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U.S.S. Vesper

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Being born early sucks. Reacting badly to brought light sucks. Nasal canullas suck. Medical bracelets suck. Having to wait three years in space to see your mom for a week sucks. Everything sucks.

"Mr. Kirk, can you answer the problem, please?"

He scowls at the lady- his teacher, whatever her name is, he can't remember- and glances to the holo. Math. Great. He's amazing at math. Not. "I don't get it."

She sighs. "Did you even read it, James? I'm sure if you tried, maybe, you would understand fine."

She doesn't get it. He has read the holo problems a hundred times and they never make any sense. He can do the plants just fine, why can't she ask him a question about that? But no, it has to be math, and the only explanation for him not getting it is that he didn't even read it in the first place.

"Mrs. Maria, I wouldn't bother. I doubt he can even see it in the first place, with everything he had going on."

As if to prove her point, his bracelet beeped and glowed golden orange. Great. Wonderful. He sat his head on his desk and took a deep breath, biting his lip as the sting bit into his wrist and everything loosened- his breath came easier, but so dod hearing and seeing and that meant he had to listen to them again.

"James, why don't you go and rest for the rest of the cycle?" His head snaps up, completely ignoring the incessant beeping that's telling him he really shouldn't be moving yet.

A wave of vertigo hits him as he stands up, grinding his teeth angrily. "No! I can't miss class!"

The other students just stare at him until he feels self conscious and sits back down, breathing heavily through his nose, trying to stop the bile from rising in his throat. "It's not like it's gonna be any different tomorrow, anyways."

Class goes on and his head eventually can hold itself up again. They read a book together, and he stares contemptuously at the words on the pages. Useless as they were to him, since reading for longer than a few minutes escaped his abilities. When he tried, his eyes would swim and his head would hurt.

Finally, before everyone was dismissed; "in the morning, all of us will be going planetside to visit Vulcan and explore the culture. Since we arrives yesterday, the council has decided to welcome us for the day. Make sure to remember the rules and keep your hands to yourself. Dismissed."

This is the best part of anything. The only good part, really. The trips to land, to explore whatever allied planet they're orbiting for the year. They can see the inhabitants, learn about them, play with them, look at all the crazy plants and animals.

It's also the only time he can get away from the other kids on the ship.


Going down to the land is always weird.

The few times he had been allowed groundside, he had had to go through a whole series of medical events and then get used to the gravity and weather and air before they were beamed down. He hadn’t gone through it too many times, mostly because his medi-bracelet told the teacher that the ground wasn’t good enough, that he wasn’t fit for it. The air was too heavy, too filled with some chemical, too something or other. No chance of him getting used to it before it kills him. And considering he was the only one on the whole ship with his kind of problems, that left him pretty much alone until the class returned.

Now, he’s almost hyperventilating he’s so excited. Vulcan is supposed to be so different from the Earth based conditions of the ship, and yet he was cleared to leave. The other planets he had been cleared for had been almost mirror atmospheres of Earth- not that he knew personally, even if he had been on Earth for the first few months of his life after returning from space after birth. He had studied the atmospheres viable for humans, however, and the differences were so stark-

“I can hear you talking nerd, dummy.”

He freezes, clenching his fists around the hem of his class standard shirt.

The glare he makes barely works because the excitement curls around his wrists and squeezes his stomach. “Shut up, asshole. Just because I can think faster than you can understand what I’m saying doesn’t mean you can insult me about it.”

The kid- he recognizes the face, but the name escapes him, as it always does- sneers at him. It looks less than threatening with the baby fat still plump on his face.

“Whatever, dummy. You better not get in the way while we’re exploring. You can, I dunno, look at the plants or something, like you nerds do.”

Because plants is the only thing he can do, he doesn’t take it as an insult.

He likes plants. They don’t talk back and insult you. They don’t have legs or arms or eyes to hurt you with, or the ability to conceive importance in their children and feel the need to find and protect them and visit them on the ship they left them on in the middle of space-

His mood is suddenly ruined and he sighs through his nose. Hopefully, the plants will make him feel better.

The kid leaves and he’s left to gather his stuff for the trip. There isn’t much, but the most important thing is his stupid medical blanket and the too hard pillow that he has to take everywhere except class because class is stupid and he-

The trip down isn’t something he can get used to. The part where he stands with his bag in his arms and waits for the engineer- he can’t remember his name, but he likes to call him Happy- to finish readying them for energizing, that’s easy. Where he has to ignore the ramblings of his classmates, all excited to see another planet and meet the Embassy at their home base, to see the crazy alien animals, that’s easier.

But when Happy says ‘ready’ and the kids all settle to stillness, when the teacher mumbles a simple ‘energize’ and suddenly he’s everything and nothing at the same time? He doesn’t understand it and it’s terrifying, even if it’s the most beautiful thing he has ever known.

His particles break apart, his body turns to air, his brain mixes and fizzles and buzzes and stops and then starts again, before it’s put back together. He can feel his legs and his arms even when they are millions of lightyears away from the neurons firing off in space, and yet never leaving his mind. His feet touch the ground and he is still floating, eyes closed, and his bracelet beeps once. Back to his body, then.

When he opens his eyes, he sees red. Nothing but red, the color of the sand and the sky, although it could just be the time of day that made the sky look like that. He had been told before that Earth’s sky became somewhat red during evenings, so why not Vulcan’s as well?

The class is already moving by the time he focuses back on his legs to walk.


 

Way in the distance, not that far away, is a building.

He takes a breath, swallowing the build up of nerves in his throat, and takes the first steps. He hadn’t expected the difference to actually be so stark, even though he had studied it so thoroughly. The atmosphere, heavier, hotter, harder to breathe.

He can feel sweat beading up behind his ears, on his neck, dripping down his back already, before he’s a dozen feet from the transport spot. His is almost gasping for every breath, blinking every second, hands by his side and unwilling to go against gravity to touch his face, to wipe away the sweat. The tri-oxide compound should be working already, he tells himself. It’s just his imagination, he thinks.

Except it really is hard to breathe, and he can tell when his bracelet beeps twice, flashing yellow. He grinds his teeth and shoves the bracelet into the regulation pockets, breathes through his nose, and ignores the sweat, likely to start a rash if he tried to wipe it away.

He’s at the back of the group, and no one would even glance back at him for a long time. He has the expected time to beam back up. He has his bracelet and bag, and the stupid blanket if his stupid bracelet starts to scream at him for something or other. He glances to his bracelet- he has at least an hour before they’re expected to meet back up again. There isn’t supposed to be any threats near the transport spot, he should be fine.

No one glances back to see him slip away into the dunes of hot red sand.


He hasn’t seen a single form of plant life in the whole of thirty minutes. He has thirty minutes to finish searching before he needs to be in the building, with his class, already having met the main Embassy members and the staff.

That isn’t going to happen, because he hasn’t seen any plant life and he isn’t leaving without having scanned at least one with his stolen PADD. The medical operators were much too relaxed with him around, had gotten used to him reading from their PADDs, had stopped counting the one PADD because he was constantly on it.

They wouldn’t notice before it was back onboard and in its place.

But the problem was that he knew there was supposed to be plant life on Vulcan, just that it was uncommon and hard to find. And he wasn’t going to give up, not when he risked detention and PADD prohibition from this.

He would get just one stupid scan, maybe a sample, and see the stupid plants before he went back up and had to endure hours of boring lectures from his stupid teachers.

He was panting and covered in sweat and had taken off the regulation shirt before he had even lost sight of his class, and every time he glanced down he had to face the stupid thing on his belly, on his chest, monitoring his organs for failure, for problems. They were useless, he had hacked onto them the first time he had opened them up outside of seeing them for surgery, for supervised maintenance, and the signal was constantly transmitting ‘good, just fine’ back to the ship, didn’t even work as a navigator or a tracker because he had taken that part out and planted it on another kids months ago.

Point is, he hates the thing even if it keeps him alive, even if he needs it to survive, and suviving for the rest of the hour was going to suck, so he had to see it and watch it. The bracelet hadn’t stopped beeping even once in the past ten minutes, and-

Oh my god is that a plant- Oh fuck, oh hell yeah!

He jumps at the sight of the reddish yellow stem, just barely peeking out over the red sand, splayed to capture every single ray of the hot sun it possibly could. He kneels down, Federation standard sweat soaked pants coating themselves in miniscule grains of the crimson gravel and hell yeah I will not let this poetic masterpiece go to waste!

The PADD is heavy in his hands as he holds it above the plant, tapping until it was scanning and beeping beautifully that it was, in fact, flora. He watches as words fill the screen, both in Standard and in what was likely Vulcan and some Federation approved languages for translations of what could be translated. He knew, vaguely, that a lot of Vulcan was still incredibly secret and the language was iffy at best if what the restricted files were telling the truth. Only a handful of offworlders knew the language to its fullest, and even then the different dialects and regional variation was so incredibly wide no one could possibly hope to understand it as well as an actual Vulcan could.

The little plant swayed, twitched, and opened its- leaves? Petals?- wider. He took care to stay out of the sunlight it needed, but watched as the plant slowly- so slowly- turned to face him directly.

He had heard, once, that some plants on some planets were especially aware, sometimes dozens to hundreds times more aware than the plants on Earth were. It was possible the plant recognised him as living, as a source of nutrition or even a danger, had a way of protection that would be activated at any moment and he couldn’t wait to see it attack, oh gosh-

His gushing is interrupted by a shout. And then another. And then outright yelling, which is even weirder because Vulcans were supposed to be super calm and collected, so it must be an offworlder, except he doesn’t recognise the voice. He knew, without a doubt, that Vulcans were incredibly sparse with their allowance of non Vulcans living on their home planet, so possibly a visiter.

He elects to ignore it, up until the little plant seems to hear the shouting and- woosh- its curled in on itself so tight he doubts anyone would be seeing the beauty of its insides anytime soon.

He revels in the reaction for only a moment before annoyance takes over. Whoever was shouting had completely ruined his chance at seeing the little plant’s defensive tactics- or whatever it had been about to do.

He stood, after giving the little reddish plant a smile, and turned to walk towards the voice.

It was so incredibly surprising, what he saw, that he hadn’t been able to move until the shouting had quieted completely.

Three Vulcans, evident by their clothing, ears, and skin hues, standing in a triangle, with one gripping another’s neck tight, lips pulled back in a snarl, practically screaming in the face of the smaller Vulcan. The only emotion clear was anger in the aggressor, and resignation in the victim.

They were speaking in Vulcan, so he was clueless as to what they were saying, but it was fairly clear that someone was upset about something or other and taking it out on the other kid. Which, really, didn’t seem like something a Vulcan would do from the reports he had hacked into nearly a month ago while researching different missions that had made contact with the elusive race.

Before he had been able to gather himself, before he had been finished pulling his regulation shirt back on and stowing away the PADD, the aggressors had let go and walked, calmer than their faces expressed, into the nearby building.

His bracelet angrily trilled at him, told him if he didn’t bow to the technology now, he would be in a world of pain, but he ignored it in favour of jumping the small dune and walking over to the boy, who had fallen to the ground with a hand just barely touching the darkening marks around his neck.

The kid didn’t glance up until Jim was kneeling in front of him, hand out to help the kid up, and by then he had collected himself just a bit. Enough that only his eyes were wet and his cheeks flushed with blood newly returning to his face.

There’s a long moment where Jim forgets that he needs to talk to explain what he’s doing, and he realizes that he’s human, and this kid is a Vulcan, and Vulcans probably don’t do the stuff that humans do, and who even knows if the kid speaks Standard? The adults would, because duh, space travel and the Embassy and all that. But kids?

“Do you speak Standard? Or, uh… any languages from Earth? I don’t really know much of other languages yet, but I was planning on learning like… Klingon or something when it came up in class. Or maybe Borg or Osaarian.”

The Vulcan kid doesn’t respond for a long time, but eventually takes his hand. Strings of red and gold flicker across his vision, twisting and turning into each other and swirling around the kid’s hand, kissing his fingers and caressing his palm. Jim grins so wide his face hurts as he helps the kid onto his feet. “Ay! Nice to see your legs work.”

His bracelet screams at him for the nth time, and the kid’s eyes flicker to the yellow shining on his wrist. He scowls down at the bracelet, not letting go of the kid’s hand, and shrugs when the kid gives him a look.

“That is a medical bracelet.”

“He speaks Standard!”

“It is highly recommended that when one beeps, one must comply to what it needs.”

“Yeah yeah, whatever. It can wait.” The yellow flashes bright, and the quirk of the kid’s eyebrow is enough to tell him that, no, the Vulcan is very clearly aware of what the bracelet is trying to say.

“You should comply to your bracelet before your illness-”

“It isn’t an illness.”

“Apologies.”

He makes a face at the kid, turning to look around. If he was guessing correctly, they were in a sort of… backyard? School Grounds? Did he accidentally travel all the way to a school and not know it? When he looks however, he sees a particularly nice looking surface, and starts walking towards it, pulling the kid behind him. They go in silence until they reach the little stone bench and he sits down on it, grinning up at the kid. “Better?”

“Your bracelet has not yet changed to green.”

“Yeah. It does that.”

“You are lying. Do what you must.”

So that’s how Jim found himself pulling out his stupid blanket and laying down on the bench, still holding the other kid’s hand. When he had tried to get his pack with both hands, the kid had absolutely refused to let go, and Jim was fine with that, because the red had gone and was mostly gold now. And warm. Very warm.

Jim debated whether it would be appropriate to take his shirt off again, but decided against it. Not in company. It was apparently inappropriate, says the teacher every time he had debated it out loud. He had stopped speaking his debates years ago.

By the time the light turned green, he had convinced the kid to lay down beside him.

He still had ten minutes to be in class. Ten minutes to do something else. It was only after he had left to find the embassy did he realize he had never gotten the kid’s name.

He continued to not get the kid’s name during his stay on Vulcan.

His absence, as always, hadn’t even been noted, and he had been able to find a room without a second glance from anyone, and before long he was integrated back with his class, watching the embassy conduct debates and lectures and assess their curriculum as a whole. During evenings, when the class would calm down and start heading for their rooms, Jim would jump out his window and go to the same schoolyard as before and, every time, the kid was there.

They spoke to each other, talked about the different types of cultures they had seen and experienced, and the kid had started to attempt to teach him some basic Vulcan. It wasn’t that hard once he had memorized the grammatical patterns and basic conjugations, but then there was the memorizing every other word, which mostly ended in him mixing up two completely different things a lot.

Once, the kid brought a 3D chess board out and they played and neither had won by the time they both had to leave. That same game lasted a good week before Jim just barely won out and then they immediately started another. They didn’t talk about their personal lives, about family or pasts or school. The kid didn’t even ask if he was supposed to be somewhere else.

The best part, in Jim’s opinion, was that he hadn’t once seen the bullies from the first day back.

He wouldn’t learn his name until two months after meeting, when his mother haphazardly called out to him from the school building, claiming he hadn’t been waiting for her to pick him up. Jim had wanted to meet her, but the kid- Spock- had pushed him into a bush and said he’d be back the next day.

He didn’t get to meet Spock’s mother, but the next day he told Spock his own name. Well. Sort of. “Call me Jim!” It wasn’t a lie. It wasn’t. It just wasn’t his full name.

Spock had nodded and he had a feeling he knew anyways, so he didn’t bother correcting himself.


Winona Kirk was a worker. A worker with a sense of duty she must hold onto, after her past. After the death of her husband, of the inevitable issues with her sons, one medical and the other emotional.

She had decided, nearly five years ago, that it would be better, easier for all of them, if Jim, her youngest, was somewhere he could be constantly monitored for issues, for possible birth defects that wouldn’t show up until later due to his unique circumstances. She had decided that, for worse or for better, her son Sam would work in the military, on Earth. She had decided, for her own stability, that the best thing for herself was to be in space, and without her kids.

That didn’t stop her from visiting them, even if they were few and far flung between.

Jim didn’t know when his mother had last visited Sam, but her last visit with him had been two years ago, 647 days ago, and counting. He had his calendar marked. It was on record that she would only visit once every three years, but she had been nearby and made a split second choice to visit him and, as lovesick as he always is for her, he couldn’t tell her that he hated it, hated that she would be leaving, that he missed her, that he never wanted to be on this stupid ship and that he hated-

She hugged him so tight when he saw her that he couldn’t speak, let alone explain his miniscule problems in the face of her own issues, as curiously unknown as they were to him.

When she told him she had a whole day planned, he didn’t refuse, didn’t complain, didn’t say he had already had plans, had agreed with Spock that they would meet and they would see the Vulcan gardens together for the first time. He simply nodded and let her take his hand in hers.

When she left, six days later, he went to Spock and found him upset in their usual place, though it only showed in the blue streaks of cotton wavering in his peripheral when they held hands.

He explained that his mother had visited and that he loved her, as much as he know that she didn’t love him the same way, that she never could, would never be proud of him the way he wanted her to, couldn’t be proud of him, and that he had needed to just take what he could get while it was there.

Spock had held onto him tightly when he had started to cry, and then they played chess and went to the gardens where he scanned everything in awe and neither mentioned how puffy his eyes were or that he was still hiccupping.

He had the year to live on Vulcan, and he spent most of it exploring with Spock, although he didn’t learn much at all about him until seven months in, where he met I-Chaya and Sarek, his pet and his father. One was old and huge, and the other old and gruff. Neither seemed to mind him too much, even though Sarek seemed like he wanted to reprimand him for keeping Spock away from his studies (he inferred that from the look he had, even if he was sure that no other human could do that).

Amanda, Spock’s mother, he met nearly a week after he met Sarek, and she was so sweet he had started crying again, and when Spock held his hand to comfort him, Amanda had gone pink in the ears and laughed a bit, but her hugs were warm and comfortable.

Still, he didn’t get to know them much before the year was done and over, and he was forced to say goodbye because his shuttle was going to be leaving early in the morning. Who even knows if they’ll still be in the same quadrant by the time Spock next thought of him?

He felt so very alone when he set his pack on his Federation standard bed and pulled off his regulation clothes to sleep under his regulation blanket.

Great.


At ten, Jim knew six languages. The first was Standard, the second SSL, the third Vulcan. The others, Klingon, Orion, and Ferengi, the last coming from a passing lecturer who had only been on the ship for a month.

He was fluent in all but Ferengi, since he hadn’t been given enough of a basis to build off of, but the others were taught to him and he had lived inside their walls while the other students complained of him speaking languages they didn’t understand. Gibberish, they called it at first. When someone said it was Klingonese, they thought it was a lie. When he had switched to Orion, then to Vulcan, then back to Klingon, they had become upset. Some of them were jealous, very obviously, but he didn’t bother trying to explain himself to them. They didn’t deserve it. Besides. It really wasn’t legal for him to hack into the Klingon database for more practice, and he doubts that anything he said would even get through to them.

In any case, he is multilingual by the time he sees his brother for the first time.

George Samuel Kirk, born years before he had been born, who knew mother better than Jim knew her, who likely spent more time with her, who likely never forgot what she looked like. Jim had forgotten multiple times. He hated forgetting.

Sam was a visitor, a guest, a lecturer for class, but he had requested it because he knew JIm was on the ship. He had wanted to meet his little brother, he said. He smiled and smiled and smiled until Jim asked if he had seen their mother recently. Then he got angry, and sad, and if Jim could understand the language of the body instead of the language of a race of slaves, maybe he would understand why Sam ended up yelling at him. Why he said names he did not know.

As it stands, Jim speaks six languages. None of those help with understanding his brother’s emotions.


Jim has taken the time to ignore class and focus instead on learning more Terran languages, such as Japanese and Spanish, both of which were common on Starships, and French and German, which were less common but still common enough to have full files on them in the Federation database. German catches him off guard, mostly because the words were just… together.

But that was the worst of his hangups, and he’s twelve when he gets the chance to test out his work on someone who had lived around many different cultures and would be able to translate most of what he said without the use of a universal translator. Admiral Joven, who had beamed to the ship to conference with the teachers on their classes, was a wild card. He randomly would switch languages to exclaim something or other, and laughed heartily whenever someone looked clueless about it. He drank every chance he got, anything from raspberry milk to some mixture from a planet from the Alpha Quadrant. But he was happy and eager to help kids learn, so Jim had decided he was good enough to test himself with.

The first language barrier was shattered completely, with Joven using SSL like he had been born deaf- no one from Terra was born deaf anymore, that had been officially solved in 2117- and not even hesitating when Jim switched from Standard to SSL and then back again. Joven didn’t seem to even notice when they slipped into French, and outright laughed when Jim mumbled in German, spoke out in Orion, and corrected himself in Klingon. He was left lost when Joven started spouting words left and right and later explaining that they were the names of every language he had learned from planets outside of Earth. Jim thought he was awesome.

Joven said he was doing great, if he wanted to be a xenolinguistics major once the Vesper was finished with its schooling mission. Joven gave him a PADD of his own before he left, after retrieving it from his own ship, which had been hovering nearby for the whole of his visit. When Jim looked through it, it was full of Joven’s notes on languages and- well. That’s amazing.

Jim misses class every day for nearly a week before he’s forced away from the PADD and his room to sit and listen to lectures for five hours.


Jim has never wondered about his hands before. Not until one of the touch telepath races come aboard for a demonstration and gives him a weird look the entire two hours he was talking. Then, when he went to lightly touch the other students’ hands, to show them how it works, and the telepath’s fingers brush the back of his palm, his sight is splashed in green and grey and yellow, purple streaking through it like ink. The touch telepath moves away and doesn’t look and Jim for the remainder of his stay, which is less than an hour.

Jim wonders, briefly, if he is so strange that a touch telepath would feel his mind and agree, without hesitation, with what everyone else says about him too.


 

He has seen many animals on the PADDs before, but a very small amount with his eyes in real life. I-Chaya, a sehlat, a few that had been brought as a demonstration, and he could vaguely remember petting a cat once, though he didn’t know if it had been an actual cat on Earth from his smallest memories or his imagination. Thing is, he really like animals. Like, to the point of actually crying when he sees one and full on sobbing if it likes him.

The thing is, however, that no one else is okay with him being near their animals because they thought he was contagious, would hurt them, would make them stupider, would try and kill them or act like they’re experiments or plants to be scanned and watched for reactions. But Jim doesn’t think that. He loves animals, and he can’t stand the thought of experiments on them. He find out when he’s twelve that the ship was doing animal experimentation onboard the whole time he had been there, and he had never known. Does it matter that the little creatures couldn’t feel pain, couldn’t die from infections or poison or any known reason? Does it matter that they have been considered to be not conscious in any form, not sentient at all? It doesn’t, because those little scaly rocks of animals are animals, and he won’t stand for it.

He gets told he’s being expelled from the ship nearly a month after freeing all of them and hiding them on a viable planet that he hadn’t actually been cleared to be on. It only took so long because he had had to be quarantined and had fallen unconscious, had stopped breathing, had stopped pumping blood all the while, and had to be resuscitated. He only recently had woken up from the medically induced coma, meant to stop him from messing anything else up while the medics were trying to keep him alive, and the first thing he gets is a letter in his face telling him he’ll be dropped off at the nearest allied planet and his parents/guardians would be notified to come and get him. Yeah. Expulsion means being stranded on a planet alone. Or not alone. Hopefully, they’re near an oxygen-rich planet, at least. He really didn’t want to wait in a stupid oxygen suit for someone to come get him, if they even did.

He was given time to pack his stuff, and then get last minute work to continue learning, and then they beamed him down and dumped him. No last words, no tears, just… a ship full of school children leaving him on a planet by himself. He doesn’t bother waiting for them to leave before he’s pulling out his PADD and scanning his environment. This is the gift one, with all the stuff from the medical PADD uploaded onto it, so he doesn’t need to worry about being traced with it, doesn’t need to worry about typing in passwords to access restricted information, because it’s already been hacked. None of the plants he scanned, however, were palatable, so he was forced to search further, and further, and further into the forest of blue alien trees. They left him without food, without water, so he must fend for himself until help comes.

He’s on the little planet for a week, tops. His medical bracelet had been thankfully silent save for the single resting beeps, and he had been able to salvage some berries that were edible. Well, mostly. They left him feeling like he was flying, but there was no recorded after effects other than a few minutes of falling from that high. Not quite drugs, not quite real food. Just enough of both to leave him feeling full after a handful of them.

The plants were mostly in the tops of the trees, following the lines of ash textured bark down to the cracks where the tree roots broke free and into the hardened dirt to grab at the hidden nutrients. He hadn’t seen any creatures, at least that he could identify with his eyes, but he had hesitated to sleep on the ground and instead climbed to the lowest branches of the thickest tree he could find and making sure he was balanced before tying himself to it and napping.

He didn’t really have to move too far to find food, so he let the tree become his sort of campsite. There was no visible sun, either, but the lighter hours were warm and the darker hours were, well, not as warm but nowhere near as warm as the light hours. He managed to not lose feeling in his fingers and toes by the time he could hear the engines of a ship. He found them waiting for him, and he reluctantly boarded. No, his mother would not be happy with him. Not at all.

He was taken to medical first thing, to check all his vitals and stabilize him, and then hypo him to hell. Then, right when he had assumed she would, she appears, scowl fixed on her face and eyebrows so low they could fall onto her cheeks. She didn’t say she was angry. She didn’t ask him why he had done it. Didn’t say anything more than a simple “I’m disappointed” and then explained that he would be on their ship until she had thought of a good punishment for him. It hurt, but he couldn’t force himself to explain. Couldn’t even look in her eyes because she couldn’t look at him, from his paternal resemblance or her disappointment in him being expelled, he didn’t know. He was given a room with the engineers, sent to get stuff for them, and he didn’t see her again on the ship.

The trip was a month. A month of working, of waiting, of doing nothing but grabbing rags and tools and not saying a word because every time he opened his mouth he felt like crying. It wasn’t like he hadn’t done it before, not really. He had gone mute more than a few times before, mostly because of surgeries and his brain forgetting how to talk, but not just because it hurt. He refused to believe that he was just hurting. He didn’t even realize they had landed until he was being led outside and walking onto a planet with a pink sky and the darkest green soil he had ever seen.

His mother hadn’t even met him to say goodbye- the XO of the ship had been asked to tell him that he would be working on the planet for however long it took to finish his schooling. He would live there, sleep there, eat there. It was a relatively small planet, hardly eight thousand people living on it, with a handful of people that were only there as a connection to the outside. No technology due to the ion cloud hovering around the whole planet, and a strict schedule. He hated it already. He was right to hate it, for the most part.

The first year, he was as good as useless, having little to no ability in the physical right, but the gravity was slightly less than that of his usual gravity, so he was somewhat closer to an average state of strength, or what could be considered as standard on Earth. He was constantly grinding his teeth and laying down so his bracelet could pumps drugs into him. Classes were tiresome and filled with political sciences, math, and history of different planets. The only thing he liked was the botany, because the little planet was a farming planet, with lots and lots of plants to grow and thrive. The planet was a society by itself and had adopted a more rudimentary form of government than Earth currently used. He’d had seen most of the officials a dozen times by the second year, when he was personally requested to be put in a class taught by the governor.

And then given a job as his aide. He knew, very well, that he did not want to be at the side of the governor, not at all, but… he really didn’t have a choice. Or, he wasn’t given the choice. The governor requested him, and the governor had more power than the guards, who all had guns, like, pre-phaser guns, with bullets and gunpowder and- fear. They held fear over the whole colony. The governor was not a good person. As much as he smiled and told Jim that to get in life, you must give, he still added onto the phrase with but if you do not give, others must take. This is economics, and it is as the universe wills it. Do you understand this, James? And he did. He did understand it, somewhat. He had grown on a ship in space and had been forced to take more times than he could count, because no one would give, because he didn’t get. And yet, it sounded so wrong when the governor said it.

He was fifteen when he realized his classmates were getting smaller and smaller. Not as in shorter, or younger, but- smaller. Thinner. Pale and gaunt and exhausted and- they were starving. Starving to the point where he could see the way their regulation shirts hung off their collarbones and their eyes were sunken in.

The Governor didn’t tell him that there was a kill order. He found out when he stood beside him during the announcement, made to four thousand of the colonists, in a building far from the two of them. Was there to watch as panic broke out, unable to move, shock rippling through him. He was there to see when the doors locked and the glass came down, when the colonists were shoved back into the cage- because it was a cage. He was there as the governor flipped a switch and all at once there was no one in the cage. He was there when the governor ended his speech with no one to hear but him and the guards. Jim didn’t try to leave when the governor told him to stay in the building. He wasn’t able to move anyways.


 

Chapter Text

He managed to last two months under Kodos’s hand. Two months of not understanding that what he was doing was wrong, because of economics, because he was a stupid kid back then and had somehow managed to make himself think that Kodos had been right, had done the only thing he could. He had known, even then, that, vaguely, in the back of his head somewhere, buried so far under protective walls, he was just afraid, just trying to stay alive, to react in a way that wouldn’t end in Kodos killing him, and the easiest way to cope was to accept it, to fake believing in him so hard that he actually started to believe.

He dealt with Kodos when the outbreaks started, when the rebellions broke out, when he noticed shortages in the supplies. He was there when Kodos shot and killed a child, hardly over six, because they were sneaking a nutrient bar from the stores. He was there when Kodos shot a kid for hiding their rations, for hoarding what they got. They did not give, so we had to take. We gave them everything, and they gave nothing in return. This is economics, and this is how the universe works, Jim, don’t you think? And he does understand, even when he refuses to accept that he should think it’s wrong, because he is trying to stay alive, not keep his morals intact.

The thing that breaks him is when Kodos makes him kill a kid with his own two hands- with a gun, a bullet straight through her head. She didn’t suffer. She was dead before Kodos had let go of his hands.

He gave up living, food, and any sense of humanity that day, and left Kodos to survive on his own. He stopped keeping track of time, stopped paying attention to himself, stopped letting himself think, understand, when he had to steal, to kill, to do what needed to be done. He blinks and the sun is up, the sky is purple, and he blinks and it is pitch black, with no moon to hear of. He opens his mouth to eat the last protein bar he got from a raid two weeks ago and he’s suddenly struggling to lift himself up, so hungry he can’t think, feverish to the point of hallucinating, thinking he’s dying.

Someone finds him. He doesn’t ask their name, but as soon as he’s healthy enough to walk, she leaves him with her month old baby. He realizes she was infected, and furiously scrubs both himself and the baby until he’s sure there’s nothing of her left on them. She never returns.

He calls the baby Baby, for a lack of the ability to think for longer than a minute, for his inability to keep a train of thought.

After that he keeps his eyes open, forces himself to move, to work to get food for Baby, teaches her to do things. He doesn’t know anything about rearing, but on a raid he steals a book on babies and reads it fifteen times in his head and twelve out loud so Baby could hear it and see it, then returns it without it ever being noticed.

He gets caught at one point because of Baby, when they’re searching for a night shelter. It was a family, with four children, ages three, six, twelve, and sixteen. There is a mother, and an aunt, and an uncle. They don’t say where the father went.

The aunt has a husband, who is the deciding factor in taking the two of them in.

He doesn’t bother learning their names. The mother and uncle die during a raid. The husband reveals his true intentions and Jim shoots him. He takes in the four kids, even though he’s only fourteen, and they follow him without hesitation. He doesn’t realize what he’s doing until he’s amalgamated fifteen kids into a group and has been silently designated the leader of the group.

The ages range from Baby, less than a year old, to Tom, eighteen, who had become the medic of the group, dealt with injuries and emotions. Jim knew every single name of the kids, from Kat-Pkr to Mikalia, from alien to human. He hadn’t even known there was any race besides human on Tarsus, but there were, and he didn’t bother to complain because there was nothing to complain about.

There was a three year old Orion girl, a ten year old Andorian boy, a five year old Klingon girl. It seemed with every glance there was more variety in species in his group, but none were older than eighteen. Not a single one.

He kept them safe, got them food, got them clothes, taught them to speak and walk and stay alive, and they listened to him when he told them to sit down and wait. When the first one got infected, he forced them all into the river to scrub clean and took six year old Kennedy outside camp to shoot her in the head- she begged him to live, and then, when he told her what would happen to her if she lived, she begged him to kill her.

She didn’t suffer.

The numbers went in a circle. Fifteen, seven, twenty, four, twenty two, eleven. He couldn’t forget a face, couldn’t forget a name, as much as he wished to have his prior inability to memorize names. He was the only one who shot a gun outside of raids or defense of attacks.

He could tell you word for word what every single kid said for their last words, could remember the way their faces twisted into regret, acceptance, rage, guilt, and they sat down, tried to run, sobbed into his shirt. He regrets every single one of them, but he would do it again every single time.

He barely notices how small they all are, regardless of how much they complain about hunger when they think he can’t hear. He’s gotten used to it, somewhat, and the rags they wear is distracting enough that their weight is only prevalent when you focus on it. When he focuses on it. Which he doesn’t.

He doesn’t notice that they’re all only knobbly legs and are this close to breaking bones with every step they take. Baby still can’t walk, and he keeps him close, makes sure he never touches anything close to the infection, to the mold. No one but him and Tom can touch Baby, and Jim is the only one who can hold him.

He doesn’t know if any of the kids have birthdays while they camp, because he doesn’t keep track of time. He marks them by the age he found them, they found him, and their names and faces. Their race, age, height, parents, all that stuff? Completely irrelevant.

He tries his hardest to keep any of them from seeing the bloodshed that comes with surviving.

They get sick, and they die, and he burns them alone. They get infected, he kills them, he burns them. They starve, they die, he burns them. They die, he burns them. They leave, and he makes sure to let them know they are welcome back. They attack him, hurt his kids, touch any of them, and he kills them, without a blink of an eye.

He won’t regret killing one if it means his kids live. He doesn’t mind killing a thousand if it meant his kids would survive long enough for Starfleet to arrive, if they ever did.

And that’s the thing.

As little as he keeps track of the time, Tom does, and all of them have heard the rumour that Starfleet was notified, that they would be coming to save them soon. But Tom looks more and more desolate, more resigned every day, so he assumes they are long overdue already. He doesn’t deny his kids their hope when they learn of Starfleet rumours, lets them gossip and whisper their hopes into each other’s ears in the dark of night to keep their spirits up. He dances around the topic of the infection even when they are directly faced with it.

All of his kids, new or old, know what happens if you get infected, and only a handful refused to speak to him because of it, even though almost none of them agree with the killing.

They will sob and cry when their friends, siblings, cousins are killed by him, they hold a grudge against him, but not once do they disobey him, because they know disobeying would mean death and things much worse than a single shot to the head.

Most, if not all, of them know that there are things worse than death, more than half had experienced it.

When faced with depravity and desperation, man shows his true colors, and most of those colors are bloody and traced in disgusting desire for things he cannot have in a civilised, a humane society.

Jim does not hesitate to kill those who touch his kids, but when he finds other kids with adults who do the same- who hurt them, touch them, ruin them- he makes sure to make it hurt. Make it last. They don’t deserve a painless death. None of them do.

Then, afterwards, he takes the kid in and learns their name, their age, and memorizes their face without trying.


 

He doesn’t even know how long it’s been, how many kids he’s had, when the Starfleet ship finds them and starts evacuation.

He doesn’t let them take his kids, keeps them close, watches over every single medical with Tom, snarls and bites and screams when they try to take Baby away, and they drug him.

He doesn’t realize how tired he is until he’s passing out with baby in his arms and Tom off to the side, pensive and upset but calm and standing next to the healthiest of the kids.


He thinks he’s dying when he wakes up to his mother’s face in his eyes, tears dribbling down her cheeks and sobs wracking her body to the point of shaking the chair she’s sitting on. It takes him only a moment to realize he’s awake, and not dead, and then he’s waiting for his mother to realize the same.

She doesn’t, not for fifteen minutes, and by then she’s cried herself dry and holds him close.

He demands to see every single one of his kids. He only sees half breathing and alive, and the other half are being zipped away in the corpse bags. Tom is with Baby and gives him over the moment Jim appears. Jim doesn’t even try to explain Baby to his mother, nor any of the other kids, but she doesn’t ask anyways.

Half of the living kids are intubated, unconscious, and unable to respond when he asks after them, but the other half are awake and able to eat and stay awake on their own. Some of them scream and cry and panic when they see him- others cry and sob and hug him close and refuse to let him go until they’ve passed out. Yet others gave him a blank look, can’t look at him, babble crazy at him, whisper that they’ve forgiven him, that they hate him, that he’s a monster and a godsend.

He accepts what they throw at him and comforts when it’s needed. He doesn’t let go of Baby even once.

Some have family waiting for them, ready to take them home and pay for therapy and living and food. Others have nothing, no one. He asks his mother, and she refuses to take them in. Even Baby, at the warning of his temporary psychiatrist. It would be unwise to seperate them.

Sam is there, and he cries.

His kids cry when he tells them he can’t continue to take care of them. Some of them frantically take a marker and write every possible contact they could on his body, so he could talk with them. He does the same, but with only his own, and lets them cry.

By the time they get to Earth, he’s resigned himself to never seeing any of them again.

His mother takes him to a farm. He can’t be bothered to be excited about seeing Earth for the first time he could remember. Sam makes sure he’s comfortable in his new room, that his bed isn’t too lumpy.

He sleeps on the floor, because the bed is too soft.

He can’t eat normal food, but instead is given nutrient bowls, which he had to swallow six times a day, every day, for a solid month before he can attempt to eat solids seriously.

He hadn’t realized just how long it had been since he had last eaten something on Tarsus. He had forgotten hunger in favour of pain.


He regularly visited the orphanage that housed most of his kids. A handful, the worst ones, the ones who needed intensive care, who had families, were elsewhere.

A few of the kids in the home never came out when he visited, but most of them would act like it was the first and last time they would ever see him.


As little as his mother had been there for him, she tried to make up now.

Every waking moment, she was there, asking if he was alright, if he needed something, if he wanted to talk to his therapist or up his meds, or change his meds, or take a walk, go somewhere, eat something.

He was… both relieved and so pissed off he could barely talk to her.

This is what he wanted, had always wanted; his mother to care for him, to be there, to actually see him and not his father when she looked at him. But that’s just it. She didn’t see his father anymore, but she also didn’t see him. All she saw was Tarsus, what it did to him, how it affected his body, the little Baby he hadn't taken home who would scream and cry any time someone other than him tried to hold her.

She hated psychology with a passion, thought it was mumbo jumbo, but she pushed him to go to appointments as if he would die if he didn’t. She was constantly over his shoulder.

Sam hated it. He hated that Winona had seemingly forgotten him in favour of her youngest son and his issues. Jim could see it, every time he tried to talk to Sam and Sam scowled and turned away, froze, glared at him.

This wasn’t any better than living on the Vesper had been.

So what did he do?

He ignored every thought in his head and left.

Not every night, no. But most nights he was out of the house, gone, living a second life away from Winona and Sam, away from therapy and Tarsus and everything he could think of as his past. He talked to people, walked with people, wasn’t known as Jim, wasn’t looked at with pity, wasn’t doted over.

The first time he was caught, he was put in an overnight cell. Winona bailed him out, and he couldn’t even listen to her he was so hungover.

That was also the first night Winona acted like he was a person that wasn’t unbelievably broken. She yelled at him, cried, and he yelled back, as much as it hurt his head to do so, because in a fight, he is just as powerful as his mother. They were on equal footing.

He got caught a lot after that. Twice a week, on average, for three months before the police told his mother that a detention center was probably the better choice to bailing him out every time and letting him go with a slap on his wrist. She refused.

Not for long.

He must have gotten a thousand credits alone, hacking into the Federation accounts. Sent them all back, of course, but with a little note to up their security. Then he waited. And waited. And he was arrested and sent to juvenile hall.

He didn’t get a single visit for all four months. Then he was out, free, and just as bad as before.

By sixteen, he had a permanent record with a dozen arrests for multiple reasons and a crippling love of alcohol. He had learned to fight by trial and error, probably had brain damage from how many times he’d been knocked out in a bar for arguing with a pervy patron, and wouldn’t stop until he was knocked down long enough for the cops to come get him.

His hospital record had more than enough time to set a permanent bed for him, even though they didn’t.

He also had a garden. A tiny one, with tiny little flowers in it, that could survive on their own without him to care for them, but he watered and fed them every day he wasn’t in custody. It was his own little space of freedom, because his mother and brother didn’t know about it, and he intended to keep it that way.

He went to jail on his eighteenth birthday for assault, even if it was because the guy had been talking up a minor on the street. With his record, he got two years, because he hadn’t come anywhere near killing the man, as he had very much wanted to do. Just a black eye and a bloody nose. He had been a fast runner.

He had to sit through the whole court case, not bothering to explain himself. His court appointed lawyer was so annoyed that he couldn’t do much, and it was, admittedly, hilarious.

He got a cell with no cell buddy.


Two years can feel like a long time. Two years can also pass by in the blink of an eye. It did neither for Jim.

He managed to pass the year in weeks. The first week, waiting. The second week, waiting. Third week, waiting.

Too much waiting.

He can taste what he sees, and he hoards every bit of food he gets, doesn’t bother eating meals in the cafeteria if he can help it.

He is surrounded by adults, and he doesn’t like it. He keeps to himself and only fights in defense of himself or others younger than him, weaker than him, less capable than him.

He gets a buddy, then they leave. Gets another buddy, they go to solitary confinement and then get transferred for being too aggressive. Gets a buddy, beats the shit outta him because he was a convicted pedophile.

He gets put into solitary confinement only once, and he refuses to let himself get caught and put there again. He’s sure he’ll kill everyone if he’s stuck in silence by himself like that again.

The months go by at a mediocre pace, and he wishes his mother would visit.

She doesn’t.

One of the youngest inmates offers to give him a tattoo. He says no, but then he’s dared to do it- called a wuss, and really?  He doesn’t think they can say that to him, not when he’s lived what he’s lived.

So he has the guy tattoo him. And he gets more than a single fingernail-sized tattoo.

He doesn’t explain his scars to the inmates, and they don’t ask.

The guy asks where he wants it, and he explains it- across him back, big as he can make it, down his arm, down his leg, up his neck. They don’t finish it in one day, but they do, eventually, and he parades it down the halls to his cell every evening.


As little as he wants to do with the rest of the prisoners, he finds himself stopping fights over food, sharing when someone doesn’t get enough, finishing fights between the bad and the worse. Even when it left him the only ones with injuries or him with the extra time on his sentence.

Nobody asks for his help, and he doesn’t assume they owe him afterwards.

He ends his first year with an extra four months on his time, but he doesn’t regret it. Not a single bit.

He fights and he eats and he waits and he sleeps and he builds his reputation until he finished twenty eight months in jail and is, miraculously, let go.

Twenty years old and his mother remarries. Sam is out of the house already, Winona is off planet more often than not, having returned to her ‘I ignore you’ state of being, and Jim is left to his own devices. His name is Frank, and he takes care of the house when Winona is away. Meaning he’s at the house pretty much twenty-four seven, and Jim has to sneak to get inside, considering Frank has officially kicked him out.

He visits his house for the last time only two months after he turns twenty-one, to take his little garden and any of his belongings and leave permanently.

Although he doesn’t have a house, there’s a little apartment whose owner thinks he owes Jim for something or other (probably kicking someone’s ass for coming onto the guy when he clearly didn’t want it). It’s a single bedroom with a kitchen and living room and an attached bathroom. He puts his mini garden in the kitchen window to give them the best area of light.

Jim is only ever at the apartment to care for his plants, sleep, and eat. Otherwise, he’s walking the city.


It’s his birthday, twenty-two, when he enters a bar and sees the person that turns his life flipside so wildly he can’t possibly hope to ever return to normalcy.

Her name is Uhura, refuses to give her first name, and she thinks he’s hilarious when he offers her a drink. She refuses and he offers some food- she doesn’t have time to accept or refuse before two officers are up and grumpy in his face about bothering her.

They get in a fight.

He’s been in plenty of fights, but he’s already drunk and these guys are trained professionals. The only thing that stops him from fighting till he drops is the guys being called off by- Christopher Pike, Captain, Starfleet personnel, part of the recruitment team until his next mission assignment.

He doesn’t think too much until Pike is daring him to do better than his father had done and, really. He should figure out how to stop feeling so much, because he can’t possibly hope to refuse a dare, as petty as it is.


He’s at the ship, ready to leave, two weeks later, having already given his motorcycle (the one he had fixed up in the two years out of jail) away to some random kid that complimented it. He won’t need it, because he’ll bet his life he finishes that dare in record time and does better than his father would have ever hoped to do.

Pike is pleasantly surprised and yet not surprised at all when he shows up.

He’s put on the ship and sat down, the only one in civilian clothes, until a guy freaking out about deathly sicknesses and dying in space is forced to sit down next to him. He makes an offhand comment about flesh being wrended off bone completely because of a disease, and Jim has already deemed him okay. Calls him Bones because of that comment, and never looks back.


Jim and Bones are magically roommates, not because it was assigned but because Jim had taken over the apartment and the other guy had never shown up. Bones finds him hilarious, in the same way Uhura had, which is literally not at all except when he does, and Jim unanimously (all by himself) decides Bones is too good to pass up and considers him his own medical nurse, even if the only thing he does is make sure Jim goes to sleep and drinks water and eats his food.

Bones doesn’t agree to it, but he doesn’t say he isn’t, so Jim considers it a win for him.

He takes every possible class he can. Even a language class, because apparently it is, in fact, a requirement, even if he could already speak plenty of languages. He had a full day of lectures from five in the morning (the professor is always high on caffeine, but he works night shift and sleeps during the day, so it’s alright) to ten at night (again, a night shift officer who woke up maybe an hour before class).

Bones gets back from his own medical classes at ten thirty, so they pretty much match up, even if Jim wakes up too early and Bones doesn’t get to see him off.

There were plenty of other races in the Academy too, meaning he regularly got to practice his speaking, although there were only a handful of Orion students. He makes sure to talk to them, keep them company, whenever they have classes together, because he can see the looks everyone else gives them. He knows those looks, and he refuses to let them deal with it alone, even if they give him weird looks all the time for talking to them.

He really, really didn’t think he’d see anyone he knew from off-Earth at the Academy. Not until a passing afternoon in which he just glanced- glanced!- to the side in the hallway, and a simple black haircut caught his eye.

He recognised it, knew it from somewhere, but it wasn’t clicking. Not until, at least, the guy turned and glanced up and they caught eyes with each other, and suddenly Jim was out of breath and searching for any possible route to somewhere alone and safe from prying eyes.

He leaves, and he knows he is followed.

A classroom, all lights off, locked but easily unlocked. He breaks in and waits inside.

The door opens and there he is.

“Spock.”

He doesn’t waste a moment in taking his hand and pulling him into the tightest hug he can muster, already tearing up.

Spock doesn’t say anything, doesn’t need to say anything, but he pulls Jim closer, rests his chin on his head, and waits while Jim cries.

“I missed you. God, I missed you.”

He doesn’t stop for a while after, even though he knows classes are still going. Spock doesn’t bother to try and rush him.

Every time he closes his eyes he is blasted with pink and gold and blue and grey, flitting in and out of his vision and exploding with every touch.

By the time he stops crying, Spock has sat them down on a table and pulled him into his lap, lightly running a hand in circles on his back.

“You have pictures on your skin. Body paint?”

Jim laughs through his wet throat. “Tattoos, Spock. They’re permanent. You haven’t changed a bit.”

Spock’s eyes shine in a smile, and Jim beams. “Man, we have so much to catch up on. Why are you on Earth? I mean, you’re obviously in the Academy, but when? Why? I thought you were going to be in the Vulcan Science whatever, you were so excited about it. Did they refuse you? Damn, if they refused you they’re all idiots. I can’t believe they would refuse you!”

Spock tightened his grip on his hand for just a moment, amusement clear. “No, Jim. They did not refuse me. I refused them.” His eyes darkened. “They claimed my mother was… a situation I was required to get around. An obstacle in my learning. I did not wish to be with them if they could not accept me completely. However, I decided on the alternative of Starfleet, where I currently teach. I am also a science officer on a ship.”

Teach. He’s a teacher. And on a ship!

“That’s so great, Spock! God, that’s amazing!”

He’s a teacher.

“Oh shit! You’re a teacher? When’s your class? Am I holding you up?”

Spock shook his head. “While I am currently supposed to be in the classroom, my students can wait.”

Jim stands up hurriedly, shaking his head too. “No no no, go to your class! We can meet up later, have dinner together and talk about stuff.”

“Alright. Specifications?”

He thinks for a moment. “Where are you staying?”

“I have temporary housing within the grounds. And yourself?”

“Same. How about we meet at your apartment? My classes end at ten.”

“That is adequate. I finish my hours at eight.”

“I’ll be there at nine, then. Address?”

Even as he’s typing his address into Jim’s communicator, he is giving him a look of disappointment. “Your learning is quite important, more so than meeting with me. If you have class, I am more than willing to wait until they are over, as Vulcans do not require as much sleep as humans.”

He shakes his head with a laugh, pocketing his communicator. “Nah, Spock. You’re way more important than quantum dynamics- you know, I learned that when I was like four. Well, the basics of it. The math is horrible.”

“Mathematics are quite imperative to learning, Jim.”

“Yeah yeah, whatever. Go get to your students and make sure they aren’t going crazy without your expertise to guide them.”

He keeps a hold on Spock’s hand for only a moment more before pulling Spock in to plant a kiss on his cheek. He missed this. “I’ll see you at nine, Spock. Don’t forget.”

“Vulcans cannot forget, as he have eidetic memories, Jim.”

And so he met back up with Spock, his first friend from his life in space. He was bursting with excitement, but was reluctant to explain why, so he hid it. He wouldn’t answer questions about him being particularly happy today, and he most definitely would not tell anyone he has an old friend in the Academy, even if it is Spock.

As selfish as it is, he wants to keep Spock to himself, protect him, keep him safe and warm in his arms forever. Nobody would take him away from Spock now that he’s found him again.

He settles to wait for nine to come around.


Nine doesn’t come fast enough.

He doesn’t even bother heading for Bones’s apartment in favour of getting to Spock as fast as possible. His apartment was only a few blocks from the Academy, and he was practically running to get there.

The apartment itself was plain, no different from any of the other apartments on campus. It was too simple to really house Spock inside, from his perspective, but nothing could be reasonably good enough for Spock.

He went inside and knocked on the furthest door from the entrance- 1B.

Spock opened the door and motioned for him to come inside with his head.

The moment the door was closed and he had set down his bag, he pulled Spock into a hug, again, and clasped hands with him.

“I’m so happy I get to see you again.”

“It has been too long, Jim.”

The inside of the apartment is less plain. The temperature is so high Jim is already sweating, and incense is burning. Spock must’ve been meditating. The curtains were hanging low, leaving the room dark, and the carpet was just soft enough to imitate sand. Everything was a variation of reds and oranges, with a few dabs of white and black here and there.

“Man, you’ve decked out the place just like home, huh? Oh, how’s I-Chaya? Amanda? Is Sarek still the same old ass as always? Have you made any friends since coming to Earth? How long have you been here?”

They sit down on a couch, and Jim can’t help but curl into Spock, face in his neck to feel the heat radiating off of him. Gently, he puts a hand over Spock’s side, over his heart, and feels it beat. Just the same as always, it relaxes him.

“I find it pleasing to have my housing be similar to Vulcan. I-Chaya had passed away last year due to old age, I am told. Amanda and Sarek are well, although mother is currently at odds with father. He refuses to speak with me because I chose to leave Vulcan for Starfleet. While I have not acquired anyone nearly as similar to you as you wish, I have made acquaintances with quite a few people since coming here, merely 3.45 years ago. And you, Jim? How are you?”

He makes a face. “Sucks about I-Chaya. I’ve missed his fuzziness.”

Spock raises a brow. “Although I agree with your statement, you avoided the question.”

“I was merely responding, smarty pants. Anyways, I could’ve been better.” Spock waits for him to continue, and as little as he wants to, he does. “I uh, kind of went through a lot after I left Vulcan. Got kicked off the Vesper, dumped on a planet, taken to another planet, was stuck there for awhile…”

He doesn’t want to think about it, won’t think about, no no no no- “Got taken off after some time, then shoved down to Earth. Ah, my tattoos came from jail. Got in a lot of fights. Ma got remarried not too long ago, Frank’s a douchebag. Sam left while I was locked up, wanted to get away from it all. I was a mess until Pike dared me to come here, and boy was that the best idea ever. God, I can’t believe we met on Earth, of all places.”

Spock closes his eyes, leaning into him. “It is quite a surprise. I calculated the chances of our meeting occurring on Earth to be 0.017 percent. I am pleased that luck was on our side.”

They spend the rest of the night just talking. He is flabbergasted to see Spock, and Spock is so very glad to see him, as hard as it may be for others to see.

They talk about everything, from space to history to family. Jim avoids talking about Tarsus and his kids, and Spock avoids talking about his time on Vulcan as a student and Sarek.

He doesn’t want the night to end, and he eventually falls asleep after a warm meal of plomeek soup with Spock.


He wakes up to his communicator screaming at him.

He picks it up groggily, bemoaning the fact that he’d have to get out of bed with Spock and put on some real clothes after a long shower. Actually, that shower sounds good. He’s absolutely drenched in night sweat.

“This had better be good.”

The answering voice is so relieved he was almost surprised at the anger that still rose up from behind. “James Tiberius, you better get your ass to class or explain to me why in hell’s garden you decided to not stay on schedule!”

Jim grins, flopping back to the bed. From beside him, Spock cracks open an eye and runs a hand over Jim’s cheek, marveling in all his sleepy glory that which is Jim. Spock is so adorable when he’s tired, Jim can’t possibly understand how he lived without seeing it every morning.

“Hey Bones.”

“Don’t you ‘hey Bones’ me! Kid, you’ve got the whole damn medical unit panicked wondering if you’ve gone and punched some assholes face in! What did you do and where are you?”

“Relax, Bones. I’m perfectly safe and no one got their faces punched in.”

“Then where the hell did you go last night? Without tell me, might I add?”

“Oh Bones, you do care! I’m honored. Anyways, I’ll be in class as soon as I wake up.”

“You just woke up? Jim, it’s ten o’clock! Why were you- nevermind. Answer the damn question, Jim. Where are you?”

“I’m at a friends house, you don’t need to worry.”

“A friend-? Jim, if you hooked up last night, you should’ve at least left a message to let you know you weren’t dead or something.”

“Bones, I didn’t hook up. I’m serious, he’s my friend and we haven’t seen each other in a long time. We were catching up with each other and I fell asleep.”

And suddenly the time hits him.

“Oh fuck. It’s ten. Spock, what time did you say your class starts?” Spock freezes, and so does the breathing on the other end of the call.

“Kid, who the fuck are you talking to? Did you just say Spock?”

“I never said.”

“Shit. Go get dressed, I’ll make some tea.”

“Tea? What the fuck, Jim-”

Spock practically jumps from the bed, rushing to his dresser to grab his outfit- standard regulation- and pull it on. Jim lurches up and speeds to the kitchen to type as fast as he can on the replicator. Fake tea isn’t as good as homemade tea, but it’ll do on short notice.

“Jim, what the fuck is happening.”

“Oh, Bones! I’m still holding my communicator. Sorry, I forgot you were on the line. Yeah, we just need to get dressed and we’ll be leaving for class.”

“Get dressed? Kid, you said you didn’t hook up. And why, in God’s name, did it have to be Spock?”

“What? No, I told you. We didn’t hook up, I swear. His apartment is just super hot, and neither of us like sleeping with tons of clothes on. What the hell do you mean why? There’s nothing wrong with Spock.”

“I’m not even going to continue this conversation right now, Jim. You better explain right down to the breath what happened as soon as lunch break comes up, or I’m tracking you down and getting it out of you myself. Now get to class.”

Bones hangs up on that note, and he can’t help but laugh as he pours two cups of tea and hands one to Spock, just now getting out of the room, fully dressed.

“You look good, Spock.”

“And yourself, although I doubt what you are wearing would be allowed for classes.”

He hold outs a folded outfit, and Jim grins. “These boxers are Starfleet regulation! I’m sure I could pull a few strings.” He grabs the clothes anyways, and starts to pull them on.

“I am sure you could. However, I would not want you to be seen as you are unless absolutely necessary.”

“Want me all to yourself, huh? Good, cuz I want you to myself too. Greedy to the last bone in my body, if I do say so myself!” He pats himself down and grabs his tea, turning to face Spock with a grin on his face. Spock looks like he’s ready to roll his eyes, but he’s much to dignified to do that, so he settles for raising a brow and blinking languidly.

“I suppose we have a deal, then.”

“Yup! Sure do. Come on, you better get to class before anyone notices you’re late. How late are you, anyways?”

“My classes begin at ten-thirty exactly.”

“Oh you dog. We’ll be there in five minutes!”

“2.53 if we jog.”

“Let’s go, then!”

Chapter Text

So lunch break was a mess. He had time to grab his meal before Bones was gripping him by the collar and pulling him out of the cafeteria to an unused classroom. There sure are a lot of those for such a full school. Then, Bones demands to know everything, and Jim concedes easily.

“We’ve known each other since we were kids. I was like, I dunno, six or something? And Spock lived on Vulcan and we happened to be orbiting Vulcan on the Vesper at the time. We went down, I met Spock, and bam, boom, kachow, we were best friends. Come the next year, I have to leave for more space, Spock is still on Vulcan, and I’m gone. Just yesterday, literally never having spoken since we were tiny, I saw him and we got to talking and it was freaky, cuz who woulda thunk it? Mister Spock is on Earth! And so am I! Like whaaat? Pft, crazy, right? Anyways, we agreed to meet at his place after classes and we caught up with each other and ate dinner and passed out. Not a whole lot to tell, ya know.”

Bones looks exhausted. “Damn it, kid. I thought you had gotten drunk and gone dumpster diving. I was worried. Tell me next time, alright?”

Jim feels a bit guilty about that. “Sorry for that, by the way. I was just really excited and I didn’t even think about going to the apartment before meeting with Spock.”

Bones waves a hand in dismissal. “Yeah yeah, whatever, kid. Eat your heart out or something. I recognise the ship name. The Vesper. Wasn’t that the one that had that crazy kid- oh no.”

Jim raises his hand with a grin. “Guilty as charged, Bones. Little aliens were so sweet, I couldn’t let them stay holed up in a ship for a century, all alone.”

“Damn bleeding heart. Did they really just drop you off on a random planet?”

He shrugs, popping a fry into his mouth. “Well, it was technically an allied planet. Closest one. It’s regulation, you know. If a kid gets expelled, they drop them off and call their parents to come pick them up.”

“What if the parents don’t have the money to?”

“Then Starfleet does, I guess. My mom picked me up after a while, so I was good.”

“But you were alone! And your mother’s ship went straight to-” Bones’s face pales, and Jim purses his lips. “You were on Tarsus.”

“Oh, did you hear that? That was my classroom, calling me to tell me to get there early. Bye!”

“Wait, JIm! I didn’t- God, I’m an idiot. I’m sorry, that was really insensitive. You don’t have to talk about it, okay?”

He reluctantly sits back down. “I don’t have to, and I wouldn’t even if you forced me to stay here. Not a damn word.”

“And I wouldn’t force you to do anything, Jim. Do you understand that?”

“Yeah, Bones. But that isn’t even what you dragged me here to talk about.”

“I suppose so. Are you going to be in the goblin’s bedroom tonight too, or was that just a one time thing?”

“I dunno. Maybe. Probably gotta ask him. If I am, I’ll message you, okay?”  

So that was that, and they finished their meals in peace, with the occasional complaint about a patient from Bones. Volunteering for hours at a time was such a Bones thing to do.

He ended up staying over at Spock’s place again, over and over, for the next week as they continued to just talk. Bones would catch him at lunch and they would talk. Since Spock was super professional, he wouldn’t say anything about his personal life to his students, and Bones didn’t care to gossip, Jim was left the only one who could tell, and he didn’t want to. Spock was his, and he liked it that way.


 

Spock didn’t find out about Tarsus until Jim had been in the Academy for two whole years, and up came the stupid class- one of the required lectures, one that he couldn’t skip, and he hated it. He hated it because it was wrong, the people were not like that, that didn’t happen, it wasn’t something to debate over, it was horrible and wrong and terrifying and he ended up leaving twenty minutes in, blank faced and screaming inside.

He knew for a fact that Bones would work something out for him if he really needed to, but Bones wasn’t going to be there for a while. He needed to go to someone he trusted, which left him with only one person-

Spock.

He didn’t even need to knock. He had a key, let himself in, and climbed into the empty bed. The incense wasn’t burning, and the heat was a bit less so because of how expensive keeping it up would be if Spock wasn’t even in the house all the time. He laid down and waited. He laid down and cried, because he couldn’t stop himself.

He didn’t hear Spock come in, but he could feel it when Spock climbed in behind him, grabbed him and pulled him close.

“What ails you, Jim?”

“Nothin'.”

“That is a lie.”

“'Course it is.”

They lapsed into silence.

“Do you wish for me to ask again?”

“I dunno.”

Silence.

“The heat will return soon. How long have you been waiting?”

“I dunno.”

“When did you leave?”

“During class. Lecture.”

“It was the lecture on Tarsus IV, was it not?”

“Yeah.”

“Am I correct in assuming you were personally affected and could not continue?”

“Yeah.”

“You may stay until you are capable again, Jim. I will return with sustenance.”

So they stay in his room and eat comfort food and make sure to drink water and Jim doesn’t talk about it, but he doesn’t need to ask to know that Spock had already come to the correct conclusion. He was smart like that.

He didn’t manage to sleep until Spock offered a massage. His hands were literal magic (literal would suggest reality, Jim. My hands are not magic) and he managed to pass out within a few minutes.


 

He woke up screaming in the middle of the night. Spock comforted him until he was whimpering and out of tears, unwilling to let Spock go. They stay awake for the rest of the night, Spock whispering nothings until he had calmed down.


 

“Damn it all, Jim. You should have said something.”

He sighs into Bones’s shoulder, closing his eyes. “I know, Bones. I’m stupid and all that. Get on with it.”

“Oh shut up, you’re the smartest kid I know. Besides the point, I’ve already called and let them know- you won’t have to listen to the lecture for the rest of the week. No longer on your required material. Promise. Have you had anything to eat yet?”

“Thank you, Bones. I really owe you.”

“No you don’t. Come on, you’re going to eat or I’m going to hypo nutrients into your ass.”


 

Finnegan is a real big mess of trouble. As much as he hates to admit it, the guy gets on his nerves. Rich kid, rich parents, never went hungry a day in his life, stuck up, misogynistic, bigot, probably one of those guys who thought the wage gap didn’t exist, and, to top it all off, he was hella xenophobic.

“They deserved to be enslaved. It was plain common sense, don’t you think? They weren’t even intelligent until humanity came up and unnecessarily took them away from their system, which, might I add, was doing perfectly well!”

“The Orions were not doing well! They practiced slavery! Which is so outdated and barbaric, half the universe would think they were from the prehistoric era of the Delta Quadrant! Who do you think you are, claiming the people were stupid and couldn’t do anything, that they deserved to be killed and raped and forced into labour when you haven’t even taken the time to even look at one, let alone speak to one!”

“Oh I’m sorry, I forgot. Little miss Daddy’s girl has a whore for a girlfriend, right? I didn’t mean to insult your tastes, even if they are disgusting.”

“Fuck you, Finnegan!”

So yeah, they end up fighting. A lot. And every time it boiled down to Jim being friends with Gaila, the sweet Orion gal who just so happens to like taking guys to bed, and Jim isn’t one of them. Gaila isn’t a whore, Orions didn’t deserve to be slaves, and history of sexual slavery did not equal present need for sex!

He was rightfully pissed off about it all, and Finnegan just smacks him in the face with every damn word that dribbles out of his gross mouth.

Spock finds out when Jim knocks Finnegan plain unconscious for a good ten seconds. He has a concussion, and he vomits all over the place, and Jim keeps hitting him until teachers are dragging him away and a medic is rushing to Finnegan’s side. He gets sent to wait for a punishment, and gets away with a slap on the wrist because he’s George Kirk’s son. Disgusting.

Spock meets him at the apartment, not disappointed but not happy either. When he explains, Spock just makes tea and lights the incense. No anger, though there is annoyance. Spock knows well how passionate Jim is when it comes to equality and slavery and all that.

Finnegan is back in class a week later, and Jim almost shoots him with a phaser because he’s claiming Gaila tried to sex him up while he was healing, and he rightfully refused her, the whore. The only thing holding him back is that he doesn’t actually have a phaser, so he settles for glaring.

And then it hits him.

Literally.

FInnegan throws something at him in physical training and it absolutely destroys his face, knocks him out, sends him to the medical unit for dermal repair. He doesn’t even know what it was, never finds out, but Finnegan gets suspended, so he doesn’t care. Ends up spending a good week going back and forth between school and the medical unit to regularly get repairs done on his face, and he still ends up with an ugly scar. There had to be a surgery, at one point, to take shrapnel out of his skin. He was damn lucky none of it got in his eyes.

So he was happy, even as he was annoyed to all hell about it face. He wouldn’t have to deal with Finnegan again for a long time, because he was hellbent on finishing all his required classes before the suspension wore off.


 

Gaila made sure to wave at him every time they passed each other in the halls. She was an excellent baker and made bread based snacks every time he came over to just talk and rant about the idiocy of the universe and equality and how to get to it. They were friends, and he was so incredibly happy about it. To have a friend that isn’t Spock or Bones or one of his kids.

Who, in fact, he still keeps up with. Many of them had left the orphanage or gotten homes, and he still had the numbers of twelve who hadn’t gone to Earth. Once a week he would leave the city and travel by bullet train to his old home to visit the kids, make sure they were doing alright. He kept up with stories, told them about things that have happened, and listened when they told him things. They were so excited when he told them about his friends, about Gaila and Bones and Spock.

So he quietly made a plan for everyone to meet up, though he didn’t give it a date nor a finality that it would even happen before he was on a ship and in space.


 

Five months until he was due to graduate, Spock told him he would be leaving for a mission after graduation. In a ship, to space, with all the other ships meant to leave. It made him feel like there was dust in his lungs, as if he still needed the bracelet he had long ago tossed out, as if the little broken screens that were still attached to him needed repair. He might’ve had a coronary right then and there if his heart hadn’t been reinforced long ago to keep him living. They spent a long week together just to celebrate, because they both knew he would graduate, and also to keep a strong memory fresh in their minds for however long they wouldn’t see each other.

He went through the Kobayashi Maru and didn’t beat it, because it wasn’t meant to be won. He got his little paper saying he was good, and then, not a day after, the whole of Starfleet got a call from Vulcan which was literally just the whole planet basically screaming help in their general direction. So, a distress call. With no information more than ‘in distress’. Which, really, he had direct ties to Vulcan so he was more than likely compromised, but still? He really didn’t care much about that fact, because he was going to go and help.

So he takes up post in his assigned ship in the engines, ready to do what he needs to do.


He had not expected to be taken out of the ship as soon as they got near Vulcan. The whole thing where he realized it was electrical storm and went to notify someone? Yeah, he didn’t make it to the bridge because the wall was absolutely destroyed and he was so damn lucky they were required to wear oxygen suits in the engines because if he hadn’t, he would be dead. So yeah. Lucky as all hell, except he really needed to get to the bridge because the electric storm is an anomaly that’s only happened once before and he really really really doesn’t want it to happen again, not when he’s finally made a life for himself. Only thing is that he really can’t move in space without the specific apparatus, and space is cold? Really cold. As in, he’s never been this cold before and he really really feels like he’s never going to feel heat the same ever again.

If he looks to the side, he can see, far far away but way too close, Vulcan in all its red glory, and a little black line going up into its atmosphere. And then, finally, a volley of ships, some Federation, some not. The Federation ships are absolutely trashed, save a single one, bright and looming.

He searches his brain for the name that fits the mystery ships, and his name issue decides to bare its head after years of hiding away. He’s at a blank, and it doesn’t click until a while later that he doesn’t remember because it isn’t part of his knowledge.

He can’t feel any of his hands or his feet when he feels his insides tingling, his body ripping apart and sizzling lava heat and poison lungs and his back hits metal and he groans, twisting as blood rushes back into his limbs.

“Captain James Tiberius Kirk.”

And he’s definitely not a captain. And he doesn’t remember ever- oh. It’s a Romulan. Wonderful. Great. Haven't they made a pact or something with the Federation? Or was that just his imagination gone wild? But he hasn’t ever met a Romulan before, and he’s not a captain, and he doesn’t understand how this guy knows who he is, even if he got the rank so wrong.

“Or are you different this time? General Kirk? Cadet Kirk? I wonder if you’ve even met anyone yet. It doesn’t matter.”

He blinks and hisses when a hand grabs his face and pulls him this way and that- he has skin there, and it’s sensitive, damn it! But his eyes catch with the Romulan’s, and the grin spreading across his face is too creepy, too angry, to not be personal.

“It’s so good to see you again, Tiberius. I don’t believe we’ve met yet. My name is Nero. Unfortunately, you won’t get to meet me again after this.”

He’s dropped back onto the ground and he rubs at his hands, waiting for his feet to warm up enough to feel them. He doesn’t get the chance to wait.

“Send him away. The same planet as the other one, if you will. They can watch it burn together.”

And his molecules are being ripped apart again, twisted and pulled in every direction until he starts to feel again and is buffeted by the strongest wind he’s ever felt before. Freezing cold stabs into his heart and lungs and eyes as his body rebuilds itself and he falls face first into the snow.

He never thought he’d hate snow as much as he does when he forces himself to stand on numb feet and walk. The oxygen suit really isn’t suited for this type of environment- the engines were specifically made and the suits were generally used in pretty intense heat from the fires, and also not supposed to get wet. Even if the snow really isn’t going to melt with how cold his body is, it sticks and as soon as he gets warm, if he gets warm, the suit is basically useless. But he’s literally about to monologue if he didn’t watch himself-

Oh look, a giant alien barreling towards him. Wonder if he should run? Yup, let’s go.

He almost dies, because that’s a regular for him now apparently, before the alien is eaten by another alien, which, in turn, decides he looks yummy and chases him further, to which he falls down a chasm and continues to run and- well. He runs as fast as he can and the moment he saw the little slit of darkness with an overhang that was clearly at least a bit of a cave? He ran straight towards it.

He was almost there, just there, so close, when claws sink into his back and tear, rip, drag until he’s screaming. The alien shakes him off it’s claws, just barely missing the edge of the cave for the entrance, and jumps after his body- it’s playing with him.

He can’t breathe, as hard as he tries, and every time he tries to he choke on his own blood. He can’t feel his hands or his feet and the pain is crippling enough that he almost doesn’t move in time when the claws dig into the cave entrance to search for him. The paw- it’s a paw, it looks like a paw, it smells like blood, his own blood- gets close, claws smacking the cold stone eagerly.

And suddenly- fire.

He doesn’t manage to get a glimpse of where the fire came from before he passes out.


The first thing he sees- thinks he sees- when he opens his eyes is Spock. Or, well, a version of Spock that’s older, sadder, waiting for him to wake up. He doesn’t realize that it isn’t for a while, and by then he has gotten up and went to check on him, because he is very much covered in bandages and not going to be moving anytime soon.

Spock- the old Spock- offers him a cup, warm, and he hums gratefully as he tips it down his throat.

“While I was unable to heal your external wounds, the internal have been stayed. Moving is unwise. How do you feel?”

“Like I died and came back. Thanks, by the way. For whatever you did. Can I ask you something?”

“You just did.”

He’s definitely laughing. Those are laugh lines beside his eyes. God, old Spock laughs out loud. Or does he?

“Hah. Uh, I’m just gonna come out and say it, because I have a feeling you know something that I don’t. You look like my friend.”

“I see. And who might this friend be?”

He’s naturally relaxing around the voice of Spock- they have the same voice too, with this one just barely weathered by age and time. “Spock. You look like Spock. You know who that is?”

“While it is unlikely one on a planet such as this would come to know someone on a planet so far away without external help, I can assure you I do not know your Spock. I can, however, tell you that I am also called Spock.”

He stares at him- at Spock- for a good long minute while his brain works it out. He doesn’t even need to say it, but he does. “You are Spock. Just not- not my Spock. I feel like I’m actually dead. I’m not dead, right? Or this is the weirdest coincidence ever. Which I doubt, because the possibilities are so- ugh. I’m gonna actually give myself a headache thinking about this.

“Yes, Jim. I am Spock. You are not dead, and this is likely not a coincidence.”

“So uh, how’d you come to be here? Did the crazy Romulan dude throw you down here too? He said something about being together before he shot me down.”

“You’ve met Nero?”

“So that’s a yes.”

“It’s time then, I suppose.”

“For what, I don’t know, but I’m guessing you’ve just made this huge revelation that I won’t ever hope to understand that you won’t tell me. Or is that just in books? Damn, I haven’t read a good book in years.”

“Jim, do you know what a mind meld is?”

He pauses. The phrase doesn’t click, exactly, but he recognizes it from somewhere. When Spock puts up a hand, fingers spread to connect with his face, he draws a blank.

"My mind to your mind-"

My thoughts to your thoughts.

He's Spock, but not Spock, and he's watching as everything BURNS only he's standing in the ice, waiting, listening, and he feels so much it hurts but he is arguing and there's red matter and fire and anger and guilt and terror and darkness and pain-

"Apologies. You're mind is... incredibly dynamic. I did not intend such a deep meld."

He can't breathe, and everything hurts, but he needs to go.

"Why are we still here? What the fuck, Spock, I can't- we need to go! Nero, he'll- he's going to kill everyone! Spock, you don't get it, Spock- the other Spock, my Spock, he's alone, and he- oh god-"

A hand covers his eyes, and another runs through his hair. "Calm, Jim. I understand. We will leave for the Starfleet base as soon as possible."

"It'll be too late."

"It will not. You must believe, Jim."


As much as it hurts, he forces himself to move as soon as he can breathe and Spock allows him to get up. He knows for a fact that he's aggravated his wounds, that Bones would be so absolutely pissed at him for walking with his injuries, but he can't bring himself to care, not with what was going on.

Nero- the Romulan piece of shit with a personal grudge against Spock- was the bad guy here, and he was almost definitely going for Earth, and really? He didn't feel like losing two homes in less than a week. Less than a month. He didn't feel like losing two homes period.

Nevermind what he had seen. Nevermind that Spock and him were one for a moment in time, that he held knowledge that he didn't understand, that he wasn't going to process, that he refused to think about until- never, hopefully. Not ever. Not the faces he would never forget, the fact that Spock had almost definitely been just as him as he had been himself and Spock, if not more. It was confusing, at first, seperating himself from his mind, from his mind, from the part where he was two bodies and two mind and one mind and the other mind all at once and all in one moment he was nothing except himself and it had hurt.

But he was walking, and Spock was keeping him up while he walked, and it was cold but Spock had provided him with so much extra clothes that he could feel his fingers and toes for the first time in hours, if not days. He really didn't know how much time had passed between the ship breaking and now, walking, just now seeing the base he hadn't known about because his PADD had been lost and his communicator too.

The moment they closed the door behind them, heat burst into his limbs and he slumped in relief. Spock made sure to keep at least one hand on him to hold him up.

A short little alien meets them and takes them to the main deck, where they are met with an annoyed Scotsman with a personal history with a government beagle. Montgomery Scott, apparently, had discovered the equation for transwarp beaming, or would have if Spock didn't put it in his head early with their plan- they also didn't really have a plan.

"Starfleet would have regrouped after the battle, called back to Earth for orders. If I'm thinking as correctly as usual, Nero and his ship would have left first. As far as I know, only one ship was left capable because it started warp late due to unknown reasons. So Nero is close to Earth, if not already there, and Starfleet may have not figured it out yet. If that's the case, we would have to go directly to Earth or to Nero's ship. If Starfleet has noticed, has figured it out, out at least thought on the off chance that Nero would be going to more planets, they would either go straight to base or waited for the next distress signal, which is unlikely. So our best bet is straight to Nero's ship."

"As genius as ever, Jim, even while severely injured."

"Ah shucks, I 'preciate it old man. Anyways. Only problem here is where the ship is exactly."

"The Jellyfish and the Narada have distinct signatures. I have entered them into the system already."

"Accurately?"

"It is unlikely you will beam outside of the ship."

"... and possible that we might beam in literally anywhere inside. Including halfway in something solid. Am I right or am I right?"

"You are correct."

So yeah. Spock claims that his destiny is not with them, so he's staying behind, and Keenser needs to keep up at the base, so it's just him and Scotty. Wonderful. Least they have phasers.


They beam in in the middle of a phaser fight, which isn't good for his back at all. Scotty drags him to the nearest wall and pushes him down, and he's pretty sure he's bleeding again, but it doesn't matter. They need to find their bearings and get where they need to be. Which is literally anywhere at this point.

What was their plan again?

Oh right. They didn't have a plan.

Great. Just great.

"To the left!"

They sprint- not that he can sprint, it's mostly Scotty sprinting and dragging him along beside him- to the next wall. Phaser fire blast the wall behind them, burning the metal and twisting smoke into the air. Great. Set to kill. Absolutely perfect.

Swear to god, if he dies here-

"Right, right, right!"

The Jellyfish.

"We needs to get to the docking bay."

"What? That has to be- Jim, that would be back the way we came! Suicide, I tell ya!"

"Well, I guess we die then, because that's where we need to be, Scotty."

"Oh Mother Mary, bless my heart because it'll burst if this becomes a regular with you- let's go, then."

So they go backwards. Stupidly. But also not stupidly, because the firefight had stopped, and they were left to freely run to the bay.

It was way too quiet, and he asked Scotty to watch out as he enters the Jellyfish. He knows, instinctively, that he could fly it if he needs to, but when he walks in, he's met with a face he had gotten used to being much older.

"Spock!"

"Jim? Why are you here?"

"Oh damn, that means we must be on Earth. Fuck. Spock, you think you can pilot this?"

"I... the ship recognizes me as it's captain, Jim. I do not understand how, but-"

"Listen, I need you to do something for me, kay? You need to fly out of here and stop this ship from destroying Earth."

"My mission is to return with Commander Pike and disable the Narada if possible."

"FUCK- Pike is here? God damnit. Look, I'll find him. Just- if we're already at Earth, there isn't enough time. You hear me, Spock?"

"My auditory nerves are incredibly capable-"

"I know, Spock." He pauses in turning on the ship. "Please. I'll get out, I promise, and I'll have Pike with me. You need to kill this ship, though."

Spock looks at him for a long moment before he grabs his hand- everything is so gold and blue and red he can't even see Spock when their lips connect and the colors burst into light-

My mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts-

Red, fire, burning, darkness-

They pull away and he instantly is dizzy, closing his eyes as he waits his his legs to stop shaking. Maybe he's lost more blood than he thought.

"You will return, and you will return alive. This is an order, Jim."

"Yes sir."


So maybe it wasn't the best idea to beam aboard a ship with no real plan for escape, but really. They didn't even have a plan to begin with. All of this? The fact they they had- miraculously- not died the instant they beamed aboard? On the fly. The part where Scotty sent himself off to see if he could find the transporters and mess with them to get three somewhere safe? On the fly. The part where he goes off trying to find Pike and magically encounters Nero and a thug and gets dangled over the edge of a very large drop? On the fly.

He's all too aware that he's more than likely lost too much blood when his vision goes blurry and moving is hard. Still, he manages to think, and thinking brought him to shooting the guy- which, in hindsight, really wasn't the best idea? But you couldn't blame him, considering everything. Problem was, he was really alone and it was really a problem to try and pull himself up from dangling off the side of the ledge with everything.

He almost passed out when he finally stopped putting so much pressure on his back.

But he couldn't just lay there. He had a job to do, and he would do it, injuries or not. He forces himself up and walking.

Pile is lucky he's worth the trouble.


And it really is trouble, even if he doesn't see a single Romulan in between getting up and actually finding Pike. He's left a trail of his own blood, for sure, and finding him would be all too easy with the shambling pace he was forced into. Add to the fact that the first thing Pike did when he did find him? No. He is not okay with being decked because Pike thought he was being brainwashed into thinking Jim was an illusion and being there to save him was all an illusion. Did that even make sense? And then two thugs come up and very nearly shank him in the ass and Pike had to shoot em. He was too lightheaded for this.

As soon as Pike was out of shackles, he pulls out his- old, very old- communicator and starts up for Scotty. He is so damn lucky that the Base on Delta Vega provided extras in case of accidents. So, so, so lucky. He's getting delirious, he swears, because he thanks God out loud, and he's not religious at all.

"Scotty, you find the transporter?"

"Aye. Just a minute, lad, the work here is very- it's a lot."

"We need to leave. As in, now. Don't know how long we have until Spock does his job."

"Aye sir, but- ah! There we go. Give me twenty seconds and we'll be aboard the nearest ship."

"Thank you, Scotty."

He closes his eyes for two seconds- two seconds!- and everything explodes.

Really, he's not as lucky as he thought he was. Not when he's being tossed through the air into the fucking walls. Absolutely horrid. He's going to pass out before he dies, or he's going to be so very pissed off.

"Jim! Can you hear me? Grab onto something and stay as still as possible! I can have all of us off if we just stay still!"

He snatches the nearest bar- bar? Bar. Bar?- and clutches it as tight as he can, blinking as his vision goes in and out. He doesn't think he'll make it, and when his body gets lighter and lighter, he figures he's dying. For real. Considering everything, he's so very surprised he lasted so long.

He closes his eyes to whispers in his ear.

Chapter Text

He was not prepared to wake up. Not at all. Still, he woke up, and he was instantly hit with so much pain he wished he had actually died. No he didn't. He doesn't wish he'd died. Or did he? He isn't actually sure, especially with- well. Everything.

"I swear to God, Jim, you're so damn lucky I know your allergy list."

"Bones," he crackles out- literally crackles. His throat hurts. It hurts really bad. He licks his lips and tastes blood.

"Don't bother trying to talk, kid. All it'll do is hurt you more. Stay still, or I'll hypo you to death for real."

He wants to laugh, but he can't. Bones is right. All it does it hurt him.

"You know how much you scared us all? When you, out of nowhere, popped onto our ship in the middle of the bridge covered in blood and without a fucking pulse, our captured captain right beside you and barely awake? Don't even get me started on the frazy engineer who beamed you all up- including himself! I thought you were dead. Forever. I can't believe I let myself think you would let something so simple as blood loss kill you. You, of all people, are going to die in some huge thing and it sure as hell won't be with only an unconscious Pike around to comfort you. Damn it all, Jim."

He smiles, just a bit, because that's the Bones he knows.


He doesn't manage to actually know anything until he's fully capable of sitting up on his own. Nero was likely dead. They had shot the ship down after Spock had basically slingshot himself into them, which had probably been why the ship had exploded. Scotty was exploring the engines, absolutely enthralled and completely unhurt, Spock had been beamed aboard before the Jellyfish had connected, and was unhurt, Bones was unhurt- pretty much the only one who was hurt was him and he really wasn't all that upset about it.

Bones was adamant about keeping him in the medbay, and he couldn't really refuse because moving hurt. As much equipment as they had, only a small amount was capable of working on him and around all his previous issues that had left him as he is. Surgery had had to be done twice. He had been forced into a medical coma while they made sure his back healed. The ship was closing in on Earth. He was definitely going to have scars, and his tattoos were... well, the one on his back was interrupted by healing. If he wanted to, he knew for a fact that he could have it redone once he was on Earth and completely healed.

He wasn't sure he wanted to.

Spock had visited him not too long before they were beginning docking.

"What was your original plan, if you had not found myself and heard of Pike being on the ship?"

He doesn't really respond.

"Jim."

"Don't be mad."

"Do you mean to tell me you entered an armed and dangerous situation with no knowledge, no protection, and no plan?"

"I had a phaser. That's protection."

"You were incredibly injured."

"I'm alive, aren't I?

"None of what you did promotes you living."

"Just come here and love on me already, Spock."

He doesn't even hesitate to pull him into a gentle hug, nose pressed to his neck and hands touching as much skin as possible. He hugs back, closing his eyes.

"I'm alive, Spock. I told you I would be. I promised, didn't I? You don't have to worry."

"Jim."

"I grieve with thee, Spock. I wasn't there with you to help you grieve when it happened, but I'm here now."

"Jim.

"I've got you."

"Jim!"

"Bones, I'm in the middle of a moment here."

"We're docked and unloading. Spock, you've been called ahead."

They reluctantly let go of each other.

"Jim, I'll be pushing your wheelchair. Need help with your panties, or can I just give you your clothes?"

"Ah, shut it. I can clothe myself, Bones."


"You are incredibly idiotic, James."

"So I've heard, Christopher. I can call you by your first name too, see?"

"In that case, I suppose I can skip the part where I recall just how stupid everything you've done is? I don't have to tell you that what you've done is probably the stupidest thing I've heard of since before you were born?"

"Yup. Just skip all that crap and get on with the punishment."

"Jim, you aren't going to be punished."

He doesn't actually understand what he's just heard. "What?"

Pike gives him the most exasperated look ever. "As much as being in a wheelchair sucks, I didn't think it would make you forget that you did something incredibly commendable too."

He blinks. Both of them were in wheelchairs. Both of them were injured. And yet. Pike is already back in commission and doing work, and he is still on forced medical leave. None of this is mixing well in his head. "What?"

"You've said that twice. Jim, you saved a lot of people. Literally the whole planet. If you hadn't done what you did, Spock likely wouldn't have been able to make it out, wouldn't have destroyed the drill, wouldn't have known about the red matter. You saved me. You helped in the discovery of the equation used for transwarp beaming. You- God, Jim, you really took that dare literally, didn't you? Not even a captain yet, and you've already saved an entire planet."

And suddenly he's back in that little bar, bloody and drinking and Pike giving him a look- daring him to do better than his father.

Yeah. Guess he did. It doesn't feel very good.

"Jim, you were able to graduate before this whole mess. As a newly instated ensign, you managed to ensure the continuation of the lives of millions of people."

Millions of people.

"As I am unable to continue with my duties as Captain of the Enterprise, I am required to enlist a new captain. Normally, this would be my First Officer."

New captain. New captain?

"However, because of recent events, I have elected to choose someone else."

Recent events, as in-

"James Tiberius Kirk, I am currently offering you the promoted position as Captain of the Starship Enterprise. As its next mission is unlikely to occur soon, and your own injuries, I do believe you have time to think this offer over. Think about it, Jim."

He can't answer, because their time is up, and he blankly pulls himself out of the office.

Absolutely magnificent.

He doesn't need to think to know that he's going to accept. It's simply time that makes him wait to answer in the form of paperwork sent to Pike in the middle of the day, a week later.

He's going to be a captain.