Thanks to estralita, logicallyillogical, Tonati, vitaminH, and kimey for reviewing! You are awesome! Also, Sam does not exist in this universe. Thanks to Peachly for beta-ing!
Chapter 05: A New Enterprise
Spock continued to send things to Jim through the transporter and beamed the items back when Jim was done. Jim's luck finally held out, and he was not caught. However, Jim thought one of his ribs might be slightly cracked, since it still hurt to breathe. Otherwise, he continued to feel better and better over the next few days. Frank left him alone mostly, but Winona finally brought him food and water. She left without saying a word, and he wondered if she had defied Frank to do it. From her behavior, he thought she had.
He had still not completely recovered, however, when Frank dragged him out to make dinner. Jim struggled, but it was not as bad as the last time he did it. He felt he would soon be well enough to go to school. He actually couldn't wait. Maybe he could figure out a way to sneak a visit to Spock.
"Jimmy," said Winona as they sat down to eat. "Since Frank hasn't found a job, I searched for a temporary one in Starfleet. I found one off-planet. It will only be for a couple months, but it should help us get by for a while until Frank can find something. Since Frank won't be able to watch you all the time, we've asked the Stecks to help part of the time. They agreed."
Jim knew it wasn't a good idea, but he couldn't help but ask. "Why can't Mr. Spock just watch me? He seems willing to." Which was a bit of an understatement, Jim was beginning to realize.
Frank's face looked angry, and he was about to say something, but Winona uncharacteristically cut him off. "We'll ask Mr. Spock to watch you if none of our other neighbors are available. We're concerned about his influence over you."
Jim immediately began plotting various ways he could make all his neighbors 'unavailable.' Even if it angered Frank, it would be worth it. Somehow, he was going to see Mr. Spock again, no matter what it took.
He would find a way to win.
"When are you leaving?" Jim finally asked.
"In a few days. Frank is going to drive me to the transporter station while you are at school, so I'll say goodbye beforehand."
Jim stared at Winona for a moment. His mom was being unusually sentimental, for her standards anyway. Could it be that she was upset she was leaving him?
They ate the rest of the meal in silence. Jim vaguely wondered if Frank was upset Winona was leaving, since it was rare for him to be so quiet. Especially when Jim was there to rant about.
They still did not return his comm, but he did not care. Spock was letting him keep the one he gave him, and had informed him if he did not hear from him in a set amount of time, he would beam over another one, so he'd never be without one. Jim did not normally talk with older people (and had certainly never been around someone as old as Spock) but found Spock was easy to text with. It kind of amused him, in a way, that Spock was such a texter. He had never known any adults to do much of it unless necessary. But Spock seemed to genuinely enjoy it. Jim was trying to subtly get him to use text speak. He giggled quietly every time he succeeded. He could almost hear Spock's careful diction pronouncing the acronyms with skepticism.
The morning he went back to school, he also had to say goodbye to his mother. She seemed tenser than usual, and the look in her eyes suggested she'd come to some sort of realization, although Jim could not begin to guess what it was.
"Bye, Jimmy," she said. "Listen to Frank, and don't get into trouble. I'll be back before you know it."
"Bye, mom," said Jim. "See you in a few months." The bus pulled up outside his house, so he quickly left. He couldn't say he was particularly sad to see her go.
Gary and Ben accosted him as soon as he found them sitting near the back.
"Hey!" said Gary.
"Hey Jim, glad to see you back!" greeted Ben.
"I'm glad to be back," said Jim. They scooted over, and Jim crammed in with them. "I feel a lot better."
"When are you going to see Spock again?" asked Gary.
"I don't know. My parents don't want me to see him...actually, my mom just left today to go off planet. They've asked the neighbors to help watch me. If they're all busy they'll ask Spock."
"We'll figure out a way. If all else fails, we can distract Frank while Spock beams you there and back," said Gary.
Jim hesitated, very tempted to accept the offer. He wanted to see Spock again like nobody's business. "We'll figure it out," agreed Jim, not specifically agreeing to the plan. He didn't want his friends to see for themselves how Frank was.
They caught Jim up on all he had missed. Marlena, a girl Jim had a small crush on, had kept asking if he was okay. Finnegan was up to his old tricks, pranking Gary a few more times. His teachers had assigned oodles of homework. Jim was not looking forward to catching up on all of it.
As Jim walked down the hallway for his first class, a poster on the bulletin board stopped him in his tracks.
A NEW ENTERPRISE!
Riverside Shipyard is proud to begin construction on the new starship, the Enterprise. In celebration of this event, there will be a limited amount of tours offered, including a simulation in the new bridge. One is being offered to Riverside Public School. To win a spot, write an essay detailing what makes a good starship captain. The best ten essay writers from Riverside Public School will go.
Jim immediately decided to enter, even though he did not have much time. That would so rock. The only difficulty would be Frank. But he would just have to find a way around it. He could already see himself in the simulation, captaining the ship.
In fact, most of the day he was caught up in his little daydream of captaining the ship. He didn't dare tell anyone, though. They would probably laugh at him. Him, captaining a starship. He couldn't even get Frank to leave him alone, how could he command 400 people and fight bad guys to boot? But the fantasy wouldn't leave him alone. He imagined exploring new planets and meeting new alien species. Fighting Klingons and Romulans. Rescuing ships from pirates. Protecting Earth and the United Federation of Planets. Wearing the captain's gold, and sitting in that chair. A lot of fantasies revolved around sitting in that command chair. He could imagine himself barking out orders and sharing commendations. For some reason, though, Spock was there in the fantasy all the time, sitting at the Science station as his First Officer. His mind made him a bit younger and nimbler than he was now, but much the same in personality. He bet Spock would make a total kickass First Officer.
Too bad it would never happen.
Gary and Ben frequently pulled him out of the daydream, talking about random things, but he quickly drifted off again. He saw Marlena give him a small, shy smile, and he gave a broad one back, wondering if she'd like him better if he was a captain. In gym, he imagined himself in various mission scenarios as he did the different exercises. In history, he imagined what it would be like for his exploits around the galaxy to be in the textbooks.
In short, he'd found a new obsession and desire. It was probably silly to think he could make it as a captain. But he couldn't help it.
Jim arrived back home that day, wondering who would be in the house. He found Mrs. Steck, their next door neighbor, sitting in the living room. He didn't know her very well, but she didn't seem too bad. "Hi Mrs. Steck," he greeted her.
"Hi Jimmy. Frank is out, so he called me to be here when you arrived from school. How are you? I heard you weren't at school for a few days."
"I'm much better now. I was sick with a mild case of pneumonia."
"I'm glad you're better!" she said.
He suddenly got the feeling she was searching for a way to bring up a sensitive subject. "What would you like to do today?"
"I want to go visit Mr. Spock, who lives down the road," Jim said immediately. He wondered if Frank had communicated any sort of ban to her. If not, he would definitely take advantage of that.
She looked torn, and bit her lip nervously. "About that..." she started, sounding very unsure. She switched to a different approach. "I talked to a Dr. McCoy a few days ago," she told him.
"What did he say?" demanded Jim, trying to keep the alarm out of his voice.
"Well, he didn't say a whole lot, just that he was concerned about you and wanted to know what I thought. I really didn't know what to say, honestly, I don't know you that well. Is there anything you would like to tell me?"
He could tell she was withholding something from him. Anxious now, he responded, "No, it's okay...I'm going to put my bag in my room," he said.
"Okay." She steeled herself. "Well, Frank says he doesn't want you to see Spock, yet Dr. McCoy has told me I should let you anyway. Jimmy, if I knew what was going on, I would be more inclined to let you go."
Jim froze, torn between two strong desires. No way did he want to admit anything went on, yet, he also really wanted to see Spock.
Mrs. Steck read into the silence. "You don't have to go into details or anything. But if I should be keeping a sharper eye out, I would like to know, and if you need help with Frank, I would like to know that too, especially since your mother is gone."
"Frank gets...really mad at me sometimes," admitted Jim, trying not to think too hard about the sore rib he was mostly ignoring. "He swears and gets drunk and stuff."
"Is that all, honey?" she asked.
"He doesn't...care when I'm sick," added Jim reluctantly. He hoped this would be enough.
Mrs. Steck was smart enough to read between the lines. Gets drunk + swears + angry, insensitive and rather cruel treatment + the unpleasant things she had witnessed on occasion + concern of a doctor, who would see physical signs = abuse. Unfortunately, there was little she felt she could do to help. She was not a brave woman and did not feel like she could stand up to Frank. But she really, really wanted to help. McCoy seemed to think Spock could do something, and handle Frank, with relative ease. If she could support the relationship with Mr. Spock, she would be doing something to help, even if she didn't have the guts to do it herself. "Well, Jimmy...if you want to see Mr. Spock, I'll see what we can do. But we're going to have to keep it a secret, okay? There has to be no way Frank can find out."
Jim straighted, a broad grin overtaking his face. "Yes, ma'am!" he said eagerly. He ran up the stairs and deposited his bag on his bed. How could they be sure Frank wouldn't find out? They would have to be sure when he would be coming and going, obviously, and come up with a good cover story. The biggest problem seemed to be knowing when Frank would be returning. He could be very unpredictable. If Mrs. Steck agreed to stay at his house as a lookout, then turn the comm on when she saw Frank, Spock could hurry and beam him back, with Frank none the wiser.
But there was a problem with that, too. Spock had wanted him to keep his transporter a secret. He'd told Dr. McCoy, but he thought that was probably because patient confidentiality would come into play. He would just have to check with Spock to see if he could tell her.
JKirk: Hi Spock, I just got home and Mrs. Steck is here. She'll let me visit you as long as Frank doesn't find out. I was thinking we could use her as a lookout and use your transporter to beam me back and forth. Is this okay? She'd know about your transporter then obviously.
It did not take long for a reply.
Spock: You are referring to Alice Steck, your neighbor? If you feel she will keep the secret, I find this plan acceptable. Comm me when you wish to beam over. I believe the term is, "CU" soon?
Jim giggled to himself at Spock's attempt at text-speak. He loved it when Spock humored him like that. Eager to see Spock, he sprinted back downstairs to outline his plan to Mrs. Steck. She seemed nice and he thought he wouldn't have to worry about her telling anyone about Spock's transporter. She agreed to keep the secret and be the lookout, so Jim immediately sent Spock a message.
JKirk: Ready for beaming.
Jim ran upstairs to retrieve his bag. He had a lot of homework to catch up on, and Spock could probably help him if he needed it. That Vulcan knew everything. He went back to the living room, and stood for a minute. He felt a thrill of excitement when the familiar tingling sensation informed him of his imminent arrival at Spock's.
Jim thought he would explode with excitement when he materialized on Spock's platform. He immediately spotted Spock at the controls. "Mr. Spock!" he cried out eagerly.
"Jim," Spock answered, his eyes smiling. "I am pleased to see you looking better."
"Thanks to you," insisted Jim, stepping off the platform. He really wanted to hug Spock, but he wasn't sure if the Vulcan would want that or not, so he kept it to himself. "I have a lot of homework to catch up on, though."
"I would be glad to be of assistance," said Spock.
Jim, so far, had successfully hid his sore rib, having much practice at doing so. However, Jim was not aware that Spock had forty some years experience with Jim Kirk, and could spot it instantly.
"Jim, you are hurt," he stated, reaching forward to touch the rib gently.
"I'm fine," said Jim. He genuinely thought he was. Although it had hurt so bad he had initially thought it was cracked again, it felt a lot better now. Spock, though looking skeptical for a moment, seemed to accept his judgment.
They headed to the living room, and they both settled on the couch. Jim found Spock to be very helpful with his homework, and, despite having missed so many classes he felt confident that he knew just as much, if not more than, the other students who had made it to school. Jim was beginning to see where McCoy got the walking computer thing from. Spock could spit out an amazing amount of facts in a short period of time like nobody's business.
As the excitement wore off some, Jim once again found himself thinking of the Enterprise poster. He hadn't told anyone anything (although he believed Gary might have guessed it), and he wasn't sure he wanted to tell Spock. Spock was a genius, the type who would fit in a command team on a starship, although Jim had no idea if he'd ever been on one, much less commanded. Nonetheless, if anyone was in a position to say Jim was silly, it would be Spock.
Yet Spock had never done anything of the sort. He'd always been nothing but encouraging, supportive, and respectful. If he told Spock, he might help him make his essay good enough to win a place on the Enterprise construction tour. Jim wanted it bad enough that he decided to risk it.
"Did you hear that Riverside Shipyard is building a new starship? The Enterprise?" asked Jim after a few quiet minutes.
Spock turned to face him fully. He always appeared interested in whatever Jim had to say, but now he was especially intent. "I did hear a rumor of it, yes."
"At my school, they're having a contest. You're supposed to write an essay of what you think makes a good starship captain. The best ten get to go on a tour of the construction and a simulation on the bridge."
Spock had a strange look on his face that Jim could not quite place. "Indeed? Were you going to write an essay?"
"I've been working on one," Jim admitted. He'd worked on it in his head all day, and typed it up on the bus when Gary and Ben weren't looking. "I wanted to see what you thought."
"I am of course, willing to offer my opinion and assistance, as always," assured Spock.
Jim felt very self-conscious and nervous under Spock's intent gaze. He read his essay out loud, citing many times the importance of the crew and the ship, of placing them first. He believed a starship captain should never accept defeat, always believe there was a way out in any situation. In short, denying the existence of a no-win scenario. He believed the captain should have an active part in all missions, setting a good example for his crew, and being the first one to volunteer to risk danger. He should be the last to be rescued from the dangerous situations, and the first to step forward when a crew member was in need. He would know the name and interests of all his crew. He'd know about the ship in intimate detail. He would have great energy and gain the respect of his crew through his strength, and his respect of them.
When Jim finished and looked up nervously (Spock had hardly so much as breathed through the whole thing), he was shocked to see his eyes were glassy, with tears threatening to fall. "I - apologize," said Spock, his voice a bit choked. "I appear to be - emotionally compromised." He stood up and turned away.
Jim stood up, feeling very uncertain. "I'm sorry, Spock, I didn't mean to upset you. What's wrong?"
Spock's words were choked and hesitant. "I once served under - a captain, of - a ship. You remind me - of him. Very much. He died - many decades ago."
"I'm sorry," said Jim, feeling terrible. "I won't bring it up again."
Spock turned around abruptly. "It is of no consequence." He stepped close to Jim, and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Please, do not feel as though you cannot share this with me. I would be honored to help you with this. Understand that I now believe I understand the meaning of 'happy tears.'" Spock's eyes, though still a bit glassy, started showing hints of a real smile.
"My essay made you cry happy tears?" said Jim in disbelief. That was not what he had expected.
"Indeed, you are correct, Jim," confirmed Spock, his eyes smiling brighter. "I would be very surprised indeed if you did not win a spot among the ten."
Jim smiled broadly. Then his comm beeped. He looked at the caller ID. ASteck. "Frank's back," said Jim.
Spock's hand tightened on his shoulder and pulled him quickly to the transporter room. Within seconds, he materialized in his room, to hear Mrs. Steck talking to Frank loudly downstairs.
"Well, I've been reading down here, and Jim's been in his room, doing homework," she said, projecting her voice more than necessary. Jim knew it was for his benefit. He also could hear some fear in her voice. It had never occurred to him that she would be afraid of Frank. He felt a surge of gratitude that she was doing this for him. He'd have to do something really nice for her.
He decided to go downstairs to see her off. It was the least he could do, even if it meant being around Frank. "Hey Mrs. Steck. Are you leaving now?"
She looked very relieved to see him. He hoped Frank's usual lack of observation skills were in full effect. "Yes, Jimmy. I have to get started on dinner for Johnny. You should come over to play sometime."
"He's usually too busy," interjected Frank.
Jim knew that was code for : No way in hell. He decided to ignore that part of the conversation. "Thanks for watching me," he said, knowing she would know what he really meant.
"I'm glad to be of help," she said with a smile. "I hope I'll get to watch you again soon."
"See you later," said Jim. He thought she took her time going out the door, seemingly reluctant to leave him alone with Frank.
When she was gone, Frank looked him over suspiciously. "How come you haven't started dinner?"
"I had a lot of homework to catch up on," explained Jim.
"And whose fault is that?" Frank spat at him. "Yours, kid. I won't take any excuses. Now get started."
Jim felt his anger rising. All his life, he'd accepted Frank's treatment, because he didn't know any better. Now Spock's regard stood in sharp contrast to Frank's attitude, and he found it difficult to bear. He stomped off to the kitchen, too angry to speak.
He chose something simple, to get it over with quickly. He still had some homework to do, and he wanted to text his friends. Speaking of which... Jim paled. He still had his comm in his pocket. He'd been very lucky it hadn't gone off. As discreetly as possible, he shut it off, planning on hiding it in his room at the first opportunity. Frank did go outside long enough for Jim to hide it underneath his bed. Sighing in relief, he finished dinner and he and Frank sat down to eat.
Frank did his usual grumbling about Jim and life in general. Jim found he had little patience for it, and controlled his temper with difficulty. He managed to survive it somehow without blowing up at him, then went upstairs to finish his homework and do his secret texting.
JKirk: Hey, guess what! I got to visit Spock today. In secret, of course. Mrs. Steck helped us. I got to be with Spock for a few hours and we worked on my homework together. Did I mention he is a genius? I swear, people's IQ must shoot up several notches just by being in the same room with him.
GMitch: That's great, Jim. Did you tell him about the Enterprise poster? I saw the way you were looking at it.
Jim rolled his eyes. Of course he had seen.
JKirk: Yes, I did. What are you up to?
GMitch: Playing Galaxy Wars 360.
JKirk: No way! Your parents let you have it? That is the most awesome full immersion game ever! How can you do that and text at the same time?
GMitch: LOL, I manage somehow. Ben is here with me, actually, helping me with defense while I text you. He says hi.
Jim felt another surge of anger and also some jealousy. Frank never let him go to his friend's houses, saying he saw them enough at school. He never got to do anything like this. A wave of despair came over him. He was lucky he even got to see Spock. No way would he ever be able to do something fun like this.
JKirk: Hi Ben! Shoot all the bad guys for me!
GMitch: He says he shot five down just for you.
JKirk: Thanks Ben!
There was a long pause in the texts. Jim thought they were probably having too much fun with the game to think about replying. He knew it wasn't fair, but he was angry. When the reply finally came, however, it was not what Jim had expected.
GMitch: Hey Jim, we stopped playing. We were wondering what you and Spock talked about.
Jim frowned, getting the impression they were fishing for something specific, but they didn't want to admit what that was.
JKirk: Mostly about homework, and yes, about that poster too, and how he was glad I'm better.
There was another pause. Jim wondered if they were going to be more specific.
GMitch: We're glad you had a good time.
Jim was surprised at how quickly Gary had given up on whatever he had been trying to find out. Usually he was very persistent. He'd probably figured out another way to find out what he wanted to know. That meant, he must have decided to ask Spock. Jim was not in a charitable mood.
JKirk: If there's something you want to ask me, ask me.
GMitch: Jim, we know not everything is right at your house. We were wondering if you and Spock had discussed getting help.
Jim fumed. He knew they were just trying to help, but he was in no mood for it.
JKirk: It's fine. It's nothing I can't handle. You two get back to all the fun you're having with Galaxy Wars 360.
GMitch: We'll see you at school tomorrow.
Jim could not put into words why he did not want to accept Spock's help in getting him out of the house and his situation. He just knew he didn't want it. He didn't want his friend's pity, either, especially when they were off having fun themselves. Jim turned his comm off angrily. He felt like doing something reckless to prove himself capable of handling whatever came his way, himself.
Then he remembered his essay. It would not be long until he had to turn it in. Jim hoped, as mean as it was, that he won and his friends did not. It would show them to pity him. So he got down to work, editing it to make it flow smoother and correcting his grammar and spelling the best he could. Spock had really liked it the way it was, apparently, so he didn't take anything out, expanding upon the ideas instead. He felt his anger cool down a bit, and he felt bad for snapping at Gary and Ben. He would make it up to them tomorrow.
The next morning, Jim hurried to the principal's office to hand in his essay. He shifted from foot to foot nervously as the principal, Mr. Kalomi, read his essay. Jim didn't know much about him, except that he was married and had a daughter named Leila, who was a couple grades behind him. Originally he'd come from Hawaii.
When Mr. Kalomi finally looked up, Jim was surprised to see something like...pride and admiration in his eyes? He did not understand the effect his essay seemed to be having on people. He was just expressing his honest, and as Mr. Spock would say, logical opinion.
"Well, Jim," Mr. Kalomi said. "I'm very impressed. I'd be surprised if you didn't get chosen to come. But I'll give you the official word tomorrow."
"Thank you, Mr. Kalomi," said Jim.
"I'll let you get to class now. If you get reprimanded for being late, just tell your teacher to talk to me."
"I will. Thanks again," said Jim, leaving quickly. He took his place by Gary's side, just barely making it in time. Excited at how good things were looking, and finding it difficult to concentrate, he decided to write Gary a note.
"I gave my essay to Mr. Kalomi. He seemed to really like it and thought my chances were good. I can't wait to go!"
Gary wrote back: "Hey, that's great! I wrote an essay too, and so did Ben. It would be great to all go together."
Jim wrote: "We'll find out tomorrow!"
At lunch, Jim texted Spock.
JKirk: I gave my essay to Mr. Kalomi. He thinks I'm going to go. He'll tell everyone officially tomorrow.
Spock: I am delighted to hear it. Please keep me apprised of the situation. Enjoy the rest of your school day.
Jim did so. Even going home to Frank did not deplete his spirits. He caught up on his homework and made dinner earlier than usual. Frank did not comment, in fact he found less wrong with Jim than usual, and did not talk as much at dinner.
The next morning, Jim could hardly contain himself. He went to class early and sat down, impatiently waiting for the morning announcements. After what seemed like forever, Mr. Kalomi's familiar voice sounded over the intercom. Finally he would know!