They had told him that everything would be okay- that it would be different.
They- the doctors, nurses. Psychiatrist after psychiatrist.
Be he saw on their faces- the uncertainty, the fear.
And who could blame them?
After all, it wasn't every day that a boy with paper thin skin, nearly translucent from illness and malnourished, comes in, screaming, kicking, biting.
It isn't every day that a mass genocide happens, not after the Third War.
Social services had taken Jimmy seriously for once- and they had come to check up on him.
Frank couldn't lie or buy his way out of this, not when Jimmy's body was covered in mottled bruises and crusted blood.
So they sent Jimmy away. As if he were the criminal.
At the time, Jimmy had been ecstatic. It meant no Frank. No Sam. No mother who called once a year, then had to hang up because it was too much, too busy.
They had sent him to Tarsus IV, a relatively new colony under the rule of Kodos.
It was a colony made only for the talented. In Jimmy's world, that could be anything. Linguistics, art, academia. If you had talent, you could get here.
Jimmy was assigned to somewhere between linguistics and academia. It meant that he was mostly living with other boys, girls, and other genders under the same roof. There were few adults, but the ones that were there were Starfleet and served more as mentors then companions.
Except for Hashi Sato.
Jim had never met a woman as open, as loving, as her. His whole life he had been led around circles with mother figures, a constant tug of war of want-not want-want.
Sato saw something in him-grubby, underfed Jimmy- that made something in Jim sparkle and bloom under the attention.
It was unbearably hot, even inside the transporter.
Jim didn't know how anyone could live here, when temperatures could get so high, and relief so far.
But after Tarsus, he would take what he could get.
So he took his first step onto a planet that did not want him, just not in the ways it mattered.
It always felt as if they were running these days.
Jim stopped feeling pain weeks ago, but even then, there were twinges here and there.
When he was on his knees. When he looked at the night sky and let himself believe for one second, that he would escape alive. When he lost one of his kids.
When he remembered Sato hiding Jim in a cubby behind a wall, with just enough supplies to last a day, maybe two if he pushed it, behind an encrypted painting, her starfleet training having left her paranoid. It had taken him nearly a day to hack himself out of the painting, and by then the blood and dust had long settled, but the screams continued to ring hollowly in his ears.
He didn't have time to cry. He had to keep moving, keep his kids alive.
He took another painful step away from safety.
He had been one of Kodos favorites, if not his most favorite.
It came with its perks during the revolution, but its downfalls as well.
As far as he was concerned, the sins he committed to keep his kids alive was more than enough.
Once, within Jim's first months living on Vulcan, when he was still spitting mad and wanted to fight everyone, he had butted heads with Sarek.
Amanda watched from the sides, knowing Jim needed this catalyst, but willing to intervene if it got physical.
"Who would you try to save, if Michael or I were in danger?" Jim had raged, nearly purple with the need to let go of the excess energy Vulcans insisted they did not have.
Sarek was conspicuously, harshly quiet.
Jim, never one to be quiet in the face of conflict, ran.
Even when the planet threatened to crush him in more ways than one, Jim couldn't imagine being anywhere else.
Michael had come into the household much before Jim had, and it showed in how he and Michael had bonded like cats in water.
Amanda would watch them play- spar, they excused- in the garden in the early morning, while she knitted another sweater for her first son.
It wasn't perfect, Michael could pin him on his back each time still, and Amanda would feel twinges in her stomach when she caught glimpses of Jim's too pale, paper thin wrists that could be crushed with one misplaced blow, but Jim was finally getting over his fear of Sarek, and it was good. What Amanda couldn't give to Spock and Michael in physical affection, she gave to Jim.
And then it wasn't even good.
He was reading by Michael's learning pod, legs dangling in even as she moved his feet aside, as he was too behind to yet begin Vulcan education, but that didn't stop him from tailing her to school.
She had been exasperated originally, then accepting.
All day, Jim had had a bad feeling in his gut, as if something was going to go wrong, but he pushed it away to where he could ignore it.
Until he couldn't.
All he knew was pain, pain he hadn't felt since Kodos had taken his revenge.
And then nothing.
Everything was black. And it hurt. Oh god, it hurt so much.
There was a steady beeping above him, and when he cracked his eyes open, the harsh light blinded him.
He whimpered, and felt a cool hand against his forehead, a low murmur hushing him.
The hand drifted to his hair, smoothing away his sweaty bangs.
The voice was different, it was softer, more loving- it was Amanda.
"There was an accident. I promised you once, when you first came, that I wouldn't lie to you, even if it was a painful truth."
Jim remembered that day, he had been sitting in the garden all day, crying over forgotten people and flashbacks, when Amanda had found him and done everything Winona couldn't make herself do: hold him while he fell apart.
That day had been a catalyst, he was sure.
"There was a bombing, in the learning center. You and Michael both got hit. You.... Jim, you both died."
Jim sucked in a whoosh of air, his lungs feeling like they were going to collapse.
"Sarek was nearby when the explosion hit. He wasn't badly injured, but..."
Amanda paused, and barely hid a grimace.
"But Sarek brought Michael back first. Jim, you were dead for almost five minutes."
Jim couldn't help it- he was only fourteen and had faced death three times already- went into hysterical crying.
There was a whoosh of a curtain, and the hiss of a hypo against his neck, before he slipped into blackness again.
The next time he woke, Amanda was gone and replaced by a singed around the edges Michael and a stoic Sarek.
Sarek opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off by a rasp from Jim.
"I guess you finally gave me an answer, Dad." Jim's smile was cold, as harsh as medbay's lights.
There was no mistaking the horror blooming on Sarek's usually stoic face, even if the still newly formed familial bond did not give him those same pulses.
Jim turned his back on them.
Jim pushed his way through a weakly locked door. Really, they shouldn't have underestimated him so.
He was, after all, a known hacker. It was why Kodos had been so interested in him, being so well versed in so many different things.
He could hear clambering behind him, and he forced his legs to go faster. His pockets bulged with real food, not the wild animals they could salvage before the fungus killed them, and not the bodies of people long dead.
He was almost there- he could see the door leading outside.
Pain blossomed in his right ankle, and he collapsed, feeling the food in his pockets break and spill.
Even while Kodos' men dragged him, he fought and scratched, knowing he had to come back to his children, had to keep them safe.
But he couldn't even do that.
James knew he was destined for greatness. It was in his birth, his blood, and how he knew he was a genius.
But underneath that, lay the dormant thoughts of being nothing.
When Jim first met Sarek and his family, his first thought was that Sato really had not downplayed her information.
He was as stern as she said, and her kids as stuffy as him. The one oasis on the planet Jim was sure was the representation of biblical hell was one Amanda Grayson.
He stuck out like a sore thumb, with his cornfield hair, too blue eyes, and his body so thin his shoulder blades looked like wings.
They had let him out of hospital early, only because Jim had fought to be released into the S'chn T'gai authority.
They didn't know him, but they knew his name, and now his story.
The doctors weren't sure that Vulcan would be good for his healing body, but Jim knew it would be. Even when he could barely breathe and sweated all his calories, he knew it would be okay.
After Jim died, as soon as he was able to stand alone, he took what few belongings he had and ran.
He had managed to sneak aboard a ship of vacationing passengers, all heading to one Risa. To pay, he was pilfering Sarek's credits.
He figured it was a small price to pay in exchange for being dead for so long.
Sometimes, Jim felt as if part of him had never come back. Those were the moments where time seemed to slow, or when Jim no longer felt connected to his body. They called it complex post traumatic stress disorder. Jim called it crazy.
About 3 hours later, when Amanda would wake up to the sun rising and check on her children, Jim could imagine the scream of panic she would find at his empty and made bed.
He never made his bed, even when she hassled him to.
She would find a note in the bare bedroom, taped to his pillow so the balcony doors he had snuck out of wouldn't blow it away.
It would read:
I'll be safe. I know the only person who was happy that I was there was Amanda, so this is my exchange for the previous year: thank you, for everything. For taking care of me, feeding me, clothing me, when you did not have to. Don't look for me, because I don't want to be found. If I come back, it will be because of Amanda.
Spock, Michael, you were right. I never did belong there.
Jim knew the exact moment Sarek found out, for there was a pulse of panic, purple and harsh, followed by shame, black and inky.
He felt a gentle probing against the shields they had started to teach him, and even now, Jim's greatest weakness was love.
He couldn't push Sarek away, not in the way they taught him for intruders. Instead, he built up defenses, ones that left him in a trance but protected.
He shut the door against Sarek's insist knocking.
He would open again when he was ready, whether it be tomorrow or ten years.
It was a good thing Jim had a credit account opened for him by Amanda's co permission, so he had a place to store his credits when he found work in Risa.
Most patrons found it odd that he was a fourteen going on fifteen year old bartender, but this bar was shady, and he was beautiful, so they shut their mouths.
It was kind of like Tarsus, where he was surviving, except it wasn't. He had food, a safe place to sleep, people who protected him against the more unruly customers.
Sometimes, when it was past midnight on Risa time, Jim would sit near his balcony door and peer up at the sky, wondering what his adoptive family was doing, if they were happy. If Amanda was content.
Thinking of Amanda caused a fissure of sadness to shoot through him.
Jim looked down at the people stumbling their way across the sidewalks, and made a decision.
He walked to his still lit comm system, and waited for the familiar ping of connection.
It was loud in the quiet room, the half shut balcony doors drowning out most of the far away ambience. A woman's disheveled face appeared, eyes bleary and blonde hair messy around the crown of her head.
Jim swallowed, and took the first step.
Jim knew pain.
He knew it intimately in his bones, from the moment he was born in space to now, lying half underneath a dead man's carcass, hoping the armada does not see his shallow breaths.
There was a village here, once. Now it is charred, and the stink of seared human flesh causes Jimmy's stomach to contract first in hunger, then disgust.
If-when- if he survives, Jimmy vows, he will never have meat again.
There is a little girl amongst Jimmy's children, a girl with eyebrows so sharp they could cut steel but an even sharper tongue.
In human years, she is young. In Vulcan, she is much older than Jimmy.
Her mind is quick, her feet light, and she is able to carry her load of responsibilities with not much complaining.
But as the days go by, and the hunger worsens, her shields drop.
It begins with a sigh, a real exclamation of her annoyance at Jimmy's repeated attempts to suffuse charm over their ragtag camp.
It escalates a week later to midnight crying.
Within a month, she runs away, knowing the longer she stays as her shields fall, the more in danger the other children are in.
One wrong word, or action, and it could very well be their last.
Jimmy tries to convince her to stay, that he can help with the burden of her shields, but she insists.
Jimmy later finds her body, bruised and bloated, face first in a newly polluted stream of murky green water.
He doesn't cry.
Jim is 16 and no longer sure where he is in life.
He is still working the bar by some odd miracle, even if to avoid bar fights he fucks the patrons instead. But really, the way he fucks is no different from how he fights. They both leave him bruised and bleeding, sometimes even broken.
Jim and his Ma aren't quite where they should be, and perhaps they never will be, but they're trying.
Christmas approaches and Jim gets nostalgic.
Christmas is about family and love- and Jim had only felt that once. With the S'chn T'gai family.
But he cannot bring himself to comm them. Cannot see their faces yet. He is not ready.
But he is ready to open the doors.
It is late, and the stars outside are almost as intense as the artificial stars that light up Risa for the old as dirt Terran holiday.
On Vulcan, it would be mid afternoon.
Jim sits on the balcony, overlooking a clean street where children and adults alike carol along, where children play in the artificial ice.
He takes a deep breath, and slowly opens the door to Michael's bond.
There is less baggage there, so it is less emotions and colors he has to deal with when she realizes he is in her head again.
Her presence feels different. Older, more mature, darker.
The colors that associate her shock, joy, shame, are easy to categorize and evaluate.
It is easy to push the calls of "Jimmy !" away.
With Spock, there is bone chilling anger that he could have left them so easily, that he made their mother cry- and that causes Jim to wince- but it is tempered with the understanding of why he left that is given with age.
Sarek is not easy. It is cold, at first, one that feels like Jim's lungs are in a cryotube, but it quickly collapses into shame, shame, shame-
-and there is a flimsy shield around that black, keeping Jim from feeling the worst of if. But more, there is fear, fear that Jim will still be angry.
Jim is tired of being angry all the time.
He didn't know what to expect with Amanda. But the relief and gratitude were not it, and it knocks the breath out of him, physically and mentally.
There is so much love it has him blinking away hot tears.
Love- for him. Even after what he did. After he ran.
"Will you come home?" the stray thought-feeling of hope drifts in, in Amanda's distinct honey golden colors, with a flash of Vulcan's dry sands.
No, Jim thinks, not yet. He pushes that thought away as gently as he can, wrapping it in sea foam blue, to come back to later.
And there is a fifth door, one he didn't know existed.
Oh, he knew of the woman who saved him by sharing her katra, but he hadn't realized it had left a familial bond. He should not be surprised, katra's are sacred and intimate, a faint voice says reminiscent in the scolding, low tones of Sarek.
It used to leave him feeling itchy and ashamed, now it makes him smile, but no less abashed.
Perhaps that is what growing up is.
He knocks on the door, gently, not wishing to harm her. The bond is weak, as he does not even know her name, but it's colors pulse brightly, soft pinks intermixed with red the color of wine.
The door opens slowly, and Jim can already see the barrier to her emotions being corralled, but the green for confusion is there.
The door opens in invitation, and then there is a presence in his mind, gentle but non invasive.
You are alive she whisper-speaks.
I am alive, Jim replies.
There is a moment's breath pulse of joy that makes Jim smile again.
"Say it again- dif-tor heh smusma."
Jim licks his lips, and lifts his chin in defiance, "Dif-tor heh smusma."
Sato freely gives her smiles and nods, "Good. And amongst close friends or bonded mates?"
"Nashaut!" Jim exclaims, able to exclaim boyish glee into the stiff Vulcan language.
"Good, my little cadet! Now take me into numbers again."
Jim pokes his tongue out of the corner of his mouth in concentration, slowly counting along with his fingers.
"Ris, veh, dahkuh-"
The sun slowly lowers as they sit on the rooftop of an old barn, the plants exotic green crops bathed in the soft glow of the twilight.
Tarsus' double moons shine brightly, coming closer to a full moon cycle.
Jim dutifully commits to the harsh language he is being taught.
Jim wakes with a jolt, unsure what caused him distress.
A quick glance over tells him he is alone tonight, a much rarer occurrence now that he has reached his Terran majority.
So what, then?
Jim lays back against the warm bed sheets, reciting dry Old High Vulcan in order to calm him.
He closes his eyes and examines his bonds. They all look healthy, strong or getting stronger. Except-
Except that Evoras, as Jim discovered her name eventually, is not.
There is a tendril of anxiety, a squirming, ugly thing, that she is desperately trying to hold back from the door they never bothered to fully close.
Jim decides, fuck it.
He brushes his awareness against hers, and is given images of a dark skinned child with darker eyes, caught sandwiched in between a fence, their eyes green with bloodshot and cheeks flushed with shame and fear.
And Jim cannot help it, he barks a quick laugh into her head.
Evoras, never proper within her own private thoughts, tells Jim in polite, roundabout Vulcan words to fuck off.
But Jim stays, waiting for another flash or feeling or even color.
There is a wash of relief, before he is being gently pushed out of her consciousness.
He digs his heels and asks to know what happened of the child.
Safe, unharmed but for few scratches and bruises, and the hazy image of a little boy pouting, mostly unharmed and his sehlat sniffing around him.
Jim goes with what grace he has.
Jim wakes up a few days later, again short of breath, and this time immediately he goes to his accidental bond.
It is not as bright as it once was, weak and hurt that it is. It sets Jim's nerves on blast.
He creeps in, and is blasted with fear/death/anger/no-no-not yet
Jim manages to rip himself away from her emotions, and there is only a slight sting, proving he is getting better.
He pushes the boundaries of the bond, pours his soul and energy into establishing a greater link, and he can weakly feel her protesting, because this has never been done and it could kill him, or worse, leave his body empty but alive.
But Jim pushes, regardless.
He is able to see double vision, he sees her but he sees himself. He sees her in bed, the hot Vulcan wind sticking to her sweaty green cheeks, and there is a man with severe features and a boy next to her, too young to yet hide his emotions successfully yet old enough to know better.
Jim knows what death looks like.
His heart feels like it is breaking in two, and he pulls away, leaving her with a soft feeling of a kiss on her cheek and adoration.
Jim knows what he must do, but he doesn't know if he can.
He must visit Vulcan again, but he is afraid.
He comes to in his bed with a soft gasp, and checking the time it is 0547. It is late evening Earth time. It will have to do.
He goes to contact his Ma.
The comm crackles to life, old but since modified with Jim's sure fingers.
"Jimmy?" Winona's sleepy voice calls, soft in her surprise and pleasure. It has been too long since she last saw his face.
"Hey, Ma. I, uh, I need advice." The nervousness of his voice makes him sound like a little boy again, afraid of monsters under the bed.
Winona yawns and fixes her hair into a bun, and gives him her full attention.
"I never really told you what happened between- between Tarsus and Risa, did I?"
Winona shakes her head, she had guesses from reading between the lines, but she does not know fully.
"Well, after Tarsus they wanted to send me back to Frank, but the social worker on my case fought for that to not happen. It helped that the man himself showed up declaring he would kill me if I came home. Anyway," Jim quickly continues, seeing the fury bloom on her soft features, "I also kept refusing, and I get why you didn't want me now. I get it, and I hate it, but they said they needed to put me somewhere, so I remembered my mentor, and her past diplomatic experiences, and I remembered a planet that was nearby, a planet that was so hot and dry, but more welcoming than Earth and eventually Tarsus had been.
"It was Vulcan, Ma. I lived on Vulcan for almost a year, under Ambassador Sarek and Lady Amanda Grayson. And it was wonderful, sometimes. Other times, not so much.
"Spock, their youngest, would tell me I did not belong there. At first, I was angry and ashamed and a part of me agreed. I think now, he was just confused and afraid and alone, and didn't really know how to interact with kids near his own age. And Michael, well, she was pretty cool, for a Human trying to be Vulcan. We would play spar, and study the stars together, and one day I decided to follow her to school.
"Nothing happened, not really, it was just like every other boring school. But one day, the school was attacked. I suppose having one human attend was bad enough, but two? It was too much for the extremists.
"I- They told me I died. But a Vulcan, Lady Evoras, was able to bring me back. I don't know why, or even how, just that she did. Maybe because on Vulcan, children are precious, even human children. Maybe it was a flaw of temporary logic from the trauma. I don't know. But after that, we shared a familial bond.
"Ma, she's dying, and I'm too afraid to go back to Vulcan."
Winona blinked at him a few times, opening and closing her mouth as she struggled to formulate a response.
"Jimmy," she started slowly, "when Tiberius died, it was hard to gather the strength to go and see him. But I knew it would be worse if I didn't get that closure. So I gritted my teeth, got into a few fights to release that nervous energy, and I went anyway.
"Are you afraid to see her die, or afraid to see your foster family after running away?"
Jim made a noise that sounded like he was choking, and that was her answer.
"No matter what happens, Jimmy, they love you. They would have to to put up with your fool ass for a year."
Jim made an indignant little noise, but it was mostly for show. He was nodding, tapping his nails on his crossed forearms.
"Yeah, Ma. I guess so."
Winona looked at her son, really looked at him in the way she could not bring herself to when he was growing up.
"I hope no matter what you choose that it leaves you satisfied. I love you, Jimmy. Kirk out."
The comm line died, and Jim was left staring at it. Time passed slowly, with dawn slowly breaking behind his curtains, bathing the bedroom and him in a soft peach color.
His hands were ice cold, he realized with a soft jolt, when he reached to grab his PADD on the bedside.
He was afraid, but he was also a Kirk.
He delved back into his mind the way he was taught to, and poked on Amanda's door, giving her a brief flash of a boarding ticket to Vulcan within the end of the week, starting tonight at 1730.
It was Wednesday, and it was 0636.
When Jim arrived to Tarsus, it was on the precipice of failing. There was a tension in the air that they didn't speak of, but they were well fed and educated, and that was enough for now.
Kodos had a daughter, an infant almost the height of Jim’s thighs, and twice as heavy. He didn't know why Kodos would trust him of all people to watch over her, but he did. He would watch Disney holos with her, play dress up with her when she felt playful, and read real paper book stories to her when it was bedtime.
It was nice, being relied on. Nice enough to ignore the itching at the nape of his neck whenever he felt like he was being watched.
“... signed, Kodos, Governor of Tarsus IV. ”
Time seemed to slow, while the senses became stronger.
Trees and shrubs in the wind blew about, whipping weeping willows that stung cheeks. Animals seemed to quieten in response to the humming of phasers set to kill. Almost as if afraid to get in the crossfire.
And Jim watched, from a window in Kodos manor, locked from the outside with locks he hadn't managed to yet figure out.
And he watched, as they died. One by one, they fell, whether by phaser or trampling.
He watched kids get away successfully only to get gunned down.
He watched elderly just collapse within themselves, natural deaths borne of stress overshadowing anything that could be given to them.
He watched, and screamed, and banged at the window until his hands were raw. There wasn't even a crack in the pane.
And hours later, when Kodos came back to coo at him, tsk at his hands, and hand him Lenore to watch over.
He was sure now, that he was watching him. Always watching Jim. That there were cameras everywhere, just waiting for Jim to mess up.
Jim smiled at Lenore, vacant inside as he recited the Vulcan alphabet in Old and New, High and common.
If nothing else made sense, then at least languages would.
Jim stepped off the hover car, and it was like nothing had changed.
The same oppressive heat, the same sad trees that tried valiantly to grow. The same sand that clung to his eyelashes and made him squint.
And there- there was Amanda, his first real mom, waving at him from below a parasol that was being held up by Sarek. And Spock, next to Michael, raising ta’al’s and pleasantries.
Michael really was no different, still as jumpy as ever, looking like she was ready to both fight and murder someone at the same time.
But Spock- Spock looked like he was having a breakdown of Vulcan logic. It wasn't apparent at first, not until he turned around at an odd noise and Jim saw the braided knots at the back of his head, held together with pins from Sarek’s family chests and ribbons.
He looked almost softer, with his hair longer, and his lines less rigid but no less round where people demanded squared.
He opened his mouth to comment on it, and saw the warning looks from everyone, Sarek included.
“So, Spock. You gonna teach me how to braid your hair?”
Spock touched the nape of his neck, and thinned his lips in a not smile.
“If that is what you want. You may help me tonight, when it is time to brush it out before bed.”
And- right. Tonight. He had arrived in time for an early dinner, in which afterwards he would take off for an indefinite amount of time. Perhaps until after the funeral, or longer.
Amanda grabbed the stem of the parasol, and held it aloft for her and Jim. “There now, doesn't that feel better? Do you want one of my scarves to wrap around you? I have that blue one you were fond of before you…” Amanda trailed off, and gathered her strength, “before you left.”
Jim looked at her, and reached to pull her close, knocking the parasol out of her hands and onto the red sand.
“Thank you, for always being a mother. For being the mother a sad, angry kid needed. For being human enough until I could remember it too.”
Amanda made a soft oh sound, and clung to Jim just as tightly. He wondered when the last time she received a hug like this was, and determined it was probably as long as he.
When it was over, she cleared her throat and wiped at her eyes in the shadow of her scarf. To give her privacy, Jim turned around to pick up and dust off the umbrella.
“It seems we have some ‘catching up’ to do.”
Amanda glanced at Jimmy, and didn't bother to hide the smile at Sarek’s colloquialism.
The house was as he remembered. The furniture in the private parlor was new, less wooden and metals and more soft cloth recliners. It seemed Amanda finally wore down Sarek into letting her indulge in her human side in private.
The house, with its high arching doorways and open window walls. Jim remembered feeling both safe and trapped within these rooms when he first arrived. The ability to escape, yet the space to feel too small and trapped.
Nothing had changed, yet everything had. They tried to pretend like he was still a seamless part of their family, but he never was, not even before it had gone to shit.
Dinner was quiet, as it usually was, but this time it was more of an awkward quiet, even worse than when Spock would come home crying and bleeding and would run straight to his mother’s closet with her long evening gowns and soft brushes with makeup, refusing to speak of his day until he was done up and made new. Protected.
Jim could understand needing extra armor in whatever way it came.
And yet. It was quiet. Quiet enough that he found himself asking about I-Chaya, and what they had done with his burial site. It had been moved to the spot in the back of the house where he had enjoyed lounging in the sun, covered by orchids and few other flowers Amanda was able to replicate.
It was so startling to re-watch as they bickered over semantics, that Jim found himself tapping into the ever weakening bond, letting her know he was here, safe and trying his best.
She sent back a soft, but no less intense pulse of love.
“-im? Jimmy?” Amanda waved a hand in front of his face, getting his attention back. “We were just discussing whether you wanted to tuck in for the night or catch up a little.” Amanda looked at him with such hopeful eyes, it hurt to turn her down.
“I, uh. Actually, about that. I was planning to go to Evoras. Tonight. Only because it's an hours drive into the part of her city and I- I do not want to miss when she- you know.”
Amanda eyes had begun sad, so sad, but slowly grew more understanding, and finally a sad kind of pride. “I understand. You need her now, to get answers, don't you?”
Jim nodded frantically, clutching onto the sleeve of her shirt, once again fourteen and having his first real birthday party that wasn't shadowed by his father.
Amanda brushed her hand against his cheek, his forehead and down the other side of his face. Finally, she rested her hand on his chin, bringing it up to force eye contact. “We will be right here when you need us, whether it be a week or months. We will always be here for you.”
Jim swallowed, young and brash, and nodded.
Dinner was quiet, and when he was disparting again, it felt less like a goodbye and more like a see you later.
Jim is five and he wants to die. His plan is to stay out in the winter cold, to freeze and become another husk next to the corn that did not survive harvest.
His plan is foiled when an old farmer finds him, lips nearly blue and long past shivering.
In the hospital, Jim can see the very real fear in Frank’s eyes, knowing that Jim is not and will never be normal.
So he lies, and says he got lost and scared, but Frank and him know. He was neither of those things.
Jim is twelve, when Sam leaves. He would be surprised, but everyone always leaves him. Sam is no different. It is Kirk legacy to abandon.
Watching Sam walk down the dirt lane, walk brisk and without hesitation, something snaps in him. He wipes off the soap suds from his hands, and hot wires his dads ancient car.
For a moment, he hesitates. He could run with Sam. He could stop the car, and keep washing it.
He does none of those things. Instead, he pushes the gas pedal until he is zooming down the lane, music blasting and wind blowing around him.
Jim almost doesn't jump, but when he does, it feels like he's flying, trying to get close to the sun, to another world, or maybe even his Ma.
He lands hard, in more ways than one.
Jim loved his kids, all fifteen of them. He remembers each one in stark detail, down to their planet and favorite things.
He loved them so much, he was willing to get killed if it meant their safety and continued existence.
He wonders, briefly, if this is what his dad felt.
Amanda is too soft, it is almost unbearable. She is not shy with her affection, giving it out freely so much he feels he has to do something to repay her.
At first, he takes to shadowing her, watching her from seats that are too big for him and peeking around doors. He expects her to get mad, and yet she doesn't.
The sweaters she knits him are too big for him, going down his hands and to his thighs. He loves them anyway. He curls into them on bad days, rubbing the fabric over and over until his hands are dry and numb. If it wasn't so hot, he would wear them all the time.
He starts with little things- helping clean around the house, then doing the dishes for her, and eventually helping her with errands.
But he is always watching her, fearful of messing it up like he does.
Sometimes, when it is late at night, he imagines his skin is prickling again and he has to scream for Amanda to be consoled, physically convinced he is not being watched again with surveillance. The only cameras in the house are the ones leading to outside, and always pointed out for privacy.
One day, it is rainy and stormy, and he and Amanda have activated the shield that will protect the windows from stray things coming in. It is the kind of day that back in Iowa would be considered a lazy day, a day to lounge around and do nothing.
Jim does not want to do nothing, there is too much energy buzzing in his veins.
Amanda spots him pacing near a window in the kitchen like a sehlat anxiously waiting their master. She invites him to sit with her in the only comfortable chair in the house, a plush leather couch.
“Would you like to learn how to knit?” she asked. Jim thought of how most of his possessions were her sweaters, since he had arrived with food stuffed in his ripped jeans, a shirt provided by the hospital, and the rock he had refused to give up.
So he nods, and pours some of that energy into making things, and she doesn't even laugh when it takes him a while to learn how to cast on, and later purl.
The city was just as he remembered, big and intimidating. Buildings lay so low on mountain cliffs that Jim wondered how they didn't fall at all.
She lived on the outskirts, and he knew it was her house just by the fence. There was no longer a hole, but it didn't stop him from chuckling and checking anyway.
The door opened before he could knock, revealing a boy in his teenage years, just barely an adult.
“James Kirk, greetings.”
Jim is slightly startled by the hostility, but he nods. As a show of hospitality, he chooses to greet him in Vulcan. It must have been the right thing to do, because some of the rigidness loosens up.
“I am Asil. Come in, you can place your shoes on the provided mat.” Asil nods towards the shoe mat, waiting patiently until Jim himself is ready.
“I will show you to my mother. You must be gentle, as her emotions at this stage are fragile and prone to easy projection. And in return, she must be gentle with you. Her shields are failing, so she can no longer be as adept at processing and hiding her emotions.”
The house is small, but homey. It is everything Jim had wished for growing up. He wonders if Asil knows how lucky he is.
The woman he finds laying on her bed is not what he imagined, she is smaller than the presence in his head, with hair softly interspersed with premature grey. Her hands are thin, as thin as her cheeks, but there is a proud, stubborn glint that remains in her eyes.
“James Kirk, at last.” Her voice is as weak as her body, and yet.
At her bed side is what Jim vaguely recalls as her husband, and is a sharp contrast to a human husband. If he had been human, he would have been holding her hand, cooing words of love and hope to her. He does neither of those things.
And yet. He can spot the love in his eyes, and the tension in his shoulders as worry. They try to hide it amongst strangers, but Jim has lived with Vulcans and Winona. There is no hiding this type of grief.
At the foot of the bed is where Asil settles, leaving the chair on the other side of the bed open for him.
It is more than a tad awkward sitting there, in the heavy silence, but he does it.
Evoras breathing grows more ragged, and Jim can hear a pop as she curls onto her side after a coughing fit.
“James. Jim. Tell me about yourself.”
Jim is momentarily silenced, because she already knows his story. There is not much hiding when she has been in his mind, been permitted to his memories.
“I was born in space, the doctors said it was premature. I grew up on Earth with Frank and Sam, until Sam decided to leave. Not that I blame him, of course. It was horrible there. Us Kirk’s weren't made for captivity. And then- and then…” Jim trails off, and looks down at his clenched fists. There is a soft pat on his forearm, encouraging him to continue.
The shock of a Vulcan willingly touching another person who is not a bondmate stirs him back into talking.
“And then I… did some fucked up stuff, got sent off planet, and met Vulcans for the first time. After the Vulcan first responder ship, I was granted permission to be given custody to the S’chn T’gai clan, in the joint custody of Lady Amanda Grayson and Lord Sarek. I lived there for almost a year, until the bombing, after which I left and have been living on Risa since.”
“Fascinating. How ever did you gain permission to live alone on a planet that is described as a pleasure planet?”
Jim laughs awkwardly, ruffling the back of his hair in embarrassment. “I, uh. Didn't. I ran away in the middle of the night, and stole some credits from Sarek to make it work out. After that, I just uh. Closed off all the bonds I knew of at the time. Until I opened them again and found a new one.”
Here, he turns to face Evoras fully, eyebrows raised in question. “How did that happen, anyway?”
Evoras brushed some of the sweaty hair off his forehead, and Jim saw her husband flinch in what either was anger or embarrassment, or both.
“When you were dead, I performed a mind meld with you. The meld was so deep that a part of my katra lives on within you. As you know, katra’s are everything to us Vulcans.”
Jim frowns, thinking back on his studies. “Okay, so a piece of your soul essentially was transferred. No big deal, there weren't any big side effects, except for you know, not staying dead. But why ?”
Jim is struck by the intensity in her eyes, even as her hands shake and can no longer support themselves upright.
“Because you were a child, and a very intelligent one. In human words: you were bright like the sun. You have not proven my theory wrong yet, and I do not imagine you will.”
At that, she closes her eyes and seems to fall asleep. For a moment, Jim’s hands shoot up to make sure she is still breathing, but instead Asil is touching his elbow with gloves he didn't see him put on and leading him away.
“I will show you to the guest quarters.”
Even the guest quarters looked lived in, not anything like the S’chn T’gai’s, where there was always a little sterility from how little use some rooms got.
No one could ever convince Jim that Vulcans weren’t into aesthetics, because the room was shades of red and brown to match the planet, with the window placed just so to receive the most evening sunlight.
He likes to think Vulcan’s sun brings out his eyes.
The rest of the night is quiet, with Asil occassionaly asking him to tag along around the house or to the market, or to grab something Evoras wants. Her husband seems like the type who prefers standing in the shadows, or he is just awkward for a Vulcan. Either way, Jim eventually figures his name is T’sin, and he met Evoras when she nearly ran him over with her hover car, somewhere out in the middle of Nowhere, Vulcan.
Evoras, for all her failing shields, is a giggling mess by the end of the recounting. Jim is tickled by such a cliche way of falling in love, but it's tempered by the pain he can see in the crinkles around T’sin’s eyes.
It's enough to have him call his moms and the rest of the family before bed, exchanging pleasantries and whatnot.
The rest of the week is quiet. The sun rises, and the sun sets.
Amanda keeps asking if he needs sweaters of all things, and he has to remind her that's the last thing he needs right now. He's already suffocating enough under the heat. He's sure he's peeled off at least two sunburns.
It's in week two that things take a sudden L.
Jim wakes up at- 3 am, and he is already groaning cause god , what is it now?
And then it hits him- the bond. It's almost completely gone.
That causes him to shoot up in bed, so fast the room spins for a moment, and to shove on a pair of shorts and a t shirt. He runs barefoot to Evoras’ room, house slippers be damned.
The door is already open, and Jim can just make out hushed whispers.
And it sounds like- like-
Like Jim is going to suddenly throw up, because oh my god , she's really dying. The piece of her katra that is within Jim is buckling, and when Jim enters the room, all eyes are on him.
Over the days, the rest of their ragtag little family had grown accustomed to him, so much so that now their only response is to shuffle and make room for him by her head.
And there is clammy, green flushed fingers being attached to his wrist, and he is being pulled closer.
Evoras’ eyes track him over once more, and suddenly she is in his head.
Do not mourn for me. Distantly, he can see her mouthing those same words, so quiet it could be mistaken for a gust of wind. He knows the others will hear it. Never forget, even for the time I knew you, James Kirk, that I loved you as if you were my own.
And that's that. Jim really should stop reading so many dramatic books because he expected something greater. He doesn't know what, exactly, but maybe a flash? A bang?
Instead, all she does is drop her hand from his wrist, ghosts it up until her palms are flat against her husbands’ face, and there is something going on he doesn't understand but knows within a part of him has to do with her katra.
Her eyelids flutter, once, then twice, and suddenly she leans back with a sigh and that's it.
No screaming, no tears. Just silence.
In Jim, the bond he had with her pulls taut until it snaps, whipping back at him like steel wire. It leaves him breathless, and what animal was dying, or was that him?
His head feels so empty, yet full. Like cotton was stuffed into his mind, to plug up all the empty spaces where Evoras once was.
Her husband audibly lets out a sigh, and that is how Jim knows he is just as affected as he is. Her son stares at her body with dull eyes, but Jim can recognize grief a mile away. His hands and shoulders are taut with tension.
It is time to clean up and regroup.
In the end, burning her body took only a day more. Her body was covered in familial silks, gaudy and jangling and wrapped tight around her body. It reminds Jim of ancient Egypt.
Her flowers from the small garden she maintained are then wrapped into her hair. Orchids and favinit decorate it beautifully, colors sharp against her hair.
He vaguely remembers more family members coming to pass what sounds like fake grievances even to Jim.
He might have heard Asil sing a funeral dirge, but he is not above putting it down to post grief hallucinations.
After her katra was passed to the Elders, with them all looking at Jim with what they thought were unjudging eyes, her ashes were thrown off a cliff on Mount Seleya.
For one minute, he thinks he hears tinkling, but it passes.
The ride back home is quiet, and Jim now feels awkward being here.
He knows, above all else, with a certainty that sits comfortably in his bones, that everyone will be alright.
So that night during dinner, he announces his plans to return home. They are not shocked nor hurt, instead accepting his decisions for the adult he is.
He leaves the next morning, with a bag he never bothered to unpack, and two new numbers in his Comm, along with their own version of promises to always be a wayward little family.
It fills Jim with warmth, and makes it easier to step onto the threshold where he knows he will find his adoptive family.
Amanda yelling his name and wrapping him in a hug certainly does not hurt.
Jim did not expect Sybok to be home. After all, he didn't visit when he was living here, but to be fair, they thought he was going to be a more permanent resident at the time.
Hence, the familial bonds.
Oh, well. Jim just accepts this as another weird part of his life.
The rest of the morning is spent awkwardly tip toeing around each other until Jim says to hell with it and drags the two youngest kids to Amanda’s garden.
“Alright, what is it that's got you acting like you've got ants in your pants?”
Spock and Michael arch eyebrows so similar that Jim feels like gagging. Instead, he gives his own eyebrow of sass right back. He is pleased to see them shift uncomfortably.
Michael shifts some more, before exhaling harder in a Vulcan sigh. “We did not treat you the way you deserved to be treated when you first arrived. We were… cruel to you. Unnecessarily so. We- I wanted to apologize for that oversight. I, Michael Burnham, of the House of S’chn T’gai, do so humbly-”
“Whoa, whoa. Hold your horses, Michael. You don't have to do the whole formal apologizing bit. I'm not going to lie and say it's fine, because it's not,” and Jim starts speaking faster, because he can already see the way her mouth opens she is about to spill another apology, “but , I do understand we were just children. And hurting ones, at that. Don't give me that bullshit look Spock, I know damn well about those fights you got into even while I was away. Your mom liked to talk to my Ma. Don't know why, not like I really updated Ma either.
“Anyway. The point is, you don't have to punish yourselves for mistakes we made as teenagers. Gods knows if we were I would never stop formally apologizing. Just… don't do it again, okay? It hurt a lot, being told just how much I didn't belong here. Okay?”
Michael nods, as serene as ever. If Jim hadn't seen her during her worst, he would almost forget the manipulative streak within her that Amanda one day said would make her an excellent diplomat.
There's no forgetting the day he met T’Pring though. Michael had had a lapse in judgment, and decided to knock the daylights out of the young bully after she picked on Jim and Spock. For good measure, Jim drew up all the grief, desperation and anger he felt while on Tarsus, and brushed his pinky finger against her exposed forearm.
Her eyes rolling back into her eyes in a dead faint was satisfying, and it said quite a lot about him that he did.
After that, T’Pring seemed to respect him in her own weird way.
But- sidetracked. Jim blinked back into awareness, barely gone for even a few seconds, and Michael was still nodding, and turning to walk back inside and Spock-
Spock was looking at Jim with awed, starry eyes. It made Jim’s stomach swoop and- oh no .
He refuses to fall into that trap.
Instead, he gives an overly cheerful grin, shoving all thoughts and emotions aside, and goes to find Sarek.
2 down, 2 more to go.
One day, in the middle of the year-long stay, Jim follows Spock to class instead of Michael.
He meets his classmates, and yeah, Jim can see why Spock tried to beat their katra’s out of them.
They are cool, frigid like ice, and it only makes their words harsher.
Jim gets it. He's a full blooded human, and he is, technically, an interloper. But these are kids. They're all kids.
And even then, amidst the chaos, Jim inexplicably manages to charm the pants off T’Pring. He doesn't know when, or how, or even what it took, but by the time Spock finds him he has a new comm number and a Vulcan boy out for his blood.
Jim really should not have been that amused.
Well, they did say radiation and being premature was likely to scramble all sorts of things at birth. Hypothesis proven correct.
It took Sam months to realize he was no longer on Earth, and all because Amanda and Sarek had reached out to remaining family.
Jim doesn't want him to come, but alas, as a Kirk he cannot get everything he wishes for.
Jim hates him. He hates that he can still smile and laugh and flirt, while he's using crutches most of the time to get around.
And he hates Sybok for encouraging his brother.
Jim decides, fuck it, he hates all kinds of brothers. Michael included.
They're good for nothing but abandoning you and then pretending like nothing happened.
And yet, even as Jim sits down with Sarek in the living room- a neutral place- his mind jumps back on those memories.
He wonders if T’Pring is bonded with Spock still, or if she is happily with Stonn. If she is even planetside. It’s been almost a year since they communicated.
He wonders where his brother is. As a Kirk, family is important. As a Kirk, he knows avoidance tactics like the palm of his hand, so when they're used on him? Well.
He recognizes it.
The recent death of Evoras, still so fresh and painful, makes him reminiscence. Makes him wonder.
His Ma and him are still on shaky ground- but. They're working on it. It's hard to make up for years of neglect.
He wonders if his life will always be back dropped by abandonment and death.
Because right now, Sarek is facing him head on, and Jim just feels like bolting. Only the presence of Amanda humming in the kitchen making tea keeps him rooted. Or maybe it's the stony stare keeping him tethered.
It's silent, for a while. Amanda eventually putters in and sits next to her husband, close enough to touch knees but not close enough to be improper.
Jim takes the tea cup just to have something to hold on to and fidget with. It's warm, almost too hot, but he's felt worse.
“So…” Amanda starts, “How have you been?”
And she truly is a saint, to not buckle under his bewildered gaze and Sarek’s stony glare. Instead, she seems to lift her chin higher.
Well, anyone who can face T’Pau’s judgment without flinching has to be tough as nails.
“I- uh. Good. Content, I guess.”
Amanda frowns, not liking those words. “Not happy, though?”
Jim exhales a bitter laugh, “Mom, I don't think I'll ever be truly happy. There's too much history for that.”
Amanda looks so sad at that revelation, that Jim suddenly wants to choke on his own tongue, or at least take back his words.
Sarek finally speaks up, but not about what he expected. Jim guesses avoidance is more than just a Kirk trait.
“Were you not affected by the breakage of the… maternal bond you held with Evoras?”
Jim is surprised and doesn't bother hiding it. “You knew her?”
“Yes, we studied together in our post graduate. And you forget, I was there… that day.”
That seems all that Sarek is willing to say, because he sets his tea down and just walks out of the room, not even bothering to look back.
Jim inexplicably feels stricken. Amanda reaches across the low table and pats his knee.
“It's alright, dear. He's just scared and confused.”
And yeah, Jim can tell from the bond, but still. That's it? No ‘sorry I let you die and made it blatant how much I didn't want you! Whoops!’
Jim is- is- well- he's fucking pissed .
And when he's pissed? He doesn't make good decisions.
Knowing that, he takes deep breaths like one bar patron taught him. Counts to ten in Vulcan, then backwards. And when that doesn't work, he does it in each language he knows until it does.
“Mom. Lady Amanda, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to retire for the evening. Thank you, for the tea and your hospitality.”
Jim does not run from conflict, but abandon it? It's in his blood.
The next few months are incredibly awkward. No one wants to speak about The Incident, and everyone pretends like Jim didn't just run away one night, steal from Sarek, and stowaway on a ship for years.
When it's very late at night, late enough that Vulcan looks pitch black and the candles Jim simulates cast shadows, he thinks.
He tries not to think about the empty space where there was once a bond, but it's hard. It's like missing a limb and now he feels the phantom aches from it. Sometimes, when he is very tired, he thinks he can still feel pulses from her.
When he realizes he doesn't, the grief comes crashing back all over again.
He has since reconnected with T’Pring, she admitting to having become more busy as she is gearing up to join the Vulcan Science Academy. Jim is immensely proud for her, and hopes she knows it even without him saying it.
Since his Ma wouldn't understand, and he doesn't want her to, his closest confidant who is not directly involved has become T’Pring.
She is non judging of his very human reactions, sitting patiently as Jim rambles on about what he's feeling- grief, anger, embarrassment, everything.
She does not even berate him when he tells her he's been thinking about his brother more, and that somehow, somewhere, Evoras dying was a catalyst to him missing Sam.
When she is too busy to listen to him rant, he goes on late night walks. He figures he is too close near the city for wild animals to be a problem, and so far his luck has proven in his favor.
It's weird, looking up and seeing no moon. Risa has had spectacular nights, where you could pretend the moons and stars were just within arms reach, shining brightly.
On those nights, Jim walks to his favorite sand dune, far away from his current residence, and just knits. The messenger bag he brings with him is usually bulging with snacks, water and yarn.
He makes small, inconsequential things- socks, scarves, little toys- that he usually unravels and remakes until his eyes are burning from more than just sand.
He makes a bright blue sweater once that matches his eyes and gives it to T’Pring. It nearly engulfs her, and stoic, proper T’Pring looks so comical that Jim can't even regret giving it to her.
She takes one look at it, lumpy in some places, and promptly places it on, not even giving her own version of a sigh.
From her, it's practically a declaration that she loves it, even if her face didn't move even an inch.
Jim realizes he's stayed here longer than he planned when one day he wakes up to the sound of Amanda wishing him a happy birthday.
His birthday passes in a blur, and suddenly knitting isn't enough.
He Comms T’Pring, and ever so logical, rule abiding citizen T’Pring, just knows .
Jim is barely two words into his not so carefully thought out plan when she holds his prize and a tupperware of cake in her hands up to the camera.
“Send me your coordinantes. I will arrive shortly.”
And yes, Jim absolutely loves that woman. He's never gotten drunk with a Vulcan before, and he is so excited to see T’Pring wasted.
The next morning, he hates her.
No one has any right to wake up in the fucking desert and still look prim and proper, like her head probably isn't splitting in half.
He is so bitter, about so many things, he can't help but laugh until he's crying and gasping for air.
T’Pring is so bewildered, she just pats his foot . It makes him laugh harder.
Shit. Jim realizes it's almost a year since he arrived, and through all that talk quasi therapy, late night knitting slash star gazing, and trying to mend broken bridges even with Michael having gone and shamed Sarek, he never got around to calling his brother or planning out the next step of his life.
At some point over the year, he had reconvened for food with Asil and T’sin, and it was comfortable. Like breathing fresh air after being stuck in a closed room.
He thinks he wants to go back to Earth, but doesn't know where.
He's sure the farm is still standing- hopefully- but he just.
He wants more than just a farm. He wants to wake up and not feel empty and angry like he's had for the past nineteen years.
Well, he figures he can return to Earth and travel. He is the son of a high ranking starfleet official, the son of a dead hero with a pension, and the adopted son of an Ambassador with a wicked smart- and famous- wife.
He's not exactly lacking on credits or contacts.
And look at that, not even noon and he's already got half his life figured out for what's next.
Now if calling his brother could be so easy.
He decides, in the end, to stall. He showers and eats, and helps Amanda with chores until she shoos him away, telling him to either get rid of his energy or get what's making him nervous over with already.
He's said it before and he'll say it until he dies- she is a saint .
Jim could really use some alcohol in his system right now, but the legal drinking age on Vulcan is still 21 years in Terran time, and T’Pring is somewhere figuring out her results for her entrance exams. And Sybok is off the grid, as always.
So, he pulls up his big boy pants and presses call- video and voice.
It rings for so long Jim is sure he won't answer, and just as he's about to sigh in either relief or disappointment, Sam’s face pops into view.
“Jim? What is it?” Sam’s voice sounds worried, but Jim doesn't buy it.
“Hey, Sam. I was thinking…”
Jim watches as Sam’s face goes from mildly worried to extremely suspicious.
“James Tiberius Kirk, thinking? The world might actually end.”
Jim is so nervous he barks out a slightly hysterical laugh, “God, you prick, shut up.”
Sam and Jim are both cracking up, and it feels so normal so when it ends it feels twice as bad.
Just as Jim is about to open his mouth again, he hears a new voice- and one familiar one.
“Samuel? Who are you speaking with?” Sybok’s bushy face comes into the screen, and Jim is as equally shocked to see Sybok as Sybok surely is to see Jim.
“James? I do not think you have called in well, ever.”
“Who's James?” A feminine voice asks from the camera, and Sam’s eyes flick up to meet hers.
“It's my little brother. Jim, remember him?”
There's a soft oh, and then her hand is shoved into the camera, effectively pushing Sybok out of frame. The hand waves, and Jim wonders if he’ll always be surrounded by people just as crazy as him.
“It's a pleasure to meet you. Hopefully one day I'll get to meet you in person.”
Jim just stares at the hand, unsure of what to do. “Uh, yeah. Pleasure’s all mine. And well, uh. I don't quite know about that.”
Aurelan tsks and Jim can tell she's staring at Sam because he starts to fidget and look nervous. He wonders if all women have that distinct “say-no-and-I’ll-kill-you” look.
“Oh, I'm sure we'll meet some day, won't we, Sammy?”
Sam nods frantically, and he doesn't sigh in relief until her footsteps have faded and a door closed.
“Well. That was my wife, Aurelan. She's uh- truly one of a kind to be able to handle a Kirk.”
Sybok pokes his head back in screen, making Sam squirm over to see past his head.
“She is almost as intimidating as Lady Amanda and your mother. Almost, because Winona will always be the most scary of them.”
Jim’s snorts despite himself, “Clearly, neither of you have seen Lady T’Pring on a good day.”
While Sybok and Jim snicker over memories of her prowess, Sam cuts off their increasingly loud laughs.
“Why did you call?”
And suddenly, Sybok is making himself scarce- and gross, Jim could have lived his entire life without seeing his pseudo older brother kiss his actual older brother.
Jim doesn't know whether to laugh or cry at their sudden privateness.
“Well, you see… There was… Someone I loved had passed away about a year ago, give or take a few weeks. I was so caught up on mending broken bridges that I…”
Jim mutters fuck under his breath, “Look. I know we weren't the greatest of brothers, but you're still my blood and family. I get why you left, and I will never forgive you for that, but Evoras taught me something when I was angry and scared and living alone on Risa: it was how to keep moving on despite how hurt I was. To keep loving even when I didn't want to.
“Her dying was… a catalyst, of sorts. I don't expect you to understand, because stars knows I barely do, and I don't expect you to forgive me for the years of silence, but… If you're willing to keep making a future with me somewhere in there, then so am I.”
Sam opens his mouth, then closes it, and proceeds to look like a gaping fish for a while longer.
“I- Shit, Jimmy, when did you get so mature?”
Jim snorts humorlessly, “Surviving a mad dictator as a teenager will do that you.”
Sam looks at Jim, really looks at him, and can no longer recognize the kid he left behind.
He's grown, he realizes. And I left him behind. Just like mom and dad.
“I- I don't know if this can happen immediately, or even in the next five years, but if you're willing, so am I.”
Jim smiles, small but true, “Don't worry, Ma and I have been talking for years and it's still rough sometimes.”
The conversation afterwards was careful maneuvering of what each brother wanted from the other, and by the end Jim is incredibly satisfied.
So much so, that when Amanda sees him, her shoulders relax and she smiles at him.
Jim stays a few months after, but after Spock turns down the Academy, giving them the biggest fuck you Jim has ever heard, he decides it's time to leave before Sarek can place blame on him.
The first stop back to Earth is what's left of Antarctica. A lot of it has been irradiated and destroyed over the years and especially the war, but there is still man made wildlife to preserve there.
So he goes to see polar bears from afar, or at least holograms coded to act like they once were, and hopes to God his toes don't freeze off.
He circles around after that, getting rooms at hostels or big chain hotels that make sizable dents in his allowance.
Sometimes, he even relaxes himself enough to have sex with strangers and sleep at theirs.
It's fun, and he's being safe, and he's always wanted to be a little more carefree. So what if he's never gotten his diploma or even GED? He's got time.
He makes sure to collect postcards and send them to each and every person he knows.
Of course, the photos he regularly Comm’s helps, particularly with Amanda’s worrying.
Once, in Mexico, he spots a rebozo claiming to be hand made and passed down until the last of the descendant's died. Jim isn't sure if it's true, but he does know Spock likes artifacts, particularly bright ones he will never admit to.
So, he spends his money on it, not even flinching at the cost.
The thanks of gratitude he receives a week later will forever prove to him that Vulcans so do feel emotions, even if they try to pretend they don't.
In Georgia, he spots the cutest mug he has seen, and has to buy it for T’Pring.
She will most like pretend the pun will go over her head, but he knows deep inside she's the most exasperated Vulcan to have existed this generation.
Another year and a half has passed, and he doesn't know what to do with himself anymore.
He's visited most of the places worth seeing, his relationships are mostly steady, and yet.
It feels like a part of him is missing.
As soon as he thinks that, he can feel himself slipping.
Let it be known, that Jim Kirk was not a natural partier. He would rather much be reading a new academic paper, or even read just for pleasure.
But he is empty inside.
So he fights until he's broken and sore, and fucks his way across towns and whole states.
His favorite was when a retired Admiral’s daughter snuck him into the nearby zero grav simulator, and Jim, slowly making his GED requirements, hacks the security system to delete their indiscretions.
He knows, distantly, that this isn't healthy. He knows that out there, Spock and Michael are fighting for their lives, out in the black, trying not to get killed by vengeful Klingons.
And just like everything else in his life, even that manages to come to a crescendo.
He doesn't know how he ended up back in Iowa, or even when, but he's aware of enough to know he is sorely losing this fight with these burly cadets.
He was just harmlessly flirting one minute, and the next he is being pummeled into a table, and fuck, yeah, broken glass definitely hurts.
He knew all those missed meals would come back to haunt him.
The rest of the night is painful and blurry, but he retains enough to know that this old man- Christopher Pike- has probably just succeeded in wrapping Jim tight around his finger.
He can never turn down a good bet.
Leonard McCoy is the best thing to ever happen to Jim.
So, in that spirit, he hacks their way into a shared cozy apartment just off campus. They can make just enough money for the pricey rent, as his allowance was never cut off, probably courtesy of Amanda, and admittedly, Winona.
He realizes he's been here for a month, and still hasn't told his friends and family.
He can practically predict their reactions, so his messages are carefully worded for optimal carnage, and when he sits send on the final person he sits back and waits for the firestorm to pass.
Spock is on campus, and he's a TA.
Jim had expected him to be out in the black, fighting the good fight and keeping the peace, but no.
That's enough to make him confront him boldly.
Human punches? They've got nothing on annoyed Vulcans with lightning fast hands.
Jim hopes he never experiences another Vulcan pinch again.
The only three people who seem to even react positively to the news are the ones who don't openly show their emotions.
T’Pring doesn't say much, just commenting on how he's finally getting it together. Paraphrased from T’Pring speak.
Asil and T’sin are more open with their pride, openly and blatantly doling out praise.
Jim would be suspicious they had been hacked, but no, there's no mistaking the technological fingerprints coming from their IP’s.
It fills him with warmth, and he palms the necklace that had once been Evoras. It was supposed to be a family heirloom passed on to daughters, and as Asil very much did not budge from his position as the family son, Jim had begrudgingly accepted it.
Inside, he had been laughing up a storm at the disconcerted Vulcans.
Amanda’s response through him for a loop. She is equal parts concerned and angry. Angry, that he did not tell her about such a life changing decision sooner, but also concerned because of the Kirk legacy.
Jim deletes that message as soon as he's read it, and then blatantly steals some of Bones’ bourbon, ignoring the eyes tracking him like a hawk from Bones’ desk.
His Ma and brother are predictably reaming him a new one.
His first year at the academy passes quietly, with him trying to remember what it was like Before.
Before he had become bored with life and let all his problems come back. Before his slew of mental illnesses came crawling back to meet him.
He tries to remember how to live sober again, and most days he succeeds. On the bad days, Bones learns to see the signs and properly avoid him as he hides in his bed, shivering under the many knitted blankets.
It's the summer of his first year when problems arise.
There are whisperings, of ships and captains without control, of conspiracies surrounding Section 31, and of Klingons.
Jim learns to keep his head down, and suddenly family has never been so important.
Spock doesn't come back for the second year, but neither does Michael.
Neither are grounded, and technically Spock hasn't finished his requirements, but also technically he is smarter than probably all of them combined.
The next year is spent with his heart in his throat, and he wonders how he could have been so blind all these years.
The conflict ends just as Jim is about to graduate his second year.
Michael comes back with eyes Jim recognizes.
She has seems ghosts that will never leave her.
His heart aches for her.
That summer, he decides to buy a townhouse in a largely contemporary neighborhood.
Seeing as Bones was forbidden from traveling to see his little girl, he invites him to stay on one basis: he leaves his pseudo siblings alone.
Bones snorts and asks, pseudo siblings?
And Jim just laughs back because, yeah, they never formally adopted me, and the only one I look at as family is Amanda, and Ma just didn't want me to go back to Earth or to her.
So that summer, Jim does what they gave him years ago- minus the part where they contributed to his self esteem issues: unconditional acceptance mixed with annoying them.
Course, Bones does most of the annoying, even if he is technically breaking the one rule Jim gave him.
But it's fine. It's fine, because Jim hasn't seen Michael that animated since the Academy told her she wasn't good enough.
Even Spock manages to loosen up and bicker back with Bones.
Third year starts not quite as quietly as the last two, and he has never been more stressed.
Spock has just finished his course requirements, and is now TA’ing for extra classes while he awaits the Enterprise to finish being made to the end of the school year, because of course he’ll be on that ship when he formally graduates.
Michael stays at home, sometimes, still haunted by ghosts that have her screaming awake at night. Sometimes, she will go out and disappear for days.
She never comes back looking or smelling like Jim during those Bad Years 2.0, so he doesn't think to question what she's doing.
Jim can recognize healing when he sees it.
And suddenly, the Kobyashi Maru test is hanging over him.
He doesn't sleep or eat for days, and even Spock is starting to look concerned for him.
He has to beat that test. He's James Tiberius Kirk, and he doesn't believe in no win scenarios.
He hacks it, and when he comes home triumphant, he takes one look at Spock and turns tail.
He comes back two days later, hoping Spock has since calmed down.
He had slept at (read: broken into) Captain Pike’s house, where he was blissfully happy with his own Doctor Boyce, waiting and hoping that Spock would calm down given time and space.
When he comes home, Spock is there, waiting like a reckoning.
He doesn't even get to hang up his coat before his arm is being nearly dragged out of its socket, and Jim is being demanded he explain himself.
Hours later, Jim thinks he has managed to give a logical enough explanation for his reasonings. He doesn't like to bring up his past on Tarsus, but sometimes it's a necessary evil.
And Jim knows Spock gets it, so when he sees the hesitancy a pit of ice forms in his stomach.
And isn't it his luck, that he still has to endure an academic hearing.
Everything is on fire, and it feels like his blood is boiling, and there's so much screaming.
There's emptiness in his head, and he panics.
Leaping in feet first without looking was a skill I admired in your father.
George also died, so. Like father, like son.
Except he's not dead, he only wishes he was.
Everything hurts, physically and mentally.
He can see Spock asleep from the corner of his eye, and he doesn't know when he passed out or if someone hypo’d him.
All he knows is they won, and everything hurts.
Coming back to campus is like when he left Tarsus.
There are ghosts, and he can't escape them as easily.
So instead, he invites his friends and their partners to stay at his townhouse, he's got more than enough bedroom and floor mattress space if they double or triple up in some cases.
No one really complains, because no one wants to be alone right now.
Jim decided to let the bruises around his neck heal naturally as a reminder of what he lost.
For every day the bruise darkens and then disappears, it's another day he has to be closer to healing, for his own sake
And if Spock, who he is currently sharing a bed with now that Bones was given leave to see his daughter, grimaces? He just turns his back on him and curls up tighter.
Gaila is alive, somehow a mix of being at the right place at the right time and just barely managing to board an escape pod that wasn't on fire or malfunctioning, and has dragged T’Pring with her.
The story of how they met is so humorous in a morbid way, that Jim laughs and laughs for what feels like the first time in months.
This time, when the tears come out, T'Pring has learned that the proper response is to hug the human.
He always knew T’Pring was an indestructible force.
They are offering Jim the Enterprise, and he accepts wholeheartedly.
He looks into the crowd, and feels a pang in his heart and mind as he doesn't see Amanda, T’sin, Stonn, or Evoras.
But he sees his friends, new and old, and family, and he's filled with bittersweetness.
When he meets Old Spock’s eyes in a catwalk above, he sees he understands.
So he straightens his back, and relives Pike of his duty.
And for a fleeting moment, he thinks he can feel long dormant bonds pulse pink.