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The Gravity of Never Letting Go

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When Winona Kirk found out that she was pregnant a few short months into a three year mission, she was beyond pissed. It wasn’t that she was opposed to having another little bundle of joy and force of destruction running around underfoot, it was more that the timing was that great.

 

They were too far out into deep space to just swing around and take her home, or even drop her off on a starbase to let her hitch hike back. And they were still so far from completing the mission that she was going to miss most of it anyway. Maternity leave first, and then she was going to be stuck on family leave to deal with a baby. On a starship.

 

The Kelvin does not have a daycare, unfortunately.

 

In the end, Winona knows that she’ll get over it. There are far worse things that could happen out here in the black than an unplanned pregnancy.



*.*



When James Tiberius Kirk is born in the middle of the shipwide evacuation, there is a lot going through his mother’s mind. Her ship, which by this point was more home than the little house in Iowa. Her shipmates, those friends which were now more like family. And her husband, who was dying up there, alone on the bridge, giving his life without hesitation or thought. But among all the thoughts of fear and sorrow, there is also the almost amused this kid has terrible luck.



*.*



The initial aftermath of The Kelvin disaster is loud. There are reporters and investigators, all vying for Winona’s attention or comment or opinion. The family of her dead shipmates all seem to think that she has something to say to them, some last message to pass along. The truth is, the only dying words she heard were for her. The Admiralty has a lot of yelling to do. As if a simple engineer on medical leave would have anything to say to them about what was going on up on the bridge in those final minutes.

 

Long story short, there’s a lot of people, with a lot of things to say to her. So she spends a good four months on Starbase 4, baby Jimmy in her arms and whatever poor sucker that mistook her for the right person to talk to at the receiving end of her death glare.

 

The later aftermath is quieter. Partly because after one too many calls from some well-wishing somebody who had “heard about George” she had rather serenely melted all her communications devices with her phaser.

 

The press has moved on by month six, her high-ups have accepted she can’t help them sort out what happened by month eight. She is finally left alone.

 

Too alone.

 

Where there should be George, there is nothing but a dull void. His breathing is replaced by silence, along with his voice, and his footsteps, and… it’s all gone. George is gone, and the only thing left in his wake is Sam, back on Earth and there for out of reach, and Jimmy.

 

And don’t get her wrong, she loves Jimmy. But other than cry and eat, he doesn’t do much. Babies are not the best companions.

 

And maybe it’s the lack of real human companionship, maybe it's the stress, or postpartum depression. She doesn’t know exactly what flips the switch. All she knows is that one night, as she lay staring at the empty space where George should be it hits her. Winona does not want to go home.

 

Not yet.

 

The thought of going home to that little house in Iowa and having the George shaped void follow her there… it’s too much. She needs a little more time to shake of his ghost lest it follow her when she leaves this place.

 

Besides, she had already made arrangements to be off-planet for almost another year from now. Sam is with George’s parents. He’ll be fine. And after what she’s just been through, there is not a single iota of doubt in Winona’s mind that Command would approve her request to stay out in the black a little longer. She’ll be a janitor on a communications relay if she has to.



*.*



She gets moved to Starbase 6, Jimmy in tow. Here, Winona is nothing more than a glorified handyman, nothing on her to do list even approaches the level of interest that The Kelvin ’s engine demanded. But the combination of work (no matter how dull) and being a single mom of a rather demanding baby keeps her busy.

 

She loves Jimmy, she does, but that child is a handful. He takes after her temperment a lot more than Sam ever did. Winona wonders how much of that has to do with the George shaped hole in her life. The answer, she thinks, is most likely a lot.

 

It’s with those kinds of thoughts, around Jimmy’s first birthday, that Winona considers going home. And then she sees the news broadcasts about the anniversary.

 

Earth can wait a little longer.



*.*



Time passes, and Jimmy grows, and god damn is that kid a smart one. And Winona isn’t just saying that because she’s some hormone-flooded, glowing mommy who’s baby is the smartest baby ever born.

 

No, she’s saying that because she has to live with this kid. When Jimmy gets good enough at talking in semi-coherent sentences, she looks up how many questions the average human toddler asks a day. The answer? Around 300.

 

So either that number is one hell of a low-ball, or James Tiberius Kirk is a little genius. Or the most annoying person ever born.

 

Maybe a little bit of both.

 

Either way, she knows that she’s feilding at least twice that many in between dinner and his bedtime alone. And that’s without taking his sleep-avoiding questions into account.

 

Every other breath, it’s “what’s that, Mommy?” and “who’s that, Mommy?” and “how do I?” and “when can I?”

 

And lest she forget his personal favorite:

 

“Why?”

 

At times it can be more irritating that she could possibly explain. But when your only friend is a toddler, you get used to it.



*.*



George’s parents call on Jimmy’s third birthday. The third anniversary of their son’s death. She lets them sing happy birthday, let’s them pretend that they only care about the happy parts of the day. Winona knows how proud George would be of her minding her manners like this.

 

It’s a bit of a relief to have Jimmy’s attention focused on someone other than her for a minute. (As much as her in-laws annoy her, she can’t actually say anything rude. They have been taking care of Sam. And trying to love Jimmy, despite how hard she’s made it to even talk to him.) So she leaves them to it, taking a rare moment to herself as Jimmy happily babbles away at his grandparents through screen.

 

About fifteen minutes later, she hears him call in that overly loud way he has, “Bye, Grandma!”

 

So she goes over to say bye (manners), and shut down the console. But before she even gets two feet across the room, Jimmy speaks again. “Mommy, Grandpa wants to talk to you.”

 

“Fantastic.” Best to get this over quickly.

 

She strides over to the desk where the video call is set up, shooing Jimmy away. “Go play, kiddo.” He darts off, gone to do whatever it is that three-year-old boys do when left unsupervised. She sits down and crosses her arms, leveling a glare at the screen.

 

“Come home, Winona.” No small talk, straight to the point. Tiberius understands his daughter in law that much at least.

 

“I can’t.”

 

His eyes narrow. “Can’t? Or won’t?”

 

“Both.”

 

He heaves a heavy sigh. “And why is that? You can’t hide forever, dear. And Sam needs you.”

 

Something deep inside her chest twists. “He doesn’t—”

 

“He does.” Something in Tiberius face softens. “And you need him. Or did you forget that James isn’t an only child?”

 

“How dare you,” She sputters, her rage getting caught in her throat. “You have no idea what it was like. What it’s been like.”

 

He shakes his head. “Just come home. If not for you, or even Sam, then do it for Jimmy.”

 

“There’s nothing wrong with him. He’s fine here.”

 

“Are you sure?” Before she has the chance to start screaming, he continues. “Winona, the boy is three years old and he’s never seen sunlight. He’s never felt rain, or the wind. Hell, he’s never felt gravity that isn’t artificial.”

 

She doesn’t want to admit it, but he’s right. So all she says is, “I’ll think about it.”

 

Before he can say anything else, she hangs up.



*.*



The next day she puts in the request for a leave on Earth, and a transfer to something planetside afterwards. She knows it’s the right thing. She knows that it’s for the best. She also knows that there is no way in hell that anyone would deny her request considering that she is a single mom with a toddler and another small child.

 

No one in their right mind would deny that request.

 

But a part of her hopes that someone does. Because it’s now only a matter of time before she has to break her self imposed isolation and face reality.

 

The good news is that Jimmy will love Earth. He’s an energetic kid, and Tiberius was right. He needs room to run, to roll around in the dirt.

 

Iowa has plenty of dirt.

 

Everything is going to be just fine.



*.*



Tiberius and Sam meet them at the station. There is no actual reason for them to do so, Winona knows how to get to George's parents’ house. But she gets it. Sam missed her, and is beyond excited to meet his brother in person for the first time.

 

They’re both excited going by the twin squeaks they unleash as they barrel into a hug.

 

Winona nods at Tiberius and then says, “Don't squeeze your brother so hard, Sam. He’s a lot more little than you are.”

 

“Okay, Mommy,” Sam says in his perfect little angel voice, and then he lets go of Jimmy and wraps his arms around her and he’s hugging her and he’s perfect and she missed him and her heart is breaking and healing all at the same time and oh, god, she never should have been gone this long.

 

George would be ashamed of her.

 

She’ll make it up to Sam. And Jimmy, too. She might not be able to take back all those years she tried to hide from the world, but from now on, she’s going to do the whole mom-thing properly. She will.

 

And maybe one day Winona will be able to forgive herself.



*.*



Sam and Jimmy get on like a house on fire. Which is amazing, because there was a part of her that thought that they would hate each other. It is also the worst, because they are a whirlwind of chaos and destruction, and she’s just trying to get her shit together. Starting with moving Sam’s things from his grandparents house back to theirs.

 

She has to send them outside while she boxes up his room because their trying to help was anything but helpful.

 

From the open window she can hear them running around the yard and screaming, in that way that kids do when they’re happy.

 

By the time she’s moving the boxes of Sam’s things to the car her in-laws generously lent for the move, both of them look tired. Well, Sam looks tired. Jimmy looks exhausted.

 

More exhausted than she’s ever seen him, actually.

 

She stands there for a moment, a box in her arms, and just watches. They’re both still running around, clearly having a blast, but Jimmy keeps pausing to pant, hand on his chest.

 

She’s never seen him this tired-looking, this worn out. This kind of exercise should barely have him breaking a sweat, honestly— he’s run twice as fast for twice as long to avoid bath time, before.

 

It’s probably all the traveling they just did, she reasons. He probably didn’t sleep well last night. And it is a little hot out.

 

Those are all perfectly valid explanations.

 

But there’s something off— an alarm bell is ringing in her head, and she doesn’t know why. Overprotectiveness? Perhaps.

 

She puts the box in the car and heads back in for another.

 

A few trips later, Jimmy stops her on her way back to the house, panting like a dog. “I don't feel good.”

 

She frowns. “Can you describe the ruckus?”

 

He doesn’t even smile. “I’m heavy.”

 

“Do you mean tired, baby?”

 

“No, I’m heavy,” he insists, as serious as she’s ever seen him. “I’m sticking to the ground.”

 

And without any further warning, he crumbles unconscious to the ground.



*.*



In the movies, what would happen next would be a series of blurred cutscenes. A haphazard skip from crises to hospital to recovery.

 

But this isn’t a movie.

 

When Jimmy collapses, she drops to her knees, following him to the ground. He’s hot, so hot, and his heart… it’s racing faster than a hamster's after an hour on a wheel.

 

That doesn’t bode well.

 

So she calls an ambulance, and waits, for the longest ten minutes of her life, with Jimmy in her arms.

 

When the ambulance arrives, she leaves Sam behind, always, she leaves him behind.



*.*



She’s useless in the ambulance. Completely and utterly useless as a person and a mother. She can’t do anything but sit and watch as the medics do whatever it is that they are doing to keep her baby alive, and answer whatever questions that they have.

 

It’s not until she’s in the god awful hospital waiting room and they’ve taken James away from her that she has something to do. And it’s paperwork. Winona hates paperwork.

 

To be fair, even paperwork is better than staring of into space and thinking about the fact that her kid is probably dying. Better than letting herself spiral into a litany of not again, not again, I can’t lose him again.

 

Further problem, Jim’s paperwork doesn’t take long. He doesn’t have much of a medical history to report. No serious illness, no surgeries (yet). And allergies? How would she know? He’s been in filtered air his entire life. For all she knows, Jimmy could be allergic to the sun.



*.*



When the doctors finally let her see him, she almost gets herself kicked out. Because the sight of him unconscious hooked up to so many monitors and machines… something in Winona snaps. She throws a PADD that had the misfortune of being on a table near her against a wall and just screams.

 

*.*



Jimmy’s been in the hospital for three days by the time she gets dragged into a real life conference room for a panel of people that all apparently have something to add here. She’s introduced to all the doctors, but doesn’t bother to remember their names. But their jobs, those stick out. Pediatrician, that makes sense. Neurologist, worrying, but understandable. Same for cardiologist. Though what a goddamn physicist has to say about her kid is beyond her.

 

The answer is worse than she could ever imagine.

 

“You mean to tell me that he can’t handle gravity ?”

 

Almost everyone in the room flinches. Good.

 

The cardiologist is the only one brave enough to speak to her at first, “That’s the heart of it, Mrs. Kirk.”

 

“Commander.” Winona’s voice has lost all emotion. She’s now a being of steel.

 

“I’m sorry. Commander.” The cardiologist looks like she hasn’t slept in three days. Good. “Your son is reacting to Earth like—”

 

“Like you or I would react to a long Vulcan Summer,” interjects the physicist.

 

Winona is emotionless. She is ice. “Elaborate.”

 

It’s the pediatrician that answers her this time. “Well, it’s not a perfect analogy, but it works. The gravity is too much for our little human bodies. The air is too thick. So our systems go into overtime to maintain homeostasis. And in people with already vulnerable systems, that kind of overdrive can cause a crash.”

 

That… makes sense. “But how can he be reacting to Earth like that?”

 

There’s a beat of silence.

 

The asshole physicist speaks. “James is the first human child to have been in artificial gravity from conception to birth, and with the additional years you spent out there, he is the only human to spend so much of their crucial development in said environment.”

 

Winona’s facade of glass begins to splinter. Suddenly that useless fun fact she learned back at the academy doesn’t seem so fun or useless. “And ‘Earth Normal’ artificial gravity isn’t perfectly Earth normal. It’s actually a little light.”

 

“If it was sooner…” the cardiologist stumbles over her words. “If I could have tried to treat him sooner, as a newborn maybe…”

 

They keep talking.

 

For hours and hours, they keep talking.

 

But Winona has heard enough.

 

She did this.



19 Years Later




“Hey there, Bones.”

 

Leonard McCoy wants to scream. He doesn’t need to turn around to know who is standing in the doorway behind him. No one else in the entire Federation calls him that stupid nickname. He doesn’t need to look to know who’s literally hopping up onto the examination table and no doubt is swinging his legs like a small child.

 

McCoy takes a deep breath, gripping his PADD far more tightly than necessary and turning to face his favorite patient.

 

“Hey there, Jim.” The fact that the kid is here voluntarily, and he doesn’t look like he’s on the verge of death can only mean one thing. “Been three months already?”

 

The grin he gets in response can only be described as shit-eating. “On the dot.”

 

Leonard can’t help the small answering smile that comes uninvited to his features. What can he say? He’s got a soft spot for Jim. Which is why it hurts so much, watching him try so hard for something that he’ll never have.

 

“Why are you always in such a rush to get rejected, huh?”

 

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

 

“Yes you do. You and I both know-”

 

“Bones.” All the playfulness is gone from Jim. His body is stone still, voice flat. “Drop it. Do my damn physical.”

 

He stepped on a nerve there. “Fine.”



*.*



The exam itself doesn’t take long. He’s far too familiar with Jim’s particular brand of fucked up to let any readings skew him. All in all, it takes about ten minutes.

 

But it’s a slow day and Jim hangs out for a bit. Which is good. Leonard needs more human interaction other than patients and teachers and video calls with his daughter.

 

And Jim is… well. He’s Jim.

 

Leonard has been Jim’s doctor for over a year now. Because while he is technically a student, he’s still a licensed physician and works shifts at the campus medical center.

 

And just so happened to be on one of those shifts when Jim had one of his near death episodes. By now, McCoy has seen enough of them to know that that one was particularly bad. But he saved the moron’s life, and gave him the strict order to avoid stairs as much as possible, and thought, well that was an interesting case

.

 

The end.

 

Or rather it should have been.

 

It a sane world, that would have been.

 

But apparently, Jim came to some hairbrained conclusion that Leonard was the sole reason for his continued life and ability to annoy people. And for some reason that Leonard will probably never comprehend, this particular civilian asshole is on Starfleet medical.

 

So one thing led to another and… Jim’s his problem now. For better or worse. Until Jim either dies from his own stupidity, or Leonard gets shipped off planet.

 

And along the way a relationship that should have been entirely professional turned into a friendship.

 

They’re a little attached. McCoy sometime thinks he’s a little too attached to someone who's heart is a ticking time bomb.

 

But Jim likes Bones because he saved his life and is good at his job, and doesn’t treat Jim like he’s made of glass. Or like some idiot that can’t listen to their own body and deserves to be wrapped in bubble-wrap.

 

Leonard likes Jim because even though the kid most definitely is made of glass, he sure as hell doesn’t act like it. The guy won’t let anyone tell him that he can’t do something.

 

Which is coincidentally the thing he also hates the most about Jim. That and his penchant for actively seeking out situations that will only cause him pain.

 

Speaking of which.

 

“So how many attempts is this?”

 

Jim shrugs. “Twelve? I think.”

 

“Why you keep doing all of this to get in to an organization that has done nothing for you but waste your time, I will never understand.”

 

“Bones.” God, he hates that nickname. “I told you to drop it. Please.”

 

Jim rarely says ‘please.’

 

So drop it he does.



*.*





The good thing about Jim trying to enlist at the start of almost every academy semester is that he no longer has any sort of nerves about the application process. He spends about three months improving his record, whether by academics (because Starfleet does have a civilian academic program) or some kind of stereotypical it-looks-good-on-a-resume work.

 

Not that he doesn’t like to help people, because he does. It’s kind of half of the reason that he wants to join the ‘Fleet in the first place. But he probably wouldn’t be spending so much of his time working for free without the obsessive need to continually one-up the admissions people.

 

And then he harasses Bones for an official physical, and gets to the admissions office first thing the next day.

 

As in, the first day for in person interviews.

 

Why so early? Well, he has to get the jump on these people and get the actual interview on file before the powers that be can actually notice the fact that he’s in no way shape or form medically fit for duty. And Jim has to be able to say his piece.

 

Because he’s in a war of attrition with the Federation’s largest organization. He won’t be able to wear them down if they never let him talk. He learned that the hard way on the first go-around.

 

The office opens at eight. So Jim is there at seven fifty. Just like usual.

 

Except, unlike usual, he’s not alone.

 

Standing outside in the cool September morning, is a kid that looks young enough to still be in middle school. A Freshman in highschool maybe.

 

“Are you lost, kid?”

 

The boy jumps, clearly not expecting a strange man to have appeared before him while he stared off into space. To his credit, he pulls himself together pretty quickly. “No, I’m waiting for the office to open.”

 

Jim frowns. A Russian accent. And a really thick one, too. This kid is pretty far from home. “Thinking of enlisting in a few years, huh?”

 

Some sort of stubborness flashes in the kid’s eyes. Jim knows that look. It’s one he sees quite often in the mirror. “I am going to enlist this year, actually.”

 

He likes this kid a little bit already. “I’m Jim,” he offers, sticking out his hand.

 

“Pavel,” answers the Russian middle schooler, shaking his hand with endearing enthusiasm. Jim can’t help but smile.

 

“And what are you hoping to specialize in, little Pavel?”

 

“I’m not little! I’m fourteen!”

 

Wow. Just wow.

 

Before Jim manages to find something to say to that that isn’t entirely sarcastic, a red and green blur crashes into him from the side, and he’s wrapped into a constricting hug by his favorite Orion.

 

“Hey, Gaila.” He wheezes. “Ease up a little?”

 

“Weakling,” she teases, but does loosen her grip. “You hanging out with me today?”

 

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world. You know how I love the way you make me wait.” Jim remembers little fourteen year old Pavel the moment the innuendo leaves his mouth. Shit. The kid is wide-eyed, clearly remembering the things he was told about stranger danger.

 

“Did you bring a friend, Jimmy?”

 

He better intervene now before the poor little thing gets scarred by whatever it is that might come out of Gaila’s mouth next.

 

“Gaila, Pavel. Pavel, Gaila.”

 

Pavel gives a nervous smile and Gaila absolutely beams in response.

 

“Gaila is a Starfleet Cadet, and a very good friend of mine, who does odd jobs around various offices because in her words, ‘I’m broke, and my class schedule won’t let me get a real person job.’ Pavel is a very smart fourteen year old that is about to attempt to bully the Academy into accepting him early.”

 

The kid relaxes, apparently having come to the decision that Gaila wasn’t going to launch a surprise hug on him as well.

 

“Well aren’t you just adorable.” She somehow manages to ruffle both of their hair at the same time. “Alright, let’s get you inside so you two can hurry up and wait.”

 

She unlocks the door. “The last time you tried this Jim, I told you to bring me flowers.”

 

Jim says “I didn't know you’d be working here today.”

 

At nearly the same moment, Pavel asks, “Last time?”

 

“I’ve failed the physical a few times.” The details of that particular problem are not relevant to a kid he just met. “Let’s go in.”



*.*



Gaila signs them in, and then it’s just like she said: hurry up and wait. Because while the office technically opens at eight, that doesn’t mean that the important people have to be there on time.

 

Normally, Jim would spend this time flirting with Gaila. But she waves him off, pulling out a PADD and angrily muttering about her homework.

 

The good news is that Pavel isn’t half bad as a conversation partner.

 

Turns out, this is the kid’s dream. Like, enlisting in the ‘Fleet is everything that he’s ever wanted. He also looks like an anxious mess. Jim can relate. So it’s probably for the best that Jim has decided to let the kid talk his ear off rather than spiral into quiet panic.

 

And boy, does Pavel have a lot to say. Mostly about everything that he’s done to get ready for this.

 

“...but there is only so many courses that I can take back home to prepare, and there isn’t anything else for me to do other than go to a university, but I do not want to, I want to join the Starfleet, but I’m too young to enlist, but with my academic record-”

 

“Pavel.” The kid was starting to talk in circles. “If your age is the only problem, why dont you apply as a civilian student to the academy. It’s pricey, but it would have you learning the same things that you would as an enlisted man.” Or child. “That’s an option, you know.”

 

“But that is not what I want, Jim.” Something in Pavel’s body language- shifts, and suddenly he’s giving off the aura of someone much older than himself. “I want to learn, yes. But not only. I want to go places , to see things. I want to do my part as well. What little difference I can make in this universe, I want to make it. And the best way to do that is from within Starfleet.” He sighs. “You think I am a fool, don’t you?”

 

“No. I don’t, actually. Not at all. I feel the same way, in fact.” Jim sighs. “That’s why I keep trying, even though the doctors say I can’t.”

 

“You don’t look sick.”

 

That earns him a bitter smile. “Looks can be deceiving, kid.”

 

“What is wrong with you?”

 

Now, normally, that question would not go over well with one James Kirk. He doesn’t like people butting their way into his business, let alone almost total strangers. Yet something about how the kid asks him… Jim wants to tell him. So he does.

 

“Did you know that on Federation vessels, ‘Earth Normal’ gravity is actually a little on the light side?”

 

“I did not.”

 

“Well, I was born in space. Spent the first few years of my life without ever touching the ground.”

 

The information visibly clicks in Pavel’s mind. “Earth makes you sick. The planet is too big.” The kid’s eyes grow impossibly wider. “That is why you want to join Starfleet! Being on a ship will make you better!”

 

Jim can’t help his smile. The absolute innocent joy at solving a puzzle emanating off this boy is kind of catching.

 

“That. And the things you said, too.”



*.*



Jim’s interview goes about as well as it always does until they manage to pull up his physical. And just like every time before the asshole won’t even hear his argument against what his health looks like on paper.

 

But this time, instead of angrily storming out of the building, he just storms out of the prick’s office. He’s going to wait for Pavel.

 

After all, Jim knows how much he would appreciate having someone there to hear the news, good or bad.

 

When the little Russian stumbles out into the lobby, it’s impossible to tell how it went. He’s moving slowly, eyes kind of glazed over.

 

He’s in shock.

 

“How’d it go?”

 

A blink.

 

Deep shock. “Pavel?” Tentatively Jim reaches out, placing a hand on the kid’s shoulder.

 

“I got in.” As he says it the words they seem to hit him, and the calm is broken. A manic grin slowly spreads over the kid’s face. “I made it!”

 

“Fuck yes!” Pavel’s grin gets impossibly wider. “This calls for an absurd amount of ice cream.”



*.*



This is a weird day, Jim decides as he sits down in a little corner booth of the nearest ice cream parlor. With his new friend, Pavel Chekov. Pavel Chekov the fourteen year old newly minted Starfleet cadet.

 

It’s a strange world.

 

But Jim really likes Pavel, even though the kid never stops talking. Like ever. And even if they never see eachother again, the excursion for ice cream was certainly a great idea. Because the kid has a look of nervous energy to get out now that the stress is out. Apparently talking Jim's ear off works.

 

By the time his sundae is halfway gone, Pavel has barely eaten his. But what he has done is detail the entire meeting he just had to the point that Jim is half convinced he was there as well.

 

Suddenly the ranting stops. “Hey, Jim?”

 

“Yeah, kid?”

 

“Would being in space really fix you?”

 

The question is asked so bluntly, with no warning, that Jim nearly chokes on the spoonful of ice cream he had just shoved in his mouth. “What?”

 

“Would it fix you? The artificial gravity.”

 

An upfront question deserves an upfront answer. “It would.”

 

Pavel nods. A sudden grave air descends around them both, far too serious for the place they’re in. “Then we will get you into space.”

 

Weirdly enough, Jim wants to believe him. But… “And how are we going to do that, huh? I’ve tried a couple times, you know. They won’t look past the physical.”

 

“You took the physical on Earth. You are allergic to Earth.” And then, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world, Pavel says something so beautiful in it’s simplicity that Jim wants to cry. “So we force them to do your exam in space.”

 

“You… you’re a genius.”

 

“I know.”



*.*



While Chekov is immediately riled up for a full on legal brawl, Jim manages to talk him down. After all, it doesn't suit in the long run to stir up trouble. So he wants to see if the whole thing can be handled civilly first.

 

He knows just the person to go to. And old family friend that just so happens to be stuck on Earth while he waits for his new ship to be built.

 

So he drops Pavel off at the hotel he’s staying at (hopefully with an adult or two) and then bolts to Pike’s office.

 

It won’t take long to convince him. Captain Pike is fond of Kirks. He’s had a soft spot for Jim especially ever since-

 

Ever since they met in person.



*.*



Jim goes barreling into Pike’s office, panting. He definitely got here way too fast.

 

“Captain, I need to talk to you!”

 

“I’m kind of in the middle of something, Jim. Wait outside.” Pike is so used to Jim’s particular brand of crazy by now that he doesn’t even break eye contact with the man he had been talking too. Or rather, the Vulcan he had been talking too, Jim realizes as the person in question turns in his seat to inspect the cause of the interruption.

 

Jim’s eyes lock with the Vulcan’s unusually warm brown ones, and the first thought to jump into his head is, oh no, he’s hot. Which hopefully isn’t that obvious of a thought to an outside observer because Jim really doubts that he’s going to get on anyones good side by gawking at a… he manages to break his stare enough to inspect the strangers uniform. Commander. Shit.

 

“Sorry, Captain. Commander.” He lets himself out without another word.

 

Well. That was embarrassing.



*.*



The Vulcan Commander leaves Pike’s office about fifteen minutes later. By then, Jim has fortunately caught his breath and brought his heart rate back down to a normal level. Or what passes for normal in his fucked up cardiovascular system anyway. He offers a polite nod. Which the Vulcan apparently takes as an invitation for conversation.

 

“It is considered ill form to enter a space that does not belong to you without permission, Cadet.”

 

Oh, joy. “Not a Cadet.”

 

The Vulcan blinks. “Such behavior is all the more unbefitting of a ranking officer.”

 

“Not an officer either.”

 

That earns another rapid blink. Huh. The Vulcan has a tell.

 

This has been fun, but Jim has things to do. “Well, it was nice to meet you, Commander Manners.”

 

“My name is Spock.”

 

Jim can’t help the faint smile. He’s never seen a Vulcan look so confused. “Well then, Commander Spock. I’ve got a rather annoyed Captain to talk to.”

 

With a wink and a mockingly lazy salute, Jim turns on his heels and strolls back into Pike’s office.

 

He doesn’t knock this time either.



*.*



“You better make this quick, Kirk.”

 

Jim throws himself into the chair in front of his desk. “What, no hello?”

 

“What do you want?”

 

Jim, throws his hand to his chest in mock-affront. “Who says I want something? Can’t I just come by for a chat? To catch up?”

 

Pike just stares. He has a great tired-of-this-shit stare.

 

“Okay, fine.” There’s no good way to bridge this subject, so he just goes for it. “So it’s physically impossible for me to pass the mandated physical for enlistment while on this planet. So—”

 

“Jim, you have to stop this. I know it’s not ideal, but—”

 

“No, listen!

 

There must have been something in his voice, because Pike sighs, but does indeed shut up.

 

“What if I had Bones do my physical off-planet? On a starbase?”

 

This time Pike’s silence is not the long suffering one that Jim has grown all too accustomed to over the years. No, this time it’s almost… contemplative. The silence stretches on and Jim wants to break it, to say something, anything. And he has a lot to say. But he doesn't want to accidentally say the wrong thing and ruin his chances when he’s so close to winning him over that he can taste it.

 

“That…” Pike seems surprised by his on voice. “That might actually work.”

 

Jim can’t believe it. For the first time in a long time, he feels hope.

 

The Captain must see it, because he quickly adds, “It could work, Jim. But you’d have to convince Command to let you try it. And then actually back it up with being fit for duty.”

 

“Sir, you know I’m right about this. You know I am.”

 

A pause. “They’re not going to be easy to sway.”

 

“Bring it on.”

 

“Okay.” Pike rubs the bridge of his nose. “I’ll talk to some people, see what I can do. Who I can convince.”

 

It takes all of Jim’s limited impulse control in order not to jump up and down like a small child being told that they are going to Disney World. Instead what happens is that a totally dignified squeak of a laugh forces it’s way up his throat.

 

“Don’t get your hopes up,” Pike cautions. “This might not work.”

 

“But you’ll try?”

 

“I’ll try.”

 

And that’s more progress than Jim’s accomplished so far.