mijan: (Kirk had a blast)
[personal profile] mijan
Title: “The Harder They Fall” (1/3)
Rating: NC-17
Characters: Kirk, McCoy
Word Count: 18,000
Warnings: Intense, hardcore, and potentially triggery. Mind-fuck. If you want spoilers to decide if it's something you can read, feel free to ping me with questions.
Notes: This story is an offshoot of my Academy 'verse. This story can stand alone, and it has no impact on the main storyline of my Academy 'verse, but it references the events of AAtKM and Crossfire. Technically, it's also in the same line of "offshoot" stories as "In Perfect Trust".

My sincere thanks to [livejournal.com profile] gone_ashore and [livejournal.com profile] eldritchhorrors for their wonderful beta work, and to [livejournal.com profile] mga1999 for the test-reading and support. (Any remaining errors are the product of my twisted mind.)

Summary: Jim is having trouble coping with his first failure of the Kobayashi Maru. His bigger problem might lie in the fact that he wants to try it again.


*********




“So, can you do it?” It’s a cold question, presented with no inflection, no attachment to the answer. Still, the urgency is there.

He looks across the table at a face mostly hidden in the dim light of the bar, then slowly lifts his glass to his lips. The burn of alcohol gives him a moment to think before answering. “It’s a tall order.”

“I know. But I think it’s necessary.” A grim press of lips, and a shake of the head. “Everyone has a breaking point.” Then an ironic twist of a smile. “They say some people still need to learn theirs.”

“So they say,” he says dryly. “A second try at the Kobayashi Maru, huh?”

“Maybe,” comes the irritated reply. “I don’t know if it’ll be approved, but that’s not up to me. Even if it isn’t, the request has already been submitted. It’s the intent that’s important right now.”

“That’s a whole lot of intent.” He snorts and tips his head in mock-amusement. “Definitely a sign of someone who doesn’t know his own limits. Who would do something like that?”

A harsh laugh. “Fools and madmen.” Then a shake of the head. “It’s what made me wonder if it’s gone too far.”

“Maybe it has.” The words hang between them for a moment.

“You’re the only one who can take care of this.”

“Probably. I’d like to think I do some good work.”

“You do.” Shadowed eyes and hunched shoulders lean closer. “Not a trace. Nobody else will ever know.”

“It’s still risky.” He almost manages a smirk. “What if we’re caught?”

“You’ll just have to make sure we aren’t.”

“Are you ready for the fallout?”

“Are you?” Rhetorical. They both know the answer. The question wouldn’t have been posed in the first place if the answer had been no. “So... when?”

He takes another deep swig of liquor, and then, leaning across the table, he fixes his face with an icy stare to match the brutal task he’d been given. “When I’m damned well good and ready.”


*********



With a self-indulgent groan, Jim shuffled into his dorm room and dropped his bag on the floor with a heavy thud, letting the door slide shut on an exhausting week.

He was sore. Really fucking sore. His advanced hand-to-hand seminar had concluded today with a two-hour marathon testing session. He was good, but Andorian martial arts were rough on the human body, especially when you’re matched up against a two-meter tall Andorian. Even twenty minutes in a hot shower after it was over had done almost nothing to help the aching muscles and abused joints. He’d used up most of his monthly water credits on that, too. On top of it all, there was a head-cold making its way around campus, and he was pretty sure he was feeling the first hint of the sore throat that half of his classmates had already caught. Still no cure for the common cold, Bones had told him. It figured.

He was absolutely certain that Bones would notice the minor limp and the way he was favoring his left shoulder before they even got to the pub, if not the slight drop in the pitch of his voice. If he was lucky, he’d be able to convince his friend that he needed beer far more than a trip to the infirmary. He really didn’t want to deal with that right now.

Jim sighed as he threw his uniform jacket onto the bed. He’d promised to meet Bones after his exam. They hadn’t seen each other all week, occupied with exams and studying. Finishing the Academy in three years was one thing; doing it without completely wearing himself out was another. He’d never been so tired in his life.

On top of everything else, his run at the Kobayashi Maru two weeks ago had been... shit. Absolute shit.

Well, actually, everyone had told him that he’d done as well as anyone else they’d seen. Better than most. Pike had complimented his double-sided approach of feigning diplomacy while trying to disable the Klingon’s weapons systems with a focused tachyon burst, but it hadn’t worked. He’d still failed the test. Failed it, after he’d asked to take it early. It was only his third year at the Academy, even though he’d been promoted to Cadet First Class. And then, it was still months to graduation. He’d been so sure he could waltz in there and blow them all away. He would become a legend - the first cadet to ever beat the test. So he’d signed up for a testing slot as soon as he thought they’d approve it... and he’d failed.

So he was going to try it again. He’d requested the second testing slot a week ago, and had received his approval today. He’d sent a message to Bones, letting him know, but the only reply he’d received was a text memo, saying they’d discuss it over dinner. But seriously, what was there to discuss? All he was doing was trying to beat an unbeatable test... again.

Fuck it all, he was out of his mind.

Most of the time, the edge of exhaustion seemed oddly satisfying. It was the feeling of pushing himself to the limits and just beyond it. It let him know that he was really giving it his all. Now, with his abject failure to achieve his goals, much less push past his limits, it had left him feeling lethargic, with an itch just beneath his skin that he was too tired to scratch. It felt like the constant uphill climb of a rodent on a spinning wheel - no finish line, no thrill of victory, no sense of fighting for something bigger.

He’d talked to a counselor last year about his need to fight. Part of it was obviously his lust for competition and strategy, and his need to test himself against everything that came his way, even if he didn’t know why. But there was something else. It wasn’t masochism... not exactly. But there was a thrill in the struggle, as if the sensation of simply being alive was heightened by the immediacy and urgency of a fight, and more so by the risk of actually losing it. It didn’t matter if the fight was a battle of wits in a class, or a ratty bar brawl that left his chest heaving and blood singing in his veins even as it oozed down his chin from a split lip. It was the sensation of pushing himself to his absolute limit, physically and mentally, with every shred of his being focused on the here-and-now. Fast action and faster thought, and reveling in the satisfaction that came with that, even if it left him in a heap on the floor.

But now... he was just tired.

Jim rummaged around in his dresser and pulled out a pair of jeans, then quickly shucked his uniform pants for the comfortable, battered denim. A moment later, he tugged a sweatshirt over his academy-issue undershirt and appraised himself in the mirror. His hair was standing up a bit, but he hadn’t bothered to force it back into regulation specs after his shower. His eyes were dull, outlined in dark shadows. Normally, he looked causal and relaxed in his civvies. Today, he just looked exhausted.

A beep from his comm reminded him that he had fifteen minutes to get to Bones’ dorm to meet him. For a moment, he stared at the comm and thought about sending Bones a quick memo: Sorry, too tired. Maybe another day. But no, they’d made plans. Besides, it might do him some good to get away from campus.

He gave himself one last scowl in the mirror before heading out the door, kicking his bag in disgust as he walked by.

The turbolift hummed around him, and the doors hissed open, letting him escape through the lobby and into the rapidly deepening shadows of evening. He stopped on the steps of his dorm building and took a deep breath. The chill from the ocean was already breaking the slight spring warmth that clung to the land during the day. Mild weather. Slight chill. The usual. Nauseating normalcy.

Jim was just about to head down the path when his comm beeped. He was tempted to ignore it, but some sense of duty wouldn’t let him put it off. When he flipped it open, it was a text-only message from Bones, location-tagged from Starfleet Medical. Which meant, of course, that Bones was still on the other side of the Bay. With a sigh, Jim pulled up the message.

Sorry, Jim. We had a couple of cadets brought into the ER with respiratory complications from this virus that’s going around. I’m still coming, but I’ll be a bit late. Maybe a half hour or 45 minutes. Wait for me in my dorm room, and I’ll be there as soon as I can. - LM

Jim flipped his comm shut and let out a long, frustrated breath. He could wait a half hour. But if Bones took longer than that, his “secret” stash of bourbon was forfeit. Stuffing his comm back into his pocket, Jim hunched his shoulders and slipped away from the halo of artificial light around the entrance of his dorm.

The path between the clusters of dorms was quiet, and the huff of his own breath was rhythmic. Aching hip, sore shoulder, and exhaustion aside, it was a nice stroll. Maybe what he really needed was a quiet weekend to recover from everything and get his head back on straight. A night at the pub with Bones seemed like a good start. Certainly couldn’t hurt.

He turned left and cut through the smaller path that bypassed the main campus. It was the quickest route to the nicer dorms. Those were for the cadets with advanced degrees. He’d always been mildly jealous that Bones had a mini-suite and he’d only gotten a cramped double-occupancy dorm room, but hey, with two doctorate degrees, Bones had earned it. Jim would just have to earn his way up the food chain on his own. In the meantime, he could enjoy the fact that his best friend had a private apartment. And that he stashed some damned fine bourbon in his kitchenette.

There was no warning.

The impact of a body against his back barely registered before he was face-down in the dirt. The heavy weight pinned him to the ground and he didn’t quite manage to make a startled cry of protest before a heavy hood was yanked roughly over his head. It smelled of leather and sour sweat. He struggled, but his attacker twisted his shoulder, wrenching the already-injured joint painfully, and he was stuck. Seconds later, the immediacy of fight-or-flight gave way to pure terror as he felt the sharp bite of a hypospray against his neck.

Time slowed down as fog crept up through his skull. The darkness in the hood seemed to become impossibly darker, and his aches faded as numbness spread through his body. The weight of his assailant was crushing his chest, and he couldn’t breathe.

His last coherent thought was that he needed to apologize to Bones for missing dinner.


*********



Everything ached. Screw the stupid shoulder and bruised hip from sparring. He barely noticed those anymore. As sensation slowly began to return to Jim’s body, it quickly became an additive process of what else hurts.

Through the pain, he tried to take stock of his situation. He was blindfolded, with the rough cloth of the hasty blindfold pressed too tightly against his eyelids and the knot of fabric digging into the back of his head. He was upright, and his weight was being held by his arms, which were tethered above his head at the wrists. His legs felt boneless beneath him, but the pain in his arms made him force his legs to hold his weight. It took most of the pressure off his wrists, but he was tied just high enough that he couldn’t stand comfortably.

That’s when he realized that his feet were bare against the smooth floor. Plascrete, he thought. The room was cold. And... he was completely naked.

A dozen different thoughts and theories spun in his head. He’d been robbed for his Starfleet ID and campus access. He was being used as a hostage. Terra Prime had caught up with him for what he’d done to them during his freshman year, and it was time for payback. Some crazed cadet he’d bested in evaluations had finally blown a fuse and was exacting revenge. It was Starfleet’s idea of advanced training and it all was just an elaborate simulation, because Starfleet just seemed to do shit like that. It was a prank, and the assholes from his hand-to-hand class were going to pay for this dearly.

Ghosts of memories threatened to creep from the dark recesses of his mind -- things he’d tried to put behind him. He knew all too well what being held captive felt like, and remembered too clearly the horrific things that often came with it.

Taking a few unsteady breaths, he forced himself to keep his thoughts in the present. It wasn’t going to help anything to let his own demons scare him even more. And silence wasn’t going to help him learn anything new. Swallowing against a painfully dry throat, he decided to try for the most innocent possibility first.

“Hey, guys? I know I’m a hot ticket and all, but you could have just asked. So how about we save the pranks for another day and give me back my damned pants? It’s fucking cold in here.”

His voice was hollow in the room, and the odd echo gave him more information. The room was fairly small, and had smooth surfaces with very little upholstery and fabric to muffle sound. The one thing he didn’t hear was a reply.

Jim licked his lips nervously. “Come on, guys. This is going a bit far don’t you think? Nuguru? Raske? I swear to God, if you don’t let me down from here, I’m going to wipe the mat with you the next time we do sparring. Guys?”

This time, there was the faint rustle of fabric from somewhere behind him.

“Marquez? If that’s you, so help me --”

The rush of air was all the warning he had before something ripped across his back with a sharp crack, searing like a line of fire. Too stunned to scream, he gasped against the pain that burned in his skin, intensifying for several seconds before slowly fading back.

“Your friends aren’t here.” It was a man’s voice; rough and thick. Unfamiliar. North American, but he couldn’t place the specific accent. If Jim could get him to talk more...

“Well,” Jim bit out through gritted teeth, “if we’re not friends, then isn’t this a bit much for a first date? How about we start with dinner and a holovid, then --”

There was only a brief whistle of air before the whip lashed across his back again. “You talk when I tell you to talk.”

Jim gave a grunt, trying to force the pain to the back of his mind, pushing his own anger and irritation to the forefront. “Oh, so we’re playing that game? No fucking way. How about you tell me where I am, what you want, and who the hell you think you --”

The whip struck him again, slicing across his shoulders. He clenched his teeth hard enough to make his jaw hurt, refusing to give this asshole the satisfaction of crying out.

“Demanding, aren’t you?”

Jim snarled. “When some random bastard jumps me and ruins my Friday night? You bet.”

His captor said nothing. Instead, the whip sang again, and Jim was perversely satisfied that he didn’t flinch too much. All told, he’d experienced worse in his life. He’d gotten out of much worse. He just had to figure his way out of this one.

“Listen, I don’t know what you want -” Another crack of the whip across his back made his voice break, and he took a few unsteady breaths before continuing. “- but this isn’t... urgh! - going to get you anywhere!” he finished off with throaty growl.

“Hmmph,” was the only reply, followed by another brutal lash, this one catching him just below the curve of his ass, snapping against sensitive skin.

Jim squeezed his eyes shut against the searing sting, then sneered under his blindfold. “So you’re just going to whip me all day?”

His answer was another lash of the whip.

“I’ll bet you wouldn’t have the balls to untie me and face me,” he hissed.

“Why would I want to do something like that? I’ve got you exactly where I want you.” The whip fell again.

“Coward,” Jim spat into the room.

A harsh laugh and another lash.

The pain from the individual whip marks was starting to bleed together, making Jim’s whole back burn and throb. Each time the whip struck, he’d jump, twisting away from the new bite of pain in his skin - stumbling, straining to keep his footing, and not always succeeding. His breath began to squeeze tightly in his throat. He was starting to pant to cope with it, and he forced himself to steady his breathing. Bones had taught him how to control his reactions to pain and stress by controlling his breathing. It wouldn’t do him any good to let the physical pain start getting the upper hand. He needed to derail this sooner rather than later, and if he could stay focused, he had a chance. Maybe he could goad the guy into taking off the blindfold. “Come on, at least face me like a man!”

“I am facing you.”

The whip struck again, hitting a spot that was already throbbing viciously, just below his left shoulder blade, then again without pause, and Jim couldn’t hold back the sharp cry that ripped out of his throat. “Fuck! You... fuck!” So much for self-control. “Who the hell are you and what do you want with me, you goddamned bastard?”

The anticipated bite of the whip never came, but a large hand suddenly gripped his hair, pulling his head back roughly. The man’s voice grated against his ears, breath hot against his cheek.

“My name isn’t important. And it’s not what I want with you that should have you worried. You’ve pissed off some high and mighty people, Cadet James Tiberius Kirk.”

He knows my name.

In a heartbeat, Jim’s sense of the power dynamic in the room became even darker. Not only did this asshole know his name, but... there were only so many people Jim had seriously pissed off this badly. Some of them wouldn’t think twice about having Jim tortured and killed for what he’d done. Terra Prime. Jim panted a few breaths before asking choking out, “Who?”

“People who paid well enough.” Just as quickly, the hand released his hair, and Jim’s eyes watered underneath the blindfold as he brought his head back up. Footsteps retreated from him, out of range of whips or other implements.

“Paid for what?”

“For me to bring you down a notch,” came the answer from about three meters away. “Although I must say, Kirk, that I’ve watched you long enough that I’ll enjoy dragging you down myself.”

Jim scoffed dismissively. “Wow, stalking. You know, that sounds like an unhealthy sort of obsession. I know a really good shrink who could help you with...” His voice choked off as he heard the footsteps returning, and a second later, the unmistakable sensation of the palm of a hand cracked across his face hard enough to turn his head.

“You really don’t know when to shut up for your own good, do you? I’m not the one in this room who needs a shrink.”

“Oh, and I do?”

“You will when I’m done with you.”

The voice was cold and too damned confident, and Jim was sure he wasn’t bluffing. This wasn’t a game. Holding his voice as steady as possible, dropping his tone the way he would if he was giving a command, he said, “What the hell is this all about?”

At that, the man laughed. It was a jolting, rough sound - rusty, like a man who wasn’t used to laughing. “What is this all about?” He leaned in close, fingers once again twisting Jim’s hair hard enough to make his eyes water. “What do you think it’s about, you cocky, arrogant son of a bitch? You’re just a fucking cadet, and in less than two years, you’ve gotten tangled in all sorts of shit, and you’ve pissed off some folks by being too damned ambitious for your own fucking good.”

Suddenly, the man’s chest was against Jim’s back, all cold leather with rough metal fastenings digging into Jim’s bare skin and grating against the whip marks, and something sharp was pressed to the exposed front of Jim’s neck. A furious spike of fear raced up his spine, and his heart was thundering out of control in his chest, blood rushing in his ears. He barely managed to keep from swallowing against the sensation of the knife against his throat. This guy wasn’t messing around. Jim managed a breathy whisper. “Sorry for being awesome.”

An amused snort. “They don’t want awesome, kid. Haven’t you learned that? They want good little cadets who stay in line.”

Jim’s pounding heart skipped a beat and his blood ran cold as a terrifying thought hit him. Worse than the knife at his throat. More serious than being targeted by a terrorist organization. Terra Prime didn’t want good little cadets. They wanted Starfleet to fail. On the other hand... “Wait just one fucking minute. Are you working for someone in Starfl--”

The knife pressed tighter, and Jim all but stopped breathing. He could feel sweat begin to trickle down the back of his spine.

“You’d be easier for a lot of people to take if you’d just shut up and do what you’re told instead of sticking your neck out every other day.” Jim swore the knife was starting to break skin. “But it’s too late for you to shut up. So let’s see the great James Kirk reduced to a pathetic scrap of tears. I want to see you scream.”

The knife was withdrawn as the man stepped back. Air rushed back into Jim’s lungs as he gasped in relief, shaking and shuddering at the ghost of the knife on his neck. It must have broken skin, because the sweat was making his neck sting, and he imagined the drops of sweat oozing down to his collarbone with a thin red trickle of blood.

There were footsteps moving away from him. Air currents licked at Jim’s skin, and he shivered. He could feel goose bumps prickling along his arms and the back of his neck, partially from the chill in the air, but also from the other sounds that began to reach his ears. A zipper. Rustling noises. Heavy clattering. Plastic on metal. Metal on metal. Whatever this asshole was going to do, it sounded like he had the tools of the trade, and he’d planned for this.

“What are you going to do with me?”

“Whatever I want.”

Obviously, Jim thought, gritting his teeth. “I mean... when you’re done with me? Are you going to kill me?”

The huff of a heavy breath, but no answer.

Psych warfare. No way to know how this was going to end, and as far as Jim could see, there was no way out. He tugged at his restraints. The ropes were rough on his wrists, and were made of some sort of polymer that didn’t have any stretch whatsoever. They were tied securely and tightly enough that he’d have to dislocate his thumbs and possibly rip the skin off his wrists if he wanted to get his hands free. Even then, there was no guarantee he could do it.

And if he did get loose, then what? He was naked, and alone in a room with a man who had drugged him once, was at least carrying a knife, and possibly had other weapons. A simple escape was impossible. He’d been trained in diplomacy and hostage negotiations. Maybe he could talk to the guy. Talk him out of doing... whatever it was he planned to do.

“Whatever you’re thinking, don’t bother, Kirk. I can smell the smoke from your brain circuits, and I know how those wires work.” There were more sounds of equipment shifting, and then a dark chuckle. “I know all about you. Got your psych profile. You’re a messy piece of work.”

He’s seen my psych profile? No... no... that’s confidential. And there... there are... he’d know all about... he’d know what...

If this guy had seen his psych profile, he had to know Jim had been taken hostage before. Had to know some of the details of his past that had left scars too deep to heal. And had probably devised all sorts of ways to rip those scars wide open again.

There was that grating laugh again. “Oh, now that scares you, does it? The fact that I know your buttons. I know what terrifies you. You’re such an open book. I can see it all... and you can’t even see my face.”

“Shut up. Just... stop talking to me,” Jim bit out. “You want to torture me? You want to kill me? Whatever you want to do, just get to it.”

A snort. “Any other requests, princess?”

Something caught in Jim’s throat, and for a moment, all he could think of was Bones getting to his dorm room and finding it empty. Swallowing tightly, he managed to croak out, “Yeah. Seeing as you know every damned thing about me... let McCoy know I’m sorry I missed dinner.”

For a moment, there was nothing but silence. Then, with no warning, the whip cracked across his back again.

Jim bit down on his lip, refusing to cry out. The lash struck again, and Jim tried to squirm away from it. He braced his muscles for the next strike, but it didn’t come... until he started to relax, and the fire tore across his skin again. There was no rhythm. No pattern. Every strike ripped across a new piece of skin, rained down without warning, without a pattern. Every lash was a surprise and a shock, unrelenting and uncaring. He kicked. Struggled. Pulled at his restraints and swore in every language he could remember until the words blurred into mindless yelling, but the whip didn’t stop.

The world disappeared. There was nothing beyond the stripes of pain across his back, and somewhere in the middle of everything, he’d started crying out with each strike. The blindfold felt damp, but he wasn’t sobbing. There was just the hot ooze of tears as the sense of helplessness began to sink in.

Finally, long after Jim had lost track of time, the lashes stopped. His back was burning and stinging, and he was sweating and shivering at once. He gasped and shook as footsteps moved away from him for a moment. “Fuck...” His voice was unsteady. “Damn it... what do you want?”

Not a word. Just more rummaging.

“Do you want me to drop out of the Academy? Drop off the grid?” Jim shook his head to himself, compulsively testing the bindings on his wrists. “I could fail my tactics seminar if that will make people happy! What the hell do you want?”

The footsteps came back rapidly, and fingers closed over his neck, pressing up under his jaw. The voice was just a few centimeters in front of his face. “I already told you. I want you to break. But you won’t give up your high-and-mighty pipe dreams about guts and glory in Starfleet just because I shake a stick at you. You can promise all you want, golden boy, but as soon as you’re back in your ivory tower, you’ll scrap yourself together and get into more things you’ve got no business dealing in. No, it’s high time someone showed you your place. You need to be broken. And I know how to break you.”



(To Part 2...)

Date: 2011-01-03 08:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cedarrapidsgirl.livejournal.com
You kill me dead every time!

*waits for more*

Date: 2011-01-03 10:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lap-otter.livejournal.com
You never said it wasn't going to be all posted at once!

This is a tough scene, but the most gut-wrenching thing for me is that, yeah Jim's scared, and angry, but more than that what shows is that he's sorry he missed dinner. Just that. "Let McCoy know I'm sorry I missed dinner." Tells ya somethin, don't it.

Date: 2011-01-03 10:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mijan.livejournal.com
I finished posting! It's all there! You can indulge from start to finish now! ♥

And yeah, I needed to include the fact that in all this, Jim is still thinking about his Bones.

Date: 2011-01-03 10:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] syredronning.livejournal.com
Intriguing start! I'm totally looking forward to the next parts, curious where this is going :)

Date: 2011-01-03 10:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mijan.livejournal.com
It's all posted now! Just follow the trail of links. :D

As for where it's going... just remember that I never do things the normal way.

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