He's named after his father.
Every single name he has isn't his own—pre-used, worn in around someone else's life: George Samuel Kirk (Jr).
He thinks if Dad had lived, maybe it wouldn't have mattered, and he thinks sometimes that if Dad were alive he would have had to have been more like Sam; he and Dad trying to mitigate and manage Jim and Mom. He feels like only one half of a team—a basketball without a net, and it makes him self-sufficient.
His name isn't his own, so it doesn't bother him like Grandaddy thinks it should when Mom starts calling him "Sam" (Dad was never "Sam"— he was always George), because it's like she's giving Sam a bit of himself back: giving him an identity to create, not fill in the edges of a preconstructed one.
He won't think that until he's much older, of course— he's four at the time, and not Jim.
When he's nine, he almost kills his brother. Jim is— annoying. Jim is a fucking annoying kid, and so Sam says something stupid, about how Dad wouldn't have liked him—he doesn't even know what he's saying, just knows he's so so so angry, and Dad is the one weapon he's got against Jim, because Jim doesn't care that Grandmommy and Grandaddy like him better (probably because the world adores Jim— everyone who doesn't know him; everyone who doesn't have to spend actual time with him adores him).
Jim runs away, and Sam can't find him. Frantic, he wakes his grandparents up, and the whole town turns out the search party— when they find him he's by the creek, and so so still. Frank picks him up, wraps him in his own coat, and takes him to the hospital, and Sam wants to hold onto Frank's hand and cry a little. He doesn't. He's George Samuel Kirk.
When Mom comes she's not angry at him, she's angry at their grandparents.
Angry doesn't even cover it.
Jim forgives Sam, but something in his face makes Sam feel as cold as if he'd been the one out in the snow for hours.
He forgets that, though, because Mom stays home. Jim's less annoying because she's there, and Sam can come home and tell her everything about his day— about how they're studying Vulcan and Human comparative biology in his advanced class— how they're going to look at Romulan versus Vulcan biology next. She listens, asks questions, and Sam feels at home for the first time in a really long time.
He's the best man when she marries Frank. He likes Frank— Frank teaches him carpentry and explains sex (and not in a gross way, but in a matter-of-fact way, because Frank is a farmer, and they are very matter-of-fact— most of Iowa is very matter-of-fact).
Frank makes Mom smile, and he reads to Sam at night before bed.
Sam remembers what it was like to be family, and he thinks this could be it.
Jim and Frank don't get along, and Sam's not sure how to fix that. It's not his job, he knows, but— it bugs him, sometimes. And sometimes, because he's four years older and four years ahead of Jim (chronologically, anyway), he looks to 18 and thinks, so close, so close, so close.
It's still five years away. But— the alternative is…
Well. Mom's gone a lot, and it's not family, not like he remembers it; not like the holovids remind him of how it was.
Like when Jim drives the corvette over the cliff— and almost kills himself.
Frank is so angry, so pissed off, and Sam gets that—he does, but… Jim almost drove himself over the cliff.
Johnny Travers says that Jim was doing at least 90.
"You've got to stop it," Sam tells Jim as Jim pretends to be asleep in his bed. Sam reaches out and grabs his shoulder, shaking him hard. "Jim. You've got to knock it off!"
"Fuck you," Jim snarls.
Sam's not sure why Jim's so angry, so so so angry, but it pisses him off. If Jim wants to be a little bitch, you know what? That's not Sam's problem.
Sam tries, but he's tired of teachers looking at him desperately when Jim's too smart; when classmates get confused and scared or enthralled because even at eleven Jim is such a draw for people…
And then sometimes— sometimes when Jim is in his room, doing math problems into the wee hours of the night, Sam will sit next to him and watch the numbers spill from Jim's brain to his hand to the paper and think that the problem is that Jim is just too much— that he's a supernova in a marble; too big for the space he's in.
And Sam's just desperately sad for him, wants to hold him close, and maybe they'd be closer but Jim is defensive and learning how to be slippery, and Sam isn't like Mom. He can't keep his grip deliberately relaxed to keep Jim in the palm of his hand; he squeezes too tight and Jim shoves and pushes and is just the biggest fuckhead.
It'd be easier if Sam loved him less.
He's not usually this guy. He's not usually the kind of guy who goes home with someone he sort-of knows and fucks, because… well. He doesn't like complications, and he's never sure how to act after. He's not okay with just…leaving, and he only goes home with people he knows, so it's not anonymous and—well.
But he's 17 and just got accepted to the Meyer's Instutite for Biology, which is epic, and he feels like celebrating—feels a little selfish, a little entitled.
Which is why he's sprawled on Chrissy Jameson's couch as her head bobs between his legs.
Her roots are showing, and her gag reflex is like- super-sensitive, but she's enthusiastic and it's wet and Sam? Does not get his dick sucked often enough.
When his comm goes off, he ignores it. Then Chrissy's roommate flies in and says, "Oh my god, stop and look at what happened on Tarsus!"
"Which planet?" Sam is demanding, sitting up fast and dislodging Chrissy, forgetting to be embarrassed at all because oh fuck no. His dick has already lost most of its interest, hanging against his thigh as though it too dreads the number— his hand reaches for the comm to see who the call is from: unknown, offplanet. Shit.
"Four!" she exclaims, turning up the TV.
"Governor Kodos apparently implemented an eugenics program on the colony after bad crop yeilds left it in a situation of dire emergency. Kodos is being reported dead—"
He comms Yellow Shuttle Cab, tucking his dick in and hailing a shuttle-taxi frantically to take him from Iowa to San Francisco to the Space Station.
He's George Samuel Kirk Jr. If he wants to go the fucking space station to find his brother (because Jim is alive. Jim is alive) he will.
"Jim!" he shouts down the line when he finally gets a connection to Jim's comm. "Jim! Oh my god, Jim—"
"'M okay," Jim mumbles, and Sam curls around the comm in the back of the taxi.
"You are not," Sam snaps back. This is what comes of letting your mother let your 12 year old brother to a colony and leaving him there.
"Yeah, there's that," Jim agrees wearily.
"Let me talk to Mom, Jim," Sam demands.
"I'll be there when you get there, I'm on my — Kirk, the name is Kirk," Sam snarls at the Starfleet goon who wants to keep him off the spacestation. The goon looks confused, and Sam clenches his jaw and makes a fist. He looks like his mother, and it shows then—it must—because the goon lets him slide by. "Motherfuckers," Sam mutters.
"I know," Mom agrees.
"What the fuck?" he demands, strapping into the shuttle.
"Busy now," she says as the roar of conversation grows in the background. "Talk later."
Sam swears. Loud, long, and creatively.
When the transporter touches down Mom looks at him, moves towards him, but then someone's shouting for her. She's got her arm around Jim, who's staring a little vacantly- dead tired, Sam would recognize that look anywhere.
"I've got him," he says, because she's Winona fucking Kirk, and right now the galaxy needs her more than they do. They're Kirks— big moments are what they do; what the rest of them do. Sam's too smart for this shit. He wraps his arms around Jim and sits down right there, right in the middle of the hustle and bustle. He pulls Jim against him like he's five, and they sit there for so long that Sam's body creaks and twinges and Jim grunts with effort when they finally stand.
"I'm hungry," Jim decides.
"That revelation right there?" Sam says. "That's rocking my world."
"Shut up," Jim says, and barks a rusty, surprised laugh. Sam's blood starts flowing again. "Dude," Jim says, pained. "Your fly is open."
For a few months, things are okay. Jim is awful to Frank, but Sam can get Frank to back off, and to try to push numbers at Jim. Jim goes to therapy, does his math (which Sam thinks is his real therapy), and doesn't even try to argue with Frank.
And then Sam leaves for his interview with the Meyers Institute and when he gets back a week later it's like— he doesn't even know. It's like the Romulans and the Klingons have descended upon the Federation; their house is a war zone.
Sam graduates and leaves for the Institute when he's 18. He's tired of fighting this battle.
He takes the holos. He makes copies of them, leaves them in Jim's closet for him to find, but he takes the originals.
He can remember Dad, vaguely. He remembers that his eyes disappeared when he smiled, and that he had really white teeth.
What Sam remembers really vividly is being four and running after Dad on the docking station, begging to come with him; not to be left alone. He doesn't remember where Mom was; probably prepping something or other on the ship. He remembers Dad crouching and Sam being able to breathe in the smell of summer as he wrapped his arms around Dad's neck, holding on as tight as he could.
"Aw, George," Dad laughed. "We'll be back before you know it."
Sam had sniffled, cried, "I want to come with you!"
"Not this time, buddy," Dad had said, gently disengaging and kissing his forehead. "I love you."
Sometimes, when he watches the holos of the three of them at the beach or on a starship he wants to reach through the particles of light and into his dad and shake him.
Wants to say, "If you loved me, you wouldn't have run away from me. You wouldn't have left me."
When he cries—and he still does, sometimes, for everything they could have—should have— been— he can smell lemonade.
He hates it, now. Never drinks it; it makes him want to vomit.
He's 19 when he meets Aurelan—"Aurie". She's beautiful and funny and smart.
She goes to the Woolf Institute for Literature— she mocks him for being uncultured. She has a deeply disturbing love for Shakespeare; can be found reading Hamlet and cracking up the way no sane person should, and even though he's not a big fan of books he wants to read them just to see what she sees in them.
That's how he knows it's love.
She doesn't ask him questions about his dad, and he doesn't offer them. She worries about Jim without ever having met him, and Sam… likes that he can let her worry for both of them. No, that's not right. He worries more, it's just— he can't express it, not really. So she does, and it's… he's expressing his worry vicariously through her, or something.
He's a biologist—he's not great with words.
Then he gets a garbled message from Jim at 4am Erandian time. He sighs, and comms Frank to see what the hell is going on at home.
"What's going on with Jim?" Sam asks.
"The fuck should I know?" Frank slurs. Sam frowns—Frank never used to get drunk. "AFter I hit him—"
"You what?" Sam snarls, forgetting that Aurie is asleep beside him. "You bastard—"
"He's fifteen!," Sam shouts over him. "Where the fuck is he?"
"The fuck should I know?" Frank sounds petulant, and Sam's fingers itch for his throat. He disconnects.
Aurie frowns at him in askance.
"Stepfather just hit my brother," he says shortly, comming his mother.
"He did what?" she asks. She's gone hard and clipped, and Sam smiles, and the face in the mirror is that of a stranger— someone who wants to take the universe and bend it to their will.
Sam's not that person.
"Hit him. Mom, you don't divorce this sonovabitch—"
"Divorce him?" she sneers. "He'll be lucky if I leave the phaser just set to "kill"."
Jim doesn't live with their grandparents, and he won't come live with Sam, even though Sam offers (because that's what family does, but God, he's an awful person for feeling so relieved when Jim laughs right in his ear).
And Mom says he's just drifting—does odd jobs, graduated, festers in Iowa.
Sam's research distracts him—or he lets it distract him, or he's looking for a distraction, or maybe he's just decided that Jim is—
Jim is the kind of person who walks up to a wall with a door in it, but since the door takes him to a different room than the one he wanted to go to, he just smashes himself against the wall; expecting it to fall away and give him what he wants. Jim rages against the universe like it owes him something; like he can charm it or tame it or beat it down. Sam's— Sam can't live his life being terrified of either outcome. He won't.
He gives Jim money for his birthdays and holidays—direct deposits them, and he might be funding Jim's alcoholism, but anything else he sent Jim would just pawn, so.
And it's amazing, that making his peace with Jim's absence in his life lets him open to a whole other world, filled with people who live sensibly— people who don't run suicide missions, people who don't sacrifice themselves.
He and Aurie get married three years after he last speaks to Jim, and Jim doesn't respond to the invite. Mom says he's still alive, but Sam takes a shuttle a month before the wedding, heads back to Earth, drives out to Riverside, and heads to the bar.
Jim is in a room downstairs—apparently the new owners let him crash there in return for… what? Sam doesn't want to think about that.
"I'm getting married," he tells Jim's sleeping face. He looks so much like Dad. "Her name is Aurie, and she wanted me—she thought you'd like this."
He puts down The Ultimate HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy next to Jim's face, smoothes his hand over the bruises on the ridge of Jim's cheekbone.
"God Jim," he says helplessly. He programs his new numbers into Jim's comm, and leaves that night.
"How was he?" Aurie asks.
"He's 18 and going to die of alcoholism," he replies, and she wraps her arms around him.
Jim sends him a message later: there's an infinite number of monkeys outside who want to talk to us about this script for Hamlet they've worked out."
Aurie laughs and laughs and laughs and finally explains to him that it's from the book— that it probably means Jim's fine.
She sends him books with Sam's money, from then on, and Jim seems to read them all; remember them all.
When Aurie gets pregnant, they get an obnoxious care package in the form of a stork. A stork made out of diapers.
"Jim, you asshole," Sam says helplessly.
Aurie beams. "Awesome— that's that taken care of!"
Peter Nathan Kirk is born October 2, 6355. Every single one of his names (except his last) belongs entirely to him.
I may be enrolled in Starfleet, Jim writes him. He's 24—went to San Francisco two years after Sam got married, and seemed to do a hell of a lot better. Blame Vulcans.
Sam is so confused. For what?, he writes back.
Everything, Sam. Blame them for everything..
Sam… has no idea what he's talking about. But Jim seems to be doing better, so he doesn't ask.
Jim goes into space, and Sam works on Earth Outpost II (because his name is George Samuel Kirk, and he doesn't feel the weight of their dad's death, not like Jim does. He's just— the only sane living Kirk).
Two years later Xander Owen is born, and Jim saves Earth.
Sam wants to know why everyone is surprised. Jim finally has enough space (and no, Sam's not really surprised it took an entire galaxy) to come into his own.
"I don't know how to— how do you get Aurie to do things?" Jim demands, holding Xander gently. Peter had stared up at Jim and said, "Grandpa?" because he'd seen the holovids of Dad, and Jim hadn't crumpled, and Sam had exhaled.
Then Jim glanced in the window and glared, because he's not that old.
"I… don't?" Sam says, frowning at him. "Jim. You don't get your partner to do things— you… no, never mind, it's you."
"What's that mean?"
"It means applying rules of normal people to you is impossible and a waste of energy," Sam informs him.
"He won't come—Sam—" Jim's face twists, and it reveals… too much.
"Oh," Sam says. "Oh."
"Yeah," Jim agrees, looking down at Xander. "I'm not having kids."
"Well, no, not unless there's something you want to tell me about your specific biology or Vulcans, in which case I reserve the right to claim all the credit for that discovery."
"No— I mean. I couldn't do that to—" Jim frowns. "I couldn't abandon someone."
Sam smiles slightly. "I'll make a deal with you. I'll have the kids and stay put and raise them, and you can come visit your neices and nephews whenever you want to, and go shooting off into uncharted space."
Jim grins. "Deal."
"Okay. I have to put him to bed—it's late."
"Sam," Jim sounds… strained, grabbing his coat and heading for the door, because Jim won't stay even where he's wanted. "Just— if you ever get an offer to go to Deneva… don't."
"I mean it, Sam. Just don't, okay?"
"Okay," Sam says, frowning. He doesn't want to leave Earth Colony II, not ever, but— he shrugs. That's Jim.
They're Kirks. Sometimes he thinks they can't help but be… more. Mom can't, Dad couldn't, he can't (he beats out a Vulcan his third year on E.C. II for the Nobel/T'Heer'a Prize)— but Jim is the worst of them all.
They're all defined, in their own way, by Dad. Sam finally feels okay enough to let people start calling him George when he's 35. He has three names, and none of them are entirely his own.
He doesn't mind that.