Chapter Fifteen: Fearlessly
The night before the Enterprise was scheduled to depart was strangely tranquil. Most of the crew had already embarked, and the last of the supply shuttles had delivered its payload. Jim stood alone on the starboard observation deck, watching the breathtaking sight of Earth rotating slowly beneath him, feeling a deep sense of contentment at finally being back aboard his lady.
He had just finished his final briefing with Admiral Fitzpatrick, and, after beaming aboard, had stopped briefly by the bridge before coming here. As he recalled his discussions with the admiral, his gaze shifted from Earth out towards the blackness of space.
The ongoing situation in previously Klingon-controlled territory had become more clear over recent days, as observed by Federation ships posted along the neutral zone. The Ren shat’var offensive had apparently been focused on control of a single sector just beyond the neutral zone, containing four star systems. The reasons for the invasion of this particular sector were not straightforward; aside from a now-abandoned colony and another world that offered high abundances of dilithium, the only obvious advantage was its position straddling both Federation and Klingon territory. At least, as far as the Federation knew of Ren shat’var motives, which, considering the surprising developments of late, was not considerable. As no further incursions into Klingon space had been forthcoming, the Empire had apparently decided to cut its losses and prepare to fight another day. Given the depleted state of their starfleet, the decision was not surprising.
The Romulan response to the whole situation appeared to be one of smug satisfaction. Aware of the Ren shat’var’s shared Vulcan roots and never overly fond of the Klingon Empire to begin with, the Romulans had apparently already sent emissaries to the Ren shat’var, acknowledging their claim. The Federation was watching and waiting, hoping that the build-up of military power along the neutral zone would dissuade any attacks. Since the invasion, there had been no sign of Ren shat’var presence in Beta quadrant or elsewhere, and Starfleet was hastily working to dispatch ships and increase patrols to take advantage of the sudden apparent withdrawal.
Spock’s hypothesis was that the Ren shat’var home base was outside of either Federation or Klingon-controlled space, perhaps even in a neighboring unexplored region. He had made his case so well that Fitzpatrick’s response had been to order the Enterprise to, in his words, “go explore it, then.” So, they were set to depart for the edges of Federation territory to actively seek the hidden seat of Ren shat’var power, to understand how their unlikely rise occurred, and to determine why they were so interested in a largely unremarkable part of space.
Jim was satisfied to be heading out to the frontier again. The ship’s refit had been rapid, but effective. The bridge had been rebuilt, improvements to the engines and the weapons array had been added, and Spock and Nyota were planning on improving the communications equipment en route, inspired by the captured enemy comm unit. If nothing else, Jim was curious as to the infusion of new, cutting-edge technology displayed by the Ren shat’var. Even collusion with renegade Klingon scientists wouldn’t have allowed for such improvements in the state of the art so quickly.
The issue of the restructuring of Starfleet had been tabled, for the moment. The discovery of the spy network within the ranks and the rise of a determined and competent new Head of Operations in addition to the sudden shift in galactic power meant that any large-scale adjustments were postponed. Subtle changes proceeded, however, including increased oversight of procurement contracts and political relationships. Kalar had been officially censured by the Federation Council for its involvement in the Hamilton scandal, and had lost most of its contracts and its observational status. The roll-out of new military vessels was curtailed, as resources were shifted into replacing the lost starbase and beefing up the offensive capabilities of the existing fleet. Hamilton himself had been subjected to a straightforward court martial and remanded to a rehabilitation center.
Sarek had not deigned to meet with Jim or Spock again outside of the official Committee sessions. Jim was angry at what he saw as borderline cruel behavior towards his bondmate, but tried not to interfere. There was a great deal he did not yet understand about Vulcan culture, much less the complicated family dynamic between a prominent political figure and his half-human son. Especially when that half-human son had ventured almost defiantly into Starfleet and found his human t’hy’la. And, as Spock had pointed out, it was perhaps better to look for acceptance elsewhere. The day before, Jim had found an expensive bottle of Scotch on his desk in his quarters, with an attached message:
Mìle fàilte dhuit le d'bhréid,
Fad do ré gun robh thu slàn.
Móran làithean dhuit is sìth,
Le d'mhaitheas is le d'nì bhi fàs.
The captain had looked up the Gaelic translation and laughed out loud at the perhaps intentional parallel with the traditional Vulcan greeting.
Now, with his ship whole and his mission set, one thing still weighed heavily on Jim’s mind. The captain had not seen Bones outside of official briefings since that night in the bar, with the exception of that brief appearance with a hypo and a no-nonsense medical order to rest. The captain glanced at the chrono on the wall; he had asked Bones to meet him, and the doctor was running late. Impatiently, Jim clasped his hands behind him, rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet. Spock was still on the bridge, completing the sensor alignment, and Jim reached out reflexively to touch his bondmate’s thoughts. A wash of affection and reassurance flooded back at him. I require another two point one hours, ashayam.
Take your time. I’ll meet you later? Jim felt a twinge of longing for Spock’s presence. Unlike before, however, when he would have pushed the feeling away, dismissing it as weakness, he allowed it to filter over the bond, letting his mate sense how much he was needed.
Affirmative, t’hy’la. Jim smiled at the depth of feeling returned to him. Spock had been lately attempting to avoid his usual pattern of repetitive, sharp repressions of emotion, responding to his mate’s new openness. Jim knew it was difficult to redirect a lifetime of mental conditioning, but was encouraged by the sense of Spock’s controls becoming more balanced; as opposed to the severe swells and drops from before, his bondmate’s emotional presence seemed more centered. It was almost as though the release of feeling focused on his mate and held within the bond allowed for less build-up of stress elsewhere, reducing the need for a constant roller coaster ride of mental effort. Jim’s intuition told him that Spock’s new approach to emotional sharing with his bondmate had been somewhat prompted by the Vulcan’s recent conversation with the doctor, a sore spot for Jim which needed addressing, if Bones would give him the opportunity.
With the calm presence of his mate’s thoughts humming quietly in the back of his mind, Jim turned his attention to the continued absence of his friend. He glanced at the chrono one last time and sighed, deciding to take the battle to the gate, as it were.
Ten minutes later, Jim was standing outside the doctor’s closed office door, having already tried his comm and his quarters. He pressed the call button, trying to look casual, but internally fighting a wave of irritation mixed with concern. When a second press of the button yielded no result, Jim impulsively kicked the door, yelling, “Come on, Bones, I know you’re in there!”
The door slid open to reveal McCoy’s habitual scowl. “For fuck’s sake, Jim. Get in here already.” Jim grunted and walked past the doctor, and McCoy stuck his head out to glance right and left before retreating to key the door closed after them.
The captain threw himself into one of the chairs across from the doctor’s desk and held his hands out. “So, I could see you forgetting to meet me or something, but hiding in your office? Really?”
McCoy crossed his arms in front of him. “I knew what you wanted to talk about, Jim, and I didn’t want to get into it with you.”
Jim regarded him. “Bones, this is ridiculous.”
To the captain’s surprise, the doctor’s reaction was one of sudden anger. “Ridiculous?” he hissed. “Ridiculous. The human death-magnet with a hard-wired connection to a pointed-eared computer tells me I’m being ridiculous.”
Jim raised his eyebrows. “Bones... .”
“Nope, you wanted to talk, so let’s talk. I’ve been doing a little research lately on Vulcan bonding and, Lord help me, sexuality. Just to see if there’s anything else I should know about. You know, after the katric back-and-forth, and the emotional transference, and the burgeoning telepathy in your supposedly psi-null brain. Dammit, Jim, have you ever heard of a little thing called pon farr?” At the captain’s level stare, McCoy continued, “No? Well it’s just when your green-blooded significant other is going to lose his mind in a literal blood lust, forgetting everything except nailing you into tomorrow. Surprise! And guess who’s going to have to patch you back together after that?”
“Jesus, Bones, calm down. Spock told me about pon farr.” Jim sniffed. “I think he’s more worried about it than you are.”
“And that doesn’t concern you?”
“Sure, it concerns me, a bit. But he’s more scared of the part where he completely loses his emotional controls.” Jim snorted. “And I can probably help him with that; I mean, I’m the poster child for control issues.”
“Seriously, Bones. What do you want me to do? Wring my hands and scream? Run away? Tell him to put his shields back up and ship him to New Vulcan to have the bond ripped out of his head by the damn kolinahru and never see him again?”
McCoy blanched. “No,” he mumbled.
Jim’s voice softened. “You’re the one who took the fucking psychology classes; you need to talk to me. As my friend. What do you want me to do?”
There was a long silence as the captain watched an array of expressions flash across the doctor’s face. Jim took a deep breath and let it out. “Bones, at the very least I can’t have you and Spock at odds all the time. What you said to him was out of line.”
McCoy swallowed and looked at the floor. “I know. I shouldn’t have mouthed off like that and I kinda feel like an asshole; that was more my shit than his.” He lowered his voice, “I’m worried about you. And don’t tell him this, but I’m worried about him, too. I was serious when I told you that I’m scared as hell that something will happen to one of you and both of you will go,” he snapped his fingers, “just like that.”
Bones raised his eyes to Jim’s. “As your friend, I should be happy as fuck that you have someone who will throw himself in between you and trouble without a thought, but, as you said before, you’re a package deal now; you won’t walk away unscathed even if he takes the bullet. It seems like so much of this is out of my hands and I can’t do anything about it. And that’s a fucking bad place for a doctor to be.”
“You can do something about it. You can talk to me. And to Spock. You can accept what we have together, and be there for us if the shit hits the fan.” Jim paused. “You were the one who told me to talk to him, remember? When I had asked him to shield the bond initially? You helped me then, by sending M’Benga around, and by not letting me get away with my self-obsessed shit.”
The captain raised his eyebrows. “And these past few weeks, you think I didn’t realize that it was you who helped us be together, when we really needed it? Your medical orders, Bones! And it worked out.”
“No, listen. It worked out, Bones. He and I, well, I can’t even explain it without sounding like a fucking nutjob, but it’s real, and it’s good for both of us. Yeah, it’s not by-the-book, and it’s not normal for humans, or normal for Vulcans even. It’s...fundamental, Bones. Like it was meant to be.”
Bones huffed. “You do sound like a fucking nutjob.”
“Yeah, well, maybe they’ll promote me.” Jim grinned. “C’mon, Bones, I need you on this one. We need you.”
McCoy met Jim’s gaze, hesitating before finally smiling back, and shaking his head. “Sure, kid, whatever. At least I’m never bored.”
A couple hours later, Jim walked back to his quarters. He and Bones had shared a few drinks and turned their conversation to less weighty matters, and Jim was happy to feel like things were returning to normal with his oldest friend. He knew that Bones was probably right; that there would be scary and uncertain times ahead, and he wanted to have the doctor’s counsel and support. For himself, or for Spock, should the worst happen. As Jim approached his cabin, he sensed the presence of his bondmate inside, and smiled to himself as he hit the access button.
Spock was sitting at the desk wearing a t-shirt and loose pants, a PADD in his hands, and he looked up at the captain’s entrance. Jim paused as the door slid shut behind him, his smile widening as he felt the swell of feeling sweep over the bond between them, bathing his mind in love and warmth.
“Hey, babe.” Jim held out his hand, two fingers extended. “Miss me?”
The Vulcan stood smoothly, abandoning the PADD on the desktop and moved forward to likewise press his fingers against his mate’s. I did, indeed, t’hy’la.
Jim breathed in deeply and closed his eyes, relishing the sensations running through his hand and arm as Spock’s fingers slowly stroked up and down. They stood that way for several minutes, and Jim finally opened his eyes. I’m gonna get ready for bed. I’m beat.
A few minutes later, a tired captain shuffled out of the bathroom and into the darkness of his quarters, wearing his own sleep clothes. He pushed back the covers and crawled into his bunk, smiling as he felt his Vulcan surround his body with strength and heat. The alcohol from earlier made him feel languid and relaxed, and he shifted just enough to capture Spock’s hands in his own, entwining their fingers, feelings of warmth and the depth of their connection washing over him. As Jim sighed happily and settled against his mate, he concentrated on their bond, shining brilliantly in his mind. Whatever challenge lay ahead, whatever angels or demons in their path, they would face it together.
The gleaming white surfaces of the Enterprise reflected the blinking lights of the retreating space dock behind as well as the beckoning array of starlight ahead. On the brand-new bridge, Jim stood proudly in front of the main viewscreen, his gaze focused forward.
Uhura’s voice rose above the gentle chatter of the ambient background, “We’ve cleared space dock, Captain. All stations report readiness for warp speed.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant.” Jim turned slightly as his first officer stepped down to his side, and surveyed the bridge. His officers met his eyes, one by one, each nodding or smiling in turn, and Jim couldn’t help smiling back. His family. His ship. Once more heading out boldly to confront the unknown. Jim lifted his chin. “Let’s take her out, Mr. Sulu. Warp factor four.”
“Aye, sir, warp factor four.”
Jim glanced into the warm brown eyes of his bondmate and his smile turned into a grin as he turned towards the screen again, feeling the tingle of anticipation and excitement welling up inside of him. It was still there: the awe and the idealism, the calling of his best destiny. And he faced it fearlessly.
Chapter End Notes:
Scotty’s message to Jim and Spock taken from a wedding blessing attributed to Rev. Donald MacLeod, Minister of Duirinish, Skye, c. 1760.
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek, and I make no money from this.