Age: 5 minutes
She cries tears onto her baby’s skin. He cries too, as if empathizing with her loss. Tiny hands curl against the fabric of her shirt, patting the skin above the collar as if to say, “Mommy, I’m here, everything will be all right, I’m here, I love you.”
Winona cannot bear the touch for all she wants is the feel of her beloved’s skin against hers, the whisper of his words in her ear instead of the infant’s wails. She shoves her baby into the arms of the doctor who delivered the boy, unable to feel the stab of guilt through the haze of her pain.
“He’s hungry, Winona,” the doctor says, trying to hand him back. She rolls onto her side, away from him and away from her son.
It’s the first time James Tiberius Kirk is rejected.
Age: 1 ½ years
He’s always there, Winona thinks. Those blue eyes follow her through the kitchen from his high chair, bright and intent, always assessing, always demanding.
The doctors tell her she’s depressed. Between post-partum, grief, and life, she knows they’re right. Everything is a dull series of greys, from the sky to the cornfields to her son George. Only Jim with those damned eyes of his is in full-fledged, glorious color.
She thinks, sometimes, in the dark of night, that perhaps color would come back into her life if only he weren’t there anymore. Then she rolls over and wishes she could cry, because guilt is sharp. The baby wakes and cries, and his eyes are sharper still, and so she rolls over and presses the pillow over her face and wishes it were his.
Six-year-old George finally crawls out of bed and gets his brother out of the crib. Like many times before, Winona will find them in the older boy’s bed, George curled around the baby and the baby clutching his stuffed alien like he sometimes clutched at her.
She wonders if the little alien feels as suffocated as she does.
Age: 5 years
There are a lot of people at her wedding. Probably, Winona thinks, more than were at her first wedding. She neatly packages that thought up and puts it in the box of thoughts she refuses to touch. It’s a very big, very full box.
She nods and smiles and talks to everyone as she and Frank accept their congratulations. If Frank notices any assessing looks from Winona’s Starfleet friends, he doesn’t let on to her. Finally, the reception wraps up and it’s time for them to leave. They’ll take the children on the honeymoon, but her friend Betsy will watch them during the majority of the trip.
“Come on, George,” she ushers her eldest toward the car, brushing his brown hair back and smiling at him. He’s been such a good boy, helping out with everything. “Jimmy.” She turns to look at her youngest, who walks about four paces behind them. His once-shiny shoes are scuffed and there’s mud on the trouser hems and a smear of something on the otherwise pristine shirt. “However did you mess up that suit! I can’t believe it.”
“Sorry, Mom,” little Jim says earnestly, looking up at her with angel eyes that hold the devil. She doubts he notices that she rarely meets his gaze for more than a half-second at a time. “I tried to be good.”
“It was Johnny’s fault, Mom,” George said, dropping back to take Jim’s hand. “He threw Jim’s toy in the pond. At least Jim didn’t fall in.”
“Whatever am I going to do with him,” she says to Frank as they load the children into the car.
“Firm hand, my dear. Perhaps now that I’m here I can help. Boys need a father figure.” His reply is casual and his grin is charming. Winona sighs; finally, a good man willing to help her out with the chore of raising her boys. Hopefully he can get Jim in hand, because she really doesn’t know what to do with him—he’s too big and too real to lock in her memory-box.
Jim sits quietly on the seat in the back, curled away from George. He doesn’t have a toy with him anymore.
Age: 7 ¾ years
He shuffles his feet on the way to the door, kicking up puffs of dust. She sighs and grips the dish towel in her hands tightly. What had he gotten himself into now?
The screen door slams. “What have I told you about that door,” she snaps, turning toward him irritably. Jim has the ability to get under one’s skin worse than anyone she’d ever known. It’s an eternal fight with him. She’s tired of fighting.
There’s a bruise blooming high on one cheekbone and a smear of hastily wiped but now dried blood under his nose. “What did you do to yourself now?”
Blue eyes look determinedly at her. She focuses on the middle of his forehead.
“I didn’t do my chores exactly how Frank wanted me to so he hit me several times.” Blunt, flat, direct. Accusatory, like the eyes.
“If Frank hit you, you must have done something to deserve it.” Frank only disciplines the kids when they need it. She can count the number of times George has needed it on one hand, though those had been spankings.
“Mom, he hits me for no reason. He does more than—”
The front door opens—it’s hinges always squeak—and slams shut again. “Chores are done!” Frank’s voice is loud in the farmhouse and his steps are heavy as he walks back to the kitchen.
Winona flashes him a brief smile before looking back at Jim, sobering immediately. He’s staring determinedly at the floor, jaw clenched and stance tense. “What were you saying?” she prodded, having lost the thread of the conversation.
Jim looks at Frank and grinds out the word, “Nothing.”
“Nothing, ma’am,” Frank corrects him. He turns to Winona. “He has a sassy mouth, that one.”
She sighs and nods, tilting her head to accept his kiss. Jim slips silently from the room.
Age: 11.18 years
She waits for him to be brought out of the jail. She hadn’t been able to believe it when she’d received the call at the shipyard that Jim had destroyed his father’s antique car.
Of all the wantonly destructive, horrid things he could have done, Winona thinks with tears in the corners of her eyes. They had so little of her George left, and Jim goes and destroys one of the few treasures she still has.
“What the hell were you thinking!” she says the instant he’s in earshot. “Your father’s car! How could you, James!”
He doesn’t say anything. This is unusual enough, as he has always been a talkative child from the moment he started talking and always had an argument at the tip of his troublesome tongue.
“I should leave you here to think about what you did! That car was irreplaceable! Your father’s car!”
Those blue eyes stare up at her blankly, but he doesn’t try to meet her irate gaze. She doesn’t notice, as her gaze is as firmly fixed on the middle of his forehead as his gaze is on the middle of hers.
“I had to cut short a very important meeting and cancel another to come pick you up.”
The boy shrugs and walks past her, knocking against her rudely. A streak of dust mars her work clothes.
“Yeah, I’m fine, alive and whole, thanks for asking,” he says as he shoulders open the door and stalks outside without her.
Age: 14 ½ years
She pounds on his bedroom door, ordering him to open it. Sometime recently (she thinks) the boy has installed a lock on the inside. She’ll have to get Frank to take it out while Jim’s in school or wherever it is he goes, since the school keeps calling to complain about his many absences.
There’s finally a click-scrape, and she turns the knob and pushes to see her youngest stumbling back to bed. The room is a pigsty, a huge change from the almost absurd neatness he’d kept it in when younger. An ashtray is filled with cigarette butts and the room reeks of alcohol. Beer cans are falling out of the trashcan in the corner. Kicking aside some clothes, Winona is aghast to see a used condom sticking to the carpet.
“James Tiberius Kirk! What is going on here? This is what happens when I go on a business trip!”
He sits on the edge of his bed, clad only in boxers. His pose is languid, the angle of his jaw confident. He’s filling out from boy to man. He looks far too much like her late husband.
His eyes are bloodshot but still a stunning blue. He definitely looks far too much like her late husband.
“Do you really want to know?” he asks. His eyes burn her as he stares. He’s always so angry. She wishes he’d look away, his gaze makes her want to flee. “Do you really care?”
“You will stop this immediately!” She gestures at the room, her order including the entire array of sins.
“Or what? You’ll beat me?” His voice has a cutting edge, but she has a hard skin that can mostly deflect it.
“I will not have this in my house.”
He continues to stare but finally says, “All right.”
She walks out of the room the victor.
Until two days later when she has to report him as a runaway.
Age: 16 years
“Where is Jim, Mom?” George’s voice rolls like a balm across her skin. Winona has missed him but he’s doing extremely well in college, and college is where he should be right now.
She doesn’t answer, though, and George sighs. “Gone again, huh?” He sounds weary, she thinks, but not as weary as she is all the time. “Have you called it in?”
She shakes her head. “No. There’s not much point these days.”
“The cops need to know.” His voice is bland, and the words feel like part of a worn-out script. He continues unpacking his things, his back to her.
“If they find him, they’ll either bring him back and he’ll be gone a few days later, or he’ll end up back in juvie again.” And if he comes back, she’ll have that gaze following her everywhere or passing over her as if she doesn’t exist. “It’s best for him if they’re not looking for him.”
George is quiet for a long moment, and she continues in order to keep the silence from pronouncing judgment on her. “He’s not going to change, George. We have to accept that he is what he is and move on.”
“He’s my brother.” The words are terrible in their softness.
“I know, baby. He’s my son. But some things we just can’t change.” And her son James has always been a troublemaking scoundrel and no amount of effort or yelling on her part will change that. She takes his laundry and goes downstairs. When she comes back up to tell him what is for dinner, she finds him and Jim hugging each other enthusiastically.
“Sammy, glad you’re back,” her youngest is saying. She blinks, pinches herself, because how on Earth did he get in the house?
“We’re going out to dinner,” Jim says to the hallway and, arm around George’s shoulders, leads his older brother away. His eyes don’t pass over her, and she says nothing. What’s the point of saying how are you? It’s obvious he’s been in a fight this week, because there’s a fading bruise on his jaw, and his clothes are scruffy though suspiciously clean. What is there to say?
She smiles at George and turns around to go back downstairs. Good thing she hadn’t called the cops again after all.
Age: 19 years
It’s about time to get a new car, she thinks as she shifts on her seat yet again. It feels like she’s been here for hours, but when she looks at the chrono, it’s only been about an hour or so.
Still, Winona stands and walks to the door of the garage. Her vehicle is there, as are several others, and there’s a pair of denim-clad legs sticking out from hers. There’s an antique motorcycle being lovingly restored in one corner, if she doesn’t miss her guess.
“Something the matter, ma’am?” a man—the head mechanic—asks. He’s dark haired with a slight belly and a kind smile. His name tag reads Mike. She smiles back at him reflexively.
“I was just wondering how much longer it will take,” Winona says politely.
“Shouldn’t be too much longer. Got my newest guy on it. He’s one of the best mechanics I’ve had in ages,” he tells her, but he walks over to her car and slaps a hand to it a couple of times. “How’s it going, kid?” His tone is genial.
There’s an incomprehensible mumble from under the car. “Can’t hear you,” Mike says, and slowly the legs become a trim waist, a toned t-shirted torso, tanned arms and a mop of dirty-blond hair.
A greasy hand wipes across the face, and it takes Winona another minute to realize why it’s so familiar. The blue eyes are the giveaway.
“About forty-five more minutes, Mike.” He barely spares her a glance, though she has the feeling he knew she was there and that it is her car.
“Thanks. Keep up the good work, Jimmy.” The man claps Jim on the shoulder, and Jim smiles up at him. Winona doesn’t know if she’s seen that open smile on him before.
She barely says thanks before going back to the waiting room. It’s less than forty five minutes when Mike comes back and prints out her bill, runs her credit through her fingerprint and asks for her signature. She signs it Winona Kirk—she went back to her first name after the divorce a couple of years ago.
“Kirk?” Mike looks from her to his garage and back speculatively, and his lips purse slightly. Jim comes to the door as if he heard his name called.
“She’s my mom, Mike. Give her a discount or something,” Jim says, still not looking at her, before going in the direction of where she remembers the motorcycle to be.
Mike does so, but his kind smile is gone.
She decides to go car shopping this weekend. She doesn’t want this to happen again.
Age: 23 years
The comm panel trills and trills its annoying sound. She can hear it through the door, but today has been hectic at the shipyard, what with the Starfleet field trip finally leaving and everything. Winona hurries inside the house and slaps the receive button. The visual comes up instantly, since this is the main comm panel for the house. “Winona Kirk?”
“Hello, yes, this is she.” The man on the screen is familiar, though older than the last time they had spoken. Of course, that was nearly ten years ago, so of course the officer would be older.
“Captain Christopher Pike, ma’am. I hope you remember me.”
“I remember.” It isn’t among her fondest memories, for he’d interviewed her about her time on the Kelvin and the Narada and George’s death. She’d gone back into a depression for months afterward; Jim started getting into fights around that time.
“I thought you would like to know that your son James has enrolled in Starfleet.”
Her world stills completely. Her face is blank, almost emotionless, except for the twisting of some sort of emotion in her eyes.
“I believe he will do very well here. He is an extremely intelligent boy.”
She sniffs. “He always has been quick-minded,” she allows. “But I don’t see why you’re informing me. If James wanted me to know where he is or what he’s doing, he’d contact me himself. He’s always done whatever he wanted, rules be damned.” She tilts her head. “That doesn’t seem to fit with the Starfleet I remember, either.” No, she remembers the Academy, and the rules and regulations, and above all she remembers her time with George there.
Captain Pike’s expression shifts only minutely, but she catches it. “Don’t judge me, Captain,” she tells him stiffly. “You’ll see what it’s like soon enough. Good luck, you’ll need it.”
Her hand hovers over the end button but before she presses it she can see his hand scrub over his face. “I take it that means you won’t be visiting him any time soon,” he says.
“Good day, Captain.” She disconnects and wishes the call hadn’t unsettled her as badly as it had. Well, if he wanted to take on James, let him. She’d done all she could already.
Age: 26 years
The entire planet is privy to the news of what happened in the San Francisco area. Of course, that was once the satellites were working again from the sudden full stop in communications. The very mention of the Narada is the first thing and, for awhile, the last thing she hears. It’s her son, George, calling on the comm that shakes her out of her funk.
“Is Jim all right?” he asks once he has her coherent.
Her mind blanks and she blinks stupidly. “How would I know? Is he even still in San Francisco?”
George sighs, raking a hand through his hair. She’s reminded suddenly of Captain Pike. “Yes, Mom. He’s been at the Academy for three years. He’s supposed to graduate in a couple of months. He was probably on one of the ships that left when all this started.” There’s a stressed sort of patience in his voice, and she remembers speaking that way many times… to Jim.
She doesn’t like it.
Then the information processes and her heart starts pounding. George’s—her late husband, not her son—voice spools through her head, those desperate I-love-you’s and that final horrendous conversation.
“Is he dead?” It sounds like someone has a grip on her throat—her voice is strangled.
Did she lose Jim to space’s hungry maw too? Suddenly she cares very much. Has she lost him too?
“I don’t know, Mom. I thought you might know.” George’s lips twist. “He is your son, after all.” Ouch. His tone is sharper than she remembers Jim’s being. “They haven’t given out the lists of the dead and injured yet. I’m keeping an eye on it. I’ll talk to you later.”
She sits, alone, in front of the television unit that plays the same information over and over again with a few updates.
Finally, hours later, the lists, incomplete, start scrolling across the screen. Jim isn’t on any of them, and she wonders if he was still at the Academy or even perhaps not enrolled any longer at all. Perhaps he’s been lying to George all this time.
But finally a report comes on, and Jim’s name comes up.
“Acting Captain James T. Kirk, son of the famous late George Kirk, who saved many people twenty-six years ago aboard the USS Kelvin, reports that the USS Enterprise is still spaceworthy and repairs are being made to get it back to Earth.”
The next list that scrolls across the screen shows the new Acting Captain among the injured, as well as Captain Christopher Pike.
She sleeps on the couch that night, setting her personal PADD to ping with alerts for any updates. She sleepwalks through the next week; luckily the shipyard understands and gives her the time off that has been accruing for a long time.
George finally calls her again. He’s heard from Jim, who apparently looks battered and more than a bit worse for wear. Looks like shit but is still alive and kicking.
Jim doesn’t call her. She doesn’t know why she expected him to, but she does.
Winona is in San Francisco when the Enterprise arrives in the heavens above. She rents a hotel room there, though she can’t yet bring herself to go on campus. That’s well enough, for she hears her son is in one meeting or another or another for the better part of a week. She wouldn’t have a prayer of meeting up with him anyway. But she scores an invite to the reception to be thrown after commissions are awarded through several old friends who think it’s great she wants to be there for her boy.
It’s hard to go in there. It’s as hard as trying to raise James had been.
Jim’s in the center of it all, as he always has been. He’s a bright beacon in his formal gold shirt with its captain’s braids, and he’s surrounded by Admirals and those she assumes are his crew, from the newscasts she’s obsessively watched.
She tries not to look at him as she approaches. So many years of habit are hard to break, but also, it’s still incredibly hard to look into those eyes.
Winona makes it close, and as she glances up to gauge distance, she meets her son’s eyes for the first time in who knows how many years. Her lips hover near a hopeful grin, but his expression freezes into something nearer to sheer terror. The man next to him notices almost immediately. He’s all brown hair and broad shoulders and at least a handful of years older than her son.
He seemingly assesses the situation instantly, claps Jim on the shoulder, and half turns him as he does so. “Scotty, why don’t you introduce Jim to Admiral Archer.”
The man with officer engineering insignia gets a twisted, almost constipated, look on his face, but something about the situation makes him obey, leading Jim off.
It continues like that all night. His crew dances interference, though Winona doesn’t think most of them know why.
It’s into the wee hours of the morning when she gives up. She’s had too much champagne and swallowed too many tears, and she makes her way to the lift. Going down, it’s the first time the thought crosses her mind that maybe, just maybe, her avoidance of her son might have caused some of the problems they’d had.
She stumbles slightly when exiting the lift and steadies herself on the other side of the pillar just in time for the other lift to ding softly. Two people exit, and she recognizes Jim’s voice after a moment. “Can’t believe she came tonight, Bones,” he says. “Haven’t talked to her in years, and she just fucking shows up.” He isn’t slurring but she doesn’t think he’s entirely sober. Of course, drunk is a state of being she’s familiar with him being through the years, though this isn’t it.
“Come on, let’s just go…” It sounds like he’s about to say home, but changes at the last minute. “… to the apartment.”
There’s silence for a second. “Do we even remember where that place is?” Jim asks.
“Hell no,” the other man, Bones, drawls.
Winona breathes in deep and steps around the pillar. Both men look up, and both men get wary looks on their faces. She isn’t the enemy, she thinks.
But, she realizes, that is how Jim views her. When did that happen?
“Jim…” She bites her lip, holding out a hand in entreaty toward him. Bones turns out to be that doctor who first thwarted her, and he once again steps protectively in front of Jim. “Please.”
Jim puts a hand on his friend’s arm and steps up beside him. “It’s all right, Bones. Just give me a minute.” His friend reluctantly backs off a few steps while Jim takes a few forward. “What do you want?” Jim asks blandly. He stares at the middle of her forehead, and she realizes they’ve been doing that for years as she stares at the middle of his. She has to look up now. He’s about the height of her George.
“I wanted to see you.”
She reaches up and puts her hand on his chin. He jerks as if she just slapped him, and that hurts for some reason. She grabs his chin again and tugs it until he finally meets her eyes. It’s electric and it hurts like scraping her skin off with a dull rock. “We’ve… you’ve… I’ve…” She takes another breath. “You could have died.”
“I nearly did. What do you care?” His voice is the voice she remembers from his teenage years, sulky, defiant. It makes her want to snarl and fight because that is what they’ve always done.
“You’re my son.”
“I’ve always been your son, and you’ve never cared when I’ve nearly died before.” He takes a large step back, away from her. “And there have been many times, Mom. Many times. Until you can tell me and understand why you care now, go the hell away and leave me alone.”
He doesn’t even spare a glance over his shoulder as he leaves. His friend does, however, shooting her a venomous glare as he puts a hand protectively on Jim’s shoulder. She thinks she can read the word “Bitch” on his lips.
She doesn’t understand. She stands there, and Winona thinks, and she gets angry.
Because it’s easier to be angry at Jim than it is to be angry at herself.
Age: nearly 28 years
She’s discovered something that surprises her—she’s not very good at family stuff. The realization comes to her during the preparations for George’s wedding. She doesn’t know what to get him and his bride for a gift, and she can’t think of what his favorite kind of cake is, despite the fact that she’d thrown him parties every year when he was young.
She also doesn’t have a list of current family names and addresses, and she’s so far removed from family politics that there is no advice she can give about seating arrangements.
Winona remembers being good at all of that back when George was alive. If she lost that skill, she thinks, what else had she lost?
Her youngest son, she realizes after George pulls her off to the side a couple of days before the wedding. “Jim’s my best man, Mom. I expect you two to get along, all right?”
She blinks and says, “I always try to get along with James.”
George sighs and looks frustrated. “No, Mom, you don’t. If you’re not ignoring him, you’re provoking and fighting with him. It’s been like that since I can remember, literally.” She opens her mouth to protest. “No, Mom. I don’t want to get into it. Just avoid him, I guess. You’re good at that. I just don’t want Natalia’s day to be ruined, all right?”
He walks away before Winona can find her voice again. She’s angry, but amid the anger is something… a kernel of truth realized.
Had she really done that? Memories flash behind her eyes, and a habit formed in depression starts to emerge. Jim is the living representation of the worst day of her life. And, she thinks, she’s always treated him like that. What would that do to a young child?
Her thoughts consume her for the time spanning George’s orders and Jim’s arrival. When he first walks into the room, all cheerful exuberance to his brother and the bride-to-be (why hadn’t she not known Natalia is Jim’s navigator’s cousin and that was how they met?), she finds her eyes automatically sliding away from him.
It’s then that it hits her, the ultimate realization—she is a bad mother. To Jim, at least.
He comes up to her, and she can see his smile fix in place, a silent click. He’s going to be genial for the bride’s sake and pretend they aren’t a broken family. Winona forces herself to meet his gaze. Ice blue.
“Mother,” he greets her and pretends to press a kiss to her cheek. It doesn’t touch her skin. “You look great.”
“James,” she replies softly. The words just slip out, but they’re barely a whisper: “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
He looks at her—really looks at her, not just through her or over her, habits she realizes she’s instilled in him. “Good,” he replies simply. There is no absolution or forgiveness in that sea of blue.
Jim turns and it is as if the moment never happened. She doesn’t think anyone noticed, as some of Jim’s friends are here for the wedding too, and everyone is exchanging greetings. Though that dark haired doctor is watching her with judgmental eyes, and she notices that strange Vulcan looking at her assessingly on occasion. That dark skinned comm officer never spares a glance her way, which is also rather telling.
Natalia’s cousin doesn’t seem to find anything amiss, as he chatters with everyone. Pavel is a good soul.
Winona makes it through the wedding. It’s an excellent distraction, and she is truly thrilled for George. The reception is festive, with Jim and his friends providing many toasts to the bride and groom.
She watches Jim, though, out of the corners of her eyes. He’s almost a complete stranger, she thinks, as she watches him interact with people. He’s quick to grin and charm, and he seems to bicker companionably with his friends, especially the doctor. She hadn’t realized the man had a daughter, but a girl of about ten was present (Natalia notices Winona looking and says she had extended the invite the moment Jim let it slip that his best friend had a kid—really, she doesn’t want to deprive the man of any of his limited time with the girl).
Natalia, Winona thinks, will be a great mother.
A similar thought occurs to her as Jim pulls the young girl out onto the dance floor.
“I’m a doctor, not a dancer,” she hears that Bones fellow mutter.
Jim twirls the girl around and makes her laugh and smile. “Again, Uncle Jim!” she hears her urge.
Jim will be a good father. The thought is unsettling but true, she sees, as Jim continues to dance with Joanna (she finally recalls the name).
Now that she’s thinking, instead of shoving thoughts into boxes like she’s been doing for decades, Winona finds herself seeing the world again. It’s a whirlwind and she isn’t certain she can handle it.
Can she ever make amends? she wonders as she watches Jim pester his Vulcan friend. It becomes clear that her son has built his own family in her absence. George is included, but she is not.
Someone puts a glass in her hand, and she holds it reflexively.
“If you don’t stop staring at him, he’s going to become paranoid.” The voice is gruff and not particularly friendly. Winona nearly drops her drink.
“Ex-excuse me, Doctor, ah…” She can’t remember anything but the obvious nickname of Bones right now.
“McCoy,” he supplies dryly. “If you don’t stop staring at him, he’s going to start twitching with paranoia. It’s my job to keep him from getting twitchy.”
She wrenches her gaze away, turning it on McCoy instead. “I’ve not done well by him, have I.”
She doesn’t have to worry about lies with this man; he’s so blunt it hurts. “Nope.” He dislikes her, that much is blatantly obvious. “I’m surprised he’s as stable as he is now.”
She realizes she really can’t blame him for his thoughts about her.
“Can I fix it?”
McCoy shrugs. “Maybe, someday. But you’re the one that has to do it. And there’s a decent chance he won’t let you. You could probably get the percentages from Spock.” His eyes, dark like her oldest son’s, are unforgiving. “Don’t know why he’d want to, but Jim is nothing if not empathetic.”
She wants to ask more, but he just walks off. She wants to resent him for saying those things, but really, she’s just tired. She’s confused and tired and she has no idea of how to even begin fixing things.
By some chance or perhaps her subconscious direction, she ends up near where he is chattering at Natalia—in Russian. She had no idea he knew Russian. She waits to be noticed, though it’s Natalia who acknowledges her first.
“I was… hoping. James. If you’ll dance with me?” The request comes out jerky and stuttered, and she knows that holding out her hand to him is the hardest thing she’s ever done.
His eyes, so turbulent, flit from her to Natalia to McCoy across the room and to Spock and Uhura and back to Bones and then finally, finally, to her again. “Okay then.”
Maybe he’s just dancing with her to keep the peace, but that doesn’t keep the world from shifting as he takes her hand and leads her out onto the dance floor. They dance in silence, graceful and fluid, for he moves with confidence and skill.
She’s dizzy though they’ve barely spun at all. His eyes, for once, center her, in the middle of the madness that her life seems to be.
The music ends, and they stop. It’s silent, and there are eyes upon them but those don’t matter. “Call me Jim,” he tells her and melts back into the crowd.
Age: 29 years
He messages her the invitation. It’s not a call that she can accept, just a message in her inbox in the morning. They talk more often now, though it’s often stilted and the conversations don’t last long or cover anything but day to day things. But it is communication, and it’s a work in progress.
She knew the Enterprise is due in soon, and this message confirms that and invites her to attend the commendation ceremony to be held in a few days. Winona angsts over what to wear but in the end it’s a simple and elegant, just like the ceremony.
Jim still struts a bit, she notices, but these days everyone seems to think it’s more than deserved. Everyone in his crew has earned at least one commendation—Jim is generous with the praise and his crew stands proudly under it. Posthumous commendations are awarded as well, and his eyes are as sober as his face when he delivers those speeches.
It’s the ending that catches her the most. Jim receives a smattering of awards himself, though if what Admiral Pike says is true, they’re much fewer than he deserves.
Her son, the hero. Who would have thought? She had never dreamed it for him, her troublesome boy with a penchant for trouble and chaos.
Perhaps that is why he had become one—to prove her wrong.
She watches as Jim proudly surveys his crew, looking so much like her George when he’d first held George Jr that the sight physically hurts. He grins at them and winks, inciting laughter and applause, and she wonders how he learned to do that—how he grew into a man everyone looks up to and admires.
She knows, now, that it wasn’t from her.
He walks off the platform, Pike on one side and McCoy on the other. As he turns to Pike and the admiral puts a hand on Jim’s shoulder and squeezes, she sees where some of it comes from.
As Winona approaches them, she can see the warmth in both men’s eyes and especially the pride shining from Christopher Pike’s. They are forming plans for a dinner out tomorrow, it seems, and Pike also invites him to visit his family while he’s on leave. Jim accepts.
They part with a friendly “Jim” and “Admiral.” The title sounds like “Father” to Winona, and Pike is smiling so she thinks he hears it too.
He greets her with a half-hug and a simple “Mom.” She takes comfort in the fact that his smile isn’t forced.
“Glad you made it,” he tells her. “Hope it wasn’t too boring for you.”
“What? A ceremony with James Kirk in it, boring?” McCoy mutters from his place at Jim’s side. The snarky comment surprises a laugh from her and a snort of amusement from Jim.
“Not every ceremony I’m in goes awry,” he says plaintively. “Just 95.524 % of them, as Spock would say.”
Winona shoots them both a questioning glance, knowing they are talking about something from their travels. She’s a bit bewildered when they both burst out laughing. “You don’t want to know,” McCoy tells her, shaking his head.
“It sounds intriguing,” she says. “Perhaps you can tell me the story, over dinner, perhaps?” The invitation comes easier than it used to.
The two men trade a short glance. “I can’t tonight, sorry,” Jim says, and the apology almost seems genuine. She’s surprised to feel disappointed. “I promised all senior officers dinner tonight. And Pike has the dinner slot for tomorrow.” Jim is silent for a moment but she can tell he’s thinking. “Perhaps… lunch tomorrow?” The invitation is clunkier than her own, but he didn’t have to offer it.
She accepts readily and extends the invite for McCoy to join them as well. He looks ready to refuse—he still doesn’t like her—but Jim shoots him another glance and the doctor reluctantly nods his head. “Joanna is coming in the afternoon, remember,” he says.
Jim seems to brighten at the reminder.
Their conversation is cut short by the gathering of what seems to be Jim’s bridge crew and senior officers a polite distance away. Some look at her curiously, but most are blank and cool.
“Noon?” Jim suggests. His mind is already somewhere else, she can tell. “Message me your hotel and we’ll pick you up.” She doesn’t get a hug goodbye, only a brief smile and he’s swept away with the people she knows he loves more than her.
She stays to grab a drink from the refreshments offered. She runs into Pike there. It’s easy to forget he had been confined to a wheelchair for almost two years. It’s harder to forget that he has done more for her son than she has.
“He is well loved by his crew, isn’t he,” she says to him.
Pike smiles indulgently out toward the lingering crew, who are taking full advantage of the free drinks and finger food. “He loves them,” he replies simply.
“He does, doesn’t he,” she muses out loud. She wishes Jim could love her too, even though it hurts for her to love him still. She sips her drink. “Do you think,” she ventures after a moment, “that he’ll ever manage a personal relationship like he does his crew and his ship?” Or has she broken that for him too?
For some reason this amuses Pike. “You mean you don’t know?” he asks.
“Know what?” Annoyance flashes through her. He doesn’t have to rub her bad relationship with her son in her face.
“I think it’s possibly the worst kept secret in Starfleet next to Spock and Uhura.” When she continues to look slightly confused and more than a little irritated, Pike sighs. “Jim and Leonard have been together for several years now. You’ll have to ask them just how long it’s been.”
Her face stays a bit blank. “Leonard?”
“Doctor McCoy. Bones.”
An expression of understanding comes over her. “Oh.” Well, that might explain a few things, or maybe not, considering how Jim’s other friends treated her.
“Not sure they’ll ever make it formal… well, there was that ceremony on Ter’fa’na, but I don’t think that counts because I don’t think they actually knew what it meant at the time… but they do seem happy together.”
“Ah,” Winona says again. She wonders if Jim will ever tell her this himself.
Age: 31 years
It had seemed like a straightforward enough business trip. The shipyard has been having problems with a supplier on Hephaestus IV, and she is assigned to be head of the small team in charge of investigating the matter. It seems simple and by the book.
Until Winona gets to the planet. They look too closely at matters at the mines and suddenly they’re in the middle of a conspiracy that she suspects will end up with them dead. Adeira Maccullough is already dead, but Winona can’t think about that right now. She focuses instead on the fact that Adeira got a message out before she died, that help is on the way.
How long it is before help comes, she doesn’t know. She and her people are too busy trying to survive. The first she’s aware of the rescue is the sound of fighting in the distance, though there’s been fighting for a long time. Reality fades in and out, but she comes to as someone is picking her up. Her head lolls onto a blue-shirted shoulder, and the body radiates heat.
“Spock to Enterprise,” a voice rumbles under her ear. “We found them. Six to beam up.” There’s the sound of the portable comm closing, then opening again. “Jim.” The voice is softer. “I have her.”
A sigh can be heard over the transmission. “Thanks, Spock.”
There’s no time for more because there is the singular feeling of being beamed somewhere. That’s all she knows for a long time more.
Waking up is like fighting her way through cotton. The world around her is muffled and for a long time she’s certain that she’s still on the planet in the middle of things. Her breath keeps hitching as she tries to cry. She wants to get away. She can’t see, can’t think, through this haze.
It’s a repetitive sound that grabs her attention. Low and soothing, her mind orients itself toward it and she struggles in that direction. The sound resolves from a rhythmic shushing to a low murmur, focuses in from the murmur into distinct words that her brain slowly starts to comprehend.
“Come on, Mom, you need to wake up soon… Bones says it’s about time for you to be coming to… you can’t die now, Mom, because it’s not time yet… you’re not my crew, but I’m still ordering you not to die…” The voice fades in and out, and she misses parts of the words, but there are low stories interspersed, telling her about life on the Enterprise, how the cook, Rosa someone, will make her a feast fit for royalty if she’d only wake up, how Bones doesn’t want to have to deal with him if she doesn’t wake up.
The one thing she knows is that this is her son, sitting at her bedside, talking to her while she’s injured. He’s asking her to come back. He doesn’t say come back to him—when has she ever really been there anyway?—but he doesn’t want her to die. She can live with that.
There is very little in her life she’s ever done for Jim. But this… she’ll do this for him. She’s done nothing else for him, but this, she’ll do.
Winona’s eyes flutter open, and she wakes up from her coma.
Jim’s smile is the best reward in the universe.