim realized he didn’t know which transporter room they were supposed to be going to. He looked over at Spock. “Is there protocol for which transporter room they’re supposed to beam into? I just realized I’m not sure which one we should go to.”

“There is not official protocol, but usual practice dictates that they will transport to the primary transporters.” Spock entered the proper deck number.

“Thanks.” Jim glanced back at Spock. “This is why you’re such a great first officer. You know all the stuff I don’t.” Jim meant it as a joke, but as soon as he finished saying it he realized that he didn’t know how this Spock would react to it. He got the feeling that Older Spock had a sense of humor somewhere in there, but what about this Spock?

Before he could get a response, the turbolift doors opened and they started walking to the transporter room. Spock fell in step behind him and didn’t say anything; Jim didn’t know how he was supposed to take it.

They got to the transporter room just in time to see the engineering team from the Defiant materialize. As they solidified Jim realized why the ship’s name had sounded so familiar.

There was a very familiar face on that transporter padd.

Chapter Text

Jim attempted to stay professional. Just because the unchanging face he’d known for his whole life, and the woman it was attached to obviously, was here didn’t mean he had to make this weird. True, he and his mother had never met in an official setting yet, even though she’d been active the whole time he was at the academy. But there was a first time for everything, and that first time was now. He decided to keep it completely professional. “Commander Kirk.”

She grinned at him, obviously excited. “Captain Kirk.”

He sensed a bit of confusion building in the transporter room, so Jim decided to let it all out into the open. “Before anyone asks, this is my mother.” He looked over at Spock, suddenly feeling awkward about having his mom there when Spock had just lost his but deciding to go for it anyway. “Ma, this is my first officer, Commander Spock.”

“Nice to meet you.” Winona nodded at him. “I’ve heard a lot of good things. Glad that Jimmy’s got good backup here. Gotta have someone to keep him out of trouble.”

“Oh god.” Jim ran a hand down his face as Spock raised an eyebrow. After a moment Jim dropped his hand back to his side and looked back at his mom, attempting to reestablish a professional atmosphere. “What kind of team did you bring over?”

“Mostly engineering.” She gestured to some of the people behind her. “A couple of medical people.” Winona looked back at him. “We’ve got others standing by depending on what you need over here. Just let Davison know and she’ll send whoever you need.”

“Tell her thanks for us.” Jim smiled, genuinely grateful for the help. “Or I guess I can tell her when I pass along what we need.”

“Eh, it’s no big deal.” Winona stepped off of the transporter pad and the others followed. “The Enterprise did save Earth, which makes people pretty willing to lend a hand.”

“That was mostly Spock here.” Jim nodded at his first officer. “He was the one who got the black hole device away from Nero and destroyed the drill.”

Winona looked impressed. “Good job, commander.”

“Captain Kirk is being modest.” Spock stood with his hands behind his back. “I was merely following his plan.”

“I’m sure there will be enough credit to go around.” Jim looked over at Spock, unsure if Spock was being modest or if Spock was trying to make Jim look good in front of his mom. Probably the first one. Jim looked back at his mom and the crew from the Defiant. “Without the amazing crew on this ship we never would have been able to stop Nero. And speaking of that amazing crew, they’re probably ready for some reinforcements.” He looked over the assembled people for a moment before turning back to his first officer. “Spock, you take the medical people to Sickbay . I’ll take everyone else to Engineering.” Jim looked around a moment longer but everyone seemed to be in agreement. “Alright then, let’s go.”

They walked out of the transporter room and went their separate ways. Jim could tell that his mom wanted to talk to him, but one of the other engineers asked about the current situation and Jim started explaining before she could say anything. Pretty quickly she got drawn into the engineering talk too, and before they knew it they were in Engineering and meeting up with Scotty.

----------

It wasn’t long before someone who definitely wasn’t supposed to be there showed up. Jim got drawn out of the conversation he was having about increasing the energy efficiency of the various ship systems when a blue shirt caught his attention. He left the engineer he was talking to and walked over to the door. “Bones? What are you doing here?”

His friend looked far calmer than he should but also a little smug; something was definitely up. “There’s some new people in Sickbay double checking my work so I had some time. They were saying some real interesting things about getting to meet Commander Kirk’s kid. They said she was always bragging about her kid Jimmy and how they were so excited to meet him.” Bones’ grin was almost unbearably smug now. “I knew I just had to check this out. I wanted to meet this mom that you haven’t told me much about but that apparently brags about you.”

Jim ran a hand down his face again; this was quickly getting out of control. He was gonna have to talk to his mom.

“I’m only gonna have more to brag about now that my kid’s a captain.” Suddenly who should appear but the woman herself.

Jim whirled around to face his mom. “Ma, have you really been telling everyone about me?”

“Of course.” She grinned at him. “It’s part of what parents do, Jimmy.”

“She really does call you Jimmy?” Bones was enjoying this way too much. “And you call her Ma? That’s surprisingly cute.”

“Honestly, I think it started as a joke when I was younger and we just got into the habit.” Jim looked over at Winona, who just nodded and shrugged a bit. “You know how those kinds of things are, right?”

“Of course.” Bones nodded mock seriously. “I’m pretty sure that’s how I ended up friends with you.”

“Really Bones?” Jim raised his eyebrows at his friend.

“I also think that’s how I ended up with this nickname. Do you even know my real name anymore?” Bones looked at him with fake annoyance.

“Of course.” Jim smirked at him. “It was Leopold, right?”

Before Bones could respond, Winona cut in. “Hey Jimmy, aren’t you gonna introduce me to your friend?”

“I would,” Jim grinned at Bones, “but apparently I might not get his name right.”

Bones rolled his eyes. “Dr. Leonard McCoy, currently CMO of this ship and that brat’s roommate back at the academy.” He held out his hand for her to shake.

She took his hand and shook it. “Commander Winona Kirk. Chief Engineer of the Defiant and that one’s mother.” She let go of his hand and crossed her arms. “Are you the one who’s been keeping him alive all this time?”

“Probably.” Bones shrugged and crossed his arms. “God knows he’s nearly gotten himself killed enough times.”

“Yeah.” Winona nodded. “Despite what you might guess, I think he gets that from me, not George. He always was the more responsible one.”

“Really?” Bones eyebrow went up. “Jim never talks about his dad, so I wouldn’t know.”

“Jimmy never really met him, so that’s probably not surprising.” Some emotion crossed her face too quick for Jim to catch and then she shifted and uncrossed her arms. “But I’m sure you’ve already heard that story enough, if not from Jimmy. It’s also the reason why I haven’t aged since the day he was born, even though I’ve had some experiences since then.”

Bones nodded. “If I hadn’t known I’d have almost guessed sister, not mother.”

“Alright.” It was weird enough when they were talking about him like he wasn’t there, but now Jim was feeling like it was time to cut this off before they started getting too close. “Don’t you both have stuff to do?”

They both gave him unimpressed looks. Bones lifted an eyebrow. “Don’t you?”

“I think we all do.” Jim looked between them. “So I’ll let you tend to engines and patients respectively; I’m gonna go see what each department says they need.” He paused and looked over at Bones. “Shouldn’t you be making one of those reports?”

Bones rolled his eyes again. “I already did it, Captain. It’ll be waiting for you when you check.”

Jim nodded, eyeing the two of them warily. “Alright then. Don’t forget that I can technically order you both back to work.”

This time it was Winona who looked more unimpressed. “One week and he’s already threatening to abuse his power.” She shook her head in mock sadness. “C’mon Jimmy, do better.”

“Shut up, Ma.” Jim shook his head. “I’m going back to the bridge.” He turned and walked away, listening to them laughing behind him. For some reason he felt like he was going to regret them meeting.

Chapter Text

Jim got handed a padd as soon as he got to the bridge. With a quick nod of thanks to the yeoman who handed it over, Jim began to look through it. “Are these the things the departments need?”

“Yes sir.” The yeoman nodded.

“Alright.” Jim looked up at the yeoman again. “Thanks. I was just about to ask for these.”

“Anything else you need?” They stood there at attention; Jim wondered how often this yeoman got to the bridge.

“Nah that’ll be all. You’re good to go.” They walked away and Jim walked to the captain’s chair and settled down onto it. He was really gonna miss this chair. It was the best one on the bridge, both in terms of comfort and connotation. Some people seemed to think he’d get to keep it, apparently his mom included by the way she was talking about it, but Jim decided that he wasn’t going to expect too much. That way he either wouldn’t be let down or he’d be pleasantly surprised.

Jim looked over the list, trying to decide if he should forward it all over or go through and approve and reject things. The Defiant showing up would mean that they would probably get to Earth a lot sooner, which would mean that it wouldn’t make sense for them to start any long-term experiments or projects anymore. They’d be fine just getting the essentials, but how was Jim supposed to define what was essential? He wanted to be the kind of captain that kept his crew happy, and that generally meant more than just the bare necessities.

But wouldn’t the department heads have already filtered the requests some? There had probably already been some things that got denied, and should Jim really deny even more? But he couldn’t ask for too much from the Defiant either. He doubted that they just had a ton of extra supplies and people sitting around. According to what his mom and Davison had said, all of the other ships been doing their own missions prior to getting recalled to search for survivors around Vulcan. The Defiant had had a quick stop at Earth to request permission to look for the Enterprise after spending some time picking up survivors, but restocking probably hadn’t been the main focus.

So Jim shouldn’t ask them for too much. But he didn’t want to deny his crew too much either, especially since these lists had probably already been pared down some.

Jim looked around the bridge. Maybe this was the kind of thing he could ask for input on? But it seemed like most people he could ask would want more for their departments than for other departments. There was too much potential for bias. Unless…

He turned his chair a bit to look at Spock. Sure, Spock was the Chief Science Officer, but Vulcans were supposed to be immune from bias or something, right? It seemed like the sort of emotional thing that they’d try to eliminate. Plus, Spock was first officer, so he’d probably put the general good of the ship before his own department, right? It could probably work.

Jim got up from his chair and walked over to lean against the rail between the center section of the bridge and outer section. “Spock.”

Spock turned around but did not get up from his chair. “Yes captain?”

“Will you go over these requests with me before I send them over to Captain Davison?” They’d made eye contact again and Jim found he didn’t want to break it. “I know the shift’s almost over, but could we meet up afterward. Would that work for you?”

There was a moment where Spock seemed to be mentally checking his schedule before his focus turned back to Jim. “I will be available. Where should we meet?”

“Just come to my quarters.” Jim pushed off the railing and stood upright. “Maybe around 2200 hours?” That would give them an hour after their shift to do whatever they needed to do before meeting up; Jim figured that was probably good.

Spock nodded. “That is acceptable.”

“Great.” Jim stood there for a moment longer; he and Spock had made eye contact again. “I’ll see you then.” He finally broke eye contact and went back to the captain’s chair.

For the last hour or so of the shift Jim looked over the requests more thoroughly. The major question was how much of this stuff needed to be gotten right away and how much could wait til later; the ship would definitely be getting repaired and restocked once they got to Earth, so surely some of this could wait til then? And of course the crew would be off the ship then so not everything they asked for was necessary right away, right?

Jim sighed and set down the padd. This was one of those things where he’d ask Spock or even go to Pike; it would be helpful to talk to someone who had real experience in the field. The two of them had been a major help over the past week as Jim had taken on more of the day-to-day duties of being captain rather than just being in command during an emergency situation. The whole crew was helpful really; most of them were able to just do their thing without much administrative interference or managing. Jim really wanted a crew like this if or when he became captain.

He almost didn’t notice when his Beta shift replacement came up to relieve him; Jim had been zoning out a little bit while he was mentally going over everything and staring out the viewscreen. But still, Jim was glad to get to go back to his quarters, even if it would be right back to ship’s business once Spock came over.

But for now he could grab some food from the replicator in his quarters to skip the mess hall and just chill and eat, maybe comming Engineering and Sickbay for updates on how the people from the Defiant were helping out. He started mentally planning his night as he walked to his quarters.

When he got to his quarters, Jim was surprised that the lights were already on. He didn’t remember leaving them on this morning, so that was odd.

“Hey Jimmy.” Jim jumped and turned to see his mom sitting at his desk . “Don’t freak out, it’s only me.”

“Ma?” Jim felt himself relax a little bit since it was just her. “How’d you get in here?”

“I have ways.” She smirked.

Jim raised an eyebrow. “Not gonna tell me?”

Her expression went serious. “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.” Winona kept the serious look for a second before breaking into a smile. “I probably wouldn’t have to kill you, but I’m still not gonna tell you.” She got up and walked around to lean against the desk.

“I’m gonna find out how you do all of this someday.” Jim crossed his arms.

“You probably will.” Winona shrugged. “But today is not that day.”

“Whatever.” He went over to the replicator and started putting in a dinner order. “Want anything?”

“Nah, I’m gonna be heading back to my ship soon. I’ll eat over there.” She turned and looked at him as he sat down to eat.

“So how have things been in engineering?” Jim started eating, looking up at where she was now standing with her arms crossed.

Winona shrugged. “They’re progressing. Today was mostly assessing damage. We’ll talk over options tomorrow after meeting with Davison, but it seems like the best option will be just towing you back to Earth.”

“Good to know.” Jim nodded and kept eating. “You sure you don’t want anything?”

“I’m good.” After a moment she settled into the chair across from him with a sort of false casualness that had Jim a little on edge. “So when were you going to tell me?”

“Tell you what?” Jim mentally ran through everything that’d gone down since they’d last seen each other. It seemed like she’d gotten excited about the captain thing, but it’s not like he’d had the ability to send her a message about that. “The captain thing? You found out about as early as anyone not on the ship.”

“Not that.” Winona gave a dismissive wave of her hand and looked him in the eye. “You started aging.”

Chapter Text

Jim nearly choked on the bite of food he had. He washed it down with some water and looked at his mom incredulously; no one had figured out he was aging yet. “How’d you know?”

“Something seemed different, and it wasn’t just your sudden promotion.” She shrugged. “I may have guided the conversation with your doctor friend a little bit. He didn’t say anything too revealing because I don’t think he knows for sure and because he knows you don’t like your private business shared, but he did mention being concerned over some odd readings. So I put together odd medical readings with you seeming different and I had a theory. I wasn’t certain until you confirmed it just now.”

“Hmm.” Jim chewed a moment. “I think those deductive skills of yours are wasted in Engineering.”

An odd look crossed Winona's face for a moment before she smirked again. “My skills are used well enough.” She held the smirk a moment longer before looking back at Jim. “But we’re not talking about me. Who do you think it is?”

“Are we really doing this?” Jim leaned back from the table a bit.

“What can I say?” She leaned back as well. “I’m interested. Plus, this seems like the kinda thing you’re supposed to tell your family about. I’m pretty sure that’s a thing normal families do.”

Jim snorted. “We’re not exactly a normal family, Ma.”

“True.” Winona tilted her head in consideration for a moment. “But although we don’t always tell each other everything, we don’t bullshit each other when asked. Plus, I’d tell you if I ever met someone, but the only time I did was before you were born, and he’s a little too dead to tell you about now.”

“I know.” Jim sighed. “We’re honest with each other, and I appreciate it. But maybe I’m not sure yet, ok? Most people don’t figure it out for a while and it’s only been like a week for me.”

“You know how long it’s been even though you don’t have the medical confirmation?” She leaned forward. “You must have someone you think it is then. I bet you’re basing it on when you met someone because you suspect that person is your soulmate.”

“Seriously, were you a little too into Sherlock Holmes stories at some point or something?” Jim looked at her with a raised eyebrow before looking away. “I do have a theory, but I’m not sure.”

“Can you tell me?” Winona rested her elbows on the desk and leaned forward. “I promise I won’t tell anyone.”

Jim sighed. He really didn’t want word getting out, but he did trust his mom… “I think it’s Spock.”

She leaned back a little in surprise, but not far back enough that her elbows left the desk. “The Vulcan?”

“Technically he’s only half, but yeah.” Jim ran a hand through his hair. “When we first met and made eye contact, I felt…something. But it might have just been nerves cuz this was at an academic hearing and everyone knows it’s hard to argue with Vulcans.”

“Hmm.” Winona leaned back in. “Any indication on his end?”

“Not yet, but he just lost his planet and his mom, so he’s bit distracted I bet. Plus, with him being half Vulcan, I don’t even know for sure if he’s affected the same way.” Jim picked up his now empty plate and put it in the recycler. He sat back down and rested his forearms on the desk. He was a little unsure about this next question, but decided to ask anyway. “How’d you know with dad?”

Winona got quiet for a minute and leaned back, crossing her arms again. She looked down and away from him. “It’s been a long time. I don’t know if I can remember every detail.”

It was moments like this that Jim remembered that his mom was actually a good amount older than the 26 or so that she looked. She was closer to twice that. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

“It’s ok.” She met his eyes again and smiled weakly before looking away once more. “I’d barely stopped aging before I met him; we were both still at the Academy when it happened, although he was two years ahead of me. He was command track, but he was taking some engineering classes so he’d be better able to understand what was happening on whatever ship he ended up on. He was in one of my second-year engineering courses and apparently was struggling with it, so he asked me for help.” She looked at Jim and he was struck by the amount of bittersweet sadness he saw in her eyes as she smiled. “He did just fine when I was helping him, which I always thought meant that he just made not getting things up as an excuse to talk to me. He denied that and said that my help was just that good.” Winona cleared her throat. “Got anything to drink around here?”

Jim shook his head, not wanting to break the solemn mood that had settled over the room. “Not unless it’s replicated.”

“Ok then.” Winona nodded. “I’ll pass; the replicated stuff never has the right effect.” She looked away again, her eyes zoning out a bit as she remembered. “There had definitely been attraction between us from the start; he was a good-looking guy and a real sweetheart to boot. When we found out we’d started aging at the same time we were both so excited he practically proposed right then and there. We ended up waiting to get hitched until after I graduated, and then along came Sam not long after that. Once he was past the constant care stage we decided to try again, and I got pregnant with you. But then…” She took a deep breath and let it out before looking Jim in the eyes again. “Everyone knows the story from there. The heroic George Kirk sacrificing himself, tragically spending his last moments talking to his soon-to-be widow and their newborn son.”

“Yeah.” Jim looked down at the desk, unable to meet her eyes. Silence fell over the room.

After what felt like a long time but was probably no more than a minute or two Jim felt her reach out and squeeze his hand where it rested on the desk. He met her eyes, which still looked a little sad. “I’m sorry I always avoided talking about him when you were younger. You deserve to know about your dad. But losing your soulmate…” She took a deep breath and looked away before making eye contact with him again. “It affects you more than you may expect.”

“I would like to know more about him.” Jim looked down to where her hand rested over his. “Everyone always tells me how I owe him so much, but I never really knew him. Yeah, he technically saved my life, but it wasn’t like that was just for me. He was saving everyone from the Kelvin.”

“That’s not the only thing he did for you.” Winona waited for Jim to look up at her before continuing. “Putting aside the fact that I can’t self-conceive and how he contributed there, including giving you those beautiful eyes of yours, there’s one other major thing I could say he did for you; something that not everyone knows.”

“Yeah?” Jim leaned forward; suddenly interested. He'd barely heard any stories about his dad, and it wasn't like the two of them had ever really met. How could he have had a major effect on Jim's life without Jim knowing? “What did he do?”

Chapter Text

Winona leaned forward like she was about to share an incredible secret. She kept her face perfectly serious. “Without his input, you would have been stuck with the name Tiberius. As a first name.”

“Really?” Jim leaned back and ran a hand down his face to hide the fact that he was almost laughing at the mood change from totally somber to slightly absurd. When he pulled his hand away he saw that Winona was smiling too, but the sadness hadn’t fully left her eyes. “Why?”

“Well, I was a little distracted by soulmate and husband’s imminent death which would leave me with a newborn, a small child, a Starfleet career, and zero help, plus you were early so we hadn’t really talked names yet. Also you know, giving birth on a shuttle escaping from a ship under attack is a little distracting, especially when you're alone for it.” Despite what Winona said there was a certain lightness or humor in her tone suggesting that she was feeling better. “We’d named our last kid after him, so I figured we may as well just keep going up the family tree.”

“Wow.” Jim laughed and shook his head. “He really was the practical one of you two, huh?”

“You bet.” Winona smiled. “Smart enough to know that even though humans have worked out most of our issues by this point, Tiberius was still a terrible name to stick a kid with. Good thing my dad has a normal name, otherwise we would have been totally screwed since apparently naming children is not an area where a time crunch causes creativity.”

“Oh god.” Jim laughed again despite himself. “I guess I’ll have to thank him for that.”

“Yeah.” Winona smiled, but there was something wistful about it. “I really do wish you two could have met. I mean, he was on the comms for a couple minutes after you popped out, and he always did enjoy talking to my baby bump when you and Sam were in there, but I sometimes wonder what it would have been like if he’d been around to help with you boys.”

Jim’s mind wandered back to the flashes he’d gotten of that other Kirk’s life that Older Spock had shown him. That Jim had had his father well into adulthood. But he’d still ended up on the Enterprise with the same people. Jim had at least gotten a taste of the captaincy the other him had enjoyed for so long. He looked back at his mom. “I don’t know, Ma. I feel like things would work out either way. While I can’t say I had the best childhood and definitely could have gone without Frank, I know you did what you could.”

At the mention of her ex-husband Winona’s expression darkened and Jim wondered if there was a reason no one had heard from him since they split. But then her expression softened. “Thanks Jimmy. It really does mean a lot to hear you say that, and I’d like to think we both know that if I could go back and never marry that bastard I would in a heartbeat.”

“I know.” Jim smiled a bit at her. “But you can’t change the past.” Except this whole damn thing was the result of Nero changing the past. Should he tell her that? It felt like she deserved to know at least part of the story. “It was the same ship that attacked the Kelvin, you know.”

“What?” Winona looked confused at the sudden topic change.

“The Narada. Nero’s ship. The one that destroyed Vulcan was the same one that attacked the Kelvin all those years ago.” Jim watched understanding dawn across her face.

“Well then.” Winona got a certain glint in her eyes that was similar to when she was talking about Frank. “I almost wish I had been the one to do the honors, but I’m glad that bastard’s been wiped out of existence.” She nodded at him. “Good job.”

It felt a little odd that she was congratulating him for this, but Jim understood in a way. “He knew about it too. I fought him, and he mentioned knowing that who I was and that he’d killed my dad.”

Winona’s eyebrows went up. “You fought him? Like one on one?”

“Yeah.” Jim ran a hand through his hair and glanced at the chronometer; Spock would be arriving soon. “It’s a long story and I don’t know if we’ll have time now, but I did. Between that, the destruction of Vulcan, all the other people he killed, and his definite intention to attack more planets, I don’t feel all that bad that we destroyed him.”

“If you’re looking for someone to tell you it was wrong, you’d be looking in the wrong place here.” Winona shrugged and crossed her arms again. “He did a lot of bad things and killed a whole lot of people. Plus, when someone kills your soulmate you don’t exactly wish for mercy for them.” There was that dark flash across her expression again but then she grinned. “Also, you fought a Romulan one on one. I don’t know whether to be concerned because my kid is being reckless or be proud because that proves that you’re definitely my kid.”

Jim laughed. “If Bones knew how reckless you are I bet he’d stop liking you so much.”

“Nah.” Winona grinned. “If he can put up with you, he can probably deal with me. We just can’t both be reckless all at once, because that would probably overwhelm the poor man.”

“Yeah.” Jim grinned back at her. “Can’t do that, we’ll need someone to patch us up after whatever we get up to.”

Winona raised an eyebrow. “Are we plotting something?”

Jim shrugged. “Drifting through space gets a little boring sometimes. I wouldn’t be opposed.”

“Jimmy.” She looked at him seriously. “You’re captain, you can’t just do random reckless things on the ship.” Her expression shifted and she grinned again. “That’s what shore leave is for. One time I got your dad to-"

“Do I want to hear the end of this story?” Jim was pretty sure he didn't; he knew what most couples got up to on shore leave.

Winona shrugged. “You wanted to hear more stories of your dad.”

“Not that kind of story.” Jim scrunched up his face.

Winona laughed again before looking back at him. “I don’t know, couples shore leave can be pretty incredible. You’ll find that out when Spock comes around.”

Jim looked down at his hands. “It’s really more of an if than a when. He’s seeing someone now, plus there’s the whole Vulcan thing. I might think he’s my soulmate, but I might not be his.”

“Hey.” Winona put her hand on his shoulder and waited for him to look up. “It could still work out. There have been cases of people whose soulmates weren’t human. I actually knew a woman whose soulmate was a Vulcan.” She gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “If it worked out for her, it can work out for you.”

“You met someone with a Vulcan soulmate?” Jim was surprised he’d never heard about this; unusual soulmate pairs typically got a lot of attention.

“Yeah.” Winona sat back and rubbed a hand against her cheek as she thought. “It must have been close to twenty years ago now. If I remember right she and the Vulcan were married and even had a kid, which is why it stuck out to me. I think her name was Amanda.”

“Huh.” Pieces were starting to come together for Jim. There couldn’t be too many Vulcan-Human couples out there, let alone ones with kids. Was it possible…? “How did you meet this woman again?”

Winona took a second to think. “Her husband was a Vulcan ambassador and the ship I was on was transporting them to some diplomatic thing.” She looked at Jim seriously. “By the way, that kind of thing will be one of the more boring things Starfleet makes you do. Unless you stumble across a political plot or have to stop an assassination you’re basically being a glorified taxi service.” Something else crossed her face. “Why are you so curious about this anyway?”

Jim deliberated about telling her for a moment before deciding to do it. “Because you may have met Spock’s parents. His dad’s a Vulcan ambassador and his mom was human, and I bet there aren’t too many couples like that out there.”

“Huh.” Winona zoned out for a moment, seeming to think about it. “It’s a little odd, but it could be. They had a kid when I met them, so I bet the ages would work out.” She looked back at Jim. “It really is a small galaxy I guess.”

“Seriously.” Jim nodded. Before he could say anymore the door chimed. A quick glance at the time told him it was probably Spock. “Come in.”

Chapter Text

The door opened and Spock stepped inside, stopping when he saw Winona. “Hello Captain.” He nodded at Winona. “Commander Kirk.”

Winona nodded back at him but didn’t bother getting up from where she’d turned around in her chair. “Commander.”

“Ma and I were just catching up some.” Jim looked between the two of them, not sure if he liked how his mom was looking over Spock now. She wouldn’t tell him about the soulmate thing, would she?

“Jimmy and I just realized that I may have met your mom before.” Winona was still looking at Spock carefully. “Was her name Amanda?”

Spock shifted slightly and moved his hands from at his side to behind her back. “It was.”

“Then it probably was her.” Winona nodded. “Not many human women married to Vulcan ambassadors with children, right?”

Spock was now looking down, away from Winona and Jim. “Indeed.”

“She was a great woman. I didn’t know her long, but we still spent some time together on the ship while your dad was busy prepping for whatever diplomatic thing we were headed to. I gotta say, I’m not easy to impress but by the end of her time on the ship I’d decided that she might’ve just been one of the best people I’d ever met. One of the smartest and sweetest for sure. Also, even though you weren’t with them at the time, she talked about you a lot. You would have been young then, but it was easy to tell how much she cared about you and was proud of you.” Winona got quiet a moment, still looking carefully at Spock, but in a way that was softer somehow. “You have her eyes.”

Spock’s shoulders stiffened slightly and he continued avoiding eye contact. “Thank you.”

Jim decided that he didn’t like how uncomfortable Spock looked. “Alright Ma, it’s been great catching up but Spock and I should probably get to work. Ship’s business and all that.”

Winona looked back at him with a raised eyebrow. “A captain’s work is never done, huh?”

“Yeah.” Jim nodded and smiled a bit. “It’s a lot less glamorous than they make it sound in their recruitment stuff, or even at the Academy.”

“And that’s why you should never buy into ads.” Winona smirked and stood up. “It’s a good thing you’ve got a first officer to help you out, huh?”

“Yep.” Jim glanced over at Spock, who was watching him now and seemed to be recovering from the emotional moment before.

“Good.” Winona looked between the two of them with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. Jim really wasn’t sure if he wanted to know where she was going with this. “So Spock, you’re going to help my kid out when he needs it?”

Spock raised an eyebrow but nodded. “Yes; it is within the duties of the first officer to assist the captain in the running of the ship.”

She nodded approvingly. “And you’ll look out for him for me?”

“Yes.” Spock sounded as if he was uncertain where she was going with this.

Jim was a little more certain where she was going with this. “Ma.”

Winona glanced back at him with a smirk. “It’s ok Jimmy, I just want to make sure my kid has a good first officer. I want you to be in good hands.” She schooled her expression before turning back to Spock. “As long as you respect him and treat him right, we shouldn’t have a problem.”

“Ma.” Jim glanced over at Spock, who still seemed slightly confused, before looking back at his mom, who looked a little smug. “There’s no need to interrogate him; this whole thing’s probably gonna end as soon as we get to Earth anyway. At that point I won’t be captain so I won’t need a first officer.”

“Hey.” Winona’s expression was more serious now. “Don’t be so pessimistic. You did well; they could still let you keep command of the ship. I know people who've been captains for years who wouldn't have been able to handle a situation like this. And even if you don’t get command now, I think it’s good to start thinking ahead because I doubt they’ll hold you back for long. Whether it’s tomorrow or someday in the future, probably soon, you’re gonna get your own ship. I know it.” She smiled at him, pride returning to her expression.

“I concur.” Both of them looked at Spock, who was still standing with his hands behind his back but looked less stiff now. “You have sufficiently proven yourself during this incident. It is quite likely that Starfleet will grant you a captaincy in the immediate future.”

“Thanks Spock.” Jim smiled and hoped he wasn’t blushing. “That means a lot.”

Winona looked between the two of them again. “Anyway, I should let you two get to work.” She looked at Jim. “But I gotta say, I approve and think you two are a good match.” She waited long enough that Jim almost got nervous. “As captain and first officer, it’s important to balance each other out but also support and trust each other. I know it’s only been a week or so but I think you two have that down, or at least are well on your way to developing that dynamic.” She nodded approvingly. “I’ll head out now. See ya later Jimmy.” She waved at him and then nodded at Spock as she walked past. “Commander.”

Spock nodded at her to return the acknowledgement and watched her leave. Once she was gone he looked back at Jim. “Your mother is…interesting.”

“Yeah.” Jim nodded. “She just wants what’s best for me I think. Anyway, should we get to reviewing the request lists?”

“Affirmative.” Spock strode forward and sat in the seat Winona had just vacated.

Before they could begin the door chimed again. Jim was a bit confused because he wasn’t expecting anyone, but decided to let them in anyway. “Come in.”

It was Winona again. “One last thing.”

“What is it?” Jim glanced at her as he looked over his desk for the padd with the lists.

“As we were looking for survivors around Vulcan with the other ships, we began to make lists of the people we’d found and the ship leading the efforts combined it into one list. If you want, we could ask for updates over subspace and then compile what we have and send it over; I understand you have some survivors on this ship and I bet they’d like look the list over.” She looked at Spock as she spoke but then turned back at Jim. “Should I ask Davison to do it?”

Jim glanced at Spock, whose expression was a little… overcontrolled once more. He looked back at his mom. “Yeah, that’d be great. Even just send over what you have.”

“Alright.” Winona nodded. “I’ll tell Davison. Should she expect your supply requests soon as well?”

“Yeah.” Jim glanced down at the list on his padd. “That’s what Spock and I are working on; it should be ready to go soon. “

“Good.” Winona nodded again. “I’ll let you get to work then.”

“Ok.” Jim waved at her. “Bye Ma.”

“Bye!” She waved back and left.

Jim watched the door close behind her before turning back to Spock. “So. Supply requests?”

“Yes.” Spock leaned forward in order to see the padd. “What must we do?”

“It’s really a question of just what to approve or not.” With that Jim launched into his earlier thoughts about approvals and denials, content to focus on business and not think about whatever his mom may have been getting up to with her questions to Spock earlier.

Chapter Text

After under a half hour of discussion, Kirk and he had finalized the request lists to send to Captain Davison. Spock had found his opinion of Kirk continuing to rise. The arguments he raised for and against various items on the supply list were logical, even if many of his arguments were based largely in concerns about the emotional states of the crew. Still, Spock could admit that when dealing with humans, emotional considerations were important. Emotions were central to how humans lived their lives, so it was logical to maintain crew morale in order to maintain peak efficiency on the ship.

As he returned to his quarters, Spock did not feel that he was operating at peak efficiency. His emotions were threatening his control once more. The encounter with Commander Kirk had been detrimental to his emotional stability.

Spock had been avoiding thoughts of his mother for the past week. He had been concentrating on ship’s business instead, and that had allowed him to successfully maintain control of himself and his emotions.

It seemed that Kirks had a unique ability to challenge him. True, Commander Kirk had not affected him quite so strongly as her son had, but the woman had still provided a challenge to his control. Thankfully the captain seemed to have noticed his distress and changed the topic. Spock was unsure if he should respond with embarrassment or relief to Kirk’s attention to his emotional state. Spock did not like having visibly observable emotions, and yet Kirk seemed especially adept at reading Spock’s emotions, to a degree that nearly challenged Nyota, who had more knowledge of him. The only human who could understand Spock’s emotions better was his mother, who shared a psychic link with him.

Or perhaps had shared. Spock had not tried lowering his mental shields since the night they defeated Nero, but he was sure that he would find a psychic wound where the connection to his mother had been. Spock had not attempted to ask his father or the other Vulcans onboard if they had tried lowering their shields yet. He knew that some of the Elders, despite their stronger control, had had to visit Sickbay for the pain when they had attempted to lower their mental shields. The pain must have been immense for them to actually consider seeking help from the ship’s medical professionals rather than simply attempting to control the pain themselves.

However, most of the Elders had many strong family bonds that would have been suddenly severed. They would have family bonds with parents and siblings, should they have been living prior to the destruction, the connections to their bondmates, connections to their children, and possibly other weaker bonds to more distant relatives or descendants, in addition to their connection to the collective Vulcan psyche.

Spock had few strong bonds. He had the weak bonds toward extended family that did not register often due to their weakness, as well as the connection to the collective Vulcan psyche that all Vulcans had but rarely felt unless there was some form of emergency. Then there was the connection to his father, which was strong because of their respective telepathic abilities but weakened by both of their continual shielding since their disagreement over Spock’s choosing Starfleet Academy over the Vulcan Science Academy. Additionally, Spock had the bond with T’Pring that had been formed in childhood, however that one was also shielded the majority of the time, and T’Pring and he had never bothered to develop it due to their mutual lack of interest in each other. There was also the other familial bond that had once been strong due to the telepathic abilities of both parties, but Spock had understood that even thinking of the person on the other end of that bond was forbidden.

That left only the bond with his mother. Despite her psi-null status, their bond was strong. His mother had claimed that she had even felt it while pregnant with him, although Spock questioned that claim. He had never challenged her about it though.

That bond had been a source of comfort to Spock throughout his life. While his mother had learned some mental shielding techniques in anticipation of and following her bonding with his father, her psi-null status meant that the shields she created were never exceptionally strong. Spock and his father compensated for this with additional shielding on their ends so as to not compromise her privacy as they had learned that privacy could be very important to humans.

Still, occasionally there would be instances where Spock would be thinking of Vulcan and her (she would call it homesickness, but he would deny such an emotional term, causing her to smile), and he would carefully lower the shield over their bond. He was careful never to actually intrude into her mental space, but he rather just allowed himself to experience whatever she may be projecting over the bond, intentionally or not. While it was not always true, he would often feel a warmth and contentment from her that was comforting to him. He had even learned to gauge the nuances of her emotions from the bond; for example, the contentedness she felt while enjoying her work was distinct from the contentedness she experienced due to something he or his father had done, and similar distinctions could be felt for all her emotions.

On some instances, he would feel a negative emotion from her and make a mental note to call her over subspace once he was available. At other times, she would be content and he would enjoy that feeling, letting it anchor him. There would also be occasions when she would have some song playing in her head, often some form of Earth music, although occasionally from Vulcan or another society. These instances could either provide great comfort to him as some of the songs brought the familiarity of his childhood, or they could provide a source of irritation as the songs, some unfamiliar, would begin to play in his own head and require meditation to remove.

But now that source of comfort was likely gone. There was still some small fragment of Spock that wished to believe that she was not dead. Most would likely dismiss this as his human half exerting undue influence on him, as any Vulcan would be able to acknowledge that the odds of survival of anyone who had been on-planet at the time were infinitesimal.

All these thoughts and emotions that Spock had been successfully suppressing had been renewed by Commander Kirk’s words. While it did provide some comfort to hear of his mother, especially to hear her positive regard for him reaffirmed, no discussion of her now could not carry the heavy weight of her loss.

Spock wondered when his mother and Commander Kirk had met. His parents had gone on many diplomatic missions throughout his life due to his father’s position as an ambassador. Spock had often accompanied them, as his parents saw it valuable to his education to be exposed to other languages and cultures. He had initially been taught both Vulcan and Standard as his parents had considered it logical to know both as both were native languages of one of his parents and because while Vulcan was the common language of where they lived, Standard was more widely spoken throughout the Federation. Still, while he had accompanied his parents on their travels he had reached near-conversational levels in other languages, some of which he would develop through further study. This would prove valuable to Spock at Starfleet, as they employed him to teach several xenolinguistics courses in addition to the upper level science courses he taught.

Commander Kirk, however, had evidently met his mother on one of the occasions where Spock did not accompany his parents. This was likely one of the instances where he had been actively engaged in studies and thus unable to accompany them. On these occasions Spock was left in the care of a family member, tutor, or other trusted individual. His mother would often call him during the downtime she had while his father was occupied with diplomatic matters and when she knew Spock would not be occupied with schoolwork.

This had continued throughout his time at Starfleet Academy. While his father did not approve of Spock’s decision, his mother had stayed firm in her commitment to respect whatever decision Spock made regarding his future. The two of them had thus stayed in contact even if his father never joined their calls.

This was a tradition that had continued even while Spock had postings on starships, even if it created increased difficulties in calculating the time differences between the two of them.

This likely would have continued when Spock accepted the posting of science officer aboard the Enterprise following the conclusion of the academic year, but now it would be mere speculation if it would have continued. Spock supposed that he could call his father in lieu of communicating with his mother now that the two of them had begun to repair their relationship; however, Spock doubted the experience would be similar.

He supposed that although his eidetic memory meant that he could not forget any encounters with his mother, Spock would have to take additional effort to preserve those memories of his mother, illogical as that may be. He would have no more opportunities to form memories of his mother from this point forward, except through stories heard from others. Still, the experience would not be comparable to memories formed through direct interaction with his mother.

Spock decided that the reflective state he had been in since the return to his quarters would constitute his nightly meditation as he found himself unwilling to slip into deeper contemplation. He stood from where he had settled on his bed during his rumination and began his nightly routine in preparation for sleep.

Chapter Text

The next day supplies and people started coming over from the Defiant. Jim decided to supervise that rather than stay on the bridge, mostly because there wasn’t much happening on the bridge right now. They were staying still until there was a final decision from the Defiant on how to best get them back to Earth. Since it wasn’t common for ships to carry around the sort of replacement parts the Enterprise would need to fix her warp core (although now that he thought about it, Jim decided that backup warp core parts would be a really useful thing for a ship to have, kinda like spare tires in old cars), it seemed like they would have to get towed back to Earth.

So since there was something to do instead of staring at space, Jim was currently in a shuttle bay, standing around watching that instead. He was occasionally useful in that he would point people in the right direction for dropping things off now and then since the Defiant had a different layout, meaning people didn’t always know where to go, but besides that he was mostly just watching the shuttles pass in and out of the forcefield on the back of the shuttle bay. A lot of people and supplies were coming via transporter, but for the occasional more sensitive supply (or person) they had to use shuttles still.

He and Spock had ended up approving almost all of the supply request list. It was mostly practical stuff after all. The exception was the occasional thing that seemed like it was just required for someone’s project or experiment, which they ended up turning down since they likely wouldn’t be on the ship much longer now.

The shuttle traffic was waning now. Jim was just about to consider going back up to the bridge when a yeoman approached him with a padd. They paused, standing at attention. “Captain.”

Jim turned to face them. “What’s up?”

They held out the padd. “I’ve got the survivor list from Vulcan, sir. I was told to give it to you.”

“Thanks.” Jim smiled at them and took the padd, glancing over the list on it. It was longer than he would have expected. After dimissing the yeoman, who had been awkwardly standing at attention, Jim walked over to a wall panel. “Kirk to bridge.”

“Spock here.”

Good, just who Jim wanted to talk to. “I just got the list of survivors from Vulcan. I was gonna bring it to the Elders and other survivors. Wanna come with?”

There was a pause before Spock replied. “I will accompany you.”

“Great.” Jim took a second to try to remember where the Elders were. Them and the other survivors the Enterprise had managed to beam up from Vulcan in the brief window after the drill was taken out were all in one part of the ship, in the quarters usually reserved for guests or passengers. There weren’t a lot of rooms, but there weren’t a lot of people either. “Meet on Deck 5 outside T’Pau’s quarters?”

“I will meet you there.” There was another pause. “Is there anything else, Captain?”

Jim thought for a moment. Supply transfers were going well, so there really wasn’t much else to say. “Nah, that should be all for now. Kirk out.”

As he took the turbolift to the right deck, Jim was tempted to look over the list for anyone he knew. There were probably some people from the Starfleet ships who’d gotten rescued too; while Jim knew that realistically there were probably a lot of people who did die since the ships around Vulcan had been pretty wrecked, he hoped that at least some of the people he knew on other ships had survived. He hadn’t gotten to talk to Gaila since news had come out about the Kobayashi Maru. She’d probably figured out what he’d done before then, but he hadn’t gotten to talk to her about it. And now she might be dead.

Jim decided to not look over the list. He’d find out who lived or not when they got back to Earth anyways.

He’d gotten the right deck by this point. Spock was already there. Jim held out the padd. “Want to look for any names you know?”

Spock hesitated. Jim could tell that he was still holding onto the hope that his mom might be alive, but that he also didn’t want to get his hopes up too much. Spock seemed to make a decision; he clasped his hands together behind his back. “I will allow the others to view the list first.”

“Alright then.” Jim held the padd back at his side again. “We can probably make copies of the list for other people to look at too. I bet members of the crew will want to know about other Starfleet survivals.”

“Indeed.” Spock nodded. “Distributing the list to the crew would be wise.”

“Alright then.” Jim nodded back to him. “We’re in agreement. Now should we take this list in? You said they’ve been gathering in T’Pau’s quarters, right?”

“Yes; as she is one of the remaining leaders they have been discussing options for the future in her quarters.” Spock turned toward the door. “Shall we go in?”

“Let’s do it.” Jim stepped forward and pressed the chime on the door. After a moment it opened.

Sarek stood in the doorway. “Hello Captain. Spock.”

“Hello Ambassador.” Jim felt himself standing up a little straighter. He was suddenly very aware of how and he and Sarek hadn’t really interacted since Sarek watched Jim get taunt his son until Spock nearly killed him. Not exactly the best first impression. Jim held out the padd. “We’ve got a list of people Starfleet has rescued from around Vulcan. It’s from the Defiant, so it should be pretty up-to-date.” Jim glanced over at Spock, who also seemed to be standing up a little straighter in the presence of his father. “We figured you’d appreciate looking it over.”

“That would be appreciated.” Sarek took the padd and began to skim it over before looking back at Jim. “May we make copies of this list to distribute to others?”

“Yeah go ahead.” Jim nodded at him before looking over at Spock. “Do you want to stay and look at survivors?” He knew Spock said he didn’t want to be the first to look it over, but maybe now that he could look it over with the others he’d want to?

“No; I will finish my shift then retrieve a copy.” Spock turned to look at Jim before turning back to his father. “Will you notify me if…certain names are on the list?”

“I will.” Sarek nodded at his son.

Jim raised an eyebrow and looked between them. “Are you sure you don’t want to take the rest of your shift off? We don’t have much to do.”

“I will finish my shift.” Spock looked at Jim and his father, his hands behind his back. “If you will excuse me, I will return to the bridge.”

“Alright.” Jim felt a little concerned about Spock, but he didn’t want to make a scene in front of his dad. At least, not again. “You’re dismissed.” Spock nodded at him and walked away; Jim watched him for a moment before turning back to Sarek. He was much more intimidating and hard to read than his son. Jim stood there for a moment before glancing at the corridor where Spock just left and then back to Sarek. “I should probably get back to the bridge as well. Gotta coordinate all the supplies that have been arriving.” Jim stood there for a moment, feeling awkward, before turning to go.

“Captain.” Sarek’s voice stopped him and he turned back around. Sarek held up the padd. “Thank you. It will be a relief to know who of our people survives.”

Jim felt himself smile as the tension decreased. “No problem. I know that if it were my planet, I’d want to know.”

“Yes.” There seemed to be some odd expression on Sarek’s face for a mere moment before it was gone. “It is fortunate that Nero was stopped when he was.”

“It was really all your son. He’d deny it, but it’s true.” Jim hoped that he came across as genuine and not like he was just trying to make Spock look good to his dad, which admittedly he wasn’t opposed to doing. “He’s a great man.”

“Yes.” Sarek started off in the direction Spock had gone. “His mother was a great woman.”

Jim paused, not quite sure how to respond. “I’ve heard she was. I’m sorry for your loss.”

Sarek nodded to him in acknowledgment before looking back at the padd in his hands. “I must review this list with the others.” He looked back up at Jim and held up his hand in the Vulcan salute. “Peace and long life, Captain.”

Jim knew there was a proper response, but he didn’t quite know what it was, so he just attempted to return the hand sign. That must have been enough, because Sarek seemed satisfied and dropped his hand before returning to the quarters, allowing the doors to close behind him.

Once he was alone in the corridor, Jim let the last of the tension drain from his body. While he wouldn’t exactly call them friends or anything, it seemed like Sarek didn’t hold the bridge incident against him anymore. That was good.

Jim turned and walked towards the turbolift that could take him to the bridge. He seemed to be getting better relationships with his soulmate and his soulmate’s dad. Not that it seemed like anything would happen with his soulmate anytime soon, but oh well. Maybe this universe was different from Older Spock’s and they were just meant to be friends. But now wasn’t the time to mope about that.

He’d arrived at the turbolift; it was time to get back to work. Jim hit the controls to activate it and set his destination; a moment later he felt the movement of it taking him to the bridge.

Chapter Text

There wasn’t a whole lot of time left on Alpha shift by the time Jim reached the bridge, but he headed for the captain’s chair anyways.

As soon as Spock saw him approaching he got up from the chair. “Captain.”

“Mr. Spock.” Jim settled into the chair and looked up at Spock. “Any word from the departments on how the new supplies and temporary extra hands are settling in?”

“Yes.” Spock stood next to the chair and held his hands behind his back. “All departments report that supplies and personnel are being received where necessary. As of yet, there are no complaints, problems, or issues reported.”

“Awesome.” Jim shifted in the chair some to better face Spock. “Any word yet on how the Defiant will help get us back to Earth?”

“Negative, Captain.” They were holding eye contact again.

“Alright then.” Jim found he didn’t want to break eye contact yet. He was tempted to ask Spock about the survivors list from Vulcan again, but he figured that even if Spock would want to talk about it with him, which didn’t seem all that likely, he definitely wouldn’t want to talk about it on the bridge.

Before either of them could say anything else, there was a noise from the comm panel on the arm of the captain’s chair. “Sickbay to Kirk.” It was Bones, and he sounded irritated.

Jim broke eye contact with Spock to look down and find the button to respond. “Kirk here. What’s up Bones?”

“It’s not a short explanation; I’ll tell you when you get here.” There was a momentary pause; Bones’ voice shifted from irritated to a little bit calmer and almost placating. “I promise it isn’t a surprise physical; I just need you to report to Sickbay as soon as possible.”

Jim glanced up at Spock, who was still standing by the captain’s chair. “You ok holding down the bridge a while longer?”

The expression earned him an eyebrow raise but Spock still seemed to understand. “I can.”

“Alright then.” Jim hit the button to open up the comm line again. “I’ll be there soon Bones. Kirk out.” He got out of the captain’s chair and looked back to Spock. “I guess the conn is yours once more, Mr. Spock.”

“Indeed, Captain.” Spock sat back down in the chair once Jim had stepped away.

With one last glance back, Jim headed for the turbolift. As he started descending to the proper deck, Jim thought about Spock in the captain’s chair. He’d probably been there more than Jim had this shift, and with the shift being close to over it would probably end with Spock in the chair more than Jim that day. He wondered if Spock wanted to be captain. From their week or so of working together, Jim thought that Spock made a great first officer. Spock hadn’t done as well as captain in his brief trial period, but that was probably due more to the mission than Spock himself. It couldn’t be easy losing your planet and a parent like that, especially if you were close with your parent like Spock must have been with his mom.

Jim tried to remember if Older Spock had ever made captain. He couldn’t really remember from the either mindmeld. The first had been all about Nero, and the second had mostly been about Older Spock and his Jim together, so Jim couldn’t really say much what had happened in their lives outside that relationship.

As he neared the proper deck, Jim wondered why he’d been called into Sickbay. Surely Bones hadn’t figured out the aging yet, right? Yeah, he’d noticed the odd readings during the physical, but that didn’t mean he’d know for sure. It’s not like Bones would have had a lot of spare time to compare the readings to Jim’s old baselines and figure it out, right? Except they’d been drifting through space for a week so he might’ve. But he’d also probably still be dealing with the aftermath of talking on survivors from Vulcan and having crewmembers injured in battle. So really, who knew how much free time Bones had had? Still, the shift was almost over. What was so important that it couldn’t wait another hour or so?

Well, Jim was about to find out. He’d arrived at Sickbay. The doors opened and Jim stepped inside; Bones was there, waiting for him. Jim walked over, trying to act casual. If Bones figured out the aging, should he fake surprise or come clean? He definitely wasn’t ready to tell Bones who he thought his soulmate was yet. So act casual for now for sure, and fake surprise if the aging comes up. Jim had a plan. “Hey Bones. What was so urgent?”

“Don’t worry, it’s not that urgent.” Bones crossed his arms. “It’s just your mother. She’s visiting Pike and refuses to leave even though visiting hours are over.”

“What?” Well that was not what Jim was expecting to hear. “Ma?”

“Yeah.” Bones glanced over to the curtained off area where Pike was. “I told her visiting hours were over and that she had to go, but she told me that she wouldn’t take orders from someone of a lower rank than her. She also pointed out that I couldn’t pull the CMO thing because I’m not her CMO.”

That did sound like his mom. There was just one bit Jim didn’t get. “And you called me in why?”

“Because even with the field promotion to CMO, which may or may not come with a rank upgrade, I’m a lieutenant commander at best. Since her rank is commander, she does outrank me. You, however,” Bones eyed him critically, “are a captain. You outrank her. You could make her leave so my patients can get some goddamn rest and so I can finish my rounds undisturbed.”

Jim felt his eyebrows lifting. “You want me to order my mom out of Sickbay? Really?”

“Yes.” Bones was deadly serious. “I don’t care if you can talk her out or if it has to come to making it an order; I just need her out. Now go do it.” He uncrossed his arms and patted Jim on the arm as he started to walk away.

Jim turned to watch him go, his expression mock-stubborn. “You can’t order me to do it.”

Bones groaned and rubbed a hand over his forehead. “Dear god, it’s hereditary.” He looked at Jim, a little pleading this time. “Just do it, Jim. Please.”

“Well since you asked so nicely…” Jim grinned at Bones before turning and walking over to Pike’s biobed. Getting his mom to leave shouldn’t be too hard, right?

Chapter Text

When Jim got to Pike’s biobed, Winona and Pike were in the middle of a conversation, but Pike stopped when he saw Jim and smiled softly. “Captain.”

“Captain.” Jim nodded to him before looking at his mom. “Ma, Bones says you need to leave Sickbay.”

“Really Jimmy?” Her eyebrows went up. “Who are you to make me leave?”

“Well, he said that you told him he couldn’t order you out because you outranked him, but I technically outrank you right now.” Jim shrugged. “He seemed to think it would work.”

Winona looked unimpressed. “It feels like yesterday you were still a cadet, and yet here you are, trying to order your own mother around. I guess power really does corrupt.”

Jim shrugged again. “It’s more like last week I was still a cadet, but hey. If you think I shouldn’t be captain, blame him.” He gestured to Pike. “He’s the one who put me in command.” Jim paused and thought for a second. “Well technically Spock getting compromised did, but still, Pike made me first officer, so he set it up.”

“Yeah.” Winona looked at Pike, who was watching their interactions with slight confusion. “That was a bit of an odd move, Chris. I’m not saying my kid wouldn’t get there someday or doesn’t deserve it, but a cadet is not the usual choice for first officer.”

Pike shrugged, or at least did as much as he could from a semi-reclined position. “What can I say, I’ve got faith in the kid.”

“I think it’s more than that.” Winona narrowed her eyes at him for a second. “Let’s be real Chris, if you could have adopted him after you met him in Iowa you would have.”

“Really Win?” Pike looked at her incredulously.

“That wasn’t a denial.” Winona looked smug. “I don’t blame you; he’s a great kid. He’s like me, but with just enough George to not cause problems that are too serious.”

“Oh my god.” Jim ran a hand down his face; when he opened his eyes both of them were looking at him. “Were you two just talking about me this whole time?”

“Of course not.” Winona shifted in her seat to face Jim more. “We’ve known each other since the Academy. We’ve got plenty to talk about.”

“She’s right.” Pike looked at Jim and nodded.

“In fact,” Winona looked over at Pike mischievously, “you could probably get just as many George stories from him as you could from me.” She looked at Jim and leaned in like she was going to tell a secret. “He was a little bit obsessed in our Academy days. I don’t blame him; I was a bit obsessed myself, but Chris here had a bit of a hero worship thing going on.”

“I did not.” Pike seemed a little embarrassed.

“Dude.” Winona looked at him, seeming totally unimpressed. “You wrote a paper about him. We were both out of the Academy for years at that point, and you wrote a paper about my dead husband.”

“I was doing my dissertation.” He still seemed a little embarrassed, but covered it up some. “You know, some of us went back to school, Winona.”

“Well excuse me, Christopher.” Her tone was sarcastic, but Jim could tell there was no heat behind it. She was smiling.

Jim looked between the two of them curiously. “Is this what having real parents is like?”

Distinct but equally odd expressions crossed both of their faces. Pike recovered first. “No Jim. If it were her and George, she probably would have climbed onto the biobed by now. The two of them were all over each other.”

“Oh god.” Jim felt his nose scrunch up. “Not the images I need.”

“Relax Jimmy, we never did anything more than cuddle in Sickbay.” Winona glared briefly at Pike, but again it seemed more teasing than anything else. “Besides, Chris here was around us most when we were at the Academy and newly together. Everyone’s all over each other at that stage of the relationship.”

“Not to the extent of you and George.” Pike shook his head. “Me and Number One were never like that.”

“Yeah, but you met when you were older; she wasn’t even a physical teenager because her species doesn’t work like that .” Winona waved her hand dismissively. “I was 19 and he was 22; we were both still young and physically 18.”

“Anyway.” Jim looked between them, not really wanting to hear about what they got up to with their soulmates. “Any chance you’ll leave Sickbay soon so Bones will stop bothering me, Ma?”

Winona sighed dramatically. “Fine. But only because you asked nicely rather than trying to pull rank when you’re sortof still a cadet.”

“Hey, you’re the one who was bragging about your son the captain yesterday.” Jim smiled at her. “But I guess if I’m just a cadet, you have nothing to brag about…”

“Hey. A cadet with promise.” Winona finally stood up and then pointed seriously at him. “Don’t sell yourself short, Jimmy. All you command people are supposed to be egocentric.”

“Wow Win.” Pike crossed his arms. “Way to insult me, your dead husband, and your son all in one go.”

“There’s exceptions.” A grin spread across Winona’s face. “George wasn’t full of himself. In fact, typically I was the one who was-“

“Oh god Ma!” Jim looked at his mother, feeling a bit scandalized but playing up to make her stop. “How many times do I have to tell you that I do not need to hear that stuff?”

“Aww, Jimmy.” Winona smiled at him, a little gentler but definitely still teasing, and ruffled his hair. “I may not have been there in person to give you the sex talk, but you have to know that you weren’t from the stork.”

“I know.” Jim crossed his arms. “Still, just because I never met my dad doesn’t mean I want mental images of you having sex with him.”

“I would say I don’t want the mental images, but I already have enough from the Academy.” Pike shuddered, but Jim could tell it was just for effect. He looked at Jim seriously. “Kirk, get your mother out of here before she scars us both.”

“Yes sir.” Jim looked at Winona. “C’mon Ma, I think visiting hours are officially over. I’ll walk you out.”

“Fine.” Winona looked back at Pike. “I’ll see you later, Chris.”

“See you, Winona.” Pike waved. “It was nice catching up, up until you started trying to scar your son and I.”

Winona smirked. “Don’t pretend you never thought about George like that.”

“And we’re definitely leaving now. C’mon Ma.” Jim grabbed Winona’s arm and started to pull her away. “Bye Pike!”

“Bye Jim!” Pike was laughing as they walked away.

Once they were clear of Sickbay (Jim was able to see Bones’ grateful look as he passed him with Winona in tow), Jim let go of his mom. When he turned to face her she was still smiling. “Are you always like that with old friends?”

“Nah, Chris is different.” The two of them started walking toward the transporter room. “We knew each other from the start back at the Academy, and he was there for the early days with George. It’s fun to reminisce.” Winona’s smile shifted to a smirk. “Plus, what’s the fun of friends if you can’t mess with them?”

“That’s true.” Jim wondered if he and Bones would still be messing with each other like that when they were that old. They probably would. “If you two are so close, how come neither of you talked about the other much?”

Winona shrugged. “You sometimes drift apart from friends; it doesn’t mean you can’t still be close when you get back together.” Winona looked back at Jim. “Why? Are you wondering why he couldn’t have been your stepdad?”

“God no.” Jim laughed. “Teen Jim probably would have hated him. It’s probably good we didn’t meet until he picked me up off of a bar table and talked me into the Academy.”

“Yeah, that was an interesting call to get.” Winona looked over at Jim. “He asked why I never pushed you to join. I told him Starfleet wasn’t ready for two of me. That threw him off; I think he was expecting another George.”

“Well he was in for a surprise.” Jim smiled.

“Damn straight.” Winona bumped her shoulder against him. “You’re my kid for sure. There’s a dash of George, but mostly you’re me 2.0. I’m surprised he didn’t see it considering he found you mid-barfight. That was always my thing; George never started them, just got dragged in when I was too outnumbered.”

Jim nodded. “Good to know.” They paused outside the door to the transporter room. “You ready to head back to your ship or are you gonna wreak havoc elsewhere?”

Winona paused for a moment as if considering it. “I’ll leave the havoc wreaking to you. I gotta get back to my ship for an Engineer’s meeting about how to get you out back to Earth.”

“Alright then.” Jim paused. “I’ll see you then.”

Winona slapped his arm affectionately before pulling him into a quick hug. “See you soon, Jimmy.”

He watched her walk into the transporter room before turning and starting to head back to the bridge.

Chapter Text

Spock once again rose from the captain’s chair as Kirk reentered the bridge. He stood next to the chair as Kirk sat. “What was Dr. McCoy contacting you for?”

“What?” Kirk’s blue eyes flashed to him, evidently surprised that Spock had remained rather than returning to the science station. He shrugged. “It was nothing much, really. He just needed me to get my mom to stop visiting Pike in Sickbay so he could start wrapping things up for the night. Nothing too urgent really.”

Spock was unsure what to do with that information. “That does seem like a trivial matter to contact the captain of a starship for.”

“Maybe.” Kirk shrugged. “But what was he supposed to do, call in a security team? Plus, it was my mom. I guess he figured I could work the personal angle.”

Spock raised an eyebrow in acknowledgement; he was unsure how to respond.

“Anything new up here? I realize I wasn’t gone long.” Kirk shifted in the chair and crossed his legs.

“Negative.” Spock clasped his hands behind his back. “There were no new reports in your absence.”

“Alright then.” Kirk looked away from him and towards the viewscreen, which had an unchanging image of the Defiant and the surrounding stars because the Enterprise was not currently in motion. “Should be a relatively unexciting end of the shift then.”

“Indeed.” Spock nodded before returning to the science station.

Here as well, there was not much to do. As they had remained in the same section of space for over 24 hours ship’s time, the sensors, which were meant to take in information while traveling at warp speeds, or perhaps while in orbit of a planet, were not detecting much new information. The processing of the information could be better done in the labs than at the bridge console, which was designed for quick rather than thorough analysis.

When the shift was nearly complete, Nyota approached Spock’s station. “We’ve got five minutes left this shift. Want to get dinner afterwards?”

While he had initially planned to review the list of survivors from Vulcan following his shift, Spock found that he did not mind postponing that activity. “That would be agreeable.”

“Alright.” Nyota smiled softly at him. “I’ve got a few things to do to finish my shift but then we can just head to the mess hall together.” For a moment, she moved her hand toward his as if intending to initiate a kiss, but after a moment she seemed to consider their surroundings and withdrew it. “I’ll let you know when I’m ready to go.” She returned to her station.

Spock turned back to his console. Nyota had seemed to realize that he had not been doing any work that would suffer greatly if interrupted or stopped. Indeed, there was little to report to his replacement, who arrived 3.4 minutes later.

Once Nyota had finished her duties, the two of them went into the turbolift together and began their journey to the mess hall. Upon their arrival, they entered the line for the replicators with the other officers who had just finished alpha shift. Nyota reached the replicators first and procured a table while Spock ordered his meal.

Once seated, they ate in silence. Nyota typically started their conversations, although Spock did on occasion; however, they both seemed distracted today.

After several minutes, Nyota broached the topic of their distraction. “So I saw the list of survivors from Vulcan came over today.”

Spock raised an eyebrow. He was not surprised by the topic, but rather how she had brought it up. “How did you see it?”

She raised an eyebrow in return. “I’m chief communications officer for alpha shift, Spock. There aren’t many messages to and from the ship that I’m not aware of, especially transmissions of that size.”

“That is true.” Spock paused to consume more of his dinner. Without looking back up at Nyota, a thought entered his mind. He swallowed his current mouthful of food. “Did you review the list?”

“No.” Nyota sipped her drink and shook her head. “I’d like to though. More for the Starfleet people rescued from the the wrecked ships than for the survivors of Vulcan admittedly. But instead I just transferred the information to a padd and told a yeoman to take it to Kirk.”

Spock nodded. “I have not reviewed the list either. Kirk presented me with the opportunity, but I believed it was more important that the Elders have the opportunity to review the list as soon as possible. It will be important for their efforts to rebuild our society.”

Nyota nodded. “Yeah, I can see how knowing how many people and who you’re working with would be useful. Hopefully once we’re back toward Earth they’ll have a place for the survivors to get together and regroup, or at least form a network for communication.”

“I imagine the eventual goal will be finding a new planet to settle.” Spock stared down at his plate, now mostly cleared. “That will likely take some time, however.”

“Yeah.” Spock looked up to Nyota and found her expression distant; likely distracted by thought. After a moment, her eyes returned to him. “Do you have any idea if she’s on the list?”

Nyota did not need to specify who she was referring to; Spock had informed Nyota previously that his mother had been on the planet at the time of its destruction and had likely perished. As a way of comforting him, she had reminded him that they did not yet have conclusive evidence of his mother’s demise. This was likely a continuation of that line of thought. “I have not reviewed the list, so I cannot conclusively say. However, my father was the one who received the list, and he agreed to inform me if she was on it.”

“Well that’s good.” Nyota smiled at him, warmer and bolder than on the bridge. “Soon enough, you should know either way.”

“Indeed.” Spock finished the remainder of his meal, which was not much.

“Whatever you find out,” Nyota paused and waited for him to look up and make eye contact once more, “let me know.” She extended her hand towards his on the table but did not make contact, as if waiting for him to initiate whatever he was comfortable with in public. “I’ll be there for you, whatever you need.”

He placed his hand atop hers briefly, a human gesture rather than a Vulcan one. “Thank you, Nyota.”

She smiled at him again. “No problem, Spock.” Nyota held his gaze a moment longer before withdrawing her hand and glancing down at their plates; by now, both of them had finished their meals. She returned her gaze to his face. “So what are your plans for the rest of the night?”

“I plan to return to my quarters and contact my father to ascertain if he has finished reviewing the list.” That he would be asking for information about his mother went unspoken, but was understood nonetheless. “Afterwards I will likely meditate then sleep; I plan to visit the science labs prior to alpha shift tomorrow to see how the crews’ experiments are progressing.”

“Alright.” She nodded. “Meet for lunch before alpha shift again tomorrow?”

“That would be agreeable.” Spock nodded to her and they both stood to deposit their now empty trays and leave the mess hall.

Once they were out in the corridor, Nyota paused and Spock stopped in response. She looked at him, seeming slightly nervous. “Well, since our quarters are in different directions, we may as well part ways here. Let me know about the list though, ok?”

“I shall.” Spock extended a hand with two fingers outstretched to her as part of their customary farewell. “Goodnight, Nyota.”

“Goodnight Spock.” Her fingers met his and, after a quick glance to ensure that the corridor was empty, she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek before their hands separated. “I’ll talk to you later; I can even come by if you want.” She looked at him, concern evident in her expression.

“Thank you.” Spock did not think that would be necessary; he would likely turn to meditation to deal with the information, although he knew that Nyota was attempting to support him. “I will contact you when I have the information.”

“Aright.” Nyota watched him a moment longer before turning with a wave. “Goodnight.”

He nodded in response and watched her a moment longer before turning and proceeding to his quarters.

Chapter Text

Once he had returned to his quarters, Spock was surprised to see that he had already received a call from his father. He was unsure what to expect when he called his father; the two of them had not interacted much outside of professional settings since their conversation in the transporter room. Spock knew that his father had been occupied meeting with the other Vulcan Elders in order to plan for their people’s future. Spock had been busy with his own work as well. But if his father did have the news Spock sought now, Spock would not avoid him. He sat at the computer console and returned the call; momentarily his father’s face appeared on the console screen. “Hello, Father.”

“Hello, Spock.” Sarek nodded in acknowledgement, but if he did more than that the limited view of the console screen obscured it.

Spock did not want to spend time on idle pleasantries, so he decided to get to the point. “Why have you called so soon?”

“I have completed the review the list of survivors with the other Vulcan Elders.” Sarek’s face was solemn; it seemed foreboding to Spock.

“And my mother?” Spock had avoided making a direct inquiry in the presence of Captain Kirk earlier due to concern about his emotional stability, but his desire to know of her survival was strong.

Sarek paused before answering; Spock wondered if it was hesitation or perhaps reluctance. “Amanda’s name was not among the list of the survivors.” There was another pause. “We must accept that she is likely lost.”

“No.” Spock was surprised by his own boldness. “We have been informed that the rescue efforts around Vulcan—the former site of Vulcan—are ongoing. There may be survivors whose names are not yet listed.”

“My son,” Sarek’s composure was less steady than previously, “your response to this is illogical. The likelihood of survivors being discovered decreases with the time passed since the destruction of the planet. Approximately nine Terran days have passed; those who have not been found are likely lost. It is not logical to reject this.”

Spock’s eyebrow rose. “Was it not you who told me to embrace what I felt nine days ago during the conflict with Nero? I feel that my mother is not dead.” Spock paused to regain his composure; excessive emotions would not help his argument with his father. “Additionally, Commander Kirk informed Captain Kirk and I that the list they sent may have been incomplete. It is imprudent to draw a conclusion without the proper information; we do not yet have all the proper information.”

“Your logic is true, but its foundation is unstable.” Sarek seemed to be tensing; Spock recognized the sign of frustration. “It is not the Vulcan way to begin with emotion then bend logic to fit; that is mere rationalization. Do not be obstinate, my son. Acknowledge the logic of the situation.”

“You yourself told me to utilize my emotions during the conflict with Nero. You told me Mother would have advised me similarly. Why is it now wrong to utilize them?” Spock realized that he was repeating previous statements, but he wished for a response. “It is the human way to use emotions to guide judgement, is it not? And it is not totally against the Vulcan way to utilize emotion. You yourself admitted to marrying my mother because you loved her. Is love not an emotion?”

Sarek tensed further; it was beginning to approach levels Spock had not seen since the time he rejected the Vulcan Science Academy in favor of Starfleet. Sarek’s facial expression was even starting to reflect the strain. “It is, and I admit to being influenced by emotion in that decision. However, Vulcans must be cautious with their emotions; emotions run deep within us and may be perilous in their consequences if we allow them to control us. This is true of you. You have already seen the dangers of allowing your emotions to run unchecked; you nearly killed another who had done you no harm except through words.”

Kirk’s forgiving attitude had allowed Spock to put the incident on the bridge largely out of his mind; the two of them had discussed it afterwards but they had not spoken of it since and there had been no hostilities afterwards. Still, it stung when his father brought it up. “Does one incident indicate I must rid myself of emotion forever?”

“It is not the only incident relevant to this discussion.” Sarek’s expression remained serious. “It was not the first time you attacked another for mere taunts, and there is also the history of our people to consider. The control of emotions has brought peace that was unattainable when our ancestors allowed themselves to be ruled by emotions. The control of emotions is a better way.”

“Is control or eradication required?” Spock stared down his father. “You seem to be suggesting a complete loss of emotions.”

“Strong control is all that is required; eradication of emotions is only possible through Kolinahr; you know this.” Sarek met his stare.

“Would you require mother to strictly control her emotions?” Spock did remember how much more somber and controlled his mother was when they were in public on Vulcan compared to when they were alone or off world. On Vulcan, her levels of emotional expression were notably less than what Spock realized was average for humans based on his observations while in Starfleet.

“No.” The mention of Amanda seemed to disturb Sarek’s control, but he quickly contained it. “She is—was human. It would be illogical to hold another to our standards.”

“Am I not half human?” Bringing up his mother had agitated Spock as well. “Am I not her son?”

Sarek appeared ready to respond, but after a moment he met Spock's eyes and the tension left his frame and expression. “You are her son. And she would not wish for us to be fighting like this.”

Spock felt the tension begin to leave his frame as well; he looked away from his father. “She would not.”

There was a long pause before Sarek spoke again. “Do you require a copy of the list? There may be others you wish to know the status of.”

Spock returned his gaze to his father. There were few from Vulcan that he cared for, but Nyota had mentioned wanting to know who from the Starfleet ships was rescued and others would likely want to know as well. “May I have a copy to disseminate among the crew? They will likely wish to know who survived from the other Starfleet ships.”

“I will see with the other Vulcan Elders about giving you a copy of the list to share.” Sarek nodded; his composure seemed completely returned. He held up his hand in the ta’al. “Peace and long life, my son.”

Spock returned the gesture. “Live long and prosper.” He held his hand up until the comm line was closed and the console screen went dark.

Chapter Text

Spock still felt agitated. His regular meditation since Nero’s attack had not been fully satisfactory at helping him achieve optimal levels of control. Perhaps Vulcan methods were insufficient. Perhaps he needed to attempt human methods of emotional release.

He considered visiting Nyota to speak about his conversation with his father and the likely loss of his mother. She seemed to believe that it would be beneficial for him to talk about these experiences, and many human forms of therapy centered around speaking, suggesting that it did have some benefits for the human psyche. However, Spock still felt reluctant to speak to anyone about his problems. Additionally, he looked at the chronometer and realized that it was now nearing 2300 ship’s time. It was possible that Nyota would be engaged in other activities, or even preparing to retire for the night. Spock did not want to disturb her, although he knew that she would allow the disturbance.

There were other human methods for the release or regulation of emotions. Humans turned to various activities, such as meditation, exercise, art, and many others, to help facilitate the release of emotions. Spock did not wish to attempt meditation, but perhaps he could exercise. The ship’s gymnasium had several rooms that were open to crewmembers at all hours; he could utilize one and practice the martial arts he learned as a child.

With a course of action resolved upon, Spock changed into the proper clothing and left his room. When he reached the gymnasium, it was mostly empty. Few officers were awake and active during this time; most who were not on duty were either sleeping or preparing to do so. Spock went to one of the private rooms, entered, and adjusted the temperatures to allow himself to be more comfortable.

Spock removed his robe and began to go through the motions he learned as a child. There was something calming in it; the motions were familiar enough that he could do them almost automatically, but they still required some concentration, so his mind was not allowed to wander too much. It was working well at focusing his thoughts and clearing his mind.

As he was nearing the end of his routine, Spock became aware of the feeling that someone was watching him. He did not stop his routine but instead decided to finish it. Once it was completed, he turned toward the door and saw Kirk leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed. He was also wearing workout clothing; he had likely visited the gymnasium for similar reasons as Spock. Spock stood at attention with his hands behind his back. “Captain.”

“We’re off duty, Spock. There’s no need for formality.” Kirk pushed off the doorframe but did not advance any farther than standing in the doorway. “What were you doing anyway?”

“It is a Vulcan martial art called Suus Mahna.” Spock allowed his hands to rest by his sides instead of behind his back. “I learned it as a child.”

“It looks cool.” Kirk entered the room but did not advance farther than a few steps. “I would ask if it’s any good in a fight, but I think we both know you can hold your own.”

Spock felt tension increase along his spine. He clasped his hands behind his back once more. “Captain, if you are referring to what occurred on the bridge during Nero’s attack-”

“Spock.” Kirk held up a hand to stop him. “Don’t worry about that. We talked it over, and I meant it when I told you that I wasn’t gonna hold it against you.” His expression was genuine, but something challenging entered his eyes. “I wouldn’t be opposed to a rematch through.”

Spock raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure that would be wise, Captain?”

Kirk smirked. “Hey, that same day I was able to fight Romulans and take them down. Admittedly that was with weapons, but still.” His expression got slightly more serious. “Besides, I’ll probably need to know how to fight people stronger than me. Humans are pretty far from being the strongest in the galaxy, and while most of the fights Starfleet gets into are in space, it wouldn’t hurt to know how to fight hand to hand. I bet at some point in my career I’ll have to fight someone stronger than me one-on-one. I should know how to handle it.”

“That is logical.” Spock tipped his head in acknowledgement. “Very well. Prepare yourself.” He began to shift into a beginning stance

“Alright.” Kirk smiled. “One thing though. It’s hot as hell in here.” He pulled off his shirt.

Spock had been about to correct Kirk that it was actually at normal temperatures for the Shi’Kahr region of Vulcan, but Kirk removing his shirt surprised him and he did not speak. He raised an eyebrow. “Was that necessary?” The temperature was elevated enough that Spock was comfortable in workout pants and a short sleeved shirt, but surely it was not at unbearable levels for humans. His mother had survived in temperatures like this for decades without major complaint.

“What?” Kirk shrugged. “This is just how I deal with heat.”

“I could lower the temperature in the room to a more comfortable level for you.” Despite the amount of skin bared , Spock attempted to keep his focus on the captain’s face.

“It’s fine.” Kirk waved his hand to dismiss Spock’s concern. “I’m good; let’s do this.”

They both shifted their stances and began to slowly circle each other; Spock looked over Kirk for any weaknesses and he was sure that Kirk was doing the same. Kirk, like almost all of the humans on the ship, had stopped physically aging at 18. He was in good physical shape. He had an amount of muscle tone that humans (and others, if Kirk’s reputation at the Academy was to be believed) found attractive without being excessive. He was also curiously free of body hair; Spock knew that the same could not be said of himself. Spock saw that there were still fading bruises on Kirk, likely from the incident on the bridge but possibly from others Kirk fought that day. Spock resolved to not used his full strength to avoid further injury to the captain. Additionally, with Spock’s being a touch telepath the amount of bare skin he was faced with could present challenges. While he would try to avoid any contact with Kirk’s psi points this time, he would have to keep his shields up strongly to ensure that he did not violate Kirk’s privacy by reading anything he was not intended to know.

After a few moments of circling, Kirk swung towards Spock with his right fist. It was a move that seemed more suited to the bar fights like the one Nyota had told him Kirk got into than anything Kirk would have learned in the combat courses he likely took at the Academy.

Spock was easily able to block the blow. The fighting began to move quickly, but he found himself mostly able to block Kirk’s blows, although some landed. Spock himself mostly focused on defensive moves rather than offensive ones as he did not want to seriously harm Kirk again. Still, after a minute and a half of fighting he saw an opening too obvious to ignore. Kirk’s stance had become unbalanced; Spock swiftly moved his leg to knock Kirk further off balance until he fell onto the mat; Spock then dropped down to pin him. When Kirk was unable to free himself after 5 seconds of struggling, Spock released him and stood.

Between the heat and the exertion, sweat had started to gleam on Kirk’s skin and he was now beginning to breathe more heavily than usual. However, when he looked up there was still a challenging look in his eyes. “Stop holding back, Spock. The Klingons and Romulans won’t.”

“That is true.” Spock watched as Kirk pushed his hair back off of his forehead. “But it would be best for your training if I do not begin at my full strength. Once you can defeat me while I am restraining myself to something closer to human strength levels, I will increase the amount of strength I use.”

Kirk tipped his head in consideration. “Logical.” The gleam was back in his eyes and he smiled. “But there’s no fun in that.”

Before Spock could respond, there was a whistle from the comm panel in the room. “Bridge to Commander Spock.”

Spock looked over at Kirk. “Hydrate yourself while I respond to this.” Kirk nodded in acknowledgement and went in search of water while Spock walked to the comm panel. “Spock here.”

After a moment, the voice of who was likely the beta shift communications officer came through. “Sir, this is Ensign Flannery. You’ve got a comm request from Ambassador Sarek’s quarters; should I put it through to you?”

“Affirmative.” Spock waited for them to enact the transfer.

There were some sounds over the line and then Sarek’s voice came through. “Spock?”

“I am here, Father.” Spock glanced back to the room; Kirk was still gone. If this would be a continuation of their conversation about his mother, Spock would not want Kirk in the room.

“I had attempted to call you in your quarters, but I was unable to reach you.” Spock was unsure if Sarek was searching for an explanation; his tone betrayed nothing.

Spock opted to provide one. “I have left my quarters. I am currently in the ship’s gymnasium.”

There was hesitation on Sarek’s end as if he was curious why Spock was there but not willing to ask, but then it passed. “I have the list of survivors. Do you still require a copy to distribute to the crew?”

“Affirmative.” Spock resisted the urge to nod; his father would not see that. “Pass a copy on to the communications officer on the bridge; I will handle it from there.”

“Very well.” There was some noise, likely Sarek connecting to the computer console and transferring the information from a padd. “It has been done. It is sending now.”

“I will tell the communications officer to distribute it.” Spock paused; at this point ending the conversation with his father was necessary but he was unsure how to do it.

Sarek seemed to understand. “I will let you do what is necessary. Goodnight, Spock.”

“Goodnight, Father.” The communications line went silent. Spock hit the button to initiate a new call. “Spock to bridge.”

“Ensign Flannery here, sir.” He had reached the communications officer; that was good.

“You should be receiving or have already received a file containing a list of survivors from Vulcan and the surrounding area, including the Starfleet ships.” Spock paused to await acknowledgement.

“I have it, sir.” There was the sound of a few controls being activated, likely the ensign bringing up the list on the communications console. “What do you want me to do with it, sir?”

“Post it on the ship’s servers. Additionally, send an announcement to the crew saying it has been posted.” Spock looked up at the sound of Kirk reentering the room, a towel over his still bare shoulders and a bottle of water in each hand.

There were more noises of console operation on the other end of the comm line. “Will that be all, sir?”

“Yes; that is sufficient. Spock out.” Spock turned to Kirk, who was watching him expectantly.

“What was that about?” Kirk took a sip from one of the bottles of water he carried. “Also, they should really put more replicators in here. Or even just old school water fountains. People need access to that kind of stuff while they’re exercising.” He held out the water bottle he had not drank from. “I brought you one too.”

“Thank you.” Spock took the water bottle and drank before recapping it. “I have obtained a copy of the list of survivors from my father. It has been passed on to the communications officer on duty to be placed on the ship’s servers so the crew can access it. Additionally, I instructed the officer on duty to make an announcement to the crew to notify them about the list.”

“Awesome.” Kirk took another sip of water before placing the towel and water bottle down near his discarded shirt on the edge of the room. “Want to go another round?”

Spock also set down his water bottle, ensuring it was far enough away from Kirk’s to avoid confusion. “I am willing if you are.”

“Alright then.” The challenging look was back. “Let’s go.”

Spock resumed his stance and prepared for another round of sparring.

Chapter Text

When Jim woke up the next day, he was sore. He rolled over with a groan and ran a hand down his face. He and Spock had sparred on and off for the better part of an hour; with the breaks they took in between for water and discussing technique it probably didn’t amount to that much actual fighting, but still.

He could tell Spock was holding back the whole time. It was clearly taking a lot of self-control for him to do so, but Jim figured that Spock must be pretty used to restraining himself at least partially. Most things in Starfleet were still designed with use by humans in mind since they made up most of the fleet still, so having strength that much past human levels probably meant that Spock had to control himself just to not break everyday things. Everything probably seemed so delicate to him.

Jim yawned and rolled over so he could check the chronometer. He and Spock had been sparring until past midnight ship’s time; Jim wouldn’t be surprised if between being up later and the exercise (not to mention the heat of the room adding to how tired he got) he’d slept in a little later than usual.

It turned out he had, but not by much. Jim sat up; he’d still have time for his regular morning routine. He got out of bed and headed for the bathroom; pausing for a moment to make sure that it wasn’t occupied. After his knock got no response, he figured Spock wasn’t there and the coast was clear.

It was clear when he got in; Spock must have still gotten up earlier than him. It was hard to tell whether or not Spock had been there typically; he kept all of his things the bathroom so pristine and carefully placed that it almost made Jim self-conscious. It wasn’t that he was even messy necessarily; he just wasn’t at Vulcan levels of control and precision.

That had Jim’s mind wandering back to last night again. Spock had seemed to be strictly controlling himself not only physically but mentally as well. Jim wondered if anything had slipped through last time that made Spock want to be more careful this time. He’d like to think he would have noticed Spock slipping into his head, but Jim had been a little distracted by the almost dying on the navigation console. If something had slipped through, Jim certainly hadn’t noticed it.

But this time Spock seemed far more in control. Jim had also been focused on controlling himself, but for different reasons. He could admit that while it wasn’t a requirement or anything, he found it attractive when a partner could manhandle him a little. So getting pinned by Spock all those times, and having him make it look so effortless each time… It may have had an effect on Jim.

It didn’t help that despite their exercise and the heat of the room, Spock never broke a sweat. Although Jim had heard that that was a Vulcan thing; he’d never been sure if that was true or just rumor though. It seemed like he had an answer now.

Plus, despite the sparring, which did seem to start to challenge Spock as Kirk picked up on more, there never seemed to be a hair out of place in that bowl cut of his. Jim just wanted to see if he could actually mess it up. He bet that Spock was one of those people who could just shake their heads a little and have their hair fall perfectly back into place. It would seem fitting.

Last night had also been the first time Jim had seen Spock out of uniform. True, he’d seen Spock in both the instructor uniform at his hearing at the Academy and the science uniform while they’d been on the ship, but neither of those prepared Jim for what Spock had been in last night. Sure, it was just a t-shirt and loose sweats, but it was still odd. It didn’t seem like the sort of clothing he’d ever expect to see Spock in, but he still made it look so natural. Plus, Jim was hardly going to complain about seeing those arms in short sleeves.

Jim was just about done with his routine at this point and he realized he’d spent his whole time thinking about—or almost fantasizing about really—his first officer. Or temporary first officer really; Jim didn’t know how things would work out once they were back at Earth. Then maybe Spock would go back to being an instructor and Jim would go back to being a cadet. That would be a little weird. Jim had kindof gotten used to being a captain over the past week or so; it would be weird being told that he’d have to go back to square one and maybe have to work his way up the ladder and get back to the chair in a few years.

Still, he didn’t want to get his hopes up. If he kept his expectations low, he’d either have them met or he’d be pleasantly surprised. Neither of those options were too bad.

As for things with Spock, Jim was continuing to hope for friendship at best at this point. Last night had proved that they could get along off duty without being at each other’s throats (or at least, not out of anger). That was promising. Again though, Jim wasn’t going to hope for too much. Spock was dating Uhura. If that was any indication, Jim wasn’t really his type. Although Spock was probably the kind of guy who’d go for brains over looks. But Uhura was hardly lacking in either category; Jim could admit that.

He paused before the doors of his quarters. He had to stop thinking about Spock, or at least stop thinking of him romantically or anything else that wasn’t purely professional or platonic. He was going to get food, and then he’d have another standard shift with Spock on the bridge. So Jim would have to control himself and find something else to think about. He headed out to the corridor.

There was also that list of survivors that had been posted last night. Jim would have to check to see if Gaila was on there. He really hoped she was. He’d never had the chance to properly apologize for stealing her access codes to get into the Kobayashi Maru. That all felt like ages ago now, but Jim would still hate to think that she’d died being mad at him. He’d hate to think that she’d died period really. And there were so many others...

Jim took a deep breath and put his order into the replicator. Maybe that wasn’t a great topic to think about either. He grabbed his food and headed to an open table.

He’d just started eating when Bones joined him. “Hey kid.”

“Hey Bones.” Jim swallowed his current mouthful of food and looked up at Bones. He seemed a little more stormy than usual. “What’s up?”

Bones poked at his food and held up a padd. “I was going over the list.” He looked up at Jim. “There’s a couple names I recognize from Medical, but a whole lot more I don’t see on here.” He sighed. “Most of them were younger than me. Some of them had already started aging though.”

Jim looked down at his food. He wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that.

“Have you looked it over yet?” Jim looked up to see Bones looking at him seriously. “Starfleet’s got their people organized by division; it makes it pretty easy to find people.”

“I’ll have to look it over.” Jim glanced at the padd, which was now sitting on the table. “After shift though.”

“After shift you’re coming to Sickbay.” The sudden change in topic had Jim looking up at Bones again. His friend seemed completely serious. “It’s time I check back in on whatever it was that was causing those weird readings before.”

Jim took a sip of his coffee to cover up his surprise. “Is that really necessary so soon? I thought you said check in after two weeks.”

“I said weekly check in, maybe two weeks, and it’s already getting close to a week and a half.” Bones pointed at him with his fork. “Don’t make me pull the CMO thing and order you; you aren’t the only one who got a promotion, remember?”

“Yeah.” Jim leaned back. “Can’t we just get through our food without you switching into doctor mode?”

Bones looked unimpressed. “Given the number of times I’ve had to jump in when you’ve had allergic reactions or other problems at meals, I think eating with you is one of the times I should definitely be in,” he paused and did exaggerated air quotes, “doctor mode.” Bones looked down at Jim’s plate and back at him. “Now finish eating; I don’t want to hear complaints mid-Alpha shift because you didn’t finish your breakfast.”

“Alright, mom.” Jim leaned back in and began to eat again.

“I could call her in if you want.” Bones raised an eyebrow and took a sip of his coffee. “She gave me her comm signal.”

Jim paused with his fork halfway to his mouth; he narrowed his eyes at Bones. “I don’t think we need to go that far.”

“Good.” Bones put his coffee down. “Now eat up. I want to be able to get to Sickbay before Alpha shift starts; I need to make sure no one from the other shifts messed with my patients too much.”

Jim raised an eyebrow. “Is there a proper amount of messing with patients?”

“Yes.” Bones took another bite and looked at Jim. “It’s one of the first things you have to figure out as a doctor. Now eat up.”

“Alright, I’m eating.” Jim took another bite and was content as Bones began to share some old med school anecdote that he’d probably heard before. He was a little nervous about what Bones would find out when he went in to Sickbay later, but it seemed to be shaping up to be a good day.

Chapter Text

Jim got to the bridge a few minutes before alpha shift started. His lunch with Bones had been nice despite starting on such a serious note. Jim would have to remember to get a copy of the list of survivors once he was done in Sickbay. As tempting as it was to stay in denial and think that if he never found out then the people he knew couldn’t be dead, he’d have to find out eventually. It might as well be on his own terms rather than just from hearing from other people. Or through invitations to funerals.

That was a grim note to be starting the shift on. There were probably some people still alive. There had to be; it’s not like Starfleet would make a list with no names on it. Plus, they’d probably still be finding people for a while; there was a big field of destroyed ships around the planet and while some of it had probably gotten sucked into the black hole, there were probably still plenty of escape pods and shuttles that had gotten away. Some people had probably survived in the sections of ships too; there were systems in place to seal up hull breaches and they’d probably still be in operation on the broken ships.

Now Jim was probably getting too optimistic. While he didn’t want to get too down about it, it wouldn’t do to let himself think that everyone could have survived. He had to keep his expectations realistic. There had to be survivors, but probably not a ton.

Maybe Jim could get Bones to drink with him after he read over the list. He’d probably want a drink anyway, and drinking with other people was always better than drinking alone. They’d have to keep it in moderation because they’d both have shifts the next day, but they could still do it.

Thinking of Bones reminded Jim that he was supposed to have a physical today. He groaned internally. It had only been a little over a week, but if Bones had been able to pick up the slight changes of him aging last time he’d be able to figure it out for sure this time. Jim wasn’t sure how he would feel when Bones found out. Would Bones know that Jim knew? Sure, Jim had felt…something when he and Spock first made eye contact at the assembly, but other people talked about it like they didn’t always realize right away when they met their soulmate or soulmates. Should Jim act surprised when Bones told him he was aging?

Jim wondered if Bones would get mad at him for not telling him right away if he knew. Most people got all excited about meeting their soulmates and told all their closest friends as soon as they knew, but Jim was pretty far from excited about the prospect of being soulmates with Spock when he found out. They’d gotten a really rough start. But now…

Now things were better. Still not anywhere near the epic love story that Older Spock had showed him, but better than when they’d met. They worked well together professionally and even could get along pretty well in their free time too if last night was any indication.

Jim glanced back at Spock. He’d nodded at Jim in acknowledgement when he got to the bridge before the start of shift, but he’d been pretty absorbed in whatever he was looking at at the science station so they hadn’t talked. They must have finally gotten some interesting readings.

Jim looked around the bridge. Everyone was either at their stations minding their respective consoles or they were just talking among themselves. Jim didn’t want to eavesdrop but he bet the list was a popular topic. Everyone probably knew some people on the other ships. Some people may have even known some people on Vulcan; it was less likely but it wasn’t out of the question.

But the person most likely to know people on Vulcan was probably still Spock, who definitely had known people there. Jim wondered if Spock’s mom had been on the list. It seemed too personal to ask; they weren’t that close yet.

Thinking of Spock and how close (or not) they were made Jim think of his appointment later today again. Even if Bones found out he was aging, there was no way he’d figure out who Jim’s soulmate was, right? He’d have access to the medical records of everyone on board, but who knew if Spock was aging? Doctors were allowed to look at the records they had access to to find pairs who’d started aging at the same time, but usually they only did it if a patient asked. Jim could always say that he didn’t want to find out like that.

Bones would probably believe it too. They’d always bonded over their mutual dislike for the obsession over soulmates, so that could apply here too. Jim could just say that he didn’t really care who it was or that he’d wait and see who else was aging as time passed.

Jim tried not to sigh over how worried he was getting about this. He was probably stressing about this more than necessary. Maybe Bones wouldn’t even pick up on the aging. It was still early. Plus, Bones had seemed convinced that that the weird readings were just Jim reacting to something he’d been exposed to on the Narada. Maybe he could keep that up.

But if that was what it was Bones would probably get concerned and try to fix whatever was wrong, even if Jim insisted that it didn’t seem to be harming him.

It didn’t matter. Bones would probably figure out the aging thing and Jim needed to accept that. But for now he really just needed to get out of his head.

Jim stood up and walked over to the communications station. “Uhura.”

She spun around to face him. “Yes, Captain?” Jim was still surprised that despite the fact that they’d never really gotten along, she'd been very professional to him the past week or so. He wasn’t sure if he’d be able to pull it off if things had been the other way around; he’d have to give her credit for that.

“Have we heard anything from the Defiant yet about how they’re going to help us get back to Earth?” Jim wasn’t sure if he wanted to know. Getting back to Earth would mean he’d have to give up command and likely not get it back, but it would also mean that everyone would get to do things like reunite with whoever survived.

“I don’t think we’ve heard anything definite yet.” Uhura looked over something on her console, probably checking to see if any messages had come through during the last shift. After a moment she turned back around. “Actually, apparently we got a message during gamma shift to call them once our alpha shift was on duty.”

Jim’s eyebrows came together in confusion. It was almost a half hour into alpha shift now. “Why didn’t I hear about this earlier?”

Uhura shrugged. “When I got here I asked the gamma shift communications officer if there were any messages and they said no. They must have forgotten.”

“Alright then.” Jim decided not to press for an explanation; Uhura probably would have told him if she knew. “Hail the Defiant.”

“Yes sir.” Uhura turned back to her station as Jim walked back to the Captain’s chair.

Finally, a little excitement. They were going home.

Chapter Text

After a moment, the bridge of the Defiant appeared onscreen. Jim shifted in his seat and nodded at Captain Davison. “Captain.”

He got a nod in return. “Captain.”

“So I hear you have a plan for getting us home?” Jim tried to sound neutral despite his own mixed feelings. The crew probably wanted to get back, and he needed to focus on what was best for them.

“Yes.” Davison was doing a better job than him at staying professional. “We think it should be possible to use the tractor beam to get you in a low-warp tow, which would dramatically reduce the amount of time it would take to return to Earth.”

“That’s great.” Jim smiled; if this would make the crew happy he would be happy too. “I’m assuming the engineers have already worked out the logistics?”

“Yes.” Captain Davison shifted slightly. “It will require constant monitoring, but we should be able to pull it off.”

“Thank you again. I’m sure the crew will be glad to get home.” Jim was just about to ask if there was anything else they needed to get done when a thought occurred to him. “Wait. We’re not exactly in peak shape over here; the Enterprise took on some damage during the attacks. Will we be able to be towed without risking further structural damage?”

“According to our simulations, yes, but we’ll be doing constant monitoring for a reason.” Despite the seemingly harsh words Captain Davison’s expression softened slightly. “But that is an important consideration. Good catch.”

Jim felt himself smiling a bit. “Thank you.” He let himself enjoy being treated like an equal by an experienced captain for a moment before returning to business. “Is there anything else I should know?”

“Your own engineering team should be able to brief you at this point.” Davison paused and looked over a padd from a yeoman. “Our engineering teams have been working together closely, but I’ll send over the complete plans so you and your crew can review them in full.” The padd was handed back to the yeoman, who took it to what must have been the communications station. “You should be receiving the transmission shortly.”

Jim looked back to Uhura, who nodded after a moment to indicate that she’d received the transmission. He turned back to the viewscreen. “We’ve got it. My crew and I will look over it and get back to you.”

“Alright.” Davison nodded. “Let us know if your crew finds any adjustments that need to be made, otherwise we’ll begin preparations and await word from you as to when to begin.”

“Sounds good. We’ll contact your ship once we’ve gone over everything.” Jim glanced around the bridge, deciding who he should bring in on this. He’d definitely give a copy to Spock for review, and he’d probably go down to engineering for the rest of the shift to review the plans with Scotty. He looked back at the viewscreen. “Thanks again.”

Davison smiled. “We should really be thanking you for saving Earth. It’s the least our crew can do to help yours get back.”

Jim smiled in return. “We were just doing what anyone would do.”

“You may have gone above that, but I’m sure you’ll be having this conversation a lot once we’re back at HQ, so I’ll spare you it now.” The other captain nodded. “Review the plans and get back to us. Davison out.”

Once the viewscreen went blank, Jim turned to the rest of the bridge. “Spock, review the plans they sent over. Make a team to help if you want. I trust both engineering teams, but we aren’t exactly in peak shape so I don’t want us flying apart at warp if something goes wrong.” He looked around the bridge, trying to think if anyone else would be needed for this. He wasn’t sure, but it wouldn’t hurt. “If anyone else wants to review the plans, feel free to get a copy and run it over. If you need me, I’ll be in engineering talking it over with the crew down there.” He looked around the bridge one more time. It seemed like that was all he’d need to do. “If you need me, comm me. Spock, you have the conn.” With one last look around the bridge, Jim headed for the turbolift and made his way to engineering.

----------

Jim was pretty excited for a shift that he could actually spend doing something. It flew past as he and Scotty reviewed the plans for the tow, Scotty explaining since he’d had a hand in making them, and also going around the ship figuring out which areas had taken on enough damage that they’d have to be reinforced and watched closely while they were at warp. Jim took his lunch break with Scotty and didn’t actually end up going back to the bridge until the last hour of the shift, when he met up with Spock to review the plans together. Just as Jim thought, there weren’t many problems, but they sent what they had to the Defiant for review. They’d expect their answer the following morning.

In all the excitement of the shift, Jim had forgotten that he’d had plans for afterward. That is, until he’d been finalizing sending everything over and hadn’t realized that the shift had ended 15 minutes ago. He remembered as soon as the comm panel on the arm of the captain’s chair went off. “McCoy to Kirk.”

Right. He was expected in Sickbay. He hit the button for the comm panel. “Kirk here. I’ll be right down.” He glanced around the bridge but everyone seemed mostly absorbed in their own tasks. There was a lot of excitement around finally having something to do so they were all busy preparing.

With a quick nod at the commanding officer for beta shift, Jim entered the turbolift and began his descent into Sickbay. The excitement of the day had distracted him, but now his concerns from earlier were back. Jim had no idea how Bones would respond to him aging. But he had his game plan from earlier: act surprised about the aging, don’t reveal the suspected soulmate.

Bones was waiting for him as he got into Sickbay. “Finally. I was beginning to worry that you were planning to skip out on me.” He uncrossed his arms and ushered Jim to a biobed. “Lay down; this shouldn’t take long.”

Jim did as instructed and tried not to fidget. “I would apologize for keeping you waiting but I think we both know that I wouldn’t fully mean it. Plus, there was finally something exciting happening. We’ve got a plan to get home. I spent all day reviewing plans and making preparations.”

Bones broke away from the readings on his tricorder and the biobed for a moment to look at Jim. “That is exciting. It should be nice to be back on real ground again.” He turned back to the readings. “I, meanwhile, spent my free time this shift reviewing your records and comparing the latest readings to known phenomena. Admittedly, we don’t have a ton of data on people being exposed to things on Romulan ships, let alone ones from the future, but I made do with what I could. I have a hypothesis now.”

Jim raised an eyebrow. “If you have that much, why did I need to come in at all? We could have just grabbed dinner and you could have told me then.” He started to get up only for Bones to push him back on the biobed.

“I need confirmation before I’m willing to say anything official.” Bones looked back at Jim, his expression stern in the way Jim was used to when Jim was interfering with medical proceedings. “Stay still, dammit. These things are good but you still need to be on it for the best readings.”

“Fine.” Jim almost shifted into a more comfortable position but a quick glare from Bones stopped him. “So how long until you can tell me if I’m dying?”

“Should be soon.” Bones adjusted a few things on his tricorder then ran it over Jim a few more times. “And don’t worry; you shouldn’t be dying anytime soon.”

Jim raised an eyebrow. “Always comforting words to hear from your doctor.”

That got him another glare from Bones, who looked over the biobed readings for a moment more before flicking the display off. He looked back at Jim. “Follow me please.”

Jim got off the bed and followed Bones to his office. “What, news so bad you can’t tell me in public?”

“No.” Bones closed the door before sitting in the chair behind his desk and indicating for Jim to take the chair opposite him. “Not bad news necessarily, but just news that I don’t think you’d want everyone to know.”

Chapter Text

Jim settled in across from Bones, suddenly feeling a bit uneasy. There was the fleeting thought that maybe something was wrong with him and he was mistaken about the aging thing. But Bones had told him not to worry. Still, what if he wasn’t aging and him and Spock weren’t soulmates? A little over a week ago he probably would have been glad about that, but now… things had changed since then. A lot had happened. While he wouldn’t be devastated by the news, Jim might be disappointed. Even if it didn’t end up being romantic like in that other universe, Jim realized that he still liked the idea of having that connection with Spock.

Bones had been oddly silent the whole time Jim was thinking. Jim decided to just get this over with. “So? Are you going to tell me the news or will this dramatic pause go on longer?”

Bones raised an eyebrow. “You’re hardly one to judge on being dramatic. Your middle name is Tiberius for crying out loud.”

Jim shrugged. “It was a family name.”

“It’s a fitting name.” Bones shifted and looked over his padd once more. “But unlike you I technically swore an oath to do no harm, and as much as I wouldn’t mind a little payback that probably involves stressing you out unnecessarily.” Bones put the padd down. “So do you want me to give you the full explanation or the quick news at first?”

“I don’t know.” Jim already knew either way, but he had to pretend like he didn’t. “Maybe quick?”

“You’re aging.” Bones wasted no time and despite how that sort of news was usually perceived, he didn’t seem especially happy. “So either you’re having the most impossible of reactions to something you were exposed to during that whole crisis, or you just met your soulmate.”

“Wow.” Jim felt like he wasn’t reacting enough, but maybe Bones would just take it as surprise. “How long?” He knew, of course, but that seemed like a normal question to ask.

Bones looked over the padd once more. “I’d say no more than two weeks, probably a little less.” He looked back up at Jim. “That’s what the odd readings I detected after you fought the Romulans were. So that was what, ten days ago? But usually it takes around a day, maybe a little less, for the hormones that indicate the aging process restarting to actually reach detectable levels. So it was probably around the start of that whole mess, maybe a little bit before, but it was definitely happening by the time I fixed you up in Sickbay.”

“Ok.” Well, Jim knew that it definitely fell within that timeframe. He looked away from Bones. It felt like if Bones saw his face too much he’d know what was up.

“So.” He could tell Bones was looking at him so he looked back up. “Any idea who it is? I could look to find other crewmembers who seem to be aging.”

“Nah, there’s no need.” Because Jim already knew, or at least suspected. “I met so many people in those few days, and knowing my luck it was one of the Romulans.”

Bones snorted. “If that were true, you would have stopped aging by now since they’re all dead. Or at least they should be. But,” Bones held up the padd he’d been looking at to show Jim, “The latest scans say you’re still aging. So your soulmate should be alive and well.”

“Well that’s good.” Jim sat back in his chair. Time to shut down the conversation. “So we’ve talked about this before. Neither of us really buy into the soulmate thing, right?”

Bones’ expression shifted a bit; his expression had been pretty normal all conversation but now there was a certain guarded edge to it. “Right.”

He seemed on edge but Jim decided to go with it anyway. “Neither of us really think that soulmates are the be all end all, only chance at happiness I mean.”

That seemed to get through to Bones a little more. “Yeah.”

“So what I’m saying is, maybe I don’t want to look for my soulmate right now. If it happens it happens, but I don’t think I want the pressure to get together that newly discovered soulmate pairs face.” Jim hoped he was channeling some of that trademark Jim Kirk smoothness, but not enough to make Bones suspicious.

“Makes sense.” Bones leaned back in his chair, seeming to accept what Jim was saying. “If it happens naturally and you notice each other aging, you’ll just do something then.”

“Exactly.” Not really, but Jim was willing to roll with it. “If it’s really meant to be, it’ll be. In the meantime, I’d rather not have this get out, ok? I bet there will already be a media circus around me when we get back without them getting to throw 'tragic love story' on top of it all.”

“I get it.” Bones set the pad down. “I remember how annoyed you got when they were hounding you around your birthday for the follow up stuff for the ,Kelvin since it was the 25th anniversary this year. Don’t worry, I don’t plan on adding more fuel to the fire.” Bones leaned across the desk and gave his hand a brief squeeze. “I’ve got your back, Jim.”

Jim smiled. “Thanks Bones.” For a moment, Jim wondered what it would have been like if they’d made each other age. It probably would have been platonic since while Jim would be lying if he said the thought never crossed his mind, Bones never seemed interested that way. Still, there were far worse things than growing old with a friend. But unfortunately, Jim’s life was never that simple. Things always ended up a bit more challenging or dramatic. Jim looked around Bones’ office. “Well, it’s gotta be a good half hour or more since the shift ended. I should let you finish up here.”

“Everything’s already done. I was just staying here to make sure I could figure out what was going on with you.” Bones stood up and stretched a bit. “Want to go grab dinner?”

“Sure.” Jim stood up as well. “I bet all the replicator lines in the mess have cleared by now.”

“Great. I’m hungry.” Bones led the way out of his office and Jim followed, glad that that was one secret he wouldn’t have to keep from his friend anymore. Well, part of the secret was revealed at least. The other part he’d hold onto a while longer.

Chapter Text

Jim was surprised by how well Bones had taken the news. He seemed to be respecting Jim’s wish to keep it on the down low too; he hadn’t even brought it up when they were in the mess hall for dinner. Jim wasn’t really worried about Bones telling though; between doctor-patient confidentiality and Bones being a good friend the odds of him telling were pretty low.

Bones’ negative experience with the whole soulmate thing probably had to do with why he was willing to accept Jim’s reluctance about it. Although it didn’t come up often, Jim knew that Bones was still a bit bitter about his ex-wife breaking up with him over not being soulmates. It was a little satisfying to both Jim and Bones that apparently she still hadn’t met her soulmate despite making such a big deal about it.

So Jim got that Bones wouldn’t make a big deal about the aging/soulmate thing. But he wondered if it would be any different if Bones knew who his soulmate was…

Bones still seemed like he still wasn’t warming up to Spock. Jim wondered if he was still holding the whole “nearly killed Jim” thing against Spock, which would be odd because Jim himself wasn’t even bothered by that anymore. But Bones did sometimes get more protective of Jim than he was of himself. Although considering Jim had been called reckless and lacking self-preservation instincts by many, that probably wasn’t saying too much.

Still, even if Jim and Spock were only platonic soulmates, it would suck for Jim if Bones and Spock never got along. Having friends who didn’t get along was never fun. Jim didn’t really want to lose either of them, even if all he really had with Spock now was potential. Still, if what Older Spock showed him was any indication, there was a lot of potential.

Jim tried to remember if there was anything about Bones in the mindmeld with Older Spock. He remembered flashes of other people even if it had been pretty focused on that Spock and his Jim. There was someone who looked a little different but that Jim thought was Bones who had popped up a good amount, which probably boded well. It seemed like the two of them would at least learn to tolerate each other.

Thinking of friends made Jim remember the list of survivors. There were a lot of people he knew who’d been assigned to ships going to Vulcan. It would be good to see who lived, even if figuring out everyone who wasn’t on the list would be pretty much the opposite of good.

Still, it was like Jim decided before: better to find out himself than hear it secondhand. He’d rather process the information on his own than get all upset on the bridge or elsewhere.

With a deep breath to brace himself, Jim sat down at his desk and started to pull up the file. He considered getting a drink from the replicator, but decided against it because he had a shift the next day and because it was never as good when it came from the replicator.

The list had loaded. Jim saw that it was set up with a search option, but he didn’t feel like doing that. It would be better to go through and find people and be pleasantly surprised than to search and be disappointed.

Still, Jim skipped down to the Starfleet section. It wouldn’t really do to look over the Vulcan section since the only Vulcans he really knew (with one notable exception) were the ones on the ship now. He knew they were alive.

The Starfleet section was organized by division and alphabetical from there. The command section was first. Jim was pleasantly surprised by the number of names there; it was enough that he decided to skim it for anyone who stuck out rather than reading it all.

There was definitely one familiar person there. Standing out because her name didn’t seem like a name was Number One, Pike’s usual first officer and also soulmate. Jim had never quite gotten the backstory on her name, but from what he understood it was a designation or something that had significance back on her home planet.

Jim wondered if Pike knew she was alive. Would he have felt it if he stopped aging? Pike hadn’t brought it up any of the times Jim had visited him in Sickbay, but he’d mostly gone to talk about captain things or ship’s business. They always did a little catching up when Jim got there, sure, but they hadn’t gotten very personal in their discussions.

Jim decided to take the list to Pike once he was done reviewing it. It was entirely possible that someone else had given Pike a copy of the list by now, but Jim could take a copy just in case. If nothing else, they could just talk for a bit. Maybe he could even find a way to get Pike to talk about having a soulmate who wasn’t human. It could be nice to get advice from someone else who was in that situation. Pike had known Number One for almost 20 years now; Jim didn’t know exactly how much of that they’d been together, but he knew it was probably most of it. Jim would have to be careful to make it seem like he wasn’t directly asking for advice because he was in the same situation; he didn’t want it getting out who he thought his soulmate was.

But now was not the time to consider relationship advice. Jim still had a lot of the list to review.

He made it through the rest of the command section without paying too much attention. There were a number of names he knew from the academy on there and more who weren’t there. Jim tried not to think about that too much. Once he finished he realized the name Gary Mitchell hadn’t been there that he’d seen, but he could have missed it. He didn’t feel like going back to check; he’d moved on from Gary and didn’t want to get caught up in all that again.

The next section was Operations, which was helpfully broken down further into Communications, Engineering, and Security. Jim tried to remember which area Gaila technically fell into. With her focus on computer programing, he remembered her taking about how she could work to help program things for sciences, communication, or even engineering. He couldn’t remember which area she’d ultimately gone with, but decided to look closely at the communication section just in case.

It took a little bit, but there was a moment of relief when he found her name. It didn’t say much, just her name, species, and rank, but it was enough for Jim to identify her. There weren’t many Orions in Starfleet after all.

Jim was glad that there was finally some good news. Not that it had been just bad news the past few days after all, but it still seemed like today was a better day than some of the others this week. They found out how they were getting home and would be starting as soon as they were ready, Bones found out about him aging but took it well, and Jim got confirmation that one of his best friends was alive after all. He still wanted to talk things over with her about using her code to access the Kobyashi Maru, but he hoped the relief that they were both alive would be enough that she wouldn’t hold it against him long.

Still, his mood had lifted considerably. Jim went over the rest of the list with a better mood than before. It took some hits as he went over the rest of the list, but there were still people he knew who lived. He just had to focus on that and not get overwhelmed by the negative. Plus, he could go talk to Pike. Despite Pike’s current situation and Jim’s usual dislike of hospitals and Sickbays, seeing Pike typically helped his mood.

Jim glanced at the chronometer. It was getting late. Maybe it would be best to visit Pike tomorrow. He decided that was for the best; that way he could just get up early before his shift and go.

Tomorrow could be a good day. They were getting ready to head back to Earth, which meant there’d be preparations to make and things for Jim to do. He’d get to talk to Pike. Maybe he’d even get to talk to other people who’d reviewed the list.

Since it was getting late and he was tired anyway, Jim decided to go to bed. Might as well be well rested for everything tomorrow.

Chapter Text

The next day Jim got up earlier than normal so he’d have time to talk to Pike. Once he got to Sickbay, he nodded at the gamma shift doctor but didn’t stop to check in; he’d been here enough times that they probably knew he was just visiting Pike. Plus, being captain had its privileges and apparently that included people giving you a good amount of leeway on the ship.

Jim poked his head into the curtained off area Pike was occupying. Pike was reading something on a padd and seemed very focused on it.

Jim cleared his throat to get his attention. “Captain.”

Pike looked up and smiled when he saw who it was. “Jim.” He put the padd down on the table next to the biobed. “Come on in; I was just reviewing the survivor list.”

“What a coincidence.” Jim held up the padd he’d brought. “I was just about to bring you a copy because I wasn’t sure if you’d gotten one yet.” Jim sat down on the chair next to the biobed and set down the padd. “So how far did you get?”

“Far enough to know that Number One is still kicking if that’s what you’re asking.” Pike smiled. “I didn’t doubt that she’d make it; I could just feel that she was alive still. Plus, all this medical monitoring would have probably picked up if I’d stopped aging.”

“True.” Jim nodded. “Still, it must be a relief to have confirmation that she’s still out there.”

“It is.” Pike continued smiling softly; he was in a good mood today and Jim could guess why.

After a few moments of comfortable silence, Jim decided to just go for it with his question. “Sir, if you don’t mind my asking—and you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to or if you think it’s too personal—what’s it like having a soulmate who isn’t human? Is it...odd?” Jim hesitated a moment; the slight smile had slipped from Pike’s face but he didn’t look angry or offended, just like he was thinking maybe. “I was just curious since it’s still so rare. I mean, there’s billions of humans but the number of people with nonhuman soulmates has got to be what, maybe a few hundred known cases since first contact?”

“That’s true.” Pike smiled slightly at him, this time different than before, more reassuring than anything else. “It is quite uncommon. As we meet and interact with more species, there are more recorded cases, but I know most people still end up with other humans.” He looked away, seemingly deep in thought. It was a moment before he spoke again. “It can be odd. The thing you hear about most often is people saying they didn’t realize who their soulmate was right away since other species don’t have the same aging patterns. Beyond that, it really does vary with the soulmate’s species, so each individual relationship can have its own set of challenges and excitements.” Pike looked back at Jim. “There’s a theory that humans with nonhuman soulmates will actually have their aging rates adjust to match their soulmate’s rate of aging, but there’s been no real confirmation on that yet. Most known species have aging rates too close to humans’ rate for it to make much of a noticeable difference if it does make a difference at all. An exception was a human woman with a Vulcan soulmate, but she’s dead now so I guess we’ll never know.”

“Spock’s mom.” Jim’s voice seemed soft even to him and he didn’t look at Pike.

“Yeah.” Pike’s quiet response made Jim look back at him. “Have you two talked about her much?”

Jim shook his head. “Not really.” He shifted his hands on his lap. “We’ve developed a good working relationship, but we haven’t really spent much time together off shift.”

“It’s good that you’re making progress and working well together. I think you two have good potential as a command team.” Pike shifted on the biobed a bit. “As for Amanda,” he looked at Jim, “Spock’s mom that is, I’ve met her a few times. When Spock first came to Starfleet, she came to me and asked me to look out for him.” He paused a moment. “I guess she figured as someone else with a non-human soulmate I would get the struggle of being between two cultures a little bit.” He smiled some at that before his expression went thoughtful again. “We kept in touch but only saw each other a few times after that. She made sure to see me at Spock’s graduation and at his promotion ceremonies, the ones I was there for at least.” Pike made a face Jim couldn’t quite read. “I never met his dad though while Spock was at the Academy. Apparently his old man didn’t approve of Spock joining Starfleet instead of staying on Vulcan.” Pike looked back at Jim. “He clearly isn’t too against Starfleet since he still lets Starfleet take him to diplomatic events like they do for other ambassadors, but I guess he thought it wasn’t right for his son.”

“Yeah.” Jim nodded. “I think they’ve reconciled some, but I’ve seen the two interact and it still seems a bit…stiff. I mean, I’m not really the best to judge Vulcan relationships,” Jim paused and thought for a second, “Or father-son relationships really. But still, even though they were talking it seemed a little…tense.”

“Yeah, from what I’ve heard Sarek isn’t always the easiest to talk to, even though you’d think that would come with being an ambassador.” Pike sighed. “Amanda spoke very highly of him though. Despite how he was treating his son, he must be a great man to have won over such a wonderful woman.” Pike smiled at Jim. “I guess that difference in expression and attitude is just another aspect of relationships with other species. Number One and I don’t have it quite to that extent, but there are still differences.” Pike smiled. “Another thing that varies with the species of your soulmate I guess. Vulcans just seem to be very different that humans when it comes to that sort of thing.”

“Yeah.” Jim hoped that he was saying that in a calm way rather than in a way that reflected how he was feeling now. He hadn’t really been thinking about all the possible cultural differences between Vulcans and humans; he’d been looking at him and Spock as individuals instead of considering the big picture. Spock’s parents had lived on Vulcan; what if Spock wanted to live with Vulcans rather than humans? True, Spock seemed to not mind living among humans since he’d opted to go into Starfleet, which was mostly human, but still…

“Jim?” He looked up to see Pike looking at him with what was starting to look like concern. It seemed like that might not have been the first time he said Jim’s name.

“I’m ok.” Jim smiled in a way he hoped was reassuring. “I was just getting a little distracted thinking about what living among Vulcans would be like. It seems like there could be some culture shock.” Jim needed to stop fantasizing about what it would be like if he were with Spock. It didn’t seem like it would be happening anytime soon, if at all. So he really wouldn’t have to worry about living with Vulcans.

“It would be an adjustment.” Pike looked away and seemed to be trying to remember again. “I don’t think Amanda ever complained about it, but then again by the time I’d met her she’d lived there for around 20 years, so she’d had plenty of time to adjust.”

“Yeah, that’s true.” Jim glanced down at one of the padds on the bedside table and noticed it was later than he’d realized. He’d have to get going if he wanted to eat before his shift. He looked back up at Pike, who seemed to have noticed the change in his temperament.

“Do you have to go?” Pike didn’t sound disappointed necessarily, but Jim could tell that he wouldn’t have minded visiting for longer.

“Yeah, it’s starting to get close to time for the shift to start.” Jim started to stand up. “I guess I’ll let you finish going over the list. We’re starting the tow back to Earth today, so that should mean that you’ll get to have a reunion soon.”

Pike smiled. “That’ll be nice.”

“Yeah.” Jim picked up the padd he brought, double checking that it was the right one, before starting to head out. “I guess I’ll see you around, sir.”

“Come by anytime, Jim.” Pike waved at him and Jim returned it before making his way out of Sickbay.

He headed to the mess hall and started mentally reviewing what he had to do during his shift. It should be busy now that they were finally headed back. Hopefully it would be busy enough to get all those thoughts of soulmates out of his head.

Chapter Text

Jim managed to get to the bridge just prior to the start of Alpha shift. He nodded at Spock, who was already there, before heading to the captain’s chair. He turned and looked over at Uhura. “Have we heard anything from the Defiant yet?”

Uhura turned around in her chair. “We have, Captain. They’ve been in communication with beta and gamma shifts over the concerns we sent over, and they said once Alpha shift began they’d send a team over to discuss it in person. Once we let them know, Captain Davison and an engineering team will beam over.”

“Alright.” Jim nodded. “Tell them we’re ready. We’ll meet them in transporter room 2.” He got up from the chair and looked over at Spock. “Spock, come with me.” He looked back at the front of the bridge. “Sulu, you have the conn.”

With everything settled on the bridge, Jim made his way to the turbolift with Spock following him. He wasn’t fully sure why he brought Spock with him. Maybe it was because he figured that Spock could handle the technical stuff well, although Jim did know a good amount between his mom and occasionally working at the shipyards back in Riverside. It could also be that Spock knew protocol better than him. Jim was once more reminded of his relative inexperience and lack of practical knowledge about starship workings as he had no real idea of how you were supposed to welcome another captain onto your ship. Well, it probably wouldn’t matter once they were back on Earth. Jim still wasn’t expecting to keep this command. He wasn't gonna let himself get his hopes up.

The turbolift was still a bit away from the deck they needed. Jim turned to Spock and smiled what he hoped was a charming smile. “Thanks for coming with, Spock. I figured it would help to have someone who knows all the technical stuff as well as all the protocol. I guess I could have asked Pike to come to help with protocol, but when I saw him earlier today he still didn’t seem like he was in shape to be up touring the ship.”

Spock’s eyebrow rose. “Why were you seeing Captain Pike? Were you consulting him about our return to Earth?”

“No, actually.” Jim shifted a little to face Spock more. “It was more of a social visit than anything else. I went to bring him the survivor list.”

Spock didn’t turn to look at Jim. “I am sure that he would appreciate that”

“Yeah.” Jim found himself looking away; he felt like staring at that profile too long (as tempting as that view was) would make Spock suspicious. “He already had a copy though. He was looking it over when I got there and he’d just found out Number One was still alive, so he was in a good mood.” Jim paused before deciding to go with it. “I bet finding out about your soulmate being alive would put anyone in a good mood. We actually ended up talking about soulmates for a bit after that, specifically times when a human has a nonhuman soulmate like he does.”

Spock seemed get a little tenser when he found out the topic of conversation. “And what did you discuss about such pairings? I realize some humans… disapprove.”

Jim almost snorted at the irony of Spock thinking he would be against it. “You can relax Spock, I’m not one of those assholes. To me, people should love who they love, regardless of gender, race, species, or other arbitrary things. As long as everything is consensual and age appropriate all around, I think people should just mind their own business and not bother each other. Humanity has found enough reasons to vilify people for who they’re into; we don’t need more.” He paused to make sure Spock seemed to be relaxing. “Besides, it wasn’t that kind of talk. We were just having a general conversation about what interspecies soulmate life was like because I was curious.”

That earned another raised eyebrow as the turbolift doors opened and they began to walk. “And why were you so curious about such a topic, Captain?”

“I don’t know.” Jim really hoped he was sounding genuine; although he was interested in this it wasn’t like he could tell Spock why. “It’s not like it was a thing that happened much or at all back in Riverside, so the stories I did hear always caught my interest. Pike was willing to talk about it, so we talked about it.” Jim glanced over at Spock; they were nearing the transporter room and he was feeling bold. “It’s just interesting because it’s a human phenomenon but other species can still be involved, you know? I was always curious about what other species thought since it was apparently so unique.” Jim paused and decided to go for it. “What do you think of the whole thing, Spock?”

“Vulcans do not have soulmates.” Again, Jim had to stop himself from reacting to the irony. Spock seemed so unfazed. He must not know, or even suspect it. “As such, I was not raised with the cultural preoccupation with the idea of soulmates as many of the human crewmembers or crewmembers from human-majority worlds were.” Spock paused and looked over at Jim. “Still, as my mother was human I was not unfamiliar with the concept. It is a scientifically interesting phenomenon.”

Before Jim could respond, they reached the doors to the transporter room. It was time to get down to business. Jim held back a sigh and turned to Spock with another smile. “Well, as interesting as this has been, I guess it’s time to get back home.” Jim flinched when he realized what he’d said and had to stop himself from facepalming. Spock’s expression remained unchanged but Jim felt like he was disapproving all the same. He’d just lost his home; he probably didn’t need Jim rubbing his intact planet in his face. “Sorry about that. Back to Earth I mean.” He looked away from Spock and gestured at the doors. “After you.” He followed Spock inside a moment later.

Well, despite how horribly that conversation had ended, at least he learned one thing from it: Spock did not know they were soulmates. Hell, Spock didn’t even seem to think that he had a soulmate. That should make Jim’s life more interesting. Not that he needed it.

Still, this was not the time to be thinking all of that over. Jim turned to the transporter pad and watched it light up as the Defiant crew came over.

Chapter Text

Spock returned to his quarters that night feeling in need of rest. He immediately settled into a meditation posture and began to review his day as part of his pre-sleep routine.

His morning had been unremarkable. He had visited the science labs prior to his shift to review the experiments the crew were conducting, although many of them had shifted their focus in favor of assisting the efforts to ready the Enterprise for its return to Earth. This visit had not been in vain, however, as Spock would spend the remainder of his day in dedication to that very pursuit. He was able to utilize some of the ideas generated by his science teams later that day.

Spock had spent the first half of his shift reviewing possible problems with the plan for the Defiant to tow the Enterprise back to Earth and the rest of his shift working with members of both crews to create and implement solutions to those problems.

As they had also traversed both ships to inspect possible problem areas on the Enterprise and to assess potential supplies that could be spared from the Defiant, Spock’s shift had been taxing both mentally and physically. He had also spent additional time at his post into beta shift to ensure that the beginning of the tow process did not encounter any problems.

That had meant that Spock was unable to visit the mess hall with Nyota for dinner, but she had not seemed perturbed by this. Indeed, she had been highly understanding, as she often was. This was a trait Spock valued in Nyota, although in this instance he believed it was due in part to her desire to return to Earth as quickly as possible.

Because of that missed meal, Spock’s social encounters had been limited that day. When he had later gotten dinner, he had eaten alone. His previous meal he had eaten with the teams from both ships, but they had spent the entire time discussing their plans to return the Enterprise to Earth. He had eaten his morning meal with Nyota. It was a pleasant meal, but they had also been mainly focused on the Enterprise’s return to Earth. She had also mentioned her joy upon discovering that her roommate and friend from the Academy, Gaila, had lived according to the survivor list. However, Nyota had quickly changed the topic, quite possibly for fear of reminding Spock of what he had lost by speaking of the deaths that had occurred.

While Spock could see how Nyota’s actions in avoiding the topic could be thought of as considerate, he found them unnecessary. He would have to adjust to the reality of his mother’s death and the destruction of his planet, and avoiding thoughts of either would not assist him in adjusting.

The only other social interaction of note that Spock had experienced that day was his conversation with the Captain as they traveled between the bridge and the transporter room. It had been a brief encounter, but like most with Kirk, it had been…interesting.

While Kirk visiting Captain Pike was not uncommon, their topic of discussion was. Discussion of soulmates among humans was not rare, but discussing humans with nonhuman soulmates was more uncommon.

Spock had known that Captain Pike’s soulmate was not human. He had met Number One previously and worked with her during his previous time on a starship, during which he served as a science officer under the command team of Pike as captain and Number One as first officer. While her background was largely unknown to him as neither Spock nor Number One engaged in discussions of their personal histories often, Spock did know that she was not human, although she did appear remarkably humanlike. Still, from his time traveling with his family on his father’s diplomatic missions Spock knew that there were many species that were visibly similar to humans.

Despite this similarity, Spock still knew that many humans were opposed to relationships between humans and nonhumans. They were not the only species to hold such prejudices, as Spock knew personally from many encounters with prejudiced Vulcans, but it was noteworthy in humans because some became particularly vocal or violent about it. Upon further research, Spock had learned that this sort of prejudice concerning others’ intimate relationships had occurred throughout human history with various other divisions serving as the source of strife. However, humanity had managed to overcome those prejudices, or at least reach a point where holding such prejudiced beliefs was considered improper, so Spock believed it reasonable to assume that humanity would eventually overcome their prejudice against interspecies relationships as well.

Still, he knew that the prejudice continued to exist in some parts of human culture, which was why he had been wary when Kirk first mentioned the topic. Kirk’s reassurances had soothed Spock somewhat, but his comment that he found such relationships interesting had renewed Spock’s wariness; he knew that there were some humans who did not truly accept interspecies relationships, but still engaged in them because they enjoyed the idea of being with a member of another species for the superficial differences between the species rather than because of any individual traits of the person they were engaged with. Given that, according to Kirk’s reputation, most of his encounters had been brief, Spock briefly wondered if Kirk was such an individual.

However, Spock soon dismissed the possibility. Kirk’s behavior during the time Spock had known him had not been consistent with the behavior of such individuals. Spock had encountered them before; they seemed to focus entirely on the Vulcan aspects of his appearance, even though Vulcans were not highly visually dissimilar from Humans, and show a notable lack of interest in his personal life, unlike how people commonly behaved in romantic encounters. In the time he had known Kirk, Spock had noticed that despite his reputation Kirk treated all the crewmembers he interacted with as individuals, only seeming to vary his behavior according to species if there were cultural protocols for certain species that needed to be observed.

So it was unlikely that Kirk was one of the people who engaged in interspecies relationships simply because they found it interesting. Additionally, the focus on soulmates suggested an interest in long term relationships rather than brief sexual encounters, which was also unlike the humans who sought out brief encounters with other species for the excitement it brought them.

It seemed like the evidence suggested that Kirk’s interest in interspecies relationships was genuine and not of a…derogatory nature. Spock could acknowledge that studying how the already interesting human phenomenon of soulmates reacted to the introduction of other species was, to some degree, fascinating. He knew that some humans studied it from an anthropological or biological perspective, among others. His parents had occasionally agreed to participate in such studies along with other human-nonhuman pairs.

Perhaps Kirk held an anthropological interest in the phenomenon.

As for the matter of soulmates, Spock had been caught off guard when Kirk directed a question about it at him. Many people did not consider the opinions of nonhumans on the matter of soulmates, and because most humans saw Spock as Vulcan and thus nonhuman, it was not a matter he was asked about often.

While Spock had been honest in telling Kirk that he considered it a scientifically interesting phenomenon, he was glad that they reached their destination and ceased their discussion when they did. Spock’s half-human status likely would have caused Kirk to question if he, Spock, believed he had a soulmate, and Spock would be unable to answer. While Spock knew that his mother had believed that Spock had a soulmate, there was not enough data on human-nonhuman hybrids to reach a definitive conclusion. Because while there had been interspecies partnerships prior to Sarek and Amanda, few had had children. Thus, Spock did not have a large enough sample size to draw on to support a conclusion, and he had not yet noticed a major change in his own aging process. However, Vulcans also aged much slower than humans did, so a lack of noticeable bodily change could be due to a change in aging or due to his largely Vulcan physiology.

Spock supposed that eventually he would discover whether or not he had a soulmate. He was not sure which possibility he preferred.

Chapter Text

Jim woke up and was a bit surprised that he could actually feel the ship moving after so many days of being still or puttering along at impulse. He rolled over with a groan to check the chronometer. He still had time before his shift. He could go back to sleep…

Jim flopped over onto his back. It had been a long day yesterday. There had been all the time going around both ships trying to prepare for them to tow the Enterprise back to Earth, and then the tension in the crew that it wouldn’t work and the ship would end up getting more damaged from the strain of the low-warp tow.

It had turned out ok though. And now they were on their way back to Earth. They’d be there in around 24 hours from now.

Jim was feeling a little torn. On one hand, he would be glad to be back. This crew had been through enough and they deserved to get home again. And Jim would be lying if he said there weren’t some things he was looking forward to as well, like reuniting with his friends who’d been rescued from the damaged ships around Vulcan. He hoped he’d get the chance to talk things out with Gaila.

But on the other hand, there were still so many consequences awaiting him once they reached Earth. He didn’t know whether the Admiralty would try to continue the Kobayashi Maru trial or try to keep him suspended. Although he might not have to worry about that; Spock was the one who’d brought up the charges, and now Spock seemed to like Jim at least somewhat. They hadn’t really talked over that specifically, but they seemed to be understanding each other in at least some capacity now. But the Admiralty might want to crack down on him to make an example about cheating.

But still, that wasn’t really Jim’s biggest concern at the moment. He was more concerned about his general fate within Starfleet. How exactly would the Admiralty react to finding out that a cadet had been made captain of a starship? Hell, if someone had gone up to Jim himself a few weeks ago, before all of this started, and told him that a cadet became acting captain of a starship (without everyone else dying first), he probably would have laughed at them. It was unheard of.

So who knew how the admirals would take it. True, Jim hadn’t really gotten any problems from the crew as far as insubordination or not respecting him as captain, but they’d all been working together, first to survive and then to get home as quickly as possible. Getting people to work together when there was a common goal was pretty easy. But once they were back at Earth, there’d be no big mission to get done because they’d have already finished it. He just hoped that all the admirals did was put him back down to cadet rank rather than actually seriously punishing him. If he was back to cadet, he’d at least graduate soon and then he’d be an ensign. He could work his way up from there. If he remembered right, Pike said it was possible to become captain after only 8 years. He’d been able to do the Academy in three instead of four, so maybe he’d be able to do this in six instead.

As nervous as Jim had been initially, he had actually enjoyed his time as captain. He was still a little nervous at times and felt like he hadn’t earned it, but Jim felt like he was actually doing ok at this. Sure, he’d mostly joined Starfleet to prove a point to Pike, but he was actually enjoying himself now. He’d started to enjoy himself at the Academy, but here it felt like he was really doing something good. He’d have to thank Pike for goading him into this and then making him acting first officer.

Pike. Jim sat up with a start. Would Pike get in trouble for promoting Jim? There were probably rules about how you were supposed to set up your chain of command, and Jim had jumped over a ton of people who were higher ranked or had more experience. Was that allowed?

Jim really hoped Pike wouldn’t get in trouble for this. While Jim couldn’t say exactly why Pike had picked him to be acting first officer, he was grateful for the opportunity. So he really hoped that Pike hadn’t violated some regulation in promoting him.

He glanced at the chronometer again. He still had some time before he needed to get ready, so Jim could check.

He got up and went to the computer console on the desk on the other side of the room. It didn’t take him long to pull up the Starfleet regulations. He started to search for anything related to the chain of command or creating one.

After a few minutes of reading through what he found, there didn’t seem to be any specifically about putting cadets in the chain of command, which meant that there didn’t seem to be anything specifically against it either. That was good for Pike. Jim looked over a few related regulations just to be sure, but it looked like Pike should be ok.

He leaned back in the chair and sighed in relief. He was glad that Pike wouldn’t be getting in trouble. It was just Jim’s fate that was uncertain now.

He didn’t expect to get to keep the ship. Would the Admiralty really let a cadet, let alone one with little to no practical experience and a few marks on his record, stay in command of one of their newest (and in Jim’s opinion, nicest) ships? He doubted it.

Really at this point Jim was just hoping that they wouldn’t ground him permanently. He looked at the time on the console screen. He should probably start getting ready. Gotta enjoy what would probably be one of his last shifts as captain for a while, if at all.

He got up to start getting ready.

Chapter Text

After a quick breakfast (or really lunch if he was going by the time of day) with Bones, Jim made it to the bridge just before his shift started. He settled into the chair and watched the stars go by, the view partially obstructed by the Defiant and the tractor beam that was pulling them along.

They were supposed to arrive at Earth during the next day’s Alpha shift. When exactly they would get there was unclear; they’d been mostly focused on getting to Earth that they’d spent less time on the procedures for the approach.

That could be a potential problem area. Jim furrowed his brow. If they didn’t work with the Defiant to come up with a foolproof stopping method, the Enterprise could end up continuing at warp and missing the Earth entirely. Or worse, they could still be at low warp speeds and not miss Earth, which would be worse. They needed to get that under control.

Jim got up and went to Spock’s station. Spock looked like he was busy looking at sensor readings, but Jim decided this was probably more important. “Hey Spock.”

Spock turned around in his seat and clasped his hands in his lap. “Yes, captain?”

Jim took a moment before answering. He didn’t know how long it would be before anyone called him captain again once they were back at Earth. “Can we review the stopping procedures for once we reached Earth? I feel like we didn’t go over that as much during planning and I want to make sure everything will go smoothly.”

“Of course, captain.” Spock stood and gestured for Jim to come to his station. “I can pull up the plans on my console.”

“Alright.” Jim came and stood next to Spock, who was typing to bring up the plans. “I know the Defiant will drop out of warp and that should drop us out too, but I feel like that might not be enough. Do we have anything else planned? I think we need some sort of backup in case something goes wrong.”

Spock hesitated a moment, looking over the plans. “That may be a wise precaution.” He looked at Jim. “How do you wish to proceed?”

Jim glanced at the console and back to Spock. “Do you mind if I…” he gestured at the console to indicate using it.

“You may use my station.” Spock leaned back slightly and clasped his hands behind his back.

Jim smiled at him. “Thanks Spock.” He turned to the console and began pulling up the most recent status reports from engineering and other departments. “We should check what we have working right now. I know warp is completely offline, but we’ve still got impulse. We could use those engines to help slow us down; it might even be best if we contact the Defiant and tell them that we need to change plans a bit. I’m thinking maybe we should drop out of warp outside of the Sol System just to be sure and then continue in at impulse. It shouldn’t delay our arrival that much; we’d probably still get in during our alpha shift.”

Spock looked over the information Jim had pulled up. “That is a sound plan, Captain.”

“Thanks.” Jim grinned at Spock. “Plus, it might be nice to have the Enterprise reach Earth on her own power, for the last leg at least. Show that she still has a little fight left.”

That earned Jim an eyebrow raise. “Vanity or posturing is unnecessary, Captain. We have already eliminated the threat; we are not required to “fight” more, only return home.”

Although Spock didn’t actually use air quotes, Jim could practically feel him putting the quotes in anyway. “Alright, it may be a little bit of vanity. I just want to show that the ship is still at least mostly functional. I don’t want everyone thinking that I completely wrecked a brand new ship on my first command.”

Once again, Spock was quiet a moment before responding. “Your reasons aside, your plan is sound and possibly superior to our initial one. We can contact the Defiant and relay our potential course of action; we should get their approval before implementing anything.”

“Good point.” Jim smiled at Spock. “Let’s get on it.” He looked over at Uhura, who had probably overheard their whole conversation since she was just one station over but was focused on her work nonetheless. “Lieutenant, can you open a channel to the Defiant?”

“Yes sir.” Uhura glanced at him before shifting her attention back to her station and beginning to pull up a channel. “Ready; just awaiting a response.”

“Thanks. Put it onscreen when they answer.” Jim flashed her a quick smile before leaving the back of the bridge to go to the captain’s chair.

A moment later the bridge of the Defiant appeared onscreen. Captain Davison nodded. “Captain.”

Jim nodded in return. “Captain.”

“What’s the reason for this call? Is there a problem with your ship?” There was a note of concern in Captain Davison’s voice.

“No, the Enterprise is holding up just fine. We just had some concerns about the final leg of our journey tomorrow.” Jim shifted a bit in the captain’s chair. Technically he had had concerns, but Spock had agreed with him. He glanced back at Spock before looking forward again. “My first officer and I came up with an alternate plan for our approach to Earth. We can send it over for you to review, but we think it would avoid some potential problems.”

Captain Davison thought for a moment then nodded. “Send it over. We’ll review it and get back to you.”

From most other people it would have sounded like a dismissal, but from working together the last few days Jim knew Captain Davison enough to know that that was a genuine statement. “Alright. We’ll get that right to you.”

“We’ll get back to you by the end of your shift. Davison Out.” With that the screen went dark.

Jim turned around to Uhura and Spock. “Can you two send that over?”

“Yes, Captain.” Spock looked to Uhura and the two of them began to coordinate between their consoles.

Jim turned back to the front of the bridge. Might as well enjoy the view from the Captain’s chair while he could.

Chapter Text

They eventually got the reply from the Defiant; they agreed that Jim’s plan would present fewer risks and decided to implement it once they neared the Sol System. Jim was almost looking forward to it because it would mean that he was ending his time as captain on a positive note; he wasn’t looking forward to it because it would be ending his time as captain.

There was still the chance that he wouldn’t necessarily have to give up command. Still, Jim was keeping his expectations low. Better to be pleasantly surprised by low hopes and good news than seriously let down by high hopes and bad news.

He wanted to do one last visit to Pike while he was still Captain Kirk for sure. So after his shift ended Jim headed to Sickbay. He planned to continue to visit Pike when he was at Starfleet Medical back on Earth of course, but it would be different once Jim was bumped back to cadet or whatever they’d end up doing. They wouldn’t be equals in the same way. Not that Pike had ever really made Jim feel inferior; it was just a little different now in a way that Jim knew it might not be again, at least not for a while probably.

Jim skipped dinner after his shift and went straight to Sickbay. He didn’t want to be there too late since Bones had stressed that Pike needed his rest and Jim didn’t want Bones coming after him for keeping his patient up.

Again, Jim was able to walk in without needing to check in with anything more than a nod to the doctor on duty. That was another captain privilege that he’d miss. But Jim decided to not think about that too much; he was here to see Pike.

Thankfully, Pike was still up when Jim got there. That probably meant that he could avoid a lecture from Bones, which was always good. Pike had been reviewing something on a padd but he looked up and smiled when Jim got there. “Hello again, Captain.”

Jim couldn’t help but smile back. “Captain.” He settled down into the chair next to Pike’s biobed. “You know, you can’t get too used to calling me that. This time tomorrow we’ll be back at Earth and my time in command of a ship will be done.”

“For now.” Pike set his padd on the table next to the biobed. “But I’m pretty sure that the day will come again, and soon if I have anything to say about it, that you’ll be a captain once more.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” Jim shifted a bit in his chair. “We’ll see if the Admiralty agrees. I wasn’t exactly in great standing with them when we left.”

Pike’s expression went a bit more serious. “Jim, I know things weren’t great for you when we left but I think that pales in comparison to everything you’ve done since then. You saved Earth.”

“The crew saved Earth; it was mostly Spock really. He was the one who took out the drill and then Nero.” Jim looked away from Pike. “Besides, it’s not like they saw what I did as no big deal. I was on trial in front of practically the whole school, and they suspended me even though it was an emergency situation.”

“Jim.” Pike waited until Jim met his eyes. “The real test is always how people do in the field, and you passed with flying colors there. Compared to that, I’m sure they’ll be willing to let go of you changing some things in a simulation. Besides,” Pike smiled encouragingly at him, “I’ve had plenty of time to look things over, and it turns out that what you did wasn’t technically against the rules. There were no rules against adding to the program.”

“It was still considered cheating though, and they didn’t seem very happy about it.” Jim shifted in his chair. “It was enough that they were willing to suspend me.”

Pike reached out and laid his hand over Jim’s. “Son, I’m telling you that it’ll be alright. Trust me on this.”

Jim smiled even though he was still feeling a bit nervous. “Thanks.” After a moment though, his thoughts from earlier returned to him and the smile dropped from his face. “What about you though? Could you get in trouble for promoting me to first officer?”

Pike shifted back and put his hands in his lap. “I’m not really sure.” He looked back at Jim. “There aren’t too many rules for setting up the chain of command, especially if the crew is new and it hasn’t been set up already, which was definitely the case here. There are usual ways it gets set up, but that’s really a matter of convention rather than any sort of formal guideline.”

“That is reassuring.” Jim thought for a moment. “If you do get in trouble, you could always say I set you up for it.” He looked at Pike; Jim was unsure how serious he was or how serious he was coming across. “I’d be willing to take the fall. I’m probably in enough trouble for various things anyways; what’s one more?”

Pike seemed somewhere between tired and exasperated. “Jim, don’t. It probably won’t be that bad, if there are negative consequences at all. Besides, if we turn it into some sort of grand conspiracy we’ll both get court martialed.”

“Meh.” Jim shrugged. “Like I said, there’s probably already things I should be court martialed for. Like what I did to Spock.”

“Actually Captain, it is I who should be court martialed.” Both turned to see Spock standing at the foot of Pike’s bed. He turned to look at Pike. “I did not mean to intrude on your conversation, but I had come to visit you and arrived in time to overhear.” He looked back at Jim. “We have reviewed this previously, Captain. As striking another officer is a court martial offence and I nearly killed you, it is I who should be court martialed.”

“C’mon Spock, it may not have affected you much but I was striking back. Plus, what I was saying to you could probably considered verbal assault; I said some pretty terrible things.” Jim still felt a little bit guilty about that, even if he and Spock had already talked it out.

“Your methods were…unorthodox, but your actions were necessary. I was emotionally compromised and needed to relinquish command as I was no longer fit due to high levels of emotional entanglement with the mission.” Spock was still standing and hadn’t stepped forward, but seemed to be leaning slightly toward Jim now. “Additionally, there is my improper treatment of you while you were acting first officer. I endangered your life by marooning you, which makes two incidents in which I was nearly responsible for the loss of your life.”

“I lived though, didn’t I?” Jim had to resist rolling his eyes. “Besides, both times I provoked you in ways that are probably court martial-able. I was probably close to mutiny the first time, and-”

“Alright.” Pike had definitely shifted into his command voice and it instantly got both of their attention. Jim was a little bit jealous; he needed to work on his captain voice still. Pike looked at both of them. “As the senior commanding officer on this ship, I think I’m in position to make a ruling on this. Do both of you accept that?” He looked at them expectantly.

Jim hesitated a moment and looked at Spock. After a few seconds of eye contact he looked back to Pike and nodded. “Yeah, I’ll go with whatever you say.”

Spock nodded as well. “I concur, Captain.”

“Good.” Pike shifted on the biobed and sat up a little bit straighter. “It sounds like a lot happened between you two. I think my verdict would be that since neither of you seems to want to press charges for what the other did, I think it would be alright if we dropped the charges. If one of you wants to change that, just let me know.”

Jim glanced at Spock then back to Pike. “If he’s ok with it than so am I.”

Spock clasped his hands behind his back. “I also consider that an acceptable solution.”

“Then it’s settled.” Pike nodded at them both in satisfaction. “No one is getting court martialed on this ship. It sounds like you two just need to stop punishing yourselves now.”

Jim couldn’t help but smile a bit at that. “Thanks.” At that point his stomach rumbled a bit, reminding him that he hadn’t had dinner yet. He stood up from the chair. “I should probably get going. I haven’t had dinner yet.” He looked at Spock and smiled. “He’s all yours.”

“Thank you Captain, but it is becoming late. I do not wish to keep Captain Pike up when he should be resting.” Jim was about to apologize for taking up Pike’s time, but then Spock continued. “I will visit Captain Pike tomorrow prior to alpha shift.”

“Alright then.” Jim looked at Pike then back to Spock. “Have you eaten yet? You could join me in the mess hall.”

Spock thought a moment before replying. “I will accompany you.”

“Alright.” Jim looked back to Pike. “I’m not sure if I’ll have time to stop by again before we reach Earth, so I guess the next time I see you might be at Starfleet Medical.”

“I’ll see you there.” Pike smiled at him before looking back to Spock. “And I’ll be seeing you tomorrow?”

“You will.” Spock nodded at Pike before turning to Jim. “Shall we proceed to the mess hall?”

“Sure.” Jim gestured for Spock to go in front of him. “Lead the way.” With one last wave goodbye at Pike, Jim turned and followed Spock out of Sickbay.

Chapter Text

Once they were free of Sickbay, Jim and Spock fell into step with each other. Spock looked over at Jim. “If you do not mind my asking, Captain, why were you visiting Captain Pike in Sickbay?”

“It’s alright.” Jim looked over at Spock with a slight smile that he hoped was reassuring. “I was just updating him on how we were doing and talking a little bit about what comes next, my future in Starfleet, that sort of thing.” He glanced at Spock as they entered the turbolift. “What about you?”

“I was attempting to speak to Captain Pike for similar reasons.” Spock looked at Jim before directing the turbolift to the proper floor. As it started moving Spock looked back to Jim. “Are you having doubts about a continued career in Starfleet?”

“I’m not the one with the doubts.” Well, at least not doubts about wanting to stay in. Jim glanced at Spock as the turbolift stopped and they started to walk to the mess hall. “But as you might remember, I wasn’t exactly in the best standing with the admiralty when we left. I was in the middle of a trial.”

“As I was the one who originated the charges, I do remember.” The entered the mess hall; thankfully it was pretty empty and they were able to get to the replicators and find seats quickly. Once they were seated, Spock resumed their conversation. “Do you believe that the trial would disadvantage you once we return?”

“Yeah, kinda.” Jim started to eat but paused to look back up at Spock. “It was enough that they suspended me even though it was an emergency, all hands on deck sort of situation. Admiral Barnett certainly made it seem like a big deal at the time. And I did cheat according to them, which they usually consider a big deal at the Academy.”

Spock’s expression went curious for a moment. “Do you admit to altering the test?”

“Really?” Jim raised an eyebrow but Spock seemed serious. He sighed. “I think we both know I did.” Before Spock could say anything, Jim held up a hand to stop him. “But apparently Pike read through the rules and there’s technically nothing against reprogramming it.”

Spock didn’t seem all that amused. “I believe no one thought that it would be necessary to record such a rule because no one believed anyone would attempt to alter the test.”

“Really?” Jim smiled. “Someone had to challenge it eventually. It was a bad test.”

“I do not believe so.” Spock set down his fork; he seemed to be getting invested in the conversation now. “It is important for cadets to accept the possibility of death while they are serving in Starfleet.”

“But do you really think the best way to introduce it to them is to throw them in an impossible situation?” Jim started to gesture with his hands without realizing it. “I can see how you’re biased here, but I don’t exactly think the best way to end people’s time at the academy is to go ‘things are hopeless and everyone will die no matter what you do, now have fun in space.’ I mean, really?”

“That is not the intended message of the test.” Spock leaned in. “At times it will be impossible to avoid deaths, and cadets must accept that.”

“I think there can still be ways to avoid deaths. No situation is ever completely hopeless; there’s gotta be a way out.” Jim was leaning in a bit as well; his voice might have been getting a little louder too. “There’s always gotta be a way to figure out how to make it out.”

“Not every situation can be hacked, Captain.” Spock’s brow furrowed. “In real life, you cannot change the parameters of the situation.”

“Maybe not, but I don’t think it hurts to learn how to bend the rules or view it differently.” Jim was glad that he was finally getting to express himself on this, even if talking about it with Spock seemed difficult because Spock was as stubborn as him. “You can’t win the simulation from within it, so change the simulation itself. You just have to think differently.”

“You may have a point, but it is still not always possible to avoid death.” Spock was giving him some ground but still seemed unwilling to cede too much. “As you should know from your father—“

“Spock, you’d think that by now you’d know that bringing up people’s dead parents to make a point is really a dick move.” As bad as it sounded, Jim was really getting tired about hearing about his dead dad as some sort of goal or having it used against him. “That’s not the kind of thing you should just throw at someone; you’d think you’d know that now.”

That shut Spock up for long enough that Jim almost felt the need to apologize. But before he could say anything, Spock spoke again. “Continue your argument.”

“Alright.” Jim felt like after that they were both a little calmer after that; it felt a bit less heated now. “I think if you do want to make it about accepting death, it still could be, but maybe don’t make everyone die. It shouldn’t be a completely hopeless situation. That’s too demoralizing and makes people want to just give up. It should have some possibility that not everyone would die; make it so that it tests how people work under pressure or lets you see who’s willing to sacrifice themselves to save others. I think that would be a better final test for the command track people than just telling them that them and their crew will die no matter what.”

That got another pause from Spock, but this time it seemed like he was just thinking it over so Jim didn’t feel like he needed to say anything. Finally, Spock broke the silence. “You make some valid points.” He looked directly at Jim. “I do not necessarily think that the entire test should be rejected due to one cadet’s objections, but I suppose a… redesign or perhaps revision could be possible.”

Jim smiled. “Hey, that’s all I was going for by challenging it. I just wanted someone to see that the premise of the test was bad, or at least somewhat faulty.”

Spock raised an eyebrow. “So your motivations were not simply to challenge the test because you did not like that it was unwinnable?”

“Hey.” Despite the words it seemed like Spock might have been joking, so Jim didn’t get too offended. “I’d be lying if I said that that wasn’t part of it, but I did have objections to the test itself. And besides, I think I managed to win it, so it could hardly be considered unwinnable anymore.”

“That is debatable.” If Jim didn’t know any better he would have thought that Spock was still a bit annoyed that Jim beat his test. “However, we were not discussing the philosophy of the test.” He looked back at Jim. “You believe that what occurred with the test will negatively impact your career going forward?”

“Yeah?” Jim wasn’t sure how Spock wasn’t getting this. “They were acting like it was pretty big deal, and I bet they won’t like that I ended up taking control of one of their ships. So as nice as it’s been to be in the captain’s chair this past week or so, I’m not getting my hopes up about being back in one anytime soon.”

“Interesting.” Spock took a moment to return to his dinner before looking back at Jim. “So you do not believe the advancement of officers is solely on merit?”

“I think Starfleet likes to say it is, but it’s not completely that way.” Jim could definitely speak from experience on this one. “I mean sure, you have to be at least somewhat competent, but connections and impressions also go a long way. I mean, I didn’t even have to take the usual tests to get in to the Academy. It was pretty much just Pike’s recommendation and my family legacy.”

“You did also have high aptitude and intelligence scores in your previous schooling.” At Jim’s confusion Spock continued. “I did some research into your past records when investigating you for the Kobayashi Maru violations.”

“Alright then.” That seemed a little odd, but Jim was willing to just chalk it up to Spock being thorough. “But if you did that, you probably also saw that I had some not-so-great records in there too. Like my police records. But a good word from a captain can go a long way. I mean, the only reason I ended up in command of this ship now is because Pike likes me.”

“I do not believe that was the only reason.” Spock looked like he was about to continue, but Jim didn’t want to go there now.

“Anyway.” He felt a little bad cutting Spock off, but not enough that he wanted to let him continue. “If a good word from a captain can do all that to help you advance, how much can a bad word from an admiral do? I’m not saying I think I’m gonna be kicked out completely, but I just don’t think I’ll be getting stripes on my sleeve anytime soon.” Jim felt like he was oversharing a bit, but at least he hadn’t brought up that other thing that had happened during the trial. Even if he’d brought up the topic of soulmates with Spock, he definitely wasn’t ready to tell Spock that he thought they were soulmates. He slipped into his old cocky expression to cover up the weird feelings he was having now about oversharing. “So what do you think of my logic on this one? A better or worse argument than my thoughts on the Kobayashi Maru simulation?”

That got him another raised eyebrow; Spock could probably tell he was deflecting but decided not to call him on it. “As both arguments were based solidly in emotion, it is difficult to rate the logic of them.”

Jim shrugged. “Well, I guess that’s the difference between human and Vulcan discussions. We’re far more likely to use emotion.”

“That is true.” Spock turned to his dinner. It was almost gone by this point; Jim was surprised to notice that he was almost done as well. He’d been caught up in their discussions and hadn’t even realized how much he’d been eating during, which was unusual for him.

He looked between their plates one more time before looking back up at Spock with a smile. “Well, might as well finish up and get to bed. We’ve got a big day tomorrow; if all goes well we’ll be back in San Francisco by this time.”

Chapter Text

Jim woke up the next day and didn’t really want to get out of bed. He knew that this would probably be the last time he woke up in these captain’s quarters. Even though he’d been there less than two weeks and didn’t even have any personal items in the quarters, Jim couldn’t deny that he’d gotten comfortable.

But he’d be moving out tonight. It would be a bit odd going back to the dorms; it felt like forever ago since he’d been a cadet. Sharing a room again would be odd too; at least he’d be back with Bones though. It might be good to have someone to commiserate with.

Jim rolled over and checked the time. He’d have to get going pretty soon to get to his shift on time. He sat up with a groan. He wouldn’t want to end on a low note by being late.

A quick shower and a bite to eat in the mess hall later, Jim walked onto the bridge with a cup of coffee. He was a good amount early, but he wanted to enjoy his bridge time while he could. There weren’t many command positions on the bridge beyond the captain’s chair and the center console, and while Jim wasn’t horrible at navigation or helm he knew he wouldn’t be the first pick for those either. So he decided he’d let the commanding officer for gamma shift head out early and enjoy his time in the chair while he could.

He’d miss the view of stars through the viewscreen. There weren’t too many places on a ship where you could watch the stars go by, and if things went as badly as Jim imagined they could he’d probably end up working at a computer console in the middle of the ship where he’d have to go to another deck or two to even consider getting a view.

He just hoped they didn’t leave him earthbound or stuck on a station. Half of the appeal of even being in Starfleet was getting to go out and explore the galaxy. Even if he was stuck in the bowels of some ship where he couldn’t see them, Jim’d rather be out among the stars than just about anywhere else.

Jim snapped out of his thoughts as the rest of alpha shift started to file in. Sulu and Chekov paused next to his chair. Sulu smiled at him. “You’re here early.”

“Yeah.” Jim smiled back at them. “It’s the last bridge shift for a while, so I figured I may as well enjoy it.”

“I doubt it will be too long before we’re back here.” Sulu looked out the viewscreen and Jim was a bit jealous of his confidence. He hid his reaction as Sulu looked back at him. “I don’t think Starfleet would want to break up this dream team.”

Jim laughed and couldn’t help but grin at that. “I guess we’ll see. We’ll have to wait for them to patch up the ship anyways.”

Sulu nodded in acknowledgement. “True.”

“I also think we’ll all end up on the bridge again, keptin.” Chekov looked at Jim with a smile before looking out the viewscreen. “It will happen.”

“Alright.” Jim really wasn’t sure how to respond to all of this optimism and trust. Time to change the subject. “Do you two have the new approach plan down? I wouldn’t want to get this far only to crash land on the final stretch.”

Sulu looked at him with a smirk and a raised eyebrow like he didn’t get why Jim would doubt him. “I got it.”

“If you say so.” Jim smiled. “Just don’t forget to put the parking brake on once we’re at spacedock.”

Chekov laughed and Sulu grumbled something under his breath that didn’t sound to happy. He looked between Jim and Chekov. “I’m never going to live that down, am I?”

“Probably not.” If Chekov’s grin when he said it was any indication, the probably was unnecessary.

Sulu looked like he was about to retaliate, so Jim decided to cut it off before things got too dramatic. “Alright you two, get to your stations. I think the shift should be starting.”

He smiled as they both gave some variant of “yes captain” and went to their stations. Jim was gonna miss this crew too. Even if he wouldn’t be their captain, he’d want to serve with them. Maybe not being captain would even be better; they’d be equals and there wouldn’t be any awkwardness about him sortof being their boss. Not that there had been over the past two weeks or so, but still.

He glanced around the bridge at the rest of the bridge crew. The only people who were missing that could be considered senior staff were Bones and Scotty, but both of them were probably better suited to be in their own departments for this. Still, both of them were on the list of people Jim would want to serve with again. He and Bones had been talking about being on the same ship since they’d started at the Academy, but Scotty had surprised Jim. His first impression had been a bit odd (not that Jim’s was much better with most of the crew), but he’d really come through with getting them out of the wormhole. He seemed like he could be a bit of a miracle worker if given the chance.

Jim’s overview of the bridge paused at the science station. He’d already spent plenty of time thinking over the potential of whatever might happen with Spock. The two of them had definitely shifted their relationship since their rather negative first encounter. Under two weeks seemed a little fast to start calling someone a close friend to Jim, but it felt like there was the beginning of something there. Maybe it was the soulmate thing, maybe it was everything he’d seen with Older Spock, but it just felt right to Jim. Like he and Spock were meant to be side by side.

Looking a little over on the bridge reminded Jim that there could be a problem there. Spock was dating Uhura. Jim didn’t want to ruin that for either of them; he’d been impressed by Uhura since the day they’d met. She was ridiculously smart, really driven, and not to mention attractive. Jim had also heard basically nothing but positive things about her from Gaila and other people that knew her. He’d felt like the two of them were reaching a better place after his bad first impression; while it could still be a bit antagonistic between them at times and they didn’t really hang out alone, when they were with Gaila or around other friends they got along and even bantered some. Jim enjoyed that and he didn’t want to ruin it by stealing her boyfriend. Plus, if the past two weeks or so was any indication, she was a great officer. Jim wouldn’t want to miss the chance to serve with her again. And while it wasn’t super common to avoid serving with people over personal disputes, it wasn’t unheard of. And then there was also that from what he’d seen and heard, Uhura and Spock seemed to go well together. And if they made each other happy Jim wasn’t gonna mess with it; both of them deserved that.

Jim glanced out the viewscreen again. He needed to stop zoning out. This was his chance to be on the bridge, maybe his last chance for a while (or ever, but hopefully it wouldn’t be that bad), and he should enjoy it and stay in the moment. In a few hours they’d be nearing the Sol System and it would all come to an end.

Chapter Text

It was almost time. According to the navigational information Jim had Chekov bring up on the viewscreen, they were nearing the Sol System and it was almost time to drop out of warp and execute the maneuver Jim had planned. He really hoped it would go smoothly and he wouldn’t get everyone killed.

He decided that he better make sure everything was ready. Jim hit the comm button on the arm of his chair. “Kirk to Engineering. We good to go down there?” They’d need every ounce of power they could get from the impulse engines for this to work. And also repair teams standing by and forcefield generators ready as a backup in case of hull breaches. They’d done all they could to reinforce the structural integrity of the ship, so Jim was hoping it was enough.

There was a little bit of background noise and then Scotty replied. “Scott to bridge, we’re good to go.”

“Alright.” Jim practically breathed a sigh of relief. “If we encounter even the slightest problems, comm the bridge right away.”

“Acknowledged, Captain.” There was a moment of background noise, like Scotty was working on something. “We’ll let you know, but we’re not expecting to experience any problems.”

“Good to hear. Have your teams on standby just in case.” Jim wanted to take every precaution possible to ensure this went smoothly. “Kirk out.” He closed the channel and took a deep breath, hoping he wasn’t being obvious about it. If the captain was nervous, the crew would be nervous, so it was important that Jim keep his cool. He wouldn’t mind stealing some of Spock’s Vulcan levelheadedness right now.

He spun in the chair to face Uhura. “Open a channel to the Defiant. Audio only; we need to be able to see what we’re doing.”

“Yes sir.” A few seconds at her console and she turned and nodded to him. “I’ve opened the channel, Captain.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.” He turned back toward the viewsceen and pressed the button on the arm of his chair to speak into the open channel. “Kirk to Defiant. Are you ready to begin the procedure to drop out of warp?”

After a moment there was a reply from the other end. “Davison here. We’re ready when you are. We’re awaiting your signal.”

“Copy that.” Jim nodded at Sulu. “Mr. Sulu, be ready to do full reverse impulse at my command. We’re going to need it as soon as that tractor disengages, so be at the ready.”

“Aye, sir.” He could see Sulu readying himself and his station.

All things considered, it was a bit of a risky plan. On Jim’s command, the Defiant would drop the tractor beam, at which point the Enterprise would do full reverse with their impulse engines. That should be enough to ensure that they wouldn’t be entering the Sol System at dangerous speeds, but just in case the Defiant would be ready to catch them with their tractor beam as soon as they dropped out of warp.

Since this wasn’t exactly a standard drop out of warp, the crew needed to be ready. Jim hit a button to switch to the shipwide comm channel. “Kirk to all hands. Prepare for approach. Engage safety procedures.”

Prior to this, everything that had even remotely seemed to need it had been secured. Now, the whole crew was to brace or utilize restraints as necessary. It was probably overkill, but Jim decided it was better to be safe than sorry. He knew firsthand the kind of damage careless leaders could do.

Satisfied that the crew had had enough time and acutely aware of how close they were getting to the Sol System, Jim knew it was now or never. “Kirk to Defiant. Disengage tractor beam at my count.” A quick glance at Sulu to confirm he was ready and then Jim knew he couldn’t put it off any longer. “Alright. Disengage tractor in three… two… one. Now!”

Jim felt the ship lurch as their main source of propulsion let them go and Sulu engaged the impulse engines at full power in reverse. He watched the displays on the viewscreen. He’d reviewed the projections for this plan countless times and memorized the proper rate of deceleration and speed they should be going for their return to Earth. They had to be going just the right speed to ensure their approach would go right. Too slow and they might not make it, too fast and they risked not being able to stop, either missing the planet entirely, entering the atmosphere wrong and starting to burn up, or worst of all hitting Earth and causing catastrophic damage to themselves and the planet. Jim knew the exact speed and rate of deceleration they needed to go because it was imperative they end up at precisely that speed and rate of deceleration.

They were going too fast. And they weren’t slowing down nearly fast enough.

This wasn’t good. Jim hit the button for the comm channel. “Kirk to Defiant, we need your assistance. Requesting tractor for aided deceleration!”

“Captain!” He spun the chair around at the sound of Uhura’s voice. She sounded alarmed, but not quite panicked yet. “We’ve lost our communication channel with the Defiant. I think it happened when we dropped out of warp before them.”

Not good not good. Jim looked at her, trying everything he could to stay calm. If he panicked, the crew would panic. True, this situation might be going dangerously wrong, but he needed to stay calm if he wanted the crew to keep working. “Your top priority now is reestablishing communication.” She nodded and turned back to her station and Jim looked back to the viewscreen. They were getting close to the outer bounds of the Sol System now. They were nearly within visible range of Earth with no magnification.

Jim opened a comm channel to Engineering. “Scotty, if you can squeeze anything more out of those impulse engines now would be the time.”

“We’re nearly overstraining them already!” The loud noises of Engineering leaked through along with the edge of desperation in Scotty’s voice. “If we don’t let up on them soon we might lose them!”

So very, very not good. “Do everything you can to keep them running; we need everything we can get from them. Kirk out.”

Jim watched as the blue dot on the viewscreen started to grow. Of all the scenarios he’d imagined for their return to Earth, everything he’d worried about and feared, he’d never imagined it quite like this. He always worried about what would happen once they were back on Earth. He never really considered that they might not arrive intact.

Chapter Text

“Sulu!” A slight head turn was all the acknowledgement he got. “If we can’t slow down in time, point us away from Earth. We need to avoid impact with the planet at all costs!” Jim may not be able to stop this ship but he would minimize the damage he caused, dammit. They weren’t hitting Earth if he could help it.

“Aye sir!” He watched Sulu work at his console for a moment before the helmsman glanced back at him, clearly frustrated. “I’m not sure it’ll be enough!”

“Keep at it!” Jim might have been screaming but it felt like the situation earned it. “Even if it means we just enter the atmosphere wrong and burn up, it’s better than hitting the surface at this speed!” Jim was going to do whatever it took to minimize casualties, even if it meant that the main casualties were on his ship. Worst come to worst they could use escape pods to get the crew out. Jim would be willing to take the helm if necessary to make sure everyone else could get out.

But now was not the time to jump to worst case scenarios. They might still have a chance. Jim got out of his chair just to feel like he was doing something and went to the back of the bridge. “Uhura! How goes making contact with the Defiant?”

“I’m trying, sir!” Uhura didn’t turn to face him this time, too focused on her work. “I think I might have them, but the comm line seems unstable!”

“Divert power from anything but thrusters if you need to; they may be our only chance at stopping if all else fails!” Kirk looked over at Spock next. “Spock, please tell me you’ve got something!”

“I am attempting to find a solution, Captain.” There was even an edge creeping into Spock’s voice now. “We may be able to—“

Just then the ship lurched again. Jim had to grab the rail between the levels of the bridge to keep from sliding across the deck at the sudden change in momentum. He felt his hands starting to slip across the smooth surface and had almost accepted his fate when suddenly a strong hand grabbed his wrist, keeping him from tumbling across the floor.

Once he had his feet back under him, Jim looked up in time to see Spock releasing his wrist. He smiled. “Thanks Spock.”

Spock nodded, his expression not changing much but maybe a little calmer than before. “Perhaps you should return to the center seat where you will be in less danger should the ship experience major changes in velocity again.”

Jim couldn’t help but grin. “That’s probably a good idea, Spock.” He turned and went back to the center seat, noticing that the viewscreen display was much less alarming now. Speaking louder than he had a moment ago when talking to Spock, Jim addressed the bridge. “Somebody give me a status report. I’m not complaining about us being reduced to a manageable speed, but I’d like to know what happened.”

“I’ve got audio contact with the Defiant.” Uhura listened to her earpiece a moment longer before turning to face Jim. “They lost us on sensors momentarily during the shift out of warp, but once they found us again and saw what situation we were in they shifted to help immediately. They currently have us in their tractor.”

Jim wasn’t the only one breathing a sigh of relief. “Mr. Sulu, power down the impulse engines. Full stop. Uhura, see if you can get them on the screen.”

There was quick agreement from both officers and a moment later the now familiar view of the Defiant’s bridge appeared. Jim couldn’t help but grin at Captain Davison. “Nice save there.”

One end of Davison’s lips quirked up. “It wouldn’t do to get you all the way here only to have you crash in the final stretch.”

“Yeah.” Jim laughed. “That would have been a bit of a letdown.”

“So do you think you can go the rest of the way on your own power or should we tow you?” Davison turned to hear from an officer before looking back at Jim. “We have crews willing to come help if you need it.”

“I can ask our engineers, but I think we’ll be ok.” Jim hit the button on the comm to check with Scotty. “Kirk to Engineering, can we make it the final stretch?”

After a moment Scotty’s voice came through. It sounded a little less chaotic in Engineering this time. “I think we’ll be good, Captain. Giving the engines a wee break like this should be all they need.”

Jim glanced up at the viewscreen, sure that both crews had heard that. “Good to hear. Kirk out.” He closed the comm line to Engineering and turned his full attention back to the viewscreen. “It sounds like we’ll be ok on our own. You can go on ahead and let them know we’re coming.” That was probably for the best anyways; Jim imagined that the usual protocols prohibiting unannounced or unauthorized visitors to Earth might be a bit more strictly followed at the moment.

“Will do, Captain.” Davison nodded to him. “It’s been an honor helping you get home. Davison out.”

Jim stared at the now blank viewscreen a moment longer. An honor? That seemed like a bit much. He knew Starfleet crews liked to help each other out, as well as generally helping where needed, but saying it was an honor seemed a bit over the top. He’d have to ask Davison or maybe his mom about it later.

After a moment of quiet on the bridge, everyone else seeming just as puzzled by Davison’s comment as Jim was, Jim hit the comm button on his chair. “Kirk to Engineering. Do the impulse engines need more rest or should we finish this?”

“They should be alright.” Jim thought there was a bit of amusement in Scotty’s voice. “Although I’d recommend not straining them. Less than full power if you can.”

“That should be fine; we’re nearly there.” One more look out the viewscreen at Earth, which had now shifted from a blue dot to a larger blue object with visible green areas, and Jim decided that it would be alright. “Kirk out.” He ended the comm link and leaned forward a bit toward the center console, where Sulu and Chekov were watching him, awaiting orders. “Mr. Chekov, plot a course for a geosynchronous orbit over San Francisco so we can connect at the spacedock. Mr. Sulu, take us in at three quarters impulse.”

They both nodded and turned back toward the front. A few moments of both of them tapping at their stations and then the Enterprise was moving again, seen in how Earth slowly but steadily grew larger and clearer on the viewscreen.

Chapter Text

It didn’t take them long to reach spacedock. They ended up reaching it just after the Defiant did; Jim figured that the crew of the other ship must have filled in the spacedock crew some, because as soon as they were approached they were hailed.

Jim told Uhura to put it onscreen, and a moment later a smiling communications officer that Jim didn’t recognize appeared. “Welcome back, Enterprise.”

“Thanks.” Jim was feeling a bit thrown off. Why did everyone seem so excited to see them? “Do we have permission to dock?”

“Permission granted.” The comm officer did something on a console for a moment before turning back to them, still smiling. “I’ve sent you docking coordinates. Will you be needing any particular assistance once you’ve docked?”

Were people at spacedock always this cheery? Admittedly, Jim had limited experience with this sort of thing, but it seemed odd. Jim glanced around the bridge; at least he wasn’t the only one who seemed confused. “We’ve got some people in Sickbay who will need to be transferred to Starfleet Medical; I think all of them are stable and ok to transport but I’ll leave coordinating that to our CMO.” Bones would probably be annoyed at him for that, but he’d probably be more annoyed if he thought Jim was meddling with his patients by deciding for him. “And we also have some survivors from Vulcan; is there anywhere in particular that other survivors have been gathering where they should go?” Jim took a second to make sure he wasn’t forgetting anything. The only thing he could think of was the obvious. “Also, we’re going to be needing repairs.”

“We can help you coordinate all of that for you.” The comm officer focused on the console again before turning back, still remarkably upbeat. “If that’s all, you can go ahead and dock and we can coordinate with parts of your ship from there.”

“Sounds good.” Jim nodded; was this how things normally went or was this person being extra helpful? “We’ll go ahead and dock now.”

“Alright.” The comm officer smiled again. “It’s great having you back, Enterprise.”

“Thanks.” Ok, Jim might not have experience in this area but this seemed excessive. “Kirk out.” He signaled for Uhura to cut the transmission. As soon as the viewscreen switched back to the view of the spacedock and Earth Jim looked around the bridge. “Did we get the docking coordinates?”

“Yes sir, I’ll send them to the center console.” Uhura was once more focused on her station before looking back at the rest of the bridge. “It should have transferred.”

“I have it.” Chekov began to work at his station, presumably figuring out where exactly they were supposed to go.

“Alright.” Jim sat in the chair, realizing that in no more than a few hours (and probably less than that if he was being honest) he’d have to get out of it, possibly for good. “Guide us in. I’ll be making an announcement to the crew.” With a quick glance at Uhura to make sure it was set up, Jim hit the button on his armrest to open up the shipwide channel. “Kirk to all hands. We’re approaching spacedock and preparing to dock. We will be leaving the ship. I’m giving priority to the patients from Sickbay and the survivors from Vulcan.” He tried to remember the usual procedures for evacuating the ship in non-emergency situations; he had to have learned it at some point. Might as well go with what sounded right. “Crewmembers who are needed to escort the previously mentioned groups can go with them. After that, all crew members who are not on duty can begin to leave. On duty crew, make sure everything is ready for them to come in and make repairs once you leave.” Jim paused; he didn’t want to just sound like a glorified flight attendant in his last message to the crew. He wanted to end on a more captainly note. “We did it everyone. We defeated Nero and made it home. I’d like to thank all of you for all of the hard work you’ve put in during our time on the ship. It’s been an honor serving with all of you.” There, that was better. “Now go get some well-earned rest. Kirk out.”

He ended the transmission and found the bridge crew staring at him; it didn’t feel like judgement, but it still felt odd to Jim. They’d made it to their docking station while he was talking and there was no likelihood of an accident, so he had no real reason to tell them to turn around besides that it was making him feel self-conscious. “What? Did I say something wrong?”

“No.” Chekov responded and then shared a look with Sulu before continuing. “That was a good speech, Captain. Did you plan that ahead of time?”

“No.” Jim shrugged. “I just made that up just now.”

Chekov and Sulu shared another look; this time Sulu spoke up. “It was a good speech for making it up on the spot, sir.”

“Thanks?” Why was everyone being so nice today? “It was pretty basic. And you don’t need to keep up the sirs and captains, I’m only in command for a little while longer.” Part of him wanted to soak it in while he could, but Jim knew he shouldn’t let himself get too used to it. He didn’t expect to be a captain much longer.

“As you are still in command, however, the title is still an appropriate address.” Jim turned in the chair, surprised that Spock had spoken up.

Was Spock respecting him or just reminding him of protocol? He wasn’t really sure, but Jim also didn’t want to drag out an awkward silence on the bridge. “Alright then.” Jim looked around the bridge; most of the crew was watching him still. “We’ve got work to do. If there’s anything you need to do to prepare your station or your division for leaving the ship and then repairs, get to it. I’m going to be tracking down a padd so I can start on the reports that I’ll have to be doing about everything that happened since we left Earth pre-Nero.” He glanced around the bridge once more. “Let’s get to work.”

Chapter Text

Clearing out the ship took longer than Jim expected. His search for a padd ended up turning into a few laps around the ship as he got called to various places to answer last minute questions, check things over, and other things like that that he didn’t quite feel qualified for. Still, he was mostly able to talk people through what they needed, and he figured that other people more experienced than him would be boarding the ship soon to check it over and start repairs.

Eventually he was able to track down a padd (thanks in part to a helpful yeoman), so he made it back to the bridge to start the reports. He probably could have found a quieter or more private place to do them, but he wanted to be with the crew and in the captain’s chair a little longer.

News must have gotten back to Starfleet Command that he was in command of the Enterprise now, because when he checked his account Jim saw several forms waiting for him to fill them out. He wasn’t quite sure how he felt about that. On one hand, this saved him the work of having to look up all the paperwork he’d have to do. On the other, if Starfleet Command now knew that he was in command of the Enterprise now, that meant that someone had to have told them. Jim wondered what kind of perspective that person had had. Jim knew how big first impressions could be, and he really hoped that whatever version of the story that they heard hadn’t painted him in too bad of a light. He knew that the circumstances leading to him becoming captain were unusual, maybe even questionable or unflattering even, but he really hoped that they wouldn’t be too biased against him when it came time to tell his side of the story. Even though he was making himself not expect much, Jim still wanted to have a fair chance.

But he’d cross that bridge when he came to it. For now he’d focus on the bridge he was on. As in the Enterprise bridge. Jim smiled a little at his joke. He’d only have a few more hours here until he had to leave, and he didn’t want to spend all of it in a bad mood. So he was going to tackle these forms and then head back to Earth and hopefully get some time to himself before he had to face the music.

----------

The forms were taking a lot longer than Jim expected. He glanced up from the padd after what felt like hours (and might have been one or two; there were multiple forms and they were all several pages long) and saw that the bridge itself was starting to empty out. Some people had probably just gone to other parts of the ship to see how their departments were doing, but there were a few that had actually gotten Jim’s attention long enough to tell him that they were disembarking. Most of these conversations were short, but a few had made comments about serving with Jim again, including Sulu, who had told Jim that he’d see him back on the bridge again once the Enterprise was back in shape to fly again. Chekov had been leaving with him and had nodded to show his agreement; Jim was once again envious of their confidence that they’d be back.

But again, he wasn’t gonna let himself wallow in his worries about the future right now. Jim glanced back at the padd. He’d done just about everything he could do so far, but there were still a few things he wasn’t quite sure about. He’d be needing some guidance on this one.

His first thought was to go find Pike and ask him for help. Pike had been both able and willing to help him with just about anything he had questions on during the past week and a half or so, so he’d probably be ok helping with this. Plus, it could be good to see Pike. Just being around him often helped calm Jim down when he was starting to freak out; he just had a way of emanating calm most of the time. It was probably what helped him be such a good captain.

Jim was just about to get up from his chair and head to Sickbay when he realized that Pike probably wouldn’t be there. Anyone needing or currently receiving medical attention had been one of the first groups evacuated, which meant that Pike was probably now at Starfleet Medical getting whatever treatment he needed. Jim was glad for that; while he knew Bones did the best he could, Sickbay had been one of the areas damaged in Nero’s attack, meaning that their facilities there weren’t in the greatest shape at the moment. Starfleet Medical would be able to do more for him, even if it meant that Pike would be out of contact for a bit. If he wanted to visit Pike there, Jim would have to wait for visiting hours instead of just waltzing in like he’d done with Sickbay.

So asking Pike to help was out of the question. Beyond that, Jim’s options for advice were limited. There weren’t a ton of people on this ship with extensive experience, let alone with the kinds of forms that commanding officers had to fill out after missions. But there was always Spock. Although he had only been first officer since the start of this mission, which meant that he might not have much more experience with all of the administrative stuff than Jim did. Which, even though it might limit his helpfulness, was an oddly comforting thought in a way.

But still, Jim needed to get these done. A quick look around the bridge revealed that Spock was not there. Jim headed over to one of the computer consoles on the outside part of the bridge. “Computer, locate Commander Spock.”

A moment later the reply came. “Commander Spock is in science lab one.”

With one last glance at the bridge that he was unsure he’d be able to return to, Jim headed to the turbolift. Thanks to spending all his free time over the past week or so wandering the ship and figuring out its layout, Jim was able to find his way without needing to stop for directions.

Once there, Jim began his search for Spock. It didn’t take him long; the labs were starting to empty out as most experiments had been wrapped up prior to their tow back to the Sol System.

Plus, being the only Vulcan in this part of the ship (and quite possibly the only one left on the ship at all) meant that Spock was pretty easy to spot.

Jim walked over to him and leaned against the table Spock was sitting at. “Want to help an acting captain with paperwork one last time?” He held out the padd.

Spock looked up from the equipment he’d just finished inventorying and storing. “Of course, Captain.”

“Great.” Jim grinned. “I’ve mostly got it, but there are a few things I have questions on.”

“I will assist you as much as I am able.” Spock took the padd and skimmed over the forms on it before looking around the room once more. “Would you like to move to a more appropriate venue?”

Jim glanced around. There were still a few people working on shutting down the labs. It would probably be best not to get in their way. “Sure. The bridge was mostly empty, but we could also use one of the briefing rooms.”

“I believe a briefing room would be best suited to our needs.” Spock stood up and gestured for Jim to lead the way. “There is one on this deck that should be unoccupied.”

Jim thought for a second before nodding. “I know it.”

As they walked out of the lab and made their way to the briefing room, Jim decided that despite their rough start he was going to miss working with Spock. They’d made a really good team over the past week and a half. Even without the soulmate thing hanging over their heads and everything he saw from Older Spock, Jim thought that he still would have wanted to work with Spock. He hoped they ended up together on another assignment, even if the dynamic would be different if they weren’t captain and first officer. Jim looked at Spock out of the corner of his eye. Even the dorky bowl cut was growing on him. He’d have to find some way for them to work together again.

Chapter Text

It did not take him and Kirk long to complete the paperwork. Spock was once again impressed with how much of an efficient, competent officer Kirk had become during his time in command. Perhaps that was what Pike had seen that had caused him to promote Kirk; it seemed unlikely that it was merely favoritism as Kirk seemed to think, although Spock did believe that could be a partial factor.

As with previous times Spock had aided Kirk in his duties, most of his problems stemmed merely from a lack of experience rather than incompetence or arrogance. With the opportunity to gain more experience and “learn on the job” as humans put it, he would likely become an exemplary captain one day.

It was unfortunate that Spock’s upcoming resignation from Starfleet would prohibit him from observing Kirk’s development in person. However, as fascinating as the opportunity to watch talent develop was, and it was indeed one of the aspects of teaching that Spock had enjoyed most, even if this would be entirely different from the classroom, Spock could not stay. He had an obligation to his people in the wake of the tragedy they had experienced.

Although they may reject his help in regrowing the population due to his mixed Vulcan-Human ancestry, there still would be other ways he could provide aid. He had considerable knowledge that could be beneficial in building the colony. He could also provide assistance in other ways, like using his scientific and linguistic knowledge to teach or by entering his father’s profession and becoming a diplomat. His time in Starfleet, limited though it now was for a Vulcan’s first career, had provided him with considerable experience working with other species, more than most Vulcans besides diplomats had.

But first, Spock would have to focus on formally ending his career in Starfleet. The only person who he had spoken about it with thus far was Captain Pike, who had encouraged him to “take a few days to think it over” as he believed that Spock could potentially be better served in Starfleet still. That had been earlier today when Spock visited him in Sickbay prior to his shift, and Spock had yet to change his mind. Perhaps there were others he should inform of his decision, like Nyota.

“Spock?” He had forgotten that he and Kirk were still concluding the paperwork. Kirk had been working on an area once Spock explained it, but evidently he had finished as he had put the padd down and was now looking at Spock with concern. “Are you ok? You were hardcore zoning out, which is pretty unusual for you.”

Perhaps Kirk was another person Spock should inform of his decision. He seemed to be relying on Spock during his time as captain, and he would need to find that support elsewhere now. But as Spock was taking time to decide as Pike had advised, informing Kirk could wait. “I am fine, although perhaps the task of clearing out the science labs was more strenuous than I anticipated.”

Kirk smiled in a way that would likely be deemed commiserating. “Yeah, shutting down the ship is a lot more work than I expected. Plus, it’s been a hell of a few weeks, especially for you.” There was a moment where something like regret or embarrassment crossed his face. “I mean—“

“It is alright.” Since Nero’s attack, Spock had learned firsthand why humans were so irritated by being shown pity. “It has, to paraphrase you, been a difficult few weeks.”

“Do you want to head out early?” The concern was still present in Kirk’s voice, but thankfully it had shifted away from anything approaching pity. “The science labs seemed just about done when I grabbed you, and I can probably handle everything else from here.”

There was a moment where Spock considered refusing, but due to his earlier start to the day he was now beginning to experience exhaustion. He had spent more hours than usual today working as it was now nearing a late hour of the night, past even when the modified shift schedule the Enterprise had adopted would have ended his workday. Perhaps it was time to retire for the night. “I will accept your offer. I had intended to debark with Lieutenant Uhura, but I have not communicated with her to confirm since I left the bridge several hours ago.”

“She’s probably gone.” Jim checked the time on his padd. “I think we’ve got even less than a skeleton crew at this point. If I see her when I’m doing final checks I’ll let you know, but you’d probably have a better chance of trying to reach her planetside.”

“You may be right.” Perhaps Spock was more in need of rest than he initially believed. “Will you be able to complete the rest of the forms on your own?”

“I already finished.” Kirk smiled again. “That’s what I was telling you when I noticed you were zoning out.”

“Very well.” Spock stood. “Permission to depart, Captain?”

Kirk’s smile widened and he nodded. “Permission granted, Mr. Spock. It’s been a pleasure serving with you.”

It was an odd statement considering their time serving together had nearly resulted in the loss of Kirk’s life twice in the first day, but Spock had since decided to stop questioning Kirk on emotional matters. He turned and headed toward the doors of the briefing room.

“Wait, one more thing.” Spock paused at the doors and turned back toward Kirk, who was holding up his hand to stop Spock. “They already took the transporters offline, so you’ll have to use the ones at spacedock.”

“Thank you for informing me.” With one last nod to Kirk, Spock departed. It did not take him long to reach the area where the spacedock and ship connected, even with a quick stop to comm the science labs and tell the next highest ranking officer that the duty of overseeing inventory and shutdown now fell to them.

Before long he had arrived outside the transporter room for the spacedock. He was surprised to see Sarek there. “Father? I thought the Vulcan survivors from the Enterprise were evacuated to Earth first.”

“They were.” Sarek nodded in greeting to his son. “However, as I am one of the few surviving Vulcan ambassadors, the surviving council members decided it would be best if I spent my time upon our arrival to Earth making calls to other Federation planets to appeal for aid for the survivors of Vulcan. As they had sufficient facilities here, it would be illogical to return to Earth prior to beginning my calls.” Sarek took a moment to adjust his robes, and Spock had the momentary question if part of the reason his father had not beamed down yet was because he was apprehensive about returning to Amanda’s planet for the first time without her in approximately three decades. “However,” Sarek had regained his composure, “I have finished my calls, so it would be illogical to delay transporting to the planet’s surface now.”

“I have also finished my duties and intended to transport to the planet’s surface.” Spock gestured to the door of the transporter room. “May I accompany you?”

“You may.” Sarek entered the transporter room, followed closely by Spock, and after confirming the coordinates with the technician the room around them disappeared.

The view was soon replaced by one of the transporter rooms at Starfleet headquarters. It was familiar to Spock, but not as familiar as the voice that cried out a moment later.

“Oh my god! Spock! Sarek!” Before either of them could respond a very familiar set of arms wrapped around both of them as much as possible. Amanda instantly began to talk as both men were too stunned to speak. “I thought you were both dead! I’m so glad you’re not, oh my god! The bonds were totally silent; I couldn’t feel anything from either of you. You must have just been shielding far more than you ever used to; I just got so worried because the planet was gone and the Starfleet ships were wrecked too and there was no word about either of you for over a week.” She paused to take a breath and removed her face from where it had been shoved into their shoulders so she could look at them. “I hadn’t realized how weird it would feel being alone in my own head after all this time. I mean I knew I didn’t have it as bad as the Vulcans who lost their spouses and were in so much pain they were showing it, but still. It wasn’t pain, just,” she paused to think, “…emptiness. Numbness of a sort, like a ringing in your ears when there’s a sudden silence after a lot of noise. I figured it was just less of a reaction because I’m psi-null so the bonds were different, and of course part of me hoped the lack of pain meant you both were still alive, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up.” She smiled and released them so her hands would be free to wipe her eyes. “But all that worrying is over now. We’re back together again, and we’re all alive. That’s what’s important right now.”

Spock was still fighting to contain his disbelief, but Sarek seemed to recover more quickly. “My wife,” he reached out and carefully, as if he feared she were an illusion that would shatter, touched Amanda’s arm. “How are you alive?”

She smiled before taking Sarek’s hand in her own and squeezing it, a gesture that Spock would typically prefer not to see but he was still too stunned to look away. “All the ships orbiting Vulcan that had transporters, even the damaged Starfleet ones, started beaming people up en masse when they realized what was happening and the jamming signal stopped. Since I was in the market in ShiKahr at the time, I ended up being taken up with a group.” Her expression went more somber. “We spent days floating in a broken chunk of ship, hoping we’d be rescued.” She looked at Spock and smiled. “I was very impressed by the Starfleet officers. They did a very good job keeping their cool and making sure everyone was getting rations and things like that, even if they had to be careful with the supplies since they weren’t sure how long it would take for a rescue. But more ships came, and then we were back at Earth.” She looked between them again. “Because of the bonds and because I hadn’t heard anything, I was starting to fear the worst when neither of you were among the survivors they found in the wreckage. But then I heard that there were some survivors on the Enterprise, so when the ship got here I came when I heard there would be survivors beaming down. But you weren’t in there, but I decided to stay anyways…” She trailed off and smiled at them again. “I’m glad I decided to stay.”

It took Spock a moment to realize the implications of what she’d said. “You’ve been here waiting for hours?”

“Yes.” She gestured to her bag. “I figured it might be a bit of a wait, so I brought things to do. Plus, getting to see with my own eyes that you two are alive and well was well worth it.” She smiled again.

There was a moment of contented silence, everyone basking in the realization that their losses were not quite so great as they imagined.

Amanda once again broke the silence. “Spock, you look exhausted.” She reached out and squeezed his arm; typically Spock would reject the contact, but now he was too grateful for the physical reassurance of her continued life.

“I believe I am in need of rest.” His only hesitation stemmed from the fact that that would mean returning to his on-campus quarters and separating from his mother.

Amanda seemed to thinking something similar; she looked at Sarek and then back to Spock. “You know, they’ve been letting me stay in our usual rooms in the Embassy. If you wanted, you could probably come stay in your old room, where you stayed as a child visiting Earth with us.” There was something slightly hopeful to his mother’s expression that Spock found difficult to refuse.

He looked at Sarek. It had been many years since they’d slept under one roof, their time on the Enterprise notwithstanding, but his father merely nodded. Spock looked back at his mother. “That would be agreeable.”

Amanda’s grin was wide and excited. “Excellent! We can head out now and get some rest, and then we’ll spend tomorrow catching up.” She turned and walked towards the exit of the transporter room, leading Spock to realize that they hadn’t moved from the transporter pad yet. She looked back at them. “Well? Are you coming?”

With one last shared look that conveyed their mutual disbelief and gratitude at the situation they found themselves in, Sarek and Spock followed her.

Chapter Text

Jim sat in the briefing room for a bit after Spock left. All he had to do now was formally submit all the forms and he would be just about done with his official captain duties. The only other thing he’d have left would be to finish watching over the ship getting ready for repairs, and even then there wasn't much left to do.

Jim sighed and sent off the forms. Might as well end his time as captain as a competent officer rather than the kind of person who puts everything off til the last minute. He’d have to face the admiralty and find out his fate either way, so he may as well go in on a good note.

Might as well get back to his duties now. Jim got up and took the padd as he left the briefing room. There weren't many places on the ship that he hadn't been yet, and most of it was pretty empty by now. Sickbay and most of the quarters would definitely be cleared out. The science labs were probably nearly cleared out by this point, and the bridge had been basically abandoned when he left. As he neared the turbolift Jim tried to think about where he hadn't really been yet. Engineering was one of the few major departments he hadn't visited. May as well go there now.

So he took the turbolift to Engineering. He found it full of people; it was a mix of Enterprise crew and spacedock people and they were all swarming around where the warp core would normally be. Jim quickly decided that he would probably be mostly in the way if he tried to do anything here, so he ducked off to the side. He was surprised when he heard someone.

“Captain?” It sounded like Scotty, but Jim looked around and didn't see him.

“Scotty?” Jim glanced around again but still couldn't find him. “Where are you?”

A moment later a head popped out of a nearby Jeffries tube. “Over here.”

Jim walked closer and was able to see Scotty nearly upside down in front of an open panel with a toolkit clipped to the side of the Jeffries tube he was in. “What are you doing? I thought you’d be in the middle of the warp core repairs.”

Scotty shook his head. “I made an admiral mad, remember? I’m staying out of the way.” He paused and patted the Jeffries tube affectionately. “Besides, my girl needs a lot of repairs, and someone has to handle the small things while the big things get focused on.”

“I’m sure someone would take care of it eventually.” Then the rest of what Scotty said caught up up on other Jim and he made a face. “Wait, your girl?”

“Well,” Scotty looked a bit embarrassed, “Engineers get awfully close to their ships. I haven't been here long but I already don't want to leave.”

“I can understand that.” Jim smiled ruefully. “Captains tend to get pretty attached to their ships too, and even though I was just acting captain for two weeks, I still got attached.”

“Captain.” Jim looked up and saw Scotty uncharacteristically serious, but not angry. “I think most of us dropped the ‘acting’ bit of the title and accepted you in the chair.”

“Thanks.” Jim smiled at Scotty. “And if we're being honest, you seem to have been acting awfully like a chief engineer on our voyage home.”

Scotty smiled. “Aww, thank you captain.”

“Jim. I think we can drop the formality now.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Like I’ve been saying, I don't know what rank I’ll end up with after this, so I’m not trying to get too used to the title.”

“Whatever you say.” Scotty shrugged. “But minus the bit with the warp core, we’ve treated this silver lady pretty well. I bet she’ll take us back.”

“Well if you're right, we’ll go out for a celebratory drink.” Jim hoped Scotty’s optimism wasn't completely unfounded.

“And if i’m wrong?” Scotty raised an eyebrow, which looked a little odd considering he was still partially upside down.

“Then we’ll go out for a consolation drink.” Jim grinned.

“I like your style.” Scotty grinned back at him. “Let's hope your taste in drinks is just as good.”

“Alright.” Jim laughed. He looked around Engineering before looking back to Scotty. “I’m just about done here so i’m gonna head down soon. Want to join me?”

“If it's alright with you I’ll stay.” Scotty glanced around Engineering. “I think I’ll keep working.”

“Ok.” Jim had noticed that more Enterprise crew seemed to be here than in other sections, so he decided to clarify something. “You and the other engineers know you can go down to the surface and leave the repairs to the crew here, right?”

“We know.” Scotty shrugged. “Most of ‘em will be beaming down soon. I’ll be staying up here til it's done though.” He looked a little nervous. “Got an admiral angry, remember? I'm gonna enjoy my starship time in case they exile me to an ice planet again.”

“Yeah, I remember the story with Archer’s dog.” Jim shrugged. “But hey, remember your optimism from earlier.”

“Whatever you say, sir.” Scotty started to inch back into the Jeffries tube. “I’m gonna get back to work.”

“Alright.” Jim watched him slowly disappear up the Jeffries tube. “I’ll see you back on Earth, Scotty.” He waited until he heard a muffled acknowledgement and then laughed as he left Engineering.”

He wasn't quite sure where to go from here. It seemed like it might be time to go. Jim sighed as he got in the turbolift. He already finished up in the captain's quarters, and it wasn't like he was gonna need to go there to get anything. Might as well do one last trip to the bridge then head out.

As the turbolift doors opened on the quiet bridge, Jim took a moment to take in the view of Earth. It had been afternoon in San Francisco when they arrived, but now night was falling. From such a high orbit he could see the area where day was shifting to night and lights were coming on. It was an incredible sight.

He kept his eyes on the viewscreen as he slowly walked toward the captain’s chair. Once he was next to it he let a hand rest on the armrest and looked away from the viewscreen to the chair. He wondered if he should sit in it one last time…

“Do you two need a moment? I can leave the bridge.” Jim jumped more than he’d like to admit and turned around to see Uhura.

“What are you doing here?” He paused when he realized how harsh that might sound. “I mean I don't mean that in a ‘you don't belong here way,’ just in a ‘I thought you’d left already so now I’m confused’ way.”

“I'm finishing up my job.” When he still seemed confused Uhura raised an eyebrow. “You weren't the only one who got a promotion, Kirk. Being the alpha shift bridge communications officer apparently puts you in charge of the department. So I’ve been supervising my department.”

“Oh. That makes sense I guess.” It was quiet for a moment before Jim remembered something. “Wait. I thought you'd already left, so I told Spock to just beam down without you since he seemed exhausted.” He felt a little bad; just because she was dating his soulmate didnt mean he wanted to actively sabotage their relationship. “I hope I didn't ruin your date night.”

“It’s alright.” Uhura shifted in her seat at the comm station. “Spock commed me from the surface to let me know he’d have to cancel anyway. Apparently a family thing came up.”

That didn't sound good. “Is he ok?”

Uhura shrugged. “He didn't sound exactly like his normal self, but he didn't sound distressed either. I’m sure he’ll let me know later.”

“Alright. Let me know when you find out.” Uhura seemed thrown off for a second so Jim quickly clarified. “You get close to someone when they're your first officer. I want to know if he’s ok.” Plus there was the soulmate thing, but Jim definitely was not telling Uhura that.

“Ok then.” She didn't seem fully convinced, but she didn't seem suspicious either. “I’ll let you know.”

“Thanks.” Jim smiled at her. “Anyway, since Spock ditched you, want to head down with me?” He realized what that sounded like a moment after he said it. “I don't mean it like that.” He held up a hand to stop her from interrupting. “I just meant that I finished my work, so if you finished yours we could leave together. I think some of the crew are planning to celebrate beating Nero and getting back and it's always more fun to go to that sort of thing with other people. But if you need to keep working or just would rather not go with me just let me know and I'll leave.”

When he looked up Uhura thankfully looked more amused than annoyed. “It’s ok, Kirk. I'm all done here so I'd be alright with beaming down together.”

“Aright.” Jim smiled. “Let’s head out.” He made an ‘after you’ gesture and took one last look around the bridge before following her onto the turbolift.

Chapter Text

Jim felt like he was moving a bit slower than usual as he and Uhura walked through the Enterprise on their way to Spacedock. Uhura kept getting a little ahead of him and stopping to wait or telling him to hurry up a bit.

Eventually she seemed to just decided to address it outright. She stopped and put a hand on her hip. “Kirk, what’s going on? You normally don’t walk this slowly.”

Jim wasn’t quite sure how to respond. “I—I don’t know. Am I walking slowly?”

“Yes.” Uhura raised an eyebrow. “Are you worried about not coming back to the ship?”

Damn, she was perceptive. Might as well stop trying to avoid it. “Maybe.”

She sighed and dropped her hand from her hip. “Kirk, I know I tend to give you a hard time—and don’t get me wrong, you typically have it coming because someone has to keep that ego in check, not to mention you typically give it right back—but I’m just gonna be honest with you here. I think you’re overthinking this.” Jim looked up at her; this wasn’t quite where he was expecting this to go. Once she had his attention Uhura continued. “I think you’ve got a pretty good chance of making it back on this ship. Will you be captain again? Maybe, maybe not. But could you be back on this ship and maybe even get a promotion instead of graduating as an ensign? I think it’s possible, maybe even likely. So stop moping like this will be the last time you’ll ever be on the Enterrpise.”

Jim felt a smile creep across his face. “Thanks Uhura.” With just about everyone else he might assume they were just saying it to make him feel better, but he could trust her to be honest. “If or when I make captain, I’m totally making you my chief comm officer.”

She smiled, a mix of amused and confident. “I don’t think I’ll need your help for that, but thanks.”

“That’s probably true.” Jim laughed. “So, should we head out? We’ll be finding out who gets what promotions soon enough anyways.”

“Let’s head down.” Uhura started walking again and gestured for him to follow. Jim took one last look around before going after her.

They reached the spacedock transporter room pretty quickly. After quickly confirming the coordinates, they dematerialized.

They hadn’t been in the landing area for long before Jim heard a very familiar voice. “Oh my god! My two favorite humans!”

The next thing Jim knew there was one green arm around him and another around Uhura; despite only having a partial grip on either of them Gaila managed to have a tight hold on both of them.

“You two took so long to beam down!” Gaila’s voice was a little muffled from where her face was pressed to their shoulders but she didn’t let that deter her. “I came when I first heard Enterprise officers were beaming down since I’d heard that both of you ended up on it, but then you weren’t there! And then I head senior officers were beaming down and I figured I’d go check and now you’re here!” She let him and Uhura out of the crushing hug and looked between the two of them expectantly. “I can’t believe you two were out there saving the Federation while I was stuck in an escape pod hoping I wouldn’t get pulverized into space dust by debris. They’ve been so tightlipped around here that all I know is that the Enterprise was the one that saved Earth. You two have to tell me everything!”

Jim smiled and was surprised to see that Uhura was smiling too when he looked over at her. “The story is gonna be everywhere soon, Gaila. I bet within a week you’re gonna be sick of hearing about it.”

“Maybe.” Gaila looked between the two of them, still grinning at being reunited with her friends. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to get the first hand story from you now. The official story will just be based on the briefings and logs; that’s nowhere near as fun.”

“She’s got a point.” Uhura looked at Jim with an eyebrow raised in consideration. “No official story would be able to match your flair for the dramatic, Kirk.”

“Hey.” Maybe Gaila was starting to put out pheromones without realizing it again but Jim felt like he just couldn’t even get fake mad right now. Plus, it seemed like Uhura was joking. “Your boyfriend was the most dramatic one for most of it in my opinion, but given the circumstances it was understandable.”

“Spock?” Gaila’s voice was understandably incredulous. “In all the time working with him on the Kobayashi Maru he was the most levelheaded person I ever met. I thought it would be impossible for him to lose his cool.”

“Clearly he just hadn’t met me yet.” Jim smirked before it dropped. “That and his planet got destroyed and a ton of people died. It was a really messy situation.”

“I’ll say.” Uhura leaned against Gaila and looked at Jim. “Kirk was still pretty dramatic though. Only he would reappear after getting marooned then get himself nearly murdered only to dramatically reveal that it was all because he needed to take command of the ship.”

“Oh my god.” Gaila looked at Jim, exaggerating her surprise but not by much. “You became captain?” At Jim’s hesitant nod she slapped his arm. “Lead with that kind of thing next time! Have I taught you nothing about gossip?”

“No more than I already knew from living in a small town.” Jim had forgotten about Riverside for a second. He decided to delay going back; he didn’t want a whole lot of hoopla around his visit to the farmhouse.

“Anyway.” Gaila turned her attention back to Uhura. “How was he?”

“Gaila, could you say that in a way that doesn’t sound dirty?” When Uhura’s exasperated expression was met with only a raised eyebrow from Gaila and a muffled laugh from Jim since there was really no need to answer, she sighed and looked between the two of them. “He was surprisingly competent.” She looked at Jim. “Don’t let it go to your head too much Kirk, but you weren’t half bad.”

Jim nodded. “Not the best review I’ve gotten, but I’ll take it.” He grinned. “I guess I gotta work on my performance a bit.”

Uhura shook her head, but she was smiling. “I can’t believe you’re the same person who commanded a ship through an emergency and almost two weeks after and actually did ok at it.”

“Did I do well enough to earn a first name?” Jim smiled, easily slipping into the old game.

“Really?” She was smiling back at him. “We both know you heard Spock say it.”

“Yeah, but it only counts if you tell me yourself.” Jim nodded at Gaila. “That’s why I never just looked it up or bothered just asking Gaila here for it even though I knew she knew it; it would ruin the fun.”

“What makes you think I would have told?” Gaila was trying to look serious but failing at it and still grinning. “I can totally keep a secret when I need to.”

Jim was about to respond but then paused a second and looked at Uhura. “I honestly don’t know if she has any secrets, which either means she’s really good with them or absolutely terrible.”

Uhura shrugged. “I trust her.”

“Well me too obviously.” Jim looked at Gaila again. “Don’t doubt that.”

“I didn’t.” Gaila shrugged it off then looked between the two of them. “Now, gather your other friends from onboard if you want, but I want to hear all the details. I don’t care if we’re up all night; I’m getting the full story.”

“Alright, alright.” Jim smiled. “I’ll grab Bones if I can and then meet you; you two can check with other people if you want but I say if we’re gonna be up all night we should grab some food and maybe drinks. But let’s do this.”

Chapter Text

They ended up getting a pretty good group together. Along with the initial group of Jim, Gaila, and Uhura, they managed to convince Sulu, Chekov, and Bones to come over. They’d tried to get Scotty to come as well, but he’d refused to leave the ship again.

Still, they’d managed to get most of the Enterprise’s senior staff, which Gaila had enjoyed because it meant she could get the story from multiple people. They spent the first part of the night in Gaila and Uhura’s room eating takeout and telling the story, everyone jumping in and interrupting each other when they felt they had good details to add. Bones had brought along some booze, which they also shared over the course of their time in the room, before deciding that they should all go out as a group.

So after a quick break so everyone could get changed and prepare, they met back up and headed to a club that Gaila recommended that Sulu had apparently been to as well.

That was how they ended up squeezed into a booth on the edge of a packed dancefloor while loud rhythmic music played and colorful strobe lights flashed. Jim looked over his crew and couldn’t help but smile. Gaila and Uhura had finished their first round and then gone to the dancefloor, where they were both attracting a lot of attention but ignoring it in favor of having a good time. Chekov had had a drink that Jim suspected he might have been a bit too young for at only 17, but he seemed to be handling it well enough, to the point that Jim decided this probably wasn’t his first time with alcoholic drinks. He’d also made his way to the dancefloor and was staying close to Uhura and Gaila. Sulu had started off with them, but had wandered over to another table to talk with a cute guy who’d caught his eye when they came in. They were too far away for Jim to pick up what they were saying, but they both seemed really interested in it, or maybe just interested in each other. Bones had done the least socializing out of everyone; he’d stuck to the booth and complained about how loud the music was, but he still seemed to be enjoying himself.

Jim himself had been going back and forth between the dance floor and their booth; there certainly had been some people who'd caught his attention, but he wasn’t really feeling it that night. While his mood had been a bit improved when he’d found out that Spock’s family thing that was keeping him occupied was good news instead of bad, Jim still found his thoughts drifting back to his soulmate, although more out of curiosity than concern. He wondered what Spock would think of a place like this. He’d probably be more annoyed with it than Bones was; from what Jim understood Vulcans weren’t fans of alcohol, loud music, big groups of people, or even dancing according to some. Still, Jim wondered if Spock would be an exception. He could picture Spock dressed more casually in going out clothes that showed off a little bit, maybe something tight and black, dancing in a way that really highlighted that toned body Jim got to see while they were sparring…

This was not the time for those kinds of thoughts. Jim shook his head to clear it. Spock was probably the kind of person who’d spend shore leave actually resting, or maybe just exploring museums or that sort of thing. Still, that could be fun. Days spent learning about the local culture, nights spent learning about each other and maybe each other’s bodies…

What the hell was he drinking that was making him have these sorts of thoughts? Jim glanced down at his glass and decided to go with something more tried and true for his next round. Or maybe just get water; it might be good for him to sober up some.

Sulu sliding into the booth alone dragged Jim away from his thoughts. He raised an eyebrow at Sulu. “Where’d your boy go? It looked like you two were really hitting it off.”

“He had to head out. We did exchange contact information and agree to meet sometime later this week though.” Sulu smiled in a way that was a little shyer than his usual calm confidence. “His name is Ben and he seemed really cool; I really want to see him again.”

“Meet for one night and you’ve already got it bad.” Bones shook his head and took a sip of his drink, but he was smiling slightly. “This guy must really be something.”

“He is!” Sulu leaned across the table. “We didn’t even get to talk much because it was so loud in here, but we really hit it off still. I think he could be the one, guys. I bet you’ll check me out in a week and I’ll be aging!”

“Congrats dude.” Jim took another sip of his drink, hoping it wouldn’t drag up too many mental images of ‘the one’ for him. “Ignore Dr. Grumpy over here, that’s exciting stuff.” Jim nudged Sulu’s arm. “So were you impressing him with stories of your heroics? Cuz you were pretty badass when we were fighting those Romulans on the drill, not to mention the space battles.”

“Nah.” Sulu leaned back and looked through the drinks on the table before finding one that might have been his and taking a sip of it. “No one outside of Starfleet really knows the story yet; people know that one Starfleet ship saved Earth but I figured that it might sound fake if I claimed to be on it.”

“It is true though.” Chekov scooted into the booth, followed closely by Uhura and Gaila. “But maybe this way he can be more impressed when the story comes out because he met you before you got famous.”

“Yeah, some people really dig heroics.” Gaila nodded emphatically. “Even though it didn’t really seem like you’d need any help getting with that guy from what I saw, when the story blows up it might help push things along.”

“C’mon, do you really think the story’s going to get that big?” Uhura grabbed her drink off the table. “I doubt any of us are going to get that much attention compared to what happened to Vulcan.”

Silence settled over the table for a moment as they all thought about what had happened. The suddenly somber mood felt at odds with the upbeat environment around them.

After a moment Gaila broke the silence. “While a lot of attention will be on that, I think some focus will still be on all of you. I mean, you were the only Starfleet ship that survived, and you saved Earth and maybe the whole Federation in the process. People are gonna want to talk about that.” She paused to think. “There already has been some buzz around it here; I doubt the story will settle, especially now that you’re back.”

“True.” Jim tipped his head in consideration. “Plus, some of the tabloid people will do anything for a story. I still can’t believe how many people I had to dodge earlier this year because they wanted to follow up on ‘the Kelvin Baby’ 25 years later.”

“God, that was the worst.” Bones took a long drink before continuing. “I swear you used the window more than the door to get into our room that week because they were loitering near the entrance of the dorms so much.” He shook his head. “I’m not looking forward to all of that.”

There were grunts of agreement from around the table. Jim glanced at the time; it was getting late and this was not the kind of note he wanted to end the night on. “Whatever comes next, tonight we’re celebrating even if we’re the only ones who know what we did right now. So somebody flag down a server because the next round is on me.”

Once they’d managed to find someone and get drinks Jim raised his glass. “Here’s to the best crew in the fleet.” He paused and looked around the table. “Whatever comes next, we kicked some major ass out there. Let’s hope we can get the band back together and do it again.” He looked around the table again and decided to add one more thing. “Gaila, you’re an honorary crew member for tonight at the very least, but let’s see if it can be for real on our next adventure.”

“It better be.” Gaila raised her glass and everyone laughed.

“Anyways,” Jim smiled at everyone around the table. “To the Enterprise and her crew!”

The crew echoed the toast and everyone clinked their glasses together. Jim smiled before taking a sip and deciding that whatever came next, with his career and with his love life, as long as he could be with this group of people it would be pretty good.

Chapter Text

The next morning Jim woke up to a buzzing sound. For a moment he thought it was his head, but then he saw it was his padd. A quick glance at the screen showed that he had a message from Pike and that it was still very early. Jim groaned and decided to go back to sleep. He’d always just dealt with hangovers by sleeping through them, and the message from Pike couldn’t be that serious…

The next time Jim woke up was several hours later. He checked the time and saw it was now 1230. That was probably late enough that he should get up. He rolled over and decided to check the message from Pike. He picked up the padd and opened the message.

Jim sat upright, all sleepiness gone instantly. He had a meeting with the Admirals at 1300. It was now 1231 and the meeting would be in a building across campus, a 10 minute walk away.

Jim jumped out of bed and swore. He was thankful to see that Bones had left him water and a hypo that Jim assumed was his hangover cure (Jim had never quite found out what was in it, but he trusted Bones as a doctor and it definitely worked). Jim downed the water and stabbed himself with the hypo before digging through his dresser. He had no idea if he was supposed to be wearing command gold or cadet red at this point, but a quick glance around the room revealed that his only command tunic was the one he’d transported down in, which was now crumpled on the floor. Cadet red it was.

A quick stop in the bathroom to do his business and make sure he was presentable (as much as Gaila told him it was a good look for him, Jim doubted bedhead was the right look for a meeting with the Admiralty) and it was 1245. Jim smoothed out his uniform and debated whether he had time to grab food. He knew Bones would get on his case for not eating, and that it probably wasn’t best to face the admiralty on an empty stomach, so he decided to look for something he could eat quickly.

It took him longer than expected, but he finally found a bar that he could eat on the go. He started to shove it in his mouth, then noticed the time. It was 1251. This was not good. Jim scrambled to find his boots from wherever he’d tossed them off the night before. He finally found them half under the futon and pulled them on, taking a moment to be glad that Starfleet had done away with lace up boots as he ran out the door.

It was 1253 when he left the dorm. Jim ran across campus in a half sprint, dodging people as he went and cutting across the grass. He really hoped he wouldn’t trip.

Panting and starting to sweat from a mix of nerves and the sudden exertion, Jim made it to the right building at 1259. He took a deep breath and ran a hand through his hair, hoping he didn’t mess it up too much. It might be more like bedhead after all at this point. Oh well.

A realization hit him and Jim froze. He had no idea what room this meeting was supposed to be in; he’d only looked at the building. In his rush he’d forgotten all about bringing his padd, too, so he had no way to check. He began to frantically look around the lobby for any sign of where he was supposed to be, but there didn’t seem to be any indication of where he was supposed to be.

A poorly suppressed laugh from behind him made Jim turn around. He saw an ensign in command gold who raised an eyebrow at him. “I’m guessing you’re Kirk? I didn’t mean to laugh but you were getting comically distressed there.”

“Yeah, I’m supposed to be going to a meeting with the admirals, but I have no idea which room it’s in.” Jim took another deep breath. “And yes, I am James T. Kirk. I would give you my rank but it was sortof Captain yesterday and cadet a few weeks ago and uncertain today; I think that’s what this meeting is. At least in part.”

“Not to break your suspense too much, but that is what this meeting is about. At least in part.” The ensign stood up and smiled. “Ensign Marie Tran; I work with Admiral Komack. They’re expecting you in room 106; it’s just up the stairs and to the right.”

“You’re a lifesaver.” With one last nod of appreciation, Jim took off up the stairs, smiling slightly at the sound of laughter behind him, less muffled this time.

A quick glance at the chronometer above the door showed Jim that he was getting there at precisely 1301. Not bad, all things considered. He took a deep breath, smoothed his hair and uniform one more time, and stepped inside.

“Kirk. Nice of you to join us.” Jim looked up to see Admiral Barnett seated with the others at a large oblong table. The admirals were clustered toward one end; there were a few faces Jim recognized and some he didn’t; he was surprised to see that one seat towards the end seemed to have Pike on a video screen calling from Starfleet Medical.

Jim tried to school his expression and stand at attention. “Admirals.” He wasn’t quite sure what he was supposed to be doing; was there a specific salute you were supposed to do when faced with practically the entire Admiralty?

“It’s alright Mr. Kirk, you were barely late. Take a seat.” Jim tried to keep the surprise off his face at that voice. If Admiral Archer was here despite being semi-retired (as were most who’d been around long enough to remember when it was Earth Starfleet rather than Federation Starfleet), it was probably a big deal.

“Thank you, sir.” Jim nervously took a seat at the end of the table away from the admirals, hoping that even if he wasn’t projecting his usual confidence he was at least projecting calm rather than anxiety.

“Interesting choice of attire there, son.” Jim looked over at Pike, who was smiling reassuringly from the screen he was on. “Got tired of the gold shirt already?”

“No, just going with what I had that was clean.” Jim smiled back at Pike, slipping into the comfortable rhythm the two of them had. “Not much command gold in my dorm closet, but a lot of cadet red.”

A chuckle from another part of the room reminded Jim that as much as he would have preferred it, it was not just him and Pike in the room. A quick survey of the admirals’ expressions had them ranging from serious but amused to seriously unamused. Not the best start probably.

“You’re probably wondering why we called you here today.” Jim turned back to Archer, who seemed to be leading the meeting since he was the seniormost Admiral there in more ways than one. “Or maybe not; given that you commanded a ship in a situation unprecedented in Federation history you may have an idea of what you’re doing here.”

Jim nodded; he wasn’t quite sure what he was supposed to say.

“Any further details you could provide on that situation would be greatly appreciated.” Jim turned to the admiral that spoke; he thought this one was Marcus. “Anything or anyone with the capability to destroy a planet is something we’d like to know as much as possible about.”

“I submitted my logs, but if you have any questions ask away.” Jim really hoped this wouldn’t turn into an interrogation. “But I don’t think you’ll have to worry about the enemy ship; it got sucked into a massive black hole and we watched it get destroyed. The Enterprise’s sensor records can probably confirm that.”

“We’ve downloaded the data and have started to analyze it; you’ll understand if the idea of matter that could spontaneously generate black holes sounds a bit unbelievable.” This admiral wasn’t one Jim recognized at all.

“That is understandable.” Jim shifted slightly in his seat and hoped it didn’t look like he was fidgeting. “You could probably call in the science officers from the Enterprise; some of them had already started to analyze the data from our sensors while we were making our way back here.”

“We’ll consult them.” The admiral from before nodded and seemed to make a note on a padd.

“Now, onto other matters.” Jim sat up straighter Admiral Archer spoke again. “Part of the reason we’ve called you here today is to discuss your future within Starfleet.”

Chapter Text

Here it came. Time to be let down or hopefully pleasantly surprised. Jim sat up even more, probably getting as close as he could to standing at attention without leaving his chair.

“Prior to the incident, you were not in good academic standing with Starfleet Academy.” Admiral Barnett was still looking like he had from the beginning of the meeting, which was unamused. “As I’m sure you recall, you were suspended due to allegations of tampering with the Kobayashi Maru test, which would be considered a breach of Starfleet Academy’s code of academic ethics.”

“I recall.” Jim nodded and again hoped that he seemed calm even if he really wasn’t feeling it at the moment. He’d had a bad feeling that that would come back to hurt him.

“However, your performance in the incident we’ve previously discussed notwithstanding, there have been changes to the circumstances.” Barnett still seemed serious, but there seemed to be a slight shift coming from him. Jim couldn’t quite place it, but maybe he was a little less disapproving now? “Admiral Pike—” Jim glanced at Pike for confirmation and got a nod that signaled ‘we’ll talk later’ in return “—has brought up evidence in your favor, which was that there was no rule within the testing procedures that forbade altering the programing of the test. Based on that evidence and conversations he apparently had with you, Commander Spock has rescinded his accusation and instead suggested we present you with a ‘commendation for original thinking’ due to, as he put it, your ‘unique approach to the problem presented by the exam.’ Because he is not willing to continue the trial, we will listen to his recommendation. You will not be facing any charges, nor will this incident be recorded on your record.”

Jim felt himself start to grin but tried to contain it. He was really starting to like Spock. Even if he didn’t end up being captain, it was a relief to know that he wouldn’t have that on his record. He’d really have to make it up to Spock somehow.

“Now that that’s settled,” everyone looked at Archer as he spoke again, “onto the matter of your rank and future assignment.”

Jim sat up straight again; he hadn’t realized how much he’d started to relax when the verdict from before was said. But one of the biggest names in Starfleet talking about your future in the organization was certain to get you back on edge.

“No need to look so stressed.” Archer smiled at him in a way that was probably supposed to be reassuring, but in this situation it was hard to relax. “Deciding what your current rank should be created a bit of a predicament for us. Typically any sort of promotions would be decided by your commanding officer, but for most of your time on the Enterprise you were the commanding officer. You’d understand why we couldn’t leave it up to you.”

There were quiet chuckles around the room and Jim nodded. The slight tension break was even enough for him to smile a bit at the joke.

When Archer continued, he was more serious again. “You are, as you may know, the youngest person to command a ship for any significant length of time. Even your father, who was only in command of a ship for minutes, was several years older than you are now.”

Part of the team that saved a planet and he still couldn’t quite escape his father’s legacy. Jim hoped it wasn’t showing on his face. What would he have to do, die while singlehandedly saving a whole ship’s worth of people?

“Additionally,” Jim’s attention was drawn back to Archer, “most people your age are at the rank of lieutenant at the highest. And it’s not solely about age; it’s a matter of experience. Most people spend at least one year, typically more, working on a ship or at a starbase before earning their first promotion. You have yet to even formally graduate from the academy, and your field experience is extremely limited.”

Looks like he had been right to expect the worst. This didn’t seem to be leading to a command position. Maybe he’d get to skip over ensign and get to lieutenant though; that could be cool.

“However.” Jim focused back on Archer again. He really needed to stop zoning out. “The field experience you have accumulated, while hardly a typical situation, has shown you to be an incredibly competent commanding officer despite your young age and relative lack of experience. You have a natural talent that’s a rare find and you display skills that some seasoned captains have difficulty mastering. You also have received very good reviews from the officers who served with and under you as well as from Admiral Pike and Captain Davison.” Archer smiled. “While we expected Pike to speak highly of you since he was the one who promoted you,” another round of quiet laughs from the table, “Davison is more known for being blunt. But still, we received another very positive view of you. According to Captain Davison, whenever you were given the opportunity to take charge, you displayed confidence and competence befitting someone in the center seat. You also showed great skill at anticipating problems and working with others to develop solutions, which are other traits any good captain should have.”

Things seemed to be shifting his way. Despite himself Jim felt himself starting to hope a bit. He also would have to thank Davison when this was all over; some positive words from a captain really did seem to carry a lot of weight from the admirals.

“Can I tell him?” Pike was smiling, and the monitor had rotated some to better view the other admirals. After a few nods he turned back to Jim with a grin. “They’re giving you the Enterprise.”

Jim had been trying to contain his reactions all day but now he couldn’t help it. He felt the excited surprise spread across his face. “Really?”

“Yes.” Pike was still smiling. “You did it, son.”

Jim couldn’t help but grin back at him, but his attention was once more drawn to the other end of the table.

“There are some caveats.” Archer was more serious now, but he too was smiling some. “The decision to make you a captain was not unanimous. There were some that thought that due to your previous record, or lack thereof, you weren’t ready yet. Although I’m always of the opinion that if you have the right people with you, it’s ok to head out before some of those in charge think you’re ready.” For a moment his eyes shone at what Jim was sure was a reference to something, but he didn’t quite know what. After that moment it was gone and Archer’s face went serious again. “But we reached a compromise. Upon graduation from the Academy, you will be the captain of the Enterprise, but for the first year you will be in a sort of probationary or trial period. You will report directly to Admiral Pike, who will serve as an advisor or mentor of sorts and also be your liaison to us. Additionally, should your actions or behavior indicate that you are not truly ready for command, you will be demoted. This will not mean that you will never be able to be a captain again, but you will have to wait and earn the promotion anew.” Archer’s face shifted to a slight smile again. “So there’s just one more step to determining your rank and assignment." He paused. "James T. Kirk, do you accept the rank of captain and command of the Enterprise under the terms we’ve stated?”

This was big. Jim knew he’d have to be careful not to mess this up. But he was also so excited. For possibly the first time that day Jim let himself grin without holding it back. “Yes sir, I accept.”

“Excellent.” Archer nodded and smiled. “Once the Enterprise gets repaired and ready to take off once more, we’ll hold a ceremony to officially promote you and Pike, but feel free to tell others in the meantime within reason. You’ll have to start the work of a captain soon to ready the Enterprise for her first missions, so you may as well let people know, especially those on your crew, which you will get to choose. With Pike’s guidance of course.”

Jim nodded. “Of course.”

“Alright then.” Archer stood and the others followed. “With no other matters to discuss, we will now dismiss you. Congratulations on the promotion, Captain Kirk.”

Jim stood and grinned. “Thank you sir.” With one last nod to all of them, Jim turned and left the room.

He waited until he was in a secluded corner to allow himself to actually celebrate in ways that would have probably been embarrassing to do in front of the admirals. But once he’d finished his victory dance, Jim smoothed out his uniform and headed out of the building. He couldn’t wait to tell everyone. He’d have to visit Pike too; congratulations were in order there too. Jim grinned. Things were looking good.

Chapter Text

Jim was so excited that he didn’t really know who to go see first. Pike was high on the list, but not necessarily first since he already knew the big news. There were so many people Jim would have to tell that he was captain now. Really, this warranted another night out with the crew. He’d have to see if they could all get together again so he could make the announcement.

But in the meantime, there were other people who he’d have to tell. He should probably call his mom at one point; from what he’d heard the Defiant and all of her crew had been planning to head out almost immediately after they got the Enterprise back to Earth. All of the intact Starfleet ships were occupied either continuing the search for survivors around where Vulcan had been or patrolling the Federation’s borders because some of the admirals had been concerned about another attack. So if what he’d heard was right, his mom, Captain Davison, and their crew must have spoken to the admirals as necessary the day they got back, had one night off, and then headed out in the morning.

Jim would have to tell his mom to thank Captain Davison for him. It sounded like all the testimony from others had really helped sway the admirals’ decision, and Davison had been a big part of that. Captains really did have a lot of influence in Starfleet. So Jim would have to have him mom pass along his thanks.

The other person Jim really wanted to tell was Spock. Clearly Spock had had a chance to talk to the admirals or at least send in a report, so he probably already knew something, but it would still be good to see him and tell him. Plus Jim wanted to talk to him about the Kobayashi Maru thing. He probably shouldn’t be too surprised given that Spock had actually seemed to consider his arguments when they’d talked about it back on the ship, but it had still caught Jim off guard that Spock had not only dropped the charges but also recommended that Jim get a commendation for original thinking. He really hadn’t expected what he’d said to have that much of an influence on Spock.

But he had, and now Jim was on his way to being captain of the Enterprise, thanks in part to Spock. He also wanted to tell Spock because they’d need to start picking out a crew soon and Jim would want his first officer to help him with that. It would take a while for the Enterprise to undergo repairs, but they still shouldn’t put off the big decisions; it seemed like it would be too much work to do at the last minute. Still, Jim was excited to do it.

According to Uhura, who’d heard from him the night before, Spock was staying at the Vulcan Embassy in San Francisco. Jim considered changing out of his cadet reds before going but decided he was too excited to stop. So he got on a transport and made his way to the Embassy.

It didn’t take him long to get there. Jim walked toward the Embassy and tried to contain his excitement about his promotion. Even though he was having a good day, it wouldn’t be good to disturb The Vulcans’ space and mourning with his enthusiasm. It was easier once he got inside; while most Vulcans had been temporarily settled on various parts of Earth, there were still a lot of them who were at the Embassy while they worked with Starfleet and the Federation government to coordinate the rescue and relocations. The overall atmosphere was somber and felt weighed down by all the repressed grief in the room. It was almost overwhelming to Jim.

He hadn’t really thought this through. Jim knew that Spock would be somewhere at the Embassy, but the Vulcans had a fairly large compound and it was currently packed to the brim with people. How was he supposed to find Spock?

“Hello?” Jim turned around at a voice from behind him. He saw (surprisingly enough) another human, who smiled at him. “I couldn’t help but notice you looked a little lost. Are you looking for someone?”

“I am actually.” Jim smiled, relieved he was getting some help. “I’m looking for Commander Spock; I would tell you his family name, but even though I’ve seen it written out I have no idea how to pronounce it. He’s in Starfleet though; that should help narrow it down.”

“I know exactly who you’re talking about.” The stranger’s smile grew. “And I could also give you some assistance with pronouncing that family name, considering it’s been mine for about thirty years now.”

That threw Jim for a loop before the pieces clicked into place. There weren’t exactly many humans in Vulcan families, and while it didn’t necessarily mean much she definitely looked past 18 physically. “Are you Spock’s mom? I thought you were dead!”

His raised voice and shocked expression drew some looks from the Vulcans around them, but she only smiled in amusement. “I’ve been getting that a lot lately. And I am Spock’s mother, but I’ll spare you the Vulcan name; you can call me Amanda.”

“Nice to meet you; I’m Jim Kirk.” He almost extended his hand to shake but then reconsidered it given their surroundings and nodded at her instead.

“You’re Kirk?” Her eyes lit up with interest. “My son has told me about you.”

Jim’s expression shifted to a grimace. “I would say that I hope it was nothing but good things, but I was also there for the past few weeks so I know that there are some not-positive things he could throw in.”

“Don’t worry; it was mostly positive, or at least he seemed willing to excuse or explain the not-so-positive things.” Amanda scrutinized him some but ultimately smiled gently. “If you’d like, we could go see Spock now. You did say you were looking for him, right?”

“Yes.” In all the confusion and excitement of everything since he’d gotten to the embassy, Jim had almost forgotten why he’d come in the first place. “I’ve got some news to share with him. Starfleet things.”

“Alright.” Amanda nodded at him. “Follow me; I’ll take you there.” With that she turned and led Jim to one of the doors in the back of the room.

A Vulcan at a desk stopped them at the door. “Lady Amanda.”

“Hello Vorik.” She held up the Vulcan salute, which the Vulcan returned. “My guest and I are going to go see Sarek and Spock; could you let them know that I’m back and that I’m bringing someone?”

“I shall.” Vorik pressed some buttons at the desk and the door opened. “You may proceed.”

“Thank you.” With one last nod Amanda went through and gestured for Jim to follow her.

He looked around at the lobby filled with grieving Vulcans before looking back at the surprisingly happy woman waling through the door. It wasn't a difficult decision. Jim followed her through the door.

Chapter Text

After some meandering through corridors, they reached a door marked as ambassador’s quarters. Amanda punched in a code on the panel next to the door and it slid open. She adjusted her grip on the bags Jim hadn’t noticed she was carrying before walking in to the quarters and calling out to her family. “Sarek! Spock! I’m back from the market. Also one of Spock’s Starfleet friends is here.”

Jim followed her in and half wanted to try to correct her. Were he and Spock friends? They worked really well together, and they’d reached the point where they were civil, or maybe even friendly, when interacting outside of work, but did that make them friends? Jim wanted to be friends with Spock. But what did Spock think?

A moment later Jim was drawn out of his thoughts by the Vulcan himself entering the room, followed shortly by his father who came in from a different room then went to the kitchen area to help Amanda unload her bags. Spock nodded at Jim. “Mr. Kirk.”

Jim couldn’t help the grin that broke across his face. He’d come to tell Spock the news, so he might as well not put it off. “Captain, actually.”

Spock’s eyebrow rose in a way that seemed to indicate surprise or confusion to Jim. “You are no longer in command of a vessel.”

“Not right now, but I will be.” Jim held up his hand to stop Spock from interrupting and stepped closer to Spock until he was only about an arm’s length away. “They gave me command of the Enterprise, Spock. Admittedly, I start when I graduate and they finish repairs and they said that they’ll start off keeping a close eye on me, but still!” Jim wanted to reach out and grab Spock’s shoulders in his excitement but restrained himself when he saw Sarek and Amanda still moving around just one room over in the kitchen.

“Congratulations, Captain.” Jim turned back to Spock when he spoke. "As I had believed, Starfleet saw your aptitude during your time as captain and acted accordingly."

“Thanks.” Jim grinned again at Spock's confidence in him. “We’re gonna have a lot of work to do though. We’ve gotta pick a crew and get the ship ready to go on her next mission. Admittedly, she doesn’t have a next mission yet, but still. We have a lot of work to do to get her ready for it.”

“We?” Spock’s eyebrow rose and for a moment Jim started to feel disheartened, but then decided not to let it get to him.

“Yeah, of course.” Jim smiled at him again, but it felt a little less enthusiastic this time. “You’re my first officer and I value your input on this kind of thing; I wouldn’t think about doing it without you.”

Spock hesitated for a moment. “Captain, there is something I must tell you.”

His expression wasn’t really shifting but Jim felt like whatever Spock was going to tell him wasn’t going to be good news.

However, before Spock could tell Jim anything, his parents reentered the room. Jim stepped back from Spock and turned to face them. Amanda looked between them curiously before looking at Jim and smiling. “So, what was the news you came all the way here to tell Spock?”

Jim smiled again. “I’m going to be captain of the Enterprise. There’s a few conditions on it and they’ll be watching me closely, but with Spock here and the rest of the crew helping out I think it’ll all go smoothly.”

Amanda looked impressed. “Congratulations. Sarek and Spock spent the morning telling me what’s been going on on their side of things since the destruction of Vulcan. With a few exceptions, it sounds like you’ve been handling yourself remarkably well.”

Jim winced a bit internally. Without a doubt, she was talking about the incident on the bridge with Spock, the one that Sarek had witnessed. Jim couldn’t help but think back to the things he’d said to Spock about his mom, the woman who was now standing in front of him. He wasn’t quite sure what to say, but he felt like he had to say something.

Before he could, though, Spock turned to his mother. “We have discussed this. I was unfit for command but refused to admit it. Kirk’s actions were necessary, as the only logical option to make me give up command due to my emotional compromise was to make me display that I was emotionally compromised by provoking me.”

“Still,” Jim decided now could be a good time to cut in, “even if I was completely convinced at the time that what I was doing was right, and if it seemed to lead to a good outcome, I can realize that some of the things I said at the time were probably crossing a line.”

The room was quiet for a moment before Amanda nodded, seeming satisfied. “It takes a lot of maturity to admit when you’ve messed up, especially if what you did got good results. While I can’t say I’m exactly happy about some of the things you apparently said about my son, I realize that it was mostly for effect and you didn’t actually mean it. It is good to hear that you know you crossed a line though.”

It took moment for what she said to sink in for Jim. Had she been testing him? Or had she been genuinely mad about what happened? It was a little hard to tell; after so many years of living with Vulcans it seemed like she was really good at hiding her emotions when she wanted to. Jim looked around the room; before he’d thought Sarek was the most intimidating one in the family since he was nearly as old as the Federation and held an important position, but it seemed like the whole family might just be intimidating. He looked around the room again before nodding at Spock. “Well, I should get going.”

“Are you sure?” Amanda gestured to the kitchen. “We were just about to have some tea.”

Jim smiled. “It’s alright. I have more people I want to tell. Plus, I wouldn’t want to interfere with your family time.” He smiled directly at Amanda this time. “I realize you also have something to celebrate.” He looked back at Spock. “I’ll see you later for crew planning?”

Spock hesitated for a moment before replying. “I will assist you.”

“Great.” Jim grinned at him before heading toward the door. “I’ll comm you to work out the details.” He looked around the room before heading out once more.

Chapter Text

“Why did you not inform him that you wish to leave Starfleet?” Sarek broke the silence that had settled over the room once Kirk left.

Spock turned from the door that Kirk had just exited to where his father was now sitting at the table while his mother brought the kettle for tea. Spock sat down across from him. “My decision is not yet finalized. As there is the possibility of change it would be illogical to inform him prematurely.”

“I still say you should consider staying in Starfleet.” Amanda sat at the table and poured herself a cup of tea before taking a sip. “Whatever your reasons may have been, you chose Starfleet over working on Vulcan before. Why change your decision now?”

“The circumstances have changed.” Spock had not informed his mother that his reasons for choosing Starfleet had included his emotional response to the disparaging comments the Science Academy board had made about her and his heritage; he wondered if Sarek had told her, but he doubted it. “There is now greater need for skilled individuals among the Vulcans than there is in Starfleet. I should not ignore the needs of others to pursue my own self-interest.”

Sarek paused with his tea in his hand. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. A logical argument.”

“I can see that, but I still disagree.” Amanda set down her cup. “Want to hear what I think?”

Spock nodded and sipped his tea. “I welcome your counsel.”

She shifted to face Spock more. “Vulcan’s place in the Federation could come under debate when the planet that joined, or really helped found the Federation, isn’t there anymore. While I doubt anyone will be trying to reject the Vulcans that remain or kick them out, I think that if the Vulcans want to keep their standing and presence in the Federation, it could be good for them to still have a presence in the Federation.” Amanda paused a moment to consider her next thought and looked between her husband and son. “While I think that concentrating on resettlement and rebuilding is important, I think it would be best if Vulcans didn’t withdraw completely from other parts of the Federation. Maintaining those connections will be important to show that Vulcans still value their place in the Federation.” She turned to Spock. “You’re one of the few Vulcans who have ever been a part of Starfleet, which is a major organization in the Federation. One person here or there leaving won’t matter, but if Vulcans leave those sorts of institutions en masse some might see it as Vulcans withdrawing from the Federation, not necessarily on the level that they’d think the Vulcans wanted to leave and be completely politically independent, but at least enough that they’d assume Vulcans wanted to step back some from the major workings of the Federation. After that, it would be hard to regain the level of influence that Vulcan once had, and that level of influence will be necessary in the coming days as the remaining Vulcans will need a place to settle and supplies to help reestablish themselves . They’ll need some people to stay engaged with the rest of the Federation so that the rest of the Federation stays engaged with them.”

After a moment while the others thought over what she’d said, Sarek nodded at Amanda. “A logical and well supported argument. You show a great understanding of the potential political consequences.”

Amanda smiled at him and extended two fingers, which he met. “I have been paying attention to your work all these years. I had to do something at all those political events and diplomatic missions I accompanied you to considering I couldn’t always bring my own work.”

The normalcy of his parents’ interaction comforted the part of Spock that had still been grieving for his mother only a day prior, but he was still uncertain about his future and wished to return the conversation to that. “So you believe it would be best for the surviving Vulcans if I continued my Starfleet career?”

Amanda sighed and turned back to him. “I think what’s best for the Vulcan people shouldn’t necessarily be the driving factor in your decision, but in a way yes. It could still be beneficial to the surviving Vulcans for you to remain in Starfleet instead of helping reestablish them. However,” she looked Spock in the eye and placed her hand on his arm, “I don’t think it would be wrong for you to indulge your human side a bit and do what you want, Spock. It seems like you’ve found a place you could belong with Starfleet. Pike, Kirk, and the other Starfleet people I’ve met seem to really like and value you. I know that hasn’t always been your experience with other Vulcans, so maybe you should stay where you feel comfortable. It wouldn’t be the worst thing for you to make this decision based on you instead of others.”

“With our numbers so greatly reduced and the amount of support we will require, it would be illogical for Vulcans to continue displaying prejudice toward others. That sort of attitude will likely become uncommon.” Spock and Amanda both turned toward Sarek when he spoke. Spock could not help but wonder if his father had never truly borne the brunt of the prejudice from other Vulcans as Spock and his mother had. While he knew that Sarek had faced disapproval for marrying a human and having a child with her, he was still completely Vulcan and not human like Amanda or half like Spock. It was unlikely that he had received the same form or intensity of criticism.

“Really?” An edge of irritation had crept into Amanda’s voice. “I think we all know that it’s still perfectly possible for Vulcans to act in illogical ways and just rationalize it after the fact so it seems logical. Also, I don’t like the implication that it was somehow logical, or at least less illogical, for the Vulcans to be prejudiced when they were less reliant on other people.” She gave Sarek a look that Spock understood meant that they would be discussing that more later before turning back to Spock, the traces of irritation mostly gone. “While I understand that you value our advice, ultimately this decision won’t lie with your father or I, it’ll have to be yours. We can’t decide for you.” She smiled softly at him. “Just like I told you the first time you were making this decision, I’ll support you no matter what you choose. I just want you to choose what you think will be best for you, even if it isn’t necessarily what you think would be best for other people.”

Spock nodded. “Thank you, Mother. I will go meditate on the matter.” Having finished his tea, Spock got up from the table and went toward his rooms.

He would have to decide which path he would choose soon. In the meantime, however, he could attempt to assist with both Starfleet matters, like selecting the crew of the Enterprise, and the efforts on behalf of the remaining Vulcans, although it may not be feasible to do both for very long. Spock settled onto the mediation mat in his room. He would need to choose soon.

Chapter Text

Jim had finally made it back to the Starfleet campus. If he was being perfectly honest, it was a bit of a relief to be away from the Vulcan embassy compound. The grief there was nearly overwhelming, and understandably so. Even if the Vulcans weren’t outwardly expressing it much Jim could still feel it.

It hadn’t been quite so bad when he’d been visiting Spock and his family. They obviously had still lost people, but having their family together really seemed to help their mood. Jim was glad for Spock. Even though he technically knew what it was like to lose a parent, it really wasn’t the same if you never actually knew them like Jim and his dad.

But at least Jim had the person he considered like a dad still (not that he’d admit it to anyone that he considered Pike his surrogate dad). His next stop on his celebration tour was Pike’s room in Starfleet Medical. Pike already knew about Jim’s promotion, of course, but Jim still wanted to see him.

After a quick check in when he got there and finding out where Pike was, Jim headed to the proper floor and went into Pike’s room after first checking to see that no one else was there.

Pike smiled when he saw him. “Captain.”

Jim couldn’t help but grin back. “Admiral.”

“Come on over and have a seat, Jim. I know it’s a little different than Sickbay back on the ship, but they’ve still got a visitor chair at the ready.” Pike gestured to the chair next to his biobed.

“Thanks.” Jim sat down and leaned back in the chair. “So have you gotten many visitors?”

“Not really.” Pike gestured to the pile of padds and other equipment on the other side of the bed. “I’ve been busy catching up on business and filling people in on what happened. Much to the doctors’ chagrin, I can’t seem to avoid work.” Pike shifted a bit but waved Jim off when he leaned forward to help him. “You did just miss Number One though. She was here for a bit and we were swapping survival stories for the aftermath of Vulcan’s destruction. I was trying to tell her that actually getting captured by Nero meant I had it worse, but she did have a point about how trying to keep panicked cadets and grieving civilians calm in a ship fragment floating around the former site of a planet for a week was no easy task.”

That image made Jim pause. “Wow. I hadn’t really thought about what everyone on the other ships must have been going though.” The only person who’d been there but hadn’t been on the Enterprise that Jim had really talked to was Gaila, who seemed to prefer hearing what the Enterprise crew had been though. He began to wonder what it had been like. They’d probably lost all communication with Starfleet. They probably wouldn’t even know if someone was coming to rescue them. That would be terrifying, just floating through space around the ghost of a planet, wondering if you be rescued, destroyed, or left to die…

“You still with me, son?” Jim looked up at the sound of Pike’s voice. He seemed concerned, as if that wasn’t the first time he’d tried to get Jim’s attention.

“I’m fine.” Jim ran a hand down his face and sat back up. “What were you saying?”

“I was talking about Number One’s visit and how she already knows you’re going to get the Enterprise. Since she’d already gotten her own ship and was waiting for them to rebuild or fix it and was focused on that she didn’t seem to be paying much attention to who got the ship, but she did say to pass along a congrats from her if I saw you before she did.” Pike looked at him closely. “You sure you’re ok?”

Jim smiled in a way that he hoped was reassuring. “I’m not the one in a biobed. How are you doing?”

Pike looked at him skeptically like he knew Jim was deflecting but decided to let it pass. “I’ll be alright. Whatever Nero shoved down my throat did a number on my nervous system so I’ll probably end up at least mostly paralyzed from the waist down, but I’ll live. And with me being planetside full time, or just about full time, I won’t need to worry about running from hostile aliens on away missions or anything like that, so I should be fine.”

“You know, if you did want running speeds, I bet Scotty could rig something up with rockets; he could make the already existing models meant for speed look like impulse compared to warp.” Jim grinned. “I know I’ve only known him for a few weeks, but I feel like I already know he would do it and love doing it.”

“This is why the other admirals picked me to supervise you. So none of them would have to deal with this.” Pike shook his head, but he was still smiling. “Speaking of promotions, have you told everyone yet?”

“Not yet.” Jim grinned. “The only person I’ve really told so far was Spock, but I’m gonna try to get the message out to the rest of the people who served as senior staff on the Enterprise. I want to get them locked down before anyone else can take them away, and then I’ll work on the rest of the crew.”

“A good plan.” Pike nodded in approval. “Plus, once you have the senior staff picked out they can probably help plan their departments. This is certainly an area where delegating can come in handy.”

“Yeah, Spock already agreed to help, which is nice.” Jim paused when something odd crossed Pike’s face at the mention of Spock, but it was gone quickly.

“So what about everyone else? Think they’ll help?” Jim almost got the feeling that Pike was changing the topic, but he decided to roll with it.

“I think they will.” Jim thought over his main crew. Sulu and Chekov would probably be excited to help, Uhura would probably help to ensure she got good people in her department, Scotty would probably help for similar reasons if they pulled him away from the ship long enough to work, so that just left Bones…

As if he’d been summoned, the next moment a very familiar voice came from behind Jim. “Dammit, what are you doing here?”

Jim turned to face his friend. “Hey Bones. I’m visiting Pike, what are you doing here?”

“My job.” Bones walked into the room and began to look over the various monitors attached to Pike, at which point Jim noticed that he was wearing Starfleet Medical scrubs and not normal clothes. “Since I’m the doctor most familiar with his injuries, Starfleet Medical asked me to work on Pike’s case. I’ve also been added to the more general rounds for if they need backup, which considering all the people they’ve been pulling out of space ruble is a pretty big need.” He turned to Jim and raised an eyebrow. “Didn’t you notice that I wasn’t there when you woke up?”

“No.” Now that he thought of it, it was kindof surprising Bones hadn’t been there. “But I had to go to a meeting with the admiralty just as soon as I woke up, so that’s probably why.”

The mention of the admiralty got Bones’ attention and he stopped running his tricorder over Pike. “The admiralty? What did you do?”

“He got promoted.” Pike smiled proudly and looked between the two of them. “You’re looking at the next captain of the Enterprise, at least as soon as he graduates.”

“Really?” Boned looked impressed. “Well then congrats, kid. It’s the outcome most of us except you were expecting.”

Jim didn’t really know how to deal with the praise, so he decided to focus on something else. “What was that about graduation though?”

“Oh, it’s not a big deal.” Pike waved a hand dismissively. “There’s still going to be a formal ceremony for graduation since we weren’t quite done with the academic year when everything happened. Classes will also be continuing for those who wish to attend, but it’s highly doubtful that anyone who survived Nero’s attack would be held back or prevented from graduating. I think you’ve all proved yourselves enough.” He looked between Jim and Bones again. “There will be a formal announcement soon since classes are supposed to start next week.”

“Good to know.” Jim thought over what his schedule had been. It was more difficult than expected as all of that felt so long ago. There were a few classes he decided he would probably keep attending, but a few others he decided he might take advantage to the relaxed attendance policy. It would give him more time to start working on getting the Enterprise ready to go, which he would definitely need. There was so much to do…

He was drawn out of his thoughts when his stomach grumbled loudly. Bones looked up from where he’d continued his examination of Pike and eyed Jim critically. “When was the last time you ate?”

Jim had to think back. He’d been offered food while visiting Spock and his family, but he’d left before he could eat. That meant that he’d last ate before the meeting with the admirals, so… “Around 1300?” Jim tried to make himself sound less uncertain, but he wasn’t sure how well he did.

“It’s past 1700; you need to eat.” Bones had now switched to the voice and posture that was somewhere between doctor and parent. Despite him still only looking 18, it was pretty effective. “I’m guessing whatever you ate earlier wasn’t all that substantial, although I’m glad you did eat, but you need to go get something into your system.” Bones crossed his arms. “Go eat.”

“But visiting hours aren’t over.” Despite being mostly done talking with Pike, Jim was reluctant to leave.

“They are for you. Now go.” Bones made a shooing motion with his hand and waited until Jim got up before walking him to the door. “Make sure you get something good.”

Jim smiled and rolled his eyes. “Yes, mom.” He turned and waved to Pike. “I’ll see you later.” He waited until Pike waved before turning and walking away.

He heard Bones grumbling behind him and Pike laughing at whatever he was saying but Jim just smiled and pulled out his communicator. He would get some food, but first he had to spread some news.

Chapter Text

The crew took the news about Jim’s captaincy well and much to his excitement, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, Scotty, and Bones all agreed to come back once he asked them. Gaila congratulated Jim and then began asking when she’d get her offer, which made Jim laugh and then begin thinking about if he could make it work. It was his ship after all, and he got to pick the crew.

The crew actually ended up meeting up to go out again the night Jim told them, although this time it was only for dinner. Uhura, Gaila, and Chekov met up with Jim at a restaurant he picked out, and Bones joined them as soon as he could. At the time Jim didn’t think to invite Spock since it was mostly to share the news, but he figured that Spock would probably still be taking in as much family time as he could before he would have to return to duty. Still, Jim wished Spock could have been a part of the crew bonding.

The other no-shows were Scotty and Sulu; Scotty was still basically living on the ship and working on repairs nonstop, in part because he was becoming almost concerningly attached to the ship and in part because he was afraid that if he set foot on Earth Starfleet Command would send him back to Delta Vega because of Archer’s disappearing dog. Jim told him he would put in a good word with the Admirals, which he really meant that he would get Pike to talk to them.

Sulu, however, was busy with social plans. He was going out to dinner with the guy he’d met the night before, Ben. He did sound excited to hear the news about Jim’s promotion, but it didn’t outweigh how excited he was for his date. The crew agreed that Sulu’s excitement was adorable and that they’d have to get all of the details from him when they saw him next.

After that night out, things began to shift to a relative normal. Just as Pike had said, classes resumed the next week, and after quick trips home for some of them the whole crew was back on campus to either teach (in Spock’s case) or get back to class. Again the exception was Scotty, who was neither an instructor nor a cadet, so he stayed on the ship still.

About a week later, they were having a crew meeting to prepare for the Enterprise’s departure after they graduated. Everyone was there except Sulu, and Jim was finally able to lure Scotty off the ship with the promise that he had some good news to give him.

Other conversations were happening elsewhere in the room, but Jim sat down next to Scotty and launched into his story. “So I talked to Pike about everything you did for the ship and the mission while we were fighting Nero and how much I want you on the ship, and he agreed to talk to the other admirals. Once he got released from Medical a couple days back, he went to them and explained what you’d done and how much the ship needs you. They ended up deliberating about it for a bit, since testing transporter theories on living subjects like animals isn’t exactly the kind of thing Starfleet condones, especially when that animal is a dog belonging to an Admiral. So—”

“Cut to the chase, laddie.” Scotty held up his hand. “You're stressing me out. Are they ending my damn exile or are they sending me back to the ice planet?”

Jim smiled. “I told you it was good news, right?” Scotty seemed to relax some at that and nodded for Jim to continue. “They agreed to let you join the Enterprise crew on the condition that you not use living test subjects for experiments anymore.” Jim grinned. “As long as you agree and keep to it, you’ve got the position of Chief Engineer!”

“That’s amazing news!” Scotty shouted loud enough to temporarily attract the attention of the rest of the room. He just grinned at the rest of the crew. “I’m gonna be chief engineer!” After a round of congratulations from the rest of the crew he turned back to Jim. “I absolutely agree to those conditions.” He paused. “You left out that technically the last test subjects for transporter theories were us, right?”

“I did. Although we did fare better than Porthos the Tenth, or whichever dog it was.” Jim paused for a moment; that reminded him of something else he was going to say. “Pike said that surprisingly enough, Admiral Archer had been the one to ultimately approve your transfer; evidently he’s mostly gotten over the beagle incident, or at least he has a soft spot for anyone who helps save ships named Enterprise.” Jim couldn’t help but grin again. “So congrats, Scotty. The job is yours.”

Scotty smiled. “I always knew that Archer was a good man.”

Everyone’s attention was suddenly drawn to the doors when Sulu burst in on the room. He was holding hands with Ben and practically dragging him with him, although Ben didn’t seem all that upset about it. Jim raised his eyebrows. “Sulu, these meetings are supposed to be for crew only.” He looked at Ben apologetically. “Not that I mind you being here, it’s just a bit unconventional.”

“It’s ok, he’s just here because we have an announcement to make.” Sulu grinned at Ben, who had the same dopey grin on his face, before looking back at the crew. “Despite knowing each other for only about a week, we felt such a connection that we went and got checked for aging. We just got the results today and—”

“We’re aging!” Ben clearly couldn’t contain it anymore and smiled apologetically at Sulu. “Sorry hon, I couldn’t wait. I’m just so excited we’re soulmates!” He squeezed Sulu’s hand.

“It’s ok.” Sulu didn’t sound mad at all; in fact he leaned in and gave Ben a quick peck on the lips before turning back to the crew. “We’re telling everyone.”

“Well, it’s exciting news. Congrats.” Jim smiled as the rest of the crew began to voice their congratulations and get up to hug Sulu and Ben. He did as well, but he hoped no one noticed he was a little less effusive than the rest of the crew.

“You’re the first of us to find your soulmate! That’s so exciting!” Chekov was practically beaming as he looked over the rest of the crew. “Congratulations, Hikaru!”

Jim didn’t bother correcting Chekov about who was the first to find their soulmate, and despite a quick look toward him Bones seemed to be ready to keep quiet about it too. Jim was suddenly really grateful for doctor-patient confidentiality. Despite being the only other person in the room who could possibly know that a soulmate pair already existed in the crew, Spock didn’t say anything or even indicate he knew either. Jim chalked it up to him not knowing, because despite Older Spock’s experience this Spock didn’t seem to age according to soulmates.

Once the crowd cleared up Jim pulled Sulu into a hug. “Seriously, congrats.” He grinned at the crew, who all seemed a bit too excited to focus on work now, with the possible exception of Spock who seemed about the same as normal, although he had congratulated Sulu and Ben. “I think we’ve been doing well enough on prepping for launch. How about we call up some friends and celebrate this exciting news?”

Chekov cheered and the rest of the crew joined in. Jim smiled. Even if he didn’t want to think about his own soulmate situation, he was always happy to celebrate with friends. He gestured to the door of the room. “C’mon, let’s go. First round’s on me.”

Chapter Text

Unlike the first time they’d gone out as a crew, this time when they went out they quickly attracted media attention. Thankfully saving the planet meant that once they actually reached the bar they wanted to go to they got a private area, but Jim knew that the next day there’d still be plenty about their night out on any media outlet he looked at.

Sure enough, Jim saw the articles the next day when he was in Gaila and Uhura’s room. He was sitting on the floor leaning against Gaila’s bed while she sat on it working on an assignment for a class she’d decided to finish up. He’d already finished his assignments since command track didn’t have many big assignments after the Kobayashi Maru, so he was flipping through news articles on his padd. The news about the Enterprise crew being the ones to save Earth had been officially confirmed by Starfleet earlier that week, so all of those stories hadn’t died down yet. Still, as much as people joked about Jim’s ego, he was getting tired of seeing his own face everywhere he looked and couldn’t wait to get back into space and away from it all. There was finally a break as one article seemed to focus on the “mystery man” accompanying the crew on their night out. Jim bet Ben would get a laugh out of that one, but he also hoped that this wouldn’t lead to paparazzi swarming Ben and Sulu on their date nights. Soulmates or no, they were still getting to know each other and they deserved a little privacy.

But swiping through the next few articles and videos reminded Jim that Sulu, Ben, and really most of the people involved weren’t the biggest point of interest for the media. “I just don’t get all the hype.” Jim started swiping through the articles on his padd; he’d tried to avoid the stories on himself but gave up because it was getting pretty impossible. “Why is everyone so fixated on me specifically?”

“I don’t know.” Gaila shrugged her shoulders without looking up from the padd she was working on. “Maybe they just consider it a good story.” She looked over Jim’s shoulder at the headlines as they went by. “Was that your dad?”

Jim flipped back a few articles until he was at the one that caught Gaila’s attention. “Yeah, that’s him.” The article had side by side pictures of him and his dad with the questionably catchy headline ‘Hereditary Heroics?’ Jim snorted. So much for getting away from his dad’s legacy. He looked back at Gaila. “This one doesn’t even make sense. If anyone pulled a George Kirk, it was Spock. He was doing literally the same thing; he was the one piloting a ship directly at Nero to try to stop him. And if Scotty hadn’t been on top of it with the beamout he would have met the same fate.” Jim looked ahead again and gestured with his hands for emphasis. “Death by heroic self-sacrifice.”

“True.” Gaila shifted, rolling onto her stomach and closer to Jim. “Everyone seems to love that kind of stuff though. The public eats it up, Starfleet builds memorials, that kind of thing.”

“Not me.” Jim shut down the padd and looked at Gaila. “If you can’t find a way out and you just let yourself die, then you aren’t trying hard enough. It’s like the Kobayashi Maru all over again; everyone thinks you should just accept your fate when actually that’s bs.”

“No no-win scenarios, right?” Gaila seemed to be thinking it over. She looked back at Jim after a moment. “Unlike the Kobayashi Maru though, you can’t steal access codes to hack life from me. Or anyone probably.”

“Hey!” Jim slapped her leg. “You said you were over that thanks to the whole everyone nearly dying thing putting it all in new perspective.”

“I’m not mad, but I’m still going to hold it over you for jokes.” Gaila laughed at his pout but waved at him to continue. “Anyway, no win scenarios?”

“Right.” Jim smiled. “I haven’t encountered any I couldn’t beat yet.” Jim realized that that could sound a little cocky, but he had a point to prove. “I can’t imagine being in a situation where I’d just accept death like that instead of trying to get out. There’s always a way out, and I’ll always find it.”

Gaila raised an eyebrow, clearly unconvinced. “From what I understand, humans aren’t immortal. Do you expect to cheat death forever?”

Jim grinned in a way that he knew she found charming, or at least amusing. “Hey, I haven’t died yet.”

“Alright then.” She sat up and shrugged. “I’ll be sure to tell this story at your funeral . I bet it’ll get some sad laughs from everyone there.”

“Why do you assume you’ll outlive me?” Jim turned around to face her, still sitting on the floor. “Maybe it’ll be the other way around.”

Again, Gaila raised an eyebrow. “You don’t know how long Orions typically live. Maybe our average lifespan is 1000 standard years. I could be 390 for all you know.”

“Really?” Jim looked up at her and raised his eyebrows. “I’m pretty sure I’ve seen your personnel file and it had your birth date in this century.”

“I could have lied.” Gaila shrugged but then confusion crossed her face. “Wait, how have you seen my personnel file? I thought that kind of thing was restricted.” A moment later she looked disapproving. “Did you hack it?”

“No!” Jim probably sounded more incredulous than he should have been, considering they’d just been talking about him hacking her stuff to get into the Kobayashi Maru. “It’s not that.” He started to smile a little. “It’s just that captains usually review the personnel files of the people they’ll be having on their crew.”

It took Gaila a second to realize what he meant. “Wait a minute.” A smile broke out on her face. “I’m gonna be on the Enterprise?” Her smile grew wider. “You got me a spot on your ship?”

Jim laughed. “I didn’t just give it to you, Gaila. You applied and earned it.”

“Ahh thank you so much!” Gaila went to give him a hug but thanks to her sitting on the bed and him on the floor, Jim ended up with her arms around his head, which ended up somewhere between her chest and stomach.

At that moment the door opened. Over the sound of Gaila’s continued excited noises Jim could hear someone walk in, stop and finally speak. “Are we interrupting something?”

Was that Spock? Jim put his hands on Gaila’s waist to gently push her off; she seemed to get the message because she released his head and he turned around in time to see Uhura join Spock right inside the door.

Uhura looked them over for a sec before turning to Spock. “Nah, they’re both too fully clothed. Plus, they usually give me warning beforehand. We had to set up that system after I walked in on them enough times to know that another reason they weren’t doing anything is because they’d both be on the bed.”

“You might want to get other indicators than that.” It was surprisingly easy to fall into his usual teasing with Uhura. “There have been some times where she’s on the bed and I’m on the floor.”

“It’s true.” Gaila nodded, a mischievous grin slipping across her face. “It puts him at a great height for—“

“Okay!” Jim turned around and squeezed Gaila’s thigh to get her to stop. “We don’t need to share that much detail, Gaila.” He turned back around in time to see Spock’s eyebrow raise. “We actually weren’t doing that this time. I just sortof unofficially confirmed that Gaila got a spot on the Enterprise and she was excited.”

“Yeah.” Gaila grinned at the others. “It’s gonna be great all working together.”

Uhura turned to Spock. “You didn’t tell me Gaila was getting posted with us.”

“Crew announcements were to be sent out shortly.” Without moving, Spock seemed to be doing the Vulcan equivalent of shrugging. “I assumed that you would become aware then.”

“Eh, I guess Kirk was probably more likely to spill the beans than you anyway.” Uhura shrugged before turning to Gaila and smiling. “It’s great to hear that you’ll be working with us.” She walked over to where Gaila was sitting, carefully stepping around Jim, and held out her arms for a hug.

“Aww, thanks Ny.” Gaila went in for the hug. “It’s gonna be so much fun. It’ll be great to actually be on the ship that’s part of the action this time rather than having to hear it secondhand.”

Uhura laughed and let go of Gaila, letting her hands rest on her shoulders as they separated. She glanced between Kirk and Spock before saying something in a language Jim didn’t recognize that made Gaila start laughing before replying in what seemed to be the same language.

Jim looked at Spock, who seemed similarly confused. That eliminated a number of Federation languages. Jim looked back at Gaila and suddenly it clicked. “Were you two speaking Orion?”

Gaila responded with one word in the other language and paused a moment to laugh at Jim’s continued confusion. “It’s kinda cute when you make that face.”

“Gaila.” Jim tried to sound serious, but it probably came across a bit more pleading than he’d intended.

She just laughed again. “Yes Jimmy, it was Orion.” She reached out and ruffled his hair.

“I was not aware you spoke Orion.” Spock was looking at Uhura and seemed a little bit impressed.

“Gaila’s been helping me pick it up.” Uhura smiled at her friend before turning back to Spock. “I’m trying to match Hoshi Sato’s record for number of languages learned. I’m still nowhere near her still, but she did have her entire life to get there. I’ve got time.”

“That is an admirable goal.” Spock seemed focused on Uhura and Jim shared a glance with Gaila.

“Do you want us to give you the room?” Gaila was a bit more direct than Jim would have been, but despite her bluntness there was no judgement there.

“What Gaila was saying,” Jim glanced back at her and grabbed his padd, “was that we were thinking of heading back to my place. Bones’ rounds just started, so we figured we’d have a lower chance of being interrupted there.” He glanced back at Spock and Uhura. “It would free up this room for whatever you’d want to do without being interrupted.”

Uhura glanced at Spock and then responded before he could. “I wouldn’t want to kick you out, but if you were heading out anyway…”

“No problem.” Gaila got up and grabbed her padd before helping Jim up from the floor. As they walked past Uhura Gaila slapped her shoulder and said something else in Orion that Jim strongly suspected was along the lines of ‘go get ‘em, tiger’ based on the way Uhura started laughing.

Jim tried not to think too much about the prospect of Spock and Uhura hooking up as he left. If he was in a relationship with either of them it’s what he would be doing. So what if Spock was his soulmate. If Uhura made Spock happy, or whatever the equivalent of that was that Vulcans would actually admit to, than Jim would accept that and wouldn’t mess with it. He wasn’t a homewrecker. Besides, even if his soulmate didn’t want to be with him, there were other people that did.

He glanced at Gaila, who was reading off of her padd as she walked. “By the way, what was it that you and Uhura said in Orion back there? Not just now, but before.”

“What?” Gaila looked up from her padd to look at him. “Oh. She said ‘with those two in charge it’s bound to be interesting’ and I said ‘it definitely will be.’ Or at least roughly that; you know how translation can change meanings.”

“I’ll take your word for it.” Jim smiled at her and she smiled back. Even if they weren’t soulmates, they could still have a good time together. Jim just wouldn’t think about his soulmate off having a good time with someone else.

Chapter Text

They continued preparations for the Enterprise’s launch through the last week of the semester and into what was finals week for the cadets who still had finals. Many instructors had cancelled their finals for the cadets who had survived Nero’s attack as they believed that that had tested the cadets’ ability to perform as Starfleet officers far more than any multiple choice exam, essay, or simulation would. The remaining cadets could choose to take exams or not; Starfleet was allowing the surviving cadets to graduate regardless of if they finished their classes completely.

Jim, on the other hand, didn’t have a lot of class work left. Despite how rigorous his class schedule had been in order to graduate in three years instead of four, he really didn’t have a whole lot left to do at this point. He did continue to attend some of his classes if he thought the information would be useful, but for the most part he was focused on duties related to his captaincy. He had a full schedule of working with the senior staff to prepare for the launch, visiting the Enterprise to oversee the repairs and refits where necessary, and meeting with Pike for a crash course in the technical side of captaining a ship. Jim was grateful for it; as much as he knew that Spock had experience with some of the aspects of the administrative duties involved with keeping a ship running, Pike was the one who’d actually been a captain before. He knew more about exactly what Jim would be doing and was able to help with what Spock wouldn’t be able to.

Spock was throwing Jim off a bit lately. Initially he’d been really helpful when Jim was figuring out the crew and other things for the ship, but lately he’d been pulling back some. He’d still help if Jim asked for it, but more and more he was missing meetings with Jim unless it was prescheduled. At first Jim assumed he was just trying to spend as much time with his family as possible before they left. After all, for most people nearly dying made them want to reach out to their families more. For Jim there wasn’t much family to reach out to since he’d already spent some time with his mom and he hadn’t talked to his brother since Sam left him with Frank, but he could imagine that for Spock after thinking he’d lost his mom he’d suddenly appreciate family time a lot more.

Still, part of Jim couldn’t help but wonder if there were other reasons Spock was avoiding him. After all, it was a bit awkward when Spock and Uhura walked in on him and Gaila. Not that Jim and Gaila had actually been doing anything, but still. Jim was pretty open about the fact that he’d had casual relationships like that, although if he was in a relationship with someone who wanted to be monogamous he’d respect that and not sleep with or mess around with other people. Still, while his reputation was a bit exaggerated, there was some foundation to it. Jim knew that Vulcans were generally monogamous and didn’t do casual sexual encounters, so he hoped that Spock wasn’t judging him for that. He didn’t seem like the type that would, but he was still pulling back and there had to be a reason.

A small part of Jim wondered if maybe Spock had been jealous when he saw Jim with Gaila and that was why he was pulling back. He made himself dismiss that possibly pretty quickly though; Jim hadn’t noticed any indication that Spock thought of him that way, and he didn’t want to get his hopes up and make working with Spock awkward.

It was probably just that Spock was getting in as much time as possible with his family before the Enterprise headed into space. Pike had told Jim that they’d be mostly exploring with the occasional mission from Starfleet Command, and when Jim had told the crew they’d mostly been excited, but he had noticed that Spock seemed a little quieter than usual. But Jim didn’t get too caught up in it. It would all work out when they took off after cadets graduated, which was now only about a week away.

But for now, Jim was focused on his current meeting with Pike. They would typically meet in his fancy new admiral’s office and spend half the time just chatting or catching up, and today was no exception. Jim decided that this was an upside to none of the other Admirals apparently knowing how to deal with him. He was glad they left Pike in charge of him; it was good to have someone who seemed more willing to hear him out and take his side. Meetings with Pike were generally way smoother than meetings with the full admiralty.

However, not every visit to Pike went well. This was one of those more stressful days. It had all started with mostly benevolent business talk.

“So.” Pike leaned on his desk and folded his hands together. “You’re captain now and your mission is coming up. While I know you’ve spent a lot of time choosing and approving your crew, you still need to pick a first officer.”

“What?” Jim felt his eyebrows scrunch together in confusion. “Spock’s my first officer. He’s been working with me on everything so far and we worked together really well before. I thought that for crew holding the same positions you didn’t need to put in new requests; if that’s not true then I’m about to lose my bridge crew.” Jim smiled and hoped that the joke would distract him from his nerves, but Pike’s serious expression had him wary.

Pike sighed and leaned back. “I see he hasn’t told you yet.” He leaned forward again. “You were right about the procedures. You don’t need to file anything for crew staying on the ship; you just need to approve their requests to stay on the ship. But Spock…” Pike took a deep breath and ran a hand through his hair. “Don’t expect one from Spock.”

“Why not?” Jim leaned forward. What was Pike hiding from him? Or was Spock hiding something? Jim had just been thinking about Spock being more withdrawn lately, but that didn’t necessarily mean he was hiding something, right?

“Jim,” He knew it must be serious if Pike was dropping all formality and also making that serious face without a hint of his usual humor he had when dealing with Jim. “Jim, Spock’s leaving Starfleet. He’s going to help with the new Vulcan colony. I didn’t want to mention it because I figured he’d tell you himself, but—“

“He hasn’t said anything to me.” Jim wasn’t sure who to be more mad at. These were two of the people he trusted most, and they were both keeping something this major from him? “The Enterprise is supposed to launching in a week, and no one bothered to tell me that my goddamn first officer is jumping ship?”

“Jim, please don’t take this personally.” Pike held up his hands in what was probably supposed to be a placating gesture. “I thought that he would have told you by now. And besides, there are plenty of very competent officers you can pick from; many of them would probably be glad to serve on the Enterprise with you.”

“I don’t want anyone else.” Jim crossed his arms and was aware that he probably looked like a kid throwing a tantrum, but he wasn’t going to budge on this. “I want to keep my team together.”

Pike sighed. “Look son, I get the appeal of keeping your original crew together, I really do. You can form really close bonds with those people, especially when you’ve been through the kind of stuff that you and your crew have. But…” He trailed off when he saw that Jim’s expression wasn’t changing. “If you want, you could also promote someone from within the crew.” He pulled up a padd and looked over the roster. “You’d want someone who’s already earned a higher rank or has some experience, but that still leaves a number of people. There’s Lieutenant Commanders Scott and McCoy, although medical officers usually don’t end up in the command structure, then we also have Lieutenants Uhura and Sulu…”

“No.” Jim crossed his arms tighter. “They’re all needed where they are. Spock is the best choice for my first officer, and the only choice as far as I’m concerned.” He probably wasn’t being fully rational about this, but for reasons he couldn’t fully express (or maybe didn’t want to) it felt wrong to have Spock gone. “I’m not taking any of them from where they are, and I’m not picking a new first officer.”

“Jim, you’re being unreasonable.” He could tell Pike was getting frustrated now. “Spock was able to handle being science officer and first officer, so I’m sure that one of them would be able to balance the duties. You need to pick a first officer.”

“I already have.” Jim stood up. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be leaving now.”

He could hear Pike shouting after him that they still needed to settle this, but it didn’t matter. Jim had a Vulcan to confront.

Chapter Text

It didn’t take Jim long to reach Spock’s classroom. Despite the short walk Jim felt himself getting angrier as he thought it over. How long did Spock intend to go without telling him? Was he just going to keep lying to Jim until they left? Jim may have been hurt about Spock leaving if he’d told him, but the lying just made it worse. Weren’t Vulcans supposed to be honest?

When he reached the classroom and looked through the window in the door he saw Spock at the front of the room, not doing much since every student who was there seemed occupied with the final exam they were doing at the terminals in their desks. Jim poked his head in, trying to keep his features neutral even though it felt like he was radiating rage. “Commander Spock, can I have a word with you in the hallway?”

Jim must not have been hiding it as well as he thought because Spock immediately rose from his chair and walked to the door. He closed the door behind him and looked around to ensure that they were alone in the hallway before turning back to Jim. “Is there something wrong with the ship or crew?”

He actually seemed concerned. It almost made it worse for Jim. “Yeah, there’s a goddamn problem. My first officer has been lying to me.” Jim was trying to keep his voice down because of the students but he could feel the tension building in his shoulders from the urge to scream or pace.

“I do not understand.” Spock did seem genuinely confused, but Jim didn’t let it get to him.

“When were you going to tell me?” Jim’s hands clenched into fists at his sides. “Were you going to let me get to our launch date and make me look like an idiot by just not showing up?”

“You are referring to my decision to leave Starfleet and assist the efforts to reestablish the Vulcan population.” Spock shifted back slightly and clasped his hands behind his back. “I did intend to inform you. I believe it would be the best option for me going forward, but if you disagree—”

“I couldn’t care less.” It was a lie, but Jim was angry enough that he could snarl it out and make it feel true if only for the moment. “It’s your goddamn life to live and I clearly don’t have a whole lot of control or influence over it. That’s not my problem here; my problem is that you didn’t tell me. You were just going along acting like you meant to be a member of the crew, like you wanted to be my first officer, never dropping the slightest hint that you were going to leave. I’d thought we’d gotten past all the distrust and were actually being honest with each other, but you’ve been lying to me for god knows how long.”

Spock’s spine seemed to stiffen up impossibly further. “Vulcans do not lie.”

“That’s bullshit and everyone in the goddamn Federation knows it.” Jim’s anger was beginning to burn itself out as quickly as it had come, and now he was just tired. He was tired of people betraying his trust, and he was tired of people leaving him. He sighed and ran a hand down his face. “Look, it’s just…” Jim didn’t even know where he was going with this. He finally managed to meet Spock’s eyes. “I’d thought we had a connection, maybe even the beginnings of a friendship.” Jim’d thought they were soulmates, but clearly he was off there. Soulmates were supposed to improve your life, not cause you all this anguish by lying to you. “But clearly I was wrong, because you don’t even trust me enough to tell me before you leave me. So now I’m gonna go before I cause more of a scene than I already have.” He turned and walked away without looking back at Spock. If Spock wanted the two of them to split up without saying goodbye, then Jim would give him that.

Jim started spiraling back to anger as he walked back to his dorm. How could he even think he and Spock were soulmates in the first place? A moment of nerves at the trial that he made out to be goddamn butterflies, then everything that Older Spock dumped into his head…

Older Spock. Jim was starting to get angry just thinking of him. He was a liar just like his younger self. Telling Jim he’d have this great friendship and this fairy tale love story when really none of it could ever happen, all because Older Spock himself had messed with the timeline. Him messing around with red matter had made Nero go through and kill Jim’s dad and destroy Vulcan, and all of that had put Jim where he was now. A horrible childhood with a father replaced by a monster, the person he’d been told was supposed to be the love of his life lying to him and abandoning him. Was any of it real?

As soon as Jim was back at his room, he went to the terminal at his desk and put in the comm frequency he’d gotten a little while back.

It didn’t take long for Older Spock to pick up. Once he did, his face lit up in that way that wasn’t quite smiling but felt like it. “Jim.”

Normally that would put him in a better mood, but Jim had had it with Spocks today. “You’re a goddamn liar.”

“Excuse me?” Confusion crossed Older Spock’s face.

“Everything that you showed me is wrong. None of it will ever happen here.” Jim clenched his fists at his sides, glad that Bones was off at his rounds so no one would hear him yelling, except maybe the neighbors. “Everything you showed me about that beautiful fairytale love story shit between you and your Jim? Not happening here. Spock’s with Uhura and that doesn’t seem like it’s changing anytime soon. Plus, now I won’t even get to experience even a fraction of what you showed me because he’s leaving Starfleet.” Jim was fighting the urge to get up and pace if only because it would mean that he couldn’t look Older Spock in the eye to show him how mad he was. “And so now I don’t get to be with him, I don’t get him as my first officer, and I probably won’t even get to be friends with him because he’s leaving because of a problem you caused!” Jim took a deep breath but it did nothing to calm him. “If you hadn’t messed around with that black hole stuff, Nero never would have come here, my dad would still be alive, Vulcan wouldn’t have been destroyed, and I would have still had Spock! This is all your fault!” As the words left his lips Jim was aware he’d crossed a line, but he just couldn’t stop.

Older Spock, meanwhile, had started to fold in on himself. Jim had never seen a Vulcan look so much like a kicked puppy. He didn’t even look Jim in the eye when he finally replied, just stared down at his lap. “There is logic to your argument. It was my actions that set off the chain of events that led to our present circumstances.”

Jim felt himself starting to deflate. It wasn’t even this Spock he was really mad at. This one hadn’t really done anything to intentionally hurt Jim. “No, Spock.” Jim sighed and ran a hand down his face. “Don’t blame yourself. You never intended for any of this to happen, and you certainly couldn’t have anticipated everything Nero would do.” He looked back at Spock, who still looked a bit guilty. “I shouldn’t be taking this all out on you. It’s not even you-you I’m really mad at, it’s my Spock.” Jim paused as those words sank in. “Well not my Spock in any sense really, since I’m about to lose him forever, but the Spock native to this universe.” He looked down, away from the Spock who still looked so understanding even after Jim had snapped at him. “I just wish he’d told me sooner, you know? I thought we’d been working so well together, but I don’t even know anymore. I wish I could somehow convince him to stay, but if he won’t even bother to tell me he’s leaving I don’t know how much sway I could possibly have with him.” Jim looked up at Older Spock, who now looked less like a kicked puppy. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to dump all of this on you. I should let you go; you were probably doing something important.”

“It is alright, Jim.” That warmth from earlier was returning now. “Your problems will never be insignificant to me.” The honesty in his words made Jim ache for a connection like this Spock must have had with his Jim. He watched as Older Spock’s expression shifted, perhaps becoming more determined. “However, there is a matter that I must handle within this coming week. Perhaps it would be best if we ended our call now.”

“Ok.” This emotional roller coaster of the day was starting to catch up with Jim and exhaustion was creeping in. “I might just head to bed now.” He glanced at the time. It was still pretty early, but he really didn’t want to do anything right now…

“Take care of yourself, Jim.” Older Spock raised his hand in the Vulcan salute. “Live long and prosper.”

“Same to you.” Jim attempted to raise his hand in the salute, but between his lack of practice with it and his tiredness it didn’t quite work out. Still, it prompted another warm look from Older Spock before the screen went dark.

Jim sighed at the blank screen before stripping down to a t shirt and underwear and climbing into bed. He had less than a week until his first official mission as captain kicked off and his top and only choice for first officer just ditched him. He should just go to sleep now. Maybe it would be better in the morning…

Some time passed and he hadn’t managed anything more than tossing and turning before the door opened. He could hear Bones moving around quietly, obviously mindful of the lights being off, but he couldn’t shake the thought that had been haunting him since his confrontation with the Spock from this timeline. “Hey Bones,” he heard his friend still at the unexpected voice but continued anyways. “Are you sure that I’m aging?”

“Yeah?” Bones sounded a little uncertain but it seemed like he was just thrown off by the question rather than being actually uncertain about the facts of it. “Prior to a couple weeks back all the medical scans I’d taken of you showed neurological development but no other signs of aging, typical for someone 18 to 25 chronological years old who hadn’t reported meeting their soulmate. But then those scans of you on the ship showed the beginning of the aging process, and I’d bet that any scans I took now would confirm it. I could do that you if you like.” Bones came over next to Jim’s bed and paused. “What prompted this, kid?”

As much as he’d been mad at Spock for lying this sure as hell wasn’t a situation for the truth. Jim sat up in bed, still half under the blanket. “I’m not sure. I guess seeing Sulu and Ben all happy has made me wonder who’s supposed to be out there for me. Surely something should have happened by now, right? Some grand sign or declaration of love?”

“You know I’m not the one to go to if you’re expecting advice on finding the right person.” Bones sat down on the bed. “Still, it seems to work out for most people, and I doubt you can be the exception to everything.” Bones smiled teasingly. “I’m sure your prince, princess, or royalty-of-whatever-gender charming will show up and take you away soon. Now get some sleep, you look terrible.”

“Thanks Bones.” Jim rolled his eyes and shoved Bones enough to get him away without actually hurting him. Bones laughed and moved away. Jim laid back down; he really should sleep. When he woke up, he’d focus on getting the ship ready and preparing to formally accept his promotion to captaincy at the graduation ceremony. If he was still not feeling it then, he had a lifetime of faking the proper emotion at Starfleet ceremonies to draw on thanks to all the Kelvin memorials he’d had to attend even if he didn’t want to. He would get through this. He had to.

Chapter Text

It was odd, yet gratifying to see the ceremony where many of the crew graduated and Jim and Captain—no, Admiral in this timeline—Pike received their promotions. Spock had not witnessed Jim’s promotion ceremony in his own timeline as they had only met once they were both aboard the Enterprise, so it was fascinating to be able to witness it this time. It was amusing to see that like his counterpart, this Jim was ultimately commended rather than punished for his unique approach to the Kobayashi Maru. Spock wished that he could stay until the end of the ceremony to congratulate Jim, but there would be time for that later. There was a more urgent matter to deal with now.

It was easy to find the transport his younger self would be traveling on to help scout prospective locations for New Vulcan. While the timeline had changed and his younger self would undoubtedly differ from himself given more time, for now it was entirely possible for Spock to find his younger self’s reservation and check it as if it were his own.

So even if it meant that he had to miss the end of the ceremony, Spock left to ensure that he would have plenty of time to encounter his younger self before he made what Spock would consider a grave mistake.

The shuttles were to leave from Starfleet grounds since the program to find a new homeworld was done in partnership with Starfleet, so it was not difficult for Spock to find his way, even if he was remembering the grounds as they would be rather than how they were. Still, once he reached the proper hangar he was not quite sure where to go. He began to wander, trying to remember the shuttle designation, until he was stopped by a voice that was both familiar and yet undeniably odd to hear. “Brother?”

As he turned around Spock wondered what had become of Sybok in this universe. If he had been exiled while Spock was young like he remembered, it was likely he still lived. But he was not who Spock was currently concerned with. He saw the confusion spread across the familiar-yet-not face and he resisted the urge to smile. It would only alarm his past self further. “I am not our brother.”

He and the younger Spock began to approach each other, and it was fascinating to see his counterpart rapidly process the information until he reached what was likely the correct conclusion. Spock could not help but wonder about the flashes of emotion he saw as part of that process; was it simply over a century and a half of knowledge that made him able to read himself well, or did the events of this timeline make this Spock more expressive? It was still likely that only a few would be able to recognize those emotions, which reminded Spock why he was here.

Still, a direct approach would not be best. As Dr. McCoy had enjoyed reminding him, Spock could be quite stubborn. Best to open the conversation more gradually. “There are so few Vulcans left. We cannot afford to ignore each other.”

“Then why did you send Kirk aboard when you yourself could have explained the truth?” An odd first question from his younger counterpart.

There were many answers to that question. It was not his place, his coming onboard would have created too much confusion and raised too many questions, he did not want to risk further damage to the timeline by interfering further. But there was one answer he knew he must give. “Because you needed each other. I could not deprive you of the revelation of all that you can accomplish together. Of a…” How could he simplify his relationship with Jim in a way that would not alarm his younger self but would still hint at all there could be? “…friendship that will define you both, in ways you cannot yet realize.” An insufficient description perhaps, but it would do for now.

“You speak of a relationship with Kirk, and yet he no longer wants any connection with me.” His counterpart stood a little straighter with his hands behind his back; Spock recognized the gesture and what it meant.

“I have spoken to him; he was actually the one who informed me that you chose to leave Starfleet, a decision that I disagree with.” There would be more time to discuss that later. “He was distraught and acting rashly because of his emotional state. While that may not justify his reaction, it does explain it.” Spock thought back to what he had heard. “As I understand, you yourself are not entirely innocent of such a failing.”

Younger Spock seemed ashamed at that and looked away. “That is an additional reason why I should not remain in Starfleet. Among other Vulcans I can work to better my control; among humans it may again become threatened.”

“As someone whose experience is greater than my appearance may suggest, I will tell you that the occasional loss of control is not the worst failing to have; the balance of logic and emotion that you find is best for you may not be what is typical for humans or for Vulcans.” That lesson was one that had taken Spock many decades to learn, but he was glad for it. However, he must again turn his focus to the situation at hand. “Why do you believe it would be best for you to leave Starfleet?”

“There are many logical reasons.” His counterpart stood a bit straighter and was likely clasping his hands more tightly behind his back. “In the face of extinction, it is logical that I resign from Starfleet and help rebuild our species.”

“Are there no logical arguments for remaining in Starfleet?” There had to be many. Surely his younger self had encountered some.

His counterpart hesitated. “There are. Mother suggested that it could be good for Vulcans to retain a presence in the Federation, and my remaining in Starfleet could help accomplish that.”

“A good reason.” Spock had been glad to hear that Amanda had survived. In his timeline her death had had a profound effect on him even though she lived a very long life for a human, and he could not imagine how losing her as young as his counterpart nearly did would have affected him. “And there is another. As you seem to have already deduced, it is now possible for you to be in two places at once. And while you can no doubt contribute, I have had the time to live a long life and experience many professions, which may make my contributions greater. You, however, could remain in Starfleet.”

“Again you reference living a long life, but you do not appear much older than I am.” His counterpart stared at Spock more closely. “How old are you?”

Spock sighed. “Far older than I appear. I inherited the human aging trait from our mother, and I have spent many years without my soulmate. While I appear young, I am actually well into my second century.” He considered telling his younger self more, but in his timeline the realization of all that he and Jim Kirk were had sent him to Gol to attempt to purge his emptions. With this Spock so close to leaving already, it was better not to risk it.

“Fascinating.” His counterpart seemed to be processing that, and Spock knew that soon there would be questions.

“I will not tell you any more. There are some discoveries that you must make on your own, and I have already interfered too much.” This interference most likely broke several rules, but meeting and aiding your past self did not do too much damage. At least, it hadn’t for Admiral Janeway. “Speaking of discoveries, you will make many more in Starfleet than you could on New Vulcan. It would be best for you as a scientist and an individual to remain there.”

“It is not the time to be thinking of myself.” The younger Spock had been relaxing but he began to tense once more. “Our people are in danger. I cannot ignore that. The logical option is to help them.”

“But there will be a Spock helping them; I will be going to the colony. Additionally, we have already established that there is logic in you remaining in Starfleet and that it could still be beneficial to the Vulcan people for you to do so. However,” Spock resisted the urge to step over to his counterpart and put a hand on his shoulder as Jim would have done, “in this case, I would encourage you to put aside logic and do what feels right. Do you wish to remain in Starfleet?” His younger self hesitated, then nodded slightly. “Very well. Do that, and we will both be aiding our people.”

His counterpart still seemed hesitant, but eventually nodded cautiously. “Very well. I will visit Admiral Pike to attempt to reinstate my commission.”

Spock nodded approvingly. “I believe you may also find a certain first officer position is still unfilled. You may choose your own path of course, but I found serving on the Enterprise to be one of the most gratifying experiences of my life.” His younger self seemed to be considering it, so it seemed to Spock that, as Jim would say, his work here was done. “I must go now. I will leave you to your decision.”

He began to walk away but turned back after only a moment, thinking again of his Jim. He waited until his counterpart was looking at him again. “Since my usual farewell would appear oddly self-serving, I will simply say good luck.” He held up his hand in the ta’al and waited until his younger self returned it before turning and walking away.

He glanced back in time to see his younger self turning away from the shuttles and back towards the main Starfleet campus. He allowed himself a slight smile. It seemed he was on the right path.

Chapter Text

Well, this was it. They day they launched away from Earth and into their first official mission with Jim as captain. He was excited and nervous and so many other things all at once.

He still didn’t formally have a first officer. Older Spock had cryptically advised him to wait, and much to Pike’s frustration Jim had done just that. So he didn’t officially have a first officer. They’d established a chain of command of course; as a lieutenant commander and thus tied for the second highest ranked person on the ship, Scotty would be the one to take command if something happened to Jim, but they both knew he would prefer that to never happen. Bones was also technically a lieutenant commander, but since it was assumed that any kind of emergency that took out the captain would be best served with all the doctors being on call for Sickbay, he was out of the chain of command. After that it got a bit unclear; Uhura and Sulu were both lieutenants and part of the senior bridge staff, but Sulu had a slight edge since he was command track and Uhura wasn’t. Still, Jim was willing to trust both of them with his ship and crew.

That was more than he could say of the numerous first officer candidates Pike had begun suggesting to him with increasing franticness as the launch date drew closer. It wasn’t that Jim doubted the competence of those officers necessarily, it’s just that he’d never worked with them. The only person that Pike suggested that Jim knew was his own mother, which just made Jim laugh. He was pretty sure that Winona would have laughed as well; they were way too similar to work together well. Instead of balancing each other out they’d upset the balance of the quadrant by starting a war with the Klingons or something.

There was a moment where Jim almost considered asking Older Spock to be his first officer. After all, he had been in Starfleet, and he was certainly experienced enough for the job. The main obstacle Jim could think of initially was convincing Starfleet; he’d either have to tell them that a random Vulcan they’d never met was qualified to be first officer without (to their knowledge at least) ever serving in Starfleet or attending the academy, or he’d have to tell them that this was actually Spock from another universe, which would just raise more questions than he wanted to deal with. Plus, he wasn’t sure if Older Spock wanted everyone to know who he was.

Ultimately though, the reason Jim didn’t go through with it was because he felt like it would just be awkward for Older Spock and himself. All that Older Spock would see was distorted versions of something he knew and cherished, and Jim knew that on a certain level Older Spock would always be comparing him and everyone else to their counterparts, which would be uncomfortable all around. So Jim didn’t do that because he didn’t want to mess up what he had with Older Spock.

But now was not the time to be thinking of that. Jim finished the last of the food he’d replicated in the captain’s quarters, which were now officially his. There wasn’t all that much to show for it, just some of his old books on a shelf and some of his off-duty clothes in the closet, but it still felt less like he was sleeping in someone else’s room. He looked around, satisfied, before going to the closet and pulling out a gold shirt, now complete with rank stripes, and pulled it on. He was ready to go to the bridge.

Despite all his nerves and the lack of a first officer, Jim couldn’t help the excitement that crept through him when the turbolift doors opened on the bridge. This was his crew, and his ship, and he was getting to lead them on this ship’s first exploratory mission.

He actually grinned when Chekov announced “Keptin on the bridge,” once he stepped out of the turbolift. He actually got to be captain. Jim still wasn’t fully over it.

He settled into the chair, trying to ignore the empty science station behind him. Jim hadn’t formally appointed a new chief science officer either, but the person who’d been second in command in the department was running things. They were probably setting up the labs now.

All that was left before they could take off were the status checks. Jim turned to Sulu first. “Mr. Sulu?”

Sulu made some checks on his console. “Maneuvering thrusters and impulse engines at your command, sir.”

It sounded good. Jim nodded and looked to the next station. “Chekov?”

“Course laid in, Keptin.” Chekov glanced over his shoulder at him.

They didn’t have a formal course so much as direction Starfleet had told them to start going in, but Jim still smiled before turning around to the comm station. “Uhura, are we good to go?”

She listened to her earpiece for a moment before nodding. “Dock control reports ready.”

Alight, it was looking good. One more check and they’d be able to go. Jim hit the comm button on his chair. “Scotty, how are we doing?”

A moment later Scotty’s voice came through. “Dilithium chamber at maximum efficiency.” The next thing Scotty said was less clear because it sounded like he was moving away from the comm panel, but it sounded like he was yelling. Jim hoped it was just Keenser climbing on things and not someone getting into real trouble already. He closed the comm channel.

Well, that was all the procrastinating Jim could do. Whatever—or whoever—Older Spock had told him to wait for clearly wasn’t showing. Might as well get going. “Mr. Sulu,”

Before he could finish giving the command, the turbolift doors opened. Since everyone who was supposed to be here already was (or at least everyone Jim knew was coming), Jim turned around to see who it was.

Spock strode onto the bridge, his blue uniform as immaculate as those perfectly straight bangs. Jim had to contain himself. The last time they’d spoken, he’d been lashing out at Spock, and that was almost a week ago. But unless Jim was misreading it there was something like understanding in his eyes. Spock paused and stood up perfectly straight as always, but his arms and shoulders seemed relaxed, not tense. “Permission to come aboard, Captain?”

Jim let himself smile slightly. This must be what Older Spock told him to wait for. “Permission granted.”

Spock began to walk to the center of the bridge, talking as he went. “As you have yet to select a first officer, respectfully, I would like to submit my candidacy.” He paused next to the captain’s chair and Jim stood up to face him. “Should you desire, I can provide character references.”

Again, Jim stopped short of full on grinning. “It would be my honor, Commander.” He’d deal with the paperwork later. For now, he was going to get this ship launched. He sat back down and turned towards the front of the ship. “Maneuvering thrusters, Mr. Sulu.”

Sulu, who like the rest of the bridge crew had been watching Spock and Jim, turned back to his station. “Maneuvering thrusters on standby.”

Here they go. “Take us out.” Jim sat back in his chair as the view shifted from the spacedock and Earth to the unexplored stars they’d be traveling to next. Jim glanced around the bridge as they left the Sol system and engaged warp. He was glad he had this crew with him. He glanced back over his shoulder to where Spock was now settling in at the science station. Jim had no idea what would come next between the two of them, but he was glad that Spock would be there with him for this.

Chapter Text

Once everyone was onboard and they’d taken off, that first shift went incredibly smoothly. Jim had to admit, he felt better with Spock on the bridge, and the rest of the crew seemed more relaxed too. Maybe it was just that Jim was more relaxed and it was spreading, or maybe it was that now they actually had a solid chain of command in case of an emergency, or maybe it was just that having more than one senior officer who’d actually spent time serving in space before eased people’s nerves. Whatever it was, Jim was glad that Spock had changed his mind and decided to join them.

Jim suspected that he had Older Spock to thank for that. He’d shown up the day after the graduation/promotion ceremony and congratulated Jim before telling him that he would be leaving Earth to aid in the search for a new Vulcan home world; he didn’t say so explicitly, but he seemed to be implying that he knew some locations that may work thanks to his time in Starfleet. Jim was tempted to ask the younger Spock about it, but he still wasn’t sure if Older Spock had been serious or not when he’d told Jim that he was never to tell his younger counterpart about him. Either way, Jim decided that he’d wait for one of the Spocks to bring it up.

But there were other things to think about now as Jim’s first shift as an official captain (if still in a probation period) was ending. Except for the slightly delayed launch due to Spock’s late arrival, the first alpha shift had gone off without a hitch. Admittedly, all they were doing was traveling since even at warp it would take them a little while to get to the first of the M class planets that Starfleet wanted them to investigate, but Jim still counted it as a success.

So this called for celebrating. Jim decided that he would try to get a friendship going with Spock. After all, he and Older Spock had really hit it off. Why not try with this Spock now that they seemed to be past their problems?

They ended up being the last two leaving the bridge, which worked out well enough for Jim. He got into the turbolift next to Spock, who nodded at him but also stiffened almost too slightly to be noticed. Jim felt a bit guilty about that, considering their last one on one time had been him snapping at Spock. “So about what I said back at the Academy…”

“I understand that you were overreacting due to emotional duress.” For a moment Spock seemed more uncomfortable. “As you are aware, it is a fault I am not immune to.”

“Well then I guess we’ve reached a point where we can call it even.” Jim looked over at Spock and smiled. “I’m willing to move past it if you are.”

“I can agree to that.” Spock relaxed just slightly and glanced at Jim then back to the deck display. Jim noticed that they were nearing the deck for the mess hall, which Spock must have selected since Jim didn’t remember saying a floor.

As awkward as this turbolift ride was (and Jim decided that even if Spock had been lying he really only had himself to blame for this; he really shouldn’t have snapped at Spock like that), Jim realized he didn’t really want to part with Spock like this. If he managed to get Spock as his first officer, maybe he’d be able to get Spock as his friend like the him in the other timeline had, or even like he had with older Spock. He would just have to find some way for them to spend time together outside of their shifts…

They’d sparred that one time and it had been pretty fun. Only thing was that Jim needed a cold shower after having Spock manhandle and pin him like that, which meant it probably wouldn’t be the best for keeping his head together. Jim would definitely be down to do that again, but he should find some other way to get to know Spock better too. Maybe something where they could talk while they did it…

Chess! Jim had played with Older Spock over the comm channel a few times, and it had been pretty enjoyable. Older Spock had even hinted that he and his Jim used to do it, so maybe it could be a good way for Jim and Spock to get to know each other. Plus, Jim was pretty sure that one of the many inventory forms he had to fill out or approve had said that there was a chess set in at least one of the rec rooms, so they could even play in a nice, neutral setting. It would be perfect.

The turbolift was slowing. The doors opened and Spock, apparently assuming that Jim was going to a different floor, got out before Jim without saying anything. Not wanting to miss his chance, Jim jumped out after him. “Spock, wait up.”

Spock paused and turned around, his hands resting at his sides. “Yes, Captain?”

The formality threw Jim off for a moment but he went on anyways. “Would you want to meet up and play chess? Me and…” Jim reminded himself not to mention Older Spock, “an old friend have been playing, but he’s moving so it may be a while before we get a game in. I heard a rumor that you played though, so would you want to meet in the rec room and give it a go?” He’d heard it from Spock from another universe, but hopefully it held up here.

“Tonight I have plans with Lieutenant Uhura; like you, she had been upset by my not revealing I planned to leave Starfleet, so according to her I ‘owe her one’ and she intends to make use of that tonight.” Somehow Spock had managed to make the air quotes without actually doing it; Jim thought that over while Spock paused again. “However, I would be amenable to doing that on another night. Are you free in two days?”

Jim hadn’t really made any plans yet, besides that he was counting on meals with various members of the senior staff depending on who was free. “That works for me.”

“Very well.” Spock nodded. “I will see you then, Captain.”

“Aright.” Jim smiled. “And one more thing. We’re off duty. You don’t need to use rank.”

“If you wish.” Spock shifted his hands behind his back. “Mr. Kirk.”

Jim felt the shadow of a smirk cross his face. “I would say Mr. Kirk was my father, but since I never met the guy I can’t really say what he went by.” He paused in thought for a second. He had heard some stories after all. “He probably went by rank if he wasn’t going by his first name.” Jim shook off the train of thought and looked back at Spock. “Anyway, I meant that you can call me by my first name.”

“Very well.” Spock looked back to him. “James.”

“Oh my god.” Jim ran a hand down his face and looked at Spock through his fingers. “If I didn’t know any better, and I’m not sure I do, I’d say you were messing with me.” When the only response was an eyebrow raise, he dropped his hand from his face. “Jim. Call me Jim. Not even my mother calls me James.”

“As you wish.” Spock nodded and Jim swore he briefly saw something like the twinkle of amusement Older Spock sometimes got in his eyes. “Captain.” With that he turned and walked away, just as collected as ever.

Jim watched him go and shook his head in disbelief. Spock had a sense of humor. Spock had a sense of humor, and it was sneaky and dry as a desert. Jim almost wanted to tell someone, but he didn’t think anyone would believe him. He just smiled. It seemed like Spock was getting more comfortable with him. He wondered if he had Older Spock to thank for that too; it seemed like the old guy was really hoping for Jim and Spock to be friends (or maybe more; it seemed to Jim like he wanted that but was afraid of pushing them). Still, Jim and Spock were set up to play chess, and Spock seemed like he was getting more comfortable with Jim. Things were going well. Jim decided this was a good note to kick off the mission on.

Chapter Text

Leonard sighed and took another sip of his coffee. They’d been on this mission about a month and a half so far, and his Sickbay had gotten way more use than he’d want. Jim and Spock each practically had a biobed on reserve, and they’d already encountered one anomaly that had them almost full to capacity.

Not to mention that the morgue was already getting used. There hadn’t been many deaths yet, just Ensign Palzar from security who got shot on an away mission by some locals who didn’t turn out to be friendly. But Len knew there’d be more. After all, space was mostly just danger and disease and the occasional angry Klingon. He already knew that that was going to be the worst part of his job. The only person who seemed to take it worse than him was Jim, but that poor bastard had to write letters to the families of dead crew, so that probably made it worse. They’d made a good dent in the whiskey stash that night.

That had been a week ago, but now Len needed to get back to business. He’d reached Sickbay and headed straight for his office to see what was waiting for him today. “Computer, read schedule.”

After a moment of processing the familiar voice started up. “0900: Beginning of alpha shift.”

Always started with the obvious ones. Len checked the time; he was a bit early today.

The computer continued. “0930: Commander Spock physical exam.”

He sighed. Spock had been seriously injured on the last mission as well. He’d woken up from a healing trance after just over a day and insisted he was ready to return to duty, but Len had had him on light duty after making him have a day off. Since they were currently traveling to their next location it wasn’t like there was much to do, but Spock was insistent that he be allowed to do his full duties again. Never mind that he’d nearly sent the Sickbay staff into a complete panic when he came in practically comatose. Thankfully they were able to check the Vulcan medical database and find out the necessary information about healing trances and that Spock was not in real danger. Leonard would have to see about getting a Vulcan specialist onboard to prevent that sort of incident in the future; there had to be some who weren’t busy helping to establish the new colony. But for this checkup Len would be able to handle it himself.

He realized that he’d missed most of what the computer had said while he’d been distracted. What was the point of having the damn thing give him his schedule if he didn’t listen? He should at least hear what he had for the rest of the morning. “Computer, repeat schedule starting at 1000.”

“1100: Ensign Chekov physical exam.1300—”

“Computer, stop reading the schedule.” Len paused and took another sip of his coffee. An easy morning. Just two appointments, and Spock would be the only difficult one. Since Chekov hadn’t stopped aging yet (and dear god, why did they let kids that young go into space?) his checkup would be pretty straightforward and not too in-depth. Len would just have to make sure his hormone therapy was progressing alright. Still, easier than Spock, who was nearly as bad as Jim about fighting to get out of Sickbay as soon as he got in.

They were the worst of the senior staff, although Len knew that some of the engineers and security officers probably got injuries they didn’t come to him about. Still, the rest of the crew seemed to take care of themselves well enough.

At that moment there was a chime at the door to Len’s office. “Come in.”

Spock stepped in, hands behind his back. “Dr. McCoy. I am here for my examination.”

“Good morning to you too.” Len checked the time on his computer. “You’re 15 minutes early. I haven’t finished my coffee yet.”

“I wish to go back to duty.” Spock didn’t budge from the doorway. “Shall we proceed?”

Len wanted to object that like most of the senior staff, Spock had the day off today and couldn’t get back to duty anyways, but he decided it was hopeless. “Fine. Get to biobed 7; that energy weapon they used seemed pretty nasty and I want to do a thorough scan to make sure you weren’t adversely affected in ways the usual scans would miss.”

“Very well.” Spock turned, presumably to go to the biobed, and Len sighed. Well, may as well get this over with. The sooner they started the sooner they were done.

He pulled up Spock’s records on a padd so he’d have them on hand for comparison and walked out to the biobed where Spock was already sitting. “Lay down so I can get better readings.” Spock laid down and Len set up the advanced scanner attached to the biobed. “Hold still.” It wasn’t like Spock needed to be told since the hobgoblin barely moved anyways, but it was part of the procedure. Len activated it and watched as the stats started to filter onto his padd. He’d gotten Spock’s stats from his last thorough exam, which had been months before the destruction of Vulcan. It was good that Len was doing this; it was probably time for Spock to have a thorough physical anyways.

“Have you completed the scan yet?” Spock had been good about not moving, but clearly he thought it didn’t extend to his mouth. It didn’t, but Len enjoyed most people thinking it did so they’d be quiet.

“Not yet; I’m still getting the results.” Len’s brow furrowed. Some of the readings were off from before. They weren’t off in the same way Ensign Palzar’s had been though; she’d been the only other one hit with the weapon and although it had killed her quickly, it still had a noticeable physiological effect. But not hormonal changes like Spock was showing. Could this be a delayed effect?

“Is there a problem, Doctor?” The scan had ended and Spock was now sitting up.

May as well be completely honest. “Maybe. I’m not sure yet. Some of your hormonal levels are off from before but I want to check if they’d present any danger to you.” Off the top of his head Leonard was having problems remembering what each of the Vulcan hormones did; he’d always had trouble differentiating the purposes of them because he got the Vulcan names confused.

“May I see it?” Spock was holding out his hand expectantly. “I may be able to assist you.”

“Why not?” Len handed it over. “I’ve pulled up your hormonal readings for the past ten years; they’d been steady but now those ones,” he highlighted them on the chart, “are showing different activity levels. Do you know of any reasons for that?”

Something had crossed Spock’s face at the mention of fluctuating hormone levels but when he saw which ones were highlighted it went away. A moment later his brows furrowed slightly in what must have been confusion. “Those are hormones involved in growth for Vulcans.”

Growth hormones. Could it be… “If you were fully human, I’d tell you that your aging just restarted. Or maybe started a little bit ago; it’s hard to tell since we haven’t been scanning for aging for you." Scanning for aging was standard procedure for human checkups but rarely done for nonhumans; there wasn't a procedure for human hybrids since they were so uncommon. Len might just have a landmark case here; figures it would be the hobgoblin. "Have you noticed not aging?”

Spock was quiet for a moment. “Vulcans age more slowly than humans. I had assumed any changes were due to my reaching adulthood, but…”

Well this was a rare moment. Spock was speechless; Len almost wanted to take a holo to capture the moment. Still, he had a job to do. Better stay professional. “Well, it seems like there might actually be an area of your physiology where you’re more human than Vulcan. Congratulations.” Len slapped Spock’s shoulder. “You might just have a soulmate out there. I would tell you the timeframe for when you could have met them, but I don’t think I’d be able to figure it out like I would for one of the human crewmembers since Vulcans have never bothered figuring out how to pinpoint when aging stops and starts since they don't need to. All I can tell you is that it happened sometimes since your last physical, which was about half an Earth year ago.”

“Thank you, Doctor.” Spock seemed stiller than usual; maybe Len had actually seriously surprised him for once.

Better wrap this up. “Well, good news is is that’s the only thing that seems off, so you’re in good health once more and approved to return to full duty.” Len carefully took the padd back from Spock and went through to find the proper forms. “I’ll make it official and you can get out of here until the next time you get yourself nearly killed.”

Len glanced back at Spock as he walked away. Spock was moving mechanically; probably surprised by the news still. Len was surprised as well; he really felt for whatever poor sap would end up with the hobgoblin as their soulmate. It wouldn't be easy for them.

Chapter Text

Spock was unsure how to process the information Dr. McCoy had given him. There had been times when he’d considered the idea that he had a soulmate, but typically such thoughts were purely theoretical. He’d wondered what it would be like if he’d inherited the human trait of having a soulmate; he’d never seriously considered the possibility that he did.

So finding out that he was aging, or rather that he had not been aging and now was, was almost…unsettling in a way. How had he not noticed that he had stopped aging for approximately ten years? True, he had attributed it to Vulcans' aging more slowly than humans, which was factual, but surely the difference was not so great so soon. Additionally, his alternate self had aged according to human aging rules. Why had he been so certain that he would be different?

This was not what he should be focusing on though. If he was aging, that meant that there was someone who was his soulmate and had prompted his aging. Spock wondered what sort of soulmate he had. The most common forms of soulmate were romantic, although there were people who had platonic soulmates. Another uncommon possibility was that he was a person who had multiple soulmates; in those instances they would only begin aging once all soulmates had met each other. However, Spock assumed that he only had one soulmate. That was the most likely scenario.

Who could his soulmate be? Were they romantic or platonic? It was difficult to determine; the time in which he could have met his soulmate spanned multiple months, and in that time much had happened. Spock had met many humans, Vulcans, and people of other species. It encompassed major events such as the destruction of his planet and the beginning of his time aboard the Enterprise as first officer.

One notable event which did not fall into that timeframe, however, was his meeting Nyota. The beginning of their romantic relationship did fit that timeline, but as Spock had had her as a student prior to their dating there were several months where they knew each other that would be while he was still apparently not aging. It could be possible that his aging process worked different than humans or Vulcans and that Nyota could still be his soulmate; he would have to see if she reported beginning aging at a time that worked with his aging.

As if the old human adages about thinking or talking of someone causing them to appear were true, the next corner in the corridor Spock rounded led him right to Nyota. She smiled upon seeing him. “Hey Spock. I was just coming to see you; how’d the physical go?”

“It went well. I am in good health.” Should he tell her about aging? There were still too many uncertainties; it would be best to wait until she reported aging and discuss it then. “I am cleared for full duty and will report to my next scheduled duty shift cleared to complete it.”

“That’s great!” Her smile widened. “I know how much you dislike missing out on full shifts, even if it is doctor’s orders.”

Spock nodded. “It is illogical to force officers to be unproductive by not allowing them to complete their full duties once they are cleared from Sickbay.”

“Right.” Nyota’s expression shifted to what Spock believed would be termed a ‘knowing smile’ before she continued. “Anyways, it’ll be good having you back on the bridge full time. I think Kirk’s been getting antsy without you there to act as his backup self-control. I mean he’s still been doing well, but I think he’d rather have you there. We’re all happier with you on the bridge with us.” She smiled at him again. “So, we both have the day off. Want to get lunch and then see if we can find something to do for the afternoon? With this much of the crew having the da