Exactly what was going through my head in that scene, tbh.
The admiralty basically has a total conniption.
Thankfully it’s a broadside, mostly aimed at the bullshit they’ve got going on in their own little white tower, but Jim sits through the debriefings and the interviews and the meetings (and by the end he’s pretty sure they came up with brand new synonyms for ‘tell us again how you fucked up so we don’t have to think about our own culpability’) and tries to smile. Or not to smile. Smiling would be considered inappropriate, he’s sure.
He spends most of it trying not to dwell on whatever’s going on inside in his bloodstream, and the rest trying even harder to kill the singsong of ‘you were only slightly dead’ that’s he’s probably gonna be hearing for years in Bones’ voice.
Everything moves in a kind of blurry haze, a whirlwind of medical follow-ups (at least he’s not allergic to genetically engineered superblood, that’d suck) and after action reports. The highlights include the memorial service for the crew they lost (he remembers all the names, without a single glance at the PADD, and only winces a little as he says each one and feels like a sliver of glass has dug under his skin) and the final board of inquiry that agrees that it was ‘mostly due to circumstances beyond your control’.
Ultimately he gets to keep his rank, and he’ll get his ship back too once there are a few less holes in it, so he restrains himself and valiantly doesn’t punch even a single smug, condescending officer in the face. He thinks about it though, purely for cathartic reasons.
By the time he gets a chance to sleep and take stock of everything, Jim’s sure he’s aged at least twenty years. He considers swimming to the bottom of a bottle of scotch, but everything about that idea just turns sour when he thinks about two separate bars but the same disappointed look on Pike’s face.
So he sleeps. Badly.
The dreams aren’t a surprise; lots of running down endless corridors headfirst into howling vacuum streaked with blue, that sort of thing; people screaming at him for help that he can never find; waking up still feeling the raw heat of explosions or the gnawing, twisting pain of radiation burns. Not pleasant, but still not surprising.
It’s the other sort of dreams that really bother him. Because they’re not dreams. Jim’s subconscious is just not that cruel or fucked up. They don’t even belong to him.
He’s on the wrong side of the glass, is always the first thought that forms, before what he’s seeing really registers.
“The ship?” Spock’s asking, like that matters just then, like anything matters when he’s- “Out of danger?”
The room’s full of smoke and the smell of fried opticable and Jim’s choking on it, choking on the anger and the total denial of where he is and what’s happening. Drowning in a kind of terror he never thought he’d feel.
“… the needs of the few…” his lips say without his brain, and why isn’t anyone doing anything can’t they see Spock’s-
“I never took the Kobayashi Maru test, until now. What do you think of my solution?” and how does he sound so calm? How can he be so Vulcan about this?
Except he hadn’t been, had he? Not when things were the right way around and Jim was the one in the fucking tomb with his skin burning and his vision swimming.
“I have been and always shall be your friend,” and it reverberates like a death rattle, kills some part of Jim between his skin and his soul. Because this is wrong. He’s not an admiral and Spock’s not a captain and he’s on the wrong side of the glass.
You of all people should know
“Live long… and prosper.”
A captain cannot cheat death
He wakes up screaming.