Jim loved his mom. Where it really mattered she was a good person, and she'd always cared for him and tried to do her best by him. Her meaningless string of boyfriends he could live without. The way she looked at him sometimes, like she was trying to see the ghost of something intangible there, something other than just him – that he could live without too. But he loved her, and so when the Enterprise returned to space dock for computer repairs after a run-in with a cloud of sentient dust that liked to chomp on its memory systems, he agreed to her request that he stop by and visit her.

It wasn't like it was an inconvenience or anything, either. The whole crew was pretty much taking the opportunity to enjoy being grounded near Earth. But, if he was being honest with himself, he was a little worried about what to expect. He'd seen his mother briefly before the ceremony where he'd received his medal and his promotion to captain, and she'd been kind of… awkward. Like she wasn't sure if she was elated or terrified by the fact that he was in Starfleet, and looked to be staying there. Sure, she'd asked to see him, but that wasn't any guarantee on what the mood would actually be like when he got there. And he wasn't exactly all aquiver over the prospect of meeting Stan or Dave or whatever the hell the latest guy living with her was called.

He'd tried to rope Bones into going with him, just to have someone there to at least help deflect some of the attention away from him, but the Doctor was a smart man. He wasn't going to let himself be dragged easily into a familial mess. Everyone else was occupied with their own reunions, so, Jim was resigned. Time to face the music. Or whatever the hell was waiting for him at home. It was a shame Sam's ship was still on assignment, or else the whole prospect might not seem so daunting.

"Just – just go."

Jim paused, his luggage bag in hand as he turned slightly in the shuttle bay at the sound of Uhura's voice. Both the words and the tone had caught his attention. She sounded upset.

It only took his eyes a moment to locate her, and when he did, he found his curiosity growing as he saw that she was with Spock. His first officer looked like his usual calm, reserved self, but Uhura seemed annoyed – even flustered. That second one was definitely a new look for her.

"…Very well," Spock agreed neutrally, only a tension around his eyes giving away that he was also agitated. He turned to leave, but Uhura's voice caught him again.

"Spock…" she said, hesitating, seeming to waver between two different points of indecision. One of her hands clenched and unclenched at her side.

"…It was not my intent to offend you," Spock said sincerely after a brief pause, looking back towards her.

For a moment the tension seemed to stretch between them. But then Uhura sighed and sagged a little. Reaching out she patted his shoulder as if to smooth an imaginary wrinkle away from his clothes. "I know," she told him. For a minute Jim thought he was just catching the tail end of some lovers' spat, and that they would start kissing again like they had in the transporter room. But they didn't make any moves towards one another. Instead Uhura graced Spock with a rather tight smile, and then hefted her bag and turned away.

Spock watched her go, and Jim watched Spock watching her go, his curiosity growing. His understanding of the pair's 'relationship' was pretty limited. Neither one of them liked to talk to him about it, and they seemed to be just as tight-lipped with the rest of the crew, too, since the rumour mill never had much to go off of. Was there trouble in paradise?

Well, it wasn't as if it would be easy for him to find out. No matter how nosy he tried to be with those two they always just sent him a firm 'none of your business', and that was that. Shrugging, Jim had only just resolved to head off again… and then paused. Because Spock was still standing there. Like a kicked puppy. Which was weird, because he didn't physically look sad. He just looked all stoic and Vulcan like he usually did. To a casual observer it might seem as if he'd just decided that that particular corner of the shuttle bay was a good place to stand.

Well, he is your first officer, Jim decided, and then he slung his bag over his shoulder and walked over to him.

Spock at first didn't even seem aware of his approach, but once he'd drawn level with him, he spoke. "I am afraid that you will not find me particularly amenable to attempts to pry into my personal life at this time," he informed Jim solemnly.

"…Okay," Jim agreed with a shrug. "Want to meet my mother?" he asked.

Oh. Well that was about as smooth as a brick. Jim wondered if it was something about Spock or something about him which always seemed to compel weird things to come flying out of his mouth when they spoke to one another. He hadn't even really been planning to extend the invitation. It had just occurred to him after Spock's comment, and then blurted out because he hadn't been able to think of anything else to say.

Spock looked at him.

Well, since he'd gotten here anyway, Jim figured he might as well go for it. "I was just going to head out home to see her, but I never like to do it alone. She always gets a bit… uh, well, anyway, if you're not busy you could come along," he explained. "She's not a xenophobe or anything," he then added in hopeful tone.

He winced before he glanced around, hoping that he was only making himself look incredibly awkward in front of Spock. Which was still pretty bad, but the best he could hope for at this point. She's not a xenophobe?! What the hell was that?

"I would not presume to intrude upon a family reunion," Spock said. It sounded like a refusal but, Jim noted, he didn't make any move to walk away, either.

"Well, you wouldn't really be intruding," he said. "It's practically tradition that I'll drag somebody home with me when I visit. Personally I think she likes to guess who I'll bring along." Usually it was whatever fling-of-the-week had shacked up with him at the time.

He was sure that Spock would say no, and that would be it – the end of a very weird and awkward attempt at reaching out. So Jim was surprised when, after a few quiet moments of consideration, his first officer turned and regarded him carefully.

"You are certain it would not be an intrusion?" he asked again. Beaming ear to ear, Jim clasped a hand on the science officer's shoulder.

"Definitely not," he assured him, and then obligingly released his grip when Spock's gaze drifted pointedly towards it. He gestured towards the exit of the shuttle bay, almost unable to believe that it had actually worked. Granted, he wasn't sure how his mom would take to Spock, but he thought it would be a safe bet that he could keep things from getting all weepy. Nothing about the guy's demeanor invited weepiness.

Plus it'll keep him from standing there and looking like someone just took away his ice-cream, he added as an afterthought.

Even though most of the shuttlebay had cleared out by the time they left it, there was still a sizeable crowd bustling around the transports to and from the station. Spock seemed to tense marginally as people pushed past them, the normal barriers of personal space falling victim to the necessities of transit. Conscious of how little his first officer liked to be touched, even accidentally, Jim found himself moving to play bodily referee before he even really thought about, positioning himself between Spock and the worst press of the crowd. He missed the look of fleeting surprise which his actions earned.

An easy silence fell between them as they boarded one of the transports. Jim spared a thought for his old ride, which he'd given away when he signed up for Starfleet. He didn't regret the move – it wasn't like he still needed it, not by a long shot – but it was kind of entertaining to think about trying to talk Spock into riding with him. The necessitated close body contact probably would have sent the guy packing well before they ever hit the road. As it was he didn't seem very enthusiastic about the public transportation vehicle.

"Are you alright, Spock?" he asked as they got moving, and the half-Vulcan stiffened noticeably. "You look a little green."

Spock raised an eyebrow at him. "Captain, you are aware that my Vulcan physiology produces a natural green pigment-"

"I know, I know," Jim assured him, raising one hand. Jeez. Bones must be rubbing off on him – that was one hell of a crappy joke. "I was just trying to lighten the mood. And don't call me 'captain'. It's Jim," he insisted.

"…Jim," Spock reluctantly agreed, and he let out an internal sigh of relief. Good. He was getting a little sick of being called things like 'captain' and 'sir' all the time. For one thing, it made him feel about ten years older than he actually was.

He shot Spock another smile, and then cast his gaze out the nearest window to the passing scenery. Spock followed suit, the hum of the transport rumbling quietly beneath their feet as they took in the sight of open blue sky and solid ground. Things which were fast becoming a rarity as their assignments took them further and further from familiar space. Jim wouldn't trade the Enterprise for it, but still – it was kind of nice to back on terra firma again.

"I have not spent much time on Earth outside of Starfleet Academy," Spock confessed after several minutes had passed, the low timbre of his voice startling Jim out of his reverie.

"What?" he asked. "You never did the tourist thing?"

With a glance which seemed to imply that Jim ought to have known better than to ask, Spock shook his head minutely. "There did not seem to be much appeal to the prospect. The temperatures of Earth's northern hemisphere are too cold by Vulcan standards," he explained.

"Oh," Jim replied, and wondered if that meant Spock was uncomfortable. But there wasn't a whole lot he could do for him if he was, and as it stood the guy was wearing much heavier clothes than what Jim had bothered with. It was late spring, clear and sunny, and Spock looked as though he anticipated an abruptly wintery turn to the weather. Funny – he'd just assumed that his first officer dressed that way because he was really uptight.

Then again, he thought, taking in his sharp and distant features from the corner of his eye. Maybe it's both.

"I have been considering acquainting myself better with this world, however," Spock explained. Jim was surprised. Normally trying to have a conversation with his first officer about anything non-work related was like pulling teeth. But now here he was, by all appearances trying to make small-talk. Completely on his own, too, without any cajoling or needling on Jim's part. At first he felt rather secretly pleased at the change in pace. But then he remembered Spock's likeliest reason for having an increased interest in Earth, and his spirits tumbled down into the depths of solemnity.

He wondered how long the ghost of Vulcan would haunt them all for. It had only been a few months so far, but Jim couldn't help thinking – he'd never known his father, and the man had been dead for decades. Yet his absence could still weigh heavily on his heart, and still left questions unanswered in himself. So how far-reaching could the death of an entire planet be? And that wasn't even mentioning Spock's more personal loss of his mother.

If you asked him, Jim would never say that he was a sensitive person. Him? Hell no. He was a devil-may-care son of a bitch, a love and leave 'em, no regrets, always running forward kind of guy. Because, like Spock, Jim had grown into presenting the image which other people expected of him. But the truth was that it didn't take a lot to make him feel really badly on behalf of other people.

"Well, my hometown's not much," he said after a moment, shifting slightly in his seat. "But if you want somebody to show you around we could take off for someplace better after we drop in on my mom." Truth be told, Jim had never really explored a lot of the world he lived on either. It might be interesting to sort of see it through the eyes of someone who hadn't grown up there.

Then again, the idea of trying to put himself in Spock's head was a little strange. Especially since he'd more or less been in a Spock's head once before, and it hadn't exactly been a cheerful experience.

"I would not presume to cut short your time with your family," Spock replied, again fixing him with his inscrutable dark eyes.

Jim shrugged. "Don't worry about that," he assured him. "I was going to duck out as soon as I could anyway. All you'd be doing is giving me a good excuse."

His first officer, it seemed, didn't know quite what to say to that. Jim guessed he was thinking it over or some such as the transport brought them into the hustle and bustle of the city, and their conversation remained minimal while they completed the necessary dance with public transportation in order to get to Riverside. Spock looked like he'd been telling the truth when he said he hadn't left the academy much during his time on Earth – he took in much of the planet with the same quiet, intellectual curiosity which Jim had seen him use on alien worlds.

Except this wasn't another alien world. Now it was the only homeworld he had.

"So, anyplace you'd like to see?" Jim asked. They'd finally hit his home town, and public transport had been abandoned now for walking the long, old-fashioned dirt roads which still wound between the farmlands. A brief sentiment of nostalgia worked its way around him as he took in all that had changed since the last time he was here – which wasn't much – and all that hadn't.

"I must profess a curiosity towards visiting Canada," Spock admitted after a moment. Here amongst familiar settings, his alien characteristics seemed a bit more noticeable, but not in a bad way. Exotic, Jim thought, and then internally laughed at himself.

"Canada?" he asked. "I thought you said you didn't like the cold. It only gets worse the further north you go, Spock." Which of course his science officer knew, but it would seem that Jim had become incapable of asking him a question without teasing him a little. Maybe because on some fundamental level, the guy still looked like he needed cheering up.

"I am aware of that fact," Spock replied, his tone saying 'this is what is' and his eyes saying 'you are some kind of idiot if you honestly thought I wouldn't be'. Jim grinned at him as he elaborated. "However, my mother was born in Toronto."

His grin slipped at little. Right. Spock's mother.

All at once Jim wondered if he was inadvertently being an ass. After all, Spock's human mother had died just a few months ago, and now here he was, dragging the poor guy out to meet his own – still very alive – mom. On Earth, where both women had come from. Well, he thought, keeping one eye on his companion. He could have said 'no'.

"I've never been to Toronto," Jim confessed, trying to lighten the mood. "I once went up to Vancouver with Sam, though, when I was a kid. Or – well, I guess it was more like I ended up on a transport which took me there, and Sam tracked me down."

Spock gave him a curious look. So, seeing an opportunity to try and get onto a subject which was a little further away from dead mothers, Jim decided to regale him with several stories of his youthful escapades – pointedly leaving out one particular incident when he'd been about eleven and nearly launched himself off of a cliff. Those years hadn't exactly been the highlight of his life.

Time actually seemed to fly by as his voice carefully plucked out funny or interesting events from his childhood and laid them out for his first officer, their feet kicking up soft clouds of dirt as they walked, even and steady, side by side. He was grateful that the weather seemed to have been warm and dry for the past week, at least. It meant that there wasn't any bite or chill to it. He gestured as he spoke, sometimes becoming animated or engaged by his own thoughts and memories, or even chuckling to himself. It could have seemed awkward to talk like that to a companion who was so reserved and seemingly emotionless, but it didn't. Spock's measured responses and inquiries instead served to help him organize his thoughts and ideas a little better, and he could tell that he had the other man's interest.

By the time they'd wound their way towards a very familiar building Jim had recounted several semi-illegal, reckless, or even just plain stupid adventures he'd had, mostly in his teen years but a few from his childhood. He began to feel a twinge of guilt, wondering if he'd monopolized the conversation by talking about himself, but since they were essentially at the house there didn't seem to be much for it. And he didn't suppose that Spock would be in the mood to discuss his own past.

Discomfort settled like a shroud around his shoulders as they made their way up the wooden steps onto the old porch. This was the house of his childhood, the only home he'd known as a kid. No matter who his mother took up with, she had always refused point-blank to consider moving from the place. Even when it seemed silly to own a farm that none of them had an interest in, or to live so far out from the general center of the populace. He took note of a new wind-chime hanging by the painted white door, and the repairs someone had made to the porch since the last time he'd stood on it. There were new curtains in the window, too, and a few delicate-looking lawn ornaments he didn't recognize.

Raising a hand, he rapped on the door, trying to shrug away his self-consciousness and, without realizing it, moving a few steps closer to Spock. It's just Mom, he told himself, but that was the thing, that was the trouble – 'just Mom' could lead to almost any wide variety of awkward results.

A moment ticked by with no response. Frowning, Jim peered through the window nearest to the door, and then knocked again. Nothing.

With a glance at Spock, he flipped up the doormat and retrieved the stained gold key beneath it. No fancy computerized locks for them. His mother had developed something of a mild allergy towards advanced technology after his father's death. With a familiar twist he turned the key in the lock and eased the door open, gesturing for Spock to follow him inside and tossing his bag into a corner by the door. The house was dark and quiet.

"I guess she went out," he observed. "Just put your bag wherever. Maybe she left a note…" he said, muttering the last part to himself as Spock gently lowered his own, much smaller burden next to Jim's, his curious eyes roaming over the old farm house.

"I was under the impression that most Earth domiciles are more advanced than this," he noted.

Jim shrugged and made his way into the kitchen. "Yeah, my mom's pretty old fashioned," he explained.

"Fascinating," Spock replied, almost absently, as he absorbed the architecture of the house. Jim was looking around, too, but for different reasons. There was some new furniture in the sitting room, and a new table in the kitchen. Someone looked to have set up a workbench of some kind in the study, too. Great – another 'handyman'. At least being a decorated Starfleet captain in his twenties might spare him the indignity of being called 'sport' at this point. He hunted around, looking for any signs of a note or message, and checked the lonely computer hidden away at the back of the old pantry, but nada.

"Ah, damn, Mom, you forgot again," he grumbled a little to himself, scratching the back of his head. Truly she was not a woman with any gift for keeping track of things, especially not time or dates. With a sigh he slumped into one of the chairs at the kitchen table, leaning back to watch Spock peer around his childhood home. The half-Vulcan was demonstrating a reservation about it which seemed at odds with his natural curiosity.

"Go ahead and look at stuff," he encouraged, and Spock seemed to notice for the first time that he was being watched. "Nobody'll mind."

Well, actually, he couldn't speak for Mr. Boyfriend, but if the guy suddenly turned up and took offence at having his first officer peer at some old-fashioned tool kit then Jim would just have to get offended right back. He'd put up with a lot of bullshit from a lot of people in his life, and if there was one thing he'd learned it was how to throw it into their faces. Sometimes he liked to think that he had a natural talent for pissing people off.

Though I really wouldn't want to try that on Spock ever again, he thought, remembering the painful shit-kicking he'd earned last time. For such a skinny guy he sure as hell hit hard.

As Spock took his permission for free reign to heart and began to examine some of the colourful, country-style artwork which decorated the walls, Jim glanced at the kitchen's old clock. They'd gotten in pretty early in the morning, and it was just about creeping down to noon now. He'd planned on probably visiting for a couple of hours and then taking off, but if his mother really had forgotten and not just coincidentally stepped out at exactly the wrong time, then she could be gone until nightfall. He was tempted to just write out a note of his own to the tune 'well, I came by like you asked!' and leave, but he knew he couldn't do it. He couldn't intentionally hurt her like that. It would be like his thirteenth birthday all over again, when she'd forgotten the date and he'd finally snapped and yelled and threatened to really, honest to god run away, and then she'd cried and cried and been so mad at herself that he'd felt like the worst son ever. Because he'd known it wasn't easy for her to remember his birthday – and the reason why wasn't either of their faults.

"Your mother appears to have a predilection towards rooster-themed objects," Spock noted as he moved to examine some of the knick-knacks and appliances in the kitchen. Jim chuckled, kicking back in the chair a bit and letting his own gaze wander.

"Actually, a lot of that stuff was my grandmother's," he explained. "But she sort of took it up herself, too, I guess. Pretty much everything around here is an antique."

It was actually a little funny to see Spock direct his keen observational skills onto a statue of a little wooden chicken wearing a straw hat. At least they're all out, Jim noted, which he could admit was a pretty good sign that whatever boyfriend was living there now wasn't a complete jerk. The jerks tended to send the roosters into storage.

"Is there some cultural significance to them?" Spock asked, his eyes drifting over the tacky clock and the egg-timer decorated with pecking hens. Jim thought about it.

"Er, kind of," he decided after a minute. Then he glanced over at replicator, which was easily the most advanced piece of technology in the room. Probably the whole house. It was a still a pretty old model, though – nothing like the ones on the ship. "Well, I don't know about you, but I'm hungry and I have no idea when she's getting back. Want something?" he asked, checking the appliance's interface to see what the dated machine had to offer. "There's not going to be a lot of variety," he warned.

Spock glanced at him. "I do not require sustenance at this time," he replied. Then he seemed to hesitate – it was a marginal, subtle expression, and Jim almost missed it. But he didn't, and so he looked at the science officer expectantly. "…A glass of water would not be objectionable, however," he continued after a beat.

"Sure, no problem," Jim breezily agreed, and decided to just stick with water himself when he replicated their requests along with a chicken sandwich. Spock accepted the glass politely and then slid into one of the mismatched chairs around the table as Jim tucked in, the Vulcan's curious gaze still roving over everything.

"Have you ever been in a regular human house before?" Jim asked, the thought occurring to him between bites. Spock shook his head briefly in the negative.

"I had not previously been extended the opportunity," he explained. "My mother's remaining human family is distant, and I have never met them."

"You never went to Uhura's house?" he asked, and then immediately regretted it as Spock's already-subtle expressions seemed to close off and tighten up, sealing away some of the openness which had settled between them. He immediately back-tracked, not wanting to deal with having an ice-berg for company. "Sorry, right, I know, none of my business," he conceded, raising his hands in a very human gesture of placation. Spock seemed marginally taken aback by his immediate retreat.

"How uncharacteristic of you, Jim," he noted. "I believe this is the first time I have witnessed you assert that there is 'business' in existence which is not yours."

Jim's jaw dropped as he took in Spock's straight-face expression and the barest – possibly imagined, but he didn't think so – playfulness lurking just behind his eyes. "Holy shit," he said, and a wide grin spread along his face. "Spock, I think you're making fun of me!"

He was, too, the sneaky bastard! He'd just up and called Jim nosy in his own convoluted, very Vulcan way. But the science officer merely graced him with a serene look of polite innocence.

"I am afraid you are mistaken," he said evenly. "Vulcans do not 'make fun', as you put it."


"I assure you, it is not."

But you're half human, the thought said, lying quietly between them like some private in-joke. Jim could have spoken it aloud to point out the flaw in Spock's argument. But it seemed more appealing to leave it like it was, hovering quietly between them as a whisper of 'we both know better'. So instead he just gave the other man a knowing look and then turned his attentions back to filling the pit in his stomach.

When his sandwich was reduced to nothing more than a few crumbs left lying on the plate, Jim figured they might as well pass the time doing something, so he decided to show Spock around the rest of the house and the property. Technically his mom owned some of the farmland around the place, but she'd always paid someone else to work it, for as long as he could remember, and 'home' only really extended to the immediate zone surrounding where they lived. His and Sam's old rooms weren't changed much after they moved out, except that they'd been cleaned up to be more appropriate for guests. The chicken coop around back had occupants again, and Spock observed the domesticated birds with interest.

As he showed his first officer around, Jim regaled him with a few more stories and explanations, answering general questions about his old life and his family. It was strange – a lot of the time whenever he brought someone over with him in the past, he'd get defensive if they questioned them, feeling like they were prying or judging. But Spock's interest was just too openly curious and free of duplicity for him to mind.

Still, there was only so much talking Jim could do, and as the hours seemed to tick by he began to run out of steam. So he was pleasantly surprised when Spock seemed to decide to pick up the slack.

Since the weather had held, the pair opted to sit out on porch, watching as the first hints of faintest traces of pink began to creep along the afternoon sky. Jim was musing on the fact that Spock was turning out to be surprisingly good company.

"My mother used to keep pictures of snow," his first officer suddenly said, drawing him out of his thoughts with the unexpected comment. "She was… discouraged from expressing too much sentimentality in my presence, but that did not always stop her. I found her pictures to be fascinating."

Jim glanced at him, and wondered what it must have been like to grow up with a mother who was 'discouraged' from behaving the way most human mothers were instinctively compelled to. Sure, he and his own mother had their difficulties, but at least she'd never been withholding of affection. "She liked snow?" he asked, hoping that Spock would keep talking to him.

"I asked her once," Spock replied, and his eyes were a million miles away. "She said that she did not like snow. That in fact she had considered it to be a hindrance to the normal conduct of her daily activities when she was on Earth," he explained. "When I expressed puzzlement, she informed me that even though she did not enjoy the presence of snow, she also felt dissatisfied with its absence on Vulcan. It was an utterly human concept."

Jim waited, sitting there with the niggling feeling that he knew where this was going. He didn't have to wait very long before Spock continued. "However, I believe I have gained better insight to her frame of mind at the time. There were many things which I found unsatisfactory about my homeworld. I had not intended to return unless necessity demanded it. But now that return is no longer a possibility, I find myself… dissatisfied."

You've got a talent for understatement, Jim mentally replied, wondering what precisely had brought on this stony confession, but oddly pleased that it had been bestowed upon him nonetheless. He didn't think that the word 'dissatisfied' even began to cover the sentiment which Spock was simultaneously expressing and suppressing, but he wasn't about to call him out on it.

"Yeah," he agreed as his friend fell silent, wanting to say at least something but not sure how he could make a dent in Spock's grief. "I think that's one of those shitty parts about being human," he settled for at last. At his friend's inquisitive stare, he decided to elaborate. "You can love something and hate it at the same time."

There was a pause as the half-Vulcan turned his words over his head. Then, slowly, he nodded. "It is most illogical," he said, but in a tone which seemed to imply acceptance rather than objection.

"Yup," Jim agreed.

He thought that would probably be the end of the discussion. So he was pleasantly surprised when Spock launched into speech again, his quiet, neutral tones recounting a few more events or facets from his childhood. It wasn't the chaotic maelstrom of rebellions and upswings and downwards spirals that Jim's had been, and he didn't divulge nearly as much, but he was still surprised by some of the things he learned. Mostly the half-Vulcan talked about his mother. There were no more big insights or confessions, it was just… little things. Discrepancies between Earth's culture and Vulcan's which explained some of the behaviors that had confused him as a child. Her fondness for scented candles and Vulcan fabrics. The way she could even bring his logical, impressive, ever-intimidating father down a peg if she felt that he'd crossed a line.

Jim realized that it was stuff that Spock probably needed to talk about, maybe even more than Spock himself knew. He'd never say he related to the guy's position, but he knew some things about grief and humans. He couldn't speak for grief and Vulcans, although he supposed, given his upbringing, that Spock would already have that half of it covered. So he just listened, making a few comments here and there, and found himself enjoying the rhythmic tones of his first officer's voice while caught in reminiscence.

By the time he pulled himself up from the soft cadence of words and oh-so-subtle sentiment the sun had fallen onto the horizon, and Spock was casting it a considering look. "It would appear that I will be unable to meet your mother today," he noted at length, and Jim blinked at him.

"Why not?" he asked in honest curiosity. "I mean, she'll have to come home to sleep, at least. I hope," he added on the last sentence with a little bit of concern. Oh, damn, what if she was staying with some guy for the night? They would have spent the whole day waiting for nothing. Not that he could bring himself to regret it.

"If I am to make it to Starfleet's temporary lodgings for me before the transit system ceases its operations, then I will have to leave now," Spock explained reasonably.

Jim shrugged. "Why don't you stay over?" he offered. "You can sleep in Sam's old room. He won't care. Then tomorrow we can head out for some planetary exploration."

Spock seemed to hesitate for a moment. Before he could respond, the soft flash of headlights and a quiet, modern engine's whirr distracted both of their attentions towards the road. About time, Jim thought, as he watched his mother's familiar 'hunk of junk' pull up to the house. It wasn't as old as the car he'd infamously trashed when he was a kid, but the gently hovering vehicle was still far from modern standards. He and Spock both stood up as the engine stopped, and Jim smiled in greeting when his mother exited the driver's side of the car. She looked like the only occupant.

When she saw them her eyes widened and her expression ran a gambit of emotions – first surprise, then mild confusion, and lastly, embarrassment. "Oh, Jimmy!" she exclaimed, closing the car door with a solid 'thunk' and then smacking both of her hands against her face. "Godammit, I told myself all week you were coming on Saturday and then the morning comes and I forget it!"

Somehow, he couldn't bring himself to hold it against her. Instead he chuckled, descending the porch steps and letting her wrap him up in a warm embrace.

"Don't worry," he assured her. "I just took the opportunity to show Spock around the place."

She pulled back, taking in his personal changes as he took in hers – there were fairly few, to be honest – and then turned her attention over towards Spock. She beamed at him, her smile the same wide, open expression which occasionally betrayed her son's softer side when he wore it.

"I've heard a lot about you, Mr. Spock," she said, disengaging from Jim to give his first officer a thorough look-over. Spock's eyebrows seemed to rise marginally in what Jim recognized as an expression of surprise. "You tried to strangle my Jimmy to death that one time."

Spock tensed, and Jim shot his mother an incredulous look – where the hell had she heard about that? Because he definitely hadn't written home to her about it. But before either one of them could comment she barreled on. "God only knows I won't hold that against you, though. If I kept a grudge with everyone who'd wanted to kill him at some point or another I wouldn't even get along with myself. What were you two sitting on the porch for? Come on, it's much better inside," she declared insistently, and Jim could only watch in surprised consternation as his mother herded his first officer into the house with her.

After a beat, he followed.

"I apologize if my intrusion is unwelcome," Spock said as Jim pulled the door shut behind them, and his mother waved him off insistently.

"Oh, don't be silly. Jim's always bringing people home. Frankly, I'm just glad you're not some glittery girl in a bikini top," she assured him. Up went one of Spock's eyebrows, but when he glanced at Jim, the captain could only shrug shamelessly.

"I was just trying to talk him into staying over in Sam's room," he said as his mother disentangled herself from her coat and purse and then dragged them both into the sitting room.

"Really? Oh, good, I just put some new sheets in there," she said cheerfully. Then she fell pushed them both onto the nearest sofa. "Now, tell me all about what you two have been doing on that ship out there. Oh! Or should we eat first? It's getting late, isn't it?"

Jim watched as his mother talked herself into deciding to make get them all dinner and have them eat in the sitting room while they 'chatted', and then instructed them to stay right there while she went and handled things.

"Spock's a vegetarian, Mom!" he called after her retreating form, receiving an affirming wave which said she'd heard him, and then leaned back into his seat. Well, it seemed she'd decided to settle for being happy that he was in Starfleet, for now, at least. He was also relieved at the absence of a boyfriend, at least for the time being – he assumed that there was one somewhere, however, given the mystery of the tool bench and the fact that he'd never known his mother to stay single for any great length of time.

"Your mother is very… expressive," Spock noted.

"Yeah, she's crazy," Jim agreed.

"I believe she has given me new insight to your friendship with Dr. McCoy. She has a similar – if somewhat less antagonistic – disposition."

It took a minute for the actual content of Spock's comment to sink in. Once it had, he shot him an incredulous look. "You think that Bones is like my mother?" he asked after opening and closing his mouth a few times and failing to produce a result. Spock glanced at him in a manner which implied that the answer was obvious.

"Dr. McCoy has often expressed particular concerns over your health and well-being, including your emotional stability, sleep, and dietary requirements, that exceed the normal standards of a dedicated medical professional. They are reminiscent of behaviors which I have been told are considered standard in the human style of parenting. He is also extremely vocal and unreserved in conveying his thoughts or emotions. Your mother appears to be equally demonstrative."

Jim looked at Spock for a moment. Then he blinked. Then he started laughing, and before he could forget to reign in the instinct, he clasped his first officer by the shoulder and gave it a fond shake to convey his amusement before letting go. "Oh man, Bones is like my mom. I never thought of that before! Hah, I'd love to see the look on his face if you told him that," he declared, shaking his head.

"I have found in my experiences with him that Dr. McCoy does not seem overly receptive to my observations, however logical they may be," Spock noted, and Jim thought he saw that tiny, quietly amused look in his eyes again.

"I wouldn't worry about it," he assured him nonetheless. "Bones likes to argue."

"That would be a most illogical trait. Your assessment is, therefore, likely to be accurate."

Jim started chuckling again. He'd noticed that Spock and Bones seemed to butt heads – most of the ship had, actually, it was a little hard to miss – but, as he'd suspected, there didn't seem to be any real animosity there.

"Are you two having all the fun without me?" his mother asked, re-entering the room with their replicated dinner and setting their plates on the coffee table. She seemed to have decided to err on the side of caution in light of Spock's dietary preferences and concluded that they should all eat salad. Jim did an internal shrug. Well, it wasn't like he'd ever come home for the food, of all things.

"Spock was just comparing you to our ship's chief medical officer," Jim explained good-naturedly, and that got the ball rolling on talking about life aboard the Enterprise. As per her request, he and Spock told her about some of their missions (edited by silent agreement to disclude a few of the more harrowing moments) and adventures, and spoke of their shipmates. She seemed greatly amused by the fact that he had decided to keep Checkov in charge of ship-wide announcements, despite his heavy Russian accent.

"It makes sure everyone stops and pays attention," he explained. "Because you have to, or else you won't have a clue what he's saying." His personal favorite announcement was still the one which the young man had made when they were scheduled to rendezvous with the U.S.S. Vivaldi near Venus, shortly after he'd gained his official captaincy.

Once again, even though Jim did most of the talking, he found that Spock's quiet contributions and interjections complimented the process very well. By the time the evening had worn down his voice was very tired, but he felt happier and more relaxed than he'd thought he would that day. His mother had taken in their tales with good-natured enthusiasm, her eyes hardly ever turning at him with that look, the one that said she was seeing ghosts.

Finally, though, the day's weight on him became obvious. Not that it had been particularly harrowing by any stretch of the imagination, but he'd only left the Enterprise that morning, and uncommon fatigue was an expected side-effect of spending this many hours planetside after being in space for so long.

His mother took a look at his face and noticed it all at once. So Jim found himself shoo'd up to his old room while she showed Spock to Sam's.

As he clambered into his bed, he mused that this was the best visit home he'd had in a long while – and he'd spent most of it just wandering around the place with Spock. But he couldn't deny it to his tired mind, he really, really enjoyed his first officer's company. Spock was… well, to use one of the man's own favorite words, he was fascinating. Jim was a smart guy, but compared to the half-Vulcan's intellect, his own was just spit in an ocean. Yet his intelligence wasn't what made Spock such a compelling individual. Or, at least, it wasn't the only thing that did. He wasn't sure exactly what the qualifying factor was, but he thought it had a lot to do with strength, and weakness, and dichotomy, and how well they stood when they were side to side.

His thoughts fell into a jumble as he drifted off to sleep, but his lips were curved into a soft smile.


Author's Note: To be continued...

Oh, and just to make this known - I like Uhura. A lot. She is badass. But K/S is my ship, and so the film put me in the position of having to break things off between her and Spock somehow. But don't expect any Uhura bashing from me.