katydidmischief: (kirknspock)
[personal profile] katydidmischief posting in [community profile] cjs_own
disclaimer. Not mine. Never have been and I'll only ever be playing in the sandbox.
title. Cor Aut Mors
rating. R for Content
Pairing. Kirk & Spock, friendship/pre-slash.
summary. There is nothing left; all the avenues they've tried to restore the land to fertility have failed.
warnings. AU, discussion of cannibalism, mentions of sexual abuse.
notes. Written for Prompts 3 & 4 of the [livejournal.com profile] tarsus_iv_fic Challenge.

Jim, On Tarsus

Jim's not there – at the colony – long enough to understand the balances, the nuances. He is, however, there with enough time (before the famine) to hear the whispers about Kodos and the Vulcan boy he keeps at his side: the boy who's the son of an ambassador, who looks so very exotic that Kodos had whisked him off with empty promises to parents too caught up to see the horrific glee in the man's eyes.

Jim doesn't really give a damn either. At least, he doesn't until food becomes a precious resource and all hell begins to break loose.

Then he wonders about the older boy with the pointed ears and the sad eyes – the one who might be able to save them.

Before Jim Wonders, But After It Begins

Spock's at Kodos side when the orders are given, his ears pricked toward the words though he's only able to process them long after:

"We must conserve what we have for those who are most valuable – collect the children, the scientists. Test them. Find me the strongest, the smartest and the rest... we will offer them a merciful out."

He thinks of the boy he's seen in the crowds, the ones formed in the center of the colony below Kodos' window begging for help, who looks at him with questions on his face. He thinks of how much he would have, once, wanted to play with that boy as a friend and a confidante; now he thinks of how impotent he is, standing here with access to the warehouses (all he'd have to do is press a button, the doors would unlock) and access to the communications system (Kodos lied – he'd never called Starfleet, he'd just been waiting for something like this to happen).

He could save them all if only he had the courage.

Years Later, On the Enterprise, After Nero

The Observation Deck should be empty. After all, they aren't shipping out for another three months while the ship is repaired and Cadets-turned-Officers-returned-to-Cadets finish out the classes they need to be considered "Qualified" (apparently, saving the universe wasn't enough); everyone should, by rights, be with family, or friends, or studying like hell for the finals they're a year behind for.

"I thought you would be off with your father," Jim says, leaning into the doorframe.

He steadfastly refuses to think about how Spock, sitting on that bench, looks so much like the teenager Starfleet had rescued from Tarsus IV, hunched and drawn.

"He... grieves for my mother – it is best I am not with him," Spock answers.

"Grieves for her like he grieved for you?"

Spock looks away. Tarsus is not a reminder he needs right now, but he doesn't feel anger at Jim: they have tried so hard (so very hard) over the years to never be seen together, to never be associated as anything other than (now) members of Starfleet, to never have their names come up in conversation together. It's best, they'd decided on that rescue ship, if all ties were cut and all communications ended before they began. Being flung together like this decimates all those promises and to the surface rises the memories of those desolate days.

Sarek, Spock thinks, had grieved quiet solemnly for him then (the grief of a parent made impotent by happenstance and embittered by it). But no, it is not the same grief Sarek harbors now and he tells Jim such, adding, "He will have me at his side for many years yet. It is not the same for my mother."

Jim nods and slides onto the bench beside the man he hopes to convince to be his first officer.

Tarsus IV, When the Food Begins to Run Out

Spock is spared death: when the Betazoids (last names Kirk, Rutho, Arleni) were taken, he tried to intervene, only to be fed lie upon lie as he was pet by Kodos and promised no more killings. Then the Aenar were led to slaughter and Spock knew – it was only a matter of time.

He begins to form plans in his mind: each has the same outcome as he can only see this ending in one way yet as the days and nights wear on and he hears the cries of hungry children – ones too young to be aware of such pain, he realizes he can no longer stand idly by. His life, he decides, is worth the sacrifice if he can save the few thousand youths who remain, designated by Kodos as acceptable to continue living (for now).

Spock uses his body to buy himself into the good graces of the governor and earns himself precious few extra meals (he knows this takes away from others, but he needs the strength); he makes friends with his guards and manipulates them into letting him outside the walls over the Governor's home.

Fresh air, he swears, he just needs some fresh air and no, he doesn't need protection – he's fine.

"You're Kodos' boy," a strong, young voice whispers to him from the bushes a few yards from the outer wall. Kodos had built it to keep the dying colonists out; Spock selfishly wonders if it was also to keep him in.

"I am no one's boy," he answers.

"Good," he's told and a pair of blue eyes stare through the foliage. "You Vulcan?"

"You human?" Well, if they were stating the obvious...

Blue Eyes grins, clearly still full of biting spirit.

The Second Time Spock Escapes His Handlers,
When The Food Runs Out Altogether

Jim, he's learned, is an intelligent young man with little fear and death wish. He sees Kodos as an enemy to be defeated, the children he has gathered together as a ragtag brigade of privates to be trained, and getting food as a tactical issue.

He is no longer a child, but he's still innocent.

"There's nothing left," he tells Jim after twenty minutes of alternate asking, pleading, begging, and demanding (the kids are hungry, they haven't eaten in days, they can't survive much more). "I have seen the warehouses – the stores are empty. Those whom are left, we are to starve until he sends the death squads."

Kirk doesn't ask for further explanation, only sits back in the shade of his hiding spot with a crushed look on his face. He doesn't speak for long minutes; clearly he's thinking (Spock's sure) of the little boy named Kevin who follows Jim around like a shadow, of the little girl who sleeps at his side. Then Jim shakes his head and whispers, "I guess desperate times call for desperate measures then," and disappears into the scorching twilight.

Spock hears later that one of Kodos' recent kills had been carved to pieces. He spares only a moment for horror, then lets it go in a breath: desperate times call for desperate measures, indeed.

The Observation Deck, Still

Jim's partly an empath, but he doesn't need his Betazoid blood to tell him that Spock's gone back to those days, thinking about the things they'd both done in order to survive.

God, how desperate they'd been, hungry and weak and sure that they'd never leave the colony. The best they'd hoped for, then, was to make it long enough to save whomever they could; Jim tries not to think about the ones they'd lost in the last days. (Hoshi Sato still weighs on his mind: if only he'd had a better shot, the Guard would be dead instead of her.)

The silence between them is comfortable, though laden with issues unspoken; Jim can't stand it. He tells Spock, "We're a good team," and leans a touch closer.

"We are. We have been."

"We will be," Jim lisps back.

"I regret," Spock says, "that we chose to never discuss our actions."

Jim shrugs. "It was easier then, to push it away instead of having to think about it. He wasn't our problem any more and it wasn't like we were going to spend summer breaks at each others' houses, Spock – avoidance was easier."

"He will be our problem now, Jim."

Kirk's eyes darken as he remembers: Kodos, a look of betrayal on his face as Starfleet sends word that they will arrive in hours. His orders shouted to slay anyone who has seen him; as he runs like a dog with his tail between his legs and the great, low groan of ship as it heaves off the dock then the crack as it leaves atmo.

"Yes, he will. And I intend to keep our other promise if it comes to pass."

Spock nods.

A Handful of Meetings Later, When the Boys' Fates Were Sealed (They Thought)

Spock sneaks Jim in to the compound many days later; the children were told to stay in hiding and they spread the message to the other hordes of renegades to do the same.

Jim's lost what had been left of his innocence – eating the meat torn from human bodies could do that to a person, but with nothing else, it's the only sustenance they've all got. (Spock resolutely tries to ignore that he, too, has had to partake in what has become Kodos' new venue for food. There is nothing left; all the avenues they've tried to restore the land to fertility have failed. He still will not call Starfleet.) Jim's stronger for it, though his eyes are downtrodden and dull and he speaks of sacrificing himself for the greater good.

The compound has already begun to fall into disrepair: with no one strong enough to tend to the structure and no ounce of ground able to support plant life, there is only dirt to walk on and boards coated in dust. In the dark, Jim can just about make out the footprints (he tries to step inside them).

No words are spoken, no eye contact is made as Jim and Spock slide along the corridors, sneaking past rooms and climbing stairs. They have their goal and they will not deviate from it, though should their hands be forced there are phasers tucked into their pockets – they'd tried to take the holsters but even with the meat they've consumed over the last two weeks, their clothes had given way under the weight.

They turn a corner and Jim hears her.

Hoshi has been his most trusted teacher here in the colony, the only one he'd shared the details of his home life with and he realizes that he'd already assumed her dead – when the extermination had begun, all those over a certain age had been taken away. (Jim will only hear later that it was because Kodos valued new lives over the old ones. They will tell him, when he rages about it, that he should be grateful – his was new life.)

He can't help himself; Jim peers into the room for a handful of seconds: she's on her knees. She's begging. The great Hoshi Sato, who'd seen the birth of the Federation, is on her knees, begging, and Jim longs to rush in, save her, take her away. She's using his name and she's using Kevin's name, Anna's name, Julie, Christian, R'tel...

There's fear in her, Jim can feel from across the room, though her eyes are steel; for a moment Jim thinks Kodos is listening to her.

He cannot get his phaser up and a shot reeled off before she's on the ground.

Spock grabs him by the back of the shirt, hauls him to his feet, and tells Jim, "Now we must run."

After Hoshi, Before Rescue, After Kodos Escapes

The guards aren't as tough with their leader gone and they let Jim and Spock go from their clutches when they hear the voices on the comm - "This is Captain O'Brien of the USS Reliant," and "Starfleet vessels will arriving within twenty-four hours," and "Please respond – is anyone alive?" - allowing the boys to rush from the compound on bloodied feet.

They return to the children and those adults who've escaped. They tell them Starfleet is nearly there. They laugh and they cry and the youngest ones look up at the older with glassy eyes, asking, "We go home?"

It's an all out party that night; they crawl over the compound, killing those who had killed their families, their friends. The bodies are burned in a bonfire, slabs of meat culled from bone and roasted – the babies are hungry and they cannot wait for food to arrive on the ships that will carry them home. Jim, after he's offered a hunk, vomits and retreats.

Inside the building, Spock has hidden himself in a closet but he scoots over to make room for Jim when the ashen-faced boy appears. He makes no comment on the comm in Spock's hands nor speaks when Spock answers a hail.

"Thank god," the voice returns. "We're nearly there, son. Do you... do you know how many have survived?"

Spock forces himself to sound detached – he cannot afford to lose control now, for all his emotions will come forward at once and he's scared who he might hurt when they do. He knows, however, that he cannot hurt Jim: the man is reverting to a boy and he does not deserve further pain.

"We are less than three thousand."

He feels his tongue catch as he speaks, wanting to say more survived for some reason and knowing that it is not true. Perhaps in another time there could have been more; Kodos might have allowed more to survive under different circumstances, but the truth is their numbers are perhaps a third of what the Colony had been.

There is silence, then, "Son," a stronger voice than the previous starts, "what's your name?"

"I am Spock and my... friend is Jim."

"Your father is Ambassador Sarek?"

"Yes."

The Captain speaks again. "Okay, son. Okay." He sounds as broken as some of those whom will likely not recover from the horrors they've endured; Spock feels a moment of anger toward him – these officers, these people Starfleet has sent, have no idea what these months have been like and they cannot empathize with the colonists who've survived. There is simply no feasible way Starfleet and it's members could understand the utter hell it has been, eating the dead and sleeping in dirt, using one's body to gain favor and food, watching infants die when the lactating mothers who'd tried to save them died themselves or their milk dried up. Watching people fight in the streets over what little they'd had; hearing the cries for help.

Spock lifts an arm to pull Jim closer and leans his head back into the cool wall. In his hand, the Reliant's first officer continues to drone on through the communicator, offering empty promises of aid that are too little, too late.

The Observation Deck, Between Midnight and Dawn

This is how Sarek finds them: Jim has his arm around Spock, his head pitched toward the other man and his other hand clutching at his communicator. It is a similar scene to how Sarek had found them, hiding in a closet in the Governor's residence more than a decade earlier.

He is reluctant to pull them apart; he still grieves for Amanda, his control over his emotions too raw and damaged, his feelings too close to the surface, but he knows in his heart that this – standing with these two men – is where he needs to be. (Genocide is genocide, whether it's in a Colony or in a firefight across the stars. These boys are suffering. He must be with them.)

"Jim," he says, tone level. "Spock."

"Father."

Jim nods and offers him a respectful, "Sir," the same as he had back then. His body screams with the desire to run (also the same as back then), and Sarek reaches out to rest a hand on Jim's shoulder; there are memories he catches an inkling of and he draws himself away – Jim is scattered, upset. He is not a person to be... touching at this time, though Sarek feels the craving for comfort rolling off Kirk in waves anyway.

For several minutes, they linger there, gauging and eying each other wearily, like a deer would a wolf. Then Sarek's eyes narrow and that ever-present paternal feeling kicks in, driving back his depression and honing his control; he becomes, in an instant, the man who had sat in a closet with two terrified teenagers for hours until they could bring themselves to leave the sanctity of the space. He is the man who tried, for months, to gain custody of the orphaned boy James Kirk only to be rebuked at every turn by red tape, time, and the boy himself.

He, finally, breaks their standoff, sliding in between them on the bench and says nothing when they slide in close. Sarek only remains as he is, letting them whisper across his shoulders, letting them speak their peace and seal the wounds.

On the Rescue Ship

"We will not speak of this."

"Right on with you."

"We will not discuss what has occurred with anyone."

"Agreed."

"And should one of us locate Kodos, we will alert the other – we will be the ones to ensure he is... exterminated."

Jim's eyes narrow and he holds out a hand. "Deal."

Date: 2010-04-11 01:31 am (UTC)
imasupermuteant: (OMFG!)
From: [personal profile] imasupermuteant
Wow. I am a huge fan of all tarsus fics but this one is really the cream of the crop. I loved how you put tarsus into the new universe and the jumping between past and present and the sheer emotionality (is that a word?) packed into every scene.

Yeah. Wow.

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