Jim hadn’t expected this day to be unusual. Of course, in space, one never did know when a perfectly ordinary day would turn into a giant cluster fuck, but they were in friendly space, there were no spores, virus, or hostile invisible aliens running loose, and he and Spock hadn’t had an argument in almost 96 hours, which was certainly a record. Bones was down sick with a stomach bug, which wasn’t a good thing, but it meant that Jim could have waffles and bacon for breakfast without McCoy chewing his ass about it, because Bones was too busy worshipping the porcelain god to give a shit about what Jim was eating. So all in all, Jim headed to the Bridge in an excellent mood.
“Good morning, all,” he said cheerfully as he stepped onto the bridge. As usual, Sulu and Chekov responded with a cheerful chorus of, “Good morning, sir.” Uhura nodded coolly from her console. While Jim knew she respected him, even after eight months on board, Jim suspected that on some level she still viewed him as the hick who hit on her at a bar and gotten his ass kicked for his pains. And of course, no matter how early Jim arrived for Alpha shift, Spock had beaten him there as usual and was already seated at the Science station, turning to give Jim a cool nod as the captain bounced down the steps and into his center seat.
‘Good morning, Spock.” As always, Jim gave him a big smile that he knew was wasted on the incredibly hot Vulcan with the rod up his ass that the universe had managed to gift him with. But Jim kept trying. Maybe someday, they’d finally be friends. Yeah, and maybe the Romulans will turn all their military bases into farms for orphaned kittens. Fuck.
However, despite the fact that Spock didn’t finally melt into a puddle of bromance at the sight of Jim’s smile, it was still a good day—until the call came in from Headquarters.
“Admiral Pike is hailing us, sir,” Uhura reported.
“Put him on screen,” Jim said. He turned to the view screen with a smile on his lips, a genuinely warm smile this time, not the giant toothpaste smile he gave Spock because he was pretty sure it pissed off his First Officer. Chris Pike was one of the best friends Jim had, right up there with Bones and Old Spock, the Spock who did elicit a genuine smile from Jim whenever they met.
“Good morning, Admiral, sir,” Jim said with that smile. “Or can I just call you Chris right now and get back to normal?”
“Jim,” Chris said, with no answering smile. “I need to talk to you alone.”
Jim rose from his chair, puzzled but not particularly bothered. “Okay. Lt. Uhura, please send the call to my ready room.
She was only 52.
After the call with Chris, Jim sat in his ready room for a long time, glad that he hadn’t bothered to activate the overhead lights. The surrounding dimness was soothing.
“Commander Winona Kirk, aged 52, dead, dead, dead,” Jim whispered. Chris had been kind but straightforward, the way Jim would have wanted if he’d been able to choose a way of discovering that his mother was dead. She hadn’t died in a blaze of glory like his father had. It was an accident, a simple coolant seal leak on board the USS Aspire. Everyone had gotten out of Auxiliary Control in time—except for Commander Winona Kirk, aged 52.
“I’ll forward the report from Captain Ulsan,” Chris had said quietly. “There was nothing their CMO could do; she died at the scene. She was buried in space, Jim, as per her request, but there will be a memorial service here at Headquarters next week, if you wish to attend via view screen.”
Jim had nodded. “Yeah, thanks, Chris. Just let Uhura know the time and the broadcast frequency.”
Chris had hesitated. “Jim—is there anything I can do for you?” he’d asked quietly.
Jim shook his head. “No, but thanks.” He mustered up a muted version of his usual smile. “Thanks, Chris. You didn’t have to do this; you could have had a Starfleet chaplain call me. Thanks.”
"If you need anything; if you just need to talk, I'm here."
"I'm fine, Chris. thanks, but I'm fine."
Recovered from his virus, Bones leaned on the buzzer to Jim’s door yet again. Chris Pike had told Uhura the reason for his call—and Uhura had told McCoy that Jim came out of the ready room and had resumed his duties like nothing had happened. When Uhura had tried to approach him with some word of sympathy, he’d turned to her with a reassuring smile.
“I appreciate it, Lieutenant, but I’m fine,” Jim had said. He’d glanced around the Bridge, knowing that his team, who seldom missed a trick, had to have caught some part of Uhura’s low-voiced inquiry.
“Admiral Pike called with some bad news,” he’d said calmly. “There’s been a death in my family.” As the murmurs came, Jim shook his head, still smiling.
“I appreciate the concern, but I’m fine,” he’d said firmly. “Let’s get back to what we’re getting paid for, okay?” And that had been that. Jim had worked steadily all day, left the Bridge long enough to eat a sandwich, coffee, and a couple of cookies, and had returned to finish out his watch. Uhura had waited until he left the Bridge and had promptly buzzed Bones to let him know what was up. Bones had promptly consulted the ship’s computer and discovered that the captain was in his quarters. Now McCoy was faced with a blank, silent door. He hit the buzzer one more time and then used his medical override to go into Jim’s quarters.
“Jim?” he looked around. “Goddamnit, Jim, you can’t hide out and not expect someone to…”
The door to the bathroom slid open and Jim stepped out, plainly having just come from the shower, since he was dressed only in a towel. He stopped dead when he saw McCoy standing there. He gave the doctor a look that was almost Spockian.
“That’s funny,” Jim noted calmly. “I was sure I’d locked the door. Feeling better, Bones?” He walked past McCoy and into his bedroom. Bones followed as Jim walked over to his closet, pulling out some sweats.
“Jim, I…” Bones was stymied. “Look, I’m sorry I came barging in; I was worried.” He took a step closer to Jim, reaching out a hand. “Uhura told me about your mother,’ he said. “I’m sorry, kiddo. I came to see what I could do.”
Deciding to go commando, and not worried about McCoy seeing what he’d seen before, Jim draped the towel around his neck and stepped into the soft knit pants. He took the towel and rubbed water from his hair.
“Thanks, Bones,” he said, smiling reassuringly as he threw the towel down the laundry chute. “I’m fine.” He shrugged into the sweatshirt and snagged a comb from the dresser, bringing order to his damp hair with just a few quick movements.
“Jim.” Bones laid his hand on Jim’s arm.
“Look,” he said gently. “I know you and your mom had issues. But that doesn’t mean this news isn’t a shock.”
“Of course it’s a shock,” Jim replied. “She was only 52, Bones; that’s damned young nowadays. I’m sorry she’s dead. I feel rotten about it. But there’s nothing I can do. She was buried in space; I don’t even need to arrange for a funeral. Chris told me there’ll be a memorial, just like there is for all Starfleet personnel who die in the line of duty. Command will put up a memorial marker for her, too.” Jim knelt down and began to rummage in his closet for his favorite athletic shoes. He sat down on the edge of the bunk and put them on.
“Do you want to talk, Jim?” Bones asked gently. Jim looked and sounded fine, and that was what was setting off alarm bells. Jim looked up at him with a quick smile and got off his bed.
“I rather eat dinner,” he said. “For some reason, I’m pretty hungry. Is your stomach up to joining me, Bones?”
“Yeah, I’ll risk something if you want,” McCoy replied. He damned well wasn’t leaving Jim alone, not tonight.
Spock never listened to gossip. However, gossip and important information were not the same, so he soon heard that the captain’s mother had been killed. The news had affected Spock in ways he had not foreseen. Of course, it had brought back memories of Spock’s own mother, the loss that had not yet healed. Yet that pain was manageable; Spock had spent considerable time in the last months working through the grief of his loss with the help of a healer who comm’d him three times a week from New Vulcan. What astonished Spock was the pain he felt for the human. Jim was even younger than Spock had been when he’d lost his mother, and Spock still had his father; even when they disagreed Spock always knew that Sarek’s bedrock love for his son was still there, a firm foundation for Spock’s emotional life. Jim didn’t have that; he’d never had it. Jim was truly orphaned now, and he was not even 26 years of age.
Spock was unsure as to his next move. Over the next few days, he observed many crew members interacting with the captain, offering their sympathy. Spock had never seen the logic of condolences as proffered by humans; such rote phrases did not change the event. But even as he thought that, he remembered that night six months after he’d accepted the position of First Officer on the Enterprise.
Spock had awakened that night from a rare dream about his mother. He’d sat up in bed, heart pounding in his side, unaccustomed sweat dampening his temples. In the dream, he’d seen her fall again into the earth, but unlike the real experience, the dream state had allowed Spock to watch his mother fall endlessly, earth and rocks pouring over her in a cascade while she’d writhed and cried out soundlessly, the torment never ending, Spock never able to turn away…
There was a knock on the door that led to the share bath between his quarters and the captain’s. “Spock?” The mellow tenor voice had drifted through the door. “I’m coming in.” With that, the door had slid open and Jim Kirk stepped through, calling softly for lights at 10%, rounding the corner to where Spock sat up in bed, still clutching the sheet, his knuckles white with effort as he panted, trying to get his breathing back to normal. He realized that he must have cried out, and—oh, the shame—Jim must have heard him. Dressed only in a pair of sleep pants, his hair mussed and his blue eyes clouded with sleep, Jim had regarded him steadily for a moment. “Wait here,” he’d said, turning and disappearing back into the bath. In a moment he returned with a glass of water and a warm, damp cloth. He’d silently handed both to Spock, who had made use of them. Then Jim took the cloth and glass away, coming back to look at Spock once again.
“Do you want me to stay?” The voice had been gentle but not sentimental in its tone. Spock shook his head, wordless.
“Okay.” Jim seemed to accept that. “I know Vulcans value their privacy, Spock; I’m not going to push you into a corner.” An almost shy smile flickered across his face. “But I want you to know, if you find yourself in that corner, come get me. I’d like to help.” With that, he’d left, and Spock lay back down, feeling curiously calm. He’d fallen back to sleep easily, and no more dreams had disturbed him.
Now Spock found himself wanting to reach out, as humans said, wanting to help Jim. But Jim didn’t seem to need help. He’d accepted all the offers of sympathy with dignity and total indifference, not only as if the words meant nothing but also as if he had no need of comfort. He was solemn during the memorial service that had been transmitted to the ship, but he was calm. He had not wept, as Spock understood that many humans did when someone died. He did not even look upset as he watched the screen. McCoy and most of the bridge crew had sat with Jim in the ship’s chapel and watched the service as well, and at the end, Spock had gotten up his courage and stepped up to the captain.
“Sir, I grieve with thee,” he said quietly. Jim looked at him, that same faint smile he’d been wearing lately visible on his lips.
“Thank you, Mr. Spock,” he said, his voice equally quiet. “I appreciate your concern.” Then he had turned away to speak to the doctor. Spock stood, unsure of what to do next. He glanced at the chronometer. It was already 1.4 hours after the start of Alpha shift. He would go to the Bridge and ensure the smooth running of the ship.
Two nights later, Spock found himself unexpectedly awake at 0127. He had performed all the customary rituals before retiring, but his mind was restless and refused to allow him to sleep. He checked his physiology and ascertained that he did not actually require sleep at this time. So he rose and dressed in uniform trousers and a very old, very soft sweater that his mother had sent him soon after he’d gone to Earth. She’d known he would find San Francisco’s climate to be chilly. It was perhaps illogical that even now, this sweater seemed to generate more warmth than the poly-wool blend fibers actually offered, but Spock had come to accept that occasionally, perception and reality were the same. He slipped into soft shoes and left his cabin, planning to walk the halls until he felt fatigued. If that took all night, kaiidth. He would not suffer from diminished efficiency because of one sleepless night.
Spock walked the corridors, nodding to the occasional wide-eyed ensign. Finally, he found himself outside of the small botany lab the captain had allocated for Mr. Sulu’s experimental plantings. Spock remembered that Sulu was growing theris, a Vulcan herb that was often steeped in hot water to make a soothing bedtime drink. Spock was sure Sulu would not mind if he plucked a few leaves for that purpose. Spock activated the door code and stepped inside.
Jim Kirk was seated on a bench at the far end of the beds of greenery. He looked up, startled, tears still visible on his cheeks.
“Captain?” Spock’s voice was louder than he’d intended, but he hadn’t expected to see Jim here, let alone in tears. “Sir, is something the matter?” He took several steps forward, and Jim sprang to his feet, turning his back on Spock.
“I’m fine,” he said, voice muffled. “I’m fine.” But Jim had been saying that for days—to everyone. It was obvious now that his was not true. Spock wished fervently that Leonard McCoy would emerge from one of the herb beds, even as he knew how illogical that was. He thought about leaving, but he could not.
“Jim.” Spock reached him, and not knowing what else to do, reached out to him, his hand landing lightly on the curve of the humans’ shoulder.
“Jim, you are not all fine,” Spock said quietly. “You are upset. I understand.”
“No, you don’t! Jim shook off the hand and whirled around to face Spock, tears still escaping from those sea-blue eyes, now reddened and pained. “You can’t understand; don’t you see? You loved your mother!”
“As you loved yours,” Spock replied softly.
“But I don’t!” Jim all but screamed the words. “I hate her; I’ve always hated her, and now she’s dead, and I still hate her! She left me; she left me alone, all the time, and now she’s gone, and I can’t tell her I hate her; I can’t ever tell her she broke my heart….” He backed away, his hands clenched, his whole body shaking. In an instant, Spock realized that his own pain, while all-consuming, was scarcely a pinprick compared to the open wound that was Jim Kirk. Spock loved his mother; she’d died knowing he loved her. That love made death a whole different experience.
“Jim,” he whispered. “Please, do not do this to yourself.”
“What kind of an asshole hates his mother?” Jim whispered. “What kind of monster am I?”
Suddenly sure, Spock stepped forward, taking the clenched hands into his own firm grip. “You are not a monster,” he said, sure of his words. “You are in pain and alone. But no more, Jim. No more.”
Somehow, Jim found himself seated on the bench, Spock’s arms around him, his face buried in a home-knitted sweater as he sobbed, unsure now of even why he was sobbing, but feeling Spock’s warmth surrounding him, hearing Spock’s soft murmurs as Jim cried, as he felt a barrier that had been built up over a lifetime simply melt away. At last, Jim’s sobs faded to nothing. Spock gently released him and stood, heading for the small sink where Sulu washed up and watered his plantings. He found some soft folded paper towels and soaked one in water, bringing it back to the bench. He sat down next to Jim and handed him the wet towel.
“Use this,” he suggested quietly. Jim sponged his face, his hands still shaking, and then threw the towel towards a wastebasket, missing it by several feet. Spock decided to ignore that for now. He gave Jim the dry towel, and the human blew his nose.
“Crying jags suck,” he said in a shaky voice.
“Perhaps,” Spock replied gently, “but I believe they are occasionally necessary.”
“Yeah.” Jim slumped down on the bench next to Spock, so tired, so emotionally wrung out, that he wasn’t sure he could move.
“Jim,” Spock said at last. “Why did you hide your emotions? I have observed that many people on the ship wished to comfort you; why did you not allow it?”
Jim looked down. “Because…it wasn’t fair to you,” he said in a low voice. He made himself look up at Spock. “I didn’t want to bring back all the pain of your mother’s death. And you loved her, Spock; you loved her more than anything. I hate my mother; it’s awful but it’s true. I couldn’t let people be nice to me, comfort me, when I didn’t deserve it.”
“Jim.” Greatly daring, Spock put an arm around the bowed shoulders.
“You deserve more comfort, not less,” he murmured. “You do not have the memories of love and devotion that my mother left me. You deserved to have that, and I am grieved that you were not able to receive it from Winona Kirk. But you must not concern yourself with my pain. You have the right to feel your own grief and the right to be consoled.” They sat in silence for some moments. Then Jim spoke.
“You’re touching me,” he said softly. “Don’t get me wrong; I like it, but…why now? Because of my mom?”
“In part,” Spock replied gently. “For a long time, I did not allow myself to draw nearer to you, despite the urging of my counterpart, who informed me that you needed me.”
“What?” Jim twisted around on the bench to face Spock. “You…he….you’ve met?” A faint smile appeared at the corners of Jim’s mouth. “That sneaky old bastard. He told me the universe would implode if the two of you ended up in the same room.”
“It has not occurred yet,” Spock replied gravely, a note of humor in his own voice.
“So, if you’ve talked with him, then you know we’re supposed to…” Jim trailed off, embarrassed, wondering just what Old Spock had revealed. The memories Jim had picked up in their meld, the overwhelming love and loyalty—he wanted that, wanted it so badly, but he didn’t think he’d ever get it from this Spock.
Spock nodded. “He told me that we were destined to have a life-altering friendship. He also knows that to a Vulcan, the term ‘life-altering’, means far more than having someone to play cards with.” Spock was quiet for a time. “I fought that,” he admitted at last. “I felt that my counterpart was wrong, that what he had with James Kirk could not possibly apply to me.” He looked at the human by his side. “But then…you came to me in the night,” he continued softly. “You offered me precisely what I needed, and you did not try to impose yourself upon me. That night, I lowered the barriers I had erected—and I was astonished of what I found, astonished and frightened as well.” Now one corner of Spock’s mouth quirked upwards. “A life-altering relationship is not to be entered into lightly.”
“But now?” Jim whispered.
Spock reached out and gently brushed away a lingering tear. “Now I want to make certain that you are never alone again,” he said. He raised his hand, Jim’s tear still damp on his skin, and extended two fingers.
“I want to share thy pain,” Spock said, “and thy joys. Does thee wish the same?”
Jim nodded, stretching out his hand as well, grateful for the memory of the ozh’esta that his meld with Old Spock had given him. “Yes,” he whispered, feeling his tears between their fingertips. “I do.”
“Good morning, Bones.” Jim sat down with his breakfast tray. McCoy looked at him, seeing the red-rimmed eyes and the pallor of fatigue.
“You look a bit peaked, Jim,” he said quietly. “Are you sure you’re all right?”
Jim looked across the room as the door opened, and his face was transformed. “Yeah, Bones,” he replied, feeling the warmth of love filling up that cold, empty place where his mother no longer dwelled, smiling a genuine smile as Spock moved across the room to join them. "Now I’m fine.”