Jim protested heavily, full body weight pressing against his captors, and under cursing in at least nine different languages and thirteen dialects, but they wouldn’t budge, and he soon found himself in the entrance hall of the facility, doors closing swiftly behind him with tangible finality. He managed to land a hit on one of his captors’ chins, and he noted the resulting grunt with satisfaction, but soon there were more hands on him, and he hadn’t trained for a combat in months. It came as no surprise to either of them when the security men managed to overpower him in his hazy drug-induced state, and he was swiftly shoved into a barren room without further ado.
He continued cursing and screaming until he was hoarse, but no one came, and eventually he admitted defeat, dropping down on the hard bed, face first, squeezing his eyes shut as a wave of nausea hit him.
How had he ended up in that place? One minute he had been safely sitting on the floor of his flat, enjoying the aftereffects of Rhuludian crystals, the next a couple of Starfleet security men had stormed through the door and manhandled him into a waiting air car, locking him inside until they had arrived at what Jim had recognized as a rehab centre, doubtlessly signing him up as a patient.
He snorted into his pillow, holding on tight to his sheet as the world kept spinning behind his closed eyes. So people in the headquarters HAD noticed his disappearance after all. It had only taken them four months to bother try and find him. Jim thought bitterly that he would have to consider that quick for Starfleet standards.
Why force him into rehab, though? Why now? He had resigned his commission months ago, leaving Starfleet and everything connected behind for good. Why would they bother chasing after him?
He sat up slowly as the thought began to sink in, nausea forgotten for the moment. Of course. The drugs had dampened his mind, but even in his current state he was considerably smarter than was good for him. Starfleet headquarters wouldn’t care about a captain fallen from grace pumping narcotics into his bloodstream.
Jim groaned, partly because he felt like a Denebian slime devil had thoroughly chewed him through and spit him out, partly because he couldn’t believe he had been stupid enough to answer Pike’s message when the man had enquired about his general health a couple of weeks ago. Naturally, Jim hadn’t mentioned anything about his drug addiction or even the address of the flat he was currently staying in, but when the Admiral set his mind on something, he usually got it done. He must have retraced the message to his location, doubtlessly having heard rumours about Kirk’s sorry state in the past.
Great. Fucking awesome. That’s what you get for staying in touch with friends, he thought bitterly, they always screw you over eventually.
He slept uneasily for a couple of hours, deciding there was nothing to be done about his situation for the time being anyway, before three facility employees opened his door and eyed him warily, one of them sporting a brilliant bruise on his chin, and Jim noticed he wasn’t wearing the same white outfit as the others, but an official Starfleet uniform.
“Did Pike send you to keep an eye on me?” the blond snorted, getting up to face his opponents.
“Yeah,” the rock of a man answered grimly, “believe it or not, for some reason he thinks you might try to pull a slick one and escape.”
“You can’t keep me here against my will, you know,” Jim reminded the universe at large. “I have rights.”
“As an official Starfleet member you don’t,” the man told him mercilessly.
“I resigned months ago,” Kirk said impatiently, hot anger rising inside him as he tried to control the urge to attack the cheeky giant in front of him.
“Your commission was put on ice, not deleted from all databanks, Kirk,” the guy sighed wearily. “You can’t just leave the service. Once you’re in, you belong to them. Deal with it.” He entered the room threateningly, nodding towards the two facility employees in the process. “Now get going, the doctor’s waiting.”
Jim wanted to argue, but he realized the other man was not only much bigger than him, but also trained, which could not be said of Kirk. He hadn’t had any exercise ever since he’d turned to the drugs, and that had been months ago. Resigned, he side-stepped the giant and walked through the door, a cheery “As you wish, Cupcake,” on his lips.
The security man followed him to the doctor’s office, but stayed outside for the sake of confidentiality, however, stated in no uncertain terms that he would find Kirk should he try anything, to which Jim just grunted a non-committal “Yes, dear,” and entered the room.
The office was old-fashioned, crammed, and transmitted the feeling of home and warmth, doubtlessly just as intended, but Jim only had eyes for the man behind the desk, looking between at least five different PADDs with a hurried look in his eyes, not even noticing his patient had entered.
Kirk settled quietly into the lounge chair half-facing the window, waiting for the man to catch up with the recent turn of events. Minutes later he heard a surprised shriek, followed by a wave of cursing and footsteps as the man approached him quickly.
“Goddammit, man,” he swore under his breath, holding a hand to his chest in a dramatic gesture. “Are you trying to kill me? Usually patients at least wait until I’ve introduced myself before they plot my demise.”
“Unsuccessfully, I see,” Jim grinned despite himself, taking in the lean figure in front of him. The doctor’s hair was standing in all directions, he clearly hadn’t shaved, and his clothes looked like they had seen better and - more importantly – cleaner days. Kirk huh-ed quietly at that picture before he added, “Although they do seem to be gaining ground on you.”
“Don’t get smart with me, kid,” the man grunted and settled down in the seat next to his. “I may not have had the chance to take a shower today, but at least I didn’t get dragged out of my own apartment last night because a couple of Starfleet officers recognized my face when I passed out in an alley.”
“Really?” Jim asked with a slight frown. “That’s how they found me?”
The doctor stared at him with an incredulous look for a second before he exasperatedly shook his head and snorted,
“Seriously? That’s it? No ‘when was that’, ‘how did they recognize me’, ‘what were they doing in that alley in the first place’?” He held Jim’s innocent gaze for a while before he sighed and leaned back in his armchair. “That was two months ago, kid, just in case you were interested in finding out what particular alley they found you in. Pike took over from there, as far as I know, and now you’re here to keep me company as I slowly become one of you.”
“Problems, doc?” Jim grinned cheekily. “Got a bottle of Saurian brandy in that heavy desk of yours?”
The man paled slightly at that, causing Kirk to laugh and lean back in his chair.
“Relax, I won’t tell,” he chuckled. “Not my area anyway. I’m not an alcoholic, but I’m sure you know that already.”
“I’m sorry, are you really James T Kirk?” the doctor said with a blank expression. “Because I got no idea what Starfleet’s gonna do with a goddamn brat like you once you’re fixed up and ready to get back to duty.”
“Excellent question, doc,” Jim nodded slowly. “But I can’t help you there. If I pretend not to be me, but someone else unrelated to Starfleet, will you let me go?”
“After you insulted my stunning good looks?” the doctor snorted. “Not a chance, kid. You’re staying right here.”
“If it means I get to spend my days with you, sunshine, I won’t complain about a thing,” Jim said sweetly, throwing himself at the unsuspecting man, managing to land a wet kiss on his lips before the other could protest.
“If you think this is gonna make me let you go,” the doctor said finally, after extracting himself from Kirk’s iron grip, “I regret to inform you that this isn’t even close to the worst thing that’s ever been done to me here. Heck, if you wanna cuddle in order to open up and talk to me I’ll even get you a goddamn blanket.”
“Not before the third date,” Jim said sternly, but there was an amused twinkle in his eyes as he fixed the doctor, “I’m an honourable junkie.”
“My parents will be relieved to know that.”
“Aw, don’t worry,” Kirk chuckled as he threw himself back into his armchair, “parents love me. I’m a catch. Or… well. Used to be, anyway.”
“Kid,” the doctor sighed, suddenly serious. “Compared to my demon ex-wife, anyone would be an improvement.”
“That bad, huh?”
The doctor awarded him with an assessing look before he leaned forwards in his chair and said in a what Kirk thought was meant to be soothing voice,
“I’m gonna tell you all about how she left me nothing but my bones if you tell me how you started using and why.”
Jim met the intent eyes trying to burn into his skull with a challenge in his own.
“This better be good, Bones.”
Naturally, Jim didn’t tell him anything useful at all. He told him his standard lie of how he’d been fed up with the system, left Starfleet, and then met a guy who knew a guy who fixed him up with something.
The doctor saw through him immediately, all but threatening to keep harassing him until he had spilled all his dirty little secrets, but Jim shrugged it off just as he had Pike’s begging to stay in the Fleet after… well, AFTER.
He didn’t talk about it. He didn’t want to think about it either, but of course his brain wouldn’t comply, and that’s why he needed the drugs in the first place, wasn’t it? He didn’t need a shrink, he needed amnesia, but at the same time he was afraid to let the memories go, afraid to forget what was clearly so important.
Someone ought to remember, he thought. He owed them that, at least.
Left alone with his grim thoughts and self-loathing for the day, after his first session with the doctor had been concluded, he was free to explore the grounds, Cupcake always a step behind.
Not that he could have escaped had he tried to. All patients were equipped with an irremovable transmitter when they were admitted, preventing them to leave the grounds, lest they were ready to get electroshocked. It was also there to record their vitals and to keep track on their location, but the bottom-line was that Jim couldn’t leave this place until the good doctor decided he was fit for duty again.
And that was the next problem. He didn’t want to be fit for duty again. Pike must have been in dire need of recruits if he considered getting Jim back on the job again, that much was certain. After… THAT, he had had a mental breakdown and all but fled the planet at first, returning primarily to hand in his official resignation, spontaneously deciding to stay on Earth in the process, although in hindsight that had been a mistake.
He sighed heavily at his prospects, clapping Cupcake’s shoulder to get the man’s attention and gestured towards the gardens stretching farther than his eyes could see.
“Feel like getting in touch with nature, dear?” he asked gleefully, grinning at the officer’s obvious anger at Kirk’s lack of respect.
Jim walked past him, not waiting for an answer, stalking towards a man inspecting one of the flowers at the side of the building.
“Anything interesting?” he yawned, nodding towards the plant when the man turned towards him with a raised eyebrow.
“Depends,” he answered thoughtfully. “Do you normally find flowers interesting?”
Jim looked at him, speechless for a second before he laughed and stretched out his hand in greeting.
“Touché,” he chuckled, clasping the other’s hand firmly in his. “My friends call me Jim.”
“Hikaru Sulu,” the other nodded in return.
“Command track?” Jim asked on a hunch, recognizing the tense set of shoulders he was all too familiar with.
“I was a pilot when I got suspended, but yeah,” Sulu shrugged. “What about you?”
Kirk smiled tightly at the question, his eyes cold as he answered,
“I used to be a Captain.”
“Oh?” The other looked surprised. “That’s unusual, even here, where it’s just Starfleet officers in the facility.”
“That’s me,” Jim laughed. “Unique, wherever I go.”
“Seems like it,” Sulu grinned. “Oh hey, wait, I want to introduce you to a friend of mine,” he said as his gaze swept over the grounds, dragging the blond to a woman leaning back on a bench, eyes closed. “Oy! Uhura, wake up.”
Jim’s eyes widened minutely as he recognized the pilot’s friend, gaping at her when she stood up and faced them.
She mimicked his expression expertly, recovering first.
“Jim?” she asked, disbelief clearly written on her face. “What are YOU doing here?”
“Funny, I wanted to ask you the same question,” he snorted. “Haven’t you heard? It was a pretty huge scandal when I resigned my commission, as far as I can remember.” He pondered on that for a second before he added, “which doesn’t really account for much, these days, I suppose.”
“You’re a junkie?” she asked, still not quite believing her eyes.
“So are you, apparently, so don’t judge me, oh holy Adjustedness,” he grinned sheepishly.
“Hilarious,” she deadpanned. “So what was it?”
“Same,” she nodded wearily. “After Vulcan…”
Jim’s eyes met hers, and he knew they understood each other without saying anything. A flash of a woman clinging onto him as he threw himself at her and held her close as they were beamed out, watching the planet disappear underneath their feet, suddenly appeared in his mind, and he shook the memory off. There were no happy memories to be found down that lane, and he tried very hard to suppress them, together with the other, even less pleasant pictures.
“You guys were on Vulcan together?” Sulu asked impressed, clearly oblivious to his companions’ distress. “I’m sorry,” he said quickly, apparently realizing his mistake as soon as he’d opened his mouth. “I mean… I know- I’ve HEARD, but… It’s so rare to meet survivors…”
“No shit,” Jim grunted, remembering the decimation of his whole graduation class all too vividly, throwing himself down on the bench Uhura had vacated.
“I just… I’m sorry, I have to ask,” Sulu pressed, hardly containing his excitement, “is it true? Did an ensign on the Enterprise really beam down to Nero’s ship and destroyed it from the inside?”
Uhura shot a quick glance Kirk’s way before she nodded slowly. “Yes,” she sighed tiredly. “That happened. And the ensign let that success completely get to his head and thought he was captain material after that.”
“Ouch, that hurt,” Jim chuckled as Uhura punched him good-naturedly, sitting down beside him. “And don’t blame everything on me. You helped, remember?”
“I still can’t believe you made me knock out the ensign in the transporter room,” she frowned sternly at him. “It’s a miracle we didn’t both get suspended after that.”
“That was you?” Sulu gaped at him openly. “You’re James Kirk? I never thought the guy actually existed. No one could possibly be that suicidal.”
“Hey, it worked, didn’t it?” Jim smiled, turning to Uhura. “Don’t ever mock my ideas again. We defeated the Romulans, and you got a pretty sweet promotion.”
“So did you,” Uhura said, suddenly serious. “What happened?”
“You heard what happened,” Jim waved off. “It was all over the news. I smashed the Enterprise. Nothing left to tell. She’s gone, and I’m here. Living the dream, that’s what I am.”
“No, it’s fine,” he said, standing up abruptly. “You were right in the end. I wasn’t captain material.”
With that he stalked off, leaving a gaping Sulu and a concerned looking Uhura behind, certain Cupcake would follow him inside without looking.
He holed himself up in his room for the remainder of the day, trying to put a lid on the can of memories meeting Uhura had unleashed, failing miserably, until it was time for the group session his doctor had warned him about.
They were sitting in a circle in the garden, looking and not-looking at each other uncomfortably as the circle leader reminded them of the procedure.
“I see we have a new member in our midst,” she said, nodding at Jim with an encouraging smile. “Welcome. To start off introductions, I am Christine Chapel, your circle leader and head nurse, so if you need anything other than a fix, you can come straight to me.”
Kirk snorted lightly at the little joke, smiling at the nurse in return.
“I’ll try and remember that,” he mumbled, suddenly feeling all eyes on him.
“Do you want to introduce yourself first, or shall the others begin?” she asked patiently, warm eyes resting on his trembling figure.
“Er…” Jim fidgeted in his chair, unused to getting all the attention ever since he’d relinquished command, feeling more uncomfortable than he had that one time he’d been forced to squeeze himself into a tiny box with one of his officers for six hours in absolute silence to avoid getting detected by locals.
“That’s all right,” Chapel smiled knowingly, nodding at the man sitting beside her. “Let’s start with Mr Scott.”
“Aye, lass,” the man said cheerily, sitting up a bit straighter from his slump in the hard chair. “My name’s Montgomery Scott. I used to be an engineer, but that didn’t work out and according to these guys,” he gestured wildly at the grounds at large, “I’m an alcoholic.”
“You don’t agree?” Christine asked, amusement obvious in her voice.
“I say there’s nothing wrong with a little sip of a fine bottle every now and then,” Scott said defensively, crossing his arms in front of his chest with a small pout on his face.
“As you say, Mr Scott,” the nurse chuckled, gesturing the next person to go on.
“Er… right,” the man Jim had met earlier said distractedly, trying to collect himself as he noticed all eyes were on him. “Hikaru Sulu, pilot. Er… I… I did a bit of… everything, really. Mostly Talesian powder.”
“Very good, Mr Sulu, well done,” Chapel smiled warmly, nodding at the person beside him.
“Chekov, Pavel Andreievich,” he introduced himself with a cheery grin. “Navigations.”
“And…?” Chapel pressed carefully.
“Mr Scott said taking a sip ewery now and then is not addiction,” Chekov reminded her sternly.
“Indeed?” the nurse asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Yes. There’s nothing vrong vith enjoying Wodka.”
“If you say so, Mr Chekov,” Chapel said vaguely, looking at the woman beside him.
“Uhura,” she sighed defeated, not meeting Kirk’s gaze as he looked at her. “Communications. Drugs. It’s your turn, Jim.”
He looked at her quietly for a moment before he redirected his gaze towards the sky as he said,
“Jim Kirk, Captain. You name it, I took it.”
Chapel looked at him as if expecting more, but he ignored her, his mind straying off in a dangerous direction. The woman had clung to him in the transporter room, begging him to stay with her eyes alone, but he had left her there, losing sight of her in the crowd as more and more people had arrived to take care of the survivors, and he had rushed towards the bridge, trying to convince Pike’s Number One to head after Nero.
He shook his head before he could finish that thought, almost grateful his flashback hadn’t been related to the other thing. Vulcan seemed harmless in comparison, and he had spent months trying to erase both occasions from his mind.
“Jim?” Chapel asked carefully, noticing his absent state. “Is there something you would like to share with us today?”
Kirk looked at her for a moment, blinking rapidly to catch up with her words.
“I wouldn’t wanna steal the spotlight from the seniors,” he said eventually, a cocky grin firmly in place.
“Don’t think you can evade forever, Mr Kirk,” Chapel said warningly, but her eyes radiated warmth, and surprisingly it did make Jim feel better for the moment.
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” he chuckled, leaning back with his eyes closed as he listened to the others describing episodes of using in their life.
The symptoms kicked in the next day, and despite his clearly agitated state, Bones refused to give him something so he would detox immediately and made him go through it the old-fashioned way. According to the doctor he needed to feel what it would be like should he return to that lifestyle, and, as Jim privately thought, probably because by now the man had figured out that Kirk wanted to be punished.
Bones had seen right through him from the start. The events surrounding his decommission were no secret, they had caused an intergalactic outcry at the time, but so far the doctor seemed to be the only one who truly understood, at least on an objective level, how Jim felt.
Years of dealing with junkies, no doubt, made the doctor incredibly empathic concerning matters of the tortured mind, and Jim wanted to open up to him, he did, but he didn’t know how. He had never learned to express his emotions, had always bottled them up and swallowed them down, hoping they wouldn’t make their way back up again.
Bones watched him carefully, PADD in hand, as Jim mumbled something that was supposed to be funny, but they both knew he was deflecting, and badly so.
“How’s the trembling?” the doctor interrupted him eventually when he noticed his clammy hands playing with his hair. “Do you hate yourself for using yet?”
“Not quite,” Jim said with a crooked smile. “I’m not overly fond of you right now, though.”
“Ah, that’s normal,” Bones waved off good-naturedly. “You’re still fine. Should you develop the urge to bash my head in with a goddamn PADD, give me a warning. Then it might be time to put you into isolation.”
Kirk considered him for a moment before he said blankly,
“Got the scars to prove it,” the doctor replied lightly, gesturing at a long-healed cut on his forehead.
“Wow, that looks pretty bad,” Jim frowned. “How did that happen?”
Bones laughed loudly at that, leaning back in his chair.
“You don’t know it yet, kid, but you’re gonna wanna do the same thing,” he explained. “You’d be willing to sell your own mother to Orion slave traders if it would get you a fix in a couple of hours, believe me.”
“Who says I’d need the incentive of getting a fix for that?” Jim grunted, turning away from the other man.
“Is that something you wanna talk about?” Bones asked curiously. “I was hoping we could discuss what happened to the Enterprise, but if there are some family issues you’d like to address, I’d be more than happy to lend you an ear or two.”
Jim said nothing in return, still refusing to look at the doctor, so he added,
“I might even come up with a medical procedure to lend you five or more, if you need them.”
“That’s a bad idea, you’d only be bored five times as much,” Kirk mumbled, but there was a small smile playing around his lips.
“Okay then,” the doctor frowned as he leaned back in thought, “how about you tell me a story that’s not boring? You were out in space. Tell me something that happened there, anything at all, and remind me why I’ve never been out there.”
“Oh, you would like it,” Jim chuckled, finally turning to look at the other. “You’re just the man for the job.”
“Doctor on a spaceship,” Kirk shrugged. “You’re exactly what those things need, you know? My former CMO could have learned a thing or two from you.” His eyes darkened, and he looked away again before he mumbled, “Of course now there’s no way he ever will.”
“Jim…” Bones put a reassuring hand on his thigh, squeezing lightly, worry overcoming his face.
“No, it’s fine,” Kirk shook his head to get rid of the memories threatening to come up, jumping abruptly out of his chair, heading for the door. “We should definitely talk about that, but our time’s over for today, doc. See you tomorrow.”
He hurried out of the room, shaky hands rubbing the back of his neck, acutely aware of Cupcake following him back to his own quarters. He waited for an hour in silence, until he heard his guard leave to get a coffee, obviously convinced Kirk wouldn’t be leaving his room anymore today, and then he sneaked out.
He wandered around aimlessly for a couple of minutes before he spotted Cupcake around a corner, apparently returning to his post, and instinctively jumped into the next room to avoid being seen.
He wasn’t trying to escape, he couldn’t, but being followed around all the time was damn annoying, and he needed some time alone if he was supposed to make it through all the shrink sessions.
“You are not an employee of this facility,” a steady voice noticed behind him, and Jim turned around quickly, finding himself facing a Vulcan considering him with a raised eyebrow.
“Er… no,” Kirk allowed, taking a tentative step forward as he scanned his surroundings. It was a small room, and there was nothing but a console, standing to his right, facing a window into another, bigger room. The adjoining room was completely empty, and Jim wondered what the point of either of them were, forgetting the other man for a moment.
“You are a patient,” the Vulcan deduced when he realized the human wouldn’t be offering anything more than that.
“That’s… yeah,” Jim huffed, nervous hands brushing through his hair, “I am. Who are you?”
The other straightened at that, clasping his hands behind his back.
“I am programming this simulation,” he said, as if that explained everything.
“What simulation?” Jim inquired when he was fairly certain the Vulcan didn’t have anything to add to that statement.
“It is a procedure designed to… ease psychological strain on the patient,” the other answered slowly, as if debating internally whether he should be sharing this information or not.
“How does it work?” Kirk asked, intrigued, willing to hold on to anything capable of distracting him from the sweat breaking out on his forehead and the tremors running through his body, even if it was only for a moment.
The Vulcan gestured vaguely in the direction of the adjoining room, frowning slightly at Jim’s dishevelled state, deciding not to comment on the human’s appearance as he explained,
“The patient is mentally transported into his own mind, able to experience scenarios he has already lived through or invent new places his imagination fabricates. The exercise is designed to enable individuals to…” he stopped, seemingly searching for the right words, “accept past failures and experience outcomes which would have likely occurred had they made different choices at the time.”
Jim smiled at that, a bitter upturn of his lips which didn’t reach his eyes by a stretch.
“And what if the alternative would have been better?” he said hoarsely. “Isn’t that counterproductive to recovery?”
The Vulcan considered him for a moment before he inclined his head slightly, his eyes locking with Jim’s intently as he said,
“In my experience humans can only achieve a peace of mind once they have eliminated all possible ‘what if’s.”
Kirk snorted, looking away as he started pacing the room agitatedly, rubbing the back of his neck as he went.
“I’m not sure everyone wants to relive certain events in their life,” he pointed out unnecessarily.
“Possible,” the Vulcan allowed, eyes following the human’s pacing uneasily. “As a patient of this facility you will have the opportunity to test that theory yourself, once the simulation has been calibrated accordingly.”
Jim laughed loudly at that, humourlessly, but at the same time not. He stopped very close to the technician, withdrawal making him agitated and careless, with an unfamiliar mix of aggression, and he leaned forward, suddenly uncertain whether he could even get his mouth to open at all, to whisper hoarsely into the other’s ear,
He could practically feel the figure before him stiffen, even though they weren’t touching, and Jim did chuckle at that.
“Relax, man,” he mumbled, restless hands going through his hair once again. “I’m not gonna kill you. Not that I could if I wanted to,” he noticed with a slight frown. “They took my phaser, I’m suffering from serious withdrawal, and Vulcans are way stronger than humans to begin with. You’re perfectly safe.”
The Vulcan said nothing, but Jim noticed that his eyes were staring intently at the ground now.
“But maybe that’s not what you’re scared of,” Kirk breathed into one pointed ear. The adjoining body shivered infinitesimally, but he noticed anyway. He’s been playing this game ever since he’d turned twelve, he knew how to read the signs, alien or not.
Carefully, he made a small step towards the Vulcan, now standing so close that an exaggerated intake of breath would make them touch, but Jim was making sure they didn’t.
“Tell me, guy who is ‘programming this simulation’,” he whispered hoarsely, making sure his breath tickled the ear spoken into, “why would a Vulcan be interested in creating ‘what if’ scenarios to help humans while his own race is struggling to rebuild? Why waste your time on us and our illogical behaviour?”
The technician stiffened even more at that, but answered nonetheless.
“You may consider it a debt that is to be repaid.”
“You don’t owe us anything just because we tried to save your planet,” Jim snorted, leaning in a bit more, still avoiding any touch between them. “We failed, in case you forgot.”
The other man turned his head at that, finally meeting Kirk’s eyes, also ensuring no direct contact resulted between them.
“You misunderstand,” he clarified, voice as low as Jim’s had been. “I am not doing this because of the actions of your race as a whole, disregarding the outcome. It is a personal debt I owe to one member of your species, and since I cannot repay it to the one responsible, I chose to direct my efforts to a broader audience.”
“Why?” Jim frowned, afraid to raise his voice all of a sudden. “Why would you dedicate your life to serving someone who doesn’t even know about your efforts?”
“My reasons are my own,” the Vulcan said simply, but there was no malice in his tone, and Jim swallowed heavily at the intensity in the other’s eyes as they watched him.
“Well,” Kirk said slightly louder, clearing his throat uncomfortably. When had the tables turned on him? This wasn’t going according to plan. Time to leave the battlefield. “I sure hope, whatever your motivations, they’re worth it.”
“Good for you then,” Jim chuckled uneasily, trying to lean back, but the nausea he had been trying to suppress ever since he’d woken up this morning finally overcame him and he stumbled considerably, vaguely aware of his swaying as his hands came up to cover his face. “Ugh,” he made unhappily, ignorant of the warm hand holding on to his shoulder to steady him. “Oh god, Bones was right. I hate myself now.” Jim tried to do various things at once, none of them turning out as planned, and he found himself kneeling on the floor a few seconds later, unsure of how he had ended up there.
“Do you require medical attention?” the Vulcan asked from the floor beside him, apparently having helped him get down as gracefully as possible in the first place.
“Ugh, no,” Jim grunted, forcing himself to meet the concerned eyes with a pained smile, “What I need is a couple of Orion slave traders willing to take my mother in exchange for a fix.”
The technician looked at him quietly for a beat before he said,
“I shall endeavour if any such vessels are currently in orbit, however, until we have located one, I would strongly advise you to seek out a doctor.”
“Was that humour?” Jim groaned, uncertain of everything at the moment, a tremendous headache drowning out most outside noises. “From a Vulcan?”
“Most certainly not,” the technician replied dignified. “As you can clearly see you are in dire need of medical attention. I shall call a doctor.”
“No, wait,” Jim said quickly, holding onto a warm arm for dear life just as the Vulcan tried to stand up. “I’m not… really supposed to be here. Just… Just help me sneak back into my room, please?”
The other considered him for a moment, clearly uncomfortable with the knowledge of Kirk’s inappropriate behaviour, torn between helping someone obviously in need of assistance and following rules. Eventually he let out a heavy breath, which Jim translated as a defeated sigh and grabbed the patient by the shoulders, helping him stand upright again.
“Very well,” the Vulcan said. “I shall assist you in this, however, there is one condition I have to ask.”
“What?” Kirk groaned, trying to keep steady on his feet, relying heavily on the warm arms holding him in place.
“As soon as you have returned to your quarters you will seek out professional medical help.”
The Vulcan all but dragged him to his room in the end, leaving him to wait around a corner until he had successfully persuaded Cupcake to show him the way to the administration, allowing Jim to sneak in unseen.
He knew the Vulcan was more than uncomfortable with deceiving the Starfleet officer, but his urge to get Kirk to accept proper treatment won out over the voice of his conscience in the end. Jim smiled quietly at the thought of having got a Vulcan to sort-of-but-not-really lie for him, holding onto that feeling as another tremor ran through his body.
He forced himself to abandon his bed and walked over to a panel in the wall, pressing the emergency button, causing a medic to stumble into his room almost instantly.
“You can tell the doc that I’m willing to smash his head in now,” he groaned, dropping down on the bed again. “He’ll know what I mean.”
The medic smiled knowingly, leaving the room in a hurry to get doctor McCoy before his patient let out his frustration on him.
When Bones arrived he gave Jim the once-over and offered to keep him in his room for the next three days or put him into an isolation cell, designed so he wouldn’t be able to hurt himself should the urge overcome him.
Jim chose the isolation, knowing himself well enough by now to know he was already destructive enough without the symptoms of withdrawal, and Bones looked almost relieved as he locked him up in the cell lacking everything but a standard-issue bathroom and a blanket. The walls were soft, as was the floor, and Jim suddenly felt like he had been put into a mental institution rather than a rehab facility, but he didn’t mention it as Bones wished him good luck and left him to his own devices.
He spent the first hours pacing relentlessly, trying to distract his brain from the obvious trains of thought it ached to follow, now that the drugs weren’t there to mute his guilt any longer. He tried to do a few push-ups, but his body was tired and not used to work-outs anymore, so he had to stop soon, leaving him with nothing to do but sit quietly in the dark, waiting for his demons to haunt him in the silence.
Whenever he closed his eyes he could see a crumbling planet disappearing from beneath his feet, the screams of people all around him - not Vulcans, no, they remained dignified even in death - but Starfleet officers, trying to grab as many of the locals as they could before the ground broke underneath them. He saw the woman in his arms, clinging to him tightly as he jumped towards her, catching her just in time before she fell, urging the transporter room to get them out before they were all lost with the planet.
He remembered the rush after that, people running from room to room, trying to find their family and friends, Vulcans and humans alike. They had lost so many people on that planet, and so many more around it, destroyed by Nero’s ship. It had been pure luck that the Romulan had chosen the Enterprise to be the one to remain for the moment, so he could get the codes he needed from her Captain, otherwise they probably wouldn’t have been able to save any Vulcans at all, with their transporters disabled.
Luck. Jim snorted unhappily. So much had relied on luck that day. Disabling the drill, saving the Vulcans, getting Uhura to agree to his insane plan to beam aboard Nero’s ship to get him where it hurt… He couldn’t have done it without her, he knew. She had not only knocked out the ensign in the transporter room, she had also persuaded Number One to follow Nero’s ship when he had already disappeared to get Pike, not having had any luck in getting the First Officer to agree with his plan himself.
He remembered his relief upon finding Pike alive on Nero’s ship, but it would have all been useless if the Enterprise hadn’t followed them and beamed them out when Jim detonated the red matter at the heart of the Narada.
His mother had always said that luck followed him everywhere he went. He wasn’t so sure about that, because while he always seemed to get out of tricky situations unscathed, everyone around him seemed to suffer twice as much as they would without him around.
He felt the depression Bones had warned him about settle in and getting homey inside his mind, making him drop his head between his knees and breathe heavily to suppress the tears threatening to overcome him. His chest felt constricted all of a sudden and a wave of nausea hit him as he remember his last mission, his last minutes on the Enterprise.
He should have died that day, he knew. He should have died, and his crew should have lived, but that wasn’t how the story went, and no one knew that better than him. He was craving for a fix now, or at least a damn good beating, someone yelling at him for killing over 400 people, but no one ever did.
No one had ever blamed him but himself. They should have. They absolutely should have, but they didn’t. When the Excalibur had picked him up from the godforsaken planet the Enterprise had crashed on, he had been informed that the Admiralty was planning to give him a commendation for his actions rather than suspend or court-martial him.
He had wanted to be punished so badly, yet when he returned he was celebrated as a hero rather than a murderer, and he had never quite wrapped his head around the fact that people considered losing the battle while winning the war a success.
400 people. He had known every single one of them. Some of them friends from the Academy. All so young, every single one of them. Why did he get to live when they were dead?
The answer was, of course, because luck followed him everywhere he went.
The people down in engineering were out first, a fire spreading faster than they could shield from the rest of the ship when the first hit got them. The outer hull vanished almost directly after, and by the time Jim realized there really was only one course of action left, a thought he had toyed with almost immediately after the Klingon battle cruiser had appeared on his viewscreen, half of his crew was already dead. The escape pods had been separated from the rest of the ship, making it impossible for anyone to get off when Jim gave the order to land a direct hit.
No one had questioned his orders, not on the bridge, not in the conference room with the Admiralty. His helmsman had calmly nodded at his request, laid in the coordinates and steered towards the Klingon cruiser with the best speed they could muster.
Jim would have given anything to see the face of the Klingon captain when he realized that the Enterprise was about to fly directly into them, but he didn’t get that satisfaction, was left to clinging to his centre-seat, praying that at least the enemy would go out with them, if they couldn’t get out themselves.
Of course, his plan worked. They tore the Klingon ship in two, and next thing he knew he was drifting in the ocean of the planet they had been orbiting before they got attacked, trying to make out land to swim to. It had taken him almost an hour to reach the shore, but he made it, collapsing on the warm sands of a planet whose name Jim didn’t even remember now.
He tried to find members of his crew when he came to, but the Enterprise had crashed in the middle of the ocean, and when he couldn’t find anyone on the shore, spending hours yelling, limping around aimlessly, he had to accept the fact that he was the sole survivor of an insane plan that had been his idea alone.
He really needed a fix now. The frustration overcoming him made him howl in pain, and he tried his best to tear his own hair out, failing as he failed at everything else he touched. He wasn’t supposed to be alive. He should have died with his crew, with his ship, and he hadn’t. There was no logic to the universe if that was how it was supposed to go, no mercy if it left him aching like this, desperate to cut out the part of his brain responsible for holding these memories.
But he couldn’t.
He couldn’t forget, because that would have been wrong, unfair, criminal even. They had been his crew, all of them. They had died on his watch, when he should have protected them and couldn’t. He owed it to them to remember everything, every detail, no matter how painful that was. They had been his responsibility and he had failed them, remembering was all he could do now.
He crawled towards the toilet, relieving his stomach of his meagre breakfast as he went through the list of names in his head, knowing all of them by heart, the faces forever engraved in his brain.
Norris, his CMO, two daughters, the oldest barely ten; Chriss, Chief Engineer, no immediate family, not quite hit his thirties yet, dedicated his whole life to the service; Rivera, Chief Science Officer, one child, no older than four, and Jim had been the one to tell the kid his mother had died protecting his planet; Mitchell, his helmsman, young, about his age, he’d known him since the Academy, his girlfriend one of the science officers, also dead now; Takaba, the navigator, another of his Academy friends, made it with him through the disaster on Vulcan; Korovin, his communications officer, a fiancé waiting for her on Earth, another personal call Jim had had to make, catching the man as his feet gave out underneath him, staying with him for hours, telling him stories about his officer’s missions, ignoring the pain it caused Jim to think about her if it only helped easing his; Rand, his yeoman, alone, no family to call, no one to tell, and Jim had been the only person at the ‘funeral’ they had held in each officer’s honour, despite the lack of bodies, grieving for her because all her friends and acquaintances had died with her on the ship.
The list was endless. 400 people, and he knew all of them, their stories, their families. He had visited all of the bereaved in person, feeling it was the least he could do, had mentioned every single officer and their best character traits at the funeral, shook hands, offered embraces and condolences, accepted invitations for tea and biscuits, recounting all missions that hadn’t gone horribly wrong when prompted, and had eventually, when everything had died down a bit, fled the planet, refusing to return for months before he had had a revelation and returned to Earth to hand in his resignation.
The retching had stopped now, and he was cowering next to the toilet, readying himself for the next round as all the faces appeared in his mind. Their last minutes, the orders he gave, the moment of realization as the bridge crew understood what he had planned, what their only way out was.
He leaned over the bowl, musing bitterly that he hadn’t even eaten that much, that he was just retching up bile now, and he was almost grateful for the sting in his eyes that distracted him from his unpleasant thoughts for a moment.
He rolled on his side when he was finished, shivering uncontrollably, cursing himself and his doctor for the situation he was in, his idiotic idea to join Starfleet in the first place, Pike for having him committed in this facility, and the universe at large for existing.
His pulse was racing, and sweat gathered on his brow before it dripped mercilessly into his eyes, but Jim didn’t bother wiping it away. He cherished every second of it, every sting, every tremor, every bout of nausea overcoming him as he spent hours in the cell, uncertain of the time since there were no clocks to be found, and he was grateful for that too.
He felt cold and hot at once, went through emotions like they were ups and downs on a rollercoaster, only one constant keeping him going through all this agony, all the pain: his self-loathing. He deserved this. Every second of it. He almost wished it would be worse, that his heart would stop beating or explode, that he choked on his own bile, but none of that would happen, in case of an emergency the transmitter around his wrist would alarm the doctor and send him in flying, Jim was certain of that.
He didn’t sleep, he didn’t eat. There was a sink he drank from every now and again, trying to get the vile taste out of his mouth in the process, but apart from that there was nothing for him to do put walk around aimlessly in the small space and sitting in a corner, considering his life choices.
A few hours in he tried to distract himself from the pains of withdrawal by hitting his head against the wall, but it was too soft to do any damage, as was undoubtedly intended with the design, and he soon gave up on that.
He ran his hand through his hair shakily, thinking it had become too long now, hanging into his face for the first time since he’d joined the Academy. He had let himself go, he knew. It was a miracle anyone had even recognized him well enough in this state to report him to Pike in the first place.
He was too thin, his muscles weak, his face ashen and lifeless, his hair too long and unruly, even for his standards, and he knew without ever looking into a mirror that there was a constant haunted look in his eyes that made others shy away from him.
Then again, hadn’t that been the point? He hadn’t wanted contact, hadn’t wanted to recover, to move on. He had decided to punish himself for what happened, and he didn’t think that he could ever stop. It was too late, he was too far gone. He had lost too much. Pike would come to realize that too, eventually. The only thing Jim could do now was hang on until he did.