Edited because all of the scene breaks had disappeared. :(
Written for sfxpromptbang on LiveJournal. :)
Prompt: Kirk's past is darker than his friends realize. Long before the scene in the bar, Kirk had to face some punishment for driving his dad's car off a cliff. His mother sends him to visit his aunt on Tarsus IV. The food shortage and massacre by Kodos still occur. Kirk survived and returned to Earth - the young boy gone for good. Now, as Captain of the Enterprise, something (author's choice) brings up those old memories, and his nightmares return/come to life/?. Spock and McCoy have to find their own connection in order to help Kirk deal with the old trauma and new danger. (Obviously inspired by the "Conscious of the King", but hoping to see some great new story!) - Kirk, Spock, McCoy (not a 'ship please)
Warnings: Some strong language; PTSD-like situations; non-graphic descriptions of the death of children.
Disclaimers: In case you're wondering: I don't own Star Trek in any of its incarnations. This fic is for entertainment and non-profit use only.
A/N: This fic is somewhat experimental. Except for any stray typos, this fic is deliberately written this way. I hope it works.
Art master post: susanmarier on LiveJournal created some truly stunning artwork. Since I can't post links, if you'd like to see it, please drop me a message - she really does deserve some love for her work! :)
McCoy scowled as the door opened, and Spock strode briskly into the small room. The door swished closed and locked with an audible click.
"Any change, Doctor?"
"Does it look like there's any change?"
They turned their attention to the man on the bed. His usually bright eyes were dimmed and stared fixedly at something no one else could see, his normally mobile face slack and expressionless.
"How's the rest of the landing party doing?" McCoy asked.
"They are Starfleet."
On occasion, McCoy's eyebrow was as expressive as Spock's.
"They are concerned about the Captain, and the situation," Spock conceded, "but they have every faith that you will cure him."
McCoy snorted. "I wish I shared it. There's nothing physically wrong with him. I've tested for every disease and parasite known to man - and Vulcan, Klingon, Romulan and beyond – and nothing. This is a disease of the mind, Spock."
They considered the unresponsive figure on the bed.
"If you do not find a way to break through this catatonia, Doctor, there is no predictable path for this illness to take."
McCoy nodded grimly.
"The longer this continues," Spock continued, "the more risk we run that the Governor will simply decide to incarcerate the Captain - and the rest of the landing party."
"We're Starfleet," McCoy growled. "The Governor knows better than to make a knee-jerk decision without due process."
"We are on the edge of the frontier, Doctor. Starfleet is very far away - as the people of Cerberus knew when they called for help."
"Tell me something I don't know!" McCoy snapped. He turned his scowl back towards an unresponsive Kirk. "This isn't physical," he said again, more gently now, "and we don't have the time to ease him out of this state. We'll need to come up with something drastic if we're going to help him before the Governor decides to take matters into his own hands."
They both considered Kirk in thoughtful silence.
Spock finally said, slowly, "Captain Kirk is rash and impetuous; passionate and devious - and above all else - illogical."
McCoy smirked, but remained silent.
"He is also loyal - and self-destructive," Spock continued, "but he is not one to hide his emotions away. He is not one to hide at all."
"No," McCoy agreed.
"His condition is...fragile?"
Spock stood silent and still for another long moment, then turned to McCoy with an air of decision and determination.
"There is a way to determine the cause of the catatonia," he said, "but it will be difficult and potentially dangerous for all of us."
"A three-way mind-meld," McCoy asked, but there was no question in his voice.
Spock raised an eyebrow, and McCoy shrugged.
"It's a disease of the mind," McCoy reminded him, "and we're not on the Enterprise or anywhere near the advanced medical resources of Starfleet. Our options are limited. I'd hoped you'd see it yourself and volunteer because I know...this won't be easy for you."
"But it must be done," Spock said, and only the flicker of his eyes showed his discomfort. "You are not comfortable either."
"I'm not," McCoy agreed, easily for him, "but Jim is my patient; I have to do whatever it takes to cure him."
"Then are you ready?"
"As ready as I'll ever be."
It took some shuffling, but they finally settled with McCoy sitting on a chair beside the bed, and Spock on another within easy reach of both Kirk and McCoy. Spock then lightly pressed the fingers of his left hand to McCoy's face.
McCoy jerked as their minds merged, yet even as he mentally staggered under the sudden onslaught of the other, his doctor's instincts took over and he found himself clinically observing both his reactions and Spock's along with the jumble of images, impressions, and emotions.
Well done, Doctor.
You sound surprised.
I have not spoken aloud.
Spock, McCoy sighed with exasperated fondness.
McCoy sensed an answering amusement mingled with reluctant and surprised respect.
Your emotional control in this situation is admirable.
I'm a doctor, Spock. I must make decisions based on fact, not emotion - although there's always room for gut instinct. Are you ready?
Affirmative. I believe I have constructed a strong enough shield so the Captain will not be exposed to our emotions as well as his own. Your training and discipline is a considerable asset in this endeavour.
A compliment, Spock? Be careful, or I'll think you like me.
Are you ready, Doctor?
As ready as I'll ever be.
Spock reached out and lightly settled the fingers of his right hand on Kirk's face, and Spock and McCoy were immediately plunged into a tumbling kaleidoscope of images, and awash in pain so raw, deep and visceral that both McCoy and Spock were hard-pressed to withstand its force, their own memories and emotions leeching through the barrier Spock had built, feeding on each other. It was a miasma of feelings: confusion, anger, fear. Pain. So much pain they all carried, and even Kirk in his catatonic state seemed to stagger beneath the onslaught.
Spock and McCoy reeled, then rallied.
Where's the source?McCoy demanded, unable to make sense of the images that flashed around them. What's causing all of this?
That is what we must find out, Spock replied as he took control and began to slow the thoughts, to calm the rushing emotions, to guide Kirk's thoughts and memories into some kind of order, and to allow their shared memories to merge...
(It begins - naturally enough - with a woman.)
They're on well-deserved shore leave on Wrigley's Pleasure Planet, and the three of them are walking - limping, actually, or at least Kirk and Bones are limping - after a four-hour horseback ride Uhura had arranged for them in revenge for convincing Spock to experience something known as a Night Out with the Boys - or in this case, a day - instead of the romantic holiday she'd intended. She managed to discover that McCoy distrusts horses (no surprise; he distrusts everything) and Kirk, for whatever reason, actively hates horses; her smile had been positively evil as she made the arrangements.
Spock, the pointy-eared-bastard, is no worse for wear, while Kirk is moaning that his thighs haven't been this sore since that wild weekend with those three Andorians and he wished he could remember what the hell they'd done to him and he wished like hell he could forget this latest escapade.
Bones isn't listening; instead he's grumbling about horses and how he's now decided he hates them even more than things that fly although he concedes they're slightly - but only slightly - less likely to kill him when he least expects it.
Spock raises an eyebrow and occasionally points out a logical fallacy in their statements which only makes Kirk roll his eyes and Bones actually growl and right in the middle of an eye roll, Kirk's knocked back on his heels by a girl barrelling out of the general store straight into his arms.
He automatically steadies her and meets her startled eyes -
- and the world stops.
In the eternity of the moment, he sees she's young, no more than fourteen, still teetering on the edge of childhood, her body just beginning to curve. Red hair. Freckles. And eyes that are a truly extraordinary shade of violet.
Then, muffled and distant and somehow distorted, Kirk hears the storekeeper shouting Adelaide, Adelaide and his hands drop from the girl's shoulders as the world jerks into movement. She gives him another wide-eyed glance then turns and runs, feet churning the dust, something clutched tight in her grubby hand, her long braid whipping the air behind her. Kirk feels thick heavy cotton pressing on his chest, his face, making it difficult to breathe, and the storekeeper barrels outside just as the girl (adelaide no adelaide's not right no) just as the girl disappears around the corner.
Damn girl, the storekeeper growls, and Kirk barely hears, staring unblinkingly after her.
Bones laughs, claps him on the shoulder, says she's a little young, Jim, especially for you, but she'll be a real beauty when she grows up.
The storekeeper spits into the street, and says she keep stealin' like that, she ain't gonna grow up. He scowls ferociously then stomps back into the store.
They continue towards the saloon that seems to be tempting even Spock although he's immune to alcohol, only now Kirk's puzzled, distracted (adelaide adelaide no not adelaide) except he can't think why.
Kirk finds himself stumbling against the memory of the girl long after the pleasure planet is a distant memory, during long stretches of boredom broken by what feels like even longer stretches of chaos and danger marked by his trademark impulsiveness and disregard for Starfleet regulations.
The hair. The freckles. Those eyes.
The taste of familiarity lingers on his tongue, teases his brain, glimmers on the edge of memory but never gets close enough to grasp.
He tells himself to forget it; he puzzles over why he can't, and each time the memory of her face rises up, it seems to linger a little longer, beckoning him. Towards what? Reminding him. Of what?
He simply doesn't know.
(It worsens - naturally enough - because of a woman.)
Kirk's enjoying himself with his officers and crew. They're celebrating...hell, he can't remember what they're celebrating, but he's sure it's something suitably momentous to deserve the free-flow of Tennessee whiskey (for Bones), the Jack Daniels (for Uhura) and the anything-alcoholic-is-good-enough (for Kirk). By unspoken agreement, there's no Romulan ale for Spock's sake, even though if anyone had actually said anything he would have argued it was illogical to blame an entire species for the actions of one rogue captain, let alone an inanimate object such as ale.
No-one on the Enterprise drinks it anyway, and Spock never tries to convince them otherwise.
After almost two years pushing the boundaries of known space, leaping before he thinks, breaking regulations, ignoring orders, turning McCoy grey and Spock emotional, Kirk realizes with the clarity that comes only to the very drunk that he's never felt as happy and comfortable as he is right now, right here, with his crew and his friends (friends! Had he ever really had friends before? There'd been Johnny, he supposed, that summer he stole his father's corvette - not his stepfather's, never Frank's! - that summer, that same summer Sam left (no George Jr. for him, oh no!), left him alone with Frank while their mother was off-planet with Starfleet, left him all alone with Frank, that bastard, and even Kirk doesn't know which one he means. But Johnny had left, too - Kirk no longer remembered when he'd left or where he'd gone, just that Johnny had been there one day and gone the next, leaving without even saying good-bye. After Johnny, after that summer, Kirk had just given up. Given up on his stepfather, on his brother, on his mother, on Johnny and friendship. Given up on himself, too, if he was honest - until that bar fight and Pike and Starfleet.)
Kirk smirks blearily at all of them, everything soft and blurred and distant: Scotty and Sulu and Chekov taking turns singing soulful ballads, sometimes in the languages of their homelands; McCoy scowling as Spock precisely deconstructs some point he's made; Uhura, Rand and Chapel conspiring in the corner until Chapel finally stands and walks over to the singing trio and says enough of the sad songs. Computer, play Clementine - it's the latest song craze to hit the Federation and it's fun and bouncy, and we can dance to it, if we want, and she slides a glance at McCoy, who's too busy ranting at Spock (damn it man I'm a doctor not a botanist!) to notice.
Kirk grins, imagining the look on McCoy's face when he finds himself on the dance floor because he won't see it coming and gets ready to enjoy watching Chapel at work - only the computer gets it wrong and instead of the energetic synthesized dance music they were expecting, there is instead the tinny sounds of a saloon-hall piano pounding out the notes of another much, much older song about a Clementine and for Kirk -
- the world stops.
The notes hang in his ears, the girl's face hangs in front of his eyes, and he stares and thinks clementine yes clementine not adelaide.
Only he's never known a Clementine -
- and the world grinds back into motion with catcalls and laughter and singing because really, who doesn't know the words especially after four or five hundred years? Well, except Spock of course, and as they finish singing he says with mild curiosity, I do not understand your enjoyment of this song; the girl drowns, does she not?
McCoy rolls his eyes and says, for one night stop being a cold-blooded Vulcan and simply enjoy the evening! It's a song, it doesn't have to be logical!
Spock raises an eyebrow and they're off, bickering happily (although Spock would never admit to anything so human as bickering for the pleasure of bickering; he might, however, admit to being happy).
Kirk hears everything from a distance, the tinny notes of the piano still in his ears, the girl's face hanging in front of his eyes.
Finally Bones glances over and says it looks like the man who called this party is down for the count. I never thought I'd see the day I would outlast James T. Kirk!
Well, you haven't had as much to drink, Doctor, Chapel says, then blushes under Uhura's and Rand's interested looks, but McCoy doesn't notice, just shakes his head, drains his glass and stands, saying well, time to get Kirk back to his quarters - alone for a change.
Only he isn't alone. The girl's face still hovers in front of his eyes, and the sound of the piano still rings in his ears as he falls into bed, the room spinning enough for him to wonder for a moment if they're under attack. Her face and the piano are even more clear when he closes his eyes, and he sees now her face is rounder than the child's he'd run into, the hair more carroty, the freckles bigger and darker and almost filling her entire face, but the eyes - the eyes are the same - large and violet and fringed by thick dark lashes that are in startling contrast to the carroty hair - and she's tall even though she's still a girl, a child, thirteen or fourteen or fifteen, slender and sturdy, her boyish shape only just beginning to soften into a woman's curves -
Kirk knows all this, and yet...
He doesn't know who she is.
The girl's face and the sounds of the piano are never far away. They fade into the background during times of crisis or when duty demands his full attention, or when he's smoothly flirting with one woman or another. But when he's alone, or he's relaxing, or his attention wanders, her face is there.
The sound of the piano ghosts in his ears.
Kirk wracks his brain, the girl, Clementine, the girl's face never long from in front of him or hovering in the corners of his eyes. His mind is more and more often worrying at the mystery of her, gnawing at the familiarity, drawn to it, to her, like a sore tooth he can't stop testing.
Finally, weeks after he remembered her name, after they broker peace between two warring colonies on Jouret IV, he thinks to ask the computer to run a search for anyone named Clementine in connection with a James Tiberius Kirk.
He finds nothing familiar.
He broods, his normally irreverent persona tucked away.
He broods; his sleep is disturbed and his temper grows short.
He broods, and he throws himself a little too enthusiastically into pushing the frontiers of space, into exploring new planets and civilizations, into the conflicts they find or are ordered to resolve.
He broods, and he almost viciously enjoys ignoring orders from Starfleet and Spock's resulting disapproval and McCoy's anger.
He broods, and he looks at the girl and he listens to the piano and he tries to understand what's happening to him and fails.
He broods, and says nothing.
(It turns into a crisis - naturally enough - because of a woman.)
It's Stardate 2260.02 when Kirk and Spock walk into sickbay to find an unnaturally cheerful McCoy wreathed in smiles, a small holograph of his daughter in pride of place on his desk. Chapel, Kirk notices with unholy amusement, looks stunned, and keeps sliding wide-eyed, disbelieving glances towards the Chief Medical Officer. She freezes like a rabbit when McCoy catches her, and the doctor's grin gets wider and deliberately wicked and Spock raises an eyebrow while Kirk swears he almost hears the air sizzle or perhaps it's only Chapel's face, which is now bright red.
What's going on, Bones? Kirk asks. You look disgustingly cheerful. It's not like you.
My daughter's going to be on Cerberus for a year.
Spock once again raises an eyebrow and Kirk frowns and says, and this makes you happy? Why?
Well, not the fact she's going to be in some tin can going through space, McCoy concedes, but her mother isn't going with her and I have some leave coming to me. That means I won't have to go all the way back to Earth and deal with Joanna's mother in order to spend time with her.
Kirk claps a hand to McCoy's shoulder.
Just let me know when, Bones - and how old's your daughter again? He winks at Chapel at McCoy's immediate scowl.
Ten - and you are never going near her once she turns eighteen!
Kirk only laughs; it's his first true laugh in months. He laughs more because McCoy's immediately back to his usual grumpy self, and Chapel looks relieved, although she's still blushing and when McCoy looks at her and growls get a move on, we have patients to care for Kirk laughs even harder, and if there's a tinge of hysteria to it, no one says anything, although McCoy and Spock exchange puzzled glances when Kirk isn't looking.
McCoy's daughter arrives safely at Cerberus while they're embroiled in exploring a planet that appears habitable but ends up being extremely dangerous thanks to its unusual native life forms, and by the time they (barely) escape, Kirk decides it's time once more for some general shore leave. No one on the crew objects and most of his friends hope a little R&R is just what the Captain needs to get back to his old self.
They go to a space station this time, and both Kirk and McCoy decide not to tempt fate aka the Wrath of Uhura and lets her make arrangements to sneak away with Spock for a romantic holiday (or as romantic as a Vulcan can get, and really, Bones, the mind boggles).
Kirk ultimately decides to avoid McCoy, too, and spends his time in the bars and bedrooms of the station, desperately trying to ignore the girl's face and that damn tinny saloon-hall piano that still follows him everywhere and is sometimes so loud he can't hear what's being said on the bridge and that scares him more than the girl's face and his growing inability to sleep through the night.
McCoy is left to his own devices and ends up having drinks with Rand and Chapel, and finds himself looking at the blonde nurse in a different way when she finagles him onto a dance floor almost before he realizes what's happening, and Rand's amusement causes him to scowl and fidget and drag her up on the dance floor too, but mostly it causes him to shoot puzzled, frowning glances at Chapel when she isn't looking and makes him feel like he's a fumbling boy again.
He's not sure he likes it, but he's not sure he hates it, and if nothing else he's rather intrigued and even after they're back from shore leave and they set off to explore the next sector of space, McCoy finds himself rather looking forward to seeing what happens next even though he's even more worried about Kirk, who comes back on duty looking worse than before he'd gone on shore leave, and not in the I've-been-binging-for-days-Bones-don't-worry-I'll-sober-up-soon sort of way McCoy is used to.
He thinks, something's seriously wrong with Kirk and not even a week of drinking and sex seems to have made things any better. Except things aren't necessarily bad either. Even so, McCoy makes a point of observing Kirk more closely over the next two missions and he sees he's jumpy, coldly sarcastic at the slightest hint of a mistake, his face a bland mask as impenetrable as Spock's when someone dares to challenge him. No one knows what's happening but everyone knows something is, and the crew is beginning to walk on eggshells around him. Even Spock almost cracks a frown and that, more than anything, makes McCoy go to him at the end of their second mission after shore leave and on the way to their third.
Something's wrong, he says, with Jim.
Has he talked to you?
They say nothing more, except their eloquently raised eyebrows speak volumes and McCoy would be amused if he wasn't so damn worried that Kirk is cracking under the pressure and putting the whole damn ship at risk, not to mention his career and his already legendary reputation.
But Kirk isn't talking, not even when McCoy pushes or Spock prods and the only time any expression other than distracted bad temper crosses Kirk's face is when he snaps at Rand and then looks vaguely guilty as if he knows he did something wrong but he's not quite sure what it is.
But the ship is still functioning smoothly - it's just not as much fun as it used to be, and even Spock admits there's something to be said about being led by a Captain with a personality as colourful and powerful as Kirk's.
But the longer it continues, and the longer their periods of quiet between intense action and chaos, the more the cracks begin to show on the bridge.
Kirk slumps in the captain's chair, and not in his devil-may-care, fuck-the-universe fashion. Instead his eyes are curiously blank and fever-bright with dark circles beneath them. Even when he's paying attention, he's moody, snapping at everyone, and for the slightest of reasons.
Everyone is nervous. Chekov's accent is getting thicker, Sulu's fumbling with the controls, and Uhura is even colder when speaking to Kirk, verging on insubordination on occasion. Only Spock is imperturbable, merely raising an eyebrow and rebuking the captain in his bland voice, marshalling his most logical arguments. He is Vulcan, and unmoved on the surface, but he, too, is becoming increasingly worried. He finds himself consulting with Dr. McCoy on an almost daily basis as the days progress and Kirk shows no signs of snapping out of whatever this is.
He is still focused in times of crisis, Spock says, still performs his duties to the high standards he has established over the last two years. But he is no longer the same Captain Kirk.
McCoy nods glumly, and stares at the holographic image of his daughter Joanna that has pride of place on his desk in sickbay. She's been on Cerberus for five standard months now, and McCoy's too worried about Kirk to ask for leave in order to visit her.
Out of everyone on board the Enterprise, Doctor, you have known him the longest. Have you ever seen him like this before?
I don't know what's going on with him, McCoy says slowly. Even at his most self-destructive at the Academy, he wasn't like this. Volatile, yes. Unpredictable, most definitely. Devious, and manipulative and charming - of course; that's as natural to him as breathing. Violent, when the occasion demanded, or when his demons took control and for whatever reason, he'd be spoiling for a fight. But this - this is something new. I've never seen him like this before.
They don't say they're both watching him. They don't say they're both ready to relieve him of duty the moment it appears he's unable to continue as Captain or he's a danger to the ship. They don't say they will do everything in their power to ensure no one in Starfleet Command discovers just how distracted he's become, or how worried they are about him. They don't say they will do whatever it takes to protect him.
There are, Spock has learned over the last two years with Kirk and McCoy and the others, some things that go without saying.
They watch, and they intervene when possible, and they each in their own ways ask Kirk what's going on and offer their help. Kirk tells them it's nothing, and refuses to say anything more.
They're heading towards a crisis, Spock knows; he just doesn't know why.
As it happens, a different crisis finds them first.
McCoy is thankfully not on the bridge when the distress call comes in.
Cerberus. Crops failed. Stores contaminated. Famine imminent. Need assistance.
It's a blanket call for help, and Cerberus has no way of knowing if there are any Starfleet vessels nearby.
If we don't do something, it'll be like Tarsus IV all over again, Sulu mutters worriedly in the sudden silence of the bridge.
Kirk stares into the distance, his eyes even more blank than the bridge crew had become used to seeing over the last few months.
Crops failed. Stores contaminated. Famine imminent.
Captain? Spock says and raises an eyebrow as Kirk's blank expression remains unchanged.
Failed. Contaminated. Famine.
We have to do something, Sulu urges, turning to look at Kirk. Everyone waits, expectantly and then with growing puzzlement as Kirk continues to sit unmoving in his captain's chair.
Kirk's dimly aware of voices, senses words hanging in the air, but the girl's face fills his vision, and the piano is clattering louder than the voices around him.
Captain? Spock says again, more sharply.
We don't want a repeat of Tarsus IV, Sulu says almost desperately. I lost family to Kodos' insanity. We have to do something!
The girl's face dissolves, the piano abruptly stops playing and Kirk blinks at his bridge crew, who are staring at him with varying degrees of bewilderment and hope.
A faint frown creases his face.
Tarsus IV? he asks.
Mr. Sulu is correct, Spock says. Cerberus is in a similar state of crisis. A repetition of the actions of Governor Kodos fourteen standard years ago must be prevented at all costs.
There's still no comprehension in Kirk's eyes but he nods in distant agreement.
Where's the nearest place to pick up supplies? And how fast can we get from here to there to Cerberus? Kirk asks, and the entire bridge relaxes; even Spock's eyebrows look relieved. The crew explode into action, Uhura sending messages to the nearest planets and to Cerberus that the Enterprise would bring aid as soon as possible while Scotty is already promising Sulu as much power as he can coax out of the old girl's engines.
Captain, Spock says, and the entire bridge pauses.
Yes, Mr. Spock? Kirk says, his old smirk firmly in place although it doesn't reach his eyes.
Someone needs to tell Dr. McCoy.
The smirk disappears.
Kirk nods once.
You have the comm, he says and strides purposefully from the bridge.
McCoy stares, his face drawn, his eyes dark with worry and fear. He's unnaturally still, coiled power in his stance, his hands clenched, and Kirk catches himself almost taking a step away from the emotion and danger blazing in McCoy's eyes. The thought flits through his mind that he's never seen Bones truly angry; he doesn't think he ever wants to.
Then the moment is broken as McCoy explodes into scowls and motion, and he rages as he paces sickbay until even Kirk gets dizzy watching him. Chapel frowns and watches carefully from a distance, ready to talk sense into McCoy if he starts to go too far.
We're going to get there as soon as we can, Bones, Kirk soothes.
I need to get in touch with her, McCoy growls, make sure she's safe - and will remain safe until we do get there.
The governor of Cerberus knows what happened to Kodos, Chapel says. He knows he'd better wait for help and not do anything drastic.
Kirk frowns. Who?
McCoy rolls his eyes. You never did pay attention in Galactic History class, did you?
Kirk has the grace to look chagrined, but he's still frowning, and the girl's face flashes in front of his eyes.
McCoy turns his scowl on Chapel. I'm not prepared to take that risk, he snaps, just in case Cerberus' governor paid as much attention to galactic history as this guy. He gestures at Kirk, whose eyes are once more curiously distant and blank. I'd feel the same way even if my daughter's life wasn't at risk!
Kirk focuses with an effort. Your daughter's life isn't at risk, he says and gives a fair imitation of his usual self-confident grin. We'll fill up with supplies and get to Cerberus in no time. I'm not sure what whatshisname did on - where was it again?
McCoy heaves a long-suffering sigh. Kodos. On Tarsus IV. And he murdered over four thousand people.
Kirk blinks. Oh. Well. I'll tell Scotty to step on it then.
Kirk leaves McCoy trying to get a message off to Cerberus and heads back to the bridge. He strides off the turbolift, throws himself into the captain's chair, calls Engineering and says, Mr. Scott - step on it, if you please. It will make Dr. McCoy feel better.
There are grins all around, and the girl's face moves to the edge of his vision and the sound of the piano fades away, only now he feels like there's something he's forgotten about his conversation with Bones.
Chekov leans over to Sulu. Did you really lose family on Tarsus IV?
Yes, but we think some of them died of starvation before Kodos decided to massacre half the colony.
Kirk frowns. Who? he asks.
He dreams of music and the girl and he feels -
oh my darlin', oh my darlin', oh my da-a-a-arlin' Clementine and the girl's beside him and she scowls as she punches his shoulder - hard - not funny Jimmy-boy - and he laughs. She growls and lunges for him and he runs - they run - and he feels the hard dirt beneath his bare feet; his hair is long and unkempt and gets in his eyes as he dances around her just out of reach - he's not stupid after all - hey! you're supposed to be feeding the chickens! - he glances at Aunt Mari momentarily distracted and that's when the girl tackles him and they roll and tumble in a heap; he's knocked breathless - the girl grins as she easily pins him and he cranes his neck and glares at Aunt Mari, who's watching with a grin of her own on her usually stern face - you did that on purpose - his voice rings with the depth of the betrayal and Aunt Mari laughs - us girls have to stick together don't hurt him too much Clem we still need his help with the harvest.
His heart swells with happiness as he pouts winningly at Clem and Aunt Mari and he hears the baby crying and he's scared so scared - no, terrified - his breath comes in short panting gasps and he can't get his voice to work and he's on his feet but he can't move - his heart pounds - he sees Clem and Aunt Mari and the girl turns and their eyes meet and pain pain pain - it explodes - it bursts - it envelopes everything in an agony of grief and despair and shock and horror and he's blinded by it on his knees with it -
He wakes with a gasping wordless cry, and it takes hours (it seems) for the grief to subside, tears burning unshed in his resolutely closed eyes even though the dream is already fading (Aunt Mari? His mother's sister but something happened and he hasn't heard her name in years besides he only met her a couple of times when she came back to Earth from...wherever she went). In the morning even that vague memory is gone and all that's left is a faint echo of the pain.
His tired eyes show a sleepless night, which are followed by more sleepless nights and unlike other missions, he doesn't become the Captain Kirk of old. Instead the stains beneath his eyes grow ever darker - as does his mood - and finally, finally speculation begins to run rampant through the Enterprise: he's sick with some exotic alien disease picked up from the J'naii ambassador when they'd transported her (or him or it - no one, not even Spock, seemed to know for sure except perhaps Kirk) a few standard weeks ago. Or he's binging in his off-hours; or he's in the midst of his latest shipboard affair and it's so passionate, she's keeping him awake all night (Rand scowls at him a little more fiercely when that one reaches her ears, treats him a little more coldly, but he doesn't notice - he doesn't notice anything) but if it's a new romance, no one knows who it is - nobody's seen her and nobody's talking and in a ship the size of the Enterprise (and with a Captain as impulsive and adventurous as Kirk), that's virtually impossible and so the rumour mill churns on...
...while he dreams...
He dreams of music and freckles and violet eyes and grief that breaks him until he wakes, gasping, lungs burning, body shaking.
He catches his breath, rolls out of bed, asks the computer to search - again! again! - for any Clementine in connection to James Tiberius Kirk, and never never never sees anything familiar and all he can do for the rest of the night - every night - is stare at the screen and listen to the deafening sound of the piano.
As they head towards Penthara IV and fill the Enterprise to the brim with supplies and then begin their journey to Cerberus, he becomes more and more drawn, his face gaunt, his eyes exhaustion-bright, until finally McCoy marches onto the bridge just over twenty-four standard hours from Cerberus, and manhandles Kirk off to sickbay, grumbling about regulations and doctor-patient privilege and just plain old friendship, damn it, and you'd better come too, Spock, if you know what's good for you!
Spock raises an eyebrow, hands command to Sulu and follows McCoy and Kirk into the turbolift without a word.
McCoy puts Kirk through a full exam once they get to sickbay muttering the entire time about idiots who don't know enough to ask for help when they need it especially when there are two perfectly good officers standing right there who were willing to go to hell and back to protect their captain and they weren't the only ones!
Didn't think you cared, Bones, Kirk says, his words slurring from exhaustion; he tries to grin but it's a dim copy of his usual megawatt expression.
Oh, so this is my fault?
Kirk chuckles wearily. You give yourself too much credit.
Then what the hell is going on?
Kirk glances at Spock, then his shoulders slump and he shakes his head. I - I can't explain it, he mutters. I don't understand it myself.
When was the last time you got a full night's sleep?
Kirk just shakes his head.
I'm going to give you a mild sedative, one that will make you sleep at least twenty-four hours.
Kirk's eyes go wide. Will I dream?
McCoy and Spock exchange puzzled glances.
Not as far as I know, McCoy says slowly, but I'll give you a different one, one that's guaranteed to give you dreamless sleep.
Kirk sits still and silent for so long McCoy wonders if he's fallen asleep even without the sedative. He finally, slowly nods. I'd appreciate that.
When Kirk is sleeping and McCoy has confirmed his vital signs are stable, he leaves Chapel in charge and takes Spock aside.
He's having nightmares.
Yes, Doctor. I heard.
McCoy rolls his eyes but refuses to rise to the bait. About what? he demands.
That, Doctor, is not something I can even begin to answer.
But it's something we'll need to work together to discover. He's your friend, too, Spock.
Spock hesitates then inclines his head. Affirmative. I will assist you in whatever way is required.
When Kirk awakens, he's more clear-headed than he's been in weeks, possibly months. The girl's face is still there as is the sound of the piano, but now they're background noise and texture rather than the focus of his attention. He smiles and teases the nurses and even Chapel can't help but laugh at his flirting but tells him don't bat those baby blues at me, Captain, I'm still going to obey your doctor's orders.
Kirk pouts and turns limpid eyes on Rand who frantically shakes her head. You may be Captain, she says, but Dr. McCoy scares the crap out of me.
Which is as it should be, McCoy growls as he strides into the room followed closely by Spock.
He checks the reports, examines Kirk, consults with Chapel, then nods at her and Rand and they leave the three men alone.
McCoy pulls up a chair and says, okay, Jim. Talk to me. Tell me about these dreams.
Kirk shakes his head. I wish I could. I can't remember them. He shrugs helplessly. All I can remember are the feelings. Terror. Grief.
This can't go on, Jim, McCoy says, and now I'm speaking as your doctor. We need to get to the bottom of these nightmares and get you back to your normal self.
Is that wise, Doctor? Captain Kirk's 'normal' does not exactly correlate to how that word is usually defined.
Both Kirk and McCoy stare at Spock.
...did you just make a joke? Kirk asks incredulously.
You have not been in a joking mood lately, Captain, and Dr. McCoy is not known for his levity. Someone must think of the crew's morale.
Kirk blinks owlishly at his First Officer then slowly grins. I always knew I could count on you, Spock, he says then laughs, and it's his old laugh and McCoy and Spock heave almost invisible sighs of relief.
When do we get to Cerberus? Kirk asks.
Two point three hours, Spock replies.
Kirk nods. We'll complete our mission to Cerberus, and then I'm all yours, Bones. You're right. I can't go on like this...I'm sorry I didn't ask for help earlier. He glances at Spock. From either of you.
McCoy simply shrugs. You'll accept the help now. That's all that matters.
The landing party is small but mighty, Kirk jokes, and he sounds like his old self, even if slightly desperate. The supplies are being transported to Cerberus in shuttles along with volunteers while the officers go through the usual diplomatic courtesies with the Governor and the rest of the colonial government.
It is a small landing party that beams down, though. Kirk, because he has to formally meet with the Governor and receive permission to provide relief but mainly because, well, because he's Captain Kirk and he's not likely to stay behind if there's a chance for him to actually do something. Spock, because when they arrived in orbit, they discovered the crops were infected with a fungus and he wants to examine it and perhaps determine the cause and a remedy. McCoy, of course, as if any force in the universe could keep him on the Enterprise while his daughter was in danger, but also because the colonists could use some medical assistance, which ultimately results in Nurse Chapel also going with them since he'll need his most trusted nurse.
They beam down to the surface and blink in the bright sunlight. They're in the middle of the town, and as soon as they finish transporting, there's a cry of Daddy! and McCoy turns sharply, a look on his face no one on the Enterprise, not even Kirk, has ever seen before. His face lights up and softens and he's beaming (beaming! beaming? McCoy?) as he catches the girl who throws herself at him; he lifts her off her feet, his arms wrapped tightly around her.
Oh, shit, Chapel mutters and Kirk glances where she's standing next to him, but her gaze is focused only on McCoy and his daughter. I think my ovaries just exploded. I am in so much trouble.
Kirk tries and fails to hide his grin as he turns back to the McCoys.
You've gotten so big, he hears McCoy mutter, and his normally grumpy voice is choked with a much softer emotion, and Kirk abruptly turns towards the others, but he's distracted by a man striding forward dressed in a (familiar) ornate suit.
Captain Kirk? I am Governor Farian.
Kirk shakes the offered hand, his smile forced, his eyes puzzled.
Thank you for arriving so quickly. Things were getting desperate. The Governor hesitates. Is something wrong, Captain?
No, no, Kirk says after a pause, his eyes curiously blank, except...have we met before?
The Governor frowns, peers intently at him. I don't believe so, and I'm sure I would remember meeting you, Captain. Now, please tell me what supplies you've brought with you.
Before Kirk can respond, McCoy turns to the landing party, his daughter still clinging to him like a limpet and Kirk shakes off his vague sense of déja vu. McCoy introduces Joanna to everyone, and after a brief discussion with the Governor, leaves still carrying his daughter, with Chapel striding beside him, to offer assistance at the town's medical clinic.
As Spock questions the Governor about the course of the fungus, Kirk hears Joanna's light voice chattering about the troops that had been called in, and how the Governor had gathered everyone in the town square, to meet the landing party when they beamed down.
Kirk turns and for the first time realizes the town square is filled with civilians and the Governor's honor guard and the uniforms (are the same) are familiar and there's a tall woman and a red-haired teenage girl standing together, watching him, and one of the guards is approaching them, his hand rising, and Kirk smoothly draws his phaser and shoots the guard -
- and Kirk's world goes black.
Chaos immediately erupts with screams and shouts and running, and McCoy shoves Joanna at Chapel with barked orders to get somewhere safe, and rushes back to where Kirk is sprawled on the ground, unconscious. Spock meets his eyes as McCoy falls to his knees beside him.
The phaser was set to stun, Spock says and inclines his head towards the circle of people around the prone guard and dispassionately watches as several members of the honor guard detach and head cautiously towards them with drawn weapons and grim, determined faces.
Well, that's something at least, McCoy mutters and bends to his patient.
And so we're back where we started.
Affirmative. We must follow the girl.
They follow the thread of memories - the girl and the music and the guard - and even McCoy can tell there's something wrong with the way Kirk's memory winds its way into dead ends and endless loops. Spock, as delicately as a surgeon, as gracefully as a dancer, traces the threads, untangles them, separates what seems real from what seems artificial and removes those commands hidden in Kirk's subconscious that tell him to forget or not-see or re-route to another thought or memory. McCoy watches with a doctor's fascination, the horror he feels as a friend and a human firmly in check.
Beneath it all, beneath the overwhelming pain of grief and loss, McCoy can feel Kirk's confusion and almost mindless gratitude that he's not alone with this; Kirk knows they're there, and knows - understands - they're helping him even as the pain increases and he falls away from them, deeper into his memories...