Rating: PG for mentions of violence
Summary: It says a lot about his life that Jim's no longer surprised to be waking up in sickbay with no idea of how he got there.
Notes: Written for extraonions for help_haiti, who said "I am a big fan of hurt/comfort, Kirk!whump, any kind of story where the other characters are concerned about Kirk, discuss these concerns with each other, and generally hover and mother hen him (either with or without him noticing). You can write me 1,000 words of everyone on the Enterprise monitoring Kirk's emotional state and nutritional intake and making him wear mittens and it will hit every button I have :)." I may have taken this a bit more literally than it was intended. I hope you enjoy it! :D Huge thanks to Ari and Rachel for the beta.
It says a lot about his life that Jim's no longer surprised to be waking up in sickbay with no idea of how he got there.
Admittedly, at first he isn't entirely sure he's in sickbay, because the return to consciousness is slow and sleepy, but typically Bones and Nurse Chapel don't have conversations about his O2-sats in his quarters, so it's probably a pretty safe guess. When Jim opens his eyes, he sees the familiar sickbay ceiling, and resigns himself to yet another patented Bones-lecture about allergies or concussions or possibly alien STDs.
And then he actually lifts his head, and sees two Spocks, standing with Bones and Nurse Chapel at the foot of his bed.
"Morning," says Jim after a moment, drawing the attention of doctor, nurse, and Spocks alike. "Did I miss something?"
Old-Spock – who really needs a better name than that – nods indulgently at him. "Good morning, Jim," he says.
"Captain," says Spock-Spock.
"Christine, double-check his blood pressure and get a hypo of threnadine just in case," says Bones. "Jim, how're you feeling?"
"Confused," says Jim, as Nurse Chapel rounds his bed to check the display. "How did I end up here this time?"
Bones glances at Old-Spock, who glances at Spock-Spock, who just raises an eyebrow in response before apparently giving in. "What is your most recent memory?"
Jim frowns. "We were on the transporter pad, about to head down to the capitol city of Ujawe IV. Scotty was about to transport us - " A thought seizes him, and he quickly does a limb-check – they're all there. "About to transport us, and then...I woke up here."
The bizarre relay of glances begins again, and Jim gets even more suspicious. "Okay, how long ago was that?"
Bones straightens a bit, uncomfortably. "About a week."
"I lost a whole week?" demands Jim, trying to sit up, but Chapel immediately pushes him back down.
"Stay calm, Captain," she says, and Jim decides not to push her. Partly because he can see the glint of a hypospray in her free hand.
"What about the summit, then?" says Jim. "If it's a week from now – if I missed a week, then what happened at the summit?"
"The summit is still underway," says Old-Spock. "I am here as part of the delegation from New Vulcan, as ambassador."
"Oh, hey, congratulations," says Jim, and Old-Spock - Ambassador Spock – smiles at him again. Both Bones and Spock look somewhat disconcerted by the expression. "Okay, somebody start from the beginning."
Ambassador Spock turns to Young-Spock, Bones, and Nurse Chapel. "If we might have a moment alone...?"
Bones raises his eyebrows, and Christine just rolls her eyes – this is by far not the first time she's been kicked out of her own sickbay. Young-Spock gives the telltale, ever-so-slight hesitation coupled with the minuscule considering tilt of his head that means that he's hesitating, before he nods in assent.
"I must return to the bridge," he says. "Doctor, if you will accompany me...?"
This time Bones flat-out scowls, but Christine leads them all out of sickbay. Jim can hear bits and pieces of their receding conversation:
"I can't indulge their medical curiosity much longer, Commander."
"One would think your capacity for indulgence would be somewhat broader due to your relationship with the Captain."
"Was that the Vulcan idea of a joke?"
"Vulcans do not joke."
"Yeah, next you'll be telling me the sky is blue."
"Not in space."
"Green-blooded ironic son of a - "
Despite the circumstances, Jim can't help but grin a little, and from the expression on Ambassador Spock's face, he was eavesdropping too.
"I kept wondering when you two would start to get along," Jim says, sitting himself up in bed. "Seventeen months in and still nothing."
"If you intend to wait for us to stop arguing, you will be waiting a very long time," says Ambassador Spock, with an upward slant to his mouth that may just be a reminiscing smile. "On the other hand, if you are waiting for us to become friends, you won't be waiting quite as long."
"That's good to hear," says Jim. "I guess the Ujawe are impressed with Bones?"
"As well they should be," says Ambassador Spock.
"True enough," agrees Jim. "The miracles he pulls out of his ass, sometimes I think he could bring back the dead."
Spock raises an eyebrow. "A fascinating choice of words," he says, but doesn't elaborate. "The Yalerites had put a plant on Ujawe IV," he says, and Jim blinks at the sudden change of subject. "They have, apparently, been experimenting with psychic abilities and neural patterns, and had created a prototypical specimen with the ability to impose his own neural patterns on another. For obvious reasons, you were chosen as the first test target."
Jim frowns. "So I was...what, possessed?"
"I suppose that is one manner of phrasing it," agrees Ambassador Spock. "The sophistication of the neural imprint allowed him to access your memories. I believe the intention was for him to murder the Ujawean delegate in full view of the summit, to block Ujawe IV's entrance into the Federation and, of course, create political chaos."
Jim goes still. "And somebody stopped me just in time, right?"
Ambassador Spock nods, and Jim relaxes a little bit. "Although there was a temporary hostage situation."
"Who was the hostage?"
Spock looks at him levelly. "You were. Although I am not a member of your crew, nor in any way affiliated with the Enterprise, I would recommend to you that you tread carefully with your crew for a while. They seem quite...shaken."
"I'm obviously fine," protests Jim, swinging his legs off the bed and standing up. "Look at me – I feel fine, the imprint or whatever's gone - "
"And they all remember watching their Captain hold a phaser to his own head," says Ambassador Spock. "For many of them, you are the only Captain they have ever known. I daresay they've all grown quite fond of you by now."
Jim looks away, weirdly discomfited by the praise. "Any other casualties?"
"Only your dress uniform," says Ambassador Spock, and Jim would swear there's the ghost of a smile in his expression. "Unfortunately, although it served well, it was lost in battle."
Jim somehow manages to keep a straight face. "It will be remembered with honor," he says, before his lips twitch and break his composure altogether. "How long before you learn how to joke?" he adds, outright grinning, before a thought occurs to him. "Hang on – how did I lose my uniform?"
Ambassador Spock shakes his head, but he's definitely smiling now. "I would not want to deprive my counterpart the experience of telling that story," he says, and Jim goes still with horror. "Unfortunately, I, too, must return to the summit."
"I understand," says Jim, sitting back down on the edge of the Sickbay bed. "If it's been a week, then there's only another day, right?"
Ambassador Spock nods. "My shuttle will depart tomorrow morning at oh-six-hundred," he says.
Jim nods back. "I'll be there."
"It is...gratifying," says Ambassador Spock, slowly, "to see the Enterprise becoming the ship I remember. And to see you become the Captain that I recognize – from the history books as well as personally." He raises his hand in the familiar salute. "Live long and prosper."
Jim smiles crookedly, returning it as best he can – his fingers don't seem quite suited to the new configuration. "You, too, Ambassador."
The next set of orders after the summit ends takes the Enterprise to Weshemia, which is a good week's travel away even at Warp Five. Jim is almost glad for the break, since his crew seems to be going a little bit crazy.
"They're good for you," says Crewman Ulrich stubbornly.
"They're green," says Jim, through gritted teeth. "Also, I have an aversion to plants that can grow in Venusian atmosphere, which, in case you've forgotten, is sulfuric acid."
"Sembarini have iron and calcium," replies Ulrich. "Besides, they're already on your plate, and Starfleet Health & Safety regulations forbid us from taking back food that's already been put on a plate."
Jim pulls his plate towards him, trying to ignore the extremely disconcerting way the sembarini roll around on it, knocking into his burger and fries, and decides to be the bigger man and not point out that Ulrich gave him the damn vegetables without asking him. That, and he doesn't think it would help at all.
He makes his way back to the table where Bones is sitting, intent on his PADD, and sits down across from him.
"Sometimes I think half of this crew has no idea what it means that I'm the Captain," Jim says, gesticulating with a fry.
"According to half the Starfleet brass, neither do you," Bones points out, setting aside the PADD. "What's this about?"
"Crewman Ulrich gave me sembarini when I didn't ask for them," says Jim.
"So? They're good for you."
"So, have you noticed that things have been a little weird since the summit?" presses Jim. "Nurse Chapel asks me how I'm feeling every time I pass her in the hallway. Lieutenant Sefarides gave me a belated get-well-soon card, and Verisee made me cookies."
"Those were eighteen-month-anniversary cookies," interrupts Bones. "He gave me some, too."
"People are actually saluting me," Jim continues, undeterred. "I don't know what's going on, but it feels like a conspiracy."
"A get-well-soon conspiracy?" Bones gives Jim his patented you're-losing-it look. "Really?"
"Have you got a better explanation?"
"Actually, yes. You're the Captain – you've led us into dangerous situations a million times before, and hell, this wasn't even the first time you've been a hostage. But this was the first time that there was nobody we could shoot or fight to get you back." Bones shrugs. "So some people might be taking it a little hard."
Jim wrinkles his nose. "I'm not immortal, Bones."
"And there's no one on this ship who knows that better than me – your doctor." Bones shrugs. "But you're damn good at pulling plans out of your ass, and this time you didn't. Now eat your sembarini – you need the iron."
"They look like peeled eyeballs," says Jim.
"Having dissected eyeballs, I can speak with experience when I say that they do not," Bones replies, picking up his PADD again. "Now quit complaining and eat them. They're good for you."
Jim grabs his tray. "I'm going to eat with Scotty."
"That is so lunchroom politics I almost can't believe you," says Bones, even as Jim stands up. As Jim walks away, he could almost swear he hears Bones mutter, "Infant."
He sits down across from Scotty. "Hey, Scotty," he says, ignoring the dirty looks he's sure are coming from his former dinner partner. "How're things in Engineering?"
"Oh, they're brilliant," says Scotty, getting that gleam in his eye, and Jim half tunes out the enthused lecture, keeping an ear out for any words of phrases that might imply that Scotty's upgrades are reaching potentially-lethal levels. Mostly he just eats his fries until something Scotty says catches his attention.
"Sorry, what?" he says.
Scotty points to the sembarini. "Aren't you gonna eat those?"
Jim wrinkles his nose. "Probably not," he admits. "Why – you want them?"
Scotty just gives him this incredibly affronted look, as though he's been personally insulted. "Captain," he says, very seriously, "there are starving Starfleet personnel on Delta Vega who would love sembarini like those."
"Are you serious?"
"Besides," says Scotty, "they're good for you."
Sparring with Spock turns out to be the best workout Jim could hope for, if only because Spock seems to think that the highest law of Starfleet is Don't Beat The Crap Out Of Your Commanding Officer, Even When He's Leaving His Left Side Wide Open. So Spock always pulls his punches, just enough to make the blow felt but not enough to actually bruise or hurt that most.
Well. When Jim doesn't forget that ducking usually involves moving away from the moving fist and not into it.
"I'm fine," he insists, pinching the bridge of his nose and tilting his head forward.
"The copious amounts of blood would beg to differ," says Spock, still cool as a cucumber for all that he probably just broke his Captain's nose. And for that matter, Jim's eye socket is aching too, weird pulsing pains that mean Jim's going to have a black eye for quite a while, even with all the doohickeys in sickbay.
Also, he just seriously thought "doohickeys," so a concussion isn't off the table either.
"It's just a nose bleed," says Jim, even though it comes out more like "Ib's juss a nose bweed."
"You're staining the gym floor," Spock points out, still unperturbed.
"Cold water and bar soap, it'll be fine." Jim gently lets go of his nose, careful to keep his face tilted forward just in case, but no fresh blood trickles out so he figures he's good to go. "There. See? No more bleeding."
"Nevertheless, I must insist - "
The doors to the gym don't burst open, because of course the automatic sliding doors are physically incapable of such an action, but the sheer enthusiasm that Ensign Chekov has as he barrels in makes it seem like they do.
"Captain!" He stops dead when he sees Jim and Spock in their unofficial physical-exertion clothes, but his eyes widen when he sees the blood. "Captain?"
Jim narrows his eyes. "Sparring accident," he says. "Which you found out about pretty quickly."
Chekov's eyes widen innocently. "Ah," he says. "Well. Yes. I heard shouting and thought it could be a situation that required investigation."
Spock inclines his head all of two degrees and steps forward just a little bit with one foot, so his body is facing more towards Chekov. "There was no shouting," he says. "Although the Captain swore profusely, he did so quietly enough that you could not have heard him from outside the gym."
"And for that matter," Jim continues, "if you heard the shouting right when it happened, why did it take you so long to get here?"
Chekov blinks, then straightens, assuming the posture of an ensign about to tell a huge lie that only sheer audacity will be able to pull off. "Captain, I have been working on a possible lifesigns-monitoring program designed to automatically alert sickbay or other ship authorities when lifesigns parameters exceed recommended levels."
Jim can, unfortunately, see where this is going. "Uh-huh. And what level of development is this little project at?"
"It is still in the beta stages," hedges Chekov.
"So no subjects yet?"
Chekov blinks. "Only one, sir." He clears his throat. "You, sir." He sees Jim's expression and hurriedly adds, "It was the most logical choice, sir – the program as it is currently coded is only feasible to test on one subject, and since you're the Captain and the most important person on the ship and you keep getting injured in different ways every time - "
"Ensign, I believe you are only digging yourself in deeper," says Spock. "Dismissed."
Jim points to the doors as they close after Chekov. "You see what I have to put up with?" he says, only mostly rhetorically.
Spock raises an eyebrow in consideration. "There are many cultures that believe that the amount of trouble we encounter is roughly proportional to the amount of trouble we cause for others," he points out. "That what we are given is what we give...and that most of the trouble we encounter we bring upon ourselves by causing it for others."
Jim glares at him. "And what's that supposed to mean?"
"I was simply making an observation," says Spock smoothly. "And you should still go to Sickbay."
Jim throws up his hands in defeat.
It takes the chess tournament about two weeks later for Jim to figure out what's going on. He knows he's improving, but he can't possibly be improving that much, especially since Spock keeps beating the pants off of him in their private games, and once he figures it out he goes straight to Bones.
"Come on, it's a great idea!"
"It's not cheating if they're the ones letting me win."
"Then you go bet on yourself and leave me out of it."
"But then they'll know that I know and it won't work. Besides, I'm not supposed to take part in the shipwide gambling ring – I'm supposed to be a role model."
Bones nearly snorts his coffee out his nose.
"Shut up," says Jim. "The point is, I can't bet on myself, but if you bet on me and then share the winnings, say, fifty-fifty..."
"When I'm the one doing the hard work? No way. Seventy-thirty."
"You want me to go tell Sulu that you're onto him and everyone else he convinced to let you win?"
"Seventy-thirty it is. Now we just have to wait and see how long it takes them to figure it out."
It takes them three weeks, but once they do, they show no more mercy.
All in all, Jim thinks the first away mission since what some of the crewmembers have been referring to as That One Time The Captain Got Possessed By Aliens And Tried To Kill Himself (really, they're going to have to think of something pithier if they're going to keep bringing it up – Possessiongate, maybe) is going quite well. It's just a meet-and-greet, with some hand-shaking thrown in for good measure; Starfleet is donating a slightly ridiculous amount of medical supplies to the Jewelled City of Sekharr IV, due to recent volcanic activity in the Sjeleck region, and the Enterprise is just dropping it off, staying for a quick diplomatic reception, and heading off again to check up on a colony on one of the moons of Sekharr VII. Jim brought pretty much his entire senior staff with him except Scotty, who's too busy preparing a care package for the Sekharr VII colonists and bitching (still) about Delta Vega.
Okay, so maybe Bones is a little twitchy, and Sulu keeps going for his phaser, and Chekov may be ever-so-slightly inclined to give the Russian stink-eye to any delegate who attempts to initiate physical contact with Jim (which is a shame, because Delegate Hazzeral is flirting up a storm). But Spock and Uhura are keeping it together, chatting over by the refreshments table over a glass or two of punch.
"I can't wait to get off this planet," mutters Bones, so only Jim can hear him. "Do you know how much paperwork I've got back on the ship? Why the hell did you drag me to this thing, anyway?"
Well, since Jim isn't exactly going to answer that this way, if everything went well, Bones would be able to see that Jim can take care of himself, and if not then Bones would be able to patch him up again, Jim instead says, "This may be the closest thing to shore leave we get for a while – after our visit to the colony we're on Pleiades duty, and while the science department may be creaming themselves to get a better look at a stellar nursery, I predict a whole lot of boredom in our future. Besides, I think Delegate Hazzeral is totally into you."
Bones gives Jim one of his patented Crotchety Southern Doctor Looks, but Jim's attention is caught again by Spock and Uhura. One of the other Jewelled City delegates, Janniyri, is chatting with them, but the minute inclination of Spock's eyebrows and the thinning of Uhura's lips shows that they aren't particularly interested in what he has to say.
"Uh-oh," Jim says, before slapping Bones on the back. "Come on."
" - truly believe that someone so young is qualified to – ah, Captain," says Janniyri, cutting himself off mid-sentence.
"Delegate Janniyri, wasn't it?" Jim smiles. "Sorry to steal my crew back, but we're on a tight schedule – the Sekharr VII colony is expecting us."
"Of course," says Janniyri, with an oily smile. "Commander, Lieutenant. It was...an enlightening conversation."
"I would not describe it as such," says Spock, his eyebrow twitching ever higher.
"Delegate," says Uhura, before switching languages. Jim doesn't know a word of Sekharrian, and Uhura's tone is nothing if not polite, but judging by the increasingly displeased look on Janniyri's face, he's missing out on something deeply entertaining. Of course, Spock is also doing that thing where he manages to exude smugness without actually changing his expression, so that's also tipping Jim off a bit.
Uhura wraps it up, apparently, and inclines her head diplomatically. "Delegate," she repeats, before heading out the door.
Janniyri stares after her, and Spock raises an eyebrow. "I have often been impressed by Lieutenant Uhura's deftness with languages," he says to no one in particular, before turning back to Janniyri himself. "Perhaps we will meet again, Delegate."
"Perhaps," says Janniyri, not with any particular enthusiasm.
They're halfway to the prearranged transporter pick-up when Jim can't hold back anymore. "What the hell did Uhura say to that guy?" he asks Spock quietly, as they walk ahead of the rest of the away team.
"I am not nearly as familiar with Sekharrian language as the Lieutenant, and I would not want to...misconstrue the subtleties of her linguistic choices," says Spock.
"So I need to ask her myself," says Jim.
"It would seem called for."
Jim rolls his eyes, but lets the subject go.
With Spock, anyway. He doesn't corner Uhura in the turbolift as much as just happen to take the same one she's taking on their way to sickbay for their post-away-mission checkups. And if he happens to force the door closed before Bones and Sulu make it on, well. It happens sometimes.
"So, Lieutenant," says Jim, as the turbolift begins moving. "Your conversation with Delegate Janniyri seemed interesting. And unintelligible."
"Only if you don't speak Sekharrian," says Uhura, pointedly watching the current-floor display.
"Which I don't," agrees Jim smoothly. "If you'd care to enlighten me...?"
Uhura looks over at Jim, clearly considering it, and Jim makes sure to put on his best I Am An Official Starfleet Captain Doing Captain-y Things expression. It half-works, since Uhura rolls her eyes but still gives in.
"Delegate Janniyri just wanted to know about your administrative style," she says. "Apparently he's trying to put together a trade fleet, and he needs translators. From the sound of it, he needs just about every type of crew, actually, but I got the impression that he was trying to lure us away from Starfleet."
Jim is glad that Enterprise has already broken orbit, or else he might be tempted to go back down to the Jewelled City and shove his Starfleet-issued boot up Janniyri's ass for trying to steal his crew.
"Really," he says.
"It didn't work," says Uhura.
"He also cast a few aspersions on your character, experience, and qualifications."
Jim considers ordering the ship to turn around. "Did he now."
"And what did you tell him in Sekharrian, then?"
Uhura glances over at him, smirking just a little bit. "That you were rash, reckless, completely lacking in self-preservation instincts and diplomatic abilities, and prone to fistfights and bar brawls."
"Well, thanks for standing up for me."
Uhura steps forward and hits the emergency stop on the turbolift, and actually meets Jim's eyes this time. "I also told him that Sulu's aim with a phaser is unparalleled, Chekov is enough of a transporter genius to make any possible unfortunate accidents all but untraceable, Doctor McCoy's treated you for enough poisons by now to probably be able to kill a man ten times over without leaving a trace, and Spock – well, is Vulcan. Then I told him that none of us could imagine working under any other captain, and we couldn't be prouder to be members of your crew...and if he ever insulted you again, he'd regret it."
She hits the emergency stop again, and they begin moving as she returns to her initial position – staring attentively at the wall.
"You said that," says Jim.
"I did," she agrees.
"Huh," says Jim.
The turbolift reaches sickbay's floor, and the doors open. Jim clears his throat.
"So, Nyota - "
"Don't call me Nyota."
"Understood," says Jim, and follows her out.
Upon reaching orbit at Sekharr VII's moon, Jim is somewhat surprised to find that Spock has, apparently, already packed his Away Team Field Kit. As he kneels by it in the transporter room, waiting for the rest of the away team to join them, he is somewhat more surprised to discover its contents.
"I don't care what Bones says," says Jim, trying his hardest not to roll his eyes, "I'm not allergic to everything."
"Epinephrine has many uses," says Spock noncommittally, checking his phaser, "and yours happened to be the free field kit. It was the logical allocation of extra medical supplies."
"Right," says Jim, narrowing his eyes. "And the high-grade explosives?"
"This mission seemed like it had a high likelihood of their necessity," says Spock.
"We're checking up on a fledgling colony."
"As I said."
"Okay," says Jim. "Fine. What about the mittens?"
Spock holsters his phaser and meets Jim's eyes, raising an eyebrow. "They are typically worn on the hands to prevent frostbite."
"The colonists live in a temperature-regulated facility. In a desert."
"Deserts are perfectly capable of experiencing cold temperatures. In fact, I believe the sudden cessation of volcanic activity on Sekharr VII is not underheard of, and can bring with it temperatures in the negatives."
"And what, exactly, are the chances of that happening?"
Spock considers this for a moment. "From my understanding of the colloquial tradition of 'jinxing' something, considerably higher after that remark."
Jim doesn't stick his tongue out at Spock, because that would be undignified for a Starfleet Captain. But damn if he isn't tempted.
"What's the gravity situation?" he asks instead, hefting the field kit over his shoulder. "I mean, it's a moon, right?"
"Planetary engineers created artificial gravity, to keep the atmosphere from leaking into space," answers Spock. "The gravity is only slightly less than standard. The atmosphere is also standard – the engineering done to the moon was designed to allow for normal precipitation as well."
"Sounds like a feat of planetary engineering," says Jim.
"Revolutionary, for its time – and in many ways, still unsurpassed."
Jim frowns at him. "You took a class or something on it, didn't you."
Spock just raises an eyebrow at him. "Planetary engineering is a standard part of Science Division training."
"Awesome," says Jim. "If I ever need to terraform something, I know who to call."
vi. (and one time he mothered them right back)
It's snowing when they beam down to the colony; the transporter pad is not quite outdoors, but a good walk away from the main city, which is EM-shielded, so they can see the falling snow through the windows.
"Never thought I'd miss precipitation this much," says Bones, walking over to one of the windows.
"Precipitation is rare, but not unheard of here," says the Administrator of the colony helpfully. "You picked a good day to come down."
"At this point, I believe it is only logical for me to remind you that I foresaw this possibility," Spock tells Jim in an undertone.
"Is that Vulcan for 'I told you so'?" asks Jim.
Spock raises an eyebrow. "Yes."
"It feels almost like home," says Chekov wistfully, also looking out the window.
"It looks wet," says Sulu. "Weird."
"Mister Sulu," says Jim. "You've never seen snow before? Really?"
Sulu shakes his head. "San Francisco born and raised. We got a few inches once, but that was before I was born."
"You'll get over it quickly, son," says Scotty darkly. "It loses its appeal once you've been around it for two months."
"Lucky for us we're not staying that long," says Jim.
"The main complex is this way," says the Administrator, leading the way outside the transporter receiving pad.
"Just a second," says Jim, sliding off his field pack. He digs out the mittens and puts them on. "Okay, we're good."
Spock only looks pointedly at the mittens, but even though Jim's almost convinced he's actually going to say 'I told you so,' he doesn't say anything at all. The Administrator leads the way towards the main complex, across the snow.
There isn't all that much accumulation at this point, but it's enough to almost muffle all the noise, creating an eerily full silence. Sulu and Chekov follow the Administrator in the lead, Chekov practically bouncing in the snow; at one point Jim could swear he hears Chekov claim the Russians invented snow. Bones goes next, looking aggrieved as Scotty bitches more or less nonstop, and Jim and Spock take up the rear.
After about a minute of walking, Jim reaches out an arm to stop Spock, and slows down. He looks at the group ahead of them, conspiratorially, then reaches down with his mittened hands and makes a snowball.
"The trick to the perfect snowball," he says, "is to make sure it's just the right consistency. You don't want it too loose, or it won't make it to your target; if you make it too compact, it'll just hurt. When you get it right, you get this really nice kind of exploding action, where it just completely comes apart when it hits – that's what you're aiming for. Now, you also want to make sure that there aren't any chunks of ice in it, because someone could get hurt, and nobody wants that."
Spock raises an eyebrow. "No," he agrees dryly, "I can see how injuries in this simulated battlefield environment would simply ruin the experience for all the participants."
Jim ignores the sarcasm. "Here. Since I'm guessing this is your first time, I made this one for you. Let's see how your aim is."
He pushes the snowball into Spock's hands. Spock stares at it blankly for a moment, then looks at Jim. "Captain," he says, "do you truly intend to have a snowball fight on an official away mission?"
"This is our last away mission for a good couple months," says Jim. "Hell, this is the last time we're going to be planetside – moonside, whatever – for a good long while. So yeah, let's take advantage of this."
"And what will the colonists think?"
"The colonists will think that we're bringing them food and medical supplies, and if we're enjoying ourselves a little, too, what's the harm?"
Spock raises his eyebrow. "Very well, then. Who would you suggest as a target? It would be inappropriate to target a crewmember of a lower rank than myself."
"Bones, then," Jim suggests.
"As the Doctor and I will most likely be serving together under your command for some time, it would be illogical," says Spock, considering the snowball. "Therefore there is only one acceptable target."
And then he lobs it at Jim.
Jim, apparently, got the consistency just right, and it explodes in a puff of snow across his shoulder, up his neck and onto one side of his face. Jim clutches at the impact site disbelievingly, staring at Spock.
"Et tu, Spock?" he demands, loudly enough to make sure the rest of the away team can hear him, before falling face-down into the snow.
There's a moment of confused silence above him, before he hears Bones say, "Did you kill him, Spock?"
"The Captain thought it would be wise to instruct me in the ways of snow-projectile construction," says Spock.
"I've always wanted to have a snowball fight," comes Sulu's voice.
"Really?" comes Scotty's, sounding intrigued.
"I did not find it particularly difficult, and fail to see how it is a worthwhile passtime," says Spock.
"Oh, come on, you totally enjoyed it," says Jim, picking himself up and dusting himself off. "Besides, we can probably write it off to Starfleet as a team-building thing or somethi - "
And that's when Bones nails him with another snowball.
Things devolve rather quickly from there; Spock and the Administrator stand off to one side, but Jim can't quite tell if they're commiserating or commentating. Sulu's aim proves to be ever-so-off, due to the slight changes in gravity, but Bones turns out to have a hell of an arm on him, and it turns out that Scotty apparently spent his entire tenure on Delta Vega throwing snowballs because he ends up being the unparalleled winner, even after Chekov cheats like a dirty bastard and sneaks up on him to jam snow down the back of his coat.
Of course, they have to spend the rest of their mission soaking wet and frankly freezing, but Jim has to say that it's totally worth it, even when a rematch breaks out on the way back to the transporter when they're done.
Once they beam back up to the ship, though, and Jim sees how much they're trailing melting snow, it's not particularly funny anymore.
"Nuh-uh," he says, before anyone can step off the transporter pad, sitting on the edge of the pad. "Shoes off before you go anywhere. Jackets, too – I want them hung up by an environmental control fixture so they dry off. Don't you even think about treading mud all over my ship. Commander Spock, you too – you were walking in the snow just as much as we were." He looks at the transporter technician. "Crewman LeVeau, wasn't it? See what you can do about some hot chocolate – it was pretty cold on that planet, and I think we can all use some warming up."
"Gonna tuck us in, too?" asks Bones, half-grunting as he pulls off his boots and holds them up upside-down; half-melted snow drips out.
"Nah," says Jim, grinning at him. "I know you're all big kids – the hot chocolate's all for me."
Bones just rolls his eyes, but he's grinning.