I know that my descriptions of Tarsus IV and Kotos don't agree with the information given in "The Conscience of the King" (Star Trek Original Series), but I wrote it before I re-watched the episode, and then decided that it would sound weird if I changed what I had written. In order to explain the differences, I'm going with the "it's an alternate universe" thing, so events could have happened differently.
Also, I have more drabbles already written for this, but I want to see if anyone actually reads then before I put more up, so please let me know if you want to read them, and I'll put them up. Enjoy!
When Winona Kirk receives the call from Iowa about Jim, her heart almost stops in its shock. The shock is all too quickly replaced by terror: what if he had jumped a second later, what if he had
meant to not jump at all? Vividly recalling the hatred on his young face on the day of her second marriage, she sends a message to her sister; she cannot be on Earth to take care of her son, and she doesn't trust Jimmy to let his step-father take care of him. Two days later, Winona lands in Iowa. Three days later, Jimmy is leaving for space.
Watching the planet of Tarsus IV come into view, James Kirk has no knowledge of what is to come. He doesn't know that the small spots of desert on this green and blue world will expand. He doesn't know that at that moment, a young lieutenant in the army is making friends and gathering followers. He doesn't know that the kind-faced woman who introduces herself as his aunt will be dead in less than a year, her quiet husband with her. All James Kirk knows is that his mother would rather search the sky for something she can never find than love him.
James Kirk sits quietly with his young cousins in the hospital's waiting room. He watches as the twins examine the small bandages on their arms from the blood test, the only test they had endured. His aunt and uncle return from two different wings within a few minutes of each other. He notes the matching sweaty foreheads, so like his own. On the drive back to their home, the Jim and the two adults sit perfectly still and quiet, while his cousins chatter. When they reach the house, Jim retreats to his bedroom and sobs into his pillow. That was not what a doctor's appointment was supposed to be.
Blood, silenced screams, unanswered prayers. This is what brings James T. Kirk into adulthood: a shared knowledge of the thousands of people that no longer breathe. He breathes shallowly, hoping to avoid the stench of the gaping, open graves. His eyes dart around the abandoned streets. He grasps the food that will need to last his home at least two weeks: half a chicken and half a loaf of replicated, moldy bread, a good load for five, six including himself. He thinks of the youngest, her hollow eyes stuck in his mind. Only five, he decides; he can go another two weeks on crumbs.
Subject 2445 didn't lose his humanity when he allowed the soldiers into his aunt's home; he had known, and his aunt and uncle had known, that he would take care of the young children. His humanity had remained as he watched the only people who treated him like a son be systematically exterminated. It began to fray as he watched while his cousins became painfully thin. As he held their small, ill bodies, small pieces of himself began to fall away. Subject 2445 kept his humanity as he strangled a boy no older than himself for a chunk of just edible meat, and as he did nothing to stop the destruction of his home.
Subject 2445 lay curled in the ruins of a house. His last cousin had died the week before. Five tiny graves lay nestled in the corner of the hovel. Military-grade phasers sounded from every corner of the small colony. Subject 2445 whimpered and pressed his hands over his ears. An early model of a tricorder scanned the area for life. The small machine did not surprise any member of the platoon when it announced the presence of a life form close to their location. However, the shock of finding a survivor of the planet's genocide and the following famine, and not a soldier, almost killed the commanding officer.
Of the three thousand to survive the initial genocide, James Kirk is one of only twelve to make it off Tarsus IV with their lives, and one of five to make it with some semblance of sanity. When he calmed down enough, Subject 2445 let the soldiers of Starfleet take him off the planet and provide him with food and clothing. With a doctor on hand to sedate him if necessary, they tell him these figures. James Kirk sits quietly for a minute then asks for a pen and paper. He calmly writes these numbers down, places the paper in his pocket, and returns to his room. Despite persuasions and threats, the paper never leaves the pocket of his clothing.
Instead of trying to deal with her (then) almost fourteen-year-old son, Winona Kirk shipped him off to her sister on Tarsus IV. He didn't look back as the shuttle went off world, furious expression and too-long hair hiding tear-filled eyes.
Almost three years later, staring at the emaciated teenager who used to be her son, looking into once bright blue eyes, she finds one more reason to hate herself.
When she leaves him in the care of the government and drives away from their dusty Iowa home a month later for another Starfleet mission, she ignores the fact that no eyes follow the retreating car.
James Kirk has undergone three months of physical and psychological rehabilitation, but nothing yet has felt as good as it did when he look his first night free, went to a seedy bar, and got into a fight with the meanest and ugliest looking men there. From then on, the doctors and government officials restrict any unsupervised trips away from the military base. He never tells the balding doctor with round glasses barely perched on his nose that he wishes he would black out; when he wakes up it all might just have been a nightmare his fucked up, space-born mind created.
The second time James Kirk leaves the military base, he decides that he wants to try sex. Since alcohol and pain seem so effective at helping him forget, he wants to see if any less destructive form of iniquity will work as well. While it was a wonderful experience – aside from the fact that the girl underneath him had a boyfriend who wrenched the car door open in the middle, quickly followed by a number of James' military guard, as well as some of the bar's more curious patrons – it didn't work as well as he had anticipated. However, he thought with a smirk as he was driven back to the base, that didn't mean he couldn't try it a few more times, just to be sure.
After three years of individual care, James Kirk knows enough to tell the doctors that he despises them simply because they are, with the exception of the other survivors, the only people he has seen in all that time. It is a story he sticks to for so many years that he hopes one day to believe it himself. He refuses to admit that he doesn't trust a single one of them not to cut open his abdomen and examine his organs. He would, however, trust them to use more than a light anesthetic when they did so.
James Kirk is released from government custody not a day before the government doctors declare him fit for society. He sits at a small diner on the border of Oklahoma and Kansas, the slip of paper with the numbers 3,000, 12, and, 5 written on it sitting on the table in from of him. He is nineteen and he sips the non-regulation, non-replicated coffee with reverence. Noting the frail, soft edges of the paper, Subject 2445 comes to a decision. Leaving money on the table, he exits the dinner and heads to the nearest town. He has enough money from the government to buy enough ink for a few numbers.
James rubs his fingers against the numbers on his forearm. Above the three numbers from his original piece of paper, the number 2445 resides. Some might consider the very idea of his tattoo sickening, even degrading. But to him, it's a reminder of two facts: how truly fucking lucky he is, and the exact depths to which he is capable of sinking. The tattoo earns him many odd looks in the next few years, along with a number of inane questions about the its meaning. He smiles and easily evades all inquiries.
If Tarsus IV taught Jim anything, it was to live abstemiously – and not just in relation to food. Aside from an occasional bender, the only thing Jim allowed himself to indulge in was physical contact. After years of hugging the filthy and entirely clothed bodies of his cousins, the feeling of clean, slick skin sliding against his was something he never got tired of. Sex was never about gender or love, only having his skin next to someone else's.
Jim's devil-may-care attitude is not an act. He is, generally, a happy individual. He is content with his life: drinking, flirting, and brawling. When Captain Pike appears and challenges him, he brushes it off. Two hours later, rubbing his tattoo, Jim lets Pike win. Subject 2445 pokes its head out of a dark corner. Defend and protect, Subject 2445 hears. Explore and shine, Jim hears. Thinking of how easily the lieutenant on Tarsus IV could have been prevented in the early weeks, James Kirk mounts his bike and drives to the shipyard. 'Maybe,' says a voice in his head, 'this might be enough for mom to – '. He cuts off the voice. This will never be about her; it's about that gleaming ship being dry-docked, and all the things that they might accomplish together.
When he boards the Starfleet shuttle, Jim spares a thought that he should be terrified at getting into another small ship removing him from Iowa. When an unshaven man with whiskey on his breath is herded out of the bathroom hollering about aviaphobia, Jim realizes that he had never been more comfortable. Without Starfleet, he would never have gotten off that fucking planet. Jim is undecided on his opinion of this man, but when he shares the expensive smelling alcohol with Jim, Jim decides that a friend could be a good thing, even one as odd as Leonard McCoy.
The first time he hit on Uhura, Jim thought he might have made some headway with their brief conversation on Xenolinguistics. Her eye roll on the shuttle the next day proved this assumption entirely wrong, but that didn't mean he couldn't try. The second time he hit on her, Bones smirked as she coolly informed him that he was a better flirt when he was totally shit-faced. The third time Jim hit on Uhura – he really needed to find out what her first name was – he made sure they were at a bar and he was shit-faced. She listened to him for ten seconds, laughed, and walked away.
He is used to charming people into making them like him despite his careless, and sometimes abrasive, attitude. What isn't easy is discovering that Bones doesn't seem to fall for his natural blend of charisma. They are friends – Jim would dare to say best friends – and Bones doesn't give a shit when Jim uses every trick he knows to try to get out of doing something (and then insists he can't put up with anything anymore). Bones just snorts, says, "Don't be so dramatic," and ignores him. For someone who had every movement and word analyzed for three years, the change is startlingly refreshing. (Then there are days when they both know not to say a single word to one another).
The only one smart enough not to ask what the tattoo means is an unkempt doctor. Jim Kirk sometimes sees the Southern man looking at the numbers with confusion, trying to place why his mind knows that set of numbers. Whenever Jim sees the look, he smiles wistfully and rubs the tattoo. The movement always distracts Bones, who shakes his head and returns to his books. They both have their own set of secrets, but while Bones might let a few slip here and there, Tarsus IV is something Bones would have to figure out without any prompting from Jim.
When Bones asks Jim to meet him outside the medical building on Starfleet's campus, Jim doesn't mind; everyone needs some vaccination or another. When he sees Bones exit the building surrounded by younger cadets asking him questions, he is curious, but not concerned. But when Bones reaches him, and Jim can hear the last few cadets depart with, "Thanks, Dr. McCoy," and, "Wonderful lecture, Doctor," his lunch almost lands on Leonard McCoy – Doctor Leonard McCoy's shoes.
He sprints away from the confused doctor, heading full tilt to his room. He locks the door to the little personal bathroom and heaves. He had slept in the same room with McCoy. Flashes of blank faced men with a scalpels appear behind his eyes. He hears McCoy banging on the bathroom door and heaves again. With shaking hands, he pulls a small box out of his pocket. The doctors at the military base told him to take it only under situations of extreme distress and anxiety. He tosses two of the small green pills down his throat and swallowes as fast as he can. He regulates his breathing, and summons every memory he has of Bones before the doctor fiasco. He stands up, shaking slightly and splashes water on his face. With the drugs in his system, he brushes his teeth, and opens the door. Bones sits on his bed, scowling. "Wanna tell me what the hell that was about?" he growls. Jim grins, the drugs making him calm, "Nothing, just remembered that I forgot to brush my pretty pearl whites."
"The astounding number of fights you get into, it's a wonder you even have teeth anymore," Bones buys the lie, familiar with Jim's bouts of vanity. "Which bar do I have to keep you from killing yourself in tonight?" the Doctor sighs.
"No bars tonight, Bones. Tonight, I'm gonna drink myself sick in the comfort of my very own room," Jim replies, not really sure if he should drink with the little green babies in his system, but not really sure if he truly cares. He knows that if he goes to a bar with Bones tonight, he'll either end up punching him, or telling him everything. James Kirk can't decide which he dreads more.
It takes Subject 2445 months before it's comfortable going to sleep in the same room as the Doctor. It requests and receives a hypospray from the Doctors in Oklahoma in less than 24 hours. Jim sleeps with the chemicals capable of knocking out a horse under his pillow. The military Doctors don't even ask why the Starfleet cadet needs the drugs; they have the Academy's room assignments, and the other eleven survivors have told them enough for them to understand Subject 2445's hatred of Doctors.
The first time Bones sees Jim without a shirt on, he freezes. The scars that litter Jim's torso might not be understood by anyone without a medical degree, but Bones had gone to med school, and he knows how to identify scars. Jim's scars are a combination of badly done dermal regenerations, small knives, and human teeth. They are old and slightly shiny.
There is one scar that most would assume was simply an odd birthmark, but Bones knows better; it is an Old-Earth bullet wound. The scar is present only on the back of his shoulder, indicating a that the bullet didn't go all the way through, that someone had to have pulled it out. Bones winces at the imagined pain of it all. He refuses to form suspicions; they'll only cloud his judgment. For now, he'll ignore the marks of a horrific past, and wait for Jim to trust him enough to tell him.
Jim was a bit shaky as he entered his Modern Atrocities class – he never was quite sure why he took it – on a particular Wednesday. He was only slightly nauseous, but confidant that he would survive the next two days. How the class had reached Tarsus IV was a mystery to him, but he was determined to get through the subject. He survived the first day by taking as many notes as he could, ignoring the odd looks Bones sent him or the queasy expressions of many of his classmates. When he entered the lecture hall the next day, he cursed himself for not actually paying attention. Standing at the front of the room with two military looking security guards, was Subject 731. Subject 2445 froze, panicked that 731 would acknowledge him. Jim sat as far back as the room would allow, Bones next to him. When 731 started talking, Jim took no notes. He sat, breathing as steadily as he could, as the horror that had been his life came pouring out of 731. He only noticed the three reporters at the front of the room halfway through the allotted time. It was all he could do to keep breathing; this was the first time that a personal account was being given to the public, no holds bared. When 731 finished, one of her guards escorted the press out, and the cadets filed quietly out of the room. Jim was last. He made sure that only 731 and her guard were in the room – he had told Bones to go on ahead – and then he approached her. Her eyes lit up in recognition. "2445!" she exclaimed, "James! What are you doing here?" He glanced pointedly at his red uniform. "Oh, of course, silly me. Why else would you be here?"
"731, Amy, if you had been speaking somewhere else, and I had known, no frigging regulations could stop me from coming," Jim looked directly at her. He knew this woman; knew things about her that no one else could know. He knew because he knew the same things about himself. She smiled brightly and held out her hand. Jim took it and gently squeezed it. It was the closest to a hug she ever gave anyone.
"So, still with the government?" Jim asked.
"Only if I'm talking with people that know about me. People who don't know that I was on Tarsus IV don't scare me at all," she paused, and then continued, "You seem to be assimilating well."
Jim chuckled, "No one knows, and no on needs to. You get my meaning?"
Amy nodded, slightly shamefaced, "James, I didn't mean to mess anything up by coming here, I just – "
"I know Amy, people should know what happened, not just the rosy, government-fed bits. Just, do you think you could maybe, not recognize me if the need calls for it?"
She smiled again, "James Tiberius Kirk, it will be my honor to ignore you." The guard cleared his throat. "Oh, drat! Sorry James, but duty calls." "You're doing more?" Jim choked out.
"I do five a year for the next five years and the government pays me a lot of money to find a nice little house in a small country town. It's what I want, to forget any of this really happened," Amy replied. "What about you, you still have that tatty piece of paper? We never did know what was on it."
Jim rolled up his left sleeve, "This was what the paper had on it."
She reads them and nods in recognition. She taps the side of her head, "They're stuck in here. Can't ever get them out." Amy smiles, "But you did always prefer visual aids." Jim and Amy share a laugh before the guard clears his throat more pointedly. Amy sighs. "Sorry James, but I really do need to go. I'll keep you updated with my numbers so you don't have an excuse to avoid me." She squeezes his hand and heads to the door.
"Bye Amy, 731."
"Bye James, 2445."
When Jim returns to the room he shares with Bones, he deposits bags full of food and booze. "Snack and study, best way to learn," he announces. Bones mutters something that Jim is sure is insulting before sorting through the bags and taking a good portion of the random purchases to his desk.
"Don't think this means I didn't notice how weird you've been acting Jim," Bones remarks before pretending that nothing happened.
James dreads the day that Bones actively starts questioning his odd habits.
For a few weeks after the class finishes studying Tarsus IV, Jim is very careful not to let Bones see his tattoo. In fact, his paranoia that anyone from his class will recognize the significance of the numbers is so intense that he refuses to wear anything but long sleeve shirts. Bones enters their room sweating from the California spring and immediately starts shivering. "Jim, what the hell!" he exclaims, "Goddammit, man, it's spring! I know you own t-shirts. Wear them!"
Two days later the thermostat is back to normal. It has been three months since the test; James doesn't want to seem too crazy.
"Bones! Earth to Bones! Regain consciousness!" Jim stands on the end of Bones' bed, gently bouncing.
Bones moans and turns over, eyes squinting against the light streaming in through the windows. Light that catches on a head of red hair sitting on the floor next to his bed. "Wha-," he manages to croak out.
"Bones, wake up, we gotta go. The sun will not wait for you," Jim responds. Bones slowly sits up, knowing that Jim won't leave him alone until he gets what he wants. He crushes the palms of his hands into his eyes. He removes them to find a face much too close to his.
"Are you sure he's a doctor?" the face questions.
"Yup, but he's safe, no worries Amy," he hears Jim respond.
"Well, if you're sure he's okay," the face seems to decide. "I'm Amy," it tells him.
"From the seminar. On Tarsus IV. Jim, what the hell is she doing in our room at", he checked the clock, "seven in the morning?"
"Got plans Bones, you need to get up, good things happening," Jim informs him. "We'll be right here, go take a shower."
Still not conscious, Bones is herded into the tiny bathroom and directed to the shower.
Amy turned to Jim. "James," she began, "I need to make sure that this guy is okay."
"I already told you, he's safe," Jim insisted. "I've slept in the same room with him for a year."
"With narcotics powerful enough to put an elephant into a coma under your pillow?" she questioned. At his confused face, she said, "You were occupied, I was bored, the pillow was the closest thing I could pick up."
"So I'm paranoid. It's not like I don't have a reason."
"I know Jim. I know how you feel about doctors. By the time they got to you, they were running out of anesthetic. I got a full dose and it was barely enough. I just need to make sure that you're really okay with this," Amy said, concern tugging her eyebrows down. "This guy is for life, no whoops, bad call. You're friends, and you will be until, well, until you're dead."
Jim just raised his eyebrows at her. "Amy," he began slowly, "I don't think you've known Bones long enough to know something like that."
"My intuition was the only thing that kept me alive 2445, I know what I'm talking about," 731 said bitterly.
Jim nodded, not responding. Bones emerged from the bathroom, dressed in civvies and toweling his hair dry. "Just what was so damn important that I had to wake up at the crack of frigging dawn?"
"Interplanetary food fair in the city. Bones, I've been talking about this for weeks," Jim said.
"Fine. But I am not paying for your food."
The day was perfectly sunny. Jim and Amy ate anything they could get their hands on, and Bones only ate the food if he could tell what it was. There was a curling feeling of contentment in the air, one that Jim hadn't felt since before the sand covered Tarsus IV.
After two years at the academy, Jim is starting to crack. When he hears Uhura talking about 'How awful Tarsus IV must have been,' and, 'can you even imagine what it was like living there,' Jim almost goes up to her and tells her. Five steps away from her, he realized what he was doing. He turned and ran for the closest bar. He drank enough that the pudgy, middle-aged male barman began to look attractive.
He couldn't believe what he had almost done. If he told, the government would probably lock him back up, and there would only be four sane survivors. He is distinctly cooler to Uhura after that incident.
After the sunny day of the food fair, during which Amy had subtly nodded her approval of Bones, Jim allows Bones to actually help him if he's sick. A year ago, he would have glared if Bones even thought the words Jim and hypospray in the same sentence. But they've slept in the same room for years and Jim doesn't have a scratch on him, so during September of their third year together, when Jim contracts a terrible case of influenza, he only lasts a day before he asks Bones to help him.
Bones knows that Jim Kirk will eat just about anything as long as it's fresh. Knowing this, Bones is undeniably shocked when he steals a bite of Jim's sandwich and promptly spits it back out. "Jim, do you have any idea how stale this bread is?" Bones demands.
Jim nods. "I like it like that," he says, "fresh bread tastes kinda weird." Jim doesn't tell Bones that to him, the 'stale bread' is fresh. He can't stand the stuff right when it comes out of the oven, it's always warm and soft. Of all the odd residual habits Jim has left over form Tarsus IV, this is the one that he never gets over.
Tapping his desk impatiently, Jim waits for his call to be answered. There is a click and Amy's wide face fills the screen. "Hey Jim, what's – ".
"Are you the only one?" Jim interrupts her.
Automatically knowing what he's talking about, Amy sighs. "No Jim," she says, "the other three as well. We've all made a similar deal."
"Why didn't they ask me?" he asks.
"You joined Starfleet Jim, you made a life for yourself that would put you in contact with a lot of people. You could be a Captain some day. Do you want to wonder if it was given out of pity? Or do you want to know that you earned it?" She sighed then continued, "The government isn't cruel here Jim. They actually want to help us. Take comfort in the fact that they are actually giving us the choice of making lives for ourselves. None of us are forced to talk; we chose to tell people and in return, we never have to worry about how we're going to find food for the rest of our lives. That was the only thing I thought about for two years. I never want to think about it again." She rubbed her forehead as if she was tired.
"You're my friend Jim, and I love you, but it's two in the morning here, do you think we could talk while I'm actually awake?"
"Sure, no problem. Oh, and Amy."
Amy smiled. "You're welcome Jim. Night"
After a particularly bad session of combat training, Jim sits on his bed, letting Bones fix his three fractured ribs. As he finishes, Bones cannot stop himself from gently touching the bullet scar. Very aware that he was stepping out of their established boundaries, Bones quietly asked, "Who pulled out the bullet, Jim?"
More resigned than surprised, Jim responds, "I did, Bones," before pulling his shirt over his scarred torso and lying down to sleep.
Recognizing the depth of trust Jim displayed in telling him that, Bones doesn't press for any more information.