Chapter One: First Contact
"NO! I'm not here to be your entertainment! Go find something to do yourself!" snapped Winona Kirk to her son, Jim.
He angrily strode out the door in response and strolled aimlessly down the country road, away from his house. This was typical of his mother. His stepfather was even worse. Luckily he wasn't around at the moment. Feeling very alone, Jim continued down the road on autopilot. His gaze mostly fixed on the ground, he did not notice a tall figure approaching him, until he was a few yards away.
Jim stopped in surprise, his problems fleeing his mind. The man - Vulcan, actually, now that he looked closer - was clearly not from around here. He knew everyone in town. He did not know of any Vulcans for miles - if there even were any in Iowa. What was even more strange was the look on the Vulcan's face - it much mirrored his own, with a bit of - delight? That made no sense. He could not remember ever meeting a Vulcan before.
"James T. Kirk," the Vulcan said with a hint of respect.
Jim resisted the urge to look around him for another James T. Kirk. "That's - me," he stuttered. Why was the guy looking at him like he was the sun in the sky? He was just an average ten year old kid, nothing special at all! "Sorry, but who are you?" he blurted. "How do you know my name?"
Spock sat down on the ground, and Jim did the same. "I have been, and always will be, your friend. I am Spock."
Okay, this was just a little too weird...even if there seemed to be something so right about what he said. "There has to be some mistake. I don't know you."
"There is no mistake. That is the house you live in, correct?" Spock gestured to where Jim had come from.
"Your mother is Winona Kirk, your father is George Kirk, and you have an older brother named Sam. Your middle name is Tiberius after your grandfather."
"Yes," Jim confirmed. "How do you know this?"
Spock didn't seem to want to tell him. But then he replied, "I have been considering purchasing a house in this neighborhood. Naturally, I was curious about my potential neighbors and learned about you and your family in the midst of my inquiries."
"Oh," said Jim. He had the strangest feeling that Spock was holding back something big. At the same time, he felt he could trust the older Vulcan. Then he remembered. "You're not quite right about one thing, though. My father died, I have a stepfather named Frank."
Spock raised his eyebrows. "I was aware of your father's unfortunate passing, however I was not told about Frank. Is he to your preference?"
Jim finally relaxed, feeling a surge of pleasure at the way he was being addressed. Like an equal. Maybe more than that. "Not really, no. But what parent is?" he quipped, trying to brush it off.
"Indeed," he replied lightly, but his eyes were thoughtful and keen.
Jim squirmed slightly under that gaze that seemed to pierce right through him. He quickly changed the subject. "What brings you from Vulcan?" he blurted, then cringed. "Uh, sorry. None of my business."
"Feel free to ask questions, Jim. I am a scientist and I wished to conduct my experiments somewhere secluded and private. It seemed prudent to leave Vulcan so I can study in peace without interference. I have found this area to meet my requirements. I do not believe anyone would suspect my whereabouts, unless I wished them to."
"Yeah, it's nowhere's land out here," agreed Jim.
There was a pause. "Jim, will you introduce me to your family? I wish to meet them."
Jim did not want to do that, but he also found he couldn't say no . "All right." He got up and started walking back to the house. Spock strode by his right side as if he belonged there.
Jim felt complete safety and belonging wash over him as their steps seemed to naturally fall into the same rhythm. It wasn't something he felt often, if ever. There definitely was more to this Vulcan than he was letting on. For being a completely logical, calm species, this one could not seem to stem the deep affection oozing out of him, filling the air around him. Perhaps he knew him when he was little, and just didn't remember? Then why didn't he just say so?
They stepped onto the porch, and Jim opened the door. Spock followed him in. "Mom, we have a visitor," shouted Jim.
"JIM! I told you that you couldn't bring anyone over!" she shouted, her steps thundering closer. She appeared in the doorway, looking furious. Then she caught sight of the Vulcan. "Oh," she said, speechless with surprise.
"I am Spock. Jim brought me here by my request. I am going to buy a house in this neighborhood and I wish to get acquainted with my neighbors. You are Winona Kirk?"
"Yes," she said, beginning to recover from her shock. "I hope Jim didn't bother you? He can be a real nuisance."
Spock frowned slightly, looking as offended as an emotionally repressed Vulcan could look. "Jim has been nothing but a pleasant, courteous companion," he corrected with slight anger.
She snorted. "No need to sugarcoat it. Go upstairs, Jimmy."
"Vulcans cannot lie, madam," he said firmly. "I do not require Jim to leave. However, I respect your wishes."
Jim, meanwhile, had been watching the exchange, going from cringing embarrassment from his mother's attitude, to wonder at Spock's. When his mother gestured him to go, he moved away reluctantly, feeling as though something was being torn as he moved away. Spock was like a magnet. It seemed wrong to leave him.
"Jim, before you go, I have a gift. Do you like antique books?" Spock asked, though something in his tone betrayed that he knew the answer already.
"Yes, I do," said Jim, somewhat embarrassed. At school he'd been teased about it, so he'd done his best to hide it ever since.
"Then I would like you to have this," Spock said, handing him a book from a pocket in his robe.
Jim read the title: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. "Thank you, Mr. Spock."
"The pleasure is mine, Jim."
Jim steeled himself against that magnetic pull and climbed the stairs, thumbing through the book as he went. At the back cover, he found a note signed by Spock with his comm number and home address. A smile broke out on his face. He entered his room and flopped down on the bed. He sure hoped he saw the Vulcan again.
The first thing Jim was aware of the next morning was that his pillow felt unusually hard. It smelled strange too. He opened his eyes and lifted his head. A Tale of Two Cities was sprawled out underneath him. He'd spent the evening reading it. It had been a bit much for him, but it was the experience of using the antique that he so much enjoyed, even if he didn't fully understand the contents. He closed it carefully. Frank would no doubt try to take it from him as soon as Winona told him about it. He didn't have anywhere to hide it.
He put it back on his shelf, trying to make it hard to see. Spock's note was still sticking out of it. He pulled it out, thinking. If either of his parents found it, they would definitely throw it out. Even though he wasn't sure he'd find the guts to use it, it was dear to him in a way he couldn't voice. He needed to save it. Decision made, he gently pried up a floorboard under his bed. There wasn't much room there, but he hid everything precious to him under there - pictures of his real dad and letters his dad had written, mostly. His mother had no idea he had them or he'd never see them again either. He carefully laid Spock's note with his stash and replaced the board. He had no idea if he'd ever see the Vulcan again, but knowing he could was nice and comforting.
"JIM! GET DOWN HERE OR YOU WILL BE LATE FOR THE BUS! I'M NOT DRIVING YOU!" shouted Winona from downstairs.
Jim cringed and hurried to get ready for school. The classes were so easy for him, they were boring. He didn't want to go but his mother made him, saying she didn't want to support him beyond the age of 18 because he was uneducated. She didn't want to support him, period, really, but that went without saying.
He climbed into the bus and got himself a window seat without a word. Remembering Spock's address, he watched for it. There! He didn't see the Vulcan anywhere outside, or a moving truck, but there was a massive crane digging a ginormous hole in the backyard. Hole, in fact, didn't really cover it. Crater was more like it! What in the world would Spock want it for? Maybe some science lab or experiment? But what would he need something that huge for? His curious mind burned to ask the Vulcan, his fingers twitching towards his comm. But no - he wouldn't bother him. As much as the Vulcan seemed to like him, he didn't want to risk becoming a nuisance, just like his mother always said.
A few minutes later, he was strolling along to his first class with his two main buddies, Ben Finney and Gary Mitchell. Ben was hastily trying to complete his homework due in a few minutes, pummeling Jim with questions that Jim answered without giving his complete attention.
Gary, meanwhile, was giving Jim strange looks. "Something happen between now and yesterday, Jim?" he asked.
Jim glanced over at his perceptive friend. Gary was always like this, picking up on little things that no one else could see. "Yeah. I met a new neighbor of mine yesterday. His name is Spock. And he's a Vulcan!"
"A Vulcan?" said Gary in confusion. "Why would a Vulcan settle down in Iowa?"
"He said he wanted somewhere secluded. He's a scientist and wanted to do his studies without distractions."
Gary still didn't seem to be buying it.
"Look, he had to be Vulcan! He had the pointed ears, slanted eyebrows, emotional suppression, everything!"
"I don't doubt he's Vulcan, Jim. I'm just not buying the whole scientist thing. I think something else is going on."
Ben interjected just then, with one last frantic question before they risked being late for class. Jim answered with his usual aplomb and entered the room. Ben had to sit near the front, away from Jim as he'd been caught several times whispering questions to him in class. Jim and Gary sat together in the back, sneaking notes to each other. They hadn't been caught yet and were at the top of the class, so the teacher didn't pay as much attention to them. Besides, paper notes were so antique the teacher didn't expect them.
Jim felt a paper brush against his hand. As subtly as possible, he unfolded the note from Gary.
"So. Vulcan, huh? How'd you meet him? They aren't exactly known for being social butterflies, unless a logical reason is involved."
Jim wrote back: "I went for a quick walk, and I ran into him. Which is kind of weird now to think about it, his house is a couple miles down the road, and he's pretty old. Why didn't he use a speeder? And did I mention he's digging this ginormous crater in his backyard? I have no idea what it's for! But it's a least three times bigger than his house!"
Gary wrote back: "A crater? But never mind that, what happened after you ran into him? Did he say Live Long and Prosper and send you away?"
Jim took a few minutes to actually pay attention to what his teacher was saying. He felt strangely reluctant to reply to Gary, feeling a bit self-conscious. His friend was too perceptive sometimes, and his time with Spock, as strange as it was, meant a lot to him. But if he delayed any longer, Gary would really know something was up. He wrote: "He introduced himself, and wanted to meet my parents. So I introduced him to my mom, since Frank wasn't there. Then my mom shooed me upstairs, so I don't know what happened after that."
After he passed the note, he could feel Gary's gaze on him. Jim ignored him and listened to the teacher some more. Finally the feeling faded, and paper brushed against his palm. He read: "I know you're not telling me everything. But that's all right. I'm sure you'll see Spock again soon. Maybe help him with that crater of his."
Jim did not reply and paid more attention in classes that day to avoid thinking about it too much. He really didn't want to get his hopes up. He was sure that Vulcan had much better things to do than checking up on a ten year old neighbor a couple miles down the road. He'd moved there to get away from people, not for his company.
He'd somewhat successfully erased Spock from his mind when he arrived back home. So his mother's insistence that he clean the entire downstairs took him by surprise.
"That Vulcan, Spock, is coming back. He insisted on meeting Frank. So I invited him for dinner. We're having salad, I remember they're vegetarians from my xenobiology classes. So you'll be making the salad. Frank should be here any minute."
Spock was coming back? A rush of feelings came with the thought, happy, excited, nervous, self conscious, and even some dread. He wanted to see him again, but he was sure he would do something to make the Vulcan change his mind about him. He didn't want to be around when that happened. He cleaned and prepared dinner with unusual enthusiasm. His mother, of course, did not notice, but he did not linger on it.
Frank stomped in the house, and seconds later Jim could smell the alcohol on his breath as he stopped in front of him. This was early for alcohol, even for Frank.
"Lost my job," he hissed at Jim. "And it's ALL YOUR FAULT!"
Jim glared at him. "It's not my fault you can't hold down a job!"
"You son of a bitch!" shouted Frank, slapping him across the face. Jim dropped the lettuce he'd been holding and fell on the floor at the force of the blow. "All those times you wouldn't listen to your mom, and I would have to scream at you on the phone -"
"Frank, honey, calm down," said Winona, ignoring Jim, who was cradling his bruised face, stunned.
"Calm down! It's about time we did something about the brat!"
"Frank, I'm sure you'll find another job."
"Like hell I will!"
The sound of the doorbell interrupted the explosive exchange.
"That should be Spock. He's a new neighbor. He stopped by yesterday and wanted to meet you."
"Oh yeah? Who else has been stopping by that I don't know about?"
"Frank!" Winona objected for the first time. "I'll get the door. Jim, finish making dinner."
Winona left, and Jim picked himself off the floor. He felt sure the bruise was obvious, and scrambled to think of a story as he listened to Spock and Winona's polite exchange in the living room. Frank stood and glared at Jim, meanwhile, the tension between them thick and cold. The air fairly screamed with the words that would have been shouted had Spock not showed up.
As it was, even Frank didn't dare express himself in front of a stranger. So when Winona called him into the living room when she felt she'd given him enough time to cool down, he went quietly. Jim finally decided to say that he fell off his bike, and bruised his face. He couldn't bear for Spock to know the truth. Decision made, he focused more intently on what the adults were saying to each other.
"And where is your charming boy, Jim?" Spock asked, his voice intent. His tone of voice had been casual up until then. If Jim didn't know better, he'd say seeing him was the real reason for the visit. But that would be ridiculous.
"Oh, don't worry, he's in the kitchen, making dinner. I can send him upstairs so you won't have to deal with him," offered Frank.
"That will not be necessary," said Spock in an even tone. "I find him most engaging. I am also delighted to have non replicated food. It has been 300.54 days since I have had that pleasure. I look forward to trying what Jim has prepared."
Jim stilled, his eyes flicking over his salad nervously. What if it didn't measure up to his expectations? What if he didn't like it? He'd felt pressured and resentful and intimidated into making good food by Frank, but this was entirely different. If Spock didn't like it, that would hit him where it truly hurt and that scared him.
Jim fussed over the salad for several more minutes. Then he set it out on the table, and finished arranging their best silverware and china in a nice pattern at each seat.
"Boy! You done yet? It's not that hard, you know!" shouted Frank.
Jim froze, humiliated. Was that what Spock was thinking now? That he was being stupid and slow in taking so long? He was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't hear Spock excuse himself and approach him.
"Jim," he said.
Jim turned towards Spock, putting on his bravest face. Before he could speak, Spock continued, "I am honored that you are taking such care for me in your preparations. Regardless, I look forward to conversing with you when you are finished."
"I'm done now, sir," said Jim shyly.
"Call me Spock," he reminded the boy.
"Okay, Spock," replied Jim with a small smile.
"Then, I shall inform your parents that we may begin." Spock hesitated, his gaze intent, looking as though he wanted to say something else. Then he turned and strode off to the living room, and returned shortly with Winona and Frank. They sat at the table, and Jim managed to grab the seat by Spock before Frank could shoo him out of it.
As they started eating, Spock turned and gave his full attention to Jim. Jim tried not to flush under that highly perceptive gaze. It was like Gary, but times ten. "Jim, how was your day at school?"
Jim was about to say his usual answer, "Fine," but that felt bad to say that. Spock seemed like he was actually interested. So he said instead, "Oh, the usual. My friend Ben needed help with his homework so I had to help him cram so he wouldn't get marked down. Then Finnegan somehow managed to fill the bottom of Gary's locker with water, ruining some of his stuff. So I helped him with that during lunch hour. Gary was so mad! He swore to get revenge. He can't prove it was him, though, but Gary swears it was. He's probably right, too, he seems to have a sixth sense about things. Oh, and I - well yeah, that was it really," Jim stammered. He was about to say he'd seen Spock's crater, but did not want to seem offensive, nosy, or embarrassingly overly interested.
There was a slightly awkward pause. Then Spock said, "This is your typical day?"
"Yeah. Well no, I mean, Gary's locker isn't usually filled with water, but he's had pranks like that happen to him lately. I know he's gotten Finnegan in trouble a few times so I think it's revenge."
"Would you not find it satisfying to start a brawl with him, in defense of your friend?" asked Spock, a playful glint in his eye.
His question was met with about five seconds of shocked silence. That was not what Jim had been expecting at all! Maybe a disinterested change of subject, disapproval, or something, but not that! "Uh..." said Jim, feeling the undercurrent of anger flowing from his parents.
"It would be typical of him, getting into trouble," interjected Frank.
"A dear friend of mine would say, 'Aren't some things worth fighting for?'" said Spock, his eyes flicking over to Jim. However, he seemed to sense an impending storm and added, "I understand that school brawls are not socially acceptable. My apologies. Jim," he said, turning once more to the young boy. "Do you have a preference for a subject?"
"I like history and gym," answered Jim.
"Who is your favorite historical figure?" asked Spock.
Jim again had that strange feeling like Spock already knew the answer. "Abraham Lincoln," he answered, unwilling to tell him more. He knew Frank would just scoff at him, and that was humiliating in front of Spock.
Spock did not press him for more and continued on to the next subject. "Jim, may I ask how you injured yourself?"
Jim had been lulled into a false sense of security, believing since he hadn't been immediately accosted about it that he wouldn't be asked. He bet that Spock had done that on purpose. "Uh, I uh, well, fell off my bike," he said lamely.
Spock raised an eyebrow. Jim immediately knew that Spock hadn't bought it, and cringed internally. Great. Now Spock thought he was a liar.
"Indeed? How unfortunate," he commented, thankfully not commenting further.
"Yeah, the kid's clumsy. Don't know why I got him that bike in the first place, if all he's going to do is injure himself," grumbled Frank.
Something seemed to snap in Spock then, and the air around him turned a few degrees colder. He turned to Frank with what Jim could only describe as the Vulcan Stink Eye. "On Vulcan, a child is given an abundance of opportunities to explore his or her talents. Perfection is never a requirement, merely the logical exploring of knowledge and skill."
"Well, this ain't Vulcan. Money doesn't grow on trees, you know. Just lost my job, in fact," said Frank, his short temper beginning show.
"Nonetheless, I offer my assistance should Jim require it," said Spock, attempting to both make his point and diffuse the situation at the same time. "You need not fear for lack of resources with mine at his disposal. My assets are quite extensive."
"Don't waste your time," advised Frank. "He's not that special. Go find yourself some science whiz."
Winona, who had been silent through the exchange, finally spoke up. "We just don't want to inconvenience or pressure you in any way," she said, as if to soften the blow.
"It is no inconvenience for me," insisted Spock. "I find Jim to be quite charming, and a great cook as well. Thank you for an excellent meal. It was well prepared."
Jim could not hide his blush this time. "Thank you, sir."
"Spock," the Vulcan corrected, smiling with his eyes.
"Spock." Jim smiled back. They held their gaze for a few beats. Jim forgot that anyone else was in the room, feeling that strong magnetic pull. Spock seemed exceptionally pleased by this, at least as much as a Vulcan could appear to be pleased.
Just before they parted, Spock took Jim aside to speak to him privately on the porch. "Jim, feel free to comm me or stop by my home at any time, day or night. Do you still have my contact information?"
"I - yes," said Jim, not wanting to admit where he put it.
"Good. I look forward to our future interactions." At Jim's hesitant smile, he added, "Perhaps it is culturally incorrect for myself, as a Vulcan, to admit, but I am a lonely old man. To have your youthful spirit frequent my home would be welcome indeed. Promise me?"
"I promise," answered Jim, more sure of himself now.
"Then," replied the Vulcan, smiling with his eyes, "Until we meet again." He turned and walked to his speeder. Jim watched as he drove out of sight.
Jim went back inside reluctantly. Frank was nowhere to be seen. "Where's Frank?" he asked his mom. Not that he cared, but it was always good to know where he was.
"He's out back," she said. By her tone, he knew she was hiding something.
Jim felt dread pool in his stomach. Winona usually only hid things when Frank was doing something bad to herself or Jim. He hurried up the stairs to his room and checked his things, including the space under the floorboard. All safe, except... Jim checked the bookshelf. Spock's book was gone!
Even though Jim had known it would happen, he felt himself swell with anger and disappointment. Not to mention, what would Spock think when he found out Jim had lost his precious book? Probably that he was an irresponsible, lazy nuisance just like his parents did. No. He'd find it, even if he had to go to the junkyard and dig for days.
Determination filled him, and he marched downstairs to wait for Frank. He didn't have to wait long. The drunken man came stumbling in, looking unusually satisfied with himself.
"Where's my book?" asked Jim immediately.
"Book? You mean that worthless binding of scrap paper that old senile Vulcan gave to you? I threw it in the fields out back. At least as compost, it might actually be worth something," he said smugly. "Don't want anything from that annoying bastard anywhere on MY property!"
Jim bolted out the door.
"You'll never find it, you worthless son of a bitch!" shouted Frank.
Jim grabbed a flashlight by the door and hurried towards the plowed fields. Once the farming machines gave them the once over, his book would not stand a chance. He needed to find it, and quickly!
Darkness soon overtook his search, and the temperature dropped rapidly. Jim turned his flashlight on, determined not to rest until he'd found it. He ignored his shivers as he poked his way through each row. He would try to live up to what Spock thought of him, somehow! He did not know how much time had passed, minutes, maybe hours, when he finally had to sit down for a bit. His eyes began to close against his will, and he fell asleep.