He waited at the foot of the steps of her small farmhouse in Iowa, looking up at her as she stood on the porch with Sam on her hip. “We can do without your help, thank you kindly,” she said. “We’ll find our own way.”
He wasn’t surprised. They’d never been friends, rather competing particles, both helplessly caught up in the trail of the supernova that had been George Kirk. “He chose you, Winona,” he said softly. “Can’t we put it behind us, for the sake of the boys?”
Even as he mentioned the boys he knew it was a mistake. George had chosen her because she’d been pregnant and they both knew it. It was the one thing that he would never have been able to give. George had loved the idea of family or rather – he suspected – he’d loved the idea of passing on his brilliant genes, moulding a new life in the Kirk image. He had given way with all the grace he could muster. When George was back at his door two years later, complaining that family life was boring and stifling and full of smelly diapers and screaming, he had sent him home again. And if in truth he’d done it to hurt George as he himself had been hurt, well, he’d still done the right thing.
Jim had been conceived in the subsequent reconciliation but now he got no more than the barest glimpse of the baby, bundled up in a cradle on the porch. At last he walked away, not knowing what else to do. He and Winona did not speak again. The human truth of George Kirk was lost as the memory of him morphed into the larger-than-life hero.
He acted as a consultant in the years that the Riverside shipyards were being built. On site visits, he watched the local children crowd up to the fence to gawk at the vast construction stretching up towards the sky and wondered if any of them were Sam or Jim. Wondered if they just saw the marvel of the shipyard or the greater marvel of where those ships would one day venture.
He returned when the first ships were being built, heard the gossip about the older Kirk boy who’d died of an overdose, the mother who was always away in space, the younger son who was out of control, driving his step-father to drink. He asked around to try and find Jim but the boy seemed to consider school attendance optional and then he was sent back out into the black. He wondered though, about a lanky teenager he’d seen roaming the boundary fence in the early hours of the morning, staring at the ships and staring up past them to the stars.
Reassigned to Earth as a recruiter, he’d already made a note to hunt down the Kirk boy, find out what held together the genius IQ and the criminal record, when the boy turned up bloody and grinning at his feet in a Riverside bar. His heart twisted as George’s same cocky charm shone out of another man’s eyes and he dared Jim to live up to his father’s name, while secretly hoping that the boy would do better – much better.
He kept a low profile through Jim’s first year in the Academy, fearful of seeming too desperate to know the young man. He ran interference many times, keeping certain incidents off Jim’s records, talking down incensed instructors, pushing others to challenge Jim to his full potential. Jim had found his way to him anyway, having blown off three academic advisors as boring, claiming it was all his fault Jim was in Starfleet so he could deal with Jim’s crap.
For nearly two years hurricane Jim blew into his office every second Friday, talking about bars and girls, engines and tactics, a thousand and one wild schemes, and always about how to reach up to the stars - faster and further. If he looked forward to those Fridays a little too much, well, that was his secret.
When Jim cheated on the Kobayashi Maru he was beyond furious. It was George’s old arrogance all over again - just too special to follow the rules of the rest of the world. When Jim appeared on the bridge of the Enterprise arguing his case he wavered. Jim had grown immensely in his years at the Academy and in this moment of final desperation he was prepared to bet on the boy. When Jim came for him on the Narada he knew his bet was on the money.
Through a haze of pain and fear for his own future, he guided Jim through captaining the damaged vessel back to Earth and watched the boy grow by the hour, racing to manhood as a commander who could fly between the stars. He fought an epic battle from his hospital bed to get the young man the captaincy and he officially handed over his command with damp eyes, regret and joy mingled in equal measures.
When the Enterprise lifted off for her maiden five-year tour, carrying Jim away to the stars he'd loved for so long, he watched from the observation deck long after she’d warped out of sight. And if he wished that George could have been more like Jim, or than he himself was a generation younger and could offer something more to the young man – well, he was used to keeping his feelings to himself.
- THE END -