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“Jim Kirk.”

Jim whipped around so fast most of his drink ended up on Spock, who was reaching for the phaser that wasn’t there. The Enterprise crew was parting like the biblical seas before Moses, and Jim could feel the temperature dropping.

“Mom,” Jim croaked.

“Admiral Lawson!” an aide shouted breathlessly, running into the room where most of the Enterprise crew was staring openly.

“Winona Lawson is your ma?” Scotty demanded, his eyes going round and full of regrets that Jim was trying really hard not to recognize.

“Admiral Lawson, you have to check in first—Admiral! Commodore Paris will be happy to receive you—“

Winona held up one finger to Jim, who nodded, while she turned on the aide, who paled suddenly.

“This,” Winona said, gesturing grandly, “is my son. Captain James Tiberius Kirk, who lately tried to kill himself for what was—by my count—the eighth time on behalf of the Federation. It’s his birthday, and I know this because I spent an agonizing flight in an escape pod giving birth to him while my husband, Captain George Samuel Kirk, crashed himself into the Romulan time-traveling ship which would later destroy Vulcan.”

“I will—tell her you will see her later,” the aide volunteered in an uncertain voice, his antennae twitching nervously while the rest of him stood very, very still.

 “You’re so smart,” Winona told him, without a hint of irony.

 “That’s your mother?” Uhura demanded in an undertone. Jim took Spock’s drink and downed it fatalistically.

 “We’re lucky she dinnae shoot him,” Scotty said in hushed, reverential tones. Jim shot a look at him. “Which of course would be very wrong, indeed.”

 “Mom,” Jim said.

 “Jim,” she replied, and hauled him down into a fierce hug.

 Winona Kirk was a small woman, and Jim had always thought she looked like the princesses in his fairytale books with her long gold hair and her blue eyes—something fragile in her wrists and the turn of her hips. She had her fingers in his hair and around his shoulders, though, and he inhaled the scent of her, faintly metallic, like stardust was in her pores.

 “Lawson?” he asked, pulling back.

 “Let’s take a walk, kid,” she replied.

 ***

 Admiral Lawson was afforded her own suite, complete with all of the luxuries, and it overlooked the twisting, arcing roads of York. She made the windows opaque as soon as they crossed the threshold.

 “What the fuck, kid,” she said, unzipping her jacket and throwing it on the bed. He was shocked to see that her hair wasn’t pale gold, it was mostly white now, and that the laugh lines he remembered were permanent creases in her eyes and beside her mouth, and her eyes were very, very blue.

 “I—it had to be done,” he said. He wondered if he’d been this nervous facing down Khan. He must have been. Probably. “There was no one else—“

 She looked at him for a beat, nonplussed, and then said, “I’m talking about the promotion. You think I don’t know about ‘no one else’?”

 It was hard, sometimes, to remember that someone else owned the story of George Kirk. His father had been so defining all Jim’s life, the comparisons that everyone else put on him—the comparisons he’d invited hungrily, sometimes, just wanting to be closer to the father he’d never know. He knew his father’s death had affected his mother. She’d never remarried—as far as he knew, she’d never had anyone. Jim would sometimes overhear Uncle Frank talking to Aunt Lucy about it, about what a tragedy it was.

 But he had four years in space under his belt now, he was facing down 30, and he wondered how much of his father’s legacy his mother had lived under the weight of. If in the same way he’d struggled to be more than George Kirk’s Boy, she’d fought to be more than George Kirk’s Wife.

 “Lawson,” he realized.

 “Hm?” she asked, looking up from the room service menu. “Oh, no. I never took George’s name. I thought it was sort of antiquated, as a tradition, and frankly if anyone was taking last names he should have taken mine. I hyphenated, for a while, but then when Chris told me you were joining I dropped it.”

 It hit like a punch to the solar plexus. “Oh,” he said.

 “Don’t be an idiot,” she said, throwing the menu at him. “Jimmy. I didn’t want people judging you because you were my kid. George—whether or not he deserved it, he got turned into a saint. The Martyr of Starfleet. George’s legacy, it—kid, it gave you an in that my name wouldn’t have. Well, it might have, but not for the same reasons.”

 Jim frowned at her. Captain Lawson.

 “Oh my god you were in one of my seminars as a case study,” he realized.

 “I think I’m in three of them now. If it makes you feel better, you’re working your way up to a full chapter. I’m so proud.”

 She didn’t look proud, though. She looked a little furious, actually, and Jim decided to do the thing he did whenever Spock looked furious like that: he stayed quiet.

 “So. Promotion.”

 “I turned it down.”

 She nodded. “I know.”

 “How do you even know about the promotion?” he demanded.

 “Kid, you need to remember that I know everything.”

 That had actually been a tenant of his childhood: his mother knew everything. It was always a toss-up about whether she would care or not, but she always knew.

 “You know,” he said abruptly, “On the planet—well, on a ship that had crashed, there was this old bike—like the one Dad took you on.”

 “He screamed so loud the first time I took him out on that I thought I would be permanently deaf,” she laughed. “We got pulled over because the cops thought I was kidnapping him.”

 Jim frowned. “You said it was Dad’s.”

 “No, I said your father rode on it. You filled in the rest. I don’t know, I was trying to—to give you George back. He was—he wanted a big family, he wanted you so bad, and he was going to be the one to stay home with you and I just. I know I was a shit mother. So I tried to give you—I guess I did the same thing Starfleet did. I gave you the ideal of your father.

 “I mean, now I think I probably fucked up,” she admitted. “I think I made you think he was some kind of superman to live up to, and now you’re coming up on 30 and you’re three years into this mission and—”

 “I—”

 “You have to have something, kid, out there in the black,” she interrupted. “I mean, there’s a reason I was pregnant on that mission. If you don’t have someone, if you’re not a true believer in the cause, or you’re not doing it on behalf of your people or your family—then, you gotta love your ship.”

 “I do—”

 “No, Jimmy. I mean, you loved that ship, but you’re not in love with that ship. She’s not your everything, or it’d’ve killed you to crash her.”

 “I had other things to think about. Like my crew—“

 “It would have hurt like losing a limb, kid. You wouldn’t’ve been able to help it.”

 “He was gonna leave, you know,” Jim said abruptly. His mother didn’t even blink at the abrupt change of subject. “He was—Ambassador Spock died. He doesn’t know I know. I mean, I don’t know everything, but I know—I know just about everything about my crew.”

 “I went to the service. It was—too emotional by half. The Vulcans looked uncomfortable. He had two children, which was sort of unsettling.”

 Jim glanced up at her, and then looked back down at the room service menu, the letters flickering as he dragged his forefinger over the words. He knew Madeleine went to church and confessed, but Jim had always sort of felt like his mother was his confessional. He could pour his anger and his secrets into her and she would carry them all. She’d never been the kind of mother who made pies or cooked for bake sales, tucked him into bed with stories, or was even on-planet all that often, but she’d always been his, and his letters to her had always been more diary entries than actual letters, too-revealing and too-honest.

 “Spock made a deal with himself, at the start of—of all of it, right after Nero, that he could be in Starfleet if Ambassador Spock was on New Vulcan. I mean, he might not put it that way, but he did. And now Ambassador Spock died and he felt like he had a responsibility to New Vulcan. So he was gonna leave, he just couldn’t quite figure out how to tell me. He broke up with Uhura, but uh, couldn’t find the time to come tell me.”

 He could feel her eyes on him, and when he looked up they were impossibly sad for him. “Oh, kid.”

 “It’s fine. They reconciled, and he’s staying. Which is good, because,” he inhaled a shuddering breath and frowned, staring at the blue liquid in his tumbler. Because he didn’t have faith in many things, but Spock rescuing him? That was a universal truth, written into the blood that pumped through Jim’s veins and the bruises on his forearms and Spock wanting to pull a phaser on Jim’s mom just because Jim’s voice took on a certain tone. Spock wasn’t his, not in the ways Jim might want, but—but he was Jim’s, in some ways. Spock belonged to Jim, to the Enterprise, and Jim would have gone to war to keep Spock, if it had come to it. Would have called his mother for help, would have gotten the crew to help—Sarek, even.

“You’ve got over two years left,” she said.

He nodded.

“Well, the ship won’t be ready for another six months, so you’ve got a break. Do some soul-searching, kid. Fall in love with something—something that will love you back.”

 

***

 

Admiral Winona Lawson was, apparently, a big deal.  

“She was promoted after Admiral Marcus’s…attempted coup,” Spock said. “By main force, actually. I did not realize you were her son. I did not know she had a son.”

“Well, Spock, she’s always been ashamed of me,” Jim lied. Spock, whose mother had adored him, who had thrown off her old culture to embrace that of her husband and son’s, was probably genuinely aghast at the thought. 

“Don’t tease him, Jim,” Bones sighed. “She’s not ashamed of him, Spock. Jim’s mom just took on a lot of the more dangerous missions and it was a liability for her to have a known kid.”

“Yes,” Spock mused. “Our cloaking technology was a result of one of her missions, I believe.”

“Oh my god my mom’s a space spy,” Jim realized bleakly, putting his face down.

“She's also fucked Scotty at least once,” Bones said, slapping him on the back.

“I hate you so much,” Jim told him earnestly. “Like, so, so much.” 

“There is an element inherent coolness there, Jim,” Bones consoled him.

“Doctor, we spoke about your terrible bedside manner,” Spock said. He was clearly laughing at Jim. He was in a much better mood, now that Uhura was hinting that she might fuck him again some more. Jim wasn’t thinking about it. He wanted Spock to be happy. He really did. 

“What are you going to do for the next six months?” Jim asked Bones.

“Oh, is it only going to be six months?” Bones demanded.

“Well normally nine but Scotty’s involved.”

“Twelve,” Spock said.

“Keenser, though,” Jim pointed out, and they considered and then nodded.

“Six,” Bones agreed. “Well, I’ll be reviewing medbay candidates and arguing with you about who I want to bring on. I’m trying for Chapel again.”

“Doctor I never realized this attraction you have for being shot down. There must be a word for that,” Spock said.

“Masochism,” Jim said.

“Fuck you both. Then I’m going to sleep, sleep, and uh…yeah, sleep.”

“Jim?” Spock asked.

“I’ve got letters to write to families. And then personnel files to look over, a couple of meetings with the admiralty I’m going to rope you into, and then it’ll be time to be back out.”

“I will look forward to those meetings, Captain, truly it is an honor to be included,” Spock told him, gravely.

“You want some ice for that?” Bones asked Jim.

“Shut up, Bones. Seriously, Spock, what are you up to?”

“I am unsure. I find myself with no pressing duties, though I will of course assist you in personnel selection and attend the meetings you require me for. I may take the time to avail myself of several journals I have been meaning to read.”

“Spock,” Bones said, bracing a hand on his shoulder, “Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you’re the most boring man in existence.”

“I will remind you of that, Doctor,” Spock told him gravely.

“You want that ice?” Jim offered.

“Fuck off, Jim.” 

***

“The thing is, kid,” his mother had said, after they’d polished off dinner and were walking along one of the looping curves, just for the sheer joy of that stomach-drop as you looked up and saw people tilting their heads back to look back. “George was so solid. He was so good at being a second in command, he loved that role. He liked being the person that everyone could lean on, that the crew felt comfortable coming to and that Robards could talk to. I don’t know—who knows, maybe in twenty years or so, George would have taken over his own ship. Maybe the Enterprise, even. But you—kid, you fought for captain right away. That is—you are meant for that.”

“I hand over to—“

“To the crew you’ve assembled and trust. That’s not weakness, that’s—well, it’s not everyone’s style of being captain, but it’s yours. And your captaincy hasn’t been in question since Chris gave you the Enterprise. Mostly because she wasn’t Chris’s to give and it had to go through a shitton of bureaucracy.”

He thought about that, watching Keenser and Scotty arguing with a few of the construction workers about a schematic. The Enterprise was coming back together, different, but they’d gone back to the planet to salvage bits. Mostly because Scotty had thrown what could only be generously described as a temper tantrum and commandeered a ship. Jim had gone just to give it a veneer of sanction.

Jim looked at her, the ragged edges and the almost-bloody gashes, her insides exposed and dragged along the ground like viscera. He had died on this ship. He hasn’t let himself think—he wondered if maybe all this time he’d been punishing her for killing him. If he had loved her better would she have made it? He pressed his hand to her hull and whispered, softly, “I’m so sorry.”

“We’ll bring back her heart,” Scotty said, his voice clogged up. Keenser wiped at his eyestalks and nodded sharply. “We’ll build her a new body.”

“It wasn’t your fault,”Jim said, when Scotty just stood, staring at the wrecked hull.

“I just keep thinking,” he said. “I keep thinking it’s not right, leaving her here like this.”

Keenser reached up and touched his elbow, and Scotty inhaled wetly, turning briskly and boarding the ship.

They brought back the core, and downloaded as much as they could of her systems and backups. Jim spent a lot of time with them, after that. Pouring through her codes after writing another casualty notification letter, late into York’s artificial night. Now he was the one arguing about corridor length and the positioning of Jeffries Tubes, about the design of the Kelvin pods and their expulsion trajectories.

“Captain,” Spock said, after Jim had just finished explaining why, for the eighteenth time, they couldn’t position that particular tube there, because it would interfere with the frequency relay from the hull. “I did not know you were in engineering.”

Jim wondered if someone had called Spock in desperation.

“We’ve made him honorary,” Scotty snapped. “No, listen, laddie,” he rounded on the head engineer, a robust man in his late 50s, “He’s right, and I don’t care what your regulations have to say about…”

Spock touched Jim’s shoulder and Jim turned around to look at him, then cursed himself for being obvious. Not that it mattered: Spock’d never noticed before.

It wasn’t fair for Jim to be mad at Spock for considering leaving. Jim had been going to leave too, and he hadn’t told Spock, either. It wasn’t like Spock needed Jim the way Jim need him.

“We have a meeting,” Spock said, handing Jim a cloth. “In five minutes.”

“Which one is this?” Jim asked.

“Security. I believe its purpose is to ascertain if Commodore Paris ought to be held accountable for sending us into a trap.”

“We all believed her story.”

“Chekov stated you did not. That you had suspicions.”

Spock held the door open to the transporter, and Jim was struck by how stilted they’d become. He’d done that, somehow, he was certain of it. He’d taken their relatively easy relationship and turned it into something painfully polite and closed off because he wouldn’t get a hold of his fucking despair.

God he was sick of himself.

“I know what it is, to sacrifice for your crew. To be willing to give up anything to keep them safe,” Jim said. “She didn’t have that.”

“A wild leap of intuition.”

“Spock, at some point you’re going to have to accept that my gut is infallible.”

“Except when Sulu is in charge of dinner,” Spock pointed out.

“Okay, you know what—” Jim started, and broke off because Spock pushed the door open, probably to prevent Jim from telling him exactly what. That was so typical.

It was a closed meeting, and Jim found himself emphasizing procedural weaknesses; flaws in Starfleet’s codes that their enemies could exploit. The blame didn’t fall with an individual, it fell with the organization.

The admirals were as happy to hear that as they ever were, but at the end of the day there was a new committee to oversee starbase security protocols and Commodore Paris kept her job.

He and Spock went to dinner at a surprisingly small little restaurant, tucked between two larger buildings. The patrons ignored them, mostly, and they tucked into a back booth.

“You would have excelled at this, had you pursued it,” Spock said, halfway through the meal. “Though I am gratified you elected to stay.”

“What?” Jim asked, dragging his fry through something that was probably ketchup. Maybe. He could feel Spock staring at him, and got the sense that Spock had just been lying in wait for this particular conversation, because he was an asshole.

Whoever said Vulcans were all about repression had never met Spock. Spock was more about radical honesty, but only when it suited him.

“Jim. I am aware that you were considering taking the Vice Admiral position.”

“Only for a second.”

“I am gratified to hear it.”

Jim frowned slightly and glanced up at him. Spock was watching him steadily, and Jim shrugged and said, “Well, you know. No flying.”

“Indeed.”

They walked back to the base, which was really a tower, and Jim said, “Do you want to play a game of chess?”

“I have a prior commitment,” Spock said. “Perhaps tomorrow night?”

Jim nodded, and when Spock stopped in front of the room that wasn’t his, Jim didn’t really notice, the same way he didn’t really notice Uhura’s voice, all warm and fond, and the rumble of Spock’s reply.

He didn’t notice at all.

***

He wondered, later, lying in bed, if he should have said, “I’m glad you decided to stay, too.” 

It felt too exposing, and maybe Spock was comfortable with that—maybe the formal diction of Vulcan gave him cover for that kind of thing, but Jim was trying not to just scoop out his insides and hand them to Spock. Or to anyone really. If he could have managed to be casual about it—careless, even, it would have been fine.

Groaning, he got out of bed and headed down to the Enterprise. There was a note taped to one of the bridges.

kid, try to sleep. -mom.

p.s. i left at 4:00 local time we’re doing things with that hive tech

p.p.s. i meant what i said i’m your mother i know best

 He walked through her incomplete corridors, strangely silent. She felt like she was just waiting to come alive, to be full of the crew, to keep them and seek out the unknown. She was beautiful in potential, and he sat on the floor of what would be the bridge and stared up at the stars, into the black of uncharted space.

“Can’t sleep?” Sulu asked.

“I thought you’d be with your family,” Jim said as Sulu sat next to him.

“I was. But they’re asleep and I can’t, so I took a walk. All roads lead to the Enterprise.”  

“Have any notes? Scotty’s taking suggestions.”

“I don’t believe that for a second.”

 “Well, he is from credible sources. I think you’d merit. I’ll put in a good word for you.”

“I appreciate that, sir.”

 They sat in silence for a while, and Sulu shifted.

 “Nightmares?” Jim asked.

 “I admit I was thrown by the life-force sucking vampire bugs,” Sulu said. “I feel like a lot of it you sort of have a nebulous idea of, so when you’re confronted with it it’s not terrible. But I did not see that coming.”

 “I didn’t expect him to be one of us, though I don’t know why,” Jim said. “After Marcus…”

 “I suppose if you lose sight of what we’re out here for…” Sulu trailed off and shook his head. “No, I still don’t see how you get to maniacal genocidal despot.”

“Is it the mission for you?" 

Sulu smiled and shifted. “My husband is from Poladrius. Five generations of his family grew up under the constant threat and the constant reality of war. He’s his parents’ eighth child, and the only one who survived to adulthood. He survived because Poladrius joined the Federation, and Starfleet helped broker peace and once they were part of the Federation there was the ability to freely move, and they left. He grew up on the Mars colony, actually, but when I was joining Starfleet I kept thinking about that. Our daughter gets to live her life free of fear—for the most part.

“So yeah, I guess—I mean, I love that I get to fly, I wouldn't trade my job for the world. But knowing what we do makes a difference in people’s actual lives, and in their kids’ lives…at the end of the day I guess that is my reason.” He nodded, then looked at Jim. “What about you?”

“I don’t think I’m that noble,” Jim admitted. “This ship, the—adventure. Seeing the things that no one else has seen.”

“I think you’re selling yourself short,” Sulu said. “I think that for all our reasons, in the crew, we get to have those reasons because your reason is—us. The ship, her crew. I got approached by Engeda today, offering me the position of second.”

Jim felt a flare of indignation. Who the fuck did Engeda think she was, poaching Jim’s crew?

“I didn’t take it, obviously,” Sulu said. “I’m not flying under anyone but James T. Kirk. None of us are. Scotty gets offers all the time to join other crews, Keenser, Uhura’s got the diplomatic corps after her like nobody’s business. Everybody wants Chekov. Spock, Arbor—it’s a choice we make, to stay. I’m not sure if McCoy gets offers actually, or if everyone’s too afraid of him. My point is—every time we come back to her, we’re here because we want to be. And a ship is nothing without her captain.”

Jim looked at him. “When you are ready to leave, Sulu, don’t go to someone else. Tell me, and I’ll get you your own ship. You’d be wasted as a second.”

“I’ll tell Spock you said that, sir.”

“Thank you, Mr. Sulu, I knew I could count on you.”

The next day it was Chekov coming to see him. He wondered if he’d been broadcasting some kind of crisis of faith. Or if, because Starfleet’s gossip grapevine was the best in the known universe, all of them had heard that he had had the option to be a Vice Admiral (he wasn’t sure if they were refusing to believe he had applied, or if they were just focused on the fact that he had ultimately declined).

Or maybe after three years in the black of space, where everything had felt so unreal, they were all trying to get their bearings again, and he was somehow a part of that ritual.

Chekov joined him, Scotty, and Keenser in the rebuild, and Jim knew it was some lingering guilt over his time as chief engineer. Scotty treated him with infinite patience—for all that he was blistering and short-tempered with everyone else, with his own engineers crew Scotty was almost paternal, going over things in excruciating detail and not moving on until he was certain Chekov had whatever he was talking about down fully—concept to practical application.

Talk too much, Keenser sighed, banging on a coil with a wrench.

“Oi! For fuck’s sake! She’s brand new!” Scotty yelled, and Keenser stared at him, and banged it again.

Jim and Chekov stepped back and headed out to lunch.

“Are they like this every day?” Chekov asked doubtfully.

“No, usually it’s worse,” Jim admitted.

 

***

 

Uhura found him that afternoon, and they walked through the streets of the base.

“They always lean in,” she said finally. “Right in your face.”

“Yeah,” Jim agreed.

“They don’t do it to Spock,” she said, sitting on a bench. Jim sat beside her. “He wanted me to see—everything. He made me watch when he killed Syl and he stood too close and. And they don’t do it to Sulu or Spock and it’s a stupid thing to still be mad about.”

Jim thought about all the ways that Uhura would always have a harder time of it. For all the ways he got pawed at and choked and attackers leaning in too close, their legs between his thighs and pressed up hot and disgusting against him, it would never be quite the same as it was for her. But neither of them had it in them not to stand up, not to paint those targets on their chests.

“They always go for my neck,” Jim said instead. “Someday I’m not going to be able to talk.”

“That would be an enormous loss,” she said.

“It’s a comfort to me that my entire crew is so supportive,” Jim told her.

“Oh have you had some variation of this conversation with others?” she asked, grinning.

“I think this one was rough,” he said. Her grin faded, but she didn’t stop smiling as she nodded.

“This one was rough,” she agreed. “But I think it’s nice to have this break in the mission. We all get to find our feet again—so to speak.”

“Yeah,” he said.

“Would you have taken it? If this hadn’t all happened?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I want to say no, that I would have remembered what I love about it but—“

“But you never really had time to find your footing to begin with,” she said. “I mean, Nero and Vulcan and then Khan and Marcus and then we went straight into the five year mission and you were barely animate after being dead.” She broke off, inhaling and letting the air out slowly, deliberately. Jim wondered if she had fought with people about that. No one had ever said anything to him.

“It doesn’t surprise me, that’s all,” she said. “But I’m glad you’re staying.”

“And Spock,” Jim said.

She smiled again and shrugged. “Spock…I don’t think he knows what he wants.”

“You, I was pretty sure,” Jim said, and it only hurt a little to say it. He managed a grin and everything, and she huffed a laugh and shook her head, her hair swinging down her back.

“I don’t know, he wanted to leave mid-tour and take a Vulcan wife and have babies,” she said. “Or did you not know that?”

“He doesn’t know I know.”

“He’s an idiot.”

“He has blind spots.”

“It’s hard to reconcile the fact that he was willing to throw away a four year relationship for duty. I like to be on firmer ground than that, in my relationships.”

“But you’re wearing the necklace.”

She touched it, and shrugged. “Maybe we can work through it. I mean, four years, I think we should at least try. And it’s nice that we have this time off-ship to do that, or he might end up like poor Chekov.”

“Half naked in the hall at shift change?”

“That poor kid.”

That night when Spock stopped by to ask about chess, Jim was halfway out the door. “Oh, sorry—“ Jim said. “I didn’t know we were—you said maybe.”

Spock nodded. “Of course. Let us plan for tomorrow night, then.”

Jim smiled at him and nodded. “Definitely.”

The bar he went to was hazy and full of newly debarked people looking to have sex with anyone. Jim didn’t buy a single drink, and the whole night was a blur of laughing and slick lips and sucking cock and eating pussy, and when he woke up the next morning he had a delicious ache in his ass and two men in his bed.

“Vile,” Uhura said as soon as she stepped into the elevator.

“I took a shower!” Jim protested.

“I’m telling McCoy,” she said, pulling out her handheld and texting him. “He’s going to be so disappointed in you.”

“I hate you,” Jim told her.

“Drink lots of water!” she called as he stepped out onto Bones’ floor. Bones was already standing in his doorway, glowering at Jim.

***

Life took on a kind of pattern, after that. The new crew showed up two months before they were scheduled for launch, and they socialized, went to debriefings, and got to know the people they’d be spending the next two years with. Jim made sure to spend time with each member of his bridge crew, and less time with Spock.

The saga of Spock and Uhura officially ended five weeks before they were scheduled to launch, in what everyone agreed was a very civil break-up. Somehow Uhura got Jim in the divorce—he still wasn’t sure how that happened but he wasn’t fighting particularly hard.

At least when Spock was with Uhura he was firmly Off Limits and Jim could just be stupid and disappointed but this—well. This was different. Now he could delude himself into thinking he had a chance, and really he just wanted to be over it. Done, not—but Jim had pressed his hand against a glass as he died and Spock had been on the other side of it, his hand pressing back, and it turned his insides into knots, pulled the corners of his mouth down, and he felt bad blowing Spock off but at this point it all hurt, so what did that matter.

They still had their banter, which wasn’t easy, really, but worked for them. Not as stilted as it had become by any stretch.

The Enterprise herself was finished two weeks ahead of schedule, and when he walked through her corridors for the first time he was overwhelmed. She was so beautiful, his own ship but better, and he thought about Khan’s blood in his veins, and how the boost of strength, of rage, it didn’t make him different. At heart, he was still Jim Kirk, and in her heart she was still his girl.

“Hi, baby,” he murmured, and he thought he could feel her warming under his palm, all affection.

***

Two months into their final two years, Nyota knocked on his door. “I have booze,” she said.

“Oh god what?” Jim demanded. Nyota brought booze when she was going to be particularly brutal, or after they’d had a bad off-world mission. Surprising none of the original crew there had been three of those already.

She walked past him, the door sliding silentely shut behind her, and poured them two glasses of the weirdly light-absorbing orange liquid. She twisted her hair up into a messy bun and then handed him one of the glasses, sitting on his bed.

“How long have you loved Spock?” she asked.

Jim looked at her, and then swallowed the entire glass.

“Oh, Jim,” she exhaled.

“Don’t ‘Oh, Jim’ at me,” he said. “I’m—I don’t know why you think—“

“I expected this to be recent,” she said. “Honestly I expected you to be annoyed about your feelings, because you’re weirdly bad at them.”

“Genetics,” Jim immediately said, reflexive.

“Years?” she asked gently.

“This is a fucked up conversation to have with you,” Jim told her.

“I thought we were friends,” she said, and her chin lifted and her forehead smoothed in that particular way it did when she was being brave.

“Oh—fuck,” Jim exhaled, laying down on his bed. “Since Nero.”

“All that time. It’s been—four? Five years!”

“I’m very tenacious when I’m being stupid,” Jim muttered, wondering if he could smother himself with a pillow.

“Well—shit,” she said. “Does he know?”

I haven’t told him,” Jim said. “He was—involved with you! I’m not an asshole.”

“No—“ she said quickly, reaching out and squeezing his knee. “No, I know you’re not. Well, not about that.”

“Thanks.”

“I mean you were kind of an asshole on the last mission.”

“It was cats and dogs. I did as well as anyone could.”

“Holding up that ball was mean.”

“They wouldn’t focus; it was a tactical maneuver.”

She laughed and rolled her eyes. “Are you okay?” she asked after the silence had stretched out a little, warm and comfortable.

“Yeah,” Jim said. “I’m having an affair with my ship, and she’s very jealous. I have no time for mortals.”

“Jesus Christ,” Nyota muttered, and drank her glass.

***

It wasn’t terrible, that she knew. Things just continued. Between her and Bones they actually made a good barrier, even if he did have to yell at them.

“I need to have some kind of relationship with him!” Jim snapped at Bones one night.

“Professional is fine!” Bones yelled.

“Says the man fucking his nurse!” Chapel poked her head up out of the storage room and JIm glared at Bones.

“I’m fucking him,” she said serenely, and then ducked back out of view.

In the end, though, Spock still felt vital to him, like he was Jim’s ribcage. Jim wrote to his mother, and it was like so many times before, where he was just sending his thoughts out into the void. But he’d learned his lesson about Captain’s Logs being too personal: he was scrupulously professional in them, writing out a small outline before recording them. He was thinking about presenting that idea the next time he got dragged into a meeting with the admirals.

At least his affair with his ship was going well. Scotty would sometimes call him down and just tell him to “stand there and look pretty, I don’t know, she likes you best” and Jim would try not to puff up obnoxiously, even if he was incredibly smug.

So of course they were due for something awful.

***

“This is going to go about as well as these things ever do,” Sulu told him. They had been called back to the cat/dog planet. They were actually humanoid, but with—well. Cat and dog traits both physical and personality. The tails were unsettling. Jim was also fairly sure he’d been on the receiving end of two of the cat girls’ talented tails at one point—not from this planet, obviously, but another one.

That wasn’t the point. The point was, they were facilitating peace talks.

“Yeah, probably,” Jim agreed. “But where’s the fun in things going smoothly?”

Sulu sighed and slid his sword into his back holster. “I can’t argue with that.”

“I can,” Bones volunteered.

“Yes, we’re intimately aware, Dr. McCoy,” Sulu told him gravely. Bones narrowed his eyes at him.

“You know what, when things go to hell in a handbasket, remember who’s going to be stitching you all back up, and just think bout how much you want to provoke me.”

“Doctor, we deeply value your presence and contributions,” Spock said.

Bones looked at him suspiciously. They all knew Vulcans didn’t lie, but Jim was pretty sure Spock had been skirting around that particular law for at least two years. He wasn’t sure what mental gymnastics Spock was doing to justify it to himself, but sometimes the truth that sounded like a lie was just as effective as a lie. It was possible it was all a matter of nuance, and it was also possible Jim needed to stop thinking about it, immediately.

It was the dog people, and they wanted Jim. He was surprised to be on the receiving end of the attack, even more surprised by the low, possessing, “Bitch” they threw at him, dark-eyed and hips thrust forward suggestively.

Spock, Jim felt it was fair to say, lost his actual shit.

Jim and Sulu had his back, but Sulu was yelling into the comm about beaming Jim up, which was unacceptable, he wasn’t leaving his crew behind!

“You’re the target!” Sulu snapped. “Scotty, now!”

Jim staggered, and Sulu’s eyes dropped down to his stomach, horrified. One of the swords, the ones with nasty teeth, was protruding from his abdomen.

Scotty!” shouted Sulu. “Medbay!”

“If I cannot have you—“ the man with his blade sticking out of Jim’s stomach, hissed in his ear before he broke off with a gurgle. Jim was dimly aware that Sulu was still shouting, and that his knees were buckling, and Spock was the one who had caught him, effortless.

“Fuck,” Jim exhaled, and the swirling gold was the last thing he knew.

***

Bones released him to his own room after a day of observation—after they had put him, once again, on ice, so that they could figure out what poison the dog-people had coated their weapons with.

“Technically you were dead again,” Bones said. “Knock that shit off, Jim, I mean it. So help me God, I will murder you myself.”

He didn’t seem to see any irony in that, so Jim let it go and got ready for bed.

He looked up when the door swished open—three people could override it, and he wasn’t sure which of them he was hoping for. Not Spock, he decided. He was—too vulnerable to deal with Spock.

“Jim,” Spock said, and Jim stared at his relfection blankly bofore turning around, reaching for a shirt.

“Spock, I—sorry, let me put on a shir—”

But Spock had crossed into the room, and he was staring at Jim. “You must—you need to know,” he started, and then stopped. Jim stayed very still, and very quiet, because Spock never spoke like this.

“Jim, I cannot,” Spock said, his shaking fingers pressed into the newly pink and puckered scar tissue along Jim’s abdomen. “I cannot do this without you.”

“It’s okay,” Jim said, helplessly. Spock’s face was contorted under the harsh slash of his hair, his lips twisted to the side, and he shifted his hand, gripped Jim’s waist and shook him slightly.

“It is not,” he snapped. “I—you are necessary. You are not expendable, the crew relies on you coming back and without you we all—it does not work if you are not there.”

“It’s—Spock I’m okay,” Jim said. “Bones patched me all up.”

“I cannot watch it again,” Spock told him. “You must—promise.”

“Spock, I don’t—“

Spock shook him again, his big hands hot on Jim’s bare skin, still cool from the cryo packing.

“Not to die,” he snapped. “I will not watch you die again. You must promise me that this was the last time.”

“I promise,” Jim said immediately, because he hadn’t ever heard Spock like that. Bones had told Jim that when Spock was bleeding out he’d gotten delirious, and he’d laughed and it had been the single most terrifying experience of Bones’s life. Jim would rather Spock was cackling like a lunatic right now.

“I do not care if you think we will all carry on without you,” Spock continued, as if Jim had never spoken. “You are constantly incorrect.”

He lifted one hand to cup Jim’s cheek, dragging his thumb over Jim’s cheekbone, and Jim felt like he couldn’t breathe.

“What about Uhura?” Jim asked, because he knew she had broke it off, and he didn’t know if Spock was still—Jim couldn’t bear to be second. He’d rather not participate than come in second.

“Nyota and I have—a deep friendship,” Spock said, leaning in and brushing his lips along Jim’s jaw. “But my feelings for her are not unreasonable.”

He sounded absolutely furious about that, the way only Spock could be furious: furious the way a glacier was, or the ocean. Deep, and inexorable.

“But for me they are?”

Yes,” Spock said in exasperation, as if he’d been making perfect sense this entire time and Jim was just too stupid to understand.

Jim thought maybe he had been, but there was nothing ambiguous about the kiss Spock was pressing to his lips, hard and possessing and Jim groaned, leaning up into it.

“Spock, wait—“ he said, wrenching his lips away. Spock looked mutinous.

“You have to—you need to mean it,” Jim said. “I can’t—“

“Jim. I mean it.”

He kissed him again, because it was either that or burst into tears.

Resurrection made him very emotional.

***

dear mom,

i am deeply in love with ship and xo. both love me back, though i think that there is competition. enterprise is refusing to give spock anything he asks for for dinner. i am not using my powers for good.

love, jim