Once again, the st_xi_kink meme rots my brain. I'M AN ADDICT. Written for a wonderfully anon who requested Competent-Badass-Gladiator!Kirk.

Gene Roddenberry created them, J.J. Abrams directed the movie, so the boys ain't mine. Woe.

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Atheists in Foxholes

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In all the after action reports, the original, inciting cause of this situation was never clearly outlined. Mostly, it was just blamed on the 'crazy, bloodthirsty natives.'

What happened was this:

Jim Kirk beamed down to the surface of Háború with Spock and the away team on the second day. McCoy protested loudly, but was dragged along as well. This turned out to be a good thing, when a renegade tribal group of Harcosok ambushed the away team, spiriting them away to some god-awful secret arena, where they made the pronouncement that 'the invaders' would be sacrificed to their God – or some equivalent thereof – through ritual combat.

"They think they're the bloody Romans, do they? And we're the fucking Christians, sent out to feed the lions," McCoy muttered viciously under his breath, glaring at anything and everything around his general vicinity. This was another reason why he hated beaming down to a planet's surface. All the crazy things that could – and invariably would, if Jim was there – go wrong. This wasn't the worst McCoy had ever seen or heard of for an away mission, but it was still pretty damn bad. Especially since the majority of the Security ensigns that had come with the team had been killed the ambush, and Spock had taken a blow in the ambush that while not fatal, left him unable to take the position of fighter.

So when the chief of the Harcosok asked for their 'mighty champion' to come forward and 'defend their lives,' McCoy knew they were hosed.

And then Jim stepped forward.

"What the hell do you thinking you're doing, you idiot?" McCoy hissed, reaching forward to grab Jim's elbow in a vice-like hold.

"What does it look like?" Jim said in reply.

"Dammit, Jim, I'm a doctor not an undertaker, and I refuse to allow you to shove that job on me, too," the CMO snarled, trying to drag his Captain and best friend back towards to huddled group the remained of the away team. The only problem with that idea was that, suddenly, McCoy was holding only air and not Jim's elbow.

Jim stood two steps away, arms held close to his sides and a look on his face that McCoy was sure he'd never seen before. It was cold and hard, more than simply determined.

"Just keep Spock and the others together," Jim said before turning smartly on his heel and marching into the center of the arena. McCoy stood almost frozen behind him; he'd never seen Jim move that fast or that cleanly before.

Maybe the kid wouldn't get himself completely torn to pieces. Either way, when McCoy returned to the group – all of whom had witnessed what just happened – he went straight to his portable medkit and began to check through the supplies within, hoping he had enough to keep his fool of a Captain in one piece long enough for the Enterprise to mount some kind of a rescue.

Of course, being busy with his bag and supplies, McCoy missed the costume change from Starfleet uniform to what he would swear came straight out of those old holovids his ex-wife used to watch (where the men all have six packs and run around in tiny leather bikinis and strips and strings of leather drape over their chests under bright red capes). Because last time he had seen Jim, the man was wearing command gold.

Now, he was wearing... well, a lot less. McCoy's mind went instantly to how much damage could be done to that bared skin; at least with the uniform Jim had been afforded some protection, but apparently when these crazy aliens said ritual they really meant ritual, with the whole nine yards and bells and whistles and everything.

McCoy took a quick break from gaping at Jim to check on Spock once more; the Vulcan seemed to be doing well, though the doctor would much rather have the injured man safely within the Enterprise's Sickbay. He administered another hypo of painkillers to Spock's neck, and turned around just in time to see Jim's first opponent enter the arena.

Oh God dammit, McCoy was not looking forward to this. Projectiles, bladed weapons, blunt weapons, clubs and rocks and sand in the wounds, God knows what kind of pathogens in the dirt and the air – and everyone knows that even a pair of human (or humanoid) hands and feet, or hell, just a pair of hands or feet or tentacles can be incredibly fatal to a human body – and McCoy ought to know, he was a doctor, dammit.

The young man at the other end of the arena was dressed in a similar manner to Jim – except that he had more leather covering his body, and parts of it had obviously been treated to make it stiffer, harder to pierce through.

The bastards were letting their guys wear armor. They also had weapons.

McCoy opened his mouth and was about to furiously express his displeasure with this situation, when Jim darted forward, all long limbs and sleek lines, speed he'd never used before. A swing of his arm against the elbow of his opponent, and then the wrist - one and two - and the spear was flying through the air even as Jim's other arm came snaking up, hand held flat and straight as if for a high-five. At the last moment, that hand twisted in mid air, bringing the very edge of the palm to crash against the neck of the other fighter in a knife-hand strike.

The young man went down without a sound, and Jim stood over him, eyes hard, and breathing hardly changed. He wasn't even sweating.

McCoy stared. He'd known Jim was on the martial arts team back at the Academy – in fact, the kid had joined multiple teams, all different styles – and though McCoy had gone to every match (Jim always asked, and McCoy had never been able to say no to that simple request), and he'd seen the kid be quick and ruthless and unerring in his targeting, but the CMO had never seen Jim like this before.

Jim turned from the body of his first opponent to face the leader of the Harcosock, and extended both arms from his body, hand and forearms raised as if to say, 'Who's next?'

If the roar from the spectators was anything to go by, and the howl from the Harcosok leader, then Jim's challenge was unanimously accepted. McCoy felt a tendril of dread curl through his stomach as more and more men from the audience made their way down towards the arena. They all seemed willing to wait their turn, but there were enough of them that it was doubtful Jim would be able to do much of anything, no matter how fast or trained he was.

Luckily for Jim, though, the next few opponents went much the way of the first – easily disarmed and dispatched, though it took until the fourth for McCoy and the away team to realize that Jim was actually killing his opponents and not just knocking them out. There was a general, uneasy glance shared between them all at that revelation; Jim had always been the easy-going one, the one they always had to rescue. None of the crew had any idea their captain could be quite this calmly vicious. It was, frankly, a little disturbing to most of them.

Jim's pile of collected weapons had grown, from that first spear to include what looked like a scimitar, a mace, something like a morning star, and a long chain covered in small barbs. He had also collected a couple shields, though so far, Jim had not deigned to use any of his new supplies.

All that changed with the thirteenth opponent.

This one was the size of a house, and with the muscles to back him up. He was unarmed but for a very long knife that glinted wickedly in the sun, and whistled cleanly through the air as the giant waved it about.

The two circled each other for a while, Jim and the giant, and then they moved. For a large man, the Harcosok giant was surprisingly agile, and Jim had to twist himself in some pretty interesting fashions to avoid the swings of that knife. One particular close call sent the human Captain stumbling backwards, and he tripped over his own feet.

The giant pounced, blade flashing in the daylight as it screamed down towards Jim's prone form.

And then suddenly Jim was rolling away and jumping to his feet, one of 'his' shields held in both hands before his body. Now he was breathing heavily, sweat shining on his body in patches as sand stuck to him, but his eyes had yet to lose that focus, that intensity. They remained trained on his opponent, who was even now getting to his feet.

McCoy was about to offer up a prayer to a God he didn't believe in when he saw it – the splash of red, widening into a terrible, terrible stain down Jim's arm.

Jim had finally been wounded. And the giant was unharmed, and apparently unwinded, as well.

McCoy's bad feeling returned, as did the worried murmurs of the away team. They all huddled closer together as if that could somehow protect them – and Jim – from what was sure to come.

Once again, Jim and his giant opponent stared each other down, and once again they both moved forward at the same time. But Jim dodged at the last minute, using a sidestep spin that would have made any football coach insane with wanting, and dove for the pile of weapons. And as the other man began to turn around and head back for Jim, the human man rolled to his feet, that spear clenched in his hand, shield cast away to one side.

Jim took two short, quick steps forward, swinging the spear in a tight figure-eight in front of him, the bladed edge and the wood of the shaft singing hauntingly through the air. He closed the distance between them before the giant could back away, and the blade of the spear ripped into the large man's flesh like it were butter. Jim still swung that figure eight, driving the shape deeper into the man's flesh, and a scream tore itself from his throat before dying away into a wet gurgle as Jim's spear hit his lungs and intenstines. The giant toppled over, knife falling from limp fingers, and Jim stood over him, panting heavily, eyes closed for only moments before snapping open, ready to face his next opponent.

"Tirje," called the leader, throwing up a hand in the universal sign for 'halt.' Then he gestured roughly at McCoy, pointing from the CMO to Jim.

McCoy got the message, and scrambled forward to treat his Captain.

"What the hell was that?" he asked quietly as he reached out with sure hands to administer painkillers, endurance boosters, respiration and circulation enhancers and a quick dermal regeneration (McCoy never went anywhere less than prepared for anything short of triage).

"What?" Jim gasped between ragged pants for breath.

"At the end there, with that… that spear."

"Tahtib," Jim replied shortly. "Egyptian stick fencing."

"Nasty stuff," McCoy said simply.

"No choice," Jim panted. McCoy just nodded, then stepped back.

"You're good for another round," he said, and the loathing of that statement was obvious in his voice. Jim flashed his friend a weary grin, then shook himself all over once before turning to face the gathering of opponents, once more with the 'Who's next?' gesture.

A pattern became quickly established after that.

Jim would fight furiously for a few rounds, taking down two or three men before the next one injured him enough that the Harcosok leader called a halt once more. McCoy would dash out, inject Kirk with as many supplements, enhancers, stimulants, and other aides as he could, and would patch up whatever injury had been incurred. After a few rotations of this cycle, McCoy began to bring out water, as well, taken from the pooled resources of the remains of the away team. The leader didn't object, so McCoy and Jim figured they were safe for now.

And since McCoy had put extra additives into the water, Jim might live a little longer. He'd end up in Sick bay no matter what, especially after something like this, and McCoy had to admit he was a little worried at how many stimulants and enhancers he was putting into Jim – the Captain could die just as easily from all these drugs as from this farce of a gladiator recreation.

During these cycles, however, it became obvious that James Tiberius Kirk could be – and was – a singularly dangerous man, and in many different ways. In addition to the Tahtib, Jim showed a mastery over other arts, from Jujitsu to Capoeira; from Jeet Kune Do to Taekwondo; from Escrima to Hapkido. With every weapon he gathered – and later used – it was obvious that Sulu wasn't the only one who could handle a blade. Knives, spears, glaives; clubs, slings, even a long wooden shaft that Jim wielded for a few rounds with deadly accuracy.

And in between them all, McCoy and the away team watched, and waited. When allowed, they offered what support and care they could, via McCoy's occasional tending of Jim. Eventually though, there came the limit to how much McCoy could do.

"Jim," the doctor said slowly, "I can't give you anymore."

Jim gazed up at McCoy from where he crouched on the ground, hands dangling limply between his knees. The blue eyes staring up at him were bright, too bright, and even more intensely focused than during any of the previous rounds. And McCoy knew, without a doubt, that Jim was burning up inside, and that if he couldn't get the Captain back to Sick bay, it wouldn't matter if one of these crazy, ritual-killing natives got Jim; Jim's own body would burn itself dry running through the gamut of injections McCoy had given him.

Jim just smiled.

"'S all right, Bones," was all he said, and McCoy knew that Jim knew, and he hated it. Jim was forgiving him for essentially killing his best friend, and so much more easily than these crazy people who had been throwing men at him for hours. The sun was low in the sky now, and it would be McCoy who killed Jim, not the people trying to.

"'S all right Bones." McCoy finished tying a makeshift bandage around Jim's arm (this one was made out of McCoy's sleeve; the other had been taken from the other's uniforms) and said nothing. There was nothing left to say.

The final opponent came out.

There had been another apparent trend in the past cycles – the opponents were getting better when came to gladiatorial skill, and if this was the last man left in the gathering…

Obviously, this man was the Harcosok's champion. And Jim was in no shape to fight him.

Jim stood slightly hunched, a round shield (a parma McCoy's mind supplied; late nights with Jim had imparted a good deal of historical knowledge into the doctor's brain) in one hand – it had come in very handy the last few rounds – and the other hand empty, ready grab whatever it could.

His opponent – whose name was apparently Jirgin, if all the chanting people were to be believed – also had a shield, an oblong one, and what appeared to be a curved scimitar.

Jim had proven how scrappy he was in bar fights at nearly every planet they came across (even when he lost), and today alone was definitive proof to McCoy that, once again, Jim could be very incredibly dangerous (he wondered briefly at his friend's self-control; with that kind of power and ability Jim had all the chances to become a tyrant, but the CMO had never, ever seen even a hint of this before, and he doubted any of the crew had, either). But as dangerous as the kid could be, McCoy kind of doubted that he – or any of them, really – would honestly get through this.

Which would really be a shame.

McCoy's attention was abruptly dragged back to the fight as a feral roar tore itself from Jim's throat, a sound the doctor had never heard from any human throat; not even from Spock when he had attacked Jim on the bridge all those years ago.

"What in the name of – "

"The Jirgin fellow aimed at us," Uhura said quietly, a breathless quality to her voice that McCoy easily recognized as shock and complete terror. "He… but the Captain deflected it, and just…" She gestured, almost helplessly, back at the center of the arena where Jim was going after his opponent as if it were the first round all over again. McCoy could only stare in fascinated horror.

The two men pounded on each other, sharp blows and strikes, hands and feet flying in blurs towards vulnerable spots on the humanoid anatomy – the neck, the solar plexus, the knees, the perennial nerve cluster at the back of the legs, the groin… After a while, McCoy stopped trying to catalogue which spots they were trying to hit.

It didn't stop him from watching, though.

Jirgin slammed a fist into the soft tissue of Jim's abdomen, doubling the young Captain over; but even as Jim went down, his left hand was flying out in a palm heel strike towards the other's groin; Jirgin's knee flew up to strike at Jim's chin, but instead collided with his hand and Jim used that to push himself upright and away, and the two of them fell into defensive crouches, circling each other like animals.

Jim flowed forward once more, his foot kicking straight out – then suddenly switching direction and swinging from the side as Jirgin dropped his arms to block the front kick. Jim's heel struck him in the face, snapping his head backwards as blood spurted from the now broken nose. Jirgin stumbled back a few steps, and Jim used that time, lunging forward to press his advantage.

The two returned to close combat, Jim throwing in a few wrestling techniques every now and then to literally throw the other man around a little bit.

Round kick, back elbow strike, hand to the back of the head and slamming a face against an up-swinging thigh. Side kicks, jump kicks, double punches, thrown in single movements and in combinations. Blood liberally spattered the sands around them, making the ground another enemy to them both.

Jirgin and Jim faced off, and suddenly the crowd quieted. McCoy held his breath, knowing what would happen next – this next movement would be their last; both of them were pushing exhaustion, especially Jim.

The two men moved. They crashed together, grappling for the dominant, superior position, and with some kind of weird flip Jim managed to get his arms around the other's neck, and then his biceps bulged, squeezing, squeezing, and Jirgin's blows became weaker and weaker until Jim lifted his arms upwards with a jerk, and McCoy could hear the snap of Jirgin's neck from where he sat with the away team. In fact, that snap carried through the silence of the entire arena, to the ears of everyone there.

Jim opened his arms from their chokehold, letting the limb body of the final opponent fall bonelessly to the ground. Panting, covered in blood – and by all rights Jim really should have collapsed ages ago, McCoy didn't know how the kid was doing this, honeslty – Jim turned once more to the Harcosok leader, and spread his arms, asking for another opponent.

And even as the Harcosok leader opened his mouth to howl in rage, two shuttles from the Enterprise swooped into view, firing their mounted energy grasers at the sands of the arena, scattering the people. McCoy immediately dashed forward to reach Jim, not caring that the shuttles were landing and spilling out their rescue team.

"Captain! Captain! Doctor McCoy!" shouted one red shirt, who became quickly recognizable as Scotty's third in command, Teryun Adamo. Jim didn't reply, just stood there, panting for breath, his eyes glazed over yet still burning with that ruthless intensity that had carried him – and the away team – through this nightmare.

McCoy started shouting orders, because he knew Jim was mentally 'lost' to them at the moment. So he got them all bundled onto the shuttles, made sure that Jim and Spock and the worst of the wounded away team members were on the same shuttle as he was, and completely forgot to be afraid as he cared for his patients.

"Come on, kid, don't quit on me now," McCoy muttered as he worked on Jim, patching wounds and trying to correct the damage he'd inadvertently done with the drugs. He didn't know if Jim could hear him, but apparently the kid could, because he looked up at McCoy and smiled that crazy grin, spreading his arms in the 'Who's next?' gesture.

And McCoy laughed, a rough, gravelly sound. "Ass," he said, almost fondly, as he returned his focus to his job.

Scrappy kid, he thought to himself. Should have expected this. Jim fucking Kirk.

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END