There were times when James T. Kirk was absolutely pissed with his bondmate and that week was one of them. He knew that Spock had not been ‘at his top efficiency’ for the last few days, and yet when an uninhabited planet offered a scientific field trip the stubborn half-Vulcan he’d gone and gotten married to insisted on leaving the ship to go and explore, Captain Kirk could not exactly refuse him the opportunity, even though there was no need for Spock to go. Spock just wanted to go – despite the Vulcan not feeling well, though he knew Spock would have phrased it ‘not functioning at optimal levels,’ but he didn’t care how it could have been said anymore. Not two days later.
Not when he had to tell his little girl that the shore leave trip she’d been promised by her non-human father was going to have to happen instead with her human one.
He’d just seen Spock in Sickbay, where he’d made Bones swear that he’d keep Spock until he came back from shore leave with his daughter, thus preventing Spock from surprising them on the planet surface, and negating the entire argument they’d just had. For some reason Kirk found Spock in a bio bed far less intimidating than when he stood.
“So, off duty for five days, severely restricted physical activity.” He pointedly nodded at Spock’s bandaged and encased leg, so damaged that the standard regenerator couldn’t immediately fix him. It was going to take at least an entire day to simply repair the leg, and another few days of resting and gentle exercising. “How did uninhabited turn dangerous, Spock?”
“Your away missions have often resulted in the same perplexing phenomenon, as you are well aware.”
“Yeah, but I don’t go on away missions all that much anymore, or did you not notice that?”
“Of course I have noticed. You only participate in landing parties when your presence is most required.”
“Maybe you should try doing that once in a while.”
“My duties aboard this ship are to serve you as your first officer and science officer. Those duties are my priority. Please understand this, Jim,” he said, as he extended his first two fingers in the Vulcan kiss, the ozh-esta.
Which Jim did not reciprocate. “So, duty before your family. Is that logical? Why do you think I don’t go on away missions, Spock?” He saw the confusion on his bondmate’s face as the Vulcan withdrew his offered kiss. “It’s because I don’t have only myself to worry about now. Because if something happened to me, like if I died again, I don’t know what’ll happen to my little girl. From what you’re saying, she’ll end up ignored by her other parent because he thinks his duty is more important than his daughter. That’s why I stay on this ship, even though I would love to go planetside with you or Bones or Uhura or Scotty. Not because regulations say that captains shouldn’t accompany especially their first officers on away missions. I’ve ignored them the entire time I’ve had command, Spock, you know that. It’s because I refuse to neglect my kid when my own mother did that to me, repeatedly choosing ‘fleet over her kids. Because I love my daughter and she will know that.”
He saw the moisture in Spock’s eyes. When his bondmate looked at him, Kirk turned away. “Jim!”
“Just go into your damn trance and when you wake up, I hope you apologize to her for this.”
“I could not prevent my injury.”
“You could’ve not gone.” He stopped near the door, and looked back to his bondmate, whose eyes still shone with moisture. He knew he’d been harsh, but Spock had to know he couldn’t keep risking his life unnecessarily. He sighed. “I’ll see you when you wake up, okay?” Spock did not respond except for the tiny gasp as he breathed.
Kirk almost ran into McCoy on his way out of the private room where Spock lay. The doctor grabbed his upper arm. “Jim, listen there’s something that came up in Spock’s tests.”
“Can it wait?”
McCoy looked down at the padd he held, surprised. “I—I suppose, yeah. It’s not entirely urgent or anything, but it’s pretty imp—”
He turned away. “Then it’ll wait. Right now I have to go disappoint a child.” He left Sickbay.
She’d taken the news surprisingly well. Then again, she was still very young and remarkably adaptable to the unexpected. Jim suspected it was because she was growing up on a starship, where all kinds of strange and unexpected happened almost daily. He watched as she skipped excitedly ahead of him, but not too far away. Spock had given her very precise lessons and instructions on the maximum distance she was permitted to put between her or her guardian. And it was small. Only about five feet. He smiled as her wavy blonde hair bounced with her excitement as she hurried him from one observation tank to another, eager to see the next aquatic animal on display.
Ever since she had heard the story of the humpback whales from her grand-uncle Selek, she had been fascinated by animals that lived in oceans. She had wanted to see a humpback whale desperately, and had nagged both Jim and Spock for a solid two months before they were able to discover an aquarium that contained the closest thing to a humpback whale this far out in space. It would have to do. And when Jim had presented the next shore leave trip to his daughter, and promised a humpback whale exhibit, she had giggled.
“Daddy, that’s not a humpback whale,” she merrily informed him, pointing to the picture on the padd he was showing her. “They’re called Megaptera Nova-va…eang..li..a!” She smiled at him, immensely proud that she’d eventually gotten the scientific name right.
Jim had laughed. “Your ko-mekh’s been getting a head start on teaching you about whales, hasn’t he?”
She nodded. “Said I should understand the teery before seeing it for real.”
He knew that was most definitely not how Spock had phrased it, but it was close enough. He tried not to laugh. “Well, this whale is pretty close to humpback whales. It’s the bowhead whale.”
She shook her head at him in a way she clearly learned from Spock. “Close is not the same.”
He put the padd down. “Alright, tell you what. Next time we go back to Earth we’ll see the real deal, okay? There’s still a couple aquariums that have Megaptera Nova-va-eanglia whales. Would that be okay?”
She made a dramatic show of thinking about it before she beamed at him. Then she launched herself at his chest. “Just wanna see whales.”
She was enjoying herself way too much. Jim had to jog to keep up with her when she saw one specific whale swim past the observation point, and they were way too far away to get a good look. She would grab his hand and start running, her legs moving as fast as they could to drag her father behind her to see the whales. She was too short yet to read the display plaques about each specimen, so as she pressed herself up against the transparent aluminum to see the animals, Jim would read the description out loud. He knew that if Spock had been here, he would not need to read the plaque – he would already know more than the words provided. He felt momentarily inadequate. He was stuck reading this thing, while his daughter could only go so far away from him to hear the lesson.
He hadn’t even realized he’d stopped reading aloud until she turned to look at him, one of her curved eyebrows raised in perfect imitation of her Vulcan parent. “Keep going!” she commanded. He continued reading, even while imagining Spock standing directly behind her pointing to various parts of the animal that swam past, giving their daughter a thorough lesson.
All Jim could do was read the plaques.
Hours later, Jim was exhausted! They were walking through the gift shop, a location she had demanded was essential in visiting any museum. His communicator chirped as he lingered back several feet from where his baby girl was staring at the entire wall filled with a variety of stuffed animals. She’d been there for at least ten minutes. Apparently, she was searching for one particular species. He picked up the communicator. “Kirk here.”
“Jim,” McCoy’s tinny voice sounded loudly in the gift shop. “Just want you to know that Spock’s woken up. Still needs a cane for a day or two, but he’s mostly all patched up.”
“Okay, Bones.” He was about to disconnect when what his friend had said registered. “Wait, a cane?”
“Took a little convincing there, Jim-boy, but I told him he could use a cane and save some dignity or he could go around limping and have everyone on the ship think that you two get a little too—”
“Bones!” He shouted, unnecessarily covering the receptor of his communicator for a second. “My kid’s right here!”
The doctor guffawed. Jim scowled at the communicator. “Calm down, kid.” His laughter soon died away. “Anyway, just…just go easy on him, will ya? He was beating himself up since you left last night and didn’t see him before your trip. I mean…” He sighed. “Damnit, Jim, I know you two are like soulmates or whatever that word is, and if you two can’t work out with the bond you have, then what’s that mean for all us other mortals, you know?”
Jim knew that Bones had been lonely for a long time, and was holding on to the idea that he could find someone with whom he could have a relationship. There was some promise with Doctor Carol Marcus so far, but Jim knew that Bones was only going to deal with her teasing flirting for so much longer. He wondered if he should talk to Carol. Maybe.
Ever since his daughter had been born that loneliness grew. He’d sometimes find Bones in his office, a bottle of whiskey half empty, as he stared at the holo of his own daughter, Johanna. Jim knew that McCoy missed her in way he never hoped to experience. He only was able to see her when he could get some leave or when they were even remotely close to Earth. He looked at his own little girl, seeing her trying to decide between two stuffed animals, her small body blocking his view of the final two choices. Jim made a mental note to himself to make sure Bones had a long leave coming so that he could see Johanna. “I know, Bones,” he whispered. “I didn’t mean to yell at him.”
“He knows what you meant though, so that counts for something, right?”
“I still shouldn’t have yelled at him when he was hurt like that.”
“Now, don’t you start beating yourself up, too!” McCoy huffed to himself. “Just talk to your Vulcan, okay? You both have a lot to talk about, and you always wait til the last damn minute.”
“Okay, Bones,” Jim agreed, just as he saw his daughter put one stuffed animal back in the pile she’d found it, and studied her final choice. “We’ll be back soon. Taking her to dinner before we’re back on the ship.”
“Then you talk to your soulmate?”
“Yeah, then we’ll talk.” She started over to him. “Gotta go, Bones.” He shut the communicator and tucked it back onto his waist. “Whatchya got there, sweetie?”
He saw the blush spread on the tips of her pointed ears as she buried her face into the stuffed animal she’d picked out. Jim had been so happy that she’d been born with pointed ears that he would always insist on clipping her hair away from them to show off the delicate points. Her hair wasn’t long enough to tie back yet, but it could definitely be clipped. On one trip to New Vulcan, she had caught sight of Spock’s former betrothed, T’Pring, wearing a strange type of headband. Without hesitation, his daughter marched right up to her and asked her where she’d gotten such a pretty hair restraint. T’Pring had almost smiled at the assertive child, but she had graciously removed the headband and gifted it to his daughter. It became known as her special hair restraint.
“A whale,” she said, her voice muffled by the animal.
“Oh?” he asked, innocently. “What kind of whale?”
She looked up at him. “Humpback.”
“But we didn’t get to see any.”
She blushed again. “Well,” she began slowly. “The sign says that when you buy one, the credits go to helping humpbacks have more babies so they won’t be in dangered. They’re in dangered, Daddy, and I care about them. I don’t want them in dangered anymore. Everyone should care about things that are almost estinct.”
Jim felt his throat tighten. “That’s right, baby. Everyone should try to care for species that are almost extinct.”
Her bright blue eyes began to shine. “And you care about Ko-mekh, so…” It was like it explained everything.
And to Jim Kirk, it did.
He walked into their family suite with his sleeping and exhausted daughter in his arms. The stuffed humpback whale was squished between her and his chest, but he knew it would be fine. Jim walked as quietly as he could into her bedroom and somehow managed to pull back the covers so that he could put her to bed. He knew that Spock would never let her sleep in the clothes she’d worn during the day, but Jim had no intention of waking his daughter up just to have her change her clothes. He tucked her in snugly, and nuzzled her new stuffed whale next to her cheek. After a light kiss to her forehead, he headed back out of her room to try to get some sleep of his own.
“Daddy?” Her voice was low with sleepiness.
Jim turned back to her. “Yeah, sweetie?”
“What’s a soulmate?”
Of all the questions she could have asked, that was one he was not expecting. He knew he would have to explain the bond that he shared with Spock eventually, but maybe when she grew up a little more, maybe started to realize she was interested in something other than her stuffed animals, maybe when she was about to go on her first date. He didn’t think he would have to try to explain what t’hy’la meant to his five year old daughter. Spock had difficulty explaining it to him when they’d talked about bonding, and Jim had equal difficulty in understanding. But they’d done it anyway.
How did he start? Definitely a challenge. But Jim Kirk liked challenges. He took a deep breath, and decided to do this how he’d done almost everything else in his life. Just wing it.
He lowered himself to sit on the bed next to her. “It’s uh…Well, it’s like a best friend but more.” He thought of how Spock had tried to explain to him the meaning of t’hy’la – friend, brother, lover. “It’s the one person in the world who knows you better than anyone else.” That was true. Spock did know him better than anyone. Perhaps he always did. “It’s someone who makes you a better person. Actually, they don’t make you a better person. You do that yourself, because they inspire you.”
He saw that he had his daughter’s full attention as she stared at him, her big blue eyes riveted to his own. She was not confused. He knew that she was absorbing everything he was saying.
“It’s the one person who…who knew you, and accepted you, and...believed in you before anyone else did.” He thought of that horrible encounter with Khan. When he was helpless to save his crew, to convince Admiral Marcus to spare them in exchange for his own life. The expressions on all of his crew were filled with hopelessness and accusations. But not Spock’s expression. It was firm and gave him enough strength to remain standing on that bridge. He couldn’t give up on Spock, because Spock didn’t give up on him. “Or when no one else would.”
Jim no longer saw his daughter as his memories hit him quickly. He was behind that damned aluminum again, in agony from the radiation, just desperate to see Spock again, to tell him how he felt before he died. And Spock came. He was there just on the other side, talking to him as he felt his body giving up, as he struggled to make the Vulcan understand why he saved his life on Nibiru. Because he loved him. But he’d never been able to finish the sentence. His voice failed him, and his vision clouded until he’d woken up in Starfleet Medical, where he was greeted by Bones and Spock – the two most important people in his life.
Until his daughter was born. He stroked her dark blonde hair gently.
“A soulmate is someone who you—you carry with you forever.”
When he had lost Christopher Pike, Spock had been there in every way. He calmed his emotional turmoil, and knew precisely how to be there for him without pressing too much. Spock was anchor, his support – for everything he did as a captain, as a leader, and as simply James Kirk. He thought of how he’d last spoken to his bondmate and guilt tightened his chest. Of all the times Spock had been there for him, he was not there when he had recently laid in Sickbay injured. “And no matter what happens, you’ll always love them.”
He knew he’d hurt Spock, and he knew that he had to remind his bondmate what he’d just told their daughter. That he loved Spock fiercely and deeply. “Nothing will ever change that.”
He felt his hand taken in the smaller one of his little girl. “Really?” Her eyes were beginning to drift closed again as she was pulled toward sleep.
Jim fought back his own emotion. “No. Nothing changes that.”
Her eyes closed, but her reply was a whisper. “Good.” Then, she was asleep, her free arm clutching the humpback whale tightly.
Jim sniffled softly to himself. He ran a finger down her cheek. “Sleep tight, Christina.”
Spock was lying in their bed when Jim entered their room. His back was to him, and the cane that Bones had mentioned was propped against the wall nearby. Jim didn’t say anything to announce himself. He didn’t even know if Spock was awake. His breathing was even and rhythmic. Jim only removed his boots and socks before he slipped into bed behind his bondmate as slowly as he could so that he would not disturb him if Spock were sleeping. He wanted to wrap him in his arms, but…he didn’t know if it would be welcome.
He stayed rigidly in the bed for a few minutes before he decided that perhaps Spock would not welcome him and he began to shift to get up to sleep on their plush couch in the sitting area.
“I did not think you would come back tonight,” Spock whispered. Jim heard the tears in his voice. It was all the welcome he needed.
Jim gathered Spock in his arms, fitting their bodies together like so many times before. Like this, he felt his husband’s trembling in his highly emotional state. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart. For—”
“You were correct, however, t’hy’la.”
Jim nuzzled his face against Spock’s neck. “I shouldn’t have said what I said.”
“I will not participate in away missions for the foreseeable future.”
He shook his head against his bondmate. “No, not because of what I said. If you want to go, then go. Things happen on away missions that we can’t help and—”
“Jim.” His name was all Spock had to say to get him to stop talking. Spock laid his hands over his mate’s and entwined their fingers. “You misunderstand. My decision is not based on what you said to me upon my return from the away mission.”
“Then—” Spock did not speak. He guided his mate’s hand lower on his body and pressed it against his abdomen. “Spock?”
“Doctor McCoy discovered something during one of the tests he conducted,” the Vulcan began to explain.
But Jim understood faster than Spock sometimes gave him credit for. “Another baby?”
Jim finally let his tears escape. But when his emotion throughout the last several days had been negative and saddened, these tears had been transformed to pleasure and joy. “Oh, Spock.” He pressed his lips against his bondmate’s neck. He stroked his thumb over the skin of Spock’s middle, where his unborn child rested.
“We will have to inform Christina.”
He smiled. “That she’s not going to be our only little princess?”
Spock sighed softly. “Or our little prince.”
They lay together quietly enjoying the moment of imagining the new life they had created. Jim nuzzled into Spock’s neck, occasionally kissing the cooler skin there, and soothingly rubbing his mate’s still flat abdomen. “I’m still sorry, you know. For how I spoke to you.”
Spock took a long time to reply. “I know, Jim.”
Just as he felt himself falling asleep, Jim whispered in his husband’s pointed ear, “I love you.”