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In the Shadow of Fate

Chapter Text

 

Jim stared at the file before him, mouth tugged down at the corner. He scrolled through it, but there was no wiggle room- after the whole Kobayashi Maru incident, Starfleet probably knew better than to leave any loopholes for him. He didn’t like it. Not one bit.

“I don’t get it,” Jim moaned. “Why can’t I just bring my own XO?”

“You’re already getting almost all your bridge crew,” Uhura pointed out. “Starfleet probably can’t imagine having all your hand picked people in command. We’re all likely to agree with you on, well, just about everything.”

“She’s got a point,” Bones said.

“Of course I do.” Uhura smiled. “If you had your own, hand-picked command officer-“

“Your own ex-boyfriend.” Bones added.

“Well, who’s going to reign you in if you start getting out of hand?” Uhura asked.

Jim said, “Gary would reign me in.”

Bones and Uhura both gave him a look.

“What? He would!”

“And then you’d smile at him and slip a few select words and he’d be all about your hair-brained schemes.” Bones drawled. “We’ve seen it before- glad to know we’re not gonna see it again.”

Uhura snorted.

“You guys are the worst.” Jim said. “We haven’t even been on board one day and it’s already mutiny.”

“Sorry, Captain.” Uhura winked. “We’ll be professional on shift, promise.”

“That’s better.”

“I won’t.” Bones said. “I’ll be out there reminding you how stupid it is that we’re out there. Did you know-“

“Is it a scary fact about spontaneous combustion? Because in that case, yes, you’ve probably said it before.” Jim smirked at Bones, who only scowled.

“Why I even bother…” He trailed off.

“Because you love us,” Jim reminded him. He looked back down at the PADD he’d been skimming. “I admit, maybe you guys do have a point about Gary. But still- giving me a commanding officer I’ve never even met? Command teams are practically a marriage.”

“Well, arranged marriages have worked before.” Uhura pointed out.

“If they don’t kill each other.” Bones said. He peered over at the PADD. “And he’s a Vulcan? I’ll be certain to attend your funeral when wifey offs you, Jim.”

“Oh, Bones, you wound me. I can get along with a Vulcan.” He squinted at the screen. “I swear every Vulcan ever is named Spock.”

“You’ve met another Spock?” Uhura laughed.

“Two, actually. But one, well...” He straightened back up. “I haven’t thought about my Spock in… damn, it feels like a lifetime.”

Uhura laughed. “Don’t start daydreaming now.”

“Yeah,” Bones said. “Don’t know what the Spock’s you met were like, but this one is a damn piece of work.”

Jim’s brows raised. “You’ve met him?”

“Did you not listen to my griping in freshman year?” Bones snipped. “Pretty sure I complained about that damned hobgoblin about twice a day.”

“I don’t recall.” Jim drawled.

Uhura said, “Be nice, he wasn’t that bad.”

Jim sighed. “Has everyone but me met my Commander?”

“Just about,” Bones said. “And no one’s pleased, I can tell you that much. Man wouldn’t know a sense of humor if it walked up and bit ‘im on the nose.”

“He’s really not that bad.” Uhura said. “He’s just… Vulcan.” She shrugged.

“Vulcan I can handle.” Jim promised. “Asshole, not so much.”

Bones snorted. “Well good luck then, kid.”

Jim turned to Uhura, hoping she’d have a saving comment.

She smiled apologetically and shrugged.

“Really?” Jim groaned. “He’s an asshole? I’m spending five years chained to an asshole?”

“He’s smart.” Uhura tried.

“So they’ll be a perfect match,” Bones snorted. “Two genius assholes.”

“I hate you,” Jim said.

Bones said, “Love you too, dear.”

Jim opened his mouth to retort when he spotted the rest of his bridge crew making their way over. Scotty, Sulu, and Chekov- all talking animatedly between each other. They sat without interrupting their discussion.

“It’s clearly class three,” Sulu was saying. “You saw the engines on that thing, Scotty.”

“Aye, I did, and they ‘ere clearly class five if I ever seen one.”

“Plees,” Chekov drawled. “Zey vere class sewen.”

“Took you guys long enough.” Jim said. “Ready to meet our new XO?”

They paused in discussion. Sulu furrowed his brow, turning to Jim. “I thought Gary was gonna be Commander?”

“He got hawked by the Bradbury.” Jim muttered.

“That aside, they told Jim he’s already got an XO.” Uhura said. She picked up the PADD from where Jim had abandoned it on the lunchroom table, and slid it over to the three at her side. They all eagerly made a grab for it, but it was Scotty who won out, grinning smugly at the other two as he opened the document. Uhura continued, “Jim’s pulling all of us from other ships; he knew us in the Academy, we’re his friends. Not to mention Chekov.”

The boy grinned.

“You sure yer graduating in time for us to leave?” Bones drawled.

“Yees, sir.” Chekov beamed.

Jim said, “Apparently they need someone to keep us all in check. We’re getting Pike’s old science officer. He’s been on the Enterprise a while, so I guess it makes sense that they’d give him to us.”

“He’s not a pet, Jim.” Bones snorted. “They’re not giving him to you, they’re assigning a watch dog to your ass.”

Jim sighed.

“Ah, I remember him.” Scotty frowned. “Not a very nice fellow, if I recall.”

Jim sighed.

“Oh my god, Commander Spock? Are you kidding me?” Sulu groaned.

“Seriously?” Jim said. “You’ve all met him?”

“Not me,” Chekov said. He squinted at the name on the PADD. “Oh, I have heard ze horror stories of Professor Spock.” He looked back up at Jim in horror. “Zis is ze XO?”

“I guess so.” Jim groaned. He dropped his head into his hands.

“You could have met him before now, too- you should have taken xenolinguistics,” Uhura laughed.

Jim said, “I took Orion.”

Uhura snorted. “Ah, yes, and what a useful language that’s going to be.”

“This guy,” Sulu said, “Is ruthless. He made my friend Mia cry at least four times.”

“Aye,” Scotty nodded. “Perfection or nothing fer him, Captain.”

“Great.” Jim looked at the clock at the top of the PADD screen. “Well, we’d better be going. Wouldn’t want to be late meeting Mr. Perfect.”

They stood in unison. Jim lead the group down the halls of Starfleet headquarters, feeling more and more nervous by the minute. He’d dreamed his entire life of captaining the Enterprise- he’d grown up watching her become herself from just beyond the shipyard. What if this guy ruined everything?

Spock. It was the ‘Jim’ of Vulcan names, he supposed. The name flushed images through his mind, rapid-fire. An old pair of eyes, deep with understanding and unfathomable compassion. A gnarled hand reaching out to him from the light, trying to draw him out of the shadows. A thick blanket dropped over his back while Jim was busy slurping chicken noodle soup from a thermos, and a kind command not to get too overzealous drinking it.

A small open hand. A young voice, saying, “Jim.”

“Jim?”

He startled back to the present.

“You daydreaming again?” Bones teased.

“Something like that,” Jim said.

“Nervous?” Bones asked.

Jim shrugged. “In a way.”

Bones nodded.

They were coming up on the conference room, Jim caught sight of Pike walking their way from another hall just ahead. Jim smiled and waved, and Pike nodded back. Jim turned to his crew.

“You guys head into the conference room,” he said. “I’m gonna grab Pike for a sec.”

“Damage assessment?” Uhura teased.

“I like to have a battle plan,” Jim replied. He started up a slight jog, heading off towards Pike while everyone else filtered into the conference room.

“Well don’t you look eager,” Pike greeted him.

“Hey,” Jim said. He smiled. “Long time no see.”

“Lucky for me.” Pike said.

Jim laughed.

“You want to talk about Spock,” Pike guessed.

Jim nodded. “I hear he’s…”

“Vulcan?”

“An ass.”

Pike laughed. “Well, he can certainly come off that way.”

Jim deflated. There went his last hope.

“But.” Pike paused just outside of the conference room. “Don’t go in there with any preconceived notions about him, Jim. I’ll be the first to admit, he takes some getting used to, but he’s a damn good officer.”

Jim looked up, hopeful.

“Don’t blow this, Jim.” Pike said. “Spock is one of the best officers in the fleet, and he’ll make a damn good First. Number One has always been the balance I needed, but if it had been Spock standing up there next to me, I know we would have gotten along just as well. He’s got a good head on his shoulders, and more sense than you do.”

Jim laughed. “Well, that’s not saying much.”

Pike grinned. “Hm, you’re right.” He reached out, clapping his hand over Jim’s shoulder. “I’m not saying you have to be his best friend. I don’t expect you two to meet and start hugging it out right then and there. Just… give him a chance.”

Jim nodded. He felt better after talking to Pike, and most of his apprehension had melted away. Maybe this Spock was a jerk, but Jim had a good track record with all his past Vulcans named Spock, and he was determined to make this new Spock a good experience too.

“Now come on,” Pike said. He touched the door and it slid open. “Let’s boldly go.”

Jim laughed. He stepped into the room after Pike, and took in the conference table. His team were already all seated, sitting straight and at attention. He was filled immediately with pride for them; they looked ready. He turned his eyes up to the front, then, steeling himself for first contact.

His eyes met the Vulcan’s from across the room. Jim froze. Time stopped. He could feel the crew watching him, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away; he couldn’t stop his mouth from falling open in shock.

Spock looked about the same. He was standing stiffly in surprise, eyes wide as dinner plates.

Jim was slammed in the face by childhood memories, one flashing by after the other. he barely felt his lips move to drop the name, but when he said it, the sound came loud to his ears. “Spock.”

Chapter Text

“It’s a bug.”

The boy’s big, brown eyes blinked, curious, like he’d never seen such a thing before. He was bundled up in a coat, which struck Jim as odd, because it was probably a little over eighty degrees out. Jim was sweating in his T-shirt, how was this kid cold?

“Haven’t you ever seen a bug before?” Jim held the beetle out, offering. “It’s a false darkling beetle. You can tell it’s not a darkling because it’s a little longer, and thinner. See?” He held it up closer to the boy’s face. “I found it last night outside. They’re nocturnal. Here, check it out.”

The boy reached out, tentatively, hand open.

Jim dropped the beetle into the boy’s awaiting palm.

His eyes went wide and he stepped back, almost jerking, dropping the beetle on the ground. Jim gasped, dropping down to inspect the bug, but it seemed unharmed, if not agitated. He decided to leave it alone- they’d probably freaked it out enough, and he had other beetles in his bug catcher upstairs in his room.

“The sensation of its legs against my skin was unpleasant.” The boy said.

Jim laughed again. “Unpleasant, huh? And people say I’m a nerd.” He reached out and put his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “I’m James Tiberius Kirk! But you can call me Jim. Your mom’s inside with mine, right?”

The boy nodded.

Jim said, “She’s always having fancy Starfleet people over. They always say they’re gonna stay in that house down the road, but they never do.”

The boy sighed, in what almost seemed to be relief. “I see.”

Jim’s smile fell. “What? Earth’s not a crummy place to live.”

“I wish to be home.” The boy explained. “It is cold here, and damp. The moon’s gravity discomforts me, and there is too much water about.”

“Where are you from?” He asked. Then he realized the boy hadn’t introduced himself. “What’s your name, anyway? How old are you? I’m five and a half and if I’m the oldest then I get to pick which game we play.”

“I am from the Shi’Kahr providence of the planet Vulcan. My name is Spock, son of Sarek. I am seven point eight Terran years of age.”

“Damn it.” Jim cursed. Spock’s eyes widened. “That means you get to pick.”

“Pick?”

Jim circled back. “You’re from Vulcan? That’s cool! I’ve read about Vulcan. It’s a lot bigger than earth, so the gravity must be more intense. I bet you’re probably stronger than me.”

“Vulcans are approximately three times as strong as the average human.”

“Damn.” Jim cursed again. Spock seemed less alarmed the second time. “Older and stronger? That’s not fair. But you’re probably going home, huh? Where’s your dad? Did he come with you? Do you have a dad?”

“I indeed have a father- he is currently in San Fransisco. He came with us from Vulcan to Terra, but departed upon reaching the planet.”

“Cool, cool. My dad’s not around.”

Spock lifted a brow. Triple damn- Jim had always wanted to be able to do that.

“Mom says he passed away.” Jim explained. “Which is just polite for dead.”

“I grieve with thee,” Spock said, quietly. “I am sure that to an emotional human, the loss of one’s father would be… difficult.”

“I didn’t know him.” Jim shrugged. “I’m not supposed to tell people that when I first get to know ‘em- just out of the blue that he’s dead. But they always find out and then it gets all awkward, so I think it’s easy to get it out of the way quick.”

Spock nodded. “I see your logic and admire your thinking.”

Jim grinned. He was missing a tooth. “Thanks! So where are you guys staying? Are you going to stay here? Mom said you might stay here but some people leave right away and some go to the hotel and some go to that house so you never know.”

“Mother told me that we would be staying here, for the night.”

“Sweet! That means we get a sleepover! Usually when people come here if they have kids they’re older and they don’t really want to play with me. But you’ll play with me, right?” His eyes lit up as he darted over to the porch, where his bucket of plastic starships was waiting. “You can be the Enterprise! I painted her myself, it’s supposed to be like the one in the ship yard. I know she’s still just a skeleton right now but this is what she’ll like look when she’s done.” He held his model out proudly. “You can be her if you want. I’ll be the Farragut.”

“I have no preference.”

Jim held the Enterprise to his chest. “Well if you don't care then you can be the Farragut, cuz’ I like the Enterprise best.” He happily handed the other toy over to Spock, watching as the young Vulcan turned it over in his hands curiously.

“I do not understand.” Spock said.

“Whadaya mean?”

“What am I meant to do with this inaccurate model?” He blinked. “Do you wish me to fix it?”

“No! You’re supposed to play with it.” He held his up, making then noise he imagined the engines on a warp-class starship would make if it entered atmosphere. It sounded suspiciously like blowing raspberries. “Like this!”

Spock held his up, confused. He didn’t make any noise.

“This is the USS Enterprise to the Farragut!” Jim called. “Come in, Farragut!”

Spock stared at him.

Jim whispered, “That’s you.”

“I am the Farragut.” Spock said. He sounded unconvinced.

“No!” He dropped his arm for a moment, yanking the Enterprise out of orbit. “You’re the Captain of the Farragut. Like, you pretend you’re on the ship and I’m calling you. Like this, watch.” He took the ship from Spock. “Come in, Farragut!” He lifted the Enterprise when he was speaking as her. “This is the Farragut! We read you, Enterprise!” He lifted the Farragut when talking as the other ship.

“I see.” Spock said. He held his hand out. “Allow me to begin again.”

Jim passed the toy over. “Take two,” he whispered. He lifted the Enterprise high up into the air, running in a circle around Spock before pausing before him. “This is the USS Enterprise! We’re here to rescue you! Come in, Farragut, answer us!”

“This Captain Spock of the USS Farragut. Enterprise, please identify yourself.”

Jim beamed. “Perfect!” He said, and then dropped back into character. “Captain Spock, this is Captain James Tiberius Kirk. We got your call for help and we’re here to rescue you!”

“Captain Kirk,” Spock said. “I was unaware we were broadcasting a distress call.”

“Klingons attacked you!” Jim shouted. “You’re barely alive!”

“I see.” Spock said. “Captain, if Klingons are in the area, it would be wise to act with caution. It would be unfortunate if both our ships were attacked.”

“No way; I kicked their butts.” Kirk assured. Then he gasped. “Watch out! They’re right behind you!”

Spock didn’t move. “They are not,” he said.

Jim ignored him, rolling down into the grass to spring up behind Spock, mouth working furiously to produce the sounds of his phasers and photon torpedoes firing on the enemy war bird. He kicked the grass in front of him, sending grass flying into the air, hollering as his imaginary rivals went down after the attack. “We got ‘em!” He circled back around to face Spock, grinning. “Captain Spock! Captain Spock, we did it! They’re dead in the water. Come on, we can help fix you up!”

Spock said, “I am sure engineering will be able to-“

Jim ducked under Spock’s arm, hauling the other boy across the lawn. Spock seemed a little distressed at being man-handled, but Jim was pretty sure that was just because he was playing along. He sat Spock down on the porch.

“Wait here.” He said, seriously.

Spock didn’t move.

Jim carefully balanced the Enterprise next to Spock on the porch before bolting back inside, cringing when the screen door banged loudly after him. His mom always yelled at him for that. He rushed into the bathroom, clamoring up onto the counter to pull the mirror cabinet open.

He grabbed a box of band aids and sprinted back out, wincing when he once again slammed the screen door closed. From inside the house, his mom yelled, “Jim!”

“Sorry!” He called back. He had more important matters to attend to.

He launched off of the porch and then came running back around to Spock, setting the box down at his side.

“Hang in there Captain Spock!” He pleaded. “Don’t you die on me!”

“I will endeavor to adhere to your request.” Spock said.

Jim hurried to produce a bandaid from the box, and then peeled it off the wrapper to put on Spock’s knee. Then he put one on Spock’s nose. And another on his chest, over his shirt. And one more on wrist. And then one on the Farragut, just to be safe.

He leaned down and kissed Spock’s knee. “All better!” He declared. He grinned, wide, waiting for Spock to thank him for saving his life. Spock just stared. “Captain Spock, I saved you!”

“So it would seem.” Spock sounded confused again.

Jim sighed. “Spock, you’re not playing along.”

“I am not certain what you wish me to do. Should I pretend to be dying, as you have only played a mild adhesive medical sticker upon my person? I will marvel at their scientific advancement if they managed to save my life in fiction.”

“No I just save you the regular way not with science.”

Spock blinked.

“You’re supposed to say thank you.”

“Thank you, Captain.”

Jim grinned- that was more like it. He struck a heroic pose. “Any time, Spock."


 

That night, they huddled together in Jim’s bed, crowded around Jim’s PADD. “This is the best part,” Jim whispered.

“You have said that four times.” Spock reminded him, quietly.

“But this really is the best part.”

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer.”

Jim sighed wistfully, whispering along with Paul. “Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over and through me. And when my fear is gone, I will turn and face fear’s path and only I will remain.”

He turned to see what Spock thought of it. He looked like he’d been struck over the head.

“What?” Jim asked, voice small in the dark.

He said nothing.

The movie passed in relative silence, broken only by Jim’s muttering the lines along with the characters every now and then. When it ended, they sat still, watching the credits scroll by for a time, until eventually the screen went black.

Jim turned the PADD off and leaned over the side of the bed, putting it on the nightstand. He looked back at Spock, who hadn’t moved from where he was wrapped up in two of Jim’s blankets, tucked under the comforter. He looked pale and green-tinted in the faint light the moon lent through Jim’s window.

“Are you okay?” Jim asked.

“I do not believe that was material intended for children of our age.”

Jim shrugged. “It’s a good movie.”

“It…” he paused. “It reminds me of home.”

Jim’s brows raised. “Really?”

He nodded. “Vulcan is a desert planet.”

“Do you miss it?”

“It is illogical to miss something. Vulcan is as I left it.”

Jim nodded his understanding, scooting a little closer to Spock. “It’s okay. Everyone gets homesick sometimes.” Well, Jim never did, but he wasn’t gone from the house very much. He’d never really felt like it was home, anyway- just somewhere that they lived.

“Vulcans do not.”

Jim laid down, prompting Spock to do the same. “You’re going home in the morning, right?”

Spock nodded.

“But you’ll be back next summer?”

“Yes. Mother believes I will better be able to regulate my body temperature with time.”

Jim grinned at that. Spock had been a bit of a baby about it all night- tugging on his mother’s skirt to get her attention, announcing several times that he was functioning below optimal temperatures. Jim’s mom had dug up one of Jim’s over-sized sweaters to squeeze Spock into, but it had only made Spock look more miserable.

He looked a little better, bundled up in bed. Jim was already sweating- he couldn’t imagine how Spock could still be cold.

“You’ll stay all summer next time.” Jim said. He was certain of it.

Spock said, “It is what my parents intend to do.”

He grinned. “Good.”

Spock looked over at him.

“I want to see you again. I don’t have many friends.” Johnny, maybe, but the older boy was often embarrassed to have Jim tagging along. “But you’re my friend, aren’t you Spock?”

“Vulcans do not have friends.” He turned over on his side, facing away from Jim. “Mother expected us to sleep long ago. I will ignore you if you speak to me so that I may sleep the amount of hours I need in order to function properly.”

Jim wiggled a little closer, so that their legs touched. Maybe Vulcans didn’t have friends, but Spock’s mom was human. Two plus two equaled four- and Spock wasn’t a full Vulcan. He grinned into the darkness, noticing that while Spock tensed for a moment, he didn’t move away from the touch.

Summer was coming to a close, and for once, he was thankful. It meant that next summer would come all the sooner- and he’d be with Spock again.

"Night, Spock."

"Goodnight, Jim."

Chapter Text

Third grade was boring.

Jim was the youngest kid in his class- everyone else was eight or nine, towering high above his six year old head. They weren’t as smart as him, and they weren’t as fun as him, and every recess Jim sat on the top of the monkey bars with the Enterprise and planned his attack on the Klingon armada alone.

The last day had him vibrating in his seat, which wasn’t so unusual, except that for once there was a direction for his energy to go. His eyes flickered between the front of the room and the door while he waited for the bell to ring, knowing that the last day of school was different from the rest; more exciting. And not just because school was over.

It was summer.

Spock was coming back.

Over the year, Jim hadn’t really given much thought to Spock- every now and then, he’d think about it; how out there in the universe he did have a friend somewhere, wondering now and then what Spock was up to. He’d asked his mom several times what she thought he was doing, how he was, but she never seemed to know. She’d patiently tell him again and again- the last day of school, they’d be picking Spock and his mother up from the shuttle stop in town, right after school let out.

He’d been looking forward to it all year.

“Mister Kirk.” His teacher called out. “Please be seated.” It was a regular request.

Jim sat back down, bouncing in his seat. His thoughts were a constant mantra of Spock, Spock, Spock, Spock. He wasn’t lonely without friends, and he could entertain himself easily enough, but he’d been on his own for a long time. He had so much to tell Spock and show him- he was thinking in particular about the bird’s nest in the barn that he liked to climb up and observe. Spock would like it, he was sure.

“Mister Kirk.” His teacher called again.

Jim looked down at his traitorous legs. He was standing again. “Sorry.” He sunk back down into his seat, pinning his feet to the floor with his gaze. He imagined them stuck there with pink, bubbly glue, seeping up into the little cracks of his light-up shoes. He imagined it so hard he started to wonder if he could actually move them. Just to be sure, he yanked them off of the floor, which slammed his knees loudly into his desk.

His teacher turned at the noise and gave him 'the look.' The look that said he was about one more disturbance away from being sent out into the hall. Jim gave up an innocent smile, trying to look quelled. Some of the other kids snickered at him before turning their eyes back up to the front.

It seemed like years, but the bell finally rang. Jim had his bag in hand and was leaping over the desk behind him in a manner of seconds, ignoring his teacher’s indignant squawking. “Sorry!” He called. “I gotta go see Spock!”

He dashed between two of his classmates, who yelled at him for nearly pushing them over, but he powered on, thundering down the halls before anyone else could make it out of their classrooms. Several times he heard his name being called out, but he pretended not to hear it, flying on as fast as his feet would take him, his shoes lighting up in a green blur against the white tiles of the hall.

He burst from the front doors and nearly collided with his mom.

“Mom!” He climbed up her leg, begging to be picked up. Who cared if it was for babies- they had to go. “Mom, Mom, come on, come on, Spock’s waiting! We gotta go!”

“Jim, Jesus-“ She peeled him off of her leg and situated him firmly in front of her, hands on his shoulders. “Calm down. I’ve got to go talk to your principal about-“

“There’s no time!” He cried. “We’ve got to go get Spock!”

His mom opened her mouth to rebuke, but then sighed. She muttered,“Guess we’ll re-schedule the meeting, Lord knows you’re not going to sit through it now.” Louder she said, “Okay Jim. Why don’t we stop and get something to eat on the way there? Fast-food. You can pick a drink out for Spock.”

He’d been on the verge of saying no-thanks, but the thought of having something to offer to Spock upon his arrival was too tempting to pass up on. Plus, he had to admit he was a little hungry- he’d been too excited to eat at lunch.

They soared through a dive to get burgers and shakes, and Jim picked out a strawberry smoothy for Spock. He wasn’t sure if Spock would like ice cream, since he was always so cold, but everyone liked smoothies. He sucked at his chocolate shake and watched the scenery blur by, banging his legs against the carseat he was buckled into. His mom looked back at him whenever he started banging them too hard and fast and he tried to reign himself back in, but it was hard when he was so excited.

Finally, finally they were at the station. He was squirming so hard his mom cursed at him- “Damn it, Jim! Sit still for a second!” He couldn’t help it, though, and he fought against the restraint of his seat every second he wasn’t freed.

Finally, his mom got the buckles undone. He was out of the hover car in a second, landing hard on the ground, rolling, and then starting into a sprint. He could see the train coming into the station and barely managed to skid to a stop before colliding with a force-field.

“Jim!” His mom yelled. She’d been yelling at him before then, too, he could tell- she was starting to get angry. She grabbed his wrist and yanked him back to her side. “You can’t go running off like that! I swear, Jimmy, I’m getting you one of those backpack leashes and then-“

“He’s here!” Jim started jumping in place.

“Please, stand clear. The train is arriving. Please, stand clear. The train is arriving.”

He tugged hard on his mom’s hand as soon as the shields dropped, lurching forward and into the meager crowd of people spilling from the open side of the train. Each person that passed made his heart leap into his throat. Would he recognize Spock? Last year, he’d been barely taller, even though Spock was older. Was Spock going to be taller, now? Had he gotten way taller? Was he the same? What if he’d changed his hair? Jim was suddenly uncertain- would he even recognize Spock?

The flow of people stopped, leaving the station relatively empty. Jim whipped his head from side to side, looking for his friend. His heart started to sink with the thought that maybe, Spock wasn’t coming after all.

And then he saw him.

“Spock!” he pulled hard against his mom’s hand, but her grip was like steel, keeping him firmly in place at her side. She started walking over towards where Spock and his mom were exiting the train a ways down, slowed down by their bags.

“Amanda,” Jim’s mom was saying, but who cared about that? Spock was back! And he was tall- but other than that, he’d hardly changed at all.

He finally ripped himself free of his mother and went sprinting over to Spock. He thought to tackle the Vulcan, but Spock cringed upon seeing him coming running forward. That was right- Vulcans didn’t like a lot of touching. He redirected and grabbed several of Spock’s bags. “Let me help!”

“It is pleasant to see you, Jim.” Spock said.

“Spock!” Jim hefted the other boy’s bags over his shoulder, to give him something to do. “I missed you!” That was kind of a baby thing to say, but it was the truth.

Spock said, “I am… gratified by your thoughts.”

Which was basically Spock-speak for ‘I missed you too,’ Jim was sure. “We’re going to have so much fun together!” He said. “I’m going to show you the creek and this new game I got and oh there’s some birds you’d like to see and I found some really cool mold in the barn and I think you’ll want to study it with me and we can chart how it grows and there’s this moss on a rock behind the house and it’s definitely an invasive species because it’s-“

“Jesus, Jim, give the kid a minute.” His mom steered him away from Spock with a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry about him, Amanda.”

Spock’s mom laughed. She was pretty, Jim noticed. “Don’t be sorry. It’s nice that he’s so excited. Spock doesn’t really have any-“

“Mother.” Spock said.

“Sorry.” She laughed a little. Looking back up back up at Jim’s mom, she said, “You know Vulcans. Very serious.”

Winona hummed her agreement. “Jim," she said, "Why don’t you put Spock’s bags in the back of the hover?”

He nodded and hurried over to the car, waiting for the back to rise open. He started loading in Spock’s bags, taking them one at a time from Spock’s hands. He was careful with them, unsure of what was inside- he didn’t want to break any of Spock’s possessions. He loaded up all of Amanda’s things, too, until the trunk was packed full. He allowed himself to be strapped back into his seat, but only because Spock sat beside him before hand.

"Here!" He remembered. He leaned forward as far as his seat restraints would allow, grabbing for the smoothie waiting just out of his reach. "I got you a present!"

Spock took the cup and handed it to Jim. Jim handed it right back to Spock.

"It's for you," he explained. "It's a smoothie!" 

Spock eyed the cup, contemplative. He maneuvered the straw in a circle, studying it. 

"It's a drink," Jim helped.

Spock sucked experimentally on the straw. He seemed to think for a moment before saying, "Thank you, Jim." He continued to drink.

Jim talked the whole way to Spock and Amanda’s summer home. There were so many things that were going to happen in the summer- the fair, and the crop harvest when they got to watch all of the big columbines hover over the fields, and there was going to be a meteor shower in a month when they could go to the observatory, and there was a new documentary on the asteroid belt between Denora Beta and Denora Alpha. There was so much he wanted to say, the words couldn’t all make it out of his mouth at once, and he had to keep re-starting his sentences. Spock hardly had time to get a word out in-between Jim’s run-on sentences, but he seemed contented to listen, nodding every now and then to show his interest.

When they reached the house, Jim was surprised to find that it was completely set up. Aside from the things that Spock and his mom had brought, the house looked like it was a home- like it had been waiting for them to come back to it. Spock and Amanda had been shown around the house the summer before, and Spock hadn’t forgotten any of it.

He and Jim climbed the stairs, heading for Spock’s room.

Jim helped Spock start unpacking. For the most part, he just emptied the bags and cases onto the floor. There were several boxes of things that had been sent ahead of Spock waiting to be unpacked for the summer, and Jim eagerly unloaded those as well. He was dismayed to find that Spock didn’t have any toys- the only things that came close were his models. He had one of earth, one of Vulcan, a few stars and star systems, and a single, lonely Vulcan science embassy ship. Jim commandeered the ship, even as Spock insisted that it was not a toy, and took to flying it over Spock’s desk.

Spock started to hang his clothes up in the closet, as neatly and methodically as any adult would have- more so, even; Jim's mom never took that much care with her own clothes. Most of Spock’s wardrobe consisted of sweaters and thick-knitted shirts. It all looked comfy, but more like winter wear than what Jim thought of as summer clothes. He wondered how Spock was going to fair when they went down to play in the creek- heavy clothes didn’t function so well when they were wet, and Spock would be even colder with them on.

He’d figure that out later.

“You sure have a lot of books.” Jim noted. He’d been forced into playdates with other kids plenty of times before, and they’d never seemed very interested in actual books, like Jim was. In fact, the few times other kids had seen his collection, they’d made fun of it.

Spock looked wary.

Jim grinned. “I like books!” He flipped the nearest one open and then scowled. The writing was all twisty and elegant- more like abstract art than Standard. He squinted at the page, willing it to shift before his eyes. Nothing changed. He flipped to the next page, and the next, but whatever was written there was completely illegible to him.

He slumped over the desk in defeat. Great- he finally had a friend who liked books as much as he did, and he couldn’t even read them.

He picked up the Vulcan embassy ship. “What’s her name?” He asked.

Spock looked back at the model. “As I have said, Jim, that is a model- not a toy.”

He shrugged. “So? What’s her name?”

Spock turned back to hanging up his clothes. “It is a model representing all Vulcan embassy star-class vessels. It has no name.”

“Hm.” Well, that wouldn’t do. Jim lifted the ship above his head. “What’s Vulcan for ‘fist in the eye’?”

“Ozh-dukal svi' wuh bezhun.” Spock said.

Jim stuck his tongue out. “That’s too long. What about butt-kick?”

“There is no equivalent.”

He thought for a second. “What about lucky?”

“Kunli.” Spock said. “Though it is important to note that Vulcans do not believe in such illogical concept as luck.”

Jim stood up on Spock’s desk chair. “This is the V.S.E Kunli!” Jim announced. “Requesting permission to land. Do you read me, Vulcan?”

Spock continued to silently hang clothes up.

“Spock,” Jim called. “You’re Vulcan.”

“I am.”

Jim sighed. “No, I mean the planet!”

Spock looked over his shoulder. “I am certainly not a planet.”

“Pretend.” Jim clarified. “Remember?”

He turned around. “I… it is un-Vulcan to pretend. Kaiidth- what is, is.”

“But it’s fun.” Jim said. “Is it un-Vulcan to have fun?”

“Yes.” Spock said.

“That doesn’t sound like it would make you very happy.” Jim frowned. “Do you like not having fun, Spock?”

“What I like does not matter.”

“Why wouldn’t it matter?” He abandoned the Kunli on the desk, walking over to sit in the closet, so that Spock was forced to look at him while hanging things up. “Happiness matters.” At least, that’s what he thought.

“It has no bearing. It is an illogical emotion. Vulcans do not have emotions.”

But you do, Jim wanted to say. He didn’t say it. “Oh. Well… you’re half-Vulcan, right?”

Spock stiffened.

“You have to be a Vulcan when you were on Vulcan. But you’re on Earth now, so you can be a little bit more human, right? If you want to be.”

Spock said, “I will not be what you want me to be. Only what I am.”

“Well, aren’t you a little human?” Jim ventured. “I like you if you’re Vulcan or human or both. But don’t you want to be happy? And have fun? I don’t know anyone who wants to be not-happy.” He blinked. “Unhappy.”

Spock seemed to struggle, internally, with something. His lips thinned into a hard line. He hung up another long shirt, which brushed Jim’s face. Jim giggled at the ticklish sensation.

“I do not desire to be unhappy.” Spock said, finally.

Jim grinned. “Then it’s settled!” He declared. He slipped around Spock and back over to the desk, picking back up the model of the ship. “Permission to land, Vulcan Command?”

Spock stared at him for a long, long time.

Then he said, “Permission granted, Kunli.”

 


 

 

The summer ended far too soon. Jim had become accustomed to seeing Spock nearly every day- and suddenly he was just going away? Who would he talk to? Who would he analyze mold with? What person in the universe could keep up with his mind but Spock?

He stubbornly refused to cry. Even when his mom gripped his wrist tighter and tighter, to be assured he wouldn’t run after Spock- even when it started to hurt- he would not let the tears fall. He watched Spock’s shiny black hair disappear in the crowd boarding the shuttle, and then watched as the shuttle door closed.

He stood still for what may have been the longest period of time to date, watching the shuttle disappear into the distance. His mom’s hold on him loosened, marginally.

“Come on, Jimmy.” She said, tugging him along. “Let’s go home.”

Jim felt like home was warping away from the planet at factor three, but he didn’t say anything. He let her buckle him into the straps of his safety seat, not struggling against the restraints. His legs remained stationary the entire ride home.

Chapter Text

He hadn’t seen Spock in months. Since they’d last seen each other, Jim had lost the last of his baby teeth, gotten into three fist fights, and passed the fifth grade CAT tests with the highest recorded score when he’d been bored enough to sneak into the computer lab to see what the upper classmates were up to. Most importantly, he'd had his seventh birthday party- and only one of his invited guests had shown up.

Johnny hadn’t even liked the cake.

He knew that friends were overrated. He didn’t really enjoy talking to any of the kids his age, or the ones in his grade, but being alone for a year was trying. He took to writing things down in a big, paper book, pressing an honest-to-god red pen against the pages, watching the ink stain into the parchment like he was bleeding his emotions out into the words.

Down the road the shipyard was growing. The skeleton of the Enterprise got bigger and bigger with each passing month, becoming more and more like the paint-stripped replica he kept on his nightstand when he couldn’t clutch her in his hands. He dreamed about going on adventures aboard her deck, finally leaving behind the boring dust of Iowa to scout the stars.

His mom left on little business trips about once every two months, and was gone for about two weeks at a time. Usually her dad- Pops- would watch him, but the man was too old to really keep up with Jim’s manic energy, so most of the time it was Pops and Gwen from down the road. She had a lot of tattoos and liked to color with him, though when she drew Romulans, she really made them disproportionate. Not that Jim minded much- at least she cared enough to try.

His mom had told him that if he was good, once summer came, maybe he could stay with Amanda and Spock whenever she had to leave. He’d done his very, very best to not get into trouble- though sometimes, it was unavoidable.

They didn’t go to pick Spock up at the station. School let out and Jim had to wait for the shuttle to take him to his road, and then walk home. Though he’d been asking, more and more recently, his mom hadn’t told him when exactly Spock and Amanda would be coming back to their home on Earth.

He was slightly worried that maybe, they weren’t coming at all.

Johnny was the only one who got off at the same bus stop. They walked down the long, dusty road together, not really talking, but not ignoring each other. Johnny’s house came way before Jim’s, but Jim had never minded walking the rest of the way alone.

“Bye, Johnny!” He gave a little wave, smiling when Johnny waved back.

“Have fun with your Vulcan friend!” Johnny called back. He grinned.

Jim lowered his hand, feeling his smile fall.

“Yeah,” he whispered. He turned to continue home. “If he even comes.”

That was the thing- Spock was his friend, maybe even his only friend, but he had no idea what Spock did when he wasn’t on Earth. He and Spock didn’t send each other hollos, or comms, or any sort of correspondence when the school year resumed. For all he knew, Spock wouldn’t even come back with his mother if she decided to come to Earth again.

But they’d said they were coming. They would, wouldn’t they?

“Hey Jimbo.”

He looked up and offered his mom a, “Hi” as he entered through the back door. The screen door clacked closed behind him as he toed his shoes off, kicking them down into the laundry room.

“What’s that face about?” Winona laughed. She was cutting up carrots, which could only mean they were having stew. He hated stew. “Come on, last day of school! Where’s the excitement?”

“What am I going to do now that the library’s closed?” He muttered. He dropped his backpack on the floor. "Read on a PADD? I need to feel the pages or I'm gonna lose my mind."

Winona eyed his backpack where he'd dropped it, but must have been feeling generous, because she didn’t yell at him. “Chin up, Jim. Why don’t you go get washed up for dinner?”

“Washed up?” He mocked. He wiped his forehead, and then looked at his hand. It came away brown with dirt from the walk home- it had been windy out. “Why can’t I just have a PBJ and go watch a hollo?”

She narrowed her eyes. “James T.”

He walked past her and jumped up on the stool by the sink to wash his hands.

“No,” she warned. “Shower. Now.”

He was too defeated to even argue. He trudged up the stairs and into the shower, bringing the Enterprise with him. He liked to pretend that the water hurtling past her viewing deck was the stars, and that they were traveling at warp. By the time he’d rinsed off all the dirt, he was feeling slightly better.

Even if Spock didn’t show, summer would still be fun. He’d have time to read, even if he’d have to get all PADD scripts and no real, physical books. He liked the sound and smell of them, but it was the information he was really after. He’d been interested in geology as of late, and he was sure he could spend the summer learning everything there was to know about rocks, if nothing else.

He finished washing and toweled off, sprinting back to his room to change into pajamas. There was no way he was getting dressed in clothes again when it would be time for bed, soon, and his favorites were clean. They were the ones with the little Starfleet symbol on the breast- his command gold onesie. 

His mom hated them.

He loved them.

“Jim!” His mom yelled. “Come on, dinner!”

He started down the stairs. He didn’t smell stew- in fact, he didn’t smell any meat at all.

He rounded the corner into the dining room and stopped cold.

He knew that beehive. He knew those high-collared blue robes. He knew those huge pearl earrings and the gentle spice of perfume.

Amanda turned to him, grinning. “James!”

Two plus two equals four, and Spock was back for the summer.

“Spock!” Jim cried, and sprinted around to the other side of the table. There he was- sitting stiffly, hands clasped together in the very picture of Vulcan control.

“Jim.” he said.

“Spock! You’re here!” He clamored up into his own chair. “I didn’t-“

“Jim,” his mother moaned. “I told you to get cleaned up- why are you in your pajamas?”

He looked down at his clothes. “Oh.” He looked back up at Spock. “You don’t mind, do you?”

Spock shook his head. “What you wear is your business, not mine.”

Amanda laughed.

Jim looked over at her. “Can I wear my jammas? Or?”

“Jim.” His mother snapped.

“Oh, Winona, don’t worry about it.” Amanda laughed. “Hungry, Jim?”

“Yeah!” He looked at the table. They were having salad. He didn’t usually like salad, but the sight of it warmed him suddenly. It was for Spock and his mom- the vegetarian meal was a sign of their homecoming.

Winona and Amanda dominated the table talk most of dinner- talking about what Spock’s dad was doing in San Fransisco and how soon Winona would be heading that way. Jim paid very little attention- he was too busy grinning at Spock around bites of his salad.

Spock just raised a brow at him. Still, Jim couldn’t help but feel like Spock was happy to be back, too.

Jim hurried through dinner, and then, for one of the first times ever, elected to skip dessert. "Can I be excused okay thanks bye!"

Winona just sighed, shaking her head. “Well, they’ve got to go soon, so-“

“Be back later see ya!”

The screen door slammed as Jim dragged Spock outside.

“Jim!” His mom yelled.

“Sorry!” He called over his shoulder. He jumped down over the side of the porch, looking back at Spock and waiting while the Vulcan took the stairs. “Come on.” He said, and grabbed Spock’s clothed elbow, dragging him into the dark.

“Where is it we are going?” Spock asked.

“To the creek!” Jim declared.

Spock said, “The water is much too cold for me to enter.”

“That’s okay,” Jim assured him. “You just gotta look. There’s a bunch of cool rocks down there and some pretty moths, too. You can see them on the water when they try to touch the moon.”

They skidded to a halt in the soft mud of the water banks, Jim splashing lightly into the shallow creek and laughing. He was bare footed, and the water was just high enough to stain the cuffs of his pajama bottoms a darker yellow than before. He didn’t mind the sensation, and dug his toes into the mud of the creek bed, shrieking with laughter.

Spock said, “What a strange creature you are.”

Jim turned around with a grin. “You like it, don’t you?”

Spock didn’t reply, but the slight upturn of his mouth was answer enough.

They young Vulcan sat down on a rock just outside the creek, neatly, watching Jim splash around. “Where are these moths you spoke of?” He asked.

“Oh!” Jim stopped moving, waiting for the water to settle. It took time, but moths did eventually flock to the false image of the moon painted on the water, landing and taking off again. Jim reached out and clapped his hands gently around one rising from the water, being sure not to harm it.

“Here,” he sloshed his way over to where Spock waited, opening his palm. The moth stayed on his hand, wings opening and closing, gently.

“Fascinating.” Spock said. He turned his head to look at the sides of the wings. “What are the markings for?”

“I’m not sure.” Jim said. “It’s a Achemon Sphinx moth. See? It’s got the little patches of pink.” It took flight, startling Jim into another fit of giggles. They watched it flutter away, its pink markings flashing through its flight pattern.

“Jim,” Spock said.

“Hm?” Jim had already turned back to watching the water for more insects.

“I wish to speak with you about something.”

Jim looked back over his shoulder. “What is it?” He scowled. “You’re not breaking up with me, are you?”

“I am… uncertain as to what you mean.”

“You know. Like ending our friendship.”

“Then no. I am not ‘breaking up’ with you.”

Jim sighed. “Oh, good.” He sloshed back over to the shore. “What is it, then?”

“It is not the Vulcan way, and I wish for you not to, as your mother says, ‘over-react.’ However.” Spock paused. “I have procured a gift for you.”

Jim gasped and then leapt out of the water. “Spock!” He cried in delight. “You brought me a present? Where is it?! I’m so excited! Show me, show me, show me!”

“It is at the house.” Spock said. “Please, Jim-“

“A present!” Jim jumped around, throwing his arms up in the air. “A present, a present, a present!”

Spock sighed. “You are doing exactly what I requested you would not.”

Jim reigned himself in. “I can calm down! Honest!” He stood at attention, like he was a cadet. He couldn’t hold it for long, breaking out into a run. He lapped around Spock, hollering into the darkness of the night.

Spock said, “It is hardly an object worth such fanfare.”

“Let’s go!” Jim stopped in front of Spock and reached for his hands before thinking better of it. He yanked back, keeping his limbs to himself. “Sorry,” he said, distractedly. He motioned for Spock to rise. “Let’s go to your house! Right now! I wanna see!”

“My father is home,” Spock said, unsurely.

“That’s okay, I won’t be loud.”

Spock said, “I am… wary of what he may think about my procuring a gift for you. It is, as I said, un-Vulcan.”

“Good thing we’re on Earth then.” Jim smirked.

Spock said, “You do not understand.”

He blinked. Spock was being serious. He forced himself to calm down, sitting down on the rock with Spock. “What’s wrong?” He asked. He narrowed his eyes and craned his head around to look up under Spock’s bangs and into his eyes. “What is it?”

He said, “My father does not approve of my human behavior. It is illogical to think of your being outside of any direct context, and yet, I continue to do so. I have had your gift for several months as I saw it and was reminded immediately of you. For him to know I would make such a senseless connection… would be shameful to me.”

“Shameful?”

“Distasteful. Bad.”

“Oh.” Jim frowned. “But it’s not a bad thing! We’re friends.”

“That is precisely the problem.” Spock said, quietly.

Jim’s stomach turned. “Is…” He swallowed. “Is it because of me?”

Spock looked up sharply, almost knocking his chin into Jim's forehead. “No," he took a hasty step back. "Jim, there is no measure of your character that would contribute to his disappointment. He would be disappointed in my actions and emotions alone.”

Jim was relieved, but his stomach was still knotted. “Why would he be upset?” He asked. “No one wants to be alone.”

Spock fell quiet.

“Even he’s not alone.” Jim reasoned. “He has your mom.”

“That is true, and yet…” Spock trailed off, looking out at the creek. He did not elaborate further, which was unlike him.

“And yet.” Jim agreed. He put his hand on Spock’s shoulder. “Spock?”

“Yes, Jim?”

He smiled, like he had a secret. Maybe he did. “It’s going to be okay.”

Spock looked at where Jim’s hand rested on his shoulder, a constant point of contact between them. He looked back up to Jim’s eyes, and letting a breath out through his mouth, said, “Despite all evidence… I am inclined to believe you, Jim.”

He smiled. “Good. Cuz I won’t let you down, Spock. I promise.”

 


 

 

“Show me, show me, show me!” Jim was bouncing on his butt, seated on Spock’s bed. It had been two days since Spock had showed up at his house for dinner, and Sarek- Spock’s dad- had left moments before, and Winona had gone with. Jim had barely taken the time to say goodbye before vaulting up the stairs to Spock’s room.

He’d never been so excited to have his mom leave before.

Spock moved painstakingly slow as he made his way over to the closet. Jim thought he might vibrate out of his skin if Spock didn’t hurry up. He bounced off of the bed and slammed into Spock’s desk, on accident, groaning as he dropped to the ground.

Spock looked back over at him, raising a brow.

“I’m okay.” He wheezed, popping back up. Something shiny caught the corner of his eye and he grinned. “Oh hey!” He reached out and grabbed a familiar ship model. “It’s the Kunli!”

Spock turned around, baring a brown cloth bag, tied neatly closed at the top by a beige string. Whatever was inside was large, and square-shaped. Jim hoped it was a book, and he hoped it was one he could read.

He was half right.

“A book!” He cried in delight, ripping the bag off and tossing it away. Spock walked over and picked it up off the floor. “Thank you Spock, this is awesome!” He eagerly- but carefully; the book was leather and paper, and it could break- opened the cover.

Vulcan.

It was written in Vulcan.

His face fell, but he tried to keep the excitement in his voice when he said, “Wow! Cool!”

Spock caught him. “I understand that you do not understand how to read Vulcan, however, I do plan for this to change.” He moved back over to his desk, sitting on the chair, and pulling out a drawer. Jim scrambled up from the floor, holding the book carefully to his chest in one hand while he clutched the Kunli in the other. He peered over Spock’s shoulder, curiously.

He had a PADD out, and was holding it out for Jim to see. “I have acquired teaching and learning materials for you. If you are amenable, I will endeavor to teach you Vulcan as you have requested so many times before.”

Jim’s excitement returned to him full-force. “What?!” He set his book and ship down on the bed and then squished into Spock’s side, grabbing for the PADD. “This is so cool! Spock, you did this for me!?” He turned to look over at his new book. “What’s my book about? When will I be able to read it?”

“I believe you will find what is about in due time. I am uncertain how long it will take for you to learn Vulcan.” Spock steepled his fingers together, considering. “For an average human, years. For you, perhaps the summer.”

“Half the summer.” Jim bet.

“Perhaps.”

“Three days!”

“That is doubtful.”

Jim laughed. “Spock, this is so exciting!” He flopped back into Spock’s bed before squirming up into a sitting position, patting the bed beside him. “Let’s start!”

“Very well.” Spock stood and then settled on the bed next to Jim, back straight, hands cradling the PADD precisely. “Let us begin.”


 

 

It was late. Winona would be back in the morning from her month in San Fransisco, and then Jim would have to go back to his own house. He’d loved the long nights with Spock, talking about everything and nothing at all. Most nights, Spock suddenly cut their conversations off and turned on his side, ignoring Jim for the rest of the night if he had to so that he could finally go to sleep. Jim wiggled closer and quieted himself on those nights when he couldn't sleep, pressing his feet against the backs of Spock's calves so that he felt like he wasn't alone even when Spock was sleeping.

Spock seemed to sense Jim’s slight sadness at their parting. An entire month of living together- Jim was wary to go back to his own house, which was always empty, and cold. He didn't turn his back to Jim for their last night sharing Spock's bed, electing to stay up as long as Jim wanted. 

“When I… when I think of home, I am filled with…” Spock seemed unable to force the words past his mouth. He whispered, into the darkness; “Sadness.”

Jim wiggled closer. They were underneath the covers, and Jim was sweating- hair sticking to the back of his neck and curling with the heat. Spock, for once, didn’t seem to be chilly, though, so Jim ignored his own discomfort and pressed into Spock’s side.

“I’m sad when I think about you leaving.” He said. Then, “I’m sad when I think about me going home.”

“I am sad when I am alone.” Spock said. “No other children care for my scientific report.”

“I do.” Jim said. “I’m sad when I’m alone, too.” He paused, before admitting, “No one really likes me.”

“I… do not dislike you.” Spock said, at length. He sounded like it pained him to admit it.

Jim laughed, quietly. “You like me.”

“Perhaps.” Spock teased.

Jim laughed again, but he sobered quickly. “I get sad when I think about my dad.”

“Your deceased father?”

He nodded. “I think he would have made us happy. Me and mom I mean. Mom says I remind her of him, but I don’t think it’s in the good way. I think it makes her sad. She says I’m difficult.”

“You are not difficult.” Spock said.

“I’m trying not to be.” Jim said. “But I’m always getting in trouble. And getting into fights. Mom says I’m an attention seeker. But I can’t help when other people are wrong and stuff. I’m trying.”

“On Vulcan you would not be viewed as troublesome. To strive for truth is logical.”

“I wish I was on Vulcan, then.”

Spock said, “On Vulcan, you would not be allowed to have such emotions as you do here.”

“Well…” Jim smiled. “Maybe Earth’s okay, then.” There was a pause. “What else makes you sad?”

“Is it common for friends to divulge emotion like this?”

“I don’t know.” Jim said. “I’ve never had a friend before.”

Silence.

There was something on his arm. Jim turned and found Spock’s fingers. He knew Vulcans didn’t hold hands, so he wrapped his torso around Spock’s arm and leaned his head against the Vulcan’s shoulder.

“I have not had a friend before, either.” Spock said, finally.

“So you admit it, huh?” Jim smiled against the sleeve of Spock’s pajamas. “We’re friends.”

“I am saddened when I think about leaving.” Spock admitted. “And yet, I wish to be home.”

“Homesick.” Jim said. “But you don’t want to leave? I get it.”

Spock said, “It is illogical.”

“Lots of stuff is. Kaiidth.”

Spock blinked owlishly into the darkness. “What is, is.” He repeated, slowly.

“Enough sad stuff. What makes you happy?” Jim asked.

“My mother.” Spock said immediately. “I am not supposed to enjoy her embrace, now that I have grown. But on such occasions where she delivers such gestures, I find myself happy.”

“I like it when my mom hugs me, too.” He paused. Quietly, he said, “She doesn’t do it very much anymore.”

Spock rolled over, so that they were facing each other. Awkwardly, he slipped his arm out of Jim’s grasp, settling his other arm over Jim’s side. Jim did the same, so that they were in an open hug of sorts. Spock was a head taller, so they didn’t have to look at each other when they talked. It made it easier.

“I am happy when I am with you.” Spock said.

Jim smiled at Spock's throat. “Me too. With you I mean.”

“I was… happy when I was with I-Chaya.” Spock said.

“I-Chaya?”

“She was my pet sehlat.”

Jim said, “I wish I had a pet! What’s she like?”

“She was akin to a grizzly bear with the fangs of a sabertooth tiger.” He said, point blank. Jim’s eyes went round with wonder. “She was very large. She was protective of me. She… perished.”

Jim frowned. An expression Spock had said, years ago, came back to him. “I grieve with thee.” He said.

Spock backed up to look down at Jim, eyebrows raised.

He grinned. “I told you- I listen.”

“So it would seem.” Spock smiled- just barely. “I wish that I would not grow up. So that I could continue to do these things we do, and simply call it childish, instead of illogical.”

“I wish so too.” He frowned. “But then we’d never get to go into space.”

“Space?” Spock asked.

Jim nodded. He became aware of his backpack, which wasn’t on the bed with them. He slipped out of Spock’s grasp and rolled over to the side of the bed, popping out of the covers to hang over the edge and grab for the bag. He pulled it up and then opened the zipper, producing the Enterprise from inside. He pulled the covers back over his head and wormed back down to Spock, holding the ship between them.

“So we can go explore.” He said. “She’s gonna be an exploration star ship, looking for new planets and people and places. We’re gonna touch the stars, Spock.”

Spock stared at the Enterprise for a full minute, eyes unreadable. He reached out, hesitantly, and ran his fingers over her hull, pausing on her name. U.S.S ENTERPRISE, NCC-1701

“Perhaps.” He allowed, but it sounded like a promise.


 

Summer went by in the blink of an eye. They spend the days out behind the house, exploring the fauna and flora. When they weren't outside, they sat up in Jim's room, laying on their stomachs on the bed while they studied the material that Spock had gathered for them. Jim delighted in the difficulty that learning Vulcan posed, and Spock seemed just as eager to teach. Before either of them knew it, another two months were over, and Spock was packing his bags to head home again.

Jim watched him, morosely, and frowned.

"You are sad." Spock noticed. "Why?"

"You're leaving."

"I will return," Spock said. "It is illogical to mourn that which will not be gone forever."

"But you will be gone," Jim said, "And I'll miss you when you aren't here."

Spock studied him for a moment. He turned back to his bags. "I cannot claim to know what I will feel when the future becomes the present," he said, "But it seems impossible that I will not yearn for your company when I have returned to my home."

"Just say you're gonna miss me, Spock."

Spock's eyes held a smile. "Never in so many words, Jim.


 

 

On Spock’s last day of the summer, they stayed up all night at Jim’s house underneath the covers, reading the book Spock had brought him using a couple of old-fashioned flashlights to illuminate the pages.

It was pre-reform Vulcan poetry, and he and Spock would take turns reading the verses and then argue over what they meant.

Ish-veh nam-tor ri k'wuhli s' t'nash-veh shal

Ish-veh nam-tor svi'udish

Ish-veh nam-tor ulef krus

Kwon-sum estuhl

Worla estuhl

Ish-veh nam-tor t'nash-veh khaf

Ish-veh nam-tor t'nash-veh tevakh

Jim paused, staring down at the words. The first line confused him. “It is not apart from myself?”

“It, the subject, and the poet, are a single object.” Spock decided.

“Hmmm.” Jim had already read the whole thing out loud in Vulcan, but he did it again in Standard- or, rather, as closely as he could come. “It is not apart from myself. It is inside. It is half-part? Part of me? Always touching. Never touched. It is my life. It is my end.”

“It is my blood,” Spock corrected. “It is my death.”

Jim furrowed his brows.

“It is about sadness.” Spock decided. “It is part of the poet, always inside of him, but not always present. It is what inspires his art, it is what will cause his death.”

“No.” Jim argued, shaking his head. “It’s love. A part of him that he’s never experienced that he needs in order to live.” He looked back up at Spock. “That has to be it.”

“Perhaps he meant for there to be multiple interpretations of his work.” Spock decided.

They flipped to the next one. Spock read it in a wonderful, smooth accent, his voice sounding more grown-up in the darkness. Jim leaned in close, smiling giddily. They were like translators, digging through old texts and converting them to modern times.

“Sarlah du svi' wuh mu-yor. You come in the night. Du worla stay na' gad-keshtan. You never stay for dawn. Du nam-tor wuh yel. You are the sun. Du nam-tor wuh igen. You are the sky. Du yontau. You burn. U' i yontau. As I burn. Du nam-tor samek. You are cold. Du nam-tor herbosh.” Spock paused. “You are empty.”

“Some of these are kinda sad.” Jim whispered.

“The poet loves the person they write about, whilst hating them both at once.”

Jim shook his head. “No! How could you hate someone you love?”

“They are cold. They are empty.”

“You can love the cold. You can love something that’s empty.”

Spock said, “If they were traits the poet loved, they would not bear mentioning.”

“Maybe it’s the poet saying they love their person even though they have flaws.”

“The person the poet loves-“

“Samek.” Jim named them. “Let’s make it easy.”

“Fine. Samek does not love the poet-“

“Sorek!” Jim decided.

“Very well. Samek does not love Sorek if he leaves him so easily. It says that Samek comes in the night and leaves before it is the next day. He spends so little time with Sorek- how can that be love?”

“Maybe he has to go. Maybe their love is a secret.”

“Doubtful.”

“But Samek has to love Sorek! Right here- you burn as I burn. They both love each other.”

“Burning does not equate love. It equates pain.”

“And Samek is cold… he takes away their pain, their burn.” Jim reasoned.

“With your own reasoning, that would mean he dismantles their love.”

“But with yours it means they’ve in love again!”

“Either way, their love is not a happy kind.” He pointed to the last line. “You are empty.”

Jim was silent for a time.

“Even you can not argue this, Jim.”

Jim looked back up to Spock, eyes narrowed in determination. “Ish-veh nam-tor goh lu I meskaraya rai vel ik i lau nartaya du.” He quoted. “It is only when I hold nothing that I may embrace you.”

Spock turned the line over in his head. “Perhaps.” He said.

Jim smirked. “They’re in love.”

“Not everything is about love, Jim.”

Jim laughed. “You’re right.” he said. “Sometimes it’s about no love, and even then, it’s about love, too.”

“You are not a philosopher, Jim.”

“I could be!” He argued. He slapped his hands over his mouth after realizing he’d shouted. They both listened, silent and still, for the sound of Winona’s footsteps in the hallway. She’d sworn there would be trouble if she caught them up late again.

Silence.

Jim let out a sigh of relief, melting back down into the bed. “That was a close one.”

“Perhaps we should retire.” Spock said.

“Perhaps we should retire?” Jim snorted. “You could just say go to bed. And there’s no way we’re going to sleep. We’ve got to stay up all night! You’re leaving tomorrow- we don’t have any time to sleep.” He turned back to the book, flipping to the next page. “We’re gonna make it through this thing by morning.”

Spock said, “Though I would prefer not to disobey your mother, I find logic in your reasoning. Time is short, and Vulcans require less sleep than humans. I will have time to rest on the shuttle ride home, and you will return to your bed upon my departure.”

“Exactly.” Jim said. He wasn’t going to point out there was no way he was going to sleep when Spock left- he’d be too upset to do anything but mope in the barn. He had named the baby birds in the nest up in the old hayloft, and watching them would remind him of Spock. He could talk to them, once Spock left.

Spock turned back to the book. “It is your turn, Jim.”

“Right.” Jim squinted down at the new verse. “Wuh asal katau me goh rok…” The morning brings me merely hope...

Despite their determination, it couldn’t have been more than an hour later that they drifted to sleep, hands pressed against the pages of the book, fingers stilled where they’d been tracing lines.


 

 

Jim let his hand hang limply in Winona’s iron grip. She held onto him like if she didn’t, Jim would sprint onto the shuttle and disappear. Jim had to admit that in the back of his mind, such an idea might have formed.

“A school year is not so long.” Spock said.

He had green and yellow bruising underneath his eyes. They’d gotten two hours of sleep, at the very most. Winona hadn’t been surprised, but she hadn’t been happy about it anyway.

“Yeah, Jimmy.” His mom said. “Summer will be here before you know it.”

Jim knew that was a lie. The hours would crawl by slowly, without Spock. It seemed like the other boy had only just gotten there a few days ago. Jim looked hopefully up at Amanda, who he’d become closer to than his Pops or Gwen in that month she’d been his host-mother. Using his eyes, he begged her to save him.

She gave him a sad smile and bent down, arms open for a hug.

Jim tugged out of his mom’s grip and ran to Amanda, throwing his arms around her neck and squeezing. She hugged him back, enveloping him in the smell of her perfume, her Vulcan robes a soft, familiar comfort against the skin of his arms.

“We’ll be back soon, James.” She said, kindly. She was the only person he liked to hear say ‘James,’ his mother included. When Amanda said it, it was endearing, like he mattered- like he was more than the sum of his parts.

Maybe if he held on tight enough, they wouldn’t go.

Amanda carefully gripped his wrists. “You’ve got to let go now, James.” She said, gently. Somehow, Jim found himself doing as he was told, drawing away from Spock’s mother, looking down at his shoes.

He hadn’t cried when he was six. He wouldn’t cry now that he was seven.

“Goodbye, Jim.” Spock said.

Jim turned to him, eyes wide. Already? It was really happening?

Without his consent, his body was in motion, rushing at Spock. He threw his arms around the young Vulcan’s shoulders, burying his head into a warm, dry neck. “Don’t go!”

Hesitantly, Spock’s arms came back around him, returning the embrace.“I must," he said. “Vulcan is my home.”

Jim couldn’t argue that. He drew back, slowly, aware of the way Spock’s dad was looking at them- the weight of the Vulcan’s gaze fell hard between Jim’s shoulder blades. He peeked up from under his lashes, hands on Spock’s shoulders.

“Spock?”

He blinked. “Jim?”

He lunged forward, putting his mouth by Spock’s ear. As quietly as he could manage, he whispered, “You're my best friend and I love you.”

He drew back quickly. Spock looked up at his father, a trickle of fear flashing through his eyes. He looked back to Jim, opening his mouth, but he closed it. He nodded, clumsily, and opened his mouth again. “I…”

“Spock.” Sarek said. “We must be leaving.”

Spock nodded his head and reached down to pick up his discarded bags. “Yes, father.”

Winona reclaimed Jim’s wrist. She and Amanda exchanged quick words of goodbyes, but Jim barely heard it. He couldn’t look away from Spock’s back as the other boy headed towards the train.

He swallowed around the lump in his throat, scrubbing at his eyes with his free hand. He wouldn't cry. He wasn’t a baby.

Spock stepped up onto the train with his family. Before the doors closed, he turned around. He made fierce eye contact with Jim, and very deliberately, nodded his head.

Me too, he seemed to say.

Despite it all, Jim let out a weak giggle, giving a little wave. Spock waved back as the shuttle doors slid closed, neatly, cutting him off from view.

A minute later, the shuttle slid out of the station, leaving the Kirks alone.

He did cry, then.

“Oh, Jim.” For the first time since he’d turned seven, Winona bent down and picked him up, hugging him to her chest. “It’s okay, Jimmy.” She said, and carried him back to the hover car.

He was asleep even before she'd even lowered him into his seat, dreaming of butterflies on the moon, and Spock at his side as they sailed the enterprise up to take a closer look. "This is James Tiberius Kirk and my ship the Enterprise!" He'd say. "Investigating the case of the lunar butterflies. How do they live out here in space?" 

Spock would say, "How do any of us?" and Jim would grin. "Love," he would say, because that was always, always his answer. 

Chapter Text

 

Jim was held after school on the last day.

He didn’t like the chairs outside the principal’s office. They were old, and uncomfortable, and creaky. He couldn’t help but swing his legs, and the annoying noise the chairs made each time he shifted was a punishment all on its own, leaving him to squirm awkwardly in the seat. He often moved to the floor, but any time anyone caught him out of his chair, he was yelled at, and he was trying to be good.

So he waited, fidgety, feeling too big and too small for his skin all at once. He chewed the neck of his T-shirt but the sensation of the cotton against his teeth unnerved him after a time, so he turned to his nails.

By the time Winona showed up, each one of his fingers were bleeding.

She saw the way he quickly hid his hands behind his back and sighed. Leaning in, she carefully gripped his chin, turning his face side to side. He’d forgotten about the black eye- he smiled sheepishly as she inspected it.

“Nothing broken.” She decided. She squinted. “Did you have a bloody nose?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s gonna be hell to wash out of your shirt, Jimmy- did.” She sighed in frustration. “Stop chewing on you damn shirt! You’re not two, Jim, damn it.” She grabbed his wrist and hauled him to his feet, glaring when he tried to pull away from her grip. “Jim.” She said, sternly. Her tone left no room for negotiations.

Jim was no stranger to the principal. He nodded his head at the man as he entered after his mother, saying, “Hi, Mister Perry.”

They ignored him.

“I’m sorry it took me so long to get here Perry,” Winona said.

“I understand.” Perry said. “You’re a very busy woman.”

She smiled, a little. She looked tired.

“Please, take a seat.”

Jim hopped up into one of the two cushioned chairs stationed across from the desk. He liked these much better- he could swing his legs without repercussion.

“What was it this time?” Winona sighed, dropping into her own chair.

“Jim.” Perry prompted. “Would you care to explain?”

“Not really.” he said, but the looks he received at the comment made him think perhaps it wasn’t a choice. “It wasn’t my fault.” He started.

Winona scoffed.

“It wasn’t!” He insisted. He didn’t like to admit it, but he was small compared to the other fifth graders. He was only eight. He wasn’t just smaller- he was smarter, and quicker, and louder, too. It didn’t make for a good combination. “Taylor told me that- that he was glad it was summer because he wouldn’t have to see me any more. And then Shay said she was sad that they’d see me again next year and so… so I told them that if they just, you know, went to hell… they wouldn’t have to see me again.” He paused. Neither adult look impressed. “And then Taylor punched me in the face.”

“And then?” Winona prompted. Jim Kirk never turned the other cheek.

“Well I got back up and I kicked his feet out from under him and then I jumped on top of him and I punched him until his nose broke. And then Shay kicked me off of him. And then I got caught and Taylor started crying like a baby and-“

“You broke his nose?” Winona moaned.

“He’s in the hospital.” Perry said. “He’s fully recovered.”

“See? I’m the one stuck with the black eye.” And the horrible pain in his side where Shay had kicked him. “And they started it!”

“Sticks and stones-“ Winona started.

“Words hurt too!” Jim yelled.

Perry sighed. “Winona…”

She looked back over at him.

“This is Jim’s twelfth altercation. We can’t let it go on like this.”

“I’ll have a talk with him.” Winona grit out.

Perry shook his head. “I’m very sorry about this, Winona. I like you- I really do. Jim’s a bright kid. But he has behavioral issues. He’s out of control. And, honestly, he’s dangerous to the other kids. We think… we think it would be best if Jim were to attend another school.”

For a moment, Winona didn’t speak. She leaned back into the chair, face becoming colder and colder, until Jim feared he was looking at a stranger. “I understand.” She said, finally. She stood, ignoring Perry as he opened his mouth to continue. “Jim.” She snipped.

He hurried to his feet, grimacing when she clenched her hand around his wrist. She was squeezing tight enough to hurt, and when he tried to pull away, she only held on tighter. She had the hands of an engineer- strong, and steady, and she didn’t let up for a second as she dragged him out of the school and to the car.

He buckled himself into the backseat when she finally released him, prodding him towards the back door. He couldn’t make himself look up at her in the rear-view mirror.

She drove in silence until they hit the main road.

“Another school.” She said.

“Mom…”

“Another school!?” She slammed her hand on the dashboard, making him jump. “Damn it Jim!”

“I’m sorry.” he said, voice small. “I’m trying-“

“You’re not trying hard enough! It’s always something. Mouthing off, getting into fights, not paying attention, being bored- always! Always something with you.” She ran her hand through her hair. “What is it? Am I not paying enough attention to you? Is this what you want? Huh!?”

“No!”

“I don’t get it!” She cried. “I don’t. Jim, I’m doing the best that I fucking can, and all I get back is this shit. It’s like you don’t care about me at all!”

“I do care.” he promised. “Mom, I’m sorry, I wasn’t… I wasn’t trying to get kicked out.”

“But you did.” She said. “God, Jim. What the hell am I supposed to do? I can barely drive this far out to get you- if you have to go all the way over to Iowa City. If. Ha! It’s not even if anymore. You’re going to have to go all the damn way out to Iowa City. Damn it!” She slammed her hand down on the dash again.

Jim sunk further back into his seat, swallowing his shame back. It burned in the back of his throat and eyes, hot and uncomfortable, making it hard to breathe.

It was quiet for a couple of miles. When Jim finally forced himself to look back up, his mom was silently crying. “… Mom?”

She hurriedly wiped at her face. “I’m fine, Jim.”

He looked back down at his lap. “I’m sorry.”

She sighed. She did that a lot around him, he noticed.

“I’m really trying, Jim.” She said. “I… I never expected to be doing this alone.”

He looked up. “Mom?”

“I thought…”

She’d never talked about Dad before. But that’s what it felt like she was trying to do.

“I thought George and I would be doing this together.” She said. “I thought the whole crew would be in on this. I expected to raise you with a family. And instead, it’s just me, and I… I don’t know what to do, Jim. This isn’t what I thought it would be.” The you're not what I thought you would be went unspoken, but Jim heard it all the same.

He didn’t know what to say, so he didn’t speak at all.

They didn’t talk until they were back home, his mother turning the hover off. They sat in the car together for a long minute before Winona opened with a defeated, “I do love you, Jim. I really do.”

“Okay.” He choked.

She ran a hand over her face, tired. “Come here.”

He clamored up into the front, squishing into the driver’s seat next to her. She wrapped her arm around him, wriggling down to rest her head on his. She kissed the crown of his head. “I really do love you, Jimmy.”

“I love you too, Mom.” He held onto her arm tightly. It had been a while since she’d hugged him. It felt nice, even if it hurt. Too little, too late, his mind seemed to say. Her words had already done the damage.

“We’ll figure this out.” She said. “Somehow.”

He wasn’t so sure what that meant.

The moment was over. She drew away from him, opening the car door and stepping out onto the driveway. “Head up to your room. I’m not really sure what to do with you right now. Why don’t you clean your room up and we’ll go from there?”

“Okay.” He mumbled.

He meant to clean his room up quickly, but he was distracted by the sight of the Enterprise, waiting for him faithfully on his nightstand when he got home. He ran over to her and picked her up, cradling her hull to his chest. He’d just recently re-painted her, and she gleamed under the faint light of his lamp.

He pretended that they were on a mission, searching a huge garbage planet for survivors. They used the tractor beam to pull up debris, and when they found other toys that had survived the Klingon attack, he moved them safely back to their stations to recover. It took longer that way, but it made him feel better. By the time his mom came up to check on him, he’d nearly finished.

She surveyed his work, nodding. It had grown dark out, and his stomach was growling. “Take a break for dinner.” She said. He started towards the door, but she held her hand out to stop him. “Enterprise stays here.”

He pouted.

“Now, Jim.”

Reluctantly, he put her down on the dresser stationed next to him, and then followed after his mom. They didn’t talk during dinner- it was just replicated chicken friend steak and green beans, so it wasn’t like his mom was looking for him to compliment her cooking or talk about anything else. He ate it quickly, disliking the tense atmosphere growing between himself and his mother, and then scurried up to finish cleaning his room.

It was past his bedtime when the job was finally done. His mom came in to survey his work and then vacuumed, letting him sit up on his bed to watch. She didn’t say anything, but he could tell she was glad that he could at least listen to her when it was serious.

When she was finished, she packed up the vacuum and then stood in his doorway, just breathing. She looked at him for a long, long time, eyes never leaving him or the Enterprise, situated between his palms at warp six, heading for Delta Vega to make a snowman in the summertime.

“I don’t know what to do.” She said again.

He shrugged. It wasn’t like he knew what to do, either.

“You can’t keep getting away with this stuff.” She said. “I’ve got to be a parent.” Her eyes caught on the Enterprise.

Jim felt a stab of fear install itself in him. He hid the ship behind his back.

I must not fear. He quoted, in his head. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over and through me. And when my fear is gone, I will turn and face fear’s path and only I will remain.

His mom’s eyes returned to his face. “Goodnight, Jim.”

He nodded hurriedly, climbing under the covers, hiding the Enterprise all the while. He didn’t care that he was still dressed in his regular clothes. “Goodnight, Mom.”

She clicked off the light and left him alone.

Sure of her safety, Jim brought the Enterprise out from underneath his blankets, holding her up above his head, flying her steadily. Maybe this wasn’t a bad thing. Maybe it would be better in Iowa City. A bigger school, with better teachers, and more kids- someone had to like him, statistically, right?

It wasn’t until he was nodding off that the thought hit him. In all the day’s excitement, he’d forgotten all about what the day marked. Spock. He’d forgotten about Spock.

He wanted to put it out of mind, but he couldn’t. He squirmed with the new knowledge pressed heavily into his brain- Spock was on his planet, and Jim hadn’t even seen him yet. He closed his eyes, telling himself he’d pushed his mom far enough as it was, but he couldn’t go back to sleep.

Eventually, he couldn’t take it any longer.

Safely hiding the Enterprise in the vent under his bed- for he suddenly, irrationally, feared for her safety- he crept from his bed and to the hallway, tiptoeing down to his mother’s room.

When he cracked the door open he found that she was already asleep. Her PADD glowed faint blue on her nightstand, playing the soft noises of a warp core as a backtrack to her light snoring.

He slipped into the room and reached for the PADD, securing it in his grasp. Before she could wake up, he ran from the room, feet light and silent on the hardwood floor. He closed her door behind him and booked it back to his own room, where he burrowed under the covers with her device.

It was easy to hack into. He knew all the names and codes she was likely to use as back-up, and the rest was all numbers and back-tracking through code. When he had it open, he looked up the Starfleet guest house, knowing she was in charge of its security.

It had been accessed earlier that evening.

“Spock,” he whispered.

“Jim.”

He jumped, flinging the covers off of his head in a hurry. His mom stood at the side of his bed, holding her hand out expectantly. She looked grumpy.

He sheepishly passed the device back over. She looked at the screen and moaned, hanging her head in exhaustion. “Of course.” She muttered.

“Sorry.” He said. “I didn’t want to wake you up.” He remembered, suddenly, that she couldn’t sleep without the sound to keep her under. His first mistake had been taking the PADD out of her room. If he’d stayed by her bed to hack into it, she likely would have slept right through it.

“You’re grounded.” She said.

He frowned. “What?”

“You’re grounded.” She repeated, tiredly. “For… a month. No Spock.”

Panic seized his throat. “Wh-what!?” His voice came out high, and he cleared his throat before speaking again. “No Spock?! But he’s only here for three months!”

“Then this should be a lesson to you.” She said, firmly. “Jim, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. I don’t know what else to do to get through to you. Spock is one of the only things I can take away from you that you’ll care about. So you’re grounded.”

“Mom, please!” He reached out for her, but she stepped back out of his reach, not looking at him. “I’ll be good! I promise! I won’t do it again- please don’t take away Spock! I waited! I waited, Mom, I waited!” He felt shame burn through him as he realized he was crying. He was tired, and it had been a long day for both of them, but Spock was the horrible frosting on the poorly prepaired cake. “Please mom!”

She shook her head. “I’m sorry, Jim.”

“Mom. Mom!”

"Goodnight."

She left him to cry himself to sleep, gently shutting the door to his room.

Jim did not sleep.


 

Day One of the Spockless month

“You look tired.”

“…”

“When did you go to sleep, Jim?”

“…”

Winona snorted. “Oh, the silent treatment, huh?”

“…”

“Well fine.” She shrugged, and turned back to her breakfast. “Two can play that game.”


 

Day Two of the Spockless month

“Do you want mustard on your sandwich Jimmy?”

“…”

“No? Yes? Fine, no mustard.”

“…”

“Eat.”

“…”

Winona sighed. “You can’t keep this up forever, Jimbo.”

“Yes I can!” He gasped, shocked, and slapped his hands over his traitorous mouth. Damn it!

Winona chuckled. “Yeah. That’s what I thought.”


 

Day Three of the Spockless month

“Please mom! Please! Please let me see Spock!”

“I said no.”

“Please! I won’t ask for anything ever again!”

“Sure you won’t.”

“Mom, please! Anything but no Spock! I’ll clean my room every day. And the bathroom! And the kitchen, and your room! I’ll clean the whole house.”

“Good try, Jim.”

“If I go do the dishes, will you let me see Spock?”

“Jim-“

“I’ll do them right now! You’ll see! You’ll let me go see Spock eventually, I know it!”


 

Day Four of the Spockless month

“I hate you!”

“Sure you do.”

“I hate you so much! I hate you! I hate you!”

“You can scream until you’re blue in the face.” Winona said. “You’re still not leaving the house.”


 

Day Five of the Spockless month

“Jim. You have to eat sometime. Come on, your dinner’s getting cold.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“Sure you’re not. I let it slide at breakfast, and even lunch, but you’re not going on a hunger strike, kid. You’ll starve before I let you outta the house.”

Jim took his dinner up to his room, slamming the door closed behind him.


 

Day Six

“The silent treatment again, huh?”

“…”

“I can roll with that.”


 

Day Seven

“Jim, being a brat isn’t going to make me want to let you see Spock.”

He didn’t look up form his PADD.

“Jim. Look at me.”

He didn’t.

She narrowed her eyes. “If you think I’m not going to take that away because you’re studying on it, you’re wrong.”

When he didn’t look up at her still, she grabbed the PADD out from underneath his hands, leaving him empty-handed at the table. “Jim.”

He still didn’t look up at her.

“Fine.” She left him, like that, alone at the empty dinner table.

She pretended she couldn’t hear him crying from the living room.


 

Day Eight

“If I give you back the PADD, will you talk to me?”

A tight nod.

“Here.”

“…” Jim took in a small breath. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”


 

Day Nine

“Do you want to watch a movie?”

“What’s the point?” Jim asked. “Aren’t I supposed to be suffering?”

Winona snorted. “Dramatic little bastard, aren’t you?”

“Leave me here to rot.” Jim muttered. “I’m studying.”

“Suite yourself.”


 

Day Ten

“What are you even studying up there?”

“Ways for an eight year old to become their own legal guardian.”

“Har-har-har, Jim. Being sassy isn’t going to end your sentence any sooner.”

“Yeah. If I’m supposed to believe you, nothing is.”

“Ouch.”


 

Day Eleven

“Jim, I’m serious. Get your ass down here, we’re going to the store.”

“I’m grounded.” Jim crossed his arms. “That means I’m not supposed to leave the house.”

“Yeah, well I’m the one that grounded you, and I say we’re going shopping.” She paused, waiting for him to budge. He’d been cooped up in his room for eleven days in a row, and even though she was sure he would be okay, she was getting a little worried.

“I would rather die than leave this spot.” Jim said, haughtily.

Winona raised her brows. “Keep up that attitude, little man, and that can be arranged.”

“At least when I’m dead you won’t get to torture me anymore!” He yelled.

“Jim!”

“I wish I was dead!” He yelled. He stormed back into his room, slamming the door closed.

Winona took the stairs like a madwoman, fury enveloping her. She had her hand on the doorknob to Jim’s room, ready to rip the door open, when his quiet sniffling gave her pause. She slowly stepped back, feeling her anger leach out of her.

He never used to cry so much. She chewed her bottom lip.

“Jim?” She called, softly.

“Go away!”

She looked at the ground. It was a dirty ploy, but… “Jim, maybe… maybe Spock and Amanda will be at the store.”

His sniffling stopped immediately.

“Jim?”

His door opened. He’d put his shoes on in a hurry, not even bothering to tie them. “I’m ready to go.”

They did not see Spock and Amanda at the store. Jim skipped dinner and went to bed early.


 

Day Twelve

“What are you doing?”

Jim looked down from where he had stuffed himself onto the shelf of his closet. “I was in darkness,” he said, seriously. “So darkness I became.”

“Jim, you’re a grounded eight year old, not batman. Get down from there.”


 

Day Thirteen

“Do you think if Dad was alive, he’d let me go see Spock?”

Winona clenched her fork tightly in her hand. “Go to your room.”

“Do you?”

“Now!”

He went without further complaint.


 

Day Fourteen

“Back to the silent treatment, Jim?”

“I have nothing to say to you.”

“Fine by me.” She turned back to the holo screen. "Let me know if you need food or something."


 

Fifteen

“Jim.”

He looked up from where he was hanging his head off the edge of his bed. “Hm?”

His mom looked around his room. He’d hoped, secretly, that if he kept it immaculate, she might relent. He’d been loading and unloading the dishwasher every night, keeping his toys out of the main areas and put away, and had been sure to keep the bathroom tidy. He’d hoped. He’d hoped.

“Why is it so important to you that you see Spock?” She looked nervous, opening up the Spock topic.

Jim blinked. Confused, he turned onto his belly, and then pushed himself into a sitting position. “He’s my friend.” He said.

Winona nodded. She left.


 

Sixteen

“Don’t you have any other friends?”

Jim snorted. "Yeah," he drawled. "Right."


 

Seventeen

“I told Spock I loved him.”

“…”

“He loves me, too.”


 

Eighteen

“Jim?”

He looked up from his PADD. He’d been studying Klingonese. Actually, he’d been finishing up his studies on Klingonese. He was nearly fluent in it- he’d had a passing fancy in it for nearly a year. “Yeah?”

“Go outside and weed the garden for me.”

He tilted his head to the side, curious. She hadn’t really asked him to do anything during his little exile. Still, there was something about her searching expression that had him powering down his PADD and standing to pull his shoes on. “Okay.”

Maybe she was starting to relent.


 

Nineteen

 

“Want to play a game, Jim?”

Jim looked up from his PADD. All his thoughts were in Klingonese, anymore- he read it more than he heard his mother talk to him in Standard. “Huh?”

“Do you want to play a game?” She had an old box in her hands. He’d seen it, before, in her closet. It had his Dad’s name on it in marker.

“What is it?”

“Chess.” She said. She opened the box up and started to set up the three different boards, one after another. “I’m not very good at it, but your dad liked it…”

He considered shooting her down, but he was bored of Klingonese, and it had been a long, long time since his mom had played a game with him. “Okay.” he said.

She spent the rest of the day teaching him how to play chess.


 

Twenty

“I win!” Jim crowed, holding up his mother’s King in victory.

“Beaten by an eight-year-old.” She sighed, seriously.

“Again?” Jim asked, re-setting the board.

“One more.” Winona agreed.


 

Twenty-one

Winona peaked around Jim’s doorframe. He was back to studying on his PADD, and as such, back to ignoring everything else in the world. She stepped into his room, and even though she’d grown tired of the game the day before, said, “Chess?”

He looked up at her, and then to the window. It was a beautiful day outside, and it was a shame he wouldn’t leave the house. “I really wanted to show Spock the mushrooms growing in the garden.”

Ah. And there was the reason he hadn’t shown up for breakfast.

“Something ate them last night.” He turned back to his PADD.

“I’m sorry, Jim.” She said, lightly. “Still. Do you want to play?”

“What’s the point?” He muttered.

“What to you mean?”

He looked back up at her. “What’s the point in playing against someone if you know they won’t win?” When she didn’t reply right away he looked back down at his PADD. “You can’t beat me. I already beat the computer. So what’s the point?”

She closed his door behind her on her way out, grumbling, "so much for that idea."


 

Twenty-two

 

“Jim, you’ve got to get some air. You’ve been in your room for a week. We’re going shopping again.”

“Why?” Jim asked. “We’ve got enough food.”

“Go get your shoes on.”

“Why?” He repeated. He was scowling. “Aren’t you going to lie and say maybe we’ll run into Spock and Amanda again?”

She narrowed her eyes at him.

He stared straight back.

“You’re obsession just makes me think I was right to do this, you know.”

Jim said, “I only have one fiend, you know.”

She flinched.

“Have fun shopping.” He walked back up to his room.

 


 

Twenty-three

 

“What happened to your PADD?”

“I finished what I was working on.” Jim said. He was officially fluent in three dialects of Klingonese. Not that it mattered. He continued to stare at the ceiling. He wanted to take the Enterprise out of her hiding place and play, but he was afraid, still, and his heart wasn’t really in it.

If he looked hard enough, he could make out figures in the paint on the ceiling.

“How long have you been lying on the floor?”

“What time is it?”

“Seven.”

“Four and a half hours.”

Winona sighed. “Jim. Go outside and play.”

“With what?” Jim asked. “The mushrooms? Oh wait.”

“Jim, I swear to God-“

“What are you gonna do? Ground me?” He flipped onto his belly, pressing his face into the carpet. “There’s nothing more you can take from me.” Not with the Enterprise safely hidden away. “Leave me here to die.”

“Drama queen,” she muttered. She went back upstairs to continue working.


 

Twenty-four

“I’ll make you a deal.”

Jim looked up from his soup. “What?”

“Keep doing the dishes and keeping your room clean, and… wash the car. And maybe-“

"Okay! I'll do it now!" Jim was out the door to wash the hover before she could finish her sentence.


 

Twenty-five

“You look really nice today, Mom.”

“Save it, kid.”


 

Twenty-six

“Anything else I can do for you, Mom?”

“Stop hovering! You’ve cleaned the house top to bottom! No, there’s nothing else to do- go play! Get on your PADD, watch a holo, run around outside- do something! But stop driving me crazy.”

“Yes ma’am!”

“And lose the respect, would you? What kinda Kirk…?”

“Love you, mom!”


 

Twenty-six

“What do you think about having salad for dinner tonight?”

Jim looked up from the table, eyes shining with hope. “Do you mean…?”

Winona didn’t look back at him from where she was preparing pancakes. She was smiling.

He launched himself out of his chair. “Thank you!” He wrapped his arms around her, smiling wider than he had in weeks. “Thank you, thank you, thank you! I love you so much mom!” He started to run up stairs.

“Hey!” She laughed. “Where are you going?”

“I gotta wash up for Amanda!” He yelled.

She just laughed.

 

 


 

 

Jim couldn’t hold back when he saw the hover park in the drive way. “They’re here!” He yelled, and took off out the back, screen door slamming in his wake. His mom didn’t yell at him for it, just the once.

Spock barely had time to set feet on the gravel of the driveway before Jim was plowing into him, throwing his arms around Spock’s waste. Spock returned in kind, though he didn’t squeeze so hard as Jim did- resting his head on Jim’s shoulder while he held on tight, fingers twisted in the material of Jim’s shirt.

“I missed you!” Jim declared, swallowing back tears. He’d been crying way too often lately, and now wasn’t the time for it- he was happy, after all, not sad. His smile stretched so wide he felt his face might split from the happiness of it all.

Spock’s voice was quiet; nearly a whisper. “Against all logic, I have missed you also.”

Jim drew back, beaming. Spock looked different- older. He looked more Vulcan. He’d always looked Vulcan, of course, but before there had been a touch of Human in his features- the roundness of his cheeks, and the soft curve of his brows- but that had all faded away over the school year. His cheekbones cut severe shadows into his face, and his brows were unmistakably Vulcan- pointed, thin, and intimidating.

For an irrational second, Jim felt like he was facing a stranger and had to resist the urge to pull out of Spock’s grip. The eyes did him in though. Even if the rest of Spock changed, his eye never did- their dark, chocolate brown was the same as it had been since the very first day they met, Jim with his beetle, Spock with his coat.

“Hi,” he said. He couldn’t repress his grin.

Spock wasn’t smiling, but it was a near thing. “Perhaps we should proceed indoors.” He said.

Jim nodded. “Yeah! Come on!”

They went in through the front door, after Spock’s mother. Dinner was already out on the table, so Jim dragged Spock to the bathroom to wash his hands. Spock didn’t have to stand on the stool like Jim did, he noticed.

“No fair.” he pouted. “You’re so tall!”

“You will grow in time.” Spock said, matter-of-factly. “Vulcans grow faster than humans.”

Which was just fancy for ‘you haven’t had your spurt yet,’ like his mom always said.

Jim felt like he couldn’t bear to be parted from Spock physically, even for the short walk to the dinning room. He tucked his hand into Spock’s elbow, like he was escorting him somewhere, and held on, grinning at Spock’s raised brow.

“I am certain you know your own way, Jim.” Spock said, but he didn’t move to shrug Jim off. If anything, he walked a little closer, so that Jim could hold on easier.

“I could still get lost.” Jim joked. “These things happen, Spock.”

“That must be a human error, then,” Spock teased. 

They made it to the dining room, where Winona and Amanda were sitting next to each other without talking. Jim immediately felt the awkward atmosphere. He was confused by it- their moms had always gotten along well in the past, even on the first days of Summer, when they hadn’t seen each other. They always had updates about their respective son to talk to the other about, and yet, the dining room was quiet.

Dinner was slightly awkward. Jim’s utensils sounded loud against his plate, and every time he opened his mouth to talk, he felt the silence of the room like a physical thing against him and swallowed back his words. Amanda and Winona weren’t looking at each other.

He scooted his chair closer to Spock’s, moving his leg so that their ankles touched. Spock didn’t move away.

Jim ate as quickly as he could without making it looked rush, noticing that Spock seemed to be in a slight hurry to get out of there as well. He didn’t eat his exact fill, but he figured that he could creep downstairs for a secret snack later if he needed to. By the time Spock was folding his napkin and placing it on the table, Jim felt like he was about to rattle out of his his skin.

“Mother,” Spock said. “May Jim and I be excused?” His voice seemed loud in the still.

Amanda smiled warmly. “Of course. If you go outside, don’t go too far- it’s dark out.”

Spock nodded and slipped out of his chair. Jim nearly fell out of his own chair in his haste to stand. He motioned for Spock to follow him, and the two of them hurried up the stairs. Jim slammed the door to his room closed and winced at the subsequent “Jim!” from the kitchen.

“What the hell was that?” Jim said.

“I do not know.” Spock was frowning. He slipped up onto Jim’s bed and sat, casting his eyes about the room to take in its changes. “My mother seemed frustrated.”

Jim furrowed his brow. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No. I do not believe it was you.” He said. “Perhaps we will ask her at another time.”

“Let’s find out now.” Jim said.

Spock raised a brow. “Explain.”

Jim laughed. “It’s an ancient human technique- an art, actually. It’s called eavesdropping.”

“Jim,” Spock sighed, but he still stood and walked after the human as he carefully opened the door, soundlessly slipping out into the hallway.

“Stick close to the wall so the stairs don’t creak.” Jim whispered.

Spock said, “This is immoral behavior.” He went along despite it.

They slipped down stairs without a noise, crouching by the kitchen door. Jim lifted a finger to his lip to indicate complete silence, leaning as close to the entry way as he dared. Amanda and Winona were talking.

“I respect that,” Winona was saying. “But it’s not up to you to tell me how to raise my kid.” She sounded pissed off. Or rather, she sounded like she was trying not to sound pissed off. Jim knew the sound well.

“I would never tell someone how to raise their child,” Spock’s mom just sounded tired.

“Well that’s kind of what you’re doing.” Winona snapped. “Look, Spock is a great kid. He’s well behaved, and polite, and clean, and all that, but you’ve got to admit that him being Vulcan goes a long damn way. Jim’s a human. He’s a hyperactive human. You don’t know what he’s like.”

“You forget that he stayed with us for a month.” Amanda said.

“A month? Try a life-time.” Winona snorted. “You wouldn’t know what to do with him.”

Jim felt his heart sink into his stomach. Spock’s finger on his arm startled him, slightly, before he leaned into the touch. 'Thanks,' he mouthed. Spock nodded.

“Perhaps I wouldn’t.” Amanda said. “That’s not what I am saying- you should raise Jim how you see fit, that is the way it should be. I’m not contesting that-“

“Contesting.” Winona snorted. “You’re nearly Vulcan yourself.”

Jim could almost hear Amanda rolling her eyes. “Oh, and yes, us Vulcans know how to do everything better.” A pause. “Winona. I wouldn’t know what to do either. I barely know what I’m doing with Spock- he practically raises himself.”

Spock nearly rolled his eyes at that- clearly, he didn’t agree. Jim was with him there- Amanda was the best.

“And it’s true that I don’t know Jim, or rather, not as well as his own mother would.” She sighed. “I’m simply saying that it was a little harsh. And-“

“And that it’s really none of your business.”

“No.” Amanda said, carefully. “I simply wanted to say that next time you chose to punish your son, please refrain from punishing mine as well.”

Silence.

“Shit.” Winona sighed.

“This month was terrible for Spock.” Amanda went on. “He shows so little emotion anymore, it’s hard for me to tell when he’s excited, or happy, or sad, but Winona- he was so excited to see Jim again. Even if he didn’t say anything, I could tell. When we got here and he learned that he wouldn’t be allowed to see Jim, he was crushed! He asked every day if we could come see him, and knowing that we couldn’t, because of something so small… it broke my heart.”

“I didn’t think…” She paused. “I didn’t think he cared.”

“What?!”

“He’s a Vulcan!” Winona protested. “I didn’t really think he was… you know. Jim’s friend.”

Jim curled into Spock. He felt like he was going to throw up.

“You know. Jim just doesn’t really have any friends. I figured Spock was being polite. That you both were. I don’t know. Spock really…?”

“Of course he does.” Amanda breathed. “How could you think that? Jim…”

“He’s a handful.” Winona said.

“He’s delightful.” Amanda snapped. “Jim is… he’s so bright, Winona. I think he’s the only person in the universe Spock thinks he can even talk to, because Jim actually understands. Jim’s a wonderful child. He’s kind, and caring, and he’s just completely brilliant. We loved having him at the house. Even Sarek couldn’t disprove of Spock being around such an intelligent person.”

“Still…”

“There is no still.” Amanda said. “Jim is Spock’s best friend.”

Jim looked over to Spock, eyes wide. Spock was staring straight ahead.

“… He is?”

“Yes.” Amanda sighed. “Perhaps…”

It was quiet again.

“I’ve got to go back to San Fransisco.” Winona said, eventually. “I usually leave him with my dad. Last year he was just not doing so well, health wise, so-“

“Yes.” Amanda said immediately. “Let him stay with us.”

“I feel like it would be rewarding bad behavior.” She sighed.

“Winona, please.” Amanda said, gently. “This was enough. Let me take him.”

“I’ll be gone three month.” She said. Jim bit his lip in excitement- she was giving in. “You’ll have to leave him with my dad when you head back for Vulcan.”

“We will make the proper arrangements.”

Footsteps started towards the door. “Let me get-“

Jim grabbed Spock by the sweater and hauled him up, flying back up the stairs. He was careful- they both were- to remain silent. They hid in the hallway while Amanda and Winona walked through the living room towards the office, and once they were out of sight, Spock and Jim ducked back into the bedroom.

Spock carefully closed the door behind them.

Jim sat down heavily on the floor.

He was torn.

He was excited to be staying with Spock for the rest of the summer, even knowing it meant a month with Pops afterwards. It was a dream come true- he’d never been happier than the month with Spock and Amanda last time, and now he was getting double that.

The rest, though…

Did mom really think he was nothing but a handful? She’d talked about him like he was a problem. Like she couldn’t honestly believe anyone would like him, that he’d have friends. He knew she loved him, but.

Why would she say all that?

“Jim?”

Jim looked up at Spock, who’d crouched in front of him.

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah,” he choked. Then he shook his head. “No, actually.”

Spock straightened, casting his eyes about the room. “Where is the Enterprise?”

Jim crawled over to the bed and flattened himself out, worming underneath to access the vent. He popped it open and pulled the Enterprise out, blowing the dust off her back as he went, and then shimmied back out into the open, holding her up like a prize.

Spock had found the Farragut, and was holding it up in the air. “Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S Enterprise,” he said, quietly. “This is Captain Spock of the U.S.S Farragut. We’ve picked up a distress call and are patching through the coordinates of its origination. A C-class Andorian merchant vessel has been attacked by three Klingon warbirds, sir. They are requesting our immediate help.”

Jim grinned, scrubbing at his eyes. He stood, swiftly, and let out a little laugh. “Well, Captain Spock,” he said, slowly. “I guess we’d better warp out there, huh?”

 


 

Jim loved Amanda. Each morning he and Spock woke up to breakfast being put out on the table, where the three of them would sit together and talk about their plans for the day. If they wanted to go into town, so long as she wasn’t busy already, Amanda would take them. If they wanted to go to Jim’s house to play at the creek, she’d send them off with a wave and a request to check in with her over their comms. She’d drop what she was doing to take them to the library to get real, paper books, even.

If they were home for lunch, she’d ask what they wanted and make it. If they were heading out to play, she’d pack them sandwiches. If they were in town, they always all excitedly teamed up to decide on what they’d be trying for the day- watching Spock try new Earth food was something Jim and Amanda loved.

Jim and Spock helped make dinner if they weren’t wrapped up in a project. Amanda played Vulcan music, which made Jim feel like he was walking through a smoky, amber room, searching for something. He liked the sensation, though, and he loved to watch Amanda dance happily around the kitchen, sometimes singing over the lyric-devoid music to make the songs her own.

And then at night, she’d tuck them both in, and- ignoring Spock’s half-hearted attempts to insist he was far too old for it- would read them a bed time story. Most of the time, that meant reading articles about the Marina trench. It was what Spock and Jim were most interested in, for the moment, and they couldn’t get enough. She just laughed and shook her head when they eventually decided, almost every night, that they both wanted to hear her read encyclopedia articles out loud instead of any real story.

It was like some fantastic dream-life, where everything was bright and warm and happy. He didn’t care that he woke up in the night overheated and had to crawl up on top of the covers to let his sweat cool. He didn’t mind that their shower was sonics only. He didn’t miss the holo screen at his house, or his bed, or any part of his home.

When he stayed with Pops, he had trouble sleeping at night, listening to the whir of the old-fashioned air coolant unit. At Spock’s house, Amanda left the PADD playing noises of Vulcan’s night, which included the ghostly scream of the le-matya and the chirp of something almost like crickets. Jim loved the whistle of the wind and the lonely howls of the vai-sehlat.

When Jim got out of the shower, Amanda would comb his hair and tell him he looked like a very handsome young Captain in his command pjs. When he roughed his knees up she’d wash them and use a dermal regenerator for him, narrating what an epic battle Jim must have had with the Gorn to get such vicious wounds.

Jim loved her more than he had ever loved another adult- and he trusted her, which, he could say honestly, was a rare honor.

He even let her hold the Enterprise. No one but Spock got to hold the Enterprise.

Of course, he knew that all good things had to come to an end, but for the time being…

“I love you, Amanda.” He whispered.

She blinked at him, blue eyes bright in the faint light pouring in from the hall. Spock had fallen asleep half-way through their reading, and his soft breathing made Jim feel sleepy. The words slipped out before he could stop them.

He shouldn’t have worried. Her smile could have out-shone the sun. She leaned down to kiss his forehead goodnight, like she always did for Spock.

And she whispered, “I love you, too, James.”

 


 

 

“Every cool duo has a secret handshake.”

“False.” Spock said.

Jim pouted dramatically. “Come on, Spock! We gotta!”

“We certainly do not have to create a secret handshake. It is illogical.”

“So you’d do it if it there was a logical reason?” Jim mused.

Spock’s silence was everything.

“What if one day you’re cloned?”

“It is extremely unlikely.”

“But not impossible. What if one of us is horribly disfigured and goes mute? How will we know it’s really us?”

“Writing, Jim.”

“What if I’m so disfigured I can’t write?”

“I doubt you will be able to complete a handshake at such a point.”

“Damn, you’re right.” Jim skipped a rock down the creek. “Well what about if like… we get separated? I can’t just come right out in the open and ask if we’re still friends. Holding my hand out for the handshake would be much cooler.”

“Illogical.” Spock said.

“Back to the clone thing then.” Jim said. “Or like, an alien who can shape-shift!”

Spock’s eyes narrowed.

Jim grinned in victory. “That one’s pretty likely, isn’t it?”

“I do not know the exact odds.” In other words, yes, it was likely.

“Yes!” He ran in a quick circle around Spock and then came back to stand before him.

Spock put his hand up, signaling a pause. “However.”

Jim deflated. “What now?”

“Hand-to-hand contact for Vulcans is different than it is for humans. You have observed my mother and father touching their fingers together in the past, correct?”

“Yeah. It’s their good luck handshake.”

“It is not.” Spock said. “It is a Vulcan kiss.”

Jim stuck his tongue out. “Ew.”

“Indeed. If we are to have a hand-shake, I would prefer minimum contact. It is… improper to do otherwise.”

“So…” Jim paused. “Holding hands is like a kiss?”

“Yes. Perhaps more than a kiss.”

Jim stuck his tongue out again. Then he paused. “Well is it okay if it's just a friendship kiss?”

Spock raised his brow.

“You know. Like on the cheek. It could be that, right?”

“I believe holding hands would constitute an action I have heard you refer to as ‘making out,’ Jim.”

“Aw man. That’s gross.” He put his hand on his chin. “So how do we have a handshake without touching hands?”

“It is quite the conundrum.”

Jim giggled. “Stop making fun of me!”

Spock quirked a brow. “I am doing no such thing.”

“And they say Vulcans don’t lie. Guess they didn’t account for half-Vulcans.”

Spock rose both brows.

Jim laughed. “Stop! You’re distracting me.” He thought for a second, looking away from Spock so that he could concentrate. Slowly, a vague idea formulated in his head. “Like planets,” he said.

“Elaborate.”

“We’ll do it like planets. Circling each other in orbit, but with a gravitational pull too weak to keep them from colluding.” He grinned. “We’ll orbit each other like the stars.”

Spock said, “Your logic is sound.”

“Okay! Okay. So now we have to figure it out.” He held his hand out, like was going in for a handshake. Spock mirrored the action. “Okay….”

“Perhaps you should proceed, and I will copy your actions.”

“Yeah.” Jim slid his hand forward, never quite touching Spock’s hand, and then put the tips of his fingers on Spock’s wrist. “Is a wrist a kiss?”

“It is not.”

Jim grinned and then gripped Spock’s wrist, delighting in the way the other boy did the same. Wrists clasped, he drew their bodies closer together, bumping their shoulders, then drew back. With his other hand, he touched the skin on his own arm, just above where Spock’s fingers landed on his arm. Spock did the same to his arm, like they were two sides of a mirror.

“Gik’tal!” Jim barked.

Spock’s eyes widened, startled at having been shouted out. “Gik… Tal?” He repeated.

Jim laughed. “To the death.”

Spock raised a brow. “I was unaware you knew Klingonese phrases.”

“Try fluent.” Jim laughed. He drew away from Spock. “That seems like a pretty cool secret non-hand shake, don’t you think?”

“It will serve its purpose.” Spock said. “We should practice it again, to be certain.”

Jim smirked. “Yeah. Good idea.”

 


 

 

Jim held the Enterprise above his head, waiting for Spock to get done with his stupid summer math homework. He’d grown bored of doing the equations along with Spock hours ago- it wasn’t hard once you got the hold of it, after all.

“Is it always kissing to hold hands?” He wondered.

Spock paused. “I am uncertain.”

Jim turned onto his stomach. “It’s because of the fingers right?”

“That is accurate.”

“What if you held hands with someone without doing the finger-tangle thingy. Like, just hand-holding?”

“It would be intimate.”

“A friendship kiss.” Jim insisted.

Spock looked over his shoulder at Jim. “… Perhaps.”

“Would you hold my hand? Hypo-thet-ic-ally?”

He looked back to his math. “… Perhaps.”

Jim beamed. “You’d kisssssss me, Spock?”

“On second thought, perhaps not.”

“No take-backs Spock!” Jim sang. He leapt to his feat, flying the Enterprise up over Spock’s head. His eyes caught the formula Spock was working on. “It’s three to the seventh power.” He said.

Spock said, “This is my school work, Jim, not yours.”

Jim shrugged. “S’ easy.”

“Indeed.” Spock said. “And yet, it is my easy task to complete.”

“What grade are you in?” Jim asked.

“Vulcans do not have grades.”

“Oh.” Jim fidgeted. “Well. I wish that we were in the same grade.”

“If it makes you happy, Jim, you may pretend it is so.”

Jim laughed. “No! I mean, like, I wish… I don’t know.” He sat down on the floor again, leaning against the drawers of Spock’s desk. “If we were in the same grade, then I could wish that you would stay here and come to school with me. That way we could be in the same class together.”

Spock looked down at him.

“It’d be cool.” Jim defended.

Spock said, “Perhaps, were we on Vulcan together, you would be allotted the learning pod next to mine.”

Jim smiled, leaning into Spock’s leg. “Yeah. Maybe.”

 


 

 

“How are you doing out there, Jimbo?”

Jim beamed at his PADD. Usually, when his mom was gone, she didn’t call to check in unless she had to. It was nice to see her again. “Great! I’m having so much fun! Yesterday Amanda took me and Spock to a museum and because she’s married to Spock’s dad we got a tour! And there was this immortal jellyfish that they said they think is three hundred years old there, mom! Can you believe it? Three hundred! And we saw some really cool fossils and there were insects in amber and-“

“That’s great, Jimmy.” His mom smiled. “I don’t have too much time to talk. Did Pops talk to you? He was supposed to get all the school supplies you’ll need for Iowa City.”

He shook his head. “Amanda got the list and she took me school shopping! Look!” He tumbled off of the bed and made a mad grab for his new backpack. “It’s Deep Space Seven!”

Her smile fell a little. “That’s great, Jim.”

“And she got me new shoes and socks because the old ones were all stained from the creek and then we got Spock to try on some Terran clothes! And now he has some jeans but he doesn’t like them very much because it’s cold but the house is always super warm so he wears them in here sometimes and-“

“When will Pops be picking you up, Jim?”

Jim licked his lips. “Well… I was. I was talking to Amanda…”

His mom furrowed her brows. “What?”

“Well uh.”

“Are you getting in to trouble, Jim?” She groaned. “I told you, you’ve got to behave for Amanda or-“

“I know! I’m being good.” He hurriedly assured her. When he’d received the call from his mom he’d run upstairs to Spock’s room, leaving Amanda and Spock in the middle of their plans. They were thinking about taking a short road trip before the month was over, to hit as many museums as possible. He stood and started back to the door, to head downstairs again. Amanda would explain.

“Promise?”

“Promise.” Jim beamed.

“So then when will Pops be getting you?”

“That’s the thing!” Jim happily declared. “Amanda and me and Spock were thinking and Spock’s dad said they don’t have to go back right away because Spock’s all caught up on his work anyway and Spock’s dad still has work to do, so Amanda was saying maybe they’d stay until you got back!” Jim was nearly shouting in excitement by the end of his sentence.

His mom was scowling.

She probably didn’t believe him. “Here!” He jumped down the last few stairs and then hurried over to the table, where Spock and Amanda were taking a tea break. “Amanda!” He called. “It’s my mom! It’s for you!” He eagerly pushed the PADD into her hands, smiling wide.

She smiled back at him, ruffling his hair. “Thank you, James.”

Jim left her side to climb up into a chair next to Spock. They’d gotten Jim’s mug out for him- it was the green one- and the tea was waiting in his place. He lifted the clay pot and poured himself a mug full, breathing in the warm, spicy scent of the Vulcan mix.

Amanda stood and left the table, talking quietly to Winona on the PADD.

“He’s my son.” Winona was saying.

“I understand that, but it wouldn't be any trouble. If-“

She slipped into her room, closing the door behind her.

Jim looked over at Spock. His brows were drawn together in a tight Vulcan V. “Can you hear them?”

Spock nodded.

“What’s wrong?”

“They are fighting.”

Jim sighed. “I thought they were friends.”

Spock said, “It is difficult to understand them.”

“What’s mom saying?” he flushed. “I mean, your mom.”

“She is insisting that it would be beneficial for you to remain with us rather than with your grandfather. Your mother is offended by the implication that we are better suited to care for you than her father.”

Jim frowned. “Why does she care?”

“I do not know.”

Jim dragged one of the PADDs on the table over to him, looking at the route they were mapping out for their road trip. He pulled the view back, further and further, until their route was just a tiny red dot on the surface of the planet. He spun the earth around, faster and faster, until it was a blur of color.

“Jim.” Spock said.

“I’m okay.” He muttered. He had a feeling that all their plans were about to come crashing to an end. He’d been so excited, earlier, that he’d forgotten to be afraid of the possibility of failure. He hated that feeling- being powerless to steer his own fate in the direction he wanted it to go.

Spock scooted closer, until their thighs touched beneath the table. “I will return next year, and we will not be separated as we were this year.”

Jim wanted to say that Spock was right. He had to be realistic, though. “Maybe.”

Spock shook his head. “My mother will not allow for our collective misery.”

He couldn’t help but smile at that. “Yeah. Amanda is the best.”

Jim sipped at his tea, leaning against Spock, who drank his own without slurping. Jim liked the kind of silences he had with Spock- they didn’t need to say anything, because they already knew how the other was feeling. It was a small comfort amidst the sudden uncertainty in Jim’s routine.

When Amanda finally emerged from her room, she looked defeated. She put Jim’s PADD down on the table and sank into her chair, head in her hands.

Jim knew the answer, but he couldn’t keep the hope out of his voice. “Do I get to stay?”

She shook her head mutely.

“Oh.”

“I’m sorry Jim.” She said, quietly. “I tried.”

“It’s okay.” He forced himself to keep his voice light. “I’m used to it.”

If anything, that seemed to make Amanda even more upset.

“When do I have to go back to Pop’s?”

“As soon as we’re back from our trip.”

Jim smiled, weakly. “At least we still get our trip.”

Amanda smiled at that. “Yeah. At least.”

“Will you stay?” Jim asked. “Even if I have to be at Pops?”

“Would you like us to stay, Jim?”

He nodded.

Amanda smiled. “Then we will.”

 


 

 

The first day of school, Jim showed up as a completely new man. He had his hat from the Miami Florida Museum of Science and Space Transit, and his wristband from the Cincinnati Starfleet Museum of Spacial Exploration. He had his new backpack, and shoes with cartoon Saturns on them. He had a fresh hair cut, and a new PADD case, lunch box, and comm case. He even had a new paper notebook and case of ink pens.

Best of all, though, was the lunch inside the lunchbox. Amanda had been able to talk Pops into letting her drive Jim to school in the mornings. She’d brought him a packed lunch, too- it contained a thermal full of Vulcan spice tea.

He was ready.

Even though Jim would be the youngest person in middle school, he was certain to be the brightest, too. It wasn’t like at his old school- no one knew him yet and he had a chance to change everything up.

It could be good. It could be fun.

He squared his shoulders and stood tall with the practiced ease that had come after so much time mimicking Spock, and with his eyes set forward, stepped into the fray.


 

 

“How was your first day of school?” Amanda smiled at him, reaching out to straighten his hair.

Jim shrugged.

“Good? Did you make any friends?”

He shrugged again.

“Do you like your teachers?”

“They’re okay.” He hedged. “I like the science teacher.”

“That’s great!”

She took his backpack while he stepped into the car, sliding into the middle seat to be nearer to Spock. He laid his head on Spock’s shoulder as soon as he could, sighing. He’d been optimistic. That wouldn’t happen again.

Amanda slid into the front seat. “Tell me all about it, James! Going to a new school must be so exciting.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

She frowned. “Honey?”

He looked up.

“What’s wrong?” 

He swallowed. “I… don’t think the other kids like me very much.”

“Oh, honey. Who could dislike you?”

“They took my hat.” He mumbled.

Amanda’s eyebrows shot into her hairline. “What?” She stopped the hovercar’s starting sequence. “They took your hat?”

He nodded.

“Do you know the name of the kid who took it?” She looked angry, suddenly.

He slid down a little further into the seat, clutching Spock’s arm. “I’m sorry.”

“What? Oh, honey, no, no, don’t be sorry. I’m not mad at you!” She quickly exited the car, pulling Spock’s door open. “Come on.”

He looked up at her in confusion, even as Spock un-buckled. “What are we doing?”

“You’ll see.”

Jim looked over to Spock, hoping his friend would explain, but Spock just shook his head. He didn’t look nervous, or upset- in fact, he looked… smug. Jim slipped out of the car, reaching out without thinking to grab Amanda’s hand.

He cringed, about to draw his hand back as he realized what he was doing, but Amanda took his palm firmly in hers. With Amanda on one side and Spock on the other, they marched through the crowd and back into the school.

“Spock,” Amanda said, “Where’s the administration office?”

Jim opened his mouth to protest- Spock had never even been to the school- but Spock cut him off. “We will take a left at the next hall.” He said. At Jim’s questioning look, his cheekbones tinged lightly green. “I was able to access the layout of the school on their website.” He explained.

Jim couldn’t help it- he laughed.

Suddenly in much higher spirits, Jim allowed himself to be escorted along. When they reached the admin office, they found a surplus of other parents waiting there. Amanda ignored all of them, marching straight up to the counter, where a secretary was looking rather harried while he tried to talk on two different comms at once. Amanda fixed him with a hard look.

Jim grinned in manic delight.

“Excuse me.” She said. “I’d like to see the principal.”

The secretary looked up at her helplessly. “She’s very busy-“

“As am I.” Amanda said, coldly. “But my son has had his property stolen from him. Isn’t that right, James?”

Jim nodded frantically. His chest felt warm. It was all part of the ruse, of course, but hearing her call him her son flooded him with happiness. She really did love him- she hadn’t just been saying it back.

The secretary sighed. “Complaint forms are-“

“It wasn’t stolen out of his bag.” She snapped. “A student took it from him. I don’t know what you think is appropriate in this school of yours, but I find bullying and theft to be completely intolerable.”

The secretary set his comms down. He looked very stressed, Jim thought. “Kid,” he said.

“Jim.” Amanda corrected him.

“Jim.” The secretary said. “Did you tell a teacher?”

He nodded.

“There you have it.” Amanda said. “Negligence. I have half a mind to call my husband from his meeting in San Fransisco to fly all the way out here. If an Ambassador’s own child can’t-“

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” The guy held his hands up, straightening in his chair upon hearing the word ‘Ambassador.’ “There’s no need for that! I’ll, uh, just go see if Miss Krit is available.”

He was only gone for a second. When he returned he was blushing. “Go on back. Do you need me to show you-“

“Do not concern yourself.” Spock said. The secretary only then seemed to notice him, and did a double-take. “I know the way.”

Jim resisted the urge to grin. They had to stay serious. A look up at Amanda’s face helped that- she wasn’t acting. She really was mad. He reminded himself of what she and Spock had both said; she wasn’t mad at him.

But at who then?

They marched into the office. A woman with short cropped black hair stood behind her desk, offering out her hand to shake. “Um, hello, I’m Suchin Krit.”

Amanda ignored her hand. “You’re the principal of this school, then?”

“Yes, um, miss…?” Her eyes flickered between Jim, Amanda, and Spock. She looked equal parts concerned and confused.

“Doctor.” Amanda corrected her. “Doctor Amanda Grayson.”

“Of course, Doctor Grayson. Please, sit.”

She didn’t. “I’m taking care of James Kirk while his mother’s off-world. I’m sure you’re familiar with Jim.”

She nodded.

“Hi.” Jim said.

“Yes, hello.” She waved a little at him.

“Jim had his hat stolen by a fellow student today.” Amanda launched into it without preamble. Slowly, Krit sat down, looking very much like a cornered animal. Amanda made the perfect impression of a mother sehlat. Jim was delighted.

He and Spock both took a seat at the two chairs offered up, waiting behind Amanda while she leaned forward, palms braced on the desk, and proceeded to tear the principal apart.

It was like nothing Jim had ever seen, and he loved every minute of it.

 


Jim watched Pop’s truck pull into the shuttle station’s lot, frowning. It was an old-earth vehicle, and still had wheels on the ground. Riding in it had been fun when he was younger, but anymore, it was just gave him a headache.

Spock looked over and saw the vehicle as well. He looked at the ground.

“I guess this is goodbye.” Jim said. Even though they’d stayed for the first week of school, Jim still felt robbed- he hadn’t gotten nearly enough time with Spock. He felt his throat close with emotion and reminded himself that he had yet to let Spock see him cry when he was leaving. He wasn’t going to let it happen.

“Indeed.” Spock said. His mom was already loading their bags onto the shuttle.

“I’ll see you next summer?” Jim said. He forced himself to be happy about it- he’d see Spock again. And the school year wouldn’t be so terrible after everything Amanda had done to assure that he’d be treated well. He just had to wait, and once again, Spock would be back.

Spock nodded. “You will.” He paused. “Sooner than this time.”

“Yeah.” Jim laughed. He wanted to go in for a hug, but he could see Pops approaching. Pops was adamant that men didn’t hug or cry. Or giggle. But mostly that they didn’t hug.

So instead, he offered out his hand.

Spock knew immediately what the gesture was. They pulled together in their secret handshake, Spock’s heated skin a hug all its own against Jim’s arm. “Gik’tal!” they chorused.

Til the death. That meant Spock had to come back, no matter what.

Jim turned, feeling Pop’s hand on his shoulder. He grinned at the older man, but it was forced.

“Ready to go, Jimbo?”

“Yeah… just let me say goodbye.”

He nodded. “I’ll wait in the truck.”

They watched him walk away. When he ducked into the truck, Jim gave in, pushing forward to wrap his arms around Spock. Jim pressed his face into Spock’s neck, breathing in his familiar, earthy scent.

They drew back in unison.

“I wish to teach you something,” Spock said. He lifted his right hand, making a V between his middle finger and right finger. “It is our hello and our goodbye- the ta’al.”

Jim looked down at his hand, manually arranging it into the same configuration Spock was displaying. He lifted it up, waiting for Spock’s approval.

He nodded. “Dif-tor heh smusma.”

Jim blinked. “Live long and prosper?”

Spock nearly smiled.

Amanda found them then, and with glassy eyes, collected both boys into her arms, hugging them both. Spock stiffened and said, “Mother, I am leaving with you.”

“I know.” She sighed. “Sometimes you just need a hug from your mom.”

Jim was far from complaining. He clutched tightly to Amanda’s side, pressing his face into her robes. The material was soft against his face, and smelled like the detergent they used in the summer house. Jim took a deep breath in, committing the smell to memory- knowing it would be a long time before he likely expirianced it again.

She kissed his forehead, smoothing his hair back. “We’ll see you in the summer, James.”

“Okay.” He mumbled into her clothes.

She laughed a little. “We’ve got to go.”

He sighed. Pulling out of her grip, he looked at Spock and Amanda on last time. He offered a shaky ta’al, to which they both nodded. “Bye,” he offered, softly.

He watched them as they boarded the train, Spock offering up a ta’al to match Jim’s, Amanda waving sadly. The doors slid closed and they were hidden from his sight, but Jim stayed standing with his salute until the shuttle pulled out of the station, watching on and on, until it was only a faint gleam of metal, kissing the horizon.

Chapter Text

“Jim, get back here!”

Jim looked over his shoulder and laughed. “Later mom!”

They’d barely parked before Jim had found himself exploding out of his seat, feat scuffing the earth as he flew out of the lot and towards the shuttle station. His mom had been rather clingy, the last month, even though she’d been gone more than ever during the rest of the school year. He didn’t mind- he liked her clinginess, even, but he didn’t have time for it just then.

Spock was back.

He could see the shuttle pulling into the station, the gleam of it’s fresh, red coat of paint catching the sun like a beacon. He ran straight up to the station, slamming his palms against the force field as he came to a sudden stop. Somewhere behind him, his mom was still yelling for him to wait.

He was nine years old- that would make Spock eleven. How tall did Vulcans get? Jim had finally gotten a growth spurt, and he was hoping that he’d have caught up to Spock. He remembered Spock being tall, but how tall?

The shuttle slowed to a halt. Jim didn’t wait- as soon as the doors were open, he rushed inside, craning his head around for a familiar duo in Vulcan robes. For a moment, he couldn’t see anything, but as he climbed up onto a seat to see above the crowd he spotted the familiar shine of a black bowl cut.

“Spock!” He pushed past a couple with a kid and leapt over a set of luggage, his grin bordering on manic. Spock turned, eyes widening, just in time to be tackled.

They went down hard, startling Amanda into gasping. Jim laughed, clinging onto Spock as tightly as he dared, until finally Spock hugged him back.

Amanda started to laugh. “James! Goodness, where did you come from?”

“Can’t talk, hugging Spock!”

She laughed again.

“Jim,” Spock said. “The floor is unsanitary.”

“R-right.” Jim stood up and helped Spock to his feet, flashing the ta’al. He’d been practicing all school year, and the gesture came to him like a second nature. “Dif-tor heh smusma.”

Spock repeated the gesture. “Peace and long life,” he said.

“Oh, what, there’s a second part now?” Jim laughed. “Oh, let me help with your stuff!” He grabbed a handful of Amanda’s bags, grinning up at her as she thanked him. He turned back to Spock and then grinned even harder. “I was right!”

Spock lifted a brow.

“I’m just as tall as you now!”

Spock said, “By my estimate, I am one inch and three centimeters taller.”

“Specifics, Spock.” The train was nearly empty, so Jim hurried to lead them off. They stepped out into the sunlight, Spock seeming to eagerly soak it in. Jim laughed. “Come on! Mom is-“

“Very angry with her son.”

Jim stopped where he was, looking up at Winona.

Haloed by the sun, his mom’s main of golden curls looked like fire. It matched her expression pretty well.

“Mom!” He said. Sometimes, if he acted happy enough, she forgot why she was pissed off to begin with. “Look! Spock is here!”

“Yeah, I can see that.” Still, the anger faded from her face, leaving mere irritation in its wake. She looked over at Amanda. “Need help with your bags?”

“No, thank you- Jim took some.”

His mom frowned. “Right.”

The car ride back was tense between Amanda and Winona. Jim noticed, but didn’t really care- he had a lot to tell Spock. A whole school year, at a new school, had passed by, and while Jim had to admit that most of it was, as his mother often muttered, “a royal shit show,” there had been some good times sprinkled in between.

He focused on those. Spock and his mom had done a hell of a lot to try and ensure that it would be a good year, and Jim didn’t want to ruin it by telling Spock about the number of black eyes and busted lips he’d gathered. For some reason, people didn’t enjoy a sassy nine year old mouthing off to them. Imagine that.

Jim had learned to fight fast. So then the school had a sassy, genius nine year old who mouthed off and returned weak, uncalculated punches with a mean right hook. Jim hadn’t earned himself many friends, but he did have a small group of kids that he liked to sit with at lunch who were, at least, nice to him. Even if they had deiced not to come to his birthday party. That was fine- he’d thought he’d try again on the whole party thing in honor of the new school year, but he’d been relieved when no one took him up on his offer. He didn’t even tell his mom he’d tried, and had let her pass the day like she always did when his birthday came around- holed up in the office, drunk enough to cry and not worry about her volume.

He decided to keep that bit of trivia to himself. He had plenty else to say, after all. 

Spock had a lot to catch him up on, too.

For one, Spock was officially part of his school's science team, which was a program honored enough to sometimes get ‘excursions’ (AKA field trips) to and with the Vulcan Science Embassy. For another, Spock was learning martial arts, and had learned how to play the lute- apparently, he was quite good at it, though he had neglected to bring his, so Jim would have to wait until the next summer to hear him play. Spock had also taken a trip to Jretha VII with his mother and father for about a month in the middle of the school year, and while there, had become fluent in Romulan, which was easier for both parties than Standard.

Jim whispered about exchanging lessons in Klingon for lessons in Romulan. Spock eagerly accepted.

By the time they made it to the summer house, it was like Spock had never left at all- they were settled back into their groove, talking like a unit, their movements centered about each other, like they were moons, orbiting the same gravitational pull in space.

Jim helped unload the back, excited to be sleeping up in Spock’s room again.

And then his mom ruined it all. “Come on, JIm.”

“Huh?”

“We’re going home.”

 


 

 

Jim hardly slept that night, knowing that he’d done nothing wrong to earn himself the solitude of his room. He tossed and turned all night, insides eaten away by guilt- surely he’d disappointed his mom somehow, if she was punishing him.

Eventually, he couldn’t take it anymore. He’d crept out of his room and down the hall, to his mom’s room. Her door was open, which struck him as odd- he popped his head in, but there was no familiar mound in the covers.

He walked downstairs. A light was on in the kitchen.

“Mom?”

“Shit.” She startled where she was sitting at the table, nearly knocking over bottle of amber liquid. “Jim-“

He slipped around the table and sat himself across from her. Her cheeks were wet and her eye were red. She’d been crying. “What’s wrong?” When she didn’t answer right away he sighed. “Will you tell me what I did wrong?”

She groaned. Pushing her bottle and glass aside, she set her elbows on the table, using her hands to keep her head up. “Oh, Jim,” she sighed to her lap.

“Please?”

“You didn’t do anything.” She hiccuped. “Sorry. It’s been… it’s been a really rough year.”

He knew as much. He couldn’t remember her drinking outside of his birthday, back when he'd been younger, but this wasn’t the first time he’d caught her up at the table in the last several months. The year had hit her hard, for some reason, and she’d been gone an awful lot.

He still wasn’t sure what was wrong.

“Jim… Do you think I’m a bad mom?”

He blinked.

In the back of his head, he couldn’t help but think it was an odd question to ask a child. Despite his brains and wit and mouth, he was still a kid. “What?”

She snorted out a defeated laugh. “I bet you wish Amanda was your mom, don’t you?”

He looked away from her. The thought had crossed his mind before.

“She doesn’t have a starship full of people or a- a George helping her raise her kid and. She’s doing perfectly.” She looked up. “I bet you hate me.”

“No!”

She smiled a little. “Well, I guess I am your mom, even if I’m not a good one.”

“You’re a good mom.”

“And you’re a good liar.” She sighed. “Jesus, Jim…”

He sunk back into his chair.

“You look like him, you know.”

Jim blinked. “Spock?”

She let out a startled laugh. “What? No." She sighed. "... Your dad.”

He stared at her.

“Sometimes… sometimes I can hardly stand to look at you. It’s like he’s standing right in front of me, just, smaller, you know. You’ve got the same eyes. And god, now that your hair’s getting darker, you just… you’re like his little clone.” She laughed.

He felt something ugly blooming in his chest. He didn’t know what it was, but he didn’t like it. It was almost like jealousy, but it had a sharp bite of pain to it that felt more like loneliness. He crossed his arms over his chest, suddenly feeling cold.

“I know it’s not fair to you.” She continued. “But…”

She stopped there and didn’t talk again for a while.

Jim was ready to go back to bed. He wasn’t sure how to move; it was like his mom was a sleeping dog he didn’t want to wake up. He could sit at the dinner table all night long if he had to, but he longed to go back to his room and pretend the whole night had never taken place to begin with.

“Amanda wants us all to go on a camping trip.”

Jim gasped in surprise and delight before he could stop himself.

She laughed, humorlessly. “Yeah, I thought you’d be excited. She wants me to come.”

“Will you?” Jim asked. He back-tracked. “Can we? Go, I mean? Do you want to come?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“It’ll be fun.” Jim tried.

“Wouldn’t it be more fun without me?”

He frowned a little. “… I thought you used to like camping.”

“Nice dodge.”

“I think it would be fun if you came.” Jim tried.

“Do you?”

“Yeah.”

She fell silent again.

Jim tried not to fidget, but it was difficult. He found his feet tapping against the floor without his permission, in time with the clock on the wall. Tick, tap, tick, tap, tick, tap, tic-

“Okay.”

Jim gasped. “Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Thank you!” He jumped up form his spot and ran around the table, managing to get his arms around his mom as he buried his head in her ribs. She grunted and steadied him with a hand on his shoulder. “It’s going to be so fun, mom! You’ll see!”

“Well...” She sighed, quietly. “We’ll see.”

 


 

 

The path was barely worn into the grass, and thin enough to be the work of animals alone. Jim soldiered up it after Spock, wondering how the other boy could stand to be wearing a sweater. It felt about a million degrees out, and even in shorts and a tank, Jim was still covered in sweat.

Behind them, their moms trailed, talking quietly together about work. Amanda was working on translating documents for the summer, like usual, and Winona had her work for Starfleet. She’d brought along her Starfleet mission pack, and the subsequent tent for them all to share. Jim wished she could bring her job into their life more often, instead of leaving to go to it. But then, she had an odd relationship with Starfleet- she hated it and loved it at the same time.

“Spock!” Jim called, running off the path. “Look! This moss!”

Spock hurried to his side, crouching down to look. “Tortula ruralis?”

“Yeah! Star moss!” Jim cried in delight.

“Fascinating.” Spock said. “If only we were able to analyze it properly.”

“Next time we’ll bring Mom’s tricorder to check it out.” He promised. He stood, looking around the area. “I wonder if it’s growing anywhere else…” His eyes landed on Amanda and Winona, who had curious expressions on their faces. “What?”

The two women burst out laughing. Jim felt his face heat and looked to Spock, gratified to find his friend’s ears were tinged green with embarrassment.

“Our sons are such nerds!” Amanda laughed.

“Moss!” Winona cackled. “They’re freaking out over moss-“

“Mother, please,” Spock ground out, but the two women continued laughing on.

Jim said, “It’s not funny.”

“It really, really is thought.” Winona laughed. “Moss! Why do you know what kind of moss that is? Why do both of you know what kind of moss that is?”

“We like moss.” Jim defended. He crossed his arms over his chest. “Stop laughing!”

They eventually did, and with their heads held high, the two boys stepped back onto the trail to continue leading the party up the side of the hill. They chanced looks back to their mothers every now and then, annoyed, but found their collective embarrassment fading when they realized that somehow, the ice had been broken- Amanda and Winona were talking with smiles and gestures, like friends.

“Well.” Jim laughed a little. “We couldn’t have planned that any better, huh Spock?”

“Perhaps, had we tried.”

Jim laughed. Maybe everything was going to be okay after all.

 


 

 

Jim dug through the mesh of metal with his brows furrowed. He knew what wire they needed, if he could just find- “damn” -it, then he could stop cutting his fingers on old parts and they’d be ready to make a casing for the bike.

“Are you alright, Jim?”

“Yeah, sliced my damn finger again.” He’d almost said ‘fucking finger,’ but somehow it felt weird to curse in front of Spock. “Find anything over there?”

“Negative. I will begin towards the pile in the eastern corner.”

“Good luck!”

They’d been in the barn for a couple of days, scouring through old car parts. Jim’s dad had collected old, antique cars, and he seemed to have had a hobby of fixing them. There were parts for just about everything in the barn, and they’d been rusting away uselessly for years. Well, Jim didn’t see any reason to allow that to continue when they could be building a sick-as-hell hover bike.

Spock had seen the logic in the idea, and now they were almost finished with it. Once they had the last. Stupid. Wire.

“Jim.” Spock called. He didn’t shout- that wasn’t a Vulcan thing to do- but he had a way of broadcasting his voice when he needed to. “I believe I have found something.”

Jim hurried over to where Spock was, laughing when he saw the smear of oil on Spock’s forehead.

“What are you laughing at?”

“Nothing.” He grinned, cheekily.

Spock raised an eyebrow, but didn’t pursue the topic further. He held up the coil of wire. “I believe this may be sufficient. Do you agree?”

“Oh hell yeah!” Jim grabbed it eagerly, turning the coil over in his hands. “Let’s rig it up and see if it works.”

It took a bit of finicking, and the use of a torch (which his mom would freak out about if she found out) but they got the last wire in place and then stepped back, surveying their creation.

“Call me Frankenstein, I think our little monster might just live.”

“I will not call you Frankenstein. Your name is Jim.”

“James, but close enough.” He grinned. “Ready to try her out?”

Spock nodded. “We must prepare ourselves for the possibility that it will not work.” He said. “In order to save yourself from disappointment and other subsequent human emotions, I suggest that you take this into consideration in particular, Jim.”

“Pssh. Come on, Spock. It’s gonna work and you know it.”

And it did.

 


 

 

Jim slammed the screen door closed and winced.

“JIM!” His mom yelled, from all the way upstairs.

“Sorry!” He roared back.

She appeared in an instant, hurrying down the stairs. Her hair was wrapped in a towel, but lose curls fell around her neck, little coils of gold escapees dripping dark marks on her pajama shirt. “Where have you been?”

He grinned. “In town.”

Her eyes narrowed. “How the hell did you get to town?”

Exactly the response he’d been hoping for. “Come and see.”

She followed him out onto the porch, clearly nervous, and stopped short when she saw it. Jim just giggled, jumping down into the grass and running over to his baby. They’d named her Hali, and spray-painted her title across the side.

His mom stared.

“Mom,” Jim said, “Say hello to Hali.” He accepted his helmet from Spock and slipped onto the front of the bike, grinning as Spock’s arms slipped around him.

“Where did you get that?” Winona breathed.

“Spock and I built her! Do you like it?”

She sat roughly on the edge of the porch.

“Cool, right? Watch!” He started out into the driveway, quickly, rising up above the gravel and shooting out into the night. Jim knew that his mom could see them by the blue light the bottom of the hover bike gave off, so he went all the way down to the mailbox before turning around and coming back.

His mom looked gobsmacked. “How the hell…”

“All the parts out in the garage!” Jim teamed.

Spock said, “There were several parts we were unable to find, so we procured them using my credits during our last grocery trip to town.”

“And here we are!”

Winona just stared. “Who… who helped you guys build it?”

They looked at each other in confusion before turning back to her.

“No one,” Jim said.

“We did not require assistance.” Spock said.

She just blinked several times in succession, mouth open.

“Well, we’ve gotta show Spock’s mom now!” Jim said. “Can I stay at his house?”

She nodded, numbly.

“Cool! Thanks mom!”

“Drive… safe…” She managed. And then they were off into the night.

 


 

 

With the hover bike- which Spock’s mom absolutely hated, claiming it was a floating death trap- they were able to go farther into the country side and woods any day they felt like it. For the most part, though, they’d take her far, far down the road and then park in the ditch, leaving to wander out into the unending corn fields at night.

They had a regular little place where they’d left a blanket, so that they could lie back and watch the sky. They often times brought along their books and PADDs, charting the stars and the rotation of the planets far beyond. Spock even managed to sneak out his father’s telescope, which was one of the only things his dad kept at their summer home.

It was nice. The nights were hot, the skies were usually clear, and when it rained they were able to get back to the summer house before Spock started trembling. They weren’t allowed to go far on the bike- their moms had laid down a lot of rules- but it was agreed that since they’d made it themselves, they had a right to it.

“Hey Spock.” Jim said. He turned onto his back, looking over at the Vulcan.

“It is not yet your turn for the telescope,” said Spock. “My turn lasts two minutes and thirty six seconds longer.”

Jim laughed. “Dummy. I wasn’t asking for that. I got something for you.”

Spock lowered the telescope. “What is it?”

“Guess.”

“A book of Klingon poetry, now that you believe I am nearly fluent.”

“Nope.”

“I do not know, then, what is is you have for me.”

“It’s a secret.” He said. “Hold out your hand.”

Spock did, obediently.

Jim dropped a false darkling beetle into the awaiting palm. Spock instantly shook his hand, dropping the beetle onto the blankets between them. Jim fell over laughing.

“I do not enjoy the sensation of its legs.” Spock muttered.

“You should have seen your face!” Jim laughed, rolling.

Spock colored. “I am certain it was not so humorous as you are making it to be.”

“No, it was, it really was.” Jim laughed, though, by that point, mostly for show.

“You are faking your laughter.”

“Nuh-uh.”

“You are.”

“Ha-ha-ha!” Jim crowed.

“Jim, please.”

He grinned. “Sorry, Spock. I couldn’t resist.”

Spock sighed. “I forgive you, Jim. In fact, I have something for you, as well.”

“Oh yeah?” Jim’s eyes glittered in excitement.

“Yes. Hold our your hand.”

Jim did, fingers wiggling in the air.

Spock neatly deposited a rock in Jim’s hand.

He held it up in the moonlight. “What is it?”

“A model of the contents of your brain.”

Jim laughed. “Why you-“ he turned over, playfully tackling Spock to the ground. Spock easily flipped him over, sitting on Jim’s chest. “Agh! Spock, you’re heavy!”

“Mer qoy’.” Spock instructed.

“Oh hell no.” Jim laughed. “ghaH tIjejHa'moH 'etlh ghob vavlI’”

Spock raised an eyebrow. “My father does not fight at all, let alone with weapons such as blunted blades. You are a liar, James Kirk.”

“And you’re distracted!” Jim lunged up, toppling Spock over, and then clamored up top of him. “Ha-ha! Now who has the upper hand?”

“I have three times your strength.”

“Beg for mercy, Spock.” Jim grinned, wickedly. “Or I’ll be forced to take drastic measures.”

Spock raised a brow.

“Mer qoy’.” Jim repeated.

“Ghobe.” No.

“HIja!” Yes!

“… luq.” Fine, I will do it.

Jim grinned. “I’m waiting, Spock.”

“DaHjaj 'oHbe' 'aqI' ruStaq.”

Jim considered it. “Ehhhh…. good enough.” He let Spock up. “Is it ever a good day to die, for a Vulcan?”

“I would not know.” Spock said. “I have never died before.”

Jim laughed.

They sobered, laying back down on the blanket. The sky was cloudy that night, and it was hard to see the stars as well as they normally did. Jim sat up after only a few short minutes.

“Hey.” He said. “Spock.”

“Yes, Jim?”

“Hold something for me, will you?”

Spock shot him a look. “If it is a beetle, I will strand you here.”

Jim laughed. “Not a beetle, I promise.”

“An insect?”

“No.”

“An arachnid?”

“No. Listen- nothing bad, okay. Just hold it for me.”

“I will do this for you only if you promise it is not a trick.”

“It’s not a prank.” Jim said.

Spock narrowed his eyes.

Jim grinned.

Closing his eyes, Spock offered up his hand in waiting. Jim swallowed back his nervous excitement and placed his palm against Spock’s, careful to avoid touching their fingers together. Spock’s eyes snapped open, looking up at Jim in question.

He smiled, lowering himself back down into the blanket.

“Jim?”

“Yeah?”

“This is your hand.”

“Oh, I’m well aware.”

He blinked.

“Something wrong, Spock?”

“… No.” He said, eventually. he relaxed back into the ground once more, eyes cast to the heavens. “I suppose not.”

 


 

 

Jim sat down hastily at the table, spooning cereal into his mouth like it was the last meal he’d ever see.

“Jim, Jesus Christ, slow down.” Winona chastised.

Jim didn’t slow, somehow managing words through his mouth full. “Can’t,” he said. “Spock ’n I got plans.”

Winona frowned. Jim knew that look- it was the we’re going to have a chat that you’re not going to like. Usually he got it when he left school for the day. To see it appear in the summer was concerning. “Jim…”

“Can’t talk, gotta go!” He stood, rushing to get his dishes into the machine before his mom could loop him into conversation. He would never be fast enough to get around Winona, though, despite his best efforts.

“Jim.”

“See ya!” His hand stilled on the handle to the porch door as his mom’s fingers found his shoulder.

“Sit down.” She commanded.

He winced and turned, regretfully slipping back down into his chair at the table. He shouldn’t have bothered with breakfast- he could have just eaten at Spock’s house. Any more, he felt like the longer he was around his mom, the more likely he was to get trapped by her. It wasn’t a comfortable sensation.

“We wanted to get out before it got too bright out,” he said. “You know, so we could track the course of the Monet- she should be entering the moon’s orbit pretty soon…”

Winona sat, rubbing her temples. That was never a good sign.

“What?” he hedged.

“I’m worried.” She said, point blank.

“About what?”

“You?”

He sighed, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. “Mom, statistically the hover bike is safer than public transport. You know that.”

“It’s not the hover bike I’m concerned about…” She bit her lip, looking away.

“Then what?”

“It’s… It’s Spock.”

He blinked. “Spock?”

She didn’t look at him.

“What’s wrong?” A sudden, horrible thought grabbed his guts and yanked, throwing him off balance and causing him to feel nauseated. “He’s not sick is he? Did Amanda say something? Is something wrong with him?”

“No, no. Nothing like that.”

She still wouldn’t look at him, he noticed. “Then what?”

“I’m worried about how attached you are to him.”

Jim felt his face scrunch up in confusion. “He’s my friend.”

“I know.” She looked away. “But… Jim. You’re just.” She sighed.

“I’m just what?” He crossed his arms.

She pushed her hands through her hair. “Look,” she said, “I don’t know how to talk about it delicately. You’re really attached to Spock. You’re almost obsessive about him, Jimmy. And I don’t want to see you get hurt.”

Jim narrowed his eyes. “Just because Spock’s stronger than me-“

“Emotionally.”

Jim blinked. “I… don’t understand.”

“Just. Think about it, Jim. I didn’t want to say anything, but you’re with him everyday. You’re crazy about him. And that’s good, I want you to like people, I want you to have friends! I wish you’d like more people at least a tiny bit as much as you like Spock. But Jim, he’s three years older than you. What happens when he gets too old to play with you?”

“What do you mean?” His stomach hurt with sudden nerves. Two plus two equaled four, and his mom was saying… “Spock won’t get too old for me.”

“Maybe not for you, Jim. But he might outgrow you.”

“What?”

“Jim,” she sighed. “What happens when Spock gets tired of you?”

He stared at her.

“I just don’t want you to get hurt, Jim. If you invest everything in Spock, and he leaves-“

“Why would you even say that?” He hated how small his voice sounded. His throat felt tight. “If you don’t want me to get hurt, why- why would you say something like that?”

“Jim-“

“Spock won’t get tired of me. He likes me!”

“Maybe he does, but-“

“Maybe!?” He blinked, rapidly, ashamed of how his eyes stung. He swallowed hard. He wouldn’t cry- that would just be proving that she was right, and that he was too little for Spock to be friends with. “Spock is my friend! He likes me just as much as I like him.”

“I’m not saying he doesn’t like you.” She pushed. “But when he leaves, or even in a year, if they come back-“

“You keep saying if!” Jim stood, shakily, his chair’s legs scraping across the floor as he went. “If this, if that, maybe, maybe, maybe. Don’t you care about how I’m feeling right now?”

“Sit down.”

“Why? So you can make me cry? Is that what you want?” He blinked, rapidly, determined not to break. “You’d be happier if I was all alone!”

“That’s not what I’m saying!”

“You’re always trying to get me to stop seeing Spock.” Jim continued, voice rising. “You don’t hate Spock, so you must hate me.”

“Jim-“ she reached for his wrist, but he’d grown out of being grabbed like that. He jerked back, out of her reach, and stumbled into the screen door. He fumbled for the handle.

“Leave us alone!” He yelled, and then threw the door open, running out into the yard. He heard the door slam before he heard it screech back open, his mom stepping hurriedly out onto the porch.

“Jim!” She yelled. “Get your ass back here now!”

He didn’t look over his shoulder. He ran to the bike, jumped up on it, and turned it on.

“Jim!” His mom was coming after him, closing in fast.

He didn’t even bother with his helmet, reaving the machine up. He shot out of park, kicking up dust as he went, and before his mom could get in another word, was gone.

 


 

 

Jim could hear Spock downstairs.

“Jim and I had plans to study advanced mathematics this afternoon.” Spock explained. “There are many reasons as to why I believe you would find this agreeable. The first reason of which being that Jim’s current mathematic schooling has been lacking for a student of his intelligence and aptitude- when compared to the material Jim and I have elected to cover, what he is being taught at school is, as a human like yourself might say, laughable.”

“Spock,” she tried. She sounded tired.

Jim could just see Spock raising his hand, indicating that he wasn’t done. The mental image made him smile, despite it all.

“While Jim’s current schooling is important, I believe that as his mother, you would agree that Jim should be challenged. Furthermore, it has been shown that the human brain benefits from advanced stimulation. The benefits are as follows; an increase in mood, a-“

“He’s in his room.” Winona groaned. “He’s grounded.”

“I understand the parameters you have set. Jim and I shall not leave the room.”

“… No holos or PADD games.” She added.

“We will endeavor to follow the rules.” Spock promised.

Jim smiled up at the ceiling.

A second later, there was a soft knock at his door. He knew instantly that Spock had traveled the stairs alone- his mom always banged on his door when she knocked. Spock liked to be a little more discrete.

“Come on in, Spock.” He called.

Spock pushed the door open, slipping into the room. He looked around, and then said, “Based on your descriptions of punishment, I expected bars upon the window at the very least.”

Jim couldn’t help it- he laughed.

“I see I have successfully been able to alleviate your sadness, even if only momentarily. I will endeavor to include comments about the lack of bars on your window into my speech more often in the future.”

Jim really laughed, then. Sitting up against the wall, he said, “Get over here.”

Spock did as he was asked, clamoring up onto the bed to sit next to Jim. True to his word, he had his PADD equipped with various formulas and equations. Jim squinted at the first one. The answer didn’t come to him at a glance, which was new. He liked it.

“How long do you anticipate your ‘grounding’ to last?” Spock asked. They started working with a stylus, doing the problem in their own unique ways side by side. “I do not have a logical case built for our planned trip to the shopping center with my mother.”

“We might have to put it off,” Jim said. “I think I’ll probably still be in trouble tomorrow. She was pretty pissed off when I got home last night.”

“I understand. I will communicate this information to my mother and we will adjust our schedules to correspond to your own.”

“Or lack of,” Jim snorted.

They worked in silence for a moment.

Jim wasn’t sure where in the house his mom was, but he didn’t want her to hear what he had to say next. He opened his mouth, leaning over to whisper in Spock’s ear, but drew away just as quickly as he was hit with a revelation.

His mom didn’t know Vulcan.

Switching over to the other language wasn’t hard. “I’m sorry I ruined our plans.”

Spock raised a brow at the sudden change in language. He, too, began speaking Vulcan. “I do not believe this to be your fault in full, Jim.” Then, he said, “While I enjoy speaking in my native tongue to a degree, I am curious- why are we suddenly avoiding Standard?”

“My mom.” He admitted.

Spock nodded. “Most logical. We can communicate openly without fear of your mother’s wrath, should either of us make a verbal mishap.”

“Verbal mishap.” Jim snorted. There was no Vulcan equivalent, so he had to say “nerd,” in Standard.

Spock said, “The lack of that word in such a logical language as Vulcan should alert you to its asinine nature.”

“Nerd.” Jim said again.

They continued to poke and prod at each other, Jim giggling every now and then at Spock’s attempts to make him feel better. Doing math actually helped a lot, and talking in Vulcan added a sort of flair to their interaction that Jim couldn’t put his finger on, but liked regardless.

They made a choice, then, without really giving voice to the matter. From then on, it would be Vulcan- any time, all the time. Jim wasn’t sure what it meant that he was more comfortable talking when his mom couldn’t understand, but Spock’s mom could. But it was how things were- kaiidth. And if it meant seeing Spock ease up, just a little, hey, who cared why they were doing it anyway?

 


 

 

Like everything else in his life, speaking Vulcan backfired.

“Kuv du aitlun tor hafau heh yokul aru-yem la’,” Jim said, “Shal tor ac’ruth etek kupi stau du wuh yarmok.”

Spock quirked his brow. “Wuh sfek t' hasu kastik-goh-yokulsu tor ish-veh tor ri ma tor stau.” He paused. “Isha ik, veh tor ri ‘stau’ kastra.”

His mom looked at them like they’d both grown a second head.

Jim noticed, but he didn’t really care. “Ri tor glazhau i', hi ein-veh tor fi' tor etek.” Don’t look now, but someone’s onto us.

Spock didn’t look. “Nash-veh fai-tor muhl.” I am well aware.

“What the hell?” Winona stared at Jim. “Am I having a stroke?”

“Probably not.” Jim said.

“Where you just speaking Vulcan?” She demanded.

“Ra wuh riolozhikaik vel tor ya’akash.”

Winona pointed at him. “You are!” She seemed to be attempting to decide between being mad, excited, and confused. Confused was winning out, but it was still any emotion’s game. “When- how. How? When did you even learn Vulcan?”

Jim shrugged.

Winona whirled on Spock. “Spock?”

Spock wasn’t able to stand up to her demanding gaze. “Jim has been fluent in Vulcan for nearly three standard years.”

She spun back around to Jim. “And you didn’t think to tell me?”

“Why would I?” Jim muttered. “It’s not like it would matter.”

Her eyes narrowed at his tone of voice. “James T,” she started.

“What?” He cried. “There was no reason to tell you!”

“And no reason to keep it secret.” She said. Still, the danger had faded from her eyes for the moment. “Vulcan,” she shook her head. “Vulcan! Do you know how hard it is to learn Vulcan?”

“Not very.”

“Jim, it takes translators years to learn.”

Spock said, “I have stated before Jim’s unusual aptitude for learning conventionally difficult subjects. Language is no different- he was able to become fluent in a single summer.”

“Three months!?”

Jim said, “Fluent, not proficient.”

“I need to sit down.” Winona said. She didn’t sit.

Jim turned to Spock. “Du dang trasha…” You should leave.

Spock raised a brow, but gave a nod. “Nash-veh kash-ral sos'eh du nam-tor yeht svi' ish-veh ul-wihka.” I sense that perhaps you are correct in your hypothesis.

Jim snorted.

Winona was staring at them.

“What?” Jim demanded.

That, of course, helped her decide on which emotion to tackle. “Spock, maybe you should head home.” She ground out. Her eyes never left Jim.

He swallowed.

Spock said, “Nash-veh dungi gla-tor du fi-tor wuh gad-keshtan.” I will see you upon the dawn.

“Sochya eh dif, Spohkh.” Jim said, distractedly. He flashed the ta’al with a familiar ease.

“Dif-tor heh smusma, Jim.” And with that, he was gone- brushing past Jim and out of the kitchen to leave through the front door.

His mom waited until she heard the door latch closed to rip into him.

“What the hell?” She started.

“What?”

“You!” She said. She gestured wildly at him. “You learned an entire damn language and didn’t, I don’t know, think to tell me?”

“It wasn’t like you asked.”

“I shouldn’t have to ask! I’d assume that if you were doing something important, hell, maybe you’d tell me!” She said, “This has to stop.”

“What?”

“You keeping everything a secret from me.”

“Mom, this is not that big a deal.”

“Yes it is, Jim! If you hide shit like this from me, then what else aren’t you telling me about?”

Klingonese and Romulan, Jim thought, Amongst other things.

“I see that look in your eye, James T. You- you are in for a world of trouble. I don’t know where you got this weird impression that it’s you against the entire damn world, but I’m on your side, you know.”

“It sure doesn’t feel like it.” He muttered.

Her brows shot into her hairline.

Uh-oh.

“Room. Now.”

“Maybe this is why I don’t tell you anything!” He yelled. “I get in trouble for everything! Even when I’m not doing anything wrong, you still yell at me!”

“I said go to your room.”

“Why? So I can go stew in my secrety-secrets? I don’t understand why I’m in trouble- I didn’t do anything wrong!”

She turned away from him. Her expression darkened.

“Why are you always so mad at me?” He asked. “I’m just being myself!”

“You’re just like your father.” She snapped.

He reared back from her. “Well.” He cleared his throat to ease the sudden tightness. “Maybe I could try not to be if you’d ever talk about him.”

Her head whipped around to him, eyes ablaze.

“I don’t even know anything about him!” Jim yelled. “So why are you punishing me for acting like him? I can’t help it if I don’t even know what I’m doing!”

“That’s enough.” She growled.

“See!? And then you do this! You yell at me and punish me so that I’ll stop asking, so that you won’t have to talk about it-“

“I said go to your room!”

“-But you can’t ignore it forever! You can’t just lock me up in the closet like you did with all of dad’s things! Because I’ll kick and scream and never let you forget I’m there until the day I die!”

“GO!”

“NO!”

She shot out across the table, hands like claws. For a second, fear gripped him and made him still, and that moment was enough. She grabbed his arm and ripped him out of his chair.

“Let go!” He screamed. He pulled at his wrist, but she held fast, dragging him out of the kitchen. She was squeezing so hard that it was painful. “You’re hurting me!”

She ignored him, pulling him towards the stairs. Her feat were loud against the wood- she was practically stomping. Her face was red and nearly unrecognizable, twisted in rage.

“I hate you!” He hit at her hand, but she held fast. He kept hitting at it, knowing her wrist would bruise in the hour- knowing his would, too. “I hate you! Let me go! I hate you!”

She practically threw him into his room.

He whirled, ready to rush out. The door slammed closed.

“Mom!” He screamed. He punched the door, hard, hissing when the skin across his knuckles broke. “Mom! You can’t ignore me forever!”

The sound of his lock closing stopped him cold. She’d never locked the door before. Not once.

“Mom!” He grabbed the doorknob, wrestling with it, but it held solid. He kicked the door, watching the thing shudder in the frame with the force of the blow, but it didn’t budge. He was crying, he realized. “MOM!”

He heard her feat in the hall as she retreated to her room.

“Mom!” He punched the door again, and again, and again, until the wood was smeared with blood from his fists. “Mom!”

She didn’t come back.

He hit the door again. He was sobbing, and he couldn’t stop, even through the pulse pounding in his head and hands, even through the waves of pain and the stiffness budding in his knuckles.

“Mom!” He screamed. His throat was raw.

Eventually, he tired himself out. He slumped against the bloodied door, resting his head on the back of it. It was quiet.

He could hear Winona crying in her room.

“I hate you.” He muttered. “I hate you.”

 


 

 

“She’s crazy.” Jim said.

“She cares very deeply about you.” Spock said. He ran the dermal regenerator he’d brought with him over Jim’s hands, careful not to let their fingers brush.

Jim snorted. “Yeah, like I said. She’s crazy.”

 


 

 

He was still grounded when Spock and Amanda were scheduled to leave the planet. They stopped by to say goodbye before they left.

Amanda ran her hand through his hair, kneeling so that they were of a hight. She smiled- a mixed gesture filled with love and a little sadness. “I will see you next summer, James.” She said. “We’ll have to see what we can do about you staying with us again.”

“Kay.” He mumbled.

She hugged him, carefully, but hard. Jim gave in and squeezed her back just as tightly. He buried his face into her neck, muttering, “I’ll miss you.”

“I’ll miss you too, honey.” She kissed his forehead. “I love you, James. Never forget that.”

He felt himself flush. “I love you too.” He whispered.

She drew back.

For a second, Jim wasn’t sure what to do- he’d said goodbye to Amanda, and now was faced with Spock. A gap yawned between them, filled with everything they wanted to say, everything they’d wanted to do but hadn’t had the time to finish. He opened his mouth, but no words came out.

“I’ll go say goodbye to Winona.” Amanda said. She closed the door on her way out.

Jim looked down at his shoes. What to say?

Spock surprised him by making the first move. He stepped forward, and for the first time yet, initiated their hug. He still wasn’t very good at it, stiff and awkward, but he knew exactly the way to squish Jim to his body. Just hard enough to be safe, and just loose enough to be comfortable.

Jim hugged him back. “I’ll miss you most of all.” He’d been speaking only Vulcan for the past couple of days, simply to spite his mother. Somehow, conveying his emotion in Vulcan felt more intimate than Standard, in that moment. He didn’t want to take it back, but the words hung heavily between them, and Jim wondered if maybe his mom was right. Maybe Spock would outgrow him. Maybe he already had.

“I find,” Spock said, softly, after a time, “That my mind returns to thoughts of you most days. I am displeased by your absence at my side, and find myself thinking of things I wish to show and do with you nearly daily, only to realize you are lightyears away. You are… my greatest friend, Jim. I treasure thee.”

Jim shuddered out a sigh. “Thank you.”

“Thanks are unnecessary.”

They stood like that for a moment, wrapped together.

“You’ll be late.” Jim said.

“I do not care.”

“Your dad will flip.”

“My father will perform no such gymnastics.”

Jim laughed.

Spock pulled back, slowly, and for a moment looked at Jim. He seemed to search for something in Jim’s eyes, so Jim didn’t move. He looked on for nearly a full minute before he must have found what he was looking for. He stepped back, creating space between them once more.

He lifted his hand in the ta’al. “Live long and prosper, Jim.”

Jim smiled, sadly. He flashed his own salute. “Peace and long life, Spock.”

“Spock!” Amanda called. “We’ll be late, dear!”

“I will see you next summer.” Spock promised. “Until then…”

Jim grinned. “I’ll do my best to stay out of trouble.”

Spock nearly smiled. “Goodbye, Jim.”

“Bye, Spock.”

It was a lot harder to watch his door swing closed than it was to watch the shuttle pull away. Jim listened as the front door opened and then closed, and when the silence became oppressive, he crawled into bed, pulling the Enterprise from the sheets.

“These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise,” he narrated, quietly. “And her five year mission to explore new space. This is Captain James T Kirk, reporting for duty. First Officer Spock- status report?”

Chapter Text

 

The best part of the last few hours of school was kicking Brent Fitzgerald’s ass.

Jim was a fighter- he wasn’t an instigator, and he could stand a lot, but when it came down to it, he was a fighter, and that was that. It was something his mom had said, it was something his teachers had said, and it was something people would continue to say when they met him.

Mia yelled, “Kick his ass, Jim!”

Eloise joined in with a, “Give him what’s for!”

Brent’s friends had already vacated the lot. They’d never run from him before, but Jim had never let loose like he was in the process of doing. There was only so far he could be pushed, only so much he’d allow them to do. Last day of school, last little comment, last straw.

It had started out simple enough. Brent and his group of idiots had approached Jim where he was waiting outside the school with his two friends Mia and Eloise— Winona was late to pick him up, which wasn’t too unusual. Then the heckling had started. For the most part, it wasn’t so bad. Eloise and Mia were his only friends, and even then just barely- they ate at the same lunch table and gossiped together, but they didn’t hang out socially. The age gap between Jim and his classmates was just too great to be bridged, it seemed.

From there, it had started. The usual- Brent leading in with the charming number about Jim being a loser nerd with no friends. Then he’d gone into the spill about Jim’s dead daddy, boo-hoo-hoo, but Jim hadn’t known his dad, and the comments didn’t really get to him. They’d even said something about his mom, but he hadn’t really been paying attention by that point. Who cared? They were stupid. One day, Jim was going to be a starship captain, and they’d be the hicks left on earth, hearing about him on the news.

But then one of them had grabbed his backpack. Never mind that Amanda had gotten him that backpack- it was tearing at the seems from over-use, and she’d promised to go shopping with him over the summer to buy a new one.

The Enterprise was in his backpack.

He stood, fury rising in him like a tide, his hands curling into fists. “Give it back.” He’d been too slow to snatch it back when they ripped it from his lap, which made him angry at himself, too. Why had he ever let go of the straps to begin with? “Now.”

“Oh, what? You trying to be scary now?” They’d gotten into fights before, never anything bad. A black eye, a split lip, a bruise or two. Neither really won, neither really lost.

Jim had never wanted to win. That had all changed the moment the Enterprise had left his grip. He said, “I’m gonna kick your ass if you don’t give it back!”

“Little baby wants his backpack back.” Brent sneered. His friends laughed. “My backpack now.” He slung it over his shoulder.

Jim lunged.

There was a kind of excitement in fighting. He’d always sort of liked it- when he put away the pain, all that was left was the adrenalin and match of wits. A swing, a miss, ducking, throwing a punch, a step to the side- it was all an intricate part of a game, like chess in motion. Knight to B3, and his fist in Brent’s gut.

Brent's friends quickly dispersed as Kirk started to yell. They could tell maybe this time, it was different. Mia and Eloise hadn’t clued in; they were still cheering him on from the side-lines.

His glee at beating Brent at his own stupid game was at war with the rage that had been building inside him all year long. He knocked Brent to the ground, ignoring his cry of pain, and sat on his chest, pinning the boy down. He drew his fist back and hit Brent in the face. Again, and again, and again. Brent started crying.

Eloise and Mia stopped cheering for him.

“Jim!”

He ignored the call. He hit Brent again. The other boy screamed.

“JIM!”

He snarled as someone grabbed his bicep, turning to attack whoever was intercepting him. His mother glowered back, her lion’s main a fury of gold curls about her face.

His eyes went wide. “Mom.” He looked back over his shoulder, at his friends, but they hurried to collect their things and flee the scene. He didn’t blame them- they hadn’t done anything; he was the one who should bear the brunt of what was to come. Still, they could have stuck around to back him up.

He wiped his bloody hands on his shirt.

Brent groaned behind him.

“If we hurry up and leave, no one will know it was me.” Jim said. “Brent will be too embarrassed to tell.”

His mom opened her mouth to yell, but upon seeing the mess Jim had made, paused. She considered his words. Finally, she said, “Did he start it?”

Jim nodded. He remembered something Brent had said. “He said you were a whore.”

His mom blinked.

Jim crossed his fingers behind his back.

“Well,” Winona said. “I guess in that case.”

Jim’s smile nearly split his face.

“Get your bag. Come on, hurry.”

Jim gleefully collected his pack, grinning wide at Brent as he ran past. Brent was collecting himself, sitting up on the pavement, cupping a hand under his nose to catch the flow of blood.

“See you next year!” Jim called.

Brent flipped him off.

When they were leaving the school, Winona started in on him. “You realize that you’re in huge trouble, right?”

“I was defending your honor!” Jim said.

She snorted. “What honor?”

He didn’t get it.

“Do you know how many fights you’ve gotten into this year, Jim?”

Eleven fist fights. Seventy-two battles of words. “No,” he lied.

“A lot.” Winona said. “You’ve got to quit it.”

“Well maybe if they’d be nicer to me.” He said. “And I never start it, mom! I only punch back, you know that!”

“That’s why you’re not grounded into next year.” She said. “But this has to stop.”

“Tell them that.”

“No, I’m telling you that. You’re the smarter kid, Jim. You’re the better person. Just because they start shit doesn’t mean you have to go along with it. It’s called turning the other cheek.”

He cast a shrewd look her way. Winona Lee Kirk had never "turned the other cheek" in her entire life, and he knew it. Hell- she knew he knew it.

“Don’t give me that look.” She sighed. “Do as I say, not as I do.”

“That’s a double-standard and hypocritical.”

“Have you ever thought about using words other ten year olds might use?”

“Fine.” Jim said. “That’s stupid.”

She sighed.

“I’m ten, not two.” Jim snorted. “I can call you a hypocrite.”

“I’m your mother.” She said. “It comes with the territory.”

“I call BS.” Jim said. “And I’m not letting some dumb kids beat me up, mom.” He failed to mention that what had really set him off was the toy ship hidden in his backpack. Just thinking of it, he burned with shame. He didn’t know why he was so attached to the Enterprise, but the mere thought of some jerk like Brent holding her made him furious. It was dumb, and he was way too old for it, but…

He opened the zipper, checking to be sure the ship was safe. She was secured beside his lunchbox, looking like she could use a fresh coat of paint. He’d have to get on that.

“Ready to see Spock?”

Jim jerked up in his seat, looking out the window. He’d nearly forgotten in the chaos- but that was right. They weren’t heading home; they were en route to the station. “Aren’t we going to be a little late?”

She shrugged. “Amanda won’t mind.”

Fat chance. Amanda would never admit it, but Jim knew that was one of her pet peeves. He knew his mom, though, and she’d have a good excuse cooked up by the time they got to the station.

Spock.

He was going to see Spock.

It seemed like it had been a lifetime since last summer. His Vulcan was rusty, his Romulan barely passing. He knew Spock’s Klingonese had to be suffering, too. Not that any of that was really at the forefront of his mind.

God, Spock would be nearly thirteen. Practically a grown-up. Would he even want to hang out anymore? His mom’s words from the summer before had kept him up more nights than he’d care to admit- what if Spock did outgrow him?

He was still playing with stupid toy starships. Spock was probably learning to fly the real thing.

Jim’s silence must have given him away. “What’s wrong?”

He shrugged. He looked down at his shirt, which had blood on it, and then at his swollen knuckles. It wasn’t exactly how he’d imagined their reunion going. Winona rolled her eyes, muttering, “Such a drama queen.” She changed course.

“Where are we going?”

“We’ll stop and get you a new shirt. You can run to the bathroom and clean up.”

He forced himself to smile and say, “Thanks mom!” Inside, though, he cringed. She was being nice- too nice. Usually she would have told him tough luck and that if he didn’t want to see people covered in blood, maybe he shouldn’t have gotten blood all over in the first place. She either wanted something or she was about to do something that would make him want to scream.

Still, he would go along with it until that point. They went about the purchase and clean-up quickly, slipping back onto the road and to the station in just under seven minutes. Jim felt a little more like his old self in a new shirt and with his hands at least cleaned, even if he’d broken the skin and was starting to bruise black.

He stuffed his bloodied shirt into his backpack, next to the Enterprise, and looked back out at the road. They were nearly at the station, so Jim sat up and straightened out his hair, ignoring his mom’s scoff from the driver’s seat. So what if he wanted to look like he hadn’t just been beating someone up? That was none of her business.

Besides. Amanda got that sad look in her eye when she thought he’d been hurt. Shit, he should have asked his mom to buy him gloves.

They pulled into the station to find Spock and Amanda already waiting in the lot, standing next to their luggage. Amanda smiled and waved when she saw them. Spock imitated a statue.

Jim didn’t even wait for his mom to park before throwing the door open.

“Jim!” She yelled, but she didn’t reach out to stop him.

He jumped out of the car, breaking into a sprint. Spock visibly braced himself for the hug. Jim skidded to a halt right in front of him, just to throw him off. Spock raised an eyebrow.

“Nash-veh dungi i' nartaya du. Dator ish-veh shal.”

Spock opened his arms, robotically. “Nash-veh tor dator.”

Jim stepped forward and, with as much dignity as he could muster, hauled Spock into his arms. Spock just kept growing, damn him, and was once again obviously taller- he had to be around three inches more than Jim. Jim didn’t mind; it was nice to be able to press his face into Spock’s neck when they hugged. He smelled good.

What had he even been worried about? Spock, growing tired of him? They were two sides of a coin, he and the Vulcan. All the feelings of dread and fear evaporated as Spock squeezed him back. Holding Spock again felt like coming home and collapsing on the covers of his bed to stare at the Enterprise after a long, long day at school. It was familiar, even after all the months between, and he found he couldn’t bear to step back right away.

They had to separate eventually, but not before completing their secret handshake. “Gik’tal!” When their skin touched, Jim swore he could feel Spock’s happiness. He wasn’t the telepath, though- that was Spock’s department.

“James,” Amanda said. She smiled wide.

“Nash-veh din-tor ish-veh la’es!" I missed you!

Amanda laughed and excepted him into her arms, cuddling him close.

“Let me get your bags.” Winona said. She brushed past them and grabbed several of Amanda’s things, turning back to load them up.

Jim pulled away, feeling guilty, and not knowing why. He immediately turned to Spock, grinning wide. He continued on in Vulcan. “There’s so much I can’t wait to do this year!”

“I, too, have several projects in mind for the duration of the summer.” Spock said. He pulled his PADD from the bag sitting next to him. “I have compiled a brief, two-hour presentation of my scientific findings from the course of the school year. It is merely a small over-view, but I believe you may find it interesting.”

“That would be great!” He rushed over to Spock, leaning over the Vulcan’s arm to see what he was doing. He did, indeed, have the presentation up. “We can start it on the ride back.” He grabbed Spock’s bags.

“Thank you, Jim.”

He winked at Spock. “Any time. Get in the back, come on!”

Spock nodded and did as was told. Jim wasn’t far behind- after putting Spock’s things in the back he jumped into the car, smirking up at his mom in the rear-view mirror. She wasn’t looking at him.

That boded well.

Jim scooted into the middle seat, resting his head on Spock’s shoulder. He blamed the need to touch on the time they’d spent apart; he was making up for an entire nine months.

Jim and Spock conversed quietly on the ride to the summer house. Winona and Amanda seemed content to sit in silence up front, watching the country side roll past. Jim stopped talking when they passed the ship yard, looking up at the Enterprise. She was really beginning to come together, and the sight of her made his heart swell.

“There she is, Spock.” He breathed. “Isn’t she beautiful?”

“I must admit to a certain level of aesthetic pleasure.”

Jim laughed. “Damn,” he said. “I think I’m in love.”

“I wish you happiness in your marriage.”

Jim laughed really hard, then.

“What’s so funny back there?” Winona asked.

“Spock.” Jim explained.

Winona just rolled her eyes.

“What?”

“Leave it to you to ‘get’ Vulcan humor, Jim.”

He leaned into Spock. “Sometimes I wonder if maybe we have sehlats on earth after all.” The best part about knowing Vulcan? Talking crap in front of his mom.

Spock raised both eyebrows. Jim could tell he was laughing inside.

The drive was too short. As soon as they pulled up to the house, Jim made to jump out of the hover to help haul bags inside. He was stopped by his mother’s voice. “Jim.”

He paused, looking after Spock, who had already exited the vehicle. “Yeah?”

“I’ve… got some news.”

Great. “What is it?” He fidgeted where he was balanced on the edge of the seat.

“I’ve got orders.” She said, slowly. “Five months off-world.”

He stared at her.

Five months? The longest she’d ever been gone was three. Still- if she had to go, she had to go. He couldn’t help the small spark of excitement that started in his chest. If she was gone, did that mean he would get to spend the entire summer with Amanda and Spock? It was like a dream come true.

“I think…” She looked up at him in the mirror. “I think you should come with.”

Ah. There was the catch.

“Mom,” Jim moaned. “You’re kidding right?”

She looked down.

“Mom, Spock just got here.”

“I know. But I thought…” She shrugged. “I thought maybe you’d want to come with me. Five months is a long time to be apart, Jim.”

“Yeah, and three months is no time at all.” He said. “I never get to see Spock! I live with you, when you’re even here.”

She flinched.

“… I didn’t mean it like that.”

She shrugged. “It’s not as if it’s not true.”

“Please, can’t I-“

“You can stay.” She said.

He blinked at her in surprise. “… Really?”

She nodded. “I just wanted to give you the choice. Me, or them.”

Her wording twisted something inside of Jim. Me, or them. It wasn’t like he was choosing them over her, it was just… well, maybe he was choosing them over her. She wouldn’t be gone for nine months, though, just five, and she’d come back and she’d live with him again. He didn’t have a rocky relationship with Amanda, and that made it better and worse all at once- three months with her would be like heaven on earth, but he couldn’t help but feel guilty at how easy the choice was.

Did that make him a bad son?

“I…”

She shook her head. “It’s fine, Jim.”

He didn’t feel like it was fine.

“I already talked about it with Amanda. I’d hoped…” She didn’t finish, but it was clear what she was saying. That she’d hoped Amanda was simply a back-up plan, and that Jim would be coming with his actual mother. “You’re sure you don’t want to go into space?”

That wasn’t fair.

Of course he wanted to go into space. It was a dream- no, the dream- to leave the planet. To be amongst the stars, and the night, and the nothing, god, it was all he ever thought about. He’d never wanted anything more.

Except, maybe he had. Because when he put the sky next to Spock, he found that the choice was scarily easy to make. He pretended, for the sake of his mother, feeling the guilt inside him growing with each silent second that passed by.

“It would probably just be troublesome to have me come with.” he said.

She shrugged again. “We’d make it work.”

“That’s okay.” He said. “You should get a vacation, too. From me.”

She winced, then. “Jim…”

“I know I’m difficult.” He said. It was his turn to shrug. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

They sat in silence for a time. Spock didn’t come back to the car to collect him, so Amanda must have hinted that the humans were having a heart-to-heart. Jim wasn’t so wild about heart-to-hearts, because he was pretty sure his mom’s heart was broken, and his was too fragile to take the strain of hers. He’d never say as much, though. It would only break his mom’s heart further.

“You’re comfortable, staying with them?” She asked. She sounded like she already knew the answer. Of course she did.

“I’ll miss you,” he said, lamely.

She gave a bitter smile. “Yeah. I’ll miss you too.”

Jim wondered if his dad had been a liar, too, or if he and his mother were just two peas in a greed-green pod.

“Five months?” Jim questioned again. Just to be sure.

She nodded. “Five months.”

 


 

 

When Jim looked at the Enterprise, he could feel his heart swell with hope. When he was below her, he felt like he was standing in the shadow of fate. One day, when she was more than bones and a smattering of skin, they’d scour the stars together, tasting the edge of the galaxy itself.

He couldn’t wait.

“Come on.” He whispered. He motioned for Spock to hurry.

Spock raised a brow. He was wearing a thick, double-knit sweater and looked fairly miserable to be out in the cold of the night. He wrapped his arms around his torso. “Jim,” he said. “Mother believes us to be in bed.”

“Mother’s not gonna know a thing.” Jim promised. “Come on. I’ve snuck out plenty of times to come out here. You’re gonna love it.”

Spock looked over to the ditch where they’d abandoned the Hali. Spock seemed reluctant to leave the hover bike behind.

Jim rolled his eyes. “Oh, come on. If anyone figures out how to start that thing without us showing them first, the deserve to take it.”

Spock said, “No one deserves to take what is ours.”

“Come on!” Jim said. “The shift in the guards doesn’t last long enough for us to argue, you know.”

Spock lowered his head. He sighed.

“I’m gonna compare you to Terran poultry if you don’t hurry.” Jim snickered.

“Do not call me a chicken.” Spock muttered. He stepped forward, and with a final, miserable look at Jim, stepped into the other boy’s clasped hands. Jim hefted him up, watching Spock pull himself up over the fence.

Jim clamored up after him, not needing the leg-up to get there. He doubted that Spock really would have needed it if he’d been determined to make it over, but Jim liked to think he was polite when he wanted to be.

They hit the ground in a plume of brown dust. Spock stood uncertainly, looking around carefully. Jim just grabbed his wrist and tugged him forward, between the buildings and equipment.

“We are breaking several laws-“

“It’s the George Kirk Memorial Shipyard,” Jim whispered. “That’s my dad. If anyone can break in here without getting in trouble, it’s us.” Seeing that Spock didn’t look comforted, he said, “Besides, we’re not gonna get caught. Who do you think I am?”

“A boy of questionable morals.”

“Morals, pssh. What’re those?”

“You understand very well what morals are, Jim.”

“Remind me again?”

Spock just looked up at the heavens, as if to ask the stars why he’d gone and made himself best friends with such an illogical human. Jim didn’t blame him. He grinned, tugging gently at Spock’s arm, and lead him out underneath the belly of the Enterprise.

There were still plenty of holes in her hull, and underneath her massive weight, they could still see the stars. Jim pulled a blanket out of the backpack he’d brought for the occasion, throwing it down in the dust before laying back on it, arms crossed behind his head.

Spock stood, head craned back to stare up between the ribs of the Enterprise. He looked more alien than usual in the moonlight, his skin cast green, his hair blacker than the night. He looked almost sad, and too serious for someone his age.

Jim said, “Hey.”

Spock looked back down at him. “Yes, Jim?”

“Come here.” Jim patted the space next to him. “I wanna show you something.”

Spock laid back methodically, eyes fixed straight ahead.

Jim couldn’t help but smile fondly. He loved the way Spock moved- bordering on awkward, with a degree of precision to each movement. Spock seemed, at times, so desperate to be Vulcan that it was like he forgot that at heart, he was, and it showed in little things like that.

Jim pointed. “That’s Perseus.”

“Incorrect,” said Spock. “That is gamma two point nine-three.”

Jim laughed. “No, you dweeb.” He scooted closer to Spock. “Give me your wrist.”

Spock did as asked.

“Hold out your index finger- point.”

Jim pressed their cheeks together, so that he was certain his line of sight was congruent with Spock’s. He used Spock’s hand to point to the sky, following the line of their arms. “It starts here, with that little star. And then it moves like this. That’s his sword. And then to these stars… that’s his body. And it branches of here, and here. Those are his legs. See it?”

“I do not.”

“It’s like connect the dots. You have to use your imagination.”

Spock raised his brow.

“What? I didn’t drag you all the way out here for just science. Sometimes you’ve got to use your imagination, too.” Jim let Spock’s wrist go, flopping back on his side. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so at peace with himself.

“… I see it.” Spock said after a time.

Jim smiled. “Good.”

“How often is it that you come out here?”

“I don’t know.” Jim shrugged. “Pretty often, I guess. She’s looking more and more like her true self. I like to study the progress. And the stars. They seem more real when I look at them with her.”

“You are, truly, in love.” Spock said.

“Oh shut up.” Jim laughed. He rolled onto his side to look at Spock. “You know, if I told the people at school that I spent the summer being teased by a Vulcan, they’d never believe me.”

“I am not teasing you. Vulcans do not tease.”

“Vulcans don’t lie, either, and yet, here we are- you teasing me, you lying.”

“I am sure I do not know what you are talking about.” Spock sniffed.

Jim laughed again. Without thinking, he reached out for Spock’s hand. He paused before touching, suddenly aware of his actions. He settled for putting his hand on Spock’s wrist instead, relishing the contact.

Spock’s eyes slid closed. He hummed in contentment.

“I read that Vulcans are touch-telepaths. Can you see what I’m thinking?”

“Vaguely.” Spock answered. “When we touch, I get an impression of your surface thoughts and emotions. You feel… much more intensely than I do.”

Jim didn’t draw his hand away. “Does it bother you?”

“It does not.”

Jim grinned. “Good.”

“Does it not bother you? You are a private person. I would have thought my intrusion into your mind would alarm you.”

“It’s not an intrusion.” Jim said. “If I can’t let you in, then who can I?”

Spock said nothing.

“Can you tell how I feel right now?”

“Your sense of safety and happiness fills me as though it were my own.” Spock said. “Feeling your emotions… it makes me feel odd.”

“Is that bad?”

Spock shook his head. “No,” he explained. “Often times I have found myself wondering- what if I had not chosen to follow the Vulcan path? What if I had given into my human side? I wonder, what it would be like, to allow myself to lose control and simply feel. So often I wondered this that I began to worry about what I would never allow myself to do. Through you, Jim, I find that I am able to retain the control of a Vulcan that I so desperately desire, while simultaneously allowing myself to feel emotions as unobjectively as any human would. It is… freeing, for me, and for that, you have my gratitude.”

Jim couldn’t help but smile. “That’s the first time anyone’s really been happy about me feeling strong emotions.” He laughed. “Usually it’s Jim, calm down, Jim, chill out, Jim, don’t be so out of control.”

“You have a dynamic mind.” Spock hummed. “It is, perhaps, hard for others to understand.”

“But not you?”

Spock shook his head. “I feel you as familiarly as myself, if not more so.”

Jim let out a sigh. “Yeah. I feel that way too.” His happy mood had turned a little morose. He said, “When we touch, like this, can I feel your emotions, too?”

“Most humans would not be able to.” Spock said. “However, I have begun to suspect that you perhaps have psychic aptitude that goes beyond that of an average human. It would explain much.”

“Are you sad?” Jim asked.

Spock paused. “I am… not sad. Simply thinking.”

“About what?”

“It is illogical.”

“Tell me anyway.” Jim wormed closer, so that their sides were pressed flush together. “I can keep a secret.”

“I am well aware.” Spock agreed.

“Come on. You can always tell me.”

Spock caved. “I am… reluctant to return home. As illogical as it is to ‘wish,’ I find myself doing just that, even knowing it is foolish. I cannot rid my mind of the impossible.”

“What do you wish?”

“That you might return home with me, so that I no longer have to be alone.” He said. He opened his eyes, staring straight up out of the Enterprise’s belly. “I am without companion on Vulcan.”

Jim frowned. “You mean, you don’t have any friends back home?” They’d talked about being lonely and friendless other summers, but it had been a long time since the subject had come up, and Jim had nearly forgotten. He loved Spock more than anything else in the world- how could anyone think anything but the best of him? Surely everyone who met Spock wanted to be his friend.

“Affirmative.” Spock answered. “I am... rather disliked.”

“Wait, what?” Jim sat up. The connection he’d felt to Spock in his head snapped quietly into nothingness, and Jim was alone in his head once more. He shook it to clear his thoughts. “Disliked?”

Spock nodded, tersely. “You have heard me correctly.”

“But why?”

Spock looked to the side. “It is in part due to my human heritage.”

“What? But isn’t it illogical to dislike someone because of something stupid like that?”

“I had thought so myself. However, I find it is not a popular opinion. My being a hybrid is an uncomfortable truth on Vulcan. I am impure. An abomination. I could not be created naturally, and therefor, my very existence is illogical.”

“That’s bullshit!” Jim jumped to his feet.

Spock sat up. “Jim, please. Do not become angry-“

“How can I not be angry? People actually said that stuff to you?”

“Yes. It is of no consequence, however.”

“No consequence?” He scoffed. “Oh I’ll show them no consequence when I punch them in their dumb punk faces. How could they say that crap about you?”

“It is my problem. There is no reason for your reaction.”

“Yes there is! You’re my friend. I’d beat every single one of their stupid heads in if I was on Vulcan with you.” He scowled. “What do they know? Nothing, that’s what. They only know Vulcan. You know twice that much; you’ve got Vulcan and Terra. I bet they’re just jealous assholes.”

Spock said, “I am not of Earth or Vulcan, as I am neither purely one or the other. Thus, your argument is invalid, as I have no rightful place in this world.”

Jim sat down heavily. He frowned. “Spock… do you really think that?”

Spock looked down at his hands, which were clasped in his lap.

“Hey.”

Spock looked up.

“I wasn’t… I wasn’t born on Earth.”

Spock raised a brow. “I am aware.”

“So with that kind of thinking, we’re the same, right? You’re born to no worlds, well, so was I.”

“It is not the same.”

“It is. You just can’t stand to be mean to me- only yourself. Well, that’s my best friend you’re talking about, and you can’t be mean to him.”

“You are being purposefully difficult.”

Jim snorted. “Of course I am!”

Spock wasn’t laughing. He never laughed out loud, but Jim could sometimes see it dancing in his eyes, in the corner of his mouth. In Spock’s eyes, all he saw was dejection.

“…” He sighed. “You know, I don’t have any friends either.”

Spock looked up, eyes wide.

“I’ve got some girls I sit at the lunch table with, who are nice to me, I guess. But it’s not like they invite me to come to their houses or try to hang out with me during recess or anything like that. And yeah, I’ve got some jerks like you do who think it would be better if I’d never been born.”

Spock leaned forward, eyes intense. “Jim,” he said, earnestly, “You are meant for the stars. You are to do great things. Your birth was a benefit to the galaxy.”

“Yeah, well.” He grimaced. “Not everyone thinks that.”

“Then they are wrong.”

“Not so black and white as that.” Jim shrugged. “Some people say that if it wasn’t for me, maybe Dad would have figured something else out. Maybe he’d still be alive.”

Spock shook his head. “His actions were logical. He understood that the needs of many outweigh the needs of one.”

“Still.” Jim shrugged his shoulder up. “I’m younger than the other kids. I’m smaller. I’m different- like you. I think that’s what they hate about us, Spock. They don’t understand how we can be so unlike them.”

“… You are cut above the rest.” Spock insisted, still. “That is what makes you different.”

Jim reached out, putting his hand on Spock’s knee. He met Spock’s eyes. “You know what makes you different from those bullies at your school, Spock?”

He said, “My heritage.”

“You’re better than they are, Spock.” He leaned in. “You’re going to be a legend.”

“Illogical.” Spock said.

“The truth sometimes is.” Jim promised.

They sat in silence for a long time. They’d have to be getting back- Spock looked cold, and the longer they were gone, the greater the chances of Amanda discovering them missing.

Spock said, “Were I to live on earth…”

“Yes?”

“Were I on Earth, and attending your school.” He said. “I would be your friend.”

“You’re already my friend.” Jim snorted.

“I would not allow your schoolmates to be cruel to you.”

Jim blinked. It wasn’t something he’d even thought about. When Spock had said that there were people who were mean to him, Jim’s first thought was that if he was with Spock, he’d protect him. But for Spock to do the same? Jim had never thought he was worth protecting.

Jim brushed their wrists together, flooding Spock’s mind with his gentle happiness.

“If I went to school with you, on Vulcan, I’d beat up all those other kids who ever made you feel badly about yourself.” Jim promised. “And no one would be able to stop me, because they’d be so scandalized by my pure emotionalism over you.”

Spock’s mouth quirked up in the corner. “Perhaps they would think you insane.” Warmth touched Jim’s mind, and he knew without a doubt, that Spock was happy, too. Even if they didn’t have anyone else, they had each other, and that was enough.

“Hell,” Jim laughed. “Everyone already thinks that, anyway.”

“Not I,” said Spock.

“Yeah, well,” Jim leaned into him, hoping to lend just a bit of warmth to the young Vulcan. “You’re the exception. You always are.”

Spock leaned into him, too. “I find our opinions on the subject to be the same, then.”

They watched the sun rise through the hull of the Enterprise, like that- leaning into one another to share hearts and warmth, feeling like maybe, they weren’t so alone after all.

 


 

 

His mom commed him, which was completely hypocritical, because for the past few years she’d been saying that off-planet communications were way to expensive to indulge in, and thus, had cut him off from Spock.

“Whatever,” she’d said. “I’m your mom.”

“Yeah, well Spock is-“ Jim paused. “My… friend.” He finished, lamely.

It felt like more than that.

“Yeah, okay.” Winona snorted. “How are things?”

Jim said, “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

She narrowed her eyes.

“Things are good.” He hurried. He was annoyed, but he wasn’t stupid. His mom would have Pops over to the summer house to pick him up in a heartbeat. “Amanda wants to take us to this fancy thing in San Fransisco in a weak, to see Spock’s dad.”

“Why don’t you just say Sarek?” She snorted.

It felt weird. “What’s wrong with saying Spock’s dad?”

“You call Amanda by her first name.”

That’s because Amanda didn’t scare the crap out of him. “I know her.”

“Bet you wish you could call her mom.” Winona said.

Jim said, “Why do you always do that?”

“What? It’s the truth.”

“You realize that guilt-tripping me into like, living in this weird tiny world where we’re the only survivors isn’t going to work forever, right?” He frowned. “I’m ten. Not two. And I know when you’re trying to manipulate me. You showed me all of your moves in chess.”

She said, “We’re not doing this.”

“Why not? Because I’m right?”

“I will have your grandfather down there in a heartbeat, Jim.”

“That! That right there! You’re using the only attachment I have outside of you as punishment. As pain! And like you sweep it under this big carpet of oh I’m being a mother but-“

“Jim.” She grit out. “Shut it.”

He did. He ground his teeth together.

The silence could have stretched on forever; an eternal line of awkwardness and pain. It hit him, then, how old his mom looked- how tired, and worn out. She had lines around her mouth and eyes, and her eyelids were nearly purple, and her cheekbones stood out against her thin skin. She didn’t look sick, but she looked a bit beyond her years, and like she hadn’t gotten rest in a good, long while. Her hair made up most of her mass. He felt suddenly, incomprehensibly guilty. Was it his fault? Was he really giving her gray hairs, like she always said? Maybe, if he tried a little harder, if he was a better son, if he loved her more…

“This is going to cost me a damn lot of credits.” Winona sighed. She shifted, tapping the comm screen, probably to check the running time. When she moved her silver Starfleet badge caught the light. It was weird to see her in uniform.

“Sorry.” Jim said. He didn’t know what else to say.

“Me too.”

He knew she didn’t do it on purpose. She was lonely. He was, too, but he felt like her lonesomeness was a heavy weight, dragging him underwater to drown with her. He was a good swimmer, in the metaphor, but he couldn’t keep it up forever. Eventually, he’d have to shrug the chains off his shoulders, or let her drown him. What an uncomfortable metaphor that was.

“How is Captain Pike?” Jim asked.

Winona sighed. “Good. He and Number One are both wonderful to be around, as usual, but…” They remind me of George.

Yeah. He knew what that was like. “Gotcha.”

“I’ll be happy to be back. Replicated food sucks.”

He said, “You could fix that, couldn’t you?”

“I’m a warp-core technician.” She snorted. “I don’t know a thing about food.”

Jim knew about warp-corse and replicators, but he wisely kept his mouth shut. “Oh. Well… you’ll be happy to be back.”

“Yeah.” She said it like she wasn’t convinced she’d be happy to be coming back home at all. “I’ve missed you.”

“Me too.”

Everything felt so forced with his mother, anymore.

“Well.” She tapped her fingers on her desk. “Talk to you later, Jimmy.”

“Okay. See ya.”

She ended the communication.

They never said ‘I love you’ before hanging up anymore. It was telling.

 


 

 

Jim tugged at the uncomfortable collar of his formal clothing, looking over at Spock. Of course the Vulcan looked just as at ease in his fancy robes as he did everything else. He looked like he belonged in them, too; like he’d been born wearing dress shoes, his hair combed and slick.

Jim knew he looked nice, even if he wore the suite like someone who’d never done it before. That was to be expected, but Jim wasn’t use to falling into expectations; he usually exceeded them.

“The woman approaching us is Madame Levy.” Spock said. “She is Betazoid.”

“Sweet.” Jim said. He liked her wild, black hair, and her smooth, dark skin. He grinned up at her as she approached, saying, “Good evening, Ma’am.”

“Well, Spock, who’s your polite little friend?” Levy laughed.

“This is James T. Kirk.” Spock said.

Her expression turned thoughtful. “Kirk. Kirk, Kirk, Kirk; where have I heard that name?”

Jim had forgotten the reason he and his mother had stopped attending Starfleet parties. The cause came rushing back to him all at once.

He grinned up at her before she could remember where she’d heard his name before. “That’s the name of the future Captain of the starship Enterprise, Ma’am.” He batted his eyelashes at her.

She laughed, hand braced over her breast. “Oh, aren’t you just darling?” She reached out to pinch his cheek and he allowed her to, trying to be nice. Spock flinched away from the contact when she turned to him, but she didn’t seem to mind.

“How are you enjoying the party, Madame Levy?” Jim asked. He could tell Spock was supposed to be making nice, but that Spock also very much didn’t want to. That was fine- Jim had a talent for charming people that he didn’t mind putting to use. If it was to save Spock, well, that was just a pleasant bonus.

“Oh, it’s all rather droll, you know.” She sighed, dramatically. Jim liked her, in a way. “Last year there was a live band. This year the most interesting thing is Captain Archer’s dog. Did you see that they made it a Starfleet uniform? It’s rather amusing.”

Jim wouldn’t touch that big, spoiled beagle under duress. But watching it waddle around in an approximation of a dress uniform? Priceless. “Yes ma’am, I thought it was rather funny myself. I wonder if they gave him any medals of valor for bones buried on alien ground.”

She laughed. “Oh, delightful, delightful, you’re simply charming, Mr. Kirk!” She waved one of her friends over.

Spock leaned into him, quickly explaining that it was, “Lieutenant Harris of the Bradbury. He is human.”

Jim nodded.

“Jared, darling, you won’t believe this young man- he’s simply wonderful.”

“Oh?” Jared smiled and then offered out his hand. “I’m Jared Harris. Nice to meet you, kid.”

“James T. Kirk,” said Jim. “Good to meetcha.”

“Kirk, huh?” Jared said, “I think I know that name. Uh, one of Pike’s presentations…” he trailed off, realization dawning in his eyes. “The Kelvin.”

Jim shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. Levy turned to Jared, a question in her eyes, but Jim jumped in to squash it. “So, the Bradbury, huh? She’s a good ship, but nothing like the Enterprise is gonna be. I heard she can only do warp five.”

Jared shook his head, as if to clear it. “Only?” He drawled. “Warp five is unbelievable, kid! And for your information, we can do six; if we really push it, even seven.”

“Strain on your plasmas must be something after a month of pushing six.” Jim laughed. “Bet you have to switch them out every three months or they short circuit.”

“Hey now, that’s just unfair.”

Jim laughed. “Enterprise is gonna have plasma relays over the coils so that they don’t burn out as fast, even pushing warp nine.” He leaned over, saying, “Right, Mr. Spock?”

“Indeed.” Spock said. “With the new plasma design for the Enterprise’s warp core, the need for replacement should be dropped significantly. This will also be beneficial to the warp core’s cooling system, allowing the engine to drop out of warp at greater speeds.”

Levy blinked at them.

Jared grinned wide and laughed. “You two sound like you’re in love.”

“Well,” Jim said, “I’m not saying that I’m going to marry her, but…”

“Jim,” Spock reminded him. “You have stated exactly seven times that you wish to marry the starship Enterprise.”

Jared threw back his head and laughed.

“Oh, come on, Spock.” Jim beamed. “You know she’s beautiful.”

“… The Enterprise, is, indeed, quite aesthetically pleasing.”

That put them back in the swing of it. Levy and Jared both laughed, leaning in on one another.

“What did I tell you?” Levy said. “Simply delightful, I can’t believe Spock’s never brought you before, Jim!”

“You know Spock well, then, ma’am?” He grinned over at Spock, who looked bored to the untrained eye. Jim, however, could tell that he was loath to suddenly be the center of attention. JIm would have been happy to turn conversation back to his favorite starship, but not until he was done embarrassing Spock.

“Oh, it’s been some years, but who could forget the cutie? Last time he was here the poor boy was wrapped up in a million and one layers and still trembling. The lot of us had the AC on, poor boy.”

Jim laughed. “He gets chilly so easily.”

Spock said, “Jim.”

“What? It’s true!” He turned to their company, saying, “His house is always set to be eighty-eight degrees. Can you believe that?”

“How does the Ambassador’s wife stand it?” Jared asked in mock-horror.

“The way we all do- standing in front of the freezer with doors wide open until a Vulcan walks in to tell us it’s an illogical use of refrigeration.”

They laughed at that, too.

“Oh, Ambassador.”

Jim turned to see Sarek had crept up on them and was standing behind him and Spock, hands clasped tightly behind his back. He looked as severe as ever, and it made Jim nervous. He shuffled closer to Spock, so that their sleeves brushed. Sarek’s expression didn’t change, but Jim could feel the Very Logical Disapproval radiating off of the Vulcan.

“Spock.” Sarek said. “Come with me for a moment.”

Having no room to debate, Spock bowed his head. “Excuse me.”

Jim watched them head off into the crowd, suddenly feeling off-balanced. He was charming, and funny, and kind, but how the hell was he supposed to interact with people without Spock to act as his anchor? He watched Spock go, wondering if it would be too childish to run after him. Probably.

He turned back to Levy and Jared, who were watching the Ambassador as he made his way through the crowd. Levy said, “Oh dear, I hope the poor boy isn’t in too much trouble.”

“Spock doesn’t get in trouble,” said Jim. “He’s a good person.”

They blinked back down to him.

“Even good people get in trouble sometimes, sweetie.” Levy said.

Jim wondered how many times a good person could get in trouble before they were a bad person. He didn’t know how to steer that conversation, so he fell back to something familiar.

“Madame Levy,” he said, “What is it that you do?”

“Oh, I’m the Betazoid ambassador.” She said. She lit up with a smile. “That’s why I’m here tonight. Of course, I’ve already made my rounds, and the boredom in the room is enough to make me fall asleep. I figured I’d come over to your happy little corner of the world.”

“Happy?”

“Yes, well, I do supposed it’s turned a little cold since Spock left.” She laughed. “I do love children- they feel everything so purely, it’s so simple. You’re a little closer to an adult’s emotional state than I would have thought, but your happiness in your friendship with Spock is strong and pure.”

“What about him?” Jim found himself asking. “Do you like Spock’s happiness?”

“I am unable to feel it.”

His heart sank. “He’ll out-grow you eventually,” Winona said.

“Oh, no, no dear, don’t be sad!” She hurried. “I cannot feel the emotions from any Vulcans. They’re telepathic themselves, but they’re always shielding thoughts and emotions. I can’t say he was unhappy, Mr. Kirk.”

“Oh.” he forced a smile. It was different, knowing she wouldn’t buy it- so he tried to think about being happy hard enough to have it leak through his skin.

She winced and said, “Ah, there, that’s more like an adult.”

Jared said, “So, you’re a wanna-be captain, huh?”

Jim puffed out his chest, grinning. “Wanna be? Ha! I’m gonna be.”

“Is that right?” Jared mused.

“As certain as the stars.” Jim promised.

“A boy with the heart of a poet, captaining a starship.” Levy mused. “That should prove promising. Perhaps you’ll avoid starting a few dozen wars like the other federation captains seem to.”

Jared said, “Ma’am, now, that’s untrue.”

“Oh?”

Jim said, “Sometimes war is inevitable.”

“Ha!” Jared said. “Even a kid gets it.”

“Oh, I’m sure.” She rolled her eyes. “You must have a parent in Starfleet.”

Jared winced. Jim ignored it and barred on. “My mom,” he said. “She’s an engineer. But she doesn’t want me to go into Starfleet. She hates Starfleet.”

“Hates?” Levy said.

Jim said, “It’s a complicated relationship.”

Levy laughed. “Sounds like she doesn’t keep quiet about it.”

“Nope.” He popped the ‘p’ when he spoke, shaking his head. “Even if she thinks it’s evil, though, I know better! I’ve read the prime directive. We’re explorers, not an army.”

“Or so we would hope.” Levy said.

“Madame,” Jared sighed.

“I’m not blind.” Jim said. “I know that there’s some tough calls. That lots of people die on the line.” He looked over at Jared, saying, “I know it better than some people.”

Levy looked over to Jared, confused.

Jim said, “But that doesn’t change what we’re supposed to be about. We’re out there to make new friends, and find new stars and universes, and discover wonderful things! Isn’t that something worth all the rest?”

“Well said.” Jared smiled wide. “See? He gets it.”

“Indeed.” She blinked at him, leaning down to look at his face. “You have a future of greatness, little one.”

He didn’t have the opportunity to reply. Spock was suddenly back at his side, tugging at his sleeve. “Jim,” Spock said. “We must depart now.”

Jim nodded. He and Spock said goodnight and goodbye to Jared and Levy, politely, but sincerely enough, and took through the crowd and towards the exit. Jim was surprised that they were leaving- it was still early.

“Spock,” he started.

“Not now.” He said.

Jim furrowed his brow. “Wait, what? Spock-“

“Please.” Spock said, quietly. “I will explain. At this time, however, I cannot speak with you.”

Jim accepted that and walked on.

Sarek and Amanda were waiting for them at the exit. They were talking in hushed tones as Jim and Spock approached, but stopped once they caught sight of the two boys. Amanda frowned at Sarek, bunching her skirts in her hands before turning sharply away and flouncing outside.

Jim had a feeling Sarek was in trouble.

Sarek nodded at them in a silent command to follow. Jim fell into line, next to Spock, casting questioning looks over at his friend as they marched out. He’d been under the impression that they’d be there all night- not just for a few hours. He hadn’t even gotten bored or into trouble yet.

Spock wouldn’t meet his eye, but Jim didn’t take it to heart. He always acted a little different around his dad, and Jim kind of got that. Sarek seemed to expect nothing but perfection from either of them at any time; Jim felt like he would have crumbled under the enormous pressure years and years ago. He wasn’t sure how Spock did it- being a Vulcan could only attribute to so much.

Sarek remained silent as they headed to the hover car. He slid into the driver’s seat and then held his two fingers out towards Amanda. She crossed her arms and turned away from him, glaring out the window.

Jim found his legs bouncing without his consent, fingers fidgeting with his clothes, arrested by the awkward atmosphere clouding the car. Jim chanced a look over at Spock, but the young Vulcan stared straight ahead at the back of his father’s chair, still and silent.

When they got to the hotel they were staying in, Sarek said, “Wife,” but was cut off by her abrupt departure from the vehicle. He stared after her for a second before getting out of the car himself.

Jim squirmed. “Spock…”

He shook his head, and then slipped out of the car. Jim understood the gesture for it was- not now- and slipped out after Spock.

Sarek was waiting for them outside of the car. Amanda had already disappeared inside, so as soon as the boys were near enough Sarek started after her. Valets and staff fell upon them, asking again and again if there was anything that the Ambassador wanted or needed, to which he replied again and again that he did not. The staff ignored Spock and Jim completely, spinning off to do whatever it was they usually did as soon as Sarek dismissed them.

They finally made it to the lift. Sarek didn’t even tell the computer what floor to head to- it started up automatically after a chime of, “Welcome, Ambassador Sarek.”

Jim rolled his eyes. The lengths people went through to attempt to kiss a Vulcan’s butt were astounding. The hotel would have been better off leaving him alone and adding a Vulcan spice tea to the menu for his stay. The constant attention didn’t visibly grate Spock’s dad, but Jim knew very well that the calm face of a Vulcan often hid turbulent thoughts.

They reached the suite. Amanda was waiting outside the door, leaning against the wall. She was visibly annoyed, maybe even angry, but Jim couldn’t tell- he’d never seen her look annoyed or angry.

She pushed away from the wall once she saw them. “The door doesn’t recognize my hand,” she snipped. She was definitely annoyed.

“I apologize, my wife- I had not yet had an opportunity to-“

“Just open the door, Sarek.”

He did. Amanda stormed past him and inside, ignoring him completely to hurry into their room. The door slammed closed.

Sarek looked back to Jim and Spock. “It is late,” he said. “You should both retire. I am going to speak to your mother.”

“Yes, Father.” Spock said.

Not knowing what would be appropriate, Jim just nodded.

They hurried to their room. It was a nice room- much bigger than the one Spock had at the summer home, and with two beds instead of one. Spock began to change into his sleeping clothes right away, so Jim hurried over to his away bag to do the same. He wasn’t sure if it was okay to talk to Spock yet, so he kept silent, no matter how much he wanted to talk.

When Spock crawled into bed and pulled the covers up over his head, as if to go to sleep, Jim couldn’t hold it in anymore.

“Is Amanda going to tuck us in?” He crept over to the side of Spock’s bed, whispering.

“It is severely doubtful,” came Spock’s muffled voice.

Jim sighed. “What’s wrong with them?”

Spock didn’t answer.

“Spock, I’m gonna go spy on them.”

“While I would advise against this course of action,” Spcok’s head popped out from under the covers, his perfect Vulcan hair ruffled and standing up with static. “I will not stop you. Should you be discovered, I will not endeavor to save you.”

“Pssh. Yes you would.”

Spock raised a brow, but his heart must not have been in it.

Jim sighed. “I’ll be right back.”

Spock sat up. “Should you discover any pertinent information-“

“If you want to come with me, let’s go.”

“It is extremely dishonest.” Spock sniffed. “Eavesdropping is deplorable behavior.”

“So get your deplorable Vulcan self out of bed and let’s go already.”

Protests logged to his satisfaction, Spock slipped out of bed.

Jim crept along the line of the wall, taking satisfaction in the way the doors of the hotel did not creak. He ducked into the living area of the suite, rolling down in front of the fancy couch. He crawled forward on his belly until he’d made it over to the door on the other side of the room. Spock was right behind him, having walked instead of crawled. Jim smiled at him. Spock didn’t so much as blink.

Slipping forward, Jim leaned down, pressing his ear to the door. Spock stayed standing behind him, his heightened hearing enough to get through the wood.

“-I’m saying!” Amanda said. “Sarek, this isn’t Vulcan.”

Sarek sounded as even as he always did. “Do you suggest, then, that we depart for Vulcan?”

“No! I’m saying that no one’s going to think anything about it. No one’s judging us. Sarek, this is my home planet, and while we’re here, maybe we can follow the social rules that I grew up with for once! Spock is a child of two worlds, not one.”

“He is Vulcan.” Sarek said. “He will behave as such.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, did I get turned into a full-blooded Vulcan some time in the last twenty years when I wasn’t looking? No?”

“Wife, you know full well-“

“Do not ‘wife’ me! What, when we were trying, day after day, with everything we had, doing all we could, to have a child together, did you think, oh, gee, huh, this child that I am having with my human wife, who is so hard to create because he will be half human, will clearly just magically turn into a full Vulcan because I, the great, Logical Sarek, wish it.”

“Amanda, do not be so illogical. I did not think any of these things.”

“Then act like it.” She snapped. “Spock’s just as human as he is Vulcan; doesn’t he get to act like it sometimes?”

Jim pulled his ear away from the door, pieces falling into place. He looked back at Spock, but the other boy was stony-faced. He turned away, as if to walk back to bed, but Jim reached out and stopped him with a hand on his wrist.

“Spock has chosen to follow the Vulcan way.” Sarek said.

Amanda said, “Spock is a child!”

“On Vulcan he would not be considered-“

“I don’t give a good goddamn about Vulcan!” She yelled.

Silence.

Jim could feel his heart beating rapidly in his chest, and by his side, Spock’s- Jim could feel the other boy’s pulse running like mad between his fingers, Spock’s blood rushing like a tide beneath the warm skin of his wrist.

“I don’t.” Amanda said. “Vulcan, Terra, Human, half, full-Vulcan, I don’t care. Spock is… Spock. He’s nothing other than himself. Kaiidth,” she stressed, “It is up to him to chose what he is going to be.”

“His friendship with James Kirk has clouded his judgement.” Sarek said.

Jim flinched.

“His friendship with James is the only thing he has going for him right now!” Amanda cried. “Sarek, even Vulcans have friends. You might shake your head at me and say that no, you don’t, but you do. Call them work mates, or acquaintances, I don’t care- you have people you talk to and interact with regularly. Spock doesn’t have anyone. No one but James.”

“James is several years his junior, and thus-”

“Who cares?” She said. “Sarek, Jim is the only person who can keep up with Spock. They’re both scary smart. Maybe you’d know if you were with us in the summers, instead of passing your judgement after two seconds of seeing them together. Does it bother you that Spock is happy?”

Sarek didn’t reply.

“You’ve never had a problem with happiness when it was my own. You’d move heaven and earth to make sure I was happy. So why not Spock? Why can’t you just let him have this?”

“… I must meditate further on the subject.” Sarek said, which was basically a white flag. Jim wanted to smile in victory, but found he couldn’t force himself to do so. He felt sick.

“Maybe you would concentrate better out on the couch,” Amanda hinted.

Jim would have taken the time to process what that biting remark meant, but at the mention of the couch, he and Spock both stiffened. Whatever Sarek’s reply was, it was lost on them, as they made a mad dash back to their bedroom, attempting to remain silent. They just barely closed the door when they heard the one to Sarek and Amanda’s room open.

Jim dove under his covers, falling bonelessly onto his mattress, arms flinging out sporadically. He opened his mouth and worked up some spit, pushing it over the edge of his open mouth to drool as he pressed his face into the pillow, eyes loosely closed.

Spock pulled the covers up over his head, stiffly laying back. Fortunately, Spock looked about as awkward when he was actually just falling asleep as he did when he was faking it.

Their door opened. Sarek stepped into the room. He walked over to Spock’s bed, stood there for a minute, and then turned. He left, closing the door quietly behind him.

Jim listened hard to the sound of Sarek’s feat as he walked away, staying still until he was certain that they were safe. Even a little past then, until he saw Spock’s form stir beneath the covers and figured he was safe.

He hopped out of bed and tip-toed over to Spock’s, pushing his way under the covers and shoving Spock over.

“Jim,” said Spock, “This is not your bed.”

“Oh, I hadn’t realized.” Jim drawled. “… Do you think he bought it?”

“My father would not have remained silent, nor would he have left, had he realized our sleeping was an illusion.” Spock said. He sounded stiff.

Jim sighed. “Spock…”

“You mean to comfort me. Do not. I require no comfort, because my feelings- or there lack of- have not been hurt.” He turned on his side. “We are supposed to be asleep. I suggest you return to your bed and do so.”

Jim sighed. Pushing forward, he wrapped his arms around Spock’s body, pressing his forehead between the other boy’s shoulder blades. “Hey,” he said. “Your mom is right. Your dad is-“

“A Vulcan, as I strive to be.”

Jim frowned. “Spock… I know I can’t fix this over night. I know that it’s something you’re always kinda at war with. But you should know that I don’t think you’re too human or too Vulcan. I think you’re the best just like you are. Just… being Spock.”

Spock relaxed, if only just slightly.

“I know it’s not easy, living up to what everyone wants you to be or not to be.” Jim said. “And I can’t tell you how to get over it, because I haven’t figured out how to myself, yet. But… I like who you are. I think you’re the best.”

Spock sighed. “… Thank you, Jim. I will endeavor to remember this.”

Jim leaned up and kissed the back of Spock’s neck, loudly, giggling when Spock went stiff as a board. “Friendship kiss,” he said, and then wormed away from Spock and out of the covers, running back over to his bed.

“That is unsanitary.” Spock said from beneath the covers.

“Goodnight, Spock.” Jim whispered.

Spock said, “Goodnight, Jim.”

 


 

 

For some reason, Jim thought that once Sarek and Amanda had an argument, it would be something they dragged on and on until they exhausted it completely. They’d left the morning after he and Spock had overheard the conversation, and Jim had thought that the bad blood would continue on into the full foreseeable future. Instead, a week later, Sarek was at the summer home, he and his wife both acting like the fight had never taken place.

The word “acting” held a certain connotation to it- like you could tell they were trying not to talk about it, but thinking about it, so maybe Jim needed to find some other way to describe it. It really were as if they’d never so much as sniped at each other, when Sarek came home, and it baffled Jim, who thought romantic relationships extended to his mom dolling herself up for a night out only to come back pissed and shouting that she never wanted to see another guy ever again.

Sarek and Amanda weren’t like that at all.

The second Sarek had stepped inside, Amanda had perked up with a smile, rising from the table as if she’d been called from across the room. She met her husband with their good luck handshake- except, ew, that was actually a kiss- and asked if she could take his coat. He let her, and she asked how the trip was, and he recounted it in the most boring was possible. She hung onto every word, nodding her head, eyes sparkling with delight.

Jim looked over at Spock for some kind of reaction or explanation, but Spock didn’t seem to find anything odd about his parent’s behavior. He did, however, seem a little wary to see his father again- he scooted his chair just a bit further away from Jim’s.

Jim wanted to not feel hurt by the action, knowing that it wasn’t Spock’s wish to distance himself, but he couldn’t help himself. It stung. He looked down at the research PADDs spread over the table, trying to lose himself in the science of dark matter, but it was hard to ignore Spock and his parents at the same time.

From there, things had only gotten weirder. For one, Amanda was making everything that Sarek liked. Jim didn’t mind, he kind of liked Vulcan food, but Sarek acted like he couldn’t have cared less- why did Amanda even try? And why did she flush when bringing the food to the table, leaning in for more finger kisses? Their eyes met and she scoffed, lightly slapping his shoulder, before trailing her fingers over his again. Gross.

Spock, too, seemed to almost mentally roll his eyes at his parents, who were being super lovey-dovey for no reason, as well as super gross. If Spock had to put up with them being so… in love all the time, no wonder he was so good with emotional control.

And hey. That made Jim think. If Sarek was allowed to be all in love with a human, why couldn’t Spock be friends with one? He was tempted to open his mouth and accuse Spock’s dad of the ultimate taboo- the word "illogical" balanced precariously on the tip of his tongue, but his own fear of Sarek’s sever expression kept the sound in his mouth where it belonged.

It was no fair. Sarek and Amanda got to flirt in their weird, Vulcan way, stealing kisses and glances and talking in their odd half-formed sentences. Why couldn’t Jim and Spock just hang out and look at frogs in the summertime? Sarek was a jerk.

He was Spock’s dad, though, and he seemed to really make Amanda happy when he wasn’t busy making her mad enough to kick him to the couch, so Jim knew there had to be more to it, somehow.

He confessed himself to Spock that night. “Your dad is… kinda not nice.”

“I am well aware of this.” Spock said. “It is the Vulcan way.”

“It’s Vulcan to be a jerk?”

Spock raised a brow.

“Just saying.”

“No… it is not, as you say, Vulcan to be a jerk. However, it is difficult for someone who was raised to abhor displays of emotion to connect to emotional creatures like humans. My father goes very far for my mother, understanding that she cannot change who she is. As for you, I suspect he does not know how to interact with such a creature as yourself. In my case… He attempts to treat me as he would any Vulcan son.”

Jim snorted. “Because you can change who you are, right, right, I forgot.”

“It is not that simple.”

“But it kinda is.” He shrugged. “He can accept your mom for being what she is, well, then he should accept you for being whatever you want to be. And me- well, no one really knows how to put up with me.”

Spock shook his head. “You misunderstand,” he said. “While my father does, admittedly, have shortcomings in his regard to my hybrid status, I admire him greatly. He is a true Vulcan. I wish to be like him. While there are many emotional matters I believe he does not understand, he is, regardless, a good father, and a kind person.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Jim.

Spock nodded. “Yes,” he agreed. “You will.”

 


 

 

Jim gets it.

He’s not Sarek’s biggest fan, but when Sarek peers over his shoulder and says, “Your work is commendable, James Kirk,” or “You seem to be investigating something of merit. Allow me to give you access to my personal library so that my son and yourself have the material necessary to complete your work” or “Good.”

Well.

It makes Jim feel like maybe, actually, he’s going somewhere.

He loves watching Spock preen under his father’s attention. Any comment from Sarek is met with Spock’s most logical nod, which covers up the excited gleam in his eyes. Jim understands, slowly- maybe Sarek isn’t the best guy in the whole world, but he is a good man, even if he’s stubborn; even if there’s so much he doesn’t understand.

By the end of the month, when the summer is coming to its end, Jim can tell that while Sarek still doesn’t really agree with the concept of friends, he isn’t too troubled by Spock and Jim’s attachment to one another.

With the four of them together, they settle into a routine. It’s nothing like home. He wakes up at the same time every day, a couple hours after Spock. They all eat together for breakfast, lunch is debatable, and by dinner they all have a separate perspective of the day to go over. Sarek is a mountain; constant, quiet, and cold, but somehow, Jim likes it. Amanda is the sky, free and beautiful and changing, kissing the face of the mountain when she thinks no one is watching, running her fingers over his hands. And Spock is the moon- perfect, and wise, and bright; a light amongst the darkness- alone, but beautiful. They’re a weird little family, but they’re perfect in their own way, and during his time with them, Jim starts to get what his mother meant when she said that their life is nothing like she’d thought it would be- when she’d talked about having a starship of a family to raise him.

He feels like he’s found family, with them, but he keeps quiet, knowing it can’t last.

Even still, he and Spock make their pleas, on the last full day of summer. Spock prepares a presentation as to the benefits of having Jim come home with them to Vulcan, sighting the human’s intelligence and aptitude, as well as his grasp of Vulcan, which is nearly as perfect as Amanda’s. He has lists and reports and all manners of persuasion under his belt, and he looks nearly confident when he brings the case before his father.

Jim doesn’t have a Vulcan parent that he can convince with logic. He goes to his mother’s digitalized face and moans about how she’ll be gone for a good portion of the year, about how Pops really isn’t healthy enough to be taking on a burden as big as Jim is, yelling about how on Vulcan he won’t be so bored out of his mind. He and Spock both have Amanda to throw in their one stubborn parents’ face, but try as they all might, it’s no good.

“No,” Winona and Sarek both say, and when they say it, it’s the final word.

 


 

 

Jim hugged Spock as tightly as he could, knowing he wouldn’t hurt his Vulcan-bodied friend. The summer had been a sample of happiness, but like all good things in life, it had to come to an inevitable end.

“I wish we could comm each other.” Jim whispered.

“I will pay for it myself.” Spock said.

Jim laughed a little, unhappily. “Mom wouldn’t hear of it, and you know it.”

Spock did know.

“The school year will pass.” Spock said. “Summer will be upon us again, and we will be together once more.”

Jim smiled. “Yeah.” He offered out his hand, unable to help but smile when Spock took his wrist in a tight grip. In lieu of their Klingonese chant, Jim said, “Summer. I’ll see you next summer.”

“Indeed,” Spock promised.

Jim watched the family’s shuttle as it slipped away from him, like dandelion seeds in the wind- a wish, blown far, far away.

Chapter Text

 

Jim was probably the only eleven year old- hell, the only eighth grader- on earth to ever file forms suing his school.

It was no fair, though, because that stupid formula that he’d made up to double fuel efficiency in hover bikes was his, and not his idiot science teacher’s, and the fact that the entire school hadn’t believed him had been one big, horrible nightmare. It wasn’t like he even cared about the formula- he’d have given it away for free- it was just that everyone thought he couldn’t have created it.

Oh, he’d shown them.

And he’d gotten out of school a fucking month early because of it, too.

“Jim,” Winona sighed. She did that a lot. “I’m… going to kill you.”

“Get in line,” Jim said.

“I have parental rights.” Winona said. “I made you, little man, I get first dibs on your death.”

“I’m going to sue you for parental neglect.”

“Oh please. The court would see what a shit you are and take my side in a heartbeat. In fact, I’d probably get commendation.”

Jim laughed.

It was the last day of school. Usually, that would have meant Spock, but Jim had a month to go until the day his best friend stepped off the shuttle and into Riverside. He felt like he’d already done his time, and that maybe the calendars were all wrong, because it felt like it had been eight years- not eight months.

The last eight months had been the longest in his life.

He loved his mother, unconditionally. He had to admit, their relationship was easy and carefree when she was around anymore, but that was largely due to her being gone for months at a time. She’d been away from home more than she’d been home, just barely, for the school year, and somehow it had seemed to fix all their problems. When she was around, she’d missed him too much to be mad about his most recent shenanigans, and the breaks from his mother were enough to make Jim feel annoyed at her control instead of eaten alive by it.

It was good between them, but the school year had been long.

When Winona was gone- and she often was- he went to live with Pops. Pops couldn’t do much of anything, and was always glued to the holo. Jim spent most of his time between school, the library, and his two rooms- the one in Pop’s house, and the one at his real house. If he wasn’t in any of those places, he was outside.

He spent most of his nights secretly tucked away beneath the Enterprise. Several times, he’d slept through his alarm and nearly missed coming back home in time to make it look like he’d never been gone, but as of yet, the ruse wasn’t up. Pops was easy to trick, and so Jim could sleep out in the shipyard. His mother was harder to get around, and most nights he’d only felt comfortable enough to stay out for a couple of hours.

That meant lots of sleepless nights. Sleepless nights meant falling asleep in class. He claimed boredom, when asked, and it flew- it didn’t matter if they caught him sleeping, because he could take a brief glance at the board up front to catch up. That made for more dislike amongst his teachers and peers, but he was past caring.

He ate lunch alone.

He walked to the bus stop alone.

He walked from the bust stop to either house alone.

He ate dinner in his room alone.

He did his homework alone.

And then he slept alone, if not with the Enterprise.

It was a steady thing- his loneliness- to the point where it became a comfortable state of being. He knew that he had the capacity to be charming, and when he happened upon strangers, it was easy to use. He wasn’t so sneaky to have never been caught in the ship yard, but the guards were all from out of town, and thus didn’t know enough to think he was a rotten little kid. They were all pretty used to him, and seemed to like him quite a bit, if his continued presences amongst them was anything to go off of.

Loneliness got tiring after a while, though. It didn’t matter that he knew he was charming, and that if he wanted, he could have friends. There was no one he wished to be friends with- there were plenty of good people, certainly, but it was rather like being friends with a toddler. It grew tiresome to talk to someone who couldn’t understand what you were saying most of the time. His loneliness was all he had, the only friend he knew, and he carried it with him like a physical thing, pretending he liked it.

Having lonesomeness as his only companion had made for a very, very long eight months.

The dinners were all the same replicated matter, and he grew bored and sick of it just the same as he did his homework. The same things, over, and over, and over again, like a broken holo blinking the same image out every point two seconds, so that it wavered, as if moving, while standing still.

Then there had been the whole incident with the school. His mother had come home at the tail end of it, when Pop’s complaints had been too much to ignore. She’d done very little- she’d stood behind him at trial with a hand on his suited shoulder, watching with wide, baffled eyes as he said his piece.

When he’d proved and satisfied himself watching his science teacher get fired, he’d promptly had his mother extract him from school. They didn’t know what they were going to do, but god, nothing could be as bad as it had been. He’d been in three major fist fights, ten minor scuffles, and he’d stopped responding to the daily verbal taunts thrown his way.

He remembered something Amanda had told him, on those days. “It’s not easy, being smart and good both at once. It’s very, very hard. But it’ll be worth it someday, I promise.”

His mom just said, “Eh, they’re kids. Kids are assholes.”

Jim guessed that either way, the end result was the same.

One month.

One month until Spock came back.

He felt like he’d changed in the time Spock had been away. He felt less soft, in a way, like he’d taken time to chisel the child out of himself. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d giggled. He had calluses on his hands from riding the Hali too hard, too fast, and holding on for his life. His nose would never be the same after all the hard time it had done in bandages.

He was still a good kid, he promised himself.

He held the Enterprise up to the stars in his window at night, humming under his breath to imitate the sound of her engines. If he could still do that- if he could still believe in a little plastic toy- then he would be alright. He'd taken to leaving more and more of his childhood behind him, but the Enterprise stayed, faithfully flying through uncharted space with his hands alone to guide her.

Jim liked to think that when he became the captain of the real thing one day, he'd orbit around the bridge, checking up on each station, as if he were doing everything all at once again. He'd run his hands over the navigation console, he'd lean over the helm and watch their progression through the stars. He'd stop at the science station and make note of the stars rushing past them, he'd swing past communications to see how many voices called to them from the void. In the end, he'd always return to the Captain's chair, where he belonged; moving her through mission after mission, just as he had when he was a child.

A knock on his door gave him pause. He tucked the Enterprise into the crack between the wall and his bed, cushioning her with his blanket. "Come in," he said, and wondered how serious the topic was if his mom had bothered to knock first.

"Hey Jimbo." She slipped into his room, looking around to survey its condition as she always did when she first entered. It was like she thought she could glean his mood from the way his dirty clothes were strewn about the floor- hell, maybe she could.

"Hey." He turned toward her, waiting for her to chose where she'd sit- the desk chair or the bed. Either could mean multiple things, but in the end it came down to two categories. When she sat at the desk, she distanced herself from him. When she sat on the bed, she wanted to be close.

She choose the bed. He was less on guard then, sure that he wasn't about to be grounded into next summer from some stupid thing he'd done. There was still plenty to be wary of, though.

"What's up?" He chirped.

She smiled. Reaching out, she ruffled his hair, fingers slow and fond as she sifted through the blond locks. "You're growing up so fast," she said.

"Ew, mom, don't get mushy."

"Oh hush." She lightly pushed his shoulder, causing him to fall over and onto his pillow. He laughed and sprang back, hands up to play-fight. She reached out and put her hands over his fists. "Jim..."

Her somber tone made him frown. Slowly, he lowered his hands. "What is it?"

"I..." She frowned, working her mouth like whatever she was about to say caused her physical pain. "Well."

"Did I do something?"

"No." She said. She huffed out a small laugh. "Today's your dad's birthday."

He raised his brows. "Dad?"

She nodded. "Or it would have been."

He frowned.

"It's been a long year," she sighed.

"You can say that again."

"I just... Jim, I never wanted you to grow up without a father. I did, and I know how hard it can be. When I was your age, I was getting into all kinds of trouble. I don't want you to have to grow up like I did."

Jim shifted nervously; he never liked to be reminded of how Pops had abandoned his mother when she was younger. "So... what are you saying?"

"Just..." She laid back, head on the pillow, and looked up at him.

Jim sometimes realized just how beautiful his mom was. She had lines around her mouth and eyes, and her skin had lost its golden tan years and years before, but she was still a vision. Her golden hair spilled over his pillowcase like starlight, her kind, hazel eyes hinted that at one time, she'd been an explorer like him. He reached out to pet her hair, smiling a little when she laughed at him.

"I've never really talked about George, all these years." She said. "And it's because it hurts. But I feel like I've been robbing you of him. My mom never talked about Pops except to mention the low down cheater who left her, and it took years for me to patch things up with him when I grew up. But your dad…" She smiled. "George was something special."

"You want to talk about him?" Jim asked. He'd always wondered about his dad, and he'd gained a lot of information through Starfleet records, but no amount of files could really ever tell him what kind of person George really was.

"I don't want to." She said. "But I- we. We need to."

"What was he like?" Jim opened.

She let out a longing sigh, closing her eyes. "What was he like?" She echoed. "He was very smart. Just like you- always thinking about a million things at once. He liked math the most, I think, but he was a bit like you when it came to science, too- though I never saw him get excited over moss." She laughed a little.

"Maybe you never found cool moss then." Jim joked.

"Maybe. We found some cools stars, and planets. He'd come back to our quarters every night and go on and on about the day's discoveries. Most of the time, I didn't even know what he was talking about- unless it had to do with the warp core, I was pretty lost. Before I met him I thought I was the smartest person alive. And then George came along and just blew me out of the water. For once, when I talked about something engineering-wise, someone else understood. And then he would just keep going and going, until I was the one who didn't understand, and we had to circle back to things I'd studied. He was really different from other guys, you know? He never thought that I'd know less than him. Any time I stopped one of his excited rants to say I had no idea what he was talking about he always seemed so surprised, like he thought I was a genius, too."

"So he was smart."

"A little naïve, but yes, he was very smart. He was kind, too. I think that's the real reason I loved him so much. All these things I never thought about- he was just very genuine. He wanted people to be treated fairly and equally, aliens, humans, women, men, everyone. It got him into his fair amount of fights, too, but he never minded. If anything, he seemed to like getting his butt kicked."

Jim laughed. "Aw, come on! He was my dad- he must have won all his fights."

"Some." She said. "But definitely not all."

"What else?" Jim asked. "What did he like to eat? What was his favorite color? What kind of music did he listen to? How did you meet-"

"Whoa, whoa, slow down, Jim." Winona laughed. "Hmm... he liked waffles. Belgium waffles, and dipping fries in his chocolate shakes."

"Yuck."

"Yeah, yuck." She laughed again. "At least you got something from me... His favorite color was green. He liked classical music. Classical everything, really. He had those antique cars, out in the barn, and a motorcycle he used to take me out on. It was a PX-70, she had a beautiful engine, but she was a goddamn death trap, that’s for sure. He used to put me on the back of it; drove me crazy. Back when we were still kids…” She paused.

“Was that when you were on shore leave? I thought you met on the Kelvin.”

She shook her head. "No... He followed me onto the Kelvin."

Jim blinked in surprise. "What?"

"We met in the academy." She said, quietly. "He was a seated officer coming back to take diplomatic and linguistic courses. He'd already completed school, but he needed those courses to be promoted to Commander, I can't remember why. I was in my last year. We met because we shared the same diplomacy course, and we both hated it with a burning passion. I couldn't stand to be so fake-polite, and he didn't like how manipulative it was, which I thought was just hilarious. I guess we just kind of started studying together since no one else could stand our griping, and from there... we went on a couple dates, stayed up late during the nights talking about everything and nothing. And somehow I found myself falling in love."

Jim leaned into his mom's arm. Her eyes were glassy with unshed tears.

"Yeah." She reached up to rub her eyes. "He was supposed to be aboard the Defiant. They told him that he'd reach Captain in a year or two if he did. But I was assigned aboard the Kelvin, and he transferred over to be nearer to me." She grew quiet. "You  know how the rest goes. We were onboard for three years. Then..."

"He died." Jim said.

Winona nodded. "That alien ship came out of nowhere. There was a storm beforehand, in the middle of space, so we were there to investigate it. George bought us time to get away before the other, small alien ship came and destroyed the one that attacked us. A black hole opened up in the center of the storm, and just like that, everything was gone. No wreckage to search through. Nothing."

It was silent for a long while.

Winona wiped her face. She'd begun crying, and though she was quiet, and her tears came gently, her hands still trembled with the weight of her grief. Jim reached out and carefully pet her hair again.

"I grieve with thee." He said.

She laughed a little. "Yeah. I grieve with us, too." She reached up, grabbing his shoulder, and pulled him down towards her. "Come here."

He did, allowing himself to be cradled with his head on her shoulder. "Do you miss him all the time?" Jim asked. It was easier to, when she was hugging him, and when he didn't have to look at her.

"Every day." She said. "They said it would get better with time, but I still miss him like crazy."

"And the Kelvin?"

"Yeah. I miss all of it. The Kelvin, her crew, Starfleet. The whole mess."

"... I bet you wish that I-"

"Don't even finish that." She said. "I... even if I lost George, I still have you."

"But what about all that stuff that you miss? If it weren't for me-"

"I'd probably still be here. Just more sad, and alone."

Jim felt like even when they had each other, they were still alone. He didn't say anything. He twisted further into her grip, fisting his hand in the bottom of her shirt. "They want you back though, don't they? You're a good engineer."

She sighed. "Don't think too hard, Jimmy."

What else was he to do? Cradled in his mom's arm, he lay there, thinking, thinking, thinking. His mom probably didn't mean to, but she drifted off, chest rising and falling with each breath she took, shifting his view of the shadows in his room.

Eventually, he fell asleep, too.

 


 

 

Jim felt like it had been years. No- decades. Planets had died and formed in the time Spock had been gone, and Jim had been alone for all those hours, days, weeks- waiting. Just... waiting. He wondered how Spock's bullying problem was going, if he'd kicked those Vulcan's asses or if he continued to suffer in silence. Jim knew that even though Spock pretended he didn't care, the harsh taunts of his peers must have been hard to endure. Jim would know; he was nearly in the same spot. His own tormentors had learned to leave him alone, but Spock's? Vulcans were infamously relentless.

They were going too slow. The hover car was capable of several factor tens more than what they were speeding at, and Jim knew there were no police units from their location to the station, because he'd hacked into their network through the radio display in the hover car, much to his mother's displeasure.

"I don't care if we won't get caught, Jim, we're not going factor eight to the station. Calm down."

Jim said, "The sooner we get there, the sooner I'll calm down."

Winona snorted. "Oh please," she drawled. "You're gonna practically pee your pants the minute your see Spock, so don't act like getting there's going to calm you down."

Jim scowled. "I won't pee my pants."

"I said practically, didn't I?'

"I won't practically pee my pants."

"Sure you won't, Jim."

Jim opened his mouth to retort, but noticed that they were turning onto the main road. He was pretty sure that at their speed, they'd arrive at the station in four minutes fifty three seconds. He rounded that up to five minutes in his head and started a mantra, because he wasn't a dork like Spock, and if he was secretly going to chant the time it took to get them there, he was going to do it like any other kid.

Five minutes.

Five minutes and he'd get to see Spock.

Five minutes.

Winona reached over and ruffled Jim's hair, grinning. "Excited?"

"Mom!" He reached up to rearrange it into careful dishevelment, the way he liked it.

"Wanna look fancy for Amanda?" She teased. "You've got a stain on your shirt."

He looked down. "Shit."

"Hey, language."

"I don't want to look fancy." He said. "Just not stupid."

"Well I hate to burst your bubble, scout, but-"

Jim groaned. "Mom, stop, you're not funny."

"I'm pretty funny, actually." She grinned. "Hilarious, even. You just don't appreciate it."

"You're not even one to talk." Jim went on. He pointed at her shirt- the white one, that she had to put into the presser to make sure there were no winkles, and that the lines were kept. "You only wear that shirt on dates and interviews. You're the fancy one here."

She colored. "Shut it, kid."

"Who's funny now?" He stuck his tongue out at her.

"Put that tongue back in your mouth or I'm going to collect it." She said.

He did. "I'm filing for child abuse." He said. "Threatening to rip out your own son's tongue. What are you, a Klingon?"

"A Klingon wouldn't have threatened." She turned, ginning. "She would have done it."

Jim turned his eyes back to the road, mollified. Physical and mental disadvantages aside, sometimes, it paid to be human.

"Mother of the year award, here I come." Winona muttered.

Jim snorted. "Yeah right. You don't even make dinner."

"I fixed the replicator, didn't I?"

"The green beans taste like dust."

"Then stop ordering green beans."

They took another turn.

One minute and counting. He could feel that he was getting closer to Spock like it was a physical force, pulling him towards his friend- as if their souls had been tethered together. He hopped up and down in his seat, craning his neck to see around other hover crafts parked before the station. He was certain that even from a distance, he'd be able to pick out the familiar robes and shiny black hair.

He didn't need to- they were late enough that Spock's family were the only ones in the station. It was just him and Amanda again, and Jim was surprised to feel a slight stab of disappointment regarding Sarek's no-show. He'd thought he hadn't really cared for Spock's dad, and yet, his absence made Jim pause. He'd grown used to Sarek the year before, in the last few weeks of summer.

He waited until the hover was at least in a parking space before throwing the door open.

"Jim!"

Spock! He was back. Jim felt like he'd been missing a part of himself which had finally returned. With the young Vulcan just in his sights, Jim was finally at peace again.

He flew. His feet hardly touched the ground as he pushed off, step after step, running for all he was worth. He saw Spock's eyes widen as the Vulcan stiffened, widening his stance- clearly, he knew what was about to happen.

Jim slammed into him with the force of a tornado, but Spock had been ready. He wrapped his arms around Jim and lifted, spinning them both in a circle to use up Jim's momentum. Jim laughed, pressing his face into Spock's neck, and held on tight, pushing in closer when Spock set him down on his feet.

Jim drew back just around the time his mom caught up.

"Jim, how many times do I have to tell you? Wait until the hover is parked before jumping out."

He laughed. "Hi," he said to Spock.

"Hello, Jim." Spock let go and stepped back, putting a respectable slice of space between them. He lifted up his hand in the ta'al, saying, "I am grateful to see you again."

Jim laughed and saluted back. "Grateful, huh? Well, I'm pretty grateful myself." Happy, elated, beaming, grateful- take your pick. Jim felt full, his heart a swollen thing inside his chest, with all the love he couldn't quite squash down to size. It had been far too long.

Amanda’s sigh caught Jim’s attention. He turned to her and rushed over, hugging her hard. She laughed, nearly dropping her bag as she returned the embrace. She ran one of her hands over his head and then tucked his head under her chin. Jim could feel the rumble of her voice when she spoke. “We missed you terribly, James.”

“Me too.” He said. “With you guys, I mean. I missed you.”

She let him go with another small laugh. “Well, why don’t you get my bags and we’ll be going?”

He nodded and happily did as told, helping carry everything over to the car and load it up. Spock did most of the work, but he blamed that on the Vulcan’s advanced strength and not his own hyperactive tendencies.

When they finally started towards the summer home, he could hardly find room to breathe. He had to tell Spock everything that had happened in his absence, starting with the phases of the moon and ending with the progression of the Enterprise. They passed by the shipyard on the way there, but it was hard to see how much she’d changed from far away. Jim had plans to show her off to Spock later in the night, when they could sneak out together.

Somehow, he switched over to Vulcan without meaning to; it was instinct, by that point, even if he didn’t care what his mother heard. Still, he could detect the shift in Spock- when Jim started speaking Vulcan, Spock looked just the barest bit pleased. Jim soaked in the positive attention like sunshine.

When they reached the summer home, Amanda invited Winona in. Winona sat at the table and listened to Amanda as she gave them all the update on what Sarek was doing. She, Spock, and Jim all hurried about the kitchen with practiced ease, making dinner together.

Winona watched, eyes soft.

Jim noticed, but he didn’t know what it meant, and he was too happy to take the time to think it through. He stirred the pot and Spock added spices. Behind them, Amanda was rolling bread out on the counter, still talking.

“He probably won’t be around this summer, but I think next summer is his vacation time. He wanted to spend it on Vulcan at the VSA, but I put my foot down. Next year, we’ll all be here at the house, and hopefully you’ll get to see him some more. I think you’d like talking to him.”

Winona said, “Me and a Vulcan getting along. That’d be something.”

Amanda laughed. “Yes, you told me, you’re known for being loud and tactile. Don’t worry- he’s a big softy. I’ve worn him down to humans.”

Spock looked over to Jim, raising a brow. Jim so got it. He rolled his eyes.

He leaned over to Spock and whispered, “This is a load of forshak.”

Spock took the sudden turn to Klingonese easily. In the same language, he answered, “My father warmed up to you, did he not?”

“Mom’s meaner.”

Spock said, “My father will not care.”

“Mom’s angrier.”

Spock considered that. “Perhaps, then, there could be confrontation.”

Jim smirked and said, “Just think about how he’ll react when he realizes that your mom and my mom are friends. If he was bad when he saw us hanging out…”

Spock’s lips twitched, just barely.

It was as if the eight months apart had never taken place at all. They were older, maybe a little wiser, but the ebb and flow of their conversation and bodies was exactly as it always had been. Jim bumped his hip into Spock's and laughed at Spock’s raised eyebrow.

He leaned over, grinning mischievously. He switched back over to Standard and lowered his voice to the barest hint of a whisper. “I love you,” Jim said, and couldn’t help but laugh with happiness.

Spock angled his body very precisely into Jim’s. “I love you as well.” He said, and if Jim didn’t know any better, he’d have said that Spock smiled.

 


 

 

Jim stared at the bucket full of spaceships, hands on his hips, and frowned. Spock was at his desk, working on more summer work, and Jim had taken to the closet in search of fun.

He reached out, running his finger over the top of the U.S.S Excelsior. His finger came away dark with dust. Jim furrowed his brow, turning to Spock.

“Hey,” he said.

“If you wish to engage in small talk, please note that I have nearly complete my work and that the process would be expedited by your silence.”

Jim snorted. “Okay, nerd-brain. Wanna help me with something when you’re done?”

Spock turned around in the chair. “If there is something you wish to do, you will not supersede my attention until you have it. I have made my peace with ceasing my work for the time being.”

Jim laughed. “It’s not that important! It’s just…” He turned back to the tub full of ships. “I think…”

Spock quirked his head to the side. “Jim?”

“I think I’m done with these.” Jim decided. “Do you wanna help me drag ‘em out to the garage?”

Spock’s eyes widened marginally. “You are very fond of your toys, Jim.”

Jim blushed. Spock was a teenager, and surely he must have thought it was silly that Jim still had emotional attachments to toys, of all things. There was no judgement in Spock’s eyes, but Spock had put his toys all away when he was five.

“Well, you know.” He shrugged. “I gotta grow up sometime.”

Spock said, “The presence of things which you enjoy does not dictate an inability to grow out of your childhood.”

“Well, thanks.” He bent and grabbed the edge of the bin, beginning to tug. “But I haven’t played with these in ages.”

Spock stood and moved closer, looking over Jim’s shoulder. “The Enterprise is not amongst these, is she?”

Jim flushed. “N-No.”

“Good,” Spock said.

Jim felt like he could breath a little better with that line of acceptance.

There were two things of ships and men that they decided to take out to the barn- one large tub, and then a smaller bucket. Jim took the bucket, and Spock floored Jim with a show of strength when he hauled the tub out himself.

They picked an old cabinet to put the toys away in, certain they could safely stay there. Jim still loved those toys- too much to throw away or give away- and knowing they were safely tucked away if he needed them again for some reason made him feel better. They closed up the cabinet and then stood in the silence of the barn for a time.

Jim turned to the lines of old, antique cars.

“Hey.” He said. “Wanna see if we can make these run?”

Spock turned, considering the closest car. “It should not prove too harsh a challenge.”

Jim rolled his sleeves up. “I’m bored and we have nothing else pressing."

"Aside from my interupted work," Spock drawled.

Jim laughed. "You really wanna go back to that?"

"I could stand a diversion."

"Good," Jim grinned. "Let’s do it.”

 

 


 

 

Sometimes, when time was of the essence, and Jim had too much to communicate to possibly being, he’d reach out and touch his finger’s to Spock’s wrist, pushing his intention through his skin.

“You boys sure have been spending a lot of time in the barn,” Winona said. “What have you been doing out there?”

Spock opened his mouth to reply. Jim’s hand shot out and connected with Spock’s wrist, telegraphing a rush of DON’T ANSWER THAT. Spock winced, pulling away from Jim, and clamped his mouth shut. Jim reached out and tapped his wrist, sending a small, quieter, sorry for shouting. Spock nodded.

Winona tracked their movement like a hawk.

“Just playing.” Jim said. “Hanging out. It’s cool out there.”

She narrowed her eyes. “You’re not building anything, are you?”

“Negative.” Spock said.

Winona zeroed in on Spock. She knew that Vulcans didn’t lie. She said, “So what does ‘hanging out’ consist of, Spock?”

Spock reached out and touched Jim’s wrist. Jim got a gentle impression- like a thought he hadn’t really had. It was an odd sensation, and the message wasn’t really composed of words or picture, but Jim got the gist of it regardless. Spock would not lie, and if Jim didn’t swoop in to his rescue, they were due to be discovered.

Jim said, “We’ve been sorting through all the old parts and stuff in the barn.”

Winona didn’t move her eyes from Spock.

“That is true,” Spock said. “There is much to be cleaned.”

Winona said, “Oh, yeah? Why’re you guys cleaning? Takes an act of God for Jim to sweep.”

Jim settled his hand on Spock’s wrist again. We’re cleaning because I said I wanted to turn the barn into our hang out space. There, it’s true, I just told you it. Not a lie.

Spock said, “We are cleaning because Jim expressed a wish to turn the barn into a recreational area for both himself and I.”

Winona seemed suspicious. Her eyes drifted to where Jim was letting go of Spock’s wrist. “Kinda clingy today, Jim?”

He shrugged.

She narrowed her eyes further.

“What?” He defended.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” she said. “But something is going on.”

“That’s kinda how the world works mom.”

“You say that like I don’t realize your sass is a defense mechanism.” She said.

Shit.

“Yeah, you may be George’s clone, but you get your tells from me, kiddo.”

Spock said, “If it is acceptable, I believe Jim and I would appreciate returning to our work.” He started towards the screen door on the side of the kitchen, steering around Winona. She’d been making herself lunch, but the sandwich sat abandoned on the edge of the counter.

Jim reached up and grabbed it.

Winona said, “You know, Jim, the thing about secrets it that they only stay secrets for so long.”

“Maybe for people who can’t shut up.” Jim said. “But I aced the ‘shut up’ classes at every school I’ve ever gone to, so…”

She snorted. “You aced shut up class? Jim. You’d flunk out. You can’t keep your mouth shut for two damn seconds.”

“I resent-“

“See? Mouthing off. I should have named you James M. Kirk. M for Mouth.”

“Har-har-har. You’re hilarious.”

Spock poked his head back inside. “Jim.”

“Coming,” he said. He turned back to his mother. “To be continued.”

“Gladly, Jimbo.”

Jim turned and ran outside. The screen door slammed behind him.

His mom yelled, “For the love of-“

Jim was running too fast to get whatever came after that. He laughed, looking back at Spock, who was blinking at him from the porch. “Come on!”

Spock ran like an athlete. He easily overtook Jim in a manner of seconds.

 


 

 

The 1965 Chevy Corvette- the Sting Ray C2 model- ran.

“Mom’s gonna flip,” Jim breathed.

Spock said, “It is highly unlikely she will preform such acrobatics.”

“She’s gonna flip.” Jim said again. “… If she finds out.”

They stared at the running car.

“My dad was cool.” Jim decided. “He had cool things. You know how much this thing is worth?”

“Approximately-“

Jim laughed. “Of course you do. Emotionally, though? This thing is priceless.”

They stared some more.

“Mom’s gonna flip.” Jim reaffirmed.

Spock did not argue the topic further.

 


 

 

Jim was guilty of thinking that people just weren’t as smart as him. That was because, nine times out of ten, they just weren’t as smart as him. It was a mistake, however, to assume his mom wasn’t just as sharp as he was.

“What’s that thing you and Spock keep doing?”

Of course she’d notice. Of course.

“You know.” She said. She spooned some more spaghetti o’s into her mouth, licking at the tomato juice running over the swell of her bottom lip. “When you touch each other’s wrists? It’s weird. What is it?”

He said, “You know. A Vulcan thing.”

“Vulcans don’t do touch.”

“A half-Vulcan thing.”

She raised her brows. “Oh, yes, a half-Vulcan thing. Of course, how could I have been so daft?”

“Just like a thing.” He shrugged. “You know, with the telepathy. Like a little mental nod-“

“Wait, what?” She cut in. “Telepathy?”

He bit his lip.

“Oh my Lord, I forgot.” She leaned back in her chair, eyes wide with the realization. “It completely slipped my mind. Vulcans are touch-telepaths, aren’t they? Spock can do that?”

And more, he wanted to say. Spock was an unusually strong telepath- Jim suspected that if Spock tried, he wouldn’t even need touch to reach someone’s mind, if they were close enough. He had a feeling that little tad-bit of information wouldn’t go over well with his mother, though. He shrugged his shoulder. “Yeah, kinda.”

“And you let him?”

“Yeah.” Jim shrugged again. “Why wouldn’t I?”

“I don’t know. You don’t trust anyone.”

“I trust Spock.”

“Enough to let him read your mind?”

Jim huffed. “He’s not reading my mind. He’s just getting surface thoughts. It’s not like he’s gonna go poking around my head.”

“How do you know that?”

“I can feel him in my mind.” Jim said. “And besides, even if I couldn’t, Spock wouldn’t do that. That’s the point of trust. You trust them.”

She made a face.

“What?”

“It’s just… it’s a little creepy.”

Jim threw his hands up. “Creepy? It’s natural to them.”

“Maybe them, but not us.” She shuddered. “How natural can it be if they go out of their way not to touch because of it?”

“They’re a private people.” Jim muttered.

“Never thought you’d be more culturally sensitive than me.” She snorted.

He frowned. “It’s not- it’s not funny! You’re being stupid.”

Her brows raised up again. “Excuse me?”

“Narrowing down something so special and important in their culture to creepy is. It’s gross!” He crossed his arms. “It’s not like. About being culturally sensitive or whatever. It’s about not being a jerk.”

“I never claimed to be nice.” She turned back to her bowl. “Eat your dinner.”

He could sense that if he were to continue their current vein of conversation and ignore her diversion tactic, there would be trouble. He couldn’t stop himself, so he tried to go about it carefully.

“And it’s not like in old earth movies. Telepathy doesn’t work like that- like you think it does.”

She rolled her eyes. “Jim! Let it go.”

“But you’re being-“ he paused. “Weird.”

“Weird? You let your best friend read your mind, and I’m the weird one?”

“You’re being xenophobic.”

“Vulcans can do whatever they want. I like Vulcans. I don’t care, Jim, I just think mind-reading is a little creepy, and those are the facts. Would you let Sarek read your mind?”

“No.” Jim said. “But-“

“Exactly.”

“But he wouldn’t in the first place!”

“Unless you accidentally touched him.”

“That’s why touch is kinda taboo for Vulcans.” Jim explained. “They can shield from thought, and they do, they have to, but it’s rude to just go throwing your thoughts at them like that.”

“Sure.”

“I mean, even when I do it with Spock sometimes he doesn’t like. He says its like I’m shouting in his ear.” He scowled down at his own spaghetti o’s. They’d grown cold and mushy. “So. yeah.”

Winona rolled her eyes. “Jim,” she said. “I don’t care.”

“Well you should.” He huffed. He looked at the clock. “I’ve got to go.”

“You’ve gotta ask.”

“Okay, fine.” He stared her down. “Mom. Can I please take the Hali to go see Spock for a sleepover?”

“Now you’re just giving me attitude.”

He threw his hands up again. “What do you want from me? I asked!”

“Fine. Go.” She stood, her spoon clattering loudly in her bowl.

Jim stood too, walking after her as she started towards the living room. “But you’re mad now-“

She turned around so fast he almost slammed into her. She put her hands on her hips. “Since when do you care about how I feel? Just go.”

“You’re trying to make me feel guilty.” Jim said. “It’s not going to work.”

“Fine. Then go.”

Jim narrowed his eyes. “If I leave, you’re going to find something stupid to punish me for later.”

She threw her hands up. “Jim! I’m not insane! Just go, have fun, be with Spock.”

“Fine, I will.” He turned around smartly and marched towards the porch door. When his hand touched the handle, he huffed out a loud breath. “I’m leaving!” He yelled.

“Then go!” His mom yelled.

“Goodbye!”

She screamed, “Well have fun!”

He yelled, “I will!”

“Good!”

“Fine!” He threw the screen door open and stepped out into the night. It slammed closed behind him.

“Jim!”

He ignored Winona and stomped out across the lawn towards the hover bike. He grabbed his helmet off the back of it and wrestled it over his head, muttering the entire way.

He’d go to the summerhouse and steal Spock away for a night beneath the end of the Enterprise, so that when they put their heads back they could still see the stars, even while remaining in her shadow.

He wouldn’t be stuck in Iowa forever.

 


 

 

They’d never gone to the fair before. Not with together, anyway; Jim had gone every year as a child, but he and his mother had grown tired of the same thing, year after year.

Jim half-hoped it would have changed in the years past, but he knew that realistically, it was probably nearly the same. He could barely remember what it had been like beyond the sticky rides and farm animals. He vaguely recalled balloons shaped like the Starfleet emblem.

The lights were beautiful. A thousand glimmering stars, captured inside little glass capsules, twinkling on and off in the darkness. There wasn’t a surface not dusted with the fine, brown Iowa dirt, and not a handrail without the impression of small, greasy hands.

It was amazing.

“Come on, this way!” Jim grabbed Spock’s sweater sleeve and dragged him over to a food stand. The alien at the window blinked eight eyes down at them, their translator roughly asking for their order.

Jim looked everything over. Spock’s mom had told them no chocolate- it was bad for Vulcans or something- but they otherwise had free reign. Jim was half-tempted to goad Spock into trying meat, but he’d decided it would be indecent.

“Cotton candy.” Jim decided.

“Pink or blue?” The alien asked.

“Pink.” Jim said. And then, “Wait, no, blue.”

“Which is it?”

Jim bit his lip. “Is there a difference in the flavor?”

“Starberry or blorana.”

“Starberry.” Jim said. “Please.”

They waited a few seconds for the alien to return to the window. It offered out the cloud of pink cotton candy with a scaled arm. Jim eagerly accepted their treat, paid, and then the two of them made off into the night.

Jim plucked piece a piece of cotton candy off of the stick in his hand, popping it in his mouth. It melted instantly. He grinned, enjoying the flavor, and offered the stick out to Spock.

Spock narrowed his eyes at the cloud.

“What?”

“Eating with your hands is unsanitary.” Spock said. “Especially in an environment such as this, where there are no opportunities for hand washing prior to eating.”

Jim laughed. “Just use your mouth then. Bite right off.”

Spock looked similarly displeased by such an option, but seemed to think it was a better alternative than eating with his hands. He leaned forward, eyes closed, and bit off a piece. He drew away, small bits of sugar melting on his lips. He licked them, swallowed, and opened his eyes.

“Well?”

“It is… very sweet.” Spock said.

“Is that good or bad?”

“It is nearly overwhelming.” Spock said. “However, I find that despite the unpleasant sweetness, I desire another bite.”

Jim laughed, holding the stick out closer to Spock’s face. “Dig in there, Mr. Spock.”

“Oh my god-“ a new voice joined. “Is that Kirk?”

Jim turned, frowning. He recognized that voice. “Oh.” He said. “Hey, Pastures.”

Billy Pastures was a jerk. A class A, monumental, horrible, jerk. He’d been in Jim’s class while he still went to school in Riverside, and Jim had hated every interaction they’d had. He’d gotten into a couple fights with Pastures, too, though it was back before he really knew how to fight. Back then, it had mostly been them throwing their fists around uselessly.

Jim kind of missed those days.

“Holy shit,” said Pastures. “You weren’t fucking with us.”

Jim looked up over his shoulder at Spock. A couple of times, when he’d been accused of being a friendless freak, he’d brought up his Vulcan friend- planets and planets away. No one had ever believed him.

“Yeah,” Jim said. He felt awkward. “This is my best friend. Spock.” It felt good to be able to say my best friend, even if he was saying it to a jerk like Billy.

“What are you, boyfriends?” Billy sneered. He had his silent, dirty blond friend with him, like usual. Jim had never learned the friend’s name- he could talk, but he didn’t do it much, preferring to hang by Billy’s side and hang on for the ride. He’d shoved Jim over a couple of times, and he smiled like he had just done something nasty and was proud of it.

“We are, indeed, both male, as well as friends.” Spock said. “However, if you are insinuating that we are engaged in a romantic relationship, I must inform you that the both of us are too young to partake in any type relationship that extends past a platonic nature.”

“Oh my god, you are together.” Billy laughed. “This is too good. Kirk, you smooth little fucker-“

“Shut the hell up.” Jim snapped. He handed his cotton candy back to Spock. “What’s your deal? Did you seriously come here to make fun of me? Go play a game or something.”

“No way. This little love fest is way too interesting.”

Jim rolled his eyes. “Pastures, all your issues come from being neglected by your parents when you were a kid because they were too invested in your little sister. Abandonment isn’t anything to joke about, and I’m not like, making fun of you. I’m just saying that being a fucking jerk to me isn’t going to make you feel better about yourself. So scram. Go ride the rollercoaster or something, it’ll be fun.”

Billy’s face had screwed up in anger when Jim had begun talking. “You shut your mouth,” he barked. “You don’t know nothing about me or my-“

Jim turned to Spock. “Let’s go.”

“Hey! Don’t you walk away from me, Kirk!”

Jim said, “Bye.”

Billy reached down, picked a rock up out of the dust, and threw it. It hit Spock’s shoulder. Spock paused, looking down at the ground to ascertain what had hit him, and then started walking again, but Kirk stood rooted to the spot.

Spock turned, realizing that Jim wasn’t following him. “Jim?”

Jim’s hands curled into fists.

“What?” Billy called, grinning. “Mad that I hit your boyfriend, Kirk?”

Jim turned around. He said, “You can either apologize to Spock, or I can kick your ass for being a disrespectful moron. Your choice.”

“You calling me stupid, Kirk?”

“We’re passed that point.” Jim ground out. It was one thing for Billy to be a jerk to him, but to Spock? “You’ve got five seconds.”

“I ain’t apologizing to anyone, shithead.” Billy nodded at his friend. “Knock him on his ass. See if he cries.”

Jim waited patiently for the blond to come towards him. Jim was smaller, but he was also everything that Billy’s friend wasn’t.

“Jim,” Spock said, tone urgent.

“I got this.” Jim said. “Just hold the cotton candy for me, would you?”

“… As you wish.” Spock said.

Jim only had to wait one second longer. The boy swung at him, but he ducked, shooting up on the draw-back with an upper-cut to the guy’s face. He reared back, grunting, and Jim turned with a roundhouse kick, catching the boy in the side of the head. He went down, hard.

Jim stared for a second.

Had he knocked the guy out?

He kicked the boy’s leg a little, and he didn’t stir.

“Whoops.” Jim muttered.

“You son of a bitch!” Billy lurched forward, and catching Jim off guard, knocked him back into a picnic table. Jim gasped in surprise and pain as wood ground into his back, knowing there would be a bruise later.

 “Jim!”

“I got this Spock!” He launched back to his feet and swung, catching Billy in the side of the head. Jim had learned how to fight over the years, but he was unfortunately not the only one. Billy could take a punch.

Jim ducked, but not fast enough- Billy’s punch caught him in the temple. It glanced off of him, but the pain was still intense for a single second. Jim shook it off and threw himself at Billy, screaming.

He grabbed the boy by the collar and threw him back into the table. Billy kicked him in the stomach, and Jim rolled backwards, springing up and forward to shove Billy back into the end of the table before the other boy could move. He drove his fist into Billy’s stomach. Billy doubled over, wheezing, and Jim grabbed his collar, pulling him back up, and then punched him in the face. Once, and then twice- on the second punch, there was an audible crack, and then Billy’s nose was crooked and streaming blood.

Billy screamed.

His older brother was there, suddenly- Adam Pastures, if Jim remembered correctly. He was even taller than Spock, somewhere around sixteen. His eyes went wide when he saw Billy and Jim.

“Kirk!” He yelled. “What the fuck are you doing to my little brother?”

Jim dropped Billy on the ground, holding his hands up. “Hey, he started it, I-“ he wheezed when Adam threw a punch. He knew instantly he had a black eye. He fumbled back into the same table that he’d been holding Billy to. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Spock move.

“Stay outta it!” He yelled. Last thing he needed was Spock getting hurt because of him. He kicked Adam in the knee and dove around him. Clasping his hands together, he swung them down over Adam’s shoulder blades, forcing the older boy down into the dirt.

Adam turned onto his back in a scramble, kicking out at Jim. Jim caught his leg and tugged, pulling Adam closer, and then leapt onto him. Straddling the other boy’s chest, Jim drew his fist back and landed it in Adam’s face- they’d have matching black eyes. Fair was fair.

Adam yelled, “Hey! Hey!” He looked frantically over to the slip between vendor trucks he’d come through. “Guys!”

Jim felt his stomach sink. There were more of them? He needed to put Adam out of commission, like he had Billy and the other boy. He started throwing quick, fast punched, blooding Adam’s lip and bruising his face until the other boy was laying limp in the dirt, groaning.

Jim whirled just as two of Adam’s friends came from the void.

“Fuck off!” Jim snarled.

“You fuckin’ with our boy?” Said one of them.

The other said, “You picked the wrong fucking clique.”

Jim thought they were morons.

The first boy did have a good fist, though, and it made short work of Jim’s mouth. Jim felt his lip split. He pinwheeled his arms, stumbling back, and then leaned over to spit blood onto Billy’s shirt.

He grinned.

The other two boys were easy enough to take on. Jim caught his fair share of blows, but he was smaller and faster, and he ducked the majority of their attacks. There was a sort of satisfaction in the way his hands could destroy- a power that he didn’t so much love as he appreciated. He was dimly aware of Spock in the background as he limped over to the last boy, kicking him hard in the stomach. When they were all done, he swayed over to Spock, still just barely standing, and reached one bloody hand out to pick some candy floss from what was left on their stick.

He popped it in his mouth, chewing around his huge smile.

Spock said, “I could have saved you the majority of your injuries.”

Jim shrugged. “It happens.” He reached out for another bite of cotton candy.

“Does this happen often?”

“Well-“

“Freeze.”

Jim turned, resting the urge to sigh. There were two police officers- not security, he knew the difference- standing in the clearing between picnic tables that housed four badly beaten boys.

“Self defense,” Jim drawled. “Let it lie, will you?”

It turned out to be the wrong thing to say.

 


 

 

Winona was furious.

Jim didn’t blame her. She had every right to be mad- who wants to get a call from the local police station because their eleven year old son had been hauled in on five charges of assault?

They’d sorted it all out. Jim had angled his way through with the memory of the first stone thrown- the one that had hit Spock in the shoulder. He hadn’t started anything; only ended it. That was what counted, and so by the time Winona arrived, she just had to sign some paperwork and take him home.

That didn’t mean she wasn’t furious.

“Spocks mom wasn’t pissed.” Jim muttered.

“Spock didn’t beat anyone up.” Winona snapped.

Jim said, “Sorry.”

“Don’t give me that shit, Jim. You’re not sorry.”

“Not even a little.” He agreed.

“Shut up. You- you. I don’t even know what to do with you.”

“Tell me good job and send me off to bed? It’s late.”

Winona turned just enough to give him the evil eye.

Jim swallowed.

She might have been a little angrier than he’d anticipated. If he’d thought she’d be as angry as she was, he wouldn’t have sassed- he’d have faked his regret and begged for forgiveness from the beginning.

“I swear anytime I think maybe it’s starting to get easier…”

“I am sorry.” Jim said. When she whipped her head around to yell, he hurried out, “I’m sorry that I caused trouble for you.”

“That’s the problem.” She growled. She turned into the driveway. “You’re never sorry that you did something wrong.” Because I didn’t do anything wrong, Jim thought. Winona continued without pause. “You’re sorry you got caught. You’re sorry that I’m mad. It’s only the consequence that ever gets through to you.”

“Well if I did something wrong-“

“IF?” She yelled. “If!?”

“You know that I only ever get into these fights because I’m not a jerk, right? If I stooped to their level and started bullying kids who can’t stand up for themselves, none of this would ever happen. They hate me because I’m smart, and strong, and better than they are at these things, and I’m good. If I was an ass, and just the best at being that, they wouldn’t start any of this shit. They’d love me. It’s because I’m never gonna make an innocent person feel like shit.”

She was silent. They’d reached the house, so Winona put the hover into park. For a minute, she just tapped her fingers on the dash, and then she turned around. “Go.”

“Where?”

“To your room.”

Jim shrugged and slipped out of the car, starting into the house. Winona slammed her door behind him, and then was at his heels. He held the door open for her, not wanting to push his luck. She threw her purse on the kitchen counter and went straight to the fridge, yanking it open and snatching a bottle of bear from the door.

That was never a good sign.

“I let it slide with the school.” She started.

“I thought I was supposed to go to-“

“Zip it.” She snapped. “I let it slide with the school. It wasn’t all your fault. You were just trying to keep hold on your work. I get that. But when you start getting the fucking law involved, Jim- damn it. Damn it, this isn’t even the first time anymore! The sheriff knows who you are. You know what he told me? They’re keeping an eye on us because they’re scared of what you’ll do. Smart kid with no control, it doesn’t make for good odds.”

“I’m not out of control.”

“Oh? Oh yeah? If I had any control over you I wouldn’t have had to pick you up from the goddamn police station.” She slammed back her beer, taking a long, frenzied drink of it.

“What would you have had me do? Let them throw rocks at us? Would it have been better if I let them beat me up? What about Spock? What happened when they turned to him?”

“You think it’s you against the world!” She cried. “You had your comm on you the entire time. You could have called me. You could have called Amanda. Hell- you could have called the police, I don’t care, but you do not get to take this crap into your own hands!”

“I’m the only person I can trust!” He yelled.

“You trust Spock.”

“And that’s why I had to fight for him.”

Winona narrowed her eyes. “You could have called me.”

The silent I don’t trust you hung in the air between them; heavy and choking. Jim looked at the ground, mouth twisted into a bitter frown.

“It’s like if I’m not actively grounding you, you don’t get it.” She went on. “I swear to God, Jim, if you’re not fucking locked up in your room you’re causing trouble. Is it too much to ask for you to at least respect my rules?”

“What rules?!”

“Staying out of jail for starters!”

He scoffed.

“I don’t know how to get through to you! You can’t just- I’m not a fucking safety sticker you can just rip off. You have to listen to me. I’m in charge of you, Jim, and when you go and do this shit it’s like you think I’m just the lady that pays for your food and room. I’m your mother!”

“Maybe if you were ever here-“

She snapped her head around. “Excuse me?”

He crossed his arms. “You heard me.”

“Oh so this is my fault? I’m the bad guy?” She laughed, throwing her hair over her shoulder. “No matter what I do you think you can just do whatever you damn well please.” She shook her head. “Do I have to be a total bitch to get you to respect me? Do I have to treat you like a criminal? Huh? What do I have to do?”

He glared at her.

“Nothing’s going to make you respect me. Huh?” She ran a hand through her hair.

Jim said, “Can I go to my room now?”

“I don’t know. Has my yelling been enough to make you think you’re not gonna do this shit next time?” When he didn’t say anything she shook her head again. “Unbelievable.”

He shrugged.

She stared at him for a good, long while. “I’m not taking Spock away.” She said. “Amanda says that’s not fair to him. But I’ve gotta do something to get it through your head that this kind of crap doesn’t go unpunished. You can’t just do whatever the hell you want.”

He looked down at his feet.

Winona said. “Oh.” It wasn’t a good sound- it was the unhappy, bitter birth of an ugly epiphany. Jim’s head whipped up. Fear gripped his heart.

I must not fear, he reminded himself. Fear is the mind-killer.

Winona turned and started out of the kitchen, leaving her beer on the counter.

“Mom?” Jim hurried after her.

Winona took the stares like they were an enemy to be conquered, face sternly arrested into blankness. Jim felt his heart speed up as she started for his room, swinging the door open determinedly.

“What are you doing?”

She marched over to his bed and ripped the covers off. There was the Enterprise- laying prone in the sheets. Jim gasped before he could stop himself, fumbling forward as his mom reached out and grabbed the ship.

“Wait,” he pleaded. “Wait, please, hold on-“

“Is this what I have to do?” She turned around, looking sick. “Do I have to take away everything you love? Jim, I don’t want to do this sort of thing, but it’s all I have left. You haven’t given me a choice.”

“You always have a choice.” He said. “Mom, you don’t have to do this. It was one fight-“

“But it wasn’t.” She said. “This isn’t the first time. But it could be the last.”

He clenched his teeth shut. It wouldn’t be the last.

She read his face like an open book and sighed. “Alright. This is the way it’s got to be then.”

He felt himself start to sweat. “Not the Enterprise, Mom. Take the Hali away. Ground me, give me extra chores, anything but. Anything but her mom. Please.” His voice sounded funny- he heard the desperation in it, and that was alien to him. “You know I love her mom. Please…”

She furrowed her brows. “Alright. I won’t.”

He sagged in relief.

“On one condition.”

He looked up.

“Promise me, Jim. No more fights. No more trouble.”

“I-“ his voice cracked and he cleared his throat. “But.”

She sighed. “You can’t even promise me that?”

“I was doing what was right.”

“You were doing what you wanted.” She said. Her voice was small. “Goodnight, Jim.” She stepped around him, towards the door.

“Mom. Mom, wait. Wait, please, please!” He bolted after her. “What are you going to do?”

She didn’t say anything. She started downstairs again.

“Mom?” His voice was high with panic.

She started into the kitchen.

“I’ll promise!” He blurted. “I promise! No more fights!”

She whirled on him. “You’re lying.”

“Give it back!” He jumped, making a grab for the Enterprise, but his mom held it up out of his reach. “This isn’t funny. Mom, she’s mine! She’s mine! Give her back!”

She turned back around and started into the kitchen.

“Mom!” He grabbed her arm, pulling. She stumbled before yanking out of his grip. “Stop it! Give her back!”

She made it to the counter and reached for a handle on the counter. The recycler.

Jim felt like he was going to throw up. “NO! No! Please, mom, please! Please!”

She dropped it in.

Jim couldn’t believe it. Gone. Just like that- the blackhole in space that had devoured his father and the Kelvin, it was right there in their kitchen, eating his heart alive. He was dimly aware of himself screaming at his mother- “I hate you!” He meant it, in the moment. He was crying.

“I’m sorry, Jim.” Winona said, and she did sound sorry, like she thought it was the only way. Jim knew she was wrong. There were plenty of other ways.

He numbly turned to the door.

“Jim-“

He ran.

 


 

 

Spock found him.

Of course Spock found him. It wasn’t as though Jim had actually thought to hide- and especially not from Spock. He'd holed himself up in the empty elevator that they’d been using to send materials up to the broadside shaft of the saucer of the Enterprise. They’d completed current construction on it for the time being a few weeks past, so Jim knew that no one would happen upon him by accident.

Spock settled into the dark next to him, a warm presence in a soft sweater. Jim leaned his head against Spock’s shoulder, a sigh shuddering through his body.

“I grieve with thee.” Spock said.

Jim wiped his face off. “It’s not like she was a person or anything. Just a toy.”

“This does not diminish the attachment you had. The Enterprise was very important to you. I understand how emotional her destruction must be to you, and for that, I grieve.”

Jim shuffled a little closer to Spock. “Thanks,” he whispered.

They were silent for a time.

“You cannot stay here forever,” Spock eventually said.

“I know.” Jim said. “I mean, I could. If I wanted to.”

“Negative. Eventually, the construction of the Enterprise will be completed, and the ship will leave Riverside. Once this happens, the elevator shaft we currently reside in will be disassembled and you will be removed from the shipyard.”

“It’s my dad’s shipyard.” Jim said. “They can’t kick me out.”

“By the time the Enterprise were to leave Riverside, you would have aged considerably, and due to your being missing for so long, likely declared dead. I do not think your claiming this ship yard as your father’s would be taken as fact.”

Jim laughed. It echoed through the elevator, up, and up, and up, until it was gone. It grew quiet again, but Jim didn’t mind. It felt safe, being silent with Spock, like nothing was or could be wrong while they were there together, existing without words.

“You are filthy.” Spock said. “I assume you are hungry as well.”

“A little.”

“You have been amiss for a day.” Spock said. “You must be very hungry.”

“Maybe.”

Spock produced a granola bar from his pocket, passing it over to Jim. “My mother is very concerned for you.”

Jim ripped the package open, shoving the bar into his mouth. “Thanks.”

“You are welcome.” He watched Jim eat. “Will you return with me?”

“No way.” Jim said. “She’ll be waiting.”

“Your mother is very concerned for your wellbeing.”

“Yeah right.” He tucked the wrapper from the snack bar into his pocket. “If she cared about my wellbeing or whatever she wouldn’t have destroyed the Enterprise. You know what it was.” He changed his voice into what he thought was a close imitation of Paul’s, from Dune. “He who can destroy a thing, controls a thing.”

“She wished to show you that your actions carry permanent consequence- sometimes ones which are very damaging. I do not believe she intended to hurt you to this degree.” Spock pause. “However, I do believe that what she has done is deplorable.”

“Unforgivable.” Jim corrected him.

“She is your mother.” Spock said. “It would not be in your nature not to forgive her.”

“She’d deserve it.”

“While you may not think so, I believe she is trying her best.”

“It’s not good enough.”

“It is all that you have.” Spock reminded him.

“Not all.” Jim said. “I have you. And Amanda.”

“My mother and I are not your parents.” Spock said.

“Well duh. I actually like you.”

Spock said, “You are angry. You love your mother very much.”

Jim shrugged.

“Soon it will grow late, and the shadows will prove too cold for me.” Spock said. “I have not fully learned to regulate my body temperature, and I will have to depart.”

“I’ll come back,” Jim muttered. “But I’m not going back to the house.”

“I do not believe your mother will allow you to stay with us. You are likely to be ‘in trouble’ once more, as you have run away. I have been lead to believe this is against the rules your mother has implemented in your life.”

“Yeah.”

“Therefor-“

“She’ll throw a huge bitch fit.” Jim deduced.

“She may.”

“I’ll come back on the condition that I get to stay with you.”

Spock said, “Your mother believed you may have conditions to your return. She told me to inform you of her refusal to, I quote, ‘negotiate with terrorists.’ While I have recognized that you are not, in fact, a terrorist, I believe her statement to be a sort of idiom.”

“Yeah…” he sighed. “This is bad.”

“It it certainly not good.”

“Like really bad.” Jim groaned. “What am I going to do?”

“You will do what you have always done. You will survive.”

“Do you think I’m being dramatic and stupid?”

“I do not.” Spock said. “What has happened to you is devastating.”

“You wouldn’t have let it get to you. But then, you wouldn't have gotten in trouble to begin with.”

“That is incorrect, Jim. I have been in trouble many times.”

Jim turned to him. “You have?”

“Indeed.” Spock said. “From both my father and mother.”

“Amanda yelled at you?” Jim gasped.

“Being in trouble does not equate shouting.”

“Of course,” Jim sighed. “Amanda would never yell.”

“You are incorrect yet again, Jim,” said Spock. “My mother raises her voice nearly monthly at my father. She also yells when she is overly excited or happy.”

“But she wouldn’t yell at you.”

Spock considered that. “I do not believe she would yell at any child in anger. She has yelled for me when we are separated by distance, as well as when she is excited and incapable of controlling her volume.”

“Exactly. Amanda’s really nice.” He frowned. “I wish I could live with you. Amanda is always standing up for us, even when other adults tell her its our fault. Like with the school. Mom always takes the teacher’s side. But Amanda even fought the principal for me.”

“My mother had ample time to prepare for motherhood, and the presumed circumstances of her established role in caring for me were never shifted. Your mother did not have time to prepare for the reality of your situation, and as such, I believe she finds it difficult to parent you to the preconceived standards she created for herself.”

“As if she’d ever admit to it being her fault and not mine.”

“She likely did not plan on your incredible intelligence and abilities. This make it harder for her to understand how she wishes to raise you as well, likely believing that for the most part, you are capable of handling yourself while she must only act as a sort of preservation and braking mechanism.”

“She’s my brakes and airbags, huh?”

“I do not know what an airbag is.”

“Old-earth car stuff. If we ever crash the Corvette you’ll see.”

“I am reluctant to allow you to drive, suddenly.”

Jim laughed again. “You always know how to make me feel better.”

Spock leaned his head against Jim’s. “Are you ready to return home?”

Jim sighed. “Yeah. I guess so.”

“You may drive the Hali back, as I have brought the bike as well as our helmets.”

A small victory before his driving privileges were revoked due to his running away, he was certain, but a victory nonetheless. He smiled. “Okay. Sounds good.”

Spock stood. “Shall we?”

Wind in his face, Spock’s arms around his middle, Jim raced through the night towards the summer home, thinking to himself that this- flying through the darkness with Spock just behind him- was what he was meant for.

 


 

 

Jim looked up over his shoulder, checking for any signs of his mother. He’d been doing so periodically, searching the darkness for her form, but her bedroom door hadn’t creaked open. Jim turned back to the recycler panel, the glow the only light in the dark, and rubbed his tired eyes.

He had one more line of code to go through before he had all the pieces of the Enterprise. He’d then redirect them back through the replicator. It would be exactly as it had been put through- like it had been transported, and not destroyed.

The green screen turned blue. Jim grinned, face lighting up. He turned to the replicator just as it quietly pinged. He put the control panel back as it had been, and then slipped over to the replicator.

There she was, dish chipped on the side from where he’d accidentally rammed her into his doorframe once before. He picked her up, heart softening as he ran his fingers over the hull. She was even dotted with the grease his chicken-tender fingers had left behind the last time he’d played with her.

Silently, Jim clamored back up the stairs and into his room, where he held the Enterprise up to the night sky and softly sailed her through the stars. He’d hide her back in the vent when morning came, so that his mom would never know he’d put her back together, but for the moment…

“This is James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise,” he whispered. “We’re responding to your distress call- please respond.”

The Enterprise sailed carefully onwards, and Jim was at peace once more.

 


 

 

 

Jim hefted Spock’s bags up onto the train, wiping his hands off on his jeans. It was about a billion degrees out, and his palms were sweating. It was so hot, in fact, that Spock was only wearing a long-sleeve shirt; no jacket or sweater on top.

Jim sighed.

“Are you sure it’s been three months?” He asked.

Spock said, “You know as well as I.”

“It didn’t feel like three months.”

“You perception of time is imperfect.”

Jim looked over his shoulder to where his mom was waiting for him by the hover. She was on the comm with someone- probably Starfleet. She’d seemed eager to get off planet as of late, and Jim couldn’t really blame her. Pops was probably dreading it.

“See you next summer?” Jim already knew the answer.

Spock nodded.

Jim held out his hand. Their skin connected and Jim was flushed with a sense of friendship, and longing- Spock didn’t want to leave him behind. Jim tugged them closer, so that their shoulders bumped. As he drew back his shoulder to place his free hand over his bicep, he nearly skimmed Spock’s fingers. He could feel the heat of them as he passed.

“Gik’tal.” They chorused.

“It’s a promise,” Jim hurried. “You’ll always come back.”

“And you shall always be here waiting for me.”

Jim smiled. “’Til the death.”

Spock nodded solemnly, stepping back onto the train, likely to find his mother, who’d gone to procure their seats. “’Til the death.”

Moments later, the train doors closed, and the speakers politely instructed those not aboard the train to step back. Jim did, watching the force fields go up, and waited in his spot until the train began its departure.

He walked back over to his mom once the train was out of sight.

“Let’s go,” he said.

“Gladly.”

Chapter Text

The strain between Jim and Winona had become enormous. She was gone for two months, back for one, gone for three, back for one month, gone for two months, back for summer.

In those two months that she’d been around, Jim had been busy with school- he was taking his first year of high school in Riverside, at Highland High school- which is a stupid name, he thought- taking as many college courses as he could get. His personal favorite was the Strategy and Tactics class, because while it was easy, it was fun. Most of the other classes were just easy, full-stop. Easy full-stop meant boredom, and boredom meant trouble.

By the time Winona returned from her first two months off-planet, Jim had rearranged the entire barn. He’d been mostly lying when he’d said he and Spock were cleaning it so that he could hang out in there, but the boredom had taken over and made the farce a truth. He’d made the barn into his own little tech garage, full of wonderful sparkling antique cars, his work bench, a desk with a giant home-made computer, and the Hali. She’d been impressed, if not nervous, because, and he quoted, “It looks like you’re planning planetary-takeover in here.”

Jim had thought about it, and there was just no way you could take over an entire planet without someone getting hurt, never mind killed, so he’d put that particular fantasy to bed. It wasn’t like he wanted to rule anything or anyone, anyway, but it would have been a true challenge. He wanted to know what it felt like to get his ass handed to him by someone (or someones, he wasn’t picky) smarter than him.

His mom gave him the updates on her job. Jim gave her the updates on his school. They both avoided each other around the house and Jim cursed in Vulcan when he could because he knew it annoyed her.

Worst of all, though, his mom went on dates.

Dates. As in plural. As in more than one date.

His mom was no stranger to dates. He’d sent her off on her way to plenty of them. But they were always with different men, and she always came back early, moaning about how Jim was going to be the only man in her life until the day she died. Those speeches had come to a grinding, shrieking halt, all on account of one man. 

Frank. Fucking Frank.

There wasn’t really anything wrong with Frank except that he was dating Jim’s mom. He was a pretty nice guy, and he was funny sometimes, and he wasn’t lazy or stupid. He wasn’t smart, but he wasn’t stupid. And he seemed to really like Winona. Whenever Winona brought him around the house he even seemed to tolerate Jim.

Jim did not like him.

Not one bit.

Which was why, when Winona proposed having Frank over for dinner on the night that was meant for Spock, Amanda, and Sarek, Jim drew the line.

“No thanks.”

She raised a brow. “No thanks?”

“Yeah. I mean, I know he’s important to you, but this is important to me. So when you say ‘Jim would you like to have Frank over for dinner tonight, too’ I’m gonna have to go with a very determined ‘no thanks.’ Unless you weren’t actually asking me.”

She scowled.

“Mom, tonight’s about us and Spock’s family.”

“Well Frank is my boyfriend. He’s part of the family.”

“No he’s not.” Jim said. “He wasn’t on the Christmas card.”

“Jim we didn’t send out a Christmas card this year.”

“Guess we’re not a true family then.”

She rolled her eyes. “You’re being difficult on purpose.”

“You got me.” He reached up for the freezer door and pulled it open, peering inside to search for the ice cream. It was waiting where he'd left it, faithfully tucked in next to the bag of mixed green beens and corn. He’d assured himself they would have dessert with dinner this summer, even if they’d gotten side-tracked every other year, and his mom had bought the good kind of ice cream.

Actually, Frank had bought it, but Jim had put it on the list of things they needed, and his mom had made the list, so who was to say exactly who had really instigated the frozen treat’s appearance in their freezer?

“Frank would love to meet Spock’s family.”

Jim sighed. “Which means you already told him.”

“I don’t keep secrets.”

Unless they’re from me, Jim thought.

“Jim, don’t be a pain. We’ve got room at the table, Frank should come.”

“Sarek’s never even met Frank. What if he hates him?”

“Why would it matter?” Winona asked. “Sarek is a Vulcan. He wouldn’t admit to hating anyone, because that’s emotional.”

“There are logical reasons to hate someone.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Those being?”

Jim sensed he’d made a mistake. “I don’t know," he said, carefully. "Just saying it could happen.”

“Hm.” She turned back to where she was making veggie burgers. Crisis averted.

“Besides,” Jim ventured. “You said that he doesn’t eat vegetarian food.”

Winona rolled her eyes. “I was going to make him something different to eat.”

“That kinda defeats the whole purpose of a vegetarian night, doesn’t it?”

“Okay, smart ass.” She bumped him aside with her hip. “How’s the salad coming along?” She hinted.

He slipped around her to the other side of the counter, where he’d been cutting carrots. “Leafy green,” he said, grinning up at her cheekily. He resumed where he’d left off, cutting more veggies to add into the mix.

He couldn’t wait to see Spock. It felt like life was monochromatic when Spock wasn’t around, and when the Vulcan came back for the summers, the world burst into violent color again. Jim had spent many nights up, staring at his ceiling, wondering at his odd connection to Spock. He’d never been afraid of loving Spock, even know that Spock would always leave him. Jim had never doubted that Spock would come back, against all probability. Their meeting felt like fate- a divine destiny that they were unfolding year by year, as if they could never have existed in a life time where they did not meet.

Just knowing that Spock was on planet, and not with him, had him fidgeting. He could almost say he felt Spock, like a point on a compass, his internal arrow eagerly pointing the young Vulcan’s way when they got close.

Jim laughed a little thinking about it.

“What’s so funny?” Winona asked.

“Just thinking.” He said.

She nodded. “Excited to see Spock?”

He grinned. “Yeah. I am.”

“It’s too bad Sarek will be around all summer, I suppose you won’t want to sleep over there as often.”

Jim blinked up at her. “What do you mean?”

“Well…” She pressed her mouth into a thin line. “You don’t... like Sarek, do you?”

“I like Sarek.” Jim defended. “He might be a jerk sometimes, but he’s still… I don’t know. Amanda’s husband.”

Winona snorted. “Amanda’s husband? What happened to him being Spock’s dad?”

“That’s the only part about him I don’t like.” Jim said. “Sarek is cool. He just isn’t like, the best dad in the entire world. He’s always telling Spock that you know. Spock has to make his own choices and find his own path, but then he’s super obvious about which path he thinks Spock should take and gets all pissy when Spock doesn’t do it.”

“Pissy, hm?”

“Yeah. But he loves Amanda. And Spock. Just in his weird way, you know?”

“I thought he married Amanda because he was the ambassador to Earth.”

Jim snorted. “That’s just what he wants you to think. Amanda has his logical Vulcan ass wrapped around her illogical human finger.”

Winona laughed. “Well, then.”

There was a knock on the door. Jim dropped the knife and booked it, flashing around the table and out into the living room. He saw the silhouette of someone tall through the curtained window and nearly tripped in his haste to answer the door.

“James Kirk,” Sarek said. He held up his hand in the ta’al.

Jim flashed it back, leaning around Sarek. “Hi, Sarek,” he said, and wondered where the hell Amanda and Spock were.

“My son and my wife are at the hover car,” Sarek said.

Jim barely managed a “Thanks!” before scooting around Sarek and running out the door.

He saw the car, first, and then Amanda’s hair. She’d put it up in her familiar Vulcan style, the curls perfectly controlled. Jim smiled wide upon seeing her.

“Amanda!” He yelled.

She turned just in time to receive him. He crashed into her, throwing his arms around her body. “Oh- James!” She laughed. She hugged him back fiercely, tucking his head under her chin while she held him to her front.

“Hi.” Jim said.

She laughed.

“Jim,” came Spock’s voice. He was at the back of the hover, slinging a bag over his shoulder.

“Spock!” Jim abandoned Amanda to rush over to his friend, happily hugging him, too. "You got tall again!" He stood up on his tip-toes so that they were nearly eye-to-eye. "Next summer I'll be taller than you, I swear."

"That is highly unlikely." Spock said.

Jim hugged him again, just because. Spock allowed it.

"Well come on you two," Amanda said. "Dinner is probably getting cold in there."

Jim grabbed Spock's wrist, loath to break their contact. He could feel the familiar hum of Spock's mind on the edge of his awareness; a sensation he'd missed more and more with time. Spock's calm, cool manner put Jim instantly at ease. He lead the way, Spock at his side, and Amanda just behind them, grinning all the way.

Spock was supposedly staying the night at their house, instead of the summer home, so Jim abandoned Amanda at the end of the stairs to run Spock up to his room. "It's changed a little," Jim said. He'd gotten new covers and sheets for his bed, and they'd painted the walls white.

The reveal was rather lackluster, but Jim was too happy to care. "Ta-da!" He threw his arms wide and spun in a circle in the middle of the room.

Spock took in the few changes and nodded his head. He walked over to the bed and gently set his bags down on top of it, still looking around. He seemed almost to be cataloging the changes to his memory, so that when he walked back into the room after dinner he would already know exactly the way every inch of space would look, and not be taken unaware by any of it. Jim loved him for it- no one observed things like Spock did, and it made his chest feel warm and light.

"Come on," Jim said. "Your mom's right- dinner's gonna get cold."

Spock turned around. "Of course," he said.

They journeyed back down the stairs and into the kitchen, where the adults were already waiting. Amanda and Winona had taken their usual places on the right side of the table. Sarek was at the head, his back to the kitchen's entry way. Amanda was at his right, and Spock moved to sit at his left. Jim sat across from his mother, turning a suspicious eye at the chair that had been pulled up to the other side of the table. Usually, it was just the four chairs, and the other two sat stationary by the screen door. It would make sense that one had been moved up to the head of the table for Sarek, but the other one...

He narrowed his eyes at his mother. She narrowed hers right back, as if issuing a silent challenge.

There was a knock at the door.

"Mom," Jim groaned. He thudded his head on the table.

"Excuse me for a moment," she said to Amanda and Sarek. She stood, neatly tucking her chair in. Jim didn't watch her as she hurried out of the kitchen, knowing already that the evening had taken a turn for the worse.

Spock leaned over. "Are you expecting further company, Jim?"

Jim looked up at Amanda and Sarek, who didn't look even slightly surprised. "Why don't you ask them?" He groaned. The traitors.

Spock didn't get the chance. Winona returned, Frank at her elbow, the both of them grinning extra wide and polite. "Everyone," said Winona, "This is Frank."

"Oh, Frank, Winona has told me so much about you," Amanda trilled.

Sarek simply nodded at the man. Jim watched Spock do the same, feeling a small bit of satisfaction in the way Frank seemed a bit off-put by the cold gesture. It was just the Vulcan way, of course- they were both being polite- but the fact that Frank took it as a sort of dismissal was delicious.

"Frank, this is Doctor Amanda Grayson," Winona said.

Frank held his hand out for a handshake. Amanda pulled back from him, eyes widening for a moment. Sarek stuck his hand out, and Amanda soothed her fingers over his, as if in reassurance. Frank awkwardly pulled his hand back.

Jim chuckled.

"Oh, um, Vulcans don't do handshakes, baby." Winona awkwardly said.

He furrowed his brow. "I thought you said she was human."

"I'm married to a Vulcan." Amanda laughed. "For a second there, I forgot about handshakes and was shocked by your audacity."

"Oh." He rubbed the back of his neck. "Uh... okay."

The awkwardness was palpable. Winona plowed on despite it. "Anyway, baby, this is Ambassador Sarek, and his son, Spock."

Frank nodded at them both. "It's good to meet you both."

Sarek and Spock said nothing.

Jim could have clapped his hands in delight.

Winona ushered Frank around to the end of the table, then. When they were all seated, they started in without preamble- Vulcans and Jim alike reaching for the food without a word. Winona and Frank blinked in surprise, Franks hands loosely clasped together from where he'd been about to begin saying grace. Jim could have laughed at them both- it was illogical to wait any longer to eat once all parties were seated, lest the food grow cold. Vulcans may have been all about ceremony, but they didn't tend to drawl where it counted.

"Okay then." Winona muttered. She reached out to begin serving herself.

"So Jim," Amanda began. "I hear you're in high school now!"

"Yep." He grinned around a bite of green beans, and then swallowed. "Just finished freshman year. Youngest kid there."

"How fun!" Amanda cheered. "I loved high school. Well, I went to boarding school, but I loved it."

"Boarding school?" Jim stuck his tongue out. "I can hardly stand one whole day at school. How did you live there?"

"It was an all girls' school." Amanda said. "Me and my three roommates were always getting into trouble, but it was a lot of fun. I don't know if I would have liked it so much if it weren't for them- the classes were all high standard, though, and the teachers knew what they were talking about. I learned a lot."

"I wish I could say the same." Jim snorted.

Amanda laughed. "You'll find someone who knows more than you eventually."

"You know more than me." Jim said.

"Well, maybe I'll have to teach you about linguistics sometime, then." She laughed. "Though I guess Spock already has, hm?"

"I used a great amount of your own research in my endeavor." Spock said.

Frank cut in. "Whoa, whoa, wait. Jim knows another language?"

"Ar'kadan rehkuh." Jim said. Try three.

Frank's brows furrowed. He opened his mouth to retort, but Winona cut in smoothly.

"It came as a surprise to me, too," she said. "But he's always talking Vulcan so Spock, so his grasp of the language is passable."

"Passable." Sarek intoned.

They all turned to look at him.

"Asides from my wife," he said, "I have never heard another human speak such perfect Vulcan. His diction and accent are nearly perfect- for one living off-planet."

Winona blinked in surprise.

Amanda flushed. "Husband, you flatter me."

Jim, meanwhile, was grinning at his mom and Frank. They might have thought he only used his brain to get into trouble, but damn if this wasn't a way to prove them wrong. Sometimes he was really out learning, too.

Jim shuffled the conversation away in the back of his mind to use as evidence later, when he and Spock were likely to make another plea for Jim to join the party heading back to Vulcan for the school year. "See mom," he's say, "I learn when I'm with Amanda and Spock. Imagine what I could do on Vulcan for an entire nine months!"

That vein of thought ran deep. The adults had begun talking about the weather- gross- and other boring things, so Jim didn't feel bad about drifting into a near daydream. He and Spock both had birthdays during the school year- how cool would it be if they got to spend them together? Jim could see himself wandering the hot, dusty market places of Vulcan, searching for the perfect gift, federation credits and Earth tokens alike shoved into his pocket while he perused the stalls. What kind of gift would Spock like? A book? That seemed the most likely answer, but was it special enough? Maybe something science related. Jim could see himself looking for some kind of rare plant or specimen, maybe finding something from a planet they'd never even heard of. Spock would love that kind of thing- they could study alien moss for days. Or maybe a rock of some kind, from a far away galaxy; the minerals would key them in to so many different things about where it had come from. They could hypothesize for hours on end, putting together a million different possibilities.

And on his birthday, Jim wouldn't have to be alone. He wouldn't have to deal with his mother not-so-discreetly crying in her office and downing another glass of God knows what. He and Spock could spend the day out in the Vulcan heat, chasing down lizards and insects. Of course, Spock would probably never 'chase'- that would be undignified. Maybe they'd rig up some traps so that they could capture specimens without chance of harming them. That seemed like it would be more up their ally, but Jim couldn't get the image of running after a giant, yellow desert lizard out of his head. He wanted that life so badly he could taste it.

Amanda would wake them both up for school with the smell of pancakes. Spock pretended he was indifferent to them, but he loved them just as much as Jim did. She'd fix the buttons on Jim's shirt if he'd messed them up in his tired rush to get dressed, and she'd smooth over his hair and tease him about his cowlick. She'd drive them to school, and he and Spock would chatter a mile a minute in the back about all the things they were due to study for the day. They'd go to the same school, and have lunch together and they wouldn't be alone anymore.

Jim could feel the heat on his neck, the dry, ancient dust of the Vulcan plains in his mouth. He'd be the only kid out in shorts and it would distract people so much they'd forget to gawk at Spock and his half-humanness. They'd celebrate Passover with Spock's mom, and Jim wouldn't even be sorry to miss Christmas because it didn't snow on Vulcan, anyway.  And-

"Right, Jim?"

Jim was snapped back into reality. He blinked and then looked over to his mother, who was waiting expectantly for an answer. "What?"

She sighed. "Well, there goes my point."

Jim had no idea what she was talking about. His plate, though, was empty, so he said, "Can Spock and I be excused?" A quick glance at Spock's spotless plate confirmed that the young Vulcan had simply been waiting for Jim.

Winona frowned. "Can't you-"

"Oh, Winona," Amanda laughed. "Let them off the hook; it's their first night of summer."

Winona pursed her lips. "Alright," she said.

"Thanks!" Jim hopped down from the table.

"At least put your dishes in the sink," Frank said. "Leave less for you mom to do."

Jim resisted the urge to point out that it was none of Frank's damn business and grabbed his plate, marching it over to the sink. Spock did the same, though Jim doubted Frank would have yelled at him if he'd left his plate where it was.

They took off towards Jim's room.

As Jim followed Spock up the stairs to the bedroom, he noticed that Spock had recently gotten his hair cut. The back of his head came to a neat, pointed Vulcan V; all straight, perfect lines and exact angles. Jim reached up without thinking and touched the bit that had been shaved. Spock stopped walking, standing up straight as a pole.

"Sorry," Jim said. "I like your haircut."

Spock looked over his shoulder, baffled. "It is the same as always."

"It's fresh." Jim said.

Spock raised a brow.

They proceeded the last few steps into Jim's room. Jim closed the door and then flopped down on his bed, bouncing Spock's bags up and nearly off. He scrambled to catch them and managed to grab the handles to both before they hit the floor. He stood and neatly set them on the chair at his desk, looking up to see if Spock was judging him.

He totally was.

"What?" Jim laughed. "I'm excited!"

"I was able to deduce as much."

"Oh, deduce, nice word." He grinned. "Come here, will you? You're making me feel weird by just standing there."

Spock loosened up and did as asked, padding over to the bed and then sitting himself on the edge. He smoothed out the materials of his pants as he did so, and Jim noticed that he wasn't wearing a thick sweater like usual.

"Hey, cool." He reached out and thumbed the sleeve closest to him, feeling the thinness of the material. "You're not all bundled up."

Spock preened under the attention. "I am fully capable of regulating my body temperature, as any Vulcan should be."

"That's so cool!" Jim said. "So even if we went out in the snow..."

"While I would suffer loss of body heat eventually, and then likely catch hypothermia, I would do so with more dignity than a human."

"Just you wait until we're out in the snow dying of cold. I'm going to go out as dignified as a king and then you'll have to eat your words." Jim said. "I bet if we went to Delta Vega I'd make it longer than you."

"Untrue," said Spock. "I will be the one fending off the deadly wildlife of Delta Vega whilst you screamed in peril."

"I wouldn't scream." Jim laughed.

"I calculate a ninety three percent chance that you would scream."

"You made those odds up!" Jim laughed. "No, you'd be shivering super hard and I'd have to build us a fire and then you'd have to use my body heat to keep from dying. Trust me, it's science."

"I wish to see the factual evidence that has lead to your theory. If it is as scientific as you claim, then I will doubtlessly have to locate and correct the errors that lead to such an illogical outcome."

"Sometimes, Spock, you sound just like a computer."

"Flattery is appreciated, Jim, but not necessary.”

"Shut up!" Jim laughed, kicking out at Spock, but Spock caught his leg before it made contact.

He ran his finger up the underside of Jim's foot. Jim screamed, kicked, and fell off the bed.

"Fascinating," said Spock.

Jim grinned up at Spock from where he lay on the floor. "... I really missed you," he said.

"You have said this already."

"Yeah well it's so true that its worth repeating." He reached out and put his hand on Spock's ankle, to reestablish physical contact between the two of them. Even when he wasn't touching Spock's skin, he could still just barely sense the hum of the other boy's consciousness running along side his own. Spock felt content, and a little sleepy, and maybe even happy. Jim smiled up at him.

"Your feelings, to me, are like the sun." Spock said.

"Don't go getting romantic on me, Spock." Jim made a kiss-face, and Spock pulled out of his grasp.

Spock crossed his legs on the bed, his socked feat neatly tucked under his legs. "Vulcans are not romantic," Spock said.

"Says you. Your dad was kissing your mom all night at dinner."

Spock greened a little. "Such displays of ownership are common for Vulcans."

Jim raised his brows. "Ownership?"

Spock paused. "I do not know a better word for it. My father belongs to my mother, as my mother belongs to my father. They are... to one another as one is to oneself. There is no word for it in Standard that I believe to be its equivalent. Do not be mistaken- my mother is not a possession which my father has collected, just as my father is not a possession which my mother has collected. They are... of one another."

"Is that how all bondmates are?" Jim asked.

"Not all." Spock answered. "Kissing is a display most bondmates initiate whilst meeting others. It is respectful to show that one belongs not only to oneself, and to inform others of their marital status. Belonging to ones bondmate is a... sacred thing, which is not to be hidden, but rather lived by."

"That's very informative," Jim said. "But you completely avoided my true question.

Spock said, "You are perceptive, as usual, Jim." He looked at his lap. "While it is true that most bondmates would initiate a kiss upon meeting others, few ask for such a gesture quite as often as my father and mother do of one another. I see no logic in it."

Jim snorted. "Well, yeah. They don't do it because of logic. They love each other." He paused. "I guess bondmates are usually only together because it's the logical thing, then?"

Spock nodded, but did not elaborate.

"If other Vulcans loved each other as much as your parents do, I bet they'd kiss all the time."

"My father married my mother because it was logical," Spock said. "Love had no part in his actions."

"Let me guess- Sarek told you that."

"He did."

"Yeah, well, Vulcans are okay with lying when it comes to feelings, and your dad is a prime example of that. He'd head over heals for your mom. Maybe he's convinced you that he did it because of logic, maybe even himself, but that doesn't make it the truth. He's crazy about her."

"My father is quite sane."

"You know what I mean." Jim snorted. He pulled himself up onto the bed again, laying back behind Spock. He stared at the back of the Vulcan's head, saying, "Do you really think Sarek's not capable of love?"

"He is Vulcan."

"Even Vulcans love." Jim said. "Every living being in the universe has the capacity for love."

Spock looked back at him, raising a brow.

"Klingons have Par’Mach." Jim reasoned. "Gorn value best friends just as much as they do spouses. Even though the Irili produce asexually, they still have big families. They don't even have a scientific, evolutionary need to love, and yet, they adopt more aliens than any other species in the galaxy."

"Love is an emotion."

"An emotion all creatures feel." Jim said, certainly.

Spock looked back down at his lap. "It is disgraceful," he said, "To be over-come by an emotion."

"If you're going to be overcome by any emotion, I'd say that's probably the best one to be overcome by." He crossed his arms behind his head.

"... Have you been in love?" Spock asked.

Jim sat up, blinking at him in surprise. "Huh?"

He was silent.

"Well, sure I have." Jim said. "I love you, don't I? And Amanda, and my mom, and-"

"You speak of romantic love." Spock said. "When you refer to my father and mother, and their affection for one another. It is something you have always spoken about, with certainty and hope. Surely, then, you must have experienced it at some point."

"Well... I don't know." Jim said. "I had a bunch of crushes this year."

"Crushes?"

Jim nodded. "First this girl who always helps out in the library like I do named Sarah. She was really nice, and we could talk about books all day. But then she stopped hanging out with me because I'm way younger than her, and her friends kept teasing her for babysitting me. And I don't think I can be friends with someone who would give me up just because of something small like that. And then there was this guy in my science class with these huge brown eyes. He wears glasses, so they always looked all big and I just thought it was so cool. He was really smart, but he wouldn't give me the time of day. And then we got an exchange student from Renegias Seven, and he had this pale blue, almost clear skin and he could play like, any instrument ever, but he only hung out with the cool kids once they finally started paying attention to him, so he wouldn't hang out with me after that."

"You do not resent them for these things?"

"Everyone leaves me at some point, once they realize what I'm like. Either they think I'm cool and then leave when they find out I'm a huge nerd, or they hang out with me because they hear I'm a huge nerd and leave when they realize I won't be bitter and mean like they are, or... you know. Just all these things about me that clash with the personality type, I guess. It doesn't really bother me all that much. Crushes come and go."

"So then, you were never in love with any of these people?"

He shook his head.

Spock let out a sigh- he sounded relieved.

"What?"

"I have never had a crush. I worried, briefly, as many of my peers began to display behaviors of those searching for a partner at this age. When you, yourself, said as much, I worried perhaps..."

"You're not weird, Spock." Jim said.

"I see. Hearing of your own 'crushes' I admit I am rather glad to not have experienced my own."

Jim laughed. "Oh come on, Spock, it's not all getting shot down in flames. I bet everyone on Vulcan is lining up for your big brain. If you did get a crush, I bet whoever it was would like you back."

"Perhaps." Spock said. "You have... never been in love then, Jim?"

"Not yet." Jim said. He grinned wide. "One day, though."

"How can you be so certain?"

"I'm capable of loving," Jim said, "So love's gonna find me again."

It was all to be said on the matter.

"Come on," Jim said, standing up. "Dessert time. We've got ice cream to eat."

Spock followed, as always, closely by his side. 

 

 


 

 

"Hey, Jimmy."

Jim peered over the door of the refrigerator at Frank. He was in his boxers and an old T shirt, which was super dumb, because Winona would never let Jim walk around the house in his underwear.

"Hey."

"Where's your buddy?"

"Upstairs." He'd hoped to grab some loot and then be back up in his room in a minute or less, and the small talk was hurting those chances. He grabbed the crate of orange juice and two apples, turning to make his escape.

"Where ya' going with all that orange juice?"

"Upstairs." Jim started out of the kitchen.

"Your mom let you take food out of the kitchen?"

As if she could stop him. "Yeah."

"Hm."

Jim made it half way up the stairs.

"You gonna drink all that orange juice?"

Jim rolled his eyes and turned around. "Spock's gonna help."

"You coming back down for glasses?"

Jim started to walk up the last couple of steps, tossing his reply over his shoulder. "We'll drink it from the carton."

Frank said, "Your mom okay with that?"

Jim pretended not to hear and closed the door.

Spock looked up from where they were on the brink of creating a perfect black hole simulation. "You took longer than expected."

"Frank," Jim explained. He tossed Spock his apple.

Spock caught it without looking. "I see."

Jim took a savage bite of his apple, chewing loudly. He sat down next to Spock, looking over the Vulcan's shoulder. "Change that to a three," he said, pointing.

Spock looked. "Ah. I see now that I made an error. Thank you, Jim."

Jim took the cap off of the carton of orange juice, washing back the bits of apple stuck in his teeth. He passed the carton over to Spock. Years ago, Spock would have squirmed just thinking about sharing saliva, but he barely blinked as he took his own drink from the carton.

"Why is Frank here at this hour?" Spock asked.

Jim pinked. "He, uh. Stayed the night." He cleared his throat.

Spock paused. "I see," he said. He turned his full focus back to his work.

"Yeah."He rubbed the back of his neck. "I don't like to think about it either."

"Your mother may do as she wills." Spock said. "She is an adult."

"Doesn't make it any less weird," Jim sighed. He scooted over so that he was sitting next to Spock, instead of at his back. "How long until we can test run this baby?"

"Our simulation is not an infant."

"Okay. How long until we can test run this comparatively young computer simulation?"

Spock gave him a look. Being Vulcan, Spock didn't glare, oh no- but damn if he could have fooled Jim.

Jim smirked at him. "Oh, was that too specific for your tastes, Mr. Spock?"

Spock turned back to their work. "I recognize that, as a human, you are prone to using sarcasm and wit to cover your negative emotions. Tell me, Jim; what is it that troubles you?"

Jim rolled his eyes, but he couldn't fight back his grin. "It's this person. A real pain in my ass."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. Smart-ass type, thinks he knows it all, always bossing me around and poking fun at me. A real jerk."

"He sounds like someone whose presence I would enjoy."

"Trust me, you'd love him." Jim laughed. "He's the smartest person I know."

"Surely that is incorrect."

"Well, not counting myself."

Spock turned to Jim, raising a brow. "Do you mean to imply you are smarter than this person?"

"Well..." Jim raised his hands in an approximation of a shrug. "If the shoe fits."

Spock opened his mouth and then paused. He turned his attention to the door, and, in Vulcan, said, "Someone approaches. I do not believe it is your mother."

"Great," Jim groaned.

There was a knock at the door.

"What?" Jim called.

Frank opened the door. 'What' did not mean that he was invited in, and yet, there he was. "Hey," he said. "Your mom wants to go into town. Get dressed and ready, we'll leave in half an hour."

"We're busy." Jim said. "Can't you guys go without us?"

Frank furrowed his brows. "Don't you think you two are a little young to be left home alone?"

Jim snorted. "Little late on that train."

Spock said, "We are fully capable of caring for ourselves. Regardless, I am nearly fifteen Terran years of age, and as such, suited to the task of taking responsibility for myself as well as Jim."

Jim laughed.

Frank shook his head. "Just get ready, would you? She seemed like she wanted you to come with, Jim."

Jim didn't like that Spock had been excluded from the statement. "Well, if I go, Spock's going."

"I'll go talk to her." Frank left the door open.

Jim stared at it and then turned to Spock. "The nerve," he joked.

"Indeed."

God, he'd missed Spock.

"Well, what do you say, Spock? Does a run into town sound good to you?" Jim saw the light in Spock's eyes as the Vulcan opened his mouth. Jim held his hand up. "And before you say you don't think we could actually run all the way into down, let me just say you know what I mean."

Spock said, "How can you be so certain?"

"Because," Jim said. "Myself aside, you're the smartest person I know." He winked.

Spock said, "I see. In that case, I shall make myself ready for the trip. To avoid incurring the wrath of your mother, I suggest you do the same."

"Fine," Jim drawled.

Spock picked up one of his bags and left the room, closing the door neatly behind him. Jim stayed seated on the ground until he heard the bathroom door squeak open and shut. He stood, meandering over to his dresser to shuffle through it. He picked out the first set of clothes he touched, throwing them all on without any real care as to whether or not they matched or not. He picked the comb off the top of his dresser and ran it through his hair until his bedhead was at least gone, though the hair at the front of his head still stuck up a bit. He could never really wrestle that bit into submission, though, so he let it be.

Spock returned, looking as ruler-drawn and perfect as usual. Not a hair out of place on his head, his clothes all somehow wrinkle-free. Jim said, "You look nice."

Spock nodded his head. "You appear... ready." Which was a polite way of saying that Jim didn't look 'nice', per se, but that Spock did acknowledge he'd adhered to the specified parameters of his orders and had, after all, gotten dressed.

"I look good." Jim defended. He turned to the mirror posted nest to his dresser and struck a pose. He was wearing jean shorts and a yellow shirt, which was hopelessly wrinkled. He held the shirt out, pulling the material taunt. "See?"

Spock said, "And do you plan to wear socks, Jim?"

Jim looked down at his bare feet, and then over at Spock, who was completely ready to leave asides from shoes. "Haven't you ever heard of flip-flops?" Never mind he'd been planning on wearing his tennis shoes.

Spock raised a brow.

"Oh hush."

"I have not said anything."

"You were saying it in your head, I saw it."

"Impossible. You are not a telepath, and we are not currently in contact, so there is no conceivable possibility that would have allowed you to see my thoughts."

"Incorrect." Jim mimed Spock's tone. "Considering the amount of time we have spent, and will spend, together, we are officially best friends. It's a widely known fact amongst humans that all best friends can read each other's thoughts. Sorry Spock."

"You are fabricating evidence for your case."

"That's twice now you've called me a liar."

"Once only in my head, and never in such stark words out loud."

"Thrice now, by my count."

Spock's mouth ticked up in the corner.

Jim suddenly wondered what it would be like to match wits with Spock in a more palpable way- in a game, like hide and seek. Chess came to the front of his mind and he paused over the thought. If Spock knew how to play chess, then he'd surely offer a challenge. Beating his mom had grown boring in a day, but maybe Spock could make the game interesting again. It would be fun for them to play against each other, fighting to out-think each other in a battle they could see before there very eyes.

Jim smirked. Spock wasn't really one for games, but those were the ones that had no point. Chess was a game of logic- surely the Vulcan could see the merit in that.

"Jim," Frank pushed his door open. "Ready to go?"

Jim resisted the urge to point out that doors were to be knocked on. "Yeah."

"Come on. Your mom's ready."

Jim rolled his eyes as soon as Frank's back was turned. Spock followed first, and Jim took up the rear. They headed directly downstairs and out the front door, Frank holding the door open and locking up behind them as they left. Jim thought he was a moron- they lived in the middle of nowhere, and they'd never locked their house before Frank. The alarms would tell them if anyone came in while they were out, and it had never happened. As Pops always said- if someone really wanted to get in, they'd find a way around anything.

Not that it really mattered.

Spock and Jim sat in the back of the car. Frank and Winona argued over music in the front, but it was easy enough to tune out. Jim and Spock fell easily into Vulcan, conversing quietly so as not to draw too much attention to their shift in language. Winona had been suspicious of it in the past, rightfully claiming Jim was using it to talk shit.

"How's mom liking having Sarek around for the summer?" Jim asked.

"She is, as she says, 'delighted.' I believe that my father is less impartial to the vacation, as he could be working were he back on Vulcan. However, he does not seem displeased. It is logical to take breaks. Rest and relaxation allowed the body and mind to repair faster than they otherwise would."

"And," Jim said, "It pleases dear mother."

"That may be the most prominent reasoning for vacation, yes." Spock nodded.

Jim smiled. "How long has it been since he took a vacation?"

"Approximately seven years, so far as I'm aware."

Jim's eyes widened. "That long?"

"Vulcans do not require as much rest as humans."

"Still," Jim said. "At least Vulcans get summer vacation while in school."

"Negative." Spock said.

"What? But you're here every summer."

"While that is true, I am merely choosing not to attend school. School on Vulcan runs year-round. Vulcans simply choose when to attend, as each person is responsible for their own betterment. So long as one keeps up with the level expected of a Vulcan, they may chose when to attend school at their own discretion."

Jim's eyes were wide. "What?" He said. "Are you kidding me?"

"Vulcans do not kid."

Jim groaned.

"I do not understand. Why are you distressed by this information?" Spock asked.

"Because if that was how we did things on Earth, I could be through college by now! You're telling me you just walk into school whenever you want and do as much learning as you want?"

"The school has regular hours. You would be unable to attend after certain hours, but could continue your work at home through your PADD device to a certain extent before there would be need to return."

"I could have a doctorate by now." Jim muttered.

Spock said, "My mother often expresses her own lamentations over the inferior education system she was forced to indulge in her youth. However, she does understand that the free-course system regulated on Vulcan would not benefit all Terrans."

"It'd benefit me." Jim grumbled.

Spock said nothing.

"I want to live on Vulcan with you." Jim demanded. "I want to go to school on Vulcan."

"That is, as you are aware, entirely up to our parents." Seeing Jim open his mouth and turn his head towards Winona, Spock hurried to add, "Your mother has been known to react in a positive manner when you go about your questions with tact."

"Fine then." Jim said. "You ask her."

"I will not ask your mother for you."

"Not for me. Ask like you want me to come back with you. If you want to, she's more likely to say yes."

"It is not the end of the summer. It is impractical to ask this very second."

Jim switched to Standard. "Mom!"

She looked up sharply in the rear-view mirror. "What?"

"School on Vulcan is better than school on Earth."

"Yeah," she said. "It's Vulcan."

"And you think Terran school sucks."

"For you, I guess." She shrugged. Then her eyes narrowed, though she never took them off the road. "Why? What are you building up to?"

"Spock wants me to come live with him on Vulcan."

Winona rolled her eyes.

"What?! He does!"

"Jim is telling the truth." Spock said. "I believe we would both benefit from Jim's living on Vulcan. If it would please you, I will be able to have a presentation ready to send to your PADD by the end of the day highlighting the various reasons and benefits-"

"No way." Winona said.

Spock nodded. "Perhaps I might verbally relay-"

"I wasn't no-waying your presentation idea, Spock." Winona said. "No way to Vulcan. Jim, you're human, and Earth is your home. You're staying here."

"What?" Jim cried.

Frank turned around in his seat. "Don't back-sass your mother."

"I wasn't even sassing her yet!" He returned his gaze to the back of his mother's head. "Mom, come on. I'm twelve years old, it's not like I'm a little kid anymore. It'd be just like the summers where I go live with Amanda and-"

"No way in hell, Jim." Winona said firmly. "That was the answer last time you asked, and nothing's changed since then."

"So what has to change?"

"I didn't mean it like that." She said. "But for starters, you get into way too much trouble. There's no way I'm unleashing you on an alien planet. Besides, you're my son- not Amanda's. You live with me."

"Yeah, when you're here." He said. "You're hardly even home anymore! Come on, please?"

Frank said, "She said no, Jim."

Jim narrowed his eyes at Frank. Where did he get off telling Jim what to do, anyway? "You're not my dad," he said.

"Jim." Winona snapped.

"He's not!"

"You are getting dangerously close to landing yourself in trouble." She said.

Jim huffed a sigh. "Fine. I'll drop it."

He turned back to Spock, who was eyeing the back of Frank's head with distaste. They switched back to Vulcan by some un-spoken rule. "He is not very respectful towards your person."

They arrived, then. Jim returned with a, "Yeah. He's an adult," and hopped out of the hover.

They were at the theater. Jim groaned, realizing he'd forgotten to ask where they were going to begin with. He liked a good holo now and then, but realizing they'd abandoned their black hole for something so stupid as a movie made him feel cheated. He'd thought, for some reason, that they were going to the grocery store. If that had been, he and Spock could have picked out snacks and such.

But no. They were going to see the new summer flick that was out about a human smuggler falling in love with an Orion slave. Jim and Spock whispered through most of it, to Winona and Frank's consternation.

Jim and Spock did not like the film. The Orion, Grishna, was portrayed as a sex fiend and a liar, just like the slavers whom she'd been freed from. She lied and attempted to steal the ship of the human who'd rescued her multiple times through out the movie, and when she wasn't doing that, she attempted to seduce the morally righteous smuggler, who wasn't as bad as he seemed because he was smuggling drugs from bad people, of course. She eventually fell in love with the smuggler, somehow, even though Jim was rooting for her to take off on Denebian Seven when they landed there so that she could go live her own life. They had sex on his ship, and the smuggler was upset because of course her pheromones had finally gotten to him and he couldn't believe he'd fallen for such a wicked woman. (Who, Jim wanted to remind the viewers, had been sexually abused and brainwashed into sexual behavior her entire life.) Then he'd finally started to fall in love with her, and so on Denebian Seven he set up a little house to leave her after they'd been married, and off he rode into the stars, waving goodbye to a wife who'd never been alone before and was suddenly married and taking care of a house all by herself on an alien planet.

Needless to say, Jim and Spock had a lot to talk about during the movie, even as Frank leaned into Winona's sides and whispered, "You'll be the Grishna to my Henderson, yeah?"

Jim wrinkled his nose in disgust at his mother's giggle. He turned to Spock, who was staring straight ahead as the credits rolled by.

"Grishna deserved better," Jim muttered.

"Human media continues to escape my understanding."

Jim snorted. "You and me both." Standing, he hurried to usher Spock out of their seats so that he wouldn't have to watch his mom and Frank flirt some more. They made it out of the showing room and into the main theater quickly enough, both stopped by the large recruitment poster proudly displayed in the hall.

An Orion in command golds; black hair pinned up out of her way, dark mouth quirked up in a determined smile. Behind her were the stars, glittering with promise of adventure. "Think you have what it takes to be an explorer? To be an officer? To command your own ship? Enlist in Starfleet today!"

Jim felt his smile growing. "Yeah," he said, softly. "Grishna deserves her own ship."

Spock looked at the poster for a moment before saying, "With proper training, she would have made an excellent starship captain. She had intimate knowledge of space and exploration from the years of being traded about the galaxy, exceptional piloting, navigating, and computer skills, as well as high-grade engineering abilities."

"I'd fly under her any day."

"What was that?"

Jim turned as Frank and his mother existed the showing room. His smile fell. "Nothing," he said.

"You'd do what under-"

"I'd fly with her." Jim rolled his eyes at Frank. "She'd make a good captain."

    Frank eyed the poster. “Right..."

    “Until I became the captain myself, of course.” Jim grinned at Spock.

    Frank said, “Oh, yeah? That’s your dream?”

    Jim tentatively turned. His mom was looking at the ground. Well, good- she deserved not to look into his eyes when he talked about his dream. She’d put it through the recycler trying to teach him a lesson. Jim looked over at Frank, wondering if the man would do the same.

    Spock saved him. “It is not a dream,” said the Vulcan. “It is his future.”

    Jim turned and smiled up at Spock. He reached out, brushing his fingers against Spock’s wrist to broadcast his gratitude. Spock sent back his natural sense of peace and ease, taking some of the nervousness out of Jim’s mood.

    “Well,” Winona said. She looked nervously over to Frank, who had watched the exchange of contact with a curious tilt of his head. “We better get going. Plenty more on the schedule today.”

    Jim felt crowded by their lack of understanding. He stepped closer to Spock, just barely resisting the urge to keep their skin in comfortable contact. He felt like Spock was the only person in the world he could trust at any given moment with his thoughts and emotions, never mind his well being.

    “Yeah.” Jim said. “Let’s go.”

    He didn’t miss the way Frank looked them over as he and Winona passed to lead their group from the theater- like he was trying to decide if he should say something about their behavior or not. He settled on keeping his mouth shut, and Jim wasn’t sure if he was glad or wished that the man would speak up only so that Jim could defend himself.

    “Come on, Spock.” Jim grumbled. “Let’s go.”

 


 

 

    Frank wasn’t around the last few days that Spock stayed with them, to Jim's relief. He already felt like he had to hide how deep his friendship with Spock ran while his mom was around, but it was even worse with Frank. Jim felt like if he let himself be soft and kind around Frank, he’d come off as weak. Despite that feeling, he forced himself to be as nice and gentle as he wanted to be, but it was tiring. Jim worried that Frank would think Jim’s personality was Spock’s fault.

    For some reason, Spock was scheduled to stay over for the week. They’d both usually stayed over at the summer home together, since Amanda liked having them around more than Winona seemed to, but Jim wasn’t complaining about the way Amanda and Sarek had seemingly loaned Spock out to them for the week.

    When the week was at its conclusion, and the “loan” came to an end, Spock returned to the summer home. Jim, of course, accompanied him- a large bag slung over his shoulder so that he could stay for as many nights as he wanted.

    They walked into the house without knocking, taking their shoes off in the entry way. Spock said, “Give me your bag, Jim.”

    Jim did, looking around the house to see if anything had changed. Spock walked up the stairs to his room, likely to put away the bag, as Amanda came around the corner. She beamed upon seeing Jim.

    “Oh, James! Hello.”

    “Hi.” He smiled. She looked refreshed- and as Sarek came trailing after his wife, Jim noted that he did, too. Vacation had done them both some good, it seemed. Jim held up his hand in the ta’al, switching over to Vulcan. “Thank you for allowing me into your home.”

    Sarek said, “You are welcome here.”

    Amanda laughed. “Oh, James, so polite. I just finished making some cinnamon rolls. Want to come into the kitchen and help me frost them?” She looked up at the stairs, then, saying, “And where has my son gone off to?”

    “He went to put our stuff away.” Jim said. He happily bounced past Amanda and her husband, heading for the kitchen. “I’ll help.”

    “Spock!” Amanda called. “Come help make cinnamon rolls!”

    “There is no need to yell, my wife.” Sarek leaned into her, reaching around her body to trail his fingers over hers. “Spock is Vulcan- he will hear you.”

    She laughed, turning her head to lovingly kiss the side of his face with her mouth. “As if I could forget.” She untangled herself from him. “Now go on, you’ve got work to do- you told me yourself.”

    “There is nothing which requires my immediate attention.” He stepped after her, maintaining a close distance that had her laughing again. “The exception, perhaps, being my wife, whom must always need me.”

    “Stop!” She laughed. She playfully slapped his shoulder.

    Jim looked away, feeling like he was intruding on a personal moment.

    Luckily, Spock appeared at the top of the stairs, then. He came down in his usual unhurried and orderly fashion, to Jim’s side. He barely glanced at his parents, who were nearly against the wall by then.

    “Jim?” He quirked a brow. “You are red.”

    Jim chanced a look over at Sarek. “muSHa’bogh par’Mach.” Your parents are flirting.

    Spock raised a brow at the sudden use of Klingon, but replied in kind. “teHlaH’a’.” This is true.

“qatlh?” Why?

Spock said, “It is how married couples act.”

Jim rolled his eyes. “You know what I mean. They’re not usually so…” He trailed off. Sarek had whispered something to Amanda that had her grinning up at him from under her eyelashes, laughing breathily. Jim looked sharply away.

Spock looked over his shoulder to his parents. “I had not noticed.”

“Sometimes, you’re dumber than the worm.”

Spock said, “Do not be insulting, Jim.”  Switching back to Vulcan, he spoke out a little louder over Jim’s shoulder. “Mother, we are prepared to assist you.”

Amanda pushed Sarek away from her, fixing her head covering. “Of course,” she said, and started towards the kitchen. Sarek watched her go, expression nearly fond.

They were Spock’s parents, so of course it was weird and gross from them to be all in love. Privately, though, Jim sighed and wondered if one day, he would be in Amanda’s shoes- loved irrevocably by the person he loved most in the world. He’d always been in love with the very idea of love, and seeing it displayed so blatantly in front of him made him even more excited for it. He knew he was too young for such things, and that even when he was old enough to understand his peers enough to fall into love, it might be a long time coming before he found Amanda’s happily ever after. Still, he had hope- in the same way he knew one day he’d be among the stars, he knew that his heart would not always belong to himself alone.

The three of them frosted cinnamon rolls in the kitchen, listening to the music they made on Vulcan. Jim grinned and licked his fingers. Spock looked appalled.

Amanda said, “We really shouldn’t eat any, dinner will be soon…” Still, she brought out four plates. “But it’s a special occasion.”

Jim smiled wide and accepted the cinnamon roll she spooned out of the pan for him, eagerly reaching for a fork. Spock was a little more reserved, waiting patiently. Spock said, “What is the special occasion, mother?”

She blinked. “Oh.” She blinked again. “Well, it’s summer, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, Spock.” Jim teased. “Aren’t you happy to see me?”

“Vulcans do not experience happiness,” he deflected. He turned down to his cinnamon roll.

Jim looked at Amanda and rolled his eyes. She laughed.

“I’m going to bring one to Sarek,” she said, and picked up the remaining two plates. “Did you two need anything else, or should I leave you to be?”

“There is nothing we require.” Spock said.

Amanda nodded. “Then I’m going to pester your father some more.”

Jim watched her go. “Is your mom always like that when your dad is around?”

“Mother attends to my father as well as myself.” Spock said. “If there is nothing I require, she seems to enjoy being near my father.”

“Huh.” Jim smiled and took another bite of his cinnamon roll. “We’ve gotta try again on my mom.”

Spock raised a brow. “You should not expect me to understand what it is you refer to without further elaboration.”

Jim snorted. “You know what I mean, even if you want to pretend you don’t.”

“I admit that perhaps a repeated attempt in persuading your mother to allow you to spend the year with my family and I could potentially be beneficial to our cause.” Spock said. His brows came together in a small ‘v’ in the center of his forehead. “However, we must have tact. Your mother is… emotional.”

“Illogical you mean.”

“Yes.”

Jim sighed. “I know. Once she’s made up her mind it’s hard to change it. But anything is possible. And she’s got Frank now; she doesn’t need me to be waiting for her on planet when she’s got another person to come back to.”

“A boyfriend can in no way replace one’s son.” Spock said.

“Well yeah. But for a year, I mean, just one person there to make sure she doesn’t go to space and never come back is what she needs. I think that’s what she’s afraid of- that one day she’s just not going to come back to Earth at all. Dad was the Captain-type, but mom was the one who wanted off world so badly to begin with.”

“You are like her, in that regard.”

"Yeah," Jim mused. “Guess I’ve got a bit of both of them in me.”


 

 

Jim curled up into a ball underneath the covers, resting his forehead in-between Spock’s shoulder blades. Spock’s mind buzzed just on the brink of his own, a cool, soft tide against the shore of Jim's mind. Spock was already asleep, and when Jim closed his eyes, he could see flashes of thought from Spock.

Dusty red rock, a garden, a futon on the floor. A paper book on the edge of a table, the title just out of sight.

Spock’s dreams were different from his own. There was no flow or ebb; it was like a presentation of images, looked at from every possible angel, as if being examined. There was curiosity attached to each one, like Spock was consciously looking through things he’d seen and hadn’t understood, trying to take them apart while he was sleeping.

Jim had missed sharing a bed with Spock. They’d both grown, and it was apparent that eventually they wouldn’t be able to share the bed anymore, but Jim grabbed onto the time that they had together and hoped it would be enough.

His love for Spock overwhelmed him sometimes. He felt like he’d never meet another person who he could connect to like he did with Spock- no one else he’d ever want inside his head, or who he’d want to share his destiny with. Spock’s precise understanding of Jim was something he treasured. Jim knew that Spock could always tell where he was emotionally, and that he’d listen when Jim spoke. He was never afraid that Spock would judge him, or that Spock wouldn’t understand. He felt like Spock understood him better than he did himself.

When he slept next to Spock, he felt like he would never be alone. By himself, maybe, but never without Spock in some way. It was like they were connected. He had trouble sleeping, by himself, but with his head pressed to Spock’s back, he was able to watch the foreign images flash by like a slideshow, until it lulled him to sleep.

Jim could tell when he’d fallen asleep, because he lost his awareness of the background sound Amanda kept playing in Spock’s room. He was somewhere unreal, the atmosphere around him a kaleidoscope of color. The colors were solid and hard like diamond, shifting into one another silently, moving beneath and into each other like ice sheets. Jim reached out to touch the odd display, but his fingers never came into contact with anything, nor did they seem to phase through anything. It was as if his view shifted around him.

Spock was there.

“This is, uh.” Jim blinked. “Distracting.”

“This is what your mind is like,” Spock said. “It is unorganized.”   

Jim said, “This is my mind?”

“In a manner of speaking. It is how you chose to visualize it.” Spock reached out to touch. Jim could feel his hand against the churning crystal; his fingers burning stars against his head. “Fascinating.”

“I can’t concentrate like this.” Jim said. He closed his eyes, but there was nothing to shield his eyes from- it was all in his head. “Make it stop.”

Spock reached out towards him. His fingers touched Jim’s forehead. They were cooler in Jim’s mind than they were in reality. His touch sent cool mist into Jim’s body, tingling and damp; soothing.

The shapes stopped spinning and crashing. Slowly, the colors dissolved, until he and Spock were surrounded by space and stars, sitting adrift in the corvette. Jim was in the driver’s seat, hands loose where they lingered over the white leather of the steering wheel. Spock was buckled into the seat, like they were going somewhere. Jim was not.

“Is this better?”

“Yeah.” Jim looked around them. All above and below them, space extended on; a vast collection of shining stars. He grinned. “Is this how you see my mind?”

“This is how your mind looks when you are centered. I am able to do this for you only because I understand the process myself- you have often asked what the point of meditation is, and now you are able to actually see the results meditation has on the mind.”

Jim laughed. “And you can meditate for me?”

“I am able to order your mind while you are asleep. Were you awake, I doubt I would be able to do such a thing.”

“We could…” He looked around. “We could do this while we were awake?”

Spock looked down at his lap. He didn’t speak.

“Spock?”

“I am uncertain.” He said.

“What even is this?”

“I am uncertain.” He said again.

Jim looked around. “Why aren’t we in your mind?”

“We could be.”

He blinked, and they were laying beneath an odd, stark white tree with brittle red leaves. They were in the hot, dry red dirt of Vulcan, and the sky above them was without a moon. Jim could see Delta Vega in the distance, a small, white dot just barely bigger than the stars freckling the sky. There was nothing else but them for miles, under their oasis of a tree. He turned to look behind him, to see if the nothingness expanded out in all directions.

They were back in the corvette.

“I prefer to keep us out of my mind,” Spock explained. “If this is what I believe it to be, I do not wish to deeply merge our minds together.”

“What do you think this is?” Jim asked.

“It would seem we have accidentally melded.”

Jim’s brows rose. “A mind meld?”

Spock nodded.

“I thought only bondmates did that.”

“Negative.” Spock said. “It is a method used for healing as well. Likewise, some close friends and family at times use a meld to convey information in a timely manner if they possess the capability. It is, however, extremely intimate…” He greened. “I am uncertain of the inappropriateness of our current actions.”

Jim shrugged. “Who cares? It’s not like we did it on purpose.”

“That is what concerns me.” Spock said.

“What do you mean?”

“It is, normally, incredibly difficult to enter a mind meld. Even for bonded pairs- the first meld is infamously tremulous.” His mouth pulled down in the corner. “Perhaps, due to my status as a hybrid…”

“If you’re trying to insinuate that you messed up because you’re half human and half Vulcan, shut up.” Jim said. He leaned back in the seat of the car, crossing his hands behind his head. “Spock, you’re a strong telepath. We both know it.”

Spock said, “Perhaps.”

“The most talented of your generation, I bet.” Jim said. “Everyone else needs touch to use their telepathy, right?”

“So far as I have been informed.”

“You don’t.” It wasn’t a question. Somehow, Jim just knew.

Spock looked away.

“I knew it.” Jim said.

“It is not something to rejoice.”

Jim rolled his eyes. “I’m just saying, you didn’t screw up. Maybe you’re just so good at telepathy, a mind meld wasn’t hard.” Jim shrugged. “Sometimes, that’s how things are with us. Math is supposed to be hard. Astrophysics are supposed to be hard. Chemistry is supposed to be hard. But it’s not for us.”

“I had not considered it in such a way,” Spock said.

Jim smirked. “That’s why you’ve got me around.”

A shooting star went past.

“This is nice.” Jim said. “I… feel at peace.”

“Your mind offers a sort of solace I cannot find within my own,” Spock agreed. “Do you always feel this way?”

“No.” Jim said. “I’m usually… I don’t know. Not angry, but like. Frustrated.”

“I understand.”

“Spock.” Jim said, suddenly.

He turned to regard Jim, one eyebrow raised.

“I can’t go back.” Jim said. “I can’t go back to my house and to school when the summer is over. I can’t go back to being alone.”

“I am certain you are capable.”

“Of surviving the year, yeah. I’ve always been a survivor. But Spock, it’s… it’s never like this without you. I’m always full of fear and doubt and loneliness. Spock, before you came, I hadn’t talked to anyone for more than an half an hour at a time. I’m out of my mind with it. I… I feel like I’m the only person in the entire galaxy sometimes, Spock. Just waiting for you to come back, so that I’ll be one of two, and not just by myself so much I…”

Spock put his hand on Jim’s arm. “I know,” he said. He looked down at where his hand touched Jim’s skin, mouth tugged down just barely at the corner. “I find myself similarly dispositioned.”

“What are we going to do?” Jim asked.

“I do not know.” Spock said. “We are children. There is little we can do.”

Jim sighed, leaning down further in the seat. “I hate that. Just because we’re kids doesn’t mean we’re not people. We should get a say in our lives.”

Spock hummed his agreement.

“Besides,” Jim said. “You’re a teenager. You’re practically an adult.”

“I am still very young, for a Vulcan.”

That was right- Vulcans lived longer than humans. For a moment, Jim was gripped with a sudden fear. One day, he’d grow old, and feeble, and Spock would still be capable and strong where he stood. Would Spock leave him, when he wasn’t young any longer? Would Spock still want to be his friend when Jim was old and wrinkled?

He shook himself of the thought. Spock would always be there for him.

“I will,” Spock said.

Jim turned to him. “You can hear me thinking?”

“I can feel it.” He said. “We are in your mind, Jim.”

Jim looked around at the billions of stars surrounding them. “I’ve got a big head.” He joked.

“You have a very dynamic mind.” Spock said. “I am uncertain if I would be able to ‘keep up,’ as you say, were you awake. You are significantly calmer and pliant to mental touch while asleep.”

Jim nodded his head. “So this is a meld?”

“It is… close.” Spock said. “I have determined that we are not sharing a full meld.”

“Huh. That’s cool.”

Spock removed his hands from Jim’s arm, looking back out at the stars. “Indeed.”

They sat in silence for a time.

“Spock?”

“Yes, Jim?”

“I love you.”

Spock’s eyes grew gentle. “I know, Jim.” He reached out of the car, as if to touch the stars. Space seemed to bend beneath his fingertips. “I love you, as well.”

 


 

 

“I don’t like that you spend all your time with that Spock kid.”

Jim rolled his eyes. And I don’t like that my mom spends all her time with you. “You do realize he’s like, the only friend I have, right?” He looked up over his shoulder at Frank. The older man was looking through the fridge, frowning.

Jim just wanted to eat his cereal in peace. But no.

“That’s the part I don’t like.” Frank stood to full height, turning around to look at Jim. “You’re a nice kid, Jimmy. You’re fast as hell and a good athlete. Aren’t there any kids you could at least play with?”

“Play what with? Football?” Jim snorted. “No one ever wants to listen to tactics. It’s chaos out there- every man for himself. I’ll play when they grow interested in forming a real team.”

Frank sighed. “What about the kids in you grade?”

“No one in high school wants to hang out with a twelve year old.”

“Spock’s in high school, so what makes him different?”

“Spock’s an anomaly.” Jim said. “He doesn’t count.”

“Well I mean, it’s supposed to be hard to befriend Vulcans. So you must be good at it. Can’t you do what you did to Spock? Make some human friends who’ll still be dirt-side when the school year starts?”

“Do what I did to Spock?”

“You made Spock your friend. So do it again with someone else.”

Jim snorted. “I doubt that anyone’s going to be amused by me dropping a beetle in their hand. It barely worked with Spock, anyway.” At Frank’s confused face, Jim waved his hand. “Never mind, it’s stupid.”

“Still,” Frank said. “Other friends would be good for you.”

“Where’s my mom?” Jim asked. “Shouldn’t she be giving me this talk?”

“Shower.” He said. “She’s got a conference call with Commander Christopher Pike later.”

“Commander Pike, huh?” Jim raised his brows. “He’s an amazing officer. I’m betting he’ll make captain by next year- twenty years experience is more than enough.”

“I’d never even heard of him.” Frank said.

Jim shrugged. “Mom would have.”

“Why’s that?”

“He wrote his dissertation on the Kelvin incident.” Jim said.

Frank suddenly looked uncomfortable.

Jim rolled his eyes. “It’s not like they’re gonna be all buddy-buddy or anything. Mom’s about as good at making friends as I am.”

“Your mother has plenty of friends,” Frank said. “Which brings us back to my point.”

Jim groaned.

“Why don’t you check out what’s going on at the community center? Your mom mentioned that you like chess. I bet they have tournaments there, or something.”

“Frank, if I can beat my mom without any problems, there’s no way anyone else in Riverside is going to keep up with me.”

“Don’t get too full of yourself.”

“There’s a difference between being full of yourself and knowing your abilities. I’m well aware that I’m probably not the best chess player in the entire universe- but I am damn good. Better than anyone here, unless there’s another genius hiding out in the corn somewhere.”

Frank rolled his eyes. “Genius,” he scoffed.

“Certifiable,” Jim said. “Doesn’t make me better than anyone else- it just makes it harder for me to connect to other people. Spock’s the only other genius I’ve ever met. Mom comes close, but I can only talk about warp cores for so long before I want to move on to something else, and then I lose her.”

Frank said, “I still think you might be a little full of it.”

“What, do you want to play chess with me?” Jim snorted.

“I can play chess,” Frank insisted.

Jim paused. “… Alright.” He said, finally. “Wanna play?”

Frank looked back towards the living room. “Your mother-“

“Is gonna be on her call, right? You’ve got time to kill.”

Frank frowned.

“Oh come on. If you’re going to hang around all the time you might as well.” Jim narrowed his eyes. “Are you seriously nervous that I might beat you?”

Frank gave him a look. “No.”

“I beat mom.”

“She’s your mother.” The she’s letting you win, went unspoken, but Jim heard it loud and clear.

“Oh my god.” Jim said. He suddenly realized; “You really think people are exaggerating when they talk about the Kirks.”

Frank glared.

“Well now we have to play.” Jim said.

Frank said, “I guess I have time to kill.”

Jim smirked. “I’ll get the boards.”

He hurried up to his room and grabbed the box, dusting it off with the corner of his shorts. He raced back down stairs, where Frank was waiting at the kitchen table with a beer. Jim opened the box up and set the boards up, lining all the pieces up.

“You can take white if you want,” Jim said.

Frank shrugged. “Sure,” he said. “Why not?” He pulled over the rule book while Jim set their pieces up, skimming through it. “I think I remembered everything, but just to be sure…” He read on.

“Ready?”

Frank nodded.

Jim hadn’t played since the summer when his mom had taught him. Still, he hadn’t forgotten anything. The long nights alone in his room had meant watching matches of grand masters playing their chess games, learning all the classic moves and strategies, as well as a few new ones, and the tactics he’d implemented on his own. He waited for Frank to open and then snickered- the English opening. Classic, but Jim could already see the game unfolding. He’d have Frank in twenty moves or less.

Jim had him in eleven.

“What the hell?” Frank held up the rule book, and then looked back down at the board, where Jim’s rook was holding the King hostage. “That can’t be right.”

Jim shrugged. “Check mate,” he repeated.

Frank stared at the board. Winona had since headed to her office, briefly stopping in the hallway to wave at them. He looked back out at the office door, as if it would tell him if she was nearly done or not.

“One more.” He said.

Jim shrugged. He decided to draw it out to fifteen moves, but Frank left an opening too good to pass up on, and he ended up closing in eight instead. He grinned up at Frank’s baffled expression, waiting for the penny to drop.

“You’re... really smart.” Frank said, baffled.

“And humble, too.” Jim said, grinning.

Frank rolled his eyes and started packing up chess pieces. Jim took that as a sign that they were done and started to fold the boards up. Even if Frank was, well, dating his mother, the guy was still alright some of the time- he cleaned up after himself, and he seemed to respect Winona- fear her, even, if the mood was right. Winona could get pissed at the drop of a hat, and when that happened, Frank seemed to have enough sense to tip-toe around like Jim did. For that, Jim couldn’t help but respect him a little bit- all the other guys his mom had taken out seemed to think too highly of themselves, like they were tougher than her, better than her. She wasn’t a sad, soppy widow- she was an engineer with combat training and a mean streak a mile wide and a mile deep.

“Hey.” Frank said.

Jim looked up at him. “Huh?”

“Can I… talk to you?”

Jim didn’t like the serious tone Frank had taken on. “You just finished talking to me about how weird you think it is that I only ever hang out with Spock,” Jim joked. “Whatever you’re gonna follow up with can’t be that bad.”

“You’re just a kid,” Frank continued. “But… it’s your mom, and, you know… I really care about her, so...”

Jim wasn’t stupid. They’d just finished having a conversation about how not-stupid he was. Two plus two equaled four, and Frank wanted to marry his mom. “No.” Jim said. “No way.”

“I haven’t said anything yet,” Frank said, frustrated.

“You can’t marry my mom.”

His eyes went wide. He whipped around, as if Winona might rise up behind him and eat him alive, but there was, of course, nothing and no one there. He turned back around and leaned in, voice hushed. “Shut it, kid.”

“You’ve only been dating for like. A year.” Jim said. “You just moved here!”

“I’ve been here two years,” Frank snapped. “And I’ve spent most of that time here in this house.”

“So what, you’re marrying the house?”

“Wh- no! That’s not what I’m saying.” He dragged a hand down his face, shoulder sagging. “Can you just- Jesus. You’re the worst kid alive.”

“Yeah, so?”

Frank said, “Why not?”

“Why not?”

“Why can’t I marry her, huh?”

Jim frowned.

“I love her, don’t I? I treat her well. And she’s an amazing woman, Jim- I’m never going to find anyone like her.”

“She’s out of your league.” Jim snapped. Frank had no right to her- none! She was Jim’s mom, and Frank was just some guy who wanted to be a part of a broken family, and Jim… Jim wanted to hold onto his mother with all he had. She was all he head left, and what happened when Frank swooped in and took her?

“She damn well is.” Frank ran a hand through his hair. He was sweating, slightly. “Look, Jim, I’m not asking for your blessing or whatever. Okay? I just… she is your mom. And when I marry her, I’m gonna be your step dad. And I don’t want to walk into that without knowing you’re okay with it.”

“I don’t have a dad.” Jim said. “My dad is dead.”

“Step dad.” Frank said again.

“You don’t even know me!”

“Well I’m trying to.” Frank insisted. “I love your mom, and I wanna spend all my time with her, okay? I know you two are a package deal. I don’t get your mom without you there, too. And that’s fine, okay- I always wanted a son. And you’re as smart as they come.”

Jim narrowed his eyes. “I wouldn’t be your son.”

“I know that. But you’d be my wife’s son, and that’s close enough.”

Jim looked at the floor.

“I’m gonna ask her to marry me, Jim.” Frank said. “One day or another.”

“She’ll leave,” Jim said. “No matter what. She’ll always go back to the stars.”

“We’ll see,” Frank said, and Jim knew the man didn’t understand.

“Nothing can keep her here.” Jim assured the other man. “Not even us.”

Frank said nothing.

“Do you still want to marry her?”

He nodded.

Jim shrugged. “Guess she’ll have someone else to watch me when she leaves the planet.” When Frank looked at him oddly, Jim went on to explain. “She works for Starfleet. Did you think you could go with her? You’d have to go through courses at Starfleet Academy to just live on the ship. Five years if you want to be anything more than the spouse she brought along with her.”

“She was going to bring you,” Frank said.

“I’m her child.” Jim said. “She can bring me until I’m a legal adult.”

Frank furrowed his brow.

“Just think on that,” Jim said.

“Are you really trying to argue with me to get me not to marry your mom?”

“I don’t want anything bad to happen to her.” Jim said. “If she gets attached to you, but you can’t handle that she’s never here, and it all falls apart, she’s gonna be crushed. If that happens… I don’t know.”

Frank stared at him for a bit.

“What?” Jim asked.

“You’re alright, Jim.” He reached out, ruffling Jim’s hair. Jim didn’t shove him off, just the once. “You’re alright.”

It wasn’t a connection, but it was close enough. Jim ducked under Frank’s arm and slipped around the table. “I’m gonna take the Hali over to Spock’s house,” he said.

“I’d been meaning to ask you about that,” Frank said. “Where did you buy a bike that tricked out?”

“Huh? Oh.” Jim smirked. “I built it.”

 


 

 

He fell asleep with his head pressed up to Spock’s shoulder. The young Vulcan had fallen asleep on his back, next to a curled up Jim. Spock had pressed his leg into Jim’s knees, his shoulder brushing up against Jim’s nose. Jim had laughed and scooted closer, and eventually, he’d drifted off.

He was in his head again. Spock’s head- that was. Spock was sleeping next to him under the tree, his face shadowed by the leaves hanging above them. Jim looked off into the horizon, where the sun just barely clung to the sky. It looked huge and red, like he was viewing the one on Earth through smoke, magnified. He raised his hand to shade his eyes against the glare, but before he could complete the motion the brightness seemed to fade a little, responding to his thoughts.

He turned to Spock. Reaching out, he touched the Vulcan’s shoulder. “Spock.” He shook him a little. “Spock, wake up.” Spock’s shoulder was cool, like he’d been out in the wind.

Spock turned over in his sleep, rolling away from Jim.

Jim stood. He put his hands on his hips and surveyed the area. Just as before, there was nothing there- just miles and miles of the same red sand and dirt. He turned around, to survey the tree, but a shape in the distance caught his eye. Maybe there wasn't nothing but dirt, after all.

He stepped out from under the shade of the tree, narrowing his eyes as he looked on. There was a shadow in the distance. It was far, far away, but Jim was certain he could reach it if he tried. He started to walk, surprised by how quickly the shape became clearer and larger. It was as if he were running- faster than any human could, too- but his feet touched the ground in their usual measured gate.

It was a house. A small, adobe house with slick finished lines and precise measurements. A Vulcan house- was it where Spock lived? It was incredibly small, almost like a little hut. Surely it would only be big enough for one person to live in. He looked over his shoulder to see if perhaps Spock had roused, but he’d left the tree far behind. It was merely a spot on the horizon.

Jim proceeded closer to the house. There was a small glass fence surrounding the property, and a thin stream and fountain circulated around the establishment, distributing water to a small collection of herbs. Jim carefully pushed the glass gate open and stepped onto a small sandstone path that lead to the door of the house. He crossed over the little stream, pausing to watch it trickle underneath the path and reappear on the other side. He didn’t delay long, moving on towards the door.

He knocked on the surface, waiting to see if anyone would appear, or if anything would happen. Nothing did, but he knocked a couple more times to be certain. He reached down for the handle, but it burned his hand- the hot metal of the doorknob must have been baking in the heat.

“Ouch!” He drew back quickly, shaking his hand. Curious, that it would be so hot when the sun wasn’t uncomfortable- he hadn’t even begun to sweat.

He crept around the side of the house, until he found a window. He pressed his nose to the glass, looking inside. It was a modern, white interior. There was a small kitchen with a single small table, topped by a glass vase housing a single, alien red flower, and then one chair at the table. There was the front door, and next to it, a closed off room- a bathroom, Jim guessed. Then there was a corner of the room taken up by a desk piled high with PADDS, and a shelf filled with them next to it. There were several models of Vulcan and its neighboring bodies hanging above the desk in the form of holo projection. The last corner of the room was taken up by a large futon, which was atop a thin, foamy peach mat- it was a larger version of the one Spock used for meditation. The mat extended past the futon, probably to be used for meditation before and after sleeping. Spock kept his at the side of the bed when he used it, too.

The futon was what he centered on. There was someone sleeping on top of it in white Vulcan robes. They were facing away from the window- the only sign of their person he could distinguish beyond the bare feet was the long, black hair, spilling across the bright white covers.

He tapped on the glass. “Hello?”

The figure sat up, peering at the door. Their body was tense; Jim would say almost annoyed. Had they been ignoring him knocking on the door before?

He slapped a hand against the window.

The figure spun around, hair flying. It was a girl- her pretty black eyes wide with surprise. They narrowed just as quickly in annoyance. She stood and walked to her desk, keeping her eyes on Jim. She grabbed a PADD, typed something rapidly on it without looking to the screen, and then marched back over to the window. She put the PADD up.

It was Vulcan writing. That made sense, because as Jim looked, he noticed the sharp brows, cheekbones, and most remarkably the pointed ears, poking out from under her waves of silky hair.

Leave. It read.

“Why?” Jim yelled. He’d been speaking in Vulcan the entire time, but her face made him feel like he was doing it wrong, somehow.

You are not to be here. She wrote.

“Who are you?” He asked. “Are you some secret version of Spock?”

She narrowed her eyes. I am extremely displeased with Spock.

“I’m coming around to the door,” Jim yelled. “Let me in!”

She shook her head, but it was too late. Jim ran around the house, knocking on the door again. She didn’t answer right away, so he just kept knocking, until eventually it unlocked. The girl ripped it open, eyes blazing with fury.

“What is it that you are doing here?” She snapped.

“I don’t know.” He blinked, baffled by her rage. “Who are you?”

“Who am I?” She scoffed. “You come barging into my mind as if you have any right to it, and then you have the gal to ask who it is that you speak to. I will not meld with you, human, and your presence here offends me. To be forced to have my mind’s link viewed in such a manner- to lower myself to speaking with words within the confines of my own head. It is despicable. I am attempting to study, and you have forced me into meditation so that I may deal with your battering against my shields. I do not appreciated your telepathic aptitude, and ask you to leave and never return to this place.”

Jim jerked back. “Wh-what? But this is… I thought you were Spock.”

She scoffed. “To think you do not even know what it is you have done. Do not come here again, or the heat upon your hand is the least I will do. Do you understand, human? The fence is not meant to be crossed, and I ask you out.”

When she said out, Jim found himself suddenly outside the fence. He blinked. “W-wait!”

She slammed the door closed. Even from where he was, he could hear it lock. He stepped forward, to pursue her, but the fence rose and fused, until it was a giant glass dome, cutting the little house off from the rest of the world.

“What the hell?” He muttered.

“Jim.”

“Spock!” Jim turned, and he was back at the tree. He looked over his shoulder, baffled. There the house was- a small shadow dotting the landscape. He looked back at Spock, who was standing with an eyebrow raised. “Your head is weird,” Jim said.

“How long have you been here?”

“I dunno.” Jim shrugged. “Did you just fall asleep?”

“I had been meditating. I felt your presence in my mind and allowed it. I finished meditation, and so I have fallen asleep. I had not realized the meld was so deep- I thought you to still be within your own mindscape.”

Jim said, “No, been here all along. I saw something weird…” Something about the girl put him off. Spock raised his brow, but Jim just shook his head. “Never mind. What’s on the schedule for tonight?”

“I had not thought we would repeat the accidental journey into each other’s minds.” Spock admitted. “I have slept next to my mother- even in her arms- countless times, and never have I joined our minds without meaning to.”

“You’ve melded with your mom?”

Spock nodded. “Affirmative.”

“Was it like this?”

“It was not. Every meld is different. The minds of two beings must find a comfortable medium to communicate through, to understand thought. With my mother, I felt as though I were floating through her very feelings, seeing her words and thoughts communicated to me by physical writing that appeared to my mind’s eye. I could feel her voice, but I did not hear it- not in this manner.” He paused. “This is… by far the most organized and understandable meld I have ever participated in.”

“Even with your dad?”

“Melding with my father is… extremely difficult. To share information is relatively simple. To understand another mind is complicated.”

“What was it like?”

“Sound. I was in the heat, and there was sound from all about me- my father’s many thoughts at once. I was overwhelmed when first encountering his mind. With time, I was able to shape sound into thought and communicate with him, and even understand the things he wished to present to me.”

“Wait, I thought you said sharing information was easy?”

“Allow me to show you. I am going to share a memory with you.” Spock reached out, resting his fingers along Jim’s face in an odd configuration. “May I?”

“Go ahead,” Jim said, and then he was no longer Jim.

He was Spock, and his mother was cooking plomeek in the kitchen while his father watered the garden out back. He was drawing computer programs with shaky, childish hands, and he felt the slide of his skin against the glass surface of the PADD, and he felt the overwhelming heat like a gentle caress. His skin was odd, and soft, and he wasn’t sweating, even though his mother reached up continuously to wipe the back of her hand against her forehead, cheeks flushed with the temperature. He liked it, and more than that, he liked his mother’s humming. He could just barely make out the notes she failed to hit, and even though it was akin to a mistaken equation in a long line of perfect numbers, he could not find it within himself to detest the sound. He looked up to his father, watching water tumble from a pitcher and into the green- wondering why his father would tend to the earth plants and not his mother, if they were of her world, wondering how they came to grow, how they came from seed, how, how, how-

Jim jerked back to himself with a gasp.

“WH-“ he sucked in a breath, feeling like he couldn’t breath. “What was that?”

“I have shared one of my memories with you.”

“It’s like I was there!” Jim managed. “I was you!”

Spock nodded. “You understand, then, why this method is only used between close companions. Though it is highly efficient and logical, it is intimate. I can chose to limit the experience, but it is easiest to share a memory in its raw form.”

“Damn,” Jim breathed. “That was…” His own skin felt weirdly sweaty. “That was something else.” He blinked. “So… you could show me what it was like to meld with your mom? Or your dad?”

Spock seemed to think about it.

“I could.”

Jim beamed.

“However.”

Jim frowned.

“To do so would be to… meld you to them, in a sense. You would merely be remembering the experience as I did, but it would be as if I were revealing an intensely personal secret to you which I had promised to keep.”

Jim nodded. “I get it. Don’t worry, Spock, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. I’m never going to judge you for wanting to keep some things private.”

“Thank you, Jim.” Spock said. He looked out at the horizon, and its unmoving sun. “If ever you wish to show me your own memories, or give me information-“

“Wait, there’s a way to just give straight up information?”

Spock nodded. “It is akin to memory. You understand how to start the Hali. If I did not, you would simply attempt to push that information to me. I would understand it as you did, retaining fractures of the memories you formed in creating the information. I would understand, then, how to start the bike, though not by living through your memories. I would simply have the knowledge.”

“How weird.” Jim said. “Doesn’t it take time?”

“No. Thought is the fastest force known to our species.” Spock said. “It takes the mere brushing of skin.”

“I get it.” Jim said. “You were about to tell me how to do it, right?”

He nodded. “Contact on the face, particularly at psi points is the most favorable for thought transference. It requires a surface meld, nothing deeper. Allow me to show you.” Spock reached up, placing his fingers along the side of Jim’s face.

Jim reached up, mirroring the action on Spock’s own skin.

“That is correct.” Spock said. He lowered his hand.

“Sometimes you just touch my forehead. Is that enough?”

“I am a very strong telapath.”

“Oh yeah.” Jim laughed. “So I’ve probably got to do it by the book.”

“Were you to meld with anyone else, perhaps. With myself, however, I believe it should be easier to initiate a meld. It would be easiest for you to imagine is as if you were slipping into my mind, physically. As one enters a bed, inserting themselves gently between the sheets.”

“Or like slipping into a pool.”

“That would be an apt description.”

“Kinda funny that something so basic to Vulcans would be about feelings. There’s not really a logical explanation to this process, huh?”

“There is,” Spock said, wryly. “Perhaps not one you would understand, of course.”

Jim grinned and pushed Spock’s shoulder. “Jerk.”

Spock raised a brow. “I believe you find my character favorable.”

“Evidence states otherwise.” Jim said. “I.E.; jerk.”

“Ah, I see. However, when compared to the data I have collected, it is obsolete. You have said ‘I love you’ to me approximately-“

“Shut up!” Jim laughed. “You’re gonna embarrass me and then I’ll make you re-live some stupid embarrassing dreams I’ve had and you will be very illogically upset. Your teeth will all fall out and you’ll forget to wear clothes to school. You don’t want that, do you Spock?”

Spock lifted a hand to his mouth, brows raised. Firmly, he said, “My teeth will remain within my mouth.” Then, he clasped the collar of his sweater. “My clothes, likewise, will remain upon my body.”

“Vulcans don’t stress dream, then?”

“It is very rarely that we dream at all.” Spock said.

“Oh?”

“Dreaming is an illogical way for the mind to process problems, emotion, and events. Vulcans dedicate much of the time humans spend sleeping manually sorting such things through meditation. There is no need for us to dream.”

“You said rarely.” Jim said. “Which means sometimes…”

“We do.” Spock affirmed.

“What do you dream about?”

Spock closed his mouth and looked stubbornly away.

“Spock?”

“Home,” Spock said, but he wasn’t looking at the planet. He was staring up at the sky.

Jim followed Spock’s line of sight, leaning back into the dirt. “Yeah,” he sighed. “Me too.”

 


 

 

“No more Spock.”

Jim glared, balling his hands into fists. “What the hell, mom?”

“Language,” she admonished. She had her back to him and was working at her desk- or at least, pretending to work, so she wouldn’t have to face him. “Frank is right, Jim. You need to make some other friends.”

“Oh, so this is about Frank.” Jim drawled. He was furious.

“No, this is about you.” She said. “What about that Johnny kid? Didn’t you two used to be friends? He lives just down the road, you could go over to his house.”

“Johnny outgrew me,” Jim snapped. “Just like Spock didn’t.

“Jim, don’t be contemptuous.”

“What, did you think I was going to take this one lying down? Mom, what happened to that whole not punishing Spock for my mistakes thing? What happened to not punishing me for doing nothing wrong?”

“I’m not punishing you,” she said. “You just need to get out more. Jim, make more friends. Spock is great, but he’s… like you.”

“Which is a bad thing.” He snorted.

“No, it’s not bad. It’s… Jim, you need to broaden your horizons. Have friends who like doing things other than what you do. Friends who like to hang out at the mall, or playing baseball, or-“

“Baseball?” Jim snapped. “Are you serious right now?”

“Jim-“

“If you want me to play baseball, I’ll go outside right now and Spock can pitch a few rounds. Is that what you want? For me to hit a ball with a stick and run around a field? Cuz I can do that! I’ll play any kind of ballgame you want. But I’m not dumping Spock to play with people who don’t even like me.”

“They’d like you if you gave them a chance,” she said.

“I’ve given them a chance! I’ve given them multiple chances! Hell, if someone walked up to me today and told me they’d like to hang out, even after snuffing me out so many times, I’d still give them a chance.” He dragged a hand down his face. “I’m not the one who shuts them out. I like people. I want to be friends with other people. But I’m- I’m weird, mom! I’m a nerd, I’m younger than everyone else, I’m not cool, I’m too soft, I’m a million things they don’t want and I’m not going to change who I am when there are people out there who like me just the way I am. People like Spock.”

“But that’s what I’m saying,” Winona turned around and sat down in the office chair, finally facing him. She folded her hands in her lap. “You’re never going to change if-“

“What’s wrong with the way I am now?”

“I’m not saying that.”

“Yes you are! If there was nothing wrong with how I am you wouldn’t want me to change.”

“To evolve, Jim. You have to be exposed to different environments-“

“Don’t start talking science at me to try to win. You can rattle off Darwin all you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re asking me to give up Spock for people who don’t like me so that I’ll turn into a normal kid. That’s not how this works.”

“I don’t want you to be a normal kid.” Winona protested. “I like you the way you are, Jim. I’d worry if you started acting like everyone else. But you’ve got to learn how to get along with people who aren’t like you. Spock can’t be your entire world- it’s not healthy.”

“Dad was your entire world.”

She flinched.

“I don’t live with Spock. We’re not even from the same planet. It’s impossible for us to be too absorbed in each other when we only get to see each other three months a year. Frank doesn’t like Spock because he doesn’t understand Spock. Frank wants me to hang out with other kids because he wants me to be like other kids. Frank is your boyfriend, but he is not my family, and he shouldn’t get a say in what I do.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Frank deserves your respect-“

“You deserve my respect.” he said. “You’re my mom. Frank is just some guy who hangs out here now. He can earn my respect.”

“Jim.”

“No! I’m not wrong here! You think- you think because you’re an adult, and because he’s an adult, that you both know what’s best for me. Well guess what, Mom. I’m me, and I know what’s best for me! This isn’t me arguing about eating my damn vegetables- this is about my happiness.”

She looked at her lap.

“Spock means everything to me.” Jim said. “If you take that away from me… I will never forgive you.”

“I’m not taking him away.” She said, carefully. “Just… maybe you guys should limit your contact. Once every two days.”

“Once every two days?” He calculated the time they had left under such a rule and scowled. “That’s hardly any time at all!”

She said nothing.

“Fine.” He turned around on his heel, feeling cheated and bitter.

“Jim…”

He didn’t turn around to look at her. “I hope Frank’s worth the trouble.”

She didn’t have a reply to that.

 


 

 

“It’s stupid that I have to do this.” Jim muttered.

Spock pulled.

“I mean, come on. We’re not Romeo and Juliet.”

“I would certainly hope not,” Spock managed.

Jim finally reached the window cill. He grabbed the side and hauled himself up, letting Spock help him over the ledge and into the room. “Thanks,” he said, and dragged the rope into the window. “You’re okay with this?”

“As a Vulcan, I require very little sleep.”

“As a Jim, I’m about the same.” He grinned.

Spock reached over and closed the window. “You must remember to keep your voice down, Jim. My mother was unaware of our nighttime activities only because she does not have the superior hearing of a Vulcan. My father will not be so easily avoided- he will hear us if we do not take care.”

Jim nodded. “Right. I forgot about that.” He tugged his backpack off of his shoulders and opened it up. “Dune?”

Spock raised a brow. “We have seen this movie seven times.”

“I’ve seen it like seventy.” Jim laughed under his breath.

“Surely you remember the events, then.”

“Yeah, but it’s a good movie.” He slid up to the headboard and propped up some of Spock’s pillows, leaning back. Seeing Spock hadn’t moved, he sighed. “We can watch something else if you want.”

“… I would not be adverse to watching Dune again, if it pleases you, Jim.”

Jim smiled. “You sure?”

“I would not have said so if I were not.”

Jim flicked the screen. “Dune it is then.”

A beginning is a very delicate time. Know then, that it is the year 10191. The known universe is ruled by the Padisha Emperor Shaddam IV, my father. In this time, the most precious substance in the Universe is the spice melange. The spice extends life. The spice expands consciousness. The spice is vital to space travel. The Spacing Guild and its navigators, who the spice has mutated over four-thousand years, use the orange spice gas, which gives them the ability to fold space. That is, travel to any part of the Universe without moving. Oh yes, I forget to tell you...

Jim let his head fall onto Spock's shoulder as he mouthed the lines. Spock leaned his head into Jim's, and they stayed like that for the movie, pressed side to side. It made Jim feel like maybe, just maybe, everything was going to be alright.

 


 

 

Jim succeeded in sneaking into Spock’s house every night for two and a half weeks. Week two, day five, was when it happened.

Jim looked down at his watch. It was time, Spock’s window was open, and he’d be waiting. As usual, Jim had tied the rope to a rock. He reared his arm back and threw it. Pale, green tinted arms flashed out the window, caught the rock, and drew it inside.

Jim tugged on the rope, ensuring it was taunt.

“James Kirk.”

Jim startled so badly he nearly fell over. “Jesus!”

Sarek stood behind him, hands clasped neatly behind his back, eyebrow raised. “Incorrect,” he said. “My name is Sarek. You know this.”

“I was just startled,” Jim explained. He felt flushed. “Um, what are you up to, uh, Sir? Taking a midnight stroll? Me too. Love the night air. Just. Out for a walk. It’s nice.”

“You are not out for a walk.” Sarek said. “You are attempting to scale the side of the house to enter Spock’s room through the window.”

“Wh- what?” Jim gasped. “I- the audacity! You. You have no proof.”

Sarek tilted his head to the side, so that he saw neatly around Jim, and looked pointedly at the rope.

“That was there when I got here,” Jim said. He was sweating.

Sarek raised both brows. “This is also a lie, James Kirk. I observed you throw this rope to my son, just as you did the night prior to this.”

Jim sucked in a breath through his teeth. Shit.

“Would you care to explain why you do not enter through the front door?”

Jim looked up at Sarek. “Uh…” He rubbed the back of his neck, awkwardly. “Well, you know. My mom told you guys I’m not supposed to come around here every day anymore.”

Sarek nodded. “I am aware.”

“So… you know. You’d tell her and I’d be in trouble.”

Sarek raised his brow.

Jim paused. “… Wouldn’t you?”

“It is no business of mine if your mother is unable to prevent her son from leaving the house.” He said. “My wife and I have no such rule restricting you from seeing our son.”

Jim’s eyes went wide. “You mean…?”

“Should you wish to enter through the front door, there will be no complications. My wife and I have been aware of your activity since the rule was implemented. You are very loud when you scale the side of the house.”

Jim flushed.

“She is worried about footprints on the paint.”

“S-sorry.”

Sarek said, “Kaiidth.” He turned. “I am returning to the house, if you wish to follow.”

Jim looked up at the window. Spock’s head was hanging out- he’d seen the whole thing. Jim gave him a thumbs up and then ran after Sarek.

It was a short, quiet walk to the front door. Sarek ushered Jim inside, and then locked it. “When you leave in the morning, be certain to lock the door behind you.” He said. He turned and started towards his bedroom.

“Um… thank you?”

“Thanks are unnecessary.”

Jim ran up the stairs and to Spock’s room, entering just in time to see Spock drop the rock out the window as he coiled Jim’s rope up.

“Spock!” Jim cheered.

“Jim.” Spock handed the rope back over.

Jim took off his backpack, stuffing the rope inside, and then flung himself onto Spock’s bed. His body bounced with the impact and he laughed. “Your parents know,” he said. “And they don’t- they won’t tell my mom! Can you believe it?”

Spock sat beside him, reached out, and carded a hand through Jim’s hair. His eyes were fond. “There is no logic in my being without you.”

“Is there logic in sneaking out of the house at night to see the Enterprise?” Jim grinned.

“Perhaps,” Spock said.

“Come on.” Jim stood, smiling wide. “Let’s go see our lady.”

 


 

Spock would be leaving in three days.

“We should begin back towards the house,” Spock said. “Otherwise you will have no time left to sleep.”

Jim shrugged. “I’ll catch up on sleep when mom leaves the house.”

“It is unwise,” Spock said. “If you are to fall asleep…”

“Then she’ll find out I’m gone and hang me from my toes by the ceiling fan.” Jim surmised.

Spock raised his brow. “I doubt she would take such drastic measures. Furthermore, the ceiling fan would not support your weight. However, I do believe you would be in trouble.”

“I don’t really care. Three days left- what’s she gonna do? Ground me?”

“She may.”

“Cuz that always works out for her.”

Spock sat up. “Jim, we cannot see the stars. There is no point in remaining here.”

Jim narrowed his eyes up at the cloudy sky.

“It soon will rain.”

Jim sighed; he'd been stalling for more time, but he had to admit it would have been wise to have called it quits hours ago. Spock was right- there was no reason to stay out. “Yeah, okay.”

He stood, stretching, and then bent down to pack up their things. Spock helped, which expedited the process. Jim frowned as he glance up at the sky. Usually, they would have left the moment the clouds rolled in. His stalling meant they were likely to get caught in the rain, if they didn't hurry.

They marched back to the fence of the ship yard. Jim gave Spock a leg up, and then climbed up over the fence after tossing his backpack to Spock. They both dusted themselves off and then headed for the Hali.

Jim started it, strapped his helmet on, and gestured for Spock to get on behind him. The hover bike rose off of the ground, though she wobbled slightly. They’d made her so long ago- it was beginning to be too small for them. They’d have to upgrade her.

Jim could barely keep his eyes open. A summer of sleepless nights and short naps was beginning to catch up with him, and he hadn't pushed to be out so late in a long time. He held the handle bars of the bike tighter, letting the leather dig into his hands so that the discomfort would keep him awake. Spock hated driving, or Jim would have asked him to take over.

It was a long drive back.

With the clouds covering the sky, the night was pitch black. Nothing existed outside of the beam of the Hali’s headlight. Jim felt hypnotized by the blur of the road, and the rush of the cornfields to their sides. The road went on forever and ever, stretching before him, blurring, narrowing-

“Jim!”

Jim jerked the hand bars as a sudden dark form took shape before his eyes.

A black cow was standing in the middle of the road- materialized from the dark without warning. Jim clenched his eyes shut and for a moment was weightless. The Hali pitched into the ditch and Spock yanked them both from the bike. She hit a telephone pole and spun into the cornfield, giving a defeated whine as she smashed into the dirt.

For a moment, Jim just lay there, stunned. He groaned, sitting up, and turned to Spock. He ripped his helmet off. “Ouch… you okay?”

Spock sat up, removing his own helmet. His hair stood with static. “I am operational.”

Jim stood, dusting himself off. He’d be a mass of bruises in the morning, but the adrenalin shooting through his veins took his mind off the pain. He was shaking. “You sure you’re okay?” He asked. He reached out and swiped the dirt off of Spock’s shoulders as the Vulcan stood.

Spock lifted his arm. His sweater was torn and his elbow was bleeding, though not badly. “This is the worst of my injuries.” Spock said. “I believe there is no cause for worry.”

Jim nodded. He looked over at the Hali, where she’d slammed into the dirt. Her front was completely dented in, smashed by the telephone pole. “Next time,” Jim said, “We build her from sturdier material.”

“Agreed.”

They both looked up at the sky as a sudden rumbled of thunder broke the night’s silence. Jim winced, and then looked back over to where the cow was still standing sedately in the road.

“At least we didn’t hit it.” Jim said.

Spock narrowed his eyes at the creature. “It is not very intelligent.”

“Cow’s are actually pretty smart,” Jim said. He quirked his head to the side. “Maybe we could ride him back home…”

Spock gave him a look.

“Yeah, okay, I get it.” Jim snorted. He opened his backpack for his PADD. “Let’s call your mom. I don’t want to get caught in the rain.” He pulled the PADD out and then fronted. It was cracked neatly down the middle, circuits on display. He’d landed on it when he’d fallen off the bike. “Shit.”

Spock squinted at the sky. “I suggest we begin walking.”

“Yeah.”

They did. They left the Hali behind, along with her blue glow, and ventured into the darkness. Soon, it was so dark that Jim couldn’t see anything. He clutched onto Spock’s arm and trusted Spock’s vision to lead them through the night.

He was tired, and he begun to stumble as they walked. Spock held him up, carefully, as they ventured on.

“Mom’s gonna kill me.” Jim moaned.

“There is still a possibility she will not know you left.”

“She’ll know when she sees the Hali missing in the morning.”

“Ah.”

They walked on.

It began to sprinkle. Lightly, at first, so Jim wasn’t too worried. Then the heavens opened up, and it began to rain in earnest, so that within moments Jim was completely soaked. His socks squished uncomfortably inside of his shoes, and he began to grow cold. He clenched his teeth and wrapped arm across his torso.

“Think we’re getting close?” Jim rightened himself after almost slipping in the mud.

Spock didn’t answer.

Jim said, “If we cut across the field we’ll get to my house faster.”

“Without the stars to guid us, I am uncertain of the direction we must go to end up at your house. We must follow the road.”

Jim shook his head. “That’ll take too long.” He could already feel how cold Spock’s arm had grown. Though the Vulcan didn’t shiver, nor did his teeth chatter, Jim knew it was only because of his Vulcan control. Spock wasn’t built for the rain.

“It will take precisely at long as it must.”

Jim frowned, but kept walking. He dropped his hand down to hold onto Spock’s wrist, so that he wouldn’t weigh down on his friend. Through their skin-to-skin contact, Jim could feel Spock’s apprehension and wariness. He squared his jaw and tried to focus on keeping a quick, steady pace, hoping that his worry wasn’t leaking through to Spock.

Spock tripped.

“Spock?” Jim turned to him, worried, as the other boy rightened himself. Spock didn’t stumble. His walk was calculated like a science- there was no room for a misstep. “You okay?”

“I am fine.” Spock said. The very fact that he’d used the word ‘fine’ worried Jim. It was too ambiguous a term- it was illogical. Spock normally wouldn’t have used it, but either he wasn’t up to his usual standards of logic, or he was being intentionally vague. Either way, it wasn’t good.

“Come on.” Jim said. He started to jog. “We’ll be warmer it we move faster.”

Spock kept up at first. The longer they were out in the pouring rain, though, the more stiffly Spock began to move. He was practically dragging his feet, and his wrist was so cold where it met Jim’s fingers that Jim began to worry that the Vulcan might be ill.

“Spock?” He turned when Spock stumbled again, catching the Vulcan and holding him up. Jim was shivering uncontrollably, then, but he managed to force his jaw to work. It hurt to move his cold lips. “Spock! Are you alright?”

Spock shook his head. His legs gave out.

Jim gasped, holding tight onto Spock so that the other boy wouldn’t fall into the mud. “Spock, come on! We can make it. Come on, Spock.” Spock’d head fell onto Jim’s shoulders. He was cold to the touch, his breathing labored against Jim’s collarbones.

“Shit.” Jim awkwardly shouldered Spock over, until the Vulcan was at his back. “Come on. Climb up.”

They managed to somehow get Spock onto Jim’s back. Spock hung limply there, his arms swaying over Jim’s shoulders and into his vision. Jim held Spock’s thighs, so that he was giving Spock a piggy back. He trudged off the road and into the corn field, hissing when the wet stalks of corn slapped against his face. He marched onwards, certain that he knew where he was going.

Licks of lightning in the distance lit their path from time to time. Jim could see the silhouette of the house in the distance, but it felt impossibly far away. His legs shook with the strain of supporting Spock, and the Vulcan’s body did nothing to warm Jim’s own. If anything, Spock seemed to be sapping away what little body heat Jim had left. He clenched his teeth to stop them from chattering and moved on, stumbling through the field.

He walked.

He fell, once. Spock landed on top of him, not moving. Jim groaned and rolled over, depositing Spock on the wet ground. Jim stood and shrugged off his backpack, which had become heavier and heavier as the minutes dragged on, until it felt as though it weighed hundreds of pounds. He dropped the pack on the ground and then grabbed Spock’s wrist, struggling to sling the Vulcan back over his back.

He couldn’t get Spock up onto his back the way he had been before- he groaned and pulled, but there was no getting Spock’s legs up onto his hips. He grabbed one of Spock’s wrists in each hand and held the Vulcan to his back that way, cringing at the way Spock’s feet dragged through the mud. Spock’s pulse was flighty and light, like a bird’s, and his breathing was harsh in Jim’s ear.

J im panted as he trudged on.

The house was just in the distance. He could see the porch light up ahead- a beacon calling out to him from the inexorable blackness of the night. Jim dragged Spock through the field, his toes, fingers, and ears numbed by the cold. His face was raw from the scrape of the cornstalks against his skin, and his arms were scraped and bleeding in places. He felt dizzy and sick to his stomach, but he knew he couldn’t stop.

“Fear is the mind killer,” he grit out. “Fear is the… the little death… that brings total obliteration…” He spit onto the ground and stumbled over a mound in the dirt. Spock’s head lolled against his own. Jim grew dizzy with the murky sickness rolling into him from Spock’s mind, but he shook himself of it and pressed onwards.

“I will face my fear.” He promised. “I will permit it to pass over and through me.”

The porch light was growing stronger. The corn was thinning out, and as he grew closer, he could make out the shape of the house against the sky. Thunder rolled dangerously close and Jim still did not pause. He’d lost one of his shoes to the mud, and his foot throbbed with a dull, cold pain.

“When my fear is gone,” he panted, “I will turn and face fear’s path.”

He made it into the yard. He stopped to look up at the house, feeling like he was seeing it for the first time. The sound of the rain against the tin roof had never been so pleasing- the yellow of the old light outside the screen door had never seemed so welcoming, or heavenly.

“And only I will remain.” Jim breathed.

His feet hit the porch like lead. He threw the screen door open and turned, dragging Spock’s limp body over the threshold. Mud and water streaked across the kitchen tiles as the screen door slammed shut, louder than thunder.

“Jim?” His mom’s door slammed shut. “Jim!?”

“Mom!” His throat was raw. He was crying, he realized dimly. “Mom! Call Amanda!”

“Jim!” She was running down the stairs.

Jim had enough time to kneel next to Spock. He saw his mom’s honey hair and her wide, terrified eyes, before he told himself it was over- they were safe. “Help Spock,” he slurred, and then he let the dark claim him.

 

 


 

 

They were alright. Spock had a cold, and he was confined to his bed, piled in blankets and drowning in a sweater. He looked fairly miserable- the skin around his eyes was forest green and coppery yellow, and he had scrapes up and down his arms to match Jim’s.

Their mothers had both chewed them out. They’d both cried, and hugged, and yelled, and cried some more, and absolutely condemned the Hali for her failure to see them safely home. Jim blamed the cow.

It had been easy enough to fix Jim up. He’d felt like the hot bath he’d earned once he was okay enough to stand it was the best sensation he’d ever experienced. Watching the dirt and blood circle down the drain when he stepped from the waters afterwards was cathartic- he felt as though he’d been born anew.

“Sorry I got us into that mess.” Jim was tucked into bed next to Spock. Winona had been furious- she’d wanted to cut them off from each other to teach Jim a lesson about being stupid. Amanda had argued that they’d both learned it sevenfold.

“We share the blame in equal parts.” Spock said. He sniffed, rather dramatically if Jim did say so himself.

“Nah, you know what? It was the cow’s fault.”

Spock didn’t smile with his mouth, but his eyes gave him away. He was laughing on the inside. “The cow certainly must share some blame, being the cause of our crash.” Spock paused. “While I certainly do believe you will make an excellent starship, Captain, your driving skills leave much to be desired.”

“Hey!” Jim laughed. “You jerk, I avoided the cow, didn’t I?”

“You threw the both of us into a ditch and incapacitated the hover bike.”

“Well did you die? No? I’d say we did pretty great then.”

Spock raised his brow. “If simply not dying is the only parameter to our success, I worry for our future.”

Jim laughed again. He leaned his head into Spock’s shoulder and then slipped his hand up over onto Spock’s wrist. Spock was peaceful, and content- he’d meditated most of the morning, and his mind was in order once more. Jim sent him a wave of contentment and happiness. Spock turned to him.

“Are you not in pain?”

Jim shrugged. “Scrapes, bumps, and bruises.”

“And yet you feel only happiness.” He settled back into the pillows. “Fascinating.”

“It’ll take more than a little rain to count me out. I’m counting on getting eaten by a giant space worm or getting stabbed by an alien or something cool like that. Rain? Pssh. That’s way to normal. I’m going out the cool way.”

“There is no such way.”

“Give a guy a little hope, won’t you Spock?”

Spock said, “Death is a fact. There is no hope or there lack of to dictate it.”

“Well.” Jim shrugged. “I guess there’s a sort of comfort in that alone, huh?”

Spock nodded his head once. “Somehow, I find myself in agreement.”

They were quiet for a time.

“You saved my life,” Spock said.

Jim sat up, leaning forward to see Spock’s face. “What? No I didn’t.”

“Had you left me-“

“Left you? I couldn’t have left you!”

“You likely would not have suffered any illness if you had.”

“Spock. If I’d left you…” He shook his head. “Illness would have been the least of my worries. I’d have been torn apart, even if you were okay. I could never leave you behind.”

“It would have been the logical thing to do.”

“Well, screw logic.” Jim said. “This time and any other time it means hurting you somehow.”

Spock said nothing.

“Don’t ever think I won’t go back for you.” Jim said. “Spock… you’re my best friend.”

“And you, mine.”

“So don’t ever think that I’ll leave you behind. Okay?”

Spock nodded. He looked comforted, though stiff- as if he didn’t want to accept what Jim was saying, but couldn’t help but like what he was hearing. Jim understood him deeply and as personally as if Spock were a part of his soul.

“Think mom’ll let me go home with you to Vulcan?”

Spock said, “It is highly unlikely.”

“Never thought I’d see the day you were too tired to give me exact chances.”

Spock’s brow quirked up, though his eyes remained closed.

Jim snorted. “Did the rain tire you out, Spock?”

“Something did,” Spock said, pointedly.

Jim laughed again. He leaned back into the pillows next to Spock, his hand lightly clasping Spock’s wrist. Spock’s sleepiness seeped over into Jim, piling on top of his tiredness in a soft, warm blanket of home.

Jim allowed his eyes to lower, and with Spock, he fell asleep.

 


 

 

“See you next year?” Jim pulled out of their secret no-hand shake, smile sad and fond.

Spock nodded. He was looking better, though still pale and green around the gills. “I will return to you always, Jim.”

Jim smiled. He held up his hand in the ta’al. Spock ignored it completely, stepping forward to wrap his arms around Jim. Jim’s eyes went wide for a second before he slammed them closed, holding Spock close.

“I will notice your absence,” Spock said.

Jim gave a soft laugh. “Yeah. I’ll miss you too.”

He could feel his mother and Frank’s gazes boring into his back, but he ignored them both. Similarly, he knew Spock must have felt the eyes of his parents, and wondered what it was Sarek would have to say about such a blatant display of emotion. Jim wasn’t even Vulcan, and he was sure Frank would have plenty to say about the emotions on display.

He didn’t care. He carefully drew back, looking into Spock’s eyes. They were happy, if sad, and Jim loved him. He leaned forward, lightly butting their heads together.

See ya, He thought.

Spock nodded.

Jim watched the train depart as usual. He could feel it carrying Spock further and further away, like their hearts had been tethered together. The shuttle was nearly out of sight when his mom said, “Come on Jim. Let’s go home.”

“One sec,” Jim said, and kept his eye on the train as it reached towards the horizon.

They didn’t rush him. Jim waved a little, silly as it was, as the train winked out of view. He turned away with a weight in his heart, feeling like the next months would drag on forever. “Next year,” he said, “I’ll be on that train.”

Winona snorted. “Sure, kid. Keep dreaming.”

It felt certain, though; as certain as the stars, as certain as his fate in space. He’d leave the planet next summer, one way or another, and that was that.

His awareness of Spock stretched thinner and thinner, until it popped like a soap bubble; dissolving into space.

Chapter Text

Jim’s prediction of Winona leaving came true.

She married Frank at the end of March and left for a five month mission aboard the Reliant in the beginning of May, leaving Frank to watch over Jim and the farm. Jim felt awkward and unwelcome in his own home, which was suddenly Frank’s home, too.

Frank had given up on trying to be Jim’s dad months previous. He and Jim had come to an odd sort of stand-still, where they inhabited the same space but attempted not to interact.

Jim walked most places, but sometimes it was mandatory for Frank to play parent and drive him. Picking up Spock and Amanda was one such instance. The ride to the station was silent for the first stretch. Frank spoke when they were just in sight of the station.

“You’re fidgeting,” Frank said.

Jim shrugged. “Can’t help it.”

“You always like that?”

Jim shrugged again. “I guess.”

It had been a long year. Jim felt like the world had shrank down to the size of a balloon, and it was all he could do to keep the planet from crumbling in on itself and turning into a black hole. He felt his mother’s absence like a physical thing, made even heavier by Frank’s presence. Frank, who had just wanted Winona and had instead gotten a full time babysitting gig. Frank, who’d hoped that his job in Iowa would mean big money and was slowly coming to find that he was just barely making bank. Frank, who seemed to be crumbling under the full implications of country life.

Five months.

They pulled into a parking space. Frank was always early, unlike Winona, who was always a little late. So Jim undid his seatbelt and then slumped down in his seat, crossing his arms over his chest.

The tension stretched between them.

“So,” Frank said. “Spock, huh?”

Jim looked up at him.

“Excited to see him again?”

“Yeah.” He couldn’t help but smile.

Frank noticed. “Are you two…?”

Jim looked up at him, questioningly tilting his head to the side. “What?”

“Never mind.” Frank said. He awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck.

Silence fell. Jim watched the station.

Eventually, Jim said, “I’m gonna…” He pointed out the window.

“Yeah. You’re a teenager,” Frank said. “You can do what you want.”

“Cool.” Jim opened the door to the hover car and hopped out, standing tall on the asphalt. He closed the door without looking back to Frank and then walked over to the station. There were a few other people already waiting, just beyond the force field’s line- it wasn’t on, yet; Jim couldn’t see the catch on the edges of the ceiling, but it would be activated once the train was close enough.

Jim watched the ceiling, waiting. He smiled, slowly, when he noticed the field come on.

Spock was close.

He could swear he almost felt Spock getting nearer to him, in his chest. He’d grown tall over the year, and no longer looked like a child to his own eyes. His heart, though, was just the same- brimming with love and kindness, and a thirst for adventure, and space. He stepped up to the force field, pressing his palms gently against it, and watched the train as it appeared in his line of sight.

His smile grew.

The train shot forward, growing bigger by the second, until it was screaming past Jim’s face, brakes pulling it to a quick, efficient stop. Jim heard the people waiting behind him rise and couldn’t help his smile from spreading. He started to hop in place, eager for the fields to lower. He nearly fell as they did, but he used the forward momentum to start into a light sprint.

Spock!

Jim nearly ran into the shuttle doors, just barely hopping back before he smashed his face into them, waiting impatiently as they slid open. Spock was waiting there, somehow having known. They collided in a tangle of long, awkward limbs and lean muscle, Jim laughing as he dug his hands into Spock’s robes.

People around them muttered about the obstruction, but Jim couldn’t have cared less. He drew back only enough to see Spock’s face, saying, “Spock!”

“Jim,” Spock surged back forward, wrapping his arms even tighter around Jim. Jim could feel Spock’s emotions as they surged into him, subtler than Jim’s own, but there nonetheless. Spock was relieved, and light, and happy. He felt the same as Jim did- like he was finally where he was supposed to be.

“Spock!” Amanda called over the crowd. “Spock, where are you?”

Jim laughed. “Give mom the slip?”

“It was not my intention,” Spock said into Jim’s neck.

“You knew I’d be here.”

Spock nodded. “I knew.”

“Spock!” Amanda’s voice came again.

Jim laughed. He drew back a little from Spock and raised his hand. “Here!” He called. “Amanda! We’re over here!”

Spock disentangled himself from Jim just as Amanda reached them, huffing as she struggled to carry their things. Spock looked immediately chastised, stepping forward with his hands stretched out. “Allow me,” he said.

Amanda hefted a sigh. “Thank you,” she said, and transferred the luggage to Spock’s waiting arms. She turned to Jim, then, and fell into his embrace, hand cradling the back of his head. “Oh, James, honey. You’ve gotten so tall!”

“Hi Amanda.” He grinned into her shoulder. “Miss me?”

“Every day,” She teased. She pulled away from him, tapping the end of his nose with her index finger. “Oh, you have grown so much…”

Jim struck a pose. “Have I grown more… beautiful?”

She laughed. “Of course! Of course; so handsome.” She laughed some more, bracing herself with a hand on his shoulder. They were nearly of a height, Jim noticed. “Where is Winona?” She asked.

“Off-planet.” Jim answered. He allowed Amanda to usher him out of the way of the other passengers. “Frank’s waiting in the hover car.”

“I heard the happy news.” Amanda ventured. "I was sorry to miss the wedding."

“Yeah,” Jim said. “It was… something.”

Amanda reached out, carding her hand through Jim’s bangs. “My, your hair’s gotten darker. I remember when it was nearly sunshine.” She grinned as Jim reached up to smooth his hair back into place. “You and Spock- both so fussy about your hair.”

Spock said, “It is logical to appear at one’s best.”

“Yeah,” Jim teamed. “You wouldn’t want me walking around looking like an idiot, would you?”

“Well, if you put it that way.” She grinned and reached out, smoothing his hair out. He preened under the attention, standing tall. “Very handsome, James.”

They started to walk towards the car.

“I made some adjustments to the house,” Jim started. “Remember how you always had to re-set the environmental controls? They operate at Vulcan norm now, so it shouldn’t bother you like it used to.”

“You didn’t need to do that,” Amanda said, but she looked happy.

Jim grinned. “Sure I did. Can’t have my second family going without, right?”

Amanda’s eyes softened. “I suppose, if we are family, it is only logical.”

Jim’s heart swelled in his chest. “See? Exactly.” He ran around Amanda’s side so that he could stand between her and Spock while they walked. His arm brushed Spock’s as they moved. “And I re-programed the replicator with some more familiar foods. Not sure if they’re completely right, since I haven’t tasted all of them, but it should be better than it was. Oh, and I got bored and re-painted.”

Amanda’s brows shot up. “Re-painted?”

He nodded. “The outside of the house. It was starting to peel, so I just went ahead and added a fresh coat. Didn’t take too long.”

“Oh, James, you really are too kind.” She laughed. “Between you and Spock, I’ll have nothing left to do!”

“You always have your writing, Mother.” Spock said. “Along with your research.”

“Well, that is true.” She wrapped her arm around Jim. “Maybe the two of you can help me on that, too.”

“Sure thing,” Jim said. “Though I’m not sure how much help I can be.”

She fixed him with a look.

“What?”

“Do not pretend to be less intelligent than you are.”

“Raw intelligence doesn’t mean that much in the face of your research.” Jim laughed.

Spock said, “And yet, you would 'make it work,' would you not?”

“Oh, maybe.” Jim gave Spock a wink.

They’d arrived at the hover car. Frank had already opened the back, so Jim helped Spock pile their bags in like usual. Amanda got into the front seat, saying her polite hellos to Frank as she did. Jim closed the trunk and turned to Spock.

“You are…” Spock trailed off.

Jim shrugged. “Not happy?”

Spock pressed his lips into a thin line.

“It’s the way things are, sometimes.” He made to walk around the side of the car, but Spock’s hand on his elbow stopped him.

Spock seemed to struggle with himself, eyebrows drawn together. “I…” he started, and then let out a small breath. “I wish for only your happiness.”

Jim smiled a little. “Yeah?” He mused. “Well, you being here makes me happy.”

“It is my wish to continue to make you happy.”

Jim let out a small laugh. “Mine too.”

They split, walking around opposite sides of the hover to slip in. Jim didn’t crawl into the middle seat like he used to- there was no room for his legs. He laid his hand casually on the middle seat, heart climbing into his throat when Spock laid his a breath away. Frank started the car and threw it into drive, and Jim used the sudden acceleration as an excuse for his fingers to slip the extra few millimeters. His fingers laid casually over Spock’s wrist, and Spock made no move to draw away.

He felt Spock against his mind like a cool, spring breeze. Weight he hadn’t been aware of lifted from his shoulders, and suddenly he could breath easy. It had been a long time since he’d felt like anything more than a burden, but the genuine want in Spock’s presence dispelled all thoughts of being superfluous to anyone else. Spock craved Jim’s presence just as much as Jim craved his. Even if no one else wanted Jim around, Spock did, and Amanda did, and they were enough. They were a family who would never leave him, even when they were sixteen lightyears away.

They didn’t speak on the way home. Jim leaned over until his head settled on Spock’s shoulder, feeling sleepy with the sudden lack of anxiety crashing through his head. He looked up in the rear-view mirror and caught Frank looking at him. He met Frank’s eyes without blinking, challenging him to say anything. Jim would protect his softness and love from the harsh masculinity pushed on him by everyone, and he would do it with all the fierceness he’d been born into as a Kirk. Frank looked away quickly, and Jim knew Spock could feel his smug satisfaction.

Spock turned to him, raising a questioning brow.

I’ll tell you later, Jim telegraphed.

Spock turned his eyes back to the front. He shifted so that his cheek rested against Jim’s head. Jim smiled and let his eyes drift closed, reveling in the comfort that Spock’s presence lent him.

He hadn’t realized how tired he’d been. When was the last time he’d had a peaceful, full night of sleep? He couldn’t recall.

Jim didn’t realize he’d drifted off until he was suddenly being yanked back into awareness by Amanda’s voice. “- for the night, if you don’t mind.”

Jim blinked heavily and sat up, rubbing at his eyes. His hair was plastered to his neck from sweat, and his cheek felt wet with it. He’d forgotten how hot it got in the back of the hover car, and that coupled with Spock’s elevated body temperature had made him lethargically warm.

“Sure, I don’t care.” Frank said.

Jim perked up. “Am I staying the night?”

“If you want,” Amanda said. “We’d love to have you.”

Jim beamed. “Yeah! I brought a bag, just in case.” He grabbed it out from under his feet, pulling it into his lap to show he was prepared.

Spock slipped out of the car. “I will begin to unpack,” he said.

“I’ll help,” Jim said.

“Jim.” Frank stopped him.

Jim paused, watching as Amanda stepped out of the hover, closing her door behind her.

“A word,” Frank said.

Jim frowned. “What?” He leaned forward, making eye-contact with Frank in the mirror.

Spock opened up the back, but it was as if it was happening in another universe. He took his bags and started towards the house, where his mother was trying to unlock the door.

“You’re not going to get into any funny business, right?”

Jim said, “What kind of funny business?”

Frank scowled. “You know…”

Jim had a feeling, but he stubbornly said, “No, I don’t.”

“Sex stuff.” Frank muttered.

Jim rolled his eyes. “I’m thirteen. I’ll call you when I’ve gotten to hand-holding.”

Frank seemed equal parts relieved and annoyed by Jim’s flippancy. “Fine. Get outta here.”

“My pleasure,” Jim said, and slipped from the car.

He caught up with Spock, who was waiting at the door, even though his mother had already unlocked it and entered the house.

“What did he wish to speak to you about?”

Jim stuffed his hands into his jeans. “Wanted to make sure we weren’t up to anything.”

Spock raised a brow. “We will be up to many activities for the duration of your stay.”

Jim laughed. “Yeah,” he said. “That’s what I told him.”

They entered the house together, Jim yawning. Spock seemed to be sleepy, too. “Tired?”

“It has been a long journey,” Spock said, “And I was unable to meditate to my satisfaction due to several complications and interruptions. It has been a trying three days.”

“Come on,” Jim said, starting for the stairs. “I’ll show you an ancient human custom used to dispel fatigue.”

Spock raised a brow, starting after Jim. “I am intrigued,” he said.

“Good.” Jim laughed. He entered Spock’s room first, powering straight over to the bed to flop back on top of the covers, arms and legs sprawled every which way.

Spock followed at a more controlled pace, carefully placing his bags on the ground next to his desk. He turned and closed the door, like he usually did- Vulcans were creatures of intense privacy, Jim had noticed. Or rather, Spock and Sarek were, and Amanda did not seem to be surprised by their behavior.

“I am ready to observe your ritual.” Spock said.

Jim wiggled over to the side of the bed touching the wall, curling up there. “You’ve gotta join in. Come here.”

Spock did. He walked over to the bed and sat on the edge. “I do not know what to do.”

“I’ll show you.” He patted the space next to him. “First you gotta lie down. This ritual requires absolute relaxation.”

Spock stiffly laid down, head on the pillow, hands linked over his stomach. “Like this?”

“Perfect.” Jim laughed. He scooted over, pressing his face into Spock’s shoulder, and threw his arm over his friend. “This is called a nap, by the way.”

Spock’s brow furrowed. “I have heard of napping. It is for infants.”

“And tired teenagers,” Jim argued.

Spock sighed. “You mean for us to sleep before it is required.”

“Maybe.” Jim closed his eyes, inching closer to Spock. Jim was dressed in a tank top and shorts, but Spock had on full-length pants, socks, and a knitted sweater. Jim liked the feeling of the foreign Vulcan yarn against his cheek and pressed in closer. He was already sweating, but he didn’t care- it was nearly a comfortable sort of heat.

“Jim, this is not productive.”

“Hush,” Jim teased. “Try it out, you might find it to your liking.”

“Hm.”

Jim smiled. “Okay,” he yawned. “Last step- and this is the crucial part. You’ve gotta close your eyes and go to sleep.”

Spock sighed, but he didn’t protest. When Jim chanced a peek up at Spock, he found the young Vulcan’s eyes closed and his face relaxed. Jim smiled.

“Your eyes are not closed, Jim,” Spock murmured. “If you intend for us to nap, then sleep.”

“Kay.” Jim smiled and laid his head back on Spock’s shoulder. He closed his eyes and gave in to the warmth and quiet, falling quickly into sleep.

When he opened his eyes, he was in his corvette again, driving through space. Spock was already there, awake and leaning over the edge of the car to run his hand through the trail of a comet.

“Hey,” Jim said.

Spock turned. “Hello, Jim.”

“Miss me?”

“More than words can describe.”

Jim laughed. “Me too, Spock. Me too.”

 


 

Jim took Spock around the barn, showing him all the new features he’d installed over the months they'd been apart. “I wish we could hang out in here more,” Jim said. “But it’s always dark, so, I guess this is just kinda where I go when the weather is crappy or if there’s too much cloud cover to see the stars.”

Spock looked up at the roof, contemplative.

Jim slowly started to grin. “Whacha cooking up over there, Spock?”

“I am not cooking.” Spock said. “However, I am formulating an idea which may have merit.”

“Hit me.”

“I will not,” said Spock. Jim rolled his eyes but allowed Spock to continue without interjecting. “If the two of us were to study material on architecture and engineering, I believe we would be able to install what you would refer to as a sky light.”

Jim looked up at the roof. “Huh.” He said. He squinted. “You know, I think you might be right.”

“While glass is usually not suggested for a roof,” Spock started.

“Way ahead of you.” Jim ran over to his work bench, firing up his make-shift computer console. “I don’t have any money but I bet we could trade something, or something.” He shrugged. “Finding some high-grade, security glass shouldn’t be too hard. Super easy to make nowadays.”

Spock stepped up to look over Jim’s shoulder. “We should request permission to modify the barn roof from your mother as well as the city. Structural modification must first be approved through-“

“On it.” Jim passed Spock a PADD. “Here, you can start on the study, I’ll get us a permit and the glass.” He squinted at his screen. “Best not to tell mom; she’ll freak out.”

Spock nodded, looking down at his screen. “We are below legal age to have our project sanctioned by the city.”

“That’s why I’m going to be asking without mentioning our ages.” Jim said. “As far as the city knows, Frank’s the one doing all this and Mom’s the one who’ll be doing the actual building.”

“Lying is not the Vulcan way,” Spock said. He paused. “However, if it is you that shall be arranging these things…”

“Lying’s totally the human way.” Jim grinned. “I got your back covered, Spock.”

Spock hummed his acknowledgement, already deeply invested in his research.

It took the rest of the day, but by nightfall, Jim had his permits in line, and their glass would be arriving by noon the next day. (If you couldn’t get something fast, what was the point?) Jim was hoping they could patch up the Hali by then, because he’d arranged to trade it for the glass. It was much too small for him and Spock, and as he’d warned the buyer, it was extremely fragile.

They stayed up all night taking turns studying and working on the Hali. She was too small for them to both work on at once, after removing her totaled outer shell. Jim lost track of time completely, and though Spock had the ability to keep track of time, he seemed to either disregard it or forget its importance.

By the time the Hali was repaired, it was well into morning. They’d snacked all through the night, but Jim felt heavy with fatigue as he stepped out of the barn to meet sunlight. He blinked into the light, surprised by it. He rubbed his face, groaning.

“Spock,” he called. “It’s like. Morning.”

“It is o-seven-hundred.” Spock agreed.

“We’ve got five hours to catch up on sleep before the glass is here.”

Spock nodded and looked up from his PADD. “Should we take part in the ancient human custom of napping?”

Jim snorted out a laugh. “Smart-ass. Yeah, come on. We’ll take a nap and then we can come back out here and get started. You ordered some tools?”

Spock nodded. “I have.”

“Did that cost money?”

“I had a certain amount of credits at my disposal. My mother thought it important that I was given a small allowance.” Spock set down his PADD and stood, making his way out of the barn. “Tools can be used more than once, and as such, are a logical use of credits.”

Jim smiled. “Well, I won’t fault you for that. We can start after the glass gets here.”

Spock raised a brow. “Will you not be too tired?”

“That sentence implies that you won’t be.”

“Vulcans require less sleep than humans.”

“Well so do I.” Jim decided.

Spock raised a brow. “You are a human, Jim.”

“You’re half human, so there.”

Spock said, “It is important to note that I am also half-Vulcan. Biologically, I require less sleep than you.”

“Well, biologically, you can kiss my sleepless ass.”

Spock said, “That would not only be undignified, but also unnecessary and unsanitary.”

“You don’t say.” They journey back into the house, which was vacant- Frank would have left for work an hour ago. Jim grabbed the carton of milk from the fridge on his way through the kitchen, throwing it back and taking a long gulp. He handed the remains to Spock, who- despite his logical disposition towards manners- drank the rest before putting the container into the recycler.

Jim declared himself too tired to make the trek up the stairs. They went to the guest room, on the first floor, and fell into bed in a messy tangle of limbs, Spock pushing Jim off of him with a loud groan. Jim deliberately flopped over, hand landing on Spock’s face. Spock pushed Jim’s arm off and scooted back hard enough to nearly push Jim off the bed. Jim grabbed onto Spock’s shoulders to keep himself from falling and then rolled, squishing Spock’s body as he went over it.

“Jim,” Spock groaned. “You are crushing my body.”

“What? Can’t hear you, I’m sleeping.” Jim swallowed back a laugh and dug his hip into Spock’s stomach.

“You are not sleeping.” Spock said. He rolled so that Jim was flung to the side and then settled back on the mattress. He put his hand out, on Jim’s face. “I will keep you there in case you attempt to put yourself upon my person again.”

Jim struggled in vain, attempting to dodge Spock’s hand and roll on top of the Vulcan again. Spock was relentless, keeping his warm palm solidly pressed to Jim’s cheek. Jim opened his mouth to lick Spock’s hand before thinking better of it. He drooled instead.

Spock reared back as though he’d been burned. He stared at his wet hand in utter bafflement.

“Oops,” Jim laughed.

“You are disgusting.” Spock declared. He wiped his hand off on Jim’s shirt, and then let his hand rest on Jim’s chest. “Do not do such a thing again or I will take extreme measures against you.”

“Such as?”

“I will deliver the Vulcan nerve pinch and send you into sleep.”

“The Vulcan nerve pinch is a myth.” Jim scoffed.

Spock raised a brow. “Are you so certain?”

“…” Jim narrowed his eyes, but Spock’s face was a wall. “Not certain enough to test it,” Jim finally decided. He flopped onto his side, so he could face Spock. “See you in a couple of hours.”

“You will indeed.” Spock removed his person from Jim, settling down to sleep.

Jim closed his eyes. “Hey Spock?”

“I cannot sleep when you continue to speak to me, Jim.”

He’d heard that line before and it was BS. Spock could ignore his screaming, if it came down to it. “I love you.”

Spock made a show of huffing. “Yes, Jim, I am well aware.”

Jim smiled at him. “And…?”

“I have expressed my regard for you before. It has not changed.”

Jim pouted. “Spock, you’re my best friend. You know what best friends do? Tell each other they love each other. All the time. Especially before bed- it’s good luck.”

“You made that up,” Spock said, but he sounded uncertain.

“Nope.”

“Luck is illogical.” Spock decided.

“And love?”

“Quite.”

Jim laughed. “Well,” he said, “I wouldn’t have you be forced into something illogical.”

“Love is not forced,” Spock said.

“You would know,” Jim said. “Since you love me.”

“Sometimes, I question it.”

“You should.” Jim said. He settled in, then, his lack of sleep having taken its toll. “Night, Spock.”

“It is morning, Jim.”

“Shut up and go to sleep.”

Spock was quiet for a second. He whispered, “Jim.”

Jim opened one eye.

“I love you.” Spock muttered.

Jim laughed and grinned. “I know, Spock. Go to sleep.”

“Sleep well, Jim.”

“You too, Spock.”

They did.

 


 

 

The thing about the half-glass roof was that it gave them an excuse to stay up late. As the Enterprise grew nearer and nearer to her launch date- she’d have to be finished up in space- security grew tighter around her. Jim was friends with some of the guards, and he could slip in while he knew they were on shift, but his time beneath the ship was limited and coming to an end.

He couldn’t begrudge her for it. She was meant for better things than the dirt. Like him, she’d leave Iowa behind for the stars, set out to explore.

Jim and Spock started building a new hover bike. Jim had at first wanted to call it the Hali 2.0, but Spock had insisted the new bike would be nothing like the old, and he was right. They made her sleeker, darker, durable, and fast. She looked dangerous and coy in the dim light the moon cast through the roof of the barn, like something that could run away, but would turn to bite if provoked.

They named her the Starok.

Little by little, she came together. Jim dragged the mattress from the guest room in the house out to the barn, along with his old cartoon-spaceship sheets and blankets. He and Spock often slept out in the barn, despite Spock’s disinclination to the lower temperatures of the night. Jim brought plenty of blankets out for Spock, and he knew that together they generated a lot of body heat.

He remembered, once, asking Amanda how the hell she stood the heat and how she’s said that she had been happy to get used to it. At first, Jim hadn’t really understood what she meant, but it was beginning to make sense. He didn’t mind waking up in the night soaked in sweat because Spock had rolled over to snuggle into Jim’s warmth. It made him happy.

Frank was easier to deal with than Winona had been. Frank didn’t want them out after dark, but he didn’t care enough to check up. He’d insisted no sleepovers from the start, but so far, Spock hadn’t even set foot in Jim’s room- they’d done everything out in the barn. Jim would go to his room, pretend he was going to sleep, then stuff the covers and slip out the door. He’d learned not to let the screen door slam, finally.

Then they’d spend the night in the barn. Frank left for work before Jim was supposed to be up most days, and on the days Frank had off, Jim crept back into his room in the morning to ‘wake up.’

Spock humored him through it all, as did Amanda. He loved them both dearly for it.

Frank was also less observant than Winona. The barn wasn’t too far from the house, but Frank never came out to it- he’d call Jim’s comm device instead. Because of that, he hadn’t even noticed the modifications Jim and Spock had made to the roof. The tin roof had always reflected the sun, and the glass was no different. Jim knew the second his mother got back the ruse would be up, and he’d be in huge trouble, but until then, they’d have their fun.

Jim couldn’t believe how close he and Spock had become. They traded between Standard, Vulcan, Klingonese, and Romulan in rapid fire, not bothering to set any real rhyme or reason to their speech. Most often, they’d fall into Vulcan, but there were some things that were easier to convey in any of the other three languages, and switching between kept them sharp. They kept the Romulan and Klingonese a secret- even from Amanda; though they didn’t hide it from her, exactly, and would tell her if she asked, they never showed off their skills. Nevertheless, Amanda picked up their interest in language, and had promised to teach them both Orion next summer, when she wasn’t so busy. Orion was one of the harder languages to learn, simply due to the fluctuating tenses and address to subject, but she was confident that Jim and Spock could get it.

Jim wished Frank would let him just go live with Spock and Amanda. His mom had vetoed it before she’d left, though. Jim had at one time been too young to understand, but his age told him what he’d missed- she was afraid of being replaced. He didn’t blame her for her fear; he trusted Spock and Amanda. For her, he felt a familial love, but he held no illusion of trust or closeness. They’d drifted quietly apart, Winona unable to cope with a son who couldn’t be controlled, and Jim unable to heal from her inability to keep him closer to her heart. He knew she loved him, dearly, but he saw how much that scared her. Deep down, she was probably scared of losing him, too, and because of that, she just couldn’t get close to him like they both wanted her to. It was different with Frank. Frank was the guy who kissed her shoulders and made her laugh, the guy who kept her bed warm and watched her son. If Frank fell off the face of the earth, he could be replaced- no matter how nice he was, no matter what he did, he would never, ever, be George Kirk. Jim was a different story.

By the time the Starok was ready, the Enterprise was only a month out from launch. Jim pulled on his helmet and slipped onto the back of the bike, peeking through the barn doors to be sure that Frank’s light was off. It was- the cost was clear.

“Come on,” he whispered to Spock.

Spock slipped on behind him. “Endeavor not to crash this time.”

“I’ll do my best,” Jim smirked.

The Starok slipped out of the barn silently, gliding over the uneven earth smoothly. Jim laughed a little, under his breath, and kept her front lights dim, just in case the reflection caught Frank’s window. When they were out of the driveway he turned the beams up bright and held on tightly to the handle bars, flicking the engine up high.

They shot down the road like a bullet. Technically, they’d been allowed to pilot the Hali around as children due to her small size and inferior engine; the Starok was different. Jim knew that there were more and more cops out along the dirt roads anymore, but during the night time, he hoped they would be safe.

He started out towards the George Kirk Memorial Shipyard.

Jim wondered if he’d still be where he was if his dad was alive. Would Winona feel safe enough to let him spend the summers with Spock and his parents? Would Jim crave escape enough to sneak out every night to stare up at the sky with his starship? Would his dad have driven them out in the antique cars at night to watch the Enterprise get put together? Would they have been dirt-side to begin with? Or would have Jim grown up in space?

The thought of being out there, from the time he was too small to even crawl, sent a pang through his chest. What he would have given to have lived as a nomad amongst the galaxy, watching out his bedroom window as planets raced past. The people he’d have met, the things he’d have seen. He wanted so badly for that life for a singular moment that he felt it like a physical pain in his chest.

But then, if he’d grown up in space, someone else would have been chosen to take care of some other house on earth for Starfleet. Spock and Amanda and Sarek would have been put into someone else’s care. They would have been at some other house, and Spock would have had to make do with someone else’s kid.

And who would Jim have? Any number of friends, of those like him and not, but the possibility of having Spock? Too slim.

He wouldn’t have traded Spock for anything; not even the universe.

The Starok hugged the curves and turns in the road, engine singing a delightful, quiet tune. Spock’s hands were a soft anchor against Jim’s stomach, reminding him not to get carried away. Several times he imagined shapes in the darkness and slowed to a near stop, but nothing appeared in the road to stop them.

The Enterprise’s lights were up when they got there. Jim gasped in delight and pulled the Starok off into the ditch, neatly powering down the engines to dismount. He pulled his helmet off and absent-mindedly ran a hand through his wild blond locks, unable to take his eyes off the sight of her.

She looked like a jar of fireflies on his windowsill; filled with flickering lights and wishes, just waiting for him. She was a sleepy giant with a thousand blinking blue eyes, her body beautifully curled up against the ground while she slowly shook away her slumber.

“She’s beautiful,” Jim sighed.

Even Spock was awed. He stood next to Jim, clutching his helmet between his hands. His face looked greener than usual under the blueish light the Enterprise cast on them. His tongue darted out to moisten his lips- a flash of forest green against the pale of Spock’s skin.

“Let’s go,” Jim said. He ditched his helmet next to the Starok and took eagerly off into the night, unable to contain his manic grin. What a sight to behold- the Enterprise, nearly ready for the sky, and glowing with life. He felt like his life was slowly coming together, one minute at a time, as he grew closer and closer to his destiny.

He gave Spock the leg up over the fence like always and then climbed up himself, carefully watching for the guard. Since he’d crashed the Hali, it had been impossible to get the the Enterprise and back in the morning in time unless he was careful to spend very little time in the yard itself. The guard change hadn’t helped, either, but Jim felt that with the Starok he and Spock could sneak around for however long they wanted before they made off for home again.

They slipped around a couple of buildings and then out into the shadows, hunkering down in a ripped bulkhead to look up at the ship. Over her back they could see the sky, and there wasn’t a cloud about to ruin the sight. The light the Enterprise cast outshone the stars, slightly, so they were harder to see than usual, but Jim didn’t mind.

Spock opened up his PADD as he sat down next to Spock, and out loud he began to read the recent updates on the Enterprise. Technically speaking, they weren’t available to the public, but Kim J Tirk was an enlisted man who liked to read up on ships. If he didn’t actually exist, well, who was to know? Starfleet had better things to worry about than the nerd who kept downloading things about the Enterprise. Jim had been certain to steer clear of her security protocols and weaponry to avoid raising a red flag, and thus far, it had been enough.

They stayed out until the sun began to rise. Jim had missed the Enterprise, and so had Spock, and even if they could no longer lie under her belly, being beside her was enough. Jim had stuffed a bag of chips into his backpack, along with two bottles of water. He and Spock snacked, watching the sun rise over the ship.

“You excited?” Jim asked.

Spock turned to him. “For what would I be excited?”

Jim smirked. “Being onboard.”

Spock looked back to the ship. “It will be quite some time before we are able to board her.”

“I know.” Jim shrugged his shoulder. “But still. Are you excited?”

Spock’s mouth remained impassive, but his eyes showed his smile. “Perhaps,” he allowed, as usual. “Are you?”

Jim laughed. “Oh Spock,” he said. “I’ve been dreaming about this since the day I was born.”

 


 

 

Breakfast was tense.

It had been tense the last couple of days. Maybe it was because Frank could read the shadows under Jim’s eyes and knew he wasn’t staying in bed at night. Maybe it was because Winona hadn’t comm’ed in a week. Maybe it was because the liquor store had stopped selling Andorian Bust™ beer, on account of the xenophobic marketing. Frank had loved that stuff.

“When are you heading to work?” Jim asked. Spock had actually gone home, that morning, but Jim was eager to go back to bed, and he didn’t like to when he knew Frank was awake and about. He knew it was stupid to fear being locked in his room, but it had happened often enough when he was in trouble for doing nothing at all, so he wondered how much it would take to happen again.

And he couldn’t escape out the window. That was another reason he was glad Spock hadn’t been inside his room- he was ashamed by the bars covering his escape, as posted there a few nights after he’d crashed the Hali the summer before. Winona had felt like she couldn’t trust Jim not to keep escaping out the window, and thus had finally caved into her own sense of protection and barred it shut.

Jim had a screwdriver and a crowbar stored in the vent beneath his desk for emergency escape, but she’d be able to tell if he took them off regularly. He’d gotten caught a couple of times, but he was rather good at sneaking down the stairs and out the back door anymore.

“I’m not going.” Frank said.

Jim looked up from his cereal. Klingon Crunch, the box read, but it was totally a rip-off of Lucky Charms. One Jim had willingly fallen for, as he loved the bat’leth shaped marshmallows inside.

Frank was frowning into his own cereal. Regular old cornflakes.

“Why not?” Jim asked.

“Got laid off.” Frank said. He didn’t make eye contact.

Jim deflated. “… Oh.”

“Yep.” Frank took a long swig of his orange juice. “Things haven’t been going so well, Jimmy. Yer mom’s sending back credits, of course, but it’s… it’s gonna be tight this year.” Frank’s voice conveyed that he’d never had to deal with it being ‘tight’ before. “Not sure what to do.”

“Can you get another job?”

“I can try.” Frank said. “But this town is small, kid. There aren’t many jobs open. In places like these, you have to wait for the old folks to retire, and with modern medicine that date just keeps getting pushed back further and further.”

“What about the shipyard?” Jim asked. “They’re looking for security.”

Frank raised a brow. “Are they?”

Jim nodded.

“Wouldn’t they want Starfleet personal?”

Jim shook his head. “They started out that way, but the pickings out here are slim. I bet if you applied for a day shift you’d get the job no problem.”

“Money’s probably no good,” Frank contemplated.

Jim shrugged. He wouldn’t know- he was never in it for the money.

“I’ll have to check it out.” Frank said. “Thanks, kid.”

Jim gave him a half-hearted thumbs up.

“How’d you know about the job at the shipyard, anyway?”

Jim shrugged. “I keep tabs on it.”

“Why’s that?”

“I like the Enterprise.”

Frank nodded, slowly. “Right, right. Your mom mentioned that, back a while. Said you were obsessed with the thing. Said it’s your other Spock.”

“She,” Jim corrected.

“Huh?”

“She. The Enterprise is a she.”

Frank gave a small laugh. “Guess your mom wasn’t kidding.” He said, “Why’d you always get so hung up about things you like? I’ve seen how it is with you. You get… you get near obsessed and can’t focus on anything else when you find something you like.”

“It dies off eventually,” Jim said. “Usually.”

“Yeah, sure. But can’t you enjoy things in moderation?”

Jim shrugged. “All or nothing, I guess.”

“Hm.”

It was silent, for a time.

“So what’s your current fixation? I don’t think I’ve ever actually been out to that barn, ya know, your mom says it smells like mold out there. Says your always playing in there, but you’re acting all obsessed again. What’s out there?”

“Been building a bike.”

Frank’s brows rose. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.” Jim said. “Named her the Starok.”

“Oh, so you finished?”

“A couple of days ago.” Jim admitted.

Frank said, “Then what have you been doing out in the barn these past few days?”

“Fine tuning.”

He nodded. “Another one of those hover bikes then, right?”

“Yeah.”

“You know… we could probably make real money if you custom built those things. They actually work, right? Like they don’t give out?”

“No. I build them better than any company would.” He frowned. “But… it’s not really something for sale. Me and Spock built her together. For us. It’s not something I’d want to do just to sell.”

Frank frowned. “Hmph.”

Jim shrugged. “Sorry.”

“We’re not that tight for money yet,” Frank sighed. “Though I’ve been thinking about selling the old-fashioned tractor out under that cover.”

“Go ahead. Mom’s been wanting to get rid of it.”

“And antiques sell for big.” Frank said.

Jim nodded. His head felt heavy.

Frank noticed. “You been sleeping well, kid?”

“I guess.” Jim shrugged. “Gets hot up in my room and I can’t open the windows.”

Frank snorted. “Save it. Win’ told me you’re a tricky bastard.”

“You can’t call me a bastard.” Jim said matter-of-factly. “That’s mean.”

“And a smart-ass, too.”

“Everyone’s gotta have a hobby.” Jim drawled.

Frank snorted. “If you ask me, you’ve got one too many.”

Jim shrugged. He’d finished with breakfast and desperately wanted to go up to his room and sleep. Frank be damned- he could lock Jim in if he wanted, Jim didn’t care. He just wanted to conk out for the next thirteen hours, if possible.

Frank stood. “I’m gonna head into the shipyard, see about that job. You comin’?”

“Nah,” Jim stood and hurried to put his dishes in the washer. “Think I’ll catch up on some research.”

“Suite yourself,” Frank said, and was out the door.

Jim waited until he heard the hover car start up before he dragged himself up to his room, where the sheets were so long over-due for use that they didn’t even smell like him anymore. He fell instantly, deeply asleep.

 


 

 

“Hey. Spock.”

“Yes, Jim?”

Jim put his head on Spock’s shoulder, watching his friend do math at a rapid-fire pace. Jim loved watching the numbers slide into place under the guide of Spock’s hands. “Let’s talk about feelings.”

“I have no such feelings to speak of.” Spock said.

“Liar.” Jim squinted at the next equation on Spock’s PADD. “What the hell? Is this warp theory?”

“Yes.”

“That’s so cool. Damn it, they don’t teach me anything cool like this in my school.”

“Are these the feelings you wished to speak of? Your frustration?”

Jim snorted. “Well it’s a start, isn’t it?”

“You are human. It would make sense that your education is only to human standards.”

“Every time we start talking about this kind of thing, I just want to leave to go to Vulcan with you even more.” Jim sighed. “Not like my mom would allow it. And your dad doesn’t seem so jazzed to have five and a half feet of emotional baggage staying in his home.”

Spock said, “You are not five and a half feet.”

“Close enough.”

“We will try again, this year, just as we have always have.” Spock said. “Perhaps it will be easier to persuade your mother while she is off-planet. I am not fond of trickery, but it is also wise to consider that your step-father might be a loop hole through which to gain permission.”

“Mom already told him I’d try to leave.” Jim sighed. “Not gonna work.”

“I should have considered as much. Your mother knows you well.”

“Well enough.” Jim sighed.

Spock swiped to the next problem. He lifted his finger to solve it.

“It’s sev-“

“I believe this is my work, Jim.” Spock cut him off. He quickly solved the problem himself. “It is dishonest to submit work you have completed in my stead.”

“Not like you don’t already know the answer.” Jim snickered.

Spock shut his PADD off and turned around in his desk chair. “Fine then. If you intend to pester me,” he thinned his lips together when Jim laughed, “Then I will put my work on hold to humor you. Let us talk of emotion, Jim.”

“Alright,” Jim said. “I’ll go first.”

Spock nodded.

Without so much as blinking, Jim said, “I feel trapped on earth and in my own home by my mother’s obsessive need to keep me like a possession while she battles her own inability to grow closer to another living being.”

Spock raised a brow. “That is certainly a way to begin.”

“Your turn.” Jim smirked.

“Very well.” Spock paused. “I feel at war with myself nearly constantly. My dual natures seemingly cannot exist within one person, and I feel I must chose one over the other. I am crushed by the pressure of my father’s expectation and his staunch belief that I will follow the Vulcan way. I am seemingly always at odds with my desire to follow in his footsteps, as you would say, to become a true Vulcan, while simultaneously being unable to purge myself of human emotions, as I find I do not wish to be rid of them so entirely.”

“I’m afraid no one will ever love me for who I am.”

“I am afraid to love anyone.” Spock said. “I fear that should I love another, I will be unable to express my love for fear of diverting from Surak’s teachings.”

“I’m afraid I’ll never get off of Earth. That I’ll die like this, full of longing for what I’ll never have.”

“I fear that I will fail to follow the path my heart wishes simply to follow logic.” Spock said. “I fear further that emotion will dictate my future, and that I will find myself without logic.”

“I fear being alone.”

“As do I.”

They were quiet.

“This isn’t as… therapeutic as I thought it would be.” Jim admitted.

“Indeed, talk of fear has served only to upset my appetite.” Spock said.

“I’m afraid that one day I’ll stop being kind. That I’ll just start looking out for myself, because it’s easier. That I’ll get hard, and callous, and that I’ll never be able to show how much I love things, simply because it’s hard to.”

Spock said, “I know you very well, and I assure you, Jim. It would not happen.”

“It could,” Jim whispered. “I feel like I get closer to it every day. It’s hard to be soft, and kind, Spock. I know you know that, but…” He sighed.

Spock reached out and put a hand on Jim’s shoulder. “You have never been one to take the easy way.”

Jim smiled. “Yeah. I guess not.” He looked back up to Spock. “And what about you?”

“What about me?”

“You’ve never been one to take the paved road, either.” Jim said. “Maybe you won’t follow the Vulcan way to an exact T. Maybe it’s just not the way for you. Surak’s teachings are great, you know, they really saved Vulcan. But they’re not everything. Surak himself said that he did not know everything, and that to believe he did would be illogical. Well, it’s just as illogical to be something you’re not. You aren’t a bird, Spock, you don’t have feathers- you wouldn’t pretend to be a bird, would you?”

“I would not.” Spock said.

“So why pretend to be a full Vulcan? The best part about you is that you’re you, Spock. No one else can be. Half Human, half Vulcan- you should be able to take the things you enjoy from each part of yourself and live through them. I know that nothing is more important than logic to you, and I get it. But sometimes there’s logic in feeling. There’s logic in being yourself, Spock. Ignoring the human half of yourself… well, it’s like pretending to be a bird.”

Spock seemed to soak in Jim’s words, quietly.

“I don’t know everything either, Spock.” Jim said. “Maybe I’m talking nonsense. In the end, you can’t lean on me to make your choices, or your dad, or even Surak. You have to decide what’s right for yourself.”

“I am no wiser than anyone else,” Spock said. “How would I know what is best above them?”

“Because no one knows you like you do.” Jim said.

Spock was quiet.

“What makes you happy?” Jim asked.

Spock looked up. “Happy?”

“I like tall grass and running water.”

Spock blinked. “I am… partial to plomeek soup.”

“I like sunshine and thunder storms.”

“I enjoy my mother’s singing.” Spock said. “I enjoy playing the lute.”

“I like riding the Starok. I love feeling the wind in my hair, watching everything rush by in a blur of color… it’s like I’m flying.”

“I enjoy your presence,” Spock said. “I like to watch your dreams.”

“My dreams?”

Spock nodded. “When we sleep, you often times make physical contact with me. I catch bits and pieces of your dreams. Vulcans do not dream- as you know, meditation removes our need for such things. It is, however, pleasing to watch your own.”

Jim smiled. “Hope I don’t dream of anything embarrassing.”

“Not at all.” Spock said. “Sunshine, and stars, and running faster than is humanly possible. You are often searching for things, in the corn felid. Little golden pins and hearts. It is… delightfully nonsensical.”

Jim blushed. “Thanks.”

“The dreams you have that I enjoy most are the ones were you are the captain of the Enterprise. They are much more realistic.”

Jim said, “I’m sorry if I’ve been pushing my dreams at you.”

Spock shook his head. “It is not so. I had worried, for a time, you would feel I was spying.”

“Nah.” Jim said. “It’s just a part of who you are. Not your fault I can’t shield.”

Spock said, “Perhaps we should begin there, then.”

Jim raised a brow. “There?”

“I could teach you.” Spock explained. “To shield your mind.”

Jim beamed. “Really?”

“It would not be difficult.” Spock said.

“Well yeah then! Let’s do it!” Jim sat down on the mat at the side of Spock’s bed, folding his legs into the pose he so often woke to find Spock in. He closed his eyes, waiting. Spock didn’t move- or rather, Jim didn’t hear him move. He cracked open an eye and found Spock watching him. “What?”

“You are… a fascinating creature.”

Jim snorted out a laugh. “Yeah, you’re pretty interesting yourself. Now come one. I wanna learn some Vulcan voodoo.”

“It is not voodoo, Jim.” Spock stood and padded over to the meditation mat, sitting gracefully across from Jim. He reached his hand out, placing it on the side of Jim’s face. “I am going to attempt to read you. You can feel my presence in your mind, can you not?”

“I always can.” Jim said.

Spock nodded. “Good. Begin by thinking of pushing a wall at my presence. We will proceed from there.”

They spent the rest of the afternoon that way. Jim wouldn’t have traded it for the world.

 


 

 

“Hey mom.” Jim smiled wide at the PADD screen, taking in the sight of his mother. She looked a little more alive, out in space. Less tired. The bags under her eyes had receded, and her hair looked alive. “What’s up?”

“It’s been a crazy day.” Winona said. She ran a hand through her hair, shaking it loose- it was bunched up like it got when she’d had it in a bun for a while. “The engines crashed when navigation tried to push them to warp eleven outrunning a Klingon vessel yesterday, and we’ve ben busting our asses down in engineering since.”

“Oh wow.” Jim marveled. “Did you get it fixed?”

“For the most part,” Winona said. “Enough to limp back to a starbase to get everything fully repaired.”

“Cool.”

“Anyway, figured I’d call in and see how things are going. Frank feeding you?”

“Yeah.”

“How’s he been doing?”

Jim raised a brow. “Didn’t you just get off with him?”

“I meant with you.”

“Oh. Uh, fine, I guess.” Jim shrugged, awkwardly. He and Frank still pretty much avoided each other. “He sold the tractor the other day.”

“He did?”

“I thought he told you.”

“No.” She frowned. “Been meaning to get rid of that for a while anyway, I guess.”

“That’s what I told him.” Jim said. “Guess he wanted it to be a surprise.”

“Not really all that fond of surprises, but whatever.” She shrugged. “How about you? What have you been up to?”

“Made some changes to the barn,” he started.

“Oh yeah? That’s fun.”

“Yeah. Built another bike.”

She gave him a shrewd look.

“Safer than last time.” Jim promised. “She’s built like a tank.”

“Huh. Alright. Just be careful, okay?”

“We have been. We don’t even go up the driveway without helmets.” He said, “Spock and I haven’t even been allowed to have sleep overs, because of Frank.”

“Hm.”

He took her noncommittal noise to mean she’d been in on it. “But it’s been great to have him back. We go out to see the Enterprise whenever we can since she’ll be heading out in a couple of days.”

“Oh, yeah, I heard about that! Sad to see her go?”

“Miserable.” He said. “Who else am I going to hang out with?”

She snorted. “Maybe a living, breathing person?”

“Ew, what the hell? No way.”

Winona laughed. “I feel you kid. I prefer machines to people any day.”

Jim shifted where he was sitting on the couch, leaning over the edge to get comfortable. “How have you been?” He asked. “Do anything cool, other than saving their butts after the Klingon attack?”

“Not really. Routine maintenance. A patch-up here and there. Nothing too exciting.”

“Liar. You look like your having the time of your life.”

“I didn’t say I don’t enjoy the mundane,” she laughed. “Out here, even that’s enough.”

Jim laughed. “That sounds about right.”

“…” Winona’s smile slipped a little. “Yeah. You ready for school?”

“I’ve got a couple weeks. No rush to get ready.”

“I’ll take that as a no.”

“I’m too busy to worry about that right now.”

“With what?”

“Stuff.”

“Spock?”

“Spock,” he agreed. “I missed him like crazy.”

“Hm.”

“What’s that noise about?”

She shrugged.

He knew. “Speaking of Spock…”

She groaned. “Not this again, Jim.”

“I haven’t even asked yet!”

“You don’t have to. Jim, I thought we were past this.”

Jim sighed. “Well, I guess not. Mom, I’m dying to get out of here. You’re never around, and when you come back you’ll have Frank. Just one year, mom! It’s Vulcan. How much trouble can I get to on Vulcan of all places?”

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- James T. Kirk, you’re not going to Vulcan.”

“One year!” He said. “Do you know how much I could learn in one year?”

“If you tried, you could do the same on Earth-“

“Oh bull. We don’t have that kind of money. Mom, I could get the best schooling in the universe for free. If I’m staying with Amanda and Sarek-“

“I said no.”

“Would you please just listen to me?”

“It would be a waste of both our time, because the answer will be no, Jim!”

Jim sat up, pitching the PADD to the other end of the couch.

“Jim, pick the PADD up right now.” His mom growled.

“Veruul,” he muttered.

“Did you just curse at me in Romulan?!” She screeched. “Since when do you know Romulan? James- Jim. Pick the Padd up NOW.”

He did. “What?!”

“You know Romulan.”

“I know a lot!” He said. “And if I was able to go to Vulcan I could know even more.”

She scowled.

“What? What is it this time? Are you seriously angry that I know another language?”

“I’m angry that you keep everything a secret from me.” She said.

“If you actually talked to me-“

“You don’t try to talk to me!” She said. “This is a two-way street, Jim.”

“You’re my mom- I shouldn’t have to reach out to you!” Jim snapped. “You should ask about me, ask how my day went, ask what I’ve been up to. You should want to know.”

“James T, I swear to God-“

“I’m done.” Jim said.

“Done?”

“Done. With this.” He waved at the PADD. “You’re not even here and you’re still trying to control every little thing I do. I’m done with it.”

“I’m your mother.” She hissed. “You’re not done with anything.”

“Yes I am.”

It was silent for a second.

“I’m coming home.” Winona said.

“What do you mean you’re coming home?” Jim scoffed. “You’re in space!”

“We’re docking at the station tonight. I’ll be on the first transport back to Earth.”

“You can’t be serious. You’re coming back to Earth to ground me? Are you kidding me?”

She scowled. “If I could trust you-“ Jim snorted. “-then I wouldn’t have to.”

“Good luck finding me when you get back,” he said.

Her eyes went wide. “Don’t you dare-“

But he did dare. Jim hung up, tossing the PADD away from him. It immediately began to buzz and ring again, but he threw a pillow over it and stood. He ditched his comm on the couch, too, and then ran up to his room. Frank wouldn’t be home for another hour, but he was fast anyway.

He packed a bunch of clothes, some books, the Enterprise, and his survival backpack. He’d never really planned to run away, but he’d always been cautious and suspicious- especially of his mother. He had a PADD he’d hacked to the ninth circle of hell, which he knew couldn’t be traced by anyone or anything short of divine intervention. He’d also saved a bunch of credits, human, standard, and a few other choice cultures- just in case. None of them electronic, so that they couldn’t be traced back to anyone or anything. He also had a fake I.D. or five, those, though, he’d mostly created just to see if he could. Well, he had, and now he was going to use them.

He had his things packed up and thrown in the back of the Chevy in a quick fifteen minutes. With that finished, he took off down the road, body jolting with each washboard the tires hit.

He went straight to Spock’s house. He knew his mom would call there as soon as she’d gotten ahold of Frank, but she had no way to know he’d left. She probably thought he was only ignoring her, and so it wouldn’t be until Frank found him missing that she’d call Amanda.

He pulled up to the house and jumped out, running around the side and to Spock’s window. “Spock!” He bent down to pick up a rock, but he didn't need it- the window came open.

Spock looked down at him, curious. “Jim.”

“Is your mom home?”

“Negative.”

“I’m coming in.”

Jim ran around the side of the house and to the front, punching in his code before racing up the stairs. Spock met him half way, brows drawn together in concern.

“Run away with me.” Jim said.

Spock’s brows raised.

“Please.”

“Where would we go?” Spock asked. “What is it we are running from?”

“I don’t know.” Jim said. “Anywhere.”

Spock said, “When would we return?”

Jim shrugged.

“Jim, this does not sound like a plan you have thought out.” Spock said. “Perhaps you would consider sitting and telling me what has happened to agitate you so.”

“I’m going to go insane.” Jim said. “Spock. Spock, I’m-“ and to his horror, he found his eyes welling up with tears. He looked up at the ceiling, blinking rapidly, but to no avail. They began to fall, hot and heavy, and Jim knew there was nothing he could do to hide them from Spock. “Fuck.” He scrubbed at his face with the back of his hand.

“Jim?” Spock reached out and touched his shoulder.

“I’m never getting out of here,” Jim choked. “Spock, if I- if I have to spend another year on Earth. I can’t. I can’t be alone again. Not like that. I can’t be alone for another year or I’ll lose my mind.” He started to cry in earnest, crumbling into a ball at the top of the stairs. Spock crouched next to him, rubbing circles on his back.

“Jim, has something happened?”

“I can’t leave.” Jim said. “Mom will never let me go.”

“You do not know that with certainty.”

“I do, though.” Jim said. “And you know it to. But it doesn’t matter, because if I’m stuck here for another school year. If I have to sit in a damn classroom every day listening to them tell me things I already know, while they treat me like I don’t know shit, like I’m not worth anything- I can’t. Spock, I can’t. The Enterprise won’t be around this time, I’ll be truly, honestly alone, with no one and nothing and I’ll lose it. I can’t do it.”

Spock stood.

Jim sniffed, looking up at him. “Spock?”

“Where will we go?” Spock asked.

“Away,” Jim whispered.

He nodded. “Remain here for me.” Spock said. “I will return shortly.”

Jim nodded. He knew Spock was probably only going to get his PADD, to call his mother and ask her to pull some strings, but even that was better than nothing. If anyone could change his mom’s mind, it would be Amanda. Jim continued to quietly cry, stewing in his misery.

Spock reemerged from his room once Jim had managed to stop crying. He had his bags. “I am ready to depart,” he said.

“Wh- what?” Jim stood, shakily.

“You asked me to run away with you.” Spock said. “I am ready.”

“But… you. Really?”

He nodded.

Jim swallowed against the lump in his throat. “Okay.” He whispered. He turned for the door, feet hurried. “Yeah. Come on, let’s go.”

They threw Spock’s stuff in the back and then started onto the road, Jim in the passenger side while Spock drove. Spock never broke the speed limit, but they were going fast enough. They had all they needed and Jim was certain they wouldn’t have to stop until the car ran out of gas, and that was far off in the future. He and Spock could take turns driving, until they were gone, ghosts, so far away that no one could find them and chain them to the ground again.

It was silent.

Hours flew by. Jim and Spock took turns switching from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat. They made it to Nebraska as dusk was beginning to fall. A couple hours later, when it was truly dark out, the pre-installed navigation on the car lit up with an old-Earth telephone icon.

They stared it it.

The speakers blared a jingle, startling them both yet again, as the image of the telephone shook. The screen displayed a name- Ambassador Sarek. They stared at it until it went away.

“What the-“

It started to ring again.

Impulsively, Jim reached out, touching the image of the phone.

“Hello?” The voice was instantly recognizable as Amanda’s. “Spock? James?”

“Mother?”

Oh thank heavens. Spock, baby, where are you? Where’s James?”

“Jim and I are safe, mother.” Spock said. “How is it that you managed to contact us?”

“Your father,” Amanda explained.

Jim felt guilty immediately. Not only did Amanda sound scared out of her mind, but she’d gotten Sarek. They’d had to track down their missing son without any explanation, perhaps except that Jim was missing as well.

“What’s going on?” Amanda demanded. “What happened? Winona called us in a panic about Jim, saying he wasn’t at home and she was scared for the worst, and then when I got back and found you missing too…”

“It’s not his fault.” Jim said. “It’s mine.”

“James? Honey, is that you?”

“It’s me.” Jim grumbled.

“Are you hurt?” She asked immediately. “Did something happen?”

“I’m okay.” Jim said. “We both are.”

“Where are you?”

Jim looked to Spock. Spock looked out at the road and then down at his lap- he was in the passenger seat. Jim left it up to Spock.

“We cannot tell you.” Spock said, finally.

“They’ll track the car anyway.” Jim realized, groaning. “Shoulda thought to check it out, damn it. I’m an idiot.”

“We are in Nebraska.” Spock said.

“Nebraska? What- why? What are you doing all the way out there?”

“Getting the hell out of Riverside.” Jim said. “For good.”

Amanda’s breath hitched. “You don’t mean-“

“We’re running away.” Jim said.

Amanda started crying immediately.

“Mother,” Spock winced.

“Shit.” Jim cursed. He pulled over to the side of the road and put the car into park, leaning his forehead against the steering wheel. “Amanda-“

“What happened?” She sniffed. “James, honey, did Frank do something?”

“No.” Jim muttered. “They. I’m not allowed to go to Vulcan. I…” he sighed. “I over reacted.” He thudded his head against the steering wheel again, and again. Spock reached out and touched his shoulder, so Jim stopped. “I roped Spock into this, Amanda. I’m sorry. I just…”

“To be trapped alone is a terrible thing,” Spock said.

Amanda said, “Oh, James, honey, I’m so sorry… But please, you have to come back. Anything could happen to you two out there! How- where did you even get the car?”

“How did Sarek even track it down?” Jim muttered.

“It belonged to Jim’s father, George Kirk.” Spock responded.

“We fixed it up a couple of summers ago,” Jim added.

“Neither of you are old enough to drive.” Amanda reasoned. “Stay where you are- Sarek and I will come get you.”

Jim thunked his head against the steering wheel once more. He looked over to Spock, saying, “You might as well stay here. I’ll-“

“Don’t you even think about going anywhere,” Amanda said. “I’m not resting until I have both of you boys back at home and in bed where you belong.”

Jim’s heart fell. “You’re going to leave Earth soon anyway.” He said. “What’s the point?”

“The point?” Amanda repeated. “James. I would never be able to live with myself if something bad happened to you. I don’t care if I’m lightyears away- if. If you ran off and got into a wreck, or got kidnapped, or- or anything I just. My heart would break.”

Jim swallowed hard.

“We’ll be there soon.” Amanda said.

“Which means I’ll be locked in my room soon.” Jim moaned.

“I think not.” Amanda huffed. “I don’t care if that Frank fellow is your step-father or your real father or, or anything along those lines. We’ve known you far longer, and we’re your family. You’re coming back to the summer home with us, and until Winona gets back there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”

“Unless they want to get the law involved.” Jim laughed a little. He felt like he was stuck between crying from misery and joy both at once. Amanda, perfect, wonderful Amanda- she really did love him, didn’t she? But what happened when she left? “Well, knowing Frank, I guess that won’t be a problem either. He doesn’t like to make a big deal out of anything.”

Then it’s settled.” Amanda said. “You’re coming home with us.”

Jim sniffed. “Thanks, M- Amanda.”

“You two sit tight.” She said. “We’ll be along shortly.”

“Understood, mother.” Spock said. He reached out and terminated the transmission.

Then they were alone, in the dark, in the middle of nowhere.

Jim leaned back in his seat and let out a sad sigh. “I’m an idiot.”

“Incorrect,” Spock said. “You are a certified genius, as you often remind me.”

“Yeah,” Jim said. “But I’m still an idiot.”

Silence.

“Why did I ever think this would work?”

“Desperation causes-“

“Desperation.” Jim snorted. “I’m so stupid. Getting all crazy about being lonely. I’ve been lonely my whole life. What does it matter, anyway?” He slumped down in the seat, wrapping his arms around himself. “Lot’s of people are lonely. And they don’t kidnap their best friends to run off into the night without any sort of plan. What the hell is wrong with me?”

Spock reached out and lightly touched his wrist. Calm flooded Jim’s mind.

“There is nothing wrong with you.” Spock said. “You are a human being.”

Jim slumped even further down. He threw his free arm over his eyes, swallowing back tears. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so low, and out in the middle of a back-road that went on without end for miles, all he had to show for it was the sound of the cricket’s chirping and the whoosh of the wind against the sides of the car.

“Jim,” Spock said.

Jim turned to him. Spock was lightly illuminated by the moonlight streaming in through the windows. In the darkness, his eyes were huge and black and beautiful. Jim wanted to press his face into Spock’s neck and hold on as tightly as he could to the Vulcan’s body, to never let go.

“Kaiidth.” Spock whispered. He curled his hand around Jim’s wrist, so that he wouldn’t slip away. “You are not stupid. You are not an idiot. You are not a failure.”

“I didn’t even say that one out-loud.”

“You were thinking it.”

Jim fell silent.

“You are none of these things.” Spock promised him. “You are… very dear to myself and my family. You are brilliant, and you matter very much to the universe. Your future is bright, and wonderful, and you will not always feel as you do now. What is, is, and what has happened cannot be changed, but you must look forward to what will be.”

Jim shifted over from his side of the car and pressed into Spock’s side. Spock put his arm around Jim, leaning their heads together. Jim felt less like a loose cannon with his forehead pressed into Spock’s temple. He tried to breath.

“I don’t want to be left alone again.” He whispered.

“Nor do I,” Spock said. “But this is the way it must be.”

“It doesn’t have to be this way.” Jim said. “If she would just listen.”

“There will come a time when your mother will have no say in your decisions.”

“By then it will be too late.” Jim muttered.

“You do not know this.” Spock said. “I believe in you, Jim.”

“… Thanks, Spock.”

He must have drifted asleep, because when he next opened his eyes, Amanda was hugging his head to her shoulder, quietly crying. “Oh, James,” she kissed his forehead. “Are you alright, honey?”

Jim blinked away, sitting up. “Where’s Spock?”

He needn’t have asked. The door behind him opened and Spock reached in to grab the last of their things. Out in the road was a small shuttle, and Sarek was waiting outside of it. He nodded at Jim when they met eyes.

Amanda smoothed back his hair. “It’s late,” she said. “You can sleep on the shuttle ride home.”

“Kay.” He stood sloppily, steadied by Amanda’s hand on his shoulder. He leaned into her as she put her arm around him, and let her guide him to the shuttle. He climbed up inside, past Sarek, and over to where Spock was waiting. He fell into the seat, leaning into Spock. Amanda slipped up front and then Sarek came after her. He reached out with two fingers and kissed Amanda in the Vulcan way.

“I am using a tractor beam to bring the car along with us.” Sarek informed them.

“Okay.” Jim said. His voice was small.

“What you both did was very ill-“

“Husband,” Amanda said, quietly. “They have been through enough. Save the lecture for later, please?”

He nodded. “If this is your wish, Wife.”

“It is.” She turned around in her seat. “You can go back to sleep, Jim. It’ll be a while before we’re home- I’ll wake you both when we get there.” She smiled at Spock, who was starting to look tired as well. “Thank you for letting us find you.”

“Yeah.” Jim smiled, tiredly. “Thanks for coming to get us.”

He fell back asleep before they got home, resting his head against Spock’s shoulder. When he woke up again they were landing. He shook Spock’s shoulder gently until the Vulcan woke up, and then together, they marched up to Spock’s room, Amanda and Sarek at their heels with all the luggage in tow.

Jim crawled into bed first, Spock right after him. Sarek set the bags he had down and then stood awkwardly in the doorway, clearly unsure as to how he was supposed to proceed. Amanda set a bag down and then came over to the bed, sitting on the side. She leaned over them, kissing them both on the head, one at a time.

“Don’t scare me like that.” She said.

“I apologize for my impulsive behavior.” Spock said.

“It was my fault,” Jim argued weakly.

Spock shook his head. “I was fully capable of making my own decision.”

Amanda let out a fond sigh. “It doesn’t matter how or why it happened. What matters it that you’re safe now, and that you’re home.” She stood, making her way over to Sarek. “Get some sleep, boys. We’ll talk in the morning.”

“Okay.”

“Yes, mother.”

She smiled softly. “Goodnight,” she said. “I love you both dearly.”

“Goodnight, mother.”

“Goodnight, Amanda.”

She closed the door softly behind her.

Jim was out like a light, after that, and Spock wasn’t far behind.

 


 

Winona didn’t come back to Earth- Jim and Frank mutually decided to play down what had happened into an old case of “Oh yeah, Jimmy was just out in the barn sulking.”

It helped that Jim agreed to whip up a code close to Frank’s old favorite beer for the replicator. It didn’t take much work, since he and Spock had devised a computer program that could code formulas of synthesized taste.

The last fleeting days of summer he felt like he’d once again dissolved into Spock’s family. They all ate together, cooked together, talked together. Jim couldn’t manage to feel like he had last time they’d all been together- he knew that the sense of family he felt was an illusion that would break the moment they left the planet, leaving him alone again. Even though at times, he felt like they’d never leave, and he’d be happy forever.

The thing was, they did eventually have to go.

Winona wouldn’t let Jim leave with them to Vulcan, siting Jim’s rebellion and the lack of  human resources on the planet as her main staples for refusal. There were plenty of reasons not to let him go, she said, but she struggled to put them into words.

Jim watched the shuttle leaving the station with a sense of foreboding in his gut. The year before, he’d promised himself he’d be off of Earth. Well, the time had come and passed, and he was stuck in the Iowa dust with nothing.

He was trapped on Earth. There was no way out- he was going to get older and older and stay stuck in the same place, dying for something new, something good, something more. Even just a higher-level school could have made it better, or a single friend, or some connection to a future in space. The only thing close was the shipyard, and the Enterprise would be shipping out herself in a couple days.

He wasn’t sure if he could watch her leave. It wasn’t like with Spock- once the ship was gone, she’d never be coming back.

And how long could he even count on Spock coming back, anyway? Spock was sixteen. Soon enough, he’d be off to do things on his own, living a full life, going on to get a higher education. God, he was years ahead of Jim.

What happened when Spock moved on and forgot abut Jim? How was he supposed to live, then? Alone all year, every year, with no summer secrets to keep hidden in the corner of his smiles? What then?

“I’m not gonna make it,” he choked. He stared at the empty station for what felt like eons, pressing his legs back into the Starok to keep himself grounded.

He had to figure something out. Some thing to drive him. Passion or some sense of duty or rage. Something.

The Enterprise. He’d hold onto the hope that eventually, he’d be abroad her bridge.

 


 

 

The night before school started, Jim sat in the Chevy, just beyond the gate of the shipyard. All around the Enterprise were shuttles and air craft, leaching onto her body like remoras on her shark-gray body.

There wasn’t really a lot of press around the launch- she wasn’t even fully built yet, and it wasn’t like Starfleet would be putting a crew on her decks any time soon. It was simply that she was turning from a caterpillar to a cocoon. No one cared about that- they only wanted to the see the butterfly stage.

Well, almost everyone. Jim sat in his corvette feeling sick to his stomach, watching all the ships around the Enterprise light up as they went through their pre-flight checks. He’d wired himself into their network through the console in the car.

This is seven-three-blue. Prepared for launch.”

“Copy seven-three-blue. Alpha-nine-red, signal?”

“This is alpha-red-nine. Prepared for launch.”

Jim let a shuddering sigh out through his open lips. He wrapped his arms a little tighter around himself, hitching his knees up against the bottom of the steering wheel. His eyes glimmered with unshed tears, but he was determined not to cry.

She had to leave. It was her nature- she couldn’t be finished in atmosphere. He understood that, and he loved her enough to know she had to go where he couldn’t so that she could be raised from her artificial slumber and turned to warp.

He knew. It was just… hard.

His toy Enterprise sat proudly on the dashboard of the corvette, a tiny mirror image of the big version’s future. He smiled sadly at the toy and looked back out towards the real thing as the earth began to shake.

She was leaving.

The ships all pulsed in unison, raising the Enterprise from her frame slowly. The metal creaked loudly in protest, and then cried as the Enterprise was pulled free.

Don’t go, Jim wanted to say, She’s crying for me. She knows I’m supposed to be with her.

But it was only the metal cradle being relieved of her weight, and Jim could only sit and watch as slowly, she rose up above the shipyard and into the clouds of the night, shimmering like a super nova above him.

He watched her rise up until all he could see was the faint blue glow of the engines on the ships raising her, and watched on until even those lights winked out.

“Ground control, this is leader one-one-seven. Requesting permission to switch to aerial base.”

“Permission granted leader one-one-seven. Ground control out.”

Jim curled in on himself.

She was gone.

Slowly, the lights in the shipyard went out one by one. Hovers flew past as the staff of the yard left for the night, signaling the true end of the launch. Jim stayed in the car until he felt himself slipping into sleep.

He sighed and sat up, turning the key over to ignite the engine. Slowly, he drove home, scrubbing at his eyes the entire way there.

Frank didn’t know he was out, of course. He’d be pissed when he found out the next morning- or rather, in an hour, Jim noticed. The sun would rise soon, and there was no way in hell Jim was going to school after the night he’d had.

He parked the car in the garage and then crept up into bed, feeling more alone than ever.

 


 

 

“You can’t keep skipping school.”

Jim groaned and rolled over on the couch, looking up at Frank. “Why not?”

“Wh- why not?” Frank spluttered.

“I already know all the material.” Jim said. “Why should I go?”

Frank rolled his eyes.

“Don’t worry,” Jim turned his eyes back to the holo projector. “Mom won’t be mad at you for failing to make me go. She knows that it takes, I quote, ‘an act of god’ to move me.”

“Feeling a little self-righteous today, are we Jim?”

Jim shrugged. “I’m a moody teen. It happens.”

Frank snorted. “Whatever. Get up and put your shoes on, I need your help.”

Jim looked up. “What? I thought the guy that was gonna buy the wagon came by yesterday.”

“He did.” Frank leaned against the staircase railing. “This is another guy.”

“What’s he coming for?” Jim asked. “You know mom’s gonna be pissed when she finds you’re selling all this crap.”

“What else am I supposed to do? Shipyard don’t need me now that the ship’s gone. How else we gonna make ends meet?” He pulled his comm out from his pocket to fiddle with it. “Don’t worry, this is the last thing. We’ll be sitting pretty after this last offer.”

Jim felt his stomach twist with nervousness. He sat up. “Why? What’re you selling?”

“Huh? Oh, the String Ray or whatever. Thing’s an antique- worth a fortune.”

Jim’s eyes went wide.

“What?” Frank sighed. “I know you spent all that time getting it all fixed up, Jimmy, but that’s what makes it so valuable. I’ll get you some parts to make somethign else cool. This thing is worth-“

“You can’t sell the car!”

Frank’s brow furrowed. “Why the hell not? You can’t really do anything with it. It takes hours just to go a state over- what the hell are you gonna do with it?”

“It’s not yours!”

“Well, it ain’t yours, either.” Frank snorted. “I turned a blind eye when you started driving it illegally, but when it comes down to it, it’s still your moms, and what’s hers is mine.” He held up his hand, flashing his wedding band. “Legally.”

“That car belonged to my dad.” Jim snapped.

Frank’s brows raised. “Well… belonged is the key word here, Jim.” He went on, saying, “Listen, I know it’s sad. That’s how it is. But that car is worth so much money, Jim, and just keeping it in the barn is a damn shame.”

“It’s mine,” Jim snarled. He stood, backing towards the kitchen. “You can’t have it.”

“Jim, don’t be a brat. It’s an antique car! What are you gonna do with it?”

“Keep it.” Jim muttered. He kept backing up.

Frank’s eyes narrowed as he realized what Jim was intending to do. “Jim, think real hard about what you’re about to do. You’re gonna find yourself in a world of hurt if you don’t stop to think a second.”

“About what? Letting you sell off all that’s left of my dad?”

“It’s a car! Not your mom’s fucking photo album.”

“You didn’t even ask mom! She’d never let you sell it.”

“Well by the time she finds out, it’s gonna be too late. And besides, she’ll be happy when she sees how much we’re gonna make. Now- Jimmy. Don’t you dare take another step towards that door.”

“It’s not your car to sell!”

“Do you know who fucking pays for this house?!” Frank exploded. “Me! I do! While your mom’s out there galavanting about on a ship, I’m the one here with all this shit. I’m paying for this house. This is my house. That’s my barn, and everything in it is my shit, you got it, Jim? That’s my car!”

Jim put his hand on the screen, pushing.

“Don't you dare."

He ran.

"Jim!"

Like hell he was going to let Frank sell the car. His dad had loved those cars. He’d- damn it, he’d rather they’d been sucked into oblivion right alongside the Kelvin than be sold off to some asshole who liked to show them off. That wasn’t how things like that worked. Dad had treasured the cars, had collected them, loved them. The cars where his dad’s Enterprise- Jim couldn’t let them just go.

This guy would put them up on some shelf for other people to look at and touch. He’d wash off the home-town dust and the loving memory of George’s fingerprints. Like hell!

Jim got in it and drove.

He didn’t know why, or where. It wasn’t like last time, and he wasn’t running away. He just had to take the car away, put it somewhere they’d never find it. The other cars were still in danger, sure, but they didn’t run, and Frank wasn’t looking to sell them just then. And the corvette felt special. Jim knew it had likely been the crown jewel of his dad’s collection.

As he drove, he was filled with elation. Fuck it! Fuck Frank. Fuck Iowa, and school, and Earth. He was James Tiberius Kirk, born in the stars, genius madman, and he wasn’t going to let them do one damn thing.

He roared down the dirt road. He went the only direction he knew- towards the shipyard. It was bound to be empty between projects, but he’d find some place to stick the car until he came up with a better plan.

The consul began to ring. He reached over and answered it.

“Are you out of your mind?” Came Frank’s voice.

Maybe.

“That car’s an antique. You think you can get away with this just because your mother’s off planet? You get your ass back home now. You live in my house, and that’s my car. You get one scratch on that car, and I’m gonna whoop your ass-“

Jim shut him off. The car still had some of his dad’s old tunes on it; classical music he’d listened to in the quiet of the barn when the silence grew to much. He turned it on without much thought to it and then turned the music up as loud as he could stand it.

Not a scratch, huh? Oh I’ll show you something.

He reached up, jaw set in determination, and unclipped one side of the convertible roof. He leaned over and unlatched the other. Two plus two equaled four, and wind resistance…

The roof ripped straight off the car, spinning away into the distance with a displeased screech in the wind. Jim watched it land in the dirt and grinned.

How much is this thing worth now, huh, Frank?

He couldn’t help it. Out loud he started to scream along with the music, fire engulfing him whole. “YEAH!”

He was going so fast that the washboards didn’t even seem to touch the tires. Dirt plumed behind him in a huge cloud, billowing over the sides of the car and into the seats, coating his face. He laughed, wiping his eyes free of the dust, and pushed the petal down harder.

He felt like he was flying.

Up ahead he could see someone walking and instantly his grin stretched wider. Johny was walking back home from school, hitch-hiking like always, hoping to save himself the last couple miles of the walk. Jim leaned into the horn.

“Hey Johnny!” He waved, laughing to himself when he caught a flash of the boy’s baffled expression.

He’d never felt so free in his life.

And then he caught sight of the police in his rear-view mirror.

Shit.

“Citizen.” The officer pulled up next to the car, hover bike easily matching the retro car’s speed. Damn it, Jim had known there’d been more patrols in the area as of late- “Pull over.”

Fuck that.

Jim yanked hard on the wheel, nearly missing the turn-off into the second section of the ship yard. He hadn’t planned on going to the launch site, where they released smaller, atmosphere-ready craft, but it would do. He watched the cop disappear momentarily form his rear-view mirror.

The gates to the yard were coming up fast. He didn’t have time. He smashed through them, ducking behind the wheel in case shards of metal broke off, but he passed through safely. The cop was right on his tail.

And up ahead, yawning like a gaping mouth, was the canyon. It was how they tested the ships without putting them in atmosphere, so that if there was a problem, they could return to port.

So let’s give this one a test, Jim thought. He put the car into a higher gear, slamming down the gas petal.

He was panicked. He hadn’t thought any of it through- he’d thought somehow it would just all work out. Once the police caught him, though, the car would go back to Frank, and Jim would be in too deep to do anything about it.

Unless the car didn’t go back.

Unless he didn’t go back.

The canyon grew deeper and longer before him, closer and closer. He wasn’t going to make it, he realized. There was no way they could clear the divide- he’d known it from the moment he’d seen the canyon, of course, but some childish hope had remained…

And what did it matter, if he fell? No car for Frank to sell, no Jim for Winona to deal with. He was trapped anyway, right? And this way he’d get his wish- he’d get to fly, just the one time.

But the Enterprise was waiting for him out there in the sky.

And oh, God, if he died. Winona would tell Spock and Amanda.

No.

He threw the car into park, knowing it wouldn’t be enough, and slammed down on the breaks. He smelled the rubber burning and let out a battle cry, as though he could keep the car from falling with pure will and rage alone. He couldn’t fucking die- he had shit to do! He had things to see and taste and try and he had to fly above the clouds, not under them. What had he been thinking?

He wasn’t going to make it, he realized.

He jerked the wheel hard and jumped.

Time stretched on endlessly as he watched the ground disappear out from under his legs. The car went careening off the face of the cliff, below his feet, and his body tried to follow. No!

He dug his fingers into the dirt, pulling, yanking, and screamed, tugging with his whole body. He was sliding dangerously fast and the fall would kill him. He kicked and struggled and his fingers caught rock beneath the dirt. He hauled himself up in panic, scrambling away on all fours away from the ridge, barely able to catch his breath.

He looked up in time to see the police officer who’d been following him dismount.

Shit.

He stood hastily, fingers numb and bleeding. He looked over the cliff to see the car, but it was gone- the bottom of the ravine was so far down he couldn’t even see where it had landed. He looked back up to the cop.

Well, if he didn’t even have the car anyway…

“Is there a problem, officer?”

The man seemed baffled, even with his face completely covered, and it took him a moment to speak. His voice came out smooth and emotionless as it passed through the verbal modulizer, but Jim knew better.

“Citizen,” he said. “What is your name?”

This aughta’ make mom happy.

He grinned. “My name is James Tiberius Kirk.”

Chapter Text

“So there’s a couple of options.”

Jim groaned and rolled over in bed, pressing his face into the pillow. “Can’t you just shoot me and get it over with?”

“I did not spend my time raising you for the last thirteen years just to shoot you.” Winona said. “Now. We’ve got some choices from the judge.” She looked down to her PADD. “Boot camp.”

“You and I both know I’ll be running the place in a week.”

She nodded. “Okay. School for troubled geniuses in Missouri.”

Jim gave her a look. “Troubled geniuses. Wow. And really? Missouri?”

“Yeah that’s kinda what I said.” She frowned down at her list. “And it’s a little…”

“Stuffy?”

“That’s one way of putting it.” She muttered. “It’s a boarding school and-“

“Pass.”

“There’s this off-planet program-“

Jim sat up. “Off planet?”

She nodded, hesitantly. “Yeah. There’s this colony establishment. They’re taking a bunch of other smart-trouble-kids from Earth. You’ll be doing a lot of school work and physical labor. Farming, you know, building things for-“

“That’s the one.” Jim sat up. “What planet? And what sort of colony? An Terran one?”

“Yeah. Mostly humans.” She squinted. “It’s one of the Tarsus installments.”

“Five?”

“Four.”

He narrowed his eyes. “I haven’t heard about that one.”

“You wouldn’t have,” she said. “It’s five lightyears from any of the others, and they were hesitant to start a colony there because of the ion cloud cutting off communication from the surface. A bunch of old-fashioned folks loved that, though- the isolation. It’s going to be pretty low-tech, and kind of off the radar. A lot of people want that, I guess.”

“So they’re sending us bad kids there because it’ll be hard for us to get in trouble, too.” Jim guessed. “Less tech to mess with.”

“Exactly.”

“It’ll be the pioneer out there.” Jim smiled. “Yeah. Yeah, why not?”

She nodded. “It’s a three-year stint…”

He turned to her, frowning. “Three years?”

“Yeah. They don’t want too many incoming or outgoing ships. When the going gets a little tough on the colony planets people remember how easy living on earth was and abandon the places they’re supposed to be creating. It’s easier if they’re just kind of left alone.”

“Still, though. Three years?”

She shrugged. “If it’s awful, you can be out in a year.”

Jim narrowed his eyes. “Why aren’t you losing it about the time? You freaked out about three months with Spock and Amanda…” At her cowed look her furrowed his brows. “You’re going back out into space, aren’t you?”

She winced. “Jim-“

“How long? A year?” She didn’t move. “Two?”

“It’s not like I’m just dumping you off-“

“More than two?” He saw into her expression and said, “Oh my god, you signed on for a three year exploratory, didn’t you?”

She was silent.

“Frank is going to flip the hell out.”

“Frank doesn’t know.” She said. “And he’s not going to find out from you.”

Jim raised his hands, as if to show his innocence. “Hey, that’s your bridge to burn, not mine.”

“It’s not like that,” she started.

“I don’t care about Frank.” Jim said. “Let’s focus on getting me out of your life, shall we?”

She scowled. “Jim.”

“I’m joking,” he said, but he wasn’t. “Why can’t you just send me to Vulcan? I bet if we made an appeal the judge would bite.”

“Ugh, this again.” She rolled her eyes. “Amanda isn’t your mother.”

“Yeah, well, neither is Tarsus IV.”

“I swear, Jim.” She held her finger out, threateningly, but then deflated. “Vulcan isn’t on the list, and Vulcan isn't going to fix your attitude. It’s not going to teach you anything.”

“Well, I mean, with their schools, it would probably teach me a damn lot, but, you know.” He shrunk under her gaze. “Tarsus is fine, too,” he said. Anything to get off this damn planet.

“Hmph.” She turned back to the PADD. “Last shuttle leaves in a month. That’s pretty fast.”

I can’t get out of here fast enough. “Let the personality correction commence immediately,” Jim droned.

“Oh shut up.” She snorted. “You’re going there to learn how to take things seriously and respect authority. They’re not giving you a brain transplant. Although…” She eyed him, grinning.

“Har-har-har.”

She laughed. “I’m messing with you,” she reached out and messed up his hair.

“You gonna miss me?” He reached up to flatten his hair back out. “Crazy old lady?”

“Old? You watch it.” She grinned and fake-punched his shoulder.

He laughed.

Sobering, she said, “I’ll miss you more than anything, Jim.” She reached out and carded a hand through his wild bangs, trying to wrestle them into submission. “By the time three years is up on Tarsus you’ll be sixteen. I was thinking that I could petition to bring you aboard for the junior engineering program.”

His eyes lit up. “Really?”

She nodded. “If you behave on Tarsus, I don’t see why not.”

“Mom! That is so cool!” He grinned, wide. “You mean, like, I’d actually be able to work on the ship?”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” she laughed. “You’d have a lot to learn before then.”

“But still! That would be so awesome.” He frowned, then. “What about Frank?”

She frowned, too. “What about him?”

“What’s he gonna do?”

“Frank’s my husband.” She said. “Not yours.”

He stuck his tongue out. “Ew, mom. What the hell?”

She just smirked at him. “Yeah, that’s what you get when you go poking in everyone’s business.” When he didn’t reply, Winona’s smirk slowly fell, until she was frowning again. “I don’t know, Jim. I just… I don’t know about any of this. I don’t want to send you away.”

“Better some other planet than here.”

“I want to take you with me, but…”

“I know.” Jim smiled, rueful. “What kind of trouble would I get into on a starship?”

“It’d be a reward for driving that car off a cliff.” She said. “You’ve gotta learn, son.”

“Learn what?” He snorted. “Not to drive things off cliffs? Regenerating my fingers from the bone up was a lesson on that, I can tell you that much.”

“Uh-huh.” She sighed. “Tarsus. That should be a good lesson for you.”

“Out in the fields, sewing seeds and living under some weird guy’s control.” Jim took the PADD from his mother and clicked into the Tarsus information. “What kind of guy volunteers to take a group of genius trouble makers?”

“A reformed genius trouble maker.” She said. “And Dan is a woman.”

“What kinda lady then.” Jim corrected himself.

She shrugged. “Ex-Starfleet security chief.”

“Cool. She might be able to handle me.” Jim smiled.

Winona sighed and then dragged him over to her side, where she’d sat next to him on the bed. “C’mere.” She hauled him under her arm into a close side-hug, resting the side of her face on his head. “I love you. You know that, right?”

“I love you too, mom.”

“I mean it.” She said. “I’m… I’m sorry that things have gotten like this.”

He was silent for a moment. Me too, he wanted to say. Or, Maybe if you’d been here. Maybe if we understood each other. Maybe if dad was alive. He didn’t say any of those things. He shrugged one shoulder. “Kaiidth,” he said. “What is, is.”

She nodded. “And boy, is it.”

He snorted out a laugh.

“We good?” She asked. “I mean… this all. It wasn’t to get back at me, was it?”

“No,” Jim admitted. “It wasn’t. We’re good.”

“Good.”

 


 

 

Jim tucked his fingers underneath the armrests on either side of his body, swallowing. He knew every last bit of science that involved propelling them out of the atmosphere- he knew all the mechanics and engineering and he knew, without a doubt, that launch would go fine.

He was still nervous.

“Ready, kiddo?”

Jim grinned at his mother, leaning his head into her shoulder. “Who do you think I am?”

"My son?"

"Yep. And he was born ready."

The take off caused a baby down the isle to start crying, but Jim barely noticed the noise. He watched out the window as the stationskycloudsatompshere whooshed by in a blur of color. He felt his ears pop and gave out a small, giddy laugh as he felt the G-force press him back into his seat.

And then they were out.

Space.

It stretched around them for all eternity, dark, and glittering, and precious. Jim felt like the breath had been knocked out of him as he took it all in. The vast emptiness was comforting in a way- the sun and stars didn’t know his name or his past, and they didn’t care to learn. He was another minuscule variable hurtling past them in a big ‘ol tin can, and something about that was wonderful.

“Mom!” He pointed excitedly out the window. “Look, look, it’s-“

“If you name all the stars, I’m going to go crazy, kid.” Winona laughed. “I know you know them all.”

“I’ve just never seen them from this angle…” He pressed his face to the glass. “It’s… damn. It’s beautiful out here.”

“Welcome to my world,” she teased, gently.

He felt an unquestionable sense of belonging. This was were he was meant to be. This was where he belonged. Not in Riverside, not in Iowa. Not on Earth. Out in space, exploring new worlds and stars and tracking comets, living without any concrete gravity to weigh his body down to the ground.

It was cold, out in space, but damn, did he feel warm.

“I’m glad your happy,” Winona said softly.

Jim looked over to her. She looked sad- her eyes lost and far away, mouth drawn in near pain. “What is it?” He asked. “What’s wrong?”

“Hm?” She blinked rapidly. “Oh, nothing. You just… You remind me of your father.”

He looked back out the window. “Yeah,” he said. “I always do.”

“Never more than now,” she sighed.

That was something he was glad he’d be getting away from. He’d always felt like a shadow of his parent’s tragedy- an off brand clone of the dead and famous George Kirk. With that behind him he would be his own man, and maybe more.

His mom reached over and took his hand. Jim held it back, loosely, remembering all the times she’d used the gesture to control him. He shook his head- it wasn’t time to be remembering the bad things. He was finally getting his wish.

The journey was a long one. Jim fell asleep a couple of times, but never for long. He couldn’t bear to have his eyes parted from the view outside his window. He hardly dared to blink for fear of missing something incredible.

It twenty seven hours to get to the starbase they were switching out on. They slept in the temporary quarters allowed to guests and then, eleven hours after disembarking, they boarded another ship. It took that ship twelve hours to make it out to a small moon base, where they had a three hour lay over. The last ship would take him all the way out to Tarsus IV- a three day ride.

Jim liked it. He could think of no better way to spend the last bit of his time with his mother. She bought him a few trinkets from the starbase and the lunar base, and even when he got over-enthusiastic she only smiled fondly at him and shook her head.

“I’m gonna miss you,” she said, and it sounded like she meant it.

She didn’t board the last ship. She hugged him fiercely before he got on, saying, “Be good, Jim.”

“I will.”

“Promise to write me.” She said. She stood, thumbing his chin. “I know they only send communications out past the ion cloud once every four months, but try to keep me in your thoughts, okay?”

“Alright.” He smiled and reached forward, wiping her cheek as a stray tear made its way down her face. “Don’t cry, mom. We’re both going on a new adventure. It’s gonna be great.”

“I know,” she said. “I just can’t help but feel like I’m losing you.”

“You know exactly where to find me,” he promised. He stepped out onto the platform, smiling. “See you later, alligator?”

“After a while, crocodile,” she said.

Jim turned away, and started into the shuttle.

“Jim!”

He paused at the entry, turning back to his mom. She was full-on crying, eyes already red and puffy.

“I love you!”

He smiled, feeling a little choked up himself. “I love you too!”

"Be safe!"

He turned and entered the shuttle, and just like that. Mom was gone. He was on his own.

There weren’t manny people onboard. Five tired looking adults up front, and in the back, a rowdy pack of kids. There were seven of them- he’d be the eighth- and they looked like their ages ranged from around six to seventeen.

He hefted his backpack up on his shoulders- the old one that Amanda had bought him, with Star Base Seven on the back. His other luggage would be in the back of the ship already. Quickly, he made his way to the back where the other kids were loudly debating the schematics of Klingon romance.

They paused when he stepped up to their group.

“Hi,” he said. He grinned. “I’m Jim.”

“James T. Kirk,” one rattled off. “Thirteen years and seven months old, drove a car off a cliff to make a point.” The boy smiled- he looked to be around nine, and was missing one of his front teeth. “Nice to meet ya.”

“Well.” Jim said. “Looks like someone did their homework.”

“He knew all of us,” A girl said. She was chewing bubblegum, which was weird. No one chewed bubblegum anymore. “Don’t feel too intimidated.” She looked around sixteen herself.

“Ezra Fisher,” the boy said. “Nice to meet'cha!”

Jim laughed. “Well, you heard it from Ezra, I guess. I’m Jim. Who’re the rest of you?”

Ezra pointed at them one by one. “Melody Owens, six years old,” she had dimples and a cute, squishy face, and a large frizzy afro. She was adorable. “T Brown, gender unknown! Eleven years old.” They had a long black braids and bronze skin, with hazel eyes framed by long, dark lashes. They smiled and waved. “Sebastian Scott, thirteen.” He had ashy-blond hair and gray eyes, and a light smattering of freckles crossing his nose. “Nina Farrell, ten years!” He pointed to a girl with short, curly brown hair and blue eyes. “Joel Outhier, eleven.” He had dark hair and green eyes. He was incredibly tall for his age. “Jessie Harrison, sixteen-“

“It’s Jet,” it was the girl who had first spoken to him, with the chewing gum. She had almond shaped eyes and brown hair, cropped nearly at her jaw. “Not Jessie. Jet.”

Ezra ignored her. “And that’s it! We’re waiting on a Kevin Riley.”

The aforementioned Kevin Riley came stumbling onto the shuttle then. His family was still with him- a mother, father, and two brothers. They all stayed up in the front, shoeing Kevin on.

He turned and looked at them, eyes wide- a dear in the headlights.

Jim waved him over.

The boy skittered down the isle and threw himself into a seat, which nearly seemed to swallow him whole. He stared at them, silent.

“You’re late,” said Sebastian Scott.

“I know.” Kevin said, gravely. “I told mom we were going to be late but she wanted to finish the tour of the station.” He leaned forward, lowering his voice as if imparting a secret to them. “The life support for the station all goes through one power grid. It could be easily disabled in an attack.”

“Christ,” Jet said. “Literally all of us noticed.”

Jim was glad he wasn’t the only one.

“That’s so dangerous.” Kevin seemed nearly unable to get the words out.

“Lots of things are dangerous.” Melody helpfully added.

T said, “For example?”

“Knives,” Melody said.

Nina nodded, sagely. “Knives are, in fact, dangerous.”

“Blasters,” Melody added.

“Yep, yep, those are dangerous alright.” Ezra said.

“Chlorine gas,” Melody finished.

“Useful,” said Sebastian. “But yeah, dangerous.”

Jim grinned. These were so his people.

“So what’s Kevin in for, Ezra?” Jet asked. She was looking at her nails, as though she were disinterested. “You got the dirt on the rest of us.”

“He took apart his school bus because he wanted to fix the engine,” Ezra said. “Obviously didn’t finish it before he was discovered. Nice try though, buddy, it was a good effort.”

Kevin folded himself even further back into his seat.

“No fair,” Jim said. “We didn’t get to hear what the rest of you are here for.”

Melody said, “I accidentally blew up the kitchen.”

Jim blinked.

Ezra nodded enthusiastically. “Yep yep! Chemistry will do that.”

“What are you in for, anyway?” Jet asked. “Talking too fast?”

“Nope. Gotta say that’s a big ‘ol N-O. Gramps said it’s all very hush hush but you know.” He shrugged. “Well you know I just really wanted to see what kind of cool stuff they kept in the Starfleet museum down the way so I just went on ahead and hacked right into the security system and waltzed on it. Made myself an Admiral while I was at it. Admiral Fisher, at your service.”

“I am not surprised,” Jet said.

“What are you in for, Jet?” Sebastian asked. “I got here after you.”

“Sabotage.” She said. “Idiot boys thought they were better racers than me and tried to fuck with my pod. Showed them.”

Sebastian said, “Well I feel stupid now. You guys all did cool stuff. I just changed my documented species to a lobster so I could get on the shuttle for pet prices.”

They laughed.

“Passengers,” came a voice over the speaker-system. “Please be seated. We are detaching from the station. Passengers, please be seated. We are detaching from the station.”

“Guess that’s the final call,” T said. “No going back now.”

The shuttle lurched, but they were all ready for it and thus unaffected.

“What’re you in for, T?” Asked Sebastian.

“I wiped the entire school system because they refused to removed the xenophobic material from the course.” They shrugged. “Whoopsies.”

“Sweet,” said Jet.

“What about you?” Jim turned to Nina. “What did you do?”

“They put my mom in prison. She shot the man who did bad things to my other mom. So I hacked into the prison system and highjacked one of their automated guards to escort her out. They realized that she was gone about a month ago when the food they’d been putting in her cell started to stink.” She frowned.

“Sorry they found out,” said T.

“It’s okay.” Nina smiled. “She got pardoned.”

“Joel?” Sebastian turned to the boy. “What about you?”

“Ezra already told you, didn’t he?”

Sebastian shook his head. “I just got here before Jim did. I didn’t hear shit.”

Joel colored.

“What?” Seb grinned. “Something embarrassing?”

“Yeah…” He blew a breath out of his cheeks. “I stole a bunch of explosives.”

“What? Why?”

Joel shrugged. “News said it was impossible to do. Figured I’d try. Don't- don't let that fool you. I'm just a guy who likes plants.”

“Huh. I get that.”

Jim leaned back into his seat, grinning ear to ear. He was going to love Tarsus.

“What’s that look for?” T noticed. “You’re just as embarrassing, Kirk- you’re the least impressive out of all of us.”

Jim shrugged. It didn’t matter that he could have easily done what the other kids were guilty of, it was nice to be on the down-low for once. “Nothing,” he said. “I just think we’re gonna get along swell.”

 


 

 

“I’m Dan Soyer.” The woman before them was tall, and large, her golden skin marred with small peach scars. Her hair was pulled back into a severe bun at the back of her head, the sides of which were shaved. She was in a black jumpsuit. “And I’m gonna be taking care of you for the next couple of years, so let’s get a few things straight.”

Jim was lined up with the rest of the group. They’d been put into alphabetical order by last name. Jim liked that he fell in the middle- being at the front and the back always seemed like a spell for trouble, somehow.

“First of all.” Dan said. “You have all been told you’re here because you’re trouble kids. Is that right?”

They all mumbled their yeses.

“Yes sir will do.” Dan barked.

They all stood up straight. “Yes, sir!” They chorused.

“Good, you learn fast.” She said. “That’s the first thing you’l learn here. You address me with respect and you address me clearly. The second thing you’re going to learn; you are not here because you’re trouble.”

They all looked amongst each other.

“You’re here because you’re smart.” She said. “You’re here because your parents didn’t know how to raise a child of heightened intelligence. You’re here because somewhere along the way, the system failed you. You’re not trouble. You’re kids- smart kids. Good kids. Got it?”

They were silent.

“Got it?” She repeated.

“Yes, sir.” They said.

“Good. We’ll work on that later.” Dan stepped aside, sweeping her arm back to gesture at the small camp behind them. “This is going to be your new home for a while. Behind me is the classroom. We’ll spend most of our time there. To my left we’ve got the mess hall and gardens, and to the right is the barrack and bathhouse. You may noticed there is only one barrack. That’s because we’re all family now, and family shares a house. Each one of you will get your own room, but the bathroom is communal. You’ll learn to share. Sound good?”

They looked to each other.

Dan sighed. “Third thing you learn today. When I ask a question I expect a yes sir or a no sir. Got it?”

“Yes, sir!”

“Very good.” She looked down at the clip board in her hand- topped with real life paper. It was weird to see someone other than himself using it, Jim thought. “When I call your name step forward. Sebastian Scott.”

He stepped up from the end. “Yes, sir?”

“Scott, you’ve got room four.” Dan pointed to a table she’d had set up. It was topped with various things bins. “Take a pillow, a bed set, a journal and a pen. Your luggage should be waiting in the main hall of the barracks. Get yourself set up.”

He ran up to do as told.

“Jessie Harrison?”

She stepped forward, “My name’s Jet, sir.”

“Jet Harrison it is.” Dan said. “Same thing. Pillow, bed set, journal and pen. You’ve got room number six, go get set up.”

“Yes, sir.”

“James Kirk.”

Jim stepped forward. “Jim Kirk, sir.”

“Alright, Kirk. You’ve got room eight.”

“Yes, sir.”

It went on like that. The rooms were given by age- after Jim came T, then Joel, Nina, Ezra, Riley, and finally Mel. They were handed out so that each even number stood across from an odd. The odd numbers went to the little kids, the even to the older. That way, every kid had a partner across the hall from themselves. Room one went to Melody Owens, so that across from her, in two, would be Dan. Then came Kevin Riley in room three, and across from him, Sebastian Scott. They were all paired up at way- Mel and Dan, K. Riley and Seb Scott, E. Fisher and Jet H., Nina F. and J. Kirk, and finally Joel O. and T. Brown.

When they’d all finished setting up their rooms, Dan ordered them to line up out in front of the dining hall with their partners. “Team one,” she barked. Mel happily skipped next to Dan, holding up her finger to indicate the number one. “Riley and Scott.”

The two stepped forward, saying, “Yes, sir!”

“Team two, Fisher and Harrison!”

They stepped out of line as well. “Yes, sir!”

“You four are on kitchen duty. I’ve got ingredients and the recipe laid out nicely for you on the counter. I trust that you don’t need supervision. Get to it.” She nodded her head towards the mess hall.

“Yes, sir!” The four chorused. They took off at a run.

“Team three, Kirk and Farrell!”

Jim stepped forward, looking down to his side to be sure Nina did as well. She beamed as she marched out of line, hands neatly linked behind her back. She was proper enough to remind him of Spock.

“You two are on campfire duty. I want enough twigs gathered to make a good fire this evening. The fire pit is out behind the schoolhouse, I trust you’ll be able to find it.”

“Yes, sir!” Jim said. Nina chorused with him, practically yelling.

“Good. Team four, you’re with me- I’ll show you were the china is and we’ll get to setting the mess hall for dinner.”

Jim didn’t hear what was said after that. He and Nina took off in a sprint.

 


 

 

The weeks blurred by in the camp. Dan was nothing like Jim had expected. She had a loud, boisterous laugh and loved to hear about their past shenanigans. She was wicked smart, and a great teacher. They spent the mornings tending the gardens and cleaning, when it was cool enough to work without getting too overheated. They spent the hot afternoons learning, each at their own pace with the materials that Dan had personally set up for them each. They were each given a PADD- some of the only modern technology on the planet- to study with, though they couldn’t get any modern updates from beyond the ion cloud. Dan had downloaded plenty in preparation.

In the evenings after dinner, they worked on practical skills- one for each day of the week. Monday, sewing and tailoring. Tuesday, engineering. Wednesday, martial arts. Thursday, marksmanship with dummy phasers. Friday, wilderness survival. Sunday, computer skills. Saturday they were allowed to do whatever they so pleased with their evenings, though that usually meant spending time lounging about together in the communal room of the barracks.

It was hard work, but it was the life Jim had always dreamed of. Nina was shy, but incredibly smart- she loved computer sciences and coding best out of everything they did, but she also seemed to like to garden. Jim loved it all himself, though he had to say he preferred it when he and Nina weren’t part of cooking detail. He could make a mean grilled cheese, and damn he knew how to code a replicator, but when it was just him and a cookbook staring each other down, he had to admit he felt rather wrong-footed.

They were all required to take art and language communally. Jim wasn’t very good at art, but watching Nina get to it was amazing. She and Joel both had an incredible eye, and it was fun to struggle along with Dan’s pre-recorded lessons from other teachers. Language was a different story. Dan decided to teach the language she knew best- Klingonese. She’d quickly found out that Jim Kirk only pretended he didn’t know how to speak it just well as she did, and he was promoted to helper. It kept him sharp, so he didn’t mind.

Dan kept them all out of trouble. For one thing, there wasn’t a town for miles and miles, and the only transportation they had was the old Earth jeep that Dan had put together from scrap. They could try to make off with it, she’d told them, but there was no way they’d really get anywhere. Everyone on the planet would know it was stolen.

That was the thing about Tarsus IV. There wasn’t really any place to get into trouble in the first place. Everything in their little camp was theirs to do with as they pleased, so there wasn’t really any point in getting out of hand. The few times others had tried had proven futile.

And it wasn’t like they got into huge trouble if they did do wrong. They just stopped getting to do the cool stuff. When Dan took them all out for a hike, you had to stay back in your room and clean up. When it came time for camping skills, once the fire was up you didn’t get to make s’mores. When it came to recreation time, you sat out on the sidelines.

It was enough, though.

Jim knew he wasn’t the only one who loved it. Really, they all respected Dan at the very least, though he was sure they all loved her in their own ways. And she loved them too- she called them her troops, and her kids, and her “wonderful screw-ups.”

A year went by in such a fashion, and Jim was so happy that he nearly forgot about what he was missing back home. It wasn’t until someone mentioned, off hand, that they’d usually be in the midsts of summer vacation that the reality came slamming home.

Spock. He was missing Spock.

 


 

 

“Hey, Kirk.”

Jim looked up from where he was hanging his head off the end of the couch in the community area. “Sir?”

“You want story telling tonight?” It was Sunday, and they’d integrated computer skills into their usual curriculum the past month, leaving Sundays open for team building. It was a professional way of saying “story time and fun games.”

Jim sat up, blinking. “I, uh, didn’t request it, sir.”

“Yeah, I know.” Dan sat next to him. She smiled. “You look put out lately, kid. I’m not boring you, am I?”

Jim shook his head. He hadn’t been bored in a long time.

“What’s up?” She asked. “Homesick?”

“Pssh. I’m not Outhier.”

She gave him the stink-eye. “Watch it, kid, you better be nice.”

“I don’t mean it like that.” Jim said. He looked over his shoulder, out the window. “Just… I don’t really have anything to be home-sick about.”

“Ah.” Dan leaned back into the couch. “It’s like that, huh?”

Jim shrugged.

“You know, in the entire time you’ve been here, you’ve hardly talked about home.”

“Not much to talk about.” Jim said. “Mom wasn’t around, Dad died early. You know that.”

“Then what’s got you looking so wistful?”

Jim let out a sigh. “Well… it’s summer time, sir.”

“I’m aware.” She looked out the window. “It’s always summer-weather on Tarsus.”

“I mean on Earth. In Iowa, anyway.”

She raised a brow. “Wish you were done with school?”

“No.”

“Then what’s up?” She fake-gasped. “Don’t tell me you’ve got a sweetheart waiting back on Earth for you, Kirk.”

“Wouldn’t you like to know.” Jim teased.

“I can see it now,” Dan said. “Kirk, the universal heart-breaker.”

“Yeah right.” Jim laughed. “No. Not… nothing like that. Just…”

“Just?”

“My best friend.” Jim said. “He only ever came to Earth in the summers. This is the first year I’ll be going without seeing him since we first met, back when I was only five.”

“And that’s why you get story tonight.”

Jim looked up, confused. “Sir?”

“Nostalgia.” She said. “We hardly ever get a Kirk story. Let’s hear one about you and this best friend of yours- I bet the two of you got up to all kinds of trouble.”

Jim smiled and ducked his head. “Well, that’s true. Even if he was a stickler for the rules, I could usually logic him into it.”

“So it’s settled.” She stood, clapping him on the back. “Story teller you shall be.”

 

 


 

 

“Good evening. I’m James T. Kirk, and I’ll be your host for the evening.” Jim leaned forward against the story-telling podium at the head of the community room. “Tonight we’ve got some special entertainment for you. I’d like to tell you all about my best friend in the whole world, Spock. Tonight’s story is called The Time Me and Spock Played Cards.”

From the audience, Jet barked out a laugh. “What?”

“It’s a lot cooler than it sounds.” Jim promised. “It goes a little something like this...”

 


 

 

“Jim,” Spock said. “This is an idea that has an eighty nine point four percent chance of failing.”

“Eighty nine, huh?” Jim smirked as he dropped down over the side of the fence. “Those are worse odds than usual. Is it my jacket? Too bright, right?”

Spock said, “You have noticed a change in the guards. It is likely that they will make rounds to our usual star-gazing location.”

“Nonsense,” Jim said. He grinned, hiking his backpack up over his shoulder. “Come on. There’s supposed to be a comet passing into view tonight.”

Spock didn’t argue with that.

They scurried along between the buildings and out into the shadow of the Enterprise, into the usual position Jim took up. He opened his backpack up and threw down a blanket for them to lay on, and then laid back on it with his arms crossed behind his head. Spock hesitantly joined him, casting a suspicious glance around.

“Oh come on,” Jim laughed. “I’ve been coming out here all year. We’re not gonna get caught.”

“There are more guards than there used to be,” Spock pointed out. “It is likely that the rotation has changed to cover more ground.”

“Nah,” Jim said. “Come on, it’s Iowa. What kinda sense would that make?”

Spock leveled him with a look. “Jim.”

Jim laughed. Leaning his head back, he looked up to the sky. “Any minute now, Spock, it’ll be passing overhead.”

Spock leaned his head back as well. “I estimate approximately another minute and thirty seven seconds.”

“Hm.” Jim laughed a little. “Approximately, huh?”

Spock nodded. “Approximately.”

“What happens the day you make an exact estimate?” Jim wondered out-loud. “Will the universe implode?”

“It is doubtful,” Spock said. His face was blank, but there was good humor in his eyes.

The comet zinged overhead, in and out of sight in a  second.

“There!” Jim pointed at its tail. “Did you see it?”

“Fascinating,” Spock breathed. “It appeared to be-“

“HEY!”

Jim and Spock looked up just in time to each have the necks of their tops grabbed.

“What the-“ Jim grunted as he was yanked to his feet, right along Spock.

Spock shot him a look, as if to say, I told you so.

“What the hell?” The guard held them both out for inspection. “What’re you two kids doing out here?”

“Stargazing.” Spock said.

“Why here?” The guard seemed baffled.

“The Enterprise adds a special appeal.” Jim said. “She's our beautiful lady and we love her.”

The guard narrowed his eyes at them.

Jim shrugged.

The guard- his name tag said Ware- squinted at their stuff. “That yours?”

“Yeah.”

“What you got in there?”

“A sweater, some Red Vines, and two juice pouches.” Jim thought for a second. “A PADD and a flashlight, too.”

“Pick it up. And your picnic blanket up, too, what the hell?”

Jim did as told, happily dancing out of the guard’s reach. He was happy to note that Spock had been released, too.

“Come on,” Ware said. “You two are in deep shit.”

“That is inaccurate,” Spock said. “There is no feces anywhere in the vicinity, let alone-“

“Yep!” Jim grabbed Spock’s wrist. “We got it.”

The guard huffed out a sigh. “March.”

Jim and Spock walked in front of the guard, who barked out instructions for them so that they wouldn’t give him the slip while trailing behind his back. He lead them to a building, which they hesitantly entered. It was the break room, where three other guards were sitting a table playing cards.

“Ross!” One of them called. “Whacha got?”

“Coupla’ stargazers,” Ware, or Ross, said.

Jim and Spock stood awkwardly near the wall.

“Is that a Vulcan?” One of the guards gawked.

Jim narrowed his eyes. “Don’t you have manners?”

The man had the decency to look cowed. “Sorry, kid.”

“Whacha gonna do with ‘em, Ware?” The last guard asked.

Ware walked over to a comm unit on the wall. “Hand ‘em over to the police.”

“What?” Jim wined. “But we were just hanging out?”

“Oh, sucks dude.” One of the guards chuckled.

Jim eyed the table. “Whacha playing?”

“Texas Hold ‘Em.” Said guard number two.

Jim turned to Ware. “Hey. Make you a deal.”

Ware looked back at him. “What?”

“Me and S- my friend, versus you guys. We’ve got Red Vines to bet.”

Ware narrowed his eyes.

“Oh shit, Red Vines?” Guard one perked up. “Hell yeah!”

“If we win, we leave scott free. If you guys win, you get the Red Vines and we get our asses handed over to the cops. What do you say?”

Ware frowned. “I don’t like it.”

Guard number three said, “Come on, Ware. It’s a couple of kids. Do you two even know how to play Texas Hold ‘Em?”

“No,” said Jim. “We learn fast, though.”

Number Three held his hands out. “See? Like taking candy from a baby. Red Vines, man.”

“I’m a Twizzlers fan.” Ware mumbled.

“Come on,” Jim implored him. “You’re not scared of losing to some kids, are you?”

Ware groaned.

“Red Vines, Red Vines,” guard one cheered.

“Red Vines, Red Vines!” Number two got in on it as well.

Ware sighed. “Fine.”

“Yes!”

“But if you tell the cops we stole your candy, I swear I’ll-“

Jim snorted. “We’re not total assholes.” He stuck his hand out towards Ross. “You four versus us two and a packet of Red Vines. They count for like a credit each. Whacha say?”

“Ugh. Fine.”

They shook on it.

“Sweet!” Jim dragged Spock over to the table, where they both sat after the other three men made room. “I’m Jim, and this is Spock.”

Number one said, “Mike.”

Two was, “Presley.”

“Alejandro,” was the third.

Jim grinned and cracked his knuckles. “Alright,” he said. “How do you play?”

The rules were quickly explained, with a few questions from Spock, who thought the whole thing was pointless, but would try his best regardless. That was all Jim could ask.

They won, of course.

And with a bag full of loose credits and Red Vines, they went on their merry way, waving goodbye to their four new tickets into the shipyard as they went.

 


 

 

Yeah, Jim thought. Those were the good ‘ol days.

 


 

 

 

It was great.

It was great, right up until it wasn't. 

Chapter Text

When Dan came to them with the problem, they figured it was one of her random ‘things’ for them to wrap their minds around. She came up with them fairly often- problems with no solutions that they were supposed to muddle their way out of. There was no such thing as a dead end, she said. The trick was figuring out how to keep moving on.

“I want you to think about a planet just like Tarsus IV.” She said. “The plants were all artificially culminated years and years ago, before the people arrived, so that when they got there the planet would seem more like Earth than a floating rock and space. No animals or insects- the plant life is all genetically modified so that it can survive without the presence of other life forms, and is helped along by the grid. Got it?”

They all said, “Yes, sir.”

“An unidentified fungus starts destroying all the crops. There are hardly any replicators on the planet, and the ones that are here can only function to a certain standard before they’ll be exhausted as a resource. There’s no way to get the livestock to start reproducing faster or aging quicker, so that source of food will run out soon enough. What do you do to keep the colony from starving to death?”

They came up with several answers. For one, you would have to put a rations restriction so that no one ate more than they were supposed to. Crops clear of the fungus should be moved to clean areas, and more food should be genetically altered to resist the fungus. Replicators should only be used in an effort to sustain the crops. Livestock should be cut down by half and stored, because animals could still get sick and die, so it was too risky to try to sustain them with what little food was left on the planet. Effort should be extorted on combating the fungus, on finding a way to keep it off other crops, and on killing it before it killed the plants it infected.

“Excellent,” Dan had said.

But it wasn’t enough.

 


 

 

A truck from town came by once every two weeks to give them the food they didn’t grow in their garden without fail, on the dot, never a minute late.

Jim stood outside with Nina, waiting, but the truck never came.

“What the hell?” He murmured.

“Yeah,” Nina echoed. “What the hell?”

Dan slipped out of the mess hall a few minutes later, face drawn. “So that’s it then,” she said under her breath. She turned to them both. “Looks like the truck’s not coming.”

Jim shrugged. “I guess we’re having salad for dinner.”

Nina stuck her tongue out. “Ew.”

“Get used to it,” Dan said. “Not like we can comm into the city. We’ll have to wait another couple of weeks for the next truck to show up.”

Jim squinted up at Dan. She never lied to them, so far as he knew, but the way she didn’t meet their eyes when she spoke was telling. Something was up. Jim said, “What gives?”

“They might have forgotten.” Dan said. “It happens.”

“No it doesn’t,” Jim said. “We’ve been here over a year and it’s never happened before.”

Dan shrugged. “Come on,” she said. “Salad.”

 


 

 

Dan really meant it when she said ‘get used to it.’ They lived off the vegetable garden for two weeks, for the most part, adding things from the cabinets until they were empty. They had peanut butter and beans to go, but everything else was gone.

Two weeks passed. Jet and Ezra were scheduled to wait for the truck, but they all stood outside, regardless of shift, eagerly bouncing on their toes as they waited for it to show. Dan leaned against the mess hall’s wall, arms crossed.

The truck didn’t show.

“Come on,” Dan said. “Salad.”

They all groaned. Salad, salad, salad- it’s all that they’d had for weeks!

“We’ve got to go into town,” Jet said. “They forgot about us two weeks in a row.”

Dan shook her head. “Dinner theater tonight, kids.”

They all exchanged a look.

“Who’s performing?” Joel asked.

“Me,” Dan said, and she didn’t sound happy about it.

They should have known it wasn’t really a performance. They all crowded into the long table together, while Dan stood at the head and stared them all down with a grave set to her jaw.

“I’ve got bad news,” she said.

They turned their eyes up to her.

“No news is bad news,” Ezra quoted. “Information cannot be good or evil, it simply is.”

Dan smiled a little. “Very good,” she said. “Except… this time it really is. Bad news.”

They waited.

She let out a long sigh. “The truck’s not coming.”

“We know,” Seb said.

“Ever.” She clarified.

T said, “What? Why not?”

“Because there’s no food to give.” She looked up at them, slowly. “I’ve… been hiding something from you.” She pressed her mouth into a thin line. “I shouldn’t have. But I didn’t know what else to do.”

No food. No trucks. The garden…

Two plus two equalled four, and the fungus on the crops problem Dan had kept revisiting with them wasn’t a made up story. Jim swallowed hard and said, “The fungus…”

Everyone else clued in with wide, horrified eyes.

Dan nodded, slowly.

You could have heard a pin drop.

“How long?” Jet choked. “How long has this been going on?”

“The fungus popped up two months ago,” Dan said. She tiredly sank into the chair at the head of the table, resting her face in her palms. “It wiped out more than fifty percent of the crops.”

Silence.

“But it’s not too late,” Mel piped up, quietly. “Right Dan? We’ve been making solutions.”

She shook her head, mutely.

“How long until the next Star Fleet vessel arrives with supplies?” Jim asked.

“Six months.”

“There’s got to be someone else close by,” Kevin said, shakily. “Right?”

“People panicked when they found out about the shortage. The message boat that was supposed to take our data out past the ion cloud got disconnected from the planet. It might still be broadcasting a distress call, but…”

“Don’t count on it.” Seb surmised. 

Joel said, “How come you didn’t tell us?”

“I thought it would be worrying you for nothing.” She said. “I sent all your solutions up to Governor Kodos. He’s trying to get a hold onto things, but it’s chaos out there. I thought maybe they’d figure it out and we wouldn’t need to stress over it, but there comes a time when you can’t hide the stink anymore.”

“Or the Co2 could kill everyone,” Mel quietly said.

Dan nodded.

“What are we going to do?” T asked.

“I don’t know.” Dan said.

“How long will the garden sustain us?” Nina asked.

“A month.” Dan said. “Maybe more, if we let it stretch.”

“No animals to hunt,” Joel choked, “No insects to keep us from starving. All we have are the crops. When they’re gone, we’re- we’ll-“

“Calm yourself,” Dan said. “There’s no use in panicking.”

“But!”

“Fear is the mind killer.” Jim said, suddenly.

They stared at him.

“Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.” He looked up and over to Joel, staring him down. “I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over and through me. And when my fear is gone, I will turn and face fear’s path and only I will remain”

It was quiet for a minute.

“Yeah,” Dan said, with a weak chuckle. “That.”

“We can survive for another month if we add on all the measures we’ve come up with so far.” Jim said. “If we drop school and focus on the fungus and the problem, maybe we can last even longer than that until we figure out a solution.”

Dan nodded. “That’s what I’m hoping.”

“What about my family?” Kevin piped up.

Dan looked down at the table.

“What about all the other people?” Added Nina. “What happens when they come here looking for food? We’ve gotta share, don’t we? We can’t… we can’t just let them starve…”

“The longer we live, the better our chances of finding a solution.” Seb said. “No one knows we’re here. We’ve… we’ve got to keep the food to ourselves and figure out how to stop this from happening.”

“But my family!” Kevin cried.

“And all those people,” Nina argued. “We can’t condemn them to starve just because we might be smarter than them! What gives us the right? We’re no better than they are!”

“It’s our food,” T said. “We grew it. We cared for it. They didn’t.”

“It’s not their fault that their food was eaten by a fungus.” Nina said.

“But-“

“Enough.” Dan said. “You’re all right. It’s not right to let other people starve when we have food. But as things are, it looks like we’d only be holding off starvation ourselves for a little while before we bit the dust too. I’m in charge of taking care of you kids, and if that means other people have to die so that you can live, so be it. We’re the best chance we’ve got, and I’ll extend those chances as far as I can, even at the expense of others. We’re not going to steal anyone else’s food. They have a fighting chance just the same as we do. But we’re not sharing, and that’s that.”

“My…” Kevin trailed off, lip wobbling.

“I’m sorry, Riley.” Dan said. “This is just the way it’s gotta be.”

He began to quietly cry. Sebastian scooted over to Kevin and pulled him into a hug, silent. Jim felt Nina nudge against him and lifted his arm, too, accepting her under his wing to make her feel better. He gave her a smile that she tentatively returned.

“We’ll figure it out,” Dan promised them. “The next Starfleet ship with supplies will be here in six months. If we can make it that long, then we’ll be fine. We’ve been working towards this. You kids are the smartest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. We’re not giving up. You hear?”

Together, they chorused, “Yes, sir.”

 


 

 

“Can I come in?”

Jim looked up to his doorway, brows climbing when he met eyes with Dan. He’d just finished reading Nina to sleep, since the girl had been too upset to go to bed on her own. She was safely tucked into bed across the hall from him, and so he’d figured he was good to relax for the night. All the other even numbers- the older kids- had already put their odd number partners to bed, too, so he’d been sure he was fine to change into his pajamas.

He flushed, standing at attention. “Yes, sir.”

“At ease, Kirk.” Dan said. She strode into the room and closed the door behind her before taking a seat in the desk chair. She looked at Jim for a long time.

He sat back down on the bed. “Can I help you with something, sir?”

“I never asked,” she started slowly. “Why did you drive that car off a cliff?”

Jim’s brows rose. He hadn’t thought about that in months.

“You don’t have to tell me if it makes you uncomfortable.” She said.

“No, no, it’s… it’s fine. Why do you want to know?”

She shrugged. “Indulge me, Kirk.”

Jim nodded. “Well…” It felt like a life-time ago. He struggled to recall all the details. “My dad died on the Kelvin. You know that.”

“I do.”

“He, uh. He left behind some stuff. Games, clothes, trophies… cars.” He sighed. “The barn was full of ‘em. Well, not full. Four. He collected them, you know? All these cool antiques; he’d buy the scraps and fix them up for fun. He really liked those cars. The Sting Ray, though… that one was the real deal. It still had the original engine in it and everything.”

She nodded. “Sounds like a good memento.”

“It was.” Jim said. “It… it was.”

He was silent for a second.

“Spock, uh, he's my Vulcan friend. Spock and I fixed it up.” He said. “It wasn’t like with our hover-bikes, we made those from scratch, so they were special. More than the cars. But we figured we’d see if we could make any of them run, and the Chevy did. I spent summers sitting in that car with Spock. I’m pretty sure if someone went through the wreckage now, they’d still be able to find chip crumbs in the seats from all the time we spent snacking in there…”

“Go on.”

He did. “Frank found out. Uh, my mom’s husband. I drove the car a couple of times and he found out about it. It was a bad time for me. I wanted to get off the planet like crazy, and Spock and his family wanted me to go to Vulcan with them, but my mom wouldn’t hear it. I just felt like everything was over, somehow. Like I’d be stuck there forever. And then Frank says he’s selling the car.”

“I see.”

“Yeah.” Jim frowned. “It was like… it was the one connection I had to my dad, you know? Not even that. I don’t know if that even went through my head. It just, it wasn’t his! If anything, it was mine. Me and Spock, we spent weeks on that car, I- my head looks like that car.”

Her brows rose. “Pardon?”

Jim grimaced. “I mean… the inside of my head.” Seeing she still didn’t understand, he said, “How much do you know about Vulcans?”

“Is this part of the story?”

“Yeah,” he decided. It mattered.

“Hm… they have copper based blood, so it’s green. They have pointed ears. They live in a really hot climate… their society is based on logic. That’s all I can really think of.”

Jim said, “That’s about what everyone else knows.”

“I’m missing something,” she knew.

“They’re touch-telepaths,” he said.

Her eyes widened. “They are?”

He nodded. “That’s why it’s so rude to touch them. You’re shoving your thoughts at them and- well, never mind. That’s a whole other story. Spock and I used to meld minds, without really meaning to.”

Her eyes went even wider. “Without meaning to? Jim, I didn’t even know that was possible.”

“Us, either. Spock’s a really gifted telepath, though. But… when we would meld, he would kinda poke around and order my thoughts. Nothing invasive, you know- when he didn’t, everything was this colluding mess of crystal and light and color, and it was impossible to really do anything. He’d kind of meditate for me, I guess, just put all the thoughts on the shelves where they belonged. Those were the only times I was at peace. And when my head was like that, it was like… like we were in the Chevy, floating through space.” He paused. “That’s how much the car meant to me, I guess. You know? When I had to envision myself some place, it was there, on those leather seats, sailing through the black.”

“I understand,” she said. “So then, why crash it?”

“Like I said. Frank decided he was going to sell it. And I didn’t have time. If I waited he’d lock me in my room, and it just would have been this huge mess. I meant to drive it out to the shipyard, and hide it there, but the police caught me speeding by and I knew that there was no going back. The car was gone.”

It was quiet.

“I knew I’d rather crash that thing than let someone else have it. It- they wouldn’t.” He angrily pressed his lips together, upset by the way the words just didn’t seem willing to work with him. “It would have been wrong. They wouldn’t have known what it meant. And that little piece of me, and Spock, and my dad, and my head- it would just be up on some pedestal for some rich jerk to fawn over. And it wasn’t right.” He shrugged. “So I crashed it.”

“And barely managed not to go over the cliff with it, as I hear.”

“Yeah. It was…” He frowned. “I was in a bad place of mind.”

She nodded.

“Why?” He asked. He looked back up to her. “Why did you want to know?”

“It just tells me a lot about you,” she said. “And how far you’ve come.”

He frowned.

“Kirk,” she said, and there was a hint of urgency in her voice. “Scott and Harrison are both older than you. Realistically, I should be talking to one of them. But here’s the thing. They’re here because they were so smart, no one could control them. You’re here because of your heart. Your caring.”

Jim frowned. “Is that a bad thing?”

“No,” she said, surely. “No, never.”

“Then what?”

“You’re a leader, Kirk. A bleeding-heart with the brains to live up to it. You know what’s right, and you know what has to be done, even when it’s extreme, or out-landish. When I give Scott and Harrison problems that can’t be solved, they take a look and say as much. They’re smart. They know when there’s simply no solution. But you… Kirk, you never stop looking for a way out. You’re the kind of person this world needs.” She paused. “You’re the kind of person who has to make it through this.”

He started to feel nervous. “That’s… nice. To hear, I mean. But what does it have to-“

“Mel.” She said, simply. “Who’s Mel’s partner?”

“You are.”

“That’s right. And who’s in charge of taking care of all of you?”

“You, sir.”

“Right again. So tell me this, Kirk. If taking care of you bunch means I can’t be one of you, then who’s gonna be Mel’s partner?”

He started to realize where she was going. “Oh.”

“Oh is right.” Her face contorted into pain, briefly. “Kirk… if this is too much to ask of you, tell me. There’s no shame in it. But someone-“

“I’ll do it.”

Dan looked up at him in surprise.

“I’ll do it,” he said again, determined. “I’ll watch out for Mel.”

Dan sighed in relief. “Good. Thank… thank you.”

“I’ll watch out for all of them,” Jim said.

She looked away from him. She was hiding something, but not well enough.

“Two plus two equals four,” said Jim.

“Kirk?”

“And you’re not planning on making it.”

Dan sighed, slowly. “No,” she said, softly. “No, I’m not.”

Jim looked down at his lap and swallowed around the lump in his throat. "Oh." 

"Kirk..." She reached out gently and then put her hand on his shoulder. He looked back up at her. She was smiling. "Don't tell anyone. Our secret, okay?"

"Gik'tal," he said, quietly.

She gently punched his arm. "Gik'tal," she agreed.

 

 


 

 

 

Jim couldn’t remember the last time he hadn’t been hungry.

His stomach ached constantly- so that he almost didn’t notice it until he moved just right, or just wrong, and suddenly the pain came slamming back into focus. He and Nina sat side-by-side on the floor next to his bed, legs crossed neatly, eyes closed.

He’d laughed the first time Spock had tried to show him how to meditate. Little had he known, it would become something that kept him from losing it later on.

It wasn’t like when he and Spock went into a meld. He didn’t see any colors, or crystals, or cars. No star systems, or trees, or little adobe houses. It was a blank, empty blackness, interrupted only when he opened his eyes.

It was calming, though. When he’d first started attempting to do evening meditation with Spock, it had been impossible. His body was too fidgety, and his mind moved a mile a second. He’d barely been able to keep it up for a whole minute, in stark contrast to Spock’s twenty. He hadn’t even tried the morning meditation that Spock went through, though that was technically because Spock did it while Jim was still asleep. Morning meditation took Spock hours.

Spock had assured him, twenty minutes was ideal for humans. He was Vulcan, and like most other Vulcans, it was pertinent that he took the time to put his mind into complete order and logic before he began the day. There were emotions to dismantle, and thoughts to neatly compartmentalize. There was a reason that Vulcans didn’t require much sleep- if they did, they’d probably never have the appropriate amount of time to meditate.

That had been in the beginning. Anymore, Jim could easily make it twenty minutes, and sometimes found himself indulging even longer. All there was to do was focus on the in and out of his breathing, and allow his body to do the rest. Who knew all it would take to get him there was a bit of starvation?

His mind didn’t have to focus on anything. He simply had to exist.

Nina said, “I can’t.”

Jim’s eyes snapped open. He looked over to the clock on his desk and frowned. “It’s only been five minutes,” he said. Nina’s average was twelve.

“I can’t,” she cried. “I’m too hungry.”

Jim’s own stomach twisted with the reminder. “That’s the point,” Jim said. “To stop thinking about it.”

“I can’t stop thinking about it,” she insisted. “I am starving!”

Jim thought, not yet, we aren’t, but soon… Out loud he said, “We’ve only got another hour before lunch.”

“I don’t want lunch!” She yelled. “It’s gonna be stupid lettuce! All we ever eat is lettuce! I never want to see another lettuce leaf ever again!”

“I thought you were hungry,” Jim mused.

“I’m starving!” She screamed.

Jim stood, backing away from her. “Nina-“ she started to cry. Jim sighed and then knelt back down next to her, throwing his arm around her shoulders. “We’re not starving,” he said. “Just… hungry.”

“It hurts!” She sobbed. “I’m hungry all the time! I just want- I just want a hamburger? Is that too much to ask? Just one bite!?”

Thoughts of a huge, meaty burger, dripping with grease, and mustard, and ketchup- with slabs of pickles and tomato and melted Swiss cheese, and a thick, crisp bun, assaulted Jim’s mind. His stomach growled as his mouth filled with saliva. God, what he wouldn’t do for a burger.

“I promise,” Jim said, “Once we get off of this planet, first thing I’ll do is buy us both some big, juicy hamburgers. Okay?”

Defeated, she curled into his side. “Okay…”

“Wanna try again?” Jim asked, softly.

“No,” she said. She pushed away from him and rearranged her limbs into her mediation pose. “But I’ll do it anyway.”

“Thatta girl,” Jim said, and grinned. He put himself into position and closed his eyes, too.

The image of the hamburger hung in his subconscious, all-consuming. He swallowed back his spit and forcibly pushed away the image, returning his thoughts to his breath. In, and out. In, and out.

In… and… out.

 


 

 

They were outside when the truck pulled up.

Jim eyes went wide, just like everyone else’s. They’d been out looking around for mushrooms in the yard, though they’d all told Dan they were just playing, but the sight of the food truck stopped them cold.

They all took off in a sprint towards it. Before they could reach it, though, Dan burst out of the school building and screamed, “WAIT!”

They all froze, looking back to her. Jim’s head swiveled between the truck and Dan, in those split seconds. He registered that something was wrong, but not everyone was so lucky. Sebastian Scott broke from the group and finished the run towards the truck, waving his arms.

“NO!” Dan yelled, but it was no use. The truck stopped, and from its back troops unloaded instead of food. Jim didn’t recognize them or their uniform and knew they weren’t from off-planet, coming to save them all. They were too thin, too pale. Locals.

A man dressed in a suite stepped out after the six armed guards did, waving towards Dan. Sebastian scrambled back from the truck and re-formed with the group, guiltily lowering his head to stare at the ground when Dan glared at him.

Jim realized she’d probably hoped to get them all out of sight before the truck took them in. Sebastian had blown their cover, but why they would need that cover, Jim didn’t know. He nervously watched as Dan stepped forward and inclined her head to the man in the suite.

“Governor Kodos,” she said. “What a pleasant surprise.”

Jim could tell by her stony face that it wasn’t a surprise, and it was not pleasant.

He swallowed.

The man was tall, and he had dark gingery hair and a finely trimmed beard. His brown eyes were sharp with intelligence and authority. When he spoke, his voice came out clear, and crisp, with a roll of power to it.

“General,” he said.

“Not anymore, sir,” Dan reminded him patiently.

Kodos paid her no head. He looked around her, at their group. “These are your little troopers, hm?” He smiled at them. “Hello there. I’m terribly sorry we haven’t had the chance to meet in person, though Dan here has been sending me all your ideas through the telegraph. I must admit, they were excellent, even if they didn’t solve the problem.”

They all shifted awkwardly, not knowing what to do. Jet said, “Thank you, sir.”

“And so polite,” Kodos said with a smile.

He seemed nice, but Dan’s tense body language had Jim on edge.

“What can we do for you, Sir?” Dan asked. “Surely you didn’t just drop in to tell my kids thank you.”

“Oh, not at all. May we?” He gestured towards the mess hall.

“Of course,” Dan said. “Kids, why don’t you go back to your-“

“Oh, no, please, bring them along. What I have in mind concerns them, too.”

Dan nodded, jerkily. “Of course.”

They all shuffled into the mess hall, where they were directed to sit in their usual seats. Jim noted the way Dan angled her chair out, like she was ready to rise at a moment’s notice, and did the same. All along the table the other children noticed his shift and mimicked it, so that they were all angled out and ready to stand when Dan demanded it.

Kodo’s guards lined the wall they faced, each at the ready. Kodos walked before them, inspecting the dining hall. He peered around and into the kitchen, frowning. “It’s about dinner time, isn’t it?” He asked. “Yet you haven’t prepared any food.”

“Nothing left to prepare,” Dan said. “We’ve got a couple jars of peanut butter left in the cupboard. We’ve been making them last by just having intervals of snacks, rather than meals.”

“One of your ideas?” He looked at them.

“M-mine, sir.” Ezra shakily raised his hand. “Like in Narnia, with the prince.”

Kodo’s eyes gleamed. “A reader! How delightful. I loved the Narnia chronicles. Tell me, which was your favorite?”

Ezra seemed to shed his nervousness a little. “Um, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Sir. I really liked them all, but that one was my favorite. I like stories about ships.”

“I see.” Kodos smiled and sat at the empty end of the table. “I’m rather fond of The Last Battle, myself. Do you all read the classics?”

They all nodded, uneasily.

“Then you’ve read Shakespeare, of course?” Kodos asked.

Ezra eagerly nodded. “He’s one of our favorites! We loved Hamlet!”

“Y-yeah,” Mel pitched in. “It had a ghost in it.”

“Ah, to be, or not to be,” Kodos dramatically proclaimed. “That is the question.”

“You like Shakespeare, too?” Joel asked.

“My boy, it’s my passion! My favorite is All’s Well that Ends Well, if you can believe it.”

Ezra grinned. “We haven’t gotten to that one yet. We’re working on Prince of Tyre, but I think that All’s Well is next. Is that right, Dan?”

They all looked back at her. She didn’t share their merry mood, Jim noticed.

“That’s right.” She said, plainly. “Maybe the Governor here could come by again, and sit in on a reading.”

“Yeah!” Mel cheered. “You could do the voices!”

Kodos laughed. “You think I’ve a talent for it, do you?”

“Oh yeah,” Ezra said. “You’ve got the deep voice. It’s dramatic.”

“I’d be delighted,” Kodos said. “Though… there is one problem.”

“A problem?” Joel asked.

Kodos nodded. “Dan has exercised the lot of you from the government. In fact, I had no idea whether or not you were still here. She simply stopped replying to our telegrams…” he trailed off.

“It broke,” Dan said plainly.

“How odd, that you couldn’t get your group of geniuses to fix it,” Kodos said, lightly.

“Must of slipped my mind.”

“I’m sure.” He stood. Walking over to one of his guards, he held out his hand, and was passed a thick file. “Now, I really wish I could continue our lovely conversation, but I’ve come on business.” He looked up at the kids. “How much do you know about eugenics? Go on, don’t be shy.”

“It’s out-dated science,” T said. They hadn’t piped up yet, so it startled Jim to hear them suddenly speak. “It’s a belief that you can pick and chose what people are better than the others based on their genetics.”

“To improve the quality of a human population,” Kodos said. “What else?”

“It was coined by a guy named Francis Galton back in the year 1883,” T continued. “Old-Earth stuff. Even back then, it was kinda taboo, before we’d even signed any agreement of ethics as a species. Hell, back before we even joined together as a species.”

“Old knowledge,” Kodos mused. “Just like Shakespeare, hm?”

They fell quiet.

“I looked over your work,” Kodos said. He put the file down on the table and sat again. “All of it. It was commendable, really- a very valiant effort. But the equation was wrong. You didn’t change it, look at it differently. X amount of food, Y amount of humans, Z amount of time.”

“That’s not true” Jet said, slowly. “We tested with all kinds of different amounts of food and time.”

“But not people,” Kodos said.

“You can’t change the number of people,” Jet said. “We know how many people are on the planet- there’s records. It wouldn’t make any sense to re-do the equation with any imaginary number, because in the end, there will still be that amount of people.”

Kodos said, “So it would seem. You are all criminals, you know- legally, see? Each one of you have a red tab on your file.” He showed them. "It's bad enough as is, but I've decided to keep to my equation." He picked up the first file in his stack. “Kevin Riley.”

Kevin jolted, sitting up straight. “Yes, sir?”

“You have asthma?”

“Yes, sir.”

Kodos nodded.

Dan stood. “Now hold on a minute-“

“Patience, General. I haven’t finished. Please. Have a seat.” The way his guards stood at eager attention didn’t leave any room for debate. Dan sat back down, slowly.

Jim could tell the jovial, easy mood from earlier was gone. Something was up.

“Ezra Fisher?”

The boy sat back up. “Y-yes sir?”

“Ah, my avid reader. You have a family history of diabetes?”

“I, um, guess. Mom has it, and so does grandpa.”

Kodos nodded. “Joel Outhier. Am I saying that right? Outheir?”

Joel said, “Yes sir.”

“Circulatory complications.”

“Um, yes, sir.” Joel looked down at the table.

Kodos said, “James Kirk?”

Jim looked up.

Kodos paused. “Kirk. Kirk, Kirk, Kirk- where have I heard that name?”

Jim sighed. “The Kelvin incident, sir.”

Kodos’s eyes lit up. “That’s right! George Kirk. Are you his son?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but your father was a hero.”

Jim fidgeted uncomfortably in his chair. “Thank you, sir.”

“No need to be shy. I’m a fan, really. There was a man who understood that at times, there is no other option but for some to die in order for others to live. What he did was remarkable.” Then he frowned. “You have allergies, James?”

“I do.” Jim frowned. “Seasonal stuff. Lots of medications.”

“Unfortunate,” Kodos sighed. “Jessie Harrison?”

“It’s Jet,” she said.

“History of depression and a heart valve complication.”

She colored, looking away. “Yeah, that’s right.”

Kodos nodded. “And General Dan,” he said. He looked down the table towards her, and stood, closing the folder with all the papers in it. He hefted it back into his arms. “History of obesity, depression, PTSD, and anxiety.”

Dan narrowed her eyes. “My mental health records were sealed.”

“Being Governor has its perks,” he said. He stepped back against the wall. “I’m very sorry, children, General. But I’ve re-calculated your equation, and some variables have to change.”

Oh. Jim realized. Oh no.

Dan stood up, suddenly, chair scraping against the floor. Her eyes lit up in fury as she whipped her shirt up and yanked a phaser from the front of her pants. “RUN!” She screamed.

They scattered.

Dan vaulted over the table and rushed Kodos. His guards fell into line hurriedly, to protect him. She shot one and he disappeared in a wave of light, but she didn’t make it any farther than that.

Jim grabbed Nina and Mel and was out, through the back kitchen. They’d had plenty of militant drills in the past, and they each knew which way to run and scatterer, as well as when and where to rendezvous. Jim had never had Mel at his side, but she’d been sitting near enough to grab when Dan had let out her order, and he had no trouble scooping her up in his mad rush for the door.

The sound of chaos chased them out the door. There was shouting, and phaser fire, but Jim didn’t dare look back. He booked it into the woods, feet barely touching the ground, Nina’s hand clenched tightly in his.

They all had emergency bags on the edges of the property. He ducked down to grab his and found there was an extra there. Dan must have planned on this. He grabbed two himself and passed Nina her own in mere seconds, and then took off into the woods.

He ran, and ran, and ran, until every part of his body hurt. He didn’t stop then. Eventually, Nina’s legs gave out on her, and when that happened he paused only to hustle her up onto his back. He held Mel to his front and let Nina cling onto his shoulders and picked up again, not running, but trudging forward with determination.

Night fell.

He still didn’t stop. The ion cloud that hung about the planet scattered yellow-green light into their path, showing Jim the way. He’d tracked the emergency route plenty of times before, and knew his way by the stars- just barely visible beyond the ion cloud. He’d never done it so quickly, before- it had always taken the day to do.

See if Kodos’s men keep up with us, he thought, savagely.

It was the first thought that wasn’t instinct- run, move, go. He felt rage overtake him in the next instant and choked back a sob.

Dan was dead.

He collapsed in step, jarring Nina and Mel into awakening. As soon as he began to cry they joined in, too, weeping hard and quiet in the darkness of the woods. Jim drew the two girls closer to himself and hugged them both, allowing them all just a moment to be human. When Mel’s lamenting started to gain volume he stood, shaking his head.

“We have to be quiet,” he choked. “They’ll find us.”

“Dan,” Mel whimpered. “I want Dan!”

“Dan’s dead,” Nina bitterly whispered. “They killed her!”

Jim glared at Nina as Mel’s sobbing picked up intensity. Still, he couldn’t berate her for speaking the truth. “We’ve got to keep moving,” he said. “We can’t let them catch up.”

Both girls opened their mouths in protest, but Jim cut them off.

“No complaining. I know it’s hard. I know we’re tired. I know we’re hungry, and I know we’re sad. You can take all the time you want to process that when we’re at our hiding place, but until then, you have to be quiet. Understand?”

They both nodded.

“Good.” He unburdened himself of the three packs, arms shaking with the strain. “I can’t carry you any more. You both have to walk, and carry your packs. Okay?”

“I can’t,” Mel said.

“You can,” said Jim. “I know you can. Come on. Get up.”

Mel shakily climbed to her feet. Jim reached down and took her hand in his. His other hand he offered up to Nina, who silently took it and began walking again. Jim ignored the instinct to comfort Mel as she continued to quietly sniff. They’d have time for that later- for the moment, they had to keep moving.

They made it when the sun began to peak over the horizon. Jim checked the dug-out before ushering both girls in, and then covered the entrance with leaves again after they all shimmied down into the darkness. It was damp, and cold, but it was safe.

Jim squished himself in-between the two girls and opened up his pack. They both perked at the sound of the zipper.

“A small drink,” he warned them. “We have to make it last.”

They both eagerly nodded. Jim had already commandeered their packs, so that they wouldn’t give in and waste. Slowly, he poured a lid full of water from his pack’s canteen and handed it to Mel. She carefully raised it to her lips and drank, sighing happily as she handed it back. He gave another lid-full over to Nina, and then drank one himself.

One of the girls’ stomachs loudly growled in the dark.

“Here here,” Jim joked.

They both giggled, albeit nervously.

Jim broke open one stick of jerky. He tore it into three parts and divested one to each girl, before eating one himself. It wasn’t enough- not nearly enough- but they had little choice if they wanted their limited rations to last.

“I’m still hungry,” Mel whispered.

“I know.” Jim sighed. “But that’s all we can eat right now. We’ll have another snack in the morning, okay? I promise.”

“We’ve got more food,” Nina tried. “One more stick of jerky couldn’t hurt.”

“You did the math same as me,” Jim said. “We have to make it last, and we can survive on this.”

Mel’s breath hitched, as though she was intending to start crying again.

“Want to hear a story?” Jim rushed.

Mel’s breathing returned to normal. “… A story?”

Jim found himself nodding, though he had no idea what he was going to say. “Yeah. A bedtime story.”

“Okay,” Mel whispered.

“Yeah,” Nina said. She tucked herself in closer to Jim, so that all three of them where in one big heap of warmth. “A story would be nice.”

Jim nodded. “A story… okay. A story.”

He had no idea what to say.

“Go on,” Mel said. “We won’t laugh at you.”

“Unless you want us to,” Nina added.

Jim laughed a little bit. “I was just thinking. Don’t worry. Okay…” And he had it. He smiled, and slipped one arm around each of his partners. “Once upon a time, there was a prince. He was half human, half alien, and he lived on a desert planet, far, far away.”

They settled into him, more comfortably. He felt them begin to relax.

“One day, the little prince had to leave his planet with the king and queen, to go back to the human queen’s planet.”

“Terra,” Mel whispered happily.

“Terra,” Jim agreed. “And even though the prince wanted nothing more than to stay home with his beloved pet I-Chaya, he had to go. Sadly, he packed his bags. Little did he know, there would be something waiting for him on Terra. A young Terran farm boy who had adventures in his back-pack, and a whole new planet for them to find.”

“I like this story,” said Nina.

“Me too,” said Mel.

Jim smiled. “Yeah, I’m pretty fond of it myself.”

“Keep going!” Mel urged him.

“Alright. On the day the prince and the Terran met, the Terran gave the prince a gift. Like nothing else the young prince had ever been given.”

“What was it?” Mel asked.

Jim grinned into the dark. “A false darkling beetle.”

He talked, and talked, and talked, all through the early morning chill, about the young prince and the farmer boy, until the girls both drifted off. Jim follow them shortly, into a deep, dream-full sleep, about Chevys, and corn fields, and huge, human brown eyes, asking him when he was coming home.

Soon, he hoped. Soon.

 


 

They all met in a cave deep within the forest a couple days later. It was to be their new home until things were "settled." Suddenly, they all knew what Dan meant by that. They had to wait everything out until Starfleet arrived, or they’d be killed.

Or rather, some of them. Jim theorized that those Kodos hadn’t called on after reading their files were the select few meant to leave the mess hall alive. Still, they all knew that only trouble was waiting for them outside the forest- even the select few who hadn’t been marked for death. There had been that whole thing about them all being criminals, anyway. It was possible that the majority of them having health complications was just the cherry on top; one final excuse to sentence them all to death.

Sebastian hadn’t made it to the cave.

Kevin wouldn’t talk about it. He sat silently, unwilling to speak, in the corner of the cave. He had two packs. One was splattered with blood. They were all able to draw their conclusions from there, but it was concerning that Kevin wouldn’t speak. He’d always loved to sing and dance, but they couldn’t even cajole him with a song. Eventually, they decided to leave him be.

Jet was the oldest, so she was in charge.

Jet wouldn’t get up from where she was laying curled up in her sleeping back.

“Jet,” Ezra pleaded. “Jet! Come on, Jet! We don’t know what to do.”

She pulled the sleeping bag tighter around her shoulder, ignoring him.

“Jet! Please!”

“I don’t know what to do either.” She said. Her voice held none of is fire. “Let me be.”

And so it fell to Jim.

He wanted to say I don’t know what to do, or, this was supposed to be Sebastian’s job, or Jet’s job, not mine, or even, don’t you realize I’m just as lost as you all are? Instead, he squared his jaw and stood tall.

“We’ll arranged all the sleeping bags in the back of the cave together, to conserve warmth. Partners next to partners, Kevin and Jet are partners now. Nina- you’re Ezra’s new partner.”

Nina said, “But you and I are-“

“I know,” he said. “But Ezra needs you.”

She opened her mouth again, as if to fight him, but she seemed to realize there was nothing to do about it. She closed her mouth and clenched her jaw before giving a determined nod. “Yes, sir.”

Oh hell no. "I'm not Dan," he said. "You don't have to call me sir."

But it stuck.

“All the packs over in that corner,” Jim instructed.

“Yes, sir.”

“We’ll keep up snacking like we were before. No one eats alone, we all eat together. It has to be fair, no matter age or strength or what.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Here are the new teams. Team one’s me and Mel. Two is T and Joel. Three is Nina and Ezra, and four is Jet and Kevin. One team always has to be here at the base to keep an eye on things… that’ll be team four.”

“Yes, sir.”

Jim carefully laid out a plan. In the evenings, when they had the cover of darkness, two teams would leave the base to forage for food. Mushrooms, wild onions, berries; anything edible. Jim knew there were slim chances of finding anything that would really sustain them, but he had to hope. Dan had found a cave next to a creek, so once a day one team could go to bathe and collect drinking water. In the mornings, when it was still dark out, one team would collect kindling for a fire. They’d boil the water, and then when the sky got too clear and the haze of the ion cloud was pierced through by sunlight, they’d smother the flames.

There was always someone on lookout. Jim decided that they’d cycle between himself, T, Joel, and if she could be persuaded to get up, Jet. The others were young, and he worried their minds would wander.

They had enough rations to last a couple of weeks, if they ate the bare minimum.

“We can do this,” Jim said. “We will do this.”

“Yes, sir!”

 


 

 

They’d collected next to nothing. Mushrooms had proved bountiful, but most of them weren’t fit to eat. Joel was the resident mushroom expert, and he ruled out so many that Jim felt like he wanted to cry.

“Why the hell are so many poisonous?” Jim muttered. “People put them here! Who decides on putting poisonous mushrooms in artificial wild?!”

“They were planning on eventually introducing a living echosystem,” Joel said. “Lots of animals and insects need the things we don’t.”

“Well they’re not here,” Jim had ground out, “We are. It would have been nice if they’d left us something more to forage.”

They were left with scraps to eat when they ran out of provisions, and it took its tole quickly.

By the end of their second week in hiding, Jet was too weak to stand. She didn’t eat, she barely drank. On the third day of the third week, Jet didn't wake up.

They buried her by the cave, though Jim felt they hardly had the energy to dig even a shallow grave.

He added Kevin to Nina’s team. Jet’s death startled the boy into reality again, and though he still didn’t speak, he did as asked and worked just as hard as the others. Jim knew Jet was likely only the first to go- not the last- but he hoped.

It was all he could do, it seemed.

 


 

 

He could count each one of his ribs. He could see each one of Mel’s individual vertebra. Though it was hot outside when they went to bathe, Mel shook so hard with shivers that Jim feared she would fall at any given moment.

“J-J-Jim,” her teeth chattered, “Am I clean yet?”

“Nearly,” Jim said gently, and used one of Jet’s old shirts to finish wiping her back down. He knew that if they started to let themselves go, they might give up just like Jet had, so he hoped that the effort to stay clean and nearly presentable would keep their spirits high.

“Done,” Jim declared.

They’d all had one change of clothes in their packs. Mel used her old ones to towel off with, then changed into the new. She tossed the wet clothes over to Jim, who began to wash them in the creek water.

Mel crawled up onto a rock and splayed out like a lizard, her chattering teeth slowly ceasing their movement. She closed her eyes, and Jim called, “Don’t fall asleep.”

“I won’t,” she promised.

Twenty seconds later, she was lightly snoring.

Jim sighed. They all slept more than they should have been. They couldn’t help it- they were always tired, always sore. Jim felt like he had a nap instead of lunch every day, and a snooze instead of dinner, and he rested his eyes for breakfast, and-

All the thoughts of meal time twisted his stomach. He looked at the grass growing by the creek. No, he told himself, even as his hand reached out. No, this is a bad idea.

He ripped a chunk out of the ground and shoved it into his mouth.

Once he started, he couldn’t stop. He pulled fist-fulls of grass out of the ground frantically, shoving them into his mouth. He hadn’t chewed so much in months, his jaw instantly began to ache- and Jim loved it. He shoved more and more grass into his mouth, swallowing the stuff down half-chewed and nearly gagging on the texture.

“Jim?”

He looked over to where Mel was waking up, staring at him in complete bemusement.

He spat what was in his mouth out. “Mel, wait-“

But she was already pulling grass up by the roots and eagerly shoving it into her open mouth.

Jim made a move as if to stop her, but he could feel the grass in his stomach. He hadn’t felt so full in ages. He reached down to rip more out of the ground, chewing hurriedly. He swallowed more, and more, and more, until-

He doubled over, heaving loudly on to the ground. Mel froze where she’d been eating, hand half-way to her face. Jim threw up again, gagging, and spat. “Ugh…” he stood, sure he was done, just for his stomach to painfully clench again. He fell to his hands and knees and started to throw up again.

Mel hadn’t eaten as much as he had by half, and so she sat worriedly upon her rock, waiting for him to finish. When Jim felt like he’d emptied himself of food completely he shakily forced himself to his feet.

“I’m sorry, Mel,” he said. His throat was raw and he had to whisper.

“Grass is bad for you,” she said. “We’re not cows, so we can’t break down the cellulose. We can’t get any nu- nutrition from it.”

“Yeah,” Jim said, weakly. “You said it, kid.”

They made their way slowly back to the cave.

“Don’t worry,” Mel joked. “I won’t tell anyone you went crazy.”

Jim smiled a little. “Thanks, Melody.”

 


 

 

Starfleet will come in six months, she’d said.

They were two weeks into the second month of waiting when Jim lost another one. It was nighttime, so they could finally get up without fear of being spotted. Jim went about rousing everyone from sleep like usual.

Except one didn’t wake.

“Nina,” Jim reached out and shook her shoulder. “Nina, come on. Don’t make me tickle you.”

She’d pulled the stunt before. She’d lay limp as a doll so that he’d think she was still in deep, deep sleep. Jim was worried by how often she did that, lately. All she ever seemed to do was sleep.

And her shoulder felt so bony beneath his hand, he worried if he gripped her any tighter, he might shatter her.

“Nina,” he said. She didn’t stir. “Alright, you asked for it.”

He reached down and ran his hands up and down her sides, which usually prompted her to shriek and kick him away. This time, however, she held still, not so much as twitching beneath his ministrations.

Hard, cold dread settled in his stomach like a weight.

“Nina?” He pulled back her sleeping bag and put his hand on her side. She was cold to the touch.

Revulsion rose up in his throat. He gagged, stumbling away from her body as horror took him by the neck. He scrambled back until he hit the way, and then curled in on himself.

Nina.

Nina.

She was only ten- eleven at most. She’d wanted to be a neurosurgeon. She’d had three brothers waiting for her on Mars, and a cat named Mr. Moose, and a sparkly blue tutu that she would wear to dinner when she was feeling particularly fancy and she’d liked his stories about Spock and she’d laughed at his stupid jokes and she’d told him she couldn’t wait to be home and oh god he’d promised to buy her a burger when they got off this fucking death planet, this trap, this rock that they were all chained on, all going to die on, all going to-

“She’s still fresh.” Joel said.

Jim looked up in horror. “What are you-“

“Meat.” Joel said, emptily. “That’s. That’s a lot of meat to waste.”

Jim turned to find the other kids eyeing her just as hungrily.

“No!” He exploded. He stood and held his arms out, shielding her body from veiw. “What are you saying?!”

“We’re starving to death!” Joel cried. “She’s already gone, Kirk, we’ve got to eat!”

“She’s our friend!”

“Was,” said T, quietly.

Kevin inched a little closer, nodding.

“No.” Jim said, sternly. “No! This- this is wrong! I don’t care if it’s, if it’s the smart thing to do. No. We’re…” he swallowed against the lump in his throat. “We’re friends. We can’t. We can’t eat her. No…”

They slowly turned their eyes away from him.

“No.” Jim said, firmer. He was crying, but he didn’t care. “No! We’re going to give her a proper burial. It’s what she deserves.”

“And what do we deserve?” Joel snapped. “To starve?”

“I’m hungry!” Ezra screamed.

“I know! I know.” Jim said. He dragged a hand down his face. “I know. We’re all hungry.”

They were silent.

“Come on,” Jim said, quietly. “Help… help me get her out of here.”

No one moved.

Jim sighed. “Joel? T?”

Joel said, “Unless we’re moving her to the fire-“

“I’ll help you.” T said. They stood, slowly, and made their way over to Jim. “I’m sorry,” they whispered.

Jim nodded tightly. “It… it was bound to happen.”

T nodded.

Together, they buried Nina out beside Jet, marking her grave with a single stone. For a while, they stood there, staring.

“Thank you,” Jim said, voice small.

T nodded. “Yeah,” they said. “Promise you’re not gonna give up your stance?”

Jim turned, brows furrowed. “What? Of course I won’t. We- we’re not eating anyone.”

“Good.” T nodded.

“Why? Weren’t you just campaigning for it?”

“Yeah,” T said. They shrugged.

“Why the change of heart?”

“Because.” T said, simply. “Next time it might be me.”

 


 

 

They planned a raid. Jim felt awful about it, knowing that their survival meant other’s deaths, but they had very little choice in the matter. Jim had promised Dan to look after the other kids, and so he would.

Nina’s death was already heavy enough on his shoulders. If all they had to do was steal to ensure that it wouldn’t happen again, so be it.

Jim usually wouldn’t have gone alone, as Dan had always trained them to thrive in pairs. It was easier with two, but Jim knew that he might be caught. If so, he’d rather he died alone.

They’d already gone back to their base once before. It had been cleaned out completely- the buildings stood lonely, empty, and clean- ghosts of a time since passed. Even the mess hall had been cleaned up. There was no sign of a struggle, or any life, really. The school house had been emptied of its books, and their possessions had been stripped away from the bunk house.

Back then, when they hadn’t been so desperate, Jim had allowed himself to feel a momentary pang of sadness for the Enterprise, which he’d left sitting on his desk. She was gone, when he came back for her, but they’d had bigger things to worry about.

As Jim crept towards town, he wondered how it was that he’d ever had time to feel pain for an object. Anymore, it was hard to put living creatures into perspective under the force of his hunger. If he happened to be robbing the life from someone else, well… kaiidth.

The town was old-fashioned, almost western. The couple of times Dan had taken them in there had been a lot of grass and plants, but as Jim crept between the buildings he found that everything was dusty and brown. There wasn’t anyone out and about, though he saw a few houses and buildings with the lights on. A nearby diner’s windows had all been smashed in, and the doors were boarded up. Jim swallowed hard and stuck to the shadows, feeling as though he were walking willingly into the jaws of death.

He didn’t want to take from the common people if he could avoid it. He knew it was more dangerous, but they were just as much victims as he and his troops. Kodos and his militia were the real villains.

Jim knew that if Kodos had stayed his hand, the populace would just be coming towards the end of their food supply. There had been riots when the killings had started, though, and a lot had been lost. Storage houses had burned to the ground. Resources had been lost. Jim had no idea how close the living population was to death.

He ducked behind a small brick wall as four armed guards went stepping down the middle of the street, legs falling into perfect unison. Jim felt his heart hammering in his chest, so hard and loud he worried that they could hear it.

They passed by. He remained behind the wall for a minute, trying to recollect himself.

He turned and continued on, down towards one of the guard stations. Night was falling fast, and the ion cloud that surrounded the planet turned the sunset a sickly green as it spread itself over the town. Jim stopped to hide in an alleyway as another squad of troops marched past. He clenched his hands into fists and looked down at them, noticing how awkwardly large they seemed on his stick-thin arms.

His skin was pale and greenish in the fading light of day. A memory arrested him, almost violently, with its suddenness and strength.

“Spock?” Jim turned to him, helping the young Vulcan right himself. His skin was cold and rain-slicked. Spock looked completely alien in the darkness, his lips turning coppery with the cold, his skin pale, tea green. His eyelids were olive and the tips of his fingers were nearly white. “You okay?”

“I am fine.”

“Come on,” Jim said. He started to jog. “We’ll be warmer if we move faster.”

Jim shook the memory off, startling back to the present. He pushed himself up straight and finished sneaking down the street, leaning against the wall of the guard house. He leaned up, hoping the darkness would excuse his shadow, and peered into the window.

Empty.

Kodos had put a curfew into effect, just like Jim had predicted. Good- that meant the guards would all be out on patrol.

Jim pushed the window up and open, pulling himself up over the cill. He landed soundlessly inside, looking around for any cameras or other traps that could detect him. He found none- he was completely alone in the guard house.

He made his way over to the only cabinet in the room that had been locked. Around the handles was a large, thick chain, and keeping them tight was an electronic lock. Jim grinned at it. While they were harder to break than padlocks or combination locks, and safer, that was only to the average person. Jim had hacked his fair share of locks in the past, and he was sure if he could get past Starfleet security locks, a standard pattern lock would be no different.

He was right. It had been a long time since he’d hacked into anything, and so it took him longer than he’d hoped. By the time he cracked the code his fingers were shaking with nerves and sweat had wet his face completely.

It opened with a small click. Jim let out a sigh and opened the cabinet, dropping the chains on the ground.

Heaven. He’d stumbled into heaven.

There were a couple jars of peanut butter, and some canned fish, and pickles, and beans. Jim had planned to be discrete, in case they wanted to come back and steal from the same place twice, but the sight of so much food arrested him immediately. He began to frantically fill the empty pack he’d slung over his shoulder.

This much food could last them a long, long time. Who cared if the guards knew they’d been robbed? They hadn’t found Jim or his group so far, and stealing wasn’t going to change that. He filled the pack to the brim and then crept back over to the window. He dropped the backpack carefully outside, and then threw his leg up over the cill.

He realized, then, that if he left the cabinet open and unlocked, the first person to walk back into the guard house would sound the alarm. He reluctantly turned around and moved back over to the cabinet, closing it and wrapping the chains back around the handles. He secured the lock and opened up the program, thinking then to change the code so that the soldiers wouldn’t be able to get in and discover the robbery for an even longer time.

That was when the door opened.

“Hey!”

Jim’s heart leapt into his throat. He turned just in time to avoid phaser fire. It hit the cabinet beside him, harmlessly- it was on stun.

Jim ducked and rolled, making a mad dash for the window. The guard caught on and ran forward, cutting off Jim’s escape. The guard had left the door open, though. Jim reached forward and grabbed a chair from a table posted in the middle of the room. He hefted it up, knees bucking under the weight, and threw it. It didn’t even hit the guard- it slammed against the wall next to the man- but it was enough of an obstacle and distraction. Jim made it to the door.

Another guard was waiting there. Jim’s eyes widened and he ducked, just as the guard swung down the butt of her phaser. It caught him in the back of the head, but he’d managed to avoid the brunt of the attack. He rolled and ran for it, feet barely touching the dusty ground as he made a mad dash for his bag.

He scooped it up and slung it over his back. The weight disrupted him as he swung around the back of the building, and along with the head wound, he was suddenly overcome by vertigo. He slammed into the side of the building, grunting, and then felt his stomach twist in horror as he heard glass shatter. His side grew wet where liquid from the broken jars in the bag seeped through.

“Shit,” he righted himself and made off into the woods, the two guards hot on his tail. He’d scoped out the area before hand and knew how to throw them off, even with the extra weight of his pack slowing him down. He ran, and ran, until slowly, he could no longer hear their voices or their footfalls as they persuade him. Even still, he didn’t allow himself to grow comfortable. He kept running.

He was dizzy with fatigue, hunger, and pain. He could feel blood trickling into his collar from where the guard had bashed him over the head, but he continued on regardless. It took him three hours to reach the cave, but when he did, he came home to cheers.

“Jim!” Mel ran from the cave to him, stopping him with a hug. “Jim, Jim, Jim! You did it!”

He grinned. “Sure did, Mel.”

T trotted out to him. “Kirk! You-“ their smile fell. “You’re injured.”

Jim reached up to the back of his head, where the blood had grown tacky. He touched the wound, gingerly, and drew his hand back into his line of sight to look at it. The blood on his fingers was dark- almost brown tinged in the cover of night. “Yeah,” he said.

“Never mind that!” Joel said. “Food? Did you get it?”

Jim pulled the pack off of his shoulders and stumbled the last few steps into the cave, sliding down the wall to sit. Ezra and Kevin flanked him, eagerly waiting for the reveal.

Jim pulled the zipper open without any fanfare. His heart squeezed when he saw how many of the jars had been broken. Slowly, he pulled them out, cupping the food in his dirty hands. Kevin reached out and snatched a pickled from his hand, and then Ezra. T, Mel, and Joel surged forward, all grabbing from him and shoving the food into their mouths.

They moaned, eyes closing as they chewed. Jim laughed, weakly, and ate a pickle himself.

God, the flavor. It was the best thing he’d ever had. Salty, and just the side of bitter, and oh, heavenly garlic, real, real food.

“Tonight,” Jim said, and pulled the rest of the ruined jars from the pack, “We feast.”

They all cried out in joy.

“But shouldn’t we save it?” T asked.

Jim sighed. “I wish we could. But the jars that broke… the food in them will go bad.”

T nodded.

They had some peaches, pickles, and black-eyed peas. It was enough food to call a feast. Jim was torn between delight and sadness. Looking back in the pack, he had enough to maybe last them a couple of weeks, if they were careful. He’d been too careless. If they didn’t have to eat all they had that night, they could have made it so much longer.

“Hey,” T said. They could sense the conflicting roiling inside of Jim. “You did good.”

“Not good enough,” Jim said. One stupid mistake could mean the death of another one of his friends.

“Better than anyone else could have, Kirk.” T smiled. “Don’t beat yourself up about it.”

Jim nodded. His vision swam.

“Eat up,” T said. “I’ll patch your head up when we’ve stuffed ourselves silly.”

Jim smiled. He looked over and caught Kevin stuffing his mouth and snapped, “Hey!”

They all froze.

“Sorry,” he sighed. “Didn’t mean to shout at you. Pace yourselves, guys, we can let this all last until tomorrow night at least. Otherwise we’ll make ourselves sick.”

“We still might,” Joel said. He sighed, dreamily. “But god, what a way.”

Jim had to agree. “Sick from too much food. Never thought I’d see the day.”

They all laughed, even Kevin.

True to their word, T patched Jim up as soon as he’d eaten his fill. Wasn’t that a novelty? Jim had forgotten what it felt like to be full. He lounged back in his sleeping bag, feeling like a new man with a stomach full.

“Jim?” Mel piped up.

“Hm?”

“Tell us a story.”

Jim raised a brow. He cracked on eye open to find the rest of the kids watching him. “What? Really?” It had been a long time since they’d been in the mood to hear a story. They all nodded, even Joel, who’d never been that fond of stories to begin with. Jim smiled. “Alright. What kind of story?”

“About the prince!” Mel cried in delight.

“The prince?” Jim blinked in confusion. It came back to him, then. “Oh!”

Ezra nodded frantically. “The prince and the Terran.”

“The prince and the Terran,” Jim mused. He settled back into his sleeping bag again, crossing his hands behind his head. “Hm… okay. Where did we leave off last time?” He couldn’t remember for the life of him.

“They built their robot friend, Hali!” Mel remembered.

“That’s right,” Jim mused. “Well. We’ll start there, then.”

 


 

 

The food didn’t last. It never did.

Ezra struggled to his feet. Jim turned around, as he’d been keeping watch, and watched the boy shakily make his way to the mouth of the cave. “Pee,” he’d explained, and slowly made his way out into the night.

Jim had waited for him to come back.

He waited, and waited, and waited.

Sometimes it took the kid a while, he’d told himself.

He’d waited.

But Ezra didn’t come back.

“T,” he’d called, and stood.

T looked up form their sleeping bag. “Hm?”

“I’m going out to find Ezra. Keep watch.”

T nodded and tiredly slipped out of their bag.

It took Jim a while to find the boy. He’d collapsed on his way back, it seemed. Jim picked up his small, weightless body, and had stood there for a while. He sobbed, silently. The young ones were more likely to go, he knew- they were just too small. But he’d hoped… Ezra was just so energetic, and he had fighting spirit, and yet.

And yet.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’m so, so sorry.”

 


 

 

Joel was on look-out when it happened.

“Kirk,”

Jim rolled over, groaning.

“Kirk!” Joel insisted. He shook him harder. “Jim!”

Jim sat up, groaning. “What?”

“There’s something out there.” Joel whispered.

Jim was instantly alert. He stood up, eyes clear. “What is it?”

“I don’t know,” Joel said. “I thought it was a guard at first, but it’s not. I think…” he swallowed. “I think it’s an animal.”

“An animal?”

They crept to the mouth of the cave. Joel pointed. “Look.”

Jim did look. There was something moving in the shadows just beyond their cave, hidden from the sunlight by a large, leafy plant. (An inedible plant, Jim knew. It had given him a gross rash on his lips and made his mouth bleed when he’d tried chewing on it.)

He stepped out of the cave, hoping not to startled whatever it was. His stomach gurgled, loudly. A furry head popped out of the brush, ears perking forward. It was a dog- its ribs standing out taunt against its skin. It loped over to them, tail wagging.

For a second, Jim and Joel just stared at it.

Jim swallowed.

“I don’t want to kill it.” Joel said, suddenly. “You do it.”

“Does it even have enough meat to be worth it?” Jim asked.

“We can suck the marrow out of the bones.” Joel said.

Jim knew. He nodded.

They really needed it.

“Come on, Kirk,” Joel said. “We don’t have any choice. We’re not gonna eat our friends.”

He reached out and pet the dog, heart sinking as it gave a happy wine.

“Kirk!” Jim protested. “You’re gonna get attached! Stop it.”

“Sorry,” Jim pulled back his hand. “Go… go get me a rock or something.”

Joel nodded and hurried off.

“This feels even worse than I think it would if I were killing a person,” Jim muttered.

Joel came back with a large rock clutched between his hands.

“Can’t you?” Jim pleaded.

“I’m not strong like you anyway,” Joel protested.

Jim nodded. “Fine.” He held out his hand. “Give it here.”

He did.

 


 

 

Jim fell asleep while he was on lookout. They all did- it was rather common, unfortunately, though Jim knew he did it least out of all of them. Anymore, they were all prone to fainting spells or simply slipping off at any moment if they allowed themselves to rest.

To Jim it was like being sucked into his head. One moment he was awake, staring out into the woods, and the next he was standing on firm, warm sand, the chirp of the T’cheye soft in his ears.

He’d dreamed of Spock’s mind many times before. It was no surprise to find himself there again. It was rarer to be aware that he was dreaming, but when the time came, he eagerly embraced it. He looked down at his hands and didn’t see the bones of his wrists jutting out of his skin. He had a good amount of flesh, and a bit of a pudge to his stomach. He clothed himself in an old “Terran-it-UP” shirt that he’d worn out in a single school year.

He also decided to wear sunglasses, and the hat that Amanda had bought him which had been stolen on his first day of school. He’d never actually gotten the thing back, but he remembered it well enough to put it upon his head.

And then, because he could, he summoned an apple to his hand and took a bite.

He’d forgotten what they tasted like, but the satisfying crunch and the pulp of the meat were muscle-memory. He chewed slowly, savoring the texture, and told himself there was no need to be hungry when he was asleep. He hungered nonetheless, but it wasn’t as urgent as usual.

“Jim.”

Jim turned, brows raised. He was at that house again- the little one on the edge of Spock’s mind. He blinked, rapidly, and swallowed. Standing just outside the fence of the little house was Spock, and the girl from inside. Her hair was done up, no longer flowing freely down her back. She looked lovely, if not like she wouldn’t hesitate to cut him.

He hid the apple behind his back, momentarily worried she might try to take it from him.

“Oh hey,” he said. “Spock. Angry woman.”

Her brows furrowed, just barely. There was a kind of elegance about her.

“This is the one,” said the girl. “The boy who touched my mind through Spock’s.”

There was suddenly an old lady there, too. Jim blinked in surprise. Not only had he never dreamed of the girl from Spock’s head, he’d never seen this woman in his dreams, either.

“Is this only your mind’s adaptation of him, Spock?” The woman asked, gravely.

“I do not know.” Spock said. He squinted. “Jim?”

Jim took a step forward. “Wow,” he said, and peered up into Spock’s eyes from underneath the Vulcan’s bangs. “Check out my imagination. I must be getting delirious out there- you look amazing.” Jim felt that if he reached out to touch Spock, he would be real. He feared that should he try, he would wake up, so he stood as close as he dared and did not touch.

“I have not rendered this,” Spock told the woman.

“Your name, human?” Asked the woman.

“James T. Kirk, nice to meet you little old lady that lives in my subconscious.” He tipped his hat. “Though I guess, this would be Spock’s subconscious. Hope he doesn’t mind me borrowing it.”

Spock’s brows furrowed.

“He is confused,” the woman said. “It matters not. We will proceed.”

“Jim,” Spock said, “Do you recognize this person?” He gestured to the girl at his side.

“Yeah.” He shrugged. “Can we go do something? Don’t really want to waste a dream on this.”

“Please cooperate,” Spock said.

Jim shrugged. Even if it was boring, he still got to see his make-believe Spock. If he was delirious, why not go along with the ride? “Sure.”

“You recognize her,” Spock repeated. “How can this be?”

“Easy. One time when we melded I just walked over to her house and knocked on the window. She was pissed off, though.”

“Now you see.” The girl turned towards the old woman. “Spock has admitted to it, as well as this human. He has melded with another, and even from across the universe their minds are still linked. I have had my mind touched through my bond to Spock, without my consent. This is beyond the agreement struck between our parents, and I ask that our bond be broken.”

The old woman stared at Jim.

“Um, sorry if I… broke a rule.” Jim said, awkwardly.

“James Kirk,” she said, slowly. “You understand now that you are connected to Spock? It is not the way of our people.”

“Yeah,” Jim said. He shrugged. He knew that friendship wasn’t the Vulcan way, but he didn’t care. “So what? It makes us happy, so…” Then he laughed. “I’m really so hung up on him that I’m fighting make-believe Vulcans over our friendship? Hello? What universe is this?”

“Matriarch,” Spock said. His voice was thick with concern. “He is not himself. There is something amiss.”

“It is no business of mine, Spock.” She said. “T’Pring, you have made thy case. What say you, Spock?”

“If T’Pring wishes our bond to be broken, so be it.”

Jim blinked. “What?” Spock had other friends? Did he build them all houses in his head, so when they melded, they could come over? “Oh my god,” he said. “I’m dying.”

The three turned sharply to him.

“Jim?” Spock stepped forward, hands out like he wanted to touch, but didn’t.

“Like this is my. My atonement. My last good thing. I’m coming up with ways to make you happy and prove to myself you have other friends. This is it.”

The old woman said, “Spock. Lower your hands.” She stepped forward, and lifted her hand to Jim’s face without preamble.

Jim reeled at the sensation of her heated hand against his face. It felt real. “Hey-“

The woman drew away, looking grave. “He is not dying,” she said.

“You are hiding something from me,” Spock said. “Something is wrong.”

“It is not my place, nor your bondmate’s, as she is soon to be removed of you.”

Spock didn’t look like he liked it, but he nodded and stepped back towards the fence.

“James Kirk.” Said the woman again. “I am to break Spock’s mind from T’Pring’s. It is remarkable you would be here, for your connection was not forged by another. It is very weak, and I understand neither you nor Spock are able to access it yourselves. It is only through my ability that we have drawn you here today, but even this is a great feet. The link you have forged…”

“He knows nothing of these things,” Spock said.

“It is his right.” She said, firmly. “James Kirk. Understand now that as I raze Spock’s mind of another, it is likely what small ties you have may snap. This is the way of things.”

“Whatever,” Jim said. “Just because you’re breaking their friendship up doesn’t mean that you can break me and Spock up. We’re best friends, and even if you tell me some horrible secrets about him, I’m still gonna love him.”

Spock pressed his mouth into a thin line.

“You do not understand,” the woman said. “It is not our place to teach you.” She gave Spock an accusatory glare.

“I was unaware of these things which only T’Pring knew of until now.” He looked down at the sand. “I had not known there was a connection between myself and Jim.”

“Pssh. Liar. You know we’re besties.” Jim smiled at him, and then leaned against the fence. “If this is the introduction to purgatory, you’re gonna have to do a lot better than that to hurt my feelings. You bought me poetry, Spock. Poetry!”

He colored a faint olive. T’Pring raised her brow at him.

“As I said,” Spock ground out. “He is unaware.”

“The matter is closed.” Said the woman. “T’Pring has asked to be broken from you, and you have acquiesced. The ceremony will begin now.”

Jim pulled the apple out from behind his back. “Sweet.”

They stared at him.

“I am like.” He took a big bite and chewed it, swallowing quickly. “High. Pretty far gone right now. Oh look, bells.”

There were bells. Pretty, delicate bells of jade, hung up all around the house. They rang in time together, eerie in the red light the sun of Spock’s mind cast about them. The woman reached out and put her hands on Spock and T’Pring’s faces, one to each.

“Parted now and never paired,” the old woman began, “Never touching, never to be touched. My mind to your minds. My thoughts-“

Jim gasped and sat straight up, almost falling over as he suddenly woke from his dream and found himself in the cave. Without knowing why, he yelled, “To your thoughts!”

Kevin was nearby, and stared at him oddly.

Jim shook his head. His heart was pounding, and he was covered in sweat. His head felt like it had been bashed, throbbing so hard that it hurt to open his eyes. “Goddamn it,” he whispered, and wiped his face. Why was he crying? “Kevin. I think I almost died just now. I think I was standing at the gates of hell, or heaven, or the underworld- whatever. The afterlife.”

Kevin shrugged.

Jim raised a trembling hand up to his temple. “My head hurts,” he croaked.

Kevin slipped over to Jim’s side, resting his head on Jim’s shoulder. Jim threw an arm around the young boy, pulling him into a hug. Kevin held on tight.

“Thanks,” Jim managed. “I’m okay. Just a weird dream, that’s all.”

Kevin nodded.

“Come on,” he said. He was done for the day- they couldn’t keep constant watch anymore. His head felt like it was going to split open. “Let’s go back to sleep.”

Kevin nodded and sagged against him, closing his eyes.

Jim leaned back his head and closed his eyes, too.

Spock…

He did not sleep.

 


 

 

Mel and T got sick. They both had fevers, and trembled all through the night. They slept more than they were awake, and it was all Jim could do to keep them alive. Joel was on constant look out, so that Jim could attend to the rest of them. He wasn’t able to find much to eat, but they all chewed on handfuls of grass to at least absorb what nutrients they could, and they had water.

Jim wanted desperately to go back to the town and steal from them, but he knew that in his condition there was very little chance he’d make it back to them without getting caught and killed himself.

They’d been out there for four months.

“This is longer than you would have thought we could make it, right?” Jim joked.

Joel snorted, leaning passively against the mouth of the cave. “I’ll be dead any day now,” he said. “I can’t hardly even walk.”

“Nonsense,” said Jim. “You’re just fine.”

Joel shook his head, slowly. “I don’t know why I’ve been fighting it,” he said. “When I’m dead I won’t be so hungry all the time. We can’t make it another three months, you and I both know that. So why we keep struggling? It’s inevitable.”

Jim clenched his teeth. “It’s not. We can make it. Starfleet will come-“

“Starfleet’s never coming.” Joel said. “And if they are, not in time.”

“They will, Joel!” Jim stood and made his way over to the other boy, grabbing his shoulders. He delivered a sure share. “They will. You just have to keep holding on, and they’ll be here, you’ll see.”

“They won’t,” Joel said. He smiled a little. “But it’s a nice thought, Jim.”

Joel died two days later, in his sleep.

 


 

 

Jim braced himself against a tree, panting. The cold morning air stung against his lungs, and his legs shook with each step he took. He had a backpack with a couple handfuls of berries he’d found way, way out in the forest, and it weighed more than it should have. The thought of the others’ faces when they saw the bounty kept him going.

He shouldn’t have gone out so far. His rule was that no one was out during daylight, if they could help it. That was when you got spotted. Even troops from the town ventured out as far as the cave during the morning, anymore, and it didn’t matter how well it was hidden. If others were out and about the forest, Jim and his bunch wouldn’t be.

But he’d had no choice. They’d depleted all the sources they’d had nearby, and Jim knew he couldn’t risk going back to the village again. He’d been right in the end, anyway, when he’d found that berry bush. He worried that without Joel to identify them, they might be poisoned. He’d stuck a couple in his mouth and chewed, slowly, when he first found them. Nothing had happened, so he’d started back and swallowed a few more. He figured he’d know if they were bad by then, and so he could come back empty handed instead of getting them excited about the prospect of maybe having food.

There was movement to his right. Jim’s eyes went wide as he jerked back, startled, and then tripped over a root. He fell hard, and loudly, through the brush, breaking branches of the tree to his right as he went. Any hope he’d had of passing by undiscovered went out the window as the figure turned towards him. It was definitely a person.

Jim stood and ran.

“Wait,” the figure called, but Jim didn’t falter for a second.

He ran blindly in his panic and found himself at the side of a rocky cliff, going up, and up, forever. He cursed and turned to run back the way he’d come, but he could hear the person in the brush coming closer. He looked left and right, and then up the cliff. His hands and legs were already shaking with strain, and he knew he’d never make it to the top. Just down the way, though, was a small fissure int he rock face.

He ran over to it and climbed, quickly and painfully. His fingers scraped raw as he plunged them into the little cracks int he rock and dirt, hauling himself up.

“Wait!” Came the voice again. It was a man.

Jim slipped into the fissure and pushed himself back. He’d caught a glimpse of the guy, and he wasn’t wearing the dark grey uniform of Kodos’s men. Civilians could be just as deadly, but they wouldn’t be armed with phasers. Jim knew he was smaller than the man, who wouldn’t be able to get himself through the fissure.

He crammed himself back, suddenly glad he’d become so small.

A face appeared in the crack. The man was old, his face lined with his years, and he had a mathematically perfect haircut.

The man’s eyes widened. “Jim?”

Jim blinked. The man turned to look over his shoulder, waving at something, and Jim saw he had pointed ears .

A Vulcan? But the colony only has humans.

He’d finally lost it. He really was dead and dreaming this time.

“James T. Kirk?” The Vulcan asked.

Jim pushed himself further back into the crack. It was a trap.

The man pushed his arm in, slowly; gnarled hand reaching out to him from the light, trying to draw him out of the shadows. “I am not going to harm you,” he said, gently. “I am a friend. I understand you must be terrified, and rightfully so, but I mean only to help you.”

Jim cringed as he pushed himself even further back, out of reach of the hand. The Vulcan pulled his arm back.

“Do not continue to do yourself harm,” he said, softly. “I will not reach for you again if you do not wish me to touch you.”

“Why do you know my name?” Jim blurted. “Who are you?”

“I am Ambassador Spock,” said the Vulcan. “I am sorry it took me so long to get here, my friend. I had hoped, perhaps, that this time…” he trailed off, shaking his head. “Forgive me. The ramblings of an old man, nothing more.”

Spock was a damn common name. Every Vulcan I know is an Ambassador, or named Spock, or both. Jim realized. A startled laugh bubbled form his lips.

Ambassador Spock smiled.

Yep. A Vulcan, smiling. I’m definitely dreaming.

“Will you come out, Jim?” The Vulcan asked.

“No.” Jim said.

The ambassador drew back for a second, and pulled a backpack from his shoulders. He opened it and produced a banana. He held it out. “You may eat this, if you want.” He held it tantalizingly close.

Jim swallowed down the impulse to jump for it. “How do I know that once I come out, you’re not going to brain me and then eat me?” He knew it had happened in the town. The few times he’d gotten close enough he’d had to hide while passing patrols of guards marched by, and they’d talked loosely about it.

“I am Vulcan,” said Spock. “And therefor, a vegetarian.”

Jim narrowed his eyes.

“Additionally,” said Spock, “I believe that were I to attempt to ‘brain you,’ as you say, you would certainly rush away from me. You are young and would outrun me.”

“Bullshit,” Jim said. “I’ve seen Vulcans run.”

“I am old,” said Spock.

“I am starving,” said Jim. “We’re on even ground.”

Spock studied him. He had kind eyes. Eyes could lie, though. “Perhaps,” he allowed. “May I throw this to you then, Jim?”

Jim narrowed his eyes.

Spock gently tossed it his way.

Jim caught the banana eagerly, tearing open its skin to bite down into the fruit. Flavor exploded over his tongue and he moaned in pleasure, chewing slowly to savor it. He opened his mouth to take another bite when he remembered the other kids, back in the cave. Slowly, sadly, he pulled the skin back up over the top of the banana and then tucked it into one of the pockets on his pants.

Spock watched him, eyes curious. He produced another fruit. “I have more, if you would like.”

“What’s your game?”

“Perhaps you did not hear me as I called after you. I am part of a rescue team. We have come to save the survivors of this planet, along with Starfleet. We landed two days ago.”

Jim swept his eyes up and down the Vulcan. He wasn’t starving, Jim realized. He wasn’t skinny or shaky, or weak. He didn’t look hungry, or act hungry. The concept was so bizarre that for a moment Jim couldn’t process it. How was it that there could be someone who existed who wasn’t hungry?

“Please, Jim,” Ambassador Spock said softly. “I am your friend. Allow me to help you.”

“You still never told me how you knew my name.”

“I have been looking for you.”

Jim rose a brow. “You mean… you guys knew that we escaped Kodos? How?” He furrowed his brow. “And why’d you care enough to come looking for a missing group of criminals?”

“I will explain later,” Spock said. “Know now only that your worth is immeasurable, and that should it have been necessary, I would have searched this entire planet to discover your whereabouts.”

Jim wanted to call BS. But Jim was a damn good liar, and even he wouldn’t have been able to give a line like that with such ardent conviction. Please don’t be a trap, he prayed. Please, please don’t be a trap.

Spock held up a small badge. A Starfleet comm. “Will you trust me, Jim?”

He didn’t want to. But what choice did he have?

Jim slowly, shakily reached out, pulling himself from the fissure. Spock stepped back and waited, arms outstretched to help Jim down from the height he’d climbed. Jim ignored him and jumped down, wincing slightly at the impact. He braced himself to run, but the Vulcan did not move.

“Is this real?” Jim asked himself.

The Vulcan flicked open the comm unit. “Spock to away team.”

This is T’paun, I read you.”

“I have located a child in the woods, one James T. Kirk.”

“Any others?”

Spock looked expectantly at Jim. Jim pressed his mouth into a thin line.

“To be determined,” Spock said, finally. “Spock out.”

“Do you have more food?”

Spock nodded. “I do.”

Jim didn’t want to trust him, but what choice did he have. “If I lead you to the others… what will happen?”

“I will escort them and yourself to the town, were you will be cared for by relief squads and eventually returned to your homes. We will feed you, clothe you, and administer any medical help you require.”

Jim was overcome by how good it sounded. Home. He could go home. “How do I know this isn’t a trick?” His voice sounded small.

Spock knelt down. He held his hand out in a familiar, soft curve. “Do you know anything of Vulcan telepathy?”

“You can’t lie,” Jim realized.

He nodded. “Would you allow me to touch your mind?”

It had been so long. He’d been so alone. The very thought of another presence in his head made him want to sob with the profound wish for it all. He’d been strong for so long. Maybe it was a trap, but his Spock had taught him to shield, so even if this Ambassador betrayed them and razed Jim’s mind, he could protect the location of the others. All he was putting on the line was himself, and anymore, that felt like precious little.

He stepped forward, pressing his face to Ambassador Spock’s palm.

They hadn’t meant to meld, Jim knew, but he was sucked into the Ambassador’s mind immediately. He was in a bedroom with a large bed, the navy blue sheets neatly tucked under the mattress. There was a window overlooking the bed, and outside the stars rushed past. Jim staggered back, arrested by the unfamiliar atmosphere, and bumped into a bulkhead.

He was aboard a ship.

He licked his lips and looked around, quickly finding the design to be familiar. He was on a federation ship. The room was sparsely, but tastefully, decorated. In the corner there was a small podium with a jade pot upon it, which smoked gently and smelled of Vulcan spices. There were various nicknacks about the room, most alien, but some starting familiar. He recognized the heavily used cover of the Vulcan poetry book that Spock had given him- the book sitting on the shelf was nearly falling apart. Some other books, which he had back at his home on Earth, were placed upon the shelf, along with hundreds of other paper copies that he’d never read before. Some, he’d never even heard of before. A couple he couldn’t even make out- the language was foreign to him.

On the stand next to the bed was an timekeeping device, a starfleet badge, and a picture. It was of the Ambassador, who had just barely begun to grey, and an older, slightly chubby man with curly gray hair. They were both in casual clothing and sitting on a bench. The man with the curly hair had on old-fashioned glasses, which Jim had always wanted, and he was bent over a book, his back braced against the side of the bench. His feet were propped up in the Ambassador’s lap. The Ambassador was looking at the man with naked fondness in his eyes, one hand settled on the man’s shin, the other tangled with the man’s hand on the back of the bench.

Jim stepped closer to the picture, reaching out to pick it up.

“Jim,”

He froze, turning around and tucking his hands behind his back.

The Ambassador didn’t look upset. “Forgive me,” he said. “I had… not intended a meld, even of this shallow nature. I did not expect your mind to be familiar enough with the technique to construct a mind-scape, as rudimentary as this is.” He leaned around Jim, and caught sight of what Jim had been reaching for. His eyes softened.

“Sorry,” Jim said. “I wasn’t snooping…”

“There is no reason to be sorry, my friend.” The Vulcan stepped past him and picked up the photograph, tracing a finger down the side. “I have been unable to make the retreat to this part of my mind as of late. I had not realized I was beginning to miss it…”

Jim cleared his throat. The Ambassador looked dangerously close to emotion. Jim knew that in a meld, one was always more emotional, but it was different with his Spock. He knew his Spock, and he wanted to see his emotions. With the Ambassador, he felt like he was intruding on something private.

“Come,” the Ambassador set the photograph down and gestured towards the door.

They stepped out and back onto Tarsus. In the town, many hours before, where Starfleet and a Vulcan ship had begun to go about picking up the pieces. Jim knew it was a memory and knew that there was no way the man could deceive him.

“Are you satisfied, Jim?”

Jim could feel the man’s intent to help. He nodded.

He came out of the meld with a gasp, stumbling back a step. He was momentarily overwhelmed with a deep, aching sadness. He shook his head.

“Forgive me,” Ambassador Spock stood. “Our meld was inelegant. Emotional transference may occur.”

“Yeah,” Jim choked, “I’m getting a hint of that.”

The Ambassador looked away from him. “Will you allow me to help you now?”

Jim nodded. “Yeah.” He waved Spock on. “This way.”

 


 

 

He sat on a log that had been laid out as a form of seating. Across from him a Vulcan woman was administering a set of hypos to Mel, who hardly flinched, her eyes glassy and feverish.

“Eat this.”

Jim looked up. The Ambassador regarded him with eyes filled with understanding and unfathomable compassion. Jim looked away, unable to handle the attention.

“Jim,” Ambassador Spock tried again.

Jim looked back up. The Vulcan was holding out a thermos.

He took it, carefully, and then nearly sobbed. It was chicken noodle soup; still steaming. He shakily raised it to his mouth, ignoring the spoon placed suggestively against the rim of the thermos. He drank, deeply, and coughed once as it burned his tongue. He ignored the pain and continued to noisily slurp it down.

A heavy blanket fell over his back. Jim looked up, questioning, but Spock said, “You are trembling, Jim.”

He was, wasn’t he? He didn’t care. He turned back to the soup.

“Do not become overzealous,” Spock warned. “You will make yourself sick.”

Pace yourselves, guys, we can let this all last until tomorrow night at least. Otherwise we’ll make ourselves sick.”

“We still might,” Joel said. He sighed, dreamily. “But god, what a way.”

Jim laughed, nearly hysterically. “What a way to go,” he echoed, mechanically.

Spock sat next to him. He reached out carefully, placing his hand over Jim’s wrist. “There will be more,” he promised. “I know it is not easy to believe this, but I promise to you- there is more food still. Here,” he pushed a piece of bread into Jim’s hand. “Slowly.”

 

 


 

 

It didn’t seem real until his mother arrived. He’d been sitting up in bed, quietly discussing funeral arrangements for T, who hadn’t pulled through- help had been just a tad to late. He felt sick to his stomach and dizzy, and even with a relatively healthy Mel tucked under one arm and a recovering Kevin under the other, he still felt like at any moment they might be ripped away from him, too. 

He sort of wanted to say that T's family didn't get a say in what happened to T's body. T had made it clear that they weren't interested in coming home to their old family. Dan and her troubled kids had been it for them. Jim missed T so ardently and desperately he felt it coating his bones like a second starvation. If he'd just given T a little more, had a little less himself...

Kevin was picking at the fuzz on his hospital gown. Mel was sleeping soundly, drooling a little on Jim’s shoulder. She was resting uncomfortably against the IV in his arm, but he couldn’t bear to move her or wake her.

“Their family will have to know, even if T didn't want it.” Jim said. “They'll get to decide, I guess. But T didn’t want to be incinerated. They wanted a burial, if possible, and-“

And that’s when she’d come in.

“Jim.”

He looked up past the nurse, confused. The voice sounded familiar, but he couldn’t place it. His eyes locked with familiar, watery hazel. He didn’t even have time to blink before his mother was bursting into tears, rushing across the room to fling herself at him.

“Jim!” She sobbed. She pressed her face into his chest and wrapped her arms around his neck. Mel woke instantly with a jerk, pulling away from Winona’s wild hair with a soft gasp of surprise. Jim held onto Mel tightly, as if to ensure her they were safe.

“Mom?”

“Oh my god,” she cried. “Oh my god!”

She was shaking so hard that Jim felt dizzied by it. “Mom!” He let go of the kids and nodded at the nurse, who was giving him a should I leave? look. He held onto her shoulders, keeping her to him.

“Jim!” She sounded physically pained by her grief. “Oh my god, I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it, oh god, oh god-“ she drew back, seeming almost panicked. “Your face! You look- oh my god, your face!”

He knew he looked like a skeleton. He smiled, weekly, but he felt like throwing up. “It’s okay, mom-“

“I didn’t know, Jim. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry! When the messages stopped coming through I thought- I don’t know, that you’d gotten bored of talking to me, that you were still made but. I never would have thought. Oh my god. Oh my god, Jim, Jim, I’m so sorry, my baby, my baby-“ She pressed messy, wet kisses to his forehead. “Baby I’m so sorry, so sorry-“

“You didn’t know,” he said, softly. “It’s not your fault.”

“You wanted to go to Vulcan!” She sobbed. “I s-sent you here. I sent you to that- to that deathtrap,” she looked up at him, her face contorted and nearly unrecognizable with the severity of her agony. “Jim, oh Jim.”

And it was real.

He was really off of that planet.

He had food, and his two little troopers who’d pulled through, and he wasn’t going to die after all. They’d come in time.

“Mom,” he sniffed, and then broke down into heavy sobbing.

“It’s okay,” she whispered. “It’s okay now, baby. I got you. I’m here. I'm here now.”

 


 

 

Four months.

The prophesied six months meant nothing. It had taken the universe four months to figure out something was up on Tarsus IV, and to subsequently arrive. Kevin prodded Jim’s arm and passed him a PADD with a disturbing amount of math on the screen.

In short. Had Kodos taken their preventative measures and ideas into hand, it was likely that they would have only just begun to see the deaths before help arrived. Instead, more than four thousand people were dead.

Kodos had gotten what had been coming to him, Jim heard. When Starfleet had arrived, the people had rebelled and gone after the governor. His mansion had been burned to the ground in the process, and Kodos had perished inside of it.

Jim didn’t feel comforted by the fact.

One death didn’t make up for the other four thousand.

They weren’t alone. There were other kids in the same wing of the hospital, all dealing with the same grief. Jim protected his kids with a fierceness he hadn’t known he could possess, but he found it in him to open himself to the others there, too. He met Thomas Leighton, who was a steady intelligence against Jim’s wild brilliance. He found peace with the nurses, and the doctors, and the therapists. He was going to get better because he wanted to get better, and even if no one understood his pain, or what he’d been through, they could help him understand and come to terms with it himself.

He was ready to be soft again. He knew in his heart that he would never be as naive as he had been before, that he’d leap to protect the people he loved even if it meant the death or destruction of the life forms against them. How many times had he played over Kodos in their mess hall? He’d been so close. If Jim had only been smarter, faster, then he could have killed the man and saved them. He could have…

Kaiidth.

He kept to his meditation, and he went to his therapy appointments, and he slept long, troubled nights with Kevin and Mel overheating his bed. And even if he hid food in the wall panels, and even if he spent some nights throwing up- even if he still dreamed of his friend’s dead bodies, and the bodies he had seen in town, and the blood, and the smell, and the grass as it came back up again.

He was going to get better.

He had to.

Chapter Text

 

San Francisco was miserable.

The air was far too humid for his biology, the temperatures at night were too low, and worst of all, there was no Jim. What was the point in being on Terra if Jim was not there as well?  Spock felt miserably laden by his own age and heritage- certain that if his parents were both Vulcan, and he, himself, full, he would have been deemed old enough to stay on Vulcan without either of them.

Of course, Mother would hear none of it.

What was worse was that he was hungry. Constantly. He knew he did not need to eat more than his fill, and yet, his brain insisted that he had not consumed enough, at every given moment in the day. Spock could easily block the feeling from his mind and body, but it took constant attention.

T’Pring, too, had complained of such a sensation, and had stated frankly that it was bleed-over from Spock. She found it incredibly distasteful, and Spock could do nothing but agree. He was very gifted, as a telepath, and it was above him to inflict his wife with such afflictions.

Though, as she so delicately put it, their bond itself was an affliction.

It were not as though he could argue her point.

“Spock, dear, are you really on the computer again?”

Spock did not look up from the screen. “Yes,” he said, and ignored his mother as she came to hover over his shoulder. He could feel her looking at the screen, but he did not cease his typing or ask her to look away from the open message he was composing.

Wife,

As you are aware, I am currently on Earth. There are no healers available to inspect the bond at this time. I understand the urgency of the condition and do not take it lightly. I will do what I am able to spare you any inconvenience.

“What condition?” Amanda asked. “Healer? Spock, what’s going on?”

Spock said, “I am currently engaged.” He continued to type.

When I return to our home world I will gladly meet with yourself and our clan matriarch to discuss the concerns you have addressed. Continue to make me aware of any distress our bond may be inadvertently causing you, and I will take the necessary measures.

Live long and prosper.

-S’chn T’gai Spock

“What problems?” His mother repeated.

Spock pushed himself away from the computer after he sent his message. “It is of a private nature, mother.”

She said, “Spock, I know the bond isn’t something anyone really talks about. But I am your mother. And I’m bonded, too. Maybe I can help.”

He frowned, slightly. “I severely doubt it.”

She gave him the eye. “Spock…”

“I am not questioning your intelligence or ability,” Spock hurried to assure her. “It is simply a matter of which I believe is rooted in my Vulcan half.”

“Did you talk to your father about it?”

Spock looked sharply away.

“Spock,” his mother sighed.

“It is shameful.” He felt his ears burning.

“I’m sure it can’t be that bad,” she said. She sat on the edge of the hotel desk. “You don’t have to tell me, but Spock, you know I would never judge you or make things worse. I only want to help, and the least I can do is listen.”

Spock said, “I am not certain I wish to verbalize the issues. I barely understand them myself.”

She reached out, hand hovering over his knee, and then pulled back, slowly. She did not touch him, and he appreciated it as much as it made him ache. “Well,” she said, softly, “I’m always here for you, Spock. Whatever you need.” She stood and started out of the room.

Spock turned back to the computer and stared at the blank screen.

Why?

He wanted so badly to be a child again. To be able to speak freely and emotionally with his mother. She cared deeply, and it showed, but to respond to her concern would be to admit to blatant emotionalism himself. He had thought, for a time, that perhaps he could allow himself to express his emotions in the bare minimum, but…

Sybok…

He clenched his hands where they rested on his lap.

It was the first trip to Terra where Sybok had not wished him farewell. Of course his older brother hadn’t come to the house to say goodbye. He was no longer welcome on the planet Vulcan. Spock knew that somehow, Sybok managed to come back when he did so please, but it still would have been senseless for his brother to come back simply to tell Spock to have a good trip.

It would have been overly-emotional, even for him.

Spock couldn’t say anything. Sybok had divorced himself dangerously from Vulcan society and Surak’s teachings. Spock knew that Vulcan emotions, strong and gripping in a way no other species understood, could be dangerous if they began to reign above logic. But what had been so dangerous about his brother’s love? What was dangerous about the man’s smile, his laugh, his sly humor and romanticism? Spock had seen no danger in his brother- only in Vulcan society and the way they made a criminal out of him.

And their father had stood by and done nothing as they drew and quartered Sybok, banishing him from his home forever.

What was to stop them from doing the same to Spock?

He was half-human. It was expected that he would fail to be Vulcan. At that point, where he finally turned and showed his soft underbelly, though- what would happen? Would they allow his human heart the same way they would any other species? Or would they surge in on him like they had his brother? Worst of all, would their father stand by and watch? Would he do nothing?

Spock knew his father cared. Sarek had warned his eldest, time and time again, of the path his actions would surely lead him down. He’d disapproved quietly, and then blatantly, as Sybok became more and more radical in his beliefs. But Sarek had fallen in love with a human, hadn’t he? He had to know something of passion, something of emotion. Spock didn’t doubt that Sarek had the capacity for emotion, but in his ruthless devotion to logic, he cut all familiar ties. Spock would be left to the wolves.

Spock looked up at the computer pinged.

Husband, T’Pring wrote.

I am aware of your situation. Tell me when it is you will disembark from Terra and return to Vulcan, and I will have the ceremony arranged to our mutual benefit. I am certain you are able to ascertain my difficulty through our bond, but if you find yourself incapable in this regard also, you must make me aware so that I may take extra measures to keep you informed of my present condition.

Do not concern yourself with shielding. I am perfectly capable of blocking you from my mind. So long as you do not invite the human into my psych again, there are no obstacles that I will be unable to usurp.

Peace and long life.

-I’nsh V’tch T’Pring

Spock stared at the message for a good time, wondering if he should reply. What would he even say? That he was glad to hear she was used to blocking him out? Did he even want to address ‘incapable in this regard also’ when she was, in the end, correct? T’Pring was cold, but she was not a liar, and when her words hurt it was only ever because they were a matter of fact, not because she meant to draw blood.

She had every right to be short with him, regardless.

Spock deleted the message and stood, making his way over to the window. It was raining out, yet again, and he pressed his forehead to the glass. It was painfully cold, but it managed to ease the throbbing in his head.

“Spock,” his mother called. “Want to help me with dinner?”

He was so, so hungry.

“If you so wish it,” he said, and turned, making his way out of the room and towards the sound of her voice.

He felt T’Pring raise her shields. He sighed, knowing it was in response to his thoughts of hunger. He did not blame her, and sent a gentle wash of apology against the edges of her mind. She touched them, gently, but did not reach back, curling behind her frosted-glass psych, leaving him in the darkness of his own thought.

He had never felt so alone in his entire life.

 


 

 

“Welcome home, little brother.”

Spock nodded his head in greeting as Michael approached him at the door. She inclined her head and then reached out to take his bags .

“I am capable,” he said, and held tighter to his luggage.

She raised her brows at him. “Have I caused you offense already?”

“He’s been that way the whole trip,” Amanda said. “Grumpy.”

Spock turned, saying, “Mother.”

“It would be logical to assume, then, that Kirk was not around.” She guessed. “You must be upset.”

“It is illogical to be upset,” Spock reminded her.

“It is logical to assume that one would respond to manners that effect them- even in a manner that could be constituted as emotional.” She tilted her head at him. They met eyes, locking into a sort of stare-down for a moment. The door opened again and she looked up, a smile in her eyes. “Sarek. You are home.”

He allowed her a look as he entered the house. “Daughter,”

She moved over to him, standing just out of reach so as not to be in his way. “How was your trip? Did you have much difficulty this time?”

“The trip was productive,” Sarek informed her. “There were no complications.”

“No children stealing cars or else wise?” There was a hint of a smile in the corner of her mouth.

“Sister,” Spock tightly protested.

Sarek ignored Spock completely. “Negative.” He dropped his bags in the foyer, bending to reach into one. “I have brought a piece of memorabilia from your planet of origin, as you have requested.” He reached into his bag before producing a light yellow scarf, which he delicately passed to Michael.

She blinked in surprise before plucking it from Sarek’s grasp, lifting it up to the light to examine it. “Silk,” she said, “And rayon velvet. Thank you, Sarek.” She wrapped it over her head, in the same fashion Amanda often times did. She tilted her head towards Sarek and Amanda both, saying, “Do I look very much like mother now?”

“The similarity is…” he paused. “There.”

Amanda snorted out a laugh.

“Ah, Sarek,” Michael sighed dramatically. “You can say we look nothing alike. It would be illogical for me to find hurt in the truth.”

He raised a brow at her and brushed past.

She watched him go, face slowly falling.

“He’s tired from the trip,” Amanda explained.

Spock wanted to raise an objection. His father was simply ‘not in the mood,’ as Jim might have said- just as he hadn’t been 'in the mood' for the last four months. It was as if Sybok’s explosion from their society had convinced Sarek to become even more staunch in his unemotional Vulcanism.

“Yes,” Michael said, slowly. “I’m sure.”

Amanda smiled. “Don’t be sad, dear.”

“Sad? How illogical.”

Amanda just shook her head.

Spock didn’t have it in him to put up with any of his family’s usual shenanigans. He brushed past the both of them, intent on heading towards his room. His head hurt, and he was slightly space sick from the ride back. Never mind that he never used to get space sick before.

“What is the matter with Spock?”

Amanda just sighed.

Spock gently shut the door to his room before allowing himself to gently crumple on top his futon, face-first. He knew angst was beneath him, but he couldn’t help but be consumed by it regardless. Everyone was acting like nothing had changed, when in reality his entire world had been uprooted. As if Sybok hadn’t been enough…

Jim.

He turned on his side, pulling his pillow against his body.

They’d promised each other the year before that when summer came again, they’d be together. But Jim’s mother had called them long before then to give the news. She was going on a mission in deep space, and Jim was being sent of to some kind of correctional facility on a colony planet thirty-eight lightyears from Vulcan.

Spock had lost his only connections in the world. Or rather, he’d thought so, until T’Pring had stranded him in his own mind. Then he knew true isolation, and the way it coursed through him made him exhausted by its constancy.

Vulcans were not meant to exist within their minds alone.

A soft knock sounded at his door. He turned, watching as a stripe of orange light drew itself along the floor. Michael stood at the threshold, hand on the doorframe. “May I come in?”

“Do what you wish.” Spock said. He turned back over.

“Little brother…” Michael sat on the edge of his futon, curling her legs beneath her. “What is wrong?”

“I am functioning without flaw,” Spock said.

Michael put her hand on his shoulder, stiffly.

Spock politely shrugged it off. The swell of her pity against his mind was like a landslide of hot, tingling sand against the banks of his shields.

He briefly entertained the notion that he may just be violently sick. The vertigo passed just as quickly as it came.

“Talk to me,” Michael whispered. “Are you sick? Did you catch the flu as well?”

“Vulcans do not get the flu.”

“Mother did. Half-Vulcans might,” she said.

He shook his head.

“… Is this because of Sybok?”

“My half-brother has no bearing in my well being.”

“Physically, maybe.” She sighed, and then curled up next to him. She was just barely shorter than him, despite the large age gap between them. “Spock. Talk to me.”

“I am speaking to you.”

“Is this about Kirk?”

Spock frowned and did not speak.

“It is logical to feel sadness,” she said, gently. “If we did not feel sadness when we were robbed of another’s presence, there would be no incentive to maintain family bonds, or those of alliance. What allies would we have if we did not become sad at their parting?”

“Vulcans do not get sad.”

“I do not mean to further your depression,” Michael said. "However. You are not fully Vulcan."

He turned over to face her. “Jim lives a life separate from mine. I understand this, and find no fault in it. It would be illogical to have any sort of negative emotional response to his absence on Terra.”

"Souvenirs, too, are illogical, and yet...” She held up her yellow scarf.

“You are human,” Spock excused.

“A Vulcan is the one who bought it. What logical explanation do you have for that?” When he didn’t reply right away, she said, “Exactly. He bought it because I asked for it. Sarek is very, very Vulcan, Spock. If he feels, why would you not?”

“He does not feel.” Spock said. “If he felt, he would not have-“ he clamped his mouth shut.

“He would not have…?”

“I have said too much.”

“No, not nearly enough.” She sighed. “You were going to say something about Sybok.”

Spock pressed his lips together.

“Spock… Sybok made his choices. Sarek couldn’t make them for him.”

“He did not have to stand by and watch as Sybok was banished, either.”

“You know full well that Sybok was asking for it,” Michael said.

“He was asking only to be heard. To be understood.”

Michael frowned. “… Is that what you want?”

“I am already heard,” Spock insisted. He turned back over.

“But understood?” Michael prodded. “It is a rare thing, to be understood.”

“I have been understood.”

“By Kirk?”

He stubbornly refused to answer.

“I would miss him too,” she said, “If someone knew me like I think Kirk knew you… I would miss them, quite fiercely.”

Spock curled into himself tighter.

“Spock…” Michael reached up and over his shoulder, pushing his bangs out of his eyes. “What is really going on?”

“There is nothing going on.”

“Then why is T’Pau coming to the house tomorrow?”

“It is none of your concern.”

“None of my concern?” Michael repeated. “You are my brother. You are my concern.”

He said, “It is a Vulcan matter.”

She sat up. “Spock,” she said, seriously. “Look at me.”

He sat up as well, turning to face her.

“You are behaving outside of your usual peramiters.”

He looked down at his lap.

“I have never seen you in pain such as this.” She narrowed her eyes. “Is it T’Pring?”

“She has done nothing wrong.”

“I have noticed you did not answer my question, but avoided it.”

“The fault is mine alone,” Spock whispered.

“Fault?” She craned her head down, to stare up under his bangs.

He looked away from her.

“You cannot hide the truth anymore than you can hide yourself.”

“You are bothering me. Leave.”

Michael raised a brow. She’d gotten nearly as good at it as any Vulcan. “And what business are you conducting that I am bothering? What is it that I have interrupted?”

“It is no matter-“

“It is the matter.”

“It is not-“

“Spock, I see through you as one sees through gl-“

Finally, he exploded, “It is not your place!”

She jerked back from him as though burned, eyes wide.

He felt his eyes widen of their own accord. He reached up to touch his traitorous lips. Had he really raised his voice at her? “Forgive me,” he breathed. His voice sounded alien to his ears. “I had not intended to shout.”

“You are forgiven,” she said, easily.

“I am…” His face twisted in pain. “I am alone.”

“Alone?”

He raised a hand to his temple. “It is not easy to explain.”

“Show me.”

He looked at her, quickly. She was leaning towards him face-first, eyes steady with a challenge.

Spock said, “You have previously expressed displeasure in regards to the mind-meld.”

“My displeasure is outweighed by the need to see to the end of your pain.”

“I will do nothing to make you feel-“

“Spock,” she said. “It would be illogical to say something I do not mean.”

“If… if you are certain.” He reached up, slowly, to touch her face.

She closed her eyes.

It was not like it was with Jim. It never was; no two minds were alike, and no meld between another could be comparable. Still, there was the definite human ‘flavor’ to her mind that remained familiar.

Melding with her was like a free-fall. A collection of dusty wings, a fluttering sensation of silk against his face, a smell like roasted almonds and blinding, glittering gold scales flashing around him. He slipped past her most recent memories, all of which were floating on the surface of her mind- her promotion to lieutenant, the feeling of the yellow scarf against her skin, the beautiful curve of Vulcan’s surface as the ship came closer and closer to landing.

He pulled away from the grab of her thoughts, feeling them soaking into his skin and shifting against him like Tavasse tree oil. For a moment he nearly panicked, consumed as he was by her intelligence and speed of thought, but he reminded himself that it was always so with her, and that as she steadied herself and grasped the meld it would calm. She would release him.

She did, moments later. He felt darkness.

“Oh, Spock,” she thought.

He cold feel her in his mind, running her fingers through the cold sands of his lonesomeness. He nearly winced at her total comprehension, unable to help but feel vulnerable. It was a challenge to keep their minds anchored together; Michael’s thoughts were sound and swirling, like a tide pool, and they clashed with the neatly organized shelving of his mind. Still, he held them together, aware both at once of the him in Michael’s mind and the him sitting on his bed, hand pressed gently to her face.

I understand now,” she thought. “You can let go.”

He did. Coming out of the meld made him gasp for breath, as if surfacing from underwater. He took in a deep breath to clear his head, just as Michael surged forward to wrap her arms around him.

“I am sorry, Spock,” she said.

“It is illogical to be sorry for that which is not your fault.”

“It is logical to connect empathetically to another to ensure their continued well-being.”

“…”

“I am sorry, my brother, for the pain you feel.” She said. “I did not know it was so painful to be alone within one’s mind. I am always alone in my head, but it… it does not feel like that.”

“It is so for Vulcans,” Spock said.

“Why is T’Pring cutting you off like this?”

“I will become used to it,” Spock said. “I have been able to keep in fleeting mental contact with mother, but…”

“It’s nothing like it used to be,” she said. “Not nearly as it was with Kirk.”

“Yes.” Spock pulled away from her, frowning. “The connection Jim and I share is… unconventional. We have melded without meaning to, when we share physical contact. I had not anticipated missing our yearly interludes quite so.”

“Sometimes that is just how things are,” she said. “You do not realize how much they matter until suddenly they do. It is difficult to explain.” She fell back on the bed next to him, neatly crossing her arms over her stomach. “He will come back, Spock.”

“I am seventeen years of age,” Spock said. “By the time he has returned from Tarsus I will have already begun my career.”

“You said he is destined for Starfleet.” She said. “Maybe you two will be put on the same ship together.”

Spock shifted uncomfortably and did not answer. Michael noticed immediately.

Her eyes narrowed, “Just because I was not granted a seat on the Vulcan Science Embassy does not mean you should seek admittance in my place. Sarek does not require the presence of his offspring on the council, he only requests it.”

Spock said, “It is logical-“

“It is not,” Michael said. “You are aware that my regard for Sarek far exceeds that which I carry for any other. However. There is no reason to be what he wants you to be- you should be as you are. If you feel your destiny lies with the Vulcan Science Academy, then it is a different matter. If you wish to go to Starfleet, though…”

“Father has lost already one son,” Spock said. “He wishes for one to walk his path, to take his legacy. You have made the choice to turn to Starfleet now. How many officers from the planet Vulcan do they need?”

“As many as can make it,” she said. “Spock. Sarek is… Vulcan. Logical, and stuck to tradition. His father had a seat in the Vulcan Science Embassy, and his mother, and her father before her. For generations it’s continued. But not all traditions need to be carried out. Sarek’s father found himself a Vulcan wife, and his father, and all the fathers going all the way back until the dawn of time… And that was a tradition buried in logic. And yet, Sarek still chose to follow his heart and bound himself to Amanda. And he may speak of logic all he wants, but in the end, he broke from tradition because he wanted to.”

Spock said, “That is different.”

“It is not,” she said. “It is a choice about where and with whom you will be spending the rest of your life with. And Spock…” Her eyes flickered away from his. “I do not wish to miscommunicate with you. Know what I say, I say only out of my regard for you. Spock… the people here are cruel to you. Do you really think you could commit yourself to a lifetime surrounded by the peers that mocked you in your youth? If you remain, it is what you will find.”

“It would be illogical to-“

“Suffer? Chose Sarek’s expectations over your own happiness?”

Spock sighed. “Michael.”

“I know you do not wish to hear these things.”

He said, “I did not say that.”

“You did not have to.” She sat up neatly and then stood. She made her way to the door, stepped out of his room, and then paused there. “I ask that you… think about what I have said. And what Kirk has said, and your mother. Consider even Sybok’s words. We all wish you to be happy, Spock.”

“I will… consider your words,” he said, finally.

“Good.” She gently closed the door, and was gone then.

Spock was alone once more.

 


 

 

“There are many problems which the bond has created for me,” T’Pring said, easily. “I have compiled a list.” She handed of a PADD to T’Pau

The old woman took the PADD and nodded. “I see.”

“I believe I am not the only one with concerns,” T’Pring gave Spock a look.

He held back a sigh. “You are not,” he said. “Though my concerns are not so numerous as your own.”

“You say that Spock allowed another to touch your mind.” T’Pau frowned severely. “Spock. Is this true?”

“If it is, I would not be able to confirm so.” He said, “However, the presence T’Pring has described to me is one that I have let into my mind.”

T’Pau’s brows rose. “You melded with another?”

“It was not intentional,” Spock said.

“That is impossible,” said T’Pau. “Explain to me the circumstances.”

Spock said, “The person is named James Kirk. He and I are companions, and we often spend our nights together. It would be illogical to find separate accommodations, so we most often share a bed when we retire. Neither my bed nor his are very big, and often time we come into physical contact whilst sleeping. Several times this has resulted in our minds melding, albeit shallowly, without either of our intending it.”

T’Pau said, “Strange, indeed. Are there others who have come into contact with you whilst sleeping?”

“Affirmative,” Spock said. “None have ever melded with me as Jim has.”

She nodded. “And these melds. They are.. functional?”

“They are,” Spock said. “The melds we have shared have been remarkably structured and clear, especially when taking his human physiology into account.”

“I see,” she said. “Perhaps this is due in part to your hybrid status.”

“I had thought as much,” Spock said.

“You sister is human, is she not?”

“She is. As is my mother.”

“And this phenomenon has not accorded with either of them?”

“Negative,” Spock said. “Jim is the only one.”

“Then it would be logical to assume he is part of this equation. I have heard of circumstance such as these, but-“ she cut herself off, waving her hand. “It is of no importance. He is human- I would think it not to be.”

Spock nodded.

“We will proceed,” T’Pau said. “The both of you have logical reasons to dissolve the bond. Is this correct?”

“Yes,” said Spock.

“Affirmative,” said T’Pring.

T’Pau nodded. “You both understand the full implications of breaking this bond?”

“Yes,” said T’Pring.

“Affirmative,” said Spock.

“Then there is no logic in your continued marriage.” T’Pau held her gnarled hands out before her. “Kneel before me,” she said. “And we will begin the meld.”

Spock knelt, watching as T’Pring did the same next to him. She clasped her hands before her stomach and closed her eyes, waiting.

Icy fingers touched his face. Spock surpressed the urge to shrink back from his grandmother’s touch, forcing himself to remain where he was.

She did not even need the words.

When Spock opened his eyes, he was standing, which confused him. Melds with Vulcan kind did not manifest so physically, and it did not make sense that his mind had presented itself in such a form. He looked to his side, where T’Pring was standing equally confused.

He opened his mouth to ask what had gone wrong when he caught sight of him. A flash of blond hair, and the loud crunch of an apple. He felt his eyes go wide as he turned.

“Jim.”

Jim turned around. He was wearing sunglasses, and a hat, and a t shirt with the words “Terran-it-UP,” which Spock was admittedly confused about. Jim hurriedly hid the apple he’d been eating behind his back, and then stared for a moment, his brows raised above the rims of his glasses.

“Oh hey,” the human said. “Spock. Angry woman.”

Spock felt T’Pau join them, inserting herself between his body and T’Prings. The old woman stared on impassively, as if the sight before her was to be expected. T’Pring took the opportunity as it presented itself.

“This is the one,” she said. “The boy who touched my mind through Spock’s.”

Spock was baffled.

T’Pau turned to him. “Is this only your mind’s adaptation of him, Spock?”

“I do not know.” Spock said. He’d never presented his mind in a manner such as he was but to Jim, but there was a possibility he was longing so intensely for his friend that he’d manifested it within his mind as a solid part of his person. And yet… “Jim?”

Jim took a step forward, bending down to peer up underneath Spock’s bangs. He grinned, and Spock was struck with the realization that he’d forgotten how perfect Jim’s smile was.

“Wow,” Jim said. “Check out my imagination. I must be getting delirious out there- you look amazing.”

There was no way he was making Jim up. He wouldn’t have accounted for Jim’s extra height, or the shirt that Jim wore now. He turned to T’Pau, certain. “I have not rendered this.”

T’Pau turned towards Jim. “Your name, human?”

Spock turned to see what Jim would do in response.

“James T. Kirk,” He said, and grinned. “Nice to meet you little old lady that lives in my subconscious.”

Spock was appalled.

Jim blundered on, tipping his hat. “Though I guess, this would be Spock’s subconscious. Hope he doesn’t mind me borrowing it.”

Spock’s brows furrowed. There was something off about Jim. The human had experienced mind-melds before; surely he’d recognize what was happening. Had they somehow pulled a dream-state Jim into the meld, across the universe? And even if so, how? How could Jim be there are all?

“He is confused,” T’Pau recognized. “It matters not. We will proceed.”

It was important to him to know if Jim had really touched T’Pring’s mind. Maybe they three had entangled themselves, somehow.

“Jim,” Spock said, “Do you recognize this person?” He gestured to T’Pring.

Jim hardly paid the question any heed, looking around in apparent interest. “Yeah. Can we go do something? Don’t really want to waste a dream on this.”

“Please cooperate,” Spock said. He wasn’t certain what was happening, but in the end, they hadn’t come into his mind to investigate his connection to Jim. They were there only to separate his mind from T’Pring’s.

Jim shrugged. “Sure.”

“You recognize her,” Spock repeated. If Jim had managed to touch T’Pring’s mind, it would make no sense for her meld with him to occur in the same manner as Spock’s. “How can this be?”

“Easy. One time when we melded I just walked over to her house and knocked on the window. She was pissed off, though.”

The house. His connection to T’Pring. Jim had simply… walked over to it? Spock didn’t know what to make of it. He was, honestly, still stunned by Jim’s sudden presence in his head.

“Now you see.” T’Pring said. “Spock has admitted to it, as well as this human. He has melded with another, and even from across the universe their minds are still linked. I have had my mind touched through my bond to Spock, without my consent. This is beyond the agreement struck between our parents, and I ask that our bond be broken.”

Spock nodded himself. Shameful as it was, it was true, and even without their lists of grievances, it was enough to break the bond. He had dirtied it by exposing T’Pring through a meld with another. It was not supposed to be possible- the mating bond between them was suppose to be untouchable by another. Only advanced healers and their matriarch, who had spun the bond to begin with, should have been able to interact with it. That he had somehow lead Jim to it…

“Um, sorry if I… broke a rule.” Jim said, awkwardly.

“James Kirk,” T’Pau said, slowly. “You understand now that you are connected to Spock? It is not the way of our people.”

Spock looked sharply to her.

“Yeah,” Jim shrugged. “So what? It makes us happy, so…” Then he laughed. “I’m really so hung up on him that I’m fighting make-believe Vulcans over our friendship? Hello? What universe is this?”

“Matriarch,” Spock interjected. Jim’s words were nonsensical, and furthermore, revealed he didn’t understand anything of bonds. Spock himself did not know what his grandmother meant when she referenced the connection he and Jim shared. More than that, though, something about Jim was off. “He is not himself. There is something amiss.”

“It is no business of mine, Spock.” She said. “T’Pring, you have made thy case. What say you, Spock?”

Spock looked down at his feet. Of course they wouldn’t care to figure out what was happening with Jim, when they had come for one reason alone. “If T’Pring wishes our bond to be broken, so be it.”

“What?” Jim suddenly said. “Oh my god, I’m dying.”

The raw acceptance and pain in Jim’s voice sent a surge of adrenalin through Spock. He turned, quickly, to face Jim again, stepping forward. He lifted his hands to touch Jim, but stopped just short of it, uncertain. “Jim?”

“Like this is my. My atonement. My last good thing. I’m coming up with ways to make you happy and prove to myself you have other friends. This is it.”

Spock had just about made his mind up to reach out and touch Jim, no matter the reaction, but T’Pau said, “Spock. Lower your hands.”

Spock did. T’Pau stepped forward, and lifted her hand to Jim’s face without preamble.

Jim said, “Hey-“ but did not get farther than that before T’Pau drew back.

“He is not dying,” she said.

Spock saw something in her eyes that troubled him. “You are hiding something from me,” he said. “Something is wrong.”

“It is not my place,” T’Pau said. “Nor your bondmate’s, as she is soon to be removed of you.”

What choice did he have but to accept her words? He nodded and stepped away from Jim.

“James Kirk.” T’Pau said. “I am to break Spock’s mind from T’Pring’s. It is remarkable you would be here, for your connection was not foraged by another. It is very weak, and I understand neither you nor Spock are able to access it yourselves. It is only through my ability that we have drawn you here today, but even this is a great feet. The link you have foraged…”

“He knows nothing of these things,” Spock said- it sounded like she was trying to offer him a choice, or get his consent, and Spock didn’t even know what for. How could Jim give his word when he wouldn’t understand it either?

“It is his right.” She said, firmly, like Jim’s word meant anything without knowledge behind it. “James Kirk. Understand now that as I raze Spock’s mind of another, it is likely what small ties you have may snap. This is the way of things.”

Spock winced. There was nothing to be done of it, though. It was no longer his choice, as the fault was inarguably his. T’Pring had the right to be rid of him, and now, so did Jim.

“Whatever,” Jim said. “Just because you’re breaking their friendship up doesn’t mean that you can break me and Spock up. We’re best friends, and even if you tell me some horrible secrets about him, I’m still gonna love him.”

Spock pressed his mouth into a thin line. He was crushed by the war between Jim’s affection for him and the situation they had been thrust into.

“You do not understand,” T’Pua said. “It is not our place to teach you.” She gave Spock an accusatory glare.

“I was unaware of these things which only T’Pring knew of until now.” He looked down at the sand, wishing he’d had time to tell Jim more. Wishing he’d know about their apparent connection sooner. “I had not known there was a connection between myself and Jim.”

“Pssh. Liar. You know we’re besties.” Jim smiled at him, and then leaned against the fence. “If this is the introduction to purgatory, you’re gonna have to do a lot better than that to hurt my feelings. You bought me poetry, Spock. Poetry!”

T’Pring turned to raise her brow at him. He knew very well what that look meant.

“As I said,” Spock ground out. He knew he was blushing and hated himself for it. “He is unaware.”

“The matter is closed.” Said the T’Pau. “T’Pring has asked to be broken from you, and you have acquiesced. The ceremony will begin now.”

“Sweet,” said Jim. He pulled an apple from behind his back and brought it to his lips.

Spock stared at him, flabbergasted.

Jim continued on, nonsensically. “I am like. High. Pretty far gone right now. Oh look, bells.”

Spock knew the bells Jim spoke of. They were hung up all around his connection to T’Pring; a memory brought to life. The bells were that of tradition, of all bonds, broken and solid, old and new. They rang in time together; ancient instructions that Spock and T’Pring followed instinctually. They turned to T’Pau, eyelids fluttering shut. 

When T’Pau put her hand on Spock’s face, it was warm, and strong- a reflection of her mind.

“Parted now and never parted,” she began, “Never touching, never to be touched. My mind to your minds. My thoughts-“

To your thoughts.

 


 

 

Spock had never felt so ill in his life. He’d been in bed for a week, feverish and nauseated. His head pounded constantly, and when his mother or Michael brought him bowls of plomeek soup, he couldn’t help but drag the back of his hands against the insides of their wrists, desperate for a small touch of mental contact.

Amanda smiled sadly and ran a hand through his hair, “My wonderful son,” she’d say, and sigh. “I am sorry it had to be this way.”

Michael would fix his mused hair and say, “Nothing lasts forever- not even pain.”

Except that it did feel like it was going to last forever.

His father had avoided him for most of the week, more sensitive to the agony leaking from Spock’s mind. By the end of the week he appeared in Spock’s room very late, when the rest of the house was sure to be sleeping.

Spock rolled over on his futon, the sheets twisted around his legs. Vulcans did not dream, and yet Spock was plagued by images of pain and hunger, of another Vulcan’s hands running up a tanned, aristocratic arm, his ex-wife’s smile gentled by love. So many things he had never wanted to see, all roiling about in his head…

“My son,” Sarek said. He sat on the edge of the futon and folded his hands in his lap. “I hear your agony from great distance. There must be something I can do to alleviate your pain.”

Spock shook his head. “There is nothing to be done,” he said.

“I know your pain,” said Sarek.

“You do not,” said Spock.

“You forget,” Sarek said, “That I was bound to another, before your mother.”

Spock had forgotten. He looked up.

“T’Rea and I were not a match,” he said. “We did not intend to solidify the bond, and she left very shortly after we had begun to live together to pursue kolinahr. Her death disturbed me greatly. From lightyears away I still felt her loss as if it were a physical thing.”

Spock said, “I had not known.”

“I would have not told you,” Sarek said. “It was not relevant information until now.”

Spock closed his eyes.

“Never would I have wished a broken bond upon you, my son.” Sarek reached out carefully, placing his hand over Spock’s knee. “Though I know that the both of you had logical reasons to separate, I understand that such mental toll would be enormous to one of your youth. Your mother, when she heard you were to be bonded to T’Pring, expressed her great displeasure.”

“She did not understand,” Spock said.

“She did not,” Sarek agreed. “For one of our people to be alone such as you are now is a thing of brutality. I do know that the wound will heal with time, but it is not the natural way of our race. The stability of another mind within ones’ own is what has anchored our species in logic since the time of Surak. It is what has made our marriage to logic a thing of nature. There is no shame in this, Spock. Your pain is an ancient one.”

Spock said, “… Your words mean much to me.”

“This is as I had intended,” Sarek said. “It has been suggested that you and T’Pring might meet, to aid in your healing. She suffers as you do, my son.”

“I have no desire to see her,” Spock said.

“It is illogical to avoid that which might heal you.”

Spock closed his eyes. “If you believe…”

“I know,” Sarek said.

Spock nodded. “Then I will do as you ask.”

 


 

 

T’Pring sat down on the couch next to Spock, her demeanor unshaken. He would almost have believed she was completely unaffected, but the sweat beading on her forehead and upper lip gave her away.

“Spock,” she said.

“T’Pring.”

“How are you faring?”

“I am unwell,” Spock said. “Yourself?”

“I am similarly dispositioned.”

They sat in silence for a moment. Amanda had left the living room to make tea.

“How is your James Kirk?” T’Pring asked.

Spock said, “I would not know.”