Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek or any of its characters.
AN: I confess I'm a bit nervous sharing this, and I so hope it's enjoyable to you all as I continue to update this story. I'd love a willing beta reader or two, especially one well-versed in the more technical side of ST.
UPDATE: Thank you for your reviews (which have been helpful and encouraging!), follows, and favorites. I appreciate them all! I will be posting the next chapter soon. :)
The bridge crew had just finished singing. Bones warned him about this celebration yesterday, when they'd both been worn and tired from their returning visit to a flora-filled moon. Bones had Jim carrying oodles of plants in test viles and boxes he wanted to examine. They'd taken the ship's biologist and an ensign as well but unfortunately, they reacted to an allergy to one of the flowers, even with gloves. The twelve hours of constant itching and burning ceased only due to the Enterprise's head medical advisor- Bones. Worrying about those two and running away from an attacking snake-like vine had hit his reserves and Jim could hardly protest.
He'd not had a birthday party since he was five, and that was the only one he remembered ever having. It was touching, slightly embarrassing, but he was determined to try to enjoy it all.
Sulu tossed him a box. "Happy Birthday, Captain." Chekov, another.
"Wait, aw man, Sulu, Chekov," Jim muttered. His friends knew he didn't want pomp and circumstance and even a gift unnerved him. Let alone the singing.
"Jim, just open them already. And then we can eat your cake." Bones had a stupid grin on his face.
"Cake?" You've got to be kidding me. He couldn't concentrate to open his gifts when they were throwing cake at him. I hate cake. He'd take leftovers to the poor ensign and biologist recovering in sickbay.
"Carol made it, you know," Sulu winked. The fencing master already knew of his slight obsession with her. He sat in the mess hall next to Sulu just to appease Bones and to see Dr. Marcus from far away.
"That won't even tempt him to try it," Bones snickered.
Jim took that as a challenge. He looked at Carol Marcus. "I'd love to have a piece of my cake." His smile came easily as she beamed at him.
"Seriously? You'll eat her cake but not the cake I made for you each year at the Academy? What kind of a friend are you," Bones complained.
"One who apparently does not like your cooking," Spock said. The bridge was silent. Then Uhura busted out laughing, then Sulu, and all the rest of them.
Spock had cracked a joke. Ha. Now there's the birthday present of the century. He smiled to himself as he opened his presents and awaited that cake. It came as he thanked his "guests."
The candles were lit and all he wished for as he blew them out was the happiness of his crew.
Uhura cut a piece for him, handing it to him with a grin. "I knew you'd eat this. A man who doesn't like dessert made by his roomie will love one baked by a pretty woman."
He rolled his eyes. "That's not why I'm eating it." Carol frowned. Oh boy. "I mean, you're not pretty."
"Jim! What's wrong with ya, man?" You got me, Bones.
"Oh, sorry...Um, I mean..you're beautiful, not just pretty, but I really want to eat this cake..." He bit his lip, twirling the fork in the icing. What did I just say? Jim Kirk does not bumble when he talks to a woman.
He bit into the awaiting piece then, just as the alert rang through the bridge.
"Captain, we are receiving a message from an unknown source." Spock had not left his board as the celebration ensued.
"Try the red button." Jim chewed the cake mercilessly. It was the best dessert he'd ever had.
"Captain, there are numerous red buttons here. To which one are you referring," Spock asked.
"Fifth from the left, second row down."
"I have not been informed of this...button." Spock stated.
"No, I just put the sequence in yesterday. After we had that problem..."
"Captain, it is not working." Spock didn't let him finish. "It is still unknown."
"Keptin, it's overtaking our system."
"I have a bad feeling about this," murmured Sulu. "I got nothing, either."
Jim sat in the commanding chair, straighter as he shrugged off his light-heartedness of the party. What is this...
The bridge darkened as the power surged then fell away. Five seconds passed, Jim barking orders to Spock and Sulu. They managed to return their power and with it, a message glowed on the screen. It blinked a few words, than swiped itself blank and blinked another.
The first words: Are you enjoying your cake...
and the last: JT?
A plate shattered on the floor. The Captain's.
McCoy hightailed it to Jim before Spock left his station.
"Doctor, why is the captain not catching his breath?" Spock knelt in front of the captain while McCoy ordered Jim to breathe.
"He is having a panic attack." McCoy said reading his tricorder. "Breathe, Jim. Get that off the screen, Spock!"
"Chekov, please do everything you can to remove that message."
The captain's choking brought Dr. Marcus to Jim's side. She murmured to him.
"Panic attack." Spock lifted an eye at the doctor's evaluation.
After another ten seconds of seeing Jim in pain, and neither McCoy nor Marcus able to get Jim to calm down, Spock pressed his fingers on Jim's neck.
Jim, you're safe.
Spock? He found me.
I can't tell you. Can't breathe.
You don't have to tell us. We need you to be our captain, Jim.
He pressed lightly, not forcing his way into Jim's menagerie of memories, but a fierce attempt to help the captain relax. Jim gasping turned into wheezing, then choking.
Let us help you. We are your friends.
Friends. Yes. You are my friend.
Jim took shorter breaths, eyes no longer glassy but still unfocused. Dr. Marcus brought him water. McCoy tipped it to his mouth and most of it missed Jim's mouth, but it brought his attention back to the bridge.
"Hurts," Jim rasped. He licked his lips.
"Give him that sedative, Dr."
Jim shook his head. "No, I'll be fine." He waved them away, but no one moved. Another gasping breath, and McCoy brought the hypospray down on Jim's neck with practiced precision. The Captain's battle for oxygen lessened.
"Security," Spock said, "Help get Captain Kirk to sickbay. Immediately." Jim was not unconscious yet but his reflexes slower. He could not get himself out of the hold McCoy and Spock had him in.
It was an reaction not so unfamiliar, and why McCoy had kept spares of the things Jim Kirk needed since he brought him on the Enterprise for the first time.
The next day, Jim Kirk came back with a vengeance. He would not answer anything about the message on the bridge and he was as diligent in his duties as ever. Spock could not help to think the worst was about to come, but even McCoy would not cooperate.
"A slow, boiling pot," Uhura had responded to him as he shared his thoughts. "I do not know what the name "JT" means to Jim, but it could certainly pertain to him, Captain James Tiberius...Kirk."
"You are correct. I am certain it's a message for him. It is quite unfortunate that we seem to be at his mercy to inform us when he is ready."
"Ever since I met Jim Kirk, he has beat the odds, challenging my impression of him. This is just one more missing piece."
"Uhura," Spock was set to agree with her, but she rushed into a torrent of words.
"And you, you have to be the most confounded. He's bested you, overcome you with his wit and intelligence, made the first attempts at friendship with you- yet you struggle to understand him. I do not think, now, that it is your fault. It's Jim, and all the layers of himself. And I want to help you understand him." She laughed. "I guess this means I have to forgive him for all the flirting he did with me."
"Obviously, you are taken in by his... charm." Spock said, using the word he'd heard the young ensigns use to describe their captain. He had to agree, having seen this human characteristic the prerequisite for reporters following Jim's saving earth to hail him a hero in every good light. And again when news leaked of some mysterious illness Captain Kirk was healed of, even though his journey to a clean bill of health was months, he was hailed as a hero for weeks on end, to Jim's chagrin.
"Your dry humor could be confused with jealousy." Uhura teased. "You have to admit, he's created more peace treaties in our five month journey than most captains twice his age have in their lifetimes. His presence just calls for it, Spock. And those eyes, electrifying, magnetizing..."
"What, Spock?" Her expression was wide and innocent as they walked together after their shift on the bridge.