The tram lurched forward as it started up again, and Jim had to tighten his grip on the pole as not to fall. He was cramped into a corner, which wasn’t an ideal spot, but at least the window was open. There were voices talking somewhere in the front, but everyone else was silent. Some were staring into nothing, some listening to music or on their PADDs. Jim was looking out the window, making sure he knew when his stop was coming up. It wasn’t really necessary, practically everyone got off at his stop as it was a major transportation hub, but he still liked being aware of his whereabouts.
He was kind of having trouble staying focused. His mind kept wandering back to Bones and his situation.
It had been almost eight months since his and Jocelyn’s divorce, but the man really wasn’t faring that much better than he did the first month. The divorce had been messy, and rough, and completely unexpected if you asked Jim. One moment Bones was heading home every day after class to catch some hours with his family, and the next he was showing up at Jim’s door with a duffel over his shoulder, asking for a place to crash. Jim had no idea what had happened in the middle of that, but after eight months he’d managed to wrangle out a story.
Honestly, it wasn’t Bones’ fault. He had always wanted to be a doctor and help people, albeit in his own impolite way. He and Jocelyn were doing okay financially; Bones was a doctor, and Jocelyn worked part-time as a researcher at a law firm, and they were by all means doing alright. But once Joanna was born, they had been forced to cut down on some expenses and adjust their budget to focus on Joanna first and foremost. Bones didn’t like the idea of not being able to provide for his family, and he knew Jocelyn was feeling the same, so they both had gone about trying to change that. Jocelyn signed up for full-time work at the firm, and Bones decided to get a degree in Xenobiological Medicines at Starfleet in order to find a better paying job in the future.
It wasn’t his fault that his classes and coursework were taking up so much of his time, and it wasn’t his fault that Jocelyn’s hours at the office overlapped with his free time, and it absolutely wasn’t his fault that they often had to get a babysitter in for Joanna (occasionally Jim would offer if he had the time) due to them rarely being home. It really wasn’t. But still Bones blamed himself for the destruction of his marriage.
Living with Bones had been hectic. At the beginning Bones would disappear early in the mornings, and return at night in either a foul mood or a sad mood. He had revealed to Jim a few months later that he had been trying to convince Jocelyn to give them another try, but his efforts were futile. Jim’s roommate wasn’t crazy on having Bones stay with them, but he would just have to deal because Bones was Jim’s best friend in the whole fucking world and that meant he would stand by him through his best and worst times.
Sharing a room was a bit reminiscent of first year when Bones would haul an out-of-his-mind drunk Jim back to dorms, and then just crash there because he was too exhausted (and also drunk) to get back home. So basically the same, but with a little less drinking. A little less. Remembering those times Jim wondered if he had helped ruin Bones’ marriage, but Bones had just hit him over the head and reminded Jim about the number of times he’d pulled through with baby-sitting whenever he and Jocelyn desperately needed someone.
The following weeks were tough for Bones, and after little success in convincing Jocelyn of trying to work things out and much hounding from her legal firm, he signed the divorce papers.
But that wasn’t the end of it. Jocelyn had applied for full custody of Joanna. Jim had been livid. Bones had been crestfallen.
The day Jim found out about it, he had yelled and paced and thrown shit all over his room, tearing down the apartment in his rage.
Seeing his friend, his usually brash and strong-headed friend, look so meek sparked some unknown determination in Jim. The next day he had marched right up to Jocelyn’s apartment with a PADD in hand and brusquely asked her why she had decided to take full custody of Joanna. She’d been confused, of course she had, and even threatened to call the police if Jim didn’t leave. But he couldn’t, not until she’d given a reason as to why she would take a daughter away from her father who clearly loved her to pieces.
She’d slammed the door in his face, and he’d come back home later that day to a furious Bones spit-balling in his face. They’d had a massive blowout which resulted in fists, but in the end Jim counted himself the winner because he’d managed to elicit an emotion from his friend that wasn’t dejected. The next step would be to direct that intensity at fighting to get joint custody of his daughter.
That step did happen, but it forced Jim to do something he hadn’t wanted to. Bones didn’t have a lot of money, and Jocelyn worked at a law firm. The odds were not in his favour, and neither of them knew anyone who would take on Bones’ case for a small fee. Jim really didn’t want to have to interfere, but circumstances forced his hand, and he had to comm his mother and ask for a loan. Obviously she asked for the reason, and after he explained his situation Winona gladly transferred the money to him along with the name of a reputable lawyer, as well as eliciting a promise that she would get to meet this ‘doctor friend’ next time she was in San Francisco. Talking to his mother always exhausted Jim, draining him of his energy and causing him to remember a past he would rather bury deep down in his subconscious and forget.
Once Jim hung up Bones handed him a ready-made whisky on the rocks, and joined him in throwing back drink after drink. Like Jim said; a little less alcohol this time around.
The lawyer recommended turned out to owe Winona several favours (Jim didn’t even want to know), and accepted Bones’ case. There were about two months of intense waiting, endless meetings, questioning, paperwork, and passive-aggressive niceties between Bones and Jocelyn whenever they dropped Joanna off to spend the week with either one of them. If Jocelyn had had any hope of staying on good terms with Bones after the divorce that had died as soon as she asked for full custody of their daughter. Bones always made sure Jim was never present when Jocelyn was dropping off Joanna, because he didn’t have the money to defend his friend in court if he punched his ex-wife.
The third month brought on the first trial, and thankfully Jim was allowed a front row seat to the whole thing. With each trial his contempt for Jocelyn grew and grew, but it looked as if the lawyer his mom had recommended really knew their stuff, because Jocelyn looked uncomfortable during some of the trials. There was trial, after trial, after trial, and finally, finally, the court reached a verdict, and it was in favour of Bones.
Bones was ecstatic, Jim was overjoyed for him, and Joanna was just confused as to all the celebration which made Jim hate Jocelyn even more for putting the little girl through this. He hated it even more that she was allowed joint custody of Joanna, but Bones told him that if he got Joanna banned from ever seeing her mother she would never forgive him, and Jim couldn’t have that. He loved the little firecracker, and she loved her ‘Uncle Jimmy’.
So Bones miraculously managed to gain joint custody of Joanna, but he was still a divorcee, and still homeless. It had been more than four months since the settlement, and he was still divorced and homeless. He continued to stay in Jim’s room, of course, and had even taken to paying his part of the rent much to Jim’s indignation and his roommate’s pleasure, but he didn’t have a place to call his home. So after four months of Bones trying to get back on his feet, he and Jim had decided to find a room for Bones to rent.
He still hadn’t forgotten the divorce business, and was still sour about it, but he was faring a lot better since the early months. Joanna is the one thing that keeps Bones going, and every weekend he made sure his schedule was completely free so that he could spend it all with his daughter. Jim will usually try and make himself scarce during the weekends, but sometimes Joanna wants him to stay, and who is Bones to deny her bonding time with her Uncle Jimmy?
Since the court verdict Bones had been questioning if he really wanted to get a degree in Xenobiological Medicines if he only needed to provide for half of his family now. He was thinking of dropping out and returning to his old job since the course was too much work, but he was still on the fence. On one hand, Bones really hated space, but on the other hand he wanted to help people, and Xenobiological doctors were extremely rare and desperately needed on Earth.
Jim absolutely understood why Bones was considering not getting a degree in Xenobiological Medicines, since Starfleet really did set a lot of tasks on their students. The workload was so bad that Jim woke up some days wondering why the hell he ever thought he could manage to cram a four year degree into three. Because he’s a show off, that’s why. It was really running Jim ragged, but unlike Bones he fucking loves space and couldn’t wait to get out there. That was another reason why Jim needed to convince Bones to get his Xenobiological Medicines degree; if Bones didn’t get his degree then he couldn’t go out into space, and that just wouldn’t work because Jim had already decided that in the future Bones was going to be the Chief Medical Officer on his starship. Bones would hate it. Jim would love it. It would be wonderful.
There was a short tune followed by the soft voice of a woman announcing the next stop. It was Jim’s one. He turned towards the door, preparing himself to quickly get off the tram along with the sea of people. The tram came to a slow halt, and there was a hissing sound as the doors slid open. Everyone spilled out, hurrying in different directions as soon as their feet hit the pavement. Jim had just gotten out and was about to follow the flow towards his next gate when he spotted something amidst the crowd.
Everyone was racing past his vision, needing to get somewhere, but he saw a small figure stood unmoving in the rush of the crowd. They were short, and had a head of tight, black curls. Jim couldn’t see much detail, but he could tell they were dark-skinned and very obviously dressed in black robes. They must have been burning in that thing.
The people dispersed, and with only a few stragglers left on the platform Jim can finally see clearly.
It was a child.
Or, he thought it was a child. They didn’t look to be much older than Joanna, and she had just started first grade. They looked to be here alone, no one standing near them. Jim wondered why. He was pretty sure someone so young shouldn’t be out alone. A closer look at the kid revealed tiny, pointed ears that Jim had missed the first time around. Jim’s eyebrows rose.
He couldn’t really tell from this angle, but Jim thought the kid might be Romulan or one of the races similar to it. But they were too dark-skinned to be from Romulus. Though to be fair Jim had only ever seen photos of Romulans and they’d all been light-skinned. Jim wondered what a possibly Romulan child was doing here all alone?
Jim decided to stay for a bit longer, just to see if anyone would be coming to pick the child up. His Theoretical Physics coursework could wait.
Five minutes passed and the few people on the platform took the next tram that stopped in, leaving only Jim and the kid. The next tram bringing more people would be arriving soon, and Jim didn’t exactly feel like staying there for that one. It was nearing 16:30 which meant that there would be more people taking public transport, everyone having just gotten off work and wanting to get home as quickly as possible. He really did not want to get caught up in that.
Jim took a step closer to the child and called out, “Excuse me!” It did the trick, and the child turned to Jim. “Are you lost?”
He made sure to stand a respectable distance away when talking to the kid. He didn’t want them to panic if he got too close and let loose with shouts of ‘stranger danger’.
“No.” The kid answered. Jim noticed that their eyebrows were slanted, but their forehead wasn’t protruding near the brows. So, not a Romulan then.
“Alright.” Jim shifted to his other foot, but didn’t leave. “What are you doing here alone?”
“I am awaiting my current legal guardian.”
Jim looked around the empty platform. “Will they be here soon? I kind of don’t want to leave you all alone here.”
“It is not required of you to stay.” The kid replied, sounding unperturbed.
Jim highly doubted that. It wasn’t that San Francisco was an inherently dangerous city, it was just that if he did leave and something happened to the kid he’d never be able to forgive himself for not doing anything.
He kept his distance and said, “My name’s Jim Kirk, I’m a student at Starfleet Academy.”
“I concluded as much from your attire.”
Right. He was wearing his cadet dress uniform. Man, he couldn’t believe he was being bested by a tiny child.
“Right. Good observation.” Jim coughed. “I’m studying the Command track, doing the accelerated course and trying to finish it in three years.”
“For a Human that is quite the achievement.” The kid said, turning their entire body around to face Jim.
“Thanks.” Jim said dryly.
“My name is T’Val.”
“That’s very unique.” Jim smiled. Now he had a name to put to a face.
“Not where you’re from?”
“It is rare, but not unique.”
Jim pursed his lips. “Don’t those two kinda mean the same thing?”
It took the kid— T’Val— a moment before they replied. “No.”
They fell into silence. Jim looked to the display board and saw that the next tram was due in two minutes. He had still not seen someone come to collect T’Val, and he was torn between staying with them to make sure they were safe or getting home before the rush.
Jim took out his communicator and flipped open to his photo albums. He accessed the album where he kept pictures of Joanna and opened up a holo of her wearing a summer dress from last year.
He held the holo out to T’Val. “This is my friend’s kid; Joanna. She’s a real firecracker.”
“I do not believe this child is a pyrotechnic.” T’Val retorted, peering at the holo.
Jim quirked a grin. “And you’ve got a real smart mouth.”
T’Val just looked at him. Jim smiled, and began sifting through the different holos of Joanna at different occasions. He showed the one where she’d fallen over her own shoe and refused to get up, the one of her with her birthday cake and Bones and Jocelyn kissing each of her cheeks, and even the one where Bones was carrying her with a look of utter resignation on his face because Joanna wouldn’t stop crying over not having red hair. He made sure to provide a running commentary for them all, and through every holo Jim showed, T’Val inched closer to get a better look at them, causing Jim to crouch down to their height.
The next tram arrived, and indeed there was a ton of people streaming out and pushing in different directions, desperate to get home. Jim made sure to keep T’Val close to him and not lose them in the crowd. Once the masses had disappeared, he returned to keeping a respectable distance and continued showing them holos.
He brought up one with him and Joanna at the beach, the two of them wearing floaties and grinning widely at the camera. Jim laughed. “This one’s a good one! See, here Joanna and I—”
“Please remove yourself from the child.” A deep voice said suddenly.
Jim looked up and was greeted with the sight of a tall, imposing Vulcan stood before him.
“Who are you?” Jim asked.
“I am the child’s current legal guardian.” The Vulcan said. That had Jim stopping short.
“You’re T’Val’s parent?!” He exclaimed incredulously, eyes widening in shock. If that was the case, then that would mean that… Jim turned to look at T’Val. Other than the slanted eyebrows, nothing would have given them away as being Vulcan. Not even their way of speaking, since many non-Terran aliens spoke Standard in an inherently formal manner. Jim would have never guessed.
“I am their current legal guardian.” The Vulcan repeated. He approached the two of them, and Jim quickly stood up and stepped back. The Vulcan came to a stop next to the kid. “T’Val, you must not reveal your name to strangers.”
Jim frowned. “Hey now…”
“He is not a stranger. He is Jim Kirk, cadet of Starfleet Academy.” Replied T’Val, straining their neck to look up at the Vulcan.
“Yeah, exactly, and I was just making sure the kid was alright. They were here all alone, and for a really long time too. Where were you?” Jim fired off, annoyed. He’d been a good Samaritan staying with the kid who was all alone at the tram stop, making sure they were safe, and here he was just being brushed off.
The Vulcan turned to look at Jim, his tone cool as he spoke. “Unfortunately I experienced some complications with my transport, and was forced to walk the remainder of the way here.”
“You could’ve at least commed them or something.” Jim frowned.
“I do not currently possess a communication device.” Explained T’Val.
“Well, you should get one.” Jim reasoned.
“I am in the process of being gifted one.”
The adult Vulcan faced Jim fully and said, “Cadet, I thank you for overseeing T’Val’s wellbeing during my absence, however I believe it would be prudent for us to leave you now.”
Before Jim could respond properly with some loud words of indignation, the tall Vulcan walked off, T’Val following close behind. They turned around briefly, raising their tiny hand with their fingers split. Jim’s eyes followed their departure, unsure of what the gesture meant.
Next time he was in his Xenocultural class, Jim asked his professor what it meant and found out it’s the traditional Vulcan greeting.
“The ta’al.” She had told him.
Jim spent time at home trying to perfect it just because he could.