Characters: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, various
Word Count: about 4000 each chapter
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 chapter, spoilers for the below-mentioned TOS episode and slight spoilers for Beyond.
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, it wasn't his brightest idea.
Not that bright ideas are his particular specialty anyway, but he'd like to think that after everything that's happened, everything they've been through…he'd like to think that he's a little older, a little wiser – a little more careful, a lot more grateful.
Eighteen months out from their relaunch, he's a little closer to some of his crew; losing two-thirds of them in one fell swoop will do that to a man. And he's a little more distant from some, through their choice or his; because protection goes both ways, and no one wants a repeat of what happened just before the Battle of Yorktown. Their world crashed around them, all those months ago, and he doesn't fault anyone for being a little slower to make friends, to develop relationships. No one expected a soul-wrenching loss of that scale, least of all him, and it's changed him as much as those who really run his beautifully refurbished Enterprise.
The new crew don't quite understand this, but they are bright and eager and the best of the best; and they all move on, as befits Starfleet. They are not children anymore, and they comport themselves as the competent officers they are consistently becoming.
Time and loss have changed them all. As captain, nearly finished with the five-year mission, he has made many more friends, and quite a few more enemies, both inside and outside of Starfleet. Both are equally dangerous, and equally inevitable. (He has been called a 'polarizing influence' by both ally and enemy alike, and it's pretty much accurate.)
But judging from very recent events, he may have made a fatal mistake, and grown too close or else too distant from some very important people aboard his ship as well.
Familiarity breeds contempt, and he always has been a little too inclined to both, depending on whom you ask.
God, what a mess.
He's only just managed to send off a highly-abbreviated and even more highly-edited report of the entire mission (making a memo to the rest of his senior staff to for pity's sake don't send their own reports without checking them against his, last thing they need's for conflicting details to make their way back through to Starfleet HQ) when – thank the deities of several neighboring planets – his door sensor chimes, heralding what he hopes will soon be relief.
"You know I don't do house calls, right," Bones growls, practically shoving him aside before the cabin door even finishes its noiseless slide. The corridor beyond is still eerily quiet, as if the ship herself is hiding in embarrassment over what's happened aboard and ashore the last few hours. "And if you think I'm gonna let you get away with not coming to Sickbay if you need it, you got another think coming, Jim. I'm a doctor, not a drug dealer."
He laughs, even if it rings a little hollow from pain and fatigue. "C'mon, Bones, not like you have anything else to do tonight."
"Uh-huh." Bones looks unimpressed that he's been working at his desk, and points him toward his bunk instead. It's not worth fighting over, so he steers clear of the workstation and obediently wanders that direction. "Sit. Now what'm I looking at?"
"It's not the end of the worl-"
"I'll be the judge of that. What do you need, Jim." The irritation has vanished in the wake of his face probably losing all color when he collapses more than sits, nausea flaring in a sickening wave.
"Well…hopefully for you to tell me it's not as bad as it looks. Feels. Whatever." He gingerly unbuttons the cardigan he'd left loosely fastened around his torso while off duty tonight, and he can tell Bones only just now noticed he's been working with one hand.
"Stop." Cold hands, damn the man, but they're fast at least, and it's a matter of moments before his left arm is finally freed from the knitwear. His CMO takes one look at the appendage and turns a weird shade of gray.
Okay, not good.
"So, it is as bad as it feels, then. Fantastic."
"Jim, you should have come straight to Sickbay with this." McCoy's fingers hover uncertainly over the swollen, hastily splinted limb, as if almost unsure where to touch. And if he's not sure, then it's, like, epic levels of bad.
"And when exactly would I have had time to do that? The Medical staff didn't even beam back aboard until like three hours ago, anyway, and half of them were still a little high from those spores. This whole thing was a one big SNAFU from start to finish, Bones, and someone had to clean it up."
"Not arguing that, Jim, but…wait a minute." And there it comes; McCoy is no idiot, that much was clear from the moment they met. The doctor's a near-genius himself, and in moments like this, when lives are in question, it shows. "Those spores actually stamped out violent emotions, so this couldn't have happened on the planet; it had to have happened after you beamed back aboard with the infected landing party."
"So, you said you and Spock and Uhura managed to break through the plants' influence and come up with a plan. Or was Uhura just coverin' for you when she said you just barely stopped her from sabotagin' the comms boards beyond repair?"
He bites his lip with a stifled whimper as Bones maneuvers the arm just a fraction, sending a streak of fire all the way into his neck and shoulder. "She did a pretty good job of frying the Bridge console, but I caught her before she took apart the primary units in Engineering. I'd figured out that violent emotions were what broke the influence and I got through to her by challenging her ability to perform her job in the Fleet. She got so pissed when I compared her to the Comms Chief of the Reliant that it finally broke the euphoria, burned out the spores' influence."
"And after that?"
"She got Spock to come back to the ship. You know the rest."
"Not hardly. And she's not talkin'."
"She doesn't know most of it. And it's going to stay that way."
Fingers tighten claw-like on the back of his neck. "He broke your arm, didn't he."
"Bones, it wasn't like that –"
"That green-blooded son of a bitch broke your arm, Jim. In three places, by the looks of it!"
Well, that explains the lurking urge to throw up every time he moves, and why the limb looks more like a homemade pretzel than actual human anatomy.
"It's not that simple, Bones. For one thing, he was under the influence of something given to him without his consent. It's not like he wanted to be running around being Finding Emo." He sighs in relief as a hypospray of what has to be prescription-strength painkiller releases something beautiful into his bloodstream. "For another thing, I kind of provoked him. On purpose. Multiple times."
Bones presses the heels of his palms into both eyes.
"It's like an art form by now, y'know. I'm really good at it."
"You're good at destroyin' things, kid. Including yourself." Bones hauls him to his feet, and he frowns, because his head shouldn't be this fuzzy. He didn't want that heavy of a painkiller yet. "And that's something you just can't keep doin', not if you're gonna stay captain of this flyin' tin can for another five years, you hear me?"
"Uh, yeah. You're yelling. Pretty sure they can hear you on Beta Canaris."
"Oh, darlin', you have not heard me yell yet. That'll come after I'm dead sure you haven't lost all circulation to that arm. Now, move your feet. Sickbay. You'll be lucky if I let you out in the next week."
"Not acceptable. We have seventy colonists to evacuate along with the rest of the crew, and the decon procedures haven't even been completed yet for those beaming aboard. Berthold radiation is not something we can mess with."
He avoids brushing up against the turbolift doors as they close, and breathes a sigh of relief once he's hidden from any crewman's curious eyes. The wall of the lift is pleasantly cool against the back of his head, even if the lights spin in dizzying whirliques that signify Bones's painkiller is beginning to really do its job. "We have orders for evac procedures to Starbase Twenty-Seven and I need to be functional to carry those out until the ship's out of immediate danger. That's an order, Bones."
"With respect, you can shove your orders, Captain, because if you think I'm going to let you run around this ship like that –"
"You can and you will," he snaps, diamond-tip through glass, and McCoy glares at him. "And you will not breathe a word of this to Spock or anyone else."
"Jim, I can't just run a bone-knitter over this for a few hours and let you go, this is serious."
"Fine, then put it in a soft cast until I can get us out of here and the whole mess is behind us, but that's what I need you to do. Look, Bones – you're gonna have to get used to this." He pats his worried CMO on the shoulder, trying to hide a grimace at the pain the movement produces. "Once we head out on that second mission it'll be totally uncharted space, months between a space station or another Federation outpost. And things are gonna happen."
"Not helpin' your argument, Jim. You think I'm looking forward to being the only thing standing between this many lives and the unknown, out here in this godforsaken part of the galaxy? And anyway –" McCoy breaks off as the intercom chimes, summoning him. "McCoy here."
"Sulu, Doctor." Jim frowns, because there's something weird about the guy's voice, he just can't quite put his finger on what. "You've been requested to attend an officers' briefing in Briefing Room Two in ten minutes, sir."
"I'm a little busy, Lieutenant." McCoy rolls his eyes and avoids the (non-broken) elbow aimed his direction. Jim does wonder, though, why he wasn't the first one summoned, and guesses Uhura is trying to give him as much time as possible off his feet.
"It's not optional, Doctor. All senior command staff must be present."
Jim raises an eyebrow at that, because if it's a Priority Two or higher then he should have been notified immediately, and that's a serious breach of protocol that Spock would never have let happen if he'd been in command. Obviously he's not on the Bridge either, likely because Uhura's trying to give them both time off until the last moment.
"Fine, whatever. I'll be there as soon as I can." McCoy growls, punches the comm-switch as Sulu's acknowledgment filters over the line, and side-eyes him. "You're gettin' a soft cast first at least, no arguing."
"Believe me, no arguing," he replies, smiling thinly.
He follows his CMO into the room with a straight back and calm expression due only to some fairly heavy drugs and a mild stimulant that he's going to regret swiping from Bones's private stash later, but he needs to be alert for whatever fresh mess this is and he can't be that from a bio-bed or flat on his back on the floor, curled in a fetal position like he wants to be.
Ah, the responsibilities of that Captain Image.
Pike had never told him it sucked this much, sometimes.
Weirdly enough, the room stops dead silent when he walks in, and he squints, thought processes slowed considerably by the painkillers. What the hell?
"Uh." Scott's unhappy murmur is accompanied by a nervous squirm and screeeeek of shifting chair. "Not part of the plan. So what exactly was Plan B, then?"
"Want to run that by me again without the code words?" He yanks the chair out from the head of the table and makes a controlled dive into it, gritting his teeth against the explosion of fireworks in his vision. "Explain, Mr. Scott. Why are you leading this meeting, and where's Commander Spock?"
"Uh. Sir. Well, y'see, sir. That's sort of…why we're here. Sir. Captain. I mean, it's not exactly easy to explain."
Exasperated, he turns to Uhura, whose eyes are red-rimmed like she's been either crying or not sleeping or both, and she just pinches her forehead like she has a migraine and gives him a helpless look. He knows the feeling.
"Okay, people, I want explanations, and I want them now." He nails his alpha shift pilot and prospective future captain trainee with narrowed eyes, and is pleased to see him shift nervously. "Spill it, Sulu."
"Well. It's like this, Captain."
"Do I need to demote someone to get answers here, people? Because I'm about to. What is going on."
Uhura finally lowers her hands and exhales, and he can see the calm of a Starfleet officer being put back on like a uniform – she's about to report as a Starfleet lieutenant, not Spock's whatever-they-call-themselves-now.
"Spock's confined himself to quarters, Captain," she finally says, just as Jim's about to lose his patience completely.
He blinks, and swivels his chair back toward her, boot-toes squeaking aimlessly on the polished flooring. "Okaaaaay," he says slowly. "Any particular reason?"
"Because I uncovered this, sir," Scott speaks up quietly, from the other end of the table. He flicks on the floating overhead vid-screen, and what looks like surveillance footage begins to play.
He half-stands, fists on the table. "How did you –"
"It's not his fault, Captain," Uhura interjects quickly, hand on his wrist. Ow ow ow ow. She jerks it back a second later, obviously feeling the rough cast underneath the braid on his sleeve, and looks more guilty than before. She presses onward a second later, however, eyes flashing him an unspoken apology. "He was repairing the damage I did in Engineering and came across anomalies in the data banks, thought it was more of my sabotage. You didn't do a good enough job of scrubbing the files from the transporter room's surveillance footage."
"It's not what it looks like," he sighs, leaning back in the chair with a hand over his eyes for a moment.
"Uh, no offense, sir, but it looks pretty bad," Sulu says pointedly.
"I havena doubt 'twas necessary, sir. God knows we all did things under the influence of those blasted plants that we would rather forget." Scott shrugs helplessly. "But, well –"
"When Spock saw it he freaked," Uhura says bluntly. At the chorus of scoffs and incredulous looks, she rolls her eyes. "Don't give me that, you all know that's just a front where Kirk's concerned. Anyway, he says he assaulted a Starfleet officer and he should be court-martialed. It took me three hours to convince him not to go lock himself up in the brig."
"Oh, for God's sake." His head hits the table briefly, and he groans. Deities of the universe save him from stupidly loyal First Officers.
From his right, he hears a stifled, nervous giggle from who can only be Chekov, who has been oddly silent and scared this whole conversation. Jim can't tell if it's leftover uncertainty from the spores or because he's afraid his mentor is about to be shipped back to New Vulcan on the next freighter out, but it's disconcerting. He finally sighs and sits back up, wishing he'd taken Bones up on that stronger painkiller.
"Jim, he –" A slicing motion with his hand, and Bones subsides, surprisingly with only an understanding nod. They've come a long way, if he can command that amount of trust in something like this. He owes his friend, big time. And not just for the good drugs.
A problem for a different, less exhausting day.
"Captain, I know it looks bad but –"
"Bad? It looks like he's tryin' ta kill the bloody man! Under alien influence or not, that's a mite more than just a 'disagreement' like we were told in the reports!"
"He's insisting he be transferred immediately upon our arrival at Starbase BC-18, Captain," Uhura says softly.
"Like hell he is." He scowls, and reaches over with his good hand to slap at the intercom button, ignoring the flabbergasted and/or confused expressions of his command staff. "This is your captain speaking. Commander Spock, report immediately to Briefing Room Two or I will personally drag your ass down here." From somewhere down the hall he hears a distant peal of laughter, and realizes he accidentally hit the shipwide comm instead of the private channel.
Ehh. So much the better, if that video footage is accessible to any idiot in Ops who has Level Three surveillance clearance. Best he stamp out any rumors at their source.
His command staff is staring at him like he's totally lost his mind. "What?" he demands.
Uhura looks like she can't decide whether to laugh or cry, and if he's not mistaken she has relaxed considerably. Did she really think he was going to do something like demote and transfer Spock over this? Surely she knows him better after all these years.
"You didn't really think I was going to do anything to him, did you?" he asks, incredulous.
But she is also an officer, first and foremost, on this ship, and he appreciates that – always has. Now, she gives him a pointed look. "Sir, what he did could be considered a serious assault against a Starfleet officer, like he said."
"Why do you think I sent you out of the room before I started really provoking him?" He drags a weary hand down his face. "There's no way in hell I'd let him direct that at a subordinate, and especially one he's involved with romantically."
He hears a sharp inhale from his other side, and knows Bones has made the connection he wasn't about to voice aloud – that he knows far too well what being on the bad end of an abusive relationship feels like. Uhura stares at him for a moment in blank consternation as the room falls awkwardly silent. The rest of his staff shift uneasily, glancing at each other and then back toward him, but he's pleased to see they look more concerned than anything else. They've grown, this weird little family of theirs, and they're basically past the point of hiding dirty laundry. There are no secrets in space, so they might as well not bother trying to hold on to them.
He doesn't really have the energy to try right now, anyway.
Bones's padd goes off with a medical alert, and he moves to the wall comm to get details from Sickbay – someone triggered a Blue Alert when the decon procedures were engaged upon beam-up from the planet – and the table drifts into chatter for a moment as they unofficially break. Jim glances sideways, uncertainty warring with unapology as he looks at his Comms Chief.
Uhura rolls her eyes, and leans toward him.
He shrinks back as her eyes suddenly spark dark fury. He's personally seen junior officers almost wet themselves in terror when that look's directed at them, and even if he's not really afraid of her after all this time it's still hella scary.
"Don't ever do something that stupid again," she snaps, giving his shoulder a gentle punch. He bites back a yelp, and blinks at her in shock. "I can defend myself just as well as the next Starfleet officer –"
"Better," Sulu interjects helpfully.
"Thank you, Mr. Sulu," he returns with a withering glare.
"And you do not get to assume anything about my relationships!"
"Understood! Jesus, can you not touch the arm?" She seems to realize he hasn't really had proper medical attention and subsides, whereupon he protectively cradles his wrist closer to himself, glaring at her. "Booooones."
"You get no sympathy from me. She can kick Spock's ass and you should've let her." Bones rams a hypospray into his neck as he passes and depresses the mechanism with practiced ease, ignoring Jim's yelp of pain. Relief floods him a minute later, sharp and cool and so very welcome. "Now. You got fifteen minutes to kiss and make up with the hobgoblin and then you hit me up for a bone-knitting session, understood? I gotta go see to this idiot who beamed up with a spore colony infesting his nasal passages."
Already yawning, Jim makes a half-drugged shooing motion over one shoulder as his CMO reaches the doors, which open at his approach.
"Speak of the devil. I'll have a word with you later, don't think I won't."
Bony finger impacts blue tunic with vicious intent and then the physician disappears around the corner, his figure soon replaced in the doorway by that of their reluctant First Officer.
"Sit down, Commander," Jim directs calmly, and Spock's eyes flicker to his gesturing hand before returning to the floor.
"I would prefer to stand. Sir."
"And I'd prefer to be on Rigel IX with a drink and exotic dancer or two but we don't always get what we want, now do we. Now sit. Down."
Spock sits, almost hilariously quickly, and folds his hands on the table before him.
"So. What's this I hear about you wanting to transfer off the ship?"
"My transfer request has already been made. I would prefer to finish the remainder of this mission on a different vessel."
Well, he dead sure didn't sign off on that so Spock would have had to go over his head; and he'll bet his last year's salary that Uhura never let the paperwork leave the ship. She's proven herself exceptionally adept at sabotage, lately.
"Yeah, well, that's not happening." Spock's eyebrows draw together in the first expression he's seen – that of annoyance. Gooood. "Look, I'm not training another First and Chief Science Officer this late in the game, Spock. How is that logical, to leave us in the lurch like that with only a few months left on the five-year mission?"
"Then the transfer will be effective as of the second mission."
"And on what grounds, exactly, did you request this transfer? Because it had to have been something whopping important for you to think the brass will approve it over my head."
Spock shifts uneasily.
"He cited dangerous and potentially compromising differences between commanding officers as his reason, Captain," Uhura interjects, ignoring the glare she receives for the information.
"Huh." He shrugs. "Okay, fair enough."
"Of course, I would have thought as a Vulcan, you'd be immune to the human responses of fearing danger and emotional compromise…and that you'd embrace the concept of strength in difference…but what do I know."
Spock's lips thin in annoyance.
"Anyhow. Garcia's been after me forever to exchange a few crew-members, and his Chief Science Officer is an Andorian specializing in astrophysics. That'll be our focus for the second mission so that works out in our favor anyway."
Chekov's eyes look like they're about to pop out of his head, and even Scotty is staring at him like he's just proposed flying into the nearest black hole under half-impulse power.
"Lieutenant, you still have that last packet that came through from Command Central?"
"Yes, Captain." The WTF are you playing at, is quite clear in the silence that follows.
"Good, good. There were two applicants for command positions in there that I'd originally discarded, I'll need you to retrieve those for my perusal early tomorrow." From the corner of his eye, he sees Spock's expression darken. "If I remember correctly, one was Admiral Decker's younger son; the kid's apparently a stellar navigator and is just coming off duty in the alpha quadrant."
"Matthew Decker's scores in Starfleet Academy were barely in the upper fortieth percentile of his graduating class, Captain."
"Well, we can't all be impossible test programmers, Mr. Spock," he replies with a beatific smile.
Across the table, Sulu coughs abruptly into his sleeve and then finds something on his padd to be extremely interesting.
"The role of First Officer of the flagship is a position which must be filled with one capable of maintaining the daily operations of said ship while still performing the duties expected of one in the senior chain of command. In addition, that candidate must be able to effectively perform his two most important responsibilities; to lead a landing party or diplomatic mission in the absence of the ship's captain, and to advise the captain on command matters when necessary."
He folds his arms, then winces and unfolds them, settling for tapping the fingers of his good hand on the table instead. "Gee, Spock, I had no idea. You'd think that person should be hand-picked by the captain or something."
Spock's ears turn a peculiar shade of viridian.
"Look," Jim finally says, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I am still like, so pissed at you it's not even funny, and once I'm not then we can talk about this mess." A muffled snort from his other side which he ignores. "But there's no way in the universe that I am going to let you leave this ship without a battle you are going to have a hell of a time winning, Commander."
Spock looks at him, really looks at him, for the first time since he broke free of the spores' influence in the transporter room and realized what he'd done – and actually, honest-to-god slumps slightly in his chair, obviously in surrender or relief or an all-too-human combination of both.
If Jim's arm wasn't killing him and if he wasn't still mad as hell, he would have more sympathy. Spock's lucky he's he closest thing to family Jim has left in the universe, now.
And, as with all family, he does want to kill the guy sometimes. Like now.
Finally he stands, wobbling only slightly, and ignores the look of alarm that makes its combined way around the table. Moving toward the door, he pauses just as it slides open, and half-turns on one heel.
"Get back to the Bridge, people, I don't want those trainees at the alpha stations when we break orbit under Berthold radiation bombardment. Scotty, I expect that footage to disappear in the next hour, understood?"
"What footage, sir?"
That's more like it. They really are becoming a family, this strange little band of wonderful, crazy, beautiful people. It'll take a lot more than some bizarre, euphoria-inducing plant spores to break that magical bond apart for more than a few hours.
After all, what's a close-knit family without a couple of supercharged, furniture-breaking fights now and then?
It's almost…reassuringly normal.
For this ship, at least.