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Climbing Trees

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Lieutenant James T. Kirk was hiding.

Well, to be more accurate, he had displaced himself and was in Engineering so that he could put off his final health exam with Dr. Serrik as long as he could.

So there he was waist deep in the guts of the USS Farragut helping Chief Engineer Dally get the computers ready for removal and DATA extraction before the ship was dry docked for a year long refit.

They had been in space dock for only 3 hours and Jim had finished his duties in tactical and practically pranced down into the engine room and pulled on a red jumpsuit the second he could.

"You do know Dr. Serrik's gonna hate you forever if you don't get to sickbay soon." Engineer Dally walked up to Jim as he carefully detached the console from the ship.

"Well ma'am," Jim cast his gaze up and gave her a smile, "I figure I'm not exactly important enough for her to chase down, so It's really no skin off my back."

"Lieutenant," Dally laughed but it sounded reluctant, Do you have a death wish?"

"No ma'am." Jim's continued to smile and work on detaching the computers. Really it wasn't a big deal. Lieutenant Commander Dally only knew Jim because he was an occasional cross over during emergencies.

The Captain knew him because Pike was a loudmouthed piece of work, but that was it. CMO Serrik couldn't give a damn about a Lieutenant who wasn't part of senior staff, she had bigger fish to fry. Like First Officer Reychi who was currently hiding in the botany lab and would probably lock himself in if Serrik found out where he was.

Reychi wasn't even a botanist for crying out loud.

Dally left Jim alone with a sigh and and eye roll, and he was left undisturbed for at least another hour.

When the hour was up he was starting the next console. The sound of the turbo lift doors wasn't odd since officers were coming and going as quick as they could. Most of them were itching to get planet side.

But this time the sound of the doors was accompanied by shouting, "Where the hell is he?!"

The voice was gruff and Jim knew it so well he kind of had to shudder at the sound of it. Almost instinctively had began sliding himself behind the console he'd already detached as the familiar sight of Dr. Leonard McCoy entered the Engineering Sector.

"We've finished everyone from command except him and I can't go home until the little bastards gotten a thorough check up!" McCoy's voice carried fire and brimstone and Jim wanted to slap himself over the head.

"Now, now Doctor," Dally's voice was long suffering and kind and something told Jim that she'd never dealt with McCoy. Of course she hadn't, Lt. Cmdr. Dally was senior staff and her Doctor was the CMO.

Dr. Serrik was known for her soft voice and gentle eyes. Though he was the same age as Serrik, McCoy was one of her understudies which was due to the fact that he was based in his home state of Georgia for most of his career. Now that he was Enlisted though, he needed more experience with the Xeno-Medical field.

Jim peaked out from behind the console to see Dally with her hands up in front of Dr. McCoy, cutting off his access to the deeper sections of her domain, "We got plenty of work down here and only half the hands, if he wants to help I'm not gonna be turning him over to you until he's ready."

"Jim! I can see your smug little face hiding behind that computer don't think I don't!" McCoy shouted at him from around Dally,

"If you don't come to medical when you're done down here I'm having Serrik write you up for insubordination!"

Jim groaned and stood up, letting himself be seen, "You can't be serious! There's no way she'd let you."

Dally looked between the two and suddenly she seemed tired and Jim felt bad for getting her get caught up in McCoy's wild goose chase. Shaking her head the engineer seemed content to leave them to it after casting Jim a rather exhausted look that demanded Jim go with the Doctor.

It's not like he knew that Serrik was going to send that particular Doctor after him. Then again with his history he should have.

"When I tell the amount of times we've had to chase you down through this ship to get a check up she will!" McCoy was practically growling,

"We've been in space for only a year and half the Nurses hate you because you think a summons to sickbay is an invitation for a game of tag!"

"I'm not that bad Bones," Jim huffed out a laugh and stepped out from behind the console in order to make his way to the Doctor, "And besides, don't you think the exercise does me good?"

McCoy rolled his eyes and Jim had seen him do it so many times over the past six months he couldn't help but say,

"Keep doing that and they'll roll all the way back."

"Yeah and if they do maybe I can retire and not have to deal with punks like you!" McCoy grabbed Jim by the shoulder and he let the older man drag him to the turbo lift,

"Honestly, one would think you were a toddler with the way you run screaming from a little check up!"

The lift doors closed and McCoy let Jim's shoulder go. Jim had to protest though, even if it was only half teasing, "It's not a little check up Bones, it a full physical."

 

"Yeah and when it's over you can get out of this godforsaken tin can," McCoy sounded as if he was trying to be reasonable and Jim thought he came off as more paranoid. He cast the Doctor a look that conveyed his feelings and man turned his eyes heavenward,

"Right I forgot, you're one of the lunatics that actually like it out here. Heaven help me, I just hope I'm never station with you or Reychi over again."

"You guys catch him yet?" Jim couldn't help the smile in his voice.

"No, and I'm glad I wasn't assigned to get him," McCoy sighed and it sounded as close to defeated he ever got, "That man's part chameleon or something, Nurse Gaval is losing her mind trying to get him off this damn ship."

When the turbo lift doors finally opened, the moved down the hall towards the Doctors domain. Once the doors hissed opened, they revealed sickbay in a state Jim hadn't seen in a very long time.

Nurses were rushing to and fro, CMO Serrik was giving Science Officer Giran his physical and several other members of the crew were getting exams from the various nurses that were trying to clear the ship.

"Alright Lieutenant, take of your shirt and get on the bed." McCoy demanded and now that he was in sickbay Jim didn't see a reason not to comply.

Jim didn't complain as McCoy ran him through the standard procedure. First he was measured, stretched, and run through the leg machine with a monitor.

When McCoy got him seated for his final scan Jim was practically ready to bolt and McCoy narrowed his eyes and said, "Stop Squirming! If you don't sit still you're gonna end up like him!"

The Doctor then motioned his hand towards the skeleton that Dr. Serrik kept in the corner of her domain.

"Are you actually threatening me?" Jim huffed out a laugh while adjusting his seating on the bio-bed "What is this the dark ages?"

"I said don't move!" McCoy scolded and Jim couldn't help but press his lips together,

"Sure thing Sawbones."

Finally McCoy seemed satisfied with his level of stillness and decided to speak about something that wasn't Jim's physical, "You know where you're being stationed yet?"

"Back at the Academy," Jim confessed, he'd gotten word a week ago and while it was something he had expected, he was in no rush to get to it, "I'll be attending a few lectures through the year, but I'll primarily be serving as TA for one of the Captains that have been roped into teaching Survival Courses."

McCoy stopped the scanner he'd been running over him and frowned, "You. A Teaching Assistant for the Survival Course?

"I'd pay good money to see you and a half dozen Cadets in a Survival Dome. Lord have mercy on those poor kids."

Jim frowned and couldn't help but feel a bit offended. Then again, McCoy wasn't exactly privy to his dense history of unkillability.

"Yeah? Well they'll have it better than most I'm sure," Jim replied easily, it wouldn't due to let hurt feelings over a joke get between them, "Where are you headed after you and Dr. Serrik clear out this ship?"

McCoy tossed Jim his golden shirt and pulled out his PADD to log his final data, "Planet side for a year at least, still need a half year of Xenobiolgy courses and I'll be free to never step foot in a class room again."

"Unless you decide to teach." Jim pulled his shirt and and cast McCoy a smile, "You'd break Komack's record and make a Cadet cry on the first day I know it."

"Get out of here," McCoy looked up from his PADD to glare at him, "And by here I mean this ship! The next time I see you I want it to be planet side for brunch, not dragging you back out of Engineering."

Jim tossed up his hands, he knew well when he'd been defeated, "Don't worry Doctor, I'll be out of your hair and back with dirt under my feet in less than half an hour."

"You'd better." McCoy kept his eyes narrowed as Jim slid off the bio-bed and made his way out towards the turbo lift but not without giving his friend a small salute.

It was tempting to go back to engineering, but Jim was perfectly aware of the fact that McCoy would actually strangle him. So he did as told and made his way to the transporter room.

There was a single engineer on duty and a line that stretched all the way into the hall. The most senior staff had the privilege of taking a shuttle off the ship at their leisure. Jim was also pretty sure it was also because the Alpha Crew, which consisted of the department heads, tended to have debrief first thing in the morning and everyone else only had show up at 1200 hours in order to sit through a 2 hour lecture then fill out what amounted to three pages of rough review of their year long mission.

It took about 30 minutes of waiting in line before it was finally his turn to beam down. Jim's belongings were already planet side and were probably getting a bit lonely in baggage claim.

With a quick exchange with the transporter attendant, Jim stepped onto the pad and found his skin tingling with the familiar energy of dematerialization. In a moment he was no longer on the Farragut, but in the bustling hub of Starfleet's Loading Dock.

It felt almost strange to step off the transporter and onto his home planet.

Jim had been on several landing parties in the past year but there was nothing like the skin of the Earth, the sights of Officers and Cadets rushing about. Shuttles loading up and emptying out.

He took a breath and made his way to baggage claim.

That only took standing in line for another 20 minutes before he was reunited with his duffel of what few souvenirs and casual clothes he'd been permitted for when he was off duty.

With the duffel slung over his shoulder, Jim made his way back to the central hub and in his head was making plans to commandeer one of the cabs that were no doubt stacked up outside the building when a familiar sight met his eyes.

Nyota Uhura, in her Cadet reds with black leggings and a sturdy pair of boots, while holding a holo sign that said 'Heart Breaker' with cutesy cartoon hearts was waiting at the edge of the reception area.

The swell of emotion in his heart had to be evident in his eyes as Jim rushed to her. Nyota closed the holo, then broke out in a jog to meet him. The moment they were in the same space, Jim wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted his friend off the ground before spinning the both of them in place. Nyota tossed back her head and laughed like a child and he couldn't help but join her.

After a moment he set her down but let their hug linger for a second more before pulling away.

"If I'd known you were waiting I wouldn't have spent so much time hiding from Bones in engineering!" Jim felt the joy at seeing his friend buzzing through his chest.

Nyota rolled her eyes at the comment, "I was trying to surprise you! I have dinner reservations and everything!"

Jim couldn't help but let his smile widen as leaned himself forward and made his eyelids droop in mock seduction, "Are you saying you missed me Cadet?"

"Ugh!" Nyota shoved him back playfully and pivoted on her heel so that she was facing the doors, "C'mon! I'm starving and you took at least 2 hours longer than I expected!"

She then tossed something over her shoulder and Jim cupped his hands to catch the object. It jingled in a way that only metal on metal could and he broke suddenly his love for Nyota grew as he found his hover bike's keys in his hands.

"Oh you must have really missed me!" Jim practically cooed as he chased her out of the building and Nyota led him down the street to where the bike was parked.

It was just as he remembered it, only it had two helmets instead of the one he'd had to buy when he brought it to the city.

Jim immediately placed his duffel onto the seat of the bike and tore off his command yellow shirt before shoving it into the bag without ceremony. Nyota seemed content to watch him in amusement as he rummaged through his bag and pulled out his Father's battered leather jacket and pulled it on.

Zipping up the bag he strapped it to the back of the bike and slid on breezily, popping his helmet on, before turning to Nyota, and offering the second one, "Shall we m'lady?"

 

Primly, Nyota plucked the helmet from his hands,"I thought you'd never ask!"

She pulled the helmet over her head before situating herself behind him and wrapping her arms around his waist.

"Alright then where are these reservations you've made?" Jim popped the key into the ignition and waited for her reply before turning it.

"The Verdant," Nyota leaned into him, "It's under 'Uhura' and if we leave right now we should be just in time."

"Aye aye Captain!" Jim replied breezily, then it was like he'd never left as he started up the engine then checked for a clearing, before kicking it into gear and peeling off into traffic.

 

The sound of the city around him clanged against the feeling of his body being pressed between the wind in his face and Nyota tucked safely against his back. Jim had taken a few trips like this while he had been studying at the Academy.

It was a grounding experience to so easily slide back into life at home after an entire year away on a Starship.

Of course things were going to be different, Nyota was about to start her last year, maybe she even had a boyfriend again, and he wasn't going to go back to wearing reds either.

But at the moment he was content to feel like nothing had really changed.

When they pulled up at The Verdant he punched the parking break and when the Valet approached he handed the kid his keys and helmet.

Nyota dismounted first and tied her helmet to his duffel and to his surprise she took his hand and led him into the restaurant.

It was a place they'd been before, normally they only ever came to celebrate birthdays. The even spent their last valentines day together and drank a whole bottle of wine before they crashed at Jim's apartment cause they were both single and really didn't want to be alone.

The Verdant was a bit more upscale than most Cadets could afford, but both of them had come to the Academy as adults so they had a bit more money stashed away than most.

Reaching the host, Nyota simply gave them the name 'Uhura' and they were led to a secluded corner where they could relax and have a quiet time together.

Jim slid into the seat that allowed him to have his back against the wall and see the front door and Nyota sat across from him.

They ordered their drinks and the waiter left them with heir menus.

"When do you have debriefing?" Nyota peeked over her menu at him and Jim filled his cheeks with air before letting it out slowly.

"Afternoon tomorrow," He replied, "Then I have the whole 3 days off before I get to find out who I'm working with for the Survival Course this year."

"You're working on the survival course this year? What like as a Teaching Assistant?!" Nyota sounded incredulous and Jim scoffed at her reaction,

"You and Bones both need a bit more faith in me!"

"You just always seemed a little more at home with books over people, let alone the great outdoors." her tone was placating but he let it go because she was right, from the outside it seemed a bit strange.

"Well then," He mentally took not of what he wanted, closed his menu before laying it on the table, and folding his hands over it, "What are you up to this year Cadet? It's a big one for you right?"

"Besides my mandatory courses, I'll be head of the Xenolinguistic club this year," Nyota closed her menu as well, "And maybe I'll even mess around, learn Romulan."

He couldn't help but huff out a laugh at that, because Nyota was exactly the kind of person to learn Romulan for fun on the side.

The waiter arrived with their drinks and both of them placed their orders. When the waiter took their menu's Jim took a sip of his Venusian cider and said, "I'm just hoping that when I get home Kevin hasn't burned down the apartment."

"He's fine, I got the bike from him remember? Both Riley and the apartment were in tact." Nyota replied easily but with a touch of humor, "I know how much you like to harass him but he's fine."

"I know, he sent me enough messages while I was gone." Jim placed his drink down and sighed, "I thought he was accidentally sending me his diary the first month or so with how detailed he was getting."

Nyota laughed then and shook her head, "I'm sure you didn't mind."

He didn't, not really.

So he smiled and just let Nyota sit in her state of knowing before he asked, "So, you interested in anyone yet? I know how you've been trying so hard to get over me since I let you down easy all those years ago."

If they weren't in such a nice place Jim had a feeling she would groan but instead she just shook her head again and huffed out a bemused laugh, "No, you know I'm not particularly interested in looking until I'm out of the Academy.

"How about you? Any torrid love affairs after a year in space?"

Jim shrugged and pursed his lips a bit at the question. Turnabout was a fair play and all but he was still feeling raw from breaking it off with Janice when the USS Farragut had left spacedock, after that it was work work all the time.

So he shrugged, "Not really, but if I find someone you'll be the first to know."

"Good." Nyota nodded, "You deserve to be happy."

"So do you," Jim teased her but then grew somber as he said, "I'd just hate to find someone and end up having to leave because of a deep space mission. I couldn't do that to someone, I couldn't leave them behind like that."

"I get that," Nyota agreed and took a sip of her own drink, "I mean, If you want to be a ship Captain that means being away for years on end. There's few people who can deal with that kind of distance."

"Yeah." Jim sighed and thought about his mother who was currently on the Asimov, about to finish up her 3 year mission.

When she'd started, he was living in Riverside and being her perfect and safe little boy. Now though? He was a Lieutenant and had been on his first year long tour and now that he'd tasted it, Jim wanted more.

But his example went on to show how much could change in just a few years. Of course, relationships between officers was permitted. If you were married you would even get stationed together.

It was hard to find someone who shared a dream though, and many officers started their lives on a ship and found new dreams they could chase. Still in the Fleet but not on a ship.

Jim knew from the moment he and Janice had fallen out, that what he wanted was going to be practically impossible.

Janice had wanted to go out there, see it all, the scope of it. To be the first person to lay eyes on new skies and step on new grounds. Jim had loved her and thought that perhaps they could even get married one day.

But Janice had hated herself, instead of daring to dream to be the first Female Captain in history, that hatred turned out and became internalized resentment.

Janice had hated herself so much that she wound up with only hate to give.

Jim couldn't live like that.

Even if he found someone that could share his dream, it would be difficult to get a Captaincy if he was married because his spouse would need to be stationed with him. That meant their relationship couldn't affect their performance.

And Jim knew exactly how deep he could love. He knew he was the kind of man that, should his love grow past it's initial bloom in his heart, could burn and salt the Earth for it.

That meant he would need to be alone.

Nyota reached out her hand and laced her fingers with his own and she gave him a gentle smile as if she knew exactly what he was thinking, "I firmly believe there's someone for everyone, we just have to find them."

And in his heart he prayed to whatever deities that might exist that she was right.

For the rest of the meal they spoke of much lighter topics. Mostly small anecdotes they hadn't shared when Jim had been away.

Jim told Nyota what it was like living on a Starship and how it felt to have new ground beneath your feet.

As they ate, the day began catching up to him and Jim knew that he was going to have a hell of a time trying to adjust to life back on Earth. He was mildly grateful that ships ran on the the same day to night cycle of San Francisco and that he'd been assigned to Alpha shift.

When they were finished eating he drove Nyota back to the Academy and walked her back to the dorm she shared with Gailia.

No part of Jim missed dorm living as he dropped off his friend and gave her a peck on the cheek in farewell with a promise to drive straight home.

By the time he reached his own apartment the sky was dark and littered with stars.

Jim found the small two bedroom apartment pitch black and he spared little thought for Kevin as he threw his coat and duffel on the couch. It took a massive amount of effort for him to stay awake as he made his way to his room which he eventually passed out in.

Chapter Text

It was 0500 hours when Jim was woken up by the sound of his personal Comm Link chirping incessantly.

With a groan and much inner strength, he managed to roll himself out of bed and squint at the chronometer. Sitting up was a slow process, but necessary in order to pull out the Comm screen next to his bed.

Yawning he took a look at the caller ID and cursed.

It wasn't a call he could ignore.

So, he took a breathe, filling his cheeks with air and pressed the 'accept call' button as he slowly released the air he'd stored.

Instantly Captain Pike's face filled the screen. The older man seemed bright eyes and was sipping a mug of coffee. Since there was a chart that displayed a map of the federation behind him, Jim figured he must be inside his office at the Academy.

"Do you know what time it is?" Jim groaned balefully. Something he would have felt a bit bad about, but if it was official business, Pike wouldn't have called him with a priority flag attached.

He brought himself to full alertness, it wouldn't due to forget something important, even if it wasn't about work. Besides, Jim had always been the type that was unable to go back to sleep once he'd been woken.

"Time for you to be getting up." Pike smiled from behind his coffee mug, his eyes twinkling, "Besides, I'll be in meetings up until 1300 hours and this is my only chance to invite you out for lunch after you've been debriefed."

As Pike spoke, the smell of cooking sausage wafted into Jim's room and he grew curious over it before replying with a smile, "I should disappear into space more often, last night I was taken out for dinner and now I'm getting lunch? Any particular place in mind?"

"Just a little Italian place that's just off campus," the older man placed his mug down on his desk and seemed to look off for a moment before turning his attention back to the comm,

"I'll send the info to your personal comm link and I'll meet you there around 1400 if that's good for you?

"I have a lot I want to catch up on, and a few things to tell you before you get started on your new assignment."

Jim considered the time his debriefing would take and nodded, "That should be fine, if anything comes up I'll send you a message."

"Glad to have you back kid," Pike smiled warmly then, it was much different from the bemused expression he started the conversation with, "See you then. Pike out."

The comm link's connection ceased and Pike's face blinked out of the screen. Now it only displayed the main menu, Jim stared at it for a few moments, still unwilling to leave the comforts of his bed in order to start the day.

He was a bit stubborn like that.

Yawning one more time, Jim began to stretch his arms in order to get blood flowing back into them. After a few moments, he pushed the comm system back to it's place flush against the wall and rose to take a shower. He did his best to put as much enthusiasm in his movements, it was a grand feat considering there was no coffee in him yet.

There was no way he was getting back to sleep now that he was up so it seemed Jim would be starting his day a bit earlier than originally planned. As he grabbed a towel from it's place stored in his closet, he reasoned that it wasn't surprising that he wasn't going to be capable of sleeping in.

Life on a Starship was a demanding one, and that meant his sleep schedule was trained to that routine. It wouldn't due to break it, especially when he was going to be working with a professor in the coming academic school year.

Jim made his way to the bathroom that his room contained and stripped down before stepping into the standing shower. He turned the tap and jolted at the feeling of real water touching his skin.

Another thing was the fact that he had grown accustomed to the sonic shower systems in a place that water was treated as scarce. Water was for drinking on a Starship, drinking and for the botany lab to fight the Science division for in staff meetings.

Washing his hair, Jim considered his schedule for the day.

Really the only mandatory things on his plate were his debriefing at 1100 hours and then lunch with Pike right after. He wondered if he could indulge in a nap at some point. It wouldn't be too much of a crime to get himself some extra sleep before he was, no doubt, dragged off to dinner with another friend

He was on leave for a few days, and that meant there would be plenty of time to catch up with friends he hadn't seen in a while. Gary Mitchell came to mind just after Kevin.

Kevin was easily more important than Gary when it came to catching up.

Jim would also have to call Bones up at some point before his new assignment started. The Doctor would kill him if the next time that they spoke, they were both too busy to sit down and talk.

His mind wandered then a bit more, Jim had notice Pike mentioned his new assignment and spared the brain power to consider that maybe lunch wasn't going to be exclusively a social engagement. Pike probably knew who would Jim would be assisting. If Jim was lucky, the Captain might just share that information with him earlier than the official channels would.

After washing the rest of himself, Jim turned off the water and smiled to himself a bit as the water cut off. It was an indulgence he had missed in the first few weeks of his assignment on the Farragut, and yet he hadn't' even really remembered to look forward too actual water showers.

 

Bringing his mind to the present, Jim patted himself as dry as he could with his towel before pulling a loose pair of shorts and a worn out shirt out of his dresser. He got dressed slowly and felt the cotton of both pieces of clothing clinging to the small amount of water that remained on his skin.

While a bit uncomfortable, It would be temporary, something comfy to spend the morning in.

When he opened the door in order to leave his room, Jim was hit with smell of more than just the sausages from before. The apartment smelled like greased fried potatoes along with ham, and the distinct scent of bread toasting.

Jim made his way past the living room then into the small kitchenette, as he suspected, Kevin was wearing his Cadet Reds and in the middle of the small area cooking up a storm.

He smiled at the younger man, because that's what Kevin Riley was, a young man. Kevin was 19 years old, from Ireland, and in his second to last year of Academy. He was specializing in Tactical and communications with a cross in command so that he could one day serve as a department head or, if needed, a Captain.

Yet, Jim would always look at him and see that kid who's mother had shoved him into a teenagers arms and begged for her son to be saved.

Kevin had only been 9 when they met all those years ago and Jim was glad they'd contacted each other again, after all that time.

"Real food Kevin?" Jim couldn't help the teasing tone of his voice as his affection for the younger man bubbled in his chest, "That's impressive."

Kevin turned his attention away from the stove and twisted around just enough for Jim to see that he was wearing an apron which said 'it's not a meal without potatoes' in rather boisterous lettering. There was a smiled in his eyes as he said,

"Well I was gonna make you dinner last night, but Uhura was a few steps ahead. I thought, why not a proper fry up then? You'd love that after nothing but replicated oats every morning."

 

His Irish accent was thicker than Jim remembered and it was probably Kevin's stubbornness and refusal to let it fade that had caused the phenomenon.

"Need some help?"

Rolling his eyes Kevin turned back to the hash he was frying, "You just sit and wait Jimmy! You've been in the black for a whole year and you'll nary get a rest before the next semester starts.

"Beside you help enough as it is around here, even when you are gone."

It felt a bit strange to just slide into one of the 3 chairs that were located at a round table just off the kitchen. But Kevin was almost done and plating the food, and if he felt this was needed to repay Jim, then he wasn't gonna argue with the younger man.

The table was already set with silverware and two ceramic mugs. In the center appeared to be a carafe of coffee with a heating plate underneath it. At the base of the plate was a bowl of sugar and a miniature pitcher of creamer. It was a beautiful sight that made Jim feel a wave of gratitude for the young man who had gotten up before 0500 hours in order to prepare it all.

Kevin only took a few moments to finish arranging the food he'd prepared and bring it to the table. Serving it was even quicker as and as a plate was slide in front of him, Jim was finally able to see what his friend had made.

The plate contained two eggs, sausage, a patty of fried hash, a bit of ham, and what appeared to be smoked beans. It smelled more amazing than anything Jim had eaten during his time on the Farragut and he couldn't help but cast a grateful smile at Kevin, who returned the expression eagerly.

Not done yet, Kevin practically skipped back to the kitchen and brought forth a plate of slightly singed toast which had been cut into triangles. The burnt edges betrayed Kevin's carefree nature, he had probably forgotten about it while making something else, but Jim's nose told him they'd been buttered liberally and the flavor wouldn't suffer. When all the food had been placed on the table Kevin only had to pour two steaming hot mugs of coffee.

Jim picked up the mug that had been placed in front of him and took a whiff before taking a sip to test the full flavor of the coffee.

"This is all really wonderful, thank you Kevin," Jim sighed, he felt a level of affection for Kevin that he rarely found with anyone, and with him there was peace. Kevin Riley was like the kid brother he'd never had and while he was headstrong and a bit careless, it was moments like this that Jim caught a glimpse of the man Kevin would become.

Kevin slid happily into the seat across from him and lifted a fork in order to begin breaking up the yolks of his over medium eggs, "What are friends for huh? I mean you've been paying for this apartment even though you didn't even live in it last year, least I could do is make you a home cooked meal when you got back."

 

Jim did the same with his eggs and felt the warmth in his chest grow at Kevin's words, "You know you don't ow me right? You're like family Kevin."

"C'mon Jimmy it's just breakfast!" Kevin teased but his blush betrayed his real feelings, "You haven't even taken a bite yet ! Might make yah keel over."

Without breaking eye contact Jim took a bite of his food and smiled. Kevin was a wonderful cook. He had learned from the best in the worst of circumstances after all.

Swallowing his bite of perfectly cooked eggs Jim sighed again at the flavor. There was something about replicated food that just couldn't match the real deal.

"As always, a masterpiece Chef Riley." Jim gave his compliments to the cook and fixed his coffee with a dash of cream and a small bit of sugar. He stirred the mug and took a sip of the liquid perfection and wondered if he could live in a moment. Because it really was the best thing to wake up to.

 

"Don't expect it everyday." Kevin laughed and took a chomp out of a triangle of toast, then promptly took a sip of his coffee to chase it down,"I have classes in two months Mr. Lieutenant!"

"I won't Cadet." Jim replied easily, Kevin's usual rhythm of 'bite-drink-bite-drink' felt more like home to him in a way that not even home cooked food could, "Any plans for the day?"

"Just attending the summer circuit on Romulan," Kevin spoke as if he was confessing something, "Tested out of Vulcan, but you know that o'course, so decided to get a jump on the next semester."

"Good for you." Jim felt a wave of pride in the Cadet, "I'm sure you're giving them all hell."

Rolling his eyes Kevin took a drink of his own coffee that was dressed with far more sugar and creamer than Jim had ever taken in his own, his eyes lit with a devious spark, "Only what they can handle, don't wanna scare any of 'em too bad."

Huffing out a chuckle Jim continued eating, "What time is that circuit anyways?"

 

"0700 hours." Kevin replies easily as he practically shoveled his food into his mouth before taking an unhealthy swig of coffee, Jim would scold him but knew that when the Cadet was in the cafeteria he was a perfect gentleman.

Jim took a glance at the chronometer, and felt a spark of amusement, "Well it's 0635 so you better finish up soon."

Quick enough to give most whiplash, Kevin took a look at the chronometer and cursed in Irish Gaelic before quickening the pace which he was eating.

"Don't choke." Jim spoke and it would have sounded like a reprimand if his own affection for the Cadet hadn't bubbled up in the moment, "I'll clean up, I don't have to live until much later."

Kevin cleared his plate and pulled off his apron which he had kept on through the meal, ostensibly to keep his Cadet Reds clean.

"Thanks Jimmy, I'll see you for dinner OK?"

Jim took another sip of his coffee, "Sure thing Kevin."

 

Kevin stood quickly and tossed his apron over the back of his chair before rushing towards the door and grabbing his satchel which was on a small table by the exit. He opened the door and paused for a second before he stuck his leg out, then pulled it back, causing a box that had been outside the door to be pushed into the entrance of the apartment.

"You got a package!"

Jim had a good idea of what it was so just waved Kevin off and let the guy finish rushing out of the apartment they shared. It wouldn't due for him to be late, even if the cause was a bit understandable.

Practically flying down the hall Kevin was gone, not to be seen again until the evening when Jim would probably harass him to order pizza. Because he wasn't going back to replicated food before he really had to.

After finishing his plate and another mug of coffee, Jim gathered the dishes and put the stopper in the drain before placing the plates an cutlery in the sink so that he could wash them. pouring a bit of soup over them, he turned the water on and allowed the sink to begin filling so the dishes could soak for a bit.

While the sink was being prepared he grabbed a left over sausage and took a bite before bringing out a few containers to store the leftovers. It would be nice to warm them up the next morning and have something that was semi-fresh.

Once the food was all packed up and stored in the cooler, Jim turned the water off, grabbed a scrubber then proceeded to wash the dishes.

After the plates and silverware were scrubbed down and placed into the other side of the sink, he got to work on the pans that Kevin had used to fry everything up. Of course he first poured the left over grease into the recycler and only then did he dip the pans into the soapy water for cleaning.

It was mindless work and Jim lost himself to the motions of it.

There were plenty of machines that could get the plates cleaned and disinfected much quicker, but Jim preferred the old style. It reminded him of being home before it all went wrong.

So once the dishes were all cleaned and rinsed, only then did he pile the ensemble into the disinfector for a round of sanitizing.

Grabbing a dish towel Jim dried his hands up to his elbows before drying off the counter and tossing the towel into the designated bin beneath the sink.

Once that was done he made his way to the living room, where the package Kevin had carelessly kicked into the room was laying on the floor. Jim picked it up lazily, it was a 2 x 2 foot square and roughly a foot thick. The package was addressed to him from Starfleet HQ.

He grabbed his hover bike key from the dish and used it to break the synthetic seal before popping the package opened he found almost exactly what he was expecting.

Reaching in Jim pulled out the jacket for the Starfleet Blacks of a member of the Academy's staff, and beneath it was the formal Grey inform for officers. Taking inventory he found there was roughly 4 uniforms that had been vacuum sealed into the box, 2 of each.

What he wasn't expecting, was that the uniforms had no ranks attached to it. Jim dug through the box and pulled out each uniform but found nothing.

It was a mystery he'd have to ask Pike about over lunch he supposed. If the Captain didn't' have an answer Jim would simply have to put in a request for his lieutenant stripes.

With all the uniforms unpacked, Jim placed them in the cleaner so that they'd be ready for his trip to debriefing later.

Sighing Jim checked the chronometer and found it only to be a quarter to 0800 hours.

He supposed he could always read until it was time to leave.

1100 hours was the time Jim ended up leaving for his debriefing in his fromal Greys.

Considering how close the apartment was to the Academy, Jim knew it was a bit early and he was just being restless. If anything, he would at least get a good seat to fill out his paperwork and listen to whatever Rear-Admiral had been assigned to his sector's meeting.

On his way in, he greeted as many shipmate from the Farragut he could. None of them were particularly close, but it was a given that a group who had spent a year in space together would have a sense of camaraderie.

They all piled into one of the general briefing rooms and began filling out their final reports for the log. Starfleet had provided PADDS for each of them, so it was with great efficiency they each grabbed a device from a dock and got to work.

The silence reminded him of being back in the Academy. Since this was the debriefing for the USS Farragut's tactical division, there was just under 80 officers that had reported.

Jim wondered how chaotic the Engineering and Science division's meetings were, their staff made up a far larger percentage of the roughly 600 crewman it took to run a Constellation Class ship at full capacity.

Once he was done with his report, he sent it off and placed the PADD back in the dock it had been waiting in when he arrived. Then he sat patiently at the desk he had filled his report in.

At 1300 hours Rear-Admiral Cartwright entered the room and, after confirming all the PADDS had been docked, began giving his speech which thanked each of them for their service.

It was basic and nowhere near as flowery as the speech Jim suspected the Command Crew received. But that was the way of things. The Command Crew may take credit for all the achievements for a mission, but they also are expected to do all the heavy lifting as well as take responsibility for every mistake and death.

There were few who would desire such glory when it came with so much gore.

So when they were released at 1330 hours, Jim wasn't surprised.

He would have lingered and maybe shook a few more hands, but Pike was expecting him for lunch and after checking the address on his portable Comm Link, the restaurant was just far enough away that Jim would have to leave immediately to make the date.

That's just how it was sometimes, he supposed, as he made his way out of HQ and towards the small parking area that he'd left his hover bike waiting in.

Jim secured his hat to his bike and kicked it into ignition.

Pike was waiting at a table by the window when Jim arrived at the rather quaint Italian bistro that was labelled 'Isla Bella'.

Jim entered the small hole in the wall of a restaurant and Pike stood then waved him over with a smile and a friendly call of, "Jim! You came just in time."

"I haven't kept you waiting too long?" Jim smiled and made his way over to the Captain, who greeted him with a firm handshake and half hug, before breezily sliding back into his seat. Jim took his place across from the older man.

"Nah, I've been here long enough to order myself a soda, got you a lemonade because I'm sure you've had enough caffeine to last an Engineering Cadet an entire semester."

Jim huffed out a laugh but couldn't argue the point, lemonade was perfectly fine.

"It's good to see you Captain." Jim said instead. Pike had been the reason he'd enlisted and Pike was the reason he had reclaimed the star dust in his soul. He owed the man a lot.

"It's good to see you too...," Pike sounded as if he'd paused in the middle of a sentence before pulling out a small box and sliding it across the table towards Jim, "Lieutenant Commander Kirk."

Jim stared at the box frozen and then looked back up at Pike, unsure if he' heard the man right.

Pike just sent him an expectant look, so Jim reached towards the box and opened it slowly. Sure enough, it contained the braiding for a Lieutenant Commander.

Jim choked on his own breath, "You're joking."

Air was feeling like it was in short supply as he gently lifted the braiding from the box and looked between the ornament and Captain Pike, "I've only been-"

"Lieutenant for a year, I know." Pike smiled, "It was actually Captain Garrovick recommended you for promotion and Commander Reychi also gave high commendation.

"I simply asked to be the one given the honor to award the braiding. You earned this."

Air was finally coming back into his lungs and Jim didn't know what to say. He felt like he was going to cry from the pure unadulterated bliss of being promoted.

Reverently, Jim clipped the braiding onto his uniform. One set on each sleeve, it sparkled and Jim felt like he was something bigger than human.

"I noticed my braiding didn't come with the uniform but I had no idea that this was why," Jim finally huffed out a desperate laugh, because if he didn't he'd probably cry, "Thank you Sir, I'll do my best to live up to it."

"All I ask." Pike smiled a little too brightly, "Besides, I'll get to watch you."

"Sir?" Jim frowned at how sure the man sounded, as he asked their drinks came and Pike simply replied,

"I'm running Survival Courses this year."

Jim let his head drop, the wave of incredulousness he felt at the man was too much as he laughed openly, "Of course you are, Sir."

Culture and propriety dictated that Pike order for them both. Jim was just lucky to have a mentor who was above ordering food he found distasteful. So they ended up requesting a simple pepperoni pizza and that was that.

When it was served their conversation turned towards Jim's time on the Farragut and finally Pike seemed to get around to his announcement and what it meant.

"Jim," Pike voice was gently probing, "I just want to be sure, as your Mentor and friend I have to ask; Will you be OK running the Survival Dome with a bunch of kids?"

Taking a sup of his lemonade Jim gathered his thoughts and said, "You know, maybe before serving on the Farragut I'd have said 'No', but after serving and actually facing survival situations, I'm 100% sure of my nerves.

"I know how I'll behave when faced with actual danger, and I can take on a bunch of Cadets in a highly controlled environment."

"Good." Pike nodded, he seemed pleased in his own reserved way, "I knew a year in service would do you wonders, you're a rare breed and It'll be a privilege to see you rise higher."

Jim bore the compliment as best he could and felt his cheeks warm, "There are some Admirals that wouldn't agree, especially after the Kobayashi Maru incident from my last year."

"Well," Pike's voice took on a teasing tone, "Even they were forced to give you a recommendation."

Shaking his head he was startled as Pike suddenly laughed, "Did I tell you they got my other protege' to work on it?

"Mr. Spock was pleased as a Vulcan could be when he was assigned the program!"

Mr.Spock had been mentioned by Pike once or twice and Jim really only knew of him as the first Vulcan that had ever enlisted. Science and Linguistics were Spock's major focus, so Jim had never had the opportunity to meet him, much to Pike's chagrin.

"Were they that angry?" Jim winced a bit but couldn't help but feel a bit smug, "They got a Vulcan to lock the program tighter?"

Pike shook his head, "Yes, he apparently failed to understand your logic but after review of your Academic Hearing, he deemed your ultimate fate 'satisfactory'."

Jim laughed then and shook his head, "I'm glad he was happy I wasn't expelled."

"I'm hoping you'll meet him this year." Pike confessed, "I really want you two to meet, I have a feeling you'll get along."

 

Whenever people tried to introduce Jim to their other friends it either ended badly or neutrally. But for Pike's sake Jim did hope that he and Spock could be friends.

Jim absently wondered why Pike was so eager for them to get along but really if he was overseeing both of their careers personally it made perfect sense.

Taking a bite of pizza Jim mulled over everything he'd learned and their conversation turned to lighter topics.

Chapter Text

"I can't believe you're dragging me out bowling," Bones grumbled and scowled but Jim knew he didn't actually mean it. One did not drag Leonard McCoy anywhere he didn't actually want to go, "I'm 34 not 80, for crying out loud! I can still have a good time."

Jim shook his head and smiled in what he thought probably came off as indulgently, "Well for us bowling is a good time, just be glad I'm not the kind of person to drag you to nightclubs where all they play is Andorian Electronica."

Dr. McCoy looked around the bus they were riding and huffed, "I'm not sure this is much better!"

The two of them were taking public transport because Bones would rather take a flying leap out of an airlock than ride what he had deemed Jim's death trap of a hover bike. The only reason Jim hadn't fought harder was due to the fact that the bowling alley served alcohol and he wasn't the kind to drive home after even just a single drink.

"C'mon," Jim presented the same arguments as before, "I want you to meed my other friends before the Semester starts, and you get so busy you're brain is projected all the way to he Beta Quadrant."

"Ha.Ha. You're hilarious." Bones rolled his eyes and said but stopped complaining about their destination. Dr. McCoy had been avoiding Jim other friends for their entire leave. Now the Semester was upon them and the man had no choice but to let it happen. Jim had no idea why the older man was so unwilling to meet his friends but he was sure it would be fine.

The ride was filled with the hum of conversation from the other passengers and Jim was unbelievably relieved when their stop lit up the destination banner that was cycling around the top of the bus.

McCoy practically tumbled out in his eagerness to remove himself from public transport and Jim could sympathize. They were both dressed casually, this was a night out and neither of them were willing to be out on the town and representing Star Fleet, even if they were just going bowling.

Both of them ambled down the street with several other pedestrians and Jim kept his eyes moving and noticed a few uniforms, some were Cadets but there were also Officers rushing one place to another. They had to be off duty judging by the locale, Jim personally didn't like running round the city in uniform unless he had to but everyone was different.

"Stop looking around like we're gonna get jumped," Bones hissed, "It's freaking me out."

Jim stopped his ever moving eyes and looked at Dr. McCoy who seemed genuinely upset by his actions, "Sorry, just a habit I guess."

"I'm sure acting like a paranoid idiot is great for work but on the street it makes you look like your gonna be causing trouble." Bones replied as if to soothe his feelings, but none were hurt so Jim just let it slide.

There were some habits that just didn't die, and that was one he was completely fine being looked at strangely for.

After a brief walk the duo finally reached the bowling alley and Jim couldn't help but smile as he saw the neon lights that lit it up like a Christmas tree. Bones grumbled again about how disorientingly bright the whole building was but Jim just dragged his friend into the lobby.

As they entered Jim scanned the area and found Nyota at the counter scanning her Credit chip, she was in casual clothes, but Gailia who was next to her and distractedly looking around was in her Cadet Reds.

"Look alive Cadet!" Jim called out teasingly with, what was no doubt, an extremely wide grin on his face.

Gailia jumped in surprise and turned to him, her eyes held confusion for a split second before she broke out into a bright smile of her own, "I think you'll find, Lieutenant, that I am off duty!"

The two men drew closer, and when he was in range, Jim gave Gailia a friendly hug before pulling away and saying, "That's Lieutenant Commander to you!"

"Hell no!" Gailia practically squealed and from behind him Jim heard Nyota say,

"You're kidding me?!"

Jim turned to find her finished with her business at the counter and frowning, "At this point your going to be a Captain before I can even manage a spot on a Bridge!"

They hugged and Jim pulled Bones forward, "Nyota, Gailia, this is Lieutenant Leonard McCoy M.D., I call him Bones."

He then gestured to his friends, "Bones this is Nyota Uhura whose majoring Communication and Linguistics, and Gailia Vro who is majoring in Engineering and Tactical."

McCoy shook both ladies hands and then turned to Jim with an expression that read something along the lines of 'What the hell?'.

Because Bones probably thought Jim was introducing him to a couple of men, which was unfair because Jim had only really Called them Cadet Vro and Cadet Uhura. Those kind of assumptions wouldn't do in their line of work.

So Jim just winked at his friend and turned to Nyota, "You buy some games already?"

"3 we're on lane Delta,"Nyota smiled and began walking out to the lanes, casting a look over he shoulder she said "I want nachos by the way, and a Strawberry Daiquiri."

"Any other requests?" Jim asked as they reached their lane. Nyota rushed to the scoring console only to begin tapping away at it and Gailia hummed before she replied,

"A Fuzzy Navel, a BIG one, and those tiny cow patty things-"

"Hamburger sliders." Jim cute her off, "Cow patties are something else, remember it's called beef on Earth."

"It's cow." Gailia rolled her eyes good naturally, "I don't get why every other meat product is named for it's source except cow."

"Ham and pork." Jim argued with a smile and a laugh,"And if you don't want anything else I'll be on my way."

"That should be it," Galia nodded, then she gave Jim and almost shy smile,"I'll go with you so you can carry it all."

His heart warmed at the gesture she was offering and wondered how he, Jim Kirk, ended up surrounded by so many good people.

"That won't be necessary," Bones smiled at her, his expression betraying his lack of awareness of the blunder, "I'll help Jim with the food."

Gailia looked at Jim and pressed her lips together in a way that she was either upset that he was cutting her off, or that she was trying no to laugh and call Bones 'adorable'. Regardless she nodded in assent before Jim could explain to Bones that he was being rude.

Since Gailia seemed ultimately unoffended by the incident, Jim decided he'd scold his friend later and so he said nothing as they made their way to the concession area.

Once they were out of earshot McCoy turned to Jim and hissed, "You didn't tell me your friends were a couple of women! What is this?!"

"This is us, hanging out. Relax Bones." Jim tried his best to speak soothingly, "I'm not trying to set you up or anything, we're really just here to have a good time."

"Then why are we buying their food?" Bones grumbled and Jim just laughed at that. McCoy had some pretty old fashioned notions but they were generally the harmless ones. Nothing like the people he used to work with back in riverside. Every blunder he made was out of ignorance and he was a person who was willing to change.

Jim simply pat McCoy's shoulder and replied, "Because they paid for the games, first round is on us."

The Concession Worker came over at that moment and took their order, Jim added a Cardasian Sunrise to the list for himself and Bones ordered a mint Julep and a mini pizza.

It wasn't long before the food was ready and Jim scanned his credit chip. Together they brought the food and drinks over to the small table next to Delta Lane. After placing them all safely Jim looked to the screen and found Nyota had punched all of their names in for the game.

She was 'Ny', Galia was listed as 'Gal', Jim had been labeled 'Capt. Irk' and finally Bones was just 'Dr.Bones'.

McCoy took one looked at the screen and turned to Jim, murder in his eyes, "This is your fault."

"Hey, at least your not Capt. Irk," Jim turned to Nyota, "It's honestly insulting that you'd treat a superior officer in such a way."

Nyota shook her head and just laughed, "For my next trick I'm gonna wipe the floor with you."

Then she grabbed a ball from the ball return and entered the approach. With a mighty swing she delivered the ball and got a 3-10 baby-split.

Reluctantly she turned around and narrowed her eyes at Jim as he only laughed and said, "Very impressive. I'm absolutely terrified now."

They took turns bowling and between turns took sips of their drinks.

Jim was stealing some of Nyota's nachos when Gailia joined him in the seating area, she grabbed one of her sliders and took a bite while Bones took his turn in the approach.

"Your new friend is interesting," Gailia observed after taking a sip of her drink to chase down her food, "He's a bit..."

"Bones'd never left Earth before his assignment to the Farragut," Jim replied easily, "He's a good guy though, learns pretty quick."

"Good," Gailia nodded, then with a smile and a salacious wink said, "If he needs lessons I won't mind teaching him."

Jim huffed out a laugh as Bones finished his turn and Nyota started the rotation over again. McCoy made his way to the seating area and took a slice of pizza, "What are you two gossiping about?"

"How culturally insensitive you are." Jim smiled brightly, and Bones almost choked on his pizza.

"Dammit, Jim!" McCoy looked between Jim and Gailia, before fixing his gaze on the former, "Did I do something to offend you ma'am?"

"You just told me I couldn't help Jim with the food," Gailia replied unoffended, "It happens a lot on this planet, but next time just let me get it if I offer."

With that she took Nyota's place at the approach. Nyota joined them at the Seating area and smacked Jim's hand as he reached for another one of her nachos,

"Get your own chips!"

"Yours always taste better," Jim replied easily as he quickly grabbed a chip anyways, "It's a psychological thing, I'm sure."

He took a bite and McCoy seemed to still be confused, "Why did me helping you offend her?!"

"She wasn't offended!" Jim sighed and Nyota groaned,

"This always happens." Taking a breathe Nyota fixed him with an even stare, " It's just that due to the common treatment on the Orion homeworld, when an Orion women willingly offers assistance in a task it's seen as a gesture of trust and friendship.

"So Gailia was just trying to say 'we're still friends even though you've been gone for a year' to Jim and you kinda cut her off."

McCoy looked horrified at the notion so Jim decided to drive it home, "If you were Orion, your actions would have been the equivalent of saying saying you didn't appreciate that she was friends with me."

 

With a sigh Bones pressed his thumb and forefinger to the bridge of his nose, when Gailia approached he spoke, "Listen, I'm real sorry miss, I didn't know that my actions could be seen as offensive. Where I'm from, what I did is seen as a gesture of kindness."

Gailia laughed and Jim didn't get to hear the rest as it was his turn to bowl.

It wasn't his favorite game, Jim would always prefer mental exercises like chess and Catan, but bowling was nice for when you wanted to let the mind rest. He wasn't the best and he certainly wasn't the worst. So Jim wasn't exactly surprised that he didn't pick up his spare on the second delivery.

What also wasn't surprising, was that Gailia was on the way to a Perfect game.

Jim walked over to the sitting area as Bones went to play his round and he picked up his drink for another taste when Gailia nudged him,

"You're right he's not so bad."

Nyota let hims steal a chip this time and he wondered if it was actually stealing if she allowed it, "People like him never really are."

It takes a lot to be the kind of person to change and make an attempt to understand another Race's culture and take it upon yourself to put it above your own. It's why there was such a shortage for Doctors in Starfleet.

Other Divisions could slide by as long as they left their bigotry in their quarters, a Doctor was required to live and breath of their patients. To hold even an ounce of prejudice made them useless in an organization whose human percentage was finally beginning to reach an acceptable low.

"Let's keep him." Nyota declared and really if she was saying it then it meant Bones was never going to escape them.

The rest of the evening passed in much of the same way, it was easily one of the most relaxing evenings of Jim's life.

A perfect end to his short leave.

The next morning the Semester began and Lt. Cmdr. Kirk donned his Black Uniform, then proceeded to burst into Kevin Riley's room while shouting, "Up and at em Cadet! It's 0400 and you need to be at orientation in 2 hours! "

"Dammit, Jim!" Kevin screamed and proceeded to grab a small wooden figurine off his night stand, only to throw it at his friend.

Jim easily dogged the projectile, "Light's 100%"

Kevin groaned again and rebelled by ducking under the covers.

"C'mon Kevin." Jim laughed at the younger man, "You told me to wake you up when I left and that's what I'm doing."

"I take it back," Kevin declared, "It was an awful idea."

"Well it's already been done," Jim shrugged and not only did he lack remorse, he was was more than marginally amused at the turn of events, "There's some breakfast in the hot box and some coffee still in the carafe."

Jim then pulled Kevin's covers off of him and continued to smile at the other man and he just knew it was going to drive the Cadet crazy.

With a sigh Kevin pulled himself into the sitting position, "Fine. Thanks. You're job is done. If I'm late now it's my fault."

"You said it." Jim nodded and made his way out of the room, "It's on the record now and you can't blame me if you go back to sleep and don't manage to get your Syllabus."

Kevin shouted after him a frustrated, "OK DAD!"

Jim just laughed and grabbed his satchel which contained his PADD and several pieces of equipment Pike demand he have on him during lessons. With that he was on his bike and making his way to the Academy.

As Jim made his way through the veritable sea of Cadet Reds, he felt a wave of giddiness overcome him. Many of the students who passed him in the courtyard gave him respectful nods which he returned with what just had to be an insane smile that was threatening to tear his face in half.

It was a combination of the familiarity, yet alieness of the Academy that had him feeling so strangely. Jim had never been on campus at such a busy time of day while wearing the Blacks's of an officer. The Black uniform that most Cadets viewed as those of an instructor.

Which, technically, he was.

Of course he was assisting Captain Pike, but that was only due to the fact that Jim had never formally instructed anyone. That meant this would be his crash course so that, should Starfleet have need, Jim could teach a few courses.

It was normal for an officer to cover courses while waiting for a particularly long set of repairs or a full Refit. In Pike's case, he was waiting for his brand new ship to be ready.

The very same ship Jim had worked on in Riverside.

It was really a pretty tiny Galaxy, wasn't it?

So Pike was dragging Jim into his waiting game and he had a feeling that the Captain had something else up his sleeve. One did not simply request to be the one to privately promote an officer.

It meant Pike was trying to keep Jim's rising rank quiet, it meant Pike was trying to keep him from being dragged into space at the drop of a hat to be someone's chief of tactical or something.

Because a divisional Chief he would be. Jim had been put in charge of Tactical on too many occasions during his time on the Farragut. It was simply because he was the superior choice, even over the Chief officer at the time.

But pure skill didn't get you far, Jim had proved himself on the Farragut plenty of times and on the rare occasion Jim performed well, First Officer Reychi had half teasingly called Jim 'Number Two', which drove Second Officer Tinsley nuts in the worst way because Captain Garrovick said nothing and would just smile.

It had been made clear that Jim was very much wanted on the Farragut, and it was apparently very real possibility that should Jim end up back on that ship, he would be put in charge of something, most likely tactical considering that was what he had been utilized for.

It was so likely that Pike had requested he help with the Survival Course for a whole year.

The implications of it all had Jim's skin feeling stretched too tight over his bones.

Because if Jim was being poached by Captain Pike, he didn't mind one bit.

When he swept into the classroom Pike had been assigned, Jim found only the Captain. The Opening ceremonies would be starting soon and they had a little time to convene before the room was filled with their students.

"So, you go high I go low then?" Jim smiled as he caught Captain Pike's attention. The man in question had been pouring over the display board that was positioned just beside his podium and desk.

"Lt. Cmdr. Kirk, you have excellent timing!" Pike replied easily, "We've got a few last minute changes to the roster, 3 Vulcan student have decided to undertake the Survival Course."

The news was rather surprising and Jim knew his face had to betray his incredulousness, "3 whole Vulcans? That's a surprise."

"Your's and mine." Pike sighed, "I'm gonna have to ask you to do some last minute adjustment so that we can issue them the proper infopacks. The only Off Worlder I was expecting was a quater Betazoid and even then they heavily favor their human genetics."

"Yes sir." Jim accepted the assignment and tried not to sigh. Sounded like he'd be having his first late night.

The infopacks that had been prepared had only been slightly altered from last year's course, but to be getting a Vulcan pack together would take a lot. There weren't many Vulcans in Starfleet, with Commander Spock being the first, and there were even less who took the Survival Course. Most were interested solely in science or engineering.

That meant they weren't actually required to take the Survival Course. The class was only mandatory for Security and Command Cadets.

"I'll get you in touch with Lt. Cmdr. Spock," Pike suddenly sounded sly, "He took the course when he was in the Academy and I'm sure he has plenty to say about the infopack he'd been given."

"Please tell me they gave him a custom pack," Jim closed his eyes in horror at the notion that whoever was in charge hadn't done exactly that.

"Mr. Kirk, you know I can't be lying to you while I'm on duty." Pike sounded almost amused and Jim realized he'd probably gotten an earful from Spock when it happened. Because Pike had been in charge of the Vulcan's education back then.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall when all of that went down.

Pike took out his portable Comm Link and after a few presses to the screen Jim's own buzzed.

"That should be his info," Pike said, "I'm actually thinking about pulling him in to help with overseeing the Cadets. They're the only Off Worlders with biological distinctions in this batch."

Which wasn't a surprise, Starfleet was doing better with it's percentages but it was still not that good, "I wouldn't mind, he'll be pretty useful to have even if it was just to touch bases.

"I don't know nearly enough about Vulcan biology to write an infopack at the moment and there's no way I can make one in the next 48 hours and also sleep."

Because Jim liked sleeping when he could manage it. It was a luxury he was very happy to have when he could afford it.

"Well he's require at the Opening Ceremonies. So, for now until the Cadets arrive, just start researching what you can." Pike replied in understanding. Because it was ridiculous for them to be asked to do this on such short notice.

Jim slid himself into a chair that was placed just next to Pike's desk and pulled his PADD from his bag. Turning the device on, Jim made a new file and named it 'Darwin Initiative: Vulcan Edition', then he got to work filling the file with as much information he could find. Which wasn't saying much, Vulcans were tight lipped about anything that didn't involve the writings of Surak.

Looking for any kind of information for what they could eat in times of famine and survival was pretty impossible, but Jim hadn't got where he was by giving up.

Meaning, that by the time the Opening Ceremonies had ended and the Cadets began filling the class room, Jim had roughly 4 pages of notes on the subject in question. Which wasn't a lot, but it was a definite start.

Jim watched as the Cadets in their almost hideously red uniforms slowly trickled in and cleared his PADD's screen. Pike seemed content to continue going through his own PADD while the students filed in.

They were responsible for 1 of the 5 groups this semester. Jim had gone over the rosters and was happy to see that Starfleet had kept these particular classes down to about 60 students.

The buzzer sounded, Jim felt a bout of nostalgia at eh sound of it, and Pike gently lay his PADD down on his desk before rising. Making his way around to the front, Pike began to speak,

"Greetings Cadets, I am Captain Christopher Pike and I would like to welcome you to Starfleet's Survival Course."

Silence reigned and Pike sent Jim a glance and he had to do his best not to laugh openly at the Captain's expression. The Captain folded his hands behind his back and turned back to his new students.

"This is Lt. Cmdr. Kirk, but because that's a mouthful you can just call him Mr. Kirk like I do."

A few of the humans gave breathy chuckles and Pike seemed happy with that, "This course is no joke. I have 2 months to impart as much practical knowledge as I can to you.

"Some of you are here because you are required to due to the fact that you are studying on a particular track, others have decided that a course that only lasted 1 semester would be easy padding while you researched your other options.

"None of you are prepared for the realities of this course."

Jim swallowed as silence once more engulfed the room. Absently his eyes roved over the students and he found the 3 Vulcans that Pike had spoken about earlier. All scattered through the front row. There were 2 young women and 1 young man, none of them looked any older than Kevin.

"But that's OK." Pike declared easily, almost effortlessly, "Because my job is to make sure that by the time you finish, you will be prepared for even the most dire of circumstances.

"This course may only be 1 semester, but a passing grade is required in order for you to be allowed on the roster for Survival Tactics 101 which is 2 semesters and, should you pass this course, you will automatically be taking for the rest of the Academic year."

"Both the Survival Course and Survival tactics are mandatory for you to be permitted into Advanced Command, Advanced Medical, and Advanced Security.

"Regardless of your Track, I have the power to say if you have what it takes to continue here at Starfleet Academy."

He let that sink in, and several of the students were looking at each other as if they were ready to revolt.

Good.

"But sir!" One male Cadet spoke up in distress, his skin was dark brown, but his hair seemed to be bleached blonde. Jim couldn't help but think he'd probably slept through orientation if he was interrupting like that, "I'm here for communications! I'll never be on a landing party!"

Pike replied with easy authority, "What's your name Cadet?"

"Lester Ivanov Sir." The Cadet replied unawares.

Pike nodded as if mentally taking note, "Then you shouldn't have signed up for this class then Cadet Ivanov."

Cadet Ivanov flinched at the words before Pike Continued,"Now if anyone else speaks out of turn you're going to find yourself with an extra project like he has."

After the entire class save for the 3 three Vulcans cringed back the Captain continued, "After 2 months of in depth research of survival techniques, you will be broken up into 4 groups of 12.

"Those groups will then be assigned to a Survival Dome where your knowledge will be put to the test in a practical simulation lasting up to 1 week.

"This test will be closely monitored, but make no mistake, you will be experiencing the closest thing to a desperate situation that we can legally allow."

Several students swallowed and Jim continued to observe each of them in turn.

"Now if you have any questions, I'll be giving Mr. Kirk the floor." Pike finished his speech and stepped behind his podium as Jim rose to his feet and took the center floor.

"Raise your hands and I will point to you. When you answer give your name, track, then question," Jim instructed.

Immediately several hands went up and Jim pointed to a ginger teenage girl.

"Cadet Penda Okafor, Command Track," the girl began, "Mr Kirk, if this class is so dangerous why is it only a semester long?"

"That, is an excellent question," Jim couldn't help but smile, "To put it simply, t's a crash course Cadet Okafor.

"The ultimate test to see who is capable of absorbing and integrating new information. You'll find that the older Cadets will refer to this course as 'The Darwin Initiative'.

"Life on a Starship is hard and your going to be learning new and strange things everyday, your going to need to be capable of accepting and applying that knowledge as soon as you learn it."

Okafor seemed pensive and other Cadets seemed to buzz with nerves as Jim selected the next Cadet. Which to his surprise was one of the Vulcan women.

 

"Cadet T'Rena of the house of Rovak, Engineering Track" she spoke evenly as one would expect of a Vulcan, "Mr. Kirk, I find myself in need of knowing why this course is not required of all students.

"Logically it would be best to equip all Cadets with such vital knowledge."

Jim had to stop himself from saying 'girl me too' because honestly she was absolutely right,

"You are correct T'Rena and I agree that this course would be beneficial to every Cadet. But the reality is that those who are required to take this course will be responsible for the survival of their landing parties.

"Not because they have superior knowledge, but because it is what is expected of an officer in their line of work. Still though, this class is opened to Cadets in every Track, the choice of whether or not to be prepared is in their hands."

T'Rena nodded and Jim took the next question. It was an awful truth, but it was truth nonetheless.

Chapter Text

The first day of class was spent answering questions, distributing the infopack containing the syllabus, and going over said infopack.

All in all it's a light day that is no way a bench mark of what is to come for the Cadets under their care. Because Jim remembers taking the course himself.

And yeah, OK, he didn't have to take the Survival Course. Jim was part of a group of 9 people for which the Survival Course was optional, but when he was in his first year he'd needed desperately to prove to himself that he wasn't made of glass. That he was still stronger than fear itself.

In the end it was difficult, but it prepared him for the realities of what he eventually faced while aboard the USS Farragut. So much so, that when Kevin asked if he should give the whole thing a hard pass, Jim told him to really consider it.

Kevin ended up not taking the course and that was his right. Jim was just glad he'd actually thought about it.

They weren't kidding when they said this course was important and Jim just hoped they did their jobs well enough that the Cadets understood that as well.

Sweeping into his apartment Jim took a glance at Kevin, who was laying belly down on the floor of the living area while scrolling through his PADD, "How was your first day back?"

"Boring as usual," Kevin replied without looking up, "I've already got about a million pages to read an memorize, I think Commander Xin'Do is going to test us on the damn syllabus."

"She probably will," Jim laughed and made his way to his room, "I have a call to make so I'll be in my room, any idea's for dinner?"

"I'm actually going out with a few people," Kevin was easy about it and Jim figured he was just trying to make friends, which was good. Because heaven knew that Kevin needed more friends his own age.

"Alright, I'll probably just replicate myself something. Just don't stay out all night." Jim gave an easy reply and entered his room, making sure to close the door behind him. But that didn't mean he missed Kevin's call of 'OK Dad!'

He pulled out his Official Comm Link and dialed the number Pike had given him. Jim checked the chronometer and hoped he wasn't calling at a bad time. There was really no time like the present and he'd like to get working on the infopack as soon as possible.

It was just past 1700 hours and most people were either doing paperwork or eating dinner.

Thankfully the call was picked up after only 2 buzzes. There was not picture, which made sense since Jim had never called before but the voice that picked up was smooth an silky and there was a quality to it that was difficult to place as the call's recipient spoke,

"This is Lt. Cmdr. Spock. As I do not recognize this number I will ask you how my information was obtained."

Jim breathed out a sigh of relief that Pike had given him the proper number, which was strange since he didn't think he'd had any doubts until then, "This is Lt. Cmdr. James T. Kirk, I was given your information by Captain Pike. It was his hope that you could assist me in compiling information for an infopack.

"We have 3 Vulcan Cadets taking the Survival Course this semester and since they were added to the roster last minute we're on a bit of a time crunch."

 

There was a pause, and for one inane moment Jim thought the Vulcan was going to hang up on him. Finally Spock replied, "I see the value in such a request and I am amenable to assist you in compiling the necessary data. Is there a particular time you wish to convene?"

 

It was Monday and the first real class would be happening on Wednesday so Jim admitted, "I have all of tomorrow to get it ready so I can get a media room reserved for whatever time fits into your schedule."

There was another beat and Jim realized this was Spock taking small moments to think.

"I will be finished with my own duties at 1300 hours tomorrow, you may reserve a room for anytime you see fit after." Spock's reply was even as any Vulcan's and Jim found a level of comfort in it. It was interesting, since the Cadets who were also Vulcan provided him no such thing.

Then, as if remembering something long forgotten, Jim placed it. There was something about Spock's cadence that reminded him of T'Sar's. Perhaps they were from the same region.

"Alright," Jim replied, grateful the Vulcan was willing to help him. Because there was no way he was going to get the information he needed in time without Spock's help, "I'll make the call and send you a message with the time and which media room by mid morning."

"I look forward to working with you Mr. Kirk," Spock spoke in a way that Jim knew he was saying his goodbye, "We shall meet when you arrange."

With that Spock ended the call and Jim couldn't help but smile, he too looked forward to meeting Pike's other protege.

The First Vulcan in star fleet who finished the curriculum in 3 years without being a post-grad student. Jim himself had taken 2 years, but he had taken the accelerated curriculum on top of having a couple of degrees. Spock had come straight from the Vulcan Learning center and absolutely proceeded to demolish his entire course load.

It was the kind of thing that would be going into the history books and Jim would give anything to pick the guys brain. He had known that Captain Pike was mentoring him, but Jim wasn't the kind of person to beg for an introduction. Even with Pike's weird desire for them to meet.

This felt a bit more natural than any other circumstances, the only exception being if they had just happened to meet while on assignment.

Smiling to himself Jim closed his Comm Link and sighed.

Hopefully, with their powers combined, the two of them could tackle this and have an infopack that was worthy of Starfleet's reputation.

Now that the call was done, Jim began making his way to his bathroom in order to shower and change. If Kevin was going to be gone, he might as well spend the rest of the night looking for a few more scraps of information.

As he climbed into the shower, Jim thought he should at least make a rough outline for the infopacks so that when he and Spock did get enough information, he could simply plug it into a pre-established template.

It would be the simplest route to take. Thankfully it was also the most efficient.

By the time he had finished washing up and made his way to the living area, Kevin had seemed to have left to meet his friends.

So, it was in relative silence Jim spent the next few hours constructing a template for the Vulcan Survival guide. He opened the Human guide and used it as a frame of reference so that the categories would be similar enough that the Vulcans could still study with their Human classmates.

It was well into his studies when the alarm on his Portable Comm went off that told him it was time to eat. So Jim brought his PADD over to the kitchen and punched a quick code into the replicator.

While it constructed itself Jim began plugging in whatever information he'd gathered earlier into the template he'd created. It wasn't much but it was an excellent starting point and he wouldn't feel like an idiot when he actually met with Spock.

When the replicator buzzed Jim pulled his chicken sandwich and tea out of the compartment and slid it onto the counter. It felt like he was a Cadet again as he hoped onto the small stool they'd placed near the kitchen counter for this very purpose.

Eating and working was a common occurrence in the Kirk-Riley residence and Jim wasn't about to break that tradition.

Jim propped his PADD onto the counter and began eating while reviewing the work he'd already accomplished. While he was scrolling his Portable Comm buzzed. Jim froze, finger hovering over his PADD as he glanced at his Comm and hoped it was't anyone important.

'Nyota Uhura' the screen mocked him and so Jim simply sighed and flipped opened the Comm in order to receive the call.

"Do you have any idea what time it is?" Nyota's voice was scathing as she filled the holo screen.

Swallowing his food Jim frowned, "You're the one who called me."

He took a glance at the chronometer and could feel his frown deepen, "But if you absolutely must know it's 2100, why?"

"I wasn't talking to you Jim." Nyota sounded exasperated, "But I'm calling to ask if I can stay the night at your place."

"Two questions," there was a wave of confusion threatening to wash Jim away but he kept it together, "1. Why do you need to sleep at my place and 2. Who were you talking to?"

"The answer to 1 is that Gailia's decided she's letting her new boyfriend stay over for the night in our damn dorm." Nyota was agitated and Jim really looked and it seemed she was outside of the dormitories and walking.

In the middle of the night.

Jim grabbed his jacket, then his Comm, "I'll go out and meet you, what the hell is she doing bringing people over so late?!"

He slipped on his shoes and snagged his keys from the dish before heading out, Nyota was still on, "You know how she gets! She lost track of time and by the time she realized it, instead of kicking him out, Galia called and told me to crash somewhere else."

Getting into the lift, Jim ordered it to reception then sighed as Nyota continued, "As for who I was talking to it's Hendorff. Say hi Hendorff."

Nyota moved the camera and the screen suddenly filled with a man Jim didn't know, but he was in his Cadet Reds just as she was.

"Cadet." Jim nodded at him and the lift opened letting him out into the ground floor. Making his way to the outside he could feel his annoyance building.

The thing was, he couldn't be angry at Nyota. It wasn't her fault that Gailia was being, he hesitated to think the word, selfish. But that was the one that fit the situation the best.

"I'd put her up man, but I'm still in the dorms too." Cadet Hendorff shrugged and Jim wasn't on duty so he didn't correct the guy. It wasn't like Nyota advertised his rank.

"Thank you for walking her." Jim said instead, and it was sincere, "San Francisco may be relatively safe but I'm not about to test the odds with a friends life."

Hendorff shrugged and Jim continued, "Well I'm out front waiting Nyota, see you soon."

With a 'see you soon' Nyota hung up the call and Jim kept an eye out for the two Cadets.

It wasn't even 10 minutes before he caught site of them making their way up the street just across from the apartment. Nyota seemed to be practically stomping and Jim wondered how often this happened in the year he was gone, and she hadn't told him.

Gailia and Nyota had seemed to be just fine when they were all together. Were they just pretending so that he wouldn't worry? It was a thought that he shouldn't chase, because it would only lead to a world of frustration.

With a wave Jim signaled them and did his best to shove down the contentious feeling that had suddenly blossomed inside his chest. Nyota would need a friend, not an interrogation.

As they reached him Jim couldn't help but let his eyes rove over his friend make sure she wasn't injured in anyway physically.

"I'm fine Jim." Nyota assured him, she smiled but it was a sad and weak thing.

"You're not, you were forced out of your dorm." Jim replied shaking his head then looked to Hendorff, "Thank you again for helping out."

He offered the Cadet a hand to shake and Hendorff took it, "It's not a big deal."

"Still, thanks." Nyota repeated and then gave the man a hug before making her way over to Jim and looping her arm with his.

"You take care of yourself too Cadet, it's late and Curfew is almost up." Jim said as he gave Hendorff the best smile he could muster and led Nyota into the building.

"She do this to you often?" Jim had to ask as they made their way into the lift. Nyota took a deep breath and filled her cheeks with air before exhaling slowly.

"It's only started in the past few months or so." To make the confession Nyota had to look at her boots, "I always just stayed with another one of the girls, but Leila shipped out with her dad when she graduated last year and ...."

 

"You didn't have anywhere else to go." Jim sighed and Nyota finally looked at him, her eyes were sad in a way he wished they weren't.

"Yeah."

The lift opened to reveal the floor which contained Jim's apartment and he moved into the hall, Nyota followed him easily. His heart was aching for his friend and he knew that she needed someone, she had chosen him. Swallowing back his own feelings he promised her in his heart to make her choice the right one.

As they reached his apartment he punched in his code, then proceeded to scan his key in order to open the door. Jim allowed Nyota to enter first, he followed her and locked the door behind them.

"Feel free to crash in my room, I'll take the couch. Kevin should be back soon." Jim smiled at her softly, "If your not tired, you can pull up a chair and I can make you some tea."

He gestured to the work station he'd made for himself at the counter and Nyota glanced at it, "I think I want some tea."

"Anything particular?" Jim asked as Nyota made her way to the dinning table before dragging one of the chairs from said table, over to the counter and sitting on it as if she belonged.

"Nothing with caffeine."

"Chamomile then, Kevin and I drink it when we have a hard time sleeping." Jim had gone over to the replicator when Nyota got her chair. He punched in the code easily and in seconds the tea was ready to be served to his guest.

Nyota took the cup of tea with an almost tired smile and a 'thank you' before Jim moved to take his place on the bench he had previously occupied.

"Have you guys talked about it?" Jim asked as he began putting his work away. It was late and he needed to get some sleep if he was going to get up and call the Academy's Library office in the morning.

Nyota took a sip of her tea and her face hardened, "What's there to talk about? Gailia's promised not to bring guys back to the dorm but she just keeps doing it.

"It's like she doesn't care that it's against dorm regulations. Like she's alright with just throwing away her career! If she gets caught, she'd going to get kicked out."

Taking his mug own mug Jim looked inside and weighed Nyota's words before taking a drink of his own tea. It was no longer anywhere near as hot at his friends was at the moment and Jim was able to take a hefty gulp.

The warmth of it was soothing as it filled his mouth.

While it wasn't against regulations to have intimate encounters in the dormitories, it was prohibited to do so after curfew in the shared dorms. Gailia and Nyota were both in their last year at the Academy and had been roommates for all 4 of their years in attendance.

Gailia had always been affectionate as well as a being who enjoyed the carnal pleasures a bed mate could bring. Jim wasn't saint, he understood the gratification that an intimate encounter could bring.

He knew for a fact from their little talks that Nyota did as well.

But to pursue such fleshly desires to the point of harming a friend was something Jim could never understand. While sex was a pursuit he could appreciate, it was the intimate connection of laying yourself bare to another, someone you could trust your essence to, that gave him his greatest gratification.

Gailia always seemed to pursue the sensation over all else. And while it wasn't a crime or a moral failing on her part, the fact that she had been breaking regulation while seeking such satisfaction wasn't something that was healthy or good.

His mind produced everything he knew about Orions, first the knowledge that was basic came, then he discarded all the so-called 'facts' that he knew were stereotypes disguised as 'trustworthy patterns'.

Then came the information that was deeper, which he'd learned specifically because he was friends with Gailia.

"So you think she's trying to shut you out? Or is it something simpler?" Jim asked, because the first thing that came to mind were her hormone blockers.

Gailia had been on a regimen for a very long time so that she could go through schooling without being harassed. But now that she was in her final year and her first commission was close, it was a real possibility that she'd stopped taking them.

Because Gailia hated her hormone blockers and it was likely she had been planning to get off of them once her peers could no longer claim 'not knowing' and other such bullshit when they caught her pheromones.

"I don't know?" Nyota frowned, "I mean, feel like she keeps doing it to rile me up! Every time I get after her she just call me a prude and says i'm being 'culturally insensitive' when she's the one kicking me out of my own dorm every other week!"

The Cadet had caught some momentum now and kept going on almost icily, "I mean, I get it! She's Orion! She has different needs! But can't she just stay over at theirs?! Go to a hotel?

"I don't know! Something that doesn't get me kicked to the curb and banging on the door of every friend that might just put me up for the night?"

Jim took another drink of his tea as Nyota let out a low, almost snarl before looking to him with eyes that were wide and shining, "I mean, I know you're her friend too but I don't know why she's stopped caring about how safe and comfortable I feel in my own space!"

JIm sighed and looked up at the ceiling before turning back to his friend, "I get it, you feel like the boundaries that the two of you have set have been deliberately breached repeatedly."

Nyota nodded and Jim was glad he was understanding her feelings as he continued, "Is that what you told her? Or did you tell her to stop bringing guys over?"

She looked at him as if he were stupid, "I'm a communications specialist."

"Even if you did tell her exactly that, that doesn't mean it's what she heard."Jim reminded her, but when Nyota began to look incredulous he felt the need to clarify, "Now don't get me wrong. You have a right be mad, Gailia made a promise and didn't keep it, then she started kicking you out.

" You're right to be angry. I'm only trying to help you see there's still some hope, break it down further. Make her explain why she's breaking your agreement."

 

"Not everyone likes talking about their feelings Jim," Nyota took a sip of her tea, she was no longer upset with his words and her tone was soft, "What if she just brushes me off again? I mean, I can't communicate with someone who doesn't want to."

"I can't tell you what to do beyond that," Jim replied, "Your relationship with her is your own, unless this is an official complaint, then I can log it."

It was half serious but only half.

Nyota seemed to pick up on that and placed her mug on the counter, "I don't want to be the reason she gets in official trouble, Gailia is still my friend, yours too."

Then she seemed almost upset, "How could you say that?! She'd think we conspired to get her kicked out!"

Jim leveled a stare at Nyota, "We're friends, but I'm also a Superior Officer. The only one you would probably feel alright with logging such a sensitive complaint with. I had to offer, it's my job."

Filling her cheeks with air she exhaled slowly before closing her eyes, "Right. You're right.

"I'll talk to her again."

 

That's all Jim could hope for at the moment. In his head he wondered how to approach Gailia in an easy manner that was unaccusing.

 

Then he had to break his own heart and say, "And, Cadet Uhura, I'm sorry, but if this happens again you can't come here. I'm in a position of authority over you and having you in my home, like this, won't look good."

 

Nyota's face pinched bitterly as he tried to soothe her, "I just mean, I don't want people to question your academic integrity. We can still be friends and talk like this, but not here.

"Hell, I'll even make a couple calls and find someone to put you up."

 

In her eyes Jim could see her heart cracking, but she nodded and said,"I get it."

 

It wasn't very long after that discussion that Kevin came ambling through the door and it was time for everyone to get to bed.

Well, to the couch for him.

It wasn't as comfortable as his own bed but it had a plushness to it that was better than the bunk he'd had to sleep in while on the Farragut.

Fortunately he managed to wake up on time.

The first thing he did was use Kevin's bathroom to shower. Since Nyota was in his room it wouldn't do to disturb her. Kevin's bathroom was technically the guest bathroom since it was in the hall so this way Jim wasn't in danger f waking anyone up before they needed to be.

By time he was showered and dressed it was 0430 hours. So Jim began pulling out supplies from the cooler in order to make breakfast for 3.

First he prepared the carafe of coffee, so that it would be hot and waiting on the hot plate by the time the apartments other occupants woke. Then it was quick work to make a few sausages and eggs. Jim added a few whole cherry tomatoes to the ensemble for good measure.

Toast was popped into the toaster and he served himself at the table before checking the chronometer.

Taking out his PADD Jim read the news feeds until he had finished his own portion of breakfast with a mug of coffee. When he was finished he put his dishes in the sink and served himself another cup of coffee in silver thermos that possess the Starfleet Command insignia.

It was just past 0500 so Jim went to the hallway and knocked on Kevin's door twice before calling out, "Hey, It's 0500 and breakfast is ready, this is the only wake up your getting."

Instead of Kevin answering, Jim's own room door swung opened so fast he had to blink. Nyota stood in one of Jim's own t-shirts, it was the grey one which read 'Property of Starfleet'. Jim supposed her uniform was in the cleaner since she hadn't arrived with any other clothes and his own Cadet Reds were far too big for her tiny frame.

"Did you say breakfast?" Nyota's voice was tired but she seemed alert enough, even if the question was punctuated by a yawn.

"Yeah it's ready and waiting." Jim smiled and she frowned in response,

"Are you dressed already? What the hell Jim?"

"I have to leave right now." Jim replied easily, "I'm a Staff now."

"Good lord," Nyota mumbled then spoke up, "Alright, I'll see you later then."

"Sure thing," Jim nodded then began to leave, suddenly he felt a bit mischievous before shouting back, "Keep the shirt if you want."

"Goodbye Jim!" Nyota replied less than amused and with that he was out of the apartment.

Jim flipped opened his personal Comm Link and called the Academy Library to reserve one of the media rooms. Once that was done, he reached his hover bike and sent the information regarding his reservation to Mr. Spock.

Sweeping into Captain Pike's office, which was located in the faculty wing of the Academy, Jim tossed his bag in the Corner of the room and said, "Just so you know, Nyota Uhura slept in my apartment last night because her roommate had an intimate friend over."

"This isn't an official complaint?" Pike didn't even look up from his holo screen while Jim settled in a chair that was located by the window.

The window which consisted of the entire wall and looked out over the entirety of Starfleet HQ, just beyond that was the bay.

"Nope," Jim pulled out his PADD, "Just something to be noted Sir."

Pike hummed then said, "We've been assigned Dome 23 for this semester, it's located on Garrihk IX in sector 12."

Jim took a moment to think on the information, "Forestry? That's good, at least it's not a plains environment."

"Well we might get plains next time around so don't get too happy," Pike replied but he also seemed pleased by the fact they were getting a forest environment. Garrihk IX would be a perfect variation of environment for even the Human Cadets who were used to Earth, so that was also a pleasant plus.

"Any ideas for the scenario Sir?" Jim pulled up a file on his PADD to take notes on the project and wrote down the new information he'd already been given.

"Standard search and rescue simulation or Crash and Distress," Pike replied and finally looked away from his holo screen and towards Jim, "The details are for us to shake out, that's actually why I wanted you here this morning. You have any suggestions?"

Jim considered that for a moment then smiled, "Actually Sir, I do."

Chapter Text

At 1400 hours Jim found himself pulling out tome after tome on Xeno-Nutrition and dietary restrictions and piling them on the table of Media Room Gamma.

Mr. Spock had replied with a simple 'affirmative' to Jim's message that morning and so he figured it would be good to have at least a little bit of research material read for when the Vulcan arrived.

Each tome was organized by the quantity of relevant Data contained within and Jim had to frown at the few that seemed to just contained redundant information. There was so little in them that if someone told Jim that Vulcans only ate for kicks he wouldn't actually be able to argue.

He was frowning at the pile of books when the door to the Media Room hissed opened and Jim laid eyes on Mr. Spock for the first time.

The Vulcan was pale, as many were, and had the standard bowl cut and deep black hair. Mr. Spock seemed to cut a proper and sharp figure in his Black Staff uniform, his posture was everything a Vulcan's should be and his face was as smooth as stone.

His eyes though, they were brown and warm like hickory and when Jim looked into them there was something deep inside his bones that felt like it loosened.

Beautiful was the first word that came to mind as Jim took a spare moment to take the Vulcan in.

"You must be Mr. Spock." Jim smiled warmly and lifted his hand in order to spread it into the traditional Vulcan Ta'al, "I'm Lt. Cmdr. James T. Kirk, but since we're the same rank, I give you my name to use freely: Jim."

Spock returned the Ta'al and gave a shallow dip of his head, "I am gratified that you should offer, in return I give you my own."

Initial greetings finished Jim clapped his hands together, "Well then, I have a little bit of information on my PADD but it's not much."

Jim then took his PADD from it's place on the table and offered it to Spock, it was accepted. Spock skimmed through the information and tilted his head slightly. Suddenly Jim felt nervous, as if he hadn't spent the past day scrapping together as much as he could.

"This is an impressive amount of Data Mr. Kirk." Spock spoke and there was shift to his tone and he couldn't help but think the Vulcan sounded impressed. Though he was a bit dissapointed at Spock's disinclination to use his given name.

"It's really not, but that's all I could find on the servers," Jim laughed but it barely contained any real humor, "Y'know, considering the Vulcan race practically took the Human's by the hands and taught them to walk in a post-warp society, it's really surprising we don't know more about your dietary and survival needs."

Spock handed the PADD back, "Since humans were already capable of walking, I'm assuming you were implying a metaphor for my race's guidance of your own."

Jim took the PADD and nodded, "That is correct Mr. Spock, and the point stands regardless of the metaphor."

"Those in charge of information distributions have always deemed it unnecessary to share such information with the Human race, all Vulcans are taught survival skills at a young age and know how to care for their own needs, " Spock explained,

"But I have found in my own service in Starfleet, that there were situations which my own training on Vulcan had not prepared me for and the Survival Course should have."

"So," Jim did his best to understand, "You're saying to scrap the template and make it more like a supplemental packet."

"I said nor implied such a thing," Spock replied, "But the conclusion you have come to is a logical one."

That was the closest thing to a compliment Jim knew he was going to get so he smiled at the Vulcan and said, "Excellent, do you mind sharing what parts of your Survival training you found lacking, then we can figure out how to supply training for the Vulcan Cadets."

"I find your proposition agreeable." Spock replied and so Jim sat at the table while putting out hand to offer Spock the seat next to him,

"Well let's get settled then I have until 2200 hours to get this packet assembled and sent to Captain Pike for approval."

Spock took to offered seat and examined the books Jim had set out so he explained to the Vulcan, "They're arranged by year and quantity of relevant Data."

In return Spock looked at Jim and his face would have been neutral if it wasn't for the fact the Vulcan had raised a single angled eyebrow at him. Jim wondered what his expression meant and something told him that Spock was surprised at how reasonably the books were organized.

Jim was surprised at how expressive he was. T'Sar had been expressive after some time, but that was extenuating circumstances and she had gone back to the stone face that practically all Vulcan's possessed in the end.

But Spock, while his face was just as stoic as the other Vulcans Jim had met, there was something in his eyes that seemed willing to be known.

"I defer to your superior knowledge for where to begin," Jim smiled and Spock gave a shallow nod.

"Then we shall begin in scenarios regarding unidentified plant species which cannot be scanned," Spock then launched into what would have seemed like a lecture if it wasn't so interesting, regarding how Vulcans can identify foliage that was edible to them on uncharted planets.

Jim took extensive notes on it.

When he was finished with that Spock explained further on Vulcan requirements for shelter in environments that his own education hadn't prepared him for as well as a few more niche requirements for his species survival.

It was easily the most interesting information dump Jim had ever listened to.

In the middle of explaining how to identify suitable liquids on water-less planets Spock stopped and asked, "Will it be possible for you to send me the final version of the packet you are constructing? I would be gratified to see it completed."

Jim stopped his note taking and replied, "Of course, your going to be credited on it so there's really no reason to keep it from you."

Then he couldn't help but smile, nor the teasing tone that his voice took on as he said, "Why? Are you worried It won't be up to your standards?"

"Vulcans do not worry," Spock informed him evenly, "Though you raise a valid point. I am not acquainted with you and while I am aware of your history of performance, it is debatable whether or not you will have the packet contain a sufficient amount of the relevant data.

"Simply because you yourself are not Vulcan and would not know how to prioritize it. Perhaps I should also aide you in the packet's construction."

Jim pressed his lips together and could feel his own suppressed laughed causing his chest to rumble. Yet, he contains himself enough that he was only smiling like an idiot.

Apparently, Spock wasn't the kind to take prisoners.

"I'd better do my own work for myself," Jim replied once the humor of it had passed, "But how does me sending my final version to you first sound? I can wait before you approve it before sending it to him.

"I'm sure Captain Pike will approved of quality over timing."

"I will not ask you to risk penalty of the project being late," Spock replied, "If I find any crucial information lacking you would be better served creating an updated version to be issued to the Cadets at a later time."

 

It was reasonable so Jim nodded, "Alright Mr. Spock, if there's not enough time for you to read it and approve it I'll send it off to Pike and tell him there might be revisions depending on what you think of it."

"That would be more favorable than having the infopack reach Captain Pike late," Spock agreed easily.

With that decided, Spock finished supplying Jim with the information he felt would supplement the Vulcan Cadets.

Once they were finished Jim stood and reached to grab one of the tomes in order to place it in the proper return basket. Except Spock also reached for the same tome and Jim found their hands brushing ever so slightly.

At first, the contact caused an almost electrifying tingle to shoot its way through Jim's nerves. It was such a unique sensation, that it was enough to cause him to flush. Only a second after it happened though, Jim realized was a major faux pas he had made and jerked his hand away from it's path.

Spock did the same with such violence it startled Jim. The Vulcan turned his eyes to the other man and they seemed searching.

"Forgive me," Jim tried to keep his voice steady but the even had caused all the air to rush from his lungs, "I didn't see you reaching for the book, this was my fault. I did not mean to touch you."

There was a moment of silence until Spock finally spoke, "There can be no offence where none is taken. It is normal for mistakes to occur with a tactile species such as yourself. "

A wave of relief washed over Jim and he let out a sigh, he shoulders slumped, and his body relaxed even though he hadn't realized it had gone tense.

Then there was another surprise as Spock looked at his hand that had been touched and back to Jim, "Though I must ask what you have been rated on the Psionic Scale."

Most humans, like Nyota, Kevin, and even Bones rated a big fat 0. They were Psionically Null and viewed as 'mind blind' to the species which possessed telepathic abilities.

"I'm a 1," Jim replied, always one to break the mold, according to some he was a freak, "I'm receptive to telepathic contact but any empathy I might have just reads as being good with people. I don't have any real abilities.

"Did I hurt you?"

"No harm was done to my person," Spock replied and it seemed to be intended to reassure Jim that he didn't need to keep apologizing.

Jim nodded accepting Spock's words and moved to pick up a different tome. He couldn't help but feel bad about the entire thing but Spock seemed unbothered, if anything he was almost humming with curiosity over the small exchange as they put the tomes in their proper baskets.

 

Later, he would look back and realize that the exchange had been far from ordinary. That Spock had known that. But at the moment he was intent on getting the hell out of Media Room Gamma before he made the Vulcan even more uncomfortable than he probably already was.

Except Jim knew somehow that Spock really was unharmed and lacked any upset at the mistake.

It was strange but Jim just pushed it all away so that he could get out of the library and be embarrassed in peace.

He just hoped that if Pike decided to bring Spock on to be an extra aide for the Vulcan Cadets, that Jim would be over whatever guilt he was feeling for accidentally touching the poor guys hands.

Jim knew what Vulcans hands touching meant, he knew. T'Sar had been sure he knew by the end of it all and yet he'd made foolish mistake because what? He was tired?

If Spock felt Jim's breach was intentional he could file a complaint.

But he didn't', he was unbothered and completely alright with the mistake. So why did Jim feel so bad?

As they parted at the library doors Jim hoped that Spock did end up working with the Vulcan Cadets. Not only so that they would be prepared by someone who knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what they needed, but also because Jim really felt the need to make it up to him.

Jim sighed and watched the Vulcan make his way across the courtyard and vanish into the faculty buildings located just past the statue of Zephrame Cochrane.

It was then that his portable Comm Link decided to buzz.

He began walking towards the lot where he'd parked his hover bike and pulled his Comm Link off his belt and flipped it opened to find the caller ID declaring 'Gaila Vro'.

Accepting the call, Gailia's face appeared on the screen and he greeted her, "Cadet Vro, to what do I owe the pleasure of this call?"

"I was hoping we could go out for drinks or something," Gailia replied easily, before squinting, "Are you still at the Academy?"

"Just got out of a research meeting," Jim informed her as he reached his hover bike and attached his bag to the back of it, "I'll be pretty busy for the rest of the night, maybe we can go out together tomorrow night."

Gailia's expression seemed less than pleased as he mounted the bike but didn't put his helmet on or make any move to start it, "What, you can drop everything for Nyota and not me?"

So that's what this was going to about then. Jim tried his best to keep his smile as he internally wished that Gailia hadn't decided to have this conversation over Comm.

"Gailia, I have a project due at 2200 tonight," Jim did his best to sound reasonable, he was worried that she might not see it that way,

"If I could I'd be happy to talk to you right now, you're my friend, but tonight I'm on a time crunch and it's very important I meet my deadline."

"I just want to know if Nyota filed a report," Gailia was apparently done dancing around the subject she was interested in and grew very grave.

"The answer to that question is confidential," Jim was gentle in his tone, "Cadet Vro, you're going to have to talk to Cadet Uhura about this.

"I'm sure she'd be more than willing to discuss the issue with you in detail."

"Yeah but she's a prude who's gotten about 4000% less fun since you left," Gailia crossed her arms and let out a sigh, "She's always holding me to human standards when it comes to space sharing and I'm sick of it."

"Then tell her that." Jim replied, and Gailia rolled her eyes, so he continued gravely,"I'm serious. You need to understand that you're the one breaking regulations. Whatever issues you two are having aren't worth getting kicked out over.

"If you feel she's being intolerant or insensitive to your needs after you've talked, then you can file a complaint."

"Really?!" Gailia sounded so frustrated Jim couldn't help but wonder at it as she said, "That's all your gonna say?"

He wondered why he was the only one that realized the precarious situation he found himself in, because both of his friends that were still Cadets really seemed genuinely surprised by his behavior.

"Cadet Vro," Jim tried to help her understand, "This isn't something purely social, like you accidentally using Cadet Uhura's toothbrush or her forgetting to meet you for a lunch date.

"This is an actual Rooming Issue and I'm a member of Staff. I can't advise you further unless you wish to log a formal complaint."

Gaila stared at him as if he had lost his head until she finally said, "Fine, I'll talk to her."

"Good, I'll see you tomorrow for drinks. Just send me a time and place." Jim replied and Gailia hung up. The ball was in her court at this point really.

When he made it back to his apartment, Jim set the replicator for a personal pizza and got to work on completing the new infopack with the information he'd gotten from Spock.

It was good busy work that helped him keep his mind off what was going on with his friends but by the time he had eaten his food and finished the packet, it was only 1900 hours.

So with time to spare he sent the infopack off to Spock for review. Hopefully if the Vulcan had time he could get some notes on the thing before he had to send it off to Pike.

But as he just sat there waiting for a response the situation between Gailia and Nyota weighed on him. It was between them, but since both women had come to him Jim felt guilty for not being able to help anymore than he had.

They were his first friends when he entered the Academy and while he knew graduating before them was going to change things, Jim hadn't realized how hard it was going to be for him to hold back when they were asking for help.

Giving them the advice to talk was really all he could and should do.

Jim sighed in relief when Spock responded with minimal notes on the infopack and he was actually able to polish it up just as his deadline rolled around. Kevin had come home while Jim had been working and the Cadet had eaten and immediately crashed.

Thankfully, now that the infopack was ready and sent, Jim could do the same himself.

When morning came again, Jim repeated his new routine of showering, cooking, eating, and waking up Kevin before departing.

It was nice to have something from before re-institute itself into his life back on Earth.

This time when Jim entered the classroom designated for the Survival Course Pike greeted him by saying, "So, what did you think of Spock?"

Jim, who had been placing his back under his designated chair, froze at the question. For one mindbogglingly insane moment he was about to answer by saying 'he's beautiful'. As if Pike had been setting them up on a date.

It settled badly in his heart. That the first thing which came to mind when asked about Spock was his looks. Yet, that wasn't quite what Jim meant.

Spock was beautiful in how he moved and spoke about his culture with a stoic face and eyes on fire. He was beautiful in the knowledge that seemed to pour forth without reference, all of it neatly ordered.

"He's fascinating." Jim ended up saying, because there was no other word he could use to describe the Vulcan that didn't sell him short, "I find him extremely intelligent and easy to speak to."

"Good." Pike smiled from his place seated at the large desk, "Because I've decided to bring him on after all, after reading the infopack I realized it would be best for him to be hands on."

"Great because as wonderful as the infopack he provided data for is, most of it's just supplementary and Spock wasn't about to tell me anything beyond that," Jim replied with a sense of relief. With Spock on for the Survival Dome, Jim wouldn't be unduly stressed with his ability,or lack thereof, to properly help the Vulcan Cadets.

Captain Pike gestured to the PADD on his desk, "You two did some good work."

"It was mostly Spock, I just took notes and organized them." Jim smiled, and he felt a bit lighter, "He even sent me feedback on it before I sent it to you, helped me polish it up."

Tilting his head Pike seemed amused by the whole thing, "Well when I send the infopack to the Humans I want you to send the Vulcan one off from your PADD."

"Yes Sir." Jim nodded and pulled his PADD out and prepared for the DATA transfer. Pike provided him with the Cadets information and Jim input the information.

The classroom began filling up then, and by the time the buzzer sounded it seemed their entire group had arrived and were preparing for the days lesson.

"Welcome to your first official day enlisted in the Darwin Initiative." Pike announced as he came forward, he was in full lecture mode, "For our first week we'll be discussing shelter in various climates and conditions.

"Some locations and situations will require you construct or locate shelter."

Pike pulled out his PADD and sent the Human infopack, Jim followed his lead.

"You Humans have just received an infopack that contains the Starfleet equivalent of 'Survival for Dummies' and you Vulcans have received one containing a supplemental packet made to build on your existing training."

All but one of the Vulcan students seemed to accept the new and activated their PADDS in order to open their packs. It was T'Renn who seemed surprised by the information. One of her perfectly eyebrows raised into her bangs as she eyed Pike before doing the same as her fellow Cadets.

 

Jim couldn't even begin to guess what she wished to say with such a display but whatever it was it apparently brought Pike a bit of amusement since the Captain simply smiled at her until she opened her infopack.

Pike continued, "Now that you each have the appropriate material I ask you access the table of contents and open to the section relevant to this weeks lesson."

The Cadets moved and class continued as Pike lectured on shelters made of leaves and suitable cave shelters.

He even quizzed each of them on what type of shelter different scenarios called for and why each was important. The Cadets floundered in the first half, after all they'd only just been given a lecture and the beginnings of the important information.

The Vulcans performed almost flawlessly and Jim couldn't help but think that their people seemed ready for literally anything. It was no wonder that T'Renn had seemed surprised by the fact they'd prepared a packet.

It was no wonder that Spock had been dissatisfied with his own education in the Survival Course.

Vulcans just assumed they knew what they needed because they received basic training, and the Starfleet Staff tended to assume that if they thought they were fine then they must be.

There had been a time that Jim had accepted it just like most people. He was glad that he knew better. It had been an ignorant assumption that was just as bad as any other stereotype.

At the end of the lesson Pike assigned a section of reading and then he dismissed the Cadets in turn. Most of them readily bolted out of the room, ostensibly in order to get to their next class.

Surprisingly one of the Vulcans approached Pike, Jim recognized him from the information Pike provided earlier for the DATA transfer.

"Mr. Sordik, did you have a question?" Pike smiled at the Vulcan male that appeared unaffected.

"The supplemental packet you have provided implies such a knowledge of our own training I was curious as to who created it." Sordik replied.

Jim pulled his bag out from under his chair and couldn't help but listen to the conversation as he put his PADD in it's place.

"Well that would be Mr. Kirk's doing." Pike sounded almost proud ash he gestured to Jim. For his part Jim turned to the Cadet and Pike with an easy smile.

"I just put it together," Jim confessed, "The information itself came from Lt. Cmdr. Spock, I believe he's assisting Professor Calem with Advance Xeno-Linguistics this semester."

Sordik replied first with and arched eyebrow then a shallow lilt of his head, "I see, Lt. Cmdr. Spock is known to me."

With that the Cadet left along with the the rest. Jim couldn't help but wonder if that was a positive or a negative response. Spock had been much easier to read and Jim almost felt lost after the interaction with the Cadet.

Once Sordik had cleared the room Jim turned to Pike and huffed out a quiet laugh, "Tough crowd."

 

"How do you know he's helping Calem?" Pike jibbed back, it was teasing but a partial reprimand.

 

"I'm a curious man," Jim offered only a single shoulder shrug in apology, "I was just curious what a brilliant mind like that was doing grounded on Earth."

 

"Patiently waiting to be my Chief Science Officer when the Enterprise leaves dock," Pike replied, this time he was practically radiating his smugness over the fact. Even if it was only his eyes that twinkled, Jim knew the truth.

 

"That'd do it." Jim laughed and shook his head. The Enterprise was enough to tempt anyone.

 

"That it did." Pike agreed.

Chapter Text

"An adult Vulcan can go more than a full week without food or water, they will of course function sufficiently, but less than is optimal," Spock spoke easily as if he was simply talking about the weather.

It was just data to him, Jim supposed. Spock probably had no reason to go anywhere near that long without food unless he was fasting as some Vulcans chose to do.

The were in Media Room Delta today and while Spock was sitting primly in a chair parked next to the central conference table, he was facing Jim. Who was lounging in a giant beanbag chair that was mostly utilized by the children of Staff or particularly young Cadets.

"Well what qualifies as an Adult? Because the youngest of the group is Cadet T'Sel and she's 17, Sordik is 18 and T'Rena 21." Jim replied easily.

"Then Cadets T'Sel and Torvik will require some of the rations we provide," Spock said easily, "The older Cadet will not need to eat should food run low during the simulation."

"Right," Jim frowned at his companion, "But what if food does run low and they don't come to the same conclusion as you? We can't mark them down for a difference of opinion."

"Their logic may differ from my own," Spock conceded, "Yet there is only one truth, the older Vulcan Cadets will not be in need of nutrients."

It was impossible to know if the Cadets would be capable of gathering enough food for the entire group. But that wasn't the point of this discussion.

Pike was well equipped with a grading rubric for the Human Cadets of their group, yet there was no Vulcan one. That left it up to Jim and now Spock, who had agreed to help with the Vulcan Cadets, to create a rubric from scratch.

The pressure was on because this would provide the base for, not just their own Cadets but, all future Vulcans who would one day take the same course.

"I'll concede to your greater knowledge," Jim replied, "But you're going to have to put a cut off age so anyone that's too young to hold off doesn't get marked down for eating more than they should."

Spock suddenly seemed uncomfortable with this and if he was any other race Jim would have expected the other man to squirm.

"This, and the healing trance, is not something we speak of to offworlders and it would not do to put it down in writing," Spock sounded like he was making a confession of some sort and was almost guilty.

"So we'll put it vaguely," Jim sighed and gave a shrug, "Maybe say Vulcans can go longer without food so they need less sustenance. You don't have to put any real numbers."

Spock let out a puff of air that Jim realized was a sigh and appeared to be relieved at the suggestion.

"Now I don't mean to sound ungrateful Mr. Spock," Jim began as he sat up in his place on the beanbag chair, "But why do you keep telling me this stuff if I'm not actually allowed to talk about it?"

Because Jim knew he wasn't allowed to talk about it, if Spock said he himself wasn't allowed then the Vulcan was obviously making an exception for some unknown reason. One Jim was hoping to learn at the moment.

Instead of causing Spock to draw inward, this brought an unexpected light to the Vulcan's eyes and Jim would say he looked almost pleased with it.

"I have found that it would not due to keep the particulars of my biology from you Mr. Kirk," Spock spoke and it almost sounded shy, "Though I am pleased you have realized on your own that you must keep them to yourself."

Something about those words,or perhaps how they were spoken, made Jim's chest fill with warmth. If he didn't know any better he'd say Spock was flirting with him.

But Jim wasn't an idiot, Spock was simply seeing the logic in sharing potentially vital information with a person who would be directly in charge of Vulcan Cadets in a survival simulation.

"I appreciate your honesty," Jim smiled warmly in appreciation, "And I guarantee you that it will be as if I haven't heard a word you said."

Spock once more seemed happy with this reply and the corner of his mouth twitch in an almost smile. Jim couldn't help but think the Vulcan was handsome when his eyes were shining with hidden mirth.

"Now, Vulcan strength while a useful resource, cannot be allowed to be taken advantage of," Jim tried to move on to a different subject, one that didn't make him feel drawn Spock in inadvisable ways, "Should we grade on how it's employed?"

"You suggest listing it as a resource to be utilized" Spock replied but his eyes were still shining.

"Everything is a resource Mr. Spock," Jim informed him, but he was still smiling too.

Working together, they created something that resembled the beginnings of a suitable rubric. Once all of their parameters had been decided on, it was left to Jim to create the final rubric that would be sent to Spock for approval. The moment it was approved it would be added to Pike's pile of resources.

As they were getting ready to leave by placing their references in the designated bins, Jim was surprised when Spock suddenly said,

"I have found satisfaction with working alongside you Mr. Kirk."

"I've enjoyed it too," Jim smiled, "I'm sure spending a week in a forest with you and half a dozen Cadets won't be too hard."

"I find myself with the desire to meet you in a more social setting that does not qualify us to compile research," Spock almost seemed nervous as he spoke and Jim had to turn fully to the Vulcan to make sure he was reading him right.

"Perhaps an afternoon meal, or if you play chess I would not object to a recreational game."

A companion, Spock was seeking him out as the Vulcan equivalent of a friend to pass time with. It was a compliment to Jim's intellect and professionalism that Spock would offer such a thing. That had to be what he was offering because they had met for work a grand total of 2 times and spoken over Comm only to arrange those meetings.

There was nothing more to read into this.

"I'd love to have lunch with you," Jim replied, the warmth from before that had infected his entire demeanor, "Is there a day that's best for you?"

As he was speaking her reminded himself that this was exactly like going to brunch with Bones or like when he took Gary to dinner before he'd set off on the USS Bradbury. Normally it wasn't that hard for Jim, but something about Spock was standing with nervousness buzzing just beneath the surface made it difficult.

Jim didn't believe in love at first sight. Love was earned through trust and growing together. But there was something undeniable in the way Spock just seemed to move that made Jim want to think there was a chance.

Except he he knew better than to fall for a Vulcan.

"Friday, perhaps at 0100 hours, we may meet at a small cafe I have found myself a patron of since I myself was a Cadet," Spock replied and it would seem calm and collected, but something told Jim he was jittery.

"Just send the address over and I'll be happy to meet up," Jim then moved to put his PADD into his satchel, "Until then, I have a rubric to make."

"I am certain it shall be approved swiftly," Spock said and he seemed calmer now, the Vulcan was once again smiling with his eyes.

"Yeah well," Jim huffed out a laugh, "That makes one of us."

"You speak as if you are unsure of your own ability," Spock's words were reassuring as he said, "Though, if you cannot be confident of your work, be assured I have no such reservations.

"Captain Pike chose his assistant well."

"You've done all the work," Jim shook his head, "I just organized it all. Really if you weren't helping Professor Calem, Captain Pike would have chosen you for this.

"As it is, he's already commandeered you because I was lacking."

"In knowledge that few Humans are privy to," Spock was insistent, surprisingly so, "Be assured that I have found the infopack you produced far more logical and efficient than any of the data I was given in my own time in the Survival Course.

"Additionally you are pleasing to work with and have provided a work environment that is far more gratifying than any other I've taken part in while on Earth.

"Have I not made my satisfaction with you and your work clear with my invitation for a meal?"

Jim was suddenly completely confused.

It felt like they were having 2 completely different conversations and he really had no idea where Spock's sudden conviction came from.

"Thank you Mr. Spock," Jim spoke slowly while trying to suss out what was going on, "You have my compliments as well.

"I'm just surprised because we've only met twice and you're overture seems sudden. From what I know of Vulcans they don't take their association lightly."

"Ah," Spock relaxed and blinked slowly, but his intensity remained as he replied, "You are not mistaken, my people do not make friends in the Human sense."

With that he dipped his head in a shallow nod before saying, "I will send you the address to the establishment this evening."

Then he left and Jim felt even more confused than before.

Shaking himself from the odd energy that had filled the room as Spock had made his final declarations, Jim pulled his satchel over his shoulder and made his way out of the library.

They were still at the very beginning of the semester, and most classes were year long courses. So it was a surprise when Jim arrived at the apartment and found Kevin at the table with his PADD and a holo screen. Around the Cadet was scattering info discs and touchpad for typing.

"You're home." Jim was just coming in the door and tilted his head, "I feel like the only time I see you is when you drag yourself home at 2200."

Kevin lifted his head to look at Jim and frowned, "Yeah but class is in full swing now so time to actually do shit.

"How was your meeting?"

"Still got some work to do, project isn't due till Friday though," Jim shrugged, "It's for the final."

"Ya have a dome assigned then?" Kevin raised his eyebrows and pursed his lips. Jim assumed the strange face he was putting on was to convince him to tell Kevin which location this semester's group was assigned.

"Kevin, you'r a menace and there's no way I'm telling you the location." Jim smiled and tossed his satchel onto the couch as he removed his grey coat.

"C'mon! I could make rent off it," Kevin pleaded and it would have been cute if he was 9 and not 19.

Jim raised an eyebrow and allowed his disbelief to show plainly as he turned to the Cadet, "You really think telling me you'll sell the information is going to convince me to hand it over? "

Then he fully processed the stupidity of Kevin's statement, " And you live here for free!"

"Only 'cause I'm not able to make rent," Kevin assured him with exaggerated graveness and Jim just rolled his eyes at the younger man.

"I'm sure."

At once, both of their alarms beeped and Kevin groaned, "Who has time to eat?! I have to write an essay on the difference between High Golic and Ancient Romulan!"

"I'll order a pizza," Jim made his way to his room, "Any requests?"

"You orderin from that place with that baked potato fare?" Kevin's tone was optimistic and Jim huffed out a laugh and called back,

"Yeah, Kevin," Jim shook his head and closed the door to his room before tossing aside his coat and sighing.

If he didn't order now they'd both forget so Jim took a breath and pulled out his Comm System from the side of his bed and made the call.

After ordering two personal pizza's, one baked potato and one ham and olive, Jim pulled up his messages.

Gailia had yet to send him a meeting place for drinks. It had been roughly two weeks since Nyota had spent the night and he had only exchanged messages with one of them. Nyota to inform him that she and Gailia had talked, and another message exchange that had nothing to do with the issue and just a catch up.

As he was scrolling, Jim found a voice memo from Commander Reychi, the USS Farragut's first officer wasn't someone was expecting calls from. So immediately he brought up the message with a modicum of apprehension.

Jim pressed play and the man's voice filtered out of the speakers.

"Lt. Cmdr. Kirk, this is Commander Reychi of the USS Farragut. I have a proposition for you and I would very much appreciate if you called me back the moment you had time," Reychi sounded confident with the kind of assurance that being an experience officer brought,

"Reychi Out."

Jim couldn't help but smile at the screen. The eagerness he was feeling at the prospect of Reychi having.not an assignment but, an offer was almost too much to handle. They were barely into the semester and that meant that Captain Garrovik was very eager to play his hand and snatch him up.

The fact that it wasn't Garrovik himself didn't bode well, sure Jim was better acquainted with Reychi, but if Garrovik was serious he should have made the call himself. Well, it was time to see what the Farragut was putting on the table.

Taking a breath Jim immediately pressed a finger on the 'call' button and watched the Comm Link ring.

In moments the line was picked up and Reychi's face filled the screen.

"Mr. Kirk! It's good to see you call back so soon!"

"Commander," Jim nodded in greeting, this was a negotiation and he was the prize. There was a level of respect and nonchalance to be maintained, "I'm surprised to hear from you so early."

The line needed to be walked carefully, and there was nothing Jim did better than walk it.

Reychi seemed startled by his words and Jim just smiled. Good, let him know how telling it was that the Farragut was playing their cards so early. How bad it looked that they were having their XO do it.

"Well you know how it is Number Two! Garrovik is eager to get back out there," Reychi smiled back easily, "He's got an 8 month mission lined up once the Academic Year ends and the Ensigns start piling in.

"I've got my hands full with staffing paperwork!"

"Oh?," Jim replied curiously, he knew the Commander was just trying to soften the blow of this call not coming from Garrovik himself, "Is that much of the crew switching out?"

"Not that much," Reychi laughed, "Just a lot of the lower ranked kids, a lot of them aren't patient enough to wait a year to ship out."

"I get that," Jim agreed, he could remember his second year when he was taken on a 2 week training cruise with the USS Shelly, once you get the hum of a Warpcore in your veins you can't shake it.

"Speaking of waiting," Reychi trailed off slyly, "How long are you going to be helping Pike with that Course of his?"

"Signed on for the full Academic Year," Jim replied, then rather threateningly added, "Might teach it myself next year, we'll see how everything goes."

It was time to stop beating around the bush, and for Reychi to lay whatever offer Garrovik was giving on the table.

"Well you might not have to," Reychi's smile broadened, "Captain Garrovik has Authorized me to offer you the position of Secondary Tactical on the bridge."

Jim didn't let his smile falter as he said, "That's a solid offer."

Because it was. Secondary Tactical was a great offer for someone who had only been in Starfleet for 3 years. 1 year on a ship took him all the way to the bridge.

But the fact was, Garrovik had so little confidence in his own offer he'd played his hand early. That meant there was someone else who was ready to toss Jim a bigger piece of the pie.

"Good I'll tell Garrovik the news," Reychi nodded but Jim laughed,

"Hold on, I haven't answered."

Reychi was still smiling but Jim could see him start to sweat as he replied, "Mr. Kirk you've only been on a Starship for a year, this is the best offer I've ever seen for a person in your position."

"I'm a Lt. Commander now," Jim replied, "And it's too early to be accepting commissions. Tell Garrovik I'll think on it and once I make my decision, you'll be the first to know."

"Jim, Garrovik and I recommended you for that rank," Reychi was still smiling but it was failing, "I'm sure if you stay on board the Farragut you'll be Chief of Navigation in no time, maybe even another year or two.

" If you say no, you're going to end up as someone's Gamma Crew Navigator."

They may have recommended it, but Pike had been the one to present it. Which wasn't lost on Jim.

"I didn't say no," Jim reasoned, "I said I had to think about it."

Reychi nodded but his smile was now tight,"Right, well it was good talking. You think on it and you come right back and say yes y'hear."

The Commander laughed and Jim feigned a quiet huff along with him, "I'll give you my answer once I know."

With that the call ended and Jim smiled ruefully to himself over the offer. What was Garrovik so afraid of that he'd play his hand so early and demand an answer so soon? Especially since the Farragut wasn't leaving until the end of the year.

Whatever it was, Jim couldn't wait to find out.

Pushing the Comm Screen back against the wall, he yawned then got back to his regular routine of changing into a pair of sweats, before making his way back out into the living room.

Jim turned on the holo screen and shoved his satchel aside so that he could lay back on the sofa. Kevin was still working on his essay so Jim kept the volume low while he sifted through the news channels.

By the time their Pizza arrived at the door, Kevin was packing up his class work and so Jim payed for the food and brought it inside.

Kevin returned wearing the same t-shirt and shorts he'd done his homework in and crashed onto the couch just as Jim was bringing the boxes towards the table.

"For the love of all that is good and green can we please eat in the living room?" Kevin groaned and Jim rolled his eyes but indulged the kid, because he'd just spent who knew how long in the dining room.

"Just for tonight," Jim sighed and placed the pizza boxes on the small coffee table in front of the couch, "You wanna watch a movie? I'm done with the news."

Kevin, as if suddenly filled with new life, scrambled to his feet and grabbed the box of holo chips they owned from it's place next to the screen, "I'm putting on something good before you play another one of those documentaries on extinct wildlife!"

Jim really did laugh then as he made his way to the kitchen to grab a couple of plates ,"Kevin, you do whatever you want because after I eat I'm going straight to bed."

So, he grabbed a pair of plates along with two bottles of strawberry water and came back to the living area where Kevin was snapping a holo chip into the screen. Jim moved his satchel to the floor and sat down with a sigh, placing Kevin's plate and their drinks on the table and opening his own pizza box, "What'd you decide on?"

"Not an old man movie," Kevin replied with a smile, then rose to his feet, "It's a romance."

Jim closed his eyes and reminded himself he was going to bed once his pizza was gone and was not obligated to sit through an awful romantic comedy with Kevin, "Please tell me it's not 'The Blessed Stars of Rigel'."

"No," Kevin sat on the couch and began filling his plate with pizza, "It's the sequel where she finds out the guy was really just trying to become King and she meets her REAL true love."

Kevin took a smug bite of his baked potato pizza.

"Right," Jim smiled and shook his head before taking a bite of his own food, it tasted amazing, far better than pizza from a non-Italian place deserved to be.

"I think I waited to long to eat," Kevin said suddenly around his mouthful. Jim turned to him, and stared the Cadet down. Worry was flaring in his belly but he needed to make sure Kevin was alright.

"Swallow it Kevin," Jim commanded as he put his food aside and grabbed one of the flavored waters, he cracked it opened.

Kevin pursed his lips together and inhaled sharply through his nose before swallowing it and Jim shoved the bottled drink into the younger man's hands. Instantly Kevin grabbed it and took an enormous gulp of the water to chase his food.

Jim watched as the Cadet heaved out a breath that would have sounded as if he was refreshed to anyone else.

"Kevin, when was the last time you ate?" Jim spoke gently, the younger man had been eating breakfast, there hadn't been left overs so it couldn't have been too long.

Kevin cringed as the noise of the movie's opening sequence filled the room, "Yesterday at dinner?"

Jim took a breath and Kevin swallowed, his voice small as he tried to explained, "I know you made breakfast and I wrapped it all up into a butty cause I got up late! But Halli hadn't had time to swing by the cafeteria so I gave it to her!

"I was gonna eat lunch Jim, it wasn't a big deal! Except Lilthan wanted to use the labs and the only time they weren't booked was during lunch so I thought just once would be fine!"

Jim focused on Kevin, everything was about Kevin in this moment. Not his sudden anger and disappointment that was rushing past his ears like hurricane, "You know it's a big deal Kevin, for us it's a big deal."

Looking down at the cushions of the couch Kevin exhaled, "I thought, maybe I was going to be fine this time. I thought, I just thought-"

"I know," Jim put a hand on the younger man's shoulder in a gesture of comfort, because he did know, "But you know that's why we have the alarms.

"You need to eat Kevin, if this happens again I'm going to have to start calling you at meal times again. You know that right?"

"I don't want you to worry Jim," Kevin sighed and it sounded like he was going to cry, Jim wasn't going to have that so he brought the younger man closer and hugged him. Tucking Kevin's head below his chin.

"I'm going to worry anyways," Jim replied as Kevin returned the hug. Suddenly Jim felt his chest constrict, and he needed to know, "Did you ever- Has this happened when I was gone?"

"No," Kevin replied and tightness loosened in Jim's chest as the Cadet assured him,"I used to eat meal bars for breakfast but since you've been back I've been leaving them in the box."

The box, referring to the stash of non-perishable foods they each kept under their beds.

Jim pulled away then and Kevin moved back to his seat on the couch, "Alright, lets try this again."

"I'm sorry Jim," Kevin suddenly choked and his eyes were red, filling with tears.

"Don't apologize to me Kevin," Jim tried to sound soothing as he rubbed the younger's shoulder, "It's OK, you just need to eat."

Kevin nodded and moved to grab his food, slowly he took a small bite and chased it with a drink of his flavored water. Jim watched carefully and ate his own pizza. Kevin kept an eye on the movie and moved in his normal pattern of eating and drinking until he was once more relaxed.

Jim kept watch until the Cadet was finished.