Characters: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, various
Word Count: 28,000+ total
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. See footnotes at the end for this chapter specifics, but there are nods in this section to the TOS episode The Tholian Web.
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
A/N: And so this ends. Thank you, lovely people who have been so kind as to comment and encourage during this spin into AOS land - I truly appreciate each and every comment and they absolutely make my day. Much love to you all.
Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three | Chapter Four | Chapter Five
In retrospect, he should have known better than to think anything could possibly slip by under the eagle eye of his newly-promoted communications chief.
Lieutenant-Commander Nyota Uhura has more than earned the title, not just because she can speak four times as many languages as any other comms officer in the 'Fleet but more because nobody else could possibly put up with the insanity she does and not crack under the pressure. Jim's very proud of her, and if he takes every chance he has during conference calls to rub it in other captains' faces, well, that's just their loss. He's no longer the starry-eyed, cocky child-captain he once was, and if he wants to flaunt the fact that his crew can kick every other crew's combined asses with their eyes closed, then he's earned the right to do that, thanks very much.
But the downside of that is that Nyota can literally hear a pin drop in a crowded room, and nothing slips past her unless there's a conspiracy to end all conspiracies to get it out from under her watchful eye and ear. This perspicacity has saved the crew more times than he can count, but in cases where he doesn't want his personal or official business broadcast everywhere, it can be a pain. Because she always tells Spock what she overhears, and then Spock has to chase him down all over the ship because he's not-concerned-since-that-is-a-human-
But in this instance, he honestly doesn't see it coming, because the scenario just never crosses his mind as he has many other things occupying it.
His career in Starfleet has been somewhat…checkered, he believes is the polite word one of the tabloids used recently. He has as many official reprimands in his record as he has citations of valor, and at this point he's not sure which of them indicates he did his job better. How he escaped court martial after Yorktown he has no idea, but thankfully that was the last time he faced a wholesale loss of ship and crew; he's been far more cautious since.
This Enterprise walks into no more traps, and her Captain makes no more leaps of blind trust.
Now, nearly finished with a second five-year mission and signed on with most of his crew for a third, pushing the better half of his thirties and hopefully making fewer mistakes every year – it's been an unusually bumpy ride, but he wouldn't trade it for the worlds.
On this particular morning, he is preparing to depart the Enterprise for a brief, four-day leave. It is an unusual enough occurrence that his senior staff is entirely taken aback when he mentions it casually over breakfast.
Sulu spits the cornflake he choked on back into his spoon, and stares at him. "Seriously?"
"Gross." Uhura shoves a disposawipe across the table. "What are you, sixteen?"
"Did you not hear Captain Invincible here? Weren't you and Spock the ones who had to basically drug him and pack him in a shuttle bound for Rigel IV last time he was mandated a shore leave?"
"Da, I vas there."
"So were like fifteen other people," he mutters, glaring half-heartedly across the table as he slaps a pat of replicated butter on his bagel. "Traitors."
"Anyway, the point is you talk big but you like, never take shore leave – much less random vacation in the middle of nowhere. What gives?"
Spock's eyes appear over the top of his data-padd, diamond-hard with disapproval.
"Sorry. What gives, sir?"
He chokes on a hunk of bagel as the eyes roll upward and disappear again. After dislodging the food with a swallow of that nasty orange-flavored protein drink Bones still insists he has with breakfast even eight years after the Khan Incident, he waves the glass around carelessly, hoping to slosh some of it onto the table and thereby not have to drink it.
"Just felt like it, Mr. Sulu. And I have something I need to take care of on Starbase Alpha Pranaxis so I figured why not take a few days extra. Starfleet business, so no, you're not getting more than that."
Sulu shrugs, and returns to his cereal.
He sighs. "What, you want me to bring you gummy bears or something? Jesus. It's boring Starfleet business, not a five-star nebula cruise."
"He likes liquorice," Chekov pipes up helpfully.
"Oh for pity's sake, Hikaru."
"I didn't say anything!"
He laughs, and for a few seconds the clink of flatware and occasional ting of Spock's reports being sent off to various departments for the day are all that breaks the silence. He loves this, these ridiculously early mornings when for some reason they all wind up rising stupidly early and meeting up in Officers' Mess. (Bones told him in quite colorful Southern-Terran Standard just where he could go this morning when an attempt at awakening was made, so that's his loss. He is getting old, after all.)
Sulu glances over at him, eyes glinting with mischief. "Sooooo, it's Starfleet business, that has to be conducted on one of the busiest Starbases in the galaxy, a primary shipping and tourist hub in addition to a branch of Starfleet HQ. Are you, like, serving on a court martial panel, a board of inquiry?"
"No," he replies dryly.
"Are you getting court martialed?"
"It's actually a reasonable question," Uhura points out mildly.
He snorts into his coffee cup. "See, this? This right here? Why none of you were invited. Not you, Spock," he adds, because in all fairness his First has done nothing but sit in loyal indifference by his side, probably doing all of their combined paperwork for the day in one-third the time it would have taken Jim to do just his half.
Spock looks ridiculously smug, and earns himself three glares as he leaves the table with a murmured excuse, headed for the Bridge to take over for the delta watch officer.
Lucky him. Jim has a twenty-four-plus hour shuttle ride, alone, to look forward to, and then the three-ring circus at the end.
Not the way he'd choose to spend the next four days, but it's a duty he unfortunately doesn't have the option of declining.
He departs the Enterprise in the Galileo III (the first two, well…just don't ask, because he tries not to think about it), actually enjoying the freedom of being in the pilot's seat for once and also not having a Security contingent clinging to him like a Euridian leech-worm. In recent years he's become much less belligerent about letting them do their jobs, much to his Security Chief's relief, but it doesn't get any less annoying; so to have the shuttle minus a royal guard is actually welcome at first.
The shuttle bay decompressurizes around him as he lifts off, he sees DeSalle wave at him through the control room window, and then he's off into space with a flick of the navigation controls, his beautiful ship receding in the rearview. He sees the lights of the saucer section dim for just an instant and then return to normal – the starship equivalent of dipping a plane's wings in acknowledgment.
God, he loves this crew.
The autopilot will take care of keeping him on course unless he hits unexpected turbulence or some other danger unaccounted-for, so it leaves him free to amble around the small shuttle after setting it on a course for Alpha Pranaxis. He figures out how to work the tiny beverage replicator, finally – mental note, tell Scott to stop fiddling with the damn things, who cares if they replicate sandwiches as long as they can make a decent cup of coffee – and eventually finds his way into one of the two more comfortable reclining chairs with portable lap-desks, intent on doing some paperwork.
Once all his reports are finished in addition to next week's conference call prep, he looks at the chronometer.
Only three hours have passed.
It's going to be a long ride.
"Bones. Booooooones." The tiny screen, frozen on the back of his CMO's empty office chair, mocks him silently. "C'mon, Bones, this is childish."
"This is multitasking, Captain, because the rest of the world don't stop just because you left the ship." The words drift apparently from somewhere off-screen, and if he'd known this wasn't actually going to be a vid-comm he would have just texted. "I got lab results to test and I can't do that from over there. Now what do you want."
"Geez, grouchy much. Wait, lab results on what? Somebody sick?"
A tolerant sigh. "Relax, Jim. Medical Lab Four has been experimenting with a new autoimmunity booster and all results have to be recreated and retested by the Chief Medical Officer before being submitted to the Head of Medical in Starfleet Command."
"And you're doing those in your office, and not in the labs?"
"At this point, it's just a matter of running simulations on different species via the Medical mainframe, Jim. Why d'you care, anyway? Are you really that bored?"
"Yeah." He grins sheepishly, despite the fact that it can't be seen. "I should've packed something to do."
"You got a whole galaxy's library available on that data-padd of yours, read a damn book. I'm busy."
"Aw, come on, Bones. Bones!"
"Beggin' your pardon, Captain, but if you wanted company that badly then I'd've been happy t'send a few of the boys with you."
He scowls at the comm-link, because obviously he's not sounding as casual as he intends. "I don't need a baby-sitter, Scotty. You know as well as I do those impulse engines sounded weird last week and I've yet to see a report that you've found the cause."
"I sent it off two nights past! 'Twas a faulty compression valve in the left nacelle, once we replaced that she started purring like a fat cat again. Took two hours o' crawling through Jefferies tubes not meant for man-sized species to get to the junction access, but it got replaced."
"Spock must have done my paperwork again, I never saw that." He pauses for a second, finger tapping his lips. "Or it was just so boring I skipped it."
"Ehhh, you want interesting then read a book o' poetry," is the retort, completely unoffended. "But anyway, Captain. Y'need not worry about the Enterprise. How much trouble can she get into in four days, anyway?"
He snorts. "You really want me to answer that?"
"On second thought, no. No jinxing us, if you please. Now is there something else I can do for you, sir, or can I get back to work now?"
Sighing, he bids his CE farewell and signs off, belatedly realizing he forgot to ask about the replicator.
He'll wait a while before calling back; not even he is brave enough to interrupt this particular engineer and his warp core inspections.
He doesn't like to nap in small crafts, for some reason – likely because the last time he did was years ago on the last Galileo, and he woke up just in time to hear Spock yelling up front for everyone to brace themselves for imminent collision with a Class L planet.
Like he said, don't ask.
But he does manage a short nap, and then does some work on the crew evaluations which are due next month, then another nap, then snacks a little on the nasty rations they keep on board these shuttles – another mental note, maybe Scott is on to something with the replicator – and finally dials up an instant messaging window out of sheer boredom.
Spock doesn't appear to mind playing chess in his head, through an instant message system, and it keeps them both sharp, so that occupies him for a good while. Their games are a little weird; they either last only like two minutes, or go for hours. Jim doesn't have much patience for the long game, but it's good for his tactical skill development, and Spock just enjoys wiping the floor with him nine times out of ten.
It's soooo worth it for that tenth time, though.
This kills another two hours and a half, until a second IM window pops up on his screen, asking him with remarkable politeness if he wouldn't mind wrapping it up sometime tonight because Spock apparently is a Vulcan idiot and refuses to get out of his warm bed to answer his messages, so the light and constant message pinging is keeping Nyota awake.
It's a wonder the woman hasn't killed Jim by now, honestly. He shoots off a message of apology for both himself and his idiot First and then makes a trio of poorly executed moves that allows Spock to checkmate him in short order, then commands him to stop being a jerk to his fiancée and go to sleep or she's likely to leave him for a more considerate, possibly higher-ranking officer.
The response he gets from both windows is in fluent colloquial Vulcan, but he understands enough of it to laugh out loud in the quiet of the shuttle before shutting off the padd and finally drifting into a deeper sleep.
Seriously, he loves this crew.
Alpha Pranaxis is a bustling starbase built into the side of a barren planetoid, shimmering with life and vitality under a protective dome that belies the arid wasteland and lack of atmosphere outside. A shipping hub on the stellar freight lanes, it is constantly filled with members of all Federation and non-hostile non-Federation species, but housing a primary branch of Starfleet HQ, it is the only destination for any official business in this entire sector.
This business, he could very much do without, and had said so when summoned; but unfortunately, he was not really given the option to decline. And after all these years, he has learned when and where to pick his battles with his superiors.
Here, in a time of relative quiet, receiving a medal for a mission whose success is really due to his crew and not him, is not one of those times.
You would think after almost ten years, he'd be used to wearing this stupid dress uniform, but it just gets more uncomfortable every time he has to put the thing on. Adding these dumb medals just makes it that much more pretentious and that's the last thing he needs; he does enough of a job making himself look like a moron without adding to that with some shiny ribbons and bobbles.
It's not that he's ashamed of the Defiant incident, far from it – after all, they had managed to save some of the ship's crew before she had completely slipped into interphase, and his Science departments had single-handedly solved one of the great scientific mysteries of their time. The whole scientific community is now talking about the concept of interphase, and Spock is being hailed as a tactical genius for his method of utilizing it as an escape method in battle strategy. The strategic and scientific implications are amazing, no other word for it. (1)
But he really doesn't see why they should be pinning a medal on him, instead of on some of his staff. They were the ones who figured out he wasn't really dead, only trapped in the interphase shift, and they were the ones who figured out how to get him back. All he did was float around and scare a few random crewmen and panic for three days, running out of air.
But apparently, slapping your emergency recall transponder on a suffocating yeoman so she can be transported back instead of you when the ship is disappearing out from under your feet, constitutes 'selfless bravery beyond the call of duty'.
Spock called it an unacceptable risk to the captain of a starship, and that was after he called Jim something in High Vulcan Jim is pretty sure translates as colossally thrice-damned idiot I should choke again.
Not like he wanted to add one more thing to his list of growing paranoias, thank you. He'll be lucky if he can ever put on an EV suit again without freaking out. He is still waking up at night dreaming that he's floating through the walls of the Enterprise, choking on air that's almost completely carbon dioxide, thick and heavy inside that silent, lonely helmet.
He inhales, counts one-two-three-four just like Bones instructed, lets it out counting to eight, inhales counting to four, exhales counting to eight. That's supposed to help both with anxiety and with getting more oxygen to the brain to ward off a headache.
Not really doing either, but whatever. He's on in just a minute, if this pompous bureaucrat can ever shut up.
Finally, after what feels like hours, he hears his name called, and mounts the steps to the platform, concentrating on not falling on his face in front of at least two Starfleet-permitted newscaster cameras and an auditorium of Starfleet officers. That would be just fabulous, one more appearance in the tabloids just before his mission-end review, if he face-plants before the Commodore of this sector.
Thank goodness, he manages to stop on the mark taped to the floor – score one for him – and snaps to attention, conscious of way too many curious and just as many bored eyes in the audience. An admiral he doesn't recognize by sight – Neilssen, thank goodness he can daydream and pay attention to names at the same time, a skill well-honed by now in his career – says something he doesn't really care about, the usual platitudes he's heard a hundred and one times. Turns, and gives him what looks like an actually genuine smile, and a nod of approval.
Maybe the guy isn't so bad after all. He relaxes just a fraction, and exhales slowly as the silver medal is pinned onto his dress jacket beside the other decorations. Finally the ridiculous affair is over with, and a small smattering of polite applause filters through the room.
It's broken by a very loud, very shrill whistle.
Neilssen actually jumps, startled, and takes a step backward. Wide-eyed, Jim swings around, and immediately zeros in like an electromagnetic beacon on the back row of the small auditorium.
Chekov pulls his fingers out of his mouth and waves both hands sheepishly while three seats down, he sees Bones facepalm. Uhura whaps their navigator upside the head in exasperation and shoots him an apologetic look from in-between them.
"Oh my God."
Sulu holds up an honest-to-God sign and whoops, high-fiving Montgomery Scott just as the news cameras finally figure out what's happening and swing around to focus on his command crew.
He can fairly feel his face burning, all the way down into his starched dress collar. "I am so sorry, sir."
The admiral just laughs, and claps him on the shoulder. "Enjoy it, son," he says, and Jim stifles a snicker as Spock is caught on zoomed-in camera looking exceptionally bored with the entire affair. "You've got a good crew there, you know."
"I've got a freaking amazing crew, Admiral." He grins as Bones says something to an over-eager reporter that sends the kid skittering away with a look of utter terror. "But right now I'd like to know where my ship is and who's commanding her, if they're sitting here."
"I want you to know, this was not my idea," is Bones's first statement, hands raised in a melodramatic laissez faire gesture.
"Shut up, you were just as much a part of it as anybody," Uhura scoffs, elbowing him. "The drawing attention to ourselves like a bunch of first-year cadets wasn't part of the plan, though, sir," she adds, sending a glare over her shoulder.
Chekov's face turns the color of Scott's dress uniform. "It was the heat of the moment, Keptin. My apologies."
He laughs, and wonders absently when exactly it was that the kid got so tall. "Just how did you pull this off, anyway? And who is running my ship? Commander?" He directs the inquiries at his First, who is standing patiently to one side while the idiot humans run around making fools of themselves.
"The Enterprise arrived at Alpha Pranaxis and established an orbital dock approximately two hours prior to the ceremonies' commencement, Captain. As to who is in command, Lieutenant Masters is in need of eight more hours logged as commanding officer of a non-priority mission in order for Starfleet to approve her promotion to Lieutenant Commander and Assistant Chief Engineer. This seemed an appropriate opportunity to, as you humans put it, exterminate two avians with one projectile."
Uhura hides a smile behind her hand. Jim has no such shame, and snickers. "Lost a little something in translation there, Spock, but I get you. So all that time when I was talking to you guys, you were like three hours behind me?"
"We actually were ahead of you, we jumped to higher warp and took a longer route around in case you for some reason started running short-range scans from the shuttle," Sulu interjects with a grin.
"And I assume you found out about this whole circus by eavesdropping on the comms," he says with a pointed look at Uhura.
She shrugs, entirely without shame. "Not my fault if you don't encrypt messages and then leave them cluttering up my board, I have to file them somewhere. You should know better. Sir."
"And you managed to swing this little diversion past the Admiralty, how?"
"The crew's overdue for shore leave, and medical records show a significant enough decline in morale to justify the detour to a starbase to take it," Bones interjects with a shrug. "'Sides, Neilssen owes me a favor from years back at the Academy. We have five days before we're expected back on course, and I for one intend to take them. There's a six-star intergalactic restaurant on the other side of this dustbowl with my name on it."
"Let me beam back up and change out of this stupid uniform and I'll come with," he says, tugging at the collar of the starched dress tunic. "I mean, if you didn't already have plans," he adds, belatedly realizing it's a little rude to presume everyone aboard is as lonely as he is sometimes.
"Reservation's in your name, kid. We had to drop it in order to get a table at this late notice."
"Aye, they were only too glad to be hostin' the newly-decorated hero, sir," Scott adds with a wicked smirk.
He splutters for a second in indignation.
"Oh, don't look at me like that, you pointy-eared space elf! You delegate things, you got no right to complain about the methods used to get them done."
Spock sighs audibly, and casts his eyes toward the simulated sky in a familiar Surak-forgive-me-for-the-urge-to-
"If you're gonna change then get your ass back up there and do it, Jim. I got fifty credits that says we can find something in that seventy-page menu that'll finally get Spock to loosen up tonight."
He laughs, and ignores the glare of death Uhura is sending their CMO over Spock's shoulder. "Bones, leave him alone."
"Doctor, as well you know from xenobiological and medical information on file regarding my species, Vulcans are completely incapable of becoming intoxicated from consumption of alcoholic substances, due to significant differences in our metabolic rates from that of humanoid species."
"Yes, well." He grins, and flips open his communicator. "Kirk to Enterprise. Don't forget, Spock, that the old version of you was so much more willing to impart personal information. To me, at least."
Spock's eyes narrow.
Uhura looks way too interested.
"Two words, Lieutenant. After-dinner mints." He waggles his eyebrows at her dumbfounded expression, and laughs as the transporter beam shimmers into existence around him. (2)
Now that little reveal, is something worth a medal for bravery. He probably needs to lock their shared bathroom door tonight so his First doesn't kill him in his sleep, but Nyota will likely send him a fruit basket on their last day of shore leave.
Until then, he has his tall ship, and stars to steer her by, and an amazingly dysfunctional family that he never wanted and never asked for and never, ever plans on letting go.
And that's really no secret at all.
(1) This is a skeletal summary of the TOS episode The Tholian Web, minus the heroics and medal portion which are all me and all this story. One of my personal favorites in the OS and one of the best Triumvirate episodes out there.
(2) Contradicting many popular fanons, the original theory regarding Vulcan intoxication came from Gene Roddenberry himself in the novelization of ST:IV, where someone on a bus in San Francisco gave Spock a peppermint with very…interesting results. We see chocolate being used often as the intoxicant in fanfiction, but according to this theory, it's actually complex sugar rather than cacao itself which is the cause. Like I said with the Tarsus angle, I prefer to go non-mainstream where possible just to break up the monotony.