The Icicle Melts Chapter 4
Author: My Amalgamut
Universe/Series: Star Trek {Reboot|STXI|AU}
Rating: PG-13 (sensitive subject matter and some language)
Word count: 4,356 (this chapter)
Genre: General|Drama
Tropes: Tarsus IV
Warnings: Sensitive subject matter including (but not limited to) child neglect, abuse, and genocide
Summary: Amanda Grayson is one volunteer of hundreds helping Starfleet clean up the mess Kodos left of Tarsus IV. While on the planet she encounters an impulsive, defiant, all around wreck of a kid by the name of Jim Kirk. Logic would tell anyone to step back and leave it. Amanda had been called a great many things in the years since Vulcan had been made her home... but logical certainly wasn't one of them.
Beta: The awesome fagur_fiskur . Mad props, hun.

The Icicle Melts

Chapter Four

Amanda had fled the communications tent in tears. Katim didn't give chase, for which she and her pride were grateful. Amanda couldn't imagine what she looked like at that very moment, pacing in circles, wearing a ring into the dirt beneath her feet with hands flinging this way and that as she spoke anxiously into the air. She imagined, whatever the spectacle, that it wasn't a model of perfect mental health. Which was fitting, actually, as she felt just a little crazy.

"What are you thinking, Amanda?" she said and paused her steps for a second, tilting her head back to glare at the cloudless sky. She tsked, shook her head and pivoted on her heel, marching the other way. "This is crazy and brash and-and... entirely reckless!"

Pivot, pace, stop. Rinse, repeat.

She brought a hand up and pinched the bridge of her nose. This absolutely had to stop. "But what else am I expected to do?"

What was she supposed to do? An idea had sparked, fiery and bright, in the quick of her anger and now even as the simmer of her blood cooled, and she could rationalize above the tide of her personal feelings on the matter, it would not be ignored or discarded. It was a ridiculous notion, illogical, too complicated, too impossible... but it nagged at her, tugged at the back of her mind and she could not silence her brain on it.

The part of her that had been preserved beyond the Vulcan institutes of thinking asked why she would want to. Or, more accurately, said logic schmogic. Indeed.

"Amanda, you can't seriously..." Dear lord, arguing like this with herself. She couldn't think of a time she'd ever been closer to pulling her hair out, sans a few memorable debates with Sarek (he loved to argue, and he loved to argue that he didn't argue; premature baldness was as good as inevitable) but even the memory of those non-arguments dwelled on an entirely different level of derangement.

Oh yes, and what of Sarek. What would her husband have to say about her query? Or Spock, for that matter?

"This shouldn't even be up for debate. It's a preposterous, half cocked idea and you don't even know how it would be possible." Amanda imagined she should be wagging a finger at herself, but assumed that may be a step too far in the direction of gone. She resolved, "It's not possible."

There had to be alternatives, obvious alternatives, but when she tried to come up with even one her gut twisted and quivered nauseously, like she'd been making her meals of rocks lately. Her stomach rolled stubbornly in the attempt to shift her thoughts in any other direction. Confounding! Her heart and mind hadn't been at such odds with one another in so many years, she couldn't properly remember an exact instance. Why she was utterly unable to abandon the idea of- Oh...

Oh no...

She placed a hand over her face and breathed deeply. "I cannot believe I just... Abandon? How could I think such a callous thing?"

This bizarre tango between her humanity and her sense of reason came to a sudden, screeching halt when Katim came careening towards her. He'd appeared so fast that she wasn't sure where he'd come from, and he was yelling something she couldn't clearly hear at a distance.

"Miss Grayson!" he shouted again breathlessly, coming closer, skidding to a stop just before it seemed he would barrel into her. Normally a graceful young man from what Amanda had noticed, it had to have been a great panic to engender such a gangly display. "Miss Grayson, it's the Kirk kid!"

She startled, her focus narrowing to nothing outside of- "Jim? What? What is it?" She took a nervous step forward. "What's happened to Jim?"

"He- he's got a little girl with him," Katim answered, doing his best to gulp air back down and speak at the same time. "I don't know what's going on, but she needs help and he won't let anyone get close. They've all crowded him in at the main entry." He was panting the words, running them together, but she managed to keep up. "I think he's scared. I just, you're the only one I could think-"

Amanda didn't need to know more, couldn't afford the time to know more. She just shoved past him with the hope he wouldn't begrudge her for her haste, mindful only of the trouble Jim might be in. She would need to hurry, already scared of what the Starfleet soldiers might be doing to take matters into their own hands. It was a long way back around, if only evidenced by Katim's shortness of breath. To speed her way to the central area of camp, she slipped into the first gap she spotted, between the large equipment crates that were kept in stacks all over the site.

Completely heedless of the grime it smeared across her breast, or the odds and ends that nicked her skin and clothes as she squeezed through, Amanda paced herself recklessly fast where she had room to run, and slipped through the cracks where she didn't. Having been acclimated for years now into a social, comfortable sort of lifestyle, she'd not had much call for athleticism. She paid for it now with the embarrassingly quick set in of a burning in her lungs, and the quiver of underused muscles. She hauled herself past succumbing to these physical limitations, and pressed on with only one goal, one name, in sight. Time passed with no real concept and it could have been minutes or hours for all Amanda knew, it only seemed an eternally stretching path before she would reach her destination.

Finally, she stumbled back around the communications tent to find the crowd that had formed near the middle of camp. Winded, muscles exerted from climbing and scrabbling beyond the obstacles presented by every setup in their garrison, she ignored it and tore off at a sprint across the yards separating her from the horde. As she approached, Amanda began to make out the small, hunched over figure the commotion surrounded. She drew nearer, sped her legs impossibly, Closer vantage proved that it was Jim- dirty, huddled into himself and whatever he covered with his body. He was like a junkyard dog with his wild eyed snarling, ready to bite whoever tried to get close.

"Jim!" she cried as she collided with the throng of aids and officers. She yelled louder as she drove through the bodies to get to him. She grunted delicately, a mix of frustration and exhaustion, as she shoved aside elbows and shoulders. She didn't care about the curses that followed a particularly thoughtless palm to a face, or the trampled toes in her wake. She didn't care. "Jim!"

The sea of people parted at last, maybe realizing it was safer to just get out of her way, and let her move into the boy's line of sight. The blue eyes that met hers were brightly tearful, pupils dilated and frightened.

"Please," he gasped, unfurling. His face changed at the first sight of her, thrusting his hope and trust at her fully, without hesitancy, without thought. She watched him reveal the little body he'd tucked against himself. He lifted the girl gently to meet Amanda's arms halfway as she reached out. "Please, she's sick!"

She took the girl from him carefully, shuffling the near weightless bundle of child until her hold was secure. "Jim, do you know what happened?"

Jim blubbered back, hysterical and confused, "I- I don't know, she was okay yesterday, I swear. But they said that- the others said that she started throwin' up this morning and that she was sweaty and shivering. She's burnin' up and now I can't get her awake-"

"Shh, shh, it's okay Jim, it's okay. We'll help her- Jim!" His shoulders jumped. He sniffed wetly and got quiet, retraining his hysterics though he still twitched with vibrating tension, but he was listening. "Pay attention, now. I need you to do what I tell you," she said firmly, and he straightened up more, tears still falling but he did what she ordered and raptly. "I need you to run very fast to the medical tent. Do you remember which one that is?" He nodded vigorously. "Good. Tell the first nurse you see to get a bed ready and that we need a doctor immediately." Amanda shifted again, pulling herself up and cradling the child- toddler, no older than three or four- closer. "Immediately, do you understand?"

"Yes," he said, determination sweeping his posture.

She jerked her chin once in the direction he was to go and that was all the pause Jim needed to give. He kicked off without another word. Amanda paid as little mind as she could to the people around her, paying as much of it as possible to the tiny girl in her arms. Still, now that her attention wasn't solely fastened on Jim, the murmurs were rising from a bland white noise to a distinct a cappella, and try as she might Amanda couldn't block out some of the more worrisome voices.

Someone, she couldn't bother to look and see who- mostly because she did not want to see who and be coerced into a confrontation- slinked up just behind her and hissed, "What does he mean the others?"

"This is really not the time," she snapped back, stern through clenched teeth, bridging no argument. The threat in the stranger's tone stirred a chill in her, and she knew even as she felt the too-close body slip back an appropriate tenor (she suspected not as much out of respect as it was to silently patronize her well-known sense of propriety) that the subject would be dropped now, but rise again with vengeance at some unknown point in the future.

Fine, then. If that was to be later, then it would be later. Amanda Grayson would not be intimidated by some rude figment, or be goaded into a diversion by some petty tactic, and she found new energy in her stressed muscles to stand a little taller- a little stronger. She moved away from whomever this person was that had taken it upon themselves to impose on her so grossly. Then she kept moving away, until she found herself briskly walking the path that followed after Jim, to the medical wards. She kept her steps even, her upper body as still as possible, because she did not know how truly fragile the girl in her arms might be. He breaths came a bit deeper, a little easier, as she distanced herself from the gaggle of relief aids-turned-spectators.

Amanda entered the medical tent just as nurses were setting up. One of the women saw her, and what she'd carried in, and silently directed her to lay the little girl out on the prepared bed. She noticed Jim in the corner, watching them intently, but judging by the storm over his face she had no idea if it was them he was actually seeing. It was just as she finished helping to arrange the weak little limbs into a comfortable position that the doctor waltzed in.

The doctor was a slightly stout Denobulan male. He arrived in the midst of pulling on his white lab coat, with the sun off his back, a keen smile and keener eyes. He was comely in a way that made something about him almost childlike, like wonder, even though his eyes belied the wisdom of his many years. He smiled, the gesture literally dominating half his face, and Amanda had the notion that she could respect a man, of any species, who'd been on Tarsus for as many months as they had and could still do such a thing. She considered, also, that perhaps most of their colleagues would misconstrue his nature as misplaced for the same reasons, but Amanda knew that it was possibly the most admirable. It made her wonder what this Denobulan had been witness to in his lifetime, though admittedly (and here she knew she sounded naïve) she genuinely didn't like the suggestion of things in the universe that were worse than Tarsus.

Amanda hadn't made much contact with this doctor in her time on the colony, possibly regrettably now that it occurred to her, but his reputation preceded him and she knew at least that his name was Phlox.

"Well, let's see just what we can do for this youngling, shall we?" He announced as he dug into a box and pulled out a pair of latex gloves, snapping them on. He looked to Amanda, the wrinkles around his inhumanly large grin deepening at the same time they did in the creases around his eyes. A juxtaposition: the child, curious in the vastness of the universe still, and the wise old doctor who'd maybe seen too much of it. She worried that maybe his eyes already knew what he was seeing more intimately than the tricorder would. "What do we know so far?"

Amanda launched into the by-now methodical routine of recounting the symptoms of a rescue victim. "Sudden illness. Apparently she exhibited no prior symptoms of sickness other than the standard malnutrition. She became physically ill, vomiting having only been induced as of this morning according to witnesses, and has been unconscious with fever for..." she trailed off, looking to Jim for confirmation. His eyes were steadily on them, or so it would appear, but he seemed to be in a daze and didn't realize that the conversation had been handed to him. Amanda leaned over slightly to catch his gaze, and incited softly, "Jim?"

His head jarred up. He blinked at Amanda slowly, the glaze only half lifting from his eyes, and it was a few seconds before he said anything. Strangely, though he'd been obviously lost in thought, he managed to answer the question without it needing to be repeated. He whispered it. "A few hours, I think."

The doctor looked from Amanda to Jim, then back to her. He assessed them a moment, and then something akin to understanding came over his alien face. His smile ticked down a notch, but ultimately stayed kind, before he said, "I see. Well, we'll certainly do what we can. Sounds like we might be lucky enough to have caught whatever ailment it is in the early stages, but I'll have to leave a prognosis until we've run some tests."

He made a vague gesture to one of the nurses, a plump red woman not even reaching Amanda's collar. The nurse bustled over with a PADD, handed it off to the doctor, and then moved to the other side of the bed where Amanda stood. She began making a shooing motion with her pudgy hands. When Amanda didn't react immediately, she shooed closer.

Dr. Phlox addressed her once more before investing himself in the data on the PADD. "I'll send for you when I have a diagnosis... Miss Grayson, yes?"

Amanda, struggling to back away and keep her footing against the fluttering gestures of the nurse edging her out of the tent, spared half an anxious glance from the fidgety woman to the doctor. "Ye- yes. Thank you."

The nurse appeared satisfied that Amanda and her charge were going to leave, and thankfully backed off. Seeing that they were now being ignored, Phlox saying something to the nurse in what must have been her native tongue- Amanda blinked once and shook her head- she moved over to Jim and laid a hand on his shoulder. Her touch was gentle but insistent as she guided him out of the tent alongside her. She could feel the tension winding through his body, the bunched muscles underneath her hand trembling so hard it was practically a hum. He didn't speak as they walked. He kept up with her stride, but even his footfalls were disturbingly silent as she hurried them past any possible onlookers to where they'd been sorting cargo earlier, knowing that the area would still be clear.

They barely made it inside before Jim crumpled away from her. She flinched, her breath hitched on a gasp when he glanced his shoulder hard off one of the large metal crates. He didn't look like he even felt it. She reached out but he only jerked away: a clear warning, don't touch me. They stood apart, Amanda quickly losing sense all over again of what she should or could do for Jim. They stood, mute, and a foot or a world apart it couldn't have mattered as the silence stretched between them painfully and uselessly.

Until it broke.

It was like a dam inside Jim had burst and he slumped forward, sobbing so wretchedly that her knees buckled with the sound of it. Jim's side drug across the uneven ridges of the metal as he swayed unsteadily, back bowed, hunched over himself like most of his puppet strings had been snipped, but the one thread left meant he couldn't topple completely. Amanda stood still, watching in agony but gruelingly forced to remember that she was not invited to act yet. His head stayed low, nose to the floor so that she couldn't see his face or his tears. Even when he spoke, she doubted that it was really to her at all.

"How can I-" he mumbled, words muddled and wet. His body wrenched as he gagged on another angry sob. He made a noise, like a scream caged in his throat, strangled, and lifted his frame only to slam his back with full force against the crate. He made another noise, similarly beset by malaise, and began to grab blindly at the soft tendrils of hair near his ears.

"Why do I always fuck up so badly?" he bawled scratchily, and pounded a fist to the crate. She wanted to say something, to tell him no Jim, no, but she was unsure if it was wise to even speak. He didn't wait for her to figure it out, which meant he hadn't wanted her to, and kept going. "I tried. I really tried so hard but I... It's jus' like..." He looked up, eyes seeking, beseeching something from her he couldn't actually ask for. She stamped down brutally on the thump of her heart that wished, for only the second it ached- just the second- that he hadn't. He just looked so wrecked, so sorry. "I kept 'em safe, I swear I did. I didn't mean to." Jim bit his lip and swallowed, throat bobbing. He whimpered and swallowed again. "I'm sorry. I really- I thought I..." Detaching his gaze and bending over just until his hair fell loose over his ruddy cheeks again, Jim hugged his arms around himself at the middle. He lost the fight against his body's need to weep, and his following words drown in it. "I thought I did good this time."

As he turned away, he caught his hand too heavily between his leg and the crate. She knew it must have hurt, saw red freshly blister across his knuckles, but he just bit back any expression of pain. With his back turned to her, she'd lost hope for trying to read him, to find some answer the plea in his eyes.

"You know three of them died in the beginning?" he began, breaths shuddering. She recognized the noises he was making as those any child made when they were forcing themselves to quit crying, because they were ashamed or someone else was ashamed of them. It was snotty and miserable. Amanda had a creeping inkling of what he getting at, and Jim confirmed it soon enough. "They were all really little, really sick by time I found 'em, and I- I couldn't help. An' Kevin told me it wasn't my fault, but-" He sniffled, shrank further. "But what's a little kid like that know, huh? I was the only thing they had. I was the only chance they had left and I couldn't hack it, just like I couldn't... like I could never..."

He stopped, sentence evaporating between his lips. It was very, very quiet for a moment. Amanda didn't know what to expect, and that legitimately scared her. And still, she felt as if she were forbidden from taking so much as a noisy breath.

"Amanda..." he implored, finally. Her name came unexpected, and she knew even less what to anticipate. Jim turned to face her, stared up with red-rimmed eyes that still begged for something nameless. "What if she dies, too? What if I killed her?"

Then, in the smallest voice:

"Why am I so worthless?"

"You are not worthless," Amanda snapped before the last hiss of the 's' could even finish off his tongue, the words rattling choked out of her throat, so riddled with emotion that it smothered the volume. She didn't know if she'd crossed that boundary that had stayed her tongue up until then, she didn't know even really what she's said until it was out and done. All she knew was that she was furious. So, so, so furious. Not at Jim, but at whoever had dared let this boy grow up thinking he was anything but precious.

Worthless? He thought he was worthless? That was not an idea a child came upon by themselves, it was not a feeling developed from thin air, it was a seed planted, and then allowed to fester. A child did not feel worthless until they were taught to feel it. "Jim, you're a child. An extraordinary one, without question, but still a child. You can't always do everything by yourself." She'd spoken, and now she dared to move, to gently rest her fingers on his shoulder. He made no protest, and she braved to move that hand again, brushing a lock of clinging blonde hair from his watery eyes. "Jim, sweetheart, that doesn't make you worthless."

Maybe it was her words, maybe her tone, maybe just because she was there, but something cracked further, deeper than it ever had. It stole over his face and Jim's entire body lurched back as if struck, and then he lashed out livid and confused, and so hurt. He slapped the offending hand away and screeched, staggering back.

"How would you know?" he accused, cheeks flushed darker with rage. He spit the charge like an attack, as if the words were acid that could burn her. "How can you just stand there an' say- say- you don't know anything about me!"

"Jim-" she entreated, chasing his retreat.

"No!" he spat, coughing on a tight breath. She reached, he pushed. "No! Leave me alone! Just leave me alone!"

"Why?" she demanded. "Jim, why!"

"Go away!"


He knew what she was really asking. The questions were cloaked, testing, like dipping a toe in the churning, volatile waters that made up Jim's emotions. Of course he knew, because he wasn't dumb. Or maybe he knew because somewhere sloshed and lost in the riptide of his feelings, buried and near forgotten, he desperately wanted someone to ask. Please just ask. Amanda was asking. His cheeks red and shiny wet, his limbs shaking in anger and hurt and embarrassment, his lips trembling, he answered her the only way he knew how. "Because I just am. I know I am, 'cause else why?"

"Why what, sweetheart?"

He bared his teeth. "I… I- I don't know!"

The heart of it. She was so close. So close to the heart of it.

"Why what, sweetheart?"

He cried out, voice ripped asunder. The roar of a lost little boy- a lord of flies, a king of wild things- and he pushed her, hard. "You're so stupid, you're so stupid!" But she didn't back down and didn't blame him. She hugged him. Wound her arms around his shoulders and trapped him, fighting, to her.

"Why what, sweetheart?"

Amanda had been wrong, before. No dam had broken. Jim had never been given the chance to build something so sturdy to protect himself. No, he'd been given the tools for a glass house. It was no wonder why he forced himself to hold so strong, and she realized that even then he still hadn't broken. Crack, yes. Oh, everything was cracked and chipped in so many places, and she finally understood what she'd been seeing in Jim. That she'd been praying witness to the spider web creeping across the glass. So fragile, and she was going to cast the final stone.

Why what, sweetheart?

When Jim broke, it demolished them both.

Why what, sweetheart?

Jim broke.

"Why did she throw me away!"

Amanda took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. She grabbed him tighter, clutched for dear life, tucking his head beneath hers. Boneless, he sagged so small against her, trembling as the tears washed down his face and soaked through the collar of her shirt. It was okay to cry. He was not worthless, and it was okay to cry. She would hold him because he needed to know these things, and because when he was pushing he was really reaching for a mother that would not reach back.

"I don't know," she said softly and ran tender fingers through his hair. She'd torn a dark truth from the suffering heart of a child, but she did not have the gift of answers to give him in return. So Amanda would be here and she would hold him. "I don't know."

She didn't know why- or really even when she'd started doing it- until Jim's sobs began to mollify, but at some point she'd begun to softly rock them both side to side. The motion perhaps was helping to calm Jim, so she continued. After a while she heard him, not above a whisper, say, "I didn't mean it. You're not stupid." She laughed brokenly and pressed her cheek to the top of his scalp more firmly, and continued.

Spock would understand and Sarek would just have to live with it. Amanda had made her decision.

To Be Continued...

This is a non-profiting, fan-based work of fiction. Star Trek and all subsequent properties are (c) Gene Roddenberry and Paramount Pictures.