Leonard can’t find half of Kirk’s medical records.
There’s nothing between age twelve and the Starfleet intake information, which is a bit of a problem considering he’s Kirk’s doctor on record. He’s not even sure how that happened, considering they’re supposed to be randomly assigned and that’s one hell of a coincidence, but given that it’s Kirk it doesn’t seem worth investigating.
They were “randomly assigned” as roommates, too, and his one and only request to be assigned to a single room—as he should have been, given that, along with being a cadet, he’s also a qualified doctor who actually has to put in hours at the clinic—disappeared somewhere between his PADD and the mainframe.
At which point he decided trying to fight this wasn’t worth the effort and resigned himself to dealing with Jim Kirk, the enthusiastic asshole who didn’t complain when Leonard threw up on him midway through the shuttle ride.
Which brings him back to his original problem, of not having access to the majority of Kirk’s medical records. Most of what he can see is a mildly worrying pattern of childhood injuries and the most horrifically long list of allergies he’s ever seen.
He’s allergic to anti-allergy medication. That literally should not be possible.
When he gets home from his six hours in the clinic, he resolves himself to ask Kirk what the hell happened to his records, and possibly also dragging him in to get a more in-depth check-up so Leonard can make sure he isn’t going to drop dead in the next few years.
What he finds is Kirk surrounded by parts from what looks like a replicator, if the half-built section is what Leonard thinks it is, despite the fact that cadets don’t get replicators in their rooms.
Leonard considers walking by and just going to bed, because what the fuck, but instead he stops, sighs, and says, “Please tell me you didn’t steal that.”
Without even looking at him, Jim says, “If I had stolen it, would it be in pieces?” Then he glances back to grin at Leonard. “I’m building one, Bones. It’s not that hard.”
“You’re—” He doesn’t care. He really doesn’t care. “Never mind. Just don’t blow anything up.”
Eyes back on the…thing in his hands, Kirk gasps. “Lies. Slander. I would never. At least not in our room.”
“That’s not as reassuring as you seem to think.”
Kirk laughs. “Go to bed, Bones. We have a flight simulation tomorrow, and I know how much you love those.
It’s not until the next morning, when Leonard is hypoing himself with anti-anxiety meds so he can get through the simulation without being sick on anyone, that he remembers he never asked Kirk about his medical records.
The thing is that Jim is weird about food. Weird in a way that says child abuse, because those are the only people Leonard has seen who hoard the way Jim does. Though he doesn’t do it all the time; there seem to be triggers, though Leonard has no idea what they are, that have him storing food all over the room until Leonard tells him he has to stop.
And it’s not that Leonard wants to take away his feeling of security, but a lot of replicated food goes weird when kept for long periods of time, and hoarding behaviors aren’t particularly healthy.
He gets access to the medical records, or at least some of them; Jim apologizes, saying he forgot they wouldn’t transfer when he got “back Earthside”, and two days later his medical records include information from remarkably regular and frequent check-ups from ages fourteen through seventeen.
The weirdest part—other than the fact that Jim didn’t seem to exist between twelve and fourteen—is that the attending doctor is always a Vulcan. The same Vulcan, in fact, a T’Kel.
Jim just shrugs when asked about her, saying, “She was the doctor on the ship who had the most experience with human physiology,” and changes the subject when asked what ship.
And the thing is that Leonard desperately wants to know, especially because some of the details in this show recovery from a level of malnutrition that is virtually never seen in Federation space anymore, and he wants to know how Jim went from being a healthy-enough—if possibly abused—child in Iowa to a teenager recovering from malnutrition on a ship where a Vulcan doctor is the one with the most experience with human physiology.
None of it makes any sense, and Leonard hates it.
But he doesn’t ask, because forcing Jim to talk about his abuse or whatever happened to him is not the way to go with this, and damn it, but he likes the kid too much to ruin their friendship by pushing.
Medical Ethics is taught to second year students on the Medical track, and Leonard is forced to take it despite being a qualified doctor. Arguing isn’t going to get him anywhere, so he sucks it up and resigns himself to yet another class on topics he’s perfectly aware of.
Week seven is on Tarsus IV.
The thing is that Leonard remembers Tarsus IV happening. He was in med school at the time, and he remembers sitting in the library in the middle of finals, glued to the news coverage of the Starfleet ship docking on Earth and those people, those poor people, being brought out. The healthiest of them were barely on their feet, and he had found himself categorizing symptoms, drawing diagnoses, from what he can see on the screen. Malnourishment. Trauma. Loss of limb from infections. Phaser damage.
He knows about Tarsus IV. He knows about Tarsus IV and doesn’t want to sit through an ethical lecture on genocide, and he almost doesn’t go, complaining to Jim about the idiocy of even debating it.
Jim says something in response, he thinks, but he doesn’t listen, already moving on to his next rant about how poorly written the teachings are.
They spend the beginning of the class staring at the picture, the one that played on every news broadcast of the incident, the girl about to be shot, and the thought makes Leonard sick, so he doesn’t look.
How could such of thing have happened on a Federation colony, and all of those people just stood there? Someone took a picture instead of stopping it from happening.
There are a dozen or so other pictures, people starving, people dying, bloating corpses and clouds of flies, and in the last on there’s him.
Leonard only recognizes him because there’s a photo in his medical records from when he was fourteen, with harsh lighting and a glaringly white background, and no, this is wrong, Jim can’t have been there, he can’t, he’s not on any survivor list, but Leonard knows he survived, because Leonard saw him last night.
Last night, when he complained about learning with Tarsus IV, complained about having learned all that he needed to know about Tarsus IV, and Jim hadn’t—
The walls close in on Leonard, and he bolts to his feet and out of the room.
He wants a drink, or to find Jim and remind himself that Jim really is alive, or maybe do both, and he’s shaking by the time he finds Jim coming out of a flight simulator, beaming at the cadet next to him.
The smile twists when he sees Leonard, falls, and then he turns to the other cadet and says, “I’ll see you later.”
The cadet nods and heads off, and then it’s just Jim and Leonard staring at each other.
Jim sighs. “There’s a picture, isn’t there? I don’t really look like I did when I was thirteen, but you—”
“This is why you’re missing medical records.”
Jim blinks at him, but Leonard’s not sure if it’s at the words or the tone of voice. “I mean, I didn’t give you all of my medical records, but yeah, that’s why.”
Leonard feels like he’s drowning, and he can’t figure out why Jim looks so…okay with all of this. “You’re not on the survivor list. I’ve seen the list, and you’re not—”
Something that could almost be mistaken for a smile touches the corner of Jim’s lips. “I never went through patient intake on the Starfleet ship. I stayed on the Vulcan research vessel, lived there until I was seventeen and decided I wanted out.” He scrubs a hand through his hair, messing it up. “Look, I’d appreciate it if you not share this with anyone. And not—I don’t want to talk about it. If I wanted to be on the survivor list I would be.”
“Yeah,” Leonard says finally, and touches Kirk’s shoulder because he has to touch him, has to remind himself that Jim survived, that he’s here. “Yeah, kid. Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone. I promise.”
Six months after the new Enterprise is completed, they are called to New Vulcan. Primarily, the trip is to pick up new cuttings of various Vulcan-that-was plants to be grown on the Enterprise, as the old cuttings were lost with the fall of the old Enterprise, though the opportunity will also be used to distribute the belongings of the deceased Ambassador Spock.
Spock beams down to the Vulcan Science Academy with Lieutenant Sulu and the Captain; they are greeted by his father, who offers them a ta’al. Spock returns the gesture, then, conscious that neither the Captain nor Lieutenant Sulu have met his father outside of that disastrous first interaction immediately following the destruction of Vulcan, says, “Captain, Lieutenant, my father Sarek, Vulcan Ambassador to Earth.”
To his illogical surprise, Captain Kirk gives not only a proper Vulcan greeting but also a flawless ta’al, before saying in Vulcan, “As I was unable to express this during our initial encounter, I wish to inform you that I grieve with thee for the loss of your planet and your bondmate.”
His father’s eyes flick back to Spock for a second before he says, “I was unaware that you have a familiarity with the Vulcan language.”
The Captain shrugs. “While my Captaincy has left me little time for my academic pursuits, six of my thirteen published works were written originally in Vulcan and have been accepted by the Vulcan Science Academy as adequate works of Vulcan-language research.”
“I have not seen your name when reading Vulcan-language publications.”
The Captain’s cheeks turn pink. “I publish my research under a pseudonym. Kevin T’Nar.”
Spock nearly loses his composure, and is unspeakably glad that all attention is on the Captain at the moment. There are few non-Vulcan researchers who publish in Vulcan, and so those who do are known by any who follow Vulcan research. Kevin T’Nar is the most famous of those, and the subject of much debate regarding their true identity. And to think that Kevin T’Nar is in fact the Captain is baffling.
“I see,” Spock’s father says. “Did you name yourself for the Vulcan scientific research vessel?”
“It seemed fitting,” the Captain says, and Sarek looks no more understanding of the comment than Spock himself is.
They are both distracted, however, by the entrance of a researcher from the Academy; Sarek says, “Captain Kirk, this is Instructor T’Lok of the Vulcan Science Academy.”
The Captain’s expression lights up, and he smiles, exclaiming, “T’Lok.”
“Instructor T’Lok is a well-respected researcher and member of the Academy teaching staff,” Spock tells him, feeling discomfort at the instructor having to handle such human emotionalism. Perhaps an understanding of the instructor’s role will induce the Captain to behave with more poise.
But Instructor T’Lok instead says, “James was my first student.” She looks at the Captain, who is smiling so widely Spock cannot imagine his cheeks do not hurt. “Since leaving our tutelage, you have done nothing to cause disappointment to any of those who served on the T’Nar when you resided with us.”
“I was a mess of emotionalism that kept irrationally screaming at you when you didn’t deserve it.”
“You are human, James, and we would not seek to change that. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.”
The Captain flushes again, asking, “So not even cheating on the Kobayashi Maru?”
“You changed the parameters of the test to lead to the result you were ordered to produce. I see no flaw in that logic. Though I was unaware of your interest in linguistics.”
“Setal made me.”
T’Lok examines him for a moment before turning to Sarek and saying, “If you have no need for James during his stay in Vulcan, I wish for him to accompany me.”
Sarek inclines his head. “That is acceptable.”
When the Captain and T’Lok have left, Sulu turns to Spock and says, “I have no idea what just happened.”
“I too am uncertain of precisely what has occurred.”
“Yeah, well, at least you speak the language,” Sulu grouses.
Upon researching the Vulcan science vessel T’Nar, Spock finds that it was the ship that first responded to the Tarsus IV genocide. At which point he concludes his research and engages in meditation, though he finds himself unable to find adequate control for far longer than average.
“Kurius I reported the first signs of fungal growth a week and a half ago, and today it was found on another two types of crops just outside the main city of Suran. The Enterprise is the closest Federation ship, so you are to go to the planet to provide assistance until either a solution has been found or a supply ship can reach it.”
Captain Kirk drums his fingers on the arm of his chair, then asks, “Have they provided any details about the fungus?”
Admiral Ilan nods. “I’ll have it transmitted to your ship’s mainframe along with the rest of the mission parameters.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Best of luck, Captain.”
As soon as the Admiral cuts the transmission, Captain Kirk turns to Uhura, saying, “Let me know as soon as we have the mission details.”
She nods. “Yes, sir.”
Hikaru twists in his chair to look at the Captain, saying, “Sir, permission to be relieved to review the information once it has arrived?”
Kirk shakes his head. “No need, Sulu.”
Hikaru blinks at him. “Sir?”
“I’ll be handling the science on this one.”
The Captain does like taking over, but this is a bit bizarre. “I’m the head botanist on the Enterprise, sir.”
Kirk goes back to drumming his fingers on the chair arm, eyes blank like his mind is somewhere else. “I can guarantee you that I’m more qualified to deal with this particular problem. Commander Spock, you have the conn.”
Hikaru finds the Captain in the botany lab when he heads there after Alpha shift; the Captain has two PADDs in front of him, one of which he’s making notes on. He doesn’t look up when Hikaru walks in, but he also doesn’t startle when Hikaru asks, “Can I talk to you, sir?”
Kirk nods, making one final note before looking up at him. “Sure. What’s up?”
Hikaru hesitates, because before today the Captain has never shown that he lacked confidence in Hikaru’s abilities and so maybe Hikaru is just overacting. But he needs to know if Kirk is doubting him, so he says, “I was wondering why you didn’t want me working on Kurius’s fungus problem. It’s my job, sir, and I need to know if you don’t trust me to do it.”
Kirk looks startled at that. “No, it’s not that—” He makes a face, then gestures towards the chair across from him. “Sit, please.” When Hikaru has sat, Kirk says, “When I said that I’m more qualified to this particular problem, it wasn’t a degradation of your abilities. I trust you completely. In this case, though I actually am more qualified. I literally wrote the book on fungal growth patterns on crops. It makes more sense for me to work on it than for you to catch up on fungus when you’re primarily a botanist. And I would like you to check my work.”
“Of course, sir.” After a second, he asks, “Why are you an expert in fungal growth patterns?”
Kirk looks down at his PADD, tapping his fingers on the table in front of him. He’s gazing at the middle ground again, and for the first time Hikaru gets the feeling that this is more than just Kirk having a weird academic hobby. Finally, Kirk says, “One of the problems with Tarsus IV was that they didn’t have any idea how to deal with the fungus once it showed up. A fully-equipped Federation research facility, or some research vessels, they probably could have figured it out, but this wasn’t a research colony.”
“You—did you lose someone on Tarsus IV?”
Kirk laughs sharply, fingers curling around the edge of the table. He’s gripping so tight his knuckles are nearly white. “I lost a lot of people on Tarsus IV.” He pushes away from the table, standing; Hikaru gets to his feet as well. “If you’ll excuse me.”
He walks out of the room.
Hikaru sits back down in his chair, his knees knocking against the side of the table. He doesn’t feel the impact.
After the Kurius I matter has been dealt with—due in large part to the Captain’s clear expertise—Hikaru pulls up the preeminent book on fungal growth patterns on his PADD. It was written by a man named Kevin T’Nar and published when the Captain was sixteen.
That seems…wrong, but Hikaru has also learned that the Captain doesn’t lie about his own achievements; if anything, he downplays them. So if the Captain said he wrote the book, either this really is him, or Hikaru has the wrong book.
So he looks up everything else written by Kevin T’Nar, and it’s a bizarre mix of things: geology, what look like system designs in Vulcan, physics, and most recently a paper on Vulcan linguistics. Half the papers were originally written in Vulcan, even though Kevin is in no way a Vulcan name, and after a moment he remembers being on New Vulcan and watching Kirk speak to Spock’s father and the Vulcan instructor like he’d been speaking Vulcan his entire life.
And Hikaru could just let it go there, acknowledge that Kevin T’Nar is almost definitely Captain Kirk and stop looking, but what Kirk had said about losing people on Tarsus IV—it’s hard to just not think about that.
Looking through the survivor list doesn’t get him much, because Kirk isn’t listed there—and neither is Kevin T’Nar—but from what he knows about Tarsus IV, it was such a disaster that names could have been lost during the process. So he starts going through intake photos and every other photo he can find of Tarsus IV, feeling vaguely ill not only at the images of the devastation but also at how much he’s violating the Captain’s privacy.
But he wants to know, and he’s never been good at resisting the urge to figure shit out.
He finds the picture more or less by accident.
There’s an archive of Tarsus IV pictures, apparently set up for people who want to torture themselves with looking at pictures of genocide—like Hikaru, evidently—and he’s in his third hour of flipping through it when he sees the back of someone’s head, and a birthmark he spent half an hour teasing the Captain about while trying to distract him in the hospital after the Khan incident, and thinks, oh. Fungal growth patterns. Oh.
And then, feeling like he’s suddenly a hundred years old, he closes the archive and pulls up the saved comm he has from Ben and Demora, the one he plays for himself when things go to shit and he needs to remind himself why he does this job.
Winona Gerald is an engineering genius, and Pavel feels honored to have the opportunity to work with her, even it is only for the short period of time that both the Gagarin and the Enterprise are docked in San Francisco at the same time.
Commander Gerald has performed some interesting modifications to the Gagarin’s navigational system, and so with permission Pavel spends shore leave on the ship, working on the system with her. While Scotty is technically a more proficient engineer than Pavel, his specialty is the warp core, while Pavel’s is navigation.
The Commander is brilliant and enthusiastic, and she reminders Pavel a little of the Captain, if the Captain had been an engineer. He likes her, because she doesn’t treat him like a child. Not that those on the Enterprise treat him like a child, not anymore, but sometimes they still look at him and see him as he was at seventeen.
He can’t blame them, he doesn’t think, because he was young, but he has proven his worth, and it is frustrating sometimes.
But Commander Gerald never saw him at seventeen, and so in her eyes he is an adult, and he enjoys the feeling.
Two days into their work, she asks, “You serve under Captain Kirk, right?”
Pavel nods, frowning at the wiring he’s working on. Something seems wrong with it. “Yes, ma’am. Since I left the Academy.”
“And what do you think of him?”
Now Pavel looks at her, because he has been asked that before, and usually it means that the person asking is looking for a way to hurt the Captain, because they think he only got the job because he is a hero’s son, or because of the Narada, as though the events involving the Narada would not be enough to give him the position.
“He is a more than competent Captain, ma’am,” he tells her, and makes sure to lessen his accent as much as possible because it makes people think he is more reliable. “I would not want to serve under any other.”
“That’s not—” She sighs. “That wasn’t an attack. I’m not going after him.”
Pavel nods again, shifting a wire and marking the change on the schematic. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Are you planning on ma’am-ing me to death the rest of the time we work together?”
Not if you leave the Captain alone, Pavel thinks, but only says, “No, ma’am.”
Commander Gerald finally kicks him off the ship three days later, telling him to “Find someone to fuck, or at the very least see someone who isn’t me.” He would have protested, except she is leaving the ship as well, and he would not be able to work on the navigation system without her around.
She has not brought up Captain Kirk since that first time, and so they walk together to the transporter room to beam down. He still thinks he likes her, now that he is not concerned with defending the Captain to her. Her way of treating him hasn’t changed, other than her insistence that he call her Winona—“or at least Commander, please, ma’am feels old”—and she doesn’t seem angry at his refusal to speak ill of the Captain.
They beam down together, and to his surprise the Captain is waiting there, reading something on his PADD. Pavel smiles, happy to see him. “Keptin!”
The Captain looks up, grinning him. “Chekov. I was about to enact a rescue. Sulu has gotten some of what he claims is good vodka, and Bones ordered me to get you so you don’t spend your whole time up in that—” He breaks off, and something shifts in his eyes, like when he thinks a mission is dangerous but doesn’t want the natives to know he thinks that. “Commander.”
The Commander does wish him some ill-will, Pavel thinks, and moves so he’s in between them, saying, “Captain, this is Commander Gerald.”
“I know,” the Captain says, and laughs. It sounds wrong. “Chekov, you don’t need to protect me from her.”
“Jim,” the Commander says from behind him, and Pavel thinks maybe he has missed something. It happens sometimes, even though he has been fluent in Standard for many years, but this he thinks may be something that occurred long before now. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Why would you? We’re only docked in the same city at the same time, and you’re working with my chief navigator. Though I suppose you never thought there was a reason to see me.” He steps forward, touching Pavel’s shoulder and moving him out of the way so he’s no longer between the two of them. Pavel turns to face both of them, because he won’t leave the Captain without support unless the Captain requests it.
The Commander looks as though she’s in pain. “It’s been so long.”
“Nineteen years, if we’re being specific about it.” The Captain’s lips tighten. “Gerald, still, then? I guess it’s easy to stay married to an abusive asshole if you’re never home to see him.”
“Ask him what we did for my thirteenth birthday,” the Captain says, then grabs Pavel’s wrist and starts walking away. Pavel goes with him, because he’d follow the Captain anywhere.
When they’re a block away, the Captain breathing harder than their brisk but not fast clip should lead to, the Captain stops, leaning back against the wall of the nearest building with his eyes closed. He groans. “Fuck. Fuck. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“Winona Gerald is my mother. That’s what—that’s what that was about.” He scrubs his hand across his face. “She’s not a bad person. She just—she never planned to suddenly become a single mother of two kids, and she had her Starfleet career, and she couldn’t look at either of us without thinking of my dad. So she just…left. Got married and left us with her asshole of a husband so she could go work on ships in the black.”
“You don’t need to tell me this,” Pavel says carefully.
The Captain laughs. “You just had to watch that clusterfuck; I figure I owe you an explanation. So…yeah, so she walked away, and didn’t come back when my brother left, didn’t check in for years at a time, didn’t bother to find out that the dickhead sent me—” He chokes. “You like your family, right?”
Pavel nods. “Yes, sir.” His mother is dead, but his father and his aunt and uncle and his three sisters and seven cousins, he loves all of them, and it was hard to leave and go to Starfleet Academy away from them, but he knows they’re proud of him, and he talks to them when he can, and sees them when he has enough time planetside.
“Good.” The Captain pats Pavel on the shoulder, visibly pulling all of that unhappiness back inside himself. “Let’s go get wasted. I want to forget that today happened.” He slings an arm around Pavel’s shoulders. “And this conversation and that one, can they stay between us?”
“Of course, Keptin.” Pavel would never betray the Captain’s trust by gossiping about him or sharing information that the Captain doesn’t want others to know.
The Captain ruffles his hair. “You’re a good kid, Chekov.”
Pavel smiles. When the Captain says it like that, he thinks maybe being called a kid doesn’t feel so bad.
Pavel is hesitant to return to the Gagarin the next day, but the Captain reminds him that he has been looking forward to this for a month, and that the Commander’s parenting skills are unrelated to her engineering skills. Pavel still considers not going, until the Captain threatens to make it an order.
When he reaches the navigation room, though, he stops, because he hears voices coming from inside. The Commander and the Captain, and though their voices aren’t loud, they’re sharp enough to carry.
“Why did you tell me?”
The Captain tries to laugh, though it is not a believably happy sound. “When should I have done that? In the year and a half afterward that you didn’t contact me, or when you did and confirmed that you hadn’t even bothered to see how I was doing for two years?”
“You’ve had nineteen years.”
“And so have you.” The Captain sighs. “Look, I came because you asked me to, not to rehash the last twenty years of my life. Tarsus sucked, but it gave me the best parents I ever had. And no, you don’t get to make that face at me—you haven’t been a parent to me since I was twelve.”
“Yeah, well.” After a second, the door slides open, and the Captain walks out, so engrossed in his own thoughts that he almost runs into Pavel before Pavel can get out of the way. He blinks at Pavel, hands steadying his shoulders before he seems to realize who’s in front of him. “Sorry, I—” He blinks again. “You might want to wait a few minutes before going in there.”
The Captain lets go of Pavel’s shoulders, hands flexing a little. Pavel doesn’t take it personally. He knows it’s not about him. “And just—don’t tell anyone about what you heard, please.”
“Of course, Keptin.”
The Captain nods, then heads off past Pavel, who stands in the hallway and waits for ten minutes and contemplates whether his uncle would be willing to leave Russia and pay a visit to the Captain’s stepfather. He would, Pavel decides. He misses killing people. He told Pavel that once, before ruffling Pavel’s hair and saying, “Pasha, remember, if people forget you’re a threat, you can do more when you need to.”
Kirk 619s as soon as the comm ends.
He’s out of his chair and nearly off the bridge by the time Uhura can breathe through how fucking selfish he’s being, and she passes off her station to storm after him, because even though she’s not with Spock anymore she’s still his friend, and this is unacceptable.
She catches him just outside the bridge, and she’s nearly in front of him before he seems to notice her, blinking with those wide blue eyes that he can bat at everyone until they give him what he wants. And to think he had changed. “What do you think you’re doing?” she demands.
Kirk frowns at her, then says, “I’m emotionally compromised by this mission. I can’t do it.”
“Why, because you think we shouldn’t bring Kodos to justice, or because you thought it was a good idea to pass the responsibility of detaining a genocidal maniac to the only person on this ship who has lived through the genocide of his own people?”
Kirk just stares at her for a moment, then says, “If Commander Spock is not emotionally fit for this mission, he’s welcome to 619 himself, too.” And then he turns and starts to walk away again.
Temper sparking again, she grabs his shoulder—only to have him twist and sweep her down to the ground before she can react, leaving her blinking up at him as he stares down at her. His eyes, she thinks, suddenly off-balance, they’re not what she thought they were.
And then he lets go and walks away, leaving her laying there on the floor, not really sure what just happened.
Uhura doesn’t see the Captain for the retrieval of Kodos, though that’s not really a surprise; having 619ed himself, he’s off the bridge, and she stays there for the entire time. It’s exhausting, and by the end of it she wants to scrub her eyes with steel wool for just looking at Kodos and not killing him.
Despite her fears, Spock doesn’t seem to be bothered by the situation, looking as cool as ever from his position in the Captain’s chair. Though, even though she can probably read him better than anyone else on the ship, she still may not know if he’s struggling.
Given Spock’s lack of distress, she feels like she might have been too hard on Kirk, but it still seems irresponsible of him to drop out of a mission of such importance.
It’s nearly the end of Beta shift when she gets a comm requesting her presence at Medical, where Kodos is currently being held to treat the injuries he picked up being detained on Planet Q. She considers saying no, because just looking at the man makes her feel slimy and a little bit ill, but it’s an order rather than a suggestion, so she hands over her responsibilities and heads to Medical.
She finds McCoy and Kirk arguing in sharp whispers when she gets close, though McCoy breaks off before she’s close enough to hear what they’re saying. He turns to level a glare at her, looking angrier at her than he’s ever been, then says, “I want to officially register my protest to this.”
“Noted,” Kirk says, then looks at her. He’s smiling, but it looks wrong. “Kodos wants to see me,” he tells her, “and you’re going to join me.”
Uhura blinks at him, sure she missed something. “Captain—”
“Not right now, remember?” He opens the door to Medical. “Lieutenant.”
“This is damned foolish,” McCoy hisses at both of them.
“Noted,” Kirk repeats, “again.” He walks into Medical, and McCoy glares at Uhura until she follows behind him. She has the feeling that she missed something, something important, but she doesn’t know what it is.
Kodos is laying on a biobed, restrained at the wrists and ankles, and his eyes light up when he sees Kirk. “James, my boy.”
Kirk stops a few feet from the biobed, hands behind his back; his knuckles are white where his hands are gripping each other. “Kodos.”
“I always knew you would succeed,” he says, and something in Uhura twists. Nausea rises in her throat. Kirk is a Tarsus IV survivor, and she—she— “You, see, you are proof that I was right, that my calculations were correct, don’t you see?”
“I did succeed,” James says, and it’s the voice that he uses for politicians and Admirals he knows have it out for him, friendly but only to a point, at which point he’ll slit their throat before they can slit his. “Do you know who else succeeded? Thomas Leighton.”
Kodos blinks at him, that nauseatingly friendly smile slipping a little. “Who?”
Kirk leans towards him, just a little. “Thomas Leighton. He is an empirical research scientist who works on ending famines. And he was on your list.” He straightens. “Kevin Riley is Starfleet. Diana Eames is a universe-renowned artist. You were wrong, Governor.”
With that, Kirk pivots and stalks out of Medical, ignoring Kodos’s calls for him to come back. Uhura follows him, her heart pounding so hard she can feel it in her head, pulsing across her vision with every beat. She wants to throw up.
Once they’re out in the hallway, she turns to him and says, “I’m so sorry.”
Gently, he says, “I don’t care.”
“Captain, I accused you—”
“I don’t care.” Kirk stares at her, and there’s something so painfully gentle on his face. “What I do care about is the fact that, after all of these years, you still don’t trust me enough to do what’s right for the crew and this ship.”
Her heart squeezes in her chest, and all she can think to say is, “You’re not on the survivor’s list.”
“I know. Do you know why I 619ed myself?”
“I knew, if I was in control of that mission, I would have killed the son of a bitch instead of taking him in. I wouldn’t have followed the orders as they were presented to me, and a man would have died without facing justice.” Kirk moves his hands from behind him to stick them in his pockets. “What you need to decide, Lieutenant, is if you trust me to make those decisions. Because if you don’t, I don’t know if you should be on this ship.”
Uhura opens her mouth to protest, but he just turns and walks away, down the hallway. She doesn’t follow.
Uhura finds Spock at the end of the shift, touching a hand to his clothed arm and asking, “Can I talk to you for a few minutes?”
She sees him mentally go through his schedule—it’s a look she saw a lot when they were still together—and then he nods. “I have 7.2 minutes until I am required elsewhere. The nearest conference room should be available for the duration of that time.”
It is, which isn’t a surprise; Spock consistently knows the schedule of everyone on the ship, or at least does a very good facsimile of it.
Once the door is closed behind them, Uhura says, “I screwed up.”
Spock’s eyebrow arches. “I have found that it is infrequently that you, as you put it, ‘screw up’.”
“I—” Uhura slumps down in one of the uncomfortable conference room chairs, looking down at her hands. “Did you know that Kirk is a Tarsus IV survivor?”
“I became aware of that fact during our stop on New Vulcan.”
“I just found out.” And is trying really hard not to think about little Kirk—he must have only been twelve, thirteen at the time—on that hellhole of a planet. “But before I knew, when he 619ed himself, I told him he was being selfish. I even implied that he wasn’t doing it because he agreed with Kodos.”
“You believed the Captain to have favorable opinions towards eugenics and genocide?”
“No. No, I just—I was mad that he was making you do it, when you had lived through the genocide of your people. And now he thinks I don’t trust him, and that I shouldn’t be on the Enterprise.”
Spock is silent for a moment, and then he says, “He appears to be correct in regards to the first assertion.”
She looks up at him, but he has no expression his face. Because of course he doesn’t. “I do trust him.”
“Yet you believed he would act selfishly and in a manner that would be injurious to me despite him having shown no inclination to such actions.”
“I—” Uhura starts to make another excuse, but the thing is that Spock’s right. “I screwed up. And now I need to know how to fix it.”
“If the concern is that you do not trust Captain, the solution would be to prove to him that you do have trust in him.”
Great, Uhura thinks as Spock slips out of the room, how is she supposed to do that?
The problem with Kirk, Uhura decides, other than the fact that he’s an asshole who pretends to be open while hiding everything important, is that he doesn’t like gestures. Symbols, symbolic gestures, intentionality; none of that does anything for him. Actions have to be spur of the moment for him to trust him, and so there’s no way for her to plan for that.
Which is a problem, because Uhura is not one for spontaneity. She likes being in control. It’s part of the reason she studied xenolinguistics; she always wants to know what everyone is saying and how best to respond to them before ever getting into a situation.
It’s part of what makes her having read him wrong so frustrating. She should have known better.
But what it leaves her with is no way to show the Captain that she trusts him. And she really does. She has for years.
Finally, a week after they drop Kodos off at the Federation Tribunal for his trial, she sets her tray down in front of Kirk’s and sits down across from him. He looks up at her, asking, “What can I do for you, Lieutenant?”
“I wanted to let you know that I do trust you to do what’s best for this ship and its crew.”
He examines her for a few seconds, and then he nods. “Okay.” And then he goes back to eating what looks like plomeek soup.
Uhura blinks at him. “Okay?”
“I believe you.”
“You’re not mad?”
Kirk sighs, setting his spoon down on his tray and looking back up at her. “I was never mad at you, Uhura. I save my anger for people who deserve it, and when I struggle with that, I remember my 300 Vulcan parents who would give me vaguely disapproving looks and then inform me my energy would be better served on my studies than on frivolous shows of emotionalism.” He smiles. “Did Spock ever give you that lecture? I think it’s taught to every Vulcan student when they reach a certain age, the ‘frivolous show of emotionalism’ speech.”
Uhura finds herself smiling, too. “The first time I started crying during a movie, I think he thought I was dying.”
Kirk laughs. “That’s my favorite, that look of panic when you’re doing something that isn’t in their handbook of human expressions. One of them tried patting my feet—while I was wearing my shoes—because they thought it would help.”
“I think Spock learned how to braid my hair just so he could avoid looking at me when I was showing an emotion he didn’t understand.”
Kirk bursts into full-blown hysterics, which end with him wiping tears from his eyes as she laughs along with him. “I’m so going to use that against him,” he gasps out finally.
Uhura grins at him. “I trust you to find the right time.”
“Of course,” Kirk says, bowing his head like a performer at the end of a play, and she thinks, okay. We’re okay.