Nyota was headed to her quarters, having just finished her shift on the bridge. Most of the crew was on shore leave, and she was excited for it to be her turn soon. She walked passed one of the observation decks, pausing and taking a few steps back, having thought she’d seen something. She looked through the doorway and saw the captain sitting against a wall with a half-empty bottle of vodka, looking devastated. She walked in, sitting down next to him.
“I miss her,” he said out of the blue, tipping the bottle of vodka back.
“My big sister,” he said, clumsily wiping away some on his tears.
“What was she like?” Nyota asked, curious. Jim didn’t have a biological or legally adopted sister, so she wanted to know what he was talking about.
“Her name was Raven. She was amazing. Loved her so much. She saved my life,” he said, pausing to take another drink before continuing, “You remind me of her sometimes, you know.”
“I do?” she asked, surprised.
“Yeah, you really do. Both amazing. Both saved my life. She jumped in front of a phaser blast. It was aimed at me. Anniversary of her death’s today. It’s been years, but I still miss her so mu- so fuckin’ much,” he said, his voice breaking. He wiped his eyes on his sleeve before going to take another drink.
“Okay, I think you’ve had enough, Jim,” she said kindly, gently taking the bottle out of his hands and setting it far out of reach.
“‘m sorry,” he slurred, sniffling. “Just really miss her. She was fourteen, Nyota. She shouldn’t’ve died that soon. It’s not fair, why’d she have to be the one to die?”
“You said she was your big sister? And she died at fourteen, saving you?” Nyota asked, certain she must’ve misheard him.
“Yeah. Long time ago. It’s the thirteenth- the thirteenth anniversary. Thirteen years, it’s too long.”
“God, Jim,” she said. She wrapped her arm around his back and he leaned against her side, dropping his head onto her shoulder.
“You- You’d’ve liked her. Probably would have taken over the galaxy. So much like her,” he said, and a few seconds later he sniffled before beginning to full-out sob.
Nyota uncrossed her legs, stretching them out in front of her and carefully guiding Jim so that he was lying down on his side with his head in her lap. “It’s okay to miss her,” she murmured, running her fingers through his hair, her other hand squeezing his shoulder.
They sat like that until Jim managed to stop sobbing, Nyota murmuring to him the whole time. He wiped his eyes and sniffled, his tears slowing down.
“I never- I never actually got to mourn her.” he said quietly. “Didn’t have time. Thank you. Feels good to get it out.”
“Do you want to talk about it?” she asked hesitantly, not wanting to cross any lines. “You don’t have to, but it might help.”
“I- I really do, I just- It’s hard.”
“Take your time.”
“I was- I-” He took a deep breath. “I was on Tarsus IV. I was there during the massacre. Ray- She and I got 14 other kids out of the square before they got killed. She- She kept us alive for two months. She jumped in front of me when a guard tried to shoot me. She gave me a chance to get the others to safety”
“God, Jim. I’m so sorry.”
“Can I, can I tell you more? It- you were right, it does help,” he said hesitantly.
“Of course,” she replied, continuing to run her fingers through his hair.
“I had to lead them. After, I mean. I was the oldest after her. I had to keep them safe, never actually had time to grieve. I barely had time to comfort the younger kids who, for all practical purposes, had just lost a mother for a second or third time. She was the third one to die, four more died after her. Only nine of us lived. The Tarsus Nine. They talked about us at the academy, you remember that? Bullshit, I tell you. Complete and utter fucking bullshit. Told the teacher as much, too. She didn’t like that, fuckin’ asshole.” His words were beginning to slur together, but Nyota let him continue to talk, wanting to let him get this off his chest. “Raven- Raven was fourteen, but she wasn’t even the youngest, not that it matters. What matters is that they died. Yuliya- she died first. She was three. Three, Nyota. Three. Skon was six. Ray, fourteen. Nikolaj, two months before his tenth birthday. Stella, twelve. Rovalat, 13. Michael, twelve. It’s not fair. They were too young. I miss all of them, but Ray- she was my big sister. She took care of us. When she died, I had to take over. Tommy- Tommy helped, he was only a year younger, but I- I had to keep us safe,” he said, somehow managing to not break down again, still slurring his words slightly.
“Jim, you did good. There’s eight people alive right now that wouldn’t have been if you hadn’t been there.”
“Hey, Jim? Can I call someone to help me get you back to your quarters?” she asked softly.
“Bones,” he muttered. “Call Bones.”
She did just that, calling the doctor and convincing him to come to the observation deck without explaining what exactly had happened.
“Doctor McCoy,” she acknowledged when he walked in.
He nodded at her, crouching down in front of them and placing a hand on Jim’s cheek. “Hey, darlin’. We’re gonna get you to bed now, ‘kay?” He stood up, not waiting for Jim’s response.
He lifted the younger man off of Nyota, who quickly stood up and moved so that his arm was around her shoulders, Bones quickly doing the same.
“He’s really out of it. You know what he drank?”
“Almost a whole bottle of Chekov’s homemade vodka.”
“Damn, he’s gonna regret that in the morning,” he said.
“Don’t be too mad at him, Doctor. He’s having a really rough time.”
“Shit,” he said. “What day is it?”
“The fourteenth of December.”
“Fuck. I told him to come see me today, but I was in emergency surgery for hours. He must have come by then. God, I fucked up,” Bones said angrily.
“I’m guessing you know, then?”
“He told you?” he asked, shocked.
“Yeah,” she said. “I think he really needed to get it off his chest. Said I remind him of her.”
Bones didn’t respond, stopping at the door to Jim’s quarters and inputting his override code. The two guided him to his bed, Bones pulling back the covers before having him sit. Nyota kept him upright, letting his head loll onto her shoulder. Bones quickly untied his boots and pulled them off, putting them down next to his bed. They managed to get Jim under the covers and he grabbed Bones’ wrist, startling Nyota, who had thought that he was asleep.
Nyota quietly left the room, not wanting to further intrude. She was amazed that he’d confided in her, that he’d trusted her, that she reminded him of his sister, someone who had died saving his life, that he’d told her he was on Tarsus IV. She was glad that he trusted her enough to let her help him, and suddenly so many things made so much more sense, the Kobayashi Maru, for instance. She’d thought he was talking about his father, when he’d said “I don’t believe in no-no win scenarios,” but Tarsus IV made much more sense. He’d face a no-win scenario, and he’d won anyway.
She smiled softly to herself, glad that he had someone helping him. Well, now he has two someones, she resolved, knowing that she’d always have his back, no matter what. He believed she was like his sister, and she was going to live up to that legacy.