we are air

Jul. 4th, 2009 06:08 pm
starsandatoms: ([trek] Kirk)
[personal profile] starsandatoms
Title: we are air
Rating: PG for violence
Summary: Five anniversaries and birthdays of the Enterprise crew.
Notes: Written for [livejournal.com profile] cliche_bingo, for the square "Another Year Older." Title translated from Sueno de Morfeo's song "Somos Aire."



i.

Spock spends most of his twenty-sixth birthday on the bridge, doing the exact same thing he has spent the three days before this doing: attempting to convince the Jaffen and the Yisserbi that the other race did not attempt to poison Captain Kirk and that his current condition is simply a bad reaction to the luta fruit pollen in the atmosphere of the carefully-chosen neutral planet. The fact that there has never been a recorded instance of a luta pollen allergy is perhaps part of the cause of their disbelief; Spock is more inclined to believe that they are simply being contrary at this point, and that both races are so used to war that they are actively seeking out ways to sabotage the peace they demanded Federation diplomacy to help forge.

Lieutenant Uhura spends the majority of the day at his side, assisting in translations of the official ceasefire documents and glancing worriedly at him when she thinks he is not looking. Ensign Chekov is brusque and irritable with both races – it appears that the Jaffen and the Yisserbi are not the only ones with doubts about the Captain's allergy – but Lieutenant Sulu, surprisingly, proves to employ a cooler head and prods the ensign with his foot each time he opens his mouth to say something that could possibly derail the talks.

Nobody mentions that it is his birthday – Lieutenant Uhura is likely the only person on the bridge who is aware of that fact, and she knows better than to bring it up. As the negotiation sessions for the day end, Spock excuses himself, and Uhura walks with him to the turbolift.

"I can finish up the translator's notes tomorrow," she tells him.

Spock shakes his head. "Your memory is fresh now. Our duties cannot be shirked for personal reasons."

Uhura nods. "I'll finish them up and meet you in the mess hall."

Spock nods back. "Very well."

He does not go to the mess hall. He goes instead to sickbay, where McCoy is watching over the Captain. From the beginnings of a beard he is sporting – to say nothing of the smell – he has not left the Captain's side.

"Has his condition changed?" asks Spock, coming to stand next to him.

McCoy shakes his head. "No. But the anaphylaxis hasn't recurred again, thank God. That's the last thing we need right now." He crosses his arms and sighs down at Kirk, who is lying still and pale on the bed. He looks much healthier than the last time Spock came to see him – two days ago, after the third recurrent attack, lips blue and gasping for air.

"Is there yet any way to predict the full extent of the damage?" asks Spock.

McCoy shakes his head. "He was deprived of oxygen for so long – and then there was the encephalitis, and the seizures - "

"I am not a doctor, Doctor," Spock reminds him.

McCoy's lips thin. "No. At this point, our best guess is that he'll probably wake up." His hands curl into fists by his sides. "In whatever condition that may be."

It strikes Spock as – not ironic, but incredibly unfair, that however-many species in the Federation have conquered interstellar faster-than-light travel, discovered the natural algorithms that govern the creation and deaths of stars, understood the nature of spacetime, and yet such simple processes as neurology and cognition are yet to be understood – that science can only look down at Kirk in this moment and shrug. He thinks McCoy is feeling much the same way, if the expression on his face (which communicates the deep desire to punch something) is anything to judge by.

McCoy breaks the silence. "Are you gonna stand there all night?"

Kirk's face should not be so empty. "It is probable," Spock admits.

McCoy nods. "Yeah. I know how you feel." He clears his throat. "We still don't – there are reports of coma patients who can hear what people say to them while they're unconscious. So if you feel like talking..." He gestures vaguely towards the unconscious captain. "Knock yourself out."

He leaves before Spock can say anything.

Spock turns back to Kirk, at a loss for words. Then he clears his throat. "Captain," he says respectfully. "The negotiations are proceeding. Both sides are creating difficulties, but I believe it to be nothing that cannot be surmounted. Despite this, I should not be surprised that you could turn an allergic reaction into a diplomatic incident, as both races are claiming that the other has poisoned you."

He pauses. "I must also reiterate that my interests lie in the sciences and not in command; therefore it would be to everyone's advantage if you were to make a...speedy recovery. Ensign Chekov in particular seems to have taken personal offense at your condition, and despite all that Doctor McCoy and I tell him he is convinced that someone has poisoned you. He has yet to cause any incidents of note, but I believe it to be a matter of time, and I would prefer not to reprimand him for causing trouble. In addition, Mister Scott has expressed several times that he believes he can use your latest pattern in the transporter buffer to cure you. I remain unconvinced, but the longer you are unconscious the more difficult it is for me to rebuff his suggestions." He considers voicing his threat to allow Mister Scott to do whatever he likes, and possibly mentioning that Admiral Archer's dog still has yet to reappear, but then decides that the implication is strong enough.

"I also wish to make known my own personal desire for your well-being. In the past year, I have become acclimated to your presence and command style. The thought of having to become acclimated to a new commanding officer is distasteful to me."

He realizes he has nothing more to say, and simply stands there, watching the slow, mechanically-induced rise and fall of Kirk's chest.

Eventually he hears a soft noise behind him, and turns to see Uhura walking towards him, pulling two chairs with her. She puts one right behind Spock, the other right next to it, and sits down in it.

"I thought you'd be here," she says. Spock checks the time, and his face twitches minutely in what would be a grimace in anyone else.

"I was supposed to meet you in the mess hall," he says.

"Yes," says Uhura. "Are you going to sit, or am I going to break my neck looking at you?"

Spock sits. "My apologies. I lost track of time."

Uhura nods, and looks at Kirk. "He looks wrong like this," she says quietly. "I keep expecting him to wake up and hit on me."

Spock raises an eyebrow wryly. "I admit, that is not the most favorable outcome."

Uhura huffs out a small laugh at that, then reaches over to hold his hand. "I'm sorry this had to happen today of all days," she tells him.

"It is illogical to assign this day particular significance simply because of an arbitrary time measurement," says Spock.

"I know," says Uhura simply. "I'm sorry anyway."

Spock allows his fingers to tighten around hers. "As am I."

(Kirk wakes up two days later, and is declared completely healthy in another four. Two days after that, there is a not-so-surprising belated surprise party in the mess hall for Spock, featuring a cake that has been dyed green. Spock raises an eyebrow at it, McCoy calls him a hobgoblin, and Kirk laughs more than he coughs. Uhura slips her hand into his once or twice, and afterwards he tells her that it was an illogical but not entirely distasteful way to spend his time.)

ii.

On Joanna's eighth birthday, the Enterprise is out of direct-uplink range, being nine months into its mission, so Bones can't actually talk to her; he does send her a transmission, saying that his present for her is making its way through the mail systems of God knows how many planets but should get there soon, and he loves her.

Then he spends the rest of the day sulking.

Jim finds him holed up in one of the biomedical labs at 2100 hours, running tests on Bunisian flora on the offchance it holds the cure for cancer. It's not looking great, but there are still a few protein chains that he can -

"You know, I'm still kind of new at this captain thing, but I'm pretty sure I should be able to find my Chief Medical Officer after looking for an hour and a half at all times," says Jim from the doorway.

Bones looks around and realizes that he left his comm in sickbay. Whoops.

"Any major medical emergencies?" asks Bones, transferring another sample to the petri dish.

"Maybe I got lonely." Bones can tell from Jim's tone that he's fluttering his eyelashes, and rolls his eyes.

"There are how many hundreds of people on this ship?" says Bones. "You can deal with it."

"But none of them have your personal touch," replies Jim, crossing the lab to stand next to Bones. He leans forward and crosses his arms, planting his elbows on the table next to the petri dish. "So what's wrong?"

"What makes you think anything's wrong? Can't a guy just try to cure cancer in his free time?" asks Bones gruffly.

"Absolutely," Jim agrees. "'Free time' being the operative words – typically when people are scheduled for senior staff meetings, that's where they tend to be."

Bones closes his eyes. "I knew I was forgetting something."

"On the other hand, your punctuality record is better than mine, so I'd feel kind of stupid giving you shit about it," Jim adds. "On the other hand, you want to talk about it?"

"No," says Bones.

"Cool," says Jim, clapping him on the back. "Let's go get drunk."

And so they do.

Or rather, Bones does.

" - and I don't want her to hate me because I was never there, because I want to be there, I do, but Joss made it completely clear that - "

"Joss is your wife?" asks Jim, refilling the shot glass in front of Bones.

"Jocelyn," Bones agrees. "And she just – God, we made the most beautiful baby girl and it's her birthday and I can't even be there. Hell, I can't even talk to her!" He downs the shot, and coughs. "This is disgusting."

"More?" Jim raises the bottle, and Bones nods.

"You know," says Bones thoughtfully, "I've been counting. This is, what, my fifth?"

"I thought you said you were counting."

"Rhetorical question. You haven't had any."

"That's because this tastes like shit."

Bones leans forward confrontationally. "You're being the designated driver," he accuses.

Jim looks at the bottle sadly, then at Bones. "You've patched up my knuckles after a bar fight enough times for me to know that you could probably do your job with more alcohol than blood in your veins," he says.

"Medically improbable," says Bones.

"Point is, you're not in charge of the ship and I am, meaning that I have to be reasonably competent and ready for anything the universe decides to throw at us at any time." Jim makes a face to show how much he enjoys this particular aspect of command, then adds, "And also, this seriously tastes like shit."

Bones stares at him incredulously. "Are you actually being responsible?"

Jim winces. "Oh God, I am, aren't I?" He sighs. "At least I can still get in fights."

"Now with Klingons," Bones agrees. "Your mom was in Starfleet, wasn't she?"

Jim blinks at the rapid change of subject. "Uh, yeah...why?"

"Did you ever resent her for it?"

Jim snorts. "I resented everything. If there was something to resent, man, I was there. Trust me, you don't want to base your parenting style on my pissy preteen rebellions."

"You can't have been that bad," says Bones, because he's really drunk.

"I drove my stepdad's car off a cliff."

Bones gapes for a long moment. When he can finally speak, the most intelligent thing he can think of to say is, "There are cliffs in Iowa?"

"It was a quarry, technically. A really steep, cliff-like quarry."

"There are quarries in Iowa?"

"I know, right?" says Jim, shaking his head. "But look, the point is – there was a point, I swear."

Bones raises an eyebrow. "Why are you asking me? I'm the one you've been pouring shots for all night."

Jim tilts his head, conceding the point. "Maybe it's time to cut you off."

"Asshole," grumbles Bones.

"Come on," says Jim, hooking one arm beneath Bones's shoulders. "Let's get you to bed."

When Bones wakes up the next morning, there's aspirin and a glass of water on his nightstand, weapons in the fight against hangovers. Maybe Jim's not as much of an asshole as he'd thought.

iii.

Exactly six months after Kirk is named Captain of the Enterprise, there is absolutely not an unofficial party featuring unofficial moonshine in the third recreation deck. Scotty doesn't sing "MacPherson's Lament" enough times for Sulu to try to start harmonizing (badly), and this doesn't inspire Lieutenant Dodge to teach everyone the words to "Why Does The Sun Shine?" - which doesn't take surprisingly little effort – and lead the entire crew in a round. Chekov doesn't replace Spock's usual fruit juice with something mysterious that he calls "jungle juice," and he definitely doesn't get Scotty to back him up that the replicators are malfunctioning, which is why Spock's juice must taste strange; as a direct result of this non-event, nobody is disappointed when it seems to have no effect, at least until Spock doesn't start reciting incredibly dirty verses by Orion poets, and Ensign Gaila doesn't join in. Uhura doesn't help them both back to their quarters, and all three of them most definitely do not have matching hickeys on their necks the next morning.

There are no games of strip poker, since that would be unprofessional.

Yet somehow, despite all this, the entire crew of the Enterprise is hungover the next morning.

iv.

Pavel Chekov turns eighteen three weeks and two days after being permanently assigned to the Enterprise. He is torn – on one hand, he's not seventeen any more, and possibly more importantly people can't keep denying him his vodka since he is now the official Federation age of majority; on the other hand, he is fairly certain that people will hug him if he tells them it is his birthday, since apparently being the youngest member of the crew means having to deal with excessive personal contact.

Captain Kirk deals with this dilemma for him. He has the beta shift that day, same as the Captain and what is quickly becoming clear is his favorite bridge crew – Spock acting as Science Officer, Uhura on communications, Sulu on the helm and Pavel himself as navigator – and half an hour before the beginning of gamma-shift, Scotty comes onto the bridge followed by McCoy and a crowd of other crew members. This is likely because Scotty is carrying an immense cake, covered in frosting and actual, real, lit candles, and singing.

Pavel is mortified, even as Kirk and Sulu exchange grins that make it plain that they planned this. He reminds himself that he knows ways to make transporter-sickness as likely as possible, and these methods can be used the next time Kirk and Sulu have to go on an away mission. Preferably to a planet full of buxom blondes who will be considerably less receptive after having been thrown up on.

By the time Scotty has reached Pavel, the song is done, and everyone is watching him and grinning. Even Spock is waiting with a raised eyebrow, and Sulu nudges Pavel's leg with one foot. "Make a wish!" he says.

Pavel looks at the cake, which looks very chocolatey, then at what seems to be half the ship's crew. He blows out the candles without making a wish – he can't think of anything he would like to change.

He thinks it's against regulations for the entire on-duty bridge crew to eat cake while going about their duties - or rather, pretending to - but it's a quiet day and the Captain certainly isn't going to complain, judging by the bordering-on-obscene noises he's making as he eats.

"Jesus Christ, who made this?" he asks.

"You've got frosting on your forehead," McCoy tells him. "How did you even manage that?"

"I don't care. I want to marry whoever made this. Or maybe just steal the recipe."

"I'd pay good money to see him try to make it," Sulu tells Pavel, quiet enough that Kirk can't hear. Pavel grins.

"He would not bake anything," he says with certainty. "He would make the batter, give it a taste-test, and declare it delicious and eat it all. And then get food poisoning and throw up on Doctor McCoy's boots." He takes another bite, and chews thoughtfully. "No," he corrects himself. "With the Captain's luck, the batter would achieve sentience and decide to rise up against its human creators, leaving a path of delicious chocolate destruction through the ship."

Sulu laughs so hard he snorts frosting out of his nose, and tries to glare at Pavel even as he's coughing. This creates a feedback loop of laughter; it really wasn't that funny, but Sulu's face is streaming with tears and his ears are turning bright red, and that is making Pavel laugh, too, which makes Sulu laugh even harder. Pavel knows he will regret it – they are scheduled to practice fencing together later this evening, and Pavel already has enough bruises from unprovoked accidents – but it's worth it for this moment.

Kirk raises an eyebrow at them. "Anything you'd like to share with the class, boys?"

This just sets them off again.

v.

Jim went through a phase right around his twelfth birthday where he spent long evenings after school in the library. Frank didn't mind, because it kept him out of his way, and Sam never said anything; Jim's mom was off-planet at the time, so he doesn't think she ever actually found out.

He learned a lot, both about how to conduct research and how information much was available to the public, thanks to several Freedom of Information Acts that had been passed over the centuries. He ended up with a comprehensive timeline of his father's life, from his birth in a suburb of Washington, DC, to his death on the Kelvin; most of his time at the Academy was a matter of public record, since he had been a golden boy, and his valedictorian address was peppered with quotes from Eddington, Feynman, and Hawking, consistent with his first-honors status in History of Modern Science.

There was less information about his actual Starfleet career, or at least less intimate information. None of the files had his voice, or showed his eyes like the vid of his speech at graduation, instead showing just a straightforward readout of his assignments and requested leaves; scientific positions and transfers peppered with paternity leave, twice granted but only once enacted.

This wasn't enough for Jim.

His mother never really talked about his dad, even when she was planetside – she would look uneasily at Frank, who was congenial and friendly, at least when she was around, and would change the subject if Jim asked about his father. Some dedicated sleuthing on Jim's part showed a dissertation written by an officer who had been on the Kelvin studying the sociology of leadership or something like that, but the dissertation and its several appendices were sealed and required a Starfleet identification to read. Jim being twelve, he lacked the proper hacking skills he would need, and instead drove his stepfather's car off a cliff, since it seemed like the thing to do with all the boiling anger that had risen inside of him.

He's still angry ten years later when some asshole cadets beat the shit out of him in a bar, and he finally meets the guy who wrote the dissertation that he never got to read. Pike dares him, which is juvenile but effective, and it occurs to Jim that even now that he probably could hack into Starfleet records and read the dissertation, there's an easier way to do it.

He doesn't wonder why the recruiting offices are still open at ass-o'clock at night (or it might be morning by now), but he fills out the paperwork and is issued a Starfleet identification number, which is really all he needs, even though he has no intention of actually using it for anything beyond his immediate plans. So he goes back to his apartment, puts in the ID, and starts reading.

And keeps reading.

It's a good dissertation, really; Pike shows carefully how each decision led to the safe escape of the inhabitants of the Kelvin minus two, and praises Captain Robau as much as he does George Kirk. At the end, he refers to the Kobiyashi Maru, as if Jim should know what that is, and says that both men passed.

Jim's hands are shaking. He ignores them and goes on to the appendices, which are mostly scientific logs and captions of graphs saying, "We pretty much have no idea what this is" or "this is the original source of this other thing that completely baffled us, go figure." But the last one is an audio file, and Jim plays it with only the slightest hesitation.

"Captain to shuttle 37, is my wife on board?"

Jim knows that voice. He's heard it before – it's deeper and hoarser than he remembers, distorted by interference, but it's the same voice he heard talking about the joys and opportunities that the future held for a group of fresh-faced Starfleet graduates.

He keeps listening. He recognizes his mother's voice, too, and closes his eyes to concentrate on their conversation.

"George - I can't do this without you - "

"I need you to push, now!"


His mother starts screaming, and Jim pauses it with a shaky hand. There's a minute left of audio, and his stomach clenches. He's not sure he can listen to this.

He's not sure he can't, either, so he presses play again.

He tries to tune out the screaming, but can't bring himself to skip it in case he misses something; he doesn't have to, because there's a jump in the audio and a small text bubble appears saying that several minutes of nonrelevant audio have been omitted. The next thing he hears is a new voice, crying – that's him, he realizes, suddenly feeling detached. The nonrelevant audio was his birth.

"What is it?" his father asks.

"It's a boy," says his mother.

"A boy?" Jim wonders how he can sound so damn happy in a moment like that. Half a minute left. "Tell me about him."

"He's beautiful...George, you should be here."

The familiar, distant voice of the computer this time: "Impact alert."

Jim's fingernails are digging into his palms, and he closes his eyes to concentrate more on what he's hearing as his parents discuss what to name him. When he opens them again, there are six seconds left.

"Sweetheart, can you hear me?"

"I can hear you," and Jim has never heard his mother sob like that.

"I love you so much - I love - "

The audio stops as the countdown reaches zero. Jim wipes his cheeks on his sleeve, and only afterwards realizes that it was still bloody from the barfight.

He learns more about his father in that minute-and-a-half than he did in twenty-two years before that. He doesn't drink on his birthday again, but makes sure to find Pike the next morning at the shuttle departure point.

"Four years?" he says. "I'll do it in three."
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