Sometimes, Joanna McCoy feels like she's been fighting her whole life.
In reality, it all began with ice cream.
The buzzing began instantaneously. Students with heads pressed together, hushed whispers filled with bitter jealousy, all eyes on her, as she swiftly stood and breezed past Regault's stiff, regal posture.
As she walked down the corridor, she idly wondered if Kirk was there to kill her.
There are multiple classes dedicated to James Kirk and his legendary cruelty, his ruthlessness. She's well aware Kirk could skin her in an open auditorium and not a single person would so much as lift a finger to try and stop him. Joanna'd long ago come to terms with James Kirk's controlling hands tugging all the invisible strings she could feel stitched through her limbs. But had it not been for his patronage, Joanna knows she would have been one of the 'tragic accidents' that were reported over the intercoms daily the first semester.
She couldn't muster up the fear she knew she should rationally be experiencing. Instead, a furious spite churned frigidly in her belly.
Her father was taken—did not runaway, would never willingly leave her here alone—a little over two months ago. To be honest, Joanna was expecting Kirk sooner; was expecting him to arrive the very next day and make her bleed out slowly until her father came back.
But instead of the slow, dehumanizing pain she was expecting, Kirk bought her a sundae and told her in a tone that made her heart clench and her eyes well, that he loved her father.
Joanna's been sitting on that little piece of information for the last seventeen days. She can't figure out why Kirk would divulge something like that out loud, why he would openly admit to as primitive a weakness as love.
But now, seventeen days later, the door to her lecture opens abruptly and James Kirk walks in. His eyes find her immediately. She stands without any vocal prompting and walks down to meet him. She tries not to look at his vacant face, at his distant, cold eyes. His fingers are balled in tight fists, body wire taut.
She braces for the worst and nearly sags to the floor when his clipped voice says, "He's back."
A shaky sob pushes past her lips. She tightens her face, straightens her back and tries not to let her joy shine through. "When can I see him?"
Eighty-one days. She feels like she's breathing for the first time in eighty-one days.
Kirk's face loses its edge. Joanna wonders if he even notices. "Not right now, Jojo." Joanna lowers her head and nods. She understands. "But soon."
Kirk walks away, hands clasped behind his back. She knows when she's being dismissed, and even though every instinct in her body tells her to return to class, she runs until her thin body connects with Kirk's legs and she winds her arms around his slim waist.
"Thank you, Uncle Jim" she whispers into his back, against the gold material that shimmers so bright it leaves white spots in her eyes.
He grunts, shakes her off gently, and leaves.
When Joanna makes it back to class the lesson's still paused from when Uncle Jim interrupted. The chatter amongst her classmates stops when they see her.
It's been eighty-one days since her dad disappeared, seventeen since she swallowed down the last spoonful of vanilla ice cream.
It takes only minutes for the rumors to spread.
It's two weeks—three complete months—before she's told she can visit her dad.
She holds herself together right up until she sees him pacing nervously in Uncle Jim's quarters. She rushes into his arms, squeezes so tight her arms go numb. She can't stop crying no matter how hard she tries.
Uncle Jim watches from the corner of the room, eyes never once leaving them. It's only months of Institute training (eyes on the threat, Cadets, always!) that keeps Joanna's attention pinned on him.
"I missed you, Jojo." Her dad's soft smile has her crying all over again. She feels amazing though, never knew crying could make you feel this happy.
Her dad's still molted yellow and purple and his lip is split and he walks like his bones are shaking but he's alive and she has her hands on him and for the first time in three months she feels safe.
"C'mon, Jojo" Uncle Jim says after a little while—not nearly long enough—his hand on her shoulder, hot and broad and strong. "Let your dad sleep. You can have him all of tomorrow."
Nobody mentions it's Uncle Jim's room.
It's right there, walking aimlessly away from Uncle Jim's quarters, that she asks; twelve years old, on the ISS Enterprise, two light-years from her home.
She knows there's a risk involved in asking so brazenly—demanding, really—but if this goes bad she's sure she can play it off as childlike naiveté or at least hope Uncle Jim's feeling magnanimous enough to not slit her throat on the clean, white floors.
He instantly stops walking. She thinks he's going to reach for his knife—worse, his Agonizer—and her hand instinctively palms the hilt of her knife. Joanna's pretty good but she's nowhere near delusional enough to even think she'd last ten seconds.
For his part, Uncle Jim looks amused. His smile splits his face and he tosses his head back and laughs. Joanna bristles, relief and irritation mixing combustively in her belly.
"You wanna run that one by me again, Jojo?" He's entertained, curious. He's still smiling that infectious grin and somehow makes him looks closer to her age than her dad's.
"Give me my dad back," she repeats calmly, irritation leaking through. She's young but he never treats her like a little kid.
Uncle Jim's bright eyes sparkle.
"Or what, Jojo? You gonna fight me for him?"
"If I have to."
Uncle Jim's whole face shifts into shock. It takes a few moments but he nods, lips a thin line. His voice is cold. Even. Deathly serious. Joanna doesn't realize it now but she'll come to associate that exact tone and expression with long nights spent under a dermal regenerator coughing up clots of blood.
"If you want to do this, Joanna, it'll be for real. I'm not going to go easy on you."
"I don't want you to."
He smiles again. This time there's no malicious intent, no condescension. He's happy, Joanna realizes, her back straightening as a shiver ricochets through her.
"I'll tell you what, kiddo. We'll do this as often as you want. But you beat me—just once—and I'll give you your dad. Deal?"
He holds out his hand.
Joanna's eyes narrow. Her brain is screaming—shouting so loud her ears ring—telling her this is a trap. But this is an opportunity to take her father away from all of this. Even if it takes years, she'll do it.
"Promise." Uncle Jim looks so cheerful that she sticks out her hand, clasps her small fingers around his rough palm.
His loose grip immediately becomes vice tight. Joanna's knees collapse under her at the sharp pain radiating through her arm.
Uncle Jim's voice is low, poisonously smooth. It's the first, but not the last time, she'll experience his pity. "I'm not going to go easy on you, Jojo. You might be fighting to take him, but I'll be fighting to keep him."
His grip tightens to what she knows must be a fraction of his true strength. The bones in her wrist crack like dry twigs.
"That's one for me, kiddo." He's amused again, friendly and bright and shining. "Now, go get Chapel to fix that and meet me in mess right after. I'll get us some ice cream."
He leaves her nursing her broken wrist, humming the whole way out.
He's stronger than she is but she's got the speed. A year of fighting against Uncle Jim has taught her a few things. He still kicks her ass in the most spectacular displays but she feels her muscles hardening, her agility increasing. She's only thirteen but she's determined to win. And McCoys, if anything, are stubborn as fuck.
She's about to kick in Cristoff's shin—briefly and painfully rendering his left leg useless—a move that Uncle Jim delivered with such clinical precision her whole body went numb. Her dad had yelled at him till his face went red and Uncle Jim dragged him off to his quarters to continue the argument in private.
She blocks Cristoff's aimless punch—all power and no grace—and moves to hit that clump of nerves behind the knees when—
"My dad fucked your dad last night."
Joanna stumbles. Cristoff bluntly swings and gets her in the solar plexus. The breath whooshes out of her in a rush. She recovers but not enough to press the advantage. Cristoff looks thrilled; pink face smug and condescending.
"Captain Kirk had dinner at my estate last night to discuss weapons for the Enterprise and right after dessert he let my dad fuck yours for a discount."
"Shut up," she momentarily entertains the notion. But no, her dad would have told her if he was coming planet side and Uncle Jim would never let anyone else touch him.
"He's a good looking man, McCoy. Bet his ass was worth more than a 5% discount."
"Shut up," she snaps, fury blinds her, clears her mind. She advances clumsily, her punches and kicks so easily telegraphed she feels humiliation throb in her pores.
Cristoff swings again; hits her directly in the chest. He uses the momentum to pin her to the mats, round face inches from hers.
"At least now I know where you get that mouth from, McCoy. Goddamn mouth on your dad is a tragedy. You think Captain Kirk'd let me fuck it if I could get him another 5% off?"
She screams, blacks out, really. When she comes to her mouth is stained red and tastes like slick metal and Cristoff is screaming and clutching his mutilated lip with both hands.
Her jaw aches from locking it in place for so long, her eyes stiff and dry. She kept her fury pressed down deep in her belly as every ounce of her love for her father turned into a raging hatred for Uncle Jim.
Uncle Jim kept the Agonizer pressed against her dad's spine; her dad's blue shirt rucked up and over his fingers. Uncle Jim's other hand fisted through her dad's hair, holding his head in line with her sight. But Joanna wasn't looking at her father. She was looking right at Uncle Jim.
He said it was to teach her a lesson in controlling her emotions but Joanna knew him well enough to see the dramatic shift in his face, how his eyes were tensed at the corners, mouth purposefully clenched shut, how the thumb of his left hand would occasionally rub against the side of her dad's temple as if he could sooth the ache.
He said it was to teach her a lesson in controlling her emotions but watching Uncle Jim watch her father while he writhed in misery proved it was all hypocritical bullshit, proved that it was impossible to remain impartial while someone you loved was being tortured.
"It's just pain," he says. Joanna pulls the Agonizer away from his body, realizing a little too late that Uncle Jim's taken his lashes, earned his forgiveness through soul stripping pain. The vindictive thrill Joanna was coasting on washes away as she makes it to her room, once again furious at Uncle Jim and what he's doing to her family.
The weight of the Agonizer in her hand is comforting. She sits on her bed and stares at the devise for ten minutes before she makes up her mind and flips it on. She presses it to the fleshy part of her forearm and screams through her teeth. She drops the Agonizer and watches as it vibrates across her floor.
There are tears in her eyes, the burn receding slowly. She picks it up and presses it against her leg, holds out twice as long before the suffering overtakes her.
Her door slides open and her dad shuffles in. There's a fine tremor to his whole body, legs stiff and eyes downcast. She knows how much he hates it when Uncle Jim publicly showcases his ownership, displays the apparent nonchalant possessiveness that's been the subject of Joanna's determination since a broken wrist and vanilla ice cream.
"Gimmie the Agonizer, Jo." His voice is rough and sore. Joanna wants to curl up near him and cry for him.
"Jo, please." He sounds so defeated. She knows he can't put up a fight with both her and Uncle Jim. He's been the rope in their little tug of war game for two years now and she's just finally starting to see the wear.
"I have to beat him, daddy. Please. I have to."
He stumbles forward three steps and reaches out with his long, strong arms, wraps sturdy, capable fingers around her and pulls her in for a tight hug. She gives in easily, lets her love try to mend the cracks she can all but see.
"He loves you," she whispers against his chest, hears the steady beat of his heart. "He told me."
She feels her dad shake his head, heart jumping when she hears, "Men like him don't know how to love anything."
"But he loves you," she insists, her first, honest, true memory of Uncle Jim.
"No, Jojo. He doesn't."
She's never heard her father sound so certain, not even when she used to sneak into his surgeries and hear his commanding voice orchestrate a staff, see his dexterous fingers repair and heal flesh and organs.
Uncle Jim collects him an hour later. Her dad kisses her on the forehead and tells her he loves her in a tiny, whispered voice. Just for her.
They leave and Joanna still has the Agonizer wrapped up in her hand. She's doesn't think, just flips it on and holds it against her leg till she nearly cleaves her tongue in half.
Whenever she's aboard the Enterprise she wakes up before the alarm, dresses quickly, and straps on her weapon. Early morning sparring with Uncle Jim, every day spent looking for some sign of weakness she can exploit and use to win her father's freedom.
She makes her way to Uncle Jim's quarters and plugs in the key code.
The door opens like a whisper and Joanna steps inside. Her dad and Uncle Jim are still sleeping, Uncle Jim pressed tight, body curving slightly to conform to her dad's long, freckled spine. His arm is slung possessively across her dad's stomach, his face tucked into her dad's neck. Uncle Jim's lips are always against her dad's skin, his body angled in a way that reminds Joanna of a shield.
If it weren't for the spotted, fingerprint sized bruises and angry bite marks that trailed down her dad's broad shoulders, the scene would look romantic.
As much as her dad tries to dissuade her from believing she's known about their 'relationship' since she was thirteen. There are only so many times you can hear the whispers and see the physical scars before denial becomes too obvious to ignore.
Joanna knows it's vanity that keeps Uncle Jim interested. Her dad, brilliant and painfully handsome; people always stare at him, always shoot Uncle Jim looks of poorly suppressed jealousy and resentment.
Uncle Jim never misses a single look, smirks a little sharper whenever he parades her dad across the ship with a particularly vicious bite mark purpling his tanned neck that would always be replaced with clockwork efficiency whenever the bruises would fade.
She knows exactly what her dad's had to endure in order to keep her safe, knows what price he put on himself to keep her out of the orphanages that would have sold her to the first person with a few spare credits. Her dad put a price on his own body so that Joanna could be free. Uncle Jim just happened to pick up the tab.
Still, Joanna can't resent either of them; her dad for not fighting hard enough and Uncle Jim for his stubborn fascination with a man who refuses him at every point.
But here, seeing them like this, Joanna knows that all of Uncle Jim's marks and brands and bites are his way or reminding her father he cares for him, that even though he could literally have any person in the universe, he's chosen her dad.
"That time already?" Uncle Jim's voice is alert but foggy with sleep.
She straightens up, tosses him a dagger that he catches with one hand. He sits up, hair sticking up and messy, eyes amused.
"Let him sleep," Joanna gestures to her dad, still dead to the world and breathing deeply.
"He certainly needs it," Uncle Jim smirks, prideful and smug as he grabs his pants. He's never denied what he does to her dad, relishes in the knowledge everyone knows and no one can touch.
The fight lasts seven minutes. He comes close to taking off her pinkie, but afterward he ruffles her hair and takes her to breakfast.
"That's another win for me, Jojo."
Not for much longer, she wants to say but swallows her eggs and smiles when her dad takes a seat next to Uncle Jim, Uncle Jim's arm draping across his shoulders, pulling him in snugger.
Not for much longer.
She manages to go unnoticed for three full shifts before Hikaru Sulu singles her out. He orders her to have lunch with him every day, body angled toward hers in a silent claim of ownership. Pavel Chekov flanks her left, always chattering amicably in his heavily accented English, his eyes roaming her face softly.
Pavel's heavy gaze is a solid weight against her skin. She doesn't know what to make of him, if he's trying to challenge Hikaru, if he's trying to reach out his hand in a mangled form of friendship. He studies her face and she doesn't understand why until Uncle Jim and her dad take a seat directly in front of them.
She'd have to be blind to miss the way Pavel looks at her father, a mix of raw awe and genuine affection. Uncle Jim's eyes never really waver from Pavel, almost as if he expects him to reach out and touch her father in a manner that would end with him dying in pieces.
But aside from Hikaru's wandering fingers and Pavel's unrelenting protection, her tenure on the ISS Enterprise goes relatively smooth.
It's McCoy luck that has her running a diagnostic on a temperature regulator when they appear.
Four Klingons materialize in a swirl of glittering silver. The two biggest ones charge at Pell and D'Fik. Both cadets hit the ground hard, sprays of red and florescent yellow hitting Joanna's uniform.
Years of rigorous training has her knife out, has her slamming into the Klingon lagging behind. She manages to bury her knife into its side, hears a satisfying crunch as it connects with bones. On its way down, the Klingon elbows her in the chin hard enough to send her flying back, punches her in the stomach with his spiked knuckle armor. Four sharp spikes of pain rip through her flesh as her vision fractures.
Poison she reminds herself, recalling what she's read about Klingon armor. Poisoned tipped. One scratch and you're dead. Blood spills past her fingers in boiling hot pulses. Her feet and legs start shivering. Her vision begins to tunnel.
She can't turn her head or move a single muscle in her body but when the door slides open a few moments later, the familiar stride and panic that flickers across the Klingon's faces make it painfully clear Uncle Jim's shown up.
She closes her eyes, the lights burning her retinas. Sound magnifies. She can hear Uncle Jim's knife unsheathing, the jingle of the heavy Klingon armor, their deep, nervous breaths.
Uncle Jim's voice sounds far away when he starts talking. She strains to hear, but her consciousness flickers in and out. She figures she really must be on the cusp of death, that she's going into shock and her mind is playing tricks on her, because the last thing she hears is Uncle Jim's level voice detailing exactly how they're going to pay for hurting his daughter.
She can easily see her dad's broad, blue clad back. Squinting, she makes out Uncle Jim’s scarred arm. Uncle Jim's on a bio-bed, her dad standing between his legs, tenderly running a dermal-regenerator across Uncle Jim's face.
"Thank you," she hears her dad's voice, quiet and respectful and bleeding with his gratitude. He puts the regenerator next to Uncle Jim's leg and leans in, wide palms framing Uncle Jim's face, and pulls him in for a kiss. "Thank you, Jim."
From the way Uncle Jim's body tenses, Joanna can tell this isn't something they do often, probably something her dad refuses to give him.
Uncle Jim's never lets an opportunity pass him by. His legs and arms coil around her dad's body like a boa, pulls him in closer.
Uncle Jim kisses him like he's trying to devour him. Her dad obediently leans in and lets Uncle Jim take his fill. Uncle Jim's fingers clutch and pull as his legs squeeze as if he's trying to merge them at the waist.
They kiss, desperate and hungry. She can hear the wet smack of their lips as her dad pulls away, how his repeated "thank you's" are gruff and high, muttered through soft moans.
For a second, Joanna expects Uncle Jim to order her dad to his knees or some equally dehumanizing position and she begs for unconsciousness to pull her under but instead, Uncle Jim detangles himself from her dad, hops off the bio-bed and says, "She's mine too."
Joanna's on the bridge, there to witness Admiral Archer's unimpressed gaze settle on Uncle Jim. He tells Uncle Jim the Enterprise is immediately needed in the Evadne system to suppress a coup in the Empire's puppet government.
"I'll recall my team and leave at once," Uncle Jim respectfully bows, signals Uhura to contact her dad.
"Leave them. You're expected there immediately." The screen goes black.
Joanna's breath catches in her throat.
Uncle Jim's voice—crisp and loud and daring—immediately eases the panic welling in her stomach. "Uhura, contact McCoy. Tell him to prepare for beaming."
Joanna sees her dad's handsome, exhausted face appear on the main screen moments later. He looks irritated as he opens his mouth to bark out some version of "What?" that'd inevitably lead to him spending the rest of the night in Uncle Jim's quarters.
It happens so fast she almost misses it. Her dad's expressive eyes go slack before a mammoth of a creature swings a cudgel that connects with the side of his head. His communicator drops and gives the bridge crew a perfect angle of the science team being beaten to death, the sounds of bones and blood and fear ringing in crystal clear surround-stereo.
Joanna screams and Hikaru's suddenly there to hold her up.
They have to leave—ordered by the Admiral of the Fleet—to leave. Joanna panics like she's confined, breaks Hikaru's hold and rushes to Uncle Jim.
"Do something!" she pleads, both fists clenching the gold material that used to remind her of the sun.
Uncle Jim pushes her off, snarls. "We're leaving."
"But—" Joanna can't breathe.
"Cadet," his tone is threatening.
"Goddammit, Kirk! You can't—" The backhand doesn't surprise her. Her teeth shake and blood taints her mouth.
"Chekov, plot a course to Evadne IV."
But Pavel's gone, slipped out undetected while Kirk was doing his hardest to play dentist.
Kirk curses murderously and storms out after him.
Scotty later swears all he saw was command gold swing and knock him out. Aside from Scotty and Kirk, Pavel's the only member of the crew that knows enough about the actual mechanics of the Enterprise to render her useless. He destroyed a chunk of the main engine and disabled the warp drives before beaming down to the planet.
Two days later, Pavel materializes on the pad with her father's unconscious, battered body pressed tightly against his heaving chest.
Her dad's not dead, but the creatures sewed his mouth shut with thick, wooden nails that leave the tissue of his lips and chin stained black with infection. His eyes are glassy from the drugs they pumped through him and his skull is fractured in two places.
Kirk pulls her dad from Pavel's scratched arms, Pavel's bruised features locked in a maddening defiance. Joanna can see the blood dripping from his hooked daggers, sees the residual tension in his arms. He wants to lash out, attack.
Kirk shifts her dad's limp weight effortlessly and fixes his steel blue eyes on Pavel. "Did anyone—"
"Nyet." Pavel spits with such disrespect Joanna claps her hand against her mouth.
Pavel spends three hours in an Agony Booth as she helps Christine pick the splinters from her dad's face.
Kirk enters Sickbay the second her dad regains consciousness, right after Christine's repaired the dermal damage to his scalp and patched the thin, broken lines in his skull.
Kirk dismisses them both but Joanna stays rooted by her dad's side, carding her fingers through his thick, graying hair.
Kirk says nothing but Joanna's reminded of a conversation she had after the other time Kirk'd hurt her father in front of her.
"No, Jojo. He doesn't." He'd said.
She should have known her dad was right all along.
Pavel's still alive which shocks everybody except Pavel. His soft, doe like eyes now carry a murderous frenzy to them whenever he watches her dad, which he seems to do obsessively. Joanna wants to ask what happened, but her gratitude overwhelms her in paralyzing waves whenever she sees him.
Kirk tells the board of Admirals they experienced a sudden and debilitating engine malfunction. No names are named, and Kirk and her father return two days later.
Kirk is full of easy, cocky smiles, hums as he struts back to the bridge. Her dad looks haunted, vacant. He stumbles to Sickbay on shaky legs and refuses her company for the first time in her life.
Joanna wants to know what happened but she'd rather swallow fire than ask Kirk and her father hasn't left his office since he got back.
On her last day aboard, she waits for her dad to send her off exactly how he's done every time she's visited since she was twelve.
He doesn't come.
Kirk's there instead.
She's immobilized instantly, both arms twisted painfully behind her back, Kirk's knee digging into her spine. If he applies any sort of force he'd have her snapped in half.
He releases her, laughing.
"That's another for me, kiddo."
She manages to punch him in the face.
It's worth the two-hour Agony Booth session when she arrives planet side.
The Academy promotes co-ed showers, something that took her a semester to get used to. There was the shame of the younger cadets—male and female—insecurities about their bodies around the older cadets, the older boys with their hungry, obvious stares.
Joanna trained herself to ignore the wolf grins and lewd comments. Nobody's ever tried to force her anything and the one that came closest to attempting to take advantage of his age and size difference ended up in the hospital wing with every bone in his left arm shattered like glass.
"I fucked your father."
The male and female cadets to her left and right all blanch, instantly congress and start their low whispers that she's been used to hearing since she was twelve. She wearily sighs and turns off the water, rings out her long, dark hair.
She faces Cristoff Hernmeist's haughty, infuriating grin dead on. He's fully dressed in his Fleet issued command shirt, the one that cost his father a pretty penny since his qualifying marks weren't high enough.
Joanna's never been taught never to accept mediocrity. His presence disgusts her.
"You tried this one already. If I remember correctly, it didn't end well for you."
He tips his head back and laughs. For an infuriating moment Joanna's reminded of Kirk.
"They were going to kill Captain Kirk for his insubordination. The Evadne coup cost the Council a lot of money. Nobody was happy about that."
"Do you have a point, Hernmeist?" His flat voice grates her eardrums. He's trying to sound menacing and imposing—getting to her when she's the most vulnerable.
"But they all know the Gamma sector stays quiet because they're terrified of Kirk. Killing Kirk would have put an even bigger dent in their wallets."
He circles her, takes her in fully. Joanna doesn't even flinch.
"But they had to punish him somehow. So they took away his favorite little fuck toy. Passed him around between them for two whole days. Kirk told the Council as long as he was alive at the end of it, he didn't care what they did to him." His smirk melts into a sickeningly predatory leer. "And lemme tell you McCoy. It would have been an act of mercy had they just killed him right there. The Admirals all took their turns, healed him up then sent him right back out."
She twitches as the memories flood back to her—her dad staggering toward Sickbay, hollow eyed and distant, how he couldn't pull himself out of his office to see her home, how every vid message afterward proved the fire had been forcefully peeled out of him.
"Admiral Spregetz let me have him once he was finished. It cost my dad over three million credits to fuck him the first time and there I was, getting the same thing for free."
She focuses on keeping her breathing even, her eyes impassive. She refuses to play along with his petty game, refuses to acknowledge the gnawing wrath building inside her. Hernmeist circles her again. The bulge in his pants prominent.
The shower's emptied out. No witnesses. Good, she thinks.
"Your father sure knows his way around a cock, McCoy. I'll be picking splinters out of my dick for a week, but goddamn was it worth it."
She gasps. Nobody knew about her father's injuries. No one. Christine had valiantly tried to remove the nails, but the wounds stubbornly clung to several tiny slivers of the wood. No one should have known that unless…unless Kirk had—Oh God, she realizes.
It was true.
"Makes you wonder if it runs in the family." Cristoff's still talking, uses her inner turmoil to press her against the damp shower wall, lets his eyes run up and down her nude body. "At least I now know all McCoy's don't bite."
Her fist connects with his thin nose. He grabs her arm but she's slippery with the water. She wishes she had her knife so she could cut the lies out of his mouth.
"I'm going to kill you!" she hisses, attacks him with her bare hands.
They grapple awkwardly, each landing blows and blocks. Every time his fist or foot connects with her body she relishes the pain, welcomes it as it drowns out the images of her father after he returned from the disciplinary hearing, eyes vacant, body sluggish and sore.
She thinks of Kirk's smug face and cheery whistles as he let her dad be violated by the disgusting likes of Cristoff Hernmeist and his round, bland face.
She's going to kill Kirk. The revelation is like releasing a breath, calms her. She's going to kill him and she's going to enjoy every minute of his downfall.
But first, she has a stupid lug with blue blood whose never been told no a day in his life, to take care of.
She trips Cristoff, watches as he careens down to the slick tiles. She pounces and wraps around his wet clothing and keeps punching his face until her knuckles pops and the water that swirls the drain is dark red.
They've been fighting for fifteen minutes, Kirk aimlessly deflecting her attacks, hasn't yet struck back. She knows she's left her left side open too many times, knows he could have stuck her with his sword and ended this humiliating fight fourteen minutes ago.
She strikes and he sticks his foot out and watches her stumble over it. His contagious laughter echoes in the room.
"Fuck you, Kirk," she spits; bile stings the back of her throat.
"Kirk," he huff out a laugh. "Always 'Kirk', now. Whatever happened to 'Uncle Jim'?" Kirk's amusement sends a ripple of fury through her. "I miss that."
She thinks of Cristoff's delighted voice as he told her what Kirk made her dad do. Everything Joanna's been suppressing since she was twelve-years-old comes lurching out of her small frame, words sting like acid as they slide off her tongue.
"You stopped being my 'Uncle Jim' when you let my classmates fuck my father."
Kirk freezes. Shock reads visibly on his face before it morphs into a furious indignation. His bright blue eyes darken as he scowls, growls, "Who told you that?"
"Someone who got a front row seat to you pawning my dad's ass off like the fucking coward you are."
Kirk's body coils and uncurls too quickly for her to react to. His next swing reveals that despite a childhood promise to not go easy on her, Kirk's been holding back, been playing her. His blow make the bones in her arm crack, has her sword clattering to the ground uselessly.
She reaches for her knife only to have Kirk kick her wrist. It breaks in an agonizing crack. He hits her so hard she can feel her cheekbone collapse. His forearm seems to come out of nowhere as it pins her neck to the wall. He presses in and her vision doubles.
They stare at each other for a long stretch of time; Joanna's defiance and rage against Kirk's ire, his insult.
When Kirk speaks, his voice is a low snarl that lashes her skin like a whip. "Get out."
He drops his arm, frees her. Joanna sucks in air. She barely registers the pain in her knees as she hits the ground.
"We're not done here," she snaps, already pulling herself up, reaching for her fallen weapon with her functioning hand.
"We are and I've won." Kirk barks. He's gone wire sharp again. Except... Joanna keeps staring, brain kicked into overdrive. Kirk's posture is defensive; the weapon clenched in his fist dipped just a few millimeters from his usual offensive stance.
She rolls with the vitriol.
"What was it? You didn't want to own up to your fuck up and you let my dad take the punishment? I'm sure you loved that. Just sat back and watched as they fucked him exactly how they wanted to punish you." She taunts, squeezes her fingers around the hilt of her sword. "You're fucking pathetic."
She doesn't see Kirk move. She only feels the edge of his sword as it's slammed under her chin, held against her jugular. She's grown up learning Kirk's tones, can catalogue every warble and hiss. Even though his face is radiating fury, when he speaks, his voice is pained.
"In the last nine years, only three people have ever touched your father. One of them had my face and the other took a week to die."
He seems to realize exactly what he's said only after it's been said. She's brought back to the first time she'd ever met Kirk with his sad eyes and soft tone and an admission so honest it still makes her heart stutter. He can't take the words back, much like how he couldn't when she was twelve and furious and full on sticky sweet ice cream.
It hits her all at once, the proverbial light flickering on. She laughs, blood bubbling hotly against her lips.
"Oh, God. I get it now." And she does. She's been winning all along. She was just too stupid, too young to see it. "You love him. You honest to God love my dad, don't you?"
Kirk's lips are a thin line, pressed so tightly together they glow white.
"That's why you keep him, that's why you didn't kill Chekov. That's why you..." it dawns on her so quickly it gives her a rush of vertigo. "My God, you risked this whole ship to get him back. You were willing to give up the Enterprise for my dad."
Kirk hasn't moved an inch. His eyes flay her, deathly blue and filled with such rage the very universe should be trembling.
But she's on a roll. "God, I can't even imagine..." She laughs because it feels so good. "Tell me Uncle Jim, how does it feel to love my dad more than your precious ship and know that he'll always, always love me more? That he'll never, ever fucking love you."
"Shut up, Joanna."
"He hates you. He honestly fucking hates everything about you." She aims low, watches as her words slice. "In fact, he hates you so fucking much he left this universe to get away from you. He left to get away from you but he came back for me!" she laughs directly in his face.
Kirk's a flash of gold and piercing blue. He drops his sword and punches her.
Her mouth fills with so much blood she chokes. She coughs but doesn't stop laughing. Kirk grabs her throat, squeezes with real intent until he blinks and his grip loosens. Joanna notices. Kirk notices her noticing and growls.
"We both you know you're not going to kill me. You're not even going to really hurt me. You can't because you know if you even think about it, my dad would never forgive you and you can't fucking live without him."
Kirk opens his mouth, closes quickly. His jaw clenches down the words. He throws her to the ground and her vision doubles sharply, flickering and flirting with unconsciousness before she stubbornly pushes her nausea down and glares.
"He belongs to me," Kirk repeats the words from four years ago. "He belongs to me and I don't care if he ever loves me because he's mine."
"Keep telling yourself that." She knows what it's like to experience her father's love, how brightly it burns through the darkness, how comforting and exhilarating it can make you feel.
Kirk's at the door, punches in the code and watches it open. He pauses and turns back to her, feral. She's still clutching her sword in case he decides to strike. Instead, he speaks. Joanna's never heard his voice sound that small, defeated. Perfectly defeated.
"I might not be able to hurt you, but make no mistake, Joanna. I can hurt him."
Not for much longer, she smirks to herself.
Now, it's only a matter of time.