Though the World Keeps Knocking 'em Down
A/N: This is going to be part of a one-shot series of sorts. Each part will stand alone, but they are all interconnected, in a way. It will span multiple archives, but again, each stands alone and you don't need to read them all to get it. There's a brief introduction below that will be included in all of the one-shots, but you can skip it on later ones if you decide to read them. It's for the purpose of explaining what happens in a way that makes sense, completely nonsensically, of course. This series is basically about people from various series and universes that had a very difficult childhood and upbringing in particular. Not just one particular tragedy, but something that was continual. Abuse (physical or emotional), neglect, loss, etc. Anywho. I'm also going to put this A/N on every one-shot, so you also only have to read this once.
EDIT 1/13/12: This story has now been beta'ed, including the new scene! Oodles of love and thanks go to my beta, Shakespeare's Lemonade. You rock! And for any of my old readers who might've thought this was a continuation of the one-shot: the new scene is especially for you! Thanks for reading. This edit is also at the bottom of the page.
Something strange roams the universes.
This thing is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. It can be neither touched nor heard. None knows (or has ever known) of its existence. It did not come into being at any particular time; it simply is.
It has strange power, too, which it seems to use on a whim. This entity will find a person and latch on to him or her. Said person's memories will suddenly be replayed, not only for them but for everyone whom the strange being chooses: their friends, family, co-workers. All of these people will find themselves reliving someone else's life, all their pain and suffering in particular, it seems. None of these people know why, nor will they ever. But people's perspectives are changed. Eyes are opened. It leads to greater understanding and, oftentimes, pain.
1) Jim Kirk, Star Trek 2009
Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise was a very cocky, annoying, and obnoxious man.
Nyota Uhura had long ago made up her mind about him. The first time she ever met him, in fact, and he had drunkenly hit on her, obviously hoping he could pop her in bed. The bar fight after that just added to her disgust.
It wasn't like he'd done much to change her view of him either. From rumors of his many "conquests" at the Academy to cheating on the Kobayashi Maru to the way he'd taken control of the Enterprise (though she did understand the last one at least somewhat, it was still incredibly cruel and far too easy for him to do, she thought), every time Jim Kirk made his way into her life, she found herself desperately needing a shower.
She knew he was brilliant; why else would Starfleet overlook his repeated offenses and give him such an early captaincy? He had yet to do anything stupid, screw up royally, or anything like that. Still, Nyota believed, no, she knew that the lazy-ass man-whore she found in bed with her roommate so he could cheat on some stupid test did not deserve to be Captain of the Federation's flagship.
However, she did as she was told. She followed his orders. She was disrespectful, yes, but no more so than he rightfully deserved, she reasoned. She didn't treat him like she would any other superior officer because she wanted to make absolutely sure that he knew he was in no way superior to her.
The morning was calm. The Enterprise was headed for the nearest leave-approved planet for repairs and 10 days of shore leave. Sulu and Chekov were arguing about the origin of gunpowder ("Gunpowder is originally from Russia." "Chekov, believe it or not, some things actually come from places other than Russia." "Sure. Swedish Meatballs come from Sweden, don't they?" "Ugh."), Spock and Kirk were going over reports from various departments, and Nyota was reminding herself that while her captain was a dick, this was the best place she could be in terms of career advancement.
It was then that everything changed.
There was no bang, no sudden flash of light, but she was suddenly somewhere else. And she really had to go to the bathroom.
She was in a small bedroom, cold and alone. Uhura tried to look around for a bathroom, but found that she couldn't. It was like she had no control over her body anymore.
Her body walked up to the door, and she had the distinct feeling that it wasn't the first time she'd done so (though she hadn't ever been here before). She started banging on the door.
"Mom?" The voice, while she felt it going through her vocal cords, belonged to a little boy. "Mommy? Sam? My door's locked, and I really gotta go. I know I'm not supposed to go pee on the floor, but I can't get to the toilet. Please open the door? Please?"
No response. Again. The little boy sighed and sat down on the floor, shifting his weight from side to side awkwardly. The part of Nyota that remembered she was Nyota felt sorry for this kid, whoever he was. His mother didn't seem to be a very good one.
There was a growing wet spot on his pants now. This served only to make him more miserable and embarrassed and tears began streaking down his face. He cried in his own mess for hours that seemed like seconds to the part of Nyota that remembered before the door finally opened.
"Sam!" The boy's voice was full of relief. "I'm really hungry, Sam. And thirsty. And I've been bored too. Did Mom accidently lock the door again? 'Cause I've been stuck in here all day."
"Yeah," Sam said quietly, and the part that remembered, the Real Nyota, could see the lie in his eyes. "She just wasn't thinking right and locked the door. I guess she must've forgotten about it 'cause she's asleep now. Be extra quiet so you don't wake her up."
"Okay." He lowered his voice to a stage-whisper. "Were you out today? Or did you forget too?"
"I… was out. Sorry. Or I would've gotten you out earlier, Jimmy." Real Nyota could see the guilt at both the lie and the truth of that statement.
"That's okay. But I'm really hungry and thirsty still."
"Would you like some cookies and milk?"
Jimmy's eyes lit up. "Really?"
"Really. C'mon, let's get 'em out."
As Jimmy dug in to his cookies, Sam could be heard singing softly.
"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday to Jimmy…"
The time skipped forward again, this time a few days.
"George?" The word was slurred, coming from a once-beautiful blonde woman. "George, how was your day?"
Jimmy looked up at his mother, feeling slightly hurt, but determined not to show it (big boys didn't care about stupid little things like that). "Mom, I'm Jimmy, remember?"
"Jimmy? Not… George?" Her eyes were misty. "Oh, sorry. My mistake. I thought you were someone else." And Jimmy's mother left, muttering to herself, looking for someone who wasn't there.
"Sam? Sam, she called me Dad again. Why doesn't she know that Dad's dead?" Tears pricked at his eyes as he confided in his older brother some time later. "She never knows who I am, Sam."
"Look, Jimmy, I'm sorry, alright? But what do you expect me to do about it? I can't make her remember you!" When he saw that Jimmy was on the verge of sobbing into his shoulder, he backtracked. "I mean, I'm sure she does remember you, but she's just a little bit confused since you look just like Dad. Hey, don't cry! Please Jimmy. I know who you are. You're James Tiberius Kirk, you've got a stupid middle name, more brain than you should ever be able to use, and you're my little brother. Isn't that enough?"
No, Jimmy wanted to say. He wanted his mother to know his name. Was that really too much to ask? Nonetheless, he nodded in agreement and from then on, James T. Kirk slowly became a cynic.
Real Nyota felt stupid. Real Nyota knew that she should've made the connection between the little boy Jimmy whose life she was living and her captain as soon as the name George was mentioned, maybe even sooner. But she couldn't believe that Jim Kirk had led anything other than a silver-spoon existence until it was thrown in her face. It rocked everything she thought she knew about her captain.
Real Nyota was now confused about her captain.
Time skipped again, this time several years. Jimmy (her captain!) was seven now. He'd finally gotten his wish; his mother knew he was her son, not her dead husband.
"Jimmy!" she screeched. "Quit making that racket!"
Jimmy sighed. "Sam, could you turn down your music?" he called over to his brother.
"Don't make George take care of your problems, Jim. Turn down that noise!"
With a huff of annoyance, he got up and turned the music down on Sam's player as his brother gave him an apologetic look. Both of them knew there was nothing Sam could do with their Mom watching.
"What are you doing? I told you to turn down your music, not George's! Turn his back up and apologize."
Pointing out that he hadn't been playing any music would be pointless, so he turned his brother's music up and mumbled, "Sorry."
Months passed. Winona Kirk brought home Frank, a man she'd met in a bar. They married just after Jimmy turned 8. Frank was a violent drunk, and when she saw her boys' bruises, she told him never to hurt her George ever again.
So he just hurt Jimmy. Real Nyota felt sick.
Sometime after Jimmy turned 9, Winona Kirk went back to Starfleet. Frank started hurting both him and Sam again. Sam was a rebellious teenager by this point, and his mouthing off just made Frank more pissed at him all the time.
"You know what? Get the hell out of the house! When your mom comes back, she can deal with you." Frank was shouting at Sam as he stomped out the door. "Go ahead, go! Run away! You think I give a damn?"
"Where are you going?" Jimmy called desperately.
"As far as I can get."
"Which won't be far enough! This is my house, not yours, not your mother's." Frank whipped around to glare at his other stepson. "What do you want, Jimmy?"
Jimmy hesitated, and in that moment, Nyota's heart broke. "I just don't want my brother to go."
"Well what you want doesn't matter. You're no one. And I asked you to wash the car." Jimmy backed away. "How many damn times do I have to repeat myself?" Frank turned back to Sam. "Go."
As Frank walked away, Jimmy ran up to his brother. "Please stay."
"I can't take 'Uncle Frank' anymore. Mom has no idea what he's like when she's not around. Did you hear him talking to us like he's our dad? And that's not even his car you're washing; that's Dad's car. You're going to be okay, you always are, doing everything right, good grades, obeying every stupid order." Sam sounded like he was trying to convince himself, though they both knew it wasn't true; no matter what Jimmy did, he could never please anyone. And Winona could care less what happened to Jimmy. But Sam was only thirteen, and he just couldn't handle it anymore. It was as simple as that.
"I can't be a Kirk in this house. Show me how to do that and I'll stay." Jimmy was silent. "I'll see ya."
And Sam walked away.
An hour later, Jimmy was behind the wheel of his dad's antique car, watching the needle reach upwards of 80. He ignored his stepfather's call and punched the gas.
Of course he knew the quarry was there. He just didn't really care. If he went over, then he went over. No huge deal. No big loss to society. The only person who'd care would be Frank, because Frank would be pissed that he'd wrecked that car.
Something stopped him, told him that he didn't want to die right then. Not yet, at least. Jimmy couldn't be sure what it was, but something made him jump out of the car and let it tumble down to the bottom of the quarry. Real Nyota was relieved, even though she had known he wasn't going to do it. She had a lot of things she needed to say to him. A lot of things she needed to ask him. She needed to apologize.
When Jimmy got home that night, Frank beat the living hell out of him. He broke a bottle across his back, dislocated his shoulder, broke three of his ribs, and left Jim (because Jimmy no longer applied) coughing up blood on the floor.
He didn't go back to school for two weeks, and when he did, he chalked up his injuries to his crazy joyride and near-tumble off a cliff. Jim Kirk started fighting at school, skipping class, doing whatever the hell he wanted because when his brother left, Jim Kirk stopped caring.
When Jim was 14, on the day Winona finally got back from her 5 year mission, he snapped.
"Where have you been, brat?" That was Frank's favorite word for him: brat.
"None of your damn business."
Frank shoved him up against the wall. Jim smelled the stale alcohol on his breath and gagged.
"You live in my house, you live by my rules, got it, brat? Where were you?"
"Man, do you have a stick shoved up your ass or what? Since when do you care about what I do? I'm not spending your money, I'm out of your way, why do you care?"
"You disrespectful little—" Frank slammed his head against the wall, then threw him bodily across the room. The crash when he hit the in-table roused Winona, who walked dazedly into the room as Frank kicked him where he lay in a crumpled heap.
His consciousness started to fade in and out, so he couldn't be sure, but the last thing he thought he saw was his mother grabbing Frank and screaming, "You're killing him! Stop it! Stop it! Please stop hurting him…"
Jim woke to his mother's voice. He kept his eyes closed and feigned sleep.
"…not supposed to be here right now, but I just had to see you Jimmy. I'm so sorry. I… I finally got sober. Out in space. Booze isn't all that common up there, you know? I finally realized just how horrible of a mother I'd been, but I… I was too scared to tell you so. I knew I couldn't avoid it when I got back, but I did anyways. I couldn't face what I'd done to you and Ge—Sam. I heard you hit that table, and I heard Frank screaming, but I still just wanted it to go away.
"Then I saw him, hurting you like that, and I knew he was going to kill you. And I may be the worst mother in the history of mothers, but I couldn't let him kill you. You're all I have left, Jimmy. Though I guess I gave up any claim on you as my child a while ago, didn't I? ('You're damn right you did, lady,' Real Nyota thought)" Winona (his mother) sighed. "They told me I need to go to therapy, and that there will be a fair amount of legal ramifications. I've done so much to you, so much you just didn't deserve.
"You're going to live with your aunt and uncle, George's sister and brother-in-law on Tarsus IV('Tarsus IV? No. They can't… He's already been through so much!'). They have four kids, and the oldest is two years older than you. They will be much better to you than I ever was. You'll finally be able to live a decent life. I won't ever be able to see you again, but I love you Jimmy. I love you and I'm sorry. Not that you could ever forgive me, but it really is true."
For a moment, Jim could feel her hand hovering over his forehead as though she was going to brush back his hair and kiss his forehead. Then he heard her steps and the door closing behind her. He tasted salt on his lips and figured her tears must've fallen on his face.
Time skipped forward again. Jim was on Tarsus IV, and he was happy. He was finally living a "normal" life. Aunt Sam and Uncle Danny genuinely cared about him. He had his first real friend in Christine, his cousin two years his senior; their pranks were the stuff of legends. He finally felt like he fit in.
Then the food ran out.
Kodos called a meeting soon after the crisis began. They were told it was a meeting to lay out the plans for how they were going to survive. Kodos separated them into two groups, saying he would explain his "grand plan" later. Families were separated for no apparent reason, but people went along with it out of desperation. Jim and Christine were sent to one group while his Aunt and Uncle and other cousins went to the other.
They were led like sheep to slaughter.
The 4,000 colonists with Jim and Christine were told they were going to die for the good of the colony. So that the more worthy could live. Many of them screamed and tried to run, but found that they were pinned in, all the exits blocked while Kodos' men picked them off one by one.
People from the other group heard the screams and ran to see what was happening. The guards blocked them from getting in, and the more troublesome ones were shot. Aunt Sam and Uncle Danny were amongst them. Mothers screamed for their children, people wailed, and the stench of death clogged the air.
Jim and Christine had long ago found a little tunnel underneath one of the townhouses; they used it to get around without being seen and play some of their best pranks. Jim dragged Christine over to the tunnel before he remembered that Christine was too big to fit and he had always been the one to crawl through it. She knew it too, and her eyes filled with tears.
"Go, Jim. You can survive. I'll send whoever I can after you and you can save them too. But you can't save me, Jim. Please… just save whoever you can." Jim nodded as his insides ripped themselves apart. He gave her one last hug, found a little girl trying to hide in a corner, and pushed her through the tunnel. He stayed out, he and Christine grabbing whoever they could find that was alive and small enough, until he knew that he wouldn't be able to get anyone else without dying himself.
He never saw Christine die.
Jim's group of condemned children totaled 15 when they'd first gotten out. 2 of the younger ones died of starvation. Another died when they got caught stealing food. When Starfleet finally showed up (several months late), Jim had somehow managed to keep the rest alive.
In his hospital bed, an IV full of nutrients in his hand, Captain Ha'niek of the relief force paid him a visit.
"Are you the leader of the 12 survivors?" Ha'niek asked in a monotone.
Jim gave him a look and nodded his head as sarcastically as he could manage. He didn't want to do anything for Starfleet right now. A nod was the most civil answer he could bring himself to give.
"What's your name?"
"Niall Roberts." Jim made up a name on the spot.
"How old are you?"
"Well, in a few years, Starfleet would love to have a young man of your ingenuity and leadership join our ranks. You would be a great asset to the Federation."
Jim stared at him for a moment. "You just showed up five months late to a massacre of 4,000 innocent people and a famine that killed hundreds more after that, and you're recruiting me? This is a joke, right?"
No wonder Jim hadn't joined Starfleet until he was 22 years old.
"So that's a no?"
"Yeah, that's a no, asshole. I'm not interested, got it?"
Ha'niek sighed. "That's too bad, kid. Starfleet could've used you."
Jim's eyes flashed. "I don't want to be used by anyone, least of all Starfleet."
When Jim and the others finally returned to Earth, he managed to slip away. The mysterious kid who called himself Niall Roberts was never found.
Jim was homeless for a while before he got a job as a mechanic. He put together his bike, rented an apartment, and lived like he hadn't a care in the world (because he had once again lost everything he cared about). His life was on a downward spiral, marked with booze and fights and sex with nameless pretty women.
Until he bumped into some Starfleet cadets in a bar.
"I dare you to do better."
No one could say that Kirk ever shrunk from a challenge.
They saw nothing more until Jim Kirk's 23rd birthday.
He was pouring his first shot of tequila out when Bones barged into the room. The doctor didn't hesitate to stride across the room and grab the alcohol away from his friend.
Jim barely reacted. "What are you doing, Bones?" he murmured.
"I'm not stupid. I'm not blind, nor am I deaf. My memory isn't going yet. I've seen all the news shows; I know what happened 23 years ago."
"My dad died."
"Yeah, and you were born, kid."
"Well, that just makes it all better!"
"You don't think that there's something there to celebrate?"
"I don't make a habit of blowing out candles in respect for the dead."
"How's about you do it 'in respect' for what your dad gave his life to protect!" Bones quieted at his friend's flinch. "Look kid, just because something bad happened when you were born doesn't mean you can't celebrate. I bet your dad would want that."
"Don't tell me what my dad would want! You have no ide—"
"Fine, then lemme tell you what I want. I want to go out to the arcade with my friend, Jim Kirk. You gonna deny me that?"
"The arcade, Bones? Really?"
"Yeah, my daughter loves it."
"Your daughter is also under the age of ten."
"Just humor me, Jim."
Jim pouted. "Fine. But just this once."
The arcade was nothing like Jim had imagined. Full of all kinds of games that he had never gotten a chance to play as a child, from old classics to newer hits.
"Laser tag? What's that?"
"It's basically where you run around in the dark and try to shoot people on the opposing team with phasers."
"I'm game. Let's do this!"
Jim and Bones team won in a landslide, Jim finding the perfect place to hide and basically snipe anyone he saw. He never once got hit.
From bumper cars ("So this game is basically teaching our children to hit other drivers? Nice."), to Pacman ("What is this random yellow circle, and why is he being chased by random ghost thingies?"), to Galaga ("Really? Just how old is this game? There's no way one starship could ever beat that many other ships!"), Jim found himself having just about as much fun as he'd ever had. He excelled at pretty much every game he played, and somehow managed to forget for just a few hours about his father and the legacy that always followed him on his birthday.
"What the hell did you do it for, kid?"
"Do what, Bones?"
They were in Sickbay, specifically McCoy's office as acting-CMO. Vulcan had gone kablooey, and they had barely managed to stop Earth from going the same route. Now Bones was patching up the myriad of hurts his friend had managed to accumulate throughout this wild ride.
"The test. Kobayashi Maru. Why? You knew they'd catch you. Your cheat wasn't exactly subtle." As Jim prepared to shoot out his typical mantra, he added, "Yeah yeah, you don't believe in no-win situations, but people don't risk academic suspension and possible expulsion to prove a point about a simulation. It wasn't a real no-win situation; why the hell did it matter?"
"Because the test is wrong."
Bones huffed. "That's it? That's all you're gonna give me?"
Jim snorted. He looked at his friend and said, "First time I took the test, I got pissed."
"I remember." Jim snorted again.
"Yeah, well, I just didn't understand what the point was. It couldn't really be unbeatable. Nobody would be stupid enough to think that we should teach our future commanders how to fail. After I took it the second time, having studied my ass off more than I would've thought possible, I found that apparently, someone was. I hacked in to the test and saw for myself: no matter what you do, you die. Where's the sense in that? Are we teaching our people to give up? That's what we want our leaders to have in mind when they're leading? That they should stop before they try?"
Real Nyota had never thought of the test that way before. Then again, she had never bothered to think about it at all; she just accepted it and moved on. That was what they all did. It was just the status quo. Kobayashi Maru couldn't be beat, so don't bother trying. Now it just seemed so wrong.
"So write a petition or something," Bones persisted.
"You don't get it, Bones. A petition is too small. I had to really get their attention. Something they couldn't ignore, like overt cheating on their precious little test.
"And then Spock went and tried to tell me that some stupid little test could teach fear. Ha! This," he said, gesturing wildly around them, "this, Bones, is what teaches fear. Everyone knows that the Kobayashi Maru is a simulation. Who the hell is scared by a wimp-ass simulation? It's fake, a cheap imitation of the real thing."
Bones gave his friend a long look. "You know, I bet that 'cheap imitation' is really quite expensive. Now go find somewhere to crash; you're all done."
Jim looked down and realized that Bones had finished fixing him up and he hadn't even noticed. "You tricked me," he accused.
"Maybe," Bones said with a shrug. "But you're fine; all that you've got left are cuts and bruises from running into walls. But be gentle with your ribs. Osteo-regenerators aren't perfect. Now go sleep, 'cause you definitely need it."
"You too, Bones." Jim smiled. "Well, we won today. Take that, Kobayashi Maru."
Nyota found herself back on the bridge of the Enterprise. No time seemed to have passed. Much of the bridge crew seemed unaware that anything had happened; the only ones who seemed to have relived Kirk's life were herself, Sulu, Chekov, Spock, and, of course, Kirk.
She could tell because immediately after coming back to her body, Kirk jumped from his chair and practically ran from the room, Chekov looked completely shell-shocked, Spock was showing more emotion than she'd ever seen (the destruction of Vulcan notwithstanding), and Sulu had jumped up after Kirk, yelling "Captain!" and preparing to race after him. The rest of the bridge crew simply looked confused.
"Sulu!" Nyota called, running after him. She looked back briefly to see Spock taking the conn and regaining control over the bridge while Chekov followed her and Sulu. "Sulu, wait!"
"What, Uhura?" Sulu answered testily.
"I don't think the Captain really wants company right now."
"Doesn't mean he doesn't need it."
"I don't think he wants our company right now." Nyota looked him straight in the eye. "He doesn't need us, either. Dr. McCoy might actually do him some good."
"But, Uhura, I just—"
"I know. I saw it too. We can't change the past, though. And I doubt that he wants our pity. We just have to make his future better. That's all we can do." She sighed, and looked back at the silent Chekov, who seemed to still be taking in all that had happened. "Let's give him some space. We'll look for him in half an hour. That alright with you?"
Sulu ran a hand through his hair sheepishly. "Yeah. Besides, now that I think about it, I have no idea what I would say."
Nyota chuckled mirthlessly. "What can you say to something like that?"
Half an hour later, Nyota, Sulu, Chekov, and even Spock roamed the ship in search of their wayward Captain. After ten minutes of fruitless searching, Nyota stopped overthinking it and went where her gut told her to go.
When she strode through the Sickbay doors and found Jim talking quietly with Dr. McCoy in McCoy's office, she felt like slapping herself. Why she hadn't thought of it earlier was beyond her; she'd expected Jim to hide away somewhere no one would be likely to find him.
But of course, Jim Kirk was all about defying expectations.
She walked confidently as her stomach churned with tension, deciding that she had no idea what to say and would just play it by ear.
McCoy spotted her and their eyes met briefly; she could see right away that he'd experienced it too. He nudged Jim just as she reached the doors, knowing that she wouldn't be able to get in if he chose not to let her.
After a long moment, the doors slid open.
"Captain," she said calmly, with a salute. "The crew is missing you on the bridge. You've got a lot of people worried about you." And she smiled at him.
He returned the smile at about half the wattage of his usual charmer, but it seemed more genuine. "I'll be there soon, Lieutenant. Sorry about that."
"No need, sir." Nyota turned to leave, and then paused. "For what it's worth, Jim, I'm sorry.
"And feel free to call me Nyota."
A/N: I'm the type of writer who likes to leave as much unsaid as possible without making it totally confusing. Obviously, this is not always going to work. I would love if someone could either a)recommend a beta for me, b) be a beta for me, or c) just show me anywhere in my writing that I'm too vague. But I am purposefully very vague on some parts because I like to make readers think. I feel like I did a pretty good job here of balancing vagueness and clarity, but then again, I'm not exactly reliable for my own story ^^ And if anyone has a good suggestion for someone they'd like for me to do this kind of story on, feel free to PM me or say in a review a) who they are, b) what series they're from, and c) why they'd be good for this. I plan on all of these one-shots following the same basic format on some level, so try to fit it to this format. If I don't know the series, I'll be sure to check it out, and I'll always reply to you in a review if you say more than "good job!" or "I hate this!". There's not a lot to reply to there, not that that's bad. Anywho, I am done ranting now. Thanks for reading! Please review!
EDIT 1/13/12: This story has now been beta'ed, including the new scene! Oodles of love and thanks go to my beta, Shakespeare's Lemonade. You rock! And for any of my old readers who might've thought this was a continuation of the one-shot: the new scene is especially for you! Thanks for reading.