AN: THIS CHAPTER IS ...lighter than the last one, but still VERY HEAVY. But on the up-side...THERE IS FLUFF, also.

For those of you that don't know, I broke my hand. Sorry for the writing hiatus. It's better now, so there will be more chapters. Also, there was severe writers block, but I think I"m good now. So...happy reading.

If you don't like plot spoilers then attempt to not read the warnings for this chapter.

Disclaimer. I don't own them. Obviously.

Warnings for this chapter. (Theses are the same as the last chapter, but you warned, please, because I don't like flamers.)...Adult content. Torture. Genocide. Child abuse. Implied possible Rape. Implied Sexual assault. Implied Non-con. None of this is graphic, but it gets mentioned, so you should know that before reading it.

Pike stroked his hands through Jimmy's hair and watched the boy sleep. The lullabye had stopped shortly after Pike walked in. He had not moved for some hours. He knew it was long after midnight. He knew he should get up. But Kodos had whipped Jimmy. He'd whipped Jimmy himself. Which meant that Starfleet now had a picture of his face. And that in turn, meant the Pike really needed to get out of this bed and call security.

He should make copies of the holo of Kodos' face and post them everywhere so that the bastard could get what was coming to him. Any trace of human feeling that Pike had harbored for the dictator had fled as Pike watched the governor whip Jimmy.

Pike was going to kill the man with his bare hands if he got the chance. Screw phasers.

Jimmy snuffled slightly in his sleep and Pike relaxed his grip, thinking that the boy might be registering his attention, and not wanting to awaken him. But Kirk seemed to register that movement, also, and he turned over to blink at Pike with his too blue eyes.

"Chris?" The kid's tone was groggy.

Pike grinned apologetically. "Hey kiddo. Sorry to wake you."

"S'ok." Jimmy slurred. He regarded Chris. "You okay?"

Pike considered lying and saying yes. But Jimmy had been lied to a lot by adults and already had trust issues.

"No," he said.

Jimmy sat up, instantly alert. Pike was once again reminded of how thoroughly, how perfectly, this kid had led his little band of followers. Instantly awake in a crisis. It took some leaders years to learn that skill. Amazing.

"What's wrong?"

Pike smiled at him. "Nothing like that, Jimmy. Just upset. Just... everything." Pike didn't want to tell the kid that he'd just watched the video of the boy being whipped.

"Commander Pike, tell me. Please."

Pike looked at Jimmy and couldn't come up with any more excuses. He sighed. Heavily. "The security team found some holos on the planet. And I just watched one of Kodos torturing...someone."

Kirk swallowed and nodded. "Yeah, that's hard."

Pike raised an eyebrow. "You watched him torture people?"

Jimmy wouldn't meet his eyes. "Yeah," he shrugged. "He made me."

Kodos had forced the boy to watch torture? Pike's vision went red at the edges. His voice, when he spoke, was hoarse. "What else did he make you do?"

Jimmy wouldn't look at him. But his knuckles were white where he gripped the blanket.

"'ll...I...can't." Jimmy hung his head. "I just...can't."

"Jimmy, please. I'm not going to judge you. I'm not going to tell anyone. I'm not going to give up custody of you. I just...want to know."

The too bright eyes flicked up at him and back to the bed again. "Chris...I...I can't." Jimmy was crying, ernest and exposed and looking more helpless than Chris had ever seen him. Pike knew this was his fault, he'd done this to the kid, and now he didn't know how to make it better. He gathered the boy into his arms, and just held him and stroked his back.

Jimmy was hiccuping and wheezing and crying and just a mess. "I know you want to know...but I...I...just can't."

"It's okay, Jimmy, it's ok."

Pike had never dealt with anything like this in his life. But he made shushing sounds and told the kid that was safe, while keeping Jimmy tightly pressed against his chest. The kid was so damn small. So thin.

Jimmy quieted eventually and sniffed against Pike's neck as the kid fought to keep his sobs under control.

Pike continued stroking his back. "It's ok, Jimmy, none of that is your fault."

Jimmy sniffed. "You don't know that."

Pike did know that. Whatever Kodos had done, it hadn't been Jimmy's fault. "Hey, kid, look at me."

Jimmy's lip trembled as he fought Pike's attempts at eye contact. Pike caught the boy's face in his hand and raised the kid's chin, so that Jimmy was forced to look him in the eyes. Pike kept his voice soft when he spoke. "It's not your fault, Jim. Whatever he did, it's not your fault."

Jimmy looked him a long time, not saying anything.

"Please trust me." Pike tried again.

The kid's head came up a minuscule amount at that. "I...I don't remember all of it."

That stood to reason. He couldn't imagine the kid would want to remember any of it. "Well, that makes sense to me."

Jimmy looked up at him questioningly. But Pike had had his fair share of things he blocked out as well.

"Jimmy, we block things out because we can't deal with them. It's a way of protecting ourselves."

The kid snuffled against him, petulantly. "I know that."

Pike waited until the kid looked him in the eyes again. "Good, because that means that some part of you knows that you are worth protecting."

When Jimmy processed those words, his eyes filled again with tears that tracked wet passages down the sides of his cheeks. These tears were quieter than the ones that had blinded him a few minutes earlier, and Pike couldn't help it, he grabbed the boy and pulled him close again.

"It's okay," he kept repeating. "You are worth it, Jimmy. You're worth everything."

Pike wondered how this kid had been in his life such a short time and already the kid had rearranged all of Pike's priorities. He rubbed the boy's back until the sobbing subsided.

I'm getting good at this, Pike thought. He'd lost count of the number of times he'd comforted a crying Jimmy. And to think, before a few weeks ago, he'd never so much as held a crying child. Despite their newfound rapport, Pike was wishing that he didn't have to comfort Jimmy. That none of these things had happened to the kid, and that the Kirks were still alive. It was funny, he hadn't thought much of George or Winnie over the years, but now...he missed them almost tangibly.

Pike ran a hand absentmindedly down Jimmy's back, and it occurred to him just how large the kid's capacity for trust must be. If their positions were reversed, Pike would not have allowed anyone to touch his back. That gave Pike an idea.

"Jimmy, do you trust me?"

Jimmy was quiet at first. Damn. The kid could probably smell trap in the question. Pike sighed. He'd have to think of something else-


Oh. "Good." Pike nodded. That was good. But he didn't speak. He was waiting to see if Jimmy took the bait on his own.

"You want me to prove it to you." Jimmy's voice was flat; defeated.

Pike startled. It occurred to him then, that he might be acting like a dick. You weren't suppposed to push kids who'd had traumatic experiences. "No," he said. "No."

Jimmy looked doubtful.

Pike decided it was time to lay his cards on the table. "Jimmy...I...when I found you, I..." Pike trailed off. He couldn't imagine it. It haunted his dreams.

He tried again. "And...I...just wanted to kill whoever'd done that to you...and that was without knowing you..."

"Or who I was." Jimmy's voice was soft.

Pike looked at the kid sharply. "Don't think that's why I wanted you." His voice was harsh, and Jimmy looked startled. Pike sighed and checked himself.

"I wanted you...for you. You're a right piece of work. You've got...spunk...and that in a person." He trailed off again.

Dammit. Pike felt like an ass. He never had trouble putting words to his thoughts, but now, when it mattered, the ability had completely deserted him.

"Fuck." Jimmy's eye's widened. Oh shit. Pike hadn't meant to say that aloud. You didn't swear in front of kids. He nearly swore again, but he bit his lips instead.

Jimmy giggled.

Well, shit. Pike hadn't heard Jimmy giggle like a normal child. Despite his frustration, Pike smiled.

And then Jimmy looked at him shyly and Pike's heart nearly broke for the pure innocence of it. It was a look he'd never thought he'd see on this boy's face.

Right. Cards on the table then. Pike drew in a deep breath. "Jimmy. I want to keep you...permanently. I'm...not good at this...I might be a terrible parent, but...I want to keep you with me."

Jimmy just gaped at him. Open-mouthed.

Okay, so that wasn't the reaction he'd been hoping for.

Pike decided to try again. "I want to keep you. Permanently. I'll keep you safe. I'll feed you whenever you want to eat. I can't really be worse than an orphanage-"

"Yes." Jimmy's voice was quiet. It was not what Pike had expected. The kid wasn't throwing his arms around Pike, and he wasn't jumping for joy, but he was...serious. There was no hesitation in Jimmy's eyes. The kid didn't look like a child now, but a fellow adult.

This was not a spontaneous decision on Jimmy's part. No. The kid'd been thinking about this.

Pike quelled an urge to hug the boy again. He'd reduced the kid to tearful hugs enough this evening. "Okay," he said. "I'll file the paper work."


Pike smiled. "What you didn't already do it yourself?" he said with a fake, mocking tone.

Jimmy's blush was uncharacteristically hesitant as he studied the floor.

Pike's eyebrows rose. "Jimmy?" he prodded.

Jimmy mumbled something too soft to hear.


"I said, I wasn't sure you'd want me." Jimmy pulled away and faced the window. This time the boy's voice edged on defiant. Evidently the kid wasn't a fan of having to repeat himself when he was nervous.

"Oh, Jim." Pike said. He dropped to one knee at the kid's side, and gently put his hands on the kid's upper arms, tugging the boy back to face him. "Worth everything, remember."

The sapphire gaze locked with Pike's and after a small eternity, Jimmy nodded.

"Right." Pike stood and worked his hands against the knots that were forming in his back. He felt a little like he'd just proposed marriage to someone. But then he supposed that made sense. He had just made a lifetime commitment. And he did not regret it. "I'll put the paperwork through when we're done here."

Pike sat beside Jimmy on the bed, and just looked at the kid. In the several days he'd been in Pike's quarters, the kid had gotten some of his color back. He was dangerously thin, but that would also change in time. Jimmy looked...better. He probably still shouldn't be leaving the bed for any length of time, though, but maybe he could have visitors.

"Jimmy, we need to talk," Pike said.

Jimmy nodded but looked like he was steeling himself for something very unpleasant. "What do you want?" He looked wary.

"I was thinking that if you are feeling up to it, maybe you could have visitors tomorrow, so long as you don't get too tired out."

Jimmy positively beamed him. "Really?" The look on the kid's face was incredulous.


"Awesome." It was such a childlike answer that Pike ruffled the kid's hair. But that had been the easy part. The next bit...would be harder.

"It's...about Kodos," Pike said.

Jimmy's gaze hardened. "What about him?"

"Look, kiddo, I'm sorry to ask you this, but you've seen him, and you can tell me what he looks like." Pike knew he should tell the kid he had the holo, but he just didn't think that was ready to hear it. But he didn't like hiding the truth from Jimmy.

Jimmy's face relaxed. "Yeah." The kid went quiet for a few minutes; he looked thoughtful. "There are a couple of us that have seen him. That's all. If you go down and get Tom Leighton, Kevin Riley, Eddie Molson, Kindi Wyn, and Matt-we could all tell you what he looks like."

Pike nodded. "Okay. I'll get a sketch artist up here first thing in the morning."


Pike couldn't do this. Not telling the kid felt more like a lie than anything else Pike had said to the kid since they'd met, and Pike had seen that Kirk had had precious little honesty in his life over the past year. "Jimmy, I need to be straight with you."

The kid looked up, his eyes huge in the star light. Pike saw the kid try to repress a swallow. Shit, how did you start a conversation like this?

"I...Jimmy,...I..." Dammit Christopher, pull yourself together man. "The video I just was of Kodos whipping you." He said it all in one go, as though he was reporting to a superior officer. It made it easier.

Jimmy's face was expressionless. It could have been carved from stone for all emotion it betrayed.


It was all he said.

Shit. Pike shouldn't have told the kid. Shit.

"Have you shown it to anyone else?" Jimmy's voice was distant, as though he was speaking from a long way away.

"No." Pike said, "No one else has seen it."

Jimmy nodded. There was still no expression on his face. "Why do you need to know what Kodos looks like if you already have a picture?"

Pike supposed that was a fair question. "Because...he might have changed his looks, because I want to find him more than anything, and because...I didn't want to put you at risk."

Jimmy's head came up at that. "Me? At risk, how?"

Pike dropped to his knees in front of Jimmy. "Because Kodos clearly wants you. I don't want him to know I have you. I don't want anyone finding out where you are unless I've personally inspected and cleared them. Because you are one of the bravest people I've ever known, and I don't want anyone to ever be able to hurt you again...I just...I know you don't really need it, but you make people want to protect you."

It was the most emotional thing Pike had said to anyone in a very long time. Damn, what was this kid doing to him.

"Okay," Jimmy said, taking a deep breath. "Okay."

Jimmy nodded again. The kid still seemed hesitant to meet Pike's eyes. Well, that would change in time.

"I witnessed the execution order." Jimmy's voice was so quiet Pike almost didn't hear him.


He nearly gasped aloud. Pike had not realized that anyone witnessing the order was still alive. That meant they had legal evidence binding Kodos to the executions. Visual evidence. If they could just catch the fucker then they'd have him.

"I wasn't supposed to hear it. But I was Kodo', kind of. His favorite. He always wanted me around." Jimmy trailed off, his cheeks tinged pink.

Pike thought back to the holo of Jimmy showering and wondered what the kid meant by "pet." He shuddered. Not for the first time, Pike fantasized about killing the governor with his bare hands when Pike found him.

But then, strangulation might be too good for him.

If he'd touched Jimmy...

But then Jimmy was speaking again, "I'd gotten suspicious, see, and he was acting...funny. So I followed him. And I heard the executions and then I ran to back to the cabin to see if I could save any of the guys."

Pike fought to get himself under control. Now was not the time. Jimmy did not deserve this reaction. When Pike spoke again, his voice was even. "You said you'd seen him torture people." It wasn't a question. Pike wished like hell it could have been.

"Yeah. More than one." Jimmy didn't elaborate.

Pike felt sick. "That was...after? When he was trying to break you?"

Jimmy nodded silently, not looking at Pike.

Pike knew he shouldn't ask, he did, but really, he needed to know. "Has...did he...touch you in any way?"

Jimmy's blue eyes met Pike's with no expression on his face. "Does it matter?"

That was his answer.

Pike closed his eyes against the truth of it, and restrained himself against the impulse to pull the kid to his chest and never letting him go.

"No," he said, his voice strained. "No, it doesn't matter."

In truth, though, Pike had known as soon as he'd seen the way Kodos had stroked Jimmy's back when the he'd been whipping him. There was something just..wrong about it.

"Jimmy, would you be comfortable telling the captain what you've told me?" Pike asked it gently, wanted to make sure the kid understood it was a request and not an order.

"Why are you asking me if you're going to tell him anyway?" Jimmy's tone was not sullen, exactly, just very, very resigned.

"I'm not going to tell him anyway," Pike said.

Jimmy shot him an incredibly sarcastic, disbelieving look. Pike had seen that look on Winnona's face quite a few times.

"Jim, as far as I'm concerned, you've shared confidential information with your guardian. Not with Starfleet. Now, I'm not gonna lie, I'd like you to tell the captain because I'd like to get this son of a bitch, but I'm NOT violating your privacy to do it. Clear?"

Jimmy's mouth actually dropped open. "Pike...I...I...didn't mean-"

"I know you didn't, kiddo." He patted the kid's shoulder reassuringly. He'd just wanted to make sure he'd made his point. Pike thought he'd done it rather well.

"You can call the captain." Jimmy's voice was quiet.

Well, that was a bit of a surprise. "Okay, I can call him first thing in the morning-''

"Now." Jimmy interrupted. "Now, before I lose my nerve."

And Pike wanted to say that it was the middle of the night, but then he realized it didn't matter. His captain's favor was not more important than Jimmy's.

So Pike called and woke the captain, and explained the situation. Mortari, the CMO, one ensign from communications and another from security all appeared about a half an hour later, coffee in hand and bleary-eyed. The security and communications ensigns had brought recording tri-corder and because of ranks of the attending witnesses, the evidence gathered by the tri-corder could be submitted to the prosecution as evidence. It would not get Jimmy out of testifying at a trial itself, but it would get him out of all of the preliminary steps. The CMO came as an outside observer to monitor Jimmy's condition.

Pike had seen many forms of bravery in his lifetime, but this kid was something else entirely. Jimmy was shirtless, clad only in his pajama bottoms, with the scars on his back bare for anyone in the room to see. Though the kid did periodically fist his hands in the quilt Winnona had made for him, he comported himself like a pro, especially given the subject matter he was discussing.

"-by then I knew about the fungus," Jimmy was saying. "You shouldn't underestimate my abilities with computers. But Kodos always did..."

No man could have been prouder to have a son like this.

A son.

Pike gulped.

He was going to have a son.

But then he smiled.

He was okay with that.

The captain and the others left sometime after six, ship's morning. Moritari was kind enough to give Pike the morning off, which Pike appreciated. He rather suspected that the captain would be taking the morning off as well. Jimmy had given them permission to use the images from the holo of him being whipped, provided that they removed his name. Captain Moritari had agreed.

Pike really, could not have been prouder of the boy if he'd sired him himself.

"I'm so proud of you, Jimmy. What you did just now...well, I don't know if I could have done that...I'm just...really proud of you."

Jimmy stared at the floor, blushing. He bit his lips. "Thanks."

"You are welcome." Pike stroked the kid's head, gently. And Jimmy gently shook his fingers off. But he smiled when he did it.

"Well, I should let you get some sleep, now, kiddo." Pike said it reluctantly, but he knew that they both needed sleep.

Jimmy nodded, not saying much. He looked hesitant for a moment. Pike was concerned. The too blue orbs were huge as the kid stared up at him. "What am I supposed to call you?"

This time Pike did not resist the urge to hold him. He wrapped Jimmy in his arms, and ruffled his hair. "Call me whatever you want, kiddo. Whatever makes you comfortable."

"Good, because that means that some part of you knows that you are worth protecting." not mine. A couple years ago, someone very special said those words to me.

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