A bright, blazing sun rose over the horizon. It was going to be a beautiful, warm late spring day, and news of Winona Kirk’s return from deep space created a stir at the farmhouse. Her young son, a boy of eight years, bounced around like the embodiment of kinetic energy. Chekhov called him a “whirling dervish,” whatever that meant. Jim Kirk only knew two things for sure: first, that his mother was coming home, and that meant lots of hugs and laughter and kisses. Second, that she was bringing home a father and two brothers just for him. He could barely sit still, he was so excited to meet Frank, Mark, and Jack. To think that he would soon have a full family!
Hikaru eventually managed to wrangle him into a starched suit that looked exactly like what Jim’s father, George, had worn in his days as a Starfleet officer. Jim was instructed very sternly to not get his suit dirty, to stay calm and clean so that his new family would like him, and, in order to do those two things, stay away from Leonard McCoy.
“Those boys are two peas in a pod,” Hikaru muttered to Ben, his husband, as he brushed out the last of the curls in Jim’s fluffy hair. “And if Leonard sees him in this getup, he’s sure to try and get a rise out of him.”
“You don’t want to see Jim greeting his new stepfather looking like one of the pigs in the stye?” Ben asked innocently, laughing at the evil eye his husband shot him.
“Don’t you dare encourage him, Ben Sulu,” Hikaru warned. Then he turned Jim around and said very sternly, “James Tiberius, I want no shenanigans out of you today. Is that clear?”
“My mommy says shenanigans make me precocious,” Jim said, his mouth twisting around the big words.
Hikaru sighed. “That’s one word for it,” he said wearily, just as a loud clack was heard at the window. Jim sprinted to the shutters, bursting them open despite Hikaru’s protests.
“Don’t throw rocks at my room, Leonard! I told you, I can’t play today!”
“Whoa. You look like a gentleman,” Leonard said, lowering his arm to his side. A hefty rock slipped out of his grasp.
Jim sniffed. “That’s what I am,” he declared. “A gentleman.”
“Chekhov’s more of a gentleman than you, you billy goat!” Leonard called, grinning crookedly.
Hikaru rushed to the window, but he was too late. Jim was already gone, running through the halls and yelling that he could beat Leonard into a pulp any day of the week, gentleman-looking or not.
“Oh, child! Your mother will be here any minute!” Hikaru pleaded. It was no use. Jim was already gone.
The servants rushed here and there, making final preparations for Winona Kirk’s arrival. Hikaru and Ben stood at the entryway to the large farmhouse, and Hikaru couldn’t help but plant a firm kiss on his husband’s temple. Ben winked cheekily and pinched Hikaru’s bottom just to see him blush and scold. Chekhov came running up at the last second as a large hovercar crawled up the lane to the farmhouse.
“Jim,” he panted, parking himself at Hikaru’s side. “He’s -”
“Home sweet home!” Winona’s clear voice rang, stepping out of the hovercar. With a grin and a sigh, she drank in the sight - all the servants waiting with beaming faces, the clean and beautiful farmhouse awaiting her, and glowing, verdant fields rolling in the distance.
She greeted every servant by name, shaking a hand or offering a hug. Winona was by far the best landlord the Sulus had ever known, and they welcomed her warmly. Their adopted son, Chekhov, a little older than Jim himself, practically melted in Winona’s arms.
An unknown man’s voice called for Winona. She grinned and went to the hovercar, opening the door for her new husband and his two sons. Hikaru found himself watching them critically. While Winona Kirk was a great landlord, allowing the servants time off and paying them more than the meager wages they were owed by the Federation’s standards, the Sulus knew well that any meddling from the new husband could change their prospects overnight.
“Well, Winona, isn’t this place so very... charming,” the man said. His sons hung back, hesitation and confusion on their faces.
“Have you seen Jimmy, Hikaru?” Winona asked, dropping her new husband’s hand to look around for her son. As she turned toward the barn, a giggling blur of golden hair and muddy clothes jumped into her arms.
“Mommy!” Jim shouted, hugging his mother fiercely.
“Oh, Jimmy!” Winona held him tightly, pressing him close in a protective embrace. When she pulled back to get a look at him, she laughed loud and long. Before she could say anything, Jim pointed behind her.
“Leonard said I couldn’t beat him dressed in gentleman’s clothes!” he said.
Winona smiled. “And so you had to prove him wrong, did you?” she teased.
“Yes, ma’am! I slaughtered him!” Jim crowed.
“You sla- oh, my,” Winona laughed, turning to see a completely brown, scowling Leonard McCoy, covered from head to toe in dark mud.
“Goodness, Jim, I’d thought to introduce a young Lord to your new stepfather and brothers. Ah, well, I guess you’ll have to do.” She winked at him and set him down on the ground. “James Tiberius Kirk, may I have the pleasure of introducing you to my Lord Baron Francis von Ghent and his two sons, Mark and Jack.”
“How do you do?” Jim said, politely bowing as he had been taught.
“Very well, thank you,” Lord Francis replied with a smile, bowing in turn. He gestured to the boy on his right. “This is Mark, my oldest,” he said, “and this,” turning to the boy on his left, “is Jack.”
“I’m sure they’re very excited to meet you Jimmy. Why don’t we clean up first and have dinner?” Winona suggested. They trooped inside, leaving the servants to deal with the luggage and the cars.
After a very filling meal and several long stories of travel, Jim learned that Lord Francis liked to be called Frank, and didn’t like when Jim called him “stepfather.” He also learned that Mark was older than Jack by two years - one and three quarters, protested Jack - and that both of the boys were learning how to be the very best courtiers in all the land. Winona and Jim shared a grinning look at this. She had always taught Jim that being close to nature, close to the farm, was far more important than being high-and-mighty.
That night, Winona tucked Jim into bed as usual and kissed him on the forehead.
“Oh! I almost forgot!” she said, as if it was an afterthought, though really she had been looking forward to giving Jim his present all day. She presented him with a real, physical book, one that had a hard cover and paper pages. Jim’s wide eyes beheld it reverently as he flipped through the chapters carefully. “Utopia,” he read in a whisper.
Winona laughed. “Do you like it?” she asked.
“Oh, I love it,” Jim breathed. He looked up at her with wide, watery eyes. “Thank you, mommy!”
“I love you, Jimmy,” she said, and hugged him tightly. She breathed in the sweetness of his hair. “And I hope you’ll love this book, too. Hopefully you won’t read through it too fast, or you’ll have gotten through it before I’ve even come back.”
“Come back?” Jim frowned. He put the book down to look at his mother. “Are you leaving again?”
Winona smiled sadly. “Yes, darling, but only for a fortnight,” she said.
Jim wanted to cry, but tried desperately to hold it in. “But you’ve only just arrived,” he argued. “Can’t you be gone for just a few days?”
Sighing, Winona shook her head and tucked Jim back in. “I’m afraid not. I’ll try and make my trip last two weeks, though, instead of a full fourteen days.”
“One week,” Jim said stubbornly.
“Two,” she shot back, watching him with a small smile.
“T- oh, star’s sake,” Winona chuckled. She held out her fist to play “Rock, Paper, Scissors” and lost, paper to scissors. She laughed as Jim snipped at her fingers with his own.
“Alright, fine,” she sighed heavily, as if very put out. “One week.”
“Yay! And when you get back, we’ll do everything as a family,” Jim said excitedly, planning out the rest of his life with his mother, stepfather, and new brothers.
Winona grinned widely. “Yeah, kiddo,” she said. “Everything as a family.”
The next morning, the servants all stood in front of the farmhouse once again, sad to see Winona go. Frank and his sons stood morosely by the hovercar, while Jim hugged his mother’s legs and refused to release her.
“I’ve never seen so many gloomy faces!” Winona said, trying to cheer them up. “I’ll only be gone for a week.”
“Then go,” Frank murmured, drawing her in for a chaste kiss. “For the sooner you leave, the sooner you will return.”
Winona smiled and bent down to pat Mark and Jack’s heads. Then she picked Jim up and hefted him to her hip.
“Now, Jim, I’m counting on you to show Frank and Mark and Jack the ropes around here,” she said. Jim’s eyes glimmered with tears. “Baron Francis here isn’t used to getting his hands dirty. You’ll help him out, won’t you?”
Jim sniffed. “Yes, ma’am,” he said.
Winona hugged him tightly for a long moment, then set him down gently next to Jack.
“I’ll see you in one week,” she promised, and got into the hovercar waiting for her. It drove down the lane slowly, drawing further and further away from the farmhouse.
Frank sighed dramatically and called for Mark and Jack to follow him and get back to their lessons. Jim looked up with wide eyes.
“Wait! It’s tradition!” he said, pointing to the looming gate separating the farm’s lonely lane from the highway. “Mommy always waves at the gate.”
Frank hesitated, then shrugged, and waved for Mark and Jack to follow him inside. Jim set his shoulders, determined to see Winona off safely. He watched as the hovercar made it to the end of the lane, then pull slowly onto the highway to set off toward Starfleet headquarters in San Francisco -
And then the loudest noise Jim had ever heard made its way to the front steps of the farmhouse. Jim watched in horror as an enormous, heavy trailer truck slammed into his mother’s small car. An elongated screech bit into Jim’s ears, and scraps of metal flew left and right from the collision.
“Mommy!” Jim screamed, running towards the scene. The servants were right behind him, and Frank, hearing the commotion, was hot on their heels.
Jim reached his mother first. She had managed to crawl out of the wreckage, bloodied and broken. She lay on her back, staring up at the sky; her chest heaved with every wet, rasping breath. Jim cradled her head, sobbing.
“Mommy, mommy,” he cried, trying to wipe blood away from her eyes.
Frank settled on her other side, pulling Winona into his lap awkwardly.
“Winnie, oh, God, Winnie,” he moaned.
For a moment, she stared at Frank, and he thought she would speak to him. Then she blinked and turned her head to Jim, who clutched her right hand to his chest as if it was a life preserver.
“I love you,” she whispered to her son. Jim sobbed. “I love you, I love you,” she repeated. Then, with a shuddering breath, Winona Kirk closed her eyes for the last time.
Frozen over his new wife’s body, Frank began to shudder. “Winnie, no,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. “No, no. No! You can’t leave me here! Don’t leave me here!”
Weeping, Jim threw himself on top of his mother, pleading for her to come back. Behind them, the servants edged forward, gently peeling Jim away from the bloody wreck and allowing a wailing Frank to lean heavily on them.
It would be ten long years before Jim could begin to heal from his mother’s death. Ten years of living first in the farmhouse, then in the big barn, then in the outfield barn. Ten years of Frank distancing him from Mark and Jack until Jim was just another servant. Ten years of hushed prayers and sobs on the anniversary of his mother’s death.
Jim fixed it firmly in his mind that things could always be worse. He could be starving, or dying on a strange planet far away. At least he got to live on the farm, he would remind himself. At least he got to stay with the people he knew and loved.
Chekhov and the Sulus took him in immediately, showering him with affection. They were his second family, taking care of him every step of the way. On Frank’s harshest days they reminded Jim that he was never alone. They were his sanctuary from Mark and Jack’s cruel tauntings, his security when he had strange and terrible nightmares. Every evening they encouraged Jim to read from his mother’s vast library, especially once Frank cut off his schooling.
“I don’t care how much work the harvest makes,” Hikaru said angrily, practically shoving Utopia into Jim’s hands. “You need to exercise your brain just as much as your body.”
So Jim did. He worked hard during the day and read chapter upon chapter at night. Far into the wee hours of the morning, he would read near the fire, getting closer and closer as it died down into embers, until he woke in the dawn’s early glow covered in soot and cinder.
Stars twinkled in the midnight velveteen sky above. Spock, the Crown Prince of the United Federation of Planets, grunted as he rappelled down the side of his father’s palace. His breath fogged before him.
Feet hit the ground softly. Vulcans were naturally quiet, and Spock used that to his advantage. Slipping past the guards was quite easy. Silently, he guided the low-riding hovercraft onto the highway. As he gathered speed, Spock looked out over the dark cityscape blurring by.
He had never wanted to be in this position - running away from his problems, not doing his duty as a son or a prince. But Sybok had disappeared years ago, and the last Spock heard he had founded some cult on the edge of the galaxy. And Michael, his adopted older sister, was not legally entitled to the throne because she wasn’t of Sarek’s blood. That left him. He envied Michael, wanted to fly between the stars like her, wanted to marry for love like she did. Sylvia was everything Michael needed and wanted. Spock doubted he would ever find someone like that for him.
And yet, he might have been willing to stay and work things through if it wasn’t for his father. His father! High King Sarek in his mighty palace with his many rules and regulations expected Spock to be just like him, to be the perfect Vulcan Prince. But Spock was not a perfect Vulcan - many saw him as flawed, weak, a betrayal to the Vulcan species because of his Human mother.
It was useless to bargain with him. Spock had tried in vain for the final time last night. Sarek simply refused to back down, insisting on this bizarre and truly repulsive political arranged marriage between Spock and Sehena, a High Romulan General. He sneered in disgust in the privacy of the hovercar; how his father could believe that Spock would willingly go along with such a scheme was beyond him.
Even his mother had urged him to do the right thing and accept this political alliance. Queen Amanda rarely used her status to try and influence Spock’s decision-making, but last night she had put her foot down and asked Spock to “think beyond himself for once.” Alone in the hovercar, Spock allowed his hands to grip the steering wheel tighter even as he schooled his expression into stoicism.
He was snapped out of his musings when he passed a large holoboard on the side of the highway, welcoming him to Nebraska. He blinked. The trip from San Francisco to New York was surely not a long one, but he had come a long way without even realizing it. Spock glanced out his rearview mirror to check for any pursuers. None. He allowed himself to breathe a bit easier and relax behind the wheel.
Not even twenty minutes later, he passed yet another holoboard that blared a too-cheery “Welcome to Iowa! Corn-fed, corn-raised!” Spock rolled his eyes and pressed his foot to the accelerator. He wanted to get to New New York as soon as possible - from there, he could catch any number of shuttle flights and get to wherever he wanted to go.
Frowning, Spock pressed harder on the accelerator, even though it was illogical. He simply was not speeding up. In fact, the speedometer told him he was slowing down. With a low growl, Spock found himself coming to a halt on the edge of a cornfield. His global positioning system told him that he was right outside a village called Riverside. A blinking message on the dashboard told him that his guard was coming after him.
Spock bit his lower lip to keep himself from shouting in rage.
“Kaiidith,” he muttered under his breath, walking away from the vehicle. He decided he’d need to borrow someone else’s hovercar or bike until he got to New York, and then he would find a way to pay them back somehow. Or not, he thought vaguely. After all, he was the Prince.
Surprisingly, he only had to walk a few miles before stumbling upon a sleepy, sprawling farm. The main house looked quiet; in the dusky light of the pre-dawn, it looked abandoned, sad, almost. Spock shook his head to get rid of those fantastic ideas. It must be his Human blood taking over, he decided, and set his shoulders defiantly.
It took a few moments to find where the vehicles were hidden. In the rust-colored barn with shuttered windows and a creaky frame, Spock found one small hoverbike, which looked like it had been last updated around the Third World War, and one larger hovercar, sleek and sharp. He allowed his gaze to rove over the vehicle. It was one of the nicest he’d ever seen. What was it doing in a place like this? Shrugging internally, Spock popped the door open and was about to sit inside when he was interrupted by a screech and something solid hitting the side of his head.
Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.
Three hits, one after the other, on his temple, forehead, and chest. Each hollow impact echoed in his ears.
Stunned, Spock could only cover his head and crouch, hiding from the projectiles coming from seemingly nowhere and everywhere. “Stop!” he cried out.
“Stop? Foul thief! Take that! And that!” a voice shouted back at him. Two more projectiles bounced off the hood of the car as Spock scrambled for cover.
He stooped, breathing heavily, finally hidden by a large piece of farming equipment. Squinting at the item near his knee, he picked it up and examined it.
The disgruntled person was throwing apples at him.
“Get out of here, you, you awful stealer!” the voice commanded. “And stay out! Trying to steal my family’s things! The nerve of some people!”
“Please, sir, I didn’t mean to steal it,” Spock said, peeking out from behind the faded green machinery. An apple lobbed by his head for the trouble. “My own hovercar broke down and I needed assistance -”
“So you abscond with our resources? You dirty, lying -”
Spock bristled and emerged from behind his hiding place, ready to give the man a piece of his Princely mind for the backtalk. He had imagined an ugly, backwards farmhand, ignorant and stupid and in dire need of a dentist. Instead, he found a young man with bright blond hair and dazzling eyes peeking out from a soot-streaked face, holding at least three more apples and staring in wonder.
“Your Highness,” the young man breathed, then dropped to his face. “I am so sorry, I apologize most profusely, Sire,” he pleaded to the concrete. “I didn’t see you there.”
Spock, slightly dazed, touched his forehead and said drily, “I find that hard to believe.”
“I know I’ve wronged you, Your Highness, and for that I must die,” the young man continued, voice wobbling.
He paused. Spock would never punish someone that extremely, although he knew the laws about harming a member of the Royal family. Still, he did need to get going, and the young man didn’t need to be the wiser.
Clearing his throat, Spock withdrew a wallet from his robes. “Correct. However -” he tossed a credit chip to the ground near the servant’s head. “Speak of this to no one, and I shall be lenient,” he commanded, then climbed into the hovercar. He started it just as the young man rose to his knees, tear tracks clearly marking his cheeks.
“Your Highness, I’m sure we can get you another car, if that is what you desire,” he offered, staring bewilderingly at the credit chip.
Spock grit his teeth. “I desire nothing but to be free of my gilded cage,” he muttered. Then he started the vehicle with a smooth press of a button and drove off.
The hovercar was fast and light, and he was on the highway and out of Iowa in less than forty minutes. Yet he could not forget the servant who had first attacked and then cowered before him. Even beneath the dirty hair and face and ragged peasant clothes, Spock saw glimpses of beauty; there was an intelligence in his eyes that warmed Spock to his core. If he hadn’t been on the run, perhaps -
But no, he told himself, firmly gripping the steering wheel and bending it under his Vulcan strength. That young man was a servant. A nobody. And Spock was a Prince. He couldn’t just marry anyone to get out of an arranged marriage, even with a Romulan. Spock smirked ever so slightly. What would his father say if he married a commoner?
Engrossed in his thoughts, Spock almost missed the Welcome to Pennsylvania holoboard that flashed before him an hour or so later. He drummed his fingers against the misshapen steering wheel, a rather human display of impatience and frustration. He couldn’t know where his guard was behind him. Could they have caught up to his broken-down vehicle in Riverside? If so, could they possibly know where he was going from there? He did some quick mental math and grimaced. If he reached New New York at his current pace, he would, at the very least, have to catch the first shuttle off the continent to get ahead of his guard, and there would be a very short window after that to miss them. Then -
His planning was interrupted by a block in the road. Spock stamped on the brake. It was a group of thieves, Rowapis by the look of them - rather on the smaller side, with long hair and sharp, retractable teeth - taking a lone traveler by surprise. Spock was about to pass by when said traveler flung herself at his car.
“Sir, please!” she begged, her voice panicked and shrill. “They took my most prized possession, please help me get it back!”
“I do not have the time,” Spock said curtly. “Call 111 immediately -”
“They’ll be long gone by then,” the woman interrupted. “And I only need one thing back. It is literally priceless - my life’s work! Please, sir, he’s getting away!”
Spock set his jaw and really looked the woman over. She was dark-skinned and beautiful, with thick, sleek hair on her head and the warmest brown eyes he’d ever seen. Her dress glinted in the sunlight, a dark red that suited her skin tone.
“I will regret this,” Spock muttered to himself. He rushed out of the car to pursue the fleeing Rowapi man on foot. Through thick thatches of forest they wove, hurtling over boulders and fallen trees, until Spock caught up to the thief. He tackled him and they rolled several feet before coming to a halt. The Rowapi was quicker to his feet and punched Spock in the jaw, leaving no lasting damage but slowing him down for a moment. Another pursuit, shorter this time, and Spock grabbed the small, square package out of the other man’s hands, shoving him down.
Instead of admitting defeat, the Rowapi grasped at Spock’s ankle as he rolled away. They tumbled downhill at an alarming speed. Suddenly, they were unsupported - falling through the air, down, down, down, and Spock heard the thief scream momentarily before he was silenced by a mouthful of water.
Spock chose to focus, for the moment, on how thankful he was that they landed in a lake rather than a pile of boulders at the bottom of the hill. Instead of being wet, he could have a broken spine. Still, it was difficult to be grateful when he could feel every drop of water slide down his skin, feel the way his body reacted to maintain a homeostatic temperature against the cold water, feel the wet slap of his hair against his face when he came up for air.
When he came to the shore, bedraggled and shaking, he found not only the traveler but also his guard waiting for him.
“Ah,” he said, defeated.
“Prince Spock,” the Captain of the Gaurd, Hendorf, greeted him coldly. “You promised.”
He simply exhaled heavily - not a sigh, as that would be far too Human - and shook his head enthusiastically to rid his hair of excess water.
“I know. I lied,” Spock replied curtly.
He handed the package back to the woman, who waited eagerly behind the Captain’s hovercar.
“Oh, Sire, thank you,” she breathed, holding it like a child.
Spock squinted. “For what, exactly, did I sacrifice my freedom?” he asked acerbically.
She simply smiled and unfolded the package. Its outer shell retreated quickly under her clever fingers. Spock stared at the item she held.
“A universal translator,” she said.
“Are there not already universal translators? What makes this one special?” Spock asked.
The woman would have been well within her rights to be offended by his tone, he knew, but he was much too tired to care whether he was being well-mannered at the moment.
“Of course, Your Highness,” she said. “But this one I designed myself. It has every known language in the universe, not just the Federation. It also scans for non-spoken languages and broadcasts them on a holoprojector - like so.” She demonstrated, and a 3-dimensional display shone in the shimmering mid-morning air.
“Fascinating,” Spock said quietly. Hendorf glared at him.
“Nyota Uhura is a renowned linguist, Sire,” he told the Prince in a tone that suggested he should already know this.
Spock’s eyebrows rose to meet his hairline.
“The Lieutenant Nyota Uhura?” he asked, awed. “Madame, you are a guest of my father’s palace, are you not?”
She nodded, grinning. “Indeed, Your Highness, though I’m anxious to know why you were going in the opposite direction in such haste.”
Hendorf cleared his throat. “Prince Spock is afflicted with an arranged marriage, Ma’am. Among other things,” he muttered under his breath.
His advanced hearing caught the insult, but Spock brushed it off. “Madame, you are the paragon of the modern age. Perhaps you can bring my father into the 23rd century! It is cruel and unusual punishment, is it not, to force one’s own child into a marriage made for purely political reasons?”
Uhura looked from Hendorf to Spock uncertainly. “Well,” she started, but Hendorf interrupted.
“Your Highness, it is high time we get back to your father,” he said sternly. “Don’t bother the Lieutenant, she has other things to think of. Now, where did you get this hovercar?”
Spock composed himself and tried not to sigh out loud. It was going to be a long way back to San Francisco.