Tangled Destinies: Justice

Title: Justice
Author: Keira Marcos
Artist: FanArts Series
Pairings: Kirk/Spock, Pike/McCoy, Sarek/Amanda Grayson
Series: Tangled Destinies
Series Order: 7
Fandom: Star Trek XI (Reboot ‘Verse)
Genre: Alternate Universe, romance
Word Count: 9,500
Rating: R (for adult language and violence)
Betas: Chris King & Ladyholder

Summary: Jim must testify in Federation Court in the trial of Delis Brise.

– – – –

“At this time, I would like to call James T. Kirk to the stand.”

Jim exhaled sharply and released Spock’s hand as he stood. He’d been irritated to learn that the courtroom wasn’t to be sealed against the media. Apparently, at sixteen he didn’t have the right to privacy as far as the Federation was concerned.

“Your Honor, the defense would request that James Kirk be required to wear a psi-collar during his testimony.”

Jim paused and shot the defense attorney a hard look as he settled into the witness stand.

The judge raised an eyebrow at the Federation prosecutor, Erik Castor, who frowned. “Unfortunately, your Honor, there are no legal grounds for me to protest the defense’s request.”

“Actually,” Jim began. “Federation law prohibits the psi-collaring a Vulcan citizen against their wishes unless they’ve proven to be a danger to themselves or others.”

“You are a citizen of Betazed,” the defense protested.

“I hold dual citizenship—Betazed and Vulcan, Mr. Laurey. You can check my Federation citizenship records if you do not trust my word on the matter.” Jim relaxed in the chair and let his gaze flick briefly around the room before settling on the Federation prosecutor.

“Mr. Kirk will not be asked to wear a psi-collar.” The judge shot the defense a look when Laurey stood to protest. “That is my final word on the matter, Mr. Laurey, as a witness in this proceeding with empathic and telepathic ability Mr. Kirk has already sworn not to touch you or your client. That is all this court is legally allowed to ask of him considering his citizenship status.”

The prosecutor stood and walked to stand by the witness stand. “Mr. Kirk, can you please tell us how you came to meet Mr. Delis Brise.”

“I met Mr. Brise in the Betazed Embassy in my cousin, Ambassador Deloia’s, office. I was told at the time that my grandmother had arranged a betrothal for me and Mr. Brise had brought a powerful bond maker from Betazed to attend to the betrothal.” Jim took a deep breath. “I was, for lack of a better word, horrified. Mr. Brise is much older than me and his sexual interest in me made me so uncomfortable that I could barely stand to be in the same room with him.”

“You refused the betrothal?”

“Yes, of course, and in the process had to renounce my ties with my grandmother’s House on Betazed. My teacher, Jaret Molia, adopted me into his house—he is the First Son of the First House of Betazed.” Jim looked down at his hands. “Unfortunately such an advancement in my social status on Betazed just made the arranged marriage all the more attractive to Mr. Brise because he… attacked me the next time I saw him.”

“I realize this may be difficult but can you describe those events for the court?”

“Mr. Brise cornered me as I was attempting to leave the embassy, pushed me into a turbolift, and administered a psi-inhibitor. He told me I would accept the bond with him and that I had no choice but to do so. Fortunately, I stopped breathing and passed out at that point. I woke up later in the hospital with Dr. Amanda Grayson and my Betazoid teacher, Jaret Molia.”

“Several doctors have already testified in this proceeding that not only were you clinically dead but that your recovery from this incident borders on a medical miracle.”

Jim averted his gaze briefly. “While I was unaware of it at the time, I had a small empathic link with someone and his support allowed me to survive when it is quite clear that I should not have.”

“Mr. Kirk, can you describe for the court the depth of a Betazoid empathic bond?”

“It is an emotional bond that expresses itself in an intimate and highly sexual nature. Pairings are often determined at birth on Betazed, and children are bonded genetically. In my case, since I am only ¼ Betazoid, I was not bonded genetically with another. Genetic bonding is only possible before psionic activity has developed. Since most Betazoids develop their psionic abilities during puberty—bonds that take place after puberty has begun can only be empathic.”

“Thank you, Mr. Kirk.” Castor returned to his table as the Judge told the defense they could begin their questions.

“Mr. Kirk, are you aware that as the matron of your House on Betazed, your grandmother had the legal authority to arrange your bonding?”

“Yes.”

“So you acknowledge that Mr. Brise was exercising his legal rights as your betrothed?”

Jim glared. “No, I do not. There is no law on Betazed that makes the mental and physical rape of another person legal, no matter the relationship between individuals. And the betrothal had been voided prior to Mr. Brise’s attack.”

“Did you inform anyone within the Betazed Embassy of your severe allergy to psi-inhibitors?”

“My private medical records were not their business and I can only be fortunate that I didn’t. Otherwise Mr. Brise would have been able to pick out an inhibitor that I’m not allergic to and the circumstances would be different.”

“You’d be bonded to Mr. Brise.”

“My Dad would likely be on trial here today for murdering Delis Brise,” Jim corrected coolly.

“This isn’t the first time you’ve accused someone of sexual misconduct, is it Mr. Kirk?” Laurey questioned.

“Your Honor, I object!” Castor lurched to his feet. “Mr. Kirk isn’t on trial here today.”

“Sustained. The question will be stricken from the transcript.” The judge sent Laurey a warning look but said nothing else.

Laurey paused and seemed to consider his options. “Mr. Kirk, is it not true that you have turned down upwards of fifteen betrothal offers from your grandmother in the last year?”

“I believe the official count is seventeen if we count Mr. Brise,” Jim responded evenly. “I made it clear to her that I would not agree to an arranged bonding but she chose to ignore my wishes on the matter.”

“Is it not true that she was seeking to bond you due to the onset of puberty?”

“Yes.”

“Because you were putting out bonding pheromones on a level that was detrimental to both your safety and others? On the day you were admitted to the hospital following the incident with Mr. Brise, your medical records clearly show elevated hormones and an exaggerated level of pheromone production. It is hardly any wonder that Mr. Brise tried to bond with you.”

“Funny that the four hundred other Betazoids in the Embassy had no problem keeping their hands to themselves,” Jim snapped back and then took a deep breath when the judge cleared his throat. “I was producing a large amount of hormones and pheromones during that time, yes.”

“So much so that you garnered the attention of a group of men at the mall and you were attacked.” Laurey consulted his PADD. “In one statement, one of the men said that he picked you because of the way you smelled.”

Jim frowned. “I wasn’t made aware of his statement actually. My father chose to keep the details of their trial and confinement from me and I agreed not to pay attention to the situation. But it isn’t like a man who kidnaps children to sell as sex slaves actually needs an excuse to kidnap someone.”

“But you can’t deny that the state of your hormone production at the time played a part in your near abduction.”

“No, I can’t say that I can.” Jim sat back and sighed.

“Is it not true that since the incident with Mr. Brise that your adopted father arranged for your bonding as a matter of your physical security?”

Jim blinked in surprise and his gaze flicked once to Pike before settling on Spock who had not moved a single inch since Jim had left him. “I am bonded, yes, but the details of that bond are not a matter of public record at this time. It is a betrothal bond.”

“A Vulcan betrothal,” Laurey clarified. “In fact, Commodore Pike arranged to bond you with Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan’s son.”

Jim inclined his head. “Yes.”

“For your protection.”

“Because I wanted it and yes, for my protection.”

“And this betrothal bond made you a citizen of Vulcan?”

“Yes.” Jim let his hand tighten into a fist on his leg and dropped his gaze from Spock. His bondmate had flushed a beguiling light green.

“Is your relationship with your bondmate platonic?”

Jim’s mouth dropped open in shock. “Excuse me?”

“It is a simple question, Mr. Kirk.”

“My bondmate is Vulcan, Mr. Laurey. They are a deeply traditional and proper people—such physical interactions are reserved for marriage.”

“That is not an answer.”

“Is it the only answer you are getting,” Jim snapped.

“Your Honor, will you please instruct the witness to answer the question.”

The judge glanced between the lawyer and Jim and cleared his throat. “I believe it is time for a recess. Mr. Kirk, I would speak with you privately in my chambers.” He paused and glanced out into the courtroom. “We are adjourned for one hour.”

– – – –

Jim accepted the tea cup that the judge offered. “Thank you, sir.”

“Well, it appears that you’ve had a pretty trying year, Jim.”

Kirk nodded. “Yes, sir but it’s not been all bad. I met… well… I met Spock and he’s the best thing I’ll know my whole life.”

“I read the transcripts from your step-father’s trial.” Henry Devearuex sighed when Jim paled. “I am good friends with Alan Rendell, the man that prosecuted that case. He got me the records when he found out you were going to be in my court. He wanted to… protect you as much as he could.”

“Right.” Jim set the tea aside aware that his hand was shaking. “Right. Mr. Rendell is a good man, sir. He tried very hard to make that entire trial as easy for me as he could, considering the circumstances. They had me on some pretty heavy chemicals at the time; I guess they were afraid I’d just fall to pieces.”

“I think he underestimated your strength,” Devearuex said with a small smile. “You’ve held up well during the entire trial and I didn’t think you’d have a problem with testifying.”

“Mr. Laurey’s question is out of line, Your Honor. My bond with Spock is the most private thing I have and for him to just throw it out there with the media… and it isn’t like I get a lot of privacy as it is what with my father and the Kelvin and…” Jim rubbed his face with both hands in frustration.

“So you can answer the question in here,” Henry advised. “Off the record, with me.”

Jim blushed. “Are we intimate? Yes, of course, I share mental and physical space with Spock on a level that might be difficult for a Human to grasp but we have not engaged in sexual intercourse.”

Henry snorted. “There is more than one way to skin that cat, Mr. Kirk.”

Jim shrugged. “We’re sixteen.”

“Right.” The judge laughed softly and then sobered. “I’ll put an end to the questions. If your Vulcan gets any more rigid in his seat I’m afraid he might burst into a few thousand pieces.”

“They are a private people, sir and by the standards of his people he is really young.” Jim rubbed his hands on his slacks and took a deep breath. “I regret agreeing to his presence in the courtroom but there isn’t much I can do about that.”

“Mr. Brise is being tried for a capital offense, Mr. Kirk. If he is convicted of attempted sexual assault of a minor on top of the attempted murder charge—he faces an off-planet prison sentence and advanced rehabilitation. Such proceedings cannot be closed to the public by Federation law unless the victim is under the age of fifteen.” He sighed. “But I do regret the level of media coverage I was forced to allow. It’s not an ideal situation for anyone.”

– – – –

“I can call for your Dad’s air car.”

Spock glanced briefly at Pike and then shook his head. “I am well, sir.”

“I do hope there will come a day, Spock, when you can trust me with stuff like this.” Pike held up a hand when Spock started to respond. “It is obvious that you are upset and I can’t even fathom what that means for your current mental state.”

“Jim is upset,” Spock admitted. “Mr. Laurey’s questions make him angry and uncomfortable. I cannot help but absorb some of my bondmate’s ire and distress in this circumstance. I am far more upset for him than I am myself. I realized, though obviously Jim did not, that the defense attorney might attempt to use his attractiveness and unbonded state at the time of the event in attempt to garner sympathy and understanding from the court. The evidence is overwhelming so there is no doubt that Brise will be convicted for his actions—but sympathy from the judge could affect his sentencing and the location of the prison he will be confined in.”

“Right.” Pike shoved his hands into his pockets and stared out the window. As much he wanted Delis Brise punished for what he’d done and more over what he’d attempted to do—Chris was beginning to regret insisting the charges be filed with the Federation. It was calling entirely too much attention to Jim as a result. He’d already had to fend off half a dozen requests for interviews regarding the situation and he had no doubt that the ‘bonding’ news would only be adding to the fire that had surrounded Jim since he’d come to San Francisco.

The door to the small conference room opened and Jim entered. Pike watched his son as Jim went to lean against the window frame with Spock. He nudged the Vulcan slightly with his shoulder and Spock obligingly shifted closer. His communicator hummed in his pocket and he pulled it out with a small sigh. There was a message from Sarek and it was succinct. Chris grinned before he could help himself because no matter how Amanda Grayson tried to soften the edges of her husband—Sarek would always be just about the snarkiest son of bitch Chris would have the privilege of knowing.

“Is everything okay?”

Pike glanced up and found that Jim had moved so that he was basically leaning on Spock instead of the wall. It was kind of relieving how comfortable they were around him compared to how they behaved around others. “The Vulcan Embassy has been contacted regarding a statement on the status of your betrothal bond. Ambassador T’Pol released a statement confirming that the two of you are bonded.”

“And my father?” Spock questioned.

“Is on his way over here,” Pike admitted.

Jim groaned. “Do you think he’s pissed?”

“Vulcans do not get pissed, Jim.”

Jim laughed softly and turned around to face Spock. “That’s a big fat lie, Spock.”

“I’m entirely certain that Surak’s teachings preclude such Human behavior,” Spock explained seriously as he ran his fingers gently over Jim’s cheek. Pike blinked in surprise when Jim visibly relaxed. Then Spock’s gaze lifted to his and the Vulcan lifted one eyebrow at him in question. “My father is perhaps concerned about our welfare. Having the circumstances of our bond made so public has clearly distressed you.”

“It’s just private.”

“I agree,” Spock admitted. “But it would have been illogical for us to believe we could keep it to ourselves. It was a very well-attended event and many within Starfleet are aware of our circumstances. It would have caught the attention of the media eventually.”

“Right.” Jim sighed and tucked his face against Spock’s neck.

Pike averted his gaze, unwillingly irritated by the knowledge that Spock was doing more to sooth Jim’s distress than he’d ever been capable of. He hadn’t felt that safe and loved in years—not since George had broken the bond between them. He sent a message to Sarek detailing their location and then went to replicator. “Kid, you need to eat.”

Jim groaned but allowed Spock to prod him towards the table as Chris made a few selections. “Sure. Let’s put some food on my stomach. Maybe I’ll throw up on Mr. Laurey.”

“It is a worthy goal,” Spock muttered and then straightened when both Humans looked at him, incredulous. “Is it not my duty as your bondmate to support you in all of your efforts?”

Jim grinned and then started laughing without restraint. Pike relaxed and with a shake of his head started putting out some food on the table.

“Spock, I found a vegetable based soup you might like. There aren’t many vegetarian options.”

“This will be suitable, sir.”

– – – –

Sarek paused for a moment and studied Christopher Pike leaning against the wall. The man looked like he’d fought some great war on his own and lost. Sarek tucked his hands behind his back as he walked to toward the Starfleet officer. “Christopher.”

Chris lifted his head and offered him a small smile but it wasn’t like the smiles he normally gifted Sarek with. Often, the Human had a way of smiling at Sarek that reminded him of his Amanda. At first, it had been startling and kind of discomforting but Sarek had gotten used to the smile so it was disconcerting to find it missing on his friend’s face. “They’re eating.”

“Has something else happened?”

“Yeah, I let my own temper and need for justice get in the way of what was right for my kid!” Chris hissed and then took a deep breath and rubbed his face. “I never once thought how public this trial would be—the whole time I was insisting on Federation charges and basically being a bastard to the Betazed Embassy about this whole thing. If this had been tried on Betazed…”

“Delis Brise would have faced six months of rehabilitation and then he would have been released to the care of his House Matron,” Sarek said bluntly. “I reviewed the laws on Betazoid. Because it was not his intent to cause James’ death and he was unable to do exactly what he intended to do the most they could have legally charged him with was physical assault. No matter what they might have wanted—their laws are simply not designed to deal with crimes such as this. There hasn’t been a murder on Betazed in a thousand years or more. Due to the nature of their society, it is almost impossible for someone so mentally or morally damaged to hide—they are often able to find such corruption in people when they are very young and correct the mental defects before they are ever a danger to anyone. Delis Brise is a rarity among Betazoids.”

Chris frowned because if that had been the results… he doubted he would have been able to contain himself. “Okay. I still feel like I’ve made things more difficult for him.”

Sarek moved to stand beside him and stared at the wall that Chris was staring at. “It should be said that I am perfectly capable of being the kind of… unreasonable bastard… that Humans on this planet can only hope to be. I can provide my wife as a character reference if it is required.”

Chris grinned. “Is that your way of saying you’ve got my back, Sarek?”

“I believe that in the protection of our children we have similar goals,” Sarek allowed. “And we are family.”

“Yeah.” Chris sighed. “Family. The kind you make for yourself is like no other, you know.”

“I do know.” Sarek checked his sleeves and inclined his head towards the door. “I suppose they are in there being inappropriate.”

“Holding hands is inappropriate?” Chris questioned.

“Very,” Sarek admitted.

“Then yeah, they’re being scandalous.”

– – – –

“Your honor, if I can’t establish the full set of circumstances regarding the incident, I will be unable to properly defend my client against the charges. He was unduly affected by Mr. Kirk’s pheromone and hormone production during the time that they met.”

“As Mr. Kirk stated, Mr. Laurey, the four hundred other Betazoids in the embassy didn’t have a problem keeping their hands to themselves. Surely you’re not attempting to tell this court that your client was incapable of stopping himself from attacking a sixteen year old boy because of mating hormones.”

“I will be able to call a witness to the stand that will testify that on Betazed, Mr. Kirk would have been bonded for his own safety upon entering puberty.”

Devearuex sat back in his chair, clearly disgruntled and Jim knew he was going to have to give into Laurey’s line of questioning. “Very well, but the state of Mr. Kirk’s bond is not on the table for discussion.”

“Understood.” Laurey tugged on his suit jacket and settled in at the podium with a PADD. “Mr. Kirk, at any time during your training at the embassy were you told by the medical staff there that you should seek a bond to prevent unwanted interest in you from other compatible telepathic species?”

“No, I’ve never used the medical services at the Embassy. My doctor of record is Dr. Leonard McCoy of Starfleet.” Jim wet his bottom lip and then reached out for the water glass he’d brought with him to the stand. He drank from the glass and then set it aside.

“So you were never told you needed a bond due to your physical maturity?”

“Not by medical staff, no.”

“By someone else?”

“Yes, my teacher and godfather, Jaret Molia mentioned to me in passing that if I were on Betazoid that I would have bonded as soon as my psionic abilities manifested in order to insure my physical and mental well being.”

“But you didn’t take this seriously?”

“I always take everything Jaret tells me seriously, but that didn’t mean I was prepared to run out and bond with a stranger. Jaret himself is unbonded and hasn’t been bonded since his genetic bondmate died when they were children. He taught me how to shield my mind to lower the attention I receive from other telepaths. Eventually, my body would have settled and I would have only produced bonding pheromones when it was appropriate to do so. Many adult Betazoids function without the physical need for a bond despite its mental benefits.”

“You don’t believe that your physical state contributed to this incident?”

“I’ve had people hit on me in ways that bordered on weird, like maybe they didn’t even mean to do it but what happened with Mr. Brise was nothing like that. I mean, if it had been that overwhelming for him—I can’t see how he would have had the forethought to inject me with a psi-inhibitor so I would be helpless against his mental attack.” Jim pushed back the anger that flitted over his bond with Spock and shot his bondmate a look that had the Vulcan averting his gaze. Yeah, Vulcans do not get pissed, Spock. Spock flushed and looked down at his lap.

“So you don’t accept any blame?”

“I underestimated Mr. Brise and while I do feel guilty for the events for that day—it doesn’t in any way relate to him or his current circumstances.”

Laurey paused, obviously startled. “What does it relate to, Mr. Kirk?”

“As I stated earlier, I had a small empathic link with someone that I didn’t know I had. I was clinically dead for close to ten minutes that day and it caused the individual linked to me a great deal of telepathic trauma. Had I known about the link I would have severed it before I lost consciousness to prevent… that person from feeling my death psionically.” Jim looked down at his hands. “Because I didn’t know about it and didn’t sever that link—he will carry the pain and the trauma of my being murdered by Mr. Brise for the rest of his natural life. As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing that you or anyone else can say that can offer an excuse for what Delis Brise did to us that today.”

The silence in the courtroom wasn’t at all comforting and after several seconds, Laurey cleared his throat. “I have no further questions, Your Honor.”

– – – –

“You did well.”

Jim grimaced. “I shouldn’t have even agreed to testify.”

“It was required so that the judge could understand the damage that was done to you as a result of the attack,” Spock reasoned.

“I don’t even like being in the same room with him,” Jim admitted. “I felt him trying to brush up against my shields the entire time I was testifying.”

“I noticed,” Spock admitted. “But as you said, he’s not a very talented telepath. You could have easily defended yourself against him.”

Jim let his forehead rest on the window briefly and then turned his head to look at Sarek who had taken his tea to a small table in the corner of the room. Pike was at the larger eating table with a few PADDs. They were staying in the Federation court building because the Judge had promised a verdict before the end of the day.

“You haven’t made a comment to the media about our bond, Ambassador.”
Sarek lifted an eyebrow and set aside the PADD he was reviewing. “Amanda suggested strongly that I refrain from speaking to the media until we had a chance to speak privately. She is concerned that I might alienate the entire planet with my response.” He glanced at Pike when Chris snorted. “It would hardly be the first time I have… made people uncomfortable and angry on the subject of my son. When Spock was born, the Federation sent a media liaison to Vulcan to interview Amanda and when I refused to allow them to take video of Spock or even still photography, it was implied that I was ashamed of my child.”

Jim blinked in surprise. “I see.”

“It was hardly the point. I also refused them the right to video or record Amanda. Their interest in our private matters was entirely inappropriate and I told them so.”

Chris started laughing. “Oh, I remember that actually. There was talk about replacing you as an ambassador because of it.”

“Yes,” Sarek acknowledged. “It was even more difficult when members of Amanda’s family came forward and implied that I had forced her to choose between me and them.”

“You didn’t,” Jim said. “That’s not the kind of thing you’d do.”

“No. Amanda adored her father and I had a civilized relationship with him. When he died however, her mother remarried and that man had little interest in aliens.” Sarek set aside his tea. “Which is unfortunate because she has never seen her grandchild outside of a few vids.”

Jim snorted. “I bet they’d hate me twice over then.”

“Why?” Spock questioned.

“Xenophobia on that sort of level goes hand and hand with homophobia and really a bunch of other discriminations that aren’t fit for polite conversation, Spock,” Jim murmured gently and watched Spock’s eyebrow lift. “There are people on this planet and others in the Federation that believe same-sex pair bonds to be amoral and corrupt. While there are Federation laws in place to protect us specifically from violence or discrimination officially – we will encounter people that will make no effort to hide their disgust for what we are to each other.”

“That is illogical,” Spock said stiffly.

“So is xenophobia, but you know how wide spread that can be in some parts of the Federation,” Jim reminded and then sighed when his communicator started to buzz in his pocket. He pulled it out and flipped through the screens. “Rob offered his sincere congratulations on our ‘freaky alien nuptials’ and wants to throw us a party.” He flipped to another message. “And I need a new communicator code, Dad, because Media One just sent me a request for an interview.”

Pike nodded. “I’ll file for a new one. Forward the request to me and I’ll respond.”

“Do you think I should do an interview?”

“No, it will just increase your profile in the city and make them more interested in you. If you continue to refuse they’ll eventually lose interest.”

Jim somehow doubted it but he nodded and forwarded the interview request to Pike and then sent Rob a note reminding him that Vulcans don’t party which made him grin helplessly as he did so.

“We should go camping this weekend. Get out of town for a while. The six of us—I’ll make Bones go.”

Jim nodded. “Sounds good, Dad.” And then looked up to find Spock and Sarek communicating non-verbally on a level he’d never seen between father and son. It was a contest, really, to see which one of them could lift their eyebrow the furthest. Eventually, Sarek won the eyebrow-war because Spock cleared his throat.

“Jim, what exactly is camping?”

Jim grinned and turned on the couch that he and Spock were sharing. “It’s an outdoor activity involving tents and fires and questionable food sources. We usually do some climbing and just hang out. It’ll be fun.”

“I hardly think so,” Spock said before he could censor himself. “Even if Vulcans had fun, which is entirely unlikely, I do not believe fun involves survival equipment and questionable food sources.”

“Sure it does.” Jim grinned and sighed when his communicator beeped gently in his hand. He checked the incoming message. “Stephanie says we’re required to attend Rob’s party celebrating our ‘freaky alien nuptials’ next weekend and she said that you look hot on the court recordings.”

Spock flushed and averted his gaze. “She is highly inappropriate.”

“I’m telling her you said that.”

“You do that,” Spock returned peevishly and flushed an even deeper shade of green when he looked up and found his father and Commodore Pike watching them. “What did she say about you?”

Jim wiggled so his back was to the arm of the couch and shrugged. “I’m always gorgeous on vid, Spock. It’s a curse being this aesthetically pleasing. Though she said I should have worn the blue suit today when I testified because it makes my eyes all shiny and beautiful.”

“She is a disturbing female,” Spock muttered and went back to reading his PADD. “Inform her that she will stop taking note of your clothes and your eyes or I will have no choice but to reveal her affection for Rob in retaliation.”

Jim burst out laughing. “No way. I’m not picking a fight with her for you. Girls are vicious when they’re crossed.”

Spock looked up from his PADD. “I am perfectly capable of rendering her unconscious.”

“I’ll tell her that,” Jim decided with a small smirk. “Yes or no on Rob’s party?”

Spock paused and considered it. “Your preference?”

“These are some of the smartest people on the planet and some of them will be in our lives for pretty much ever, Spock. I certainly don’t expect you to be best friends forever with all of them—I do think it is to our benefit to create and foster relationships with people like Stephanie April. Her Dad is an Admiral in Starfleet and completely badass.” Jim paused. “It’s just good politics.”

“Very well.” Spock went back to his PADD. “Put it on Mother’s calendar so she will know our schedule is full for that evening, and let Rob know that I do not intend to have fun at his party.”

Pike started laughing softly and both boys turned to look at him. Chris just held up a hand and waved a little. “Oh, don’t mind me.”

Sarek wondered how his wife had changed him because the changes in Spock since his bonding with James Kirk were marked and at times rather distressing if he were going to be entirely honest with himself. He would never regret giving Amanda a child but there was a part of him that grieved for the son who had once made every effort to be as Vulcan as possible. At times, Sarek blamed himself for the changes that had come to his family—in leaving Vulcan nothing would ever be the same for them and he was not entirely certain he could tolerate it if they were. His bondmate had never been happier and Spock had a bond that would fulfill him his whole life.

He sent the wording of his press release to Amanda and then sent it to Pike as well because he was entirely sure it would make the Human smile and then watched out of the corner of his eye as Pike worked on his PADD. He heard the faint hum of an incoming message and watched Christopher lift an eyebrow as he opened a new screen. His lips twitched gently at first and then Pike laughed aloud.

“No way is your wife letting you release this,” Chris said and shook his head. “But, I’m forwarding it to Bones because it’s epic and he will appreciate it.”

“It is accurate.”

“Yes, and it’s even polite,” Chris said with a grin. “But it would be a bigger deal than the current deal.”

Sarek thought that perhaps that was the point and simply raised an eyebrow at his friend. Pike paused and then inclined his head in agreement. Sarek was perfectly willing to weather whatever negative media attention required if it meant his son was shielded from it. Pike’s communicator chimed and Chris sighed as he picked it up. Then he frowned.

“Is there a problem?”

“The judge is back with his decision.” Chris stood and glanced towards Jim who had stood. “It could be good news.”

“It’s barely been two hours.”

“The charges and the circumstances are straight forward,” Spock said as he gathered up their things and put them in the bag the two of them seemed to share.

– – – –

“The court finds Delis Brise guilty of attempted involuntary manslaughter and the attempted mental and sexual assault of a minor with special circumstances. Delis Brise is to be confined to the rehabilitation center Talis VII for a period of no less than twenty but not to exceed twenty-five years.”

“Your Honor, Talis VII is a rehab facility for sexual predators,” Laurey protested.

Devearuex frowned. “And that is exactly what your client is, Mr. Laurey.”

Jim’s stomach clenched as Brise turned to glare at him. It was hardly the first time he’d been looked at like that, but the boiling rage and hatred pouring off the Betazoid was sickening. Two uniformed Federation Security officers moved between them, one was carrying a case that most telepaths were very familiar with. Federation psi-collars were the strongest that could be legally made and their use was strictly prohibited by anyone outside law enforcement or Starfleet. Bones had put him in a psi-collar once when he’d first manifested his abilities but Jim barely remembered that.

Brise shoved away from the table as soon as the case was opened and pushed his own lawyer into the two officers in a bid to get away from it. Then he vaulted over the small wall that had bisected the courtroom and threw himself not at Jim but at Spock. Sarek, who had stood the moment Brise had, snatched the Betazoid easily and took him to the ground without a nerve pinch and held him in place without effort. Brise screamed and clawed against the floor.

Jim pulled Spock further from the situation—the last thing he wanted was Brise to touch his bondmate. They watched from a safe distance as the two security officers put the psi-collar on the struggling Betazoid and he went limp on the floor beneath Sarek’s knee. Sarek rose gracefully and brushed off his robes as if he hadn’t just been a total badass and tucked his hands behind his back.

“Thank you, Ambassador, for your quick action.”

“It is a Father’s duty to protect his child,” Sarek said shortly. “Come, Spock, James, Christopher. I believe it’s time for us to leave.”

Jim let Spock pull him along and out in the hall he leaned in close. “Your Dad used a contraction, Spock.”

“As a child I learned to never argue with him at such times.”

Jim glanced at his Dad as they followed in Sarek’s wake through the building. People were parting quickly—getting out of the Vulcan’s way without him saying a word. In less than three minutes, they were in Sarek’s private air car.

“Sarek…” Chris began and then looked at Jim and Spock for support.

“Delis Brise is psychotic,” Sarek finally said. “I have never touched someone so damaged in my life.” He paused and cleared his throat. “And I was on Tarsus in the aftermath of Kodos. I never imagined I would find myself in contact with someone more damaged than the survivors of that colony.”

“What can we do?” Chris questioned.

“I will go home and it would be appreciated if you would…” Sarek glanced at Spock and Jim who were both staring. “Take care of Spock for several days.”

“I’ll take them camping,” Chris decided. “Do you need to see a Healer? I can have one transported to your residence if you desire privacy.”

“I will speak with Healer Stopak if necessary. I will let you know.”

– – – –

Spock was standing by his desk, his head tilted in a way that told Jim he was doing his level best to eavesdrop on his parents, who were in the meditation room down the hall. Jim pulled out several pairs of jeans, a set of thermals, and light weight jacket to add to the things that Spock had already gathered.

“Hear anything?”

Spock had the grace to blush and he lowered his gaze. “I am concerned.”

“Yeah, I’m worried, too,” Jim admitted. “But your Dad has a strong and well-disciplined mind. He has dealt with psionic trauma in the past and he will seek a Healer if he can’t handle it on his own.”

“He has already requested a Healer from the embassy and he’s asked Mother to contact Jaret.” Spock took a deep breath. “I do not want to leave them in this circumstance.”

“I think he wants some distance from you, Spock, so he doesn’t bleed over onto you through his parental link with you. He’s just trying to protect you.”

“I…” Spock’s reserve fell away abruptly and he frowned. “I do not need to be sheltered from everything.”

“Hey.” Jim paused in his efforts to fold Spock’s clothes and went to him. “Spock.”

“All of you treat me as if I’m child.”

Jim bit down on his lip. “I do not. Trust me on that front. I don’t think of you like you’re a child and I’d never treat you one. I do believe that you’ve lead a very sheltered existence and that’s the way of Vulcans. In fact, you were the youngest Vulcan I’d ever met before. Most Vulcans never leave your homeworld and those that do are usually in their 50’s when they finally do. Now, your parents may treat you like a child sometimes and frankly they probably always will. It’s what parents do.”

“You attempt to keep things from me,” Spock pointed out. “Things you believe I’m too innocent for.”

“Yeah,” Jim said and sighed. He ran his fingers through his hair. “Look, Spock, there is a lot of ugly in the universe and if I had my way none of it would ever touch you. Even though you don’t admit it—you see beauty in everything. I don’t want that to change for you.”

Spock sighed. “That is illogical.”

“Right.” Jim smiled then and leaned forward. He tilted his head slightly and brushed his mouth against Spock’s gently. “I’ll work on it and maybe I’ll conquer it right around the time you get a handle on that thing you do.”

“What thing?”

“Judging people who find me attractive and finding them unsatisfactory,” Jim offered with a breezy smile.

– – – –

“Camping,” Bones muttered as he shouldered the pack Chris had handed him shortly before they’d beamed to the middle of goddamned nowhere.

Chris laughed. “You don’t like space, you don’t like the ocean, and you don’t like the outdoors. Christ, Bones, you can’t spend your entire life in a nice clean infirmary.”

“I could!” McCoy said and frowned at Pike as he checked the packs that Spock and Jim had put on. “I really could but certain people seem to think I need to be exposed to things like dirt.” He kicked at some leaves at his feet. “And dead leaves.”

Spock and Jim were ahead of them on the trail and it was interesting watching them, Bones admitted to himself. Since the two teenagers had bonded, there was a certain peace in being around them that he’d never experienced before. Spock’s fingers were drifting through the leaves of a small tree and McCoy sighed. He hated to ruin the kid’s fun but he couldn’t allow the indiscriminate touching of nature.

“Spock.”

The Vulcan turned and looked at him. “Yes, Dr. McCoy?”

“Some of the plants could give you a rash or make you sick. You shouldn’t fondle them.”

Spock snatched his hand back and inspected his fingers briefly before pulling out a pair of leather gloves and sliding them onto his hands. “Thank you, Doctor.”

Jim laughed. “Don’t mind him, Spock; Bones thinks all of nature is out to get him.”

“It is!” Bones insisted. “Remember what happened the last time the two of you made me go camping?”

“You had a great time!” Pike said with a cheerful smile. “Until you fell in a hole because you’re clumsy.”

“I’m not clumsy,” Bones glared at him and sighed when Pike just grinned brightly. It was that grin that had gotten him into his current situation in the first place. He could hardly deny his lover a thing when Chris smiled at him like that. It made him feel stupid and warm on the inside.

– – – –

Sarek watched Jaret Molia prowl around his study, aware that what he’d revealed about Delis Brise had made the Betazoid furious. “What will you do?”

Jaret frowned and took a deep breath. “I don’t know, Sarek. Legally, he’s in Federation Security custody for the next twenty years. He’ll wear a psionic collar the entire time and rehab on the level he requires is… more than the mental health system on Betazed has ever had to deal with.”

“I have no doubts that once he is released he will attempt to kill my son,” Sarek murmured. “You have to know that I will be there the day they let him go free and I will take measures to insure the safety of my child.”

Jaret blew out a breath. “And won’t that be great for political relations between our two planets?”

“I could resolve the matter now,” Sarek offered. “You realize how easy it would be me for to get access to him.”

“For the sake of your family, I would ask you not to,” Jaret murmured.

Sarek focused on his tea before glancing from Healer Stopak to the Vulcan that had come with Jaret. “It is has been many years since we spoke, Taval. I understand your research posting with the VSA expired last month and you have yet to request a new assignment.”

Taval inclined his head towards Jaret. “I am here to attend a seminar at Starfleet but have made no other plans for the future at this time.”

Sarek took the gesture for what it was and nodded. “There is a position at the embassy that might interest you. The Secretary for Scientific Exploration for the Federation has requested that each embassy within the Federation supply a liaison for the sharing of scientific information.”

Taval raised one eyebrow. “I will speak with T’Pol about the posting.” He set aside his tea. “As to the other matter, perhaps the Betazed Embassy could request that Delis Brise be examined by one of their own healers for mental defects. The Federation judge may then agree to transfer him to a facility that could deal with his mental issues.”

“I’ll try,” Jaret murmured and took a deep breath. “I almost went to see him before the trial but I was very angry and I worried that I might do something I’d regret later. I should’ve gone so we would’ve known about his fixation on Spock.”

“He blames Spock for Jim’s refusal,” Sarek murmured. “He is not mistaken in that circumstance. Very few people have even existed for James Kirk since he met my son.”

Jaret snorted softly. “That is an understatement. He wrapped his whole world around Spock from minute one. I was worried at first but then after I met your son—I wasn’t so worried because it was mutual. Their affinity for one another and mental compatibility was stunning from the very beginning.”

“As is the way of t’hy’la,” Stopak murmured. “I received a request from the Vulcan Science Academy. They want access to Spock’s psionic readings before and after the bonding.”

Sarek had received a similar request. “I have not had the opportunity to discuss the matter with Spock. I will not authorize the release of his records concerning his mental abilities without his consent, Stopak.”

“I would not ask it of you,” Stopak returned. “I have already declined to supply the records. It is my duty to him to protect his privacy as much as possible regarding his bond.”

“You should encourage them to give a little on this subject,” Jaret offered from his place by the large window in the room, and shrugged when all three Vulcans turned to look at him. “I realize, better than anyone in this room, how much Jim values his mental privacy. I’ve struggled with him and his gifts for several years. In some circumstances, I’ve had to invent new methods of teaching skills to him because of how much he limits my access to his mind. As far as I know, the only person to ever have unfettered access to his mind besides Spock is T’Pau. All of that being said, if they don’t give the VSA a little bit of information, it could create situations for them in the future that could be dangerous.”

“Are you implying that someone within the VSA might be a threat to my son?” Sarek questioned, his gaze narrowing slightly.

Jaret looked at Sarek in silence for a full minute and his black eyes darkened with humor. “I believe one of the reasons there has always been so much tension between our two peoples, Sarek, is that you can’t fool us into believing you’re in full control of your emotions. Many of you would have everyone in the Federation believe you have no emotions at all no matter how untrue it may be. I would say that there is no species more dangerous in the Federation than Vulcans. Pre-reform Vulcan must have been a sight to behold.”

“Your point?” Taval questioned abruptly.

“That your people know as much about love, hate, jealousy, anger, and fear as any other species in the Federation. Jim and Spock’s refusal to release information regarding their bond can and probably will lead to animosity. And that kind of ill will can lead to very difficult and dangerous situations.”

Sarek found he could not disagree with the Betazoid and that made him uncomfortable. “I will have Amanda discuss it with them.”

“Why not you?” Taval questioned.

“Spock’s desire for my approval has often caused him to do things that were detrimental to his own welfare. I believe my son has suffered enough in his life trying to please me.”

– – – –

“This entire park is situated in a volcano.”

Jim grinned at Spock. “Is that a complaint?”

Spock shook his head. “No, it is an observation.” He glanced out over the camp area they’d chosen and watched Pike and McCoy set up a second tent. “Can we go for a walk?”

“Yeah, let’s do that.” Jim dropped a bundle of sticks in the pile he’d been building and dusted his hands off on his jeans. “Hey, Dad! I’m going to take Spock up the ridge and show him the lake.”

“Yeah, no problem, kid. No skinny dipping—it’s too late in the day.”

Jim grinned. “I appreciate your faith in me, Dad, but I’m not even sure I could get Spock to get naked in the middle of a national park.”

Spock flushed and sighed as Jim grabbed his hand and pulled him out of the camp. “What is skinny dipping?”

“Naked swimming,” Jim replied blithely as he curled their fingers together. “In a pool or a lake or whatever.”

“Have you ever…”

“Well, not since I was like ten or eleven years old. The first time Dad brought me here for camping, I stripped off all of my clothes the first chance I got and jumped in that lake.”

“That is unseemly,” Spock said softly.

“Yeah, totally. It was a great time.” Jim sighed. “Why don’t you contact your mom and see if she’ll update you on your dad’s condition?”

Spock pulled his communicator out of his pocket without a second thought and sent his mother a message with a few deft movements of his thumb. “Did you know that Delis Brise was mentally defective?”

“I knew that to do what he did he had to be,” Jim said and frowned. “Betazoids don’t usually go off the deep end like that and what he did in the courtroom—trying to attack you said a lot about his mental state. I’ve done my level best not to touch his mind since the day he attacked me. But before the attack, all I really got off him was anger and frustration and a sickening amount of ambition. He was blackmailing my grandmother, but I don’t know what he had on her to make her to agree to the betrothal. When I was with her—she hid the information really deeply and I didn’t press for it.”

“It must be difficult to keep secrets on a planet like Betazed.”

“Yes, but not impossible and my grandmother is an incredibly gifted telepath.” Jim sighed. “I don’t think she realized how damaged Brise was nor what he was capable of. I want to think she wouldn’t have agreed to the betrothal if she’d known that.”

“She had to know you would refuse.”

“Yes, I believe she did. It allowed her to make a good faith effort, I guess. She’s a political creature and her reputation has always been very important to her. I imagine Brise knows about some personal indiscretion on her part and threatened to expose her.”

“Personal indiscretion?”

“Sexual affair, maybe.” Jim shrugged as they moved down the path and towards a large blue lake. “Gorgeous, isn’t it?”

Spock glanced out over the water. “It reminds me of your eyes.”

Jim grinned. “So beautiful and amazing?”

“Your ego is a danger to the Universe,” Spock said and then lifted one eyebrow when Jim only laughed. “But, yes, beautiful.” He touched Jim’s face and then brought him close with a gentle pull until they could kiss.

Jim sighed against his mouth and one of his hands drifted to rest on Spock’s hip as their mouths parted. “I love your mouth on mine.”

“I enjoy this Human gesture of affection,” Spock offered seriously as he sought another kiss.

“You’re very good at it,” Jim murmured and tilted his head as Spock trailed a series of kisses along his jaw. “Just awesome.”

– – – –

Sarek lifted his gaze to his office doorway and raised an eyebrow at his wife who had a communicator in one hand. She leaned on the door frame and stared at him before inputting some message and closing the device. “Wife?”

“Spock inquired about your health. He is concerned.” Amanda’s gaze drifted around the room, lighting on the men briefly in turn before settling on Jaret. “I’m making hot chocolate downstairs if you’d like some.”

Jaret’s eyes sort of glazed over briefly and then he sighed. “With the real melted chocolate from the southern continent?”

“Of course, I had a local grocer procure some last week.” Amanda slid her communicator into the pocket of her sundress and smiled. “You’ll have to come downstairs to drink it—it’s so potent I’m not sure you should drink it in the same room with these three.”

Jaret stood up and smiled. “That sounds great. Are there cookies? Because I thought I smelled peanut butter cookies.”

“There are cookies,” Amanda assured. “Husband, I will serve dinner in two hours.”

“Yes, Wife.”

– – – –

Pike flicked the stone in his hand and watched it skip out across the lake. “I owe you an apology, kid.”

Jim glanced at him and swished the fishing pole he’d been press-ganged into holding. Bones and Spock had stayed at the camp when his Dad had asked him to go to the lake with him. “No, you don’t.”

“Yeah, I do. I was so angry over what happened when I demanded that Brise be tried in a Federation court that it never even crossed my mind how much it would expose you to the public. I feel like a complete asshole.”

Jim laughed softly. “Dad, come on. You can’t think I would’ve been happy if he’d ended up back on Betazed in some vacation rehabilitation center. I mean, it isn’t like the Betazoids have a genuine prison system. I didn’t like the media attention or the discussion of my bond in public, but it could have been a great deal worse and at least justice was served.” He flicked the fishing rod again. “I’m never going to catch anything for dinner if you keep skipping rocks.”

Pike laughed. “Between Bones and Spock, we wouldn’t get to eat whatever you catch anyway. Bones would insist on analyzing it for safety and Spock would be all Vulcany about eating it.”

Jim grinned. “It’s so cute when he pretends he isn’t horrified by all the meat I eat.”

Chris sighed. “So, I hope I can trust the two of you to share a tent tonight.”

“I’d never do anything to embarrass Spock,” Jim said primly and then ruined it by grinning. “No, seriously, I don’t know what you think happens between us but our bond is largely platonic. I’m not saying we aren’t physically intimate but there is a line we draw because we agree some things should be for after we’re married. We’re very careful with one another on the physical front.”

“And on the mental front?” Pike asked dryly.

“He rocks my world,” Jim admitted earnestly and only laughed when his Dad groaned in distress.

– – – –

“Are you warm enough?”

“Between the thermals and the portable heater, I am comfortable.” Spock finished arranging their joined sleeping bags on the inflatable mattress. “Conditions aren’t as primitive as I believed they would be when you described where we’d be sleeping.”

Jim grinned. “Dad asked if he could trust us alone in this tent all night.”

“There is nothing we could not do in this tent at night that we could not do during the day when our parents are occupied with their professional concerns.”

Jim laughed. “Right.”

Spock slid into the sleeping bag and pulled Jim close as soon as he moved in beside him and zipped the bag shut. “You’re still upset about the questions you were asked about our bond.”

Jim sighed and turned so that he was on his back. “If an adult would ask me that question in a courtroom, I don’t even want to know what the kids will ask us at school. It’s such a violation of privacy, that’s all.”

“What we are to each other is nothing to be ashamed of,” Spock murmured.

“I could never be ashamed of you,” Jim whispered and touched his face gently—the tips of his fingers grazing several meld points in the process. He watched Spock’s eyes darken almost black at the gesture and then he rubbed his thumb over the Vulcan’s bottom lip. “Not ever. You’re all I ever needed and I didn’t even know it until I met you.”

“Vulcans do not believe in luck,” Spock began and carefully brushed Jim’s hair from his forehead. “But when I look at you, I am forced to admit there is no other way to explain how fortunate I am to know you and to have you in my life as you are—forever my friend and lover.”

“Always,” Jim agreed.

The End

Return to the Series Page

Keira Marcos

In my spare time I write fan fiction and lead a cult of cock worshippers on Facebook. It's not the usual kind of hobby for a "domestic engineer" in her 30's but we live in a modern world and I like fucking with people's expectations.

133 Comments:

  1. It’s so fluffy I’m gonna die!!!

    Seriously this is one of the best series I’ve read. Can’t wait for the next parts!!!

  2. I just re-read the entire series and it is more fabulous then I remembered. Thank you so much for sharing your incredible talent with us 🙂

  3. Wow, this series is so great. I’m absolutely in love with it. Spock and Jims relationship is so beautiful<3 I can't wait to read more! Glad that Brise got sentenced as well!

  4. Hello, thank you for a wonderful reading experience. I have just charged through the first six stories and have enjoyed them mightily. I will be re-reading them often, I can tell, as they are so very enjoyable.

    Thank your for writing and sharing such beautifully written fiction.

  5. The trial was pretty exciting. I think Sarek was a total badass when he did the nerve pinch.

    I think it’s kind of nice that Jim and Spock are waiting for marriage to go all the way with their sex life.

  6. I’ve only just discovered this series, and I’m amazed at the total awesomeness! Your characters rock my socks off! Can’t wait to read the next chapter. Thank you for sharing this 🙂

  7. Have I told you recently that you’re brilliant?
    Just saying. Love this ‘verse….

  8. So, i found you because of your work in Stargate Atlantis, was thrilled when i found the Sentinel based AU story and nearly squealed with joy when i saw the actual Sentinel story. I’ve been checking for all the updates on the WIPs as often as i have access to the net (as sadly i do not currently have internet at home-a girl could cry!). I’ll admit readily i can be a bit impatient, but i don’t get rude about it and post nasty stuff while i wait semi-impatiently. So, i hesitated to read this because first off, i don’t normally read Star Trek FanFic (not to mention there was stuff they did in the latest movie i wasn’t too thrilled with-like destroying Vulcan my fav alien planet!) and secondly it was something else that was a WIP. Yet i have loved everything that you’ve written, so i said what the heck. It’ll hold me over while i wait for the other updates. I promptly fell in love with another one of your stories! You’re so great at making characters that are believable and easy to relate to, that leave you rooting for them and crying with them. Not to mention writing stories that leave you hanging on for more and eating up every little scrap-and thankfully not so little scrap-that you throw our way! I admit that i wasn’t too sure i liked the Spock in the movie, but you single handedly made me fall in love with the character all over again! I even watched the movie again and enjoyed it more thanks to you! Honestly, you could *SO* get paid for this caliber of work, i would buy anything you’d publish! I simply love everything that you’ve ever written! At least that i’ve read! (snig)

    Eagerly waits for more,
    The Voracious Reader
    Your Undying Fan (& not in a creepy stalker way…REALLY!)
    Coley

  9. So I just reread this nice bit of story and I finally I got around to comment on it u.u
    I have to say I love this world you created for them, the characters and relationships developing are great to see in action

    I am especially fond of Sarek and Amanda. Their relationship is really great =)

    I’ll be looking forward to the next chapters of this.
    Please keep up your great work!

  10. I have just finished rereading the entire series from the beginning in preparation for the the next chapter. And may I just say how much I love this series. Amanda is awesome, Sarek is amazing and all of your vulcans have emotions without showing emotions.

    I was wondering how far into the future you are planning to take this. I would love to see Kirk and Spock in the Academy, or even during the events that unfolded in the movie. And just to make sure, if you ever did the movie your way, Amanda would not die, right? Because that would break a little piece of my soul.

  11. the one hopes that your muse stays generous! just re-read this again and enjoyed it all over again. w00t, srsly good stuff!

    hope to see moar of this trippy story — am signed up, so will see it when ’tis posted 🙂

  12. Loved it so much. I hope you’ll write more soon =D

  13. *fangirling wildly*

    Damn, you’re good!

    Every time I read this, I love it more. And you know I’ve read this umpty-kajillion time, so I love it *lots*!

    I love how Bones is a little OCD about his exposure to… well, everything. Spock and Jim truly are adorable like puppies, Sarek continues to be a BAMF and Amanda is awesome.

    So are you!

    *waves my pom poms*

  14. They showed a re-run of STXI at the local theater I saw recently which I celebrated with re-reading this fic. Both are awesome and I can’t wait for the sequel/next part 🙂

  15. keepcalmloveseverus

    Well I hope they manage to handle Delis and he doesn’t pop back up again at some point later in the series to be a major pain in the ass. That would break my heart.

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