James Tiberius Kirk had been born under an unlucky star. That is, he would have been if he had believed in astrology at all. In reality he knew that stars were just giant, burning balls of incandescent gas, hurtling around space in a never ending dance, providing life and taking it away. If a planet were too close, and without a thick enough atmosphere, the entire surface would burn. If it were too far away, it would be a wasteland, completely incapable of supporting life. It wasn't the stars that dictated the tragedy in Kirk's life, it was the cruelty of people. His father had been a great man. He was Captain for only eight minutes, but he saved eight hundred lives, at the cost of his own. It had happened on the same day as James' birth.
As if losing a parent before he even had a chance to know them wasn't bad enough, Jim grew up living in his father's shadow. Every mistake he made, every opportunity that he missed, was just another excuse to compare him to George. His mother had always been the worst. Every day he grew up to be more and more like her husband, and every day it killed her a bit more.
When Jim was nine his mother almost remarried. The man was an abusive drunk, but he always agreed to stay home with the boys. It doesn't bear thinking about what would have happened if Christopher Pike hadn't shown up one day. He heard the screaming and the fighting and kicked the door in as Frank had raised his fist to Sam while Jim cowered in the corner.
Winona may have been a distracted mother, but there was nothing that she wouldn't have done for her sons, or the man who saved them. So the Kirks became the Pikes for a while, and things were good. Pike was a Starship Captain, and a well-respected one at that. When Jim was fifteen, he was promoted to Admiral ahead of schedule due to excellent service to the fleet. Unfortunately for James, this meant that his life, that had at one point finally settled into obscurity, was soon to become filled with important people, and functions and society. He had forgotten what it was like to be in the spotlight. He had forgotten how much he hated it. Soon, he wasn't just Jim Pike, the Captain's step son, he was James T. Kirk, youngest son of the heroic George Kirk, and step-son of Admiral Christopher Pike.
Any choice that he might have had in his future was lost. He was going to attend the Academy, he was going to accompany his mother and stepfather to society balls, important diplomatic functions, and be constantly under the watchful eye of the general public.
He had attempted to get away by volunteering to be a Young Ambassador on Tarsus IV. His mother and Pike had thought that it was a great idea. At least it had been, until the Kodos incident. Once again, Jim's unlucky star placed him on the wrong side of Kodos' selected groups. His allergies and general scrawny nature had him tossed from the genetic pile, starved and then herded with others like cattle to the slaughter. Fortunately, being born unlucky had hardened Jim; he was resourceful, he hid, scrounged for food, saved as many other children as he could. By the time the Federation got there, four thousand people had died, and Jim had almost been one of them.
For anyone else this would have been a sign, an opportunity to turn his life around, to stop playing truant, to stop getting into fights and drinking underage. For Jim, it was just another chapter in his life that was being dictated by some higher power. For anyone else, the whole thing would have been a godsend. For Jim it was just a reminder of who he had lost, and the little Iowa farm-boy he would never have the chance to be again.
He was sorely reminded of this fact once again as he tugged at the collar of his dress shirt. It was fastened tightly with an ornate clasp, but he had refused to wear the ridiculous cravat. It was bad enough that he had to wear the stiff jacket, its old fashioned buttons and trim cut making it incredibly difficult to sit comfortably.
His mother swatted his hand away from his neck and gave him a pointed look.
"I don't see why I have to wear this stupid thing! I don't see why I have to be here at all! Sam isn't here, if I have to be here dressed like a complete idiot, why doesn't he?" Jim grumbled petulantly.
His mother smiled tightly, "Because, Jim dear, your brother is married and living on another planet. You are hopelessly single and still living at home. The least you can do is come to the functions Christopher and I are invited to. It does always specify you are invited too."
Jim looked at her incredulously, "I'm not hopelessly single!"
Pike laughed at that, "You have to admit, he's never short of a pretty girl on his arm. Or guy … or androgyne..."
Winona harrumphed giving her husband another of her famous looks. “They do not count. That reputation of yours is the reason you still get invited, you know. Like it or not, you are a handsome boy-" She looked at him and sighed, "Okay, a handsome man, and there are quite a few eligible men and women who are interested in you. Lord knows why, with the way you act, Jim!"
Jim raised a brow. "Stuffy Federation functions aren't exactly the ideal place to pick up a date, Mom. I prefer bars and coffee shops. Sometimes the odd motor derby..."
His mother threw her arms into the air exasperatedly, looking at her husband in despair.
Pike shook his head. "You know, Jim, I hate these ridiculous costumes too. And, yes, these things are stuffy, and samey, and they're always full of the same stuck up people-"
"Christopher!" Winona interjected, "You aren't helping!"
"If you'd give me a second to finish what I was saying, dear." he replied, dryly. "They may be full of the same stuck up people, but this is where you can make connections. Connections are some of the greatest assets in a young cadet's career. How do you think we even got the Academy to look at your application? It sure wasn't due to your spotless record."
Jim coughed and scratched the back of his neck self-consciously.
"It's because of me, your mother, and the fact that you're George Kirk's son."
Winona's eyes strayed to the window of the car, fixed on some point in the near distance, glassy and unfocused. Eighteen years later and she still couldn't hear his name.
Jim swallowed thickly, looking anywhere but at his mother. “My GPA may have something to do with it too, you know.”
Pike’s expression softened. “You’re a smart kid, Jim. I guess I’m just glad you’ve decided to do something with your life. There was a while where we weren’t sure you were going to make it out of school, let alone into the Academy.” He glanced briefly at his wife, whose gaze had moved from the window to her son, studying his face with a sadness that she didn’t even try to hide.
"Jim, dear.” She said quietly. “I know you think that have all the time in the world, but you're not getting any younger. If … if your father's death could teach you anything it's that life is short. Find someone to care about and spend as much time with them as possible. Do everything you want, achieve everything you can. You never know when you'll have to say goodbye."
Jim sat silently for a few moments, his mother’s words playing in his head. He had never really found anyone he wanted to settle down with. Frankly, settling down sounded like the worst possible scenario for him. He only agreed to apply to Starfleet because it would mean the greatest escape of all. He wanted to see the stars. He wanted to explore, see all of the strange, new places that the universe had to offer. It was the only advantage to this whole thing. Being an Iowa farm-boy was all well and good, but a farm-boy never got to see the stars. Only ever in the night sky, and there was so much more out there than Earth could ever offer him.
"I'll just never get attached then. Saves me the hassle. I'll become a Captain, be married to my ship, the crew can be my family and I never have to set foot in another fucking ballroom ever again." he said with a grin.
Pike rolled his eyes, a sad smile playing over his features.
"Just try not to make a scene this time, and we'll call it quits, okay?"
The San Francisco Starfleet Headquarters made quite the ballroom. Swathes of glass and gleaming chrome reflected the lights and the bright colours of the costumes and garments of the guests, making the room shimmer and shine. The floor was polished granite, glittering with flecks of quartz and biotite and feldspar. The ceiling was high and towards the back was a second floor room, a wall of glass looking over the ballroom, connected to the floor with a twisting staircase.
The various Federation dignitaries were dressed to the nines, the current Terran fashion being long sleeved jackets, closely tailored with high collars, in dark colours with bright buttons and embellishments. Jim himself was wearing a dark blue jacket and trousers with brass buttons and a sharp, white dress shirt. He hated it.
He tugged at his collar again, pausing to look around the room. His eyes scanned the crowd, a smile growing on his face, until it was stretched out into an almost gleeful grin as his eyes settled on a figure in the crowd. Standing across the room from them was a man, a good six years older than Jim, with dark brown hair, just a little bit scruffy, but cleanly shaven. Jim chuckled; he had actually shaved, you could tell it was an important event.
"Leonard! What a pleasure to see you here!" Pike said, shaking the man's hand vigorously.
The man smiled lopsidedly, "Admiral, great to see you again."
He kissed Winona on the cheek with an affectionate smile, before walking over to Jim, who was grinning again, broadly. He clasped the man on the shoulder.
"Bones! God, I'm so glad you're here!"
Bones laughed, "Likewise, kid, I hate these things."
"Why are you here?" he said as they walked over to the bar.
"Free booze and plenty of women?" he offered. Jim smirked and shook his head, leaning over the bar. "Nah, since Jocelyn left me I've needed to find a new occupation, things like this give me a great opportunity to meet people. I'm still considered a respected doctor in some circles, and if I'm good, I may get a new life out of this farce."
Jim chuckled, flashing a smile at the bartender and beckoning her over. He ordered two Saurian Brandies and passed one to Bones.
The affair wasn’t exactly to Jim’s tastes but the music was jovial and the place was bright and full of life. Jim felt a warm satisfaction settle over him, although that may have had more to do with the alcohol and the company than the setting.
The doctor was snorting into his second brandy over a story of one of Jim's most recent conquests, and the chaos that ensued once he discovered that she was married to a Hekaren Mafia boss, when the music stopped suddenly, the room falling all but silent, a gentle whisper of voices carrying through the air. Sure enough, standing in the entranceway of the Headquarters was a small group of tall, slender people in long, ornate robes.
"I'll be." Bones breathed.
The Vulcans were nothing like Jim had ever seen before. Living in San Francisco meant that he had come across a fair few aliens in his time. Feisty Orion women were some of his favourites, green skin and dark eyes and the way they moved their bodies...
Jim shook the thoughts from his head. This was not the time for things like that.
Vulcans weren't anything like the Orions, yet they were equally as entrancing, albeit for entirely different reasons. They were all taller than Jim, and elegant in their stature. Their skin was pale and tinged green, it would have look pallid and sickly on a human, but on a Vulcan it just seemed to glow. The contrast of their skin and their dark, glossy hair, cut at severe angles, gave them an unapproachable aura. Their slanted eyebrows and pointed ears just adding to their sharp, ethereal look.
"Wow." Jim muttered under his breath.
Bones nudged his elbow and pointed towards another figure, her dark skin a welcome, warm change from the Vulcans', walking over to the group. Her dress was fitted closely, hugging her slender curves. It was a deep claret colour, the neckline was asymmetrically cut and there was a long, suggestive slit down one side of the skirt that revealed a sliver of the most incredible leg. Her hair was bundled up on top of her head in a high ponytail, held together with a set of gold rings. She was almost as exquisite as the Vulcans themselves.
She lowered her head in greeting, and they lowered theirs in return. Jim couldn't hear what they were saying but even if he had been able to, he could never have discerned what they were thinking, their faces blank and cold, completely void of any emotion.
The music started up again as the woman moved around the room, introducing the Vulcans to various guests. Jim's eyes followed them as they went. There was something entrancing about them. Their entire demeanour was so different to everything Jim knew. Jim was full of passion. Everything he did relied on his gut and his charm. Vulcans were more alien than any alien he had ever encountered. They were untouchable, cold angels drifting through the room. Sublime deities.
The woman stopped in front of them, her earrings jingling lightly as she turned to introduce the Vulcans who were stood behind her.
"Admiral Pike, this is Stonn, T'Pring and the Ambassador's son S'chn T'gai Spock." Uhura said, gesturing lastly to the Vulcan on the left, closest to Jim.
T'Pring was a slight woman, not as tall as her companions but twice as haughty for it. She had an air of superiority about her that made Jim bristle. Her hair was plaited and twisted on top of her head, the length of it cascading down the right side of her face. She was a striking figure, and stunningly beautiful even by Human standards, but there was something cold and detached about her that made even the bravest of men in the room too wary to approach her.
Stonn's face was softer than either Spock's or T'Pring's, his features indiscernibly gentler, but he held himself in a manner that disregarded this. His gaze was steely and his tone curt, he wasn't as cold in his manner as T'Pring, but he had a stony composure that, once again, put off even the most determined socialites.
Spock was equally as composed, his face as blank as the others', his cupids-bow lips set in a solemn line. Yet there was something in his melanic eyes, and Jim couldn't quite put his finger on it. That something glinted at him, almost hidden amongst his stereotypically Vulcan features, and Jim found his mouth quirking just a little as he returned the bow in greeting.
"Thank you, Nyota." Spock said to the woman, before turning to Pike. "I apologise for the absence of my father. He was unable to attend this evening, but sends his greetings."
"Dif-tor heh smusma." Pike replied, and Spock bowed his head again in acknowledgement.
"This is my wife Winona, Doctor McCoy, a family friend, and this is James Kirk."
Stonn's facial expression changed imperceptibly at the name. It was about as surprised an expression as the Vulcan could manage. "Kirk?"
Jim stiffened a little. "Yeah, exactly what you're thinking, but Jim'll do just fine."
T'Pring tilted her head so that she was looking down her nose at Kirk. "Jim." The word was spoken with so much disdain, it was as though it tasted foul in her mouth.
Kirk bristled again. There was something about T'Pring that really rubbed him up the wrong way. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it. It was something about her haughty air of self-importance that was just a little bit more Vulcan than her companions. He laughed inwardly, if there was one thing Jim Kirk didn’t need, it was for anyone to be more Vulcan.
The trio turned to Uhura, who had been talking quietly with McCoy, and said something soberly in Vulcan. She smiled and nodded.
"If you'll excuse us, we have to make our rounds." Uhura said, her eyes flitting to McCoy briefly, a small smile playing over her lips.
With that, the group left, making their way towards another gaggle of dignitaries.
"Yeah, pleased to meet you too." Jim muttered under his breath.
Spock's sternly angled eyebrows twitched a little, and if Jim hadn't known any better he would have said that the Vulcan had heard him.
Bones dug his elbow into Jim's ribs, whispering out of the side of his mouth, "Jim, the last thing we need is for you to start anything with the Vulcans. We all know what happened with the Andorian ambassador in June."
Jim laughed. That had been a night to remember. He had almost caused an all-out war by hitting on one of the androgynes, mixing up genders and making some fairly obtuse and raunchy comments after a few too many Cardassian Sunrises.
Jim danced a lot that evening. There were several very pretty Terrans, a blonde bombshell of an Ardanan, a beautiful, dark skinned Haliian and an entrancing Denobulan male in amongst them. He was particularly taken by the Risian he stumbled across at the bar. He had dark hair and bright, intelligent eyes, and a laugh that made Jim's stomach turn molten with want. Any other night and he'd have left with him. Unfortunately, it wasn't any other night. He was being observed.
So Jim pressed a kiss to the Risian's cheek, whispering a promise of a future meeting in his ear, and made his way over to Bones, who was standing at the edge of the room.
"Have you asked her yet?" Jim said jovially.
Bones started. "Asked who what?"
"Tall, dark and gorgeous over there. You know, the one talking to the pointy eared assholes." Jim replied, leaning in and nudging McCoy as he said it.
Bones snorted and took a swig of whisky. "Yeah, like she'd want to dance with me. I'm old enough to be her dad!"
Jim rolled his eyes, "Yeah, grandpa, that's why she keeps looking over here.” McCoy shot him a look and he threw up his hands defensively. “Hey, it sure 'ain't for me, I've only just got here."
Uhura and the Vulcan, Spock, were walking in each other’s company, meandering through the crowd. Spock was wearing his customary disinterested expression, while Uhura talked animated about something.
Jim nudged his companion. “Look, Bones, they’re coming this way. If you miss this chance, you’ll regret it and you know it!”
The doctor looked over at her unsubtly, downed the remainder of his whisky, handing the glass to Jim, and walked over to her. The Vulcan seemed displeased at his approach but Uhura’s face lit up. She tried, unsuccessfully, to calm her burgeoning smile.
"May I have this dance, Miss Uhura?" McCoy said, his southern drawl fueled with Dutch courage, and the considerable bought of nerves he was suffering from.
The young woman smiled brightly. “You may, Doctor.” she said as he took her hand in his. Her voice was rich and silky, and Jim had to admit, she was incredibly beautiful, in a slightly terrifying way. She looked as though she would be delicate and refined, but the more Jim saw of her, the more convinced he was that she was the kind of woman who could very definitely look after herself. Bones grinned back at Jim as he lead her onto the dance floor.
Jim chuckled as he watched them go. It was good to see him taking the initiative for once, and if he was right about Uhura, she could be exactly what Leonard needed.
The music was loud and bright and lively, and Jim found his feet tapping as he stood by the side of the room, nursing his own whisky. He was approached by a few other dancers, but he declined them all. As catchy as the music was, his feet were sore, and his stupid boots weren't helping. He couldn't help noticing that none of the Vulcans seemed even slightly inclined to dance. In fact, no one even approached them to ask. Spock’s eyes followed Uhura and McCoy for a while, his brow twitching with displeasure. They then scanned the room for the other Vulcans, finding them both deep in conversation at the opposite side of the room. Then his eyes found Jim. They looked him up and down for a moment, dark meeting brilliant blue, just for a second before flickering back to the dancefloor.
The music wound down and a giddy Uhura made her way back to Spock, and McCoy wandered over to the bar.
"Don't you dance, Spock?" Jim heard her say, breathlessly.
Now that was a thought! He couldn't imagine the Vulcan dancing. He almost giggled at the image of the Vulcan standing stiffly while a buxom Orion woman grinded in front of him.
"I do not." he replied, eyeing her critically.
Her mood soon sobered under the Vulcan's glare. "There are some very beautiful women here tonight, aren't you at all interested?"
He cocked his head just a fraction to the side. "Does the fact that they're women have some extra significance?"
Uhura's eyes widened a little at this, "I'm sorry, I didn't realise you felt that way. There are some attractive men here as well."
He sighed, "You misunderstand me, Nyota. It is not that I find the males of a species any more appealing than the females, or vice versa, I am merely disinterested in general with this apparent need to find oneself a suitable mate. That is not how Vulcans go about such things."
Uhura almost giggled. "Oh Spock, I didn't mean you have to find your life partner here! It's just a dance. A bit of light-hearted fun!"
"So you do not see yourself with this Doctor McCoy you have been dancing with?"
Uhura blushed profusely at this, "What would give you that idea?"
"Given the lax way in which Terrans display their emotions, you appear to have a preference to this man above others you have danced with." he said, arching a brow.
Uhura shrugged with as much nonchalance as she could muster. "I guess. He's charming, good looking, and he treats me like a person, not a piece of meat or a notch on his bedpost. He's an older man. More distinguished."
Spock said nothing to this.
"What about you? Nobody catching your eye at all? I know that you aren't exactly on the hunt for a life partner, but Leonard's friend Kirk is attractive," Jim smiled, despite himself. "In an arrogant sort of way." The smile fell from Jim's face and his brow puckered into a frown.
Spock twitched, as though trying not to look in Jim's direction. "He is tolerable."
It was Uhura's turn to arch a slender brow. "Tolerable?” She said, a note of surprise in her voice. “Just tolerable? Not handsome enough even to ask for a dance?"
"Indeed." Spock said, curtly.
She glanced over at Kirk for a moment. "He's definitely attractive by Human standards, although not exactly my type."
Spock once again declined looking over in Jim's general direction. "I do not find him to be distracting in the way that several young men and women have found him to be this evening. I also do not make a habit of associating myself with promiscuous individuals."
Jim could have gaped. Uhura looked shocked, amusement clear on her features. She hid a smile with a delicate hand and excused herself, leaving the Vulcan, once again, to his own company.
They were sat quietly in the car on the way back from the ball when Pike clapped his hands together suddenly. Jim jerked awake from the half-slumber he had been in, his forehead resting on the cool glass of the car window. He was regretting that last bourbon. "So, Jim, your first meeting with Vulcans. What did you think?"
"They're stuck up, anally retentive assholes." Jim said lazily.
Pike's eyebrows shot up. "That's a bit drastic don't you think, Jim?"
Jim laughed and told them about the conversation he had overheard between Spock and Uhura.
"Well," Winona said turning to her son. "I don't think you’ve lost much there, Jim. He's a Vulcan as well, which would have driven you up the wall! I had the opportunity to work with a few when I was in the fleet. I've found that they think far too highly of themselves, as a race and as individuals. Very highly strung. That Spock is the Ambassador’s son as well, I bet he’s used to being treated like royalty on Earth. Your company would have come as shock.” She paused, and shook her head. “He just stood there, looking down on everyone with this holier-than-thou attitude, as if he were better than everyone else in the room! I always though Vulcans were polite, overly so, but polite all the same. He, on the other hand, was just plain rude. Textbook rude!"
Pike pursed his lips, but Winona gave her husband a pointed look and he said nothing.
"Not handsome enough to dance with!" she scoffed, "Calling Jim tolerable! If it weren't for their goddamn diplomatic necessity..."