She's always liked books. Hard books, the kind where you have to turn the pages and that take on that certain smell, where the ink will never change to reflect an author's newest updated change, no matter how matter how many politically incorrect or factually incorrect sentences there are.
She likes to think of them as their own contained worlds: more personal than a file on a computer, more tangible, somehow.
She likes reading them out loud, and being able to fold a page to keep her place, and write in the margins. She likes the smell of them, and the way that the ink raises off of the page ever so slightly.
There is something intimidating about a book whose spine hasn't been broken yet, and something dearly welcoming about a book whose pages have softened and yellowed.
It's one of the reasons she went to Woolf- besides the fact that it's one of the premier institutes of Federation-wide literary studies- they deal in hard books.
She's late for class.
She's always late for class, to be fair. By three minutes. No matter what she does.
She has her coffee clutched tightly in her hand (black, because if you're going to drink coffee? Drink coffee) and her bag over her shoulder, heavy in the way that no one else's will be because next to her tablet she has Hamlet, The Republic, The Merchant of Venice and The Jew of Malta. Books are heavy.
"Motherfucker," a voice says.
And the thing is, she has now two minutes to get to class to be three minutes late.
And she might make it, but she kind of doubts it.
So she turns to look at the guy who is watching the billboard scrolling Crew of U.S.S. Kelvin to Be Honored in Federation-Wide Memorial on 15th Anniversary of Destruction.
He looks like it's a slap in the face: personal.
"It's a publicity gambit," she says. "After the fiasco with Tarsus and the fact that the president almost lost the election. Nothing unites us like grief."
"Sure. But they're politicians," she snorts, shifting her bag.
He looks at her. He has brown hair and hazel eyes- tall and wiry, and his hair is too long, but not in the moppy way of an Literature student. In the I'm-So-Distracted-I'm-Pulling-It-Out way of a Science student.
"I'm Aurie. Aurelan, but Aurie," she says, shifting her coffee to her other hand and extending it.
He has big hands, and his grin is crooked when he smiles. "Sam."
"Well," she says. "Class is a bust. C'mon, I'll take you out to breakfast and you can whinge about the Federation."
"I don't want to whine- " he starts, and she gives him a look. "Okay, fine. But I want to go to Karl's."
Karl's is a campus favorite, and it's a Terran-style diner. Which doesn't make him Terran, necessarily, but she thinks he is.
"The thing is," he says over bacon, "they're going to ask me to go, because I'm the one with a stable address."
"Why?" she demands, weeding through the platter for the fattiest bits.
"Because Mom's in deep space for this exact reason, and Jim's a minor."
"So…your father was on it."
He looks at her like he's surprised she doesn't know, which she thinks is a bit rich, because how could she? She's only inferring it was his father because she's being heteronormative.
"Yeah," he says. "George Kirk."
"Ah. Bollocks for you," she snorts, and drinks her third cup of coffee.
"Yeah," he agrees.
He's from the United States of America; Iowa. Lived there his entire life until he came to the Meyer's Institue for Biology here on Erandia.
She tells him about her mother, who's from London and still lives there- original London, not the planet- and about the father who is a brilliant writer but whose depression sends him spiraling through the galaxy. He makes fun of her accent, and she calls him uncultured, and then programs her number into his comm.
"Call me," she instructs.
They sit in the library while he does…whatever it is that biologists do. She writes papers about how Will stole from all his contemporaries and on his usage of rural and urban landscapes to dictate tone.
"You call him "Will,'" Sam says dubiously.
"Shut up, our bond goes deep."
"Oh my god," he laughs, carding a hand through his hair. "You're so insane. Like, on an incomprehensible level you're insane."
"You're jealous," she sniffs, but she's grinning because she can't help it.
"Mm?" she asks, flipping through Hamlet. She's halfway through writing about how Gertrude's inability to hear or see the ghost effectively kills the only thing keeping Hamlet's sanity, and by extension behavior, in check when she realizes he hasn't said anything. "Sam?"
"That memorial. Would you- go?"
"Oh. But what will I wear?"
He grins at her, and then leans back, tension melting from his shoulders. "Not that ugly-ass sweater. Lit students, I swear."
"Get a haircut, Kirk."
It's the first time she ever sees him as George Samuel Kirk Jr.
He's tense and unhappy, accepting praise and commendation for a dead father, and she takes his hand in hers and doesn't let go.
He looks at her at the reception, and he looks so tired that she just leans over and kisses him softly, leaning their foreheads together.
A man who introduces himself as "Captain Pike" comes over to talk to Sam about banalities, offering token apologies and Sam has long since checked out.
She's just a girl in an old dress and a black overcoat with purple hair, and she can't scare them away from him even if she wants to- which she does, almost desperately. But then the fifth admiral comes over something in Sam snaps and he lifts his head slightly even as he looks out from under his eyebrows. His shoulders shift back a fraction, and his voice hits a lower register.
They back off, and she pulls him back to the hotel and kisses him.
"That was hot," she informs him as she shoves off his shirt.
He grins with a dangerous edge and presses her against the wall, fingers pressing into her ass, and the first time they have sex is like that- up against a wall, half-dressed, and unprotected.
They both are responsible graduate students in the morning and get tested and buy condoms, and she's on birth control anyway; got the hypo when she turned 16, and she'll get the antidote when she's ready for kids not before…and she liked it, being wet and feeling him, really feeling him.
The don't talk about his father, ever. He doesn't want to.
But he'll talk about Jim, his genius younger brother who's too smart and too fast and somehow stuck where he is. There's adoration and guilt there- he left Jim, but staying would have killed him.
He'll talk about his mother, who is brave and reckless and not like a mother so much as an archetype- and about the stepfather who never really fit; who maybe they never let fit.
She doesn't worry about Sam, because he can handle himself. Because he takes his father's legacy and sets it aside, dusts it off when he's tired of crashing against a wall, but he puts it away. Sam lets her in, can talk about things- about Jim.
She can't help but worry about Jim, because he's just a kid.
She writes essays on Hamlet, about a bored teenaged boy with a lost father and thinks not about Sam, because Sam must be like their mother: able to rescue himself, but of Jim.
She hopes his ghosts don't drive him mad.
They've been together for a year when the phone call comes from Jim.
Sam's honestly shouting, and that's what rouses her, and when she frowns at him sleepily in question he snaps,
"Stepfather just hit my brother."
She's furious and protectively angry in a second, even for a boy she's never met. "He did what?"
He has that face he had with the admirals, except dangerous now; the face that says "I am Kirk, hear me roar."
Jim doesn't come to live with them, and Sam pretends not to be relieved but he really is, and then he throws himself into work.
They move to Miranda (or Earth Outpost II, as it's more commonly known, but she's not calling her new homeworld "Earth Outpost II") and buy a house- the kind of house that you buy when you want to fill it with children. She fills it with books and they buy a cat, whom she promptly names Henry VIII, because he's reddish and fat and entitled and she has an unhealthy fascination with Tudor-era England.
Sam proposes after three years- well.
He proposes in that he bought her a ring. She does most of the talking, because he's a biologist, and she's accepted that he's actually kind of terrible with words.
Their friends are a weird hodgepodge of scientists and doctors and writers and lit professors, but it's a big group and they…fit. Happily. Neatly.
Jim doesn't respond to the invitation, and Sam acts like it doesn't bother him, but it's an act. She can read him like a book. She knows how his hand will twitch when he's thinking abou this job; how he avoids mirrors when he's thinking about his family; how he won't wear jeans and a t-shirt coupled together when he's determinedly not thinking about Jim.
The months before their wedding he's avoiding mirrors like the plague and he's going to wear out his khakis and blazers if he wears them one more day.
So, a month days before their wedding she hands him a ticket and The Ultimate HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy and says, "Just go see him, Sam."
He's back in three days, and he looks bruised and wrecked, and she smoothes her hand over his head and lets him lean into her as he tells her Jim's 18 and going to die of alcoholism, and she wants to hate his family a little for making him so worried for them- for not being what he needs.
But that's not how family works, and she knows that, because she doesn't even know where her father is and her mother is going to make her crazy if she doesn't stop talking about English roses and how tragic it is that Aurie can't legitimately wear white.
And then Jim sends them a quote from the Hitchiker's Guide that makes her laugh until her sides hurt, because Jim's fine, and he likes Hamlet. Fine may be too strong a word- but he will be. He's trying to tell Sam not to worry.
They're kind of adorably dysfunctional, and Sam goes out and buys a hard copy of the book and cuts out that bit- he puts it in his pocket on their wedding day.
She pretends she doesn't see.
She meets Jim when they go see the Enterprise off for its five-year mission into uncharted space.
Pete is six months old, and she's let her brown hair grow out because it's too much hassle to keep it any other color.
He's shorter than Sam, and his edges are rougher. Sam has tamed and managed those sharp edges of his personality until they're just odd angles- Jim wears them outright, and masks them with a smile that is, admittedly, very charming.
"Are you bringing a towel?" she asks when he turns to her after having a moment with Sam.
He blinks at her and then laughs, and there he is- there's the boy she's been worrying for and laughing at even though she's never really met him. This is the Jim Kirk Sam talks about.
"I'm hoping that it stands. I'm promulgating it- my chief engineering officer has already taken it to heart," he says, waving at the improbably named Scott, who is, in fact, a Scot.
"You'll have to visit us on Miranda," she says. He blinks at her, and then casts a horrified look at Sam.
"You moved to a planet called Miranda?" he demands. "Are you trying to die? Miranda?"
"There's no Pax in the air, Jim. And no Alliance either. God, I told Mom that shit was going to warp your brain," Sam mutters.
"Two founding planets?"
"No one is codemixing Mandarin."
"We could be. I could be a Browncoat."
Aurie bites her lip against a laugh, raising her eyebrows.
"Captain?" Uhura says, looking long-suffering. "Admiral Archer wants- "
Jim and Sam both look over at Archer, and Sam glances at Aurie, who grins slightly, as Jim makes a face. "I don't want to."
"Captain," Uhura prompts through her teeth. "Don't make me get Dr. McCoy."
"You're just mad because he's not here. I thought he'd be here," Jim says, glancing around the terminal. "Right, fine. Let's go kiss ass." He castes a lingering look around one last time with his blue eyes, and then sighs. "Right. So, Sam? See you in five years, Aurie, really nice to meet you. And Pete. Well. You're in good hands, little man."
And then he's gone, enfolded in the crew who wrap around him like a coat, and the shuttle takes off towards the space dock.
"You know, everyone's so surprised," Sam says, taking Pete and holding him close.
"They don't know him like you do," she says, and glances over to the shuttles, where a Vulcan is striding purposefully towards a shuttle, wearing a science officer's insignia on his blue tunic.
"I wish Spock was going with him," Sam murmurs as they head to the shuttle that will take them to London to visit her mother.
"Oh, I think it will be all right," she says blithely.
Jim sends them the most amazing gifts every time she gets pregnant. With Pete, it's a stork made out of diapers.
With Xander, it's a teddy bear made of diapers.
With Jules, it's a puppy made out of diapers.
Jim Kirk? Is a genius, because really, what you need when you're having a baby? Is diapers.
He sends her books he finds in new worlds, and when Pete's old enough he gets the books too.
Xander gets odds-and-ends, weird contraptions or bright colors: his room is a representation of the galaxy as experienced by Jim Kirk.
Jules, being only a year old when Jim first comes back for his review (his first review; they're undoubtedly going to send him back into space), has only a strange stuffed…nitrogen-based being thing, which he drools on happily.
Sam never gets anything, and he never gets Jim anything. They never get their mother anything, and she never gets them anything- that doesn't seem to be how the three of them are.
"Well, I had the kids," Sam says when Aurie asks.
She raises an eyebrow- she doesn't remember him squeezing the baby out of a very narrow hole and screaming his head off.
Well, maybe the first time because she bit him.
She'd been in pain.
"No- I mean. We have kids, and Jim goes and saves the galaxy. That way the kids never get left behind like we did, and…" he shrugs. "I don't want to do his job."
There are holos of Sam's father in the trunk at the foot of their bed; of his mother and his father and Sam as a small child. In one of them, Sam wants to go up with his parents, and the look of total devastation on his face when they laughingly tell him he can't makes her want to cry.
Jim comes to visit during his five-year review with his Vulcan…well, husband, because she's not stupid and theirs is a love which dares not speak its name.
He leans against Sam and takes up all the energy in the house, and she watches, amused, as Sam cedes it to him- when Jim walks through the door it's like Sam just… not fades, not really. Just sits back and watches, like he knows a show's about to start and he can't wait to see it, but he has no desire to participate. Winona does the same thing, now that she thinks about it.
Spock doesn't, which makes her laugh a little. He sits and watches, but he's never overshadowed. He's always very there, and maybe that's because Jim is so aware of him all the time that the rest of them can't help but be.
Jim has wrangled the boys into bed- he likes being an uncle, almost improbably so. He's good with all the boys, but whenever he's around it's madness, so it's only right that he be the one to put them to bed.
"Okay," she says, putting her feet up on the coffee table. "I'm exhausted."
"I am so sorry," Jim says, sitting on the couch next to Sam, so easy in each other's space.
"What?" Sam asks.
"God- If I was- I was worse than them."
"All three of them combined couldn't match you," Sam agrees blithely. "They'd never almost freeze to death and then guilt-trip me."
"It was your fault!"
"I was nine!"
"I was five!"
"I rest my case! No five year old goes out and tries to die out of spite," Sam says, throwing up his hands.
Jim considers this. "Well, logically you can't say "no five year old," because I was, in fact, five, so therefore you have at minimum one known example."
He yawns, and Aurie looks at Spock, who looks like maybe he's considering hypothetically smiling in the near future. That probably means he's cracking up on the inside.
"He gets… more formal when he's tired," Spock explains when Sam looks at him too. "Jim," he prompts, and Aurie remembers Sam coming home and saying that Jim wanted to know how Sam got her to do things, and wonders what that would be like- to experience a marriage as a tug of war.
"My point was that I was apologizing," Jim says, rousing.
"And mine was that you don't have to."
"Well, I- "
Spock stands and straightens his shirt and his sleeves. Jim breaks off, mutinously looking at him before saying, "Yeah, fine. We'll see you in the morning."
Aurie raises her eyebrows at Sam after they've gone. "Telepathy?"
"Oh god, my brother's bonded to a Vulcan," Sam groans, stretching out on the couch. He perks up suddenly. "Oh, suddenly this repeated conversation about Vulcan biology and impregnation- " he gets a speculative look on his face and she throws a pillow at him.
"I was just- "
"I know what you were just," she says, because she does. Because he's got the Kirkian look in his eye that means he wants to study something- his brother and his brother's husband, at that- and come hell or high water he's going to.
Well, she's his wife.
Hell and high water have nothing on her.