Characters: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, various
Rating: T for movie-level language and violence
Warnings/Spoilers: Spoilers for all AOS movies and various TOS episodes, any specifics notated in each section. This section, spoilers for the first AOS movie.
Summary: Five times Jim Kirk epically failed to keep a secret from his command crew, and one time his command crew kept it for him
In retrospect, he didn't really think this through.
Though to be fair, and also in retrospect, none of them thought this through, because who even has time to stop and think, period, when the universe is doing its best to implode (in this quadrant, literally) around you and everyone is still trying to even assimilate the fact that said universe now has several billion fewer people in it than it did 72ish hours ago.
Right now, he's just trying not to think at all, because the minute he does he's fairly certain he'll go down for the count and he can't quite afford to do that, not yet.
Thankfully, it's only another fifteen minutes until the people who now constitute primary alpha shift officers on this not-quite-doomed ship come back on duty, after the mandatory 48 hours he made them take off-roster as soon as the rotations were worked out to permit the schedule change.
It's not like they are going anywhere fast, and so there is no need for what few hundred people remain on this ship to kill themselves trying to make repairs they are ill-equipped to execute, drifting in space as they are with a skeletal cadet crew and barely-functioning equipment. Ejecting the warp core had been a calculated gamble; but like all high-stakes games, that win had come at a high cost. The exact magnitude of that cost, he still has no idea, since their contact with Starfleet Command has been patchy at best.
So, he does what he can as far as rationing resources, and that includes his most important resource: people first, and then food and water, since most of their replicating units reside below decks and that's where the most damage was done in the firefight between the Enterprise and the Narada. They will be fine until they're met by relief ships in two weeks, halfway to the Jupiter outpost, but until then, they need to be careful about wasting water. He makes sure a crew is assigned to the few functioning recycling and replicating units around the clock, and reassures everyone concerned that that will be more than sufficient.
He will have no panic on this ship, not after all of this.
Twenty-four hours of nearly non-stop duty and McCoy has proven himself to be the competent leader he already was upon enlisting in Starfleet; Medical is at least one area Jim does not have to worry about, as it was already up and running again like a well-oiled, if somewhat traumatized, machine soon after the Narada's destruction. Captain Pike is stable in an induced coma, and just awaiting more specialized treatment as soon as a relief shuttle can arrive to transport him back to a medical freighter.
Four days after they left Terra on that ill-fated rescue mission to Vulcan, they are flying slowly back through the star systems like a particularly massive injured butterfly, graceless and clumsy under strained impulse power. But the crew – his crew, for now, and isn't that a kicker – is slowly regaining their footing, and after 48 hours off-duty he can only hope the hastily promoted senior officers' mental states have at least improved enough that the healing process can begin.
Spock. That's a whole different problem, but he has no idea how to go about piecing back together that bridge he burned so spectacularly. While they have been civil in the brief conversations they've held during the last twenty-four hours (mainly a united front against a pretty pissed-off Admiralty), he has no real idea about his still First Officer's state of mind, only that the guy has steadfastly refused to take back the command chair, for reasons undisclosed. It doesn't take a genius-level IQ to make an educated guess as to those reasons, but that IQ does nothing to help him know what to say or do that might make things any better, personally or professionally.
Some problems, he just can't solve. Not today.
His own state, in the meantime, has become rapidly disillusioned with the idea of captaincy in general; he's never been so terrified in his life as he was three days ago, nor so exhilarated in the adrenaline rush of victory afterwards – and he's not sure which emotion is more dangerous to the surviving crew, if either is even acceptable in a true starship captain. That many lives being dependent on the actions and decisions of one man, however confident, however quick-thinking? It's stupid, is what it is, and he's not cocky enough to think Luck didn't play a huge part in their success against Nero.
He's not ready to take this chair, or any other, and go into battle again – not for a long time, not without more training, more knowledge, more loyalty from a command crew.
He can still hear the screams of dying crewmen – cadets, some of them just genius children still, not even old enough to drink yet – ringing in his ears, and not because he hasn't slept.
The job isn't what he thought it would be, and he may not be the man for it.
Also, who knew there were so many damn reports to sign and file? At least the sheer mundane boringness of the countless numbers and figures and equations scrolling in slow strings of blurred numbers across his PADD explains why he's having so much trouble focusing at the moment.
Sulu is the first one to report to the Bridge this morning, relieving the weary Tholian at the pilot's station with a friendly smile and clap on the shoulder. He looks rested, at least, if a little tense as he slides back into the seat.
The greeting is a little odd, almost awkward, and Jim grins down at the report he's reading; because despite all that, it sounds right. "Good morning, Mr. Sulu."
There are few chirps as the young man punches in his access codes and signs on to the terminal. Jim scrawls a signature across the bottom of the fuel output report – that one actually was useful, because he caught an error that the poor young trainees in Engineering never would have and might have cost them several days in the return journey – and sends it back on its way to Engineering, flagging it for Scott's view specifically.
Behind him, the turbolift door slides open and disgorges Chekov and another young cadet whose name he doesn't know – that needs to change, if she's going to be a regular on the alpha roster; he has to know the names of his crew – onto the Bridge. The whiz kid's wide smile flashes as he bobs past the command chair down to his seat, fairly bouncing into it with a cheerful wave at his seatmate.
Sulu snorts quietly, shaking his head, and glances back at the command dais. Jim returns the smile, and stands to stretch his legs.
The Bridge tilts dangerously for a second, gray haze sparking in the edges of his vision, and he hastily sits back down. Clears his throat, and glances to the new officer at the Environmental Control Station.
"Forgive me, Ensign, but I don't think we've met," he says, plastering on what he desperately hopes is not a leering smile, because not appropriate no matter how gorgeous she is. The Xantos species have always been known for being particularly beautiful people, all three of their genders.
Green eyes widen slightly. "Mirala, sir – Ensign Lia Mirala, assigned to Environmental Control. Captain."
"Welcome to the Bridge, Ensign." She bobs her head with a shy smile, and he returns the gesture briefly. "Please keep an eye on the quarters assigned to our Vulcan refugees today, if you will. Ensure they match the environmental conditions on record for the late planet, as much as is possible for the ship's systems to reproduce under current power levels. Have Mr. Scott reroute power from a non-essential system if needed to enhance the necessary environmental subroutines."
"And make sure any reports from them go directly to me or Doctor McCoy, depending on which of us is on duty at the time, not to the First Officer." He glances up as the lift opens, admitting the last two members of the main alpha crew; they are on a skeleton crew for now, since most of the stations are not needed at this time, as half the ship is currently on autopilot. "Speak of the devil. Good morning, Commander. Lieutenant."
Uhura has the grace to return his greeting, even gives him a brief smile, and he suspects it has a lot to do with the fact that two days ago he'd basically shoved her from the Bridge, protesting and kicking, and told her to go take care of her boyfriend for 48 hours instead of trying to be a one-woman comms board.
Spock only raises an eyebrow and barely nods, seating himself at the Science station without a word and beginning to type almost ferociously into the computer.
"Riiiight." He sighs, swivels the chair back to the viewscreen after a brief nod of finality to Mirala, and finally stands, much more carefully this time. "Lieutenant Uhura, please record the change of duty watch officer to First Officer Spock in the ship's log."
Uhura looks at him strangely for a moment, but ultimately nods, turning to the appropriate switch and verbally recording the change of command.
He feels Spock's eyebrows boring into his back as he takes a moment to chat with Sulu and Chekov, one hand on each of their shoulders – the contact reassuring himself as much as them – and then slowly makes his way up the two interminably steep steps to the upper Bridge.
He has a bad feeling that the floor probably isn't actually spinning under his feet.
Spock swivels his chair as he half-leans, half-sits on the edge of the Science console, and raises an eyebrow at him.
"May I assist you, Captain?" The inquiry is perfectly polite, and cold as liquid nitrogen – and no wonder, because even if he's already apologized both in person and in writing for the events of the last three days, that's damage which is going to take some time to heal.
"Yeah, actually," he sighs, and glances around to make sure none of the other occupants of the Bridge can hear. Spock's eyebrow rises another fraction. "Can you…look, Pike may have field-promoted me or whatever but that was only done verbally, and not finalized officially before he left the ship," he finally says, somewhat sheepishly.
Spock's not an idiot, he'll give the guy that – the conclusions (and consequences) obviously occur to him within moments, and he sees a frown line start to form between those hilariously expressive eyebrows. "Are you saying, Captain, that the ship's logs and thereby the ship's computer still do not recognize you as the Acting Captain?"
"Uh…yeah. Actually they don't recognize me as being aboard at all, since technically I was never supposed to be."
Huh, that actually looked like concern there, for just a second. Spock looks…perturbed, is the only word for it, as he turns to the computer and begins to bring up windows on the screen in rapid succession. Weird, he thought this could be fixed just by Spock's vocal activation of the ship's roster but if he has to do paperwork too, whatever. He's kind of past caring at this point and if it means he can get off the Bridge faster then the guy can do whatever the hell he wants.
"Captain, we have been aboard for over 72 hours; why has this not been rectified before now?"
Jim blinks a few times to clear his vision, and belatedly realizes that wasn't a rhetorical question when Spock gives a pointed look over one shoulder. "Uh, hello, kind of more important things going on the last couple of days?"
His weird Acting First presses a few buttons and types briefly for a moment. The computer whistles at them and then chimes twice, finally spitting out a tape with a dull thonk.
He blinks slowly as the object is held up in front of him and shaken in a slightly impatient gesture. "…What's that."
The lines of tension around Spock's eyes tighten. "A standard Starfleet officers' access card, Captain – the only method by which an officer can gain access to his quarters and meal replicators until said access is permanently voice or bio-activated on a permanent posting. One which you would have received upon boarding had you not resorted to subterfuge."
Yeah, he'd kind of figured that much, when he realized the replicators in Officers' Mess wouldn't respond to generalized voice commands nor did they have pre-programmed selections like the ones in the Academy Mess.
Would have been good to know before he sent every command officer off duty two days ago, but hey. Live and learn.
Spock's tone is reprimanding and just a little patronizing, but he's honestly too tired to care, just grateful someone fixed the problem for him with minimal time involved and even more minimal questions.
"Thanks." He heaves a relieved sigh, and slides off the console after grabbing the card from his temporary First's hands.
Big mistake. Really, really freaking big mistake. The whole Bridge sort of just slides along with him and keeps moving in a slow-motion, sickening spin as he suddenly goes cold all over, ears starting to ring distantly over a sudden chorus of voices somewhere above his head. He blinks the gray blur away finally to see a wall of blue that abruptly shifts and lets in a sea of flickering lights and worried faces.
Blinking, he stares at what is apparently the Science computer for a second in stupid confusion, then realizes he's half-sitting, half-slumping in Spock's chair. Slowly rubbing his eyes, he tries to regain his dignity and figure out what the hell happened, and comes up woefully short.
Ensign Mirala's earnest face pops suddenly into view like a beautifully demented jack-in-the-box. "Medical reports Doctor McCoy is on his way, Lieutenant," she chirps, and Uhura looks weirdly relieved as she finally steps back toward her station. "He was asleep in his cabin."
Ugh, Bones. Sleeping probably for the first time in days, and hell if Jim is going to let him lose that rare rest period over something this stupid. He swears under his breath, struggling to a sitting position only to be held in place by an inhumanly strong hand.
"Keptin, maybe you should not get up just yet," Chekov pipes up from somewhere, and he could murder the kid for sounding so innocent and helpful.
"Oh, for God's sake, people, it's just a headache," he growls, wrenching away from what turns out to be Spock's hand. That proves to be a somewhat smaller but no less dizzying mistake, so he settles for an ungraceful flop back into the chair before the haze can drown his vision again. Groaning, he pinches the bridge of his nose with one hand until the world (and his stomach) settles again.
"Uh, that's a negative. Sir," Sulu adds the last hastily, but stands his ground with the stubbornness that probably was the only thing which meant he survived the last few days. "If Mr. Spock is right, you haven't accessed a replicator in almost three days, sir, and unless you've been stealing from somewhere that means you haven't eaten."
Well, yeah, but that's not really that big of a deal – if they only knew how much worse he's been through; it's almost hilarious how concerned they are right now – and there's no reason to call freaking Medical about it.
"It would also appear that you have not been sleeping regularly either, Captain, despite your clear instructions to the rest of the crew to do so," Spock interjects severely, and Jim refrains from rolling his eyes only because he thinks they might just roll back into his pounding head and stick if he does. "That is unacceptable and in fact irresponsible for an officer in command. Furthermore –"
"Yeah, yeah, so you caught me, Spock. Big deal." He carefully moves forward, and when the dizziness doesn't return, lurches to his feet amid a chorus of protests. "Lieutenant, tell McCoy there's no need to come up here."
Uhura folds her arms. "All due respect, Captain, but no. Not unless you're headed to Sickbay."
Actually, that's a good idea, since nifty little officers' access card or not, he still doesn't have any assigned quarters on the Enterprise and Bones's office couch has functioned just fine so far.
"Sure, okay." Her shock at his lack of protest is mirrored in the rest of the crew's faces, but at this point he really doesn't have the energy to even be offended. "Tell him I'll meet him there. Mr. Spock, you have the conn."
"Mr. Sulu, you have the conn."
He hears a stifled snicker from the helm as the lift doors open, and decides it's just plain not worth it at this point. He apparently has a Vulcan shadow now whether he wants one or not, and resistance is likely futile.
The turbolift is running slower due to the power drain and so he's almost dozed off, the rhythmic hum oddly soothing, when Spock suddenly turns to him, looking more agitated than Jim has seen him since that horrible few minutes in the transporter room.
"Captain, may I make an inquiry?"
God, it was too much to hope for, just getting to Sickbay and crashing without another third degree, wasn't it. But the guy has just gone through a genocide, and lost the only family member who ever showed him love, probably – and if they ever want to even be civil, much less friendly, he's going to have to work at it too.
He straightens with a silent sigh, and makes a vague go ahead motion. "Sure, Spock. Shoot."
"Why did you not locate myself or Doctor McCoy during the last thirty-six hours, in which you had to have realized one of us needed to complete the verbal change of command in the official logs in order for you to access all areas of ship functions?"
"Well, until like ten hours ago Bones was operating on Pike off-and-on and…uh. Trying everything he could think of to help your people keep it together, so to speak, Spock." He tries to sound apologetic for even bringing it up, but it's true – Bones had been up all night and all the next day desperately researching anything in the universe that might help a traumatized telepath (not that he'd had much luck, but he has to love the man for trying). "Then when I found out he'd finally gone off-duty I figured he needed the rest."
Spock shakes his head as they exit the lift on Deck Six, where repairs can be heard being made in the distance to the corridors surrounding Sickbay. "As did you by this time."
"Yeah, but that's different." He conjures up a smile and nods at a lieutenant in Engineering reds who snaps to crazy-stiff attention when they pass, and then shakes his head, vowing to abolish that habit if he ever gets his own ship. "Anyway, it was only a few more hours at that point."
Spock still has that brain-now-rebooting-please-hold look he gets when a human says something that doesn't compute with him. "I still do not understand why you did not then come to me for the same purpose," he says, almost sounding unhappy about the fact, which is weirdly hilarious for some reason to Jim's no doubt oxygen and nutrient-deprived mind.
He stops when Spock suddenly pauses in the middle of the corridor, literally pulling him to a halt with a hand on his arm. Seriously, what.
"Captain, surely you did not think I would decline to offer assistance due to our past altercations?"
He stares blankly for a second at those unreadable dark eyes. "Come again?"
"Your refusal to ask for assistance in this matter suggests that –"
"No, no, that's – that's not it, Spock." He sighs, rubbing his temple with his free hand. "I just…look, you had way more important things to worry about, right? And it really wasn't a big deal. If my blood sugar hadn't just dropped up there on the Bridge nobody else would've ever even known."
"That does not make the situation an acceptable one."
He just looks incredulously at this crazy Vulcan who for some reason still wants to be the acting First Officer of this crazy ship because because seriously, his brain cannot deal with any of this crazy right now and he really, really needs to sit down because he's pretty sure the wall under his hand isn't supposed to be moving like that and it's about to drop him right smack on his face again.
His ungraceful slide down said wall is thankfully halted by a blue blur and a red blur – great, some passing crewman saw him almost lose it – and voices filter in past the patchy blurriness in his ears.
"Sir, are you all right?"
He blinks, catches a vague impression of someone he kind-of-sort-of remembers seeing in one of the shuttle bays during the battle.
"Lieutenant, Doctor McCoy is expecting the Captain in Sickbay. Please notify the doctor of our location and request his immediate assistance. Now."
That makes him laugh a little, because Spock can be freaky scary when he wants to be – he should know, as the phantom ache around his throat can attest – and the poor Engineering lieutenant skitters nervously down the corridor like an army is chasing him.
Someday, maybe even soon, that title will feel earned, not borrowed.
Right now, it just feels right.