A/N: Thank you MyriadProBold for reviewing!
Chapter 12: Permanent Home
Jim knew he was expected to pack, but he didn't. He would resist the move with everything he had. The next day was not a school day. Jim got out of bed early, not wanting to miss any of his remaining time with Spock, if they forced the issue. "Hi Spock," said Jim by way of greeting.
"Jim, I trust you slept well?" Spock asked him, his face blank and unreadable.
"Not really," Jim confessed. "If they force me to go, will you be able to visit?"
"No," stated Spock. "They believed a clean break would be the best, to shift your focus from me to them."
Jim's heart sank. That had been the one thing he had tried to comfort himself with last night. He sat down to eat with Spock, a slightly awkward silence pervading the air. Jim did not know what to make of Spock's distant behavior, and part of him was beginning to believe that Spock had requested the change himself. He had never been able to believe that Spock truly wanted him, and it was much easier to believe he was sorry for him, and didn't want him anymore.
Spock kept his mental and emotional shields tight, not wanting Jim to have to deal with his own devastation at the news. He had enough problems on his mind as it was. Once again, Spock considered stealing Jim away on the Jellyfish. However, Jim would have a better life here, on Earth. He would not be so selfish as to kidnap him away from that.
"Are you all ready to leave?" asked Spock.
"No," said Jim. "I'm not going."
"You are court ordered to go. I cannot interfere. It would be wise for you to be prepared for their arrival."
"I'm not leaving!" said Jim desperately. "You're a genius, Spock, can't you do something?"
"I cannot," said Spock neutrally.
Jim's eyes filled with tears, and he walked out of the room. It really seemed like Spock didn't want him. He didn't even seem sorry he was going. Maybe he should just go, since no one he wanted, wanted him anyway. Jim started packing slowly. He didn't have much. He packed his dad's things first, then his clothes. Spock stopped in at one point and told him he could take anything of his from this room that he wanted, then left to be in his bedroom. So Jim packed a few of the books and antiques on the shelves, his mind and emotions numb with the intense pain.
When the Marcus family arrived, Spock was barely courteous, advising them of the fact that Jim was ready to go, then went to Jim's room to collect him. Jim met him in the doorway with his bags, his throat tight and unable to say anything. Spock did not say anything either. They just looked at each other for a minute. Then, at some invisible signal, Spock took the rest of the bags and helped Jim put them in the Marcus's speeder. Just before Jim climbed in, Spock finally said something, and his face softened a fraction. "Remember," he said, his hand touching Jim's face lightly before dropping at his side. Jim was still unable to say anything, and watched as Spock left him, feeling like his life was ending.
The Marcus's unsuccessfully tried to get Jim to talk on the way to their house, but Jim just nodded and blankly stared out the window. They weren't too offended, as they had been warned that he would probably react something like this.
Jim barely took in the surroundings of their mansion as he was led through it in a tour, ending in his room. It was about five miles down the road from Spock's. His mind was not here, but in plotting ways to see him again. The separation was unbearable. Yet, did Spock even want him back? Jim doubted it. Spock had not seemed sorry at all that he'd left.
Jim unpacked his things, his body language robotic. The Marcus's were very friendly and helpful, and then they all ate dinner together afterwards, which Jim merely picked at. Carol repeatedly tried to engage him in conversation. Jim distantly could see how, in a different situation, he might like her. But all he could see now was that they were taking him away from Spock. He answered with single words in a monotone, hoping she would leave him alone. She eventually took the hint and did.
Jim hardly slept that night at all. He wondered if Spock missed him, even a little. He'd given no indication that he would. Well, what did he expect? That something that good would really last? He was really foolish to think that.
He was allowed to have friends over, or go to his friends houses. He opted to go to Ben's and Gary's houses, just to get away from the Marcus's. Besides, he'd never been there before. He was slightly happier there. Ben and Gary soundly abused the court and the Marcus's, saying they were idiots. Jim was glad they didn't bother to try to convince him he was being foolish, like his social workers and court guardian was doing. He hadn't seen Erin lately. He'd been informed that she had been temporarily banned from the case, but would be back on it soon. He hoped to see her. Something about her Southern charm and determination made him feel better, and it seemed like she was one of the few on his side. McCoy came once, and swore several times at Jim's emotional condition, which offended the Marcus's. Though they did not ban him from the house, it was clear they wished to limit his visits. This did not do anything more to endear him to the Marcus's, either. As time went on, he could see liking them all in a different situation. Just not this one.
Finnegan had been leaving him alone for the most part lately, but one day that changed at lunchtime. The bully approached his table, looking smug. Jim had pretty much recovered from his experience with Frank, so he felt ready to face anything that came his way from him.
"So, apparently that Vulcan didn't want you after all, huh? Saw the logic of the situation?" he taunted. "I saw that new family of yours drop you off this morning. You're a regular charity case."
"Lay off, Finnegan," said Gary, who was sitting next to Jim. Jim did not react except to glare at Finnegan.
"Can't get anyone to want to keep you? I bet that Vulcan is gloating at how easy it was to get rid of you - "
With a strangled sound of pain that sounded like it should have come from a wounded animal, Jim snapped and came at Finnegan with his fists. The bully was a little more prepared this time, and defended himself better. This only fueled Jim's fury, and it turned into an all-out brawl. Gary and Ben tried to separate them before Jim got into trouble, but it was too late. Mr. Kalomi himself strode over, separated them, and led them to his office.
Once again, he saw Jim in private first. "Well, Jim, what is it this time?"
Jim was in too much pain, emotionally, to repeat the words. He just stared at the floor.
"I understand you're having a hard time dealing with being separated from Spock. Does this have something to do with that?"
Jim nodded blankly, still not looking at him.
"Jim, you're a good kid. I can tell, not just from your essay, but from your history here. Don't ruin your life by getting into fights. It's not the way to fix things. I know you miss Mr. Spock, and I'm sympathetic to your plight and what you're going through, but I'm going to have to suspend you from school for a day, in punishment, since this is not your first offense."
All Jim could think was that he was glad he would at least not have to face Spock's disappointment in him. He would probably never hear of it. Heck, he probably wouldn't even care.
"I'm sorry, Jim. Now you have to get back to class. Your day of suspension is tomorrow. I'll inform your guardians of this."
Jim barely acknowledged him before he left, ignoring Finnegan on his way out.
Mr. Dave Marcus was not happy with Jim when he came home that day.
"Jim, we have been kind and patient with you. I know you're not having an easy time, but I expected more than this! You are grounded for a week."
Jim nodded blankly, his heart sinking further. Now he couldn't even get away from here at his friend's houses.
Jim spent a miserable day on his day of suspension, reading some of the books Spock had given him in attempt to comfort himself. Carol came in his room when she got home from school, and Jim finally engaged in a real conversation with her. She really wasn't that bad, and even admitted that although she would like him for a brother, she would prefer him to be somewhere where he was happy, like with Spock.
At dinner that night, Mrs. Marcus told Jim some important news. "Jim, your mother has officially lost her rights to you, except for some limited visiting rights. It took so long because courts don't like taking rights from both parents, and they wanted to be sure that she hadn't been abused as well. I thought you should know."
Jim nodded his acknowledgment, not real surprised nor caring much.
Time seemed to drag as the days went on. He didn't hear so much as a word about Spock, how he was, or what he was doing, which apparently was a banned subject. His only hope for any news came when he'd heard that Erin was now allowed back on the case. He bet if anyone would rebel and tell him anything, it would be her.
However, he did not end up seeing her, and the day he'd been dreading finally arrived. At the dinner table, Dave spoke up with a smile. "Well, Jim, it's official. The court has given us permanent custody of you. It isn't official yet, and we'll be under observation for awhile, but for all intents and purposes, you are going to be our son."
All the blood left Jim's face. "That's - great," he choked out, not wanting to be rude.
Misinterpreting his response, Mrs. Marcus said, "Oh, he's overwhelmed. Jim, do you want to be alone for awhile in your room?"
"Yeah," he croaked, then got up and left. He went to his room in a daze. This couldn't be happening. He didn't want to be their son. Spock had, apparently, sat by and done nothing through this whole ordeal, so he must not want him. Jim breathed fast, in agony. He loved Spock so much. Although the Marcus's were okay, they weren't family to him. They weren't HOME.
Feeling completely lost, Jim began to pry at his window. He had to get OUT, away from here, somewhere. He couldn't stay anymore. Succeeding in getting it open, he climbed through and did his best to get it shut after him. Then he set off in the vague direction of Spock's house, not really intending to go there, but wanting to be in the proximity.
It took a while for the Marcus's to figure out that Jim had left. When they realized he was nowhere on the premises, they were frantic, searching down the street and calling the neighbors. No one had noticed Jim anywhere. Finally it occurred to them to call Spock. He might know something about Jim they didn't, and where he might go.
They called the Vulcan, and Spock answered in flat, neutral tones. When informed that Jim had disappeared, his inflection changed slightly. "Do you believe that he was forcibly taken, or did he leave on his own power?" Spock inquired. If Jim had been taken by Nero, he would have to go through with his own kidnapping plan, laws be damned.
"He seems to have left of his own free will," said Dave, frustrated. "We'd just told him we're going to be his official family. He didn't take it as well as we hoped he would."
"I will make my own inquiries. Please keep me informed." Spock cut the connection. While he was relieved that Nero did not seem to be the cause, it was worrying that Jim had run off like this. He could have gotten into any kind of trouble. Spock went out to the Jellyfish and entered the ship, hurrying as fast as he could. "Jellyfish, scan area for Romulan life signs."
"Ambassador Spock, welcome back. Scanning. No Romulan life signs detected within range." Spock sighed with relief. Still, Jim was missing. where would he go? Spock pulled up the map on the screen, eying different areas thoughtfully. On a hunch, he scanned the cliff where Jim had totaled the car. There! One life sign, where there should be none. It could be him.
Spock called McCoy, but the doctor was unavailable, and he was unwilling to wait on hold, wanting Jim to be retrieved now before he got into serious trouble. While he did not believe Jim would kill himself, he did not like to think of what other things he could be up to. It suddenly occurred to him that there was someone else he could call, who would know how to handle the situation and be willing to be discreet about his interference. Decision made, he called Erin the social worker.
Erin responded promptly in her cheerful, if grammatically incorrect, tones. Spock told her his hunch of where Jim was. Erin agreed to go check it out, and to let him know if she found him.
Jim sat by the edge of the cliff quietly, his mind mostly blank. If he looked closely enough, he thought he could see the remnants of the car among the rocks below. Kind of poetic symmetry with how his life felt like right now. He didn't know how much time had passed until he heard a speeder approach and stop. He didn't bother to move. He had nowhere to go, anyway.
"Hey Jim!" he heard, 'Jim' coming out like 'Jee-im.' There was only one female southerner that he was on first name basis with. It must be Erin. He glanced up, noting she was standing beside him now, then moved his gaze back to the car below.
"Jim, I'm so sorry. Those courts are fucking idiots. Some days I don't know why I continue to work with em! Especially after this fucking mistake of theirs. I don't care what they think, I'm going to give them a piece of my mind."
Jim was faintly surprised that she would use such foul and blunt language in his presence. All the same, in distant sort of way, he was glad of her fury for his sake.
"Ya know, Spock was right about ya, he knew ya would be here," she commented rather deliberately.
Jim turned to her, his interest finally having been caught. "Spock told you to look here?"
"That he did, Jim," she informed him cheerfully. "He called me up, and asked me ta come looking here. Said he felt strongly that this is where ya'd go."
Jim's mind conjured an image of Spock, with a southern accent and Erin's grammar, saying "That's where ya ought ta go." If he wasn't so depressed, he'd laugh. "How did he find out that I'd left? How is he? Will I be able to see him?"
"Slow down there, Jim! The Marcus's thought he might know where ya were, so they called him. He seemed fine, but suppressing the hell out of himself, by the sound of his voice. I don't know when ya'll be able to see him, Jim. They want ya ta settle in completely with no distractions. Which is bullshit."
"I don't know if he'd want to see me anyway," said Jim glumly. It had been a while since anyone had really listened to him, so he couldn't help but open up to her. "He - I don't know, just got so distant with me sometimes. And he was so distant when I left. It was like he didn't even care. I really thought he did want me, he said so, it had seemed like it with all he did, but then he started to get real confusing when - "
"Whoa, wait a second there, Jim," interrupted Erin. "Ya are forgetting something. Now, in my social work, I specialized in xenopsychology. Especially Vulcans. That's why I was put on the case. Ya are forgetting that he's Vulcan. Now, I know you can probably count the number of Vulcans ya've met on one hand, if ya've even met any before. But I've studied them extensively. Jim, for them ta say anything remotely affectionate is HUGE for them. They are always about logic this, and logic that, all the time, and affectionate statements just don't have a place in their society. If he said he wanted ya, he definitely wants ya, and being the most stubborn and constant of species, he won't change his mind."
"But he's only half - "
"I know, Jim. He's only half Vulcan, but it's a dominant gene, he was raised on Vulcan, and spent much of his long life there, so for all intents and purposes, he's Vulcan. I'm serious about this, Jim. Ya have ta consider, too, that the way Vulcans raise their children is very different from the way humans are raised, and he's not as free and knowledgeable about emotions as humans are. Most likely, ya've got a communication problem. Not too surprising, and perhaps I should have brought it up ta begin with. But unfortunately, it's all water under the bridge now. I'll do my best to arrange for you ta see him, but there's not much more I can do for ya at this point. Except kick the judge's butt."
Jim gave a faint smile at her offer, beginning to feel better.
"He was distant with you when you left, because that's how Vulcans deal with extreme emotions, is by suppressing them. When they run particularly flat, ya'll know something's bothering the hell out of them. Believe me, Jim, he didn't want ta see you go."
Jim was starting to believe her now. In a way, though, it made him feel worse, knowing what he had lost, and might never see again. He slumped away a bit from her again.
"Jim, I'm sorry. But now I have to get you back to the Marcus's," she informed him. Jim reluctantly followed her into her speeder. He was jolted a bit out of his depression by her crazy driving. A small thrill came over him, and he cracked a small smile. He wondered if he'd ever see Erin after this, since his case was over. Probably not.
When they arrived, Erin texted a quick message to Spock, saying she'd found Jim alive and well and had returned him. She walked up the drive with Jim and rang the doorbell, waiting for someone to answer the door.
Mrs. Marcus answered. "You found him!" she said happily, but her smile fell from her face when she saw Jim's expression. "How did you find him?" she asked Erin.
"Mr. Spock told me where ta look," she informed the other woman. "He was absolutely right!"
"Mr. Spock does seem to have more success with him than we have," observed Mrs. Marcus thoughtfully, looking at Jim with compassion. She hadn't realized, even with all the things Jim had said, how deep the boy's feelings ran for the old man. She had thought the stress and helplessness he felt at the situation made him act the way he did, wanting to hold on to something permanent. She had thought offering him something permanent would solve the problem. She had been wrong. It seemed the kid truly loved Mr. Spock, and would thrive no where else.
"Why don't you both come in? I need to let everyone know you've been found, Jim!" Mrs. Marcus said after a moment.
"All right," said Erin, squeezing Jim's hand and bringing him along. Jim wordlessly followed her in with a nod. The whole Marcus family was there. Mr. Marcus looked like he wanted to give Jim a stern talking to, but Mrs. Marcus pulled him aside, into another room.
That left Jim, Carol, and Erin together. Erin asked Carol all about herself and her ambition to get a doctorate in laboratory work, seeming to know that Jim wanted to be left alone right now. There was only one person he want to see, and it wasn't her. She didn't take it personal. In fact, she thought it was kind of cute, in a sad sort of way.
Mr. and Mrs. Marcus came out after a bit, asking to speak with Erin alone. She left. Now it was just Carol and Jim. An awkward silence pervaded the air. After all, he'd just shown how upset he was at becoming part of her family.
"Hey," said Jim finally, feeling he should give in to the inevitable. If he was going to be forced to live with them, he might as well try to get along. "I didn't do it to hurt you. It's not that I don't want to become your brother."
"I know, you want to be with the person you feel is your parent, just like I would," she said. "Can we still be friends?"
"Yeah," said Jim, suddenly feeling bad about how he'd been treating her. "Look, I'm sorry about how I've been. You've been very nice to me, and I haven't been very thankful."
"It's okay, Jim," she said. "I understand."
He smiled at her, and she smiled back. They waited patiently for the adults to come back, wondering what they could be talking about.
Erin came out several minutes later, looking quite cheerful, her blue eyes sparkling. "Well, Jim, I'm all finished here, so I'll see ya later, okay?"
"Okay. Thanks for everything, Erin," said Jim.
"You're welcome! Bye ya'll!" she called as she went out the door.
It was now quite late. "Why don't we call it a night?" suggested Mrs. Marcus. "We have somewhere we all need to go early tomorrow morning. We need to go back to the courthouse to finalize some business."
Jim nodded in defeat. He couldn't escape what would happen now.
The next morning, they arrived at the courthouse bright and early. Jim thought he recognized Spock's speeder there, but thought he definitely must be mistaken. He wasn't allowed to see him. Firmly attempting to banish all thoughts of Spock from his mind, he continued inside. He didn't pay much attention as they filled out a bunch of paperwork. Carol kept looking at him with a smug air of knowing something he didn't. It was very annoying, and insensitive, in his opinion.
Finally they were done. They turned to Jim, with sad but understanding smiles on their faces. "Jim," said Dave, "We would love to have you as a son. But the events of last night has shown us that we really aren't the ones for you, and the judge agrees. Your new, permanent father is waiting for you in the next room." They gestured for him to go.
Jim went, scarcely daring to hope, scarcely daring to believe. He opened the door, and saw a very familiar and welcome face.
"SPOCK!!!!" Jim shouted with glee. Unable to hold himself back, he launched himself at the stoic Vulcan, hugging him with all the strength he had. He sobbed lightly a few times, then began babbling, "I've missed you, I've missed you so much Spock, are you really my father now?" Jim looked up at Spock in adoration.
"That is correct, Jim," said Spock, his eyes sparkling happily. "You are my son now." Spock was now hugging him back quite firmly.
"Can I call you dad?" asked Jim a bit shyly.
Spock warmed at the thought of Jim using that affectionate word in reference to him. "You may," he said, his eyes continuing to sparkle. With one hand, he stroked Jim's face and hair in an intimate gesture, then bent down and kissed Jim's forehead several times.
Jim felt his face heat up with pleasure from the intense and unfamiliar affection, especially considering everything Erin had told him. When he could speak, he said, "I love you, dad."
"I love you too, Jim," said Spock. "This time of separation with the possibility of it being permanent was not to my preference. I have - missed you also, Jim."
Still holding on tight to Spock, Jim demanded with excitement, "Are we going to go and get my things now? Am I moving back in with you today?!"
"That is the plan," confirmed Spock. "However, if we are to accomplish that, it would be more efficient if you were to stop hugging me."
Jim let go immediately, looking like he was about to apologize, but Spock stopped him quickly. "Jim, being more efficient does not mean I think it would be more desirable. I was engaging in what you humans refer to as a joke."
Jim beamed at him. "You mean, you like it when I hug you?"
"They are to my preference," admitted Spock.
"Okay," said Jim happily, giving him another one, which Spock returned. Spock reveled in the feeling of being returned with Jim. He and Jim, either one, never did well separated. Now, Jim was HIS son, and no one could take him away.