She gets the emergency broadcast, same as everyone, and she looks at it for a long, long time before she heads to loading, pulling the gold jersey over her head.
"Pike?" she asks one of the balding, dough-faced officers who will never know active service and is just collecting a paycheck. He taps his cap and then points.
"Hanger 34A, Mrs. Kirk," he says, because she's always going to be George's widow to these assholes. She lifts an eyebrow.
"Try again," she suggests, curving her lips up slightly.
He pales. "You'll find Captain Pike in Hanger 34A, Captain Kirk, ma'am," he says, snapping to attention so hard she hears his spine crack.
"Better," she says, and heads towards 34A. Around her people are scrambling, hearing their assignments and barely containing their excitement as they scatter to their ships.
"I'm going to have to take Spock as my first officer," Pike was saying. She took the PADD from him, consulting the roster.
"Aren't you so lucky I'm here?" she asks, and he looks at her and grins, because Chris Pike has always been kinder than she knew how to be.
"I don't know, are you going to be my first or are you going to steal my ship?"
"You say that like I can't do both," she says. "Who've we got?"
"Ship full of infants," he says. "Dr. Puri in charge of Medical, so that's something. Spock's seen a tour, but no action--"
"Amanda Grayson's Spock?" He would be what, 24 now?
"That's the one," Pike agrees, sighing. "Commander Spock, designed the Kobayashi Maru."
"What the fuck is that?" she asks. He starts to tell her, which is funny, because she isn't listening at all.
Instead there's a cadet behind her saying to her friend, "I don't know, do you think that it has something to do with that transmission you heard last night about the Klingon armada?"
"I don't...no. No, Gaila, I don't think so," the other cadet replies, shaking her head.
Winona frowns, scans her PADD: Uhura, Nyota. Assigned: SS Farragut.
"Lieutenant," she calls out, and both girls look at her. What the hell. "Uhura and..."
"Athhorra, Lieutenant Gaila Athhorra," the other says.
"Lieutenants, you're assigned to the Enterprise," she says. "Report for duty."
The two exchange delighted looks and then school their features, Uhura faster than Athhorra. "Yes, Captain," Uhura says, glancing at the bands on Winona's shirt, and they head off.
"Why are you adding to my crew?" Pike demands, and she pats his cheek lightly.
"What makes you think it's your crew?" she asks, and boards the shuttle behind the lieutenants.
He can catch the next one. She wants to hear more about this transmission a cadet overheard. She wants to hear more about this cadet who speaks Klingon well enough to pick up a heavily-encrypted transmission across the Neutral Zone.
"It was weird," Uhura confesses, glancing at Athhorra who smiles encouragingly. "I mean, it was an emergency transmission from the prison planet, but then the report rolled in that 47 ships had been destroyed: a whole armada."
"You speak Klingon?"
"Not fluently, but yes," she admits. "I speak all of the core Federation languages, and am conversant in many of the others."
"What about Romulan?" Winona asks. She's not sure, yet, why she's asking. It's a feeling; something about this feels Romulan. Or maybe it's just the ghost of the Kelvin, dogging her footsteps. She can't let it go. The Federation isn't about revenge, and neither is Starfleet, but Winona hasn't ever been the best of Starfleet's ideals.
"Yes," Uhura says. "I can speak Romulan."
"Enough to tell the difference between Romulan and Vulcan?" Winona asks, because sometimes people do this: say they speak Romulan when really it's just bastardized Vulcan. She's had 23 years: Winona Kirk speaks fluent Romulan in all three major dialects and 17 lesser-known ones.
"Yes, ma'am," Uhura says, and she's self-possessed, confident. Winona likes that. She nods. "You're going to be up on the bridge," she says. "Athhorra, report to Engineering when we get there."
She spends the rest of the shuttle ride listening to the voices around her.
Pike glances at her when Sulu falters, and Winona lifts an eyebrow back at him. He didn't break the ship: he can live.
Chekov reads the debrief, and Winona grabs Pike's shoulder when he says the words lightening storm in space.
"You know what that is," she snaps, pulling him aside. "You know fucking--"
"I don't know anything, and you were in labor at the time, so your memory--"
"Finish that sentence," she invites, and he visibly swallows it, looking down at Spock, who is watching them with lifted brow and serene interest.
"Uhura," Winona says, snapping her fingers at the lieutenant, who stands. "Was the ship Romulan?"
"What?" Uhura asks, frowning and glancing at Spock--interesting, but not the time.
"The ship that attacked the Klingon prison planet: was it Romulan?"
"Yes," she says, eyes widening. "It--yes, it was."
"It's a trap, we're flying into a trap."
"You cannot stop mid-warp," Spock says, standing, and she glances at him.
"Vulcan isn't experiencing a natural disaster, it's being attacked by Nero and the Romulans."
"Based upon what facts?" Spock asks her, tilting his head, and something in her blood surges. Pike is watching them warily.
"The lightning storm in space, we saw it 23 years ago when a Romulan ship came out of nowhere, attacked the USS Kelvin, and then vanished, never to been seen or heard from again. That ship was like nothing we'd ever seen, advanced weaponry, highly sophisticated."
"That's what they said," Uhura says. "The Klingons reported that the ship was one massive Romulan ship. I translated it myself. "
"It's the same ship," Winona says.
"First Officer Kirk's logic is sound," Spock interrupts. "And I will vouch for Lieutenant Uhura being unmatched in xenolinguistics. We would be wise to proceed with caution, sir."
"Scan Vulcan space for transmission in Romulan," Pike tells Uhura. "Hannity, hail the USS Truman."
"They’re not going to respond," Winona mutters.
"You think they have been destroyed?" Spock asks her, low.
"47 Klingon Warbirds on the edge of a prison planet," she says, and means, There's nothing left of anything. He understands, which is unusual, and nods at her before sitting back down at his post.
"All of the other ships are out of warp, sir, and have arrived at Vulcan, but we--we seem to have lost all contact," Hannity says, looking at the readouts and at Pike, frustrated.
"Sir, I pick up no Romulan transmission...or transmission of any kind in the area," Uhura reports.
"Because they're being attacked," Winona says. "Might I suggest red alert, Captain?"
Pike's glare says he didn't miss the way she bit it off, but she just smiles tightly at him, because this is already her crew: he's fighting a losing battle and he knows it.
"Shields up, red alert," he agrees, sitting pointedly in the chair, like it's occurring to him it was a mistake to let her on board.
"Arrival at Vulcan in 5 seconds," Sulu reports, and begins the countdown. Winona braces herself against the rail. This was going to be ugly.
"You anticipate violence?" Spock asks, next to her.
"I anticipate annihilation," she corrects, and was right when they pulled out of warp to the carnage. Spock allows himself a moment only to stare, and then launches himself at his station.
She stalks up to the viewing bay, staring. George used to joke she didn't feel gravity shifts. She just thinks it's probably that she's too fucking stubborn to fall down; all comes out the same in the end, really.
And it's them. It's the same ship that killed George, and everything goes silent behind her. They're probably still talking, the klaxons are still going off, but she can't hear it, because she's suddenly so calm. She looks at Pike, and he looks so young--like that boy who hero-worshipped George and was afraid of her vagina.
"--blocking our communications and transporter abilities," Spock is reporting.
"All power to forward shields," Pike says, and yep, it's Robar all over again. Same ship, different day, she thinks, and doesn't bother biting down on her smile. "Prepare to fire all weapons."
Winona glances at him, and then nods, heading back to her own station to start instructing Olson to evacuate the ship--if Pike wants to play out George's life, fine.
"Captain, we're being hailed," Uhura says to Winona before looking at Pike.
"On screen, bridge only," Winona says, and Uhura nods.
It's a different Romulan, this time, and he looks like a teenager fumbling with a cam for his first sexcam session.
"Hello," he says in perfect Standard. That's interesting.
"I'm Captain Christopher Pike," Pike says, "To whom am I speaking?"
"Hi Christopher," the Romulan says, friendly and smooth. "I'm Nero."
"Maybe they can braid each other's hair and cry about feelings next," Winona mutters, lifting an eyebrow as she bends over the console next to Spock to see if she can get into the Romulan ship's systems.
"You've declared war against the Federation," Pike says, because he's a fan of stating the obvious. There are no cracks in that hull, though. If she had a day, maybe she could get through, but this encryption isn't anything she's seen before.
"Can you break it?" Spock asks her, watching her fingers move.
"No," she says. "But that doesn't mean we don't try."
"Someone once said that Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results," he observes, proving that he's kind of a bitch, and she grins at him.
"So you have heard of me," she says, and then snarls at the console when it bleats at her.
Spock stands up, and she glances at him. "Pardon me," he says, voice even, and he's talking to the Romulan, which--what? "I do not believe you and I are acquainted."
And that--that's interesting. Fascinating--they're not dead, and Nero knows Spock.
"No, we're not," Nero agrees. "Not yet. Spock, there's something I would like you to see," he says, like he's confiding a secret. Winona thinks that probably, under different circumstances, she could like Nero. Now, though. Now she's going to kill him, and it's going to take a long, long time.
"Captain Pike," Nero says, shifting his gaze. "Your transporter has been disabled. As you can see by the rest of your armada, you have no choice. You will man a shuttle, come aboard the Narada for negotiations. That is all."
Pike exhales slowly and looks at her. She nods: he's going to die. The issue is that fucking thing they've got drilling into Vulcan (drilling, which is weird, not a standard weapon, this whole thing is wrong, Nero's not a soldier, that ship isn't meant for war. Or, it wasn't).
"I need officers trained in hand-to-hand combat," Pike says, standing. "Kirk, Spock, come with me. Sulu, you too. Chekov, you've got the conn." He leans over the comm and sends out a message. Olson shows up, and so does Athhorra, which is unexpected.
"Please," Athhorra says when Sulu blinks at her. "These thighs were made for crushing men's skulls." She smiles sweetly at Pike, who looks at Winona like somehow this is her fault.
Oh, wait, it is.
Sulu, Athhorra, and Olson follow them towards the shuttles while Pike broke down the plan, which was basically to disable the machine after jumping onto it. He looks at her like he wants to tell her to rendezvous back with the fleet, but at the last minute doesn't, because he probably doesn't want her to laugh at him in front of subordinates.
"Spock, you're First Officer, Kirk, you know what to do," he decides, and Spock nods and heads back to the bridge with only a glance from her. She watches him go.
"Don't," Pike says. "He's a kid."
"He's an adult, and I'm not doing anything," she says, pleasant. He winces, and she tilts her head a little. It must be something in her face: people always do that when she's trying to be polite. This is why she's stopped, for the most part.
"He won't--never mind," he sighs, and waits for them all to be out of hearing range.
"You're gonna come after me," he says, low, when the kids are loaded into the shuttle and they're alone in front of his. They were both here, 23 years ago. They were both here, same asshole, same ship, captain invited aboard. They know how this song ends: it's not the kind of tune you forget easy.
"Give me the ship and I'll think about it," she says, listening to the people running around behind her. They're cadets, kids, panicked at recognizing the faces floating by them. No battle experience among them, all of them just functioning on theory taught by shitty teachers.
He looks at her, long and hard. "Yeah, what the hell," he says, lips twisted, and she smiles at him, hard.
"Don't die before I find you," she says. "I'm not bringing back a corpse, and I'm not risking my ship so your mother has a full coffin to cry over."
Pike makes a muted sound of horror or rage.
"They killed Robar. They're going to kill you. You give them anything, and I'll make you wish they'd killed you," she says.
"Are you trying to make me more afraid of you than of them?" he asks, stepping into the shuttle. She raises her eyebrows.
"I have to try?" she asks.
"Goddamnit," he mutters, and the door slides shut. She steps back, and then heads towards the bridge. They all look at her when she comes back in, and Spock is standing beside the chair.
"Captain," he says.
She slouches into the captain's chair. It fits her nicely.
"Dr. Leonard McCoy is now in charge of Medical," Spock reports. "Dr. Puri was on Deck 6 and is deceased."
"Chekov, monitor the away team," she says. "In the event of something like this, would Vulcan's High Council issue an evacuation order or would they rely on Starfleet?" she asks Spock, who seems surprised to be asked.
"The High Council would be in the Katric Ark, preserving our history," he says slowly. "You think--that the planet will not survive this?"
"It's a pretty pointless hole they're digging if they're not going to drop a bomb in it," she points out, as gently as she can. The bridge goes quiet.
"Athhorra to Enterprise," the comm line chirps. "Distance to target: 5000 meters."
"Uhura, if we've got comm lines can we contact the planet?" Winona asks, and Uhura blinks at her, then down at her console.
"I can--" she starts, and Hannity gets up to go look at it with her.
"Get a team together," Winona says to Spock. "As soon as we're not jammed, get down to the planet and evacuate as many as you can."
He looks at her, then out at the viewing screen. It's a choice: he can stay here, demur, and possibly live, or he can go down, try to save his family, and probably die.
"I request that the accompanying members of my away party also be Vulcan," he says.
"Go find out if they're still alive," she says. They sustained a lot of damage, and she only had seven Vulcan crewmembers to begin with.
"O-Olson is gone, ma'am!" Chekov reports, sounding shocked. He's seventeen, fucking hell. "Athhorra has landed! Sulu has landed!"
"Olson had the charges," Winona says, rubbing her temple.
"Gaila is really good at making things explode," Uhura volunteers, and Winona glances at her.
"How is that coming?" she asks.
"I think we can access the planet's communication network, we're...ringing, for lack of--" Hannity says,
"The jamming signal is gone, transport abilities are reestablished," Uhura interrupts.
"Transporter control reengaged," Chekov confirms.
"Find out what they're doing to the planet," she says. "Uhura, issue an evacuation order, all frequencies. Anyone who can get out needs to.
"Transporter Room, did Commander Spock beam down? "
"Yes, Captain," whoever the fuck is managing the transporter reports. This is why she should have been in charge: she doesn't know all of their names, and that's annoying.
"Keep locked onto him," she says. "I want him back aboard at my command."
She looks at Hannity. "Are they evacuating?"
"From the other side of the planet. They're headed towards Delta Vega, it looks like they also have beaming capabilities," Hannity reports.
Nice of them to share that with the rest of us, she thinks, because fucking xenophobic Vulcans.
"They just launched something into the planet!" Sulu reports. "Enterprise, do you copy?"
"We copy," Hannity says, and then they're all jolted.
"Captain, our gravitational sensors are off the scale," Chekov says, not even turning to look at her, staring at his calculations. "If my calculations are correct, they're creating a singularity that will...consume the planet."
"How long?" she asks. "By your count, how long?"
"Five? Three? One?"
"I--not more than three," Chekov says.
"Athhorra to Enterprise, get us out of here, please!"
Winona glances at her comm: does she think the "please" is going to help her?
The transporter chief replies: "Standby, locking on your signal."
Which of course is when the Romulan ship pulls out. Winona bites her cheek against the command to follow, instead watches her fucking incompetent transporter chief lose Athhorra and Sulu.
"I can do zat!" Chekov tells her, leaping to his feet.
"Go," she says, and he does, flying down the corridor. She's going to have modify this to give the bridge remote access to the transporter bay: this is ridiculous.
"Captain--" Madeline Arbor, science officer says (Winona thinks she's fucked her--remembers those eyes, vaguely). "The black hole's expanding, and we won't reach minimum safe distance if we don't leave immediately."
"Hold," she snaps. "Chekov, do you have them?"
"Aye, and Commander Spock is--" he breaks off, devolving into Russian. Commander Spock is wrecked.
He looks betrayed. She knows that expression: she saw it in every reflective surface for a week after George died.
His mother fell into a planet collapsing into itself. Amanda died and Spock lived, just feet away. Winona knows the feeling.
Sulu warps them out of there, and Winona goes down to the transporter pad.
"Spock," she says, and he looks at her, pulls himself together, shoves those broken bits down, lowers his hand. God, she wants to keep him. "You with me?" she asks.
"Yes," he says, stepping away from his father, from the High Councilors. Stepping towards her. "I am with you," he clarifies, and if he matches his stride to hers, stands too close, she doesn't say anything. He needs someone to hold the center, and she's good at it.
Uhura stands up when they come onto the bridge. Her gaze is fastened onto Spock, and she looks as though she wants to say something. Winona wonders if there's something there. It would be too bad if there is, because she likes Uhura. Uhura could be a great officer someday, but Spock. Well.
Winona doesn't share well.
"I take it we are not regrouping with the fleet," Spock says to her as she follows him to his station, leaning over to watch him run a couple of diagnostics.
"No," she agrees, and he nods curtly. She rests her hand on the back of his neck, looking over at her bridge crew. She lets a little of her rage bleed into her grip, feels his shoulders set in answer. He's perfect, so perfect, she wants to devour him, have him, keep him. "Have we confirmed that he's headed towards Earth?"
"Their trajectory suggests no other destination, Captain," Uhura replies, subdued, watching Winona's hand slide from Spock as she walks to the chair.
"If the Federation is a target, why didn't they destroy us?" Chekov asks, and she likes that: he's seventeen but he'll speak up. Isn't letting the enormity of this experience beat him down.
"Why would they? Why waste the weapons? We obviously weren't a threat," Sulu scoffs, jaw tight, and Chekov glances at him, but his face says he's not buying it.
"That is not it. He said he wanted me to see something. The destruction of my home planet," Spock says, and he keeps his voice level. It's impressive.
"Yeah, and where do Romulans get that kind of weaponry?" Sulu asks. "I mean, I'm right in saying that that seems way beyond them."
"The engineering comprehension necessary to artificially create a black hole may suggest an answer. Such technology could theoretically be manipulated to create a tunnel through space-time," Spock says, and even Winona has to turn around and stare at him at that, because is he saying--
"They're from the future," Sulu surmises, flat. He looks at Winona like he can't believe this shit.
"If you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth," Spock says, light
Winona smiles: he's quoting Arthur Conan Doyle on the bridge of her ship in the aftermath of the destruction of his planet.
"And he has Pike," she says. "And Pike's got the codes for the subspace frequencies of Starfleet's border protection grids." Though he'll keep his mouth shut as long as he can, Pike's not quite imaginative enough to withstand the kind of torture someone who destroys planets can mete out.
"We are outmatched in every way," Spock points out.
"And Nero's ship would have to drop out of warp for us to overtake him," Chekov points out.
"He's going to Earth, and we have a pass through the grids," she points out. "Sulu, what warp can we manage?"
"Three," Sulu says, consulting the readout.
"Warp factor three to Earth, then," she says, and heads down to the Med Bay to take a look at the survivors of Vulcan.
Leonard McCoy is a cantankerous southern asshole, and Winona kind of likes the way he's bullying everyone into taking treatment. Leonard McCoy has the look of a man who keeps getting up even when life has him by the balls, grinding him into the dirt. She likes that kind of tenacity.
"Christine Chapel," one of the nurses introduces herself. She has bleached blonde hair and red-rimmed blue eyes, but her jaw is set and her hands don't tremble. She can't be twenty, even. "I'm--head nurse? Um, Captain."
"How are our guests?" Winona asks.
"Traumatized, they seem to be very focused on maintaining a bond," she says. "They say that of the six billion maybe only a million survived."
Winona thinks that every second counted: if they'd waited even three minutes it could have been only thousands. They're going to give her this ship, after this, and if they try to give it to Chris, well.
Cross that grave when she comes to it.
Winona nods, looking at the High Councilors all huddled together, a tightness in the corners of their eyes, desperation in the way they hold their shoulders.
"Too soon to tell psychologically, but they're all fine: the wounds were superficial," she says.
"Bridge to Captain Kirk." Chekov's voice pages her, and Winona presses the intercom on the wall.
"Bridge, this is Kirk, go ahead."
"I have detected a...a power fluctuation in Engineering, ma'am. Near the warp core."
"You gotta be kidding me," she mutters, stalking towards the door, only to have Sarek grab her forearm too tightly. She punches him in the solar plexus: he's a Vulcan, he can handle it, and it shocks him into choking, backing up a step.
"My son," he starts.
"Is fine," she replies, folding her arms over her chest.
"Fine has variable definitions," he says, reproachful, like she has a single shit to give. Spock can't be his son right now because she needs Spock to be her XO, and she'll have Sarek sedated before she lets him close to her bridge.
"Pick the one you like best," she suggests, and heads up to the bridge to see why the fuck there's been an energy fluctuation near her goddamn core. She wonders if the Romulans figured out transwarp theory in the future. If she has fucking Romulans on her ship she's going to--well. She kind of hopes she does have them on her ship.
"I have the feed for you," Chekov says when she steps onto the bridge, and Winona leans over and stares. She can't be sure, but she thinks--she thinks that's Montgomery Scott on her fucking ship. She presses the comm.
"Security, get Mr. Scott out of Engineering and bring him to the bridge."
Scotty has always been one of her favorites. He kissed sweet like saltwater taffy and built her toys. He had an ambiguous grip on morality, and if it hadn't been for the damn beagle, she would have added him to her collection, but Admirals held grudges about that sort of thing.
"Kirk!" he says, surprised, face breaking out into a wide smile.
"Scotty, we're at warp three, how did you get on my ship?"
"Is she yours?" he asks, beaming and looking around. She wonders if they let him see her completed, or if they just stole his best ideas and designed and then banished him to wherever the fuck he'd ended up. "That's fantastic! Always thought she'd suit you best, doesn't she just purr?"
"Scotty, I asked you a question."
"Oh, right. I figured it out, didn't I?"
"The transwarp theory."
"Space is the thing that moves!" he agrees, beaming like a child
"And you're sure?"
"I tested it on myself, so, yeah, I think so."
She smoothes her thumb over her lower lip. Really, for a day that started with such mundane promise has turned into a wonderful thing. It's like it's her birthday or something.
"Get down to the transporter bay, upgrade the systems, and then get me warp five. Find Lieutenant Gaila Athhorra, she'll be able to help you.
"And Scotty? Don't touch anything else or I'll take your fingers." Scotty has always needed specific instructions. He flourishes under specificity, knowing where the boundaries are.
"You mean break them," he says, wiggling his fingers at her.
"No," she says, smiling at him, and he swallows.
"Right," he agrees, and heads off to the transporter bay.
"He got onto our ship mid-warp," Spock says, standing and walking towards her.
"We're not beaming onto Nero's ship yet," she replies, heading that off at the pass, because they're new to each other, but not that new. She turns to look at her bridge crew. "We need to get aboard Nero's ship undetected. Thoughts?"
"The math doesn't support us being able to--" Sulu starts. "I mean, even if you could beam aboard the ship--"
"We don't know anything about their sensors," Hannity agrees, chewing on her lip.
"No no no," Chekov says, waving his hands at them all, coming away from the screen where--Winona wonders what that kid's psych file says about his ability to disengage from big picture in order to problem-solve. "Based on the fastest course from Vulcan, I have projected that Nero will travel past Saturn. Like you said, we need to stay invisible to Nero or he'll destroy us. If Mister Scott can get us to warp factor four, 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."
Lieutenant Commander Madeline Arbor, from where she's standing in front of Chekov's work, says, "That actually would work."
"I can confirm his telemetry," Spock agreed, glancing at Arbor. "If Lieutenant Sulu is able to maneuver us into position, I can beam aboard Nero's ship, steal back the black hole device, and if possible, bring back Captain Pike."
"No," Winona says.
Spock quirks an eyebrow at her. "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."
"Fine, you can come too," she says. She wants to keep her ship, but it's--it's been twenty three years, and the idea of staying put, safely tucked away while someone else dies on the other end of a comm link doesn't really appeal.
Even less appealing is the idea of letting someone else kill Nero.
"Regulation will have no bearing in this conversation, will it?" Spock asks.
She grins at him, feels it spread like fire through her as she heads with him to the transporter bay, leaving Sulu with the conn.
"You have not asked me if I am alright," Spock said after they the turbolift doors slide shut.
She blinks at him. "What?"
"Most--Terrans would ask what I need, or if I am 'okay.'"
"You're not okay," she says. "Your mother just got killed. You're not okay."
He turns and puts a hand on her arm. She looks down at it, at the long, fine fingers, feels the weight of it. against her.
"But you think I can do this," he says.
"We're going to destroy the man who killed your mother and who killed my husband," she says. "I know you can do it, because Spock? You can't afford to fail."
"Yes," he agrees slowly, like it's a revelation. "That--that is true."
She nods, grinning a little as the lift doors open, "Ready?"
"Yes," he says. "I am."
And that's it. That's the moment he's hers.
Scotty puts them where there shouldn't be a soul in sight, so naturally they're right in the heart of the ship's activity. She pulls out her phaser and takes out five of them smoothly. She feels good, centered. Always better with a phaser in her hand, and it's been a long time since she's been so fond of living she was afraid of dying.
"Where is it?" she asks when Spock completes the meld with one of them. She's crouched over him, a hand pressed between his shoulderblades.
"Do you want the device, or Pike?" he asks.
"Device," she says, it's not even a question. He nods, gripping her arm as he stands up and she follows him, holds the six as he navigates through the maze of the ship. There's an alarm that's been sounded, but the ship is...stupid. It's a stupid fucking ship, and its crew is too small for it.
And there it is, and she's beautiful. She's sleek and definitely Vulcan, but nothing of this century. This ship could travel through deep space, she thinks, but it's tiny, meant for a single pilot. It's going to be a tragedy when she's destroyed.
"I foresee a complication," Spock says. "The design of this ship is far more advanced than I've anticipated."
The ship lights up for him, warming immediately in a way that's surprisingly indulgent for a Vulcan design. "Voice print and face recognition analysis enabled. Welcome back, Ambassador Spock."
"Apparently you've already handled it," she says, and wonders if that means that there is a future version of Spock running around, or if Nero killed him. Another grave to cross when the time comes.
"Computer, what is your manufacturing origin?" Spock asks, sitting down.
"Stardate twenty-three eighty-seven. Commissioned by the Vulcan Science Academy."
Spock looks at her. "You've got it," Winona says. "I'm going to go see if there's anything left of Pike to bring back."
"Captain," he says, when she's almost out of the hangar. She's weirdly reminded of George, a visceral, strange thing. George always wanted to have moments when she had switched gears. She'd hated it: everything had been on his terms all the fucking time.
Sweetheart, listen to me.
"The statistical likelihood that our plan will succeed is less than four point three percent," he says.
"It'll work," she says.
"It's gonna work," she says firmly, "or we're gonna die, but either way, now's not really the time to have a crisis."
"This comforts you," he says, lifting his eyebrow at her.
"It comforts you, too," she replies, grinning and lifting her phaser, flicking it easily to red. "Don't die, Spock. It'll piss me off."
Finding Nero is easy enough: he's staring at her as she comes around a bend in the fucking ridiculous set-up of this ship. She could, she thinks, tell him to surrender, but they both know that's not going to happen, and she doesn't really have it in her to pretend she'd let him surrender--that she'd bring him to Earth and let him be tried by Starfleet.
"Who are you?" Nero asks, like she's personally affronted him, walking slowly towards her.
"Kirk. Winona Kirk, you took something of mine," she says, and dodges the blow that comes from her left. This face she knows: he's the one who summoned Robar, must be Nero's XO.
"Mother of James T. Kirk?" Nero demands, leaping to her platform. "And where is he, dead like daddy?" he asks, and then launches into some kind of fucking monologue, the kind that deep-space tourists get, like fucking diarrhea of the mouth. He's not a soldier, but he probably did the requisite service the Romulan Empire demands of its citizens, but then he was what? A miner? Some laborer who has a petty grudge and decided to take it out on her universe.
"I took everything from you, just as I lost everything. There is nothing of yours left," he gloats, voice hoarse with the volume of his rage, and he makes a move for her, sloppy. She kicks his knees out from under him and jumps back, avoiding the XO's interfering blow.
"Captain Nero," the comm finally hails--seriously, how did it take so long for them to notice? "The Vulcan ship has been taken, the drill has been destroyed."
"Now that?" she says, in perfect Romulan. His eyes widen. "That would be something of mine."
"Spock!" Nero roars, and runs off to presumably try to recapture the ship. With what, she doesn't know. His teeth, maybe.
XO bares his teeth at her and then lunges. She isn't fast enough, and he catches her in the ribs, hard enough to drop her. The ship shudders, and she slams a hand on the floor, trying to keep her balance.
"I hereby confiscate this illegally obtained vessel and order you to surrender your vessel. No terms." Spock's voice echoes over the comm line, and she laughs, because he's beautiful, and his humor is exquisite.
"Your species sends a female to fight its battles?" the XO asks, reaching for her throat. She pulls the gun from his holster, because even in the holster she can see his is better, and she wants it. His fingers are trying their best to crush her windpipe, but she just smiles at him.
"Yeah," she says, her voice only a little hoarse as she shoots him in the stomach. He drops her and she grunts, because falling to her death would just be pathetic at this point. Still clearly she needs to work on her upper-body strength because hoisting herself back up to head down the landing takes longer than it should. On the plus side, when that fucking Romulan had lifted her she'd seen Pike, who was actually alive and groaning about his manpain.
"Holy shit," Pike croaks when she wades into the fucking disgusting...well, she hopes it's water and not piss and blood, but she's not going to examine it too finely. "You actually came back for me."
"Don't read into it," she says, and shoots the two Romulans who sneak up on her, and looks at the gun fondly before wrapping a hand in Chris's shirt. "Enterprise, now," she says, and the ship fades in a haze of white lights and brilliant, beautiful explosions.
McCoy and Chapel are waiting for them, and have Pike out of her arms before she's really finished materializing. She glances over her shoulder to find Spock climbing to his feet, and realizes that this feeling is...
It's been...it's been a really long time since she felt relief. A really long time since she cared about anything enough.
"Well done, Scotty," she says.
He cackles gleefully. "I've never beamed three people from two targets onto one pad before," Scotty gloats, standing up. "Shall I--?" He jerks his thumbs over his shoulder.
"Engineering," she confirms, and he heads down, presumably to take over because Scotty never does anything by halves, and staging a coup of her Engineering crew seems likely. Hopefully there were no speeches.
Spock follows her to the bridge, where Chekov says immediately, "The enemy ship is losing power. Their shields are down, Captain."
She nods, and sits in her chair. She's going to enjoy this, and she glances to the side to see Spock standing just behind the chair.
"Hail them now," she says.
"Captain?" Spock asks, low, beside her. He's close, and his fingers are brushing her hair.
"You don't want to watch?" she asks as Nero's face solidifies in front of her.
"This is Captain Winona Kirk of the USS Enterprise. Your ship is compromised, and in a matter of seconds--"
"I would rather suffer the end of Romulus a thousand times," he interrupts manically, frothing at the mouth. This is almost a mercy killing. "I would rather die in agony than accept assistance from YOU."
Winona laughs--she can't help it, can't help the way it spills out of her. "Oh, no. This isn't the part where I help you." The look of confusion on his face is perfection and she shudders, just a little, because this is good, like a fifth orgasm, almost too much. "Sulu, give 'em everything we've got."
"Yes, ma'am," Sulu says, voice hard and vicious, pleased. She's going to keep this entire crew, she thinks.
"Sweetheart, can you hear me? I love you. I love you so--"
She tilts her head to look up at Spock, because knowing she's won is sufficient for her, but she wants to see this: how Spock looks in the face of victory, how he feels about vengeance and winning. There's a kind of serene violence in his face, a slight upturn to his lips, and she nods to herself.
"Alright, Sulu. Let's go."
"Yes, ma'am," he agrees, and nothing happens.
"Did our warp core go?" she asks.
"No, Captain," Chekov says. "We're at four."
"Kirk to Engineering: get us out of here, Scotty."
"You bet your arse, Captain. Only, the gravity well has got us!" Scotty shouts.
"Take us to maximum warp, then."
"I'm giving her all that she's got, Captain!"
There's a cracking sound from the hull, stress fractures across the viewing bay. "Scotty," she says. "If don't figure this out and we die, and since I'm going to be really pissed off if we die right now, why don't you give me a solution?"
There's a long pause, and then: "Right! Okay, if we eject the core and detonate, the blast could be enough to push us away! I cannae promise anything, though!"
"Do it," she says.
They get a tow back to the space dock, because after ditching their warp core they're mostly just gliding through space, and Sulu can only do so much on thrusters.
"Take a breather," she tells her crew. "I'll call you if we're needed."
They stumble out, Sulu looking surprised to find that his knees are weak enough that he grabs Chekov's arm. The adrenaline is over, and they're all finding their centers again; redefining what's normal and beginning to process what happened to them.
What happened to their friends; what happened to Vulcan.
Chris looks vaguely surprised to see her when she stops by medbay. "Think I'll get a medal for this?" he asks, gesturing at his limp legs.
"Admiral, at least," she says, and they share a small smile because that's how Starfleet works: if they can't martyr you, they promote you into obscurity.
"You did--" he starts, and then stops with a sigh. She wonders if it was going to be a compliment, or if he was going to ask if she's reconsidered. "Did he suffer?" is what he settles on.
"Spectacularly," she replies, and nods at McCoy before leaving. Spock is leaving as well, and he falls into step with her.
"Something I can do for you?" she asks. He inhales, like he's going to say something, and then stops.
"Maybe in private?" she suggests, and pushes open a door to a conference room. He walks in in front of her, shoulders tight and fists clenched.
She locks the door behind them and it's so easy to press him against the wall. He stares at her, eyes big and pupils blown wide, and she wonders if anyone has ever laid claim to him before.
She pulls him down, tilts her face up to kiss him. She curls her fingers into the hair at the base of his skull, tugs just a little, lets him know she has him, and he leans into her just a fraction more, caught between her in the wall.
As soon as he has lips against her, though, everything changes. He spins them, presses her hard against the wall and presses his hips into hers, a hand on her ass to pull her up onto his thigh. He's tall, and he's strong, and she arches up for him, regrets momentarily the decision not to wear the dress (although how anyone wears that thing she has no idea).
"I need--" he starts, and can't finish it, but she knows what he needs, pushes at his chest to get space between them.
"Get them off," she says as she undoes her own pants. He stares at her and she raises an eyebrow at him as she steps out of the pants and totally-not-regulation-fuck-you-Starfleet panties. His hands move abortively, but it's towards her hips and she sighs a little, unbuttons his pants and pulls. When she lets go and they're slumped somewhere around his knees she tries to get a look, see what she's working with, but he's moving in again, hard and hot against her belly, fucking lifting her.
He presses her against the wall, her shoulders digging in uncomfortably as he hoists her up, wraps her legs around his hips and Jesus fuck, that's hot. She rolls her hips up, and he slides against her, slick and hot, hotter than a human.
"Come on," she says, digging her nails into the back of his neck, and he groans against her throat. She tightens her legs against him when he lets go of her with one hand, gripping his dick and guiding himself in.
He's big, which is unexpected: the hazards of not actively checking before letting someone dick you, but these are difficult times. By the time he's bottomed out against her, hips flush against her, she feels full and stretched, the best kind of burn.
He's so desperate for it, for anything, and she lets him have it. Whatever he needs, because his mother is dead and his planet is gone and his whole existence is wrecked. He's not okay, and she knows the taste of that in the air. Knows how to see that on someone else, and so she just wraps her arms around his neck, lets him hammer into her hard and deep and fast, rolls her hips up against him, matching him.
It's such a selfish fuck, but that's fine, that's the point of this. And it's not like she doesn't know how to navigate this, not like she doesn't love this. It's so much better when it's someone hot, someone she wants, and it's been so long since those two things aligned. Besides, it's not like he can't hold onto her, so she adjusts her grip and slides a hand down between them. She presses against her clit with two fingers, circling hard and fast. It's not long before she's ready to come, panting wetly against his cheek.
"Please," he says, and she wonders if he knows what he's asking for, if he knows he's asking but it's enough, because she's coming. It's a shuddering, tight, violent thing, loosening the grip of her legs on his hips and making her slip, just a little, down the wall. He tightens his grip, brings her crashing back up, there's no space, no air to breathe that isn't his, and fuck, fuck, she's going to have bruises.
After the first time it's an easy build to the second, and she wraps both arms around him again, because when it's like this she doesn't need help, never really comes down. But he can't last, and doesn't, not when she starts murmuring, "Come on, Spock. Take it, give it to me, come on."
He slams her into the wall, empties into her, and after a second she realizes that the strange mouthing at her jaw and cheek is him looking for a kiss, so she turns her head, cups his jaw and kisses him rough and deep. He makes soft, hurt noises into her mouth and she licks into him, digs her fingers into his jaw so he feels it.
He slides them down the wall, pulling out with a slight wince. "That was--" he starts, hoarse.
"What you needed," she replies, and he glances at her from under his bangs. She grins, arching her hips as she pulls her pants back up. "Oh please, you're a touch telepath. Was I at all reluctant?"
"…No," he allows. "No, that is not the term I would use."
She's been called all the variations of 'slut' the galaxy's thought of, but she wonders how it's going to sound in Vulcan.
He leans in and presses his head against her shoulder, wrapping a hand around hers. "Can we--would it be acceptable to you if we stayed here for just a moment longer?"
"Sure," she says, tightening her grip on his hand and resting her cheek against the top of his head.
She gets paged to the Bridge after a few minutes, and she gets up quietly, gives her ponytail up as a lost cause and heads down to find her whole bridge crew present.
"You know a tow means you get to relax now," she says, but maybe they don't. This is their first voyage, most of them, their first time on a real, active ship. She sits in the chair and looks at them all, pulling her hair over her shoulder. "Okay, what?"
"We...we just created a black hole in the middle of the Neutral Zone, right?" Arbor asks, her fingers on her station still, long and fragile. "That's--I mean."
"Might have closed," Winona says, shrugging. Spock would probably know, or at least bullshit effectively. "But yes. If it gives you any consolation, it's closer to Romulus than us."
"That will help me sleep," Arbor tells her gravely, and Winona grins at her, because this is the benefit to having an untried crew: nobody's beaten it into them that they have to be drones.
"What's going to happen--now?" Sulu asks.
"They're going to give me the ship," she says.
"But Captain Pike lived--Captain," Chekov says, frowning.
"Yeah, but it's my ship," she replies, and he frowns a little more. They're all so new they don't understand how Starfleet really works, that if she doesn't get this ship, this crew, she's going to drag George from the grave, hurl his ghost at them all, do a press tour where she talks about how Jim would have been 22, Sam would have been 26. She will fling her family, her name, at them all until they choke on the Kirk legacy, and they'll give her the Enterprise to get her to shut up, because they're afraid of her, afraid of what she can do with that name.
She's held it close, that power, but they're idiots if they thought she wasn't biding her time. She's lived in that house in Iowa and watched the Enterprise grow in the yard they named after George, and she's going to have it.
"He will be on medical leave, and probably promoted," she says.
"Will we be in on the reports about what happened?" Uhura asks. "We're students, still, so they don't have to tell us--"
"They do, actually. You've all been promoted to active service, they'll graduate you in a month or so after the funerals are held, and those of you who want to will be welcome to come back to this ship. After what happened," she says, and tries to gentle her voice, "They can't afford not to promote you."
"You'd hold spots for us?" Hannity asks.
"I will," she says, and they stare at her, and she wonders if they thought it was all going to be ripped from them. If they thought that after all they'd done they would have to go through the system like everyone else. If they thought they'd be spread apart, forced to work with other people.
She has them, now. She can train them, a whole ship, the way she wants them. She wants their bitterness, their shock, their survivor's guilt. People who survive things like this, they either become Pike, or they become her.
She's not going to let any of them become Pike.
Alexander Marcus was one of her professors. He'd had pale blue eyes and always been a little too charismatic, slippery. He'd recruited Pike, and at one point George had TA'd for him. He's the kind of man who calls everyone "son" or "sweetheart", because he's the kind of man who thinks if you've got a dick you're worth shit, and if you don't, well. You're just wasting time before you crack.
She hated him throughout Starfleet, hated doing her second tour with him, hated him when he spoke at George's funeral. He'd held her hand and looked into her eyes and promised her that Starfleet wouldn't abandon her, or George. His breath had been tobacco-stained and she thought he looked hungry back then. He looks ravenous now.
"Kirk, did you create a black hole in the middle of the neutral zone?" he asks, a smile playing around his lips.
He stands when she comes in, offers her a chair and doesn't sit until she does. She hates this planet, sometimes.
"It's closer to Romulus than the Federation," Winona says, and he laughs, delighted, and she lets him, because she can afford to be generous, and despite his inherent weaknesses, he's still a man after her own heart. He's violence and war, stuck in an institution that craves peace while those around them plot conspire. But he's so...short-sighted. He wants to wrench change throughout the institution, has no finesse. A paradigm shift is gentle, creeps up on you until you wake up one day, covered in the blood of your enemies, and wonder how it came to this. Abrupt change can be fought against, and she's not interested in making it a fight.
He doesn't need to know that, though.
"You got the bastard," he says. "How do you feel?"
"Like you owe me a ship," she says, and he presses her fingers against the seam of his lips, pale blue eyes intent. He's a man used to people who flinch, who give way, who want his attention and see him as a father figure. She thinks he probably never really liked her.
She wants his favorite's ship, and she knows this all has to be terrible for him: he wants to give it to Pike, but knows she'll do more damage. He can't really afford to waste the opportunity.
"I read your report," he says, picking it up. His skin is almost orange, and she wonders if being that tan is in fashion right now, or if he thinks it makes him look less frail. He should really invest in mascara.
"Yes," she agrees. "I would think you had."
"You don't like me much, Kirk, do you?"
"Admiral, I don't really think we're the type of people who have to invest in childish things like liking each other. You know I'm best suited for that ship in the current climate, and you're trying to find a way to give it to me without hurting Pike's feelings."
"Am I?" he asks, hackles rising. She smiles tightly, trying to get her face to cooperate, to remember how. Once, she'd been able to smile in a way that made people love her, but she doesn't know how anymore.
"Yeah," she says, standing. "You are."
She walks out, to the next debrief, smiling to herself a little. She can feel it, this victory, like warmth spreading under her skin.
She's owed this, and Marcus has a hunger for weapons, for the war. The fleet has no better weapon than her, and violently psychopathic and short-sighted he might be, but stupid, he isn't.
Before they're going to give in, though, she's going to sit through the most insipid debriefs of her life. They ask her if she was sure she was the best person to be up for it, if there were things that could have gone better. Why didn't she court martial Montgomery Scott when he beamed aboard? Why did she put him in charge of Engineering? Why didn't she regroup in the Laurentian System, the way protocol dictated? Did she think she was above Starfleet regulations? Does she think she's special?
Chris is in the last one, in front of the Vice Admirals and Admiral Chief. He looks drawn, older, so much older than she is. He looks like a man defeated, a man ready for fostering a new generation of Starfleet. A man who's ready to keep his feet on the ground.
The crew are all behind them. Of the original 982 (118 people short of a full crew), only 649 of them survived. They all look shell-shocked, tired, but some of them are fierce, waiting to hear what the Admirals have to say.
Spock isn't there.
She answers question after question, bristles at the attack on Sulu leaving the external inertial dampener on (it was his first time out, and it ended up saving them), about Chekov being only seventeen (and yet hiding behind Saturn's rings was his idea). They sneer at Scotty, but they want his theory, and they scoff at Uhura until Winona's had enough. They bristle at the way McCoy elevated himself without a thought to the chain of command.
"Ma'am, this crew did outstanding work," she tells Admiral Chief Vick, "They were untried and proved themselves to a one. Is it this committee's intention to find a reason why the heroes of the Battle of Vulcan shouldn't continue serving?"
Pike actually groans, putting his face in one of his hands, and Admiral Chief Vick stares down at her.
"Captain Kirk, I realize you have personal feelings about--"
"My crew, yes. I'm intensely proud of their service," Winona says, because if this shrivelled up woman thinks she's going to drag George into it, she can think again. If she thinks she can subdue Winona with grief that's hardened after twenty-three years, she has no idea what she's up against. Winona flicks her gaze to Marcus, and he hides his smirk behind his lips. She can't tell if he's enjoying the show or he's anticipating a show. Either way.
"Ma'am, I have to agree with Captain Kirk," Pike says, once he's gotten his voice under control. "We've both led seasoned crews, and this crew of mostly-untested students rose to the challenge. We don't know that they all want to return to active service on the Enterprise, and those unclaimed spots will surely go to personnel with more experience."
Vick's red eyes flick from Pike to Winona, and everything in her softens. "That is all this body needed to hear," she says, like it's a blessing.
She comes out of the hearing and heads to the bar (it's a long-standing tradition, and it's so strange, not to have George beside her. Sometimes the loss is still so sharp, fresh enough for her to shift her position on the sidewalk to make room for him beside her).
Neat is a Fleet bar, and she's not surprised to see other captains there. In fact, Gentles, Jasper and Aslash'sra look like they've been waiting for her in their booth, the spot next to Jasper empty. She slides in and they drink in grim silence, to the ones who found death in the black. To the ones they can't save, whose deaths paint their shadows just that much darker.
"Nothing's changed," Gentles says, her accent soft and lilting, eyes fixed on an exposed beam in the ceiling.
"They just gave Kirk the flagship," Jasper snorts. "We're going to fucking war."
Winona doesn't say anything, just gestures for another round for the table. It gets out, and soon the bar is filled with them, survivors, and the Kelvin survivors shove their way close to her, want to hear the story in bloody detail, want to know what they were, those assholes in the lightning, what the fuck kind of ship it was they fought; want to know that she avenged them. She tells it over and over, long after the sun sets.
You deserve it, that ship, they tell her. They mean it. They want to see her rise. They need hope.
They got her.
She wonders how they'll split the difference.
She wonders if Marcus has any idea how bloodthirsty the fleet really is.
She finds Pike in rehab.
"Hear you're the fucking second coming," he says when she sits in a plastic chair by the door. There's bite there, bitterness and insecurity.
"I don't feel particularly martyred," she replies, and he grunts, arms shaking as he tries to support his weight.
He must hate this, that she's standing there and watching him. That she walked away whole, unscathed, and that she gets everything he thought was going to be his. She wants to tell him it's just that there was nothing left of her to break: no part of her that can be hurt anymore.
"He went back to Vulcan," Pike says when the therapist lets him finish, wiping his face on a towel. "Spock. He's decided to go rebuild. He's leaving." He doesn't say He's leaving you but he doesn't have to, there's nothing wrong with her hearing.
"He'll come back for me," she tells him, grinning, because he will. Spock is directionless rage and she's good at concentrating things like that. Refining them into pure, crystallized power. Vulcans are good at putting emotions aside: she'll show him how to use that to his advantage, and she's had him once.
"Why're you here?" he asks, tired, and she doesn't know. Pike's always been a constant in her life.
"Because you're the only one who can be grateful," she says, finally, and his face softens, wrenches, tired and grief-stricken. Because Chris Pike was a kid, once, with a crush that had made George laugh. Because Chris knew George, is the only person left who really remembers George the way he was, rather than the figurehead they've invented.
Because she can't be anything but glad, can't do anything but turn her eyes to the next fight, can't help feeling like she's finally, finally waking up after being caught in a nightmare for 23 years.
He puts a hand over his face, tired, eyes red and wet, and he exhales shakily. "I really hate you," he tells her.
"Yeah," she agrees. "Yeah, I know."
They sit there, quietly, in a too-empty building on a too-empty campus.
She finds Spock the day before the Enterprise's final roster has to be submitted in a hangar, staring thoughtfully at nothing.
"You having a psychotic break?" she asks, slowing and looking around.
He turns, tilts his head. "No," he says. "I believe congratulations are in order, Captain."
"It's weird, they tell me my first officer isn't signing on."
"I'm going to rebuild," he says. "New Vulcan will need to be established--"
"Sure. New Vulcan doesn't need people protecting it. Federation doesn't need that. Doesn't need someone who knows what it is to make the hard decisions standing between them and the enemies that think we're weak, now that Vulcan's gone.
"Or don't you care we're an easy target?"
"If you are attempting to manipulate me--"
"Give me a little credit, if you can spare any."
"That is unfair--"
"No, no, it's not."
"I intend to assist in the--" he tries again.
"Nope," she says. There's nothing in him that could create. It's been burned out if him. All he can do is destroy, but he doesn't know how to, not yet.
She'll teach him, though. They're going to be great together. He glares at her, sharp edges that would cut if there was anything left of her that knew how to give.
"Come with me," she says. "We're good, together. Come with me, Spock."
She holds out her hand, and he stares at it for a long, long time. She doesn't falter though, because he's hers, and she knows how to wait for stupid boys who don't realize that. She waited for George, but then she had the luxury of years. Now she has minutes to spare, but they stretch out languidly.
He puts his hand in hers.
She makes a stop at Riverside. Spock comes with her, like he's afraid if he loses her he'll lose himself.
She stands in front of the graves, three of them, nice and neat. George's parents keep them well-tended, little flag of the Federation flying at George's.
Ten years ago, when he was thirteen, Jim drove off of a cliff. He'd left the house by himself, took Frank's most prized possession in a fit of hateful rebellion, but they'd found two bodies in the wreckage. Vid recovered from the police bot that fell over the edge with them revealed he'd picked Sam up. Sam had been leaving, backpack packed up, thumbing for a ride.
One of the doors had flung open as the car catapulted over the cliff, but she thinks it was just coincidence. Her boys didn't try to jump, they'd followed her lead, George's lead, and flown straight into oblivion.
She'd thought--she'd thought Frank was safe. He'd been so good to them when she was around, and she'd been so protective. It had taken her five years to let him around them, another five to leave them with him. It took him a year to kill them.
She'd buried her sons next to George's empty grave, and Frank was cremated at the hospital. She didn't go to her husband's service.
She wonders if anyone did. She knows his sister moved out of town, couldn't stand the shame of it.
She tells Spock all of it, looking down at her boys. She could scream, but she's screamed out. Her throat doesn't know how to make the sound, her eyes don't know how to cry like that anymore. It'd been a full year before she'd been able to pull herself back from the edge. A full year before she wasn't trying to die.
"You killed him," Spock says.
"He had one job," she replies, "I don't tolerate failure."
"Logical," he says, and she thinks it's not, not really, but they all justify their violence in language they can stand.
Captain Winona Kirk assumes command of the USS Enterprise with Spock at her right hand. The papers call it a sign, a good omen. They're like a pair of phoenixes rising from the ashes. The Federation wants to follow them.
That's convenient, because she knows just where to take them.