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Commander Winona Kirk of Starfleet grabbed the remote and clicked off the view screen. She couldn’t stand one more second of the obsessive media coverage of her younger son.

 

Ever since the Narada Incident, the interstellar press, fawning stupidly, had followed James Kirk’s every move—from his unprecedented appointment as captain of the USS Enterprise to his even more unprecedented engagement to his First Officer, Commander Spock, one of less than 100,000 Vulcans left in the universe.

 

Winona’s lip curled. Not that Spock was pure Vulcan, of course, His mother was a human, which made him nothing more than a half-breed, and probably a laboratory-engineered half-breed at that. And he was male—worse and worse. Winona Kirk was the daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of Southern Baptist preachers, and their views on genetic engineering and same-sex unions were unchanged from the 20th century—which is as it should be, she thought stubbornly. The laws of God and nature are not some fad, to be changed at a whim. But here was her son, who had always been a disappointment, merrily going on the path to Hell, with the press and the public cheering every move. Winona’s lips tightened in irritation. This never would have happened if his father had lived—George would have slapped some sense into him. But George had died, died even before he had a chance to see his newborn son, and Winona had been left to struggle on alone. Frankly, she’d washed her hands of Jim a long time ago. But now here he was, back in her life, expecting her to endorse his foolish, sinful choices.

 

Winona glanced at the engraved ivory parchment which had arrived by messenger earlier in the day—an invitation from Ambassador Sarek and his wife the Lady Amanda, inviting Commander Winona Kirk to join them at the Vulcan Embassy for a celebration of their sons’ bonding. Winona would have liked to toss the invitation into the house recycler, but she knew that if she didn’t attend, the press would have a field day. Worse, her superiors in Starfleet would be asking some very pointed questions. Jim Kirk was the greatest boon to recruitment that had happened in fifty years, and right now, he was untouchable. She’d have to put in appearance and make small talk with those creepy, expressionless robots at the Vulcan Embassy. But she wouldn’t have to like it.

 

 

Jim woke slowly, cocooned in warmth and softness. Who would have thought that Vulcans had such great mattresses? Jim smiled to himself and snuggled up against the warm body whose arms held him so gently, so protectively. Of course, the company in his bed probably had something to do with how wonderful he felt. Jim still couldn’t believe that Spock loved him, really loved him, right down to his last crooked toenail. Jim had never been loved like that before, with such utter acceptance and trust, such utter warmth and adoration. He didn’t have to try to please Spock—his very existence pleased his mate, just as the fact that Spock lived and breathed was all that Jim needed. Even more amazing, Spock’s parents loved Jim too. Ambassador Sarek was proud of them both in his restrained, lordly way, but Jim knew Sarek loved him, too, because Spock’s father had quietly taken him aside when they first met and told him so. Actually, what he had said was, “I can not thank thee sufficiently for coming into my son’s life, James, for making him whole. From this day forward, thou are my son as well.” As far as Jim was concerned, that translated into love.

 

And Amanda—Jim smiled whenever he thought of Spock’s mother. She was absolutely wonderful, so warm, so funny, so—motherly. She had taken Jim into her heart from the first day they met, and Jim knew she loved him as much as she loved the child of her own blood. Jim knew he was supposed to love his own mother, and for much of his life, he had tried. But it had never worked. Winona had spent all of Jim’s life making sure she was somewhere else, consigning him to the tender care of paid hirelings and later, a drunken step-father. Jim knew why his mother couldn’t deal with him—she looked at Jim Kirk and saw George Kirk. But that wasn’t Jim’s fault. For a very long time, some part of him had believed that it was his fault. But Spock had cured him of that. Very early in their relationship, Spock had turned to him one night and simply taken him into his arms, holding him close to Spock’s heart, his hand gently smoothing Jim’s hair.

 

Ashaya,” Spock had said tenderly. “You owe your mother no debt for your father’s death nor for the fact that you wear his face. Both circumstances were far beyond your control. It grieves me that your mother cannot see the man you are, cannot treasure you as you deserve to be cherished.” He’d gently kissed the single tear that had slipped down Jim’s face. “I will not make that mistake,” he’d whispered.

 

Ever since, Jim’s heart had slowly healed. The scars would always be there, but Jim no longer thought of himself as Winona Kirk’s disappointment. He thought of himself as Spock’s mate and as Sarek and Amanda’s much-loved second son.

 

 

The main reception hall in the Vulcan embassy was crowded with Vulcan aristocrats and Starfleet brass, a strange combination that nonetheless seemed to work. Scattered among them was a healthy sprinkling of Enterprise crew members, all of them happy to be included in the celebrations leading up to the formal bonding ceremony between Jim and Spock, scheduled in two days’ time.

 

Dr. Leonard McCoy sipped some of the best Kentucky bourbon he’d tasted in a long time and beamed at Spock’s mother. “Quite the shindig, Mrs. Sarek,” he said, his southern accent thickening as it often did when he talked to a pretty woman.

 

She smiled. “I really can’t take credit,” she replied graciously. “The Embassy has a wonderful staff, and they…” She stopped talking abruptly, her keen green eyes taking in a scene at the far end of the room. Commander Winona Kirk had finally arrived, and she was in a corner with Jim. Even from this distance, Amanda could see his hunched, unhappy posture as his mother was obviously haranguing him. Amanda knew, because Spock had told her, just how dreadful Winona had always been to Jim. Spock, talking with Elder T’Pau, had also obviously spotted the two of them and was setting down his glass, getting ready no doubt to go over and snap Winona’s neck like a twig, As satisfying as that would be, it would certainly put a damper on the evening’s festivities. Amanda caught her son’s eye.

 

No, she said, as clearly as if she were speaking. Let me handle this.

 

Reluctantly, Spock nodded. Amanda knew that as soon as the coast was clear, he would swiftly move to comfort his bond mate, which was how it should be. Amanda made her way across the crowded room, coming up behind her target, getting an earful.

 

“Of all the embarrassing, freakish…my God, Jim, you always were indiscriminate, but I never though you’d be spreading yourself for a…” Winona’s voice was low, but not low enough. Jim’s flushed face was both angry and unhappy, but he was obviously trying to restrain himself, not wanting to cause a scene, not wanting to get into it with his mother.

 

Amanda had no such compunctions.

 

“Jim,” she said gently. “Spock is looking for you.” She turned on Winona as Jim gratefully slipped away.

 

“You,” Amanda snapped. “With me. Now.” She grabbed Winona’s upper arm in a grip that would dent titanium and hustled her out of the French doors and into the garden. Winona was at least three inches taller and probably had 30 pounds on Spock’s mother, but Amanda didn’t let either fact slow her down. Winona tried to pull away and discovered that 30-plus years in Vulcan’s heavier gravity had given Amanda arms of steel—and she was using them.

 

“Hey!” Winona protested as Amanda manhandled her down the terrace steps. “What do you think you’re….ooph!” Winona gasped as the Lady Amanda, the proper, dignified, diplomatic wife of Ambassador Sarek, spun her around and backed her up against the nearest tree, taking quiet satisfaction in the sound Winona’s head made as it thumped against the bark.

 

“Now,” Amanda hissed, getting right up in Winona’s face, “we need to make something clear. I don’t give a damn about you. I don’t care if you’re Starfleet’s poster child for widows. I don’t care if you’re a legend in your own mind.”

 

“Why you….you can’t talk….”

 

“Shut up,” Amanda snapped, threading her fingers into those bleached blond locks and thumping Winona’s head against the tree again for good measure. “The grown-up’s talking.”

 

Winona took one look at those ice-green eyes, and her mouth snapped shut.

 

“Now,” Amanda said softly, conversationally, “I’m not here to play mediator. If your relationship with Jim is an utter disaster, that’s your problem. You weren’t there for him as a child; don’t waste your breath excusing or explaining; I’m not your confessor, and I don’t want to hear one pathetic word. Yes, you got dealt a terrible hand; I get that. But Jim wasn’t a burden; he wasn’t a ‘terrible reminder of George’s death,’—yeah, I know you trotted out that steaming pile of bullshit as a way to make him feel guilty for his very existence.” For just one instant, Amanda considered rapping Winona’s head against the tree trunk one more time, but she decided against it. A concussion would be difficult to explain to the authorities, even if she did have diplomatic immunity. She settled for pressing a couple more bruises in the arm she was still gripping.

 

“Jim was never your burden.” She shook Winona to drive the lesson home. “Jim was a gift, your husband’s last precious gift to you, but you were too selfish and too dammed stupid to see that. So, fine. He doesn’t need you now. He’s a grown man, a starship captain, and a hero. And he has a family—a bond mate who loves him more than anything else in the universe and two parents who love and cherish him for who he is, not who they think he ought to be.” She gave Winona one last teeth-rattling shake and then let her go. “And if you don’t like the fact that Spock’s not a blue-eyed, blond human female, well—that’s just too damned bad.” She smiled sweetly. “I’m sure Starfleet Command would like to know that the distinguished Commander Winona Kirk is a xenophobic, homophobic bigot!”

 

“You wouldn’t,” Winona gasped.

 

“Try me.” Amanda’s lips curled back in a mirthless smile. “I’m very good friends with Admiral Pike—did I mention that? And he is very well acquainted with the Starfleet disciplinary board that handles discrimination issues. How would you like to be Lt. Kirk? I can make it happen.” She took one step back and smoothed the wrinkles from her chiffon gown.

 

“Now,” Amanda said calmly. “You are going to wipe that whiny pout off your face. You are going to go inside quietly, attract Jim’s attention quietly, and take him off into a corner, where you are going to give him your sincere congratulations and best wishes. You will then excuse yourself quietly and go home, order a Belgian waffle maker from Interstellar Overstock.com, and send it to the Vulcan Embassy with a nice card. Then, get the Hell out of Jim’s life. We’ll call you when the first grandchild arrives.” She turned to go.

 

“The first what?” Winona gasped in utter horror. Amanda turned around and gave her another smile.

 

“Oh,” she cooed. “I guess no one ever told you about the auxiliary uterus Vulcan males possess. I don’t doubt they’ll use it. Jim and Spock adore each other, and they love children.”

 

With that, she was gone.

 

 

“I don’t believe it.” Jim came into the guest suite they were occupying at the Vulcan Embassy, a card in his hand. Spock looked up from where he was curled in the window seat, reading one of his mother’s treasured paper books.

 

“What do you not believe, ashaya?” he asked, himself still unable to believe that this incredible individual belonged to him for life.

 

Jim handed him the card. “My mother sent us a wedding present—a Belgian waffle maker,” he said with a grin. “I don’t know how she knew I wanted one, but it’s a beauty.”

 

“That is wonderful, t’hy’la,” Spock replied, quietly pleased. He knew exactly who had given Winona her orders regarding a gift.

 

“There’s just one thing I don’t get,” Jim said, sinking down next to Spock and wrapping his arms around his mate’s waist, laying his head on Spock’s shoulder.

 

“And that is?”

 

“The card,” Jim nodded at the ivory pasteboard still in Spock’s hand. “She says something about looking forward to being a grandmother.”

 

Spock hid his smile, set the card aside, and drew his love closer. “Ashaya,” he said gently, “there is something I should explain about Vulcan biology….”

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