Yay! Academy fic time! You know how I warned you that this was huge and long and plotty and epic and lots of stuff happens? I wasn't joking. Fortunately for me the fabulous Tishbing has come on board to beta, so extra hands mean less silly typos!

I've tried to work everything in - backstories and things that have been teased at over the other stories, plus lots of lovely hurt comfort, bonding, badassery and blackmail.

As always, I have tried to keep the actual OCs to a minimum and have drawn on various canon characters to fill in blanks, but because this world is a little more sprawling than the contained set of the Enterprise there might be a couple more than usual. It's also not to say that we won't be seeing Spock, Chekov or Sulu at any point either; we will, and Scotty's legacy to the Academy will be well known. :p

I have lifted some facts from the Academy Series of books, though not all. Likewise I've taken what knowledge I could about the Academy and fashioned it as sort of a sci-fi bastardisation of West Point. I've tried to explain how the various systems work as and when they pop up but let me know if there is anything that doesn't make sense. Because Jim is a difficult bastard, I've had to tweak some things around anyway! I think what I'm saying in a rambly way is that this one reads much more like a military set piece than any of the other stories because our main characters are bottom of the chain of command as opposed to leading it (and enforcing some pretty lax code of conducts, yes I'm looking at you, Captain Princess).

Anyway, on with the story. Get comfy, grab a hot drink and enjoy!

From upside down, Jim had a unique view of Officer Garret's spit polished boots as they came to stop at the edge of his cell. "Morning Boss!" He said brightly, red in the face from both the rush of blood and the sheer number of crunches he'd been doing.

Garret was the kind of long suffering man who had a wife and two kids back home who clearly gave him enough to be worrying about without the added perk of keeping a bunch of cons in line. Perfectly polished, totally by the book, he was still a fair guy and Jim didn't go out of his way to make his life a misery, which was as close to an expression of respect as he really got.

"Last day, Kirk. You packed?"

With a grunt of exertion, Jim straightened himself so he was no longer hanging upside down from the edge of his bunk. His cellmate grabbed him by the upper arm and gave him a balance from which to hop down to the ground. Humperdink wasn't a bad guy, weird ass name aside, but he was big and burly enough that anyone with the balls to actually mock him only ever did so the once. He was more than heavy enough to keep Jim's calves pinned to the mattress of the top bunk while he worked out and zen enough not to care if Jim decided that fifty crunches should end up being five hundred.

Jim had to admire the stroke of fate that saw him – who had always been a boisterous, energetic, athletic kind of guy – at the height of his physical fitness while confined to a twelve foot cell.

Jim picked up his discarded shirt and used it to clean the sweat from his face. "All set, Boss." Since all he owned were the clothes on his back, it wasn't like he had to worry about much.

Garret didn't look amused, but Jim had learned that didn't mean he was displeased. Guy had a stone cold poker face. "Try not to land your ass back in here, Kirk."

"Really not on my list of priorities." Jim agreed, looping the shirt over his shoulders. Humperdink jumped down from the top bunk and pulled Jim into a one armed hug that made his ribs ache.

"Been a real hoot, Slim." He said with a grin. "Don't you be fucking things up."

"I'll be the very model of good behavior." Jim swore. "Here's hoping your next cellie is as good looking and charismatic as I am."

"With half your ego." Humperdink's grin made him look slightly deranged. Jim had lucked out landing him as a bunkmate. On the whole, he got on with most of the guys inside, but there were plenty he'd not have relished spending eighteen months locked in a room with. He knew that if he'd been banged up only a hundred years back, his experience would probably have been a whole lot less comfortable. Maybe not as boring… "Seriously though Slim, I owe you."

"Nah, man. You don't." Jim shook off the statement with a grin to hide his discomfort. So he'd done the guy a favor or two. Hardly a big deal.

"See ya around." Humperdink grinned, holding out a hand for Jim to shake.

He did so with a matching expression. "Sure." He lied.

He had no intention at all of being on the planet this time tomorrow. He wasn't entirely sure where he was going to go, certainly not any of the places he'd been before. He'd have to leave Federation Space as quickly as possible, so he'd probably just chance his luck and see where he ended up.

Garret led him out of Gen Pop and into processing where he collected his belongings: boots, jeans, t-shirt, leather jacket and credit chip - not that he thought there was much on there.

Changed and feeling more like himself once out of the generic uniform, Jim bounded out towards the gate. It was a glorious day with endless blue skies and birds chirruping and all the other cliched things about Earth that Jim had read about but not really understood until then.


There was very little that could bring his mood down, but the gravelly voice of Warden Coots could damn well give it a give try.

"Warden." Jim said, fixing on his biggest, brightest smile. The one that drove the man crazy. Coots was one of those guys who was firmly convinced Jim was a waste of good DNA. He might even be right, but Jim did enjoy pissing him off. "How are you on this fine day?"

"You're meeting with your parole officer at nine o'clock tomorrow. Statrine Street offices. Don't be late."

"I'm never late." Jim protested, hand on his heart. Coots glowered at him. He had that ex-Marine scowl down perfectly. "Aw come on, you know you're gonna miss me."

"Mark my words, Kirk, I'm certain you will be back before the end of the year. You have learned nothing in your time here."

"That's a lie, Warden!" Jim protested innocently. "I've learnt Russian and how to knit. Okay, granted I'm not very good at it. The knitting, not the Russian, my Russian is awesome…"

"Get out, Kirk." Coots said through clenched teeth.

"You're the boss, Boss." Jim winked and waved up to the guard on watch as the gates opened. "Gentlemen, it's been swell."

The gates closed with an echoing thud behind him. "Well that was rude." Jim muttered, looking both ways down the long stretch of road. It was miles from any place remotely populated and it wasn't like he had anyone to come pick him up. Hoshi-san might have done if he'd told her he was getting out, but their last chat hadn't really gone so well and he'd not call begging for favors after making her cry. Again.

He could just walk it. Stretch his legs, smell the clean, fresh air. It would do him good.

Instead he doubled around to the parking lot.

Nice car, shitty car, weird looking hybrid thing…and there. His eyes lit up with barely contained glee as he skipped over to Warden Coot's pride and joy.

The bike was brand new and gleaming. Top of the line, with a supposedly unbeatable anti-theft system.

But it was a system that ran on a computer, and Jim had yet to meet a computer he couldn't sweet talk into taking it's panties off.

And apparently he needed to get laid. Eighteen months was a long, long ass time. He didn't think he'd ever gone eighteen months without sex.

Right, so. Grand theft auto first, sex second, shuttle off this dump of a planet third. Somewhere in there he'd add alcohol because again, eighteen months. He'd been a functioning alcoholic since the age of fourteen. Going cold turkey had been a bitch.

The bike roared to life at his command and he dug the tracking chip out of her guts. When he tossed it on the ground, he made sure to drive over the damn thing.

"What do you mean there isn't another shuttle?" Jim yelled at the clerk behind the desk.

"Exactly what I said." The clerk said, shooting Jim an irritated glare. "Everything's grounded tonight because of the strikes."

"What strikes?" Jim demanded.

"The ones that have been happening all week," the clerk snapped, trying to field three calls coming in at once. "Where the hell have you been, man?"

"Jail." Jim said flatly, smirking at the wide-eyed look of worry that was sent his way. "Aggravated assault, if you were wondering."

"I-I wasn't."

"So," Jim said, his smile less tight around the edges. "Next shuttle leaves?"

"There's a Starfleet Shuttle at oh-seven-hundred." The clerk offered. Jim grimaced. No thank you.

"How about one that won't be packed with bright eyed idealists who think they can save the world?" Jim asked, his blatant cynicism showing through the clench of his teeth,

"Next commercial shuttle is at eight ten."

Jim nodded. "Perfect. Thanks for your time." He winked, and headed for the door.

"You don't want to buy a ticket?" The clerk called after him in confusion.

"Nah." Jim said. Why pay for a ticket when he could stowaway in the engine rooms? "Hey, where's the nearest bar?"

Six hours and twice as many shots later, Jim had filled the alcohol deficit in his life and was nicely marinating in his own drunken thoughts. He'd relished the burn of each drink and he was almost looking forward to the hangover.

Christ, he was pathetic. He was looking forward to a hangover.

How exactly was this his life?

He was a twenty-two year old ex-con with no education, no qualifications, no friends and at last check sixteen credits to whatever name the credit chip in his pocket was registered to. The only thing he had to look forward to was a morning puking up his lungs.

He glared at the glass in his hands. Had he always been this maudlin when drunk?

"-I'd like a Clabmian Fire Tea, three Budwiser Classics, two Cardassian Sunrises and-"

Jim's ears perked up at the voice two spots down the bar. Now that was a woman who knew how to drink!

"-a slusho mix, thank you."

So. He'd ticked drinking off his Earth Bucket list, transport was kinda covered, that just left sex. He was sober enough for sex. Kinda. Maybe.

"That's a lota drinks for one woman." Jim said by way of introduction. He leaned around the guy - at least he was fairly sure it was a guy, even if he belonged to a race Jim had never encountered before - and propped himself up on the bar to get a decent look at the target of his next agenda.

It was possible it was the booze talking, that or the long dry spell, but he was fairly sure that whoever she was, she was the most beautiful woman he'd ever laid eyes on.

She met his gaze with the slightly unimpressed look of a woman who'd been hit on by drunken jerks like Jim her whole life and then flashed a smile at the bartender. Jim was fairly sure he'd gone to school with the guy during the brief, oh so delightful stint he'd had at Riverside Elementary. Corey? Carey? He didn't think he'd ever learned the guy's name and he really didn't give a damn.

"And a shot of Jack." The woman added to her list.

"Make that two, her shot's on me." Jim said.

"Her shot's on her." The woman corrected. "Thanks, but no thanks."

Ouch. "Don't you at least want to know my name before you completely reject me?" Jim asked, faking an air of wounded pride. Damnit, he needed to stop setting his sights on the women who'd sooner kick the crap out of him than sleep with him. You'd have thought he'd learned that lesson with Lenore. There were probably a dozen other women in the bar he could have out back and moaning enthusiastically with a few choice words and a smile…

…so why exactly did he want this one?

"I'm fine without it." He could tell he was amusing her, which, okay, not quite the path he'd been aiming for, but he could work with that.

"You are fine without it." Jim nodded in agreement. "It's Jim, Jim Kirk." Nothing. Just a slightly pitying look from the maybe-guy sat between them. "If you don't tell me your name I'mma have to make one up."

She couldn't stop the smile tugging at her lips. "It's Uhura." She said reluctantly.

"Uhura, no way!" Jim grinned. "That's the name I was gonna make up for you." He ignored the less pittying, more patronizing glance from beside him and slid off his stool. "Uhura what?"

"Just Uhura." She sighed.

Jim frowned. "They don't have last names on your world?"

"Uhura is my last name."

"They don't have, er, first names on your world?" He really shouldn't have had that last shot. Coherent thought was becoming a problem.

Still, he grabbed his Jack and moved around the bar to stand next to her. She was even more beautiful up close. "So," Jim said, "you're a cadet, you're studying, what's your focus?"

He caught the surprise on her face when he pinned down what she was. Even if he hadn't known that there was a boat full of cadets waiting to be shipped up to the Bay he'd have spotted it on her a mile off. Starfleet had a certain look about them, and Starfleet cadets had it even worse. It was two parts excitement, one part righteousness and a whole bucket load of superiority. And that was from someone who only hated Starfleet a little bit. He'd heard a hell of a lot worse out there in the black.

"Xenolinguistics." Uhura said. "You have no idea what that is." There was that superiority. Jim bet he had far more practical experience with alien languages than she did. You tended to pick them up quickly when ignorance led to people shooting at you.

Jim grinned at her and pretended that leaning on the bar was a move he made to look cool and relaxed, not because he was about to fall over. He really shouldn't have had that last shot. "Study of alien languages, morphology, phonology, syntax. Means you've got a talented tongue."

She looked up at him again, her surprise growing. He was getting through to her, he could see that. She was like him. She liked brains. "You're smarter than you look."

Jim's smile felt a little bitter but that could have been the Jack. "Baby, I'm the smartest." Christ, he was pathetic.

"I'm impressed," she said, playing it cool. "For a moment there I thought you were just a dumb hick who only had sex with farm animals."

Jim couldn't help chuckle. God, he knew how to pick 'em. "Well, not only."

She laughed and Jim was fairly sure that drunk though he was, that sound was the nicest damn sound he'd ever heard.

"This townie bothering you?" There seemed to be some universal mandate that said any pretty woman needed to have an attachment of big, burly, stupid men hovering in her wake, ready to pounce on anyone they deemed unworthy of her time. Jim glanced over his shoulder at the four bulky cadets and dismissed them out of mind. He was pretty sure Uhura could look after herself if she wanted to, and it wasn't like he was being a complete jerk.

"Oh beyond belief," Uhura laughed, "but it's nothing I can't handle."

"You could handle me," Jim smirked, "that's an invitation."

"Hey, you better mind your manners." Biggest and Burliest said angrily.

"Oh relax Cupcake, it was a joke." He said, his sense of humor rapidly diminishing. God, he hated people some times. A lot of the time. He clapped the guy on the shoulder and turned back to Uhura.

"Hey," a heavy hand grabbed the back of his shirt and pulled him around, "farm boy, maybe you can't count but there are four of us and one of you."

"So get some more guys and then it'll be an even fight." He said, smiling and patting the guy patronizingly on the cheek.

He was too drunk for this shit. Too drunk and kinda pissed at the world because apparently even when he tried to behave and stay out of trouble fate just had to drop a couple of dumbass wannabe heroes in his path.

He hadn't been in a fight since before prison. He wasn't in any rush to change that. He had a better control over his temper now. He wasn't that angry kid who didn't know any other way to act.

He clearly was too drunk for this, because the first punch to the jaw actually surprised him. He spun around with the force of it and hit the bar hard.

There was blood in his mouth and his jaw throbbed and for a second the pain was the only thing he could compute.

It was old and familiar…almost comforting in a way. He knew this, violence.

Okay fine, the world wants to pick a fight with him? Jim Kirk will gladly oblige.

He turned around and faced them, wondering if they had any idea what kind of monster they were poking with a stick. There was a voice in the back of his head telling him to calm down, that he promised he wouldn't do this any more…that he was done hurting people.

Fortunately for him, the alcohol made it pretty damn easy to ignore everything, voices included.

Cupcake broadcasted like fuck. Jim could see the swing in him long before it actually rounded through. Jim ducked and kicked him hard in the midsection, sending him flying.

His buddies joined in quickly. They were first years, they had the basics drilled into them but he doubted they had a huge amount of actual combat experience. Jim blocked the blows aimed his way and swung back with a few of his own. His aim was a little blurry - he was out of practice and apparently the alcohol did more than just effect his ability to think things through calmly and rationally.

The second blow to the head sent him stumbling backwards and into Uhura, who for some reason didn't seem impressed when Jim used her chest to balance himself. She shoved him away hard - some impressive upper body strength for such a slender woman - and right into buddy number three's fist.

Well that was cheating. Jim was a little impressed.

At least until one wrapped their arms around him from behind and tried to pin his arms to his chest. Last time someone had done that to Jim he'd had three times his strength and a better grip. Jim had come out of it with a fractured skull and a deep dislike for anyone who was cowardly enough to hit a man his buddies were holding down for him.

He brought his head back hard and broke the asshole's nose, just as the guy in front came swinging at him. The hold on him loosened and Jim ducked to one side so the incoming punch took the asshole out instead.

He dealt with number four just as quickly, grabbing a bottle from the bar and smashing it around the side of his head.

That hurt. He knew that hurt, and for a second he hesitated. He wasn't going to stand there and get his ass kicked but he didn't want to actually cause anyone any real harm. Time was he would have. He'd have hated these stupid, over privileged kids and would have beat on them all day and night.

But he was better than that now. He'd already promised he wasn't going to be that person. He wasn't going to be the guy who hurt other people because it made him feel better.

The hesitation was costly. A hand snagged his jacket and pulled him around into a punch that did as much damage as the first two combined.

He hit the floor hard and stayed there until he was hauled up and dumped over a table.

Then the hits kept coming. One after another even as Uhura tried to call them off.

The only ways out of it that Jim knew were wickedly vicious and in the mess he was in could actually kill someone. So he did nothing, just took the hits until he couldn't have actually fought back even if he wanted to.

A shrill whistle that hurt almost as much as the hits did rang through the air and Jim was dropped like a hot coal.

He groaned miserably and tried to get a look at the man who commanded the entire room's attention. Upside down and with blood in his eyes, it was impossible to really tell. He could see a Starfleet Uniform and that was about it.

Then Starfleet spoke and Jim wished to god someone was still punching him in the face.

"Outside, all of you." Christopher Pike - the one person Jim would sooner die than let see him like this - had the cadets rushing from the room in seconds.

Jim wondered if Pike recognized him. Probably not. He'd probably not given Jim a second thought since Jim had been such a colossal shit to him in the hospital after Tarsus. A shiver ran down his spine and he felt like he'd throw up. He didn't think about Tarsus. Not ever. And by association, he tried not to think about Chris Pike.

But that concerned expression was one Jim knew well. "You alright, son?"

Jim wasn't sure if he wanted to laugh or cry.

Since he hadn't done the latter in years, he settled for grinning inanely. "You can whistle really loud, you know that?"