Jim's first birthday is not exactly a happy occasion. Winona bakes a cake, mainly because Sam insists, and smiles when Sam helps Jim to blow out the candle, but she knows the smile doesn't quite reach her eyes. She's gotten Jim a present too, although Jim is too young to understand the meaning of all this. Jim tears the wrapping paper happily, but seems to be more interested in the colorful paper than the actual present.
In the evening, when she has put both of the boys to bed, she sits in the kitchen with a wine glass and remembers. She remembers George's smile when she had told him she was pregnant with Jim. She remembers the arguments about where they were going to spend Christmas. She remembers calling home to tell Sam he was going to have a little brother or sister. She remembers holding George's hand in the sickbay, begging him to wake up after an away mission gone wrong. She remembers midnight conversations, staring at George's face when he described their future and all the things they were going to do. She remembers George's last words.
"Mom, Sam stole my present!"
"I did not! You aren't supposed to open them yet!"
Winona sighs and reaches out to take the present from Sam. "Boys, behave. Your grandparents are going to be here any minute now, so go make sure both of your rooms are clean."
Sam obeys almost immediately, but Jim doesn't move.
"It's my birthday, I don't have to clean my room today. Make Sam do it."
"James Tiberius Kirk, you're going to clean your room if I say so. After that we will eat and then you can open your presents. If you have cleaned your room."
Jim stares at her, blue eyes flashing. He is now seven years old and every day he looks more like his father. Winona can see George in Jim's eyes and the way he holds himself, unknowingly imitating the man he has never met. Jim's got her laughter and she's pretty sure he got his recklessness from her too, but sometimes it hurts to look at Jim.
She startles when Jim suddenly throws himself at her and hugs her tightly. "I'm sorry, mom", Jim mumbles, voice breaking a little.
"I'm sorry I made you sad."
Winona curses under her breath and squeezes her son back. She always forgets how observant Jim is, how quickly he notices things. "Hey, sweetheart. You didn't do anything, it's okay. It's not your fault." She holds her son close and hopes he doesn't see her tears.
They almost forget it's Jim's birthday. It's a week after Tarsus IV. Everything is quiet. Jim is not talking and Winona doesn't know what to say. She had hugged him when he had stepped out of the transport ship, whispering how much she loved him, how glad she was to see him. Jim had hugged her back, but hadn't said anything.
It is just the two of them now, Sam had ran away years ago and she had kicked Frank out as soon as she had heard how he had treated her boys. The house feels empty, but maybe it's a good thing. Maybe it's what Jim needs right now, Winona thinks as she does the dishes. They have a dishwasher, of course, but sometimes it feels good to do things by hand. She glances at the calendar. Then it hits her. January 4th. Jim's birthday.
She doesn't have the ingredients for a cake, but she replicates a cupcake and sticks a candle on it. Jim is in his room, as he has been the whole time after coming home. She knocks lightly. There is no answer, so she steps in. Jim is lying on his bed, hands behind his head. He stares at the ceiling, but Winona sees his eyes flick to her quickly. She tries to smile.
"Happy birthday, sweetie", she says, offering the cupcake to Jim. Jim looks at it, but doesn't smile or do anything to take it.
"I'm sorry I don't have a present for you, but we can get something tomorrow, if you want to. We could go to San Francisco. Would you like that?" she continues and sits on Jim's bed, next to his feet.
"Whatever", Jim mutters. Winona is pretty sure it's the first word he has said after coming home. It doesn't feel like a victory.
"Do you want to blow out the candle?"
"No", Jim says, not looking at her.
"Okay then, I'll do it for you. Make a wish." Winona blows out the candle. She stands up, puts the cupcake on Jim's nightstand and leans to touch Jim's cheek. Jim doesn't quite flinch, but it's a near thing.
"I'll be downstairs, if you need me", she says, because there is nothing else to say. Nothing she can do. As she closes Jim's door behind her she doesn't fight the tears.
"...and that is why we should never forget the sacrifice that was made exactly twenty years ago. We have to remember for those who died that day. We have to remember for George Kirk." Winona finishes her speech and steps down from the podium. People are clapping, but the next speaker is ready to start. They should quiet down already, Winona thinks as she proceeds to walk to her seat and sits down.
Suddenly there is a hand on her shoulder and a familiar voice whispers: "Nice speech, mom."
"Jim!" Winona gasps. "What are you doing here?" Someone shushes her, but she doesn't care. She turns on her seat and looks at her son, who is sitting right behind her, smiling.
"It's in honor of the old man. I was invited", Jim says and winks. Then he becomes serious, his posture straightening. "It's been twenty years, mom. I know what this day means to you."
Winona nods, blinking rapidly. Jim looks sligtly uncomfortable, but takes her hand. They sit there together, not listening the speech.
"I still miss him", Winona whispers.
"I know", Jim says as he wipes away a tear from her cheek.
"Commander. You have a new- Commander, are you alright?" the ensign talking to her looks startled. Winona tries to smile at her, but she's pretty sure it comes out as a grimace. She wipes her cheeks and stands up. "I'm fine, Ensign."
"Commander, if there is anything I can-", the ensign starts, but stops as Winona raises her hand.
"No, really. It's fine. You were saying something?"
"Yes. Ma'am. Your son is calling."
"Which one?" Winona asks, although she already knows the answer.
"Um. James T. Kirk."
"I thought so. I'll take it in my quarters, if that's alright."
"Certainly, ma'am. Commander", the ensign says and salutes before hurrying away.
In her quarters Winona looks quickly in the mirror before taking the video call. Her eyes are slightly red, but otherwise she looks okay.
"Hey, it's the birthday boy! Happy birthday, honey!" She smiles at Jim, who is wearing his cadet uniform and looking more like his father than ever. Winona thought it would hurt, especially today, but somehow seeing Jim makes her feel better. Jim smiles back at her.
"Mom! It's good to see you."
"You too, Jimmy. How are you doing? Still sure Starfleet is your thing?"
As Jim starts to ramble on about his daily life in San Francisco, Winona sighs and lets herself enjoy the sound of his son's voice.
Winona is setting the table, when she hears the front door open. It isn't like Jim to be on time, but there's a first time for everything, she muses as she reaches to take the good plates from the cupboard.
"I'm in the kitchen, sweetie!" she calls out. She hears Jim say something and then a lower voice answers. She stops. Jim didn't say he was going to bring someone.
A moment later Jim is standing in the doorway, arms open. "Come here, mom!"
Winona goes to hug her son and immediately notices the Vulcan hovering behind Jim. This must be Spock, Winona thinks and gives Jim one last squeeze.
"Mom, I would like you to meet Spock. Spock is my first officer and... Well. He's... Spock, this is my mother, Winona Kirk."
Spock glances at Jim, and Winona is sure there is amusement in those brown eyes.
"It is a pleasure to meet you, Commander", Spock says and offers his hand.
"Likewise, Commander", Winona answers a bit surprised, taking the offered hand. "But you must call me Winona."
"And you may call me Spock."
"Good. Now, could you maybe tell me what my idiot son was trying to say? I feel like I'm missing something."
"I can assure you that your son is actually quite intelligent", Spock says and this time Winona swears there is humor in his eyes. "I admit I also had some misconceptions about that, but I have come to realize my mistakes."
"Hey!" Jim protests.
Winona bursts into laughter. "Oh God, Jim! You have to keep this one."
Jim, who is still glaring at Spock (although the smile kind of ruins the effect, Winona thinks), turns to her. "Actually, mom. That is what I was trying to say. I am keeping Spock."
Spock's cheeks are a bit greener than a moment ago, as he clears his throat. "I have asked Jim to bond with me. I understand it is an old Earth custom to ask for a parent's blessing."
Winona blinks. She looks at Spock, who is talking to her, but looking at Jim. She has never seen a Vulcan look anyone like that. And then she turns to her son, who is staring at Spock. There are little hearts in Jim's blue eyes. She has never seen him so happy. She blinks again. And sniffs.
"Mom, are you crying?"
"Oh Jim, I'm so happy for you!"
"Mom, I can't breathe!"
"Be quiet and let your mother hug you."
Jim does as he's told.