A Chance Encounter
"Look, Mommy," Jim says, tugging on Winona's shirt. "A man-moth."
"Mammoth," Winona corrects gently, and ruffles his hair.
"Mammoth," Jim repeats. "I like his tusks."
He presses the button next to the mammoth's foot, and it lifts up its trunk and trumpets loudly. Jim giggles.
He stares at the robotic mammoth for a few seconds longer, then moves on to the next exhibit. Privately, Winona marvels at how well-behaved he's being. She'd been concerned about bringing him along on her trip to San Francisco, but Jim begged and pleaded and promised he'd be good, and eventually she gave in. She's glad she did, now. With George Jr. away at summer camp, it's nice for the two of them to do something together.
She watches with a smile as Jim stops in front of a model of a sabre-toothed tiger and bares his teeth at it. Yes, this was an excellent idea.
She's distracted by a quiet voice behind her. "Excuse me."
She turns to see a boy who can't be much older than Jim standing behind her. He's dressed all in black, with pale skin and black hair that doesn't quite cover his pointed ears. A Vulcan, then. Interesting.
He shifts slightly, eyes not quite meeting hers, and continues quietly, "I appear to have lost my mother."
"Oh," Winona says, feeling a rush of compassion for the boy. "Well, don't worry. I'm sure we'll find her. Where did you see her last?"
"By the caveman exhibit, but she is no longer there." His hands clench and unclench in an unconscious gesture of anxiety. "I left to use to the facilities, and when I returned she was gone."
"Well, I'm sure she won't be far," Winona reassures him. "Come on, let's go back over to the exhibit and see if she's there." She raises her voice. "Jim!"
He looks up.
"Come on, we're going to look at the cavemen."
Jim gives the tiger a longing look, but obediently trots over. "Hi," he says when he sees the other boy. "I'm Jim. Who are you?"
"Spock," the boy replies.
"We're trying to find his mommy," Winona explains.
"Oh," Jim says. "Okay."
They begin walking in the direction of the cavemen exhibit. "Your ears are cool," Jim says. "Do you want to see my spaceship?" He begins rummaging in his pocket without waiting for an answer.
Winona shakes her head. George brought Jim a tiny model Kelvin on his last visit home, and Jim has barely let it out of his sight since. She's pretty sure he sleeps with it.
Jim eventually manages to extract the model from his pocket and shows it to Spock. "Do you like it?" he asks.
"It is very… detailed," Spock replies. Winona thinks he's trying to be encouraging, but it's difficult to tell.
Fortunately Jim doesn't seem bothered by Spock's less-than-enthusiastic response. "My daddy gave it to me," he says, stroking the hull reverently. "It's the ship he and Mommy travelled on when I was inside her."
Spock frowns. "I do not believe your parents could have travelled on that ship. It is approximately eight centimetres long."
Jim laughs. "Not this ship, silly! The real one."
They're interrupted at that moment by a cry of "Spock!" Winona looks up to see a dark-haired woman in a blue shirt hurrying towards them.
She rushes up to Spock and puts her hands on his shoulders. "Oh, thank goodness," she says. "Are you all right? I've been looking everywhere for you."
Winona frowns in surprise. Spock's mother is far more emotional than she'd expect of a Vulcan.
"I am unharmed, Mother," Spock replies quietly. "This woman and her son assisted me."
The woman turns, and Winona gets a good look at her for the first time. Rounded eyebrows, and a definite pink flush to her cheeks: she is human. Winona's eyes flick briefly to Spock. A Vulcan with a human mother. She didn't know that was possible.
"Thank you," the woman says, drawing Winona's attention back to her. "I was so worried about him."
Drawing on diplomacy skills honed by years in Starfleet, Winona swallows down her surprise and smiles. "Don't worry about it," she says. "I'm glad I could help."
The woman smiles back and holds out a hand. "I'm Amanda."
Winona takes the hand. "Winona. Kirk. And this is Jim."
Jim is too busy looking around to pay attention. "Can I go play?" he asks, pointing to one of the interactive exhibits.
"Of course," Winona says. "But be careful."
Jim's face lights up, but instead of tearing off like she expects, he turns to Spock. "Do you want to come with me?" he asks, a little shyly.
Spock looks back up at Amanda, who nods. "Go on," she says. "Just don't wander off this time."
Spock barely has time to nod before Jim grabs his arm and begins pulling him away.
Amanda watches them go, looking amused. "Your son's adorable," she says. "How old is he?"
"Five," Winona replies. "I've got another one who's almost ten, but he's away at camp."
Amanda nods. "Spock's seven. It's an important age for a Vulcan child." She sighs. "Sometimes I wish he could stay young forever."
Winona chews on her lip. "I don't mean to pry, but-"
Amanda cuts her off with a smile. "Let me guess. You're wondering how I can be Spock's mother when I'm human?"
Winona feels herself blush. "Well…"
"No, it's okay," Amanda assures her. "I don't mind." She glances over at where Jim and Spock are engrossed in some game on a screen. "My husband is the Vulcan ambassador to Earth."
Winona barely keeps her jaw from dropping. "You're Ambassador Sarek's wife?"
Amanda shrugs, looking a little embarrassed. "Guilty."
Winona blinks, trying to process this new information. The Vulcan ambassador's marriage to a human schoolteacher made headlines when it happened. She remembers discussing it with George when they were still at the Academy.
Amanda begins to speak again, and Winona pushes her surprise to the back of her mind. "I'd always wanted children, and the Vulcan doctors were fascinated by the idea of creating a child that was part human and part Vulcan." She shakes her head. "Of course, given the circumstances, he ended up mostly Vulcan, but there's some of me in there too."
"Yes," Winona says. "I think I remember reading about it." She can't imagine going through all that to have a child; she became pregnant with George Jr. within weeks of going off birth control, and Jim was a happy surprise. "You must love him very much to go through all that."
Amanda's face seems to light up. "Oh, yes. I don't get to tell him often enough, though. Human genes or not, he's still mostly Vulcan."
She glances over at Jim and Spock again. "They seem to be getting on well."
Winona follows her gaze to see Jim and Spock pressed close together over a single screen. As she watches, Jim points to something, then turns to Spock and grins.
"Yes, they do," she says.
There's silence for a moment, before Amanda changes the subject. "So do you live in San Francisco?"
"No," Winona replies, shaking her head. "Just visiting some friends at the Academy. They wanted my advice on a research problem."
Winona nods. "I served for a while, but I gave it up after Jim was born." She gives a huff of laughter. "I promised to keep in touch, but it's hard when people are off-planet so much. This is the first time I've seen some of them in years."
"I know the feeling," Amanda replies. "Comms and messages are great, but they're no substitute for the real thing." She tilts her head, studying Winona. "Do you ever consider going back to Starfleet?"
Winona shakes her head. "I miss the excitement sometimes, but the constant stress and danger starts to wear on you after a while. And there's the boys to think about. George – my husband – is still in Starfleet, and I want my children to grow up with at least one parent."
"I understand," Amanda says. "It must be hard, though, for you and your husband to spend so much time apart?"
Winona takes a breath and tries not to think how long it's been since she saw George. Even counting talks on the comm, it's been weeks. "Sometimes," she admits. "But, you know, you do what you can."
"I know," Amanda replies sympathetically.
Before either of them can say more, they're interrupted by Jim popping up next to them. "Mommy," he says excitedly, "look what Spock taught me!"
He holds up a hand, fingers spread, then frowns at it. He wriggles his fingers about, then reaches out and pulls them apart with his other hand. "It's a tal," he says proudly, still holding his fingers.
"Ta'al," Spock corrects quietly from behind him.
"Ta'al," Jim repeats with exaggerated care. "Spock says it's what Vulcans do 'stead of shaking hands." He holds his fingers in position for a few seconds longer, then drops his hand, abruptly changing the subject. "Can we go see the dinosaurs now?"
"Sure, honey," Winona tells him. She pauses, then turns to Amanda. "Would you and Spock like to come see the dinosaurs?" She finds she's enjoying their conversation, and doesn't want it to end.
"I'd love to," Amanda replies. "Spock?"
"That would be acceptable," Spock agrees. Winona wonders idly if that's as excited as he ever gets.
Jim seems to be excited enough for the both of them, though, and immediately rushes off, leaving everyone else to follow.
They end up going around the rest of the museum together, and it's one of the most fun visits Winona's ever had. Amanda turns out to have a wicked sense of humour, and has Winona almost in stitches with a story of a previous museum visit, involving a class of second graders and a hologram of Zefram Cochrane. Even Spock seems to loosen up a bit, letting Jim drag him from exhibit to exhibit, and allowing Amanda to take a picture of him standing next to a giant image of the Earth.
By the time they reach the entrance again, Winona finds herself wishing it didn't have to end.
"Well, we should be getting back," Amanda says, checking the time. "How long are you staying? I'm sure the boys would like to meet up again, if it's possible."
Winona shakes her head. "Unfortunately we're leaving tomorrow. It was nice meeting you, though."
Amanda smiles. "You too. Let me give you my comm number, at least."
They exchange numbers, then with a wave and a last look, they part ways.
"Did you have a good time?" Winona asks Jim as they watch Spock and Amanda leave.
Jim nods enthusiastically. "It was fun. Spock says it's not like the museums on Vulcan, but I think he liked it too."
"Well, maybe one day we can go see a museum on Vulcan," Winona says. It isn't a place she's ever really thought of visiting, but the way Amanda described it has made her curious.
"Really?" Jim asks, eyes wide. For someone who's never been off-planet, the idea must seem almost unimaginable.
Winona smiles, raising her eyebrows. "Maybe. If you're good." There's no reason George has to have all the fun, after all.
She takes Jim's hand in hers, and together they make their way back to the hotel. And home.