"Mr Kirk," says the poor bastard assigned to teach Basic Principles of Vulcan. Jim wonders what he did. Teaching human cadets to say "My name is Bob" in Vulcan has to be the worst thing that one Vulcan could think of to do to another. "A word with you in my office."
Jim grimaces but stands up. "Yes, Commander Sakel," he says.
In his office, Sakel moves unhurriedly to the synthesizer and makes two cups of Vulcan tea, the type that tastes like limestone-infused grass and cinnamon. Jim sits uncomfortably on the chair in front of the desk and allows Sakel to put the tea in front of him. Sakel sits down behind the desk and takes a long sip of the tea. Jim reluctantly takes a sip of his as well, and discovers that Sakel has kindly added sugar to his cup. It's still beyond foul, but at least it's sweet and foul, and so just that more bearable. Sakel sets down his cup, steeples his hands together and pins Jim with a look like a laser. "It is logical to leave off your pin if you fear being recognized as a member of the Kelvin's crew," he says. "Failing to ascertain the teacher of Basic Principles of Vulcan strikes me as less illogical than foolish. I will allow that to be due to the lateness of your entry to the Academy and the dearth of teachers of Vulcan." He's speaking in formal Vulcan, like he always does to Jim. "Please elucidate your logic in registering for a class intended for speakers of Terran Standard with no experience in xenolinguistics or Vulcan grammar."
Jim slumps down in his chair a little and flips open his collar to display the tiny pin, dull mourning black, that matches Sakel's and marks them as members of one of the smallest groups in Starfleet -- crew and passengers from the last voyage of the Kelvin. "There was nothing else," tries Jim. Sakel gives him a really scary eyebrow. Jim says, in formal Vulcan, "It is illogical to take a course that I would have no interest in." Sakel keeps waiting, and Jim admits, "It would also be illogical to spend the time to explain how I knew Vulcan, and the other core languages were full, sir."
"I will allow part of your logic to stand," says Sakel. "However, I believe that you are not speaking the entire truth."
"Negative, sir," says Jim, cursing Vulcans heartily. He drops into Standard again. "Frankly speaking, sir, if Starfleet knew I could speak Vulcan --"
"And Klingon, and Tellarite, and Andorian," murmurs Sakel gently. Bastard. Klingon totally doesn't count, because all Jim can do is start a bar fight in it. Not that starting a bar fight in Klingon is very difficult. It's like basic Standard. Excuse me, where is the rest room? Excuse me, your father sucks dick on discount bulk rates. Nearly the same thing.
"If they knew," finishes Jim loudly, "I'd be put in Communications and I'm going to be in Command."
Sakel takes another sip of his tea, and thinks. "Your logic stands," he says finally. "Although it should be acknowledged that being in Communications will not logically preclude you from being a captain. Very well, Cadet, I will, as they say, 'strike a deal'."
Jim tries not to tense up, but deep in his monkey hind brain he knows that he's not going to like this 'deal' and that the alternative is going to be deeply unpleasant.
"I will allow you to stay in Basic Principles of Vulcan, and I will even teach you to simulate a Terran accent --" this was a huge favor, Jim knows, because Sakel hates Terran accents with as much venom as any vegan pacifist could hate anything, "-- and in return, you will agree to do all the work assigned, as assigned."
"And if I don't?" says Jim, deeply wary.
"Then I will go to the department head and tell them, I believe the term is, 'a touching story' about the bond among us all, the last of the Kelvin crew, and your language sets." Sakel doesn't even have the grace to look smug about cornering Jim like this.
Jim groans. It's bad enough getting hopeful little memos from Pike and professors who have seen his test scores about potential and honors tracks and testing out of the better part of two years of classes. If they find out he's any good at languages, he'll be flung into communications or diplomacy whether he likes it or not. And he's not going to put it past Sakel to unleash the rest of Jim's terrifying aunties and uncles from the Kelvin on him. "Your logic humbles me, uncle," he says reluctantly. "I accept your terms."
Sakel actually looks faintly pleased for a second, which makes Jim kind of want to go hide under a bed.
It was delta shift, Sakel remembered later, and a very quiet one. The Oregon was making a slow trip from Delta Vega back to Earth, not exactly looking for trouble, but there if there should be any. Everything had been so quiet that Sakel was working on his Vulcan grammar. He considered the merits of writing to Amanda Grayson and asking her opinion on some translations, but regretfully decided that it would not be logical, in the current stage of his researches, to solicit her opinion.
He only looked up from his work when the computer flashed a notice that the captain had a message for the crew. "Attention all hands," said the computer in Captain Ayres' voice. "We are being directed off course to meet up with the USS Potemkin. We will be receiving survivors from an emergency on Tarsus IV. The hospital ship Columba will also rendezvous with us at approximately 2100 ship's time. Ayres out." There was a silence for a minute and then lists of duties began to scroll across the screen, along with a general debriefing of the situation at hand, and a list of who they expected to receive on board. Sakel scanned through it quickly, but without much interest, until a name flashed out at him.
Kirk, James T, Terran, male, age 12.
It was illogical to hurry down to where they would beam aboard the refugees. They would not arrive for hours yet, and Sakel had no real relationship to the boy. "Computer, subspace communication, immediate delivery to Lt Winona Kirk. Start. Greetings, Lieutenant. This is Sakel of Vulcan, who served with you and your husband on the Kelvin. I am aboard the ship that your son is being transferred to. Do you wish for me to take responsibility of him until you arrive? End. Send. Alert when reply received."
"Acknowledged," said the computer.
Sakel went to his work station.
The reply, when it came, was short but grateful. Lt Kirk apologized deeply for the trouble he offered to put himself to but had no choice, as she was on the opposite side of the galaxy, other than accept his offer thankfully. Notice of this was being sent to applicable authorities by subspace radio and would be copied to James' information file, Sakel's data account and Captain Ayres.
When the child arrived, Sakel was deeply affected by the thinness of his frame -- the child was at least fifteen kilograms below his ideal weight, and even his hair hung, limp and coarse, over his too-thin face. It was clear that he had not had access to anything near enough nutrition for months, and he was among the healthiest of the survivors. The ones who were still in critical condition were being transfered to the Columba so Potemkin could return to the planet to start the grim, necessary job of shifting through evidence and decently burying or burning what they could. From what Sakel overheard, some of the rescuers thought that a planet-killer bomb would scarely suffice to cleanse the planet of the horrors there. One of the engineers spoke of wandering spirits.
Sakel had no opinion on the matter, having not seen it himself, but the Vulcan members of the Potemkin's crew were fighting hard to keep their control over their logic.
He was more concerned with the child. The child - Jim - was nearly unresponsive at first, although he consented to eat if food was placed in front of him and slept if escorted to a bed and ordered to do so. In all other things he was a feral wild thing, who would not speak to any but the other survivors. Even so, there was something tenacious and bright-spirited about him. It was like he was determined to live out of sheer desire to prove that he could not be broken.
The next day in class Sakel says, "The information in your PADDs requires updating. Please ready for data transfer." He repeats himself in Vulcan.
Jim watches in numb horror as the menu of his PADD suddenly sprouts a second syllabus in Vulcan, and, at guess, thirty texts named things like ORIGINAL SOURCES OF VULCAN CULTURE and THE INTERPLANETARY SOCIETY OF LITERATURE: THE YEAR IN REVIEW and PATHS OF KNOWLEDGE: TERRAN AND VULCAN LOGIC and, naturally, THE DIALECTS OF SURAK, IN THE ORIGINAL FORM. There's also a note, verging on smug, from Sakel, saying that if he's lost any of the material that he's sent him over the years, Sakel can resend to Jim's data account.
He taps open both syllabi and discovers that he is supposed to write "My name is __________. My hobbies are ________, _______, and ________. I joined Starfleet because ___________.When I graduate I hope to be posted at _______________. (EXTRA) My reason for learning Vulcan is _____________." in Simplified Vulcan, and (from the other syllabus) ten pages about the difference between Simplified and Standard Vulcan, and what it means in terms of Vulcan culture, interplanetary politics and relations, and why (Jim mentally translates) Simplified Vulcan is a bunch of horse shit that most Communications people desperately want to light on fire and dance widdershins around, not that Jim blames them. In formal, academic Vulcan.
"He's really dumping it on us," says a tiny girl with antenna next to him. Her voice is slightly hysterical, like she's just jumped in the water and it was about fifty feet deeper than she expected. "The textbook doesn't even start Vulcan letters until three chapters in!"
"Standard transliteration is acceptable," says Sakel, looming up behind them. "If you are unsure of your ability to write in Vulcan characters." A meaningful pause. "For this assignment."
Jim wonders if it's possible to kill a Vulcan with the sheer power of hate in your heart.
The child's physical condition improved, but as it did, his mental condition worsened. Sakel was not surprised. The body prioritized itself over mere psychic health - no good a healthy mind starving itself in a sick body. Jim began to withdraw more and more. Sakel was content to watch and wait for a few days, but then he witnessed Jim throwing his food across the room, and running out.
The nurse stood helplessly. "I just - we were just talking about his supplement," she said.
"I will attend to him," he said, bowing slightly in apology as he left the room. He stopped by a synthesizer long enough to request a meal bar and something resembling a chocolate bar, and then requested Jim's location from the ship's computer.
As he entered the observation deck, he saw Jim huddled up against the side of the transparent screen that displayed the stars. The lights were low. The Oregon was at warp and the stars shone eerie blue and red as they sped by.
"Jim," said Sakel.
The small figure curled more closely into itself. Sakel was struck by the way that Jim was pressed up against the transparent viewing window, as if he was trying to get closer to the stars. It was a moment's fancy, but the impression stayed with him. How strange that this child should turn to the stars for comfort.
"I am sorry to intrude on you," said Sakel, in a calm quiet voice, "but I have brought you food, and I would be obliged if you would eat it." He waited for a second. "It is illogical to refuse to follow the doctor's program."
Jim uncurled the slightest bit. "I don't like the supplement," he said.
"It does not look appetizing," agreed Sakel. "But you have been eating it for a week without complaint. May I inquire what has brought you to this change of behavior?"
Jim was quiet for a minute. "The nurses and the others - they're always talking to me like I don't understand the treatment or what happened," he said.
"That is discourteous of them," said Sakel, wondering again at the illogical behavior of humans. Obviously the child was intelligent and tough, else he would not have survived.
"They treat me like a little kid," said Jim. His voice broke resentfully, and he scrubbed his forearm against his eyes.
Sakel gave this the consideration that it deserved. Of course Jim felt emotionally about it, but it was truth to him, and Sakel was too old to not acknowledge it. "There is truth in your statement," he said. "Your age, combined with the emotional impact of these events, are very apt to make the humans of the crew treat you as a child in need of protection."
Jim drew his breath as if to speak, but Sakel held his hand up to stop him. "There is nothing wrong, in logic, with their actions."
Jim's eyes flashed with anger.
"They are not fully taking into account the fact that you are not entirely a child any more," said Sakel, before Jim could speak. "What you have been through -- the responsibilities you took on yourself -- have made you more than a child."
Jim watched him carefully.
"I propose to treat you as a rational being capable of rational thought," said Sakel plainly. "I do not propose to 'baby' you, or treat you as a mature adult. I also do not propose to treat you 'kindly', although I believe that you and I are capable of treating each other with kindness."
"Why?" said Jim.
"It is illogical to allow you to suffer, or to waste effort that you so clearly will reject out of hand," said Sakel. "And I owe your family life-debt, which I mean to pay to you in place of your father." He stopped for a minute, looking at the sullen cast of Jim's mouth. "We are kin of a sort, you and I," he said, more gently. "We were of the same ship, and we must help each other."
"I was born on the shuttle," said Jim. It was a logical statement. Sakel was pleased.
"Before your birth you were considered part of the crew," said Sakel. "Illogically, granted, but it pleased the crew very much to consider you so."
"A mascot," said Jim.
"A talisman," corrected Sakel. He could tell that Jim did not understand, but he knew that was also not relevant. Perhaps he would learn in time, but it was a lesson he must learn himself. "I know it is hard to continue with the treatments. If it is acceptable, perhaps we may make a trade. If you follow your treatments, I will give you lessons in whatever you wish to know." He knew that Terran adults might offer something else -- but Jim had no desire for food, pushed aside games impatiently, and was the son of George and Winona Kirk.
Jim thought carefully. Sakel was struck by a memory of seeing one or the other of Jim's parents with that focused, slight frown on their face. "Anything?"
"Within my own ability to teach and the bounds of logic," said Sakel.
Jim nodded. "I want to learn Vulcan."
Sakel lifted his eyebrow. "Explain your logic."
"Over on - over there," said Jim, carefully avoiding the name of Tarsus IV, "He - they made me learn a lot of math and stuff. Like a display. But he - they didn't think languages were any good."
"Your logic is sound," said Sakel. Something primitive and illogical in him wanted to savage Kodos for what he had done to the people entrusted to him - to this child. He forced it down. That was not logical. It would do Jim or the other survivors no good. The only thing, in logic, to be done was to help those who remained. "In return, I request that you follow the doctor's programs and talk to the counselors." He looked at Jim again. He wanted to say, If you give up he will win, do you understand that?, but it was not his place. Jim would reason that out for himself, or he would not. It was not Sakel's place to force him to that conclusion.
Somehow or another, word has invisibly gotten out that Jim really has returned to the all-encompassing downy wings of Starfleet, and is here to be tenderly brooded into a beautiful graduate of officer's training. (That is a terrible metaphor, even in Jim's head, but he lets it be. It really is like being surrounded by motherly hens. Or cows with a new calf in the herd.)
Word has also gotten out that Jim was not going to put up with that bullshit any more than he usually does, so Jim is instead forced to deal with Kelvin people lurking around the edges of his life, like helpful brownies or something. It turns out that Pike's assistant was a yeoman on the Last Trip, and the god damn RA of Jim's god damn dorm was the son of someone who died. Pike's yeoman offers to get him into the interesting math classes without fucking around with the pre-reqs, and the RA drops by with cookies from his dad and a note from same, inviting him to make himself at home for Sunday dinner, which Jim is kind of forced to accept.
Jim's magical beepy allergy wand has a fit when he waves it over the cookies, but the cute cadets on the quad are suitably grateful for them.
Jim spends a lot of time with Leonard McCoy, who could not give less of a shit about Jim's parents if he tried for a week. He's more interested in what Jim has or has not eaten lately, what that rash is and how Jim got it, or if Jim is going to die a horrible, tragic death by BLT. Jim seriously cannot let him get the food during cramming sessions any more; it was not his fault that he had absently eaten a peanut M&M that was stuck in with the others. McCoy had, after the initial panic, spent an enjoyable day perched beside Jim's bedside like a vulture, clutching a PADD and saying things like, "What about rye? Have y'all been tested for rye allergy?" or "How in hell can you be allergic to the anti-allergy hypos? I been practicin' for five years and studyin' for ten before that, and I never met anybody allergic to the anti-allergy hypos. Neither did my father, or his father or --"
"Shut up, McCoy," begs Jim. He hurts like hell and he's miserably itchy all over.
McCoy thinks it's something to do with radiation exposure just after he was born. Jim thinks he's spent his entire life being a pincushion for creepily fascinated allergists, and he's done with that bullshit. McCoy sighs sadly, waving goodbye to his beautiful research paper, and takes about a pint of Jim's blood to figure out what he can do with him. Jim would feel guiltier about the effort McCoy is putting in this but it's clear that McCoy is enjoying himself. And it's just as clear that McCoy enjoys nothing, not even getting drunk, so Jim can't make himself care about it.
"I'm not at all sure about the ingredient list on that candy you wanted," says McCoy, attempting to feed Jim something made of rice flour and non-fat sweetener-free coating, which Jim frankly suspects of being carob. "When was the last time you got your profile updated?"
"I'm not going to go on a BRAT diet just to make you feel better," says Jim, exasperated. He fucking hates bananas and he's actually not that down with apple sauce, plain rice or dry toast, either -- all of which he has lived on one time or another. "Give me the real candy!"
Jim honestly can't tell if McCoy is just lonely for his daughter or if being a country doctor is just that ingrained in him. He has a sort of shrine set up on the wall behind his desk, all holos and voice recordings and scribbly drawings of something with what might be a stethoscope and McCoy's side part holding hands with a smaller figure with curls and a skirt, with I lOev YoU daDDy!!! on the bottom. It had taken Jim a minute to realize that the larger figure was supposed to be McCoy. In Jim's defense, it's smiling, and the closest McCoy has ever come to a smile is the expression of deep satisfaction at Jim's pain he gets when Jim is cowering away from yet another god damn hypo.
"What about lactose?" demands McCoy.
Jim throws a pillow at him.
It's probably just as well that McCoy is such a fucking mother hen, though; the thought of him finding out about Jim's tiny, easily managed tendency to forget to eat is almost as good as the sign in Klingon on his mirror, reminding him that it's at least two thousand calories a day or back to the special peanut butter for him. Jim has no idea why he saved it all these years, but it does remind him to eat. There's a rumor going around that one of the other guys -- not that they've stayed in touch, exactly -- has to have a special synthesizer in his house so he'll eat correctly instead of binging and purging. He and Jim got off pretty light; of the ten or twelve kids in his group that made it off the planet, three died of complications, four have committed suicide and one girl is in a quiet room with a flower garden attached, and on her good days she gets to fingerpaint. She had been strongly empathic, though -- they reckoned the overflow of emotions had just sort of burned her brain out, like wiping a memory chip with a magnet. Jim tries to visit her as often as he can.
The lessons began right away. Sakel began, as usual, by pointing at something, telling Jim the name, and having Jim repeat it back at him, and correcting him as needed. Other parts of speech he taught Jim as they came up. By the end of the first day Jim was speaking in halting, still accented Vulcan. Sakel produced some elementary texts of logic to familiarize Jim with the written language. Vulcan, for all of the outward elaborateness of the script, was much more logical than English characters. Of the Terran languages, it was much more closely aligned to the languages like Korean, where each character stood for a logical symbol.
By the second day, Jim was addressing him nearly correctly and reading the first texts to him out loud. Sakel put up his eyebrow but said nothing. It was clear that there was something besides Jim's undoubted intelligence at work. He must get the child tested for psi-ability, if he could arrange it. Lt Kirk might object, however, and it was also possible that the trauma Jim had suffered had taught his mind a short, sharp lesson about hiding any unusual abilities. Sakel doubted that a test administered when Jim was so deeply wary would produce any conclusive results. He would mention it to Jim's mother, and leave the decision to her. Still, it would be illogical to leave Jim without any shields, especially if he was an empath-type psi-talent.
"Jim," he said on the third day, "I wish for you to answer me with truth. You may also refuse to answer, but I request that you not lie to me."
Jim looked up from his PADD, his eyes wary.
"Do you sometimes have the sensation that you can feel the thoughts and emotions of others?"
Jim's face slammed closed. Ah, thought Sakel. "Why?"
"Because if you do, I can teach you to block it out," said Sakel.
Jim hesitated. "I don't want to be weird," he said, and Sakel understood he was really saying that he feared what would happen if other people knew of it. Humans were strange about psi-ability, even now.
"Your father was sensitive to others," said Sakel, watching Jim closely. "I taught him, a little, how to stop it."
Jim's eyes dropped down to the PADD. "Sometimes," he started, and then looked up. "If people are mad or something,I get headaches. Did Dad do that too?"
"Yes," said Sakel.
There was not enough time to teach Jim all he needed to know, but Sakel put aside the feeling of impatience and concentrated on what he could teach him, and quickly. It was easiest to do it through the vehicle of the lessons in Vulcan. Paying attention to something was the first and most effective defense against the thoughts of others; a mind focused could not be disturbed. He taught Jim the first rudiments of shielding himself against others: a mental skin folding over the inner, delicate workings of Jim's mind. Sakel could not rush through any of it, no matter how much he wished to do so. Jim was too fragile, too young, to sustain a mind-meld that might have taught it more quickly and easily; it was like a glass drop, a thing held together by will but likely to shatter at the wrong touch.
It was not illogical to wish to protect a young being. It was the most logical thing in nature. Sakel simply could not understand how Kodos, how anybody, could harm a child. Could harm this child.
Sakel loads work on Jim like Jim is his TA and has nothing better to do with his life than study the history of Vulcan verbs, translate bits of Surak into Standard, and then, because Sakel's a mean, mean son of a bitch, defend his translation in formal Vulcan. He varies this by making Jim memorize and recite huge chunks of Vulcan poetry, with the correct intonation and accent, and when Jim complains he doesn't actually give a shit about Bugger the son of Clusterfuck the son of Snafu, makes him write an essay about matriarchal lines in Vulcan tradition. (Girls are scary, do not piss them off or you will not reproduce. Jim could have told him that without reading descent lines of psi-talents until his eyes bled, but whatever.)
Just for shits, as far as Jim can tell, he teaches him the Standard accent that makes Vulcan ears bleed with pain, the one that makes them forgive you because you're trying so hard, and the educated one that might make a Vulcan take you mildly seriously. Then it's on to different dialects of Vulcan and why you don't talk like this in polite company and why this accent makes Vulcans think you're upper class, even if you're really, really not. As a chaser, he adds in Romulan and how it differs from Vulcan, and how S'Fuckhead basically rewrote it from the first few grunts the first proto-Vulcans made. (Which is actually kind of interesting, but Jim would rather live on plomeek soup than admit it.)
Plus Jim has to do all the Basic Principles of Vulcan classwork, and somehow or another his classmates have the idea that he's pretty reliable about glottal stops and ingressive consonants, so he's tutoring a couple of them on the side.
During this, Jim is testing out of all the basic classes, a lot of the intermediate classes and a significant minority of the advanced ones, drinking with Bones, flirting with everything with a nervous system, and, in general, having the time of his life. It seriously scares the fuck out of him if he thinks about it too hard, so he doesn't.
"Now," says Sakel, "we will discuss your thesis."
"Oh come on!" howls Jim. Or rather he says calmly, "Professor, I do not understand the logic of your statement" in Vulcan, because Jim is secretly as scared of Sakel now as he was when he was a tiny, angry child. He's pretty sure Sakel would find his fright illogical at best, but Sakel is just one of those people that make you want to sit straight up just by walking past the room.
"All work as assigned," Sakel reminds him, and Jim groans.
"What logical use is a thesis that I will not publish?" he argues.
"Cadet Kirk, your insistence on secrecy over your mastery of languages continues to baffle me, more than the normal behavior of your species," says Sakel, in his most pokery way. "Even you must admit that knowing multiple languages is a skill that benefits the captain of a starship almost as much as knowing how to fix a warp core. Perhaps more so." He considers Jim for a minute.
Jim can't really give him an answer. The fact is, he learned pretty early on that it was stupid, stupid, stupid to be good at everything, at the level he could be. It's a one way trip to being beaten up on the playground and talked to by ladies in friendly printed coveralls and your mother getting the tight pinched look on her face again. And even now that he can deal with the bullies and tell the psychologists to go to hell and his mother is in a place where he never has to see that look on her face, he knows in some deep part of him that you should never reveal how smart you are. It's better to be underestimated.
"I just don't," he says.
Sakel looks at him for a long minute and Jim knows he's thinking about when Jim hadn't hid his intelligence, before he knew what being better and brighter could mean.
"There has been one other human that has attained this level of mastery of the Vulcan language, and she is an ambassador's wife." Sakel stares at him pointedly.
Jim kind of just has to gape at him for a second. "Are you saying I should let everybody know I know Vulcan so I can marry up?"
"That is illogical," says Sakel primly. "I merely mean to point out that it is a rare accomplishment, and one you should take satisfaction in."
"Oh my God, you have some sort of Vulcan crush on this woman!" howls Jim, even more horrified than he was a second ago.
"Amanda Grayson is young enough to be my granddaughter," says Sakel, which is totally not a denial.
"How old are you, anyway?" says Jim. Sakel's kind of gray around the edges, but as far as Jim knows, that defines every Vulcan from the age of about eighty until 'older than God'.
"Old enough to make my own choices," says Sakel.
By long tradition, the Oregon had her home 'berth' and registry in Portland, Oregon Province of the United Continent of the Americas, and by a tradition nearly as long, her crew declined, with sincere thanks, to disembark any place but at Portland. If she happened to not be in sync with Portland, they would reluctantly shuttle down and beam to Portland from the ground, but they did not consider themselves 'home' until they stepped out of the transporter at Portland Galactic. The Fleet sometimes complained about this, but not very loudly, since some of the upper brass was nearly as picky about landing only at San Francisco Fleet.
Oregon's crew felt that she liked best to set her crew down at her home port. Most of them came from the area approximating the old borders of Oregon State, and those that did not had adopted it as their home, with all the wrangling over football (Sakel liked to sit in the room while a thing called 'the Civil War' was broadcast over holo, and watch otherwise perfectly rational beings revert suddenly to their warlike heritage, all the while politely passing each other the 'beer and chips'), polite sneering over the alleged merits of San Francisco, and real good will and reserve that it entailed. An Oregonian, in his experience, was more willing to grant a favor than suffer one to be given to them. They were really almost Vulcan.
Jim stood next to Sakel in the transporter room, staring as the first group of passengers were sent down to Portland Galactic. His eyes were wide and curious, with no trace of the fear some children had of beaming. His skin was clearer now and he had begun to gain healthy flesh again. It would be a long time before he regained his health completely, but Sakel thought there was reason to believe that the long term physical effects of his experience would be minimal.
It was the month that Terrans called 'June', and the weather board announced that it was clear with a 70% chance of rain in the next twenty-four hours -- no, it told a lie, it was raining now. Welcome to Portland, and please enjoy our Rose Festival. Sakel smiled slightly. He was pleased at the prospect of rain. It was such a novelty to him, even as old as he was. Actual water falling from the actual sky -- how fascinating and illogical! Even more wonderful to him was the way his friends would complain loudly and cheerfully about it, all the while scorning, as unworthy of them, such things as umbrellas and raincoats. At most they wore hooded over-shirts or light jackets with hoods -- and those that did allow themselves the use of umbrellas or galoshes only did so if they were somehow decorative. Sakel himself was dressed warmly. Perversely he enjoyed the bracing temperatures of Portland, but not enough to make himself ill.
"What's the Rose Festival?" said Jim suddenly. He was very quiet, for a Terran child. Sakel hoped that the psychologists could help him. He remembered Jim's energy from before this.
"Portland prides itself on the amount and variety of roses within the city," explained Sakel. "They hold a festival every year to celebrate them." He looked down at Jim. "There is a sort of fair, as well," he said. "With many rides and special foods, as well as a parade. I had planned to attend the main parade."
"Aren't parades illogical?" said Jim, with a flash of wit.
"They are, however, very interesting," said Sakel, placidly. "Come, we must find our lodgings."
They took the light-rail train from the port to the city center. Sakel never traveled illogically burdened with luggage and Jim had nothing but the clothes he wore and one change of clothing, and a data PADD that one of the crew members had given him. It was simple enough to allow the scanners to examine Sakel's single bag and Jim's backpack. When they reached the center of the city, Sakel led Jim to Pioneer Courthouse Square, to see if the flower display had been set up. (Illogic upon illogic, a display of flowers just for a week!) Sakel looked upon the square, and saw that the square was full of flowers. Despite the misting rain, there were people sitting on the steps and eating street vendor food. There should be a vegan seller to the south -- ah, yes, across the square: VEGAN BELIEVIN' TRY OUR TOFU BURRITOS. Sakel had indeed tried them, and they were adequate for anybody's nutritional requirements.
Sakel stopped and ritually took a drink from the 'Benson Bubblers' at the corner of the street (surely not the original fountains, but so beloved an symbol that they remained, offering their water freely to all that thirsted). He meant to take Jim to Starfleet PDX in the morning, but in the meantime he was free to attempt to distract him. They were staying in the Starfleet barracks downtown, by the old city hall, so Sakel led them to the barracks on foot, and deposited their belongings in their tiny berth. Sakel tapped a request into the terminal, and the answer came back: Jim's parent was not expected to be able to meet him for two days, as she was in transit back to Terra. In lieu of other guardianship Jim was to stay with Sakel.
"Now," said Sakel, and smiled slightly, "let us expand our knowledge."
Jim's always been as curious as a litter of barn kittens, so the next time he has a spare second between his classes and writing the outline of the thesis that he refuses to admit he's writing ("as an intellectual exercise merely, Cadet", his ass), he goes and looks up Amanda Grayson.
She's in her late forties, a beautiful woman still. She lives with her husband, the ambassador to Earth, on Vulcan. She has multiple PhDs -- one in education, one in computer programming, and a third in xenolinguistics -- and did major work on the Universal Translator. Also, somewhat bizarrely, she's a contributing consultant and sometimes guest star on Starship Sesame Street. Jim squints at the picture. Yes, that is Miss Amanda, who appeared to talk about how we all need talk to each other, no matter how we do it, on Starship Sesame Street when he was growing up. Jim may or may not have wished that Miss Amanda was his mommy, or at least his auntie, or possibly to marry her, when he was five. God.
Her husband is a handsome, rather stern looking man, who also has multiple PhDs. Apparently he spent close to fifty years on Earth, but if it's softened any of his Vulcan edges Jim can't tell by looking at the holo.
They have one son (just two PhDs, but he's only a couple of years older than Jim), who is referenced in an interplanetary journal of genetics, because some guys at the Vulcan Science Academy spent close to five years rewriting the Vulcan and human genetic codes into something that would make a hybrid able to be carried to term in a human womb and survive to adulthood. Jim's actually kind of impressed. He flips through the data quickly - it's not too interesting to him except for the part where they explain how they managed to get a copper-based blood system to behave itself with an iron-based one.
There's a recent family holo, where Ms Grayson's softer human features and the smile lurking in the corner of her mouth and her eyes are in stark contrast with her husband and son's expressions - or well, okay, complete lack thereof.
The son is in Starfleet, a commander who was last in space as XO to Pike.Which means, despite his preternaturally bland expression, he must be something of a badass, because Pike does not have a reputation of keeping his ship to the quiet areas of the galaxy. Right now he's teaching at SFA while they wait for the new ship to be completed. Jim studies his face thoughtfully and decides if the opportunity came up, he would add him to what Bones acidly refers to as "Jim's life list". He probably isn't that into humans, though - raised on Vulcan and with all signs of Vulcan control.
Sakel started with the sights in downtown Portland - from a Vulcan perspective, which often differed from a Terran one. He showed Jim the library, with the smell of old books and the study carrels cleverly made to look as old as the building, and the old chandelier shaped like a sunburst that hung from the second floor. He abused his name slightly to get access to the precious old paper books, so Jim could touch them and smell their dusty goodness. He took him to the site of a bookstore once known as 'Powell's', gone now, but with a park in its place, that had shopping terminals to download books. They stopped and looked at Skidmore Fountain, at the old patient faces of the goddesses that eternally held up the bowl of water that the thirsty might drink.
Something began to relax in Jim's body language. He asked a question, here and there, about what they looked at. More, he did it in a very passable Vulcan, and didn't scowl when Sakel corrected his accent or offered a word.
Sakel saved his favorite thing for last. It was illogical to prefer one location to another, but it was very true that beautiful places were to be appreciated.
The International Test Rose Garden was very beautiful. As they stepped off the shuttle, Jim looked around the underground station with a slight shiver. "One elevator up," promised Sakel, who was pleased to see Jim's control despite his discomfort. "I will be with you."
The elevator carried them swiftly up to the entrance of Washington Park. Jim glanced around carefully. His eyes widened a little at the sight of the entrance to the Oregon Zoo, which had a large poster advertising a display of sehlats. Sakel supposed it was a joke of the universe, that a creature so hardy and ubiquitous on Vulcan was worthy of a special display on Terra -- and that a similar display, of Terran house-cats, domestic dogs and ferrets (especially the ferrets) had drawn large, fascinated crowds at the Science Academy. Sakel had touched his first domestic feline there. The little furry thing, with its tiny sharp claws and small but effective fangs, had merely yawned up at him and begun to make sounds of pleasure at him.
It was embarrassing and unworthy emotionalism to admit it, but that cat had cemented Sakel's desire to see Terra. A world where such tiny predators could live -- and suffered themselves to be tamed! Even the dogs and ferrets did not interest him as much. Although he had seen another, older, lady get into a sharp argument with the dogs' keeper, with many others listening interestedly from the sidelines. She did not believe that the tiny creature tucked into the keeper's arm, the medium size creature with intelligent eyes, and the great creature that was easily twice as massive as she, were the same species. The keeper's protests were in vain and finally he had picked up a scanner and begged her to see for herself. She glared at the readings -- that indeed, all these creatures were the same species, that they could, in theory at least, interbreed -- and drawn a breath. "Illogical!" she snapped, and marched away.
The ferrets, in their cages, had reminded him of furry snakes. He had kept his distance, though small children were allowed the privilege of holding them carefully, and had watched in utter fascination as the creatures played with each other.
"Perhaps if there is time, and it is warm enough, we might go to the zoo later," said Sakel. "I am told their exhibits are both educational and interesting."
Jim looked at him sideways.
"Also, I am told there is a display of birds where one may feed them," added Sakel, and Jim brightened up. "One buys a cup of fruit and the birds land on one, and eats from one's hand. They are said to be quite tame."
"I thought Vulcans weren't supposed to enjoy stuff," said Jim, suspicious.
Sakel lifted his eyebrow, but did not reply. He led Jim to the shuttle to the gardens. They might have time for the Japanese Garden after the Rose Garden, but Sakel did not mean to hurry his way through the display of roses. It was a further shame to his logic that he loved roses as he did, but he was old, and allowed some slight eccentricities. Jim watched the streets of Washington Park through the shuttle's windows. There were many old buildings perched on the side of the hill, lovingly preserved. Many of them had roses outside, as well.
Sakel had never quite gotten used to the amount of green in Portland, the singing, infinite shades of grass and leaves and moss. He knew he could not understand what this must be like for Jim, after six months on the seared world of Tarsus IV.
"There's irises," said Jim suddenly. Sakel caught a glimpse of dark purple flowers, the stalks nearly half a meter tall, rising proudly up from a garden bed.
"There are many flowers here," said Sakel. "Come, Jim."
They walked around the garden grounds, looking at the different types of roses in all their many colors and forms. Jim squatted down and peered at the brass plaques for the Rose Festival queens of the past, their signatures and reigns still on display.
Jim is not going to admit this under severe torture, but secretly his thesis project -- his not-thesis non-project, he corrects himself -- is pretty interesting. It's all about the changes in the Vulcan language that appeared after Surak and how 'the vocabulary of war was replaced with the vocabulary of logic' and also how not even Surak totally got certain warlike phrasings out of the Vulcan language. The word for a certain type of marriage, for instance, still implies to the knowledgeable that Party A and Party B are hooking up not because of any, well, personal interest in each other, but entirely because her family hates his family, the feeling is returned with interest, and it was suggested, by someone else, that they develop a bond between the two families, because nuclear winter often offends. Now it's principally used for hostile takeovers -- what passes for hostile takeovers -- in business.
Pre-Reformation Vulcan is insane. It's like English before it was codified into Standard, only crazier because technically there has only been one major Vulcan language for as long as anybody could remember -- and it's still a pile of confusion stirred up with chaos. Two words mean the same thing as another five over here, only if you use those two words in any situation except one -- well, maybe you were planning to start a blood-feud, and even if you hadn't, too bad. Vulcans held grudges worse than Klingons.
Jim figures if the tries to write up the differences between pre-Reformation and post-Reformation Vulcan, he had best look into one of those weird brain-transplant things where you were gray matter floating in a tank, thinking for the rest of eternity -- and considering that it is a) totally creepy and b) illegal as all hell, he'd better pick a sub-sub-subject and stick as close as he can.
He kind of wants to be an asshole and pick sex, but researching that would involve massive, massive lies over sub-net about being a Vulcan, and also patient picking away at Vulcan prudery, and allegedly he's going to finish this within a human life time. Also knowing how reserved (Jim would say 'constipated') Vulcans are, this is better left to people not planning to do anything but ask nosy questions all their lives. Which Jim sort of is, but not as a professor.
So Jim picks family instead -- which is kind of insanely broad, still, but at least Vulcans are willing to talk about it. The one surprising thing is that post-Reformation language has less, not more, words for family. It's kind of weird because post-Reformation language is not-shockingly all about describing and quantifying things.
Pre-Reformation Vulcan has words for familial relationships that Jim isn't really sure exist outside it, and they all boil down to 'us' and 'them'. There were shades of meaning, of course -- 'one of us married to one of them as a hostage, so technically they are one of them but we can't actually bomb the shit out of them because they have someone who's one of us with them -- at least until the one of us with them succeeds in poisoning their food supply, because we don't poison water supplies and regard it like most humans regard having a nice barbeque with Mom .... as the main dish', or 'one of them who is one of us because the enemy of my enemy etc etc etc' -- but it all described a society deeply suspicious of each other. Jim's never actually come across a word to succinctly describe 'your step-aunt's mother's other husband but one's stepsister's cousin's half-siblings' in any language but pre-Reformation Vulcan and Bones' peculiar old-South Anglish dialect. Even then, Bones just called them 'shirt-tail relatives -- I dunno, ask Mama how we know 'em, she knows' -- which is very Vulcan of Bones, come to think of it.
There were words for people who owed you a favor willingly, and those who would rather sit on an icicle than owe you the favor they did. There were words for owing a favor gladly, and for someone that made you wish to jump off a cliff into a volcano every time you thought about the favor you owed them. There were words for 'a person whose life I have saved' and 'person who saved my life'. There were words for 'someone who owes/is owed by my entire clan group' and within all those descriptions of owe/owing, there were graduations of meaning and obligation.
Jim himself is in the fortunate position of 'one who is owed life-favors by more than one clan group, even though said clan groups may be at each other's throats, and thus can force them to get along if he so pleases -- favor inherited from male parent, deceased'.
It's kind of creepy to think of a world like that, actually.
Post-Reformation language, by contrast, tends toward 'immediate family', 'extended/ in-law family', and 'everybody else', instead of the complex clan lines and obligations of Pre-Reformation language. The language regarding alliances and favors is a hell of a lot simpler, too. Jim can only guess Surak somehow managed to convince them that it was illogical to devote that much time to hating on each other, or else pounded it into their heads that mutual support and cooperation should be, well, mutual.
In which case, Jim wonders why Terra had never had a guy like that -- and then remembers that every time some guy had tried, it had basically ended in tears. Or crucifixion, or bullets, or ... People, as the poet so truly said, were jackasses.
He works on his not-a-thesis as time permits, although despite all appearances to the contrary, even Jim needs four hours of sleep a night, and since he's dumb enough to room with Leonard McCoy, he's apt to get surprise-hyposprayed at least twice a week into sleeping eight or more.
It's a nice thought that someday, maybe even as a commander or captain, he'll have enough time between missions to sit down and really work on things like this. Space is big. There's got to be time somehow.
Jim laughs at himself and calls Gaila. There's at least five people on this campus that haven't been scarred for life, and he and Gaila intend to find them.
And then Vulcan goes up in space dust. The first thing Jim thinks is SHIT SHIT SHIT RUN HOLY FUCK IS THAT SPOCK SPOCK IS OLD SHIT SHIT RUN RUN RUN OH MY GOD IT'S A CRAZY SCOTTISH DUDE RUN RUN OW OW OW THROAT OW GET THE ANGRY SPOCK OFF MY THROAT OKAY THANKS SHIT SHIT SHIT RUN OH HELL FUCK. The second thing is, shit, I hope they had their files backed up, I'll never get my goddamn thesis done now. Which is totally a dick thing to be thinking about, what with the circumstances and all, so Jim stops thinking it.
Jim's not really sure how to describe the whole thing afterward, although Bones comes pretty close when he comments that he thought they were up Sugah Crik without a paddle for sure this time.
Spock wants to know what a locale named Sugar Creek has to do with anything, and Jim exercises his acting-captainly powers and kicks the ... sugar ... out of Bones' shin before Bones can get into it with Spock, and Jim is forced to be the responsible adult. Which terrifies him - how the hell is he supposed to be the responsible one out of a Vulcan and someone with an actual child of his own?
It takes them five weeks to get home to Terra.
The first three are spent limping alone like a wounded dog, broadcasting distress signals as much as they dare, and then two weeks of being escorted by -- of all the damned things -- the Oregon and the Martin Luther King Jr. Jim hasn't really seen the Oregon since the last time she came to meet a ship he was on, and it's embarrassing how the sight of her slightly old-fashioned lines makes him feel like things might be working out after all. The two great ships hover around the Enterprise like worried flock-mates. A medical transport, Florence Nightingale, shows up a day or two behind them - obviously the delay was to load her for everything a paranoid medical staff could imagine - and Captain Pike and the worst-wounded are transported off the Enterprise. Bones prudently sedates the fuck out of Pike before the transport, but even so, Pike is cursing at him in languages that make Uhura look impressed as he goes under, and probably wakes up loudly praying to the Seven Little Gods to strike Bones with pitting edema of the dick.
Secretly, Jim doesn't blame him, but Bones probably would suffer it cheerfully. He has enough supplies now to last the rest of the trip, and more critically, the Nightingale brought extra medical and engineering staff. Scotty's a little suspicious of the new engineers but they are desperately needed. Of the plus-minus five hundred crew of the Enterprise, only three hundred have survived, and most of those losses were in engineering or medical.
For the first week, though, Jim is all things to all people, arguing with heads of departments, pretending to know what he's doing, settling squabbles, and visiting Captain Pike when he gets a chance. Bones rarely allows Captain Pike out of induced coma, though, because if he's awake for more than five minutes he starts asking questions about his best girl, and allegedly Jim talking his ear off about the Enterprise and Spock 'hoverin' around him, pinin' like a holovid heroine' is not conductive to Pike's healing. Which is all Bones' lies, because Pike looks a million times better after Jim and Spock visit. Bones discourages Spock's visits by pointed comments about his depressingly obvious crush on Pike. (Which would be much funnier if Bones had not blighted Jim's own secret crush on Pike in acid terms about two minutes after he saw Jim looking at Pike. "May-December romances are always so charmin'." were his exact words, if Jim remembers correctly.) Jim Bones merely threatens with physical violence and his hypospray collection.
Jim and Spock are hilariously busy until about day eight, when Bones suddenly looms behind him on the Bridge and says, "Jim, say 'Spock, you are relived of duty for eighteen hours'."
"Spock, you are relived of duty for eighteen hours," repeats Jim, who knows what is good for him.
"Good job," says Bones approvingly. "Now say, 'Mr Sulu, you have the conn for the rest of your shift, and someone else can have it after you, because I am off-duty for eighteen hours'."
"Hey!" says Jim.
Bones just stares at him, like a farm collie Jim had known and thrown a million tennis balls for in Iowa. There is not even a demand in them, just the overwhelming knowledge that the world is going to arrange itself to fit his expectation of how it should be.
Jim sighs. "Mr Sulu, you have the conn until our medical overlord allows me back here."
"Yessir," says Sulu, and doesn't even laugh, for which Jim loves him.
Bones, who is a scary fuck sometimes, whips out two hyposprays and zaps both Jim and Spock at the same time. The only comfort Jim has is the outraged look on Spock's face as he falls into the dark.
He wakes up to the sound of Spock arguing sleepily in Vulcan with his dad. His voice is gravelly and a little cranky, by Vulcan standards. "Father, I have been asleep for twelve hours. I must --"
"It is illogical to push your limits so," says Sarek, and his voice is cool but Jim recognizes the language he uses, a way to speak to a small and beloved child.
"But --" begins Spock.
"Spock," says Sarek, and Spock's mouth snaps shut with an audible click of his teeth. Sarek waits for a moment, and when Spock remains quiet, he says, "When Dr McCoy comes on duty, he has promised to release you, if he sees fit."
Jim is suddenly, terribly reminded of Sakel, and the way he would say the same sort of thing to him on the Oregon --
Sakel, who had gone to Vulcan two weeks ago.
Jim bites his lip. Idle grief has no purpose, Sakel had taught him. It must be used.
He's tired still, but he's got to be less tired than Spock, who has lost his mother and his planet, and most of his dignity in the process. So when Spock starts with "Acting-Captain Kirk is still asleep, and one of us must --" he feigns waking up, stirring slightly at first and then stretching out. Almost every joint in his body cracks or creaks, and he winces, half in pain, half in relief.
"That cannot be healthful," says Spock, severe, and Jim laughs out loud.
The Shakespeare Garden fascinated Jim as Sakel thought it might; it was an oasis of green quiet in the sea of roses around them. He studied the plants of the Shakespeare garden carefully. Finally Sakel led him to by the open auditorium, so they could sit on the grass. They were silent for a while.
Sakel dropped into a light, meditative state, breathing the sweetness of roses and the good green smell of grass. He thought of Jim's father, without fondness or regret, just as he had been. He thought of the other members of the Kelvin, of the ship herself; their bravery and sense of duty. He thought of Jim's mother after they landed, her tearful face, the way she held the baby so tightly.
He let them be as they were, accepted their memories without grief or resentment, felt the loss as it passed through him and let it go.
Beside him Jim lay back, something in his spine relaxing slowly. He closed his eyes as if he was giving himself to the sweet dampness of the grass and the steady earth. Jim's breathing slowed, and Sakel could see him taking strength from the ground. He let Jim lie there for a long time before he rose from his meditative state and roused Jim.
He passed Jim his scheduled nutritional supplement, so Jim would not lose the weight they had so painstakingly encouraged him to regain. Jim hated them, but knew, even on the Oregon, that he must obey. He watched Jim choke it down with water, and stood up. "I know of something that might interest you," he said.
It takes him a while to really react to everything that happened. For one thing, he doesn't really take a deep breath until the Enterprise glides into space-dock, a beautiful injured bird coming to rest at last. Then he walks straight into a not-entirely-unexpected but still extremely shitty media feeding frenzy where his every word is analyzed and he can scarely go to the head without someone photographing him. Someone actually tries, but for a tiny underaged Russian genius, Chekov is one scary motherfucker when you piss him off. Then Sulu loomed behind Jim and Chekov, wearing his blandest expression and doing the thing with his sword unfolding, and said, "These gentlemen bothering you, Kirk? Chekov?" and the paps melted gently away out of sight, in fear of their lives.
He goes and gets pretty drunk one night after yet another fucking funeral, in honor of the people from the Kelvin who managed to survive round one but not round two of Nero's insanity. For once Bones supervises Jim instead of the other way around, even though Jim had told him to go away and sleep, since he's traveling to Georgia the next day. Evil Bitch had actually agreed to let him have Joanna for a week, since Bones was almost killed and helped save the Earth and all. Bones is going to go pick her up and wallow joyously in fatherhood instead of bossing Jim around. It secretly makes Jim feel a little lonely, but he is allegedly an adult, and he knows how much this means to Bones.
"Don't be so damned ridiculous," says Bones, doling out another shot of whiskey. "You're not a functional alcoholic."
"That's not something to be proud of," slurs Jim.
"We all got our little talents," says Bones, almost fondly.
Jim wishes Spock was with them, but that's just the booze talking. Spock would totally give him the eyebrow and tell him that drunkenness as a method of remembering the dead was completely illogical, and Jim could tell him that he was full of horseshit. Sakel would tell him to shut up and man up, only in a Vulcan way.
He's never going to meet Amanda Grayson now and tell her that Sakel has a crush on her. Jim puts his head down on the table for a second. Pike's yeoman had died on the Enterprise. His RA had died on the Farragut.
He'd been really looking forward to tattling on Sakel, and watching him glare.
"Life is shit," he says aloud.
"I'll drink to that," says Bones.
He's not really surprised when he gets a message that there is to be a service type thing for Sakel and he is specifically requested to be there. It's not the first time he's gotten that message and it probably won't be the last. A lot of the Kelvin people have left Jim things in their wills, especially after they realized how screwed up things were for him. Sometimes it's just little things - someone left him the holo of their favorite cat, of all things - but sometimes he's had another round of arguing that he really doesn't need more money in the 'make sure Jim Kirk gets a real education if he wants it or not' pot. Most of it he's managed to throw into the general Kelvin Families scholarship fund.
He kind of hopes Sakel's left him something like dirty novels in Vulcan and not something like his life savings.
Bones goes along with him to Portland. Bones just finished filing his own quarterly will as required by regulations ("'All to daughter, nothin' to ex-wife'. My lawyer back home has five clients with that will, and Starfleet has nothin' to argue with it!") and he's hovering by Jim the way he always does afterward. It's like he remembers that they too shall die or something, In fairness to Bones, he never really actually forgets, but it seems to make it hit home harder. Which is probably Starfleet's point, come to think of it.
Sarek and Spock are there, of course, but he wasn't expecting to see most of Xenolinguistics, including Uhura, there too. Vulcan will-readings are kind of like massive wakes (Jim suspects that their warlike history has something to do with it - it's hard to argue that Mummy really meant to leave you the claymore if your fifty nearest and dearest friends and family are there to hear that she actually left it to your bitch of a little sister), but Jim wasn't aware that Sakel merited this sort of turn out.
Uhura's in her dress uniform. It's smoking hot on her, and at any other time and place he'd play another round of Let's Make Uhura Slap Jim Like It's Going Out of Style, but he's kind of not in the mood, for once. He keeps imagining the look that Sakel would give him, and getting depressed. More depressed.
Uhura's eyes widen briefly at the sight of him. It's kind of insulting. "I didn't know you knew Doctor Sakel," she says. Her eyes flick up and down him, obviously trying to figure out why Jim's in a black suit and not his dress uniform - and then settle on the mourning pin, go over to where the ship's-flag is hanging on the wall, and then come back. She looks sympathetic, which almost makes Jim say something assholeish on principle.
"I took Basic Principles of Vulcan from him," he says. "And, y'know. Kelvin."
Uhura nods. "I wonder if his mystery protégé is going to show up," she says.
Jim tries not to flinch. "Sorry?" he says.
"He had a student that he spent a lot of time with -- not in that way -- but he never seemed to talk about them much," says Uhura.
As it was definitely 'not that way' with him and Sakel, Jim lets that pass. He even is a gentleman and doesn't remind Uhura that she doesn't have a lot to talk about students and teachers being 'that way'. "Maybe the student didn't want to talk about it," he suggests.
"If I," says Uhura, pinning him with one of her dark-eyed looks, "had had the opportunity to study with Doctor Sakel, they would have to take my vocal cords away to keep me from talking about it."
"He was really that famous?" says Jim, weakly. Sakel had always seemed like, well, Sakel to him. He kind of had a hard-on for early Vulcan, but other than that, he seemed pretty normal. Ish. Normal-ish. For a Vulcan. "Why was he teaching Basic Principles, then?"
"He enjoyed teaching and was good at it," says Spock, materializing behind him. Jim manages not to jump, but he swears to himself, if he and Spock end up on the same ship, the first fucking thing he's going to do is put ankle bells on the son of a bitch. "He considered it an honor and a responsibility to introduce other beings to the Vulcan language. And he was, I believe you say, 'retired' on Vulcan. Starfleet was his second career."
"Fair enough," says Jim. This actually makes Sakel's scary Vulcan in Two Weeks Or Less trip a lot more understandable. And he is grateful for it now. Had been grateful for it then, in a dim unknowing way, that someone was making him pay attention to something besides his hurt.
"Vulcans believe that the foundation of learning must be strong," adds Spock, as if Jim is disagreeing with him. "Many of our most honored teachers are those that teach the beginning principles."
"I wasn't disagreeing with you," says Jim hastily, because he can totally see where this is going, and not even he is enough of an asshole to start a screaming fight with Spock Stick-in-His-Ass son of Sarek Poker-Butt of Vulcan at Sakel's memorial service, no matter how true to Vulcan Pre-Reformation tradition it would be.
There's a general sort of throat clearing, and the head of the SFA Xenolinguistics department stands up and waits for everybody's attention. "Gentlebeings," she says, "we are gathered here today to say farewell to a dear friend and light of our community --"
Jim tries not to imagine Sakel's eyebrow at this speech, and somehow manages to keep a straight face.
"-- in accordance to his wishes, we are here to witness and confirm the reading of his will and to speak of our memories of him." Her tentacles tremble with barely restrained emotion. "I know that we all mourn him, and feel this end was too soon."
Jim really hopes to hell she's not going to cry. Sakel had a thing about tears. He said they were an inefficient use of the body's fluids and anybody who cried deserved the dehydration headache. He should ask one of the Spocks about that sometime, if it was really a Vulcan thing or not.
The head of Xenolinguistics smiles bravely, and continues, "Without further illogical delay, we will proceed with the will."
She steps down, and the holo-screen makes its usual irritated whine as it powers up. Someone ought to buy them a new one.
"I, Sakel of Vulcan and sometimes of Earth, do hereby make this, my will and testament, in accordance with Starfleet protocol and logical necessity," says the hologram, in Sakel's dry voice. "Being of sound mind, reasonable health, and having no heirs of the body, and, I trust, at least a few heirs of the mind, I distribute and allot my material goods of my own free will and mind.
"To the Xenolinguistics Department of Starfleet Academy of San Francisco, Terra, I leave my collection of Klingon grammars, in hopes that someone will make use of it.
"To the City of Portland, my adopted home, I leave the tenth of the value of my actual estate, as an endowment to be used in either the gardening of roses or the distribution of water freely to the public, sentient and not alike.
"To the Kelvin Fund I leave half of the value of my actual estate to be endowed as scholarships for the children of Kelvin's crew, with the proviso that if James Tiberius Kirk, of Starfleet, choses to continue his post graduate education, he shall be awarded with funds therefrom."
Jim covers his face with his palm and tries not to groan as everybody turns and looks at him interestedly.
"The rest of my actual estate I leave to the Xenolinguistics Department of Portland State University, to continue their advances in study."
There is a long pause, as the hologram looks quietly off into the distance.
"I am aware that several parties are deeply interested in my studies of ancient Vulcan, and my collection of literature and art therefrom. The artifacts such as pottery, textiles and glass that I still possess I give to the Vulcan Museum of the Arts, excepting a vase of purple and gold glass, handblown, which I leave to Amanda Grayson of Earth and Vulcan, or her nearest heirs, with my sincerest respect. This vase and several of the artifacts will be found in my Portland dwelling."
"I knew he had a Vulcan crush on her," hisses Jim. Bones drives his elbow into Jim's side without losing his solemn and attentive expression.
"As for my collection of Vulcan literature and my notes on that study --" several people, including Uhura, sit up really straight, so it must be kind of a badass one. Sakel in the hologram stops and a wintry, amused smile drifts across his face. "I have always believed that the best place for one's notes is in one's own head. However, as the captain of the Kelvin often remarked, triple redundancy is barely sufficient. Therefore, I have made it my habit to record my notes, and keep copies of said notes current in four locations - my home computer on Vulcan, my home computer in Portland, my personal data PADD and also --"
Somehow Jim gets the feeling that Sakel is staring straight at him.
"--in the data account of the one I hope will continue my work."
"Oh no you didn't," says Jim under his breath. "Illogical, addled, senile son of a --"
"Are you swearing in Vulcan?" hisses Uhura, even as Jim scrambles in his bag for his mini-PADD and logs on to his account, flipping quickly through his texts and -- fuck fuck fuck, he thinks, motherfucker son of a bitch --
"Therefore," continues the hologram, gentle and relentless, even as Jim stares, betrayed, at a section of data hiding with his Vulcan for Dummies books, "I leave my collection of Vulcan literature, and all rights, benefits and permissions of my work on ancient Vulcan to my student and fellow Kelvin crew-mate --"
"I WAS BORN ON THE GOD DAMN SHUTTLE, YOU SON OF A BITCH," roars Jim, leaping to his feet.
"-- James Tiberius Kirk --"
Everybody's turning and staring at him in totally unflattering surprise, even Spock and Bones, God damn them both to hell. Jim can't help himself. "May thy shade thirst for water a thousand years! May thy katra be inherited by le-matya! May thy lands forget thy name, and thine descendants thy grave! May thou wander in the cold an age, and another age, and another age upon that! May thy daughters be given unto the desert, and the daughters of thy sister unto the slaver!"
"Kirk," says Uhura respectfully, "that is the sexiest thing you have ever said in my presence."
"I must concur," murmurs a voice, which Jim is pretty sure is not Spock. He hopes it isn't, at least.
"-- whom I may be allowed to remind was on the Kelvin for fully nine months, the human gestational period, and indeed was largely considered a crew member by us all, including the captain," finishes the hologram placidly. Jim calls it a name that makes Spock raise an impressed eyebrow. "On condition that Mr Kirk complete and defend his thesis on ancient Vulcan."
Jim groans and drops down in his seat, face in his hands.
"If there be time and warning enough, I bequeath my katra to him as well," says the hologram gently. "And in any case, my sincerest desire that he live long and prosper."
"You?" says Uhura. "You were his student?"
"I know Jimmy likes to play dumb," says Bones, his accent stronger than usual, "but y'all have looked at his grades lately?"
"Thank you, McCoy, this why I love you best," says Jim loudly.
"I had always assumed there must be hidden depths," says Spock, straight faced. "Surely not every species in the faculty finds humans sexually attractive."
"Die in a fire," Jim says to him.
"I must disappoint you," says Spock, even more gravely, and Jim has a sudden horrible vision from Old Spock's memories, of his other self calling Old Spock something and Old Spock responding in this same grave way, and the way it always meant that Spock was silently laughing at him. Fuck.
"Mr Kirk," ventures the head of Xenolinguistics, "You were the author of the paper on pre-Reformation Vulcan love poetry?"
Bones freezes for a second.
"Uh," says Jim, looking around for an escape.
"Pre-Reformation love poetry," repeats Bones, as if the words are as fine whiskey in his mouth. "Pre-Reformation Vulcan love poetry. Why, Jimmy..."
"Fold it up into corners and shove it," suggests Jim. He's not embarrassed, not really, but God, even now he's wondering why Sakel had to make him edit and submit that fucking, fucking paper for publication. He is never going to live this down. The world of people who gave a shit about pre-Reformation Vulcan love poetry is ... pretty much some Vulcans and Jim, come to think of it. It wasn't a heavily populated field even before Jim became one of the leading experts by fucking default, and now everybody was going to say things like, "Jim Kirk? Isn't he the asshole who wrote the paper about how basically all these dudes in Pre-Reform Vulcan were kind of gay for each other?" Well, okay, they might say 'James Kirk? Wasn't he the one who wrote the article about homoerotic elements in Pre-Reformation Vulcan poetry?' but the meaning was exactly the same.
Bones pouts at him. Spock says, looking at nothing in particular, "Pre-Reformation love poetry is a difficult study. So much blatant emotionalism."
"Uhura, can I love you best instead?" asks Jim, turning his back on the vipers in his bosom and giving Uhura his most pleading look.
Uhura actually hesitates for a second. "Will you teach me to swear in pre-Reformation Vulcan?" she says. Clearly she is a woman of priorities.
"Like a sailor," promises Jim, hand on his heart.
"Deal," says Uhura, and to cement her rank as Jim's favorite person ever, she frowns at Bones and Spock until they look slightly abashed. Then she ruins it all by saying, "Can I read the draft of your thesis before you defend it? I'll proofread for you!"
"No, me!" says the head of Xenolinguistics eagerly.
Jim says, "This is why I didn't want to publish the damn thing!"
Jim followed Sakel obediently to the right edge of the garden grounds, a little by the gift shop. There was a bush there, not as showy as the other plants -- the leaves are small, more like the wild progenitors of domestic roses, with tiny sharp thorns copiously evident. The flowers, too, were primitive, tiny five-pointed things of white shading into palest pink. A plaque underneath it declared it a daughter-shoot of a plant a thousand years old at the time of the cutting.
"Do you know why this plant is valued?" said Sakel. A Vulcan child might understand immediately, but there was no telling if Jim would understand the lesson Sakel was attempting to teach. Therefore: the asking of questions.
"Because it's old?" hazarded Jim.
Sakel knelt down beside Jim, the better to look at him. He said, "That is not quite correct. It is valued for its age, yes." He reached out to touch one of the blossoms. He could feel the faint distant thought-patterns of the plant. "But more - it is valued because it still blooms."
Jim looked back at him, his blue eyes steady. Sakel knew that there was nothing he could do to truly help Jim. The path of logic must be walked by oneself alone. But one could offer a light, perhaps, or point out a path to ease another's way.
"It is a living thing," said Sakel. "After all this time, after all the distance it has traveled, it is still a living thing."
At the hotel, it take Bones alternately listening to him bitch about xenolinguistics departments and feeding him whiskey, and then Spock pointing out that Sakel never said that he had to get his thesis published by SFA, but Jim allows himself to be talked into finishing his god damn thesis.
Bones swears to God and on a photo of his daughter that he will never, so long as they both shall live, cast it up to Jim that he wrote an entire paper on Vulcan love poetry, nor shall he snigger inappropriately about it more than once a week. Uhura swears to all her ancestors and on her earrings that she will never, ever nag Jim about his potential until he retires from active duty -- which will be never, if Jim has anything to say about it. Died-With-His-Boots-On-In-Someone-Else's-Bed Kirk, that will be him. Spock swears to nothing and on nothing, but he says it would be illogical to make light of an important subject that so clearly (if illogically) embarrasses Jim, so Jim's counting that as a win, at least until the day that Spock drifts by to murmur 'thy scent, O Beloved, still perfumes our bed' at him in the halls of Starfleet just to watch him twitch. Which Spock will do, because Spock is that kind of a dick, Jim can tell already.
Then Jim sees a thing on the holofeed about the Rose Garden and how the committee is threatening to name a rose after Portland's Vulcan sister city, and it takes Bones two hours to get him back to normal, even with soothing noises from Uhura. There's a look on Spock's face like he is secretly praying for death, even while he says things like, "I understand humans have strong emotional reactions to events and locations with associations with family and close friends after the decease of said kin" and then, "Depression is illogical; he clearly regarded you as a favored young member of his extended kin, and he would not wish for you to engage in emotional displays of loss." He finally flees the room when Uhura lies and tells him she thinks they all need something from the cafe.
"God damn Vulcans," says Bones, rubbing Jim's back in large, soothing circles while Uhura says,
"I think emotions give him a panic attack."
Which is so, so true, thinks Jim, and says, "Fuck Spock, they give me one."
"Secretly he's very sensitive," insists Uhura, and Jim starts laughing so hard that he really does cry a little, and Spock cracks a faintly alarmed expression when he re-enters the room, clutching a cardboard holder of coffee.
Jim thinks he kind of wants to go see the Rose Garden in memory of Sakel. It's kind of dumb and sentimental, and if he goes alone he's probably going to go find a liquor store and get drunk, which would suck. He says this out loud, and Bones says "Hmf" and looks at Uhura, and Uhura looks at Spock. Jim tries not to think about why Uhura's able to do looks at Spock. No matter how he looks at it, it's just depressing the hell out of him. He's in no mental shape to deal with 'two of the three hottest people I know are banging each other and the third is my best friend' this week.
Jim has no idea how Uhura manages it -- she must threaten to cut Spock off or tell his dad that he has emotions or something -- but in any case Spock is with them the next morning. Uhura herself had to go back to Starfleet SFO to have people suck her metaphorical dick (Jim means this in an admiring sort of way) over the way she is fifteen million times better than them at being in Communications, and hopefully to get a raise and be assigned to wherever and whatever she wants. Jim has been very loud about how she is the scariest, awesomest, badassest Communications person ever and if she doesn't get what she wants, he, the hero of the etc etc etc, is going to take it as a personal insult. It probably won't help much, but he's throwing what support he has behind all the crew. Fuck it, if he's going to be pilloried in tabloids and have his god-awful cadet ID holo all over the newsfeeds, some good is going to come out of it.
Spock's in one of his hideous sweaters that Jim can't mock without being an asshole, a nominally less hideous scarf, and a hat of such horrible design that even Bones, who wore a tie specially selected by his daughter to a major award dinner with a look that dared anybody to say a word about the flowers on it, is struck momentarily speechless. It's Science blue, and has a bobble on top, which is totally fine, except it looks kind of like a condom tip.
He's also wearing fuzzy gloves, but Jim's still kind of stuck on the hat. No way did Spock's mom make that hat. His sweaters are horrible, but in a practical way, like someone had made it to last a long time, or it's one of the patterns that Gaila liked because you could knit and watch holos at the same time. (Jim had never dared point out that most people did not knit and watch 'Vulcan Love Slave: Knights of Fire and Ice' at the same time. And really, if Gaila was happy, who was Jim to give a fuck?) The hat is like, My First Knitting Project in all of its horrible glory. Jim really wants to ask if Uhura made it for him but he doesn't have the balls to do it. Or what if Spock made it himself?
"Terran patterns," says Spock, reading his mind as usual, "are much less logical than Vulcan ones."
"Then why didn't you rip it out?" says Bones.
"The yarn stuck together, and I was unable to unravel the work," says Spock. "It would be wasteful to discard a hat that fits."
"Oh my God, give it to me, I'll shrink it in the wash for you," says Bones violently. He drags off his own skullcap and shoves it at Spock. Bones can shrink anything in the wash, which is kind of amazing, and has made Jim want to cry, and is the entire reason why Jim does all the laundry for both of them. Spock pulls off the Hat of Ugly and hands it to Bones without protest. Bones crams it into his pocket. Spock puts on Bones' hat with an expression not quite of relief.
Jim shakes his head a little. It's nearly fifty degrees out, a pleasant spring morning for this area of the continent. Bones is in a coat and hat, and Spock, of course, is dressed for playing with penguins or something. It makes Jim feel like the odd guy out, but seriously? How is this anything but balmy? It's barely even sweatshirt weather, even with the drizzle.
"Midwesterner," says Bones spitefully.
"We can't all be delicate Southern peach blossoms," says Jim cheerfully. "Or prickly pears. Or -"
"Quit while you're ahead," suggests Bones, so Jim shuts up. A pretty good gust of wind whips past them, and Spock begins to look slightly green, and huddles into his coat. It is a little chilly with the wind.
"I think they sell rose tea at the shop," says Jim, and leads them past the old tennis courts and the fencing covered with climbing roses to the gift shop. A kindly looking older woman sells them sweet black tea smelling of roses in paper cups. It's faintly pink-tinted. Spock puts his nose almost directly into the cup and inhales deep.
They go down to the garden itself, and Spock says, "Oh."
"Wow," says Bones.
Jim's seen it before, but it's still amazing to him -- the sheer amount of roses, in every color imaginable, spread out over the hill overlooking the city. The wind kicks up again and the scent of roses blows over them. Spock goes down the steps slowly, looking around. He stops and bends over a red rose, breathes in the air around it, and touches it softly. Jim and Bones follow after him, Bones sniffing approvingly at one labeled SWEET GEORGIA. It's peach-gold and smells kind of like a peach and kind of like how roses always smell. There's a certain deep spicy-sweetness surrounding them.
Spock discovers the old fountain in the center of the main terrace and pokes cautiously at it. Bones looks wistful but restrains himself from pushing Spock into it. Jim knows it's mostly so Bones doesn't have to treat him for hypothermia, but he appreciates the thought.
"I can see how Doctor Sakel would have enjoyed this location," says Spock. "I believe he corresponded with my mother on the topic of roses once or twice."
Ha, thinks Jim, and then says, "Did you know he had some sort of weird Vulcan crush on her?"
"His clan-group is allied to mine," says Spock repressively. "Vulcans do not contract 'crushes', let alone --"
"Weird Vulcan ones, I know," finishes Jim. "I'm just saying, man, he was kind of a big fanboy."
Spock lets this slide, probably because he is in too good of a mood around the roses to argue with Jim. "No doubt he admired her. Many people did."
"Wish I could have met her," says Jim, and Bones says,
"She sounds like she was quite the lady."
Spock's mouth softens the slightest, tenderest bit. He doesn't say anything, but looking at him, Jim knows that Spock misses her and will always miss her -- not in the way that Jim always feels like there's a missing puzzle-piece somewhere shaped like the father he never knew, but more like a scar that might heal over but would always be there, apt to sudden flares of pain for the rest of your life.
If Jim was a different person, more like the person he had seen in the other Spock's memories, maybe he'd have the words to tell Spock that it was okay. It wasn't logical, maybe, but you learned to live with the pain, even got used to it. You could bear it with some degree of grace. But he's not that person, he's just the Jim Kirk of here, broken himself and held together with the hopes and dreams of other people and his own stubborn will, and he has no words to tell this Spock that things will get more bearable.
Instead he pokes him on the shoulder and says, "Hey, do you want to see something awesome?"
Spock's eyebrow twitches. Jim twitches his eyebrow back.
"I think he means 'what, you managed to find an Orion orgy, a flowing fountain of whiskey and/or a fist fight in a nearly deserted rose garden in Portland Ory-gun at ass am? Also get your goddamn hand offa me before it becomes my property,'" translates Bones. "No 'fense, Jim, but bless your heart."
"Hey," says Jim.
"The doctor's description, while overly emotionalistic and colorful, does accurately describe what you seem to find interesting," says Spock. "... and while I would not perhaps have stated the latter part of that as he did, I would indeed be obliged if you would cease poking me."
Jim sticks his lower lip out for a second. "Assholes," he says fondly, and then, "It's something that Sakel showed me."
"Oh, well in that case," mutters Bones, but they follow him down, past the entrance to the Shakespeare Garden -- a quiet green oasis in the storm of roses -- and to the side of the garden.
The bush is still there, and just beginning to show small, tender buds, flushed white and pink.
"It's a wild rose bush?" says Bones, dubious.
Spock is kneeling at the foot of the bush, reading the small plaque. "Fascinating," he says softly.
Bones bends down and reads it. "Huh," he says, and then, "Is the first bush still around, then?"
"Bombed out," says Jim. He'd looked it up after Sakel had shown it to him. "The wars, you know."
Spock rises to his feet and touches one of the fragile buds with one finger, as if he's talking to it, mind to mind. His eyelashes drop down, heavy black over the pallor of his face.
"But this one is still here," says Jim, watching Spock. "It's not the same, yeah? But part of it is still alive."
"Yes," says Spock, his voice soft, opening his eyes. He looks at Jim, and his face doesn't crack into a smile and his eyes don't shine with unshed tears or anything like that, but Jim knows he's gotten what Jim is trying to suggest.
It is still a living thing.