Story: Across the Hall
Word count: 2,113
Disclaimer: I don't own anything you recognize.
A/N: This is the expansion of chapter 17 of 'Searching for Heaven.' The two stories are in no way related, and you don't have to read that before you read this.
A/N 2: This story is currently being rewritten. It will be substantially different from before, so I recommend reading from the beginning even if you read the original version. The premise will the be the same, and I may end up stealing scenes from the original version.
There are several reasons I decided to redo this, but the primary reason is that the story was starting to head in a direction I hadn't originally intended.
Thank you so much for being patient with me. I hope you like this new version better - I know I do. And updates will be regular from now on. I thought I may be done with Star Trek, but I'm definitely not through yet. And regardless, this will be finished.
My life has never gone how I expected it too. Even before I was born the universe was conspiring against me. Sometimes I'm surprised I survived at all. It might have been better if I hadn't. Life would have been easier for my mother. Winona Kirk did the best she could. She wasn't home much, what with the cost of supporting two sons and a deadbeat husband, she had to take every mission Starfleet had to offer.
Of course, we should have been set for life with the hero payment Starfleet gave us for my father's 'sacrifice'. Only Frank could lose the entire sum in one stupid investment. Frank is one of those things the universe threw into my life for the sole purpose of fucking it up. In any other lifetime he and Winona would never have met. I was three, staying with my grandparents, when they got into an accident and wound up in the hospital. My mother happened to be in Los Angeles, just getting ready to head back into space when it happened, so she caught the first shuttle to Iowa. Frank was on that flight. They were married a month later. A month after that and she was back on a shuttle to Starfleet Academy and Frank picked up his first drink.
Most of my childhood is a blur from one injury to another. Despite what many think, Frank wasn't the cause of all of them or even most of them. I was good enough at hurting myself without his help. After I turned fourteen, I wasn't slow enough to get caught by him anymore. When I turned sixteen I started hanging out at the local bar. The bartenders knew I wasn't old enough, but were willing enough to turn a blind eye when someone else bought for me. I went home with a different person most nights, dreading the ones where I had to go back to Frank's. That's how I made it through high school and the first three years of college.
When I turned twenty-one I was tired of Riverside, tired of Frank but mostly just tired of life. I did what I had been doing since I was a child. I ran. I ran until I was out of money, and then I stopped. As fate would have it, I found myself in the last place I ever wanted to end up – Los Angeles. I hadn't been to Starfleet Academy since I was just a few months old, but it was a specter that hung over me for my entire life. It was the black hole that swallowed my mother from me and transformed her into the ghost of a woman who was oblivious to her abusive husband and the gun that murdered a father I never got to know. I tried to leave, but something inside me wanted to see this monster, to put an image to the thing that destroyed my life.
It defied my expectations. The buildings themselves were modern and the campus inviting and light instead of dark and dreary as it had been in my mind. I don't know how long I wandered around, but before I realized it the light was fading and I was sitting on a bench watching the cadets jogging back to their dorms in their red suits. I tried to ignore the feeling of desire, but I wanted to be one of them. For just a moment, I understood the lure. Everyone looked content, like they enjoyed belonging to something important. I needed that. I hadn't even realized how much I needed that. I made the decision to enroll as soon as the office opened the next day.
I never expected to be turned down by Starfleet. I was James Tiberius Kirk, son of George Kirk and Winona Kirk. If Starfleet had royalty, I would be their prince. Admiral Barnett, the man in charge of the school, knew my name before I introduced myself. He told me stories of my parents when they were all cadets together as he read through my files. And then he told me that even with my parents being who they were, Starfleet can't turn a blind eye to my record. Apparently, eighteen arrests in six months were considered excessive, even if they were all minor infractions and I was let out after one or two nights each time. He did strike a deal with me – last one year without any new infractions and they would reconsider my admission request.
It was another of those trials the universe threw at me, and I there was no way I would let it be the one to beat me. I wandered around the city aimlessly until I ended up outside a classy looking club with a neon green sign flashing 'now hiring' in the window. Alcohol and sex were the two things I knew about and judging by the quality of people entering and leaving Club Exotique, I was pretty sure they dealt in both.
It was a split second decision to enter the building, dressed in tattered jeans and a faded black shirt. I half expected one of the burly looking guards to toss me out on my ass for daring to even look at the place, let alone walk inside, but I made it through without attracting more than a passing glance. Once in, I was accosted by loud music, pulsing lights, and sweaty bodies. I pushed my way through the crowd, grinding with an Orion girl and a human male for a few minutes, enjoying the connection that dancing can provide two people.
The bartender glanced at me as if sizing me up. I took the time to examine him, too. He was cute, curly brown hair and a face that looked too young to serve alcohol, let alone drink it. When he spoke, understanding him was made more difficult by his heavy accent, Russian by the sound of it. I asked if they were hiring and he gestured to the Orion girl I'd danced with. She led me, hips swaying in time to the music, around the bar into a crowded office. There was a single desk, papers in bundles and clutters with no obvious organization system.
"I'm Gaila," The Orion said, shoving several piles of paper onto the floor and sitting up on the desk. I took the time to really look at her, since there hadn't been much time while we were dancing under the strobe lights. Her hair was a shocking red against her green skin, with unnaturally white teeth breaking out when she smiled. Her outfit was small, a silver band covering her breasts and groin and nothing else. Her legs went on forever, ending in heels that she shouldn't have been able to stand in, let alone dance.
"Jim," I said. "James Kirk."
"As in the son of George Kirk?" She must have seen my surprise, because she laughed. "I moonlight as a Starfleet cadet when I get bored of working here." I tried to picture her as one of the uptight cadets I'd seen on Starfleet campus earlier that day – had it just been that morning? – and failed. Her laughter was infectious, but it ended quickly.
"Guilty," I said, frowning. "But it's not something I advertise. I've got enough obvious daddy issues without adding in the whole hero thing."
"What're you doing looking for a job at Exotique?" The way she said it sounded like a genuine conversation, but it reminded me that her opinion might matter when it came to getting the job or not.
"Honestly? Starfleet wasn't impressed by my record with the cops, and now I have a year to kill in a city I've never been to before." She looked at me, no expression showing for several minutes. I felt her gaze scan me up and down, and stood a little taller – I had nothing to be ashamed of in my body. I met her eyes steadily, and she grinned broadly.
"Any other reason I should vouch for you?" I paused, considering. I liked my secrets, but there was nothing to gain by keeping anything from Gaila. Besides, something told me she'd find them all out in time anyway.
"I can speak most of the Federation languages. And half a dozen Earth languages," Her impressed look was worth it. I smirked. Even though I was generally considered a deadbeat, I could pick up languages like breathing. It had been that way my entire life. Riverside was a small town in the middle of nowhere, but the bar I lived at saw a surprising amount of aliens and over the years I'd managed to learn a few things.
"Impressive," She said, whistling. "Come get a drink with me." It didn't seem like a test, and I followed her out of the office, taking a seat at the far end of the bar while she grabbed a bottle of something I could see and two shot glasses. I lifted the glass to her, and then downed it quickly, regretting it as it burned my mouth and my throat, but I managed not to sputter too badly.
"What the hell is that stuff?" I asked when I could breathe again. She tossed her shot back, without so much as a wince I noticed, and slammed the glass down.
"Family recipe," She said, filling our glasses again.
"Tastes like shit." I said, downing the next shot. I was ready for it this time and managed nothing not to disgrace myself. I was already feeling slightly unbalanced; normally I was good for four or five shots of Bicardi 151 before I started seeing double. I lasted two more shots before I had to turn my glass over. Anymore and I wouldn't be able to make it home. As it was, standing wasn't looking like an option. To my relief, Gaila was also looking a little unsteady as she stood and grabbed my hand. I wasn't sure what the test was, but she announced I'd passed it.
The rest of the night passed in a blur. I was vaguely aware of accepting Gaila's offer to stay at her place and hazy memories of a limo driver and stairs. The vomiting was all too vivid, brought into focus by the fact that when I woke up my face was pressed against a tile floor and my mouth tasted like crap. Movement in the room prompted me to open my eyes. Gaila was just waking up, mumbling something in her language that had no direct translation into English and my brain was still too fucked up to understand anyway.
"Take this." She tossed me a bottle with no label and I took a sip of it. It tasted surprisingly good, like peppermint tea, and as I swallowed my head cleared and the pounding that was starting to build receded.
"Another family recipe?" I asked, pushing myself up and wiping my face off with the back of my hand and making sure I was still in once piece now that I didn't want to curl up and die.
"But I only share this one with the guys I like," She said, offering a hand that I took grateful. I was steady enough after a few seconds and I followed her out of the room into the living room. The room was a mass of PADDs and handwritten notes and clothes and dirty dishes, and Gaila was practically dancing to get through it all.
"So, what was that stuff you gave me last night?" I asked, picking my own way through the mess.
"Just testing your stamina," She called back over her shoulder.
"How'd I measure up?" I suddenly felt bad that I'd only lasted for three shots…or was it four?
"Better than anyone else," She said. "And you're in luck – we happen to have an opening. There are just a few rules, but I don't think you'll have any problem with them. Don't spend more than fifteen minutes with someone if they don't want to pay for the time. Don't drink more than one glass of alcohol a night. If they insist, dilute it. Any questions?"
"Got anything to celebrate with? I just got my first job." Gaila chuckled with me, digging through a pile on the floor and pulling out a bottle of whisky. She opened it, handing it to me. I took a mouthful, swallowing it and handing the bottle back to her.
"I think we're going to get along great, Jimmy." She said, clearing a spot for me on the couch as she sank down.
A/N: I know the changes aren't terribly drastic, but please let me know what you think of them. If you guys prefer the old version, I can put them back up and continue it that way. Just...let me know?