Date: 04/10/2011 10:25 AM Title: chapter 5.8
*snappy salute* Reporting in for the AWESOME.
Um, you realise I've nearly caught up, right? We're going to have a problem after that, and when I say 'we', I mean YOU, capiche?
So much angst and flailing with this chapter that as I read it you're running the very real risk of windburn and/or superficial bruising.
When are these two going to catch a break? That's a rhetorical question, because I know there will be a resolution of sorts coming their way. The situation of war notwithstanding, this relationship they've got going on feels so real, with all the miscommunication, joys and insecurities that go along with it. If that didn't make things rough enough, they're literally stranded in a life and death situation.
I love the way they're both fussing over each other, ignoring protests and both sick with fear for the other's health. Jim's protectiveness goes beyond the physical however, as he's still trying to shield Spock from something:
Spock freezes, both mind and body, his breath caught somewhere between inhalation and exhalation. The depth of Jim's rejection, the absolute certainty in his eyes tells Spock this is no delirious rambling. "You may die."
"Yes. Alone. Can't have you there."
Spock looks on as Jim's eyes drift shut and his breathing slows, impotent with indecision and guilt. His heart is racing, fresh green beginning to soak through Jim's bandaging efforts as his blood pressure climbs with panic and an overwhelming powerlessness. Jim would rather die than meld with him again. He has no words for the sense of isolation and loss that realization brings.
Let him live, he pleads with a higher power he does not believe in. If he lives, it will be enough.
Whilst it doesn't quite sound right to say that Jim has Spock on a pedestal, he certainly respects him more than almost anyone else. We're all our own worst critic of course, but Jim seems to need to bluff his way through life without letting anyone in. Vulcans of course, take that 'in' to a whole new level, and that's what scares the bejesus out of Jim. Although Spock is aware of Jim's record and accepts him, Jim doesn't want him to 'see' the reality. That's all very noble, but a simple meld rejection takes on a whole new meaning when Spock has some sort of meld history of his own.
The respect that the crew have for each other has been forged in hardship, and the scene where they are determined to retrieve two of their own is just ... *FLAILS*
"No, you listen to me!" she snarls, rounding on Harris with all the coiled fury of mother protecting a cub. "Those boys are like family to me, and I will not tolerate the idea of them floating around that junkyard like a piece of trash. They're worth more than that. They're better than that. They're goddamn EPAS Points, which makes them family, and if you'd ever belonged to anything in your life as important as that, maybe you'd understand." Her eyes fill with tears but she stabs the air in front of the XO's face with one blunt, trimmed fingernail. "You take the Stalwart and you leave us here if you want to. You fire me or report me or strip me of my rank, but I won't let you do this." Her hands clench into tight fists. "Not you, or the Captain."
Harris swallows and lowers his PADD, face unmoving as though frozen with the intensity of her pledge. McCoy feels sorry for him, just a little, through the haze of his own anger. The XO can only follow in the footsteps of his Captain and Taylor has never been the head of the Stalwart family the way he ought to have been. As Harris slowly, deliberately stands aside to let them pass, Leonard nods at him, eyes firm, taking a moment to acknowledge the man he might be under different circumstances.
Yes there could have been hope for Harris and Taylor had they each been paired with someone more complimentary. Thing is, they'll never be leaders and the pity is that they were ever put in the charge in the first place. At least Harris seems to have a moment of self awareness when he stands aside, which McCoy is man enough to acknowledge. The crew aren't going to kick someone when they're down (just so long as they get out of the way).
GUH, and then you give us another flash of Spock's insecurities:
Spock blinks, nodding in unconscious agreement; his own compromised state betrays him. "You care for him."
Jim doesn't move from his sprawl on the deck, but his fingers twitch in Spock's line of sight. "He gave me a reason, you know?"
Spock does not know, but he hears well enough and mistakenly thinks he understands.
Pure speculation here, so just go with me. Maybe Spock feels rejected because when it comes to Jim, Prime got there first. Combine that with the possibility that Spock has suffered from rejection before that was related to a meld, and he's extremely cautious about voicing or seeking out what he wants. He's willing to reach out to Jim when it's clearly welcome and reciprocated, but when the situation is uncertain he retreats into himself. *LOVE LOVE LOVE* They're both SO damaged in their own way, and having successfully distracted themselves by looking after everyone else for so long, to turn to spotlight on themselves leaves them floundering.
They get rescued - of course they get rescued - but not before Chapel has to have a thrown down hissy fit and Sarek recruits McCoy. Sarek adds a new level of observation (and thus experience) in a way that's beautiful in its subtlety:
Spock is barely conscious, head lolling and breathing shallow, but his eyes stay fixed forward, determined. As the needle pierces his skin, Sarek reflects upon that look, and the human woman who once directed it at him.
*FLAILING, ALMOST KNOCKS OVER DRINK*
Bad management was only going to get the Stalwart so far before something had to be done. Everyone knows they did it for the right reasons (well, apart from F.Sec but they're too myopic to see why), but now we're heading into consequences territory. Interesting to see how they're both reamed separately by people they respect, Jim with McCoy:
He pauses, studies Jim's reaction with a keen eye. "The reason Spock broke protocol and risked beaming without a transporter lock to get you back. Also, why a Vulcan Ambassador and a handful of wounded, exhausted EPAS crew would walk all over this ship's XO to find you two and bring you home when the odds of success were slim to none." McCoy shrugs and sucks his teeth. "I don't need to tell you how it looks, do I?"
"Like I'm an adrenaline junkie with a death wish and Spock is emotionally compromised over me." With a sinking feeling, Jim struggles onto his elbows, fighting not to take this lying down.
And then Pike with Spock:
"For a lot of people, for a good percentage of your crew, that simple feeling is the reason this war is worth the cost. They're not out here for Aspera or Earth or their ship, they're fighting to hold onto that little bit of goodness in their lives. I don't blame you for risking everything to keep him safe."
It just kills me, but again we're dealing with consequences. I'm appreciative that Pike listed Taylor's failings in the situation as well. Pike totally gets it, and he's struggling with bureaucracy as much as the rest of them, but he still has to follow procedure.
And so we have Spock sacrificing himself to make sure that Jim will be alright. To make things even worse - because you're really dialing up the angst (are you trying to kill your readership?) - they don't even get a chance to say goodbye. Jim finding out too late, having to fight his way past a crew that are wanting to congratulate him and wanting to serve under his command is just ... this isn't writing any more Toto, this is cinematography.
Did Spock leave so quickly because he was ordered? Pike couldn't have been so cruel, his regret when he discovered they didn't get a chance to say goodbye was real. Perhaps Spock left before his emotions could get the better of him, thinking it more logical to cut his losses and run, but having the chance to rethink that option when Jim managed to comm him. Pike's regret is palpable, and so is McCoy's protectiveness:
It's the sight of Jim's blood that pulls his attention back to the present. He shifts involuntarily, trained by long association with hurt and pain to move towards the source of it and make it stop. Two steps closer and the hand is forgotten as Kirk pulls him into a fierce hug. There'll be blood on his uniform, but Bones is used to that. Jim is clutching him like a drowning man, burying his hot face in his shoulder and clutching, shifting, grabbing at the fabric.
So what Jim had begun to realise as something real and true in his life gets taken away from him. For once he did the right thing, and it was Spock of all people who messed up on this one. Now the command structure on the Stalwart is inching towards what it should be, but it's still not right:
Harris has the option to pitstop at Deep Space Two for some hull patching, but Jim convinces him Scotty can handle it. When the cocky bastard does it in record time, Jim cuts loose and makes him Chief Engineer; the Stalwart hasn't had one for months and Harris confirms the choice without hesitation. It's quickly becoming apparent to the crew that Jim is in charge of this ship and the new Captain is just a figurehead. It's more overt than Spock's relationship with Taylor, but nobody seems to mind. Jim isn't exactly a subtle kind of guy, and they're used to the concept anyway.
It's the sixteenth day when McCoy finds Jim sprawled in a treatment room, an nearly empty bottle in his hand and tears running down his face. "I'm just so fucking confused!" he exclaims thoughtfully and on cue. "I tried so hard to make him understand why I was afraid but he left anyway." He raises one hand and lets it fall to the deck again with a thud. There's a PADD clutched in it. The writing is in Vulcan. "I don’t think he believes me. I might never be free of it, even if he doesn’t know the truth.”
The fact that Jim fell into a functional holding pattern until he heard from Spock is heart-rending. No matter what he does, how good he tries to be, it's still not enough because he can't hold on to what he wants. Jim regards Spock as being the best of them, and is bewildered that Spock could seem to hold him in some sort of equal regard. Perhaps Jim will only ever feel worthwhile so long as he's in Spock's orbit:
Fuck everyone. Fuck you. I don't care anymore."
McCoy wills away the chill, somehow managing to stand guard as Jim laughs until he chokes on nothing but air. He thinks about what Spock said, barely conscious and still bleeding when they beamed aboard the Tat’sar. He can’t reconcile those words with the image of Jim before him.
*CAPS LOCK LOVE*
Date: 04/10/2011 10:24 AM Title: chapter 5.7
Put the kettle on lovey, it's time for one of my COMMENTS.
"Angst on the boil" - my god woman, you don't pussyfoot around on those warnings do you? Do you hear that burbling noise in the background? No, I haven't installed a water feature, it's my bloody stress ulcers bubbling away ...
"No," Jim stops him from leaving by grabbing a sleeve. "Wait a minute." The doors slide closed with a muted hiss and Jim can't help the way he holds on. "God, I'm so sorry," he whispers, thinking of what Spock has just done. "I wish I'd never thought of it, I ..."
Spock's exhales, a short puff of breath, the slightest hint of sound; a confession.
I love that your Spock releases his emotional vulnerability through breath alone. His behavioural characteristics are so incredibly ingrained, but his breathing gives him away when he won't let words escape. It was the same when Jim and Spock first kissed, and yes, I'm enough of a fangirl to go back and find the bit I'm talking about:
Spock carefully takes one of Jim's hands by its swollen wrist and there is a moment where this could end with Jim dumped in the corridor. Instead, he just holds it loosely while his other hand finds Jim's chest and lingers. Those eyebrows are almost horizontal in distress and he's breathing through his mouth, something he doesn't even do even when he's running.
Okay so tell me if I'm really over-analysing this story, but when I read that 'little puff of air' line, I immediately snapped to that previous scene.
Jim has the chance to apologise for what he asked of Spock, but then you go and rachet up the angst out of all get-out by the next exchange. They had just the briefest moment of understanding, and then Spock reaches out and ...
"Perhaps, if he'd had an inkling of the events set in motion by that emotional transference, Jim might have made the time for an explanation. Instead, the automatic doors allow Spock five seconds to watch him disappear."
I'm speculating that Spock is appalled at himself, at what he has agreed to do, and reaching out for Jim was a way of seeking absolution, not to mention a meld that has a basis in 'spiritual purity' for want of a better description. Not unlike needing a shower when you need more than just physical cleansing. To have Jim reject him and then unwittingly transmit his revulsion is just a total gut punch.
Spock's interaction with his father is wonderful, and I see that his father also has his own share of secret Vulcan emotional ticks, although his are 'vision' based, his gaze flicking elsewhere before looking at his son again. The moment where Spock realises with Prime and Kirk are up to is wonderful, and I love the visual of the father chasing after his son.
Scottie is as always, hilarious and spot on all at once:
"I'm not daft!" He bristles. "I beamed them out seconds after. Only thing left aboard that mess is the torpedo Jim wanted. They're all safe and sound."
"Where?" Spock demands.
"On board the Narada," Scotty says proudly.
Frying pan, meet fire.
Did you know you're the only writer here/anywhere that I leave these kinds of comments for?
I think I can see what Prime is getting up to, but more on that later. The arrival of Spock in time to go at Prime is just - wow. I'm going to quote this whole section even though I know it's going to push me into a two part comment but hot DAMN I can't help myself:
"What manner of attack did you perpetrate on the mind of Lieutenant Kirk?" Spock demands, ignoring Jim completely. He sounds coldly furious.
Prime blinks, looking quite surprised for a Vulcan. "I assure you, it was no attack. However, I do regret the circumstances that forced me to initiate such an intimate contact without his consent."
Spock's fingers tighten fractionally, seemingly of their own accord. "Your regret means nothing to me."
Prime swallows awkwardly and raises his hands slightly, palms outwards in supplication. "I have been and always will be, his friend." The old Vulcan seeks Jim's eyes over Spock's shoulder. "Is that not so?"
The words trigger some kind of cacophony of memory in Kirk's head, he screws his eyes shut, but that does nothing to halt the endless parade of images, sounds and events that regurgitate themselves out of his subconscious and into the present moment. A thousand Spocks over a thousand days turn to him wearing Starfleet science blues and say, "Captain?"
Jim snaps out of it, gasping, to find Spock has abandoned Prime to crouch before him, hot hands framing his face, a concerned furrow between up-swept brows.
"No way," Jim breathes. Spock's fingers shift against his skin and those expressive lips that nobody else seems to notice press together in concern. "Spock," Jim says, panicked, pushing him away, "everyone needs keep out of my goddamn head!"
Spock is still raw of his 'enforced' Romulan mind-meld, so to appear on the scene to find his other self in a meld with his (at present still undeclared) mate would have seriously ticked him off.
So. Prime. He's gone and transferred his katra to Jim, right? He's done a backup transfer to Jim in case he shouldn't make it. I can't help but wonder just what the hell that's going to do to muddle things further. Plus of course, Spock is confused enough over Jim's feelings as it is, let alone have his other self in his mate's head/heart as well. Jebus.
As for the altercation between Kenny and McCoy. Wowzers. The way Kenny is reciting Ops 'scripture' almost has him taking a Vulcan stance and McCoy is adopting the emotional viewpoint. How wonderful then, to see the 'right' approach literally getting dropped on its arse.
I had to smile at the next exchange between Jim and Prime:
Jim glances back at Prime. "He's asleep."
"With a kiss?" Jim wonders, because he's pretty sure that's how the story goes.
"Strike him firmly across the face."
I love that even in the midst of their god-awful situation Jim still snaps to a gentle approach with 'his' Spock, although then of course follows orders for a change.
Spock and Prime are aware of more in the situation then they are letting on, and Jim has clearly had dealings with Prime in the past. Either they're going to have a sit-down talk about this one day, or I'll be in a lather formulating theories. It could go either way, just sayin'.
*snaps* I was RIGHT! Katra time!
"I've been here before, when I was you," Jim says seriously.
Prime may be on his last legs, but he's still able to save Jim in some small way. Having said that, the Romulans know that they've escaped so they're not out of the woods yet.
You always manage to end the chapter in a way that KILLS me. I just want to burst into tears and promise to be a better person if I can please, please have another chapter. Still, I can try to suck it up and wait patiently. Perhaps my bubbling ulcer/water feature will lull me into a meditative state.
Date: 04/10/2011 10:23 AM Title: chapter 5.6
So it's me reporting in with a review/comment so by now you probably know the drill. Get yourself some snacks, make sure you've got a drink nearby to stay hydrated, and you're sitting comfortably.
You ready? I'm saying this with a 'Spock eyebrow' you understand, so without further ado ...
As always this chapter was a gut punch roller coaster that delivered on every aspect. Have you thought about warning readers to fasten their seatbelts?
Have I told you how in awe I am of the way you have Kirk and Spock treading the balance between personal and professional? Both of them have chosen careers which brings them into intimate contact with the lives of others, and yet when it comes to dealing with each other they find themselves floundering. It's beautiful and bittersweet all at once, but of course there's a difference between healing someone medically versus emotionally.
Speaking of which, Jim has entered one hell of a minefield with this:
Jim swallows, recognizing Spock at his most controlled, suddenly unsure whether or not he has the faintest clue the number of taboos he's just stepped all over. The thought of his lover rummaging around like a thief in someone's mind makes his skin crawl. The distaste is multi-faceted, tinged with a proprietary sense of 'what's mine won't be shared,' but also mixed with a numbing dread that Spock is actually capable of invading and dominating another being like that. He resists the urge to touch as they do when they debate, even something as simple as a glove on his sleeve, realizing that there is the potential for Spock to sense his fear and distaste, then subsequently misinterpret it.
He's against it, but Jim still thinks on the command track when the chips are down. He's pursuing the 'needs of the many' sensibility despite the personal cost that he knows he and Spock will wear later.
Bones and Spock have also had a chance to revisit their earlier conversation and address any lingering perceptions of xenophobia on McCoy's part.
So. Jim has recognised what needs to be done and how time-poor the situation is, and has made his suggestion. On the heels of that, the power shifts back to Spock as he accepts the task - however distasteful - and dismisses Jim from the scene.
The scenario of the Romulan and Spock both speaking at the same time was a shiver-inducing moment, particularly when book-ending it with Spock's response from his previous meld:
When there is no response, McCoy casts around desperately only to find Spock has dug his heels into the dirt, scrabbling away into the shadows with the back of his hand pressed against his mouth as though he doesn't know whose voice will emerge if he takes it away.
Oh my GOD that's one hell of a scene. As if Spock wasn't scarred enough already.
They've all been running on empty for so long now, they're either going to burn out or catch a break somewhere along the way. I'm not talking about some fluffy sort of shore-leave scenario of course. Hell, even a couple more hours' sleep would taste like ambrosia to them, but I'm thinking that they're stumbling towards some sort of redemption in a way that gives them a moment's reprieve.
Whatever it is though, they're not going to get it yet.
Just when there's the potential for a communication rift between Kirk and Spock, along comes Spock Prime. GUH. Now we discover that Kirk has been aware of Spock Prime for years now, and yet wants no part of it. I'm SO longing for the back story on that one, and of course will greedily lap up any crumbs you care to impart on that score.
Jim's pain over what he has (logically) had to get Spock to do is still raw when Prime enters the picture, and so his reaction makes perfect sense:
He's not yelling, he's too furious for that. Right up until this moment, he could swear he's never reexamined his relationship with Spock's alternate in light of his true identity. Suddenly, with stims in his bloodstream and his heart full of guilt over his DivCO, he defaults to the system he knows best; when in doubt, push away that which seems too close.
And then ... THEN you go and end it on a cliffy. Prime is of course offering himself up as bait, on a potential suicide mission in a bid to protect 'this' Kirk.
You're killing me.
Date: 04/10/2011 10:22 AM Title: chapter 5.5
I can only conclude that I held my breath for so long that I must've passed out and hit my head on something. Still, I'm not here to play the blame game (and it's all your fault anyway because of the awesome), so let's get down to business.
Time stops for a heartbeat. The airlock screams.
"Visors down!" Jim shouts. "Hold on to something!"
Aaaand yep, that's pretty much a warning/disclaimer that you could have included for the readers by the way. My god woman.
Jim's reaction to Spock's missing visor was a nice little tell. As chaotic as everything is ALL the time around them, he takes a measure of comfort from the details that have (so far) remained consistent, Spock's equipment being one of them. Jim has made do with changing environments in his life (by choice or other), but now that he's well and truly finding his place in life, he needs 'boundaries' to map out that which makes him feel secure. Given he has so much faith/trust/lust (let's be honest here) in Spock, it stands to reason that Jim has made him a point of reference to make sure everything is okay. I suspect Spock is that point for a lot of people - if he went around with his hair mussed up, everyone would freak out ... that sort of thing.
And then there's this bit of goodness:
"It's a ridiculous plan," Jim disagrees, "but it'll work."
Watson gives him a sharp look. "Well, that was inspirational."
I love that you give us fleshed out subsidiary characters. They're not just there for exposition, they also give us insights into their personalities and abilities by the way they react to the main protagonists. It makes a change from the traditional use of such characters along the lines of "Your father, the King" type who serve to relay information without becoming individuals in their own right. It speaks of your attention to detail, and your obvious love of the world you've created here in LNSB. Chekov's wry response to the fact he's plummeting towards the planet gives us that bit more information about him. He's not just a mathematical boy-wonder, he has a sense of irony that makes him older than his years.
For all that you've created a completely unique AU scenario, you've interwoven pieces of canon throughout it that just turn me into a happy little camper every time. I'm not slavishly devoted to canon, but I can appreciate it when I see it:
Fact is, Chekov saved his ass more times than he could count on his Beta crew rotation and he'll be damned if he sees that brilliant mind and twisted sense of humor splattered over the planet they hoped would be a refuge from all this shit.
He keeps that thought firmly in his mind as he lines up for the jump. It doesn't shield him from the fear of reliving that day on Vulcan, from the flashbacks generated by the presence of the drill, or the gut-wrenching certitude that the planet below should be red not blue. What it does offer is a small kernel of peace, a centredness he lacked last time around. He didn't regret jumping for Sulu, but he'd had very little to live for at the time. Now, conversely, with so much to lose, Jim knows he couldn't live with himself if he didn't make the jump.
The contrast between the two drill jumps show us just how far Jim has come as a character, moving from adolescent recklessness to being prepared to sacrifice himself for others. In order words, he's prepared to be reckless now but for the right reasons.
You always turn me into a happy gibbering mess when McCoy is around to interact with Jim/Spock, because he his weathered perception - not to mention the way the others relate to him, is just wonderful every time. McCoy can always use his medical profession as a shield, but that doesn't mean he's not vulnerable to the reminders of what he's really involved with. His reaction to watching Spock tear away the door was one, and now that they're planetside hiding from Romulans he's dealing with a new subset of challenges. N blushing violet to be sure, and the man's a sharpshooter, but he's perhaps more used to treating patients in sickbay rather than being out in the field.
More importantly, because he's not the one usually in the line of fire, he's in the unique position of being able to stand that bit further back from the action and observe what's going on. That's how he's spotted the growing Jim/Spock dynamic. That distance - however slight - could perhaps be reassuring, so no wonder that he's running on adrenaline when he finds himself right in the thick of it:
That leaves McCoy the only conscious person around, but he's still clutching the phaser like a lifeline, almost afraid to blink in case the little he knows about Romulan physiology proves false and one of them wakes to end him with their three-times human strength.
Again with the CAPS LOCK LOVE for the end of this chapter. Their situation is still very uncertain, but they're together which is of course the main thing, and then ... THEN, Jim makes a few jokes and even cranks out my (all time favourite gesture for this character) finger pistols. The fighting is over for the time being, and Jim is sprouting nonsense and cracking jokes to relieve McCoy's obvious tension.
McCoy looks over just in time to see Jim make gun hands before sliding down the wall in a heap of exhaustion. He turns to Spock. "Chekov will be fine, and those other two will be out for at least an hour," he says, and it's tacit permission of the kind that a superior officer shouldn't need, but Spock is funny about the points where emotion overlaps his sense of duty. And yes, he might shift a little to observe as Spock finally focuses on Jim, but some of his interest is medical. As for the rest, it's not a crime to care, whatever Vulcans have to say on the matter.
So it is that McCoy is the only one paying attention when Spock kneels and carefully gathers Jim to his chest, head bowed, eyes wide open and staring at nothing even as Jim's close in relief and his hands grip the Commander's EVA suit tightly. They don't move for a long time. McCoy makes himself look away.
Stunning. Even better, I made it through to the end of the chapter without passing out. Granted I was doing some shallow breathing there for a while because I was getting pretty involved, but this time I got to comment!
Date: 04/10/2011 10:20 AM Title: chapter 5.4
1/2: Deep and abiding love for this story. You've give us another epic chapter, so it seems only fitting that I return the compliment. I'll just give you a moment to make sure that you're sitting comfortably and have some snacks handy.
Okay then, here we go.
Again it's your attention to detail that makes this story all the more compelling. I'm not saying the detail is exhaustive, far from it, but it makes things feel so much more real. The fact that the resettled Vulcans haven't mapped their area makes perfect sense, and of course creates potential hazards for anyone else entering the system at a flat out run.
Gaila making sure Chekov has the opportunity to step up and become a valuable resource is a fantastic moment, and of course she does it all with her usual charm.
I had to laugh at the comment about Scotty pushing the ship well past the usual limits and then wondering what will happen if it all goes to hell. Given I work with Engineers that particular snippet was a behavioural study I could relate to! And then there's McCoy. *sigh*. Oh honey:
In the deadly silence that follows that remark, Jim has a sick feeling. He desperately wants to disengage from the conversation, but he can't seem to tear his eyes away from Spock's face. McCoy's too busy looking thoroughly embarrassed to notice, but there's a tightness around their DivCO's mouth and a sudden stiffness to his posture that speaks of considerable control.
Leave it to McCoy to get emotional and shoot his mouth off like that. Combine that with a potentially emotionally compromised Vulcan and a people-pleaser like Jim and it's definitely a nausea-inducing moment. For all that Jim has chosen a particularly conflict-ridden career path, he still likes to have happy people around him, and will do what he can to smooth things over I'm sure. I'm interested to see what sort of damage control he's going to do on this given McCoy and Spock are both equally important to him.
And then there's the part that I can only describe as *MAJOR FLAILS* Seriously. I may have knocked a few things over in all the *FLAILING* that was going on. Spock swept off a cliff? Lost down a ravine? Never thought I'd say this but oh thank goodness he was teleported by Nero. Oh okay sure, getting snatched by a Romulan raving nutter isn't an ideal scenario but you get what I mean. I hope. I may have been a bit incoherent here because of all the *MORE FLAILING* ...
Still, for all that you've managed to leave me with adrenaline fatigue in the space of just a few paragraphs, you HAVE engineered it so that the characters are precisely where they need to be. *FANGIRL AWE* Gosh you're clever, I just want to lick your brain (ew) or buy you a drink. Let's go with Option B on that one.
Back to my admiration of your treatment of Chekov:
"Hello, Lieutenant," Chekov salutes him with one finger as he materializes inside the docking bay. "You mind telling me what we're doing?"
Jim claps him on the shoulder and steps out into the installation proper. "We're going to get Spock back and then we're going to see which way the wind is blowing."
"You are not as funny as you think you are," Chekov informs him, but pulls his phaser and follows seamlessly, Uhura and Bones bringing up the rear.
*happy sigh* Thank you, for not exhausting the 'puppy' stereotype, not to mention sending us into wubblewou fatigue. It's really cute when Jim takes the piss about his accent, but you don't flog the point when Chekov is speaking, and for that I'm giving thanks even now. The kid's a genius who can totally step up when given the opportunity, it's not all about the accent.
The Spock/Nero facedown was great, and I'm particularly impressed with your use of language in that scene. It would have been really easy to use florid terms and descriptions, but you kept it sparse. Having the scene perceived by Spock means that the whole 'tone' of the encounter was just right. Mind you, I was left with more *FLAILING* when I thought Spock had been shot. Fortunately your self-preservation prevailed and he was only wounded. Lucky YOU ... *meaningful look*
How you going, still okay? Need a drink top-up or something? Nearly there babe.
This passage gave me major loveage:
Jim stares down into those dark eyes, and feels the shaky burn as the adrenaline starts to leave him. Spock's gaze is insistent, almost pleading. It seems this is about more than the people on the station. It could be that this is about boundaries, about drawing a line between what lies unacknowledged between them and the people they have to lead; their mutual disguise. He knows what Spock wants him to do, but for the first time in a long time, Jim is planning to fail a test.
Moving on through the scene McCoy steps up to the challenge, and anything that had been said in the heat of the moment is forgotten as they all get on with the jobs and the tasks at hand. of course, his comment about 'your Vulcan' was perfect. His tacit acceptance of all that's going on and lack of judgement there is great, and will be the kind of support that Jim is no doubt doing to need at some stage. McCoy's like an emotional barometer for Jim's surroundings, and I really like the way you use him as such.
And again I have to throw rose petals at your feet for the way you manage to capture the camaraderie that can exist even though things are going to hell:
"A little bit of hurry up, please!" Jim demands, employing a running crouch to bring him level with Chekov on the opposite side of the door. The move gives them flanking capability whilst still providing cover. The two nod to each other and then direct all their concentration into the corridor. It might have been a gesture of solidarity or simply an acknowledgment of the precarious circumstances, but both relax into themselves in the wake of it. There is something undeniably reassuring about knowing that you're not in the shit all by yourself.
Of course Spock has to be all superhuman at the end of the chapter, and that's going to catch up with all of them afterwards, so I'm curious about the aftermath of that. How much longer can these guys keep running on empty?
After such a wild ride, the introduction of Dr Watson was a wonderful moment of brevity. Watson has really been dropped into the thick of it, and like the readers, can only hang on and know he's in for one hell of a ride.
*long sated sigh*
So, yeah. Wow.
And I know that my comments on this story have been sparse before but the big feedback bubble of love has been building for quite some time. I think it's safe to say it just hit critical mass!
Love love love xxx
Date: 04/10/2011 10:19 AM Title: chapter 5.3
Your writing makes me happy; it really is that simple. Even when the characters are breaking my heart, I'm a willing sacrifice because the quality of the storytelling shines through. You're a very sensory writer, and given that I'm a visual person myself it's something that helps this story thrive:
Jim pushes off into space, tired quads burning in protest at what will be his fifteenth EVA save for the shift. He tries not to think of his job in terms of personal records, but he knows the most he's ever done before is twelve. He tries to blank his mind to the sound of his own breath inside the visor, pushing down the familiar lurch in his gut that haunts him regardless of experience. He will always hate the feeling nothingness around him, the expansive, chilling sensation that it's only sheer will and luck holding his molecules in place. He will always see the drill platform rising up to meet him.
GOD that's good, and you manage to make reading your action sequences a physical experience. Wish I knew how you did it, but right now I'm just thankful that you share. Strange as it may seem, I can also appreciate that Jim has lost a save (along with a smile for the "He's dead, Jim" canon comment). They're operating in extreme conditions after all, so they're not going to win every time, no matter how much they'd like to.
The emotional equilibrium of those around him is very important to Jim, and even though he's lost a save he's still able to mock-flirt with Hannity and get her feeling okay. He's lost someone, but he's made someone laugh, so that balances things up for the time being. It shows that he's mindful of his environment, which leads me to my next observation.
Any respect or guilt Taylor may have won a few chapters back has been well and truly annihilated now. The constant canon fodder strategies (if you can call them that) from Starfleet has EPAS on continual mop-up patrol, and Jim for one is sick of it. It seems that they have been working at inhuman levels for so long now that even Taylor has gotten that they need to do the basics like ... oh you know, eat and sleep. It's a basic consideration that's clearly lacking. Another flaw. Meh. Taylor/Harris are never going to win me over.
The locker room conversation works so well - literally laying themselves bare as they talk things through (well, mostly). The only time Jim seems to be able to express doubt or fear is in one-on-one conversations. Less risk perhaps, better chance of containment, or perhaps he's so used to assuming a social/work mask and looking after everyone else that he doesn't want to let people down or spoil the illusion if he were to drop his guard. How wonderful that he can relax his guard and get this kind of response:
"We function efficiently as Points because we both see the world with the eyes of an analyst," Spock continues calmly, "but where I see patterns, you see lines of force."
Jim has the feeling that he might just have been paid a massive compliment, even if it doesn't sound like one. "Even if I agree with you, what do I do with that?"
Spock is silent for so long that Jim begins to think he doesn't have an answer, or won't speak it out of respect for volatile human emotion.
"I believe my mother would have said, 'learn to trust your instincts,'" Spock says, surprising him. "Over time, I have found her advice most insightful."
"My instincts," Jim repeats, with the tone of a man who's pretty sure the joke's on him. "My instincts tell me nobody is going to listen to the Divisional Point One of EPAS Prime Division bitch and moan about how Nero is a second away from redefining what we mean by the word revenge."
"I will listen."
Either Jim decided to pour over statistics and reports, or a part of him didn't want to try to sleep without Spock in the room. I had to smile when he got woken up by Spock kneeling beside him ... a hint of Sleeping Beauty that will be echoed in a future chapter when it's Jim's turn to rouse Spock.
AGAIN with Harris being useless. It's a wonder the crew isn't crippled with exhaustion, actually they are, but I'm sure Taylor/Harris get sleep when they need it. AND Harris kept Spock up until all hours. Bad enough that he nearly cooked the ship but for Spock/Scotty's intervention a while back, but this? Seriously, come the day Spock and Jim are gone, Taylor and Harris are TOAST, Harris in particular; the man has delusions of competence.
This part is lovely:
Spock's hands are firm as he pulls Jim out of the chair and herds him towards the bed, but the touches linger with affection, warm and soothing against his skin. Jim can hardly keep his eyes open, crumpling against the mattress and sighing at the rightness of it when Spock spoons behind him and pulls the covers over them both.
A scant hour and a half's sleep and then they're back into the war zone. Nero confounds them all, and I have to wonder if anyone else is proactively looking for patterns, instead of simply reacting. There's also the matter of Prime and that mystery Vulcan energy signature. Hmm. So it's all going too shit, but now Jim just doesn't have a quasi-home, he's building a crew/family more and more each day.
Jim is aware that everyone is slowly focusing on the DivCO by the fact that Spock's eyes flick over his shoulder and then back to his face. Sudden silence settles on the room. They're all waiting for something. Jim feels a clench in his gut when he realizes they're all waiting for him. He's the Divisional Point One; it falls to him to speak to Spock about the crew’s position. It makes him kind of warm to realize they trust him to do that.
He turns, taking in the room's slightly questioning stares, their folded arms, their casual postures. An amazing team of people, and every one of them saying more with body language than they do with words. Everything about them proclaims their confidence in their DivCO. They’ve followed Spock into some of the worst situations imaginable, and will continue to do so as long as he needs them to. Their decision is made and not a word has been spoken. Goddamn Vulcan commanding officers.
Jim grins at them and turns back to Spock. "Well," he shrugs, "seems your kickass crew are ready to play Starfleet."
It just goes to show that given the choice, people will follow leaders, not management. At least Taylor understands this in a way that Harris never will.
McCoy's observation at the end of the chapter is telling. He has been watching and picking up on signs along the way, walked in to find them both in Jim's cabin, but it's watching Jim trying to protect Spock that tips him off the most.
"Still," McCoy shrugs with his mouth and turns to watch the rest of the crew. "Real subtle Jim, real subtle," he finishes, leaving with a little laugh through his nose and a firm squeeze on Jim's shoulder.
And then he's wondering if McCoy saw the other thing he did, after all.
Chances are, McCoy didn't see it. Still, Jim isn't subtle - even Spock knows this, but it's an endearing trait all the same and shows a lack of ego where his own wants are involved. I'm probably over thinking this, but if he has been abused then I daresay he has learned to keep what he wants and needs under the radar for fear that it will be picked apart or taken away. 'Dragging home the invisible bone' and pretending he's not as involved in something/someone as he's prepared to admit to, is a way of hoping that maybe it won't (publicly) hurt so much if it gets lost. It's another self-defence mechanism.
Oh! And on a final note, I also liked the balance of Spock supporting Jim by saying he would listen (in their quiet moment in the locker room), and then Jim supporting Spock at the meeting. That's partnership right there.
Another ludicrously long comment I know, and I could probably go back and edit these suckers down a bit, but what the hell. You deserve it!
Date: 04/10/2011 10:17 AM Title: chapter 5.2
I can't tell you how good it is to be able to curl up with this story.
For someone like Jim who seems to have been transient for so long (that's how I explain his skill subset, language skills, awkward relationship with his family), to have found a sense of home on the Stalwart is very important. How wonderful then, that he has found a place where he's not only needed, but wanted into the bargain. Only a few days in but that realisation has to be heady stuff:
He can't help the warmth that floods his face at Spock's words, as though his enjoyment of Jim's presence is unconditional. Maybe that fits. Maybe that's what he's always wanted; no fairytale ending, no impossible perfection, just the knowledge that he's welcome amongst the chaotic jumble of someone's life. As much as Spock is capable of anything disorganized.
*sighs at the awesome*
The obvious respect and affection that the crew has for Spock was highlighted in the previous chapter at the barbeque is highlighted nicely by Jim's own observations. Alright, so he might be a tad biased, but respect has always been a strong component of what he feels, so this makes sense:
Jim studies him, sees none of the doubt he might find in any other DivCO, sees only resolve and competence and a desire to discharge his duty with a perfection that nobody could possibly attain. What Jim had first taken for arrogance and self-assurance is actually the confidence of someone who has made mistakes and now has the experience to know that they will always be costly. Spock carries the memory of Sally Morrison on Odesyus, of Ashe Ho's paralysis, of every minor miscalculation or lapse in observation he has ever made. It isn't hubris or guilt, merely the innate composition of his being. Spock could no more disregard those memories than he could snap his fingers and end the war.
It also throws the Taylor/Harris methodology into sharp contrast as well. Granted Taylor is a subsidiary character in the story, but his lack of strategic ability and taking himself off for bed rest when the others have been beaten bloody reveals his priorities. Spock is a leader, Taylor (although he means well) is a bureaucrat. Perhaps I could take it a bit further and say that it's the Manager/Leader dynamic. Managers do things right, Leaders do the right thing.
It's also interesting that for all Jim was on the fast track to command when he was in Starfleet, he seems perfectly content to see Spock take the lead. he'll certainly step up with his flashes of inspiration and moments of genius, but for the most part he prefers Spock to be the one in charge. Perhaps he feels safer with Spock's measured approach. He knows that Spock won't ever be reckless or pig-headed, but will also let innovation have its time in the sun.
Oh, and I LOVED the whole exchange between Uhura/Scotty/Jim/Spock:
Spock blinks, Scotty makes a noise that could indicate either intense pain or intense pleasure and Uhura pins him with a horrified kind of stare.
"Marry me?" she asks hoarsely.
"Um, no," Jim laughs. "You're scary as shit."
"It might just work," Scotty manages through the hand that's pressed to his mouth.
I've noticed that Scotty tends to press a hand to his mouth when he's thinking; I seem to recall catching him doing that a few chapters ago. Purely unconscious behavior, but it's as if he wants to inhale the ideas and hold his breath to absorb them. Or something. I'm having a cosmo while I write this so if I stop making sense you'll know what to blame.
You're really drip-feeding us little details about Spock and Jim's histories, the conversation about Jim's convictions being an important one. Again Spock takes a moment to reassure Jim with touch instead of words:
Beneath the table, Jim feels Spock's knee press into his own, the warmth seeping through two uniforms. It steadies him, that quiet acceptance that Jim might not be ready to reveal everything about himself, all the sordid detail of his past. He presses back firmly, returning the contact and hoping Spock knows it for the thanks it actually is.
They're developing their own silent shorthand now, and assuming they can get through the angst of coming chapters it has the capacity to make them a truly formidable team. Whilst others may see emotional compromise, they're missing the absolute trust and commitment to follow through on whatever's required.
And speaking of commitment:
In Jim’s quarters, Spock just watches him with quiet curiosity: what will the human do now? It's kind of amusing and very him, leaching any awkwardness out of the situation almost immediately. Jim steps forward, slides a thumb into Spock's collar and kisses him with a smile on his lips. They move together easily, everything now less aggressive. Still, Jim's been wanting this constantly since the first time; it would be a mistake to say things aren't heated. Spock doesn't shiver when Jim pulls at his shirt, but the fine hair on his arms is standing to attention in a desperate attempt to warm him, Jim is close enough to see.
"Irrelevant," Spock replies, taking his face in both hands and kissing him again.
I got a bubble of happy in my chest at this. Spock is starting to go after what he wants, and that's a very telling move. Jim's emotional expression enables Spock to follow through with his own, and the whole scene is another lovely moment of quiet. The conversation addresses some concerns and fears, and all the while the gentle touches convey that perhaps for the first time in a while they're not totally work obsessed. They've managing to carve out a moment of their own.
And then you serve up another hint:
It triggers something small and scared inside his mind.
That hint following on the heels of the revelation of Jim's convictions makes for an interesting combination. The instinctive fear at someone obviously stronger suggests abuse, but I'm wondering how Jim dealt with it afterwards. Spock doesn't ask questions, but his silent restraint speaks volumes.
I LOVE YOUR CHARACTERS SO MUCH! Whoops, shouting ...
Pike is a natural leader, so again people respect and defer. He credits everyone with having intelligence, says it like it is, and above all, he communicates. I like that Jim and Spock have a history with Pike that they are both comfortable with, and others wish they were half as good. Even Taylor recognises it and gets deferential. The wonderful part is that Pike gets the respect he deserves, but it's inherent - he doesn't demand it, he's earned it, and there's quite a difference. He also trusts his people:
"We've got a serious issue and some bad news," the Admiral begins without preamble. "Now, you’re all accustomed to dealing with classified information, so I know this won't go any further. I'm also going to ask you to keep it out of your personal logs for at least twenty four hours, just so they have time to break the story back home before anything goes on record."
Again, Pike is a leader, Taylor is a Manager. He's telling his people what they need to know, preparing them for what's coming and asking for their cooperation, which course he'll get in spades.
And of COURSE Pike is going to be straight onto Spock about his relationship with Jim. The man is brilliant and he knows his subordinates. He has the right to ask the hard questions and not get any temporised responses in return, because Jim and Spock know that he would immediately call their bluff. His acceptance of it speaks of so much parental approval, but he still has to point out the risks. Whereas Uhura and McCoy asked a few questions and got unconvincing brush-offs, Pike gets the truth and then laughs, which is the best reaction - even Pike knew there was something inevitable about the pairing, but is exceeded even his wildest expectations.
"We both know that telling Jim Kirk not to do something is an exercise in futility. Besides, you deserve a little happiness, Spock, and I'm glad to think you might have found some."
"I ..." Spock swallows his denial, ignoring the cost to his dignity in favour of the truth. "Thank you."
Jim has knocked off some of Spock's more logical edges, as shown with the careful touches and admissions, but nothing reveals it more than the wonderful response Spock gives Pike:
Spock stares at his boots, stares at the door, stares at his hands clasped loosely in front of him. When he finally meets the Admiral's flabbergasted gaze, he very pointedly shrugs.
The room is warm with Pike's laughter and Spock catalogues a pleasant buzz of rebelliousness before pushing it aside.
Date: 04/10/2011 10:15 AM Title: chapter 5.1
Okay, on with this chapter.
Jim's hand claps him on the shoulder soundly, gripping his suit and pulling him around to stare into the newly illuminated depths. He flings out a hand expansively. "Kitchen through there, a dining room, then deck out back with a hot tub," his blue eyes are laughing in his earnest face. "Can't you see it?"
"It is highly unlikely that the Health Ministry will fund a hot tub," Spock replies, solely for the anticipated reaction from Jim.
On cue, he laughs.
Aww, they're out house hunting together. Well perhaps not, but that's the mood Jim works to establish for a bit of fun, and how gorgeous that Spock likes to provoke smiles as well. I'm thinking that a part of the attraction that Jim holds for Spock is the fact that he is/can be so expressive, whereas Spock works hard to keep himself in check. That must create a (slight) sense of freedom. Jim's practically having happy attacks all through the start of the chapter, and the fact that Spock is indulging - even encouraging it - speaks volumes.
Standing shoulder to shoulder at the base of the sinkhole, hearing Jim's opening argument about being the more experienced climber, Spock keeps his eyes fixed on the sky and allows himself a moment to appreciate the way Jim's inherent unpredictability has become comforting and familiar.
Mind you, Jim's of the same temperament; he's working in a hole full of cockroaches and batshit and he's still happy ... he's got it BAD *glee*
The sense of 'family' that pervades the BBQ is a delight. The scene of everyone mixing it up around different fires is great, and amplifies the teamwork environment that you've already established. It's somewhat telling therefore, that Taylor and Harris are absent, but the gap they've created is more than filled with the natural leaders that everyone gravitates towards:
Here, again, is that deep-seated respect they have for Spock, the look in their eye and slight nervousness that speaks of something bordering on more than the professional. All of them like him, perhaps some of them even love him, not that Jim could even imagine Spock comprehending that reality, not after the incredible distance he'd seen during the meld.
And there's another meld clue. So even in the depths of the orgasmic (yes I totally meant to use that word) meld he had with Jim, he's still holding something back, or hiding something. Still, that perceived distance is something that they're both guilty of.
This part made my heart singing (it must be getting quite operatic by now):
Jim gives him a serve of his own eyebrow trick. Spock replies in kind, which only makes Jim laugh and shake his head, fighting down the totally inappropriate urge to lean in and put an arm around him. Whatever changed last night, it is still uncertain and new. Unspoken rules lie between them; tangible in the careful distance they maintain in public. He catches Uhura's knowing look from across the circle and dampens his smile. Their secret is not so secret; probably hasn't been for a while. Still, few people outside of Nix's crew will know either of them well enough to be sure of anything. With what's at stake though, he's kind of grateful that Spock is Vulcan and not given to public displays of affection. Jim really doesn't want to screw this up. Not the thing with Spock, not his job, not any of it. His life is dangerously perfect right now; the realization brings a sudden plummeting feeling to the pit of his stomach.
Of course they're going to remove themselves from the group, and their only too brief interlude is bittersweet. The barely-there kiss is a profoundly intimate moment that's not nearly enough but still shows that they're invested in each to want more. They have responsibilities and regulations, and the interruption is enough to remind them that others have more freedom, but of course the heart will have what it wants. How lovely then, that as they return the camp they still manage a moment of reassurance:
Spock pauses, then finally lifts his head. Nothing is said, but his fingers come to rest on the nape of Jim's neck, the thumb shifting back and forth once, the grip strong. Something tight and doubtful loosens inside him and he's able to watch Spock slip away into the light without needing to follow.
Much, much love for drunken Scotty, getting things done ahead of schedule and then getting a bawdy singalong started. That love turns into a tsunami of adoration the Uhura/McCoy asides.
Uhura encouraging Spock to let his hair down reminds the reader just how much he is allowing himself to relax with Jim. McCoy, with all his knowledge, pushes Jim to admit how invested he is in Spock:
"The whole thing frightens the shit out of me, Bones, especially the part where I couldn't walk away even if I wanted to." He rakes a hand through his hair. "Twelve fucking hours and already I need this more than I've let myself need anything since ... and already I ..." he falters, swallows. "Damn it."
Feeling a little dizzy putting it into words, Jim leans gratefully into McCoy's steadying hands.
"Ah, hell," the doctor sighs, pulling him into a hug that is full of resignation and affection. One hand finds the back of Jim's neck and grips it. "I had to be sure, you know? For both your sakes."
"Don't make me talk about this again," he demands, muffled by McCoy's shoulder.
I know that's the part I quoted in my original comment, but I had to it again because I love it SO MUCH. Caps lock much.
So the crew has had some rare and precious down time. They couldn't have kept running on empty the way they were, without burning out entirely. It's all the calm before the storm, that's the way these things go, but at least they've had a moment to look up a the stars from planetside, breathe fresh air and maybe feel normal for a little while. Spock and Jim's conversation about what they might do when things are done is particularly poignant - talking about the art of a people who have all but been wiped out, and how they might explore more in future. Jim has even gotten Spock talking about Vulcan that was, which in itself quite an achievement.
Throughout it all, it's like Jim plants the seed for fun, and Spock 'allows' them to happen by way of negotiation and pre-meditated acceptance. It's like a kind of structured playtime that satisfies them both as they negotiate their way through this new relationship.
Date: 04/10/2011 10:03 AM Title: chapter 4.7
I blame you.
If your writing wasn't so good, I wouldn't be so involved with the damn story and writing fangirl screeds like this.
Seriously. I'm like ... *flicks hair* ... the victim here, y'know?
Yeah okay so that was weird, I'll get onto the comment now.
Oh Pike, how I love you so. It's like he's a combination of father figure, favourite uncle and favourite teacher at school all rolled into one. For all that he's a command figure, he has enough history with Spock and (especially) Jim to either tear them a new one, or just kill himself laughing. I suspect most of the time he treads the line between the two, but there's no doubting the love and respect he has for them.
LOVED that Spock practically started squirming when Pike said he'd come visit. If Uhura and McCoy have been commenting to Jim about the two of them, then Pike will definitely say something. Spock knows that his 'control' is becoming a fluid thing, hence the temporising ... and Pike knows that something's going on.
That conversation and Spock's unease with it seems to be enough to tip him over the edge in logic:
Whenever he thinks of drawing apart from Jim, the inner essence of his being rebels with frightening intensity. The very fact he wants it so much makes it dangerous. Vulcans should not yearn for external completion, seeking instead to be whole and independent of other beings. Friends are possible, sometimes even beneficial, but not friends like this. Not those that seem so valuable as to eclipse judgement and influence thought. Whether the failing is his own or simple misfortune, he cannot be certain. All that remains is to eliminate the cause.
It's clear he's not comfortable with that, and even he can accept that it's not something he wants. Still, he'd rather cut his losses rather than keep wanting more.
*FLAILS* OH MY GOD. Whoops, caps lock. Just as well Spock's dealing with an emotion human who can more than stand his own ground. The whole build up to the inevitable is a total gut punch, and were I to quote my favourite bits I'd basically be pasting the whole chapter in here. Still, I have to make room for this bit:
"Shit!" Jim gasps, equal parts shocked and furious. "You're the one who's doing the leaving! You'll throw yourself into a war zone, into crazy, dangerous, impossible situations but then you run from me; I don't get it. I'm too emotional, is that what you're thinking? That I'm not Vulcan enough? I guess this is just proving you right."
Slowly, Spock turns his head front and center again; his eyes are blacker than space.
Jim's throat closes over, choking him. Chest tight, he struggles to draw in enough air to speak, the injustice robbing him of all his good intentions. All he wants to do now is make Spock hurt. It's an ugly feeling, reflected in the bare-toothed smile on his face and the adrenaline that sets his hands shaking. He's been here before a thousand times over, the images come crashing down from the inside, pushing relentlessly outwards, made of blood and bone and teeth and boiling anger because it's the only thing between him and heartbreak.
When Jim swings his fist at Spock, I'm wondering if this may be one of the first times that he's truly stood his ground and fought for what he wanted. He's left Riverside, he's left his family, then he's left the whole planet, he's also walked away from command track with Starfleet rather than continuing on. Perhaps with EPAS providing him with the first sense of home in a long time (if ever), then Spock gives him a sense of something far more. Even if he doesn't know what it is or can be, he's not willing to walk away. For him to have that level of commitment just speaks volumes and I ADORE it.
And then there's this bit:
Spock carefully takes one of Jim's hands by its swollen wrist and there is a moment where this could end with Jim dumped in the corridor. Instead, he just holds it loosely while his other hand finds Jim's chest and lingers. Those eyebrows are almost horizontal in distress and he's breathing through his mouth, something he doesn't even do even when he's running.
It's such a little thing, but again I'm always noticing when Spock releases emotion just through those little moments of breath and touch, which has me grinning like a goon at:
Slowly, Spock's head bows until it presses against Jim's neck, his shoulder. It exposes one perfectly pointed ear within easy reach, and Jim wouldn't be Jim if he didn't turn his head and kiss it. A hot gust of breath against his neck is his reward and the warmth of it pools low in his stomach.
Given Spock's discomfort at the meld (and even the mere prospect of it beforehand), and the vaguely alluded to history of others, Jim's offering seems all the more poignant:
The sound Spock stifles makes Jim wonder if he's underestimated the significance of this gesture to Vulcans, but there's no time for second thoughts because hot fingers are pressing against his cheekbone, his temple and his jaw.
"My mind to your mind," Spock whispers, low and hoarse in a last ditch battle for control. "My thoughts to your thoughts."
Jim has a moment of screaming disorientation. It's so different from what he expects; swirling chaos against a dark maelstrom of need and denial and iron will. The only thing that seems right is the way Spock feels; a warm, dry sensation, spicy on the back of Jim's tongue in a way he'll never be able to adequately describe. He latches on to it and pours out all his want and confusion. It makes Spock arch against him, mutter his name, press his lips against Jim's throat with a thrill of teeth. Jim lets his head fall back and concentrates on breathing, eyes partially blinded and open to the ceiling. It's what's going on inside his head that really matters.
Spock uses his free hand to frame Jim's face, the palm flat, not to dominate the meld, just to hold him in place so he can stare with ill-concealed amazement. Jim finds a smile from somewhere and offers it up like a sacrifice. He feels Spock surrender then, feels it inside his head. It's visceral and undeniable.
Interesting that Spock has perhaps had distasteful melds, or perhaps some have been forced upon him? Unwanted unions or bondings? Whatever's going on there, Jim offered and Spock couldn't take him up on it fast enough. VERY interesting. I'm sure I'm going to be all sorts of smug about this later on down the track, but just know that right now I'm writhing with curiosity!
It's a given that the rest of the scene is beautiful, I just can't get over how wonderful your writing is at times. Well most of the time. All of the time, really - let's be honest.
And this. THIS:
Spock is pliant but not passive. His hands are strong, shaping and holding with a surety Jim hasn't expected. It isn't that he's unfamiliar with men, but the last time he'd been little more than a boy. The sex had been boyish. This touch is firm and confident; a man's touch. It's like everything Spock is as a person gets traced out on Jim's skin; all the surety, all the fear, all the self control destroyed. It's bewildering.
This isn't just a fluffy moment between a couple of guys, they're MEN, and it's a subtle distinction that you're making there. Jim was aware (a few chapters back) that he was suddenly getting a bit of a clue about where he was heading in life, so it's only fitting that his next relationship should be mature as well.
AND THEN SPOCK HAD A LITTLE SMILE TO HIMSELF! Again with the flailing.
I need a drink ...
Date: 04/10/2011 10:01 AM Title: chapter 4.6
Great start to the chapter, really dynamic and it makes for a great reading experience to see the action sequences interspersed with procedure and the internal reactions of Kirk/Spock. For all that Taylor hasn't won any hearts amongst us, it's clear that his main point of weakness is Harris.
The XO merely stares back and then raises his hands in an abortive surrender. "We have no photon torpedoes, no EMP weapons and only two phaser banks and even they're calibrated for cutting through wreckage, not punching through Klingon shields." He lists their pathetic resources with a mix of defeat and panic. "We won't last five minutes."
It really helps to throw the whole Spock/Kirk dynamic into sharp relief, and show just how far good leadership can go to get things done, and earn respect/teamwork along the way. This is further compounded by:
The communication terminates as abruptly as it began, leaving Taylor staring at Harris and the Commander staring right back. Jim bites his tongue, forces himself to remember that Harris isn't battle trained and that strategy was never Taylor's forte. They've been managing what is essentially a logistics ship for more than ten years with their only battle exposure being second hand, and usually when things aren't going particularly well for the home team.
(don't worry, this isn't just going to be a copy/paste comment)
Spock and Kirk both have battle and strategic experience that goes beyond the viewscreen, and whilst Taylor/Harris don't have the expertise, at least Taylor has the maturity to seek out suggestions when needs be. The man might not be a total waste of space after all. Can't help but think though, that were it not for Spock's presence, Taylor would have gotten them blown up ages ago.
Jim's strategy is right of left field and thus brilliant in its ingenuity. The way he and Spock were clutching at each other's arms was as if they were trying to pull each other along with the idea as it took form, one not wanting to go without the support of the other. The shoot-out when it all goes down is fantastic, and I had to grin at McCoy's demeanour faltering back into Doctor mode until Jim had to yank him back into the role .. and THEN he turns out to be a crack shot! Go Bones ... Again, Jim's multi-lingual skills hint at a background of not knowing what or who to be, but with the intelligence to take on a bit of everything. Nice touch.
Laugh out loud line of the chapter: Jim had never known a ventilation duct that didn't favor escapees. WIN! Oh my god, how many movies have I seen featuring ventilation ducts?
I can't remember if I've praised your characterisation of Uhura or Gaila yet, but it's well earned. You've kept the female characters intelligent, motivated and independent without crossing the line into ball-breaker territory, which is fantastic. For all that Uhura has been ruthless in the battle to keep the ship secure, she's able to relax into what I can only describe as 'girl talk' about ice-cream. We all get it, and the fact that Jim doesn't is just pure entertainment as far as I'm concerned. She treats him like a little brother, calling him on his behaviour with Spock (much to his terror) and making him play nice:
"Cookies and cream," Uhura sighs dreamily. "Or pistachio. That gets you where it counts."
"Right on the ass?"
She narrows her eyes. "You saying I'm fat?"
"Uh, no," he swallows. "Because I value my continued existence."
She taps her foot.
"And also, you're totally not fat?"
"Where's Harris?" Jim feels the desperate need to change the subject. "Wasn't he supposed to be here by now?"
he Klingon transport scene was another fantastic scuffle to add to the chapter, and highlights again that they're really getting their hands dirty as opposed to, oh let's say the Council, and Taylor/Harris, and lot of other people who are watching from the sidelines thinking that they know better. And of course Jim nearly gets a smile out of Spock, whom he's watching so closely that he can't fail to miss it. Of course Spock takes a hit for Jim because he's watching him even in the middle of a punch-up. This chapter is really highlighting the bromance in the chapter, and I love it. Not because of the fluff, or even just the implied fluff like:
For a moment, he envisages a Stalwart with Spock in the Captain's chair and has to smother a sigh at the sheer awesomeness.
*sighs at the sheer awesomeness*
Rather, it's more to do with the fact that you've created such beautifully flawed characters that the reader can't help but be pulled along with them. And now if you'll excuse me, it's time for the caps lock. I don't use it very often, but there comes a time when it becomes the most expedient way of expressing my appreciation.
*flexes fingers in preparation*
OH MY FUCKING GOD I LOVE THE WHOLE SICKBAY SCENE!
First it was Uhura calling Jim on his bullshit, and now McCoy, which makes it all the more awesome. Again the command structure is judged and found lacking when it seems that Taylor/Harris got a little mussed and shaken compared to Spock/Kirk who get the shit kicked out of them. Perhaps in some other situations people might be telling Spock/Jim that their obvious attraction is against regulations, but the crew are (for the most part) good people, and if they can see people they care about seeking out comfort in the shitstorm they call home, then who can blame them? All adds up to the WIN that is this story.
LOVE LOVE LOVE this little bit:
im fights the sudden clench in his stomach, the almost overpowering urge to reach out and make contact. He tells himself Spock wouldn't want it, wouldn't welcome it, but his memory unhelpfully recalls every instance where Spock has seemed to tolerate his touch and even touch him in return, though Vulcans never do that. Instead of the hand, Jim reaches for his shoulder, holding it firmly through the thin hospital scrubs, feeling the inhuman warmth seep immediately through the fabric and into his own skin. It feels like less of an invasion than a hand, like something Spock might even let him get away with if he were awake. If Jim's thumb rubs back and forth in a little caress, well then, nobody needs to know.
And then Spock wakes later wanting to reach for Jim too. Honestly, I just want to knock their heads together!
Date: 04/10/2011 8:48 AM Title: chapter 6.5
The final countdown has commenced, and I suspect that we're in for one hell of a ride. My nerves will be shot, I'll be flailing so much that passersby will run the genuine risk of windburn and more importantly ... soon I will have Nothing. To. Read.
This comment is going to be all out of order because I’ve read this chapter a few times now and keep getting different insights, so please bear with me.
The revelation that Jim can't remember the events after the Narada are startling but perhaps not surprising. The man had a major head injury after all, but it was the events that followed afterwards that compounded the injuries on both their parts.
Jim lets that sink in, thinks about the many secrets in his life, the way each and every one has leached into his soul like a stain that won’t wash out. The memory of Spock’s mind rushes up to meet him in a flurry of remembered heat and spaciousness, only to be followed by the intense precision of his counterpart’s and the way both of them have been forced to use their telepathic skills as a weapon. The trade-off here is guilt for honesty; potential pain for peace of mind.
Now they're both entering unchartered territory that is a relationship with honest and potentially painful communication on both sides. The two of them combined creates a partnership with a particular fate in mind, and all they can do is stick together and see if they can ride out the storm. Of course, it helps that Prime has created some machinations in the background as well.
“The other Spock, the older Spock, I’m sure he put something in my head,” Jim begins cautiously. “I have this sensation like the beginning of a migraine whenever I think too hard about it. All I know for sure is I have to be there when Nero comes. Whenever that is, however it happens, I have to be there. A lot of other crap bled through, but I...” he looks up, surprised to have glanced away, unsure when the pressure of Spock’s attention became too much to bear. “I’ve never been keen on the idea of destiny or fate, but this is less of a choice and more of a compulsion. And now I know things about the other Spock, about you I guess, that I’m not supposed to know,” he confesses. “His memories and mine … there are things that you should never have to see; things about both of us and my past.”
It's my own little theory that Prime has given Jim some of his katra or some such, some pre-emptive awareness of technology to be deployed, perhaps something to do with that other Vulcan ship with the mystery energy signature ... it's right on the tip of my tongue but I can't articulate what the hell it is that I'm trying to say.
The mind-meld issue is getting closer to my 'ah-HA' moment as well, and I'm really looking forward to that. Again Jim's aspirational regard for Spock manifests itself in his protectiveness. He has no fear of mindmelds for himself, but again he wants to avoid causing pain in any way that he can. Perhaps another reason that he refused to meld with Spock in the escape pod was that he suspected the severity of his injury, and didn't want to run the risk of Spock experiencing his death through a meld.
It feels like he and Spock are having two separate conversations, but he knows deep in his gut that they're one and the same. He's done enough psychotherapy in his teenage years, and also more recently with Bones, to know that his need for Spock to accept his commission is rooted in far more than respect and confidence. Sure enough, it is about trust, only at a deeper level than any second in command should require from their superior officer. He can invest in both his professional and personal ties with Spock because he knows, he believes that although Spock might be fallible, he might disappoint, he might even leave again, the one thing he will never do is violate the essence of what they are to each other. r32;
He's confident he can benefit the greatest number of people by relaying that insight to someone like Spock, someone who can think above the chaos and put Jim's instincts to best use. Jim is a born First Officer, not a Captain. It's a humbling but liberating revelation.
I think you’re one of very few writers to postulate this command team combination. Jim has the gut instinct to come up with the brilliant strategies, and Spock is the one to stand above it and apply logic. It makes so much sense!
The conversation with Pike suggests that the two of them have had a strong working relationship that transitioned into mentor/friendship. Pike genuinely cares for people under his command, so it’s no surprise to see him taking a mentor or paternal interest in the partnership of Jim and Spock:
"Have you made it official?"
"Have you bonded, Spock?"r32;
He understands Vulcan relationships, and knows without having to go into detail the natural of the relationship between Jim and Spock. He’s not condemning, but in the light of the next revelation it’s clear that he’s worried for one or both of them:
"I never pulled rank in order to unseal it before; I never thought I needed to. Your academic record spoke for itself, your physical and psychological aptitude scores were off the charts, and Vulcans are notoriously tight-lipped about everything, let alone their sole successful Vulcan-human hybrid. Now, I look back on that decision and I wonder if I did you a massive disservice."
r32;r32;Spock does look up at that. "Sir?"
r32;r32;"I'm going to say this, and I really want you to hear me. Talk to Jim; he’ll understand."r32;r32;Spock's heart tries to beat out of his throat and he is certain, absolutely sure, that Pike can tell.r32;
I can’t tell you how happy I am to see that Ashe has returned. Her unrequited burn has been tempered now by a new relationship, and the revelation of that was a joy to see. She has undergone a massive adjustment with her physical abilities, but this is balanced out by a reciprocal love, with McCoy of all people. I shouldn’t be surprised at this development though, as he’s the one who is always on the sidelines watching what’s going on. I seem to recall him watching Ashe when she was getting ready to leave the ship, and offering her his company back then.
I seem to be quoting most of this chapter back to you, but I can’t help reinforcing the aspects of your writing that appeal to me so strongly. Your visual mastery really shines through in this chapter, Spock standing young and uncertain by the translucent door earlier in the chapter, and now this:
Jim steps up close, brushing the back of his hand against Spock's own. They're silhouetted against the window, dark shadows against the afternoon sun. The air is still faintly warm and tinted gold.r32;r32;
"Yes, I believe we did." Spock allows his fingers to be captured.r32;r32;
"Then what's on your mind?"r32;r32;
Spock massages his thumb into the palm of Jim's hand and rests their brows together.
And this little bit too while we’re at it:
Jim shakes his head and steps away from Spock, his hand trailing behind him, reluctant to part ways.
It’s such a little thing, but it’s that kind of attention to detail that makes the text come alive. We’ve all been in relationships where you want to be in constant contact, and this simple little line brings the memory rushing back.
McCoy’s level of observation and involvement means that Jim and Spock have a freedom of expression with him that as yet, they don’t have with the broader community or crew, so imagine my glee at this exchange:
McCoy wipes a hand down his face wearily.
"You're kind of sickeningly domestic together."r32;r32;
Both men turn. One offers an eyebrow, the other a one-fingered salute.
Jim is still adjusting to their renewed intimacy following their big declaration. Given the allusions to his childhood the idea that he can make himself emotionally vulnerable and receive the same trust in return is a revelation he’s still coming to terms with. Even better, Spock is becoming more tactile – although only in private so far, but he has hinted that may change – and indulging in moments of humour, to Jim’s great delight.
Absolutely PERECT, and one that brings on the CAPS LOCK LOVE, simply because it’s all so entirely in character.
Naturally that means you’re going to absolutely kill me over the next six chapters, but I’m okay with that. For now. Just sayin’. In the meantime though, perhaps this is my opportunity to dangle a carrot or you.
The exchange with Spock and his mother has triggered off an entirely new train of thought for me where Spock and melds are concerned. I think there’s another one in there besides T’Pring by the way … did he lose a bondmate when Vulcan perished? There’s something you’ve alluded to there. Anyway, I was going to start to wax lyrical about it in this comment, but figured that I’ll save it up for the one I’m planning when this story is finished. I’m not stringing you on here, but simply trying to keep my comments on target as I read. It’s just so hard, because I’m getting all manner of insights as the clues you’ve laid in previous chapters are starting to bear fruit!
Date: 04/10/2011 6:39 AM Title: chapter 6.1
s always I'm in awe at the perfection that is your Spock dialogue. You've tapped into the Vulcan sensibilities and have given us new relationships and interactions that are just flawless. I'm particularly taken with the way you are portraying the bond between Spock and his father:
"I believe it is imperative that you understand I have long thought of you as a child of two worlds; always believing you capable of defining what that means, and how it comes to influence your destiny."
"I am seventeen, Father. Most Vulcans my age are still considered children."
"And it is a source of frustration to your peers that you are not," Sarek acknowledges. "Perhaps your mother and I did you a disservice when we decided to allow your natural human maturation to dictate your majority, but I do not think so. Although you cannot see it, you are far more emotionally and intellectually mature than non-hybrids of the same age. Your mother's contribution to your genetic make up offers advantages I believe are often overlooked."
Spock's dad ROCKS, just sayin'. The whole exchange between the two is lovely, but I'm trying to set limits here. We both know what I'm like when it comes to quoting my favourite bits. Of course, the heart-warming exchange becomes bittersweet when Spock's grief over his mother's death is explained in just a few words:
He never has a chance to tell her that he made the right decision, or that he never intended it to hurt her, because the silence lasts ten years and then Vulcan is destroyed.
So as his father predicted and his mother feared, Spock is different and set apart amongst all the humans, and he feels a new capacity for regret. Of course along comes Jim, and then that all gets shot to hell too. My god woman ... you're killing me here!
And then we have the correlation between the two men and their relationship with their families. What Jim's on parole for we don't know (you know, you MINX) but again there's the unfinished conversation with a parental figure before embarking on a new life direction. Spock is uncertain, Jim is damaged, and yet they're both on courses that will intersect.
I loved this:
That night, Jim uses up all the credits on a cheap hotel room, a haircut and the first decent meal he's had in days. New clothes can wait; he sits that entrance exam in his dusty old jeans and creaky leather jacket, grinning at the point of his stylus as the answers fall into place. He hasn't been to school in four years, slept longer last night than the previous week put together and has absolutely no idea what he's doing, but he's a goddamn genius and he scores in the top third percentile.
To me, that illustrates the fundamental differences in the approaches Jim and Spock take to situations. Jim will use every resource he has without a second thought, throwing himself into a situation with everything he has. Spending all of his credits in one go on basic comforts and then blitzing the test. He doesn't care that he will sleep in the streets afterwards, because he knows that he has done all he can. I could waffle on at length about this, but I can't seem to articulate myself very well today. I may stop in again later about this - you've given me a lot of insights here ...
And ... and OH MY GOD. Yep, kept reading and here we are:
Instead, the entirety of his reaction is tethered to the past, embedded in the memory of his overwhelming need to find Jim, no matter what the cost. It is not rage he feels, or mortification; it is a hollow sense of loss mixed with the rush of realization that this is what Jim does; this careless, reckless prostitution of self. It is ingrained in every illogically brilliant idea, every unthinkingly self-sacrificing action, every moment Jim extends himself beyond the reasonable to save a life.
'Prostitution of self' - PERFECT. Jim and Spock's core values are aligning beautifully here, and Spock's determination to stay alive to find Jim makes my chest hurt.
Pike's reaction to Spock's injuries, his guilt at having to act for the needs of the many instead of the few are agonisingly good. Pike has always believed in Jim, and for a while there Jim and Spock exceeded every expectation. Then they were too good, acting beyond the rules and Pike had to step in as a show of command. Of course he hated doing that, but it's the old 'rules are rules' business, even during war. Too bad that doing the right thing has never felt so wrong:
"They get done, Jess. You can't beat their save to loss ratios. They're hands down the best Point team in EPAS, but more than that, Prime Division scores better than any other in psych evals. McCoy gave me the figures before this whole Aspera thing went south, and they're remarkable. That crew, everyone on that damn ship, has been through hell and back twice over but they'd still go out again the moment those boys suit up."
Spock's message to Jim has been SO watered down by censorship or crappy translation or a mixture of both that it absolutely KILLS me. See what you did there? You had me writing in caps. They've got enough confusion going on without important communications like that getting cocked up. I'd like to think though, that Jim has seen through the veil, which is why he has taken it upon himself to bugger off. Does he have a plan? Is he off to find Spock? What's he up to?
Pike has his suspicions, and thankfully he has the ear of the President so he can buy our boys some time: He's talked this over with Jessica and extracted promises from her that have broken both their hearts. Am I right in thinking that Chris is going out into the black to find them as well?
This chapter has exhausted me ... and how I long for the next installment.
Date: 04/10/2011 6:38 AM Title: chapter 6.2
Spock's being very noble and suffering in silence, and Jim has done a runner. Again. Spock is isolating himself in more ways than one, and I'd have to say that he's punishing himself for what went down, even to the point of denying himself any physical contact.
Spock's jaw clenches involuntarily, but not even his training can save him from asking a question as necessary to him as breathing. "Jim is missing?"
Just as well Pike knows that buttons to push, and sets it out in black and white just how respect and how NEEDED people like Spock and Jim really are. Beyond the obvious hell in a handbasket scenario (great conversation by the way), Pike can see the damage that splitting up Spock/Jim has done to EPAS. The two of them were plugging up command gaps for long enough that their absence has left a gaping hole, and now they're seen as some sort of salvation. Getting them both back will also be Pike's atonement:
"The good of the many."
They stare at each other as the seconds tick away, the silence broken only by the low hum of insects, the flit of their wings against the windows. The heat is oppressive, weighing on Spock like the fatigue he can't seem to shake, the weakness that haunts him, the tightness that steals his breath. Pike's evaluation of his personality is flawless. Duty is the only thing that could motivate his direct involvement in military doings. Still, it is not quite as clear as the Admiral is implying.
"There has been no sign of Nero since Aspera. No battles, no use of Red Matter, no advancement beyond the Neutral Zone." Spock steeples his fingers and draws deeply upon his training. "Wherever Lieutenant Kirk may be, he is hardly at risk from Nero, if that is your intended motivation."
"It isn't," Pike says precisely, each word weighted with certainty. "I wanted you to know about Jim because I feel responsible for at least part of that mess, but it's not my primary reason for being here. Come back to Earth with me, let me show you what I know. If you still want to leave I'll make it so nobody bothers you again."
Spock has no doubt Pike can deliver on his promise. It may involve calling in every outstanding favor, but the Admiral will follow through, and it is the certainty of this that prevents Spock from refusing outright.
McCoy is a wonderfully flawed character in his own right. Bristling with righteous indignation all the time, I suppose it has been easy for people to stereotype him into the sort of grumpy doctor that we're all familiar with. I don't perceive him as angry though, rather someone who cares so deeply about his friends that he takes their fears and concerns on as if they were his own.
Leonard McCoy has been many things in his life. As he's grown, changed, been disappointed and pleasantly surprised, usually by the same people, so he's come to realize the one thing you never really abandon is a friendship. Not if you're any kind of human being. So when Jim Kirk turns up on his doorstep with a split lip and a cocky smile, he knows to look deep enough to find the exhaustion behind it.
Even though he's back on earth Jim is still trying to live off the grid, seeking out McCoy instead of his own family, which sheds some light on just how screwed up his family history must be. He nearly made it home, but then when he realised he couldn't do it he sought a member of his heart family instead.
THIS part is just all kinds of wonderful that I simply cannot articulate:
"Oh, can it. I've done worse and you know it. Point is, Pike may have sent him away, but Spock clearly didn't want to talk to me." He pins McCoy with a look that closes that line of conversation.
McCoy can't quite believe that, not after the tentative conversations he's had with the rest of Nix Alpha and senior Prime Division crew. Initially, there'd been a lot of hesitance, a lot of 'maybe it's just me, but ...' However, that soon gave way to the realization that Jim and Spock's secret wasn't all that secret after all. The fierce protectiveness of Prime Division had gagged all but the most insatiable gossip-mongers, but people still spoke in quiet corners, still exchanged glances and smiled when the DivCO and his Point One shared something that might almost be called a smile, or brushed elbows, or simply watched each other with quiet intensity. McCoy has difficulty imagining Spock willingly shutting himself off from that, but then he remembers T'Loren and the strange things Vulcans do when love is lost. He hopes for Jim's sake that there was more to it than simple rejection.
As has been said in the story, people try to seek out the bits of goodness that they can. Jim and Spock had each other for a time, and it seemed like most of the crew had THEM. They respected their leadership, and welcomed the fact that they had found some happiness without flaunting it, because they were still mindful of their responsibilities.
"So are we good, then?" Jim looks up, a little desperation leaking into his eyes.
"I'm not the kind of asshole who holds a man responsible for something that happens when he isn't even there," he says, rather fiercely. "You got out because you had to; a blind man could see that. I just wish you'd told me where you were going, is all."
*CAPS LOCK LOVE* for the way McCoy can get Jim to open up without even being asked. His domestic routine and squabbles with the neighbour seem to give Jim enough of a sense of normalcy to breathe out and start talking.
Jim feels like he has completely screwed up, and now he's all but rudderless trying to work out where he's going to go, and what he's going to do. So he talks to McCoy and tells him what he probably can't talk to anyone else about, and when that makes him feel too raw and exposed he runs yet again. Thing is, Pike is on the case now. Perhaps Jim sought out McCoy in a heart family capacity, or maybe it was an unconscious desire to send up a flag to tell someone - anyone - where he was.
Jim's dream and sense of loss in the wake of Spock's resignation is agonising, and I'm wondering if we're going to get Spock's perspective on that timeline as well. OH BOYS!
So Jim set off running again and ended up working in a place where he could at least feel useful, and to get tangible results for his efforts. Staying dirtside and getting his hands dirty this way is a means for him to keep his focus away from the stars and only focus on what needs to be done each day. No strategy, just mechanics. Even so, he's on earth which is where Spock - and inevitably Nero - are headed. It's just a matter of seeing who gets there first.
Paths are setting up to intersect, and it's just mindblowing awesome to be able to sit here and wonder about what's going to happen next.
Just another random thought about the chapter, specifically the scene where McCoy is gardening. It struck me that whilst Spock is aspirational, in that he motivates Jim to be the best he can, McCoy grounds him.
Guess you could say the scene where Jim broke down in front of Bones was when he came crashing down to earth .. and the garden is a literal interpretation of that.
This is the point where I could get squirmy and feel like I sound like I'm obsessing over this story, but really it's that I've just immersed myself in SO much of your writing lately that it sees to be absorbing my brain ...
Date: 04/10/2011 6:36 AM Title: chapter 6.3
You really do know how to paint a picture with words, and I adore you for it. The neon sign outside, the interior of the garage with Jim lit in profile and the radio playing nearby. Just lovely, and it really does look like Jim (and his location) are literally glowing like a beacon for Spock to gravitate towards.
I'm also really taken with the way you've captured the physicality of Jim and Spock as well, and again it's quite telling. Jim with "a tightness around his eyes that belies the casual pose and longer hair. He is still lean, still built like a Point: strong but not heavy" and Spock "pain blossoms in his chest. He cannot suppress it".
You've taken a different approach with each; Jim is described with the exterior physical, and Spock with the interior. With Spock being so internalised by his logic and emotions, he's injured from the inside out. In the meantime Jim is grounded in every sense of the word, even working on cars and bikes instead of ships, but still ready to run. The balance between them both is further emphasised by the fact that this time it's Spock willingly going into a 'prostitution of self' situation. It's a quality he recognised in Jim about 3-4 chapters ago (I think), and now he's doing the same. *happy sigh*
Again the link between the two pulls them into a tighter orbit than simply by being in the same space. It's enough for Jim to get his anger back and for Spock to reveal more than he realises:
The wave of his grief washes over Spock through the gossamer thin connection they have come to share; less than a bond, more than a simple compatibility. It twists his gut and makes him nauseated. He knows this grief even though the source of it is a mystery. He feels the chasm within himself that reciprocates and empathizes, however unwillingly. He raises his eyes, cannot know that they are haunted. "I was not informed of your loss, but I grieve with thee," he whispers.
Jim pulls in a shaky breath, perhaps relaxing into the resonance between them. "I know," he admits, deflating. He grips Spock by the shoulder again in a gesture of solidarity, of forgiveness. "I can't explain how, but I know you do."
Moving on to the machinations that have kept various wheels turning in their absence, it seems that everything is going to hell:
"EPAS is close to failing," Spock tells him as gently as possible. "The infrastructure is damaged beyond repair. The leadership is reduced to in-fighting and pointless bickering since F-Sec assumed control. It is only through President Wescott's patronage that Pike has been able to commission a vessel to replace the damaged Stalwart.
Aside from the fact that they're obviously a brilliant command team that the crew respected and trusted, morale has obviously taken a major hit since they were separated. That can have the most damaging impact of all, so I can only imagine how reinvigorated people will feel when they return. If the situation with Nero is that bad, and EPAS is imploding, having two strong, trusted individuals return to take up the mantle is going to have a big impact. They're going to have a hell of a time of course, that's a given, but the reserve of trust they've each generated can't be underestimated.
Spock nods, exhausted by the appeal. He passes a hand across his brow and realizes it is shaking. Jim notices, of course he does. His hands reach up to frame Spock's face, thumbs resting on his high cheekbones, fingers splayed against his neck, and it's almost too much contact, so long desired.
"I'm sorry," he says. "I'm sorry I wouldn't let you in. I'm sorry I couldn't turn to you when I know you wanted me to. It's just, the mindmeld and," his face contorts and there's a flash of anger, "I'm not used to having anyone to...I'm not used to having..."
Spock steps forward and envelops him in a crushing hug, Vulcan-strong. "Please endeavour to become accustomed."
Jim laughs and his hands come up to fist in the back of Spock's coat. "Don't let's do this again, okay?" he chuckles, muffled by Spock's shoulder. "The sappy reunion will kill my macho image."
But what fluff it is. Beautifully, achingly understated where so much is said with so few words. Jim has somehow managed to explain (in part) about the mind meld rejection and Spock is telling him that he's there to stay ... until he has to get rushed to hospital.
And then you continue with ... well I don't know what to call it. Fluffy angst? Flangst? Whatever. It's beautiful:
Spock tries to focus on the questions they ask him, tries to provide more than monosyllabic responses to those questions, but Jim's very presence distracts him. Kirk is a bundle of tightly controlled energy, wrapped in his own arms, the fingers of one hand pressed against his lips as though to stop himself from butting in. Pressure builds in Spock's chest, bleak like something unrequited, more painful than he remembers. He is overcome by the knowledge that he will not cope if Jim wants to settle for less than everything they can be. He will not be able to bear it.
The man has practically killed himself to make sure Jim is aware of the offer, that he knows Spock is wanting back into his life again, and that the odds are looking pretty bloody bleak unless they get back up in the black and do something about it. He doesn't want to be Captain, but believes in Jim so much that he'll do what it takes to get him in the centre seat. Fortunately others also think the same, which may be how Spock convinced Pike to get him be the one to make the offer.
Again, MUCH love for any conversations between Jim and McCoy. Bones can read Jim like a book so quickly that Jim is literally squirming in his seat - absolutely perfect! The fact that he's sussing out Jim's motives and possible actions while they're watching Spock get treated shows that Jim doesn't want to move too far away. Even though he trusts Bones implicitly he's already wanting to get Spock out of there to look after him. Again, it's about Jim having a hard time putting his faith in others, only trusting a situation when he's there to take direct control. Such a little thing to note, but to me it's a telling gesture about Jim's history.
It's a measure of Jim's respect for Pike that he stops to shower and change before charging over to see Pike, and its one that works well. I had to smile at Bones bitching about the trip but when Jim has a goal in mind all of that is irrelevant. Same way that Spock's lungs shredding from the inside out was irrelevant when he had to get to Jim. Different scale of course, but I liked it!
Pike is fabulous:
"I did everything but offer you your own planet to rule over, so please explain why you've finally graced headquarters with your presence?"
"You're the one who sent Spock after me, so don't insult my intelligence. He's in hospital now, did you know that?" It's a cruel opening, but the only ace up his sleeve so he has to play it and play it hard.
And then ... *flails* ... and then hurrah! It's the grand reveal of Spock's words! Delivered in SUCH a way that had me sighing:
"He said 'it should have been me,'" Pike snaps angrily. "You were more than halfway dead and all Spock wanted to do was trade places with you. Do you have any idea what that's worth, or how completely that compromises you as a command team?"
Jim feels something desperate lurch inside him. "Does it?" he snaps. "Or does it make us exactly what you need?"
Spock and Jim are both so dedicated to the greater good that they tried to keep their personal relationship a secret. Putting aside the fact that it's against regulations, they wanted to keep everything on the up and up. It is therefore, particularly poignant that absolutely everyone around them knew what was going on. It's at the point now where they don't even have to say anything:
McCoy is there when Spock comes around. It's a small mercy, he supposes, to find someone familiar watching over you at such a vulnerable moment. Still, he cannot help the pain he feels. He assumed Jim would be there. Assumptions are dangerous things.
"Jim only left because I told him to."
See that bit right there? McCoy knew who Spock would be wanting and was right there with the answer.
So. Spock has well and truly put himself out there, finally admits to himself and McCoy what he has done, and then promptly discharges himself from hospital. That's not about avoiding treatment or Jim, but rather seeking out some territory where he feels safe ... and then he invites Jim inside.
The note contains an address printed in Spock's distinctive lettering.
Jim slaps it against his thigh thoughtfully and sucks his teeth. So this is how it's going to be.
They're moving to the next level of negotiation and it's time for Jim to make the next move.
I can't wait.
Date: 04/10/2011 6:34 AM Title: chapter 6.4
The dinner exchange was wonderful, and I'm still inclined to think that Spock is punishing himself for becoming emotionally compromised. He holds himself to a higher standard than anyone else around him, and whilst we're all our own worst critics, for one reason or another Spock takes it to a new level.
Jim's reaction to it all is wonderful:
Jim listens to him talk, employing some of that oft-concealed intellect to follow the highly technical discourse while the rest of his mind is transfixed. The Enterprise is important to him, the mission is important, but he’s hasn’t come here tonight for that.
Finally they're getting a chance to connect again. Jim gets Spock talking just so that he can sit back and listen, and then inspecting his injuries is an excuse to touch.
Without thinking, Jim reaches out, grips one hot hand in his own. He feels compelled, his movement urgent. "Senekot didn't protect you." He gives Spock no time to reply before leaning forward, pulling on that hand, drawing him in.
Again that hints a Jim's lack of trust where third parties are concerned. Without McCoy's presence at the hospital he wasn't willing to trust the system to look after Spock. That smacks of a life of isolation/independence where the the only person he has been able to rely on was himself. Spock left, and without Jim to watch out for him, he got hurt.
I often find myself reading this story picking up all sorts of meanings that I can't quite work out if you're including them by design, or if I'm just so deep into the story that I'm finding meaning in everything, but this part really sang to me:
Ahead of them, the end of the walking path is obviously approaching. To Spock, it seems like an insurmountable obstacle, solid and immovable and laced with menace. He clamps down firmly on his emotions, but can't hide the shiver that races up his spine.
Even Spock can't see what the future holds, and he's aware that they're heading towards the end of something, but that this stage he doesn't know what it is. At the same time though, they're together on the journey.
And ... ah-HA! Shame:
The sound of Jim's apology is all it takes. Spock sucks in a deep breath and presses his lips together against the pain. Jim should not be apologizing. Jim was not the one who ran away, who acted out of cowardice, who was driven by less generous emotions.
They're both suffering in this situation and dealing with it in the same way, so there's more of the symmetry that Spock mentions. They both ran from each other; Spock because of shame, and Jim because of rejection. It's interesting then, that the rejected party is the one willing to fight so much to get it back.
CAPS LOCK LOVE FOR THIS CONFESSION:
"I'm not as good without you," Jim confesses, and it's hard and bitter to Spock's ears. "I'm less than I can be, when you're not there."
The logic of symmetry is undeniable. Spock is powerless in the face of it. "It is the same for me."
"Then please stop holding back from whatever we have," Jim pleads angrily. "I'm not going to lie and say I won't want more than you do, but I give you my word I'll deal with it." He raises his head, pins him with a glare, his expression fierce. "I'll deal with it, Spock. I can keep it professional if you want. I just need to know where we stand. If I trust you again, I can't face the thought of turning around and finding you gone."
I think it might have been two chapters ago where I commented that Spock seemed to be an aspirational ideal. He will always provide some sort of reference point for Jim to strive to meet. I suspect that the appeal Jim holds for Spock though (beyond the obvious) is the perceived emotional freedom that allows Spock to tap into his human nature. For all that he works to keep it repressed, he's a hybrid and will always be struggling to find some kind of balance. It's a huge admission for Jim to make, and even though Spock still tries to step away, Jim follows. It's like Spock has become his truth north, and without a fixed point of reference his life has no direction or sense of purpose. Having gotten a taste of it (and a sense of family) on the Stalwart, he can't go back to living how he was without an incredible sense of loss. It seems it's the same for Spock too:
He's been pared down and sharpened into something else entirely. The revelation clenches in Jim's gut; Spock can never go back, never be the same; neither of them can. The old Spock is gone, mere traces of that emotional naivete left, or so it seems.
That's going beyond the war shaping them, it's about finding something positive amidst all the confusion, and having something to strive for. Again, when you've spent your career working in a team and putting others before you, it's hard to reach for something that you can keep entirely to yourself.
Thank god Jim has this realisation, because just standing there watching Spock walk away without a backward glance is an absolute KILLER. Again, this is visual prose at its best, and it's not just about you describing the action, it's the way you detail WHY he's running that makes it all the more powerful;
Like a punch to the gut, Jim realizes he's been looking at this the wrong way. It's not about whether Spock is going to leave again, Spock damn well is leaving. But this time it's because Jim hasn't been able to make himself say what needs to be said. Spock doesn't care if he's been missed or thought of or worried over. Spock needs to be needed, just as much as Jim himself. He's said it in a thousand small ways, in the continual acceptance of Jim's touch and that raw, slightly desperate sales pitch on the rooftop of Derek's garage.
I wonder who didn't fight for Spock when they had the chance before, or who Spock let walk away? He's never had someone chase him like that, and literally be at their feet begging him to stay, and what an incredible revelation that must be. I'm guessing it's equally nerve wracking for Jim, and this line was just all types of epic win:
Jim laughs, moves forward, takes Spock's palm and presses it into his own cheek. "Go on, I'm serious," he grins, buzzing with the incredible high he's only ever associated with brilliant things that have the potential to utterly destroy him. "Say what you like, but you already know I mean it." He tilts his head, presses lips to Spock's wrist. "Just like I know I scare the ever-loving shit out of you, but you're going to stay with me anyway."
And then THIS little gem describes them both perfectly: Spock's hands are firm on his hip and jaw, scar tissue stretched tight but disregarded. There's more than physical scar tissue being stretched there, and how gorgeous it is too.
Jim's need to fuss over Spock had me feeling all kinds of sappy (and made part of my day dissipate, a fact for which I'm thankful even now):
Jim grabs him, hands going to Spock's normally immaculate hair, smoothing and patting it until it is almost presentable again. Of course, standing that close, there is no way he's going to deny himself a final kiss. That devolves into two, then three. Spock's bag hits the floor again and they're in danger of undoing the hasty repair on his hair.
Komack and Lawson represent the old and the new incarnations of Starfleet. Komack seems to rely on the archaic process, and reveals himself to be a bureaucrat at heart. He has all the different components involved nicely pigeonholed, not able to see the potential of joined forces. It's fortunate then, that Lawson (love her by the way) and Pike are able to see the bigger picture. I'm particularly taken with the fact that a 'civilian' Council representative and the leaders of the NGO are the ones thinking strategically about the whole situation. Of course, they're the ones at the coalface so to speaker, dealing with the immediacy and aftermath of whatever plans are put in place. Again, Starfleet is 'management', and failing miserably but too stubborn to see it.
I've tried to trim this bit down, but I just CAN'T:
"The kid has a way of manipulating just about everyone. It's not malicious or even particularly conscious on his part; he just has an idea of how the world ought to fit together and then does his level best to make it so. It's what made him a good Second Officer on the original Enterprise and a frankly brilliant Point One." Pike shrugs and limps around the desk to catch Spock's eye again. "I thought it would take his captaincy to bring him back, instead it took yours."
Spock continues to stare at the floor, his words slightly obscured by his fingers. "I am not qualified to run a starship."
"You don't have to be able to reverse parallel park her, Spock, I just need you to keep her in the air."
Again it's telling that although Jim is hungry for command, he's stepping aside to make Spock do it. Having lost his faith in F.Sec, he's wanting Spock in the centre seat so that he has a sense of what he's fighting for. I suspect he also doesn't have the self esteem, thinking that if he becomes Captain he's somehow supposed to be better than Spock. Again with the aspirational component of their relationship.
*mutters* I was trimming down my EPIC COMMENT and lost some. Bear with me.
The final component of this chapter is so wonderfully tender that I was reading it having a quiet happy attack for what felt like the first time in ages.
He does not recall ever feeling so welcome in another person's home. With a slight hitch of pleasure, he does not repack his belongings, but arranges them neatly along the sink, a counterpoint to Jim's own.
Again that hints at an isolation in Spock's past, so I'm wondering what or who rejected him, or Spock avoided. Perhaps his human side has always made him more emotional, and so any entanglements would have left him feeling he was losing control and he chose to avoid instead of pursuing. *thoughtful*
Jim's welcoming of him into his home and then their subsequent joining was just so peaceful and quiet after all they've gone through that it made it all the more meaningful. It's interesting then, that Jim has the opportunity to nurture Spock by offering him intimacy on so many levels: a home, honesty, touch ...
Looking back on that night, Spock will be uncertain how long they lie joined, moving then still, embracing then loving. He will just remember Jim's tenderness and his amazing self control. He has never before experienced such simultaneous relaxation and overwhelming sensation. His body and his mind are both so open, more so than any other moment in his life. It seems natural to surrender himself completely to the experience, to simply feel, existing rather than analyzing. The ongoing conflict inside him is momentarily silenced.
In return, Spock is able to offer Jim exactly the same thing in a different form:
Perhaps sensing the conflict, Spock stills, a warm, tall mass in Jim's arms, blocking the sun with his shoulder. They stand together while Jim fights the urge to run like hell and Spock gives him the time to do so, if he wishes. That consideration is even more terrifying, plunging into emotional territory that lies largely unexplored; and for good reason.
"The way I feel about you is always polar opposites," Jim confesses roughly. "Like right now, I want to leave but I also want to stay."
"I understand." Spock confirms, not seeking his eyes, not attempting to bind him.
Jim shakes his head. "I want this, but I don't know how."
"You know," Spock challenges. "Just as I knew, but refused to believe."
By acknowledging their weaknesses and being honest with other, it can only make them even more formidable than they already are now. Actually, Spock's meditation reminds me of the litany against fear in James Herbert's 'Dune'. It seems that Spock has had his epiphany, and the acceptance of his own fear allows him to acknowledge Jim's and embrace it in return.
SO. MUCH. GOODNESS!
*sags back into the couch* My God. I think I need a G&T now ...
Date: 04/10/2011 5:24 AM Title: chapter 4.5
Of course they were going to encounter a battle. Having sat through the Council meeting where they struggled to make people understand just how bad it is, naturally they're going to be thrown back into more of the same. Good to see Taylor step up for a change. It seems that the man may operate well under pressure from a command perspective, but when they're in a holding pattern and everything becomes 'housework', the man can't find his arse with both hands.
Against the tense silence that surrounds them, Jim knows the rest of the ship is scrambling for their stations.
I really enjoyed that little pressure bubble of quiet, like the calm before the storm and they're in it together. That feeling of partnership gets carried through the scene as they get dressed in sync and then make their way to the ship, and Jim's sense of pride when he sees it waiting no doubt reinforces his sense of home. The sense of mutual awareness that they've got going on is going to play well into the 'space' that they'll have around them when they both assume more responsibility too. It's like they've got each other to rely on, and anything outside of that is a bonus.
The action is just stunning in this chapter, and you've captured the sense of urgency and chaos in a way that totally bypasses melodrama, which makes me fall in love with your writing all over again. There's a kind of purity in the way you portray the crew when they're in these situations. There's no cocky jibes or glib remarks, everyone distills into their base essence and expertise to get the job done.
Hoo boy, and then there's the meld.
Jim watches Spock's expression harden. He knows that look but has never seen it on Spock before. It's the expression of a man who's backed into a corner; someone who's only remaining option is one he'd never otherwise consider.
Clearly this is a Vulcan who does not have good associations with mind melds, and this is making me very curious indeed. The experience he has with his patient is clearly awful, but Jim - unlike McCoy - doesn't retreat. McCoy knows that Spock needs his dignity and leaves him to it, but Jim is willing to stay until the bitter end, and pull him back.
Jim can only hear the desperation in it, the total loss of self. He shifts his grip, takes Spock's face firmly, frames it in his gloves. "Listen to me, come on," he encourages. "Get it together."
That reaction is going to make things VERY interesting. He's nearly been strangled by Spock, has seen Spock lose control and lapse into terror, and he's still there. JIM, GET A CLUE! *facepalm*
Spock seems to be equally clueless for the moment, perhaps he's just so punch drunk exhausted that he can't put two and two together.
"Okay," Kirk sighs, putting down his PADD decisively. "The ship's not on fire anymore, and you've signed absolutely everything including the kitchen roster. This can wait until you've slept or meditated or plugged yourself into a wall socket. We're going to sickbay."
Spock watches his Point One stalk around the desk to stand, hands on hips, waiting. Although the Lieutenant seems to draw the line at manhandling him, Spock is not certain the threat is entirely absent. Jim appears most determined.
"Very well," he says, and stands smartly, ignoring the burning in his shoulder and the whole body ache.
When they reach the corridor and Kirk is still following him, Spock pauses, frowning. "I do not require your assistance."
Jim’s smile doesn’t reach his eyes. "You got it," he shrugs, backing away a few steps before turning.
Spock's frown deepens as Jim walks away. He is too tired, too drained to process the intricacies of human behaviour, yet their exchange remains troubling. Although his feet carry him towards sickbay, his attention remains fixed in that moment, captive to a sense of vague loss and confusion.
It seems that Spock can only accept Jim's assistance when he's not feeling like a sack of shit. I'd also guess that he's still vulnerable from the meld, and so physical contact from someone like Jim when he's in that state would either make things better or worse. Jim's confused by the refuff as well, but not to worry Jim! You get McCoy AND Spock fighting over you!
Oh and Harris? USELESS. Taylor may have moments of competence, but his shortcomings are totally amplified by Taylor. This clear gap of ability in the command structure is thrown into stark relief (hell, even the lighting in the scene plays on that) with Scotty's disbelief.
"Lieutenant Kirk, I require your assistance."
"No way!" McCoy scowls. "I saw him first."
"You may have your pick of what staff Lieutenant Scott can spare," Spock counters.
"I consider the matter settled, doctor," Spock says coldly, and gesturing at Jim, sets off towards the bridge.
Fabulous. They've been shot at, injured, the ship is limping, Harris is a complete bonehead, but thank for our boys. Scotty knows what he can do to save the ship, so now it's up to Spock and Jim to get enough ammunition for their argument ... and they're going to do it because there's no-one else more suitable for the job. Even better than saving the day? They're saving the day AND flirting .. When it's not a matter of life and death, Jim can relax enough to have a little fun. I wonder if that's a self-defense mechanism on his part, or if he does it to disarm people even more stressed than he is, like McCoy and Spock. Interesting ...
"Your self confidence is remarkable."
Breathless from the climb, Jim winks. "It's one of my most appealing traits."
"Indeed." Spock grips his forearm strongly, pulling him out of the tube.
Jim's grin widens. "You should get to know my others."
"I believe I am growing familiar with them."
They pause before the double doors to the bridge, and it's not quite a shared smile, because Spock wouldn't go for that, but it's something. Then Spock palms the door control and they're on.
Date: 04/10/2011 5:22 AM Title: chapter 4.4
Oh poor Jim. He's had a major revelation, a shit night's sleep, and just when he thinks he can talk himself out of it:
You don't grunt at someone you're crushing on, it's a rule or something. Maybe he was just tired and a little stressed the night before. He genuinely entertains that concept until he realizes Spock has only his undershirt on, and...fuck.
Jim scowls, shoves the PADD into Spock's chest and pushes past him. "I need more coffee."
The major exchange in this chapter between EPAS and the Federation for me at least, is very evocative of Medecins Sans Frontieres. Here's an organisation that knows only too well the cost of war and mis-management, the loss of life and being in a unique position to study how strategies and tried and failed, and yet they're universally ignored at every turn. It seems that unless you're on the front line, you have no experience, and yet the people running the show can't see that it simply isn't working.
Komack's accusations of bias were just astonishingly myopic, my jaw nearly hit the floor at some of these exchanges:
"It doesn't escape me that New Vulcan lies within your projected threat area," Komack drawls, his eyes narrowed. "Or that your report clearly indicates that Vulcans themselves are responsible for the creation of Nero's secret weapon, this ..." he glances down at his terminal and spits out the term with distaste, "Red Matter."
Spock turns his head. "Admiral, it is unlikely to have escaped any of us."
"And Pike let you speak, with bias like that?" Komack chuckles and glances at the other Council members. "This is a clear conflict of interest."
The Vulcan representative straightens almost imperceptibly, but Jim doesn't miss it.
"Admiral Komack," Spock says coldly, drawing all eyes back to him. "Nu'ri Ah'rak does indeed like within the threat area, as does the Andorian, Robii and Elatsian homeworlds, not to mention interspecies colonies too numerous to mention. Would you suggest that any of their representatives should be disqualified for bias? Or indeed, that with Nero advancing further into Federation space every day, that any one of us, regardless of our racial affiliation, can be said to be uncompromised?"
Ahh there are times when you just can't beat a verbal spanking. Naturally Komack isn't going to let him get away with that, and is immediately looking for an excuse to get rid of what he perceives to be a pest. It's fortunate then, that Spock's logic serves to at least get the Vulcan representative on side. Komack's (suspected) racial bias won't accept that alliance, and so the rest of it is just doomed to fail.
If the verbal spanking was good, the not-to-subtle 'go fuck yourself' certainly finishes it well:
With a glare that is definitely short of respectful, he raises his hand in the ta'al and says tightly, "live long and prosper."
*delighted wriggle* AND somehow throughout all of that Jim manages to keep himself in check!
* * *
The presentation was of course a complete clusterfuck, but perhaps Pike knew that Spock would have the sang-froid to present those (explosive) findings about the Klingon empire with enough logic to perhaps gain a foothold in their awareness, if not acceptance. After that they had no choice but to retire and consider their options, which aren't looking good:
"Yeah well, it's not them who are going to be out there in the middle of this mess, it's us," Jim says, offended. "They get to sit here in their offices and shake their heads about how it might have been a good idea to, oh, I don't know, actually read our report, but you'll be scraping me off a bulkhead somewhere for Bones to package up and post to my mom."
That brings Spock to an abrupt halt. "I will not allow that to happen."
Ohhh protective Spock! That simple sentence is quite the declaration, and - argh! - Jim doesn't pick up on it because he's so busy mulling things over. Jim's kinetic thinking style comes to the fore and like Spock he goes running to seek clarity. It's the most frustrating feeling, knowing that the answer is on the tip of your tongue but lacking the means to articulate it.
And then of course that leads us to Spock's Haircut of Awesome:
Yeah, sure, everything is going to shit and they're all probably going to end up subjugated or dead, but it might be possible that he's finally, finally found his niche.
He really loves his job, which is weird since it's gruelling and dangerous and hardly ever appreciated outside of an immediate sense. He's not making headlines or changing the world, but he is making a tangible difference; one he can see. He loves the people he works with. They're insane and brilliant and some of the bravest people he's ever met. They've influenced him more during his time aboard the Stalwart than nearly anyone else has in the years before. He has a home, even if it's constantly moving, and friends to share it with. He has a life that's worth something. He has people to look up to and a healthy share of respect himself. What's more, he feels like he's earned it. Nothing in EPAS is taken on face value, nothing is ever assumed. Whatever he is among them is what he's carved out for himself, absent the legacy of family or reputation. Surrounded by rigid discipline, endless hard work and little material reward, he honestly feels comfortable just being Jim Kirk.
He disembarks dazedly at Luna, haunted by the feeling that he's just had an epiphany, but the nature of it remains hazy and insubstantial.
Jim is gaining a sense of purpose, and a lifestyle that makes him feel validated, so he's going to fight tooth and nail to keep it.
"Come on," Jim encourages, lightly touching him on the elbow. "Let's go home."
Oh! And belated realisation; Spock and Jim are touching each other more now. Granted Jim has initiated most of those, but Spock grabbing Jim by the elbow to lead him out of the Council meeting was a telling gesture. Perhaps Jim's not the only one needing something or someone to ground him...
Date: 04/10/2011 5:19 AM Title: chapter 4.3
The family angst! The strategizing! The flirting! Oh my!
Wow that starts out with a powerful reaction from Jim. Winona's arrival has thrown Jim completely off guard and so he just shuts down and turns to the person he's already starting to rely on to feel centered. Looking after Spock in that situation - getting him tea and a towel - is helping him keep a veneer of civility on the situation, but it's highly charged all the same.
Silence descends and Spock believes it is an uncomfortable one. The scene is incredibly domestic, openly emotional in a way his home life on Vulcan never was. He is unsure of protocol, but is instinctively aware that Winona must resent his presence, at least on some level. Still, his loyalty lies with Jim, who clearly does not want to be alone with his mother.
Spock doesn't know what's going on, and becomes a witness to a situation he can't and won't turn his back on. It's such a sensory overload, and I adore it. Spock's scandalised a the language Jim uses, and then the hand-holding that has him turning his back to give them a modicum of privacy. I get the feeling that if Spock wasn't there Jim would have either shut her out completely or it could have degenerated into a lot of posturing. I think they're both influencing each other's behaviours in ways they're only just becoming aware of.
Jim scrapes his teeth over his top lip and turns away from Spock. With slow deliberation, he returns to his mother, like a fish on the end of the line, fighting every step of the way. He sets his mug down on the bench, eyes fixed on the handle as he toys with it.
"I know this is hard for you," she offers, taking a small step closer, fingertips resting on the bench beside his own. "We've never been good at this; Sam is the only one who ever knows what to say," she shrugs, boldly covering his hand with her own. "Somewhere along the way, you and I just stopped speaking the same language."
"Mom, we never even used the same alphabet," he says quietly, but his hand flips, his fingers close around hers, holding on.
Spock looks away, discomfited by the intimacy. He hears the shift of feet, the squeak of her raincoat against the bench top and knows they are embracing. The ginger tea steams comfortingly, the spicy scent wafting upwards across his face as he studiously contemplates the view from Jim's window.
GORGEOUS, and then when I think you can't possibly get more lyrical you give us this:
In lieu of reply and backlit by the light from within the hotel room, Spock's little huff of air is unusually visible. It gives more away than his careful neutrality ever will. There is a hint of disapproval for his language, an inherent disagreement with his assessment, as well as the restraint that keeps him from protesting. The breath floats away into the darkness, falling out of the beams of light and into Jim's memory.
This chapter makes me hurt so much for Jim and Spock. It's a chapter that deals with so much of their past, and in Spock's case a trans-dimensional future, that both of them have to work hard to stay in the present. Jim is tired of carrying his history with him:
"I guess," Jim drawls, completely ignoring the escape route, "one day I'd like her to look at me and really see who I am." He turns to Spock, knowing that what he's said doesn't make sense, but still wanting understanding. "Like we're both really here, in this moment, in the present."
And Spock is just TIRED:
From contact with his other self, he fears the feeling will never desert him. His other mind, so ancient in comparison, is honed and sharpened to a thing of immense power. Yet, beneath it all, lies a bone-weary exhaustion that made Spock recoil. To his other self's thinking, the sacrifice, the ongoing effort is worth the price of such solitude. If that is his future, he fears lacking the strength to shoulder the burden. He does not want that life, that realization and that loss. He wants, perhaps, the tiniest portion of happiness; a glimpse of what his father had shared with his mother, not the blazing intensity of love and separation.
That hints at the meld he shared with Prime, where he has seen a glimpse of what could be with Jim, but he's so tired that he (thinks he) wants comfort instead of intense passion. OH SPOCK. Given they're surrounded by so much loss it's natural that he'd shy away from more of the same, but he can't deny what's inevitable.
His other self has worked hard to hide those memories, but something so profound naturally rebels against concealment. James Kirk had slipped into view, different and older, flamboyant and irrepressible; not that man he knows, but recognizable. Spock does not believe in destiny, not within the definition of this universe and declines to believe its existence in any other. He is not the man who goes by their father's name. They are not the same. That is a truth that both Spocks can acknowledge.
DAMMIT SPOCK! It's there for the taking, but Spock is just afraid of this as Jim is. Dammit! He knows the appeal, which is why he avoided the cocoa, but of course Jim can compromise his control in so many other ways.
* * *
Pike is fantastic, all the more so as you've revealed the history that he has with both Jim and Spock. He totally knew what he was doing when he put them together, being able to see the potential of such a combination. How satisfying (and frustrating) it must be to see two dynamic individuals gel in such a way.
Spock glances between the two humans, clearly at a loss. Both Pike and Jim launch into an explanation at the same time, then halt, stare at each other and share a smile. The Admiral gestures for Jim to continue, a strange warmth in his eyes.
Pike can see how Jim is already looking out for Spock, translating, buffering and augmenting where he can. Jim has the raw talent and intelligence, Spock has the logic and strategy, which is why Pike wants to send them in to the Council.
So after Spock has witnessed the intimacy with Jim's past, now Jim has to watch the same, albeit it on a different scale:
Spock reaches out with one hand, rests fingertips on the transparent table top. He doesn't touch Pike, but it is still a question, an entreaty. Jim feels awkward witnessing it, is forced to swallow a sharp surge of jealousy when Pike's face softens a little and he nods.
Jim has gotten used to being there for Spock, and so the realisation that there are others Spock has trusted is something he struggles with. His interest and attraction is gaining more ground here, and his gradual awareness of it in this chapter is just fabulous.
At last we have the conversation where Spock reveals the identity of Prime, which Jim totally moves into a flirtatious conversation, and I love you for it:
"Holy shit, you taught me Vulcan! ... No wonder you liked my accent."
And then ... flirting with math!
"Taking de Polignac's Conjecture, does that make you guys twin primes?" Jim can't resist, knowing that Spock will get the reference instantly, and know what he means to imply; that Spock is no less important, mathematically or otherwise.
Spock gives him the look that Jim privately refers to as the 'well done human, you have exceeded expectations' look.
Jim nods, kind of glad when Spock continues his narrative, because he has the sneaking suspicion he just flirted. Using mathematics. And that it worked. With a mental shake, he falls back into step and listens to Spock's succinct explanation.
Until now Jim's attraction to Spock has been instinctive and reactive. It may have started out with Spock earning Jim's respect, now he has his trust, now it has become something so much more. Those feelings have all the more power now that Jim can recognise them for what they are:
In his head, he leans forward and tests a theory, reclaims a memory, but in reality he just grips Spock's shoulder and squeezes.
A Vulcan and his superior officer? Crazy, but he wants Spock. It's pretty damn clear. Perhaps the only thing that saved him from getting transferred before was the fact that he hadn't come to that realization when they kissed. It would have read to Spock like simple insanity; an impulsive, irrational human gesture. Now that Jim knows better, yeah, different story.
With someone like Jim it was always going to have to be more than simple attraction. He's gone on enough benders to test that theory, but now he's found someone that gives him a sense of purpose and a sense of place for the first time in his life ... and it's his superior officer.
"Fuck my life," Jim groans. "Seriously, of all the fucking people on the ship, it has to be him."
But of course, it does have to be Spock, that's precisely the point.
My thoughts exactly.
Date: 04/10/2011 4:36 AM Title: chapter 4.2
Spock would need to be both psi null and particularly obtuse to be unaware of the relentless swell of empathy between them. He has never experienced it with another, this instinctive camaraderie. The closest parallel he could draw would be the all encompassing acceptance he always sensed from his mother, except that Jim never makes him feels safe in the way that she did; he never feels the same certainty.
That's sublime enough, but the way you take us through Spock's meditative state and his physical control is masterful. I'm especially taken with the contrast between Spock's mastery of his physical wellbeing, and the fact that he has never truly learned to control his emotions:
His solution, though effective, was thoroughly alien to his teachers. Spock has never truly suppressed emotion in his life, he merely channels it into less destructive pathways.
It seems that Spock, like Jim, is a kinetic thinker in his own way as well. It's unfortunate that this time around it doesn't seem to have worked. He's clearly still rattled when Jim intercepts him, and although he welcomes some time alone with Jim to work I think he's still mulling over the situation with Ashe, and the ramifications of any other emotional involvement. Jim might be well enough attuned with Spock to know that something's wrong, but he's left on the outside looking in.
* * *
I'm really taken with the following scenes, because they add more layers to Jim's character: there's the conversation with Pike going over his reports, and then the run in with his adoring public (a phenomenon he's clearly uncomfortable with) and then finally Spock. It's like he's dealing with those that know him at his best and worst, a group that perceives him as a hero, and then someone whose regard he actively seeks out in ways he doesn't understand. It all creates such a conflict that no wonder Jim doesn't know what to do with himself for two days.
For the first time since he boarded the shuttle for Earth, Jim feels a genuine sense of relaxation wash over him. "Spock," he says, giving the bag a little hike up on his shoulder. "That's the best offer I've had all day."
To me it shows that Jim is still trying to establish a sense of self, and by at least feeling useful he can find some sort of meaning in what he's doing and work out who he wants to be. He can't just 'exist' in normal holiday mode, because he's used to obliterating himself to either forget or escape where he is. These days he can see that he's making a difference and it's something he wants to hold on to.
And then the banter. Sweet Jebus, the BANTER.
It's just sublime, and I'm trying to articulate how wonderful it is and I'm failing miserably. Hell, I even walked away from the computer or a while to have a think about it and I'm still drawing a blank.
Quietly optimistic? Comfortable? Relaxed? Tentative friendship? Oh I don't bloody know, but Spock is unbending enough to go out for dinner, allowing some teasing from Jim and even smiling before the outside world intrudes yet again.
Jim clenches his teeth together against the impulse to indulge in one of the numerous curses flooding his brain. She's watching him so carefully, so hopefully, but fuck's sake, he'd actually been enjoying himself. Spock had actually smiled.
So it's a long time since he's been happy, and it was just starting to happen with someone he cared about and then ... hello Winona! Pike knows Jim well enough to know what sort of reaction Winona's appearance will get, and yet he's cooperated. That speaks volumes of her negotiating skills and makes me wonder just what's so important that she has managed to chase him down.
Wow .... *subdued flailing*
Date: 04/10/2011 4:06 AM Title: chapter 4.1
I know I'm going to sound like a scratched record here when I discuss the beautiful way you contrast Jim and Spock, but dammit, your writing deserves all the accolades it can get.
Jim looks wrecked and reeks like a brewery, so naturally he's going to run straight into precision-perfect Spock. Again it shows that Jim is a kinetic thinker who finds release in movement and near self-destruction, and Spock finds relief in control (hence the freak of nature hair).
The conversation with Sulu is wonderful, with so much not needing to be said. Jim's still tied to 'Fleet and wanting to know what's going on from someone who's actually there, and Sulu is trying to protect Jim from worrying but not divulging the name of the ship. They both know what they're doing, and don't have to explain why. Now that's friendship. It's a different friendship to McCoy, who of course would immediately call bullshit, but that's the difference between the old and the new.
The scene with Hannity was brilliant and gross all at the same time, but just the right thing to anchor Jim into what he needs. He sees a problem and is able to charge in right away and fix it. That moment of usefulness pulls him back into where he is and why.
Ohhh, now in the wake of the very latest chapter, this exchange seems to be quite telling. Jim's offered a trip home and doesn't take it, whereas countless others would jump at the chance. Just what the hell was it in his past that has him rejecting his family so comprehensively? His lack of trust doesn't just stem from his Starfleet experiences after all.
I also sense a major plot clue here:
"You know the only thing stopping Nero from blowing EPAS out of the sky is the fact that we keep our complement down. We've got nothing he wants, not tech, not weapons, not casualties or hostages."
Perhaps that's how they're going to be able to sneak up on Nero. By having presented themselves as non-threatening for so long, that would place them in an excellent position to be able to spring some sort of attack plan.
Next of course, Spock offering to be Jim's confidant is .. *PUDDLE OF GOO*
"I do not wish to belabor an issue you find discomfiting," he says, never taking his eyes from the density scanner he's using to assess the aluminium's integrity. "However, should you wish to discuss the cause of your dissatisfaction with the Admiral, I assure you that I will not have any difficulty maintaining confidentiality on your behalf."
Jim looks up.
Spock continues speaking conversationally. "Admiral Pike and I served together for many years. I was his Point One. I do not wish you to believe that this history, the understanding between he and I has any bearing on our own working relationship." Spock pauses, turns to face Jim more fully. "You are my Point One, a circumstance I do not take lightly. If you choose to unburden yourself of this concern, it will be held in confidence."
Jim has to look down at his workspace again, his face burning, his throat tight. He can remember when Pike first came to visit them in Iowa with tales of a rookie Vulcan recruit who was going to be just brilliant, one in a million, one of a kind. Pike doesn't enthuse like that about just anyone, and with the few casual anecdotes that followed, Jim had assumed a deep bond of friendship between the two men. It had never even occurred to him that he could have that, too, or that Spock might place him above such history. He's grateful and it scares him.
There's been a kiss, there's been almost disciplinary action, there's been a broken nose ... and yet there's this wonderful moment. Pike's someone Jim holds in high regard, and now he's joining the dots between previous conversations and Spock, realising that somehow Jim's factored in between two highly respected individuals. That's got to be a bit of food for thought for our boy.
As a segue way, I LOVED the fight scene between Jim, Spock and the Romulans. The seeds for their partnership have been well and truly sewn if they're able to talk in code now, with oblique references to the Art of War before shooting their way out of a window, watching the baddies get snap frozen.
Like I said earlier, McCoy is the one to call bullshit when it's needed, and he can see (and has apparently been told) that Jim has fallen for Spock. Jim goes from avoiding that particular confessional with McCoy to seek out Spock to discuss Ashe. Spock knows why she's left but can't and won't articulate it. In any case, it's a conversation that doesn't need to happen because now she's gone. Jim however, has missed out on the opportunity to say goodbye, although that's probably a good thing given that I daresay Ashe could see the writing on the wall.
In the wake of our conversation this evening, this line really resonates with me:
"You can be a thing, but it doesn't have any power over you until you realise that's who you'll always be when other people look at you."
"Defining oneself through others is both unwise and self-destructive," Spock tells him quietly. "I believe Lieutenant Ho's decision to resign her commission reflects a thorough comprehension of this principle. You would benefit from her example." He pauses, dark eyes measuring. "As would I."