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Author's Note: Written as a part of where_no_woman's February Drabbletag Challenge for the prompt "Winona: The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned."
For Winona Kirk, home isn't Iowa. Iowa is just the house that belonged to George's mother, where they decided to settle down when they were planetside until they could get a place of their own. Iowa is just a waystation—a place with connections and family that belongs to the children they'd been, not the people they were now.
Iowa isn't home.
Home isn't their quarters on the Kelvin, not when it's supposed to be just a short assignment—going back out for a two-year mission after their parental leave ends and George talks his sister Irene and her husband Frank into fostering Sam (her husband refused to call their baby "Junior" and so they'd taken to calling him by his middle name ever since he was old enough to walk) while they're gone, with promises of daily subspace communication when they're in range, subspace packets transmitted from beacon to beacon when they're not.
The Kelvin isn't home. It's their current lives, their careers. But it's still not a home. Not a real home, because they're here, and Sam is there, and that's just for now, not forever. That's what they told him when they left, and that's what they've told him every day since. He believes it, because he's too young not to. Win believes it because she wants to.
For Winona, home is their son's breath, soft on her neck as she lifts him from the sofa and tucks him into his bed. The big-boy-bed they'd got him when he turned four, on a brief shore leave while the ship was fitted with new upgraded sensors at the yard. Watching her son fall asleep, his sandy blond hair already in its way toward brown, she knows his grandmother's house is the only home he's ever known. But someday, they'll make a real home. She promises herself, even if she never says it aloud to her husband or son.
She'd never thought of herself as having particularly strong maternal instincts—not when she first found out she was pregnant. She'd panicked, despite George's insistence that she'd be fine. They'd be fine. And even if they weren't, Starfleet medical had excellent psychiatric services for servicepeople and their dependents. If the kid needed therapy, well... at least they had options.
The maternal side she was sure didn't exist had first kicked in when she'd felt the baby move inside her for the first time. In the olden days, they called that "quickening". She kept thinking that made the baby sound like rising bread dough. But instead of feeling like an alien had hitched a ride in her abdomen (and George had only laughed because that had happened to at least two crewmen they'd served with in their first six years in Starfleet doing deep space survey missions), suddenly it made everything real. Instead of drowning in panic, she instead started to think about who the little person they'd made together would be like. Anticipating the joy of meeting someone for the very fist time, and going from a couple to a family.
Home was her husband and her son. That was the truth that had hit her the first time she'd seen George holding Sam, fussing that he'd drop him or break him because babies weren't like puppies and why does he smell funny? That was the truth that she woke knowing like the value of Pi, or the smell of ozone in the air during a storm. That was a truth like gravity, anchoring Winona to the world.
When she'd discovered that she was pregnant a second time—still seven months out from the end of their current duty assignment—she'd begun to think about all the firsts they'd missed and how they'd have all new firsts they would share together. Her, George, and Sam. Would they have a daughter, or another boy? How would Sam take to being an older brother? Win had no siblings—an only child—and George had been born nearly a decade after Irene, so she'd almost been more like a favourite aunt than a sister, growing up. What would it be like, trying to raise two kids at once? When would they ever go out on a date or get a decent night's sleep again?
For Winona Kirk, home means her family. And as she screams with labour pains and terror as the medical shuttle jostles with impact from debris, she can't think of anything except she doesn't know where home even is, anymore. Then she looks down at the baby in her arms—his head still misshapen and nearly pointy (she'd been worried, when Sam was born, until the ship's midwife had explain it was perfectly normal)—and smells his milk-sweet breath as she rubs her nose against the top of his head.
She holds her baby—born too soon, but still healthy and still alive and a miracle in the middle of it all—and thinks of her son, and their father. She's still sore and exhausted, and her chest is tight like she can't breathe. She doesn't know if she'll ever be able to breathe.
She wants to go home. It's all she can think about, as the doctor with her huge eyes and sympathetic smile helps her with the rest of her labour (they never show the part with the afterbirth in vids. Win has always been annoyed by that. George has—had—always been perfectly happen to allow it to remain a mystery) clean her up and tuck her into the biobed built into the wall of the shuttle. She clings to James, wrapped in a blanket that had probably never been meant for anyone so tiny, and babbles nonsense to him even though he's already sleeping as the tiny ship moves further and further away from the debris and destruction.
She wants to go home, and she's not sure any longer exactly where home is. But home is James—she'll call him Jimmy, she knows she will—and Sammy. For now.
She'll figure out the rest later.