Winona Kirk takes a leave of absence from active Starfleet duty until Jim is three, and then for four years she only goes into space for 4 months of the 12.
She takes up diplomatic missions, becomes Ambassador Kirk. Specializes in Romulan/Federation relations, is hard as nails, and can drink a Romulan under the table.
She and Jim sit on her bed while Sam is at school and they watch old 20th century movies.
Mom loves Star Wars, and when Jim is asked to describe her ("what's your mom like?") Jim always remembers Leia telling Luke about their mother. "She was very beautiful, kind but sad."
His mom is very beautiful, but sad. But she's alive, and she didn't marry Darth Vader. Which makes her awesome. Also, his mom is only sad sometimes- and instead of kind she's more kickass.
Winona Kirk, when confronted, always takes full responsibility for the fact that her youngest son's conversations are peppered with references to two and three hundred year old movies. She thinks it's hilarious.
When he's nine he writes her that he was "feeling a little John Connor today. Are you Sarah?" From that day on she always signs her messages "Mother of the Future of Mankind".
Sam is always getting the praise and her smiles, but Jim gets her jokes- he's okay with that.
His brother's name is technically George. He is George Samuel Kirk- but Mom calls him Sam, probably because it- hurts too much to call him George. Later in life, Sam will insist on using Dad's name, but he's Sam to Jim and their Mom and to everyone they grew up with, (and to the entire 400-person crew of the Enterprise) George will always be "Sam".
Sam is a good kid, interested in science- biology, not astrophysics like Jim (secretly) is. He's not quite as smart as Jim, not quite as fast- and he remembers Dad.
And sometimes, when Jim is being particularly annoying, Sam will shout, "Dad would have totally hated you!"
And Jim thinks that Dad died on his birthday, and that maybe that could be true.
And his mom always manages to be offworld on his birthday, so maybe Sam's right- maybe somehow it was his fault.
He sends her a sniffling message in whatever sector she's in, telling her that he's sorry, so sorry- and he'll leave, and it will be okay.
He waits until Grandma and Grandpa Kirk are asleep and Sam is snoring lightly before he runs away.
It's March, in Iowa- the snow is a foot deep, and he's miserable and sobbing and he's five when he thinks that maybe he should never have been born.
He wakes up in a hospital with his mother's hand warm on his forehead, snarling at his grandparents.
He turns his head, and Sam stares at him and says, "I'm so sorry- I was mad, I was- Jim," and he sounds so scared, and he's Jim's big brother and Jim knows he was almost dead (odds of survival: 17%- Jim would do the math later), and that Sam would have been sorry.
There is a hot, ugly feeling of good, serves you right that Jim can't quite ever manage to feel guilty about.
His mom stays for the next eight months, and they live in the house she and Dad picked out like a real family. She gives him pained looks, and then she tells him the story about his birth- about how it wasn't his fault, not even a little.
She gets married to Frank Hallie, and Sam loves him. Jim hates him, but his mom stays on Earth for the rest of the year until there's some emergency.
"You drove the car," she says slowly. "Off the gorge."
"You got arrested, and Frank didn't bail you out, so you hacked the jail."
She looks at him, and his stomach twists itself into double helixes (Mr. Greenville has him in the advanced maths class). The silence stretches out.
Jim's read about harakiri. How bad could that be- the Operative in Serenity said there was no shame in that death.
Jim has got to stop watching those movies. He's nine. It's time to watch…well, nothing, because the political correctness movement is hardcore making it impossible to make a movie. The classics are the only ones with any…anything.
"I calculated the odds of survival," he lies. Well, he did. Just…after the fact. 8%. He shouldn't be here, having this conversation.
"What were they?"
And then her face twists, and she laughs. And laughs and laughs and laughs. She calls Frank and smoothes things over, buys him a new classic car. Calls the school and gets Jim enrolled in after-curricular activities, like the math club.
"You're such a shit," she sighs when he tells her that he's fairly sure Frank only uses 1/10% of his allotted 10% of his brain.
When he's 12 he's itching to get out. Out.
Kodos has 8,000 people, and he came to dinner that one time because Mom was on some council or something… so Jim begs her to let him go.
"I'll kill Frank in his sleep," he warns. Then, considering, "he might kill me in my sleep. You wouldn't want that on your conscience."
Kodos is amazing. His wife and he are trying for a kid desperately, but they love Jim. Kodos shows Jim old, obscure math theories and lets him read the books all the time. He takes him out onto Tarsus IV and shows him how to establish a colony, how the people are thriving.
And then there is a plant virus that wipes out 60% of the crop yield.
They won't have enough food to get to the next Starfleet check-in.
Jim calculates the odds: they'll all starve to death. He can fix this: he's a genius, Kodos keeps assuring him and Jim…he wants to help. To save them- and Kodos wants to fix this so desperately.
Jim works hard on how to stretch the food, but the thing is…old people are a problem. Old people, people with mental or physical diseases- people who don't function at maximum capacity are burdens on the system.
Their right to full and happy lives, Jim doesn't dispute. It's just- the math says they should go.
He hides it carefully away, and says he didn't find anything.
Then people start disappearing, and Kodos starts making speeches about "the good of the population" and "this is the best solution" and Jim realizes that he found the math.
Kodos implements a eugenics program. Jim tries to hack the communications system- get a word out to someone, anyone, but it's not shut down: it's destroyed.
"They are not coming to help us, Jim," Kodos says, and Jim is thirteen and he knows a crazy motherfucker when he sees one. "You and I, we are strong, we must survive to lead them," he continues, cupping Jim's cheeks. His breath is horrible, and too close. "I do not do this lightly."
"There are other- " he breaks off when Kodos hits him.
"There are not!" he thunders, his fingers biting into Jim's biceps. "Do not make me regret sparing you, Jim."
In The Princess Bride Westley said Dread Pirate Roberts said every night, "Good night, Westley. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning." Westley never seemed to believe it.
Jim does- even though he's one of the best candidates for survival, for the survival of the colony, this has become personal for Kodos. His fear- his guilt- make him dangerous.
The math doesn't lie, and the math says they'll all be dead in two years (probability: 94% positive).
But the math doesn't matter. It's - what the fuck is the point of it? Half the population who came here with such fucking hopes are dead, and Jim is pissed.
So he can't hack anything to do with communications: he sabotages the vaporization chambers. They stop functioning, and he stops sleeping, so terrified, so angry, hiding in shadows and wearing his sleeves too long to hide the burns from the wiring.
And then Kodos finds him. He hits him again and again, raging and spitting in Jim's face that he'd been like a son to him, wrapping his hands around Jim's throat and squeezing.
And then he just- slams against Jim, hard, knocking them both into the wall, and Jim kicks Kodos off, staring because…
"Mom," Jim manages around his bruised throat. "Mom."
She sits with him, strokes his hair as he sobs into her lap. After four minutes she jostles her thigh and says, "Here, take this." He wraps his hand around the phaser. "It's set to disintegrate and kill," she says. "Shoot anyone who comes at you who isn't Starfleet."
Later, with a solar blanket wrapped around his shoulders after being treated and talking to Sam, who was freaking out, he watches her direct the evacuation, effortlessly speaking over senior Starfleet personnel.
On the shuttle ride back to Earth she never asks him if he's okay. When he asks her how she knew something was wrong she says, "I called you Rodney McKay and you didn't respond in all caps. Something was up."
He leans his head against the shuttle window and thinks that he might be able to smile. She's kind of ridiculous.
He graduates from high school at 15, and emancipates himself. Gets odd jobs around Riverside. Moves out of Frank's house- Sam's long gone.
She finds him in a bar, scribbling out equation after equation. Millennium problems- some solved, some unsolved- some solved by him.
She watches him quietly, hands him water and an aspirin, and gets her lawyers to give him his portion of Dad's life insurance policy early.
He has hazy memories of her doing that a lot when he's still so fucked up. Ages 15-22 were… bad years. He always has condoms, and self-check tests for VDs and-
His rap sheet is longer than their driveway at this point, and he punches his grandfather and tries to punch her.
Every month she sends him a new movie.
One year it was all Julia Roberts: Notting Hill, Pretty Woman, Mystic Pizza, My Best Friend's Wedding, America's Sweethearts, Runaway Bride, Stepmom, Erin Brokovich, Conspiracy Theory, Hook, The Pelican Brief, and Steel Magnolias.
He'll never forgive her for that.
He hates Good Will Hunting- when the fuck would that ever happen in real life? And A Beautiful Mind makes him want to scream.
He watches them, though. Doesn't even skip forward. Sometimes, if he wakes up with no idea what he's watched? He watches them again.
"I have been stranded on Hoth by a Vulcan. FML." He sends it while waiting for Scotty to fix things, with Keenser moving alongside him and tidying whatever Scotty's fixed.
"Does that make you Han or Luke?" she replies a few minutes later.
Jim likes to think he's Han, but he's totally Luke, and Spock- other, older Spock- is Han fucking Solo.
Jim hates his life.
"Your father would be proud," she says. She looks around the bar, watches Spock walk in. "I would cite regulations," she remarks with a wry smile, "but I don't suspect either of you will be walking around pregnantly flouting the no fraternization rules of officers."
He leans against the bar, grinning slightly. "Probably not."
His mother is a tough subject for him- she wasn't ever there, but they never had a rough relationship. She was always easy to be around, not like the other moms but somehow cooler. She drinks her beer and nods to Spock. "Hear you're the one who got Jim to join," she says.
"I - "
"He manipulated me."
"As I recall that was the only way to get you to do anything," she observed lightly, paying her bill. "I'm proud of you, Jim. Don't screw it up."
He kisses her cheek. "Awesome pep-talk, Mom."
"Yay team," she replies and walks out.
Okay, so his mom is kind of awesome.
She comes to the ceremony. She looks around at the hallway like she can see the ghosts; hear the echoes of feet that will never run down the halls again.
She doesn't say anything, just sits there, beside him, as he realizes how many people he's never going to see again- how many people they didn't save.
And when it slams home and he sobs in great shuddering sobs, she just puts her hand in his hair, and waits for him to finish.
"You don't let it define you," she says to the question he doesn't have to ask. "You let it shape you, and you're changed by it- you'll never be the same. But it doesn't define you."
The reason they get on so well- the reason that Jim is still here, is that- she just gets it. She's nothing like other mothers, but Jim doesn't think he'd've made it past 5 if he'd had anyone else.
The thing is, she likes both Spocks. She thinks it's kind of hilarious, but she likes them both. She and Bones get on like a house on fire.
Jim thinks it's hilarious that Spock, who's so… Vulcan in his interaction with the world (which, you know, okay, logical, give that he's been raised Vulcan), doesn't know what to do with Winona Kirk's brusque way of dealing with the universe.
"So we're all going to die. Drinks?" she asks as the asteroid, which has them in its gravitational pull, hurtles towards them.
Scotty hands her the home brew. Jim rolls his eyes. "We're not going to die."
There's a 47.904% chance they will. But that's practically perfect odds, given what Jim's been up against before.
Instead of fond smiles and tactile moments and gentle understanding, Jim's mom is phasers and swearing and drinking in the face of death- she's old movies and bad pep-talks and really actually terrible parenting skills and completely shit taste in men (after Dad).
The asteroid vaporizes and Chekov slumps in his chair as Sulu dips his head and exhales. Jim swivels the chair to grin at Spock, whose eyebrow tilts a grin back.
"I love this ship," his mom decides.
Scotty gazes at her in rapturous adoration.
Jim's going to have to do something about that.
"Awesome, Mom," he sighs. "Chekov, get us back on course- Sulu, warp factor 2."