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But inside your heart (it is black and it's hollow and it's cold)

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They're all damaged aboard the Discovery, Tyler gets that pretty quickly. Lorca collects them like toy soldiers, an army of outcasts and oddballs, just like him.

Well, perhaps not exactly like him. He wonders how many of them scrub their skin until it bleeds, trying to erase every last memory of a touch.

They say it takes seven years until all his cells have renewed themselves, till there is nothing inside him anymore she has tainted with her touch, but Tyler doesn't have seven years to heal. Lorca expects him to function. People depend on them. The future depends on them.

He wishes he could talk with Michael about it but she's preoccupied with her own moral struggles. And he is afraid that even if he could tell her, she would not understand. It might not fit her scheme of right and wrong. She might find it illogical, perhaps. Incomprehensible.

But survival is messy. Survival is all flavours of self-disgust.

_

“The captain has taken a liking to me,” he told Lorca when they were both prisoners aboard the Klingon vessel. He didn't go into detail then, and he didn't have to.

War makes you do things, and it makes you endure things you wouldn't have thought possible, things for which Tyler has no words. But he needs no words, not for Lorca. The captain has seen war and its atrocities, he doesn't need to be told details to understand Tyler's implications. He also understands instinctively what needs to be done.

“Best to get back into the saddle asap”, he says when he takes him to the holodeck for a battle simulation, and Tyler appreciates the approach. It's pragmatic. Not quite Starfleet style. Usually they'd have him jump through hoops to get his job back; put him through psych evaluation after psych evaluation before they'd let him anywhere near a weapon again, but Lorca has little patience for these procedures, not at the moment anyway. They're at war, they need every man and every woman, and he can't allow himself the luxury of compassion. Aboard Lorca's ship, you must be able to pull your weight. Otherwise you're useless.

And if Tyler can't abide one thing, it's feeling useless. So he ensures Lorca gets a convincing demonstration of his skills, and he's lucky, the training simulation goes well enough. He's in peak form. His reaction time is phenomenal. It's as though something feral has awoken inside him, an archaic survival instinct, kill or be killed. Other Starfleet captains might be wary about this, but Lorca seems to embrace Tyler's talent for killing without reservations.

“As for the other thing,” he remarks casually as they head for the shower. “You shouldn't wait too long to get that over with, too.”

Tyler freezes mid-movement. He was about to get out of his boots and now all he can do is stare up at Lorca incredulously. What other thing? He can't mean what Tyler thinks he means, can he?

He looks for signs of embarrassment or at least self-consciousness in Lorca's face but his expression is blank. He could as well have suggested Tyler step up his protein intake or get a new hair cut. Nothing about his demeanour indicates he addressed anything remotely delicate. Which doesn't add up. For all the captain's pragmatism, it seems improbable he would refer so callously to Tyler's abuse. (He can't bring himself to call it what it was, rape, not even in his head, it makes him feel like a victim, and he's not that, he's a survivor.)

But what could Lorca mean if not that, getting over his traumatic experiences by dating again? Tyler is tempted to laugh at his own choice of words. Dating is such a weird euphemism for fucking. In any case, why should Lorca expect him to fuck random crew members? There's no obvious connection between Tyler's sex life and his suitability for his job. And yet there's no better explanation his brain can come up with. It's hopelessly stuck on that one thought, and it doesn't help that Lorca is in the middle of undressing.

Tyler can't imagine being intimate with anyone, not like he used to, the idea alone makes him nauseous, even if, at the same time, his sex drive is going haywire. One unfortunate association is all it takes for him to get horny as fuck. No matter the situation. It's worse than going through puberty. He feels his cheeks growing warm when Lorca takes off his uniform jacket and he can't even say if it's embarrassment or excitement or both.

Fact is Lorca is fit for a man his age. For someone who could be his father, Tyler thinks.

It does not do one thing to deter him.

He knew he was damaged, but he had no idea how broken he really is. He should not feel like that, not about his captain. Thing is though, he can't stop himself. When Lorca moves on to opening his pants, a first flicker of desire lights up in the pit of Tyler's stomach. Quickly, before he can be caught gawking, he averts his eyes.

Lorca is not supposed to notice something is off. It could change his mind about him being fit for duty. But there's more to it than that. Tyler is mortified by his lack of control over his physical reactions. His time Klingon captivity must have rewired something in his brain. He's not just a better shot than he was before, they've messed with him in other ways too. (She did, to be precise.) It's somewhat unsettling how easily he gets aroused these days. It's like flicking a switch and he's ready. He doesn't want to dwell on the reason, but it's hard to keep the memories under lock and key. (To be ready for her at a moment's notice had become second nature, a survival mechanism. She'd be so gleeful when he was hard before she even touched him.)

Memories stir in his mind like leaves roused by a gust of wind, just a few at first, then more, a whirlwind of pictures swelling into a tornado, dizzying. A storm tide of panic rises inside him. The ground starts to spin under his feet, and the world falls away.

A hand on his cheek jolts him out of the flashback. He flinches, confused where he is. For the fraction of a second he thinks he's with her again, but the hand is warm and dry and completely and utterly human.

“You okay, soldier?” Lorca asks for what apparently isn't the first time. It sounds like a repetition. Too slow and clear and tinged with a trace of worry. Now that he thinks about it, Lorca might have used his name to snap him out of the panic attack before he touched him, but Tyler only heard it through a fog, distantly, an unfamiliar word. Strange how detached he has become from his own name.

“Tyler,” Lorca says again and Tyler is startled how close he is, crouching before him, gaze inquisitive. “Are you okay?”

Tyler suppresses a shiver. “Yes. Yes, I think so...”

“That must be the worst lie I've ever heard,” Lorca says without taking his hand away. The slight amusement disappears from his tone when he continues: “Believe it or not, I get what you're going through. And I meant it when I said you should take care of this as soon as possible.”

Tyler can only nod to acknowledge he's listening, and Lorca goes on: “I'm sure there are quite a few women on this ship who'd gladly help you out if you asked them. Or men. Whichever you prefer.”

His hand lingers. Too familiar. Transgressive. Tyler should pull himself together, get up, get away from Lorca, but he can't. He's been a pet for too long, he can't fight the urge to lean into Lorca's palm and close his eyes, just for a moment. It's the first time he feels safe since god knows when.

“I don't think I can,” he says, barely audible.

Finally Lorca pulls his hand away and Tyler feels lost again.

“Dr Culber's report said you were as healthy and physically intact as anyone could hope for after almost seven months in Klingon captivity,” Lorca says.

Tyler wonders if he imagines the icy coldness in his eyes, the utter lack of compassion on his face, or if it's only what he wants to see, anything but pity.

“It's not a physical issue.” It's that he is broken inside. It's that any small thing (a thought, a smell, a touch) can trigger a panic attack. It's that she's turned him into an animal, unable to consent. Who in the world could he ask to fix this?

Lorca cocks his head. Tyler should have known he wouldn't accept mental hang-ups as an excuse. It's not how he works. From what Tyler has seen so far, there's nothing that could stop Lorca from getting what he wants. When he has set his mind on something, he will move heaven and hell to get it. It's an inspiring trait in a leader. Perhaps just what he needs right now. Purpose.

As the silence drags on, Tyler takes heart. “Would you do it?” he asks. “Help me out, I mean?”

He half expects Lorca to make excuses. How he appreciates the offer but being the captain, he couldn't possibly; how would love to help but men weren't his thing; anything really; but he should have known better. Of course Gabriel Lorca doesn't shy away from a challenge, much less in the name of reason.

He feeds him his cock right there in the shower.

There are no kisses, no tenderness. Taking off his clothes and getting on his knees before him is all the prelude Lorca allows before he has him open wide to receive his dick. But Tyler is thankful for it; thankful for not having to pretend he's a sane person. Or a person at all.

The world is simple like this. Hot water and steam and a mouth full of cock. Tyler's knees hurt, the damn floor is too hard; his scalp hurts too, Lorca's hold on him is fucking vicious. His jaw aches and his throat gets sore fast, but he wouldn't dream of complaining. He's learned to understand that pain means you're still alive. Perhaps he has even learned to get off on it. His own cock is hard and heavy between his legs when he swallows Lorca down, inch by inch, greedy for all he can get. At some point he gags and his eyes water, but if tears run down his cheeks they'll get lost in the spray of the shower.

Lorca's fingers around his skull are large and strong and undoubtedly human, and so is his taste, salt and musk and bitterness. Lorca pulls him closer, pushes in deep, so deep Tyler's nose presses into his pubic hair. The scent is filling his nostrils. He's drunk on it. Human, human, human, his heart beats. He's getting light headed. His own cock is throbbing. His fingers itch with the urge to touch himself but he doesn't want to get distracted, not yet. He enjoys the feel and weight and girth of Lorca's erection too much, thick and warm and silky in his mouth. He likes how it swells further when Lorca's getting close and he likes the sound he makes, all the stifled groans and grunts and heavy breathing.

They're alive. He is alive.

Lorca curses under his breath when he comes. His finger tips dig painfully into Tyler's skin, as if he had to ensure Tyler kept still and swallowed every last drop, as if Tyler didn't know how it is done, as if he didn't enjoy it. (He almost comes untouched when Lorca spills in his mouth, that's how much he likes it.)

The next seconds slow down to a crawl. The blood is sluggish in Tyler's veins, his mouth sticky with semen. At some point Lorca pulls out and slumps back against the wall of the shower. For the blink of an eye he lets his guard down enough for Tyler to realize how fucking exhausted he must be. They went through a whole battle simulation sequence before they came here for a round of unscheduled sex. Even Tyler feels the effects, and he's still high on arousal. But before he can have a good look at Lorca's true face, the mask is back on again and Lorca waves his hand lazily to indicate Tyler can take care of himself now if he wants.

And part of him wants nothing better than to wrap his fingers around his cock and stroke himself to completion. He's so hard he's leaking, but still he hesitates.

“What are you waiting for?”

Tyler wishes he had a good answer. The truth is: over the last months, it has been ingrained in his brain that he doesn't deserve to come. That his pleasure is irrelevant. That he is an object to use and to discard, not even really a person. But he can't possibly admit to that.

“It's okay, sir, I don't need to… Not now anyway. I can finish this later.”

Lorca only raises an eyebrow.

Naturally he's not convinced. After all, Tyler is still kneeling before him, naked and flushed, cock ramrod hard and dripping. He's got his wrists crossed behind his back like a good boy, a military pose he's fallen back on without thinking about it.

Lorca makes a point of looking him up and down, taking in every part of Tyler that's on display. “Why do you think I don't want to see you come?”

The words hit him like a punch in the guts. His stomach muscles tense up. For a second, the mental image of an orgasm is overwhelming. It's almost too much. He bites his lip to stay quiet. His cock pulses. Precome wells up at its tip and trickles down the shaft. He's so close already.

“I would lend you a hand,” Lorca goes on, “but we need something to build up to, don't you think?”

There will be more of this. Anticipation mingles with relief mingles with desire. Tyler pictures Lorca's fingers, thick and strong, when he wraps his own hand around his erection. A needy little sound escapes his throat, and Lorca smiles.

“That's it,” he says. “Show me how pretty you are when you come.”

Judging from Lorca's expression, he is fucking pretty when he's touching himself. His eyes are glued to Tyler's cock, just as Tyler's are fixed on Lorca's face while he works his shaft, keen not to miss the slightest change in his expression.

“Not so fast,” Lorca tells him, so Tyler makes his pulls are as slow as he can manage under the circumstances. The rosy head of his cock slips out from his fist, slips back in again. Lorca has turned off the water, but Tyler is so wet he doesn't need any more lubrication. His hand is slick with his own precome. It glistens in the light of the shower.

His breath comes short and fast. The muscles in his thighs quiver. His balls tighten. The tension is intolerable, the climax rising inside him, an unstoppable surge, but Lorca, almost imperceptibly, shakes his head and Tyler lets go at once. His cock bobs in the air, flushed and rock hard. Come dribbles from the slit on the tip onto the floor.

_

He wakes in a cell, naked, alone, with nothing for company but his memories. In the darkness of his prison, they come alive again: regrets and victories, scenes from his childhood, his mother's face, lake water on his skin, silky and soft, and the blue sky above, but mostly the events leading up to this moment. They replay in his head, over and over...

The battle at the Binary Stars. (The smell of burning wires, the smell of scorched flesh and singed hair, explosions sucked out into space, bodies between the debris, a cemetery silence, the blood-curdling screams of the injured. When death comes for them it's as archaic and brutal as it ever was.)

The capture. (Dread coiling in his stomach, faces of demons and devils, the stench, savage, blood and musk, furs and leathers, a haze of incense and unfamiliar spices. Deceiving appearances. Underneath the barbaric surface, Klingon tech is every bit as advanced as Starfleet's. A well-oiled war machine, designed for one purpose and one purpose only.)

The torture. (Choose your pain, their captors tell them when they pick them out, then pick them apart, one after the other. Wait and see how long it takes for someone to break. They are looking for something, it seems, but what for he cannot fathom. Eventually they come for him too. Their leader takes his chin into her hand, tilts is up. He can tell, she likes what she sees. It makes him feel sick.)

He still feels sick hours or even days later. It's impossible to say how much time has passed. They must have drugged him. Gas through the ventilation shafts, poison in his food, he doesn't know what it was, but he is weak as a kitten. And when she comes to visit, she treats him like one too.

She touches him like a favourite pet, and he lets her. What else can he do? Even if he were strong enough to fight, he's learned his lesson: It's either playing along or be killed, and he's not ready to go yet.

Not like the captain who chose death over slavery. He still can hear his screams echo in his head when he's not careful. Not like Lieutenant T'su either, who turned out to be the toughest of their little group – she refused to bend, even a little. She used her dying breath to spit into her torturers' faces. Not like Dr. Ogawa who sacrificed himself to save Ensign Shaw.

There are different kinds of strength, and Tyler's is endurance. He clutches on to life with all his might, prepared to do whatever it takes to survive.

He doesn't look at her when she runs her fingers over his skin. He's seen enough of the sick pleasure on their captors' faces when they torture their prisoners to be able to picture the expression on her demonic visage perfectly. Tyler doesn't doubt for a second that this is just another one of their cruel little games. He is tempted to close his eyes and dream himself to another place, but in the dark, the dead faces of his comrades are waiting for him, and he could not stand to think of them, not now, with her rough hands on his flesh and nausea and dread twisting in his belly. It would sully their memory to have them associated with this.

Her touch raises goosebumps on his skin. It takes so much control not to recoil, not to tremble like an animal in distress, more self-discipline that he has left perhaps, but maybe it doesn't matter. For whose benefit but hers should he pretend he isn't afraid?

She is curious, and he can't blame her for it. They are quite unlike, for two humanoid species. While her body is hard and tough and leathery, protected by a natural armour, his is soft and vulnerable and helpless, as ill equipped for war as it is for her attentions. Her sharp nails break his skin easily, a little pressure is all it takes. She makes a sound of delight when she draws blood. Crimson it wells up from a gaping cut on his stomach, and his captor's snake-tongue flicks out. Tyler's stomach squirms in revulsion as she leans over to lap it up.

It turns out her harsh and guttural language knows softer tones too. She talks to him like you'd talk to a skittish animal, soothing, low voice, gentle, while her hands resume the exploration of his body. Her skin is too hot, feverish as if she were carrying an infectuous sickness. Her fingers stroke up the soft insides of his thighs and Tyler tenses up.

She touches his balls, gently, for the time being at least. His skin freezes when the sharp talon traces the seam of his sac. But she doesn't slice them open to see what's inside, instead she laughs and says something in Klingon he assumes would translate to “don't be afraid, silly boy, I won't hurt you.”

And indeed, she doesn't hurt him, not really. She merely fondles his balls until, to his horror and her delight, his cock begins to stir. He can't prevent the reaction, no matter how hard he tries. It would be futile anyway. As soon as she's noticed his budding arousal, she turns her full attention to his cock. Her hot, rough fingers close around the tender organ and all the blood rushes towards his groin. His erection swells and stiffens in her hand, pushing back against her hold on him, and again she chuckles.

What a marvel his body must be for her, what a beautiful toy. Tyler hates himself for how perfectly he functions. No thought or mental image helps willing his hard-on away. It doesn't even flag when she lifts her robes to straddle him and slowly, ever so slowly sinks down on it.

Tyler closes his eyes when she parts around him. He can't bear watching her as she rides him but even the sensations are wrong. She's too hot and too wet and too tight and too rough on the inside, too, alien in every aspect. Tyler feels sickened by it. His erection remains unaffected however. The cruel clutch of her cunt, the abundance of slickness is making his cock even harder. Some animal part of him is desperate for release. He bucks under her, helpless.

She fucks him with abandon, hard and fast, until she finds her pleasure – he can't look away when she rears up on top of him, a nightmare creature in the throes of passion, her cunt squeezing him to the point of agony; he's sore by now but still rock hard, almost numb with the ache of pent-up tension. His balls are so heavy, he fears they will burst if he doesn't come soon, but somehow orgasm is nowhere within reach.

Maybe there's some sort of venom in her vaginal fluids, he thinks when she resumes her movements, riding him towards another climax. Something that keeps a man hard and desperate. It would be a neat trick.

She comes a second time, and a third, before she climbs off of him.

When he slips out of her, he feels raw, flayed. He couldn't say if there's still pleasure in the pain, but he assumes there must be, he's still hard after all. At least he thinks he is (he doesn't dare have a look), the familiar tension of arousal heavy as lead between his legs.

L'Rell clicks her tongue in what could be an expression of pity. She reaches out to touch him but reconsiders when he recoils. Instead she rummages around her pockets for what turns out to be a bag of treats.

It's weird to have them hand-fed to him, but Tyler still takes them. He's too hungry to refuse. Food has been sparse of late. They let them starve, presumably to break their resistance, and it worked like a charm. Perhaps even better than torture.

The treats are scraps of meat, some tender, some stringy, most of them pleasantly greasy. He tries not to think about what it is he's eating. (Klingons are known for the most barbaric of customs.) He rather concentrates on how good the food feels in his empty stomach. He chews greedily, chases after the next scrap with is mouth. He probably should be embarrassed he's behaving like a dog but somehow he's past such concerns. She can do with him whatever she likes, why should he hang on to something as silly as pride?

Tyler is almost genuinely grateful when he swallowed the last bite. He licks the last traces of grease from his lips and then from her fingers, and she laughs, apparently pleased by his eagerness. She says something in Klingon that sounds like an endearment. It's the first time he wishes, they had let him keep his universal translator. She must have indeed taken a liking to him; before she leaves, she pats his cheek fondly.

Perhaps Tyler was lucky she chose him to be her pet after all, perhaps she will be his way out of here.

_

He wants to belong to the shiny world of Starfleet like he used to. He wants to be rooted in its rules and its customs again. He wants to be part of something good and right and true. He wants to love and be loved. But he can't. Beneath the surface of normalcy he is damaged goods.

Michael is tender with him, and his soul longs for that – for a gentle touch, for a loving kiss, the utter civility of it – but his body has forgotten how to react. He is numb, his skin an armour that needs to be broken, split open so he can feel...

Night after night (or at least during the hours they define as night, it's always dark in space of course) he sneaks to the captain's quarters, and night after night, Lorca bends him over a table or the backrest of his sofa and fucks all the self-pity out of him.

Sometimes, when that's not enough, Lorca slaps him around a bit, backhands him across the face, or spanks his pretty ass, as he calls it. For some reason he also has a riding crop among his belongings. Tyler doesn't ask about it, it's just how it is.

Which is true for pretty much everything about Lorca. Tyler also doesn't question his habit of lurking in the dark, staring out into the blackness of space, the twinkle of stars in his eyes. He contents himself with sitting at his feet, head resting against his thigh, thinking of nothing for a while.

Every now and then, Lorca lets him stay over, his body a warm, solid bulwark against the nightmares that haunt Tyler's sleep. And if Tyler is lucky, Lorca will wake him with a hand curled around his cock and a hard-on pressing against his ass. They're going to fuck like that, drowsy and bed-warm, breath damp against the pillows and skin sticky with sweat, slow movements, unhurried, just the rise and fall of pleasure. It's as close to love-making as Tyler dares to venture.

_

Pain. Blinding Pain. Bright as suns and dark as space. Tendrils of agony unfurl in his veins. Every nerve is on fire. He screams but even his screams can't drown out the sickening sounds of his body being torn apart. He can hear himself breaking: the crunch of bone; the rip of tissue; the squelch of soft parts underneath as she slices him open.

Somehow he is half-awake during all this, somehow he still draws breath. He sees and he cannot see.

His insides are slippery. Long ropes gliding through her fingers. Blood seeps onto the table. He is beyond nausea. She rummages through his entrails, and he only realizes later they have planted something inside him, something alien. It's crawling like bugs under his skin.

My name is Ash Tyler, he repeats in his head. Lieutenant Ash Tyler, Starfleet officer on the USS Yaeger under Captain Steven Maranville, I grew up in Issaquah, King County, Washington. My mother was killed by a comet. I never knew my father. My name is Ash Tyler, my name is Ash Tyler, my name is Ash.

_

It would help to see the scars, the cracks where they broke him apart, the seams where they put him back together again, but his skin is smooth, a mask of wholeness. Deceptive. Sometimes it feels as if it's been only a dream. A nightmare he never woken up from. Sometimes it feels as if he's going mad.

He runs his fingers over the lack of scars, the cuts and bruises he remembers. There are no fractures left because they ground him to dust and remade him from ashes. He is not who he was. Not even what he was. He is new and old and different.

He remembers the words. I serve the light of Kahless, I am reborn in his flames. And reborn he was. The flames, bright like a thousand stars, burnt him to a cinder.

His name is true now.

There is nothing left of him but ash.

~