Author's Note: Yes, another take on Tarsus IV. (I know. Shh.) I researched the TOS incident using Memory Alpha/Beta, from which I took the barest bones of the story, and then filled in the rest as I saw fit. Some things may not make sense—primarily the fact that Kirk refers to himself as "J.T." in the present bits and "Jimmy" in the past—but it's all explained... eventually. Speaking of, the scenes alternate between what's happening "now" and what happened "before" with the tenses changing to reflect whether it's the past or present. The title comes from an astonishingly fitting Alexisonfire song (with the word "universe" subbed in for "world") that I totally don't own. Unbeta'd, so if you catch any mistakes, please let me know! (Long note is long, sorry!) Cheers.
Disclaimer: Characters mentioned are used without permission and are trademarks of CBS/Paramount/Gene Roddenberry. I do not own them and am simply borrowing for my purposes. Please don't sue.
This Could Be Anywhere in the Universe
In the end, it's all so fucking ironic that J.T. Kirk almost wants to laugh. Almost. But it's also really damn awful, so he just sits in stony silence and stares out into the dark vastness of space.
He's never thought he'd see space as his savior. Space is the place that takes his mother away all too often, the place where his father is for all eternity. He's always hated it for that. Has always preferred spending his time planetside because of it.
J.T. swallows the bile in his throat as images of the planet he's just left flitter unbidden through his mind. He clenches and unclenches his hands as he focuses on the black. On the way the stars change color—red to green—as they warp toward Earth.
Anything to stay in the here and now. Anything to keep his mind free of the horror that became Tarsus IV.
Three months before…
"I don't wanna go!" thirteen-year-old James Tiberius Kirk shouted petulantly.
Winona Kirk smiled patiently at her son. "Jimmy, it's only for a few months. And you'll get to see Aunt Priya's family again—you haven't seen them in years."
He rolled his eyes. "Pfft." As if he cared about that.
Shaking her head, Winona put her hands on her hips. "Look, you might as well get used to the idea because I'm not letting you stay here on your own." (Neither of them mentioned how George Samuel Kirk had finally left for good after his seventeenth birthday just weeks earlier—or that Frank absolutely refused to deal with either of the boys anymore.)
"Whatever." Jimmy crossed his arms. "I can take care of myself." The silent dig at her not-so-present mothering was as loud as his actual words.
Winona ignored it. "Uh-huh. But since I don't feel like bailing you out of jail again—"
"That wasn't my fault!"
His mother appeared unconvinced. "—you're going to spend the summer working and learning some discipline."
Jimmy scowled. "Sounds like a blast."
Unmoved, Winona walked away.
He had a strong urge to shout after her that he wasn't his brother (who'd run away monthly for years) and that maybe Sam was the one who'd needed discipline because Jimmy was just having a little fun (while still doing his work and excelling, thank-you-very-much) and it really wasn't his fault the sheriff didn't have a sense of humor. Oh and overcompensating for what happened with Sam wasn't going to bring him back, okay? (There was a reason people were always saying Jimmy Kirk was too smart for his own good.)
Instead Jimmy just glared after her. "Tarsus Four—what a stupid name."
J.T. blinks a few times before turning to the officer smiling kindly at him. She's in her mid-thirties with tan skin and neatly braided hair. Faces with even the barest similarities flash through his mind and he turns back to stare out the window again. "James Tiberius Kirk."
She makes a few notes on her PADD then asks another question: "Are you here alone?"
His whole body tenses momentarily as his stomach clenches unpleasantly. (He remembers coming back to the house, he remembers reading the message from Kodos, he remembers the inexplicable fear that gripped him and racing after them, he remembers arriving too late. Far, far too late.) "Yes."
The pity on her face sparks the smallest flare of anger inside of him but he can barely feel it, he's so numb. "Okay. Someone from medical will be by shortly." She reaches toward his shoulder but stops when he shies away. (He just feels so dirty; he doesn't want to soil her, too.)
Two and a half months before…
"Jimmy, it's so good to see you again!" His aunt—who wasn't really an aunt but actually a close friend of Winona's from the Academy—pulled him into a tight hug. Priya Duriseti was a warm woman of Indian descent who'd moved to the colony on Tarsus IV after retiring from Starfleet to live the dream. (Which was, apparently, owning and operating a small farm with her husband and popping out a few kids.)
Expression sullen, Jimmy shrugged. "Whatever."
Undeterred, Priya took him by the hand and led him toward a small, somewhat ancient vehicle. "I can't wait for you to meet Lilia and Balaji—they're really excited for your visit. And, of course, you remember Uncle Topher? He's already set up the guest room for you."
"Great." His tone indicated he meant the exact opposite.
Priya pat him on the shoulder. "It's nice here, Jimmy—give it a chance."
He just crossed his arms and watched the landscape change from city to more rural as they made their way to the family's farm.
A nurse begins scanning J.T. but he barely blinks at the large man dressed in a neat white uniform, waving a tricorder around. "Malnourished," he mutters, marking his PADD. "A few abrasions and—" He moves to lift J.T.'s shirt but the boy shrinks away from him. "I need to see the extent of your injuries, son."
There's fire in his eyes as he meets the man's gaze. "Don't call me that."
His brows furrow. "What?"
J.T. grimaces. "I'm not your son."
The nurse glances down at the PADD and scrolls through it for a moment. "Right. Of course not." More pity—just like the female officer before him. (He must've seen the note about his father; it never fails, that ghost follows him wherever he goes. J.T. hates that.) His tone is gentle as he reaches forward again. "But I still need to see—"
"You want to see?" he interrupts suddenly, voice rising just a little. "Here—" he pulls off his shirt, "take a good look." There are purple and blue bruises littering his chest and his ribs are visible for the first time since early childhood. The nurse is visibly taken aback and J.T. uses the moment to cover himself again. "You don't need to touch to see."
With a wary gaze, the man nods. "Would you consent to let me heal your injuries?"
J.T. shakes his head. "I'm fine." It's a small penance to pay for all that's happened.
Frowning, he pulls something from a satchel. "Here." It's a nutrition bar and, suddenly aware of the gnawing hunger in his gut, J.T. accepts it wordlessly. "Someone will come to speak with you soon."
Mouth full, he doesn't reply—or bid the man good-bye. He doesn't like this nurse, anyway. He's relatively certain he's about to be handed off to a psychiatrist of some sort and that's just another reason to be bitter. He or she will undoubtedly want to talk about Tarsus IV (maybe even the Kelvin if he's really unlucky) and that's the last thing J.T. wants right then. So he focuses his attention back out the window as he nibbles on the bar.
Three weeks before…
Jimmy and the two Duriseti children had been upstairs playing for a while now. The kids were a few years younger, but they practically worshipped the ground the youngest Kirk walked on, hanging off his every word and following him around relentlessly. Jimmy found he didn't mind too much—it was actually kind of fun. (More fun than working around the farm, anyway, although that really wasn't saying much.)
It was after dinner when Jimmy decided to get something to drink, hopping downstairs two steps at a time. He didn't mean to eavesdrop, honest—it just happened.
Priya and Topher were talking in worried, hushed tones in the kitchen. "Everything's infected."
"It's that fungus isn't it?" Topher didn't reply verbally to Priya's question but he must've made some kind of ascent because she continued: "Damn it. It doesn't seem to have any natural predators here—someone must've brought it from off-world." She sighed. "Tell me it's at least contained from other food supplies."
"I don't know. I do know that most of our neighbors are having trouble, too."
"I'm afraid so. And I've heard rumblings of the beginnings of a revolt in town, too."
"Do you remember that whack-job scientist? The one that Starfleet gave the boot when he started talking about all those antiquated 20th Century ideas."
"Kodos." Another pause and apparent nonverbal confirmation from Topher. "Oh no…"
It was the fear in Priya's voice that made Jimmy tiptoe back upstairs without saying a word. He didn't want to hear any more. (He never did get that drink.)
A throat clears from somewhere behind J.T. "James Tiberius Kirk?"
He doesn't turn from the view. "Sure." He's been sitting on the floor of the lounge-turned-refugee area for a while now, a couple of uneaten nutrition bars in his lap.
J.T. barely flinches as the Deltan takes a seat beside him. He can feel the bald woman looking at him but still doesn't meet her gaze. "Hello."
"Hi." He wants to look at her but knows that has more to do with her species than for actual want of interaction, so he resists.
"I have been tasked to speak with you," she tells him gently, "but you already know this."
He can feel her looking at him again. "First—would you like me to relieve you of your pain?"
An innate ability of her species, though J.T. knows that she can't actually heal him. He decides it doesn't matter. "No." The pain is nothing compared to what others have suffered.
"All right." Her breathing is very even and it would unnerve him if he didn't know it was part of maintaining a healthy handle on their overpowering sexuality. "Would you like to speak of what happened?"
This question doesn't bear any consideration at all. "No."
She accepts this in stride. "Will you if I ask it of you?"
Images are already clouding his mind and he shakes his head, trying to clear it again—or maybe just to say no. "Don't." He hates the plea he hears in his tone.
"You will have to speak of it eventually."
J.T. looks at his lap—at the nutrition bars there and his hands. They're covered in dirt and blood but somehow only he seems aware of it. "I know."
Her unconscious telepathy must convince her he's telling the truth because she lets it drop. "Very well. Is there anyone you would speak with?"
He thinks of his mom. Of Sam but only for an instant. Of the family on Tarsus IV he's desperately trying to forget. "No." He scrubs his hands over his eyes and tries to burn them from his brain.
"Is there anything at all you would like to talk about?" she asks.
His gaze moves back to the darkness of space. "No." He's glad when she leaves.
Three days before…
Revolution. It was a word Jimmy had heard in history classes. The kind of word he knew the meaning of without actually knowing the meaning of it. Until, that was, these last weeks on Tarsus IV.
After that night of eavesdropping everything had gone sideways in the blink of an eye. First was the revelation that nearly the entirety of the colony's food supplies were contaminated by the fungus he'd heard Priya and Topher discussing. They were a colony of eight thousand with provisions for maybe half until they could get help from the Federation. Maybe half. It was like a nightmare.
No, it was a nightmare. One he couldn't wake from.
Kodos' made a play for power not long after. He spoke of helping the people and saving those worth saving. (Jimmy didn't know what that meant; wasn't everyone worth saving?) And many of the people who were scared and hungry—shit, already they were hungry—sided with him. He'd always known fear drove people to do things but seeing it proved just how dire the situation really was.
And, just like that, a movement was born. Kodos led ordinary citizens-turned-soldiers for the cause to overthrow the Federation sanctioned government. Most of the action took place in the main city, thankfully, but it was still an inescapable reality.
When the violence began, Jimmy started trying to reach his mother—who was on assignment somewhere but had to be able to help, right? she was his mom, that was what she did—during the days. He'd always had an aptitude for building things and spent his time tinkering with ways to boost a signal off-planet. (If only they'd had some sort of spaceworthy ship or replicators or something here…)
Today he tried climbing the tallest mountain in his effort to send a message out but it was for naught. He was just arriving back at the Duriseti household when he heard the news on loop. "Governor Kodos victorious! Thousands to be invited to the city for his address."
Wrinkling his nose, Jimmy decided it was good that the fighting was over. He knew Priya and Topher didn't like Kodos, though, and that worried him. They were, he thought, pretty smart people. That night, he voiced his concerns to them.
"I know," his aunt agreed, putting a comforting arm over his shoulder. (She was already thinner than he'd ever seen her, insisting the children eat the majority of her scant rations.) "But maybe it'll be okay. He is a scientist at heart, after all…"
Being a scientist herself, Priya seemed to think that adequate comfort. Jimmy silently disagreed, unable to ignore the churning in his gut. Things weren't right here—and this wasn't for the better. He just knew it.
It feels like time holds no meaning on the ship. J.T. tries to sleep a few times (mostly because it seems the thing to do) but his mind is plagued by nightmares—images so terrifyingly real that he can't even cry out. Instead he stares blankly (lifelessly) at what lies beyond.
People putter around him—survivors, medical officers, other crew members—but none of it feels real, not the way the pictures seared into his brain do. It's all dull to his senses.
Once someone tells him his mother would like to speak with him via subspace transmission. He's willing to acquiesce until he's told the room will be windowless. Then he refuses so adamantly that they make him speak with the Deltan counselor again.
The thing is, he really would like to see his mom, even if it's only on a view screen. He just can't face the idea of not having physical evidence, even for a few minutes, that he's off of Tarsus IV. He just can't. (He's been avoiding using the bathroom as much as possible for that very reason—not that he'd ever admit it to anyone. He doesn't want any more pity.)
Sometimes he hears people talking about him, too. He knows he's not the only kid to survive or even the only kid to be a 'sole survivor' of a group but they whisper all the same. About what he's seen (apparently it's more than most) and how tragic it is, especially because of his father.
He wishes they'd stop—or at least be quieter about it. Mostly, though, he just wishes he hadn't seen any of it at all.
Two days before…
Governor Kodos was making his big address today. Invitations were being issued and the event would take place sometime in the afternoon. In all honesty, Jimmy wasn't too interested in hearing about whatever political nonsense he had to share. He just hoped the new leader really did have a plan for keeping them all from starving to death because he was really hungry.
It was that hunger that sent Jimmy to a neighbor's farm. It was run by an older couple who were retired researchers for Starfleet. They'd been trying to work on synthesizing nutrition from seemingly non-nutritious sources. (Rocks, dirt, etc.) He liked them and found their experiments interesting. (He also appreciated that they always insisted on sharing their rations with him; he was a growing boy, after all.)
That day, the couple stopped their work early, they were among those invited to hear Kodos. Jimmy shrugged and headed back to the Duriseti household. It was empty when he arrived, their vehicle missing. He didn't have to wonder where they'd gone, though—a note on a PADD informed him that they were also attending the new governor's address.
Jimmy frowned, setting the PADD aside. That feeling was back in his gut again, unpleasant and foreboding. He still didn't know why but something about this whole thing just didn't sit right with him.
Heading to the nearest computer console, he pulled up the invitation they'd received. It seemed standard enough, he supposed (he'd never really seen something of that nature before), but it struck him odd that they were instructed to bring their entire family. Lilia and Balaji were barely six and ten, respectively. Jimmy knew enough to know they were hardly his target audience.
No, this wasn't right, he could feel it.
In the end, the decision wasn't hard to make at all. The city wasn't so far that he couldn't make it there on foot and he owed the Durisetis for all they'd done for him. (Sharing their scant food rations, treating him like family.) So he headed out into the hot afternoon sun, driven by nothing beyond those instinctively bad feelings.
When they finally arrive on Earth, J.T. doesn't know what he expects to find. He knows he doesn't expect to see his mom and brother waiting in an anxious crowd for him. As soon as he steps out of the transport area, his mother is there. She wraps him in a tight hug and cries as she kisses him over and over again. Sam pulls them both into his arms and there are tears falling from his eyes, too.
"Jimmy, oh, Jimmy…" His mother is holding him like she never wants to let him go again and Sam is smiling at him like he's the most amazing thing he's ever seen.
J.T. doesn't understand why they're doing that. Why they want him—he's filth, covered with blood and death. He reeks of it.
And when they pull back (but neither lets go, each holding an arm like they have to touch him just to be certain he's real), he sees the black marks he's left on their skin. Marred. They're going to die, too. (Everything he touches dies.) They don't seem to notice, though.
His mother is still crying when she speaks to him again. "Jimmy, oh honey… is there anything we can do?"
Sam nods emphatically. "Yeah, buddy—tell us how we can help."
He stares at both of them blankly, wanting desperately to pull away from them, to tell them to not call him Jimmy because that's a kid's name and he's not a kid anymore. (How can he be after seeing what he's seen?)
He doesn't, though. He can't force himself to, not when they're looking at him like that. He just blinks a couple of times and looks at the ground. (He can't stand the way they're looking at him—like he's special. He's not special, he's poison.) "Can we go home?" he asks, detached.
His mother hugs him again and he doesn't see the desperate look of worry she shares with Sam. "Of course, baby. Anything you want."
One hour before…
It'd been nearly forty-eight hours and Kodos was still disposing of the bodies. Just the thought made J.T. feel sick all over again. And he couldn't afford that luxury, not when they were still so low on food and he had people to look out for.
The handful of kids he'd rounded up from around the city (and one from actually inside the massacre, the poor soul) had followed him back to the Duriseti home. Most of them had spent the time alternating between crying and sleeping, while he did his best to find a way to get a message off world (they needed help now!) and gather enough food for all of them.
That first evening had been the worst, though. Kodos came on over the news channel and proclaimed the success of the first part of plan. (Massacre, J.T. had wanted to scream but he'd thrown up again instead.) He declared they would all survive until relief ships arrived as any excess food was being gathered up for redistribution.
J.T. had feared that would mean men were coming to the Duriseti house and they would all be in trouble—or worse. No one had, though, and he didn't know why. (He didn't know that he was among the spared and, as such, allowed continued existence.) He just knew that he was staying on alert until help came and then he was getting himself and these kids out of this nightmarish place.
"J.T.?" Cara, a small girl who claimed to be eleven (he had his doubts), was standing not far away. "There's a message coming through—priority, on loop."
He nodded and moved to the computer terminal. What he found made him sag with relief. The ships dispatched to help were early. Kodos was (apparently) dead and they were asking all survivors to send out messages at their earliest convenience.
His hands shook as he typed out a response complete with their coordinates and asking for assistance as soon as possible because there were children here.
The response was quicker than he anticipated, the face of a balding middle aged man in a Starfleet uniform appeared on the viewscreen only minutes later. He was visibly taken aback when he saw J.T. "Son, can I speak with your—whoever's in charge?"
Biting back his instinct to retort he was not this man's son, J.T. instead met his gaze evenly. "You are. I'm the oldest one here."
"You…" He nodded. "Someone will beam down immediately."
J.T. responded with his own nod. "Get everyone together, Cara," he instructed the girl who was still hovering nearby. "We're finally getting out of here."
There were tears in her eyes as she smiled at him and raced upstairs. For the first time since this whole thing began (had it really only been less than two full days?), the adrenaline was starting to wear off. When he'd had people to help, it'd been easy to keep it together. Now he was being relieved of that responsibility.
And as the lightshow that was transporter beaming appeared in front of him, he felt the weight of everything finally crash down on him. J.T. ran to the sink and vomited again. He wondered if it would ever get easier—and if he really wanted it to. (Because what if that meant he was forgetting? No, no. He might not know much, but he knew he'd never forget this. It just wasn't possible.)
His first week back home is not unlike his time on the starship that rescued him. (The Oklahoma—he doesn't think he'll ever forget her name or her lounge-turned-refuge area.) Everything keeps moving around him but it's like he's not even there, the way he hardly reacts. He tries not to shy away from his family, but he thinks they must notice him stiffen whenever they come close because they start giving him more space.
Sam tries prodding him one night, insistent and annoying in that way only older brothers are. J.T. can tell he wants to get a rise out of him—something to prove his annoying little brother really still in there. But, although it does irritate, he doesn't take the bait. For once he doesn't want to fight.
No, he wants to hurt his brother—to push him away. (For his own good, honest. Well, mostly.) So he tells Sam that what happened is his fault because he abandoned them and that's why J.T. had to go to Tarsus IV in the first place. (They both know that isn't true because Winona would never have left her somewhat rebelling thirteen-year-old with her established rebel of a seventeen-year-old but the strike lands all the same.) Sam leaves again the next day, although he still comes back nightly for dinner.
Winona has taken to giving J.T. hypos for dreamless sleep but must run low or use a placebo or something because the nightmares come back one night. Only they're worse because now he sees his mother and brother among the dead. (God, so many faces.) Contaminated by him—killed because of him, because he's a curse. It's all his fault.
He wakes up crying for the first time since everything happened. And he knows he's awake because he pinches himself over and over again to prove it, but he's still filthy—still covered with blood and dirt and death. He takes a bath even though it's the middle of the night and scrubs his skin until it's pink and raw, but he still can't get clean.
That's how Winona finds him—crying and scrubbing and rambling about everyone he cares about dies because of him. She hugs his wet body to her and lets him cry and promises him it's not his fault over and over again. And somehow Sam is there, too, and they hold him tightly as he tells them everything he saw. Of the faces that haunt him and the blood he can't escape.
They all cry that night. It doesn't make any of them feel better, but it does give them hope that maybe someday it will be. If they can forgive themselves—and each other.
Two days before…
The city had been too quiet when he arrived. Jimmy recalled the tiny but bustling metropolis he'd arrived in and wondered how that had become this. There were no people on the streets, no children playing or families shopping. He wondered if the violence of the revolution scared the people from their homes or made them wary of going outside.
Kodos was set to speak outside of the governor's estate (which he'd claimed as his own following the success of his movement). There was a large courtyard below and he would be addressing the people from his balcony. It was all very classic and archaic—words Jimmy might've previously attributed to the idea of revolution as well but here they were.
It wasn't a hard place to find. It was large and grand and, more to the point, the only part of the town not enveloped in silence. The sounds of men talking to one another in Standard should've been a relief but it made his blood run cold. Their voices were too few. Where were the women? The children? The excited chattering of large crowds? The news had reported that at least half of the colony was invited to attend the speech. Something really wasn't right here.
Jimmy swallowed and snuck toward one of the entranceways to the courtyard. (As it also served as a town square, so there were a number of them.) Barriers had been set up but, as a skinny kid who had yet to have his growth spurt, it wasn't hard for him to slip under them.
The moment he did, he wished he hadn't. Lifeless wide eyes stared up at him from a vacant face and Jimmy jumped to the side only to hit another body. Body shaking, he swallowed down the urge to vomit as best he could and looked up. The ground was littered with unmoving bodies. Hundreds—thousands. Some terrified, some ignorant, all dead. And the blood. There was so much blood. They were drowning in it.
This time there was no stopping it; Jimmy's stomach heaved and unloaded its meager contents. It was only as he panted to catch his breath (and not cry) that he realized maybe they weren't all dead—yet. At the far end of the square there were men dressed in military-esque garb walking about with large weapons. They poked and prodded the bodies, sometimes shooting them, sometimes just moving on.
Terrified of what they might do if they caught him, Jimmy began to back under the barrier again. That was when he saw it—something shuffling under a pile of bodies (oh God, there were piles) near him. He saw a small hand wiggle out from between two unfamiliar adults and it was like his body was moving without his consent. He crawled over to the hand, careful to keep low because he didn't want these men to turn their attention on him.
He tugged on the hand, shoving bodies aside and gagging silently. (He did his best not to notice their faces or how one was the same size as Lilia or that he might've seen Uncle Topher. He just can't handle that right now.) When the hole was big enough, he began pulling the body that belonged to the hand out. It was a boy, smaller than him and definitely younger. He had big brown eyes that Jimmy knew—he just knew—had seen everything. God. How could this even happen?
But there was no time for that. Placing a finger over his lips, he mimed being quiet and led the boy in a crawl back toward the barrier. They both fit under fine but once outside, Jimmy realized just how traumatized the boy really was. He just stared silently, letting himself be half-dragged down the street.
He knew he was only running on adrenaline now (because what else was there, after spending days underfed and then losing the contents of his stomach?) but it was going to have to be enough. Jimmy picked the boy up and hurried down the road. They'd just rounded a corner when something knocked him in the side, taking them both down.
Lying sprawled on his back, he just barely saw the butt of the rifle before it struck him in the gut. "What're you doin' out, kid?" the man sneered as Jimmy coughed roughly. "Don't y'know it ain't safe to be out here alone?"
Jimmy had never been one to take to authority well and now that the so-called authority had turned into very real monsters, he wasn't planning to change that opinion. "No?"
This wasn't the right answer, apparently, and his chest got a swift kick on for his effort. (He felt some small cracks and pops that he knew to mean at least some of his ribs were fractured.) Black spots danced in front of his eyes and Jimmy wheezed.
The sound of some sort of scuffle not far off distracted the man. "Get out of here, kid, and take your baby brother with you," he growled. The threat was evident in his tone; if they weren't gone by the time he returned, he was going to make sure there were two less mouths needing to be fed with their depleted resources.
It took a minute of choked breathing for Jimmy to get the wind back into his chest and he was just standing up as a girl around his age (maybe a few years younger?) approached him. "Hi," she said, tone one of quiet concern. "Are you all right?"
"'ll be fine," he grunted as he stood. (Looked like he was going to be dragging Silent Kid along, after all.) "You better get back home b'fore he comes back 'round."
She looked down. "There's no one there—and no food. That's what I was out looking for."
Jimmy frowned hard. "C'mon then. I know where there's food." He tried not to focus on the fact that the reason it was there for the taking was that the family he'd been staying with wasn't alive to eat it anymore. (Same went for the old couple nearby.) "Then we're getting the hell out of here." Somehow. Somehow they were getting out of there.
The girl's eyes lit up and she took Silent Kid's other hand. "I'm Cara," she told him as they started off.
"Ji—" No. Jimmy was the name of someone else; someone who hadn't just seen—everything. "J.T."
She tucked some hair behind her ear. "Do you think—I mean, I know a few more kids that are hungry whose parents are… gone."
The expression on J.T.'s face could only be described as grim but he nodded all the same. "Show me." He was going to help if he could. Somehow he'd get them all out of there.
Later people try to explain to him what really happened. (As if he wasn't there, as if he doesn't know.) They use words like eugenics and master race—words J.T. knows the definitions of but doesn't understand, not really. But he decides he doesn't want to because nothing can ever make what happened okay. Nothing. (As if he'll ever care to hear Kodos the Executioner's pathetic excuses.)
Honestly, he doesn't think there's any real reason for him to be alive when the Duriseti family isn't. But he is, and he has to live with that. Which sucks. (Survivor's guilt, someone calls it—unasked as usual.) He sometimes thinks it's probably harder not being one of the four thousand murdered, but he never shares that opinion. (Never will, either; it's far too shameful a thing to admit.)
It's a long time before he doesn't feel like he's walking around with a heavy shadow hanging over him all the time. (Besides the one from the Kelvin, that is.) Even then, though, J.T. isn't certain he'll ever be truly clean again. It just doesn't feel possible. (No matter where he goes, there's always more blood. More suffering. More death. There doesn't seem to be anything he can do to escape it.)
(Maybe he can't. Maybe this is his curse, his cross to bear. He hopes not—he doesn't want to carry that burden—but he does it all the same. And maybe one day he won't have to; maybe one day things will feel different or he'll be different or something. Maybe things will become better somehow. But he's not holding his breath on it. For all the things he is, J.T. has never been stupid.)
AN2: I just wanted to be clear in case it's not—"before" was referring to before the rescue from Tarsus IV. Also, in my head canon, the Silent Kid is Kevin Riley from TOS. Oh and I didn't make up the Deltans or what they look like and can do; that was all The Man (Roddenberry).