Title: Holiday Revenge (13/13)
Fandom: Star Trek AOS
Pairing: Pike/Archer, Kirk/McCoy
Summary: Sequel to Goodbye, Holidays. Events turn ugly, for Kirk’s enemy has found the perfect way to pay Kirk back for his meddling.
Parts: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12
Part Twelve was posted yesterday. Please read it first if you have not.
The man shuffling away from the automatic doors of the hospital at a pace of someone thirty years his senior catches the curious eye of a few individuals on their way inside. It is his designated driver who exits a truck parked on the curb that reacts differently, simply shaking his head.
“Jon,” Chris says, clearly amused and appalled, “where did you get that walker?”
Jonathan Archer pauses in his laborious trek to consider his new walking aid. “I’ve been shot,” he replies as though that should be all the explanation necessary.
Chris raises an eyebrow. “Not in the leg.”
A nurse hurries through the hospital doors. “Sheriff? Sheriff! Oh Lord,” she despairs once she spies her quarry. “Mrs. Hanson said she gave her walker to somebody. I should have known it was you.” Then she glares at Christopher Pike of all people. “This is why the doctor recommended you wait to be discharged on the same day.”
Is she implying that Jon has been a handful since Pike left the hospital a week ago? Because to Jonathan that sounds grossly unjust, not to mention absurd.
But Pike doesn’t deny the accusation. “If you had to share a room with this man 24/7, you would have escaped at the first opportunity too.”
No less miffed, the nurse snatches the walker away from Archer and heads back into the building, muttering as she goes.
Chris motions to the truck. “C’mon, Jon. Let’s go before you cause any more trouble.”
“The nurses love me, all except that one,” he insists as he is steered to the passenger side door. “She remembers the last time I was forced into a hospital stay.” He delays Pike ushering him into the truck by looking around with exaggerated dismay. “There’s something wrong here, Chris. Where are the reporters? My fans and the joyfully tearful public?”
“In your imagination,” counters Pike dryly. “Get in. We’re already late.”
Jon abandons his disappointment at the prospect of a new mystery. “Late for what? My commendation ceremony? My Welcome Back from the Dead party?”
“God,” his companion remarks, “I should have asked the doctor to keep you longer. You were less annoying when you were on a morphine drip.”
“You’re one to talk, Mr. ‘No, Spanish Soap Operas Aren’t Real Daytime Television’.”
“Not while I was confined to the bed next to you, they weren’t.”
“You have to admit,” Jon teases, leaning in to brush his nose against Pike’s temple as the man hooks in Jon’s seatbelt, “after a while it was more efficient for the staff to have us share the room. I hear we broke the record for the number of visitors in a single day.”
Pike pulls back, still looking amused but now also annoyed that Jon has a point. Then, with a wordless shake of his head, he shuts the truck door and climbs in through the driver’s side. The truck is pulling onto the highway in no time.
Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, Jon wishes there was a way to relieve the relentless ache of his shoulder. He tries to focus on the pretty view instead.
“Stop staring at me,” Chris mutters after a while.
“Don’t want to. I missed you, Princess.”
“You saw me two days ago.”
“But not yesterday.”
“I needed a day to prepare myself.”
Jon raises his eyebrows. “For what?”
“The fact that you have extended medical leave.”
“Oooh, I know. We’re going to be together for weeks.” Jon had asked Liu to make certain of that fact. Not that he plans to tell Chris he had anything to do with the length of Pike’s recovery time.
Maybe that they shouldn’t discuss the coming month (though they will probably fare better together in Pike’s house than they did that hospital room). He smiles, chiming, “Question!”
“Two questions. No more.”
A negotiation. Jon can appreciate that, despite challenging, “Why not three?”
“Because I know you won’t be satisfied with one question, and three questions usually leads to me having a headache.”
“Fine,” agrees Archer. “Two questions. Question number one… about your Number One.”
Pike shoots him a bemused look.
Jon delicately clears his throat, uncertain of how sensitive the subject may be to the other man. “Do you have any regrets?”
“About Jim? You know I don’t—wait, you mean, Robbins?“
“Yes, Robbins. Una. The woman who sat at your bedside and fed you soup.” And Jon hadn’t been jealous while she did that, nope, not at all.
Chris smiles. “I seem to recall that she offered to feed you too.”
“That was your captain.” Jon shudders. “And Greta wasn’t being serious. In fact, had I said yes, I feel pretty certain that she would have dumped the soup in my lap for assuming the offer was genuine.”
“Honestly, Jon, I’m amazed that the two of you get along.”
“Under less extraordinary circumstances I doubt we could,” he answers seriously. “Now stop sidetracking. Regrets. Got any?”
“Letting the love of your life go to D.C.”
Pike sobers all of a sudden. “Una isn’t the love of my life, Jon.”
Archer’s brain has difficulty processing that claim. “…But she fed you soup.”
“Because I looked pathetic doing it on my own. Jon, I didn’t tell you about Robbins because frankly that’s part of the past. Yes, I loved the woman. I still do, except what I feel now has a different quality to it than it did while I was with her.” Chris’s fingers flex against the steering wheel. “That means she wasn’t the love of my life, don’t you think? I hope—would hope—that the person I fall in love with I will stay in love with for a long, long time.”
Archer can’t think of anything to say to that, not to Chris anyway. To himself, he cheers a little, thinking, Chris isn’t in love with her.
He clears his throat again. “Question two, then.” Unfortunately this question isn’t nearly so easy to ask. Jon briefly mulls over the best way to phrase it before finally accepting that there is no good way. “Did you actually want Marcus to die?”
A muscle in Pike’s jaw flexes just once before Jon has a sense of Chris’s formidable control coming into play. “Why are you asking that now?”
Jon regrets his question already, but the part that loves Pike refuses to take it back. “Because you haven’t spoken his name since that day at the hangar.” Not to me, anyway, he doesn’t say. He is certain Pike had to say something to Liu and the federal agents who came with her to notify Pike of the impending investigations, one to be conducted by Internal Affairs and another by the FBI.
Eventually Chris’s voice returns, at first subdued. “Shouldn’t the question be: did I intend to shoot Marcus?”
“I know that answer.” Jon watches Chris glance away, just momentarily, before focusing on the highway again. “You thought you intended to… until you decided you wouldn’t. Otherwise Marcus would have had a bullet in his head no matter who was standing beside you, Chris.” A memory surfaces of the hatred so starkly in Pike’s eyes; Jon forces it away. “But that isn’t what I asked.”
“The questions sound the same to me.”
“You said you wanted Marcus dead. Why didn’t you let me pull the trigger for you?”
The bitten-off, terse “Never” is the only answer Jon expected Pike to give.
“Chris…” Jon quiets a moment before continuing on. “Revenge doesn’t leave room for choices. The consequences—the price of taking revenge—carry no weight with the person who wants revenge. If Marcus had to die for the sake of the wrongs he committed, whoever pulled the trigger would have been a trifling detail.”
“What’s your point, Jon?”
“Ever since I first met you, I knew you could never let someone else take on a burden you considered yours to bear. That’s why I made the offer. The Christopher Pike I know, you were him then—and you’re still him now.”
“I don’t know, Jon. I was tempted.”
“So you had a weak moment. Who doesn’t?” Absently, he rubs his knee with his hand. He knows that Pike doubts himself, wonders if the future where he becomes another Marcus has only been stalled instead of thwarted. Jon can’t take away all the doubts but he can express the fact that he doesn’t share them. It’s with a touch of humbleness that he concludes, “I believe in you.”
A small intake of breath, there and gone.
Jon can only hope the words which changed the course of his life will have a similar effect for Chris.
He doesn’t challenge the silence that settles in the cab. When the truck smoothly changes highway lanes, Jon contemplates a bit drowsily taking a nap.
“Carol came to see,” Pike says abruptly, startling him. “To apologize on behalf of her father.”
Jon turns his head which rests on his fist to look at Chris. “I thought his family was contesting the investigation.”
“Carol believes me. I almost… want that to be enough. Nothing good will come of defaming a dead man.”
“He’s not gone yet,” Jon points out softly.
Chris’s mouth thins. “He will be. She came to tell me that too. Her mother needs a little more time to accept that keeping the body on life support won’t bring her husband back, but Carol says the rest of the family has said their goodbyes.”
Even though Chris relates the news in a flat tone of voice, Jon can tell the man is affected deeply. How had Pike been able to stand it, sympathizing with Carol yet knowing better than she—or anyone, for that matter—the depths to which Carol’s father had betrayed them all?
Jon wishes he could reach across the cab to take Pike’s hand, but the sling on his arm makes that a fantasy. He can only say instead, “Liu said she was looking into someone they can talk to, even if they win the dispute.” I asked her to give me the name of that contact as well, he doesn’t add.
Now isn’t the right time to discuss the counseling they are going to need. Though Jon has no real liking for the thought of discussing the scars left by this experience with anyone outside of family, since Chris could use the support he has already decided to do it with him.
Partners, he thinks, for better or worse.
“That’s good,” murmurs Chris.
Unexpectedly exhausted, Jon lets his chin fall off his fist and throws his head back against the headrest. After a time the motion of the truck lulls him into closing his eyes. The truck is turning onto the main road of Pike’s neighborhood when he opens his eyes again, realizing dazedly he might have actually fallen asleep for a little while.
The vehicles parked haphazardly across the house’s driveway and front yard brings a smile to his face.
He taps the windshield. “Looks like you have company.”
“I have a pest problem.” Chris absentmindedly runs a finger down the bridge of his nose as he suggests, “Maybe you can help me with that.”
“Oh, I think these particular pests are permanent,” Archer says all too lightly. He twists around to unbuckle his seatbelt as Pike parks at the end of the driveway. “Then again, if you hadn’t gotten yourself kidnapped, we could have kept it under control.”
Pike rolls his eyes in Archer’s direction. “Yes, Jonathan, I tacked a sign to my back that said, Kidnap me.”
“Hey, from what I heard, Kor’s mansion has high-dollar booze. Pity no one can locate it.”
“Shut up, you,” growls Chris, swatting at Jon’s head just as Jon slides out of the truck.
Eventually Pike comes around the other side and with a huff belied by a small smile holds out his hand. Grinning, Jon links their fingers and kisses Pike’s knuckles.
The front door flies open before they are halfway along the sidewalk.
Jon doesn’t mind giving up his claim on Pike to Jim. In fact, he has this suspiciously warm fuzzy feeling in the center of his chest just watching the father and son hug. How odd that taking a bullet to the shoulder could have such unusual side-effects. He should ask McCoy about that.
“Speak of the devil!” Jon calls as the person in question appears at the front door.
“Devil, my sainted aunt,” harrumphs Leonard. “Jim, get your five year-old butt back in this house! You knew Mr. Pike was goin’ to get Mr. Archer.”
“Sheriff Archer,” Jon reminds them all imperiously. “I wasn’t actually deposed at that town council meeting. Apparently if you save the day and get shot in the process, you get a pass on all kinds of misbehavior.” Wesley had had the audacity to show up at the hospital after the press release featuring Councilman Nero’s arrest, but the man had been more interested in talking to the cameras trailing behind him than inquiring after the town sheriff’s recovery.
In retribution, Jon had concocted a scene for the cameramen in which Wesley had had to publically state that he knew all along Jon and his deputies were in pursuit of a terrorist organization suspected of being led by Nero or admit that he had no knowledge of his fellow councilman being so heinous. Wesley chose wisely.
Jonathan has a newspaper clipping of the mayor trying not to look disgusted as he kisses a bed-ridden Jon’s cheek in thanks. He’s going to have it framed and hung in the Town Hall.
Kirk pulls his face away from his father’s shoulder long enough to contest, “We saved the day.”
Jon makes a noncommittal noise, then grins at Kirk’s look of consternation. “We did.”
Pike presses a kiss to the top of his son’s head before stepping aside and gently pushes Jim in Jon’s direction with the suggestion, “He could use some help up the stairs.”
Jon really, really doesn’t need help of any kind but he will clearly be outvoted on the matter. Kirk sidles up to him and takes a hold of the arm which isn’t in a sling.
As Pike reaches the top of the stoop, McCoy says something to the man and the pair disappears inside the house.
“Sorry I couldn’t come with Dad,” Jim is mumbling, face turned down towards the sidewalk as he and Jonathan shuffle at a snail’s pace along the sidewalk.
Jon assures him, “No sweat, kiddo.”
“Spock and I had to talk to Bones about… something. And, you know, that generally takes time because once Bones and Spock forget they should be polite to each other—”
“Jim, it’s okay. I get it, believe me. That one time you went with your dad to the Radiology department? Jesus. I had to up my morphine drip because you left those two behind. Do they ever stop arguing?”
Jim blinks. “Arguing is how they communicate.”
Archer doesn’t much see the value in communication that involves flailing hand gestures and acerbic barbs. Then again, occasionally one of McCoy or Spock pauses to listen to the other’s rant and comment more calmly before taking up the argument again. Even stranger, he really hasn’t seen the flare of hostility in their eyes like he did during that confrontation in the precinct.
“Well, better for you to handle it than me.” Or anyone, to be honest.
Jon pauses at the bottom of the stoop. “Kirk, let me ask you a question.”
“Ask,” Jim responds without question.
“I heard you chose to ride in the ambulance with me rather than with Pike. Why?”
For a moment, Jim simply stares at him. Just when Jon thinks his question won’t be answered after all, Kirk says, “I didn’t want you to wake up by yourself and be disappointed.”
No other answer could have floored Archer so easily. “You worried about that?”
“I was so focused on my dad I didn’t stop to think that you would get hurt. More than that, I put you in danger because I lost my head going after Marcus and then Kor. You saved me both times. You saved Dad. I thought, What if the Sheriff thinks I don’t care that he was hurt?” Kirk kind of shrugs. “Dad already knows how I would feel… but maybe you wouldn’t.” He is suddenly very earnest. “I can do better, sir. I know I’ve done enough to warrant your distrust. I don’t know why you’re willing to pretend otherwise when most of my actions were questionable from the beginning. You didn’t even tell my dad everything, did you? So I have to do better. I decided if I am going to disappoint you again, it will be only when I’m certain what I’m doing is the right thing—the only choice possible.” Kirk turns shy. “Maybe you’d be willing to help me figure out how to tell when that is?”
Jon’s eyes are tear-bright. “I think you’re already halfway there but, yeah, I’m willing.”
Jim smiles and thankfully chooses to step back from the raw emotion of the moment by asking Jon speculatively, “Are you going to cry?”
In response, Jon wipes a finger under one eye and shows off the dry skin. “Damn. Nope. Now shut up and carry me up these stairs.”
Jim laughs. “But you weren’t shot in the leg.”
With exaggerated gruffness, he pushes Kirk’s blond head away from him and makes dramatic faces as he lumbers up the steps as a man with one wooden leg might.
Everyone turns to watch the two of them enter the living room, but the only person who races to greet Archer is Porthos.
“Sunshine of my life!” Jon crows to his beloved beagle.
Kirk obediently picks up Porthos so Porthos can give Jon’s cheek slobbery kisses. Afterward Porthos squirms until he is let down and then runs off to the couch to sit next to the occupant there.
Jon raises his eyebrows at her. “Just how long are you taking for vacation?”
Robbins smiles knowingly. “You needn’t worry, Archer. I have plenty of time saved up.”
Jon narrows his eyes.
“Jon,” Chris murmurs, “be nice. Someone had to watch the children.”
Because that fact is so very true and Jonathan fears how Robbins will call in the debt later, he bites back any other remarks.
Then he notices the way the woman watches him and realizes perhaps she has been helping them out in other ways too. Only, how do they talk Kirk and McCoy into leaving the adults alone so he can hear whatever news it is that Robbins is waiting to share?
Chris asks Jim, “Has Porthos been for a walk?”
From the couch, Porthos perks up.
Pike, ever the genius! That’s why Jon loves him. “Who wants a walk?” he baby-talks to his dog. “Who does? Porthos does?”
Porthos thwaps his tail against a pillow.
“Okay,” Jim relents, always a sucker for authentic puppy-dog eyes, “I can walk him.”
“I’ll go along,” Leonard adds, looking between Pike, Archer, and Robbins.
McCoy, at least, isn’t as oblivious as his boyfriend is.
Jon takes a seat in Pike’s recliner, both relieved to be sitting down again and annoyed that his energy level continues to flag at the most inconvenient times. Hadn’t he laid in that damn hospital bed long enough?
Chris always could read his expressions like a book. “Jon, you need something?” he asks Archer with faint concern. “McCoy filled your prescription for pain meds. I could—”
“It can wait.” Jon fixes his stare on Robbins. “Tell us.”
She isn’t one to soften unfortunate news. “Nero’s getting out.”
Pike snaps upright. “What?”
“It’s the money trail,” Robbins says, drumming her fingers on the couch arm in evident irritation. “The paper company he used to purchase the airfield has funding that we traced to a group called Eugenics, which for some time has been on the Bureau’s most-suspected list of national corporations supporting terrorist organizations. Whoever is behind Eugenics is no small fish. Gaius plans to offer Nero witness protection in exchange for information on his backer.”
“What the hell!” explodes Jon, prevented only from launching out his recliner by Pike’s hand gripping his good shoulder. “Nero almost blew up an entire city block and you want to put him in witness protection?!”
Robbins’s eyes blaze. “I don’t. I would rather see your councilman in isolated lock-up for the rest of his life, but it’s not my call. Gaius claims there isn’t much we can pin on Nero anyway that would stick. As a loosely associated accessory to kidnapping, the case will get thrown out of court.”
“Your boss is right,” Chris agrees in a tight voice. “Nero’s lawyers could easily claim he didn’t know I was coerced into meeting him.” He adds, bitter, “Not everyone believes my side of the story as it stands.”
“Which is fucking bullshit!” snaps Jon, incensed. “If your captain doesn’t set those fuckers straight, I will!”
Chris frowns at him. “Greta says she wants a talk with you, by the way. Something about a job she thinks you can help with. I wondered… Jon, you aren’t considering leaving your department for my precinct, are you?”
Archer leans back in the recliner, somewhat placated. “You don’t have to sound so terrified of the idea, pumpkin. And no, I’m sure Liu just wants my expert advice.” He winks at Robbins.
The tips of Robbins’s mouth curve.
Will she be party to updating him on Project Protect Pike? Jon bets so.
“We’re back!” McCoy calls ahead of the slamming of the kitchen door, no doubt wanting them to wrap up any secret talk before Jim catches wind of it.
Porthos runs into the living room with his leash still attached. Jon looks on in disbelief as the dog bypasses his lap in lieu of cuddling up to Robbins.
Robbins removes Porthos’s leash and rubs his sides. “You’re such a sweet boy.”
“He’s a traitor,” growls Jon, struggling to get out of the recliner. Pike helps him. “You can take him back to D.C.”
Porthos barks like this is a great idea.
Archer heads for the kitchen, Pike at his side. “When’s she leaving again?” he grumbles.
“Jon,” says Pike in exasperation, pushing against the swinging door, “could you just for a minute appreciate the fact that Robbins is—” He breaks off at the spectacle in the kitchen.
Kirk and McCoy jump apart.
Chris sighs through his nose. “On second thought, this house is becoming too crowded.”
Unable to pass up the opportunity, Jon leans around Pike. “Kirk, when you’re done drooling on your boyfriend, I need him for a medical consultation.”
“What consultation?” Jim asks suspiciously at the same time Leonard wants to know, “Is there something wrong? How’s your pain level?”
“It’s my hormone level that’s the problem, Doc,” Archer replies cheerily. “How much sex can I have with Christopher, and how soon?”
McCoy sputters. Kirk screws up his face and plugs his ears.
Pike backs up and lets the kitchen door shut in Jon’s face. “I can answer that,” he calls over his shoulder. “None and never.“
“Ah,” murmurs Jon, more at ease, “home sweet home.”
Later that evening, Archer is more than ready for bed. Unlike his earlier declaration, he really just desires to prop his throbbing shoulder on a pillow and enjoy his first night in several days without the noise and lights of a hospital. Across the room, Chris has already dressed in a plain t-shirt and sweatpants for the evening. When Pike chucks a blanket or something overhead at the closet’s top shelf, Jon spies the edge of the white bandage supporting the man’s ribs beneath the shirt.
Yes, they’re both in poorer condition than they have been in a while.
It could have been worse; Jon knows that. One of them might be grieving for a loss like Marcus’s family, or their loved ones could have been left confused and frightened like Jenkins’s wife and kids. Concerning the latter, Archer feels a guilt he cannot speak of easily. His deputies have not yet been able to find a trace of their former coworker, which leads Jon to believe that Jenkins didn’t disappear on his own.
That’s his responsibility to handle, and he will deal with it.
Disliking his own morbid mood, Jon searches for a distraction. A shower, maybe? Sponge baths by a nurse who is pissed at you are not too fun.
When he opens the bathroom door, he has to close it again right away and count to five. Except, opening the door a second time proves that Jonathan isn’t hallucinating.
“Oh, hello,” says the man in Jon’s bathrobe standing at the sink shaving. “Almost done. Just a wee bit more…”
“Scott,” Archer chokes, “what are you doing?”
“Can’t use Jim’s,” Montgomery Scott explains. “Nyota put all her lady things in there and said if any of us disturbed her arrangement, she’d stuff her tampons in places we don’t want them.”
Chris appears at Archer’s shoulder with a sheepish expression. “I forgot to tell you. Scotty’s staying here.”
“In our bathroom?” Jon says, aghast.
Chris supplies in a voice implying that he lost a prior argument over relocation, “In the laundry room.”
Scott pauses to look between them before amending, “Actually I’m bunking on the couch. Equipment setup’s in the other place. Oh right. Mr. Pike, sir, don’t turn the dryer up to high. It messes with infrared scanners.” He mimics an explosion. “Might make them combust.”
“Duly noted,” Chris acknowledges gravely.
Scott turns back to the mirror and finishes shaving with a few swipes of Archer’s expensive razor blade, to which Jon decides the damn item will have to be chucked in the trash.
As Scott towels his face dry, he says cheerfully, “I’ll be turning in now. I heard what you asked Leonard earlier. I’ll just plug my ears if ye get loud.” As he exits the bathroom, he tells himself, “Need to find that wee pup. I finished a prototype of the cam-combat helmet I was telling Jim about ‘n he’s just the right size to wear it.”
Jon doesn’t even have enough presence of mind to yell Don’t touch my dog! as Kirk’s friend disappears into the hallway.
Pike drops a hand to his shoulder. “Jon?”
“I’m having a nightmare.”
Chris sighs. “We must be sharing the same one then. There’s some kind of rotational shift for the others, but from the way Scotty talks he will probably be here for the full duration of our leave.”
Jon stares at the partly closed bedroom door. “We still have my apartment.”
“I considered that. They’d just follow us.”
He bursts out, “We’re not under a damn house-arrest!”
Chris raises an eyebrow. “I guess you didn’t notice the new security cameras on the entrances and outer corners. I’ve glimpsed Scotty’s monitoring system in the laundry room, so I know there are a few hidden in the house too. At night, when I wake up to use the bathroom, I sometimes find Uhura watching me from a chair in the corner. Other times, it’s McCoy. If you check the window, Sulu and Chekov have started their nightly surveillance across the street. They followed us from the hospital today, too.”
Now that Jon’s thinking about, he has this fuzzy recollection of waking up at night to a silhouette of Spock reading by the window in his hospital room but thought that must be the side-effect of his medication. Jon goes to the bedroom window and twitches back the curtain. He definitely recognizes the car out there. “What does Kirk have to say about all this?”
The silence in the room prompts Jon to turn around.
Chris is staring at him pityingly. “My son,” the man says, “is of the opinion it is very proper to guard us from future kidnappings.”
Jon presses his mouth flat. Is that why Kirk avoided Jon’s question at dinner of when he planned to return to his apartment with McCoy?
“He’s stalling,” Jon surmises grimly.
“Stalling, absolutely,” Chris agrees. “But I warned Leonard this morning that he has three days to help Jim pack his bags.”
Jon eyes Pike as he casually leans against the curtained window. “Why three days?”
Finally, Pike smiles. “I figure three days should be sufficient for us to run them out.”
Jon’s mood lightens. “I can do that.”
“We can,” Chris amends, still smiling.
Jon considers the man he loves very much. “And you’re okay with letting the boy go?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
Chris sighs, taking a seat on the bed. “All right, fine. I admit that I may have been sensitive about the subject in the past.”
“And now you’re not. What changed?” Jon asks, more curious than anything.
“I realized I won’t be around forever.”
Unexpectedly, Jon’s heart rate picks up. “Don’t say that.”
“Jon,” Chris says, gaze sharpening, “breathe.”
“What? I’m breathing. That is me not panicking.” His voice betrays him by cracking on that last part.
Pike beckons him to the side of the bed and, once Jon is seated, places a hand on the back of Jon’s neck. The warmth alone settles him.
“I won’t be around forever,” Chris repeats. “None of us will. Knowing that, shouldn’t we be willing to live life to its fullest?”
“Mmm.” Jon is distracted by how close Chris is to him. Despite sharing the same hospital room, the distance between them had been too wide to bridge, not to mention the nurse explaining about catheters and bed pans in the middle.
Now Chris isn’t distant at all. Jon leans in.
Chris’s hand squeezes his neck before sliding away. “I won’t be selfish. Jim has other parts of his life that don’t involve me, as he should. I want him to build that even more, so when the day comes, my absence will hurt him less.”
“I don’t know about hurting less. You’re his father, Chris. Losing you will be painful for the kid no matter what.”
“Thank you for saying so,” Chris says softly, “but frankly, as his parent, I need the reassurance more than he does that he’ll be happy on his own.”
“Jim was lucky the day he met you.”
“I tend to think of it as the other way around.”
“Well,” Jon murmurs, punching down a swell of sentiment at that statement by teasing, “at least there won’t be waterworks when McCoy finally carries him off into the sunset. Or is dragged by him, which is more likely.”
“Funny you should mention that, Jon,” Chris says, pinning his boyfriend with an inquisitive stare. “I’m starting to wonder if you might be the one to cry. Did something happen between you and my son?”
Jon gasps. “Who told you?”
“You just did.”
“What? No no no. I’m on pain meds. You can’t count on me to say anything rational about Kirk.”
“Like what?” a new voice asks.
Chris and Jon turn to look at the subject in question leaning against the doorframe to their bedroom.
Pike turns his frank stare onto his son. “How long have you been standing there?”
Kirk shrugs, which is the kind of noncommittal answer that means assume I heard everything.
A rare look comes into Pike’s eyes, then. If Jon didn’t know better, he would call it sly.
“I told you that I plan to take care of Archer for the remainder of his recovery period, didn’t I, son?” Chris asks.
“And that’s okay?”
Jim nods without hesitating. “You’ll take care of him like you took care of me.”
Chris rounds on Archer. “You will definitely tell me what happened later.”
“Is that an order, Princess?” Damn, but Jonathan wouldn’t be so nervous if Chris didn’t have that devil-gleam still in his eyes.
The young man watching them from the doorway seems less interested in his imminent exposure as Archer’s fan than he does about the concern that brought him to the doorway in the first place. “So, I was thinking,” he begins.
Jon is glad for any change of topic, really.
“Kor got away.”
But not that one.
Especially now that Chris reacts by locking up his expression.
Knowing Kirk won’t leave and also that Pike isn’t eager to encourage any topic of conversation involving Kor, Marcus or Nero, Jon asks on his behalf, “What about him?”
Jim looks at Jon. “We should do something.”
“No,” Pike says.
Jim clarifies, “I have an idea.”
“No,” Jim’s father emphasizes, this time actually sounding mildly pissed.
Jon can only feel pity for him. To Kirk, he inclines his head. “Tell me.”
Chris hisses Archer’s name.
“I want to help but I’m no good with rules.” Jim pauses. “And Bones threatened to end me when I suggested enrolling in the Academy. Said he didn’t sign up to be a cop’s wife.”
Now Jon taps down on renewed panic, marveling privately at how miraculously level his voice is. “What alternative did you come up with?”
Jim perks up slightly. “Spock says we don’t need training, only a business license.”
Pike makes a noise and covers his face with one hand.
“To become what? Investigators for hire?” Jon swallows a gasp when he realizes that’s exactly what Jim is hedging at. “Kirk, you can’t just—”
“Son,” Pike interrupts, “this isn’t a television drama. Civilian consultants are a risk, and law enforcement doesn’t just hire them at their leisure to catch a bad guy.”
Kirk finally faces his father. “Archer will hire me.”
Jonathan nearly falls off the bed.
Jim’s jaw takes on a stubborn set. “Kor just can’t walk away from this, Dad.”
“Leave Kor to me,” Pike insists. “Liu’s already organizing a special team to go after him. I plan to be on it.”
“I know, which is why Spock went down to the courthouse today to expedite our license.”
Because Chris suddenly looks like he’s on the verge of a stroke, Jon rises to block Pike’s view of Kirk. But Chris stands up too, heading for the bathroom, fists clenched.
Jim tells his father’s retreating back, “Number One says we’re the next generation.”
Pike pauses at the door, the only acknowledgment that he is still listening.
“And that means the generation that comes before us should help us prepare,” Kirk finishes.
For what, Jon thinks, but then he knows that answer already. “I always did consider myself the first generation at everything,” he jokes.
Pike steps into the bathroom and closes the door.
Jim and Jon share a look.
Jon says, “He’ll come around.” After all, it’s simply prudent to allow Christopher an hour or so to realize that individually Jim and Jon may be stopped but when united are unstoppable.
Jim grins. “So we’re hired?”
“I’ll think about it,” Jon states firmly.
Jim fist-pumps the air, hurrying out of the room with an excited whoop of “Bones, Bones, I got a job!”
Archer rocks back on his heels and huffs, his brief grin lightening to a faint curve of the lips. He counts to ten.
The bathroom door creaks open. Chris eyes him through the meager opening. “I wouldn’t be smiling if I were you. You’re taking responsibility for this.”
“I know. Isn’t that what it means to be part of a family?”
The door opens a little wider to show Pike considering him more thoroughly. A moment later he comes fully into the bedroom, the warmth in his eyes as humbling to Jonathan as the sound of his approval. “You finally figured it out,” Pike says. “Welcome to the family, Jon.” Then Chris is grinning. “It’s going to be hell but you’ll love it.”
“I already do,” Jon blurts out, then flushes at his inability to play it cool.
Chris comes close enough to slip his arm around Archer’s waist. “I love you too.”
Before reuniting with Christopher Pike, Jonathan Archer wouldn’t have believed it was possible to turn to emotional mush at his age. He is happy to be wrong. His intention of showing Chris just how happy a few words can make him is interrupted by a crash from the other side of the house, cursing in a Scottish brogue, and a dog barking.
“Porthos!” Archer gasps, remembering too late Scott had dangerous—and untested—plans involving his sweet little beagle.
Pike sighs, releasing him and saying with dry amusement, “Ah, the sounds of our life choices coming due. I’ve waited a long time to say this to someone else… Why don’t you handle this one?”
Jon groans. “Ease a fella into parenthood, won’t cha?”
“Don’t be such a baby.” Chris turns Jon to face the open bedroom door. “Remember all those years of chasing after my son as a sheriff? Think of that as practice, except now you can’t arrest him.”
Jon starts thinking very hard. “I could use handcuffs without making an arrest…”
Without another word, Chris steers him across the threshold and closes the door behind him. Jon cannot be certain but the muffled noise coming through the door sounds an awful lot like laughter.
Jonathan straightens his spine, faces his destiny down the long hallway (arm in a sling not-withstanding) and roars like any parent worth his salt, “KIRK! SCOTT! Mommy Dearest is coming to get you!”
Maybe if Jon is lucky, Jim and his friend will take the warning to heart and skip out of the house before Jon locates them. Yes, he’ll just give the boy a little bit of time to run. And so, at a leisurely pace, Jon Archer sets out for the other end of the house, humming as he goes.
To think that we made it to the end… and yet there’s so much more potential left. I couldn’t include every part of my headcanon in this series (that would require more stories) but thought I would share some character tidbits you may or may not have figured out.
1. Agent Gaius – I didn’t pick the name Gaius randomly. In Star Trek TOS comic canon, Gaius is an ambitious high-ranking Romulan who initially had dealings with the Klingons due to the Klingon-Romulan treaty, more specifically with two Klingons, Kor and Koloth. That’s not to say that he trusted Kor or Koloth – Klingons and Romulans aren’t allies in the truest sense of the word – but he did have the wool pulled over his eyes by Kor and Koloth and ended up believing that his greatest enemy was none other than James T. Kirk.
2. Gretchen Liu is in actual AOS canon (seen in STXI). We didn’t have more than a few seconds of footage of her, but I thought since she was ranked as an Admiral, she ought to have a tough-as-nails temperament to rise to that position. At one time Pike would have been her subordinate. It made sense then to translate that relationship to the captain-detective one existing in this series.
3. It goes without saying that Marcus was not a good person in this story. However, I tried to bring some perspective to his crimes – the origins being the accident with his daughter, Carol – and reflect that in Pike, who by the beginning of the story is in a place extremely similar to Marcus’s years ago. By no means is revenge a simple or rational act. I think anyone could take revenge, generally speaking, but not everyone chooses to. How is that decision made? And when does a person seeking revenge come to the point of no return? How easy would it be to rationalize worse actions after the one bad deed is done? Ultimately, I don’t want you to like Marcus but I want you to pity him on some level, because if you pity him then you accept that he was once a human being who, when he and his family were in pain, made a bad decision—and aren’t we all capable of that?
4. Nero, Nero, Nero. He’s not like the Nero of STXI… or is he? We don’t have a definite answer from this story. He’s colder, crueler, and possibly more fanatical. Yet there is no indication as to why he acts the part of a caring politician in public and that of a terrorist in private; well, no indication other than that Nero enjoys wreaking havoc and perhaps more so the power he wields because of it. What are the odds he started out as a man seeking revenge, like Marcus, and has become what he is currently by continuing down that dark path? Again, the answer isn’t clear, except for what matters most: Nero is too far gone to stop himself and therefore must be stopped.
5. Who is the ultimate bad guy in this story? I knew going in that it wouldn’t be Nero, which is why the reader didn’t cross paths with him until nearer to the end. The ultimate bad guy wouldn’t even be the initial kidnappers, Kor and his faithful Brothers. Marcus seemed like one for a long while but was actually only an instrument that danced to the tune of both Kor and Nero. He envied others for their freedom but most especially envied Pike, who was free and respected by many for being a straight-laced, honorable man; the kind of person that Marcus had given up on becoming. Yet… despite setting events in motion, Marcus is a passing villain, not our ultimate bad guy either. Therefore one must conclude that someone worse exists. A person who profits from the evil deeds of men like Marcus, Nero, and Kor, who has the cunning to remain hidden, and who has the power needed to entice those hungry for it. In other words, I saved the best of the ‘baddest’ for last, literally.
5. Which brings me to the final point. Who are our good guys? You saw them in various shades, separate agents in the beginning but working together by the end. Our most familiar characters are still young yet and growing into their potential, which is why this story – and series, for the most part – has focused on the generation that will nurture that potential and raise their young to defend and protect the ones who need defense and protection. It began with Pike alone in this role, learning to be a father and to raise a son. But families are meant to grow, and so the Pike-Kirk family has grown just by virtue of how it was built: by the willingness of someone to accept less than perfection and to offer love and kindness to the one who might otherwise live without it. Were I of a mind to continue this series, there would be more shenanigans, yes, and bigger bad guys to catch, but at the heart of the story the theme would always come down to family and the strength in unity which arises from a family-like environment. This is a tenet of Star Trek in any incarnation, and hands down my favorite one.
Thank you, everyone, for giving your time and attention to the adventures of our Holiday crew. Whether the characters are in a Merry Gang or pissing off town councilors or poking noses into each other’s love life, I think we can conclude that this alternate universe was never once boring.
I’ll end this note by asking a favor of you: tell me your favorite character in this series and why. I couldn’t pick just one if I tried, so I am curious to know if others can!