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Cinderella's Wicked Stepmother

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He knew George and Winona when they were all kids together. Winona was the kind of girl every guy wanted to be with, but most guys couldn't quite work up the nerve to talk to her.

Winona was like an ionic storm; fierce and damaging but goddamn, she was beautiful.

George was like lazy summer days when it's so hot all you want to do is curl up on the porch with lemonade and a book with actual binding.

She'd start complaining about something and he'd look at her, grin, and say, "Yeah, sure." She'd bite her lip and roll her eyes and try damn hard not to smile.

Frank never stood a chance, not really. George and Winona were this… epic romance. But he was George's friend, and she seemed to like him well enough, and Frank was all right getting what he could.

They went off to Starfleet, and he lost touch with them both. Not much sense in keeping in touch when you're off building the Federation- what would he tell them about, anyway? Crop yields? Riverside's a quiet, lazy town, and Iowa never changes. Frank takes over the family farm, and he does- pretty damn well, actually. Helps he gets into the stock market. It's just lucky when he ends up getting 80 credits on the 1 for some obscure company nobody's heard of- stocks go through the roof when they work out some sort of bonding system.

He's not sure on the details.

Never had a head for math- never had a head for space. Likes the dirt under his nails, the feeling of a hard day's work. Takin' care of the animals. Might be rustic, but there's nothing wrong with rustic.

Winona and George buy the old Connor house. It's too big for them and the kid they're expecting, but they're flush with more money than Frank's got.

He sits at their kitchen table and watches Winona navigate around her baby bump like it's not even there.

He sees her at the open market- replicators are great, but you can't beat home-grown tomatoes- and the other mothers and women swarm.

They want to touch the bump.

Winona Kirk glares at them all so hard Frank's almost afraid they'll burst into flame, and as he gasps for breath around his laughter he realizes he's still carrying quite the torch.

They name the kid George Samuel Kirk.

He's a cute kid- Frank sees him as he's growin' up because he delivers produce to Mr & Mrs Kirk Sr., who watch him while his parents are out in the black.

He's bright and he's got George's honey-warm personality, curious and good with his hands.

News comes around that Winona's expecting again when George Jr is three. He'll be four when his little sibling is born, and sometimes Frank can't escape Mr and Mrs Kirk's because George has all these ideas about what a younger sibling'll be like. He can't wait to be a big brother- Frank figures he'll be pretty awesome at it if this is his attitude going in.

And then George is dead.

George is dead, and Winona is coming back in with red-rimmed eyes and an infant. She locks herself into the house with her boys and doesn't let anyone in come hell or high water.

George Jr is suddenly "Sam", and he hears through word of mouth that the baby is a boy, and his name is James- Jim. After his maternal grandfather, with Tiberius as a middle name.

Starfleet personnel cruise in and out, and Winona stands on the porch of the house and stares them down, hair pulled back at the nape of her neck and Jim in her arms with Geor- Sam behind her legs.

For four months of every year for the next five, she goes back out into space, undoubtedly kicking ass and taking names.

The kids stay with their grandparents, and Frank visits just like he's been doing for almost the past decade.

Sam is still the best kid he's ever known, but Jim-

Jim Kirk is a kid with severe impulse control issues and the kind of belief in his own invincibility that'll get him killed, except it never does.

He's smart as hell, smarter than any kid Frank's ever known, and he's always going. He never shuts up, always asking why and getting so, so angry when everyone runs out of answers.

He spends a lot of time crying and sulking from ages 2-4. When he's five he runs away, and almost kills himself.

No one will ever convince Frank that that wasn't a five year old trying to commit suicide. Not after he finds out later that Jim sent Winona a good-bye.

Frank finds Jim collapsed in the snow, sound asleep, and very blue; too still.

Winona bursts into the hospital and Frank tries to be inconspicuous while she cowers every single person in the hospital.

"Can you believe them?" she demands later, just outside Jim's room, her hands wrapped around her Irish coffee. "Who doesn't lock the doors? Who doesn't make sure that the five year old can't undo the locks?"

He doesn't say anything; he doesn't have to, he's just the sounding board. She just wants to yell, and Frank will let her.

She lets him come around to the house after that- smiles at the way he's good with Sam.

She's amazing with Jim. She has answers to the questions, her Look shuts him up, and instead of taking away the sharp objects she shrugs and asks what's the worst he can do?

He's not- when he asks her to marry him at the end of the year, he knows he's not George. He's not her first choice, or even her second.

It's like Cinderella- the widower marries for the good of his daughter to a woman he thinks is suitable. Winona's marrying him because he's good with her kids, and he's comfortable, knew her from before; knew George.

They're not going to start any wildfires, but he's… okay with that. He's not a wildfire kind of guy.

Four years later that little shit is stealing his car and driving it off a cliff, and Winona's still laughing when she calls him and buys him a new one.

He doesn't know how to say that that wasn't the point- that it's the complete disrespect for him, for his things that's the problem. It's the fact that her youngest kid thinks he's so much fucking better than the rest of them- that at nine everyone in Riverside can see that Jim Kirk doesn't quite fit. Even Winona fit, back when they were kids.

Jim doesn't have friends, but everyone loves him, but everyone's nervous about him- Frank doesn't know what to do with the fact that Jim makes him want to hit him. He's not- he's not that guy. Jim's not his kid, but he's his step-kid and his responsibility, and sometimes Frank even likes him in spite of himself- and he loves Sam.

But Jim just drives him right off the edge of reason- the car was a goddamn metaphor, alright? The car is Frank, the ground is his patience, and there's Jim, with his foot to the floor, running right off the cliff.

It doesn't help that one day Frank finds him in all the bills and Frank's stock portfolio, frowning at the numbers and then, with disdain no 8 year old should muster with their stepfather, Jim Kirk informs him that he's being cheated, that there are 20,000 credits missing over the course of seven years, and maybe he wants to call his broker.

Frank's hands twitch, and all he wants to do is smack Jim's snide, arrogant little head. Instead he gets a beer and goes out to the barn to be with the cows. He never wants to kill cows. He just- Jim pushes buttons Frank doesn't know he has until Jim's grubby little fingers find them. And Frank can't seem to give the kid a break.

Years drag on and he doesn't want to, so much. Jim has daddy issues a mile wide, because everyone compares him to his father, because his birthday is the day his dad died- and the way it translates is that Jim hates Frank because he's not George, and Frank hates that because there's not a fucking thing he can do about it. Jim, who hates being held to his father's image for comparison, is holding Frank to that exact standard.

Jim begs Winona to go away to Tarsus IV- another way he's different from Sam, from Frank. Sam's curious about a lot of stuff, but he's a steadier kid at 16. Jim is a goddamn misery of a 12 year old. Frank isn't a bit sorry to see him go.

That doesn't mean that he would have ever, ever wished what happened on Tarsus on the kid. Not- Jesus. No. But that doesn't- he has a really awful moment where he thinks, Great, now he'll be worse.

And it's uncharitable, and he should be more accommodating, but Winona has to go deal with the fallout, and Jim is 13 and psychotically angry at everything.

Frank doesn't remember what happened the first time he actually hit Jim.

Jim was 14, he remembers that, and Sam had left for university already, and Jim was running his goddamn mouth and Frank had realized that he was trapped with this kid who looked more and more like George as the days went by but was more and more like all the worst parts of both his parents.

He was drunk. He remembers that- well. Those days he was always drunk, because the blissful numb was the only way he could keep his hands from wrapping around Jim's neck.

Jim stares at him from the floor, gets up, and slams the door. He never crosses Frank's doorstep again.

Winona sends him the divorce papers, ignores his attempts to plead with her. Beg her forgiveness.

"Winona!" he pleads. "Please- just- "

"You're lucky he didn't empty your bank account," she remarks. Then she looks him dead in the eyes. "The last guy who hit my kid ended up dead, Frank. You're fucking lucky."

When he checks his account there's about 20,000 credits missing. That little asshole. The worst of it is that he loses everything- not just the house he's felt like was his home. He's not a psuedo-father anymore, or Winona's husband, but he's just Frank Hallie, and he's not- it's possible that he doesn't know who that is without the Kirks to orbit around.

Sam stops sending cards, and Frank is left to pick up the pieces of his life, realizing that it wasn't ever his life- that for the past decade- forget that, for the majority of his life he hasn't even been the main character.

Sometimes Bob or Ted will remark that Jim's arrested for disorderly conduct, lewd and lacivious behavior, grand theft auto, assault, assault with a deadly weapon- it goes on for years, and Frank snorts and says he could have told them so, and then the stories stop. Jim is just…gone.

Frank doesn't hear about Jim Kirk again until he's saving the world.

He watches the TV slack-jawed as Jim Kirk comes off a shuttle with a Vulcan right beside him, looks into the cameras, and smiles faintly at them, nodding perfunctorily before heading straight for the Starfleet officials.

He's given the fleet's flagship, and Frank wants to scream that this kid? This kid is unstable, will fuck them all over. Will destroy them all.

He meets Jim again two years after that.

Winona never sold the Connor house, but Mr and Mrs Kirk had hinted she was considering it, so when he sees a man walking up the walk he calls out to him, thinking he might be a prospective buyer.

He has to call twice, and when the guy turns Frank has a minute of thinking it's George.

But it's not, it's Jim. Jim, older and somehow calmer, like all that wild energy he'd never been able to control was coiled, waiting for an excuse to be unleashed. It crackles in his eyes.

"Jim," he says, fighting to keep his voice level, damning the decision to be nosy- should have left well enough goddamn alone! "Didn't know you were staying here," he adds, because he can be civil, damnit. Because they're both grown men, and he's not going to give this smug bastard the satisfaction of seeing him riled.

"Yeah," Jim agrees.

"Jim, have you acquired the- hello. I do not believe we have been introduced."

"I'm- "

"Spock, this is Frank," Jim tells the Vulcan, and Frank notes the way the Vulcan's shoulder presses against the back of Jim's in an expression of solidarity. Huh.

And then he finds himself on the receiving end of a piercing stare, and it's not like Jim's just told this Spock character stories, it's like Spock knows him. Weighs him and finds him wanting.

"Well. I'll let you boys enjoy your evening," he manages, heading back down the lane as fast as he can go without running.

He doesn't sleep well that night.

At some point, another decade or so on when Jim comes to spend every other of his yearly R&R at the Connor house (always with Spock in tow), Jim doesn't seem to see him. Like Frank doesn't register at all, and it's not right because Frank can feel the air shift whenever any of that particular strand of the Kirk family is around.

It's unfair that he's still so affected by them all, when they clearly don't give a shit about him. Maybe it should be a release- permission to move on, or something.

He doesn't.

And every other year when a shiny phallic hovercraft glides into town his blood boils, his fists clench, and he's stuck- the wicked stepmother in the fairytale.