Title: Rest in Peace
Fandom: Star Trek TOS
Characters: Kirk, Spock, McCoy
Summary: In the aftermath of The Conscience of the King, Kirk is doing all he can to cope with painful memories.
A/N: Written for kcscribbler, who deserves lots of Kirk h/c goodness for all of her hard work. Happy holidays, KCS, and also my apologies. This might be more hurt than comfort.
The bright lights of the captain's quarters keep the shadows at bay and Jim wide awake. There is a singular spot on the floor which holds the man's attention because if he looks away from it, even for a second, he will see a glimmer of something that isn't there.
Trauma, the doctors had said years ago. The boy is young yet. The effects could be marginal—or massive. Time will tell.
Yes, trauma, Jim thinks. A term with which he is well-acquainted. He bore it then and many times since, and it has not broken him. Cannot break him. The concept is unthinkable. He doesn't want to be that person, made useless by his own hand.
Jim rubs a thumb along the hard surface of a glass of liquor, not drinking from it, not seeing it. It is merely a pressure against his palm that grounds him as unpleasant thoughts circle him and dart in to nip at his peace of mind. He had better control of himself earlier in the evening. Then the details concerning the incident with the acting troupe had been finalized... and Jim's strength came to its end. Here, in privacy, he can let the rest of his control crumble, seen in the involuntary flexing of a hand and the wounded set of his shoulders.
Absently he tilts the glass. It captures the light in tiny clear panes and, briefly, the hint of a thin face and sunken eyes. In that moment, Jim's willpower vanishes and he glances down.
His mouth silently shapes a name. He closes his eyes, not wanting to see that face, only to force his eyes open again a few heartbeats later. Upon second inspection, the image in the glass is gone.
Jim shivers as a prickling starts between his shoulder blades, not quite convinced of the sensation of being watched. He is alone, and there is nothing at his back... yet he finds he cannot turn around to confirm it.
The name has sound this time, though hardly above a whisper when he says it, and Jim fights against another shiver. Lifting the glass's edge to his mouth, he inhales. The smell of the brandy is sweet, surprisingly, not unlike that of wine. He lowers the glass without having tasted its contents and decisively sets it aside, trading such solace for the book at his elbow, an ancient paperbound volume called The Complete Works of Shakespeare.
A page is marked, and Jim turns to it, his finger tracing just beneath each line as he reads. The play is King Richard III, he discovers, which distantly he recalls having read in his early youth. Kirk flips back one page, then another in half curiosity and half dread, and comes upon lines underscored twice by a pen. The Duchess bade King Richard listen to her:
"Either thou wilt die by God's just ordinance
Ere from this war thou turn a conqueror;
Or I with grief and extreme age shall perish
And never more behold thy face again.
[...] Bloody thou art; bloody will be thy end:
Shame serves thy life and doth thy death attend." [King Richard III, act iv, scene 4]
Jim swallows against the knot in his throat and wordlessly closes the book, sliding it away from him but not far enough that he cannot run a hand across its faded cover. The spine is creased and broken, a sign of many long hours of dedication to every word. He can picture the scene so vividly: a man stoop-shouldered by age bent over this precious book with the glow of starlight at his back, murmuring his lines. Practicing, memorizing. Comparing his life to the tragedies therein.
Karidian the actor.
Kodos the Executioner.
Dead, now, as Shakespeare's Hamlet upon a poisoned blade.
Jim feels sick. He drops his head forward and presses his fingertips to his eyelids, willing his control to come back. It doesn't, dancing in pieces just out of his grasp like leaves caught by a fierce wind.
How is it fair, this ending?
One life is given for another, and Kirk is not grateful for it. He almost hates Kodos more now than he did previously. One life, one death, and nothing—nothing—is made right by it.
Worse yet, he had seen only one murderer—been blinded to all but Kodos's presence—and almost allowed another to escape. With her soft mouth and bright eyes, there had seemed not a thing amiss with Lenore.
Jim is a fool, a terrible, terrible fool.
He clamps his hands to either side of his head, fingers tangled in his short hair, and presses hard as if he can rid himself of the unkind thoughts.
Taken in by the daughter of a killer, only to have her turn the phaser on him. On Riley, who tried to do something Jim himself burned to do in his heart but could not, did not allow to come to pass. He had made mistakes from the very beginning, ignored those who warned him to act more cautiously.
And Kodos died.
To save him.
The noise Jim makes is close to a whimper. He cannot reconcile the act, and he cannot grant absolution to a man who ordered the deaths of so many innocents—including his family.
There is a faint pressure upon his shoulder, like a ghostly hand of a sympathetic understanding. The book is open in front of him, untouched, to a new page and another set of underscored lines:
"This gallant which thou seest
Was in the wreck; and, but he's something stain'd
With grief [...] thou mightst call him
A goodly person." [The Tempest, act i, scene 2]
Jim's muscles tighten in response, and he opens his mouth to beg to be left alone. The chime of the quarters' entrance interrupts him. All at once, Kirk's vague impression of the other presence in the room subsides.
He wars between rejecting the company (who should see their captain this miserable?) and asking the person outside his quarters to stay with him indefinitely. He vacillates too long in his decision and the door opens without a command. The individual hovering in the doorway is not someone unexpected.
Jim asks him wearily, "What is it?"
"Captain..." McCoy pauses.
Jim reads the rest in Leonard's eyes and the slant of his mouth. "All right, Bones. Come in, then."
His friend treks silently to the desk where Jim is seated and lays a small case next to the hardcover book. Jim barely suppresses a flinch.
"It's something to help you sleep," McCoy tells him quietly.
Jim has no intention of sleeping; and if he did, he doubts a pill could fight the adrenaline of fear. Nevertheless, he thanks the man.
Leonard's gaze finds the glass of brandy and lingers there. There is no usual smile playing about his mouth, or even a downturn to signify disagreement with Jim's choice of late-night beverage.
Jim reaches out and closes the book with a ferocity he doesn't feel and claims both the book and glass as he stands up. He gives McCoy a sharp, bland look after placing the items on a nearby shelf. "I'll walk you back to your quarters."
McCoy does purse his mouth now, his hands finding their way behind his back as he rocks slightly on his feet. Those blue eyes are fixed attentively on Jim again. "I guess you aren't feeling hospitable."
"Correct, Doctor," Jim states flatly, unaware of how—or who—he sounds like.
Leonard lifts an eyebrow. "Well, suppose I don't intend to leave."
"Not an option," Jim dismisses the comment.
"Hm." Making a vague noise, McCoy ambles across the room, through the small section that serves as a bedroom then to the bathroom door. The door opens, and the man sticks his head through the opening, seemingly muttering to himself.
For a moment Jim is really curious what Bones is up to. If he has to use the bathroom, why doesn't he just go inside?
The answer becomes apparent when McCoy backs into the room again, the door automatically sliding shut, only to quickly open again and admit a newcomer.
Jim recognizes an ambush when he sees one. "We're not doing this," he says roughly.
"Doin' what, Jim?" Leonard inquiries in mild reply.
"If I wanted to talk about it, I would have spoken the first time you asked."
For some reason, Leonard cuts his eyes to Spock.
"Captain," the Vulcan begins, stepping forward as he addresses Kirk, "I am aware you may not feel comfortable—"
The lights flicker in the cabin. In that half-second, Jim thinks the darkness in the nearest corner has the shape of a man.
Spock has stopped talking, eyebrows drawn together, and gone to inspect a panel in the wall. McCoy says, "That's strange. Jim, what's the matter?"
"Nothing," Jim replies, forcing some of the tension out of his stance. To Spock, "Must be a bad circuit in the control box. I will put in a call to Maintenance."
Spock does not reply, too busy removing the paneling by the door and staring at the wires. Jim could tell him it's pointless to look for a problem there when the real issue is nothing electrical.
He realizes in that instant he has accepted the impossible. That... surprises him. It must be the lack of sleep in the last few days. He shouldn't be so fanciful to think his nightmare has literally come back to haunt him.
Leonard is speaking at his shoulder before Jim realizes he has come closer. "Why don't you sit down?"
"You look fit to keel over, Jim."
Does he look that awful? Suddenly his energy is gone, as if the observation has stolen what little he had left. He does want to sit down.
The moment he is touched Jim bursts out, clumsily, "No, don't" but the protest goes unheeded. A hand, gentle, concerned, skims the side of his face then drops to his wrist. He thinks vaguely how Bones-like it is to read a pulse without good cause.
There's nothing wrong with me.
"Spock, help me out. He's startin' to list. Jim? When's the last time you ate?"
What does that matter? Won't stay down.
"Oh, Jimmy, I'm sorry. I didn't realize it was this difficult for you."
Another voice, baritone but also kind, joins in. "If you must blame yourself, Dr. McCoy, you must blame me as well. It is my duty..."
Jim doesn't care what they're saying. He drops heavily to the edge of his bed and stares at the floor between his feet. The bed sinks to his left and he can't look, not fully, only a quick glance at the boot next to his, old but lovingly polished, the toe pointed. All of the actors of the troupe had worn them. The room smells like ozone, just after a phaser blast, and like rot too—the kind that eats at the crops until they're wilted and useless.
He shakes his head slightly and the vision dispels. The boot isn't pointed; it's identical to his except in size. Standard-issue for 'Fleet officers.
He looks up to find Bones sitting next to him, watching him, expression strange.
"Jim, what is it?" the man asks softly.
Jim responds to the urgency in the tone without thinking. "Sorry, Bones. I am tired." He tries to smile but has a feeling the effort falls short. "It has been a long day." The razor-sharp, intermittent stab of pain at his right temple is a warning of the truth to his statement. The faint sensation of a headache will soon be a full-blown migraine. It's coming, and he can't stop it.
Once again, McCoy's gaze moves away, seeking confirmation or advice. Maybe Leonard and Spock are on the same side for once. No, Jim realizes, not just this once but also days ago when they had come to him seeking answers about Tarsus IV. They had been a unit then too, almost cornering him.
He was angry about that, briefly, but he understands what brought them to him... and what brings them to him now.
Jim straightens abruptly. "I appreciate your concern, gentlemen, believe me I do but—I am okay. I am—" It's a hope more than it is a lie. "—in control of myself."
"We do not doubt your strength of spirit," the Vulcan standing before him replies, "or your ability to command under duress... yet at times it is best not to be left alone," Spock finishes, calm and quiet.
Even with his heart in his throat, Jim won't ask. And still he can see they don't need the request. These two men will stay with him without the request simply because they are his friends.
The atmosphere seems less bleak, less ominous. He won't be alone with...
Perhaps Jim's expression conveys something of his hope because Spock and McCoy look mollified. Spock moves away to set up a device upon Jim's vacated desk—a data padd, no doubt so the Vulcan can work—and Leonard shifts backwards, reaching for a pillow. He gives it a great smack with the palm of his hand, grouses about how inordinately flat the object is, and tells Jim to lie down.
"I don't want to sleep," Jim admits though his body obeys the order.
"Then just rest your eyes," Leonard says soothingly.
Jim reaches out as if to catch McCoy's arm when the man rises from the bed. He stops his hand a few scant inches above the bedspread and lowers it back to his side.
Leonard's eyes are knowing. He jerks a thumb in Spock's direction, the Vulcan already engrossed in whatever lab report he is picking apart. "Won't be far. I'll go pester him for a while."
"Of course," Jim murmurs.
Leonard's eyes sparkle with good humor. "Don't worry, we'll keep the bickering to a bearable decibel."
"We will not bicker," Spock promises without looking up.
McCoy's mouth quirks. He amends, "We'll be good. For tonight."
Jim gives the barest of nods and closes his eyes. If, soon after, he feels the slight depression of a hypospray against his skin, he says nothing of it. He trusts Bones not to give him a sedative. Within a short period of time, the dull ache in his head begins to abate.
He can hear them talking; or McCoy talking, that is. Spock answers sparingly, in a tone not quite as soft as Leonard's but low enough to indicate an effort to be mindful of Jim's need. At the back of Kirk's eyelids, there is an even, solitary blackness. Coupled with the nearness of his friends, it is comforting. He rubs the fingertips of his right hand against the stiff blanket under him because they have grown cold.
Voices, still soft. Fading now. "He had it open when I came in..."
"...not unusual, Doctor."
"...staring at it for how long? Days?...making it worse..."
That coldness slowly creeps along Kirk's side. He doesn't realize he is chilled until a gust of air brushes against his cheek, sudden and icy.
"...why keep the thing?"
"...belonged to the governor."
Kodos. Jim stills, his heart gripped by an unknown terror. He cannot open his eyes.
"...can't be anything of value in here, Spock—" A page crinkles as it is turned. "—just actor's notes. Wait, listen to this—"
The voice drops in pitch as it reads, first McCoy's then an old cadence Jim has heard in his darkest dreams for two decades.
"—this deliverance with conviction, for Othello—he and I are much the same.
I am not sorry neither: I'ld have thee live;
For, in my sense, 'tis happiness to die." [Othello, act v, scene 2]
Jim's fingers dig into the blanket.
Happiness to die. But of course, Kodos wants him to know this. For in death, he is now free of his evil deeds, and Jim...
Jim is not free, nor can be until time is merciful and he no longer remembers. This is the burden Kodos has given him, not just the anger and grief for pointless death, but the final memory he will always have: the dimming of Kodos's eyes and his face, that terribly peaceful face.
Jim never wanted Kodos to know peace.
He opens his eyes, his sight blurry with tears. The room is dark again, maybe the result of a command for low lighting by one of his friends. It matters not. Above him is the apparition that refuses to leave.
As Leonard reads on through Kodos's book, now property of James T. Kirk, exploring the psyche of a dead man that has affected Jim so, the ghost's mouth moves, mimicking the words. Jim is saying them too, cannot stop saying them, even as his tears puddle beside him.