Jim grew up knowing, in a vague sense, that earth was ruled by alien overlords. They covered it in school about six thousand times, how an emissary from Vulcan had shown up 100 years ago, informed the rulers of the earth that they belonged to the Vulcan Empire now, and went on their merry way. And aside from the odd alien visitor, or the routine check in from the Vulcan Imperial Fleet, life continued on as if they hadn't been conquered at all.
Taurus IV changed all that. Jim had been one of the first found by the 'Fleet shaking and hungry enough he passed out pretty much immediately after. But he saw the look on their faces; while as a child they had looked blank, now he recognized the horror in their expressions; what happened on Taurus IV was unthinkable to them.
So things changed. Within a couple years, both united earths ruling council and military had been disbanded, replaced by Vulcan representatives. There were riots in the streets, but they were quickly crushed by non-violent, methodical suppression techniques; Jim missed the whole thing, him being in a truly impressive amount of Vulcan-led therapy.
While in therapy, one of his therapists gave him tests with results that had made the Vulcan raise her eyebrow; practically a shout of surprise from a Vulcan. She had explained with numbers like these, Jim could get in the Vulcan military, even career track. So Jim did what Jim always did; he set his eye on the prize and fucking went for it.
By 16 he was in military training, unheard of for even a Vulcan (he may have fudged his age a little bit; whatever, it got him out in the black faster). By 23, he was first ever human commander, first officer for the V.I.E.S. Kaiidth.
And then his life got complicated.
The cloaked Klingon Warbirds take them by surprise, hitting them with their shield down and taking out a huge portion of the aft compartments, as well as sending debris through the captain and science officer. As the two were hustled off the bridge, some civilians came on, making Jim grimace. He really didn't need civilians right now, except...
"Who's qualified to take the science console?" he asked, looking at the people on the bridge. As first officer, he knew it was his job to take over; even if it was unheard of for a human to captain a Vulcan vessel, desperate times called for desperate measures, and the Vulcan's could just logic that out for themselves after this was all over.
"I am... Captain Kirk." said one of the civilians, stepping forward. Others looked at him, murmuring. Jim took a quick inventory of the Vulcan; standard bowl cut and blank face of a follower of Surak, diplomats' clothes; not what he'd choose for a science officer, but as the only one with guts enough to do it he'd have to do; Jim could always replace him if he proved to be lacking. Then their eyes met. Jim's breath caught; the man was surely something special. Jim, uncomfortable, looked away.
"Alright, you're up then. What's your name?" Jim asked, and everyone except the science officer stared at him for a moment like he'd lost his mind, which only made him scowl. So he was too busy riding starships to keep up with the current celebrities and minor royalty. Big deal.
"We do have an emergency on our hands, so the faster the better here." he prompted, agitated.
"Spock. My name is Spock." the Vulcan, Spock, said, and Jim nodded. The name sounded familiar, but Jim didn't have time to play who's who with himself.
"Alright Mr. Spock. To your station." Once Spock had taken his place, Jim surveyed the rest. "The same for the rest of you, to your stations. All non essential personnel clear the bridge."
Jim walks around, hesitates, and then sits firmly in the captains' chair, gripping the arms of the chair. Fuck. This was not supposed to be how this mission was going to go. It was a milk run, transporting civilians from one planet to another. Just goes to show you that anywhere in the universe you have to stay on your toes. "Alright. S'tvan, Spock, you work on beating out their jammers to send a distress signal; we know from recent communications that the T'Lara is only a few hours from here and the T'Kehr isn't much further out than that."
"Captain, the odds of us being able to remotely deactivate a device of alien origin is-" S'tvan began but Jim held up a hand to silence him.
"Make it happen, Mr. S'tvan, or find me someone who can."
"I gave you an order Mr. S'tvan. Maybe you can try piggybacking the jamming signal-" Jim began, and was surprised when Spock finished "-and use it to boost the transmission. Intriguing solution, captain." Jim nodded.
"Exactly Mr. Spock. Can you do it?"
"You will know within the hour." Spock said calmly, and the two Vulcans went to it, S'tvan clearly deferring to Spock even though he was younger, and a civilian. Weird, but not Jim's problem right now.
Jim turned back to the rest of the crew. "Sasak, Varen, we're going to need some fancy footwork on your part; we're going to focus on evasion to keep stress off shields. Sreil, stand by with phasers and torpedoes, on my command; we'll have to conserve our supply and energy to make it last but we can't give the impression that we need to."
His mind was whirring, running through ideas faster than he could focus on them; but one latched on in his mind. He hit the button for the comm.
"Engineering. I need some of you to figure out if you can rig up a makeshift bomb or two, others working on maintaining shields, even if you have to reroute auxiliary engines. Finally, I want a group of you working on either transporting things within an enemy shield or taking down that shield. We're going to try to take these guys down from the inside out. Kirk out."
Eight hours into the firefight, they're halfway though their torpedoes and Jim is being yelled at by his science officer.
"Captain, this is highly illogical. The odds of success are-"
"Mr. Spock." Jim cut him off exasperatedly, hitting buttons on the transport console around the technician who was moving too damn slowly, "Adjust your definition of success. I can get into at least one of those Warbirds and detonate a bomb, almost guaranteed, which will give the escape pods a fighting chance if all else fails; yes the odds of me finding the terminal to drop the shield so I can be picked up is a little less likely-"
"We will not have an exact lock, and the safety protocols have been disabled to allow the trip. You could be transported inside a wall or a floor within the ship; we do not have any idea how it is laid out, nor will we be able to tell until it is far too late for you. The ship could shift a fraction of a mile and you could be beamed into the void of space. then you must find engineering, which we have no idea where it would be, plant the device, then if by some cosmic interference of a religious figure you manage all that, then you may begin to worry about the shielding and getting out alive." said Spock, tugging down on the edge of the science uniform he had switched his diplomats robe out for, looking pissy.
"It'll work, Spock. Trust me." Jim said, flippantly, moving to get on the transporter pad, but was stopped when Spock grabbed his arm; his expression was somehow at once reserved and intense, but stubborn all over.
"I'm going with you." the Vulcan said bluntly, and Jim snorted, even as the transporter technician made a strangled sound behind them.
"Not a chance. I'm not letting anyone take that risk-" Jim began, but Spock cut him off.
"Besides yourself, acting captain of this vessel." Spock snipped. Jim tugged at his arm in an attempt to get out of Spock's grip; no luck, he had the typical Vulcan superman strength. Part of him felt a thrill at that, mind going to other places it could be used, before he dragged it back to the present. Jim barred his teeth in a vicious smile.
"Exactly. What is that saying that Vulcans are so fond of? The needs of the many-"
"Do not require your sacrifice. Having me as a member of your tactical strike team significantly increases your odds of success, so that no sacrifice need be made on your part."
"I'm not missing the part where you are excluding yourself from the not sacrificing bit Spock. I can do this, its okay."
"You will not." Spock ground out with such ferocity it made Jim blink, the hand holding onto Jims arm squeezing down almost painfully. He had sounded almost desperate, though at Jim's look Spock took a shaky breath, regaining some composure. "You will not, because you need not. I will accompany you on this mission, and together we will return to this ship. If you transport without me, I will simply order the technician to teleport me after you have gone."
Jim stared at this strange, intense Vulcan. "That's mutiny."
"The legality is immaterial." Spock said coolly. "I will do it regardless."
They stared at each other for a long moment; finally, knowing that they didn't have time to waste, Jim nodded. "You better not make me regret this."
"I will endeavor to perform admirably." said Spock primly, finally letting go of Jim's arm and moving to stand on a transporter pad. Jim followed him. Jim had to fight back a poorly timed smile. He liked that this guy fought with him, liked him in general from the time they had spent on the bridge; maybe when this was all over, Jim could call him up and see about getting a (non-alcoholic, in Spock's case) drink, and maybe something more could come of that. But first things first.
"Energize." Jim ordered, and after what seemed like an undo amount of time of hesitation, the technician did as ordered.
When the T'Lara arrives 15 hours after they were first set on, it's to the Kaiidth shooting down the last of the Klingon Warbirds. Jim, who is back on the bridge with his arm in a sling, is equal parts pissed and relieved to see them; pissed over their timing, and glad that they might have someone to take nonessential personnel. They'd be lucky if they could manage more than .8 warp, and it will take almost literally forever to get back at that speed.
The T'Lara hails them, and Jim answers.
"Howdy T'Lara. Sad you missed all the fun?" he asked, putting on his best shit eating grin. The Vulcans around him pointedly did not groan at his terrible manners and blatant human emotionalism, but Jim knew it was a severe test of their Vulcan discipline.
"Kaiidth. I wish to speak to your captain." the person across the transmission stated, skipping the standard greeting as well. Jim straightened his back, putting on his 'boss ass bitch' face.
"Acting Captain James T. Kirk, sir. How can I help you?"
The Vulcan on the other end of the transmission stared at him, expression typically Vulcan-blank, but Jim had learned to read between the lines enough to recognized pissed when he saw it.
"That is unimportant. What is the status of the prince?"
That made Jim blink. "The prince? I-"
"I am here." Jim turned, and there was... Spock. Spock, getting up from his station and walking over to stand just in front and to the side of the captains chair, hands clasped behind his back. Jim struggled not to gape at him. He schooled his expression, turning back to the screen as Spock continued, holding up the Ta'al. "Dif-tor heh smusma."
"Sochya eh dif, your highness. Are you well?" the Vulcan captain asked, and Jim couldn't help but take a mental inventory of Spock. Ruffled hair, soot high on one cheek, bloodied lip, ripped science officer uniform. He certainly didn't look well.
"I am more than adequate considering the circumstances." Spock replied. "The crew have not all faired the same. Captain Kirk is capable of informing you of the details."
The two Vulcans looked at Jim, who coughed, composing himself. It was times like this he wished he had the Vulcan poker face mastered. "We had nine casualties, primarily from initial contact and the destabilization of sections K2-12 and S3-8. We also have 23 injuries, not counting my own, none currently life threatening. Our systems are compromised enough that I would like to request all non-essential personnel be moved to your ship or the T'Kehr, which I know is nearby. If you could go ahead of us, drop off our passengers and get supplies to repair our warp core and then come back, that would help us a lot. Our transporters are currently damaged after an... Incident with an explosion on the other end of a teleport, but between your shuttles and ours we should be able to get everyone over in less than a day."
"That is indeed logical." the Vulcan captain said; Jim didn't miss the unspoken surprising for a human. "The prince will, of course, be on the first shuttle over."
From where Spock was standing, Jim could see his hands tighten in the hold they had on each other. Jim's gut screamed not to let Spock off the ship, not yet. Jim always listened to his gut.
"Actually, I need him a little longer. He's currently acting science officer, and I'll need to find a replacement before I can give him up."
"This is most irregular." the Vulcan captain said, lips twitching downward for a second. Vulcan for 'about to rip Jim's head off' levels of mad. Jim shrugged.
"And yet, that is how it's got to be. I'll be sure he's on the shuttles, but it might be one of the last. Our comm. personnel can discuss coordinating the shuttles. Kirk out." he said, and signaled for the connection to be cut; he's pretty sure S'Tvan obeys mostly out of pure shock.
Jim clapped his hands, standing up, stretching. he's not suffering any delusions of grandeur here; he knows that between withholding Spock, allowing Spock to go on a suicide run and, frankly, being an upstart human, his odds of making it out of here with anything less than a demotion to ensign was off the table; if he was really unlucky, which he generally was, he'd be dishonorably discharged for the various policies he'd ignored while in charge. Still, he wasn't going to let anyone see him sweat.
"Well, that was fun." he said, cheerfully, patting Spock on the back just because at this point, there was no stopping him. "I'm going to go check on sickbay, then engineering. Varen, make an announcement about the shuttles, focusing first on evacuating sickbay, then civilian quarters, then non-essential military. Spock- your highness - you have the Conn."
And with that, he leaves the bridge, possibly for the last time in his life. His last look at it was Spock staring at him, something unreadable on his face.
It takes a little under a month to get the repairs done and the ship back to Vulcan, and Jim tries to keep busy. He volunteers in engineering, does runs when the intercom is taken down by accident, and generally does his best not to think about the imminent doom of seven years of work. Ever since getting out of therapy, 16 and lying blatantly on his enlistment form, the Vulcan Imperial Fleet had been Jim's life. It had been worth the racism he was met with, it was worth the hard jobs and long hours; he had finally made his way up to first officer, and life had been good.
But all good things must come to an end, he guesses.
Needless to say, he's pretty glum when he gets planetside, too down to go get drunk with Gary or go looking for a quick lay. There was a big meeting set the week after Jim got there; there was no doubt in Jim's mind what was going to happen there.
"Quit your bitching, Jim. Even if they do kick you out, which they're not going to, you're their token human for their diversity quotas-"
"Gee thanks Bones, I feel so loved-"
"-it's not like you don't have other prospects. You've been approached by a small army of civilians trying to recruit you for after your term is up, looking for some legitimacy to their human ships."
"It's not the same, Bones. I love my job. Yeah I catch shit over it all the time, but I love it. Civilians don't get the permits the empire gets to go out in space, and I've been on so many landing parties where we get to learn about new people, new cultures. I love making a difference, protecting people."
"You ask me space is just a big void filled with everything that has ever existed that can kill you, usually in slower and more painful ways than we were aware of yet."
"Your positivity Bones, it's what makes us friends."
"Damnit Jim I'm a doctor not a motivational speaker. Now leave me alone, I have 4 more hours in the ER today and 12 more tomorrow, and if I feel like killing someone on account of you it's gonna affect my ability to keep my oaths."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Bye Bones." Jim said cheerfully, and Bones practically snarls.
"Stop calling me bo-" Jim hung up, sighing heavily as he flopped back on the bed in his tiny hotel room. He stared at the ceiling; it was the same reddish brownish tanish color of everything else on Vulcan, built to look like, or actually built from, a rock face jutting out of the side of a mountain near ShiKahr. he considered taking a shower, but he'd had enough of sonic showers from two years on the Kaiidth, wanted to take a break from them for a little while, even if that meant he sat in his own filth for a couple of days.
He closed his eyes and lay there, breathing for a moment, just letting his thoughts, his feelings wash over him. He let them slide by; it was his version of meditation, a habit picked up from years around Vulcans as a sort of stop gap from going crazy from all that repression.
His mind went to one Vulcan in particular, long fingers, dark eyes, silky dark hair, face that was expressive as hell for a Vulcan (which kind of made sense now; he knew that the prince was half human, which made Spock half human too).
Jim groaned, rubbing a hand over his face. He didn't need this. He was on the edge of oblivion regarding his career, and here he was obsessing over some totally out of reach prince. Never mind that when Jim yelled he yelled right back, if in a Vulcan way. Never mind that he refused to let Jim go on those Warbirds alone. Never mind that he was smart, and hot, and-
Maybe it was time to call Gary up after all.
The meeting does not go like Jim thought it was going to go.
Starting with the fact that instead of being a tribunal, it's the queen.
Jim bows as deeply as he dares to without tipping over. "Your majesty." only, is that the right title for the queen empress of a third of the galaxy? He didn't want to fuck that sort of thing up.
"Please, no need for formality. I understand you did us a great service, young man."
"Ma'am?" Jim asked hesitantly, and the queen smiled; it was a serene, content smile, and Jim felt relaxation fall over him as surely as if an empath had pushed calm into his very bones. He could understand now why a Vulcan king could fall in love with such a woman. Jim looked away, taking in the rest of the room; large, vaulted ceilings, windows angled to avoid letting in the sand, large meeting table with stiff backed chairs in the center of the room, not much else. Two exits. As he catalogued that, he listened to the queen speak.
"Under your command, three Klingon Warbirds were destroyed; a new method of circumventing their shields was discovered; an understanding of their cloaking technology was achieved. And," she added, "You saved my son."
"That wasn't all me ma'am, or even mostly me. I had a pretty great team, and without everyone performing their best we would have been doomed. I was mostly in charge of the running around and getting shot at bit." which I allowed your son to join in, and who saved my ass during, he added silently.
"That's a very humble, diplomatic answer. I can appreciate that. Now," she continued before Jim could correct her that it wasn't humility at all, "do you know why you are here?"
"No, ma'am. I had thought it was to be punished."
"Punished? No, quite the contrary. You're being promoted. Are you ready for your mission, Captain Kirk?"
Jim stared at her for a lot longer than was polite, before he managed to shut his mouth. He latched onto the important part. "A mission?"
The queen smiled again, gesturing for Jim to take a seat; Jim, not sure of what to do, obeyed. He wished he'd had some sort of primer in fleet academy for dealing with royalty; he learned plenty of stuff he didn't use, why couldn't they teach him something that he could?
The queen gently pushed a file towards him across the table, which Jim flipped open. And then stared at it.
"We have recently finished a civilian starship called the Enterprise, named for our collaboration with earth to make it." the queen said. "It is about to embark on a yearlong mission across the Vulcan territory to visit a number of planets for diplomatic liaisons. We would like you to captain this ship."
Jim flipped through the file, not believing his eyes, or his ears. A ship. His very own ship. yes it was only for a year, but no human had ever captained a Vulcan space vessel before for a non-emergency; and this was to be a mixed crew, humans and Vulcans taking about 40% each and then 20% of various other races. It wouldn't be military, so they'd have had to get permission to grab Jim, and the job was just ferrying the diplomats from one planet to another on their goodwill tour, watching their backs and keeping the peace in the meantime. Quiet, but it was a dream come true.
Jim closed the folder.
"May I ask something you majesty?" he asked. At her nod, he continued, looking down at the folder. "Why me?"
"I suppose that is the only question that matters, isn't it? Well, commander Kirk, you were chosen for a variety of very good reasons. You are well respected in the military; you come highly decorated-" both surprisingly so considering you are a human went unsaid "-and have shown tremendous grace under pressure. You are a bridge between humans and Vulcans, as my son is. But that also brings me to the most important part; my son insisted on it."
That made Jim's head shoot up, looking at the queen. Her eyes danced with laughter. "You're surprised. That isn't entirely unexpected, my son doesn't show his hand lightly; but he felt, after your time together, you were ideal for the job. No other captain would do; he spoke quite strongly on the subject. I confess, I was curious to see who had made my son act so uncharacteristically. I understand a little better now."
Jim wished he understood. Spock had bitched at and fought with and contradicted him every step of the way, even if he was more polite about it than Jim would have been. If Spock had been the captain, Jim's pretty sure Jim would've been marooned on some floating space rock with no chance of survival.
He looked down at the folder; the Enterprise. Was he really stupid enough to look this gift horse in the mouth? Or would it be like a Trojan horse where he'd regret not checking later? And what was Spock's place in all of this?
He took a deep breath. God, but he wanted this. So he pushed his doubts aside, and gave the queen his best charming smile. "So. Where do I sign up?"