Jim grabbed his mother’s arms just before she began to slip on the tile floor of the bathroom. “Easy, easy, I’ve got you.”
“This fucking sucks,” she said vehemently. “You can let go of me.”
Jim looked at his mom. She had food all over her face, her hair was soiled with it, and her gown was sliding off her shoulder. She had been trying to feed herself. She hadn’t had much success.
“I think I’ll hold on to you a little longer.” He reached past her with one arm and turned the knob on the faucet, making sure the water was turned to warm. “Let’s get you cleaned up.” He heard the false cheer in his own voice, but really, what could he do?
“You don’t have to help me,” she insisted, the words slurred just a little. She’d made big improvement really.
“Of course I do. You’re my mom.”
She laughed then and it came out rather like a hiss. “You got the short end of the stick, Jimmy.”
“This won’t be like this forever. You’ll get better.” Which one of them was he reassuring?
She nodded, closing her eyes. She leaned against him now. Leaned against the sink. “I tried too soon?”
“Yes. Probably. But you’re already talking better.” Jim picked up a wash cloth and wet it.
“You’re a bad liar.”
She’d had a stroke. A pretty significant one. She’d gone through physical therapy but she still needed a lot of help. A lot of the time.
Jim had choices. Take a leave from Starfleet and take care of her himself or hire someone else to do it…maybe even put her in some kind of nursing home. He’d seen those places. Once, what seemed a lifetime ago now, as a juvenile “delinquent’ he’d spent some time in one, making up for some petty crime he’d committed. The crime had been that such a place existed and stole their dignity.
It was never really a choice. He left Yorktown, temporarily, he hoped, anyway, where he was currently serving as Vice Admiral after the conclusion of the five-year mission. Which had ended up actually being almost seven years by the end of it, because Starfleet kept sending them out, much to Bones’ complaining. And for the last three years he’d been at Yorktown.
Jim didn’t always shave as much as he should. And there was gray in Jim’s hair where maybe there once wasn’t. Jim tried not to think about that too much. People got older. Frailer. Look at his mother. And at that Jim looked away from her. Guilt ate at him for the way he felt about her. Part of him resented having to take care of her now, because she’d not done the best job taking care of him, had she? But none of this was her fault. Or his fault for that matter. Life threw you challenges and you just had to deal with them. As best you could. And anyway, what else did he have to do?
Jim smiled and held the damp cloth to her face. He wiped off the food very carefully. Wiped it out of her hair, too. He tried to ignore the wateriness of her eyes. “Hey.”
“It’s going to be okay, Mom.”
“If you say that enough maybe we’ll both believe it.” Her bottom lip quivered.
“You want tea or something?”
“Yes. But-but I have to-to—”
Jim had soon found out your days of thinking you were the shit were over the moment you had to help you mother use the toilet. It was humbling and humiliating. But he supposed whatever humiliation he felt at it was nothing compared to what she did so he pushed aside his own selfish, unkind thoughts and dealt with it.
“Okay. Well, let me help you to the toilet.” Jim hooked his arm under hers and led her the few feet to the toilet. “You need me to pull your pants down?”
She shook her head. “I can do it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Want to try. Call you when I’m ready. You can wait outside the door.”
Jim hesitated. He didn’t want her to fall but she did need to try stuff for herself. Eventually he would leave Riverside and return to his duties at Yorktown. “All right.”
He was about to leave the bathroom when he heard the doorbell.
“Who’s that?” his mom asked.
“Not sure. Hang on. I’ll be right back.”
Jim stopped to wash his hands and sort of dry them on the towel and then closed the bathroom door after him.
It was likely one of Winona’s neighbors. They’d been by before with food and stuff. Everyone was unfailingly kind.
Jim opened the door, ready to put out his hands for the casserole.
Jim’s heart leapt to his throat and then plummeted to his stomach. “Spock?”
“May we come in? The weather is rather inclement.”
“We?” Jim looked past Spock. “Is Nyota with you?
“No.” Spock moved aside to reveal the small boy standing with him. He was no more than three and had very slightly pointed ears with large dark eyes and perfectly manicured arched eyebrows. His skin was a light mocha color.
Jim realized instantly this was Spock’s son with Uhura. He’d heard they’d had a child, though admittedly he had tried to block that out.
Behind Spock and the boy it had begun to rain and the wind had picked up. He registered that Spock and the child had luggage with him.
“Uh, okay. This is-is not the best of times. But all right.” Jim stepped aside to let them into the farmhouse.
“This is my son, Sarvok. Sarvok, this is Vice Admiral Kirk.”
“Nice to meet you Sarvok,” Jim said to the little boy who stared at Jim with wide uncertain eyes. “Spock, what are you doing here?"
“Then you did not get my message?”
“Message? No. I’ve been rather busy. My mother—”
“Has had a stroke. I am aware. This is likely an inconvenient time.”
“Yeah,” Jim said honestly. “If I had known you and Nyota were going to visit I would have prepared.”
Spock looked down at Sarvok. “Nyota and I have severed our bond and ended our marriage,” he said quietly. “All that remains is our family bond with Sarvok.”
“Oh.” Jim blinked. He wasn’t really sure how he was supposed to feel about that. Spock had bonded and married Uhura during the last year or so of their mission. It had been beyond painful. And had a lot to do with him ultimately taking the vice admiral position on Yorktown he had previously turned down. “I’m sorry to hear that.” Because that’s what one said under these circumstances. And anyway, Jim had moved on. He had. Long ago.
“Jim?” His mother called from the bathroom.
“Uh. I have to go help her. So, um, I guess, make yourselves at home. Mom has the bedroom downstairs. Mine is the first one to the right of the stairs but you can stay in any of the others.” Jim didn’t wait for a response and went back to the bathroom.
His mom had risen from the toilet and was adjusting her clothing. “Who is it?”
“Your first officer?”
“Former. Yeah. And his kid.” Jim put his arm around her waist. “I think they came to stay. I can tell them to leave if you want.”
She shook her head. “No. That’s all right. It might be good for you to have someone around other than your burdensome mother.”
“Mom, you aren’t a burden.”
She gave him a smile but the stroke made it twisted and rather sinister. “We both know I am.”
Jim sighed and leaned down to kiss the top of her head. “No more than I am, Mom. No more than I am.”