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Lead Me To Your Door

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Part One: Terror

They have been overpowered, overwhelmed, taken by surprise.

It happens so quickly. He hears a burst of small, rapid explosions, and suddenly the large, dimly-lit restaurant is filled with smoke and screaming people, most of them belonging to his crew, scattering and diving and trying desperately to get away. Some of them are bleeding, others look stunned.

His first thought is that there has been some kind of bomb. He recovers his feet quickly, checks on those closest to him, tries to herd them out the door. He is vaguely aware of Bones moving among them as well, triaging quickly, moving toward those who look most in need of his help.

His ears are ringing from the blasts, and he can't hear at all. People are speaking to him, but he ignores the questions that he can't understand anyway and points forcefully in the direction of the exit, mouthing "Move!"

He doesn't understand why the room doesn't seem to be clearing, despite his shoving and pointing and directing. He looks back at the door, prepared to unleash his frustration on whoever must be panicking and blocking the exit.

But there are dozens of armed men standing in a row by the door and moving forward into the room. They line the walls. Although they are dressed in the same sort of drab clothing the other colonists typically wear, they are clearly well-organized and disciplined; their eyes share the same confident, hard expression. The only item of clothing they all seem to be wearing in common, a uniform of sorts, is a mask fitted tightly over their mouths and noses.

Jim can think of only two reasons for them to be sporting such unusual facial gear. Either they don’t want to be identified easily, or, more ominously, they don't want to breathe something that he is about to be breathing.

His hand goes unerringly to his belt, grasps his communicator. He is unarmed; they are in a civilian establishment, and Starfleet abides by the colony's injunction against hand weapons. Clearly, he thinks, not everyone here has been following those treaties to the letter. He'd been briefed on spots of political unrest in the outlying areas, but obviously, the information they had was outdated…

His thoughts don't go much farther. He sees one of the terrorists raise his hand in some sort of hand signal, and flick a small cylinder into the center of the room. It lands not far from Jim, cracking open and leaking something gaseous and smoky.

Jim is unsurprised as he loses consciousness and falls to the floor.

 

When he wakes up, Jim is so pissed off, he can hardly breathe.

Terrorists. They are being held hostage by old-fashioned, gun-toting, mad-eyed extremists. In the middle of what was supposed to be a relaxing shore leave, for Chrissake. In a fucking restaurant.

By the time he regains consciousness, the political nature of their situation has been made clear. They are in the large anteroom of the restaurant, about seventy people. All Starfleet, mostly from the Enterprise. The civilian colonists who were with them before have been separated from them; he has no idea whether they are still alive, but they are nowhere to be seen. Their communicators have been confiscated. All of the Starfleet personnel have been dumped unceremoniously in a heap of bodies in the center of the room, surrounded by the armed fanatics who are strutting back and forth, pointing their weapons menacingly at them. Around him, people are stirring, groaning, in some cases retching.

He counts twenty-three terrorists, planted at intervals around the room, and guarding the exits. One of them is speaking, telling them in no uncertain terms to remain seated and quiet. Anyone who disobeys his orders will be punished, he says.

At least his hearing is returning, Jim reflects gratefully. His ears still ring, but he can hear a little. Everything sounds a little attenuated and far away, lending a sense of unreality to the situation. He shakes his head, trying to clear it, then stops quickly. Ouch. His head pounds, so he presses on his temples and takes a deep breath.

"Jim," he hears, and feels a light touch on his arm. Bones is there, on his knees in front of him, looking at him questioningly, scanning him with his eyes for damage.

"I'm all right," he says tightly. "What are the injuries?"

"Nothing serious. Some abrasions, minor cuts, some anxiety-related symptoms. They took my medikit. What the hell's going on, Jim?"

"Gonna find out," he says. He looks around at their captors, trying to gauge who the leader is. Sensing his train of thought, Bones shakes his head, a flicker of fear in his gaze.

"No, Jim. Don't draw attention to yourself." Jim notes that their whispered conversation seems to have attracted the notice of one of the guards, who has trained his weapon on them.

"I'm a starship captain," he says quietly. "I'm responsible for all these people here. Do you expect me to hide that?"

"Are you insane? These people will—"

"Quiet!" The guard's voice rings out. Bones moves away grudgingly, giving Jim a final warning glance. Don't do anything stupid, he mouths.

But there's no way Jim's going to sit down and play the demure, helpless pawn. It's just not in him, and the terrorists may be willing to let some of the others go, if they know that they're holding a high-level grade A hostage like him. At the very least, he can unsettle them, test them with a bit of non-cooperation. Maybe he can draw them into a conversation with him, get them to reveal who they are and what their plans are.

So Jim ignores McCoy's cautionary words and gets to his feet slowly, noting the weapons trained on him. "I'm Captain James Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise," he says loudly and clearly. "Who is your leader? I demand to know—"

He gets no farther. Three of the guards advance upon him. One of them belts him with the butt of his gun, making his head spin and his knees crumple. It is then ridiculously easy to drag him away from the others.

He hears the noise of his crew's protest, and the sound of a gun being fired into the air. They quiet down.

When his head clears, he finds himself standing on an elevated platform at the far end of the room, held from behind by one of the terrorists. He struggles, but the man holding him is strong and steady, and is bending his right arm upward at a highly uncomfortable angle. They are standing on a sort of small stage, and facing him is a tall, handsome man whose air of quiet authority informs Jim that he is obviously the ringleader of this merry band.

"You were told to keep quiet and remain seated," he says. He smiles at Jim almost sadly and signals to the man behind him.

The man makes a sudden sharp move, and the crack of Jim's humerus bone can be heard clearly in the hall. Jim cries out harshly at the burning pain, and he hears a sympathetic hiss from the hostages gathered below.

"Still, it is a pleasure to meet you, Captain James Kirk," says the leader calmly. "Hero of the Federation. How fortunate. You will make a lovely symbol for our resistance."

 

It doesn't end there, of course. That is only the beginning. These are evil sadistic Federation-hating bastards, and he is, after all, Captain James T-for-Troublemaker Kirk. Bad combination.

They beat him, to start with. He expects this and for a time, he manages to hold his own well enough. It's hard to protect himself from the blows when his right side, his dominant side, is compromised from the outset. But he's no stranger to broken bones, and he's so furious that at first, his anger shields him from the pain. He even manages to get in a few strong kicks, until the man delivers a sharp blow behind his knee, sweeping his legs out from under him and sending him crashing down onto his right side. His broken right arm takes the brunt of the fall and he lets out a full-throated howl, overwhelmed by pain. For a moment, he is unable to do more than curl into himself, gasping, eyes tearing blindingly. From then on he is helpless against the blows and kicks that rain down on him.

When there is a respite at last and his tormentor steps back with a satisfied grunt, he closes his eyes and tries to take stock of his situation. So far, he concedes to himself, he hasn't accomplished much. He is injured and hurting badly: his arm is a white-hot brand of fire, his jaw aches, it hurts to breathe, and there are assorted pains scattered over his torso from chest to knees. He turns onto his left side and is engulfed by a wave of nausea, and he retches helplessly, gradually becoming aware that he is being watched.  

Oh, God. They're all watching him, humiliated and beaten. He gazes at the Starfleet hostages dully, recognizing many of them as crewmembers and friends, and can hardly bear the horror and pity in their eyes. He can see Sulu and Scotty, and cringes in shame. He could stand the beating, but he can't stand the mortifying idea that his colleagues and companions are watching him puke and moan in pain.

It's more painful than the actual bruises. It brings him back to other places, other beatings, other bullying bastards that used their strength to make him feel small and helpless.

No. Don't think about that now. Breathe.

Bones is there, too, eyes wide and mouth open, looking ready to dash forward toward him and screw the consequences. Jim fixes him with a meaningful glare that he hopes is well understood. Stay there. At least, if these trigger-happy militants are bent on hurting somebody, let it be him. He can't be worrying about anyone else right now, especially not Bones, not until his breathing settles and he can control his reactions. He closes his eyes and focuses on relaxing, on calming his heart rate.

The man is speaking to him again, and Jim gathers himself, tries to sit up and listen. "That is enough for now, my Federation friend. We will talk shortly. I have many questions for you."

"Go to hell," he rasps out. "I have nothing to say to you."

"We will see." He speaks rapidly, in a language Jim can't identify, to his men. Jim finds himself grabbed roughly by two of the thugs and pulled to his feet. There is an adjoining small office to the right of the stage. Jim is quickly maneuvered into the small room and pushed into a chair. The two guards station themselves at the entrance.

Shit. This is bad, he thinks stupidly. The beating that he has just received seems to have served two purposes: to demoralize and deter the hostages, and to soften him up for questioning. He's a Starfleet Captain, with access to all kinds of classified information which these jerks would probably love to get out of him and use.

He's not looking forward to the next stage. He hopes that at least, the guards will close the door.

 

Part 2: Shock

Keep the door open, you sadistic fuckers. McCoy pleads silently. Don't close him off to me.

It's been an hour or more since the three armed fanatics went into the little office where Jim was being held, leaving McCoy where he was, helpless to intervene, a blind witness. But not deaf—sounds reach him well enough, and doubtless that is the intent.

As their captors are surely aware, partially isolating Jim from the others is having a devastating effect on the other hostages. Able to hear but not respond, they are nearly incapacitated by their fear and concern. Some are holding onto each other for comfort, trading nervous glances; others have their eyes shut and their hands over their ears; some are aiming if-looks-could-kill glares at the militants. McCoy stares bleakly at the open door of the office. He is sweaty and taut, muscles bunched in sympathetic tension, completely distracted from his own predicament—i.e. hostage to violent extremists, imminent death likely--as he strains to pick up any hint of what is happening to Jim.

McCoy has known Jim for over four years, but it is only in the last few months that their relationship has developed beyond the platonic parameters they had strictly observed at the Academy. Jim was a mess, psychologically speaking, during their Academy years, his defenses so entrenched and habitual that he resisted any attempt to establish intimacy. He had lots of sexual partners, mostly short-term flings, but few real friends. Even McCoy was not really a confidante; they spent more and more time together in comfortable companionship, but there were so many areas that Jim kept guarded. He had too many secrets, and the closer McCoy got to them, the more Jim clammed up. McCoy himself was no readier—avoiding any relationship that smacked of commitment, hiding behind a wall of cynicism and sarcasm.

It was only after becoming CMO that he'd had access to Jim's medical file and had been able to nudge him into opening up and trusting him more—with Jim fighting him every step of the way.

Let go, Jim. You're not in charge right now. Give it up.

No, let me—

It's okay.

Bones, I have to…

No, you really don't, Jim. Not here.

Control is a big issue for Jim, and relinquishing it is something he can do only occasionally, when he feels safe enough and when McCoy pushes hard enough. But Jim needs the relief, and McCoy knows how to bring him there. Those are the sweetest moments.

McCoy knows enough of Jim's past to hazard a guess about his emotional state in this surrealistic situation. He's alone, he's outnumbered, he's hurting and he's scared, but he's been there before. So he'll fight and resist and do whatever it takes to show them that he's not giving in. The thought terrifies McCoy because from what he's seen, these cold-blooded crazies won't hesitate to inflict real damage.

He hopes that it's just physical damage, of the kind that he can fix. But he knows that there will be fallout.

Still, he has to admit, so far Jim's found a reasonably good way to connect with the other hostages and send them a message, given that the only contact that they have is what comes out of his mouth and what they can hear. A lot of what comes out of his mouth, McCoy admits, is downright unsettling and grim enough to cause them all to cringe, but alongside it pours a torrent of filth and abuse aimed at his tormentors. Jim's verbal facilities and linguistic fluency have always been impressive, but McCoy hadn't realized that they extended to this particular form of communication.

McCoy tenses as he picks up a soft question in a low voice, followed by silence. The question is repeated, softly, gently. And again. Then nothing for a moment, until Jim releases a low wail that rises in intensity and pitch, culminating in a burst of curses involving the terrorists' family members, the odor of their breath and their fashion sense. (Which would almost be amusing to the listeners, if it weren't punctuated at the end by a prolonged groan, making McCoy grit his teeth and curse his own uselessness.)

It's a steady reminder of Jim's fury and frustration, but McCoy thinks Jim would be pleased to know that, ironically, it seems to be serving as a morale-builder. The crew listens, and takes heart. Their Captain is broken but not bowed.

Not yet.

 

It's gone on far too long. The heartening stream of foul-mouthed swearing has ceased. Either Jim is exhausted, or has run out of things to say, or just can't speak coherently anymore. What haven't stopped are the muffled cries, the occasional sob, the hissing and gasping. McCoy is nearly frantic with worry.

In the meantime, he takes a moment to fantasize about the damage he could cause with an old-fashioned razor-sharp steel scalpel and a set of restraints. Knowledge is power.

Fuck it.

The Starfleet hostages are getting restless, muttering as quietly and unobtrusively among themselves as they can. McCoy hopes they're busy coming up with a good escape plan, because he has no thought to spare for anyone but Jim.

He wonders if their captors are planning some sort of suicide bid. Do they really hope to escape, with or without the hostages? Surely they must realize that the local authorities will respond, to say nothing of Starfleet. On the other hand, they may simply be planning to draw attention to their cause. He looks nervously at the guns that the militants have aimed at them. In the event of a frontal assault by a rescuing force, they're sitting ducks. He hisses in frustration at the idea of dying as part of a publicity stunt by colonial radicals.

He makes a mental note to give Jim hell, when and if they all get out of here, for his half-baked idea of announcing his presence and his rank to their captors. Damn idiot.

If Jim hadn't been taken—hadn't offered himself up like a damn sacrificial lamb with a hero complex, he corrects himself furiously—he'd no doubt have already analyzed their position for self-defense and potential rebellion. Jim is a brilliant military tactician; he would be able to figure out what direction the rescue attempt would come from, and what they should do in the meantime.

It occurs to him that Jim is being questioned—interrogated and tortured—because the militants are planning to use him as their ticket to freedom. They'll eventually drag some key piece of information out of him and use it as a bargaining chip. The rest of them will be expendable, but Jim may be held indefinitely.

 

It had been his idea to come to the restaurant, he recalls with a guilty start. Overworked and stressed as usual, Jim had suggested that they forego dinner while he finished some overdue reports, and hit a bar later, but McCoy had insisted.

Come relax, Jim. Eat some fresh food and stop pushing yourself so hard.

I'm really not in the mood.

You don't have to be in any particular mood. It's food, you eat it.

Go ahead without me. I'll eat here and go drinking with you afterwards, I promise.

Being a paperwork perfectionist isn't going to keep them alive next time, and you know it. You can't plan for every eventuality. And everyone on this ship knows what the risks are.

I'm not saying they don't. But I can't afford to overlook anything.

It's just dinner, Jim. You can obsess over your reports tomorrow. I want you to come with me tonight. Do it for me.

There's a strange thump on the roof. McCoy looks up instinctively. He isn't sure if he imagined it. But no, other hostages are trading questioning glances with each other.

Muffled sounds are coming from the direction of the restaurant, and the hostages hush simultaneously as the militants begin speaking nervously among themselves. Several of them place themselves near the door, others move toward the back exit. But plenty of them stay where they are, guns trained unflinchingly on the Starfleet personnel.

One of the radicals approaches the small office where Jim is being questioned and says something in an urgent tone. McCoy nearly collapses with relief as the leader and his two henchmen come bursting out of the room; but then his heart sinks as he sees one hastily pulling up his pants—Shit, shit!—grasping a knife with a red-tipped blade in his hand.

McCoy strains to listen, but there are no sounds coming from within the small room.

He calculates the risk of rushing over there while the terrorists are occupied with what appears to be a confrontation with whoever has finally realized that they're being held in here, God damn them for their slowness. But the madmen look coldly murderous and for all his worry, McCoy knows that taking stupid risks with his own life won't help Jim. He can just imagine what Jim would say if he tried.

And then all hell breaks loose as an explosion blows a hole in the ceiling and another detonation blasts the door to the restaurant off its hinges. Things are happening too fast for him to make much sense of them, the room is full of smoke and gunfire and rapidly moving people in black uniforms, and he decides that his most prudent move is to lay flat on the floor and attract as little attention to himself as possible.

It's over quickly, but not bloodlessly. There are casualties from the gunfire among the hostages and several of the extremists. McCoy is torn between his need to get to Jim as fast as possible, and his responsibility to help those who are bleeding within a few steps of him. The Enterprise crewmembers plead for him by name—"Dr. McCoy, we need you over here!"—and how can he not go? But he knows that there are local medical teams moving among them, and he can only think about Jim.

 

 "Jim," he calls softly, and closes the office door carefully behind him. "It's me. It's okay. They're gone, it's over now."

He gets no answer from the limp, naked figure on the floor in the corner, but he continues talking gently, soothingly, as he approaches. "Don't worry, there's no one here but me. I'll get you up to the ship as fast as I can. Just relax, no one's going to hurt you now."

He isn't sure whether Jim is unconscious or simply unresponsive. Either way, he knows to proceed cautiously. Jim's been injured before on away missions, and of course McCoy has treated him after bar fights and other self-destructive idiocies during their Academy years, but this is different. This is torture and rape, and McCoy can't predict Jim's reaction.

When he reaches Jim, curled on his left side facing the wall, he gently presses on his shoulder in order to turn him onto his back. Jim grunts, but doesn't otherwise respond. As McCoy's eyes move over the pale form, beginning to catalogue the damage, he feels himself detaching emotionally, going into professional mode. He has to, if he's going to function.

Right now, until the crisis passes, he can't think of the fact that this is Jim, his best friend, his lover. He's a patient in acute distress, and McCoy is his doctor.

I hate doctors. You in particular.

Not me, Jim. You obviously don't hate me or you wouldn't keep finding excuses to land in my Med Bay.

Don't flatter yourself. I take risks because it's part of my job. I put myself on the line for my crew. Stop over-analyzing it.

Admit it. You just hate being in a position where somebody has to take care of you.

Depends which part of my body you're taking care of, Bones.

It's not a joke.

And you've got it wrong, anyway. It's not about being taken care of. It's about having a choice about who puts their hands on me and how they do it.

That's how I do my job, you little shit. I don't need the patient's permission to touch him.

See? That's why I hate doctors.

His hands begin moving lightly over Jim's skin, which is clammy and cold, probing, assessing, exploring. Jim's eyes are open and he watches McCoy with a dazed expression, but doesn't speak. His breathing is rapid and shallow. Jim is, not surprisingly, in shock.

"Look at me, Jim," he urges, hovering over him, trying to get him to make eye contact. Jim's reactions are slow and he seems disoriented. He looks up, but won't look McCoy in the eye. His pupils are dilated. McCoy frowns.

"It's me, Jim," he says again. "You're gonna be all right. You have to cooperate with me now." Jim shakes his head slightly, but McCoy doesn't know whether he means that he won't be all right, or that he doesn't want to cooperate, or that he's simply expressing a negation of the whole experience.

As much as he sympathizes with Jim's need to crawl into himself and hide, he can't leave him be. Jim needs to start communicating and become an active participant in his own treatment, the sooner the better. He grasps Jim's right hand. The broken right arm hangs at a sickeningly unhealthy angle, and nerve damage is a distinct possibility. "Squeeze my fingers," McCoy orders firmly, and then more sharply, "Come on, Jimmy. Do it." There is a pause while Jim takes a breath, weakly moves his fingers and moans.

"That's okay, that's good," McCoy says reassuringly.

"S'not good," Jim mumbles, voice hoarse. "Fuckin' hurts."

Inwardly sighing with relief at his first verbal response, McCoy rolls his eyes, affecting his usual Jim-you're-an-idiot demeanor. "What did you expect, you moron, I told you not to draw attention to yourself with these crazies." He continues his manual examination, palpating Jim's abdomen and gingerly fingering the knife cuts he's displaying on all visible body parts.  

"Don't…" Jim squirms away feebly. "Leave me 'lone."

"Not yet, kid."

McCoy has worked as a trauma surgeon in a city hospital. He's familiar with the diagnostic protocols involved in assessing multiple injuries, and as he conducts his initial assessment, he's already deciding on treatment priorities and surgical interventions.

He pats Jim's left arm and says, "I'll be right back." He races out into the main room and calls for a blanket and a stretcher.

 

Part Three: Overload

Jim hopes that Bones will hurry up with a blanket, because he's started shivering uncontrollably. Also he's naked and feeling way too vulnerable. The funny thing is that he's not really cold. His body feels strangely warm and the pain seems far away.

When Jim was six, just after his mother remarried, they took a trip to Cape Cod, spending a week at an old beach cottage that belonged to his new stepfather's family. It was his first introduction to the powerful, relentless waves of the Atlantic Ocean, and at first, he was too terrified to enter the water. The penetrating, salty smell of the sea and the ever-present low roar of the breaking waves both attracted and repelled him, and the first contact of the icy water with his toes made him gasp and retreat to the safety of the dry sand. But he couldn't stay away, longing to join the line of squealing, ecstatic kids jumping further out, heads disappearing periodically under the waves or floating gracefully over them.

He wasn't a good swimmer and he was only allowed to go in the water if he was with someone older and stronger. He could go with Sam, but Sam was impatient with him, preferring to jump waves in the deeper water. His mother was sensitive to the cold and wouldn't go in at all, but he didn't mind much. He knew that she was lying on her blanket on the sand, watching him peripherally while she worked on her PADD or just lay back sunbathing. He was happy enough to know that she was nearby, and after all, he never expected to be the center of her attention. She was always distracted, and Jim was independent, so it worked out pretty well, he thought.

Lately, she was in a better mood and more energetic than usual, and he figured it was because of Frank. If only for that reason, he was willing to give Frank a chance. Jim was even a little excited by the idea of finally having a father—stepfather, but that was practically a father, wasn't it?--that was around all the time and steady and normal.

He went into the waves once with Frank. But there was something wrong. First of all, he held Jim's hand too tightly, striding in at his own quick, no-nonsense pace and pulling Jim after him mercilessly. "Better get in all at once, don't drag it out," he said. Jim could see the merits of that, but the water was just so cold. He began tugging on Frank's arm, digging in his heels and trying to make him wait, but Frank just pulled back harder, making Jim stumble after him.

Jim was forced to concede that after a few minutes, he did get used to the cold, and then Frank grinned at him, saying, "See? Told ya. You gotta be brave." And that totally made Jim fume, because he was brave, everyone said so, and his dad was a hero and he was going to be just like him. And Frank had no business implying that Jim was afraid, because he wasn't, not really. Being in the ocean was just new to him.

So after that he told his mom and Frank that he was fine going in by himself, and he wanted to play near the shore anyway. He did, at first, until they took their eyes off him and started becoming more involved in their own affairs, as usual. He started going deeper into the water, hesitantly at first. But then he had an idea for a game. He moved forward purposefully toward the nearest line of crashing waves and steeled his muscles as the smaller waves broke over him, daring himself not to move. If the wave made him fall, then the rule was that he had to go back to the shore and wade in again, but if he managed to stand up under the onslaught, then he allowed himself to take another step deeper in.

He played that way happily for almost thirty minutes before he began to notice a strange warmth creeping up over his body. He thought that was a little odd, since until then the water had been so cold that he had lost feeling in the soles of his feet. But now he was warm, even comfortable, so he continued his game, testing himself and proving his courage. He was proud of the way he was conquering the waves, and he imagined telling Sam about the game. Maybe Sam would agree to play with him after lunch.

By the time Frank finally pulled him out of the water, he was in second stage hypothermia. His lips were blue, and his limbs were so stiff that he could barely move them. His mother wrapped him in towels—that was nice and cozy—and made him drink hot tea, and Frank told him that he should have had the sense to get out of the water when he started feeling so cold. He tried to explain, through chattering teeth, that he had felt warm, really warm, but neither of them believed him.

 

He feels that same warmth spread through his body now, holding him in its glow. The pain is there, too, but it's somehow detached from his emotional response. He knows at some level that he's feeling pain, but he just doesn't seem to care.

It's a blessed relief.

The door to the little office is shut—finally!—and he closes his eyes, grateful to be alone, though he knows it won't be for long. He's a little dizzy, and in his mind's eye he imagines himself floating on the ocean waves, twisting and swaying in the currents. The sun is pleasantly hot, the waves bob him up and down, and he can hear the shouts and calls of the other swimmers.

Actually, the waves must be really big because some of the swimmers sound panicky and frightened. He wonders if he should get out of the water, maybe head back toward shore.

Gradually it filters through his fuzzy consciousness that the shouts and cries he's hearing don't belong to nervous body surfers, but are coming from just outside the door. With a start, he realizes that these are the cries of the other hostages. He dredges up a vague memory of the sound of gunshots and explosions and he is suddenly fully alert.

Outside his little room, there's a lot of yelling and it sounds like a few people are crying.

He knows that he should be there. He should be in command. If he were, his people would feel safer and he could help organize the chaos. He is at his best in situations like this, calm and clear-headed with adrenaline blazing through his veins. He feels a pang of guilt – they need him, but he can't respond.

For a light-headed moment, he imagines himself racing outside, naked as a jaybird and covered in blood, ready to take command. That would really add to his legend, he thinks.

But to be honest—and he is ruthlessly honest with himself, despite what his detractors think—he has no desire to rush out there. He doesn't want to move from the protective solitude of this room. He can't imagine showing his face to his crew, pretending to be in command and in control, when he has so recently revealed himself to be no more than a weak plaything in the hands of these monsters.

(Oh God not that again, how could they know, did it show so clearly?)

The strange warmth is wearing off and the pain is making itself felt again, so he reluctantly brings his attention back to his own sorry situation. The news from his body is not good. The fact is, he isn't about to run anywhere.

He tries to take inventory, moving his limbs carefully. His left knee throbs with an unpleasant sharp twinge, and there is a burning pain down his left side. His broken right arm has announced its unhappy presence again with a vengeance. He becomes slowly aware of a cacophony of jarring hurts and raw sores that begins to roll over him in waves.

 

"Before I joined the Movement, I was an artist," the leader had told Jim. "Now I use a different canvas." Jim hadn't understood what he meant.

"I thought artists devote their lives to beauty, not senseless violence!"

"Artists portray the reality that they see," he corrected, unperturbed. "And you are a typical representative of Starfleet, blindly defending the Federation and its whims."

"Then explain your position to me. Let the hostages go without harm, and I give you my word that I will take your case to the Federation."

"Talk is useless when no one listens. We are tired of petitioning our government and being ignored. The current government seized power illegally, but your Federation negotiated its treaties with them anyway. They do not represent us."

"Talk to me. Let me help. I can—"

"Yes, you can help us, starship captain," he told Jim pleasantly, raising the knife into Jim's line of vision, letting the light glint off the blade. "You can provide us with information that will give us bargaining power with the Federation."

With a sinking feeling, Jim realized what he had meant by "a different canvas." The knife was his paintbrush, and Jim would be…

He tried to damp down the terror that threatened to paralyze his vocal chords with some kickass cursing, but it didn't stop the sharp sting of the lateral cuts or the piercing agony of the deeper stab wounds. And the questions and the pain and the horror went on and on, endlessly.

He tried desperately to call upon his so-called Starfleet "training," which was meant to carry him through situations such as these. But the cognitive techniques he had been taught in the course—and had used successfully in the practical phase of the simulation—proved woefully inadequate in the situation at hand. Again and again, he tried to focus, to escape into a corner of his mind where the pain couldn't touch him. But the knife drew him back every time.

Jim doesn't remember too clearly what happened from then on, and he thinks he may have lost consciousness more than once. At one point, he recalls with a burning sense of shame, the knife was used to slice off the remnants of his torn clothing, and then…

(You're nothing but a liar and a thief, and you don't fool me like you fool everybody else, you're finally gonna get what you deserve)

But he doesn't want to think about that.

 

Too quickly, the door bursts open, and Bones is there again, carrying a stretcher and a blanket and accompanied by a local medic. He looks harried and preoccupied, but he takes a moment to touch Jim's cheek and say, "Hey, kiddo, still with me?"

Jim recoils from the sudden touch, but he is impressed despite himself. Bones has never struck him as someone who puts great stock in the concept of bedside manner. Jim is so used to his grumpy I'm-disgusted-with-you reprimands that they're almost comforting in their familiarity. But this concerned gentleness is so off for Bones that it makes Jim nervous.

Don't worry about me, he thinks, but somehow it comes out as "Get the fuck away." Bones' mouth tightens into a hard line.

For the first time, he wonders what it must have been like for Bones to be outside the door, listening to what went on inside. Fuck, fuck!  He knows what he sounded like toward the end of the interrogation, and the thought of Bones—of any member of his crew—hearing the way he screamed and moaned makes him want to cringe. And hide away for a long, long time.

(Pretty blue eyes, such a soft mouth, it's what you want, isn't it, always pushing and provoking me, what did you expect would happen?)

"On the count of three, onto the stretcher," McCoy instructs. "Brace yourself, Jim, this is going to hurt."

He is Captain James T. Kirk, but for the better part of a day, he has been humiliated and broken and they all heard it.

Hands on either side of him grasp his shoulders, support his head, and slide under his legs. Before he can take a breath and accustom himself to the touch, he is being lifted and gently settled onto a firm, padded surface. It's soothingly cold and that feels good, but almost immediately he's inundated with complaints from various extremities that didn't appreciate being moved. He grunts and closes his eyes, focusing on his breathing, inandoutinandout, until he can tolerate the new position.

He feels a rush of air above him and then a thin blanket is draped over his body from chest to toes. He wonders if Bones would mind covering up his face, too.

But Bones is muttering some kind of medical lingo to the other medic, and they work in tandem, strapping him carefully to the stretcher. Bones stabilizes his right arm against his side, and the medic attaches a monitoring cuff to his left bicep. Together they raise the stretcher to waist level, and then Jim feels himself gliding smoothly along the floor and out the door.

There is a crush of noise and he looks up, but he can't see much beyond McCoy's chest as he leans over Jim protectively and guides the stretcher. People are calling for Dr. McCoy, but Jim hears him growl "Back away!" and "Not now, Lieutenant," as they race through the anteroom and the restaurant. McCoy speaks urgently into his communicator, and the world drops away.

 

Chapter Four: Crisis Management

McCoy slams his fist on the intercom button in the Transporter Room, keeping the stretcher close at his side. He presses his left hand against Jim's shoulder—Jim is staring blankly at nothing, looking pained and withdrawn—and starts barking orders: "Attention, crew: this is Dr. McCoy speaking. Clear the corridors on Deck Four and Deck Six. Medical, prepare for incoming casualties! Ready both ORs. Send M'Benga with a team to the Transporter Room. Chapel, meet me in Treatment Room Three."

He hurries the stretcher through the empty hallways to Medical. As he moves, he keeps up a constant soft murmur that is meant to focus Jim, to draw him back from wherever he's gone: "Don't worry, we'll have you fixed up in no time. I'll give you something for the pain in a minute. I'm taking you to MedBay now. I cleared the corridors, just relax." Jim doesn't respond beyond a grimace and a flick of his eyes to the side, which McCoy interprets easily—he knows Jim pretty well—as "Shut the fuck up."

He does.

Christine is waiting for him in the treatment room, calm and attentive, but her mask breaks as she glimpses Jim for the first time. "Oh, God," she murmurs, as she sees the bloody cuts on the Captain's cheeks and creeping over the back of his neck--all that is visible above the blanket--and Jim flinches at her reaction. But she recovers quickly; after all, it's not the first time she's had to treat a seriously injured Captain. She arranges her expression into something resembling bland reassurance and smiles down at him. "Glad to have you back here, Captain, we were worried about you."

McCoy nods at her. He was right to choose her to assist; she's the most professional of his nurses and the most discreet.

They gently transfer Jim to the biobed and she hands him the tricorder, peeking over his shoulder to see the readings with him. The intra-abdominal injuries that he'd suspected through his cursory manual exam are confirmed. Most of the other cuts are superficial—painful and messy and potentially disfiguring, but not life-threatening. Jim's humerus fracture should have been an uncomplicated injury, but it looks as if the break was deliberately aggravated. He shudders at the thought. The bones are now completely misaligned and there is damage to the surrounding tendons and ligaments.

He scans lower. Christine's eyes widen, and she gives him a questioning look: What the hell happened down there? There are signs of abrasions from the rape, but nothing that will require invasive procedures, thank God. Still, it will need topical treatment and he can't hide that. There are no secrets in a medical ward. Jim knows that, too.

Christine starts an IV line and he instructs her to administer a sedative and begin prepping Jim for surgery. Jim closes his eyes, and McCoy notes with satisfaction that she clasps his left hand until he loses consciousness.

 

When McCoy emerges from surgery, all he can think is: Food. Shower. Drink. In that order.

He's been updated on the other casualties, knows they're not serious and are being cared for. Jim will be out for a few more hours, and he needs to rest and process what's happened, and think about how he's going to approach…things.

But Spock is waiting for him, stern and coolly expressionless as usual. His hands are clasped behind his back in his favorite pose, the one that makes McCoy think that he's got something to hide.

McCoy is drawn to hands, because hands are easy to read. The eyes may be the windows of the soul, but hands are the gateway to the heart. Hands reveal so much, from the way they are held, the way the fingers move, how they feel when you grasp them. McCoy has surgeon's hands, steady and exquisitely sensitive. Jim's hands, he knows from close observation, are strong and animated and constantly in motion. He loves to watch them.

Spock tends to conceal his hands from view. He never instigates casual touch. Even when seated at a table, Spock keeps his hands in his lap unless he's holding a utensil or operating a console. Spock's posture, McCoy thinks, conveys secrecy and evasiveness. Perhaps this is typical behavior among touch telepaths, a sort of necessary defensive mechanism, but he doesn't like it.

"What is the Captain's condition, Doctor?" Spock inquires without preamble.

"How much do you—"

"I have been briefed on the events in the restaurant by the uninjured crewmembers. I am aware of how the Captain…" he pauses, as if searching for an appropriate word, "…acquired his injuries."

McCoy nods. Good. At least he won't have to tell that story.

"There's nothing life-threatening. They broke his arm, beat him, and then used a knife."

"Please be more specific." Spock's voice is annoyingly calm.

McCoy sighs, and begins a more detailed description. He doesn't mention the rape. He considers briefly whether it could be considered part of doctor-patient confidentiality and therefore non-disclosable, but he can't really justify it. Jim would certainly prefer that the information remain private, but the fact is, he's not a private citizen. He clearly identified himself to his captors as a high-ranking representative of Starfleet and the Federation, and knowing that, they tortured and sexually assaulted him. There is no way that he can keep that from public record; if the Federation seeks legal redress, Jim may even be called to testify. So Spock has to know.

He's a doctor; he can discuss the clinical aspects of rape without flinching. It carries no more stigma to him than any other bodily insult; in fact, he can think of many injuries to body and mind which are much, much worse. He should be able to talk about it bluntly and dispassionately.

But he chickens out. He's just too tired, and he can't bring himself to say the words Jim was raped. "There's more, but I'll put it in my medical report," he says, and looks Spock in the eye. Spock is nothing if not thorough; undoubtedly, he will read the report and find out for himself.

Spock nods, as if deciding not to press him. "Very well. I would like to speak with him as soon as possible. Please page me when he regains consciousness."

"Spock…" McCoy hesitates. It's not that simple, he wants to tell him. Maybe Spock doesn't understand the repercussions of an experience like what Jim went through. How can he? I didn't tell him everything. "After something like this, Jim may be a little withdrawn. He won't be himself. He needs time to recuperate, not only physically, but emotionally."

"So I surmised, Doctor," Spock says evenly. "And I expect that you, too, need to recover."

"I'm fine," he tells him, taken aback. "Just a little tired."

"Perhaps you should rest. I know that you have a close relationship with the Captain," Spock says quietly. "You must have experienced his suffering keenly, being held close enough to hear his distress yet unable to prevent it."

Hearing Spock's simple but painfully accurate words, McCoy finds his throat suddenly swollen, and feels as if the wave of emotion he has been holding at bay is suddenly threatening to overwhelm him.

He swallows and takes a deep breath. "That's a fair description."

Spock averts his gaze and seems uncomfortable. "The other hostages that I interviewed were quite clear about it in their accounts. And you should know, Doctor, that those of us who remained outside, either onboard the ship or at the colony's military headquarters like myself, also experienced…the unpleasant sensation of helplessness."

McCoy doesn't respond, ashamed that he hasn't stopped to think about what it must have been like for those who could only watch, wait, and worry. And he can't quite grasp the fact that Spock, of all people, is showing him sympathy and kindness.

Spock seems to take his lack of response for agreement, saying, "I will be waiting for your call." He turns away, hands still locked behind his back.

Watching Spock's stiff, retreating figure, McCoy finds himself looking at his hands. He notices how tightly Spock is clasping his fingers together, how the knuckles are white, how the tension runs up through his biceps and into his taut shoulders.

He considers, for the first time, that the Vulcan's hands may be expressing something other than evasiveness, after all.

 

McCoy grabs something to eat and allows himself the luxury of a quick shower, but feels compelled to make rounds before collapsing on his office couch. The Enterprise crew was lucky; there are shrapnel wounds and blast trauma that bear watching, but Jim is the most acutely injured.

Sulu has been treated for phaser burns—painful as hell but not serious per se—and tugs at his sleeve as he stands next to his bed, checking the readings. "Hey, doc, how's the Captain?" he asks.

"He'll be fine," McCoy says. "He's out of surgery."

"That's good. Good. But why was he…I mean, what did they, uh…" His voice trails off awkwardly.

McCoy's not sure how to answer. How much should he reveal? He's not even sure himself what happened to Jim, although he saw the end result. And Sulu was there, listening, like the rest of them. He's Jim's hand-to-hand training partner, and Jim would certainly consider him a friend.

"Let him tell you himself, if he wants to," he finally offers.

He decides to go to sleep before anyone asks him any more questions.

 

He wakes with a start four hours later. Who turned down the lights in his office, he wonders, annoyed. Had to be Chapel. That woman is a damned mother hen, he thinks ruefully, although he knows that he needed the sleep. He splashes some water on his face and stumbles groggily toward the small recovery room where Jim was taken after the surgery.

Jim's awake, talking with Christine, and he feels a flash of guilt for not being there when he came out of anesthesia, which is always a disorienting and unpleasant experience for him. But Christine has seen it before and she knows how to talk him through it.

From the sound of things, Jim's been up for a while.

"McCoy'll want to keep me here for a week," he hears Jim saying to Christine, as he walks toward the room.

"Take your time and rest for once, Captain. There's no rush."

"And I look like a tribal warrior," he complains. "It'll scare all the girls off."

"The marks shouldn't leave a scar," Christine tells him gently. The dermal regeneration hasn't begun yet; his cuts have been sealed and treated to prevent infection, but cosmetic reconstruction is a post-surgical intervention.

"That's a good thing," Jim says. "People already think I'm an obsessive attention-seeker." Chapel laughs softly and shakes her head.

McCoy steps into the room, leans against the wall and folds his arms over his chest, thinking, what the hell. Jim's voice is a little weak, but he's smiling.

He doesn't look at McCoy.

But Christine does. She frowns at him from behind Jim's head. Something's not right, she's saying. Christine's an experienced nurse and she knows about the stages of recovery from abuse and trauma. Flirting and self-deprecating humor aren't normal reactions.

McCoy knows more about Jim's issues than she does, and if there's one thing Jim can't stand, it's being made to feel weak and helpless—again. So he isn't surprised to see that denial, defiance, and bravado, the trademarks of his stormy adolescence, have been resurrected for this situation.

"I can't imagine why," McCoy drawls from the corner of the room.

"Bones, it's about time you got here," Jim says, winking at Christine, "I wanted to ask you—"

"The answer's no."

"You don't even know what the question is." He's still looking at Christine, who's giving Jim her listen-to-the-doctor-if-you-know-what's-good-for-you look.

"I know what you want to ask, and no, you can't leave Medical yet."

Jim finally looks up at him, and McCoy sees enough in that brief moment of eye contact to convince him that Chris has to leave the room right now

"Christine, why don't you let me check over the Captain," he says, phrasing it as a request but speaking in a tone of voice that makes it clear that she'd better move, and pronto.

As she leaves the room, the animation drains from Jim's face, and he closes his eyes. He looks exhausted and very young. McCoy sinks down into the chair next to his bed. He strokes the hair off Jim's sweaty forehead and pats his shoulder.

They don’t say anything for a long time.

 

Chapter Five: Retreat

The itching is simply driving him out of his mind. And it's everywhere, all over his body, on his legs, arms, sides, chest, cheeks, and back. Skin doesn't regenerate instantly, it's a process of stimulating the growth through medication and radiation in a way that the body was never meant to function, and the body's retaliation for this abuse is prickling, crawling irritation. It's godawful and constant, and it makes him want to punch someone.

When he was a small boy, he was fascinated with the way his body healed itself from the scrapes and scratches that he seemed to come home with daily. The scabs would form, ugly and crusted over with blood. When he poked them, the skin underneath felt sore and sensitive, but as they dried, he'd begin to peel them off. He loved to discover the shiny, pink new skin that was revealed underneath, hidden and protected until it was ready to be seen. His mother would scold him for picking at the scabs—whenever she could catch him at it, and if she happened to be looking, which didn't happen too often—but he couldn't stop himself. He loved to watch the way his body knew how to heal itself, like magic.

But there's nothing natural about the healing he's experiencing now, and the worst of it is, he's lost all semblance of privacy about the process. Bones has moved him into the main ward over Jim's heated protestations—Nobody gets a private room in my Medbay unless they're dying, and it won't kill you to interact with people during the day, you know—and though he tries to keep the privacy screen around his bed activated, the nurses seem to think that it isn't meant for them. They walk in unannounced, cheerful and smiling (How are you feeling, Captain?) and focus on this or that intimate bodily function, and it's all he can do not to tell them exactly how he's feeling and see what they'd do with that information. It takes so much energy to look them in the eye and nod and answer their intrusive questions and allow them to touch him. But it's not their fault and Bones would murder him if he abused his staff.

And there's that damned biobed, which is too high and uncomfortable. It hums and bleeps softly with his heartbeat, and it gives away entirely too much information that should be his decision to reveal or not. He hates the fact that the monitor is above and behind his head where he can't see it. The medical staff spends less time looking him in the eye than scrutinizing the readout. He can't really blame them for that either, because he knows that he's a horribly uncooperative patient. When he says "I feel fine" with his most persuasive look of sincerity, the monitor is uncompromising in its straightforward honesty: cardiac rhythm, blood pressure, muscle tension, skin conductance, respiration rate and God knows what else.

When he gives in to the impulse to scratch, the biobed gives him only a few seconds of relief before an alarm starts blaring. It's humiliating and makes him feel like a child again, caught in the act. (Don't pick at your scabs, Jimmy!) Chapel rushes in with a gentle reminder, then a reprimand. The third time the alarm goes off, he gets Bones with a threat: stop scratching or you'll find yourself in hand restraints, which makes Jim scowl.  

"I told you, you can't scratch or you'll disrupt the healing process. Stop acting like an eight-year-old." McCoy looks harried and preoccupied, as if Jim and his wandering hands are disrupting his routine, which, to be fair, is probably true.

Bones reaches out to touch the new skin on Jim's face, neck, and arm. His fingers are warm, gentle and soothing like a caress, but Jim feels his heart clench and his stomach knot. A wave of panic shudders through him.

(stop making so much noise dammit or I'll give you a reason to holler)

Bones looks at him questioningly.

He sees too much, and Jim does not want to have that conversation, so he rolls his eyes. "Thanks, Bones. That's very helpful. Remind me to give you a commendation for your flawless bedside manner."

Bones sighs, still probing with his fingers on Jim's bare skin, smoothing his thumb over the healing gash on his side. "The most effective anti-pruritics I have are cortisol-based, and you're allergic to that entire class of drugs. I can give you another application of Tetracaine--"

"Doesn't work, and it smells—"

"So since you don't want that, I'd suggest you just try to distract yourself. Watch a vid or read a novel."

Jim waves him away, irritable and frustrated. He knows that he's being annoying and difficult. He hates that he's pushing Bones away, but he can't help himself. Or maybe he can, but he doesn't want to.

He lays back, blowing out his breath in a huff in an attempt to rid himself of some of the tension. There's something so reassuringly familiar about the way he's acting. It seems like he's always known how to aggravate the people around him. He doesn't know why he's doing this to Bones, who only wants to help him, but it's like any ingrained bad habit, soothing in its own dysfunctional way. It's what he knows.

He was always a difficult child, but not for the reasons that people usually expected. They heard his story—the widowed and grieving mother, the poor kid who never knew his father—and made excuses for his behavior, thinking that he was simply bitter from the blows life dealt him and needed some sympathy and understanding.

Ha. He'd always known what the problem was, and it wasn't his family circumstances, although that certainly became a factor, later. But the real problem was him.

"You were always too much for Mom to take," Sam told him once bitterly, and Jim knew, without being told, exactly what he'd meant: too smart and too quick, too intense and too inquisitive. Too different and volatile, in a family that craved normalcy and stability. From Sam's point of view, he'd been a symbol of the catastrophe that had befallen their family. Sam had been a regular, happy seven-year-old when his world had collapsed around him. His father was gone, his mother was broken, and he was presented with a squalling premature baby brother who needed so much attention.

 

Sam was the center of his world, for a while. He was older and stronger and knew how to read. Sam already knew all kinds of things that Jim wanted to learn, about dinosaurs and numbers and starships. Sam had a huge star chart of all the constellations on the wall of their room, and he liked to point them out to Jim, one after the other. "Here's Antares, the heart of the Scorpion. This one's Taurus. It means a bull and there are the horns, see?" Jim spent hours looking at the chart, staring at the words and images, imagining his father up among the stars. Everyone said that his father was in Heaven, which meant the sky, so he wondered if his father could see the constellations now too.

His mother came into the room one day and sat with him, smiling as he pointed out the constellations to her. He loved the fact that she was sitting with him, and to keep her there, he decided to show her all of them. He read out the names, one by one, even the ones that Sam didn't tell him about.

"You can read, Jimmy?" she asked in surprise, looking at him sharply. "But you just turned three years old…"

"Uh huh, look, this says Andromeda and Capricorn and Dorado, Mommy, and I know all the names, and do you think Dad can—"

"You taught yourself to read using this star chart?" she asked abruptly. He stopped and looked at her, wondering why she seemed upset. Did he do something wrong? She was looking at him strangely, and he didn't like that, so he decided to go outside to play.

He learned that he was different from other kids, not in any way that you could see easily, and it wasn't his fault, but he just couldn't fit in. When he was little he thought that the problem was allergies, because everybody else could eat peanuts and milk and eggs and he couldn't. At first he liked the attention, proudly announcing to his teacher that he had "anaphylaxis," which was scary-sounding and seemed impressive. But he realized that there was more to it than that.

His original excitement about going to school dissipated quickly as he discovered that his teachers didn't know how to teach him and didn't particularly like having him in class. The other kids seemed happy to be taught step-by-step, bit by excruciating bit, how to do basic math or cope with some new concept, but he was often ready to scream at the slowness. They usually forgot what they'd learned the week or month before, and they needed so much repetition and practice. Jim wanted to know everything all at once and the more detailed the information was, the better. His teachers told him that he asked too many questions and needed to learn to sit still and listen and be part of a group.

They talked to his mother about how he had special needs and that he was "gifted" and Jim knew that already, because people always told his mother that he was his father's parting gift to her, but it never seemed like a good thing.

 

He doesn't get many visitors, which he suspects is because Bones told them to stay away for now. It's just as well, because as irritable and short-tempered as he is, he should probably not come in contact with sweet well-wishers like Janice Rand or sympathetic colleagues like Scotty. Spock is the only one who he can tolerate relatively easily.

Spock informs him of the scathing complaint he's filed with Fed Legal and leaves a copy for Jim to read ("You have up to thirty days to amend the wording or appendix additional information, of course, should you find my description insufficient or inaccurate in any way.").  He discusses the political situation with the militant rebels on the colony. He reviews their new orders from Starfleet and updates him on the heading and fuel consumption and supply statistics.

Spock looks him in the eye as he always does, calm and steady, and doesn't seem uncomfortable or embarrassed. Jim doesn't need to pretend to be healthy and undamaged and he doesn't need to talk about how he feels.

That's as good as it gets today.

 

He was ten years old when the problems really began, and again, it wasn't what people thought: blame the stepfather, what a fucking cliché. Jim knew that he was the cause, because whenever Winona and Frank fought, it was always about him. Sam was withdrawn and moody, but at least he was quiet about it. But Jim couldn't keep his mouth shut.

Living with Frank wasn't easy, he would readily admit. Frank thought that Jim was mouthy and irresponsible and undisciplined, and told him so frequently. Jim didn't agree. He asked a lot of questions, true, but that was because he was trying to figure things out. He didn't object to the idea of working around the farm; he just thought that Frank's way of doing things was inefficient and time-consuming. He didn't see why he should do his chores in a particular order that Frank decided on, or at the time that Frank thought was suitable, as long as they got done once a day. He even made up an Improved Chore Schedule, distributing the tasks in the morning before school and in the late evening so that his afternoons would be free. He showed the schedule to Frank, but Frank told Jim that he needed to learn discipline and stop playing around all afternoon.

Jim needed the time in the afternoon for his research and his projects. In particular, Jim loved reading about battles and military conflicts, whether they were ancient history or modern warfare or one-on-one combat. He made maps, lists, and diagrams, detailed with notes and comments. He knew that Frank could understand about projects, because he was always tinkering with antique cars and old engines, and Jim actually respected that part of him. Frank just thought that chores had to be done first.

Besides the projects, which he mostly did on his own, he needed time for sports. He was one of the best athletes in his grade, and lonely as he was, he realized that this was one of the few areas in which he could connect easily to the other boys. Even Frank recognized sports as an important endeavor, and had given Jim the go-ahead to enroll in a martial arts class that fall. Frank was a security officer at the local Starfleet base and was teaching Jim self-defense and contact combat on the weekends.

Frank really wasn't the problem, even though he made Jim wary when he had too much to drink, which seemed to be happening more and more when Winona was away. Frank seemed to realize that Jim needed some attention, and once in a while he'd take Jim for a ride in one of his restored antiques. Once, Frank let Jim ride with him in the Corvette convertible, with the top down. Jim grinned at him, wind rippling through his hair, enjoying the hot breeze and the noise of the engine. They turned up the music and laughed together when they went flying over bumps in the road. Frank drove fast, reaching his arm out to rest on Jim's thigh, saying, "Hold on tight, now, this is a tricky curve." He squeezed Jim's leg while they went around the bend, and Jim tried to pull away because Frank was ruining the thrill of the speed, and he wasn't a little kid who needed to be held. But Frank had a tricky temper and he didn't want to annoy him or make him slow down, so he let Frank keep his hand there until the car stopped.

Jim had caught him staring at him more than once as he worked on his projects in the corner of the living room. Frank would look at him so intensely, sipping the whiskey, and the look on his face made Jim uncomfortable enough to grab his PADD, move into his bedroom and close the door.

But he knew that the real problem was his mother, and how she was pulling away from him.

He drew diagrams to try to explain it to himself. They were in a triangle: Jim and Winona and Frank. He added arrows pointing in different directions, toward him, away from him, between Starfleet and his mother, and between his mother and Frank. Sam was a satellite, a nearly-weightless entity that was breaking free of orbit and not part of this equation, it seemed. The issue was clear: the more Jim tried to attract Winona to him, the harder she pulled away, and then Frank became more of a force in the middle to balance it out.

It made sense mathematically, but he couldn't understand why it was happening. The only conclusion he could draw was that his mother didn't want to be around him, and that thought made him feel hollow and ready to explode.

He was desperate to tip the scales, to pull her back. He just didn't know how. He tried progressively more desperate tactics, but they only pushed her out of the house and into space. He was rude to Frank and disruptive in class and aggressive with the other kids. He broke things that she loved. He hid Frank's tools. At home he alternatively clung to her and raged at her. Frank and Winona started fighting more and more about "what to do about the boy," while Jim seethed in his room.

One thing was clear from the diagrams: the harder he pulled on her, the more he demanded of her time, the harder she leaned away from him and toward her work. It was an equal and opposite reaction, a law of nature. He didn't know why, but he couldn't ignore it. And the farther away she went, the closer Frank moved into his immediate sphere of influence.

 

The second session with the dermal is proving to be almost as unpleasant as the first. It doesn't hurt, exactly, but it sets his teeth on edge, somewhere between a tickle and a pinpoint shock.

"This cut's pretty deep. I'll need at least one more session." Bones is bent over his unbandaged chest, totally focused on what he's doing. It's not even vaguely a sexual situation, but it's intimate, and surely Bones can feel how fast Jim's heart is beating.

"Wait." Lying flat on his back, he squirms uncomfortably and then takes a deep breath, trying to find a comfortable position so he can lie still. Bones wanted to give him a muscle relaxant, but he much prefers the discomfort to the loss of control.

Bones glances up at him. "Need a break?"

Jim shakes his head. "This gonna take much longer?"

"Don't rush an artist, kid."

He closes his eyes, gritting his teeth and concentrating on the hot, burning itch to the exclusion of all else. It's good. It's distracting and it grates on his nerves, and it keeps his mind occupied. All day, his mind has been wandering as of its own accord to memories that were supposed to have evaporated long ago.

Bones finally grunts and sits back. He looks pleased. "That's coming along well. By the way, don't think I didn't notice that you were hell on my nurses today."

"So let me recoup in my quarters. I don't need to be coddled." He opens his eyes to see Bones looking at him appraisingly.

"Jim—"

"I don't want to talk."

"We need to talk."

"Well, I don't. I need to get back to work and move on."

Bones sighs. After a moment he says quietly, "I'd like to know what happened to you in that room."

Jim's heart starts to race and he looks at the ceiling. "I'm sure you can make a good guess."

"I don't want to guess. I want you to tell me."

"It's better if you don't know."

"Jim, you need to talk about it. I can see how you flinch every time I come near you, every time I lay a hand on you…"

"Stop pressing!" he says furiously. "Let me do it in my own fucking way. I'm used to it, I'll deal with it just like I always did, I can handle it!"

Shit. Bones is looking at him oddly.

"What do you mean by 'just like I always did'?"

He doesn't answer, just averts his eyes and scowls. "Like I always do. That's what I meant."

"I don't think it was."

"I'm the Captain of a starship. Sometimes I get hurt. It comes with the job." He controls his voice, but can't stop his neck and face from flushing red. His face feels hot and he's sweating.

"Jim, I know you. You can't just brush this aside."

"Maybe you don't know me as well as you think you do."

Bones gathers his equipment and leaves.

 

He closes his eyes and tries to sleep, but the ache in his right arm becomes a bone-deep throbbing that won't let up. It's too uncomfortable to be ignored, and he squeezes it with his other hand, rubbing the skin back and forth, trying to soothe it.

He twists onto his side and throws the sheet off his body. He's thirsty. There's a cup with a straw on the side table by his bed, but he's not supposed to sit up yet because of the surgery. The last thing he needs is more alarms and more threats, and he doesn't want to call for help because how pathetic would that be?

So he lies there in stoic frustration, hoping Bones will come back and keep him company and know, without asking, exactly what he needs.

 

Chapter Six – Release

The next morning's shift is a nightmare.

McCoy expects a jump in minor complaints, as concerned crewmembers use a burgeoning headache or an itchy throat as an excuse to wander down to Medical. "How is the Captain?" is part of every intake. (But twenty-four of them?) "Don't worry about him, just keep your own ass out of Medical," he scolds, knowing that a gruff reply is expected and will reassure the crew more than a sympathetic tone. The last thing they need to hear is an honest reply that will reflect his own concern and anxiety.

McCoy knows that the psychological climate on board a starship is a pressure cooker at the best of times; "starship psychology" is the subject of countless studies that he's made it his business to read. There is no personal space to speak of, nowhere to escape conflicts with coworkers or bad breakups with sexual partners, no sunlight, and no luxury. The food is at best tolerable; entertainment is limited. Frequent shift changes cause disrupted sleep cycles and take a harsh toll on the body. There's danger everywhere: radiation, disease, belligerent aliens, unimagined perils. Despite all the Starfleet screening, not everyone on the ship is equally equipped to handle the stress. When something happens to the Captain, it raises everyone's level of insecurity.

It's not necessarily the crewmembers who were involved in the attack who are showing signs of strain. Anyone who was emotionally vulnerable before is at risk now, and psychosomatic health glitches are the least of it. McCoy knows which crewmembers are prone to drinking too much, which ones spend too much time on the observation deck, who gets into fights and who fucks to forget. He makes it his business to know and his staff spies for him. Any crewmember who's been acting a little too introverted or antagonistic is bound to get a call from the CMO for a quarterly physical or a vaccination update.

So McCoy isn't surprised by most of the names on the sick call list. He treats S'ana for indigestion and Packer for her migraine, and makes sure that both of them come back to see him the next day for "further tests." He dispenses hangover medication to Hengli and notes in his record that he should get substance abuse counseling at the earliest opportunity.

"What the hell happened to you, Gates?" he asks, frowning at the dark-eyed, slightly-built ensign who has a bloody nose and a suspicious-looking abrasion over his left eye. The man is wound tight, blood pressure elevated, muscles taut, face kept carefully blank.

"Knocked over some equipment," he says blandly.

"Sure you did. Anyone else trip over the equipment with you?" he asks, examining the man's bruised knuckles. Gates has always had a volatile temper.

"Didn't notice."

"Naturally. If I didn't know better, I'd say it jumped up and punched you with a good right hook," he says pointedly.

"Guess I'm a little clumsy."

McCoy shakes his head and sighs, wiping an antiseptic over the cuts. He tries again. "Something you want to talk about?"

"Heard the Captain's hurt pretty bad," he says.

"The Captain's made of rubber. He'll bounce back quick enough. He doesn't break."

"Glad to hear it, Doc." McCoy gives him pain meds and a warning: get in another fight, and he'll be reported.

Got to get Jim back on his feet before the crew really begins to fall apart, he thinks.

 

"I'm releasing you to your quarters," he tells him later that morning, and Jim gives him a satisfied look. He's desperate to get out of Medical. As much as McCoy would like to have him near enough to watch over, Jim's anxiety level is so high that it's interfering with his recuperation. He's not sleeping well and it's painful to see the stress levels jump in Jim's vital signs every time he comes near.

"Now you're listening to reason," Jim says obliviously. "I need to get back to work."

Jim's been restless, uncommunicative and just barely cooperative. Though he doesn't strictly need round-the-clock care, he's not ambulatory yet. He's still weak and experiencing discomfort from the surgery. The cuts on his face, torso, and limbs are still red and angry, a vicious reminder of the experience. They're healing, but they make McCoy's stomach knot every time he looks at Jim. He cringes at the thought of how Jim's going to respond the first time he gets a glimpse at himself in the mirror.

Jim needs space, he knows. He needs some privacy and rest, and he wants time alone where he can drop his brittle mask. But he's not going to get everything he wants, because whether he realizes it or not, McCoy's only giving him a temporary respite, not an escape.

"No, I didn't say I was releasing you to active duty, moron. You're still recovering from major surgery and…uh, trauma." He doesn't say rape, but Jim's shoulders hunch unconsciously anyway. McCoy continues as if he hadn't seen it, because this isn't the place or time for that talk. "I'll send a Chapel in regularly and you'll be nice to her and do everything she says. You'll wear a monitor cuff and keep the IV in, and if you do anything more strenuous than sneeze, I'll drag you back here."

"Fine." Jim pushes himself up from the bed suddenly and swings his legs over the side of the bed as if he's about to jump down, but McCoy grabs his arm. "Not so fast, kid. You're not ready to walk around. I'll tell Chapel to get you a chair."

Jim rolls his eyes, unwilling to admit to any weakness although McCoy can see the white pallor of his skin. "Come on, Bones, it's bad for crew morale to see the Captain in a wheelchair."

McCoy thinks about some other things that have happened recently that are a lot worse for crew morale, but doesn't say that, either.

"Don’t whine and don't argue."

Jim smiles at him sweetly. "You're a control freak, Bones, but I like that about you."

"And to think I thought it was my good looks and charm. I'll check on you this evening after alpha shift," he says. "We can talk then."

Jim nods but averts his eyes.

Shit.

 

He lets Jim know that he's on his way at 1830 ("Sure, Bones, let's have a chat."). He's regrettably empty-handed, no booze to smooth the way for this conversation because Jim is still on meds. He left orders with Spock that Jim's not to be disturbed, but they've been unnecessary. He knows from the monitor and from Christine's visits that Jim has spent most of the day sleeping, as expected.

It takes his eyes a moment to adjust to the dim lighting after he walks in. "Lights, 60%," he says firmly. "Jim, time to wake up."

"I am awake," he grumbles, hunching under the covers. "I'm just tired."

"How do you feel?" he says, approaching the bed.

"Groggy. Dizzy. My head hurts," he says, giving McCoy a look of accusation. "What did you give me? I slept all day."

McCoy knows that Jim hates to be sedated but feels no qualms about tricking him. Jim's a stubborn, difficult patient on a good day, which this definitely isn't. "You needed the rest," he tells him.

McCoy approaches the bed and examines the surgical incision, the bruises, and the cuts, turning his arm this way and that, pressing lightly on the healing skin while Jim stares at the ceiling and answers his questions in monosyllables.

"Come on, I'll help you up. Brush your teeth and wash up." He puts a hand behind Jim's shoulders and gently pushes him upright.

"I can do it," he says irritably, planting his feet on the floor and trying to shrug off McCoy's steadying arm. "Let go."

 "Jim, you're still recovering from major surgery," he reminds him mildly. "Take it slowly. Just sit up, and see how that feels. I'll let you stand up in a minute."

Jim acquiesces grudgingly. Hair ruffled from sleep, face puffy, still in the loose grey pants and shirt he was dressed in after surgery, he looks vulnerable and young. It's such a poignant contrast with his abrasive demeanor that it makes McCoy smile, despite everything.

"All right," he says, grabbing the chair from behind Jim's desk and repositioning it next to the bed. "I'll be waiting out here." The message is clear.

 

It takes Jim longer than he thought it would. McCoy has time to run through several conversational openings in his mind, but all of them feel heavy-handed and intrusive. Every scenario ends with Jim clamming up and refusing to talk.

When Jim finally re-emerges from the bathroom, he's shaking his head and looking subdued. "Didn't realize what I looked like. Should've warned me," he says morosely.

Shit. "Broke the mirror, huh?"

"I was tempted."

"The marks will be gone in a week or so. You were lucky."

He laughs harshly and sits down slowly on the bed. "Doesn't feel so lucky to me."

"There's no permanent damage, Jim. You need some physiotherapy for the arm, but…"

"Right. Back to normal."

Jim's a textbook case of post-traumatic reactions: depression, anger, low self-esteem, avoidance. McCoy considers, for the first time, that Jim's command abilities may be affected unless he's able to work past these issues.

"You've been through a lot, Jim," he says. "I'm not surprised that you're tired."

"Guess you must be pretty beat, too."

McCoy nods. "That's for sure." He pauses, then laughs suddenly. "Jesus, Jim, I didn't know that you could curse like that."

Jim colors and scowls. "Well, you'd be swearing too if you were being diced like a salami."

"You were pretty creative," he says, trying to keep the conversation light. Jim is so skittish that he thinks he might close down completely if he's not careful. "When you started insulting that jerk's mother… Wish I had a recording of it."

"Not me. I don't want to think about it, and I wish you hadn't heard any of it," he says in a low voice, not meeting McCoy's eyes.

"I was glad they left the door open, Jim."

"Well, I wasn't."

"We could hear—"

"God, don't you think I know that?" he snarls, looking at him directly at last. "I couldn't keep quiet and I knew you were all out there listening! They wanted you to hear, Bones. It was on purpose, that's what they told me, because I was the symbol of their resistance to the Federation and you all were the witnesses…"

"I know. It must have been terrible, Jim. I don't care what kind of political motivations they tried to give themselves…They were just cruel and brutal. Believe me, it wasn't easy to wait outside, listening to you—"

"Fuck! I tried, I should have been able to…" His voice trails off in embarrassment.

"To what, Jim?"

He sighs and shakes his head. "Never mind. I can't explain it."

"I want you to try."

"You won't understand."

"Maybe I will."

"Look, I used the techniques…You know, the ones they gave us in that course. What a load of bullshit," he says, shaking his head. "Nothing worked. It was just too much, it hurt so bad and I couldn't get away from it, I couldn't concentrate…"

"You were scared and you were in pain. Those techniques work well enough in antiseptic conditions, Jim, not in the field. You got through it, that's what's important."

"I was making so much goddam noise that my ears are still ringing," he says disgustedly.

"And so what?" he asks, perplexed. "Why does that bother you so much? Do you honestly think you should have been able to keep your mouth shut while you were being deliberately hurt?"

"I'm a starship captain!"

McCoy is appalled. "Who the hell gave you that idea? Where does it say in your job description that you can't have a normal human reaction?"

Jim is silent.

This can't just be about what happened on the colony, McCoy thinks. Jim's reaction goes deeper. Not for the first time, he wonders what went on in his childhood home to make him think that neediness and weakness were shameful. From the little Jim has told him and what he's read in his file, McCoy knows that his mother suffered from chronic depression, and that he had a stormy relationship with his stepfather. But there's a lot he doesn't know and Jim never talks about his family.

What happened to you as a child to convince you that you couldn't cry out?

"Your expectations for yourself are too high," McCoy tells him. "There's a difference between being strong and being superhuman. Nobody could keep quiet under those circumstances! I saw what they did to you, remember? The fact that you survived it at all is a miracle."

"I know what they did, I remember everything," he says furiously. "It's bad enough to remember it myself, but I have to think about the fact that you all heard me screaming…"

"Jim…" he says helplessly, shaking his head.

"Can we just drop it?"

McCoy sighs. "Talk to me, kid. What happened in there?"

"They asked me questions and I didn't answer! They asked for codes and classified info and I told them to go fuck themselves. Then they slapped me around and cut me up and asked me again, okay?"

McCoy is struck by what Jim doesn't say. Someone has to say the word now, or he'll bury it too deep to be mentioned. Still McCoy hesitates, wondering if it will push Jim too hard.

"Jim," he says slowly, carefully, "you were raped."

Jim's face reddens. "I don't need a reminder."

"You don't need to be ashamed of it. Sexual assault's not about sex, it's about power and control. It's not any different from the other things they did to you."

"Fine, it's not any different. So just forget it, okay?"

"No! That's not what I meant." McCoy sighs. God, this is hard. "They were trying to dominate you and humiliate you, Jim, and that's why you feel so bad that you can't even talk about it."

Jim looks so tense and miserable that McCoy can hardly bear to look at him. He wants to touch him so badly, but keeps his arms at his sides.

"Tell me what happened. Don't bottle it up."

 "It doesn't help to keep going over it. That's not how I deal with things like this…"

"Things like this," McCoy repeats.

"Yes."

"Well, what the hell does that mean, Jim?" he says in frustration. "You said that yesterday…"

"I know I did."

"Well, stop dropping hints and spit it out!"

"It means…" he starts, then stops. He looks at the ceiling and takes a deep breath. "It means what you think it means, I guess."

There is a long pause between them while McCoy digests this.

"You've been raped before."

He nods. "It was a long time ago."

"You never told me."

"Well," he laughs bitterly, "You know what they say. I tried to put it behind me. Guess I was doomed to repeat it."

"It doesn't work that way, Jim. You've just had some bad luck."

Jim sets his mouth in a tense line and his expression is stony. He glances briefly at McCoy, then mutters, "I knew you'd look at me like that if you knew."

"Look, Jim," McCoy says finally. "Whatever happened to you when you were young, it's clearly still eating at you. Maybe you decided back then not to tell anyone about it, but that doesn't mean that it was the right decision. And it doesn't mean that you should do the same thing again this time."

"I’m really tired, Bones."

McCoy nods. Jim does look exhausted, pale and red-eyed, as if the admission has taken a lot out of him.

"It's all right," he tells him quietly. "You don't have to tell me now, if you don't want to, even though I'm glad you told me this much."

He turns to leave, and Jim slumps down on the bed, turning on his side away from him.

"Jim," he says to his back, "you're the strongest, most resilient person I know. Whatever bad things happened to you in the past, and whatever happened in that room, they can't define who you are, unless you let them."

Jim doesn't move, doesn't respond, but McCoy doesn't really expect him to. He reaches out, caresses his cheek, touches his shoulder.

He wants to hold him.

"I'll be back later tonight," he tells him, and leaves.

 

Chapter Seven: Control

Bones comes back and stays with him that night. He doesn't undress, just kicks off his boots and climbs into bed with him. Jim's heart clenches at the thought of another talk, more probing questions, but Bones doesn't say anything at all. He just lies on his side next to him and watches him wordlessly. He's so close that Jim can feel the breeze of his breath on his cheek. When Jim meets his gaze, he can read concern, compassion, tenderness, and something colder that he can't identify, but no pity, thankfully.

All Jim can think is that Bones is so near and so beautiful and so whole and so healthy, and a small part of him is cringing because he knows that what Bones is seeing is such a contrast to that.

Jim feels his heart starting to pound. He doesn't know what McCoy wants from him, but he guesses that he'll want more details about what happened to him. He considers feigning drowsiness, but thinks that would be too cowardly.

Their earlier conversation went badly, and he knows it was his fault. Looking back, he can recall each juncture in their talk, each time Bones tried to open a door for him and he slammed it closed. Being an ass and shutting down communication was always a specialty of his.

Jim desperately wants to feel McCoy's hands on his skin, to make him forget other hands, other touches. And he needs to prove to him that he's not too damaged, because he knows that considering what happened on the planet and what he's just revealed, the whole situation might just be too much for Bones. (God knows it's almost too much for him.) So far, he reflects, all he's proven is that he needs a good dose of therapy, which Bones has probably already noted in his medical file.

He can feel the distance between them already. During their talk, Bones seemed barely able to touch him beyond a light flutter of his fingers over his cheek, a brief squeeze on his shoulder. He can't stand the thought that even now, Bones doesn't reach out to him, just looks at him contemplatively. 

But he's been acting like a passive punching bag ever since that fucking artist pulled out his knife. He's sick of feeling helpless, hates trying to keep himself together while he's crumbling on the inside.

He knows that he has to take back the initiative, and he knows how to do that, too. But the fact is that at the moment, nothing's stirring down below, and he wonders for a minute if he is too broken, too damaged.

He licks his lips, leans over, and kisses Bones.

 

The first time Frank hit him, it wasn't a surprise. It was such a beautiful, obvious unfolding of events that Jim was perversely satisfied. It was the next logical step, predictable and reasonable in its own way. In a sense, he was in control of the situation, even if all he did was to harass and aggravate the hell out of his step-father so that he had to react the way he did.

He was twelve years old, scrawny and thin. Some of his friends were already shooting up in height, but not him. He saw it as a depressing symbol of what seemed to be the theme of his life: being left behind—by his father who died saving his life, by his mother who couldn't stand to be around him anymore, by his childhood friends who were involved in team sports and school activities, by Sam who moved out, and now even by his own immature body.

He was alone a lot. He did his chores perfunctorily and efficiently; there was a lot more work to do, now that it was just him and Frank most of the time, but he was fast.  Then he set out wandering—or exploring, as he called it--sometimes on foot, sometimes on his bike. Where he went depended on his mood.

He could sit on the banks of the English River for hours, hypnotized by the rushing water. He liked to focus on a single leaf or twig and trace its progress as it was buffeted by rocks and propelled by eddies and currents. He was fascinated by the fact that there were so many variables at work within that one trip down the river: contradictory forces, gradients, flow rate, hydraulics. No two trips through the river were ever the same, really. To him, the water was almost alive: moody and turbulent, like him. He particularly enjoyed it after a rainfall, when it was swollen, brown, dirty, and fast-moving.

Sometimes he biked down to the University library (he'd convinced the guards there that he was a faculty brat and they always let him in eventually) and just lost himself in the data banks there. He still loved military history and science, but lately he preferred to do the advanced math tutorials. Some of the proofs were so beautiful and brilliant that they couldn't help making him smile, no matter how bad his mood was when he started working. It occupied his mind and for the few hours he was there, he was completely absorbed. It calmed him.

But when he was really having a bad day, he'd just go to the park and hang out with the older kids. They tolerated him and sometimes gave him a drink or a smoke. He knew it was wrong, but Frank had taught him all about drinking to forget; it dulled the pain.

Frank always seemed to know when he'd been with "those teenage idiots," as he called them; he was a security officer and a suspicious guy by nature. When Jim came home late, he'd grab Jim by the shoulders, make him look him straight in the eye, smell his breath, and make him account for his time away from home. It was actually kind of ironic, Jim thought, because Frank held him so closely that Jim could smell the alcohol on the hypocrite's breath. He didn't like Frank's hands on him, pinning him down, but Frank was a tall, heavyset man and Jim couldn't do a thing to stop him physically.

Jim was becoming an accomplished liar, but it didn't always work. Frank yelled and lectured and gave him strict warnings. Jim played the sullen, smart-assed teenager for all he was worth. He might not have been strong, but he had a mouth and a brain. He was sarcastic and insulting and pretended he didn't care what Frank thought. He goaded him and provoked him, and the decibel level in the house threatened to set new records.

The day it began, Jim had gone through the usual boring routine at school. When he got home, he saw that Winona had sent him a recorded message on his PADD.  It was chatty and chipper, guaranteed to make him smile. He knew that she was happiest when she was in the black and he wanted her to be happy, but thinking of her there filled him with such fury that he threw the PADD at the wall as hard as he could. The PADD was made of unbreakable plastic, but the wall wasn't, and he was gratified to see the old plaster chip, leaving a mark.

He went to the park until after dark, and got good and buzzed. He walked home slowly, feeling not quite awake or attached to his body. When he got home, he knew that there was no way that Frank wouldn't be able to tell what he'd been doing, but he didn't have the energy for the fight that would inevitably ensue. He just wanted to be alone, so he ignored Frank's call to him from the living room and tried to make it to his bedroom without interference.

Frank was faster than he thought, and met him by the stairs. "Didn't you hear me calling you, Jim?" he said sharply, with that suspicious look in his eye.

Jim tried to brush past him, claiming that he was tired, but it didn't work and Frank was too close, right in his space. "Back off and let me by," he growled—or tried to growl, but it came out as squeakier than he'd intended—and of course that only made Frank even more determined. Jim wouldn't answer his questions and soon they were both screaming at each other.

Jim's head was still spinning a little and he finally gave in to what he'd wanted to do for so long. He tried a martial arts move that Frank had taught him, which was supposed to be useful for taking down an opponent that was bigger than him. He put all his strength and speed into it, although his muscles didn't seem to be reacting as fast as they normally did.

Frank didn't budge, just looked at him appraisingly. Then he drew back his right hand and slapped him, hard, across the jaw. He put his weight behind it and Jim would have fallen down, except Frank was holding him up by the shoulder with his left hand. It was a harsh blunt impact, and his eyes flooded with tears. He didn't really feel much pain—that came later—but he was filled with a rush of anger and adrenaline so exhilarating that it lifted him out of that place of cold emptiness where he'd been all day. It enraged and electrified him. He kicked out blindly, trying to do some damage, but Frank just shook him by the shoulders and dropped him unceremoniously on the floor.

"Don't you dare try that again," he said, and walked away.

Humiliated, Jim got up shakily, walked to his bedroom, and slammed the door.

The next morning, both of them were wary of each other. Frank asked him calmly if he was ready to talk now, and Jim nodded. His jaw ached and speaking was difficult. Frank talked about responsibility and respect and ground rules, and Jim agreed to stay away from the park. Neither of them said anything about the slap, but it hung there between them, heavy and menacing. It was like the fact of Winona's absence—an unmentioned and unacknowledged pain that united them.

For a while after that, they co-existed more or less in peace. Frank let Jim help while he was working on the Corvette that weekend, and Jim tried harder to cooperate and be less of a smartass.

 

"Open your eyes, Jim."

He complies, looking up into Bones' eyes, and is taken aback to see that McCoy is frowning.

"Shh…" he tells him, "don't talk now. Kiss me, Bones." He closes his eyes again and focuses, because he needs to concentrate on the physical sensations if he wants to keep out the nagging voice in the back of his head that's saying no.

He brings up one hand to burrow itself in McCoy's hair and pushes himself up on his elbows.

McCoy breaks off the kiss and pushes him away gently but firmly. "Stop it, Jim."

Frustrated, he turns onto his back again with a loud sigh. "Fine, I've stopped. What the hell is wrong with you?"

"Just slow down."

"Why?" he asks, knowing the answer in his gut before Bones opens his mouth. Because I can't do this anymore with you. Because you've been through too much. Because we need time to make some decisions. Because things have changed.

"Because I'll decide on the pace," McCoy says, startling Jim.

"Oh, you will?" he says. "Don't you think that maybe I should have a say in that, too?"

"You're not ready."

"How would you know?" he hisses, with a rush of anger. "I'm the one who has issues, remember?"

"Jim, do you think it's like falling off a horse, that you have to get right back on?"

"I know what I'm ready for," he says sullenly.

"I don't think you do," he says in that maddeningly arrogant way of his, that calm doctor's voice that says I know what you need better than you do yourself. "You're determined to do it, and that's different."

"Maybe it's what I need."

"Not tonight," he says. "Tonight you're not going to do anything but let me touch you in the way that I want to."

"That's too passive," he objects.

"There's virtue in patience," McCoy tells him with a small smile, but his eyes are dark and serious. "We'll do it at my pace, Jim, or not at all. I'm going to lead, and you're going to keep your eyes on me and stay in the here and now. If you can't do that, we stop."

He sits up and peels off his shirt, tossing it over his shoulder onto the floor. Jim watches him, perplexed. "Now just stay still," he says, and he leans over Jim and traces his lips with his fingers. His other hand holds his bicep, and the thumb moves lightly, caressingly, over his skin.

It's soothing, but it's just a tingling feather-like touch, and Jim could scream with the want of something harder and rougher and more insistent.

He shivers. He feels so vulnerable and powerless, and it's hard for him to breathe.

"Relax, Jim," McCoy whispers. "You're safe and you're with me."

 

He knew that he was in control of the situation, and the flip side of that was—he knew that it was his fault.

Every few weeks, give or take, it happened again. Jim always knew when Frank was going to turn violent because he was in control of most of the variables—except the drinking, of course, but that happened often enough anyway. Jim pushed his buttons, provoked him intolerably, broke an inviolable rule, or did something else unforgivable. He insulted Frank's manhood and intelligence. Each time, he went a little farther than before, and—how could he blame him?—his step-father got just a little more aggressive, a little more vicious. It was predictable, and that was what made it tolerable. Jim got used to it.

Jim savored that moment, just after Frank would take his first swing or shove or kick, when he felt completely alive, when physical pain overcame emotional pain, and he could strike back. But it was a momentary victory, and it left him feeling confused and guilty in the aftermath, wondering if he didn't start the fight just to feel the thrill of fury. It was a sick cycle and he was disgusted with his own part in it.

So he didn't tell his mother; didn't tell anyone, in fact. His grades started to slide and his behavior problems at school escalated, but the school counselor seemed to buy his sob story of the difficulties of dealing with an absent mother and the burden of living with a dead hero father.

Frank brooded and drank more, always watching him, following him with his eyes.

One night Jim was startled awake by a heavy hand clamped over his mouth and a large, immovable body covering his. Confused and frightened, Jim struggled, trying to free his limbs, biting the hand that covered his mouth. It wasn't until Frank began shoving down his shorts that he realized what was happening, and then the shock of it seemed to spread through his limbs like a sedative.

In the space of a few minutes, Frank proceeded to teach him a lesson about the limits of control and just who was in charge of the situation.

The next morning, Jim was like a sleepwalker, so dazed and disoriented that he literally bumped into a wall on his way out the door. He couldn't think coherently because the images kept intruding—the smell of alcohol in his nostrils, the humiliation of rough fingers touching and spreading and poking into him so intimately and possessively, the searing burn in his ass, the fight to breathe through the pain and tears as his chest was crushed by the weight of a grown man smothering him.

He couldn't believe that he, with all his intelligence and perceptions and equations, had been so stupid and oblivious. He never saw it coming, but looking back, he could see the slow build-up and trace his own role in it.

Not long afterward, there was an incident with a car and a quarry. The investigating police officer spoke with Jim and his step-father and quickly dismissed the idea of a suicide attempt. Jim was brought before the Iowa Juvenile Court for the first (but not last) time in his life, on the charges of reckless endangerment and theft.

When the judge asked him if he had any explanation for driving the car off the cliff, he said, "Guess I missed the signs that said 'Private Property' and 'Do Not Enter.'" The judge had no sense of irony and didn't appreciate his flippancy. Jim was assigned community service and counseling.

 

He tries to repress the images that are whirling through his mind: the flash of a knife, the acrid smell of an unwashed body pressed against his, the burn of an intruding organ pressing into him mercilessly. He shudders.

"What is it, Jim?"

"It's nothing."

"Stay here with me, Jim. Feel what's happening to you now."

Bones kisses Jim and smoothes his hair and touches him everywhere, except where Jim really wants to be touched. His fingers trace scars and linger lightly over regenerating skin, over and over, encouraging Jim to re-sensitize and reconnect to the injured areas. He doesn't say anything except to draw Jim back occasionally, when he senses that Jim's far away. He holds Jim's hands down and doesn't let him touch back.

He doesn't comment on how damnably long it takes for Jim to respond.

Jim is grateful beyond words when he finally feels the familiar, spreading warmth in his groin, the slow tightening that makes him start grinding his hips against McCoy's body. Bones doesn't try to stop him; Jim thinks that maybe this was what he was waiting for.

When at last Jim is hard and breathing fast and ready to explode, McCoy disengages himself and lies back with a satisfied smile. He stretches and turns on his side with his back to Jim.

"Can't go any farther than that, kiddo," he says apologetically. "Still recovering from surgery, you know. Night." He yawns.

Jim lies awake listening to McCoy's even breathing.

He's left with a warm, throbbing ache, a hypersensitivity of sensations all over his skin, a longing for more, and an overwhelming sense of relief.

 

 

 

 

Part Eight: Re-entry

McCoy lets a week go by before he touches Jim again.

He backs off to give him time, but doesn't let him brood or stay alone. He keeps him on light duty for two days, hauling him into Medical twice a day for physiotherapy; Jim gives him a vaguely hurt look when he sends Christine in to instruct him on the exercises, but he pretends that he doesn't see it. He uses his override to restrict the replicator in Jim's quarters to coffee and tea (Jim hates tea), ensuring that he has to go to the mess if he wants to eat. He assures Spock that Jim can be freely consulted regarding any and all areas of ship's functioning, and tells him that writing reports would be a good way for him to exercise his recovering arm muscles (Jim hates paperwork, but McCoy knows that Spock will follow his medical advice to the letter).

When Jim goes back to active bridge duty, McCoy is there, unobtrusively. After the daily briefing for senior officers, he hangs around the bridge and chats with Uhura and Chekov and Rand, watching Jim out of the corner of his eye. Jim puts on a good show, keeping up a constant light banter with Sulu and Spock, alternately needling Uhura and flirting with her, and teasing Janice Rand about her new hairstyle. But McCoy sees the way he fidgets and moves restlessly in his chair. He's full of nervous energy. He gets up and paces, sits down, swivels, crosses and uncrosses his legs, as if he can't find a comfortable position.

When McCoy comes up behind him and casually lays a hand on his shoulder, Jim flinches. He tries to cover it—"Forgot you were there, Bones, don't you have work to do?"—but their eyes meet for a moment, and Jim knows that he saw it.

 

When he comes to Jim again, he doesn't give him advance warning. He wants an element of surprise. Jim's a master at tactics; he doesn't want to give him time to strategize and build his defenses. The look Jim gave him on the bridge was warning enough; he's skittish and scared.

When he enters the dimly lit room, it's late. Jim's lying in bed on his back, frowning at him as if he's interrupted something. "Hey, kid. You look pretty beat." Jim looks exhausted, in fact, and not particularly pleased to see him. "What're you reading?" McCoy asks, gesturing at the PADD propped up on his knees.

"Nothing much," he says. "Spock's legal complaint to the colony."

Fuck. "Jesus, Jim. That's hardly a bedtime story. Why are you reading that now?" he asks, shaking his head. "You need to get some sleep."

"Well, when am I supposed to read it? I have to do it when I'm alone," he says, eyes guarded. "I don't have any time to myself during the day."

"No, I guess you don’t." McCoy feels a slight pang of guilt, knowing that he has given orders to do exactly that: keep the captain occupied and interacting with his crew.

"Stop giving me that doctor look," Jim says. "I'm fine."

"You're doing better," he says. But you're not fine is left unsaid but hanging in the air, and Jim scowls as if he can hear it.

This is a bad time, McCoy thinks. Whatever he has planned for the evening is not going to work. Jim's closed down, unwilling.

McCoy glances at the PADD. He's read Spock's complaint, of course, and he wrote the accompanying medical report detailing the captain's injuries. The language is dry, factual; hours of horror have been rephrased into words like intent to injure and pain and suffering inflicted deliberately and aggravated sexual assault.

The legal jargon makes the whole experience seem distant and unreal, devoid of emotional overtones, like it happened to someone else. Naturally, Jim is drawn to it. He's used to suppressing and avoiding painful memories, letting them fester in some corner of his mind. He locks everything up in a drawer, and slams it shut.

It's like an abscess, he thinks; a defensive reaction that has become a painful, pus-filled lesion of shame, self-loathing and disgust. The abscess is the body's attempt to encapsulate the infection, but that prevents the immune cells from attacking and healing it.

McCoy's a surgeon, and he knows that there is only one way to treat a wound like that: open it and drain it.

A few more minutes go by in heavy silence, as Jim deliberately ignores him and continues reading. McCoy watches him, eyes flicking over the words, brow furrowed. Jim chews on his lips in an unconsciously childish gesture.  

"Do you want me to go?" McCoy asks, finally.

"Do whatever you want."

"Jim, put the PADD down."

"I'm not done," he says, not looking at McCoy.

"It can wait." When Jim still doesn't respond, he grabs the PADD out of his hands and tosses it on the floor.

"What the hell did you do that for?" Jim asks, sitting up and glaring.

"Is there something in it that isn't accurate?" he asks. "Do you want to add to it?"

"No."

"I know it must be pretty unpleasant to read," he says, but Jim interrupts him with a shake of his head and a dismissive hand gesture. 

"Going through it was unpleasant," he says with a bitter laugh. "This is just nauseating. Page after page of the badass armed perpetrators and the fucking helpless victim. Spock's words, in black and white."

"You were a victim, Jim. There was nothing you could have done and none of what happened was your fault!"

"Well, that's the thing," he says slowly. "Maybe some of it was."

"What are you talking about, Jim?"

"I could have stopped them…" he says bitterly. "Or at any rate, I could have resisted more."

"How, Jim? They had guns and knives and they damn near killed you."

"You have no idea—"

"Then tell me. Come on, Jim, help me understand! Why the hell are you blaming yourself?"

In the dim lighting of the cabin, Jim's eyes are hooded, dark. He lies back on the pillow and stares up at the ceiling. He looks defeated.

"I gave up," he says quietly. "I let them do it."

"Let them do what, Jim?"

"I stopped fighting," he says. "I stopped trying."

"You mean the rape."

Jim nods miserably. "I didn't fight back," he says again. "I let it happen and I just…lay there, waiting for it to be over."

"What else could you have done, Jim?"

Jim ignores the question, shakes his head. "It was just like before. The first time, I mean." He pauses. "With Frank."

"With your stepfather," McCoy says flatly. Oh, damn. McCoy knows that Frank was physically abusive to Jim when he was a child; the man was incarcerated for domestic violence when Jim was thirteen. If it was Frank who raped him, then it must have happened when Jim was that age…or even younger.

"I can't stop thinking about it, Bones."

"About the rape?"

"About what I did," he emphasizes. "Or what I didn't do. About how fucking passive I was."

McCoy allows himself a moment of boiling rage at a twisted bully masquerading as a father figure and at perverted fanatics who fight for a "cause" with their dicks and their knives. Then, with an effort, he calms himself. His anger isn't going to help his friend.

"Jim," he says, "listen to me. You were a young boy when it happened the first time, weren't you? How old were you?"

"Twelve, I think. Almost thirteen." His voice is small, hollow.

"How the hell were you supposed to fight back then? You were just a kid and he was a big guy, a security officer. You were protecting yourself, which was all you could do. You can't blame yourself…"

"It wasn't like that. I pushed him into it," Jim whispers. "I did everything I could to hurt him. I laughed at him, insulted him, I ruined his tools, I tried to hit him, I made him hit me. I did everything I could to make him feel like shit, and in the end, he just…" He stops, swallows. "He fucked me, just once. Then I drove the Corvette into the quarry, and you know the rest of the story."

McCoy nods; Jim told him that part, not long after the Narada incident, when he first became CMO.

"Jim—"

His expression is defiant. "If you're going to tell me that it's not my fault again, you can just fuck off, Bones. You weren't there, you don’t know. I do. God," he says, looking disgusted, "I swore to myself I'd never let anything like that happen to me again, and then when it did, I did the same damn thing."

McCoy wants to grab him, shake him, tell him to stop blaming himself. But he knows that Jim has lived with shame and self-hatred for so long that they're ingrained habits.

"Just shut up for a minute, dammit! I do have something to tell you, and you need to hear it. After that, if you want, I'll leave. But you're going to listen to what I have to say," he says firmly.

Jim isn't looking at him. His shoulders are hunched defensively, as if he's steeling himself against McCoy's words.

"I'm CMO, Jim."

"I know."

"It's my job to tell you things that you don't want to hear."

"So talk. I'm listening."

He takes a breath, tries to keep his voice gentle and calm. "Pay attention, kiddo. You've kept that secret for a long time, since you were a young boy. You never told anyone, and you tried to deal with it on your own. You should never have had to do that, but you did. You're strong now, and you were strong then. But the thing is, nobody ever helped you to look at it differently. You're still seeing it through a child's eyes, don't you understand that? Children"—abused children, he thinks, but doesn't say that—"blame themselves, even when they're not at fault. Even very, very smart children," he smiles slightly, "think that they're responsible, when they're not! And I don't care how annoying or pig-headed or angry you were, Jim, you didn't make that man beat you to a pulp and you didn't make him rape you. He was supposed to take care of you, and he didn't. That's the only fact that matters."

Jim is silent, unmoving.

"And it's true about what happened to you on the planet, too. They were holding us hostage, and you did what you were trained to do. You told them who you were and tried to help the people under your command, and nothing that happened after that is your fault. And damn it, if you stopped fighting and just tried to survive, then you did what you had to do."

He steadies his voice and looks at his friend. "I'm so sorry they hurt you, Jim, but I'm grateful that you made it through. That's the only thing that I care about."

Jim looks at him, finally, a muscle in his cheek twitching. "I thought I was over it. I stopped thinking about it, but now…it keeps coming back to me. And that really sucks."

"Move over, kid," McCoy says. "Make room for me."

 

Lying next to him, McCoy nuzzles along his neck, brushes his lips against his cheek, and traces along his jawline with his finger. This close up, he can see the fine pink lines that are the fading scars, travelling along his cheekbones and down his neck, disappearing under the high neckline of his shirt. Jim closes his eyes, sinking into his touch, but McCoy can feel a tremor run through him.

He runs his hands under Jim's shirt, feeling the taut muscles, the racing beat of his heart, the thin bump of scar tissue over the still-healing incision. Jim's arms tighten slowly around his back, and McCoy presses his mouth gently to Jim's, stroking his hair, fingering the earlobe where the skin is so soft.

But Jim surges up and kisses him roughly, pushing his lips apart and probing with his tongue, sucking hard on McCoy's lower lip. McCoy realizes belatedly that Jim doesn't want tender, and he doesn't want slow. He doesn't need McCoy to be gentle; he's angry, so angry that he can hardly contain his fury. 

He pushes McCoy onto his back and grinds into him, pressing his weight onto him. One hand tangles itself in McCoy's hair and pulls hard, and the other curves around his neck. Jim squeezes and kneads the muscles there, and then digs his fingernails, hard, into his back.

McCoy hisses. "Whoa, there, kid," he says. "Take it easy." But Jim shakes his head in annoyance. He can't take it easy, McCoy thinks; he wants aggressive and heated and fast. He bites and sucks at the tender skin just above McCoy's clavicle and it stings. McCoy grunts and grasps Jim's shoulders, pushing him away forcefully and sitting up.

He strips off his shirts in one quick motion, tossing them over his shoulder onto the floor. Then he pulls Jim up into a sitting position, tugging and fumbling with his clothes until Jim is naked, feet planted firmly on the floor and slightly apart. He's hard already, McCoy notes, which is a far cry from the long, agonizing process they went through last time. Jim pulls him down impatiently so that he's kneeling between his legs. "Do it now," he says, and his meaning is clear.  

It's quick. McCoy bends down, grasps him at the base, and draws his tongue along Jim's length. He runs his other hand up Jim's inner thighs and balls, and then flicks his thumb over the head. Jim moans, a soft sound in the back of his throat. He slowly begins to rock his hips back and forth, one hand pressing lightly on the back of McCoy's head. He closes his eyes, and McCoy uses his mouth and tongue and teeth to work him over until he's breathing hard and sweating. Jim's other hand roams over his back, his shoulders, and his neck, his fingers clenching, bruising.

"More…Bones…" Jim says, and McCoy knows that he's close. He digs his fingers into Jim's hips, steadying him and guiding him, as Jim gasps and grunts and tenses suddenly. McCoy sucks hard as his cock throbs and pulses in his mouth. Jim shudders, then slowly, slowly he relaxes back onto the bed.

 

"Bones," Jim says, and he startles out of a light doze. One arm is draped over Jim's abdomen and the other snaked under his head. It's already going numb, so he tugs at it, curling it under his own pillow.

"What."

"Thanks."

"Anytime, kid."

"And take that damn override off my replicator and let me eat here in peace if I want to."

McCoy smiles. "Okay."

"And you can tell Spock that it's not actually medically necessary for me to do four hours of paperwork a day."

He laughs. "I said that your arm muscles could use moderate stimulation. Four hours was his own interpretation."

Jim's voice is slurred, sleepy. "And tell Rand that she can back off on the quarterly crew reviews. She's after me to interview the entire engineering crew, all forty-seven of them, this week."

"Tell her yourself, you wimp. That was her idea, not mine. Now let me go to sleep."

 

The End.