Jim Kirk is not best pleased.
He’s hunkered down in the attic, wedged in amongst the boxes filled with all the things that make his mom too sad to keep in the house and even sadder to think of throwing away. There are times when he suspects that she would have put him up here, too, if she could; packed him in a box and stored him away where she wouldn’t have to see him and remember. But even so, she never thinks to look for him here. There’s something about that that seems strange to him, but the specifics of it elude him. He settles himself more comfortably and decides not to think about it.
It isn’t that he’s hiding . . . exactly. That is to say, he’s not afraid, or nervous, or shy the way that everyone seems to think he will be. James Tiberius Kirk has never been shy a single day in his five and a half years of life. He just doesn’t like the idea of strange people coming to stay with them, that’s all. And for months. That’s practically forever. His mom keeps reminding him that her friend will be bringing her son, a boy just about Jim’s age, as though that will make him more excited rather than less.
Sam’s no help, either. He’s started staying over at their aunt and uncle’s farm more often than not, and Jim knows the grownups have been talking about him going to stay over there for good. He’s attached to the farm now, and they’ve come to rely on his help. Jim thinks he’ll probably end up going. It’s not as though it’s far away—the family properties run right up against each other—but the thought of his big brother no longer living in their house, not even only technically, makes him feel almost unspeakably lonely. Sam seems to think that it will be good for Jim to have another kid around this summer. Someone to keep him company, Sam said.
Jim suspects that his brother might have lost his mind a little bit.
Because the kid who’s coming is Vulcan, for heaven’s sake. There’s nothing fun about Vulcans. They’re logical and boring and, if Jim’s being completely honest, just the tiniest bit scary. And this is the boy who will be in his house, sharing his room, sleeping in his brother’s bed. How is he even supposed to start trying to make friends with someone so . . . well, alien?
He idly flips the pages of the album in his lap. If he goes downstairs again his mom will just find something else for him to do. She had him out cutting flowers last time. Flowers! He isn’t a girl, what does he care about flowers? And she knows he’s allergic, too. Well. Should know, anyway. Better to stay put until he hears her calling. He’s gotten very good at telling by the tone of her voice when she’s about to cross the line from irritated to truly angry. He’ll turn up then.
Jim is glad that at least Frank is gone, off on a shipping run to somewhere, to be honest Jim wasn’t really paying attention to the explanation. It isn’t that Frank was bad, exactly. It isn’t even that Jim doesn’t like him. His mom smiles more when Frank is there; she forgets to look at him like she’s seeing someone else, and he can just be Jim. Just be her son. But no matter that he’s been around for months and looks like he might be around even longer, when it comes right down to it Frank is just another stranger. Things are different when he’s around. Jim is to young to name this feeling, this craving for stability, but he’s not too young to feel it. He can deal with Frank, or he can deal with Vulcans. He doesn’t think he can deal with both, and he’s glad he doesn’t have to try.
He’s getting to the best part of the album now, and he turns his focus from the upcoming invasion—which is still how he’s thinking of it in his head even if his mom said he couldn’t say it out loud anymore—to the pages in front of him. Holographic chips give way to real paper cards, hardly even yellowed with age. Mostly he studies them through the layer of protective plastic, his eyes following the lines of the players’ bodies, imagining that at any moment it could spring to life with the crack of a bat or the heavy thump of a baseball into a leather glove. He took one out when he first found them a month ago, though, to hold in his hand for just a few precious seconds. The cards are thick, a layer of gloss still gleaming on the surface.
His father’s hands had been there before. Were probably the only hands to touch those cards until Jim had found them again.
He’s terrified enough of damaging them that he hasn’t touched them again since.
His mother’s voice breaks in on him from far away and he lifts his head, listening carefully.
“Jim! Where are you?”
There’s already an edge of exasperation in her voice; he must not have heard her start to call him. He hurries to put the album away, tucking it back in its box with one final fond pat. Then he scrambles up and over to the trapdoor that leads down into the house proper, drops as quietly as he can into the hallway outside of his room. He’s climbing through his window and down the side of the house before his mom would even be able to think about checking on any noises she might have heard.
He doesn’t want her to know that he’s been in the attic. He’s never stopped to examine why that might be, but he knows it just the same.
Her tone is edging towards the danger zone by the time he clatters his way up the porch.
“Yeah, Mom?” He lets the door slam behind him and tries to figure out where her voice is coming from.
“Where were you?” She’s in the kitchen, and he heads that way. She sounds calmer now that he’s answered. “I must have called you a dozen times.”
“Playing outside. Can I have a snack?” He climbs into a chair at the table and watches his mother’s face fall when she turns to look at him.
“Oh, Jimmy.” Her shoulders slump as her eyes rake him over from head to toe. Slender hands find her hips and Jim squirms. “What were you doing, rolling around on the ground? You’re filthy.”
He hadn’t thought about how dusty the attic was. Oops. “Can I have an apple?” he tries with a winsome grin. Maybe if he asks for something healthy instead of the cookies he was angling for it would distract her.
“No, you can not.” No dice. “I spent all morning telling you they’d be here by noon, but I swear it must go in one ear and out the other.” She reaches out and tugs him from the chair. “I got Amanda’s message that they’ve arrived in Des Moines, so they should be here any minute. So what you can do is march upstairs and get cleaned up so that you look like a little boy instead of a wild animal.” She gives him a gentle push towards the stairs. “Scoot.”
“I’m not a little boy,” he grumbles, but slouches off, prepared to splash his face with water and run a comb through his hair once or twice. The noise of an aircar outside builds and shuts off when he’s just reached the bottom of the stairs.
He’s through the door and out on the porch before he remembers that he’s supposed to be upset, not excited.
The first thing he notices is how gracefully the pair that’s descending from the ‘car move, as though gravity is simply something that they politely tolerate. The second thing, and really it can’t be understated, is how weird they look.
The woman looks human enough; not surprising since he knows she is human. She and his mom attended Starfleet Academy together, were friends when his mom met his dad and Amanda Grayson met Ambassador Sarek. But she’s dressed like a Vulcan—he assumes—in stiff fabrics and dull neutral colors, a scarf wound loosely around her head. She looks like his least favorite kind of adult, stern and unsmiling. Like an amplified version of what he sees as his own mother’s worst traits.
But though it’s been years since they’ve seen each other, here’s serious, responsible Winona Kirk flying out of the house and practically colliding with the other woman with a delighted yell. And this strange woman is wrapping her arms tightly around her friend, unaware or uncaring when her scarf slips off and dark hair whips about freely in a sudden burst of wind. They’re clinging and laughing and chattering at each other in what hardly seems like Standard it’s so incomprehensible.
Then, hovering near the parked aircar and managing to look completely unsure without moving a single muscle in his face, there’s the boy. At least, Jim assumes it’s a boy because that’s what he’s been told to expect. But he’s wearing what looks an awful lot like a dress, dark purple over a scratchy-looking gray shirt and black leggings—tights, Jim thinks uncharitably. He’s clutching a case nearly as big as he is, and no, there’s no way he’s Jim’s age. He’s too little, his face is too round, and great, on top of everything else Jim’s going to have to deal with a little baby tagging along. Just great.
“Jimmy!” He climbs reluctantly down from the porch and shuffles over to his mother’s side. “Amanda, this is my youngest, James. Jim.” Her hand tightens painfully on his shoulder, the way it always does when she introduces him to someone new, as though just saying her name is hard for her.
He looks up, and maybe it was the scarf before because the woman in front of him doesn’t look stern or mean at all. Instead she’s smiling down softly at him, her eyes lit with genuine pleasure, as though she’s met him a million times before and this is just a reunion she’s been looking forward to.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Her voice is as soft as her smile. He can’t hear pity in it, or regret, or any of the things he usually hears when people figure out who he is. He decides he likes her. “This is my son, Spock.” The boy behind her comes forward obediently. “I hope you’ll show him around while we’re here. He’s just a year older than you are, so the two of you should be able to find lots to talk about.” Jim’s face must give away his disbelief, because Spock’s face tightens even as his mother laughs. “I know, he probably looks young to you.” She runs a fond hand through his hair and Jim gives an internal wince of sympathy. “Vulcans tend to live quite a bit longer than we do; their rate of aging is slower.”
“I’m sure Jim will be happy to have another playmate around,” his mom says with a warning look sent his way. “Sam, my oldest, is over at my sister-in-law’s place so often. He’ll be back for dinner tonight, though, and you’ll get to meet him then. Oh, lord, look at me, keeping you two standing out here! Come in, we’ll get you all settled. Help Spock get his bags to your room, sweetie.”
The two boys stare at one another for a moment, sizing each other up while their mothers make their way inside. Jim takes in the tilted eyebrows, the straight, shiny hair . . . the ears. Perhaps inevitably, he’s the one who speaks first. “So you’re half-Vulcan.”
That must be wrong, because Spock’s shoulders stiffen. “I am a Vulcan,” he says coolly. “My genetic makeup is half human, but I have been raised to follow the teachings of Surak.”
He can’t help it; he laughs. There’s no way not to, with the other boy so stiff and formal. “Surak?” Jim scratches the tip of his nose. “Is he like a teacher of yours?” He doesn’t wait for an answer, just grabs Spock’s case with a grunt of effort. “Geez, did you try to pack the whole planet with you?”
“I am perfectly capable of—”
“It’s cool, I’ve got it.” He doesn’t, not really, but there’s no need for Spock to know that. “You’re sleeping in Sam’s bed.” The idea doesn’t seem as terrible now as it did less than an hour ago. “C’mon.”
“I am used to a stronger gravitational pull.” Spock scurries after him as he protests. “The weight will seem less to me.”
“Really?” Jim drops the case to regard him in interest. “That’s sort of cool. So are you, like, super strong here on Earth? Like Superman?” A blank look meets him. “Y’know, like in the comics?”
There’s an expression he can’t read on Spock’s face, there and then gone in an instant. “I am unfamiliar with the subject to which you are referring.” It sounds like a confession, and Jim’s jaw drops.
“Don’t you have comic transmissions on Vulcan? That’s like . . . inhuman.”
A single upswept eyebrow raises. “Yes.”
Jim snorts then. Spock is actually pretty funny, he’s finding. “I’ve got some PADDS upstairs with a bunch of issues stored, I’ll show you what I mean.” He picked up the case again. “But we’ve gotta get inside first.”
There’s a pause from the boy behind him, and then a voice saying, “Thank you, James.”
Jim turns around to grin at him. It had sounded rehearsed, as though he hadn’t been sure how exactly it would sound when he said it for real. “No problem. And everyone calls me Jim.”
Spock’s hair gleams in the sunlight as he tilts his head thoughtfully. “James is your given name.”
“Well, yeah. ‘Jim’ is a nickname. Like . . . a shorter version.”
That eyebrow goes up again. “Jim is no shorter an appellation. Your given name is perfectly adequate; such an alternative is illogical.”
Jim rolls his eyes and starts into the house again. This is looking like it will be a very strange summer.