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Each Of Us

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Chapter One: Broken Glass

 

            Jim entered the house through the back entrance, stepping quietly to avoid the creaking board just inside the door, smirking to himself as he slipped silently into the kitchen, and then swearing loudly as he slammed his knee into an unexpected chair, stumbling and barely catching himself on the nearby table.

            “Works every time.”  A dry voice from across the wooden surface caused the young man to swear again, this time quieter and in resignation, and the soft glow from a newly-lit oil lamp cast golden color across the room.

            Jim straightened and sighed loudly, eyeing the spare, blonde woman seated on the other side of the table.  He took in the slouched posture, the dark circles under eyes, the way her hand was curled around an empty glass, the half-empty bottle of whiskey almost abnormally close to her body, as if somehow protecting her.  He watched her eyes take him in as well, seeing the rumpled, torn clothes, the black eye, the smell of liquor.  And even in the dim lighting he could recognize sadness in her gaze.

           “You weren’t at work today.”  Her tone wasn’t accusatory, simply stating a fact.

            “Neither were you.”  He licked his lips and crossed over to the cupboard, pulling out a glass and, dragging the misplaced chair closer to the table, sat down across from her.  They both ignored the empty seat at the head of the table.

            She remained silent and smiled, a small, empty, half-thing that Jim knew was so like his own, and poured each of them a generous serving.

            Jim leaned back and sipped his drink, watching the light cast shadows on his mother’s face.  Her gaze was unfocused now, as she stared across the table.  So much of her was unfocused since her husband’s death exactly one year before.  The second partner she had lost, and even though Jim and Frank had not gotten along, he had respected the man for being a good husband to his mother.  He shifted awkwardly on the chair.  “So, I ran into Matt Grayson today.  That’s why I’m late.”

            She raised her eyebrows, allowing him to gloss past his absence from his job, and the apparent fight he’d been in.  “How’s he doing?”

            Jim sighed again, hearing the complete lack of interest behind her polite inquiry.  “He’s fine.  Married with a kid if you can believe it.  Working on the farm.”  Jim licked his lips, raising his eyes to meet her placid gaze.  “His aunt’s back.”

            Something stirred in Winona’s blue eyes as she stared at him, and she swallowed sharply, her voice breaking. “His aunt?”

            “Yeah.  Amanda.  Came back last night out of nowhere.  She has a son, now, about our age.  She wanted to introduce him to the family or some such.  Old man Grayson apparently had a fit.  Matt said the whole place was in an uproar, and she up and left again.  Said she would be staying at a hotel in town.”

            Jim saw his mother’s lips part, saw her eyes widen, her forgotten glass shaking in her hand.  She was breathing heavily, and even in the dim light, he could see the color drain from her face.

            “Mom?”

            “Yeah.”  She snapped out of it, blinking and pressing her lips together.

            “You knew her?”

            Winona’s eyes met Jim’s, and there was definitely something there.  Something he had never seen outside of old photos from before his father died.  “Yeah, I did.  We grew up together, but when she left… .”  She shook her head.  “She left just after I married your father, about a year before you were born.”  Her eyes suddenly sobered, became intense in a way he had never seen before, and her voice was barely a whisper.  “What does her son…what does he look like?”

            Jim shrugged, confused.  “I don’t know.  You know Matt; he’s not very descriptive.”

            Winona nodded, her eyes shifting away.  The silence stretched, and Jim, unwilling to break it, sipped his drink again, waiting.  Frank had always pushed her to talk, had always asked questions, even about things he knew she would never voluntarily talk about again: about George, and the time before he died.  Jim himself had learned long before that such efforts were futile, and, even if she did produce some tidbit of information, the gain was hardly worth the struggle.  Her first husband’s death had seemingly broken her, like a glass sculpture cracked and incomplete on the floor, and, though he himself hardly knew anything about his father, his reluctance to press his mother gave him solace, as if he were protecting her.

            As the old clock in the front room sounded the late hour, Winona broke out of her reverie and forced another empty smile at her son.  “I’m going to bed.” Her tone was pointed.  “You’ve got a shift tomorrow.”

            Jim raised his chin.  “Good night, Mom.”

            She stood, not bothering to put away the decanter or her used glass, and turned to leave, hesitating as she reached the doorway towards the stairs.  “She was my friend, Jim.  She was like a sister to me.  And I haven’t seen or heard from her in almost twenty-five years.  I never expected to… .”

            Jim waited, and saw her bow her head.  “I’ve never talked to you about her, or about much of anything that happened before your father died.  I’m sorry, for that.”  She turned to look at him, and he saw the barest glimmer of tears in her eyes, the barest tremor to her voice.  “I love you, baby.”

            Jim felt a strange unsettled sensation in his gut.  “I love you, too, Mom.”  He saw her nod, saw her shoulders straighten as if to guard against something unknown, and watched her walk away, the floorboards creaking under her feet.

 

 

 

            “You heard me, Kirk, get the fuck off my job site.  When I need you, I’ll call you.”

            Jim made a face, clenching his fists in the pockets of his jacket, and saw the reddish tint to his boss’ face deepen.  “Yeah, I know what you’re thinking and you can stuff it.  You may be top on the fliers list, but I’ve got a stack of kids who are willing to learn and willing to show up on time, and for much less than I’ve got to pay you.  Now fuck off!”

            The supervisor turned and walked away, and Jim mouthed an obscenity before stalking off through the gate, getting several steps down the sidewalk before he heard a familiar voice behind him.  “Jim!  Wait up!”

            Jim turned.  “Hey, Travis.”

            “Hey.”  Travis was breathing heavily, and bent over to put his hands on his knees.  “Tell Win that she needs to be back on-shift tomorrow or I’m not gonna be able to keep Darvin from docking her pay.”

            Jim’s brow furrowed.  “She’s not here?”

            “Nope.”  Travis blinked at him, straightening again.  “I mean, yesterday I can understand.  It was hard for me being here a year after Frank’s accident, and I can’t imagine having been the one to pull him out of that machine and everything… .” The older man’s voice trailed off and Jim winced.  “Anyway, let her know.”

            “Sure.”

            Jim nodded, starting to turn away, and Travis held up a hand.  “Oh, and, uh, Beck sends her regards.”  He shrugged helplessly.  “You know.”

            Jim looked at the ground and kicked at a rock.  “Yeah.”

            Travis stood for a minute, biting his lip, and then made a half-hearted wave.  “Okay.  Don’t forget to tell Win.”

            Jim grunted and turned, shrugging deeper into his jacket in the cool morning air and walking towards the center of town.  His mother had been long gone by the time he had awoken, and he knew there was only one place that he would probably find her.  The gravel in the unfinished sidewalk crunched under his boots and he focused on the growing buildings in the distance, and one in particular.  She would be at the hotel, and damn if Jim was going to let the past break her again.

 

 

 

            The main street of their small town was rundown, dusty, old in a way that every small town in this area was.  But it was familiar, and Jim had lived there his entire life.  It lent him a sense of innate bravado, and, after a perfunctory inquiry at the front desk, carried him belligerently up the stairs of the small hotel and directly to the door of a third floor room.

            He knocked loudly once, and then again, impatiently, and then a quiet voice from the stairwell behind him interrupted him, “My mother is having breakfast downstairs.  May I be of assistance?”

            Jim whirled, mouth open, and abruptly stopped.  The young man in front of him was about his age, as Matt had described.  Tall and lean, wearing a thick, black sweater and jeans, pale skin, longish black hair brushing his high collar and almost in his eyes, and his eyes were brown, intense, and Jim somehow couldn’t look away.  The young man tilted his head slightly and Jim blushed, aware he was staring.  “I’m, uh, Jim Kirk.  My, um, mother might have come by earlier?  I’m looking for her.”  The bravado had drained from his voice and body, and Jim felt distinctly at a disadvantage.

            The young man had not blinked.  “Indeed.  She is presently in my mother’s company.  I am Spock.  I am pleased to meet you.”

            Jim furrowed his brow slightly, aware that the last part of the young man’s statement sounded like it had been memorized, with no emotion or meaning behind the words.  To cover his hesitation, he held out his hand.  “Nice to meet you, too.”

            The other man looked down at Jim’s outstretched hand and then deliberately clasped his own behind his back.  “Forgive me, I am not accustomed to that pleasantry.”

            “Um.”  Jim’s furrowed brow turned into a frown and he bit his lip.  “Okay, uh, want to go down?”

            “Yes.”  Spock’s voice held a hint of accent that Jim didn’t recognize, and the formal, precise way he talked was strange and distinctly out of place.  Even the way he moved, as he turned to precede Jim down the stairs, was uncommonly graceful and smooth.  Jim’s frown deepened; he just had a sense of something off about the other man.  Spock was halfway down to the next landing before Jim moved to follow him, and even then the blond man did not approach him too closely.

            The small meal room was in the back of the hotel, and deserted except for the two women at a rear table, obviously deep in conversation, barely noticing the two young men quietly enter.  Jim stopped and stood an arm’s length from Spock, watching his mother.

            Winona had been a beauty, and he could see it again, now.  The way her hands moved as she talked, the intensity of her eyes as she listened, the open, gentle way her expression changed in response to the other woman.  He caught his breath, having never, even on the good days with Frank, seen her like this.

            The other woman, Amanda, was slender, dark, and serious, her expressions subdued, her hands still on the table, but her eyes glowed, and even her subtle smile lit up her face.  Jim glanced sideways at Spock, who seemed just as entranced, and wondered if this, too, was a side of his own mother he had never seen.

            Neither of the young men had made a sound, but Amanda suddenly stopped and looked over, her large dark eyes so similar to her son’s.  Her expression changed rapidly as she stared at Jim.

            “My god, Win.  He looks just like George.”

            Winona had looked over, too, but her own expression now held reserved fear.  “Jim!  I thought you had a shift!”

            “I was late-it got cancelled.”  Jim’s tone was tight as his eyes shifted between the two women.  “Ms. Grayson?  It’s nice to meet you.  I, uh, ran into your son upstairs.”  He tilted his chin at Spock, who remained motionless.

            “Amanda, please.”  She glanced at Spock quickly before smiling again at Jim.  “I’m so pleased to meet you, Jim.  Winona’s told me so much about you; I feel I know you already.”  She looked over at Winona, who hadn’t taken her eyes off her own son, and then back at Jim.  “Would you like to join us?”

            “Actually,” Winona cut in, standing up slowly, “we should get your things together.”  She glanced almost anxiously at Jim.  “I’ve invited Amanda and Spock to stay with us while they’re here.”

            Jim took a breath, surprise running through him strongly.  In all his years with his mother, Winona had never invited anyone to stay.  Even the stray cats slept in the barn.  Next to him, he saw Spock flinch slightly.  “Mother.  This is an imposition.  Perhaps we are not… .”

            “Nonsense.”  The tone in Winona’s voice was perhaps too sharp, and Spock flinched again.  She turned to Amanda, and the sharp tone changed into an almost desperate note.  “Amanda, please.  It’s been too long, and with the situation as it is… .”  She glanced at Spock, briefly, and then lowered her eyes, her cheeks coloring.

            Amanda reached out and gently brushed her fingers across the back of her friend’s hand in an unfamiliar gesture.  “It’s alright, Winona.  We’ll stay.  I don’t want to leave you, either, and I think you’re right about…the other thing.”

            Jim looked curiously at Spock, whose posture had impossibly stiffened. And then his gaze drifted back to his mother, whose eyes had brightened again, and who had moved to clasp her friend’s hand, fully.

 

 

           

            It was a long walk back to the farmhouse, and Jim and Spock traveled side-by-side behind the two women, each young man carrying a small travel case.  In the brief exchange as they had retrieved the newcomers’ few belongings, Jim had learned that Amanda planned on staying less than a week before departing again, with Spock, back to where they had come.  She had not mentioned where she had been, or why she had left in the first place, and Winona had not asked.  Had not even indirectly hinted at the information.  It made Jim uneasy, as this suggested that his mother knew already, somehow.

            Spock had not said another word, and now walked next to Jim, wearing a thick coat, knit hat, and gloves, and still managing to appear cold, despite his relentless impassivity.  He had not smiled, had not laughed, had not frowned.  His eyes held expression, though, but Jim could not understand why they were so full of sadness.  And Jim noticed that Amanda did not touch him, even as she managed to hug Jim twice and patted his cheek, and now kept her hand firmly in Winona’s as they walked along the main road.

            Jim himself was still mulling over his mother’s response to the reappearance of her friend.  Winona had obviously left the house as soon as possible to go to Amanda, once having heard of her arrival.  She had very uncharacteristically skipped work to stay with her.  And now, she had invited the woman and her son into her own house and was holding onto her as if for dear life.  Jim wondered if his mother had ever truly been the broken thing at all, or perhaps what had been broken was the loss of those she cherished, the breaking of bonds of friendship and love that had sustained her.

            The meager sun was shining high in the sky by the time they reached the house, and although Amanda looked winded and had shed her own coat and scarf, Spock still appeared chilled and not fatigued in the slightest.  Winona gestured her guests inside, and Jim dropped the bag he carried on the floor in the hall, aware that Spock mimicked his action and was now studying him with those dark eyes as Jim shrugged off his jacket.

            “Jim,” Winona was standing in the entryway to the kitchen, “why don’t you take the bags up to the spare room?  I’m going to start some tea.”

           Jim opened his mouth, set to make a sarcastic retort in light of the entire confusing situation, when Spock spoke up quietly from beside him, “If it would not be an imposition, Mr. Kirk, perhaps I may accompany you to the appointed room.  I find I am in need of meditation.”

            “Of… .” 

            Jim’s mouth hung open unattractively, and Amanda exchanged a glance with Winona before stepping forward.  “I’m afraid we were quite disruptive last night.  Spock did not sleep very well.”  She placed a subtle emphasis on the word sleep, and Jim, still watching the other young man, saw him lower his eyes.

            Catching Winona’s sharp look, Jim raised his hands slightly.  “Sure.  Uh, yeah, Spock, that’s fine.” He picked up the bag again and headed for the stairwell, waiting for the soft sound of the other man’s footsteps behind him before turning.  “And, call me Jim, Spock.  Please.”

            The spare room held a couch and a small bed, along with a desk and several boxes of Frank’s things.  Jim set the bags down and yanked the shade on the single window, letting in the sunlight.  “I’ll find some clean linens and towels later.  We hardly ever have anyone stay here.”

            “I apologize for the intrusion.”  Spock clasped his hands behind his back, again, looking at Jim from under the obscuring fringe of dark hair.

            Jim shrugged.  “It’s not a big deal.  Mom just doesn’t do that, normally.  She and your mother must have been very close.”

            “I believe they were friends.”  Somehow, the way Spock said it made friend sound much more important, and perhaps even incomprehensible.

            “At least.”  Jim snorted lightly, wanting to break the lingering awkwardness that seemed to cling to the other man like a second skin.

           Spock tilted his head, and Jim shifted uncomfortably.

            The dark-haired man finally blinked.  “Friendship is important in your culture?”

            “Yeah, you could say that.”  Jim watched as the other man opened his mouth as if to reply, and then simply closed it again.  Slightly frustrated and more than a little irritated, Jim stepped closer.  “Spock, where are you from?”

            At that, Spock simply shut down, the lack of expression extending even to his eyes, and Jim found himself looking away, feeling unsettled by the closure. Something in him longed for the return of that startling openness in the other man’s gaze, and Jim inwardly shook himself.  “Well, anyway, I’ll leave you alone to, uh, meditate?”

            There was a flicker across dark eyes.  “Thank you, Jim.”

            He managed a half-smile, seeing a small capitulation.  “No problem, Spock.”

 

 

 

            Jim was quiet as he retreated down the steps, carefully avoiding the creakiest boards.  He could hear the women’s voices from the kitchen, and paused at the foot of the steps, hidden behind the wall leading to the doorway.

            “Twenty-five years, Amanda!  Twenty-five fucking years.  And not a note, or a call, or anything.  I thought you were dead.  I thought…I don’t know.  After how you left… .  And then George died less than two years later.  Jim was only a baby.  I needed you.”

            “I couldn’t call, Win, and I’m so sorry for that.  I’m so sorry I wasn’t here when you needed me, like you were there for me.”  Amanda’s voice was still measured, still subdued, but Jim knew it masked deep feeling.

            “Where did you go?  Where did he take you?”

            “We were…away…for a while, and then we returned after Spock turned seven.  His betrothed and her family were assigned here, to the outpost, and we followed, of course.”

            “He’s married?  He’s so young.”

            “He’s Jim’s age, not so young.  And, no, not married yet.  We’re…not sure how that will go, honestly.  How any of this will go.  He’s the first, Win.  No one knew if he would survive birth, or a day, or a year.  His father’s people don’t understand him, and we…well, he obviously couldn’t live here, his father’s blood being so dominant.”  She chuckled softly.  “You wouldn’t know to look at him that he was mine, except for his eyes.  Sarek says he has my eyes.”

            Winona’s voice was low.  “And that…time.  That happened again?”

            “Yes,” Amanda sighed, “but Spock is our only child.  He’s so beautiful, Win.  Just like Jim.  They’re both such beautiful children, even to have come from such sadness.  You and George, and my…situation.”

            There was a silence, and then Winona sniffed softly.  “When you leave this time, you won’t be coming back, will you?”

            Amanda’s voice was just as gentle.  “No.  All personnel have been directed to proceed home as soon as possible and shut down the outpost; I don’t know why.  It takes at least a week to prep that kind of operation, and I wanted to see my family, and you, once more.  I wanted Spock to meet them.”  There was a pause, and her voice took on a dark tone.  “Maybe that was naïve.”

            “It was human.”  Winona’s tone was something Jim couldn’t recognize.  “You’re human.  Will you be able to do it?”

            “I’ll have my son, and my husband, and my memories.  I’ve lived among them for twenty-five years.  They’re not warm, but they’re my people too, now.  I speak their language, I know their customs.  It’s logical.”

            “The part I saw wasn’t logical.”  Winona’s voice was dangerous.

            “I know.”

            Silence stretched, and Jim looked down, feeling slightly guilty for eavesdropping, and even more confused for having done it.  He heard his mother murmur something about seeing the rock arrangement in the garden and the scrape of chairs, the shuffle of feet, and the click of the back door as it latched.

            Now the silence extended all around him, and Jim jumped as his uplink unit buzzed in his pocket.  He opened it and peered at the message illuminated on the small screen.  He glanced up the stairs on more time before grabbing his jacket from where he had dropped it and pushing open the front door.  And as the chilled early afternoon air hit him he breathed deeply, feeling tension lift.  He shut the door perhaps harder than usual, as if in passive protest against the strange goings-on of the past twelve hours, over which he had no control and even less understanding.  During which he had seen a side of his mother he had never known, and had never expected.  A large part of him was childishly petulant, but a small, almost unnoticeable, piece of his soul waited, searching.

 

 

 

Chapter End Notes:

This story was inspired by a comment by mightymads about wishing to explore the relationship between Jim and his mother.  Of course, I then thought of Spock and his mother and then decided that an AU is the way to go, because then you'll get both!