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tomorrow is the last to be heard

Chapter Text

It happens in a way that he would never expect.

Despite what happened to the USS Kelvin (and Jim’s father), as soon as her maternity leave is up, Winona Kirk packs up her sons and moves them onto the USS Collier, where she reins as Chief Engineer. Jim and Sam learn to read and write surrounded by the coils of the warp core, pester the red shirts in charge of security, and chase each other around the hallways of the starship. On days when their mother’s workload is light, Winona teaches her boys about the inner workings of the starship; how all of the complex pieces work together to propel a 500,000-ton starship through space. Jim never thought that the machinery he grew up around would actually hurt him.

Oh, was he wrong.

It happens when he’s ten years old. The Collier meets a stray Romulan ship on the return trip from a scouting mission, and they attack without trying to hail the Collier. They get in quite a few shots before Captain Williams is able to return fire and destroy the ship. The only thing damaged in the short-lived encounter is the engineering bay.

Jim is sitting at one of the mechanic desks when the ship is hit. The floor moves out from underneath his chair, sending Jim rolling to the ground. With the support beams still holding substantial damage from mishaps during the scouting mission, they fall easily, crushing one of the dilithium cores.

Everything seems to move in slow motion as the core explodes a mere fifty feet from him. He closes his eyes and shields his face, but it doesn’t do any good. Shrapnel is thrown into his body as the force from the blast propels him backwards. His head connects with something hard and he blacks out.

When Jim wakes up, his entire body feels like it’s on fire. His mother is hovering over him, eyes worried. She brushes hair off his forehead and moves her lips as if she were talking to him. Jim frowns in confusion and asks her what she’s saying. Winona tries to keep her composure as she makes the exact same motions as before. Still, Jim doesn’t hear his mother’s voice match up with the movement of her lips. He doesn’t hear her voice at all.

Beginning to panic, Jim sits up and observes the current chaos of the medical bay. Nurses and medical officers are bustling around, tending to victims who were injured in the earlier skirmish. He knows what the med bay sounds like; he was there when Sam (accidentally) shoved him into a steel pole and gave him a concussion. But he hears none of those sounds. He doesn’t hear the doctors shouting orders, or the screams of patients in pain, or the constant beeping of heart monitors.

He doesn’t hear anything.

Tears begin to streak down his face as he rips the monitor leads from his skin and scratches at the tape holding his IV in place. His mother comes into view and places one hand on his face, while the other goes to still the fingers attacking the tubing. Jim’s eyes lock onto Winona’s as he asks a simple question.

“What’s wrong with me?”

He’s not sure if he vocalized it or not, but his mother seems to understand regardless. She holds up one finger, signaling for him to wait as she stands and searches the med bay. She returns with a pad of paper and a marker, and writes three simple words.

You’re deaf, Jim.

She continues to write, likely the details of what happened, but that doesn’t matter to him. His eyes fixate on a loose thread hanging from the curtain surrounding his bed as he tries to process the information given to him.

Jim will never hear again.

Once they get back to Earth, everything is a mess. Jim is taken in for multiple surgeries: one to remove the shrapnel lodged in his ear, a second to attempt to rebuild his middle ear, and a third to rebuild his ear drums. The second surgery fails, and the doctors are adamant to try again, due to the scar tissue formation around his middle ear. They tell Jim that he could regain some of his hearing, but nothing is guaranteed.

Two months later, the world is still silent.

His mother takes him to an audiologist who fits him for hearing aids. He’s told that, even with the hearing aids, his hearing will never be what it was. The audiologist suggests he learn sign language, and, when he thinks Jim can’t see his lips, tells his mother to consult a therapist. He sulks the entire car ride home, for once enjoying the silence that has been burdened upon him.

The hearing aids only take two weeks to come in, but by that time, Jim hasn’t heard anything since the explosion four months prior. When the audiologist turns them on, nothing is different. Everything is still silent. But then, his mother hesitantly steps forward and says his name. The simple, one syllable word is too loud for his new eardrums, and he cries out in pain, grasping at his ears. The audiologist turns down the volume significantly while explaining (more to Winona than to Jim) that they’ll need to work their way up to the setting he should be at.

Jim spends the entire car ride home watching the rain run down the car windows, flicking his hearing aids on and off. Winona catches him doing this and grabs the hand closest to her.

“You’ll drain the batteries faster,” she explains in a gentle voice. Jim grunts and yanks his wrist from her grip. He faces the window again, but only so she won’t see him cry at the sound of her voice.

Eight months later (or roughly one year after Jim lost his hearing), Winona decides that, despite the fact that Star Fleet took her husband from her and robbed her son of one of his senses, she needs to get back to work. It’s different this time, though, because she leaves Sam and Jim in the care of her brother, Frank, while she embarks on a six-month mission aboard the USS Washington. Sam seems perfectly content with his mother’s departure, and barely says goodbye before going to study the old cars hidden in the barn behind the main house. Jim, however, almost refuses to let her leave, making noises of complaint whenever she tries to walk towards the waiting car. With a sad smile, Winona crouches down in front of him and ruffles his hair.

It will be okay, she signs in the space between them. Once Jim learned sign language, it became his preferred method of communication, and Winona was more than happy to learn it with him. I will not be gone for that long.

But what if I need you? Jim replies, his signs frantic and messier than those of his mother. What if he is rude or does not want to learn sign language or—

Winona grabs his hands to stop him, holding them in between both of hers. She squeezes them gently before releasing them.

Be good for your Uncle Frank, alright? She stands and grabs onto the handles of the luggage, giving Jim one last smile before walking through the grass towards the car. She manages to get the luggage in the trunk and is just about to climb in the backseat when Jim sprints across the yard and all but tackles his mother into the car with a hug. As expected, it takes Winona a few moments to react, but she eventually wraps her arms around her son and holds him tight to her. They stay like that for what feels like forever, and eventually Winona releases Jim, gently pushing him away from the car.

“I’ll be back soon,” she promises. Jim nods a little frantically and holds up his hand, all fingers extended except for his third and fourth, which are tucked into his palm.

I love you.

Winona smiles sadly as the driver shuts the car door, but she presses a matching sign to the car window as it speeds off down the long, dirt road.

Three months, two weeks, and six days into his mother’s mission, Jim finds himself in a constant state of anger. His uncle enrolled him and Sam in a school just down the road, and he hates it. Some of the kids in his class make fun of him because he can’t hear, and the teacher doesn’t speak nearly loud enough. Jim often misses half of the lessons because he can’t understand what people are saying. Not to mention that Frank refuses to learn sign language and is just an all around jerk. Sam has been frustrated with him for a while now, and does his best to protect himself and Jim while their mother is gone. But Sam only holds out for so long, and one morning, he just packs up and leaves.

One of the only two people that Jim trusts in this world has just left him.

(Technically, his mother left him, too, but that’s different.)

Jim is pretty sure he has a right to be angry at this point.

On the afternoon that Sam leaves, Jim is washing the antique red Corvette, angrily slamming the rag down on the hood of the car and wiping it down. Once the exterior is cleaned, he moves to the inside of the car, dusting around the rearview mirror and the gear shift. When he pulls down the sun visor on the driver’s side to clean the mirror, something falls onto the floor. Jim frowns and leans over to pick it up. There are three silver keys held together by a ring. One key is simple, with no engravings. The second key has the Corvette logo on the handle; it must be the key to the car. The third has a piece of painter’s tape over the handle, with “George Kirk” scrawled on it in permanent marker.

This was his father’s car, and Frank has been claiming it to be his all along.

Frustrated, Jim throws the duster onto the passenger seat and shoves the Corvette key into the ignition. As soon as the car roars to life, Frank is at the window, watching with wide eyes as Jim maneuvers the car off the property and onto the road. He doesn’t even make it a hundred meters from the mailbox when Frank calls him in the car.

Hey, are you out of your mind? … car’s an antique. You … you can get away with … just ‘cause your mother’s off-planet? You get your ass back home now! You live in my house, buddy. You live in my house and … my car. You get one scratch on … car and I’m going to whip your—

I can’t hear you, Jim thinks before hitting the end-call button and turning on the radio. He’s not quite familiar with the artist, seeing as he doesn’t listen to a lot of music, but the bass makes the sides of the car vibrate, and he likes that.

Jim tries to keep his eyes on the road as he reaches to find the release latches for the hood of the car. The first, on the driver’s side, is easy enough, but the second is a bit harder. Once the second latch comes undone, the roof flies off, a little more violently than Jim was expecting. But it brings a smile to his face, the freedom that he’s experiencing now. The feeling of a smile is slightly foreign; he’s pretty sure this is the first time he’s worked the specific facial muscles since the accident. That fact alone is enough to widen his grin as he drives down the road, shouting in triumph.

Everything is going well until the cop catches up to him. Jim barely hears the sirens and doesn’t realize that he’s being followed until he sees the flashing lights in his rearview mirror. His eyes search frantically for an escape, and it’s not long before he finds one: a right turn, about two-hundred meters ahead. He waits until precisely the right time before jerking the wheel sharply, causing the car to drift onto the side road. But, still, the cop is behind him. Jim presses his foot on the accelerator and goes through some sort of gate. Before he has time to process why that gate was there, he sees a cliff straight ahead.

Trying desperately to remember what his mother taught him about drifting, he pulls several levers and jumps, barely able to grab onto the ledge of the cliff while the Corvette free-falls to the bottom of what looks to be a rock quarry. Jim lets himself dangle for a few moments to catch his breath before pulling himself up to safety. And of course, the cop is standing right there, waiting for him. Jim brushes the dirt off of the front of his shirt before standing up a bit straighter.

“Is there a problem, officer?” Jim asks. It’s been a while since he’s spoken out loud, other than to yell in rage, so he worries that his voice has changed. He reaches up to turn the volume on his aids up past what they should be; the robot cops are notorious for talking quietly once they pull people over.

“Citizen, what is your name?” the robot asks. Jim readjusts the volume before replying.

“My name is James Tiberius Kirk.”