Title: To Hear a Hand
Rating: PG-13 for now, to be safe.
Warnings/Pairing: Eventual Kirk/Spock, Light Spock/Uhura.
Summary: James T. Kirk's birth is a medical impossibility. A horrible miracle. After all, genetic deafness was cured two centuries ago... Protective-friend!Bones. Based on a poem by Willard J. Madsen.
Chapter 1: Formative Years, Part I
Jacob Ono has always wanted to be a doctor. Doctors saved lives and cared for others, so unlike the people he knew that were immersed in drugs and violence. He grew up in the slums of a rundown New York City, always dreaming big, always taking advantage of his meager education and pushing it to new limits. Starfleet was his golden opportunity. All you needed was smarts and a steady hand, and you could rise to a medic someday. It was the perfect place for a poor boy with disinterested parents, no options and no place to go. Jacob learned quickly, earning praise from his instructors and a small amount of jealousy from his peers, until finally he was assigned as a medic to the Fleet ship USS Kelvin.
"George, you should be here!" Doctor Ono did his best to ignore Mrs. Kirk's cries, just holding her hand while Nurse Gen chanted - pushpushpush. The birth was already difficult, and though he and the nurses could sense the death looming moments away from them, they had to focus. Winona was a healthy young woman, but her distress made the birth harder on all of them.
He felt horrible but tried to be calm, overseeing a birth in the middle of a mission that in hindsight had so obviously been a trap. George Kirk was the Acting Captain - the former was dead. Jacob felt a cold spot twisting his gut. Terror, for himself and his nurses and the mother that may not survive to see through the birth of her child.
"No, George, I'm not leaving you!" She was crying in the small space between contractions; Jacob's hands shook. He met Gen's enormous tilted eyes - she was near the precipice of breaking down, the same as he. He looked down to see a small head emerge, a tuft of hair matted down by blood on top. At Gen's nod he pressed the eject button. Winona's harsh cry of despair rang in the tiny capsule, but was quickly overpowered by a long, high wail. Nurse Gen was there in an instant, cleaning the baby's nose and mouth and the majority of his skin with efficient movements and checking the sex before gently placing it in Mrs. Kirk's waiting arms.
The boy was dubbed James Tiberius Kirk, after his grandfathers. In that moment everyone in the transport understood just what George Kirk sacrificed for them. There was silence on the other end of the com.
The silence of space and death.
Winona was weeping softly, cuddling the boy to her chest when Jacob finally regained enough sense to look the child over. Gen made soothing noises, loosening Winona's arms enough for Jacob to unwrap the blanket. Ten fingers, ten toes, so far so good. The thought tasted of bitterness. One birth amidst so much death.
He pulled out his medical tricorder - the pregnancy had gone as well as could be expected, but he always had to check for unseen complications - even dismissing the stress of the birth. He scrutinized the readings as the sensor passed over chubby curled legs and a plump red belly, but everything was fine; a healthy baby, then. Jacob nearly sighed in relief. He passed the sensor over the boy's head, fully expecting to see nothing out of the ordinary.
James Kirk opened his eyes then, far too early for a newborn child. The blue of the gaze was so intense it nearly drove Jacob to miss the small blip in the tricorder's readings. He paused, stock still and eyes darting between the screen and the boy. He scanned again, the once more. No, this can't be right.
But the results were there, plain as a giant star on the small screen.
Jacob choked down the urge to start crying himself. He couldn't test the results manually without distressing the mother, which was the last thing he wanted to do in this situation. The doctor turned away from the now-nursing babe. He knew he was only imagining the accusing look in those bright eyes. The boy had no sense of what he was missing and would never blame him, he knew. He hoped.
Hope didn't stop his long shuddering sigh, half-choked and disbelieving. This wasn't supposed to be possible anymore - someone should have caught it early on in the pregnancy. Her attending doctor, caught in the first volley of explosions, should have seen the readings and taken preventative steps. Too late now.
"Just keep breathing, you'll be fine!"
"And the baby too, right?"
"...And the baby too."
He wished he could eat his words - they were so horribly ironic in the pain of this situation.
Little James Tiberius Kirk would grow up never knowing his father or the sound of his mother's voice.
Jacob's hands were shaking again.
In the early days of his life, Jimmy could only recall a few things specifically. He remembered soft hands against his face and a woman with golden hair who was warm and safe. She looked him straight in the face and pressed her lips together, then in a round open circle, and together again. Jimmy only stared at her, not sure what she wanted. She did it again and again and again, until finally the little boy realized she wanted him to imitate her. He tried, screwing up his face really hard. The woman smiled at him this time, but shook her head. She took his chubby hands in her soft ones, pressing them to her throat. She did the thing with her lips again, but this time Jimmy felt a vibration beneath his hands, under her skin. Jim grinned - he was a bright child and he could figure it out.
He made the movements with his mouth, this time adding the vibration thing. It made his throat tickle like it sometimes did when he scraped his knees on the gravel or found his favorite bear in it's hiding place.
The woman shook her head it again. He did it wrong? Jimmy tried again, then another time. Each time the woman's smile faltered little more. Jim didn't understand - he was doing everything the way she did! Why wasn't she happy with him? Finally she pulled away - her warm hands leaving his cheeks cold - and stood. Jimmy felt all twisted and funny inside.
That night Jim tossed and turned in his little bed in his little room in his corner of the house. He did the movements and the funny humming over and over, trying to do it like the woman did. He touched his face to make sure his mouth was right.
Someday he would do it right, and the safe, warm woman would smile at him for it.
Jim was sulking in the corner, put there by the woman. He didn't understand what was wrong this time. The woman and the boy taller than him were just standing around doing the lip-moving thing, and Jim needed a glass from the tall cabinet, which only the woman could reach. But however he moved, they just kept on looking at each other. So he made the hum and the lip-moves too, hoping to get their attention. It wasn't enough, so he did it again. It made Jim's throat hurt, but he kept doing it. He banged a fist into the counter too - Jim didn't know why he needed to do the lip-flapping thing to get them to look at him. He shouldn't have to, and they shouldn't do it either. Jim couldn't see the point! They turned toward him, finally.
The woman got red all over when he chipped the paint on the low cabinet. Her mouth was open wide a lot then, and Jim could see all her teeth. She was scary all of a sudden, so he didn't fight when she dragged him to the corner of the living room and sat him down on the floor. Jimmy puffed out his cheeks and stared at the ground, feeling the hum of the wood at each stomping step she took away from him. She was angry. He was angry too! All he wanted was a glass of water.
Jimmy sat around for what seemed like a long time, but it was probably a short time before the other boy walked into the room and sat down next to him. He stubbornly didn't look at the boy for a long while - this was partly his fault! If he hadn't been distracting the woman, Jim wouldn't have gotten in trouble for trying to get her attention.
His stubbornness was interrupted abruptly by the other boy shoving a pad of paper in his face. Jim stared at it for a moment, but the only thing on it was a few penciled squiggles.
SAM. Jim looked at the boy; were the squiggles supposed to make sense to him somehow? The boy's brow furrowed, then he wrote the same squiggles again. He pointed at the squiggles, then himself, and made a lip-movement. Jim blinked - he was still confused, though it was obvious the boy was trying to get something across. All anger was forgotten in lieu of overwhelming curiosity when the boy's eyebrows shot up excitedly. He drew a few more squiggles.
JIM. He tapped the new shapes with his pencil, then pointed it at Jimmy and made a new lip-thing. Then he tapped the SAM squiggles and pointed the pencil at himself and did the other lip-movement. Jimmy scowled at the paper and the boy, trying to figure out what was going on. Something niggled in the back of his young mind, but Jimmy couldn't quite get it. The woman walked into the room, picking something up off the floor.
The other boy straightened, tapping the JIM squiggles and pointing at him, then the SAM shapes and pointing at himself. Finally, he scribbled down a few new symbols, then pointed his pencil at the woman and made yet another slow lip-movement. It took a moment for Jim to recognize it as the one he'd tried to practice so many times before. The little boy looked down at the newest scribble.
He looked up at the woman. He tried the mouth move he'd practiced. The woman turned with wide eyes, then smiled at Jimmy.
The room exploded around him. Like two separate bridges building on opposite banks and finally meeting in the middle, Jim finally connected what the woman and the boy had been trying to teach him.
Words. A way to communicate. Names.
They weren't just the taller boy and the woman anymore. They were Mom and Sam.
And his name was Jim.
When Jim was really young and learning about words for the first time, a man in a blue shirt came around a lot. He had dark hair and almond eyes and a kind face, and Jim liked him a lot. He always brought Jim and Sam toys and books, even back when Jim didn't know the squiggles were letters and there was a whole alphabet out there that would help him connect to others. When Jim showed him the little pad of paper, he smiled and wrote JAKE on it. Jim decided he liked Jake's smile and climbed up in the man's lap.
Mom never smiled when the Jake came around. She always looked at the floor and slowly walked away when he came in the door. It didn't matter though, 'cause he was only around for a day at a time and Sam liked him too, so he must be alright. Sam and Jim both gravitated to him, which led to Jake teaching them to read and write. Sam was older, so he already knew some words from school. Occasionally the scribbles he learned from school weren't really good, and showing Jim made Mom turn red and get angry. She always tore the paper up and made Sam sit in the corner when she saw them.
Jake gave him a little black thing that looked kind of like a book with a little black stick. The book-thing had a blue screen with lines on it, and Jim soon discovered that he could scribble and erase on it with the black stick. Jake gave one to Sam too, to stop him from getting jealous, and made Jim copy down what he soon learned were 'letters.'
Every time Jake came over he'd check to see how Jim was doing. He taught him words, more than names like Sam and Jake and Mom, and slowly Jim began to understand. His box was a PADD and the thing he slpt on was a bed and he lived in a house. When he wanted to hit Sam for taking stealing his teddy he felt anger, and the color of his new bicycle was red.
For those years, Jim felt content.
Dr. Jacob Ono knew that Winona Kirk resented his presence. He was just as much of a reminder of her husband's demise as her sons that looked so much like him. Still, he couldn't leave Jim alone. He'd been there when the boy was born and he'd known from that moment on that Winona wouldn't be able to take care of him, not properly. He was right. Four years later he'd finally managed a transfer to a shuttle ship that took supplies to colonies with frequent shore leaves. When he tracked down Winona Kirk and her children he found a shadow of a woman, a boy barely out of toddlerhood with no way to connect to the world beyond his own mind, and the older brother who was strained serving as a desperate middleman between the two.
She could despise him all she wished, but he was going to give them the childhood they deserved as best he could. Every few weeks he showed up at the door and Winona let him in despite all the resentment that boiled within her. He knew that in some ways she unconsciously blamed James' condition on him, though there was nothing he could have done to cause or prevent it. Jim's deafness was genetic and incurable. Jacob had long dismissed his incredulity that the best of modern medicine - hearing aids, gene therapy, surgery - could do nothing to help one small child. Little Jim's situation was supposed to be an impossibility in this day and age, and the thought of the boy leading a life of impossibilities made him chuckle.
Jim was a voracious learner, the curiosity that had been unsatisfied for so long bursting to the surface when he finally found a way to connect. From one visit to the next, Jim went from learning basic letters to being able to write the entire alphabet without a single malformed or out-of-order letter. Jacob fought to keep accusations out of his voice whenever he had the occasion to speak to Winona. Do you see what you've done to this boy, denying him true communication because of your own hurt? Do you see what he could become? However, he didn't fight back a smile when he learned that Sam had taken it upon himself to teach his little brother numbers, too. The boy could count to ten on his fingers and write the numbers.
When Jacob came to the farmhouse that summer and found Jimmy browsing through some novels he'd brought for Sam, he knew it was time to focus the boy's education elsewhere. Jim would be starting kindergarten that fall, and he was already going to have enough problems without another way to communicate besides writing, of which Jim only had the bare bones despite his aptitude for it.
As Jacob saw it, he had two options. First, he could teach the kid sign language. The Federation had a system in place for communicating with species that were otherwise incomprehensible, but Jacob only knew a few rudimentary signs barely extending beyond Standard letters and greetings. He could teach them to Jim, but otherwise they wouldn't get the boy very far. His other option was to find a speech therapist that could teach Jim to talk and to read lips. The first problem was that Jim had only spoken two words in the entire time Jacob had been around him. The first was an attempt to make his mother smile and the second was an effort at his own name. Both were horribly slurred, beyond recognition unless you already knew what he was saying. Otherwise he never released any sounds beyond the occasional grunt or whine. Jim had never heard a sound in his life, and Jacob was sure the very concept of sound was foreign to him at this point, so speech would be an issue.
The second problem was finding a speech therapist. With this century's revolutionary medicine, the only need for them usually stemmed from accidents that affected the mouth and tongue muscles or the central nervous system, as surgery or gene therapy in the womb cured any loss of hearing through inheritance or accident.
Jacob sighed, watching Sam graciously play 'Starship' with his little brother. Sam thought himself beyond such kiddy toys, but they both knew that the elder could never resist Jim's puppy blues. The doctor was glad the boy didn't turn those eyes on him or he knew he would be the one crouching on the wood floor, piloting toy Fleetships with his hands and making totally pointless and scientifically inaccurate whooshing noises for Jim's amusement.
The answer came when explained his predicament to Gen, now his wife of three years and a doctor in her own right. She turned her large inky eyes on him and smiled, patting his hand gently with her dusky brown one. "Don't worry, Jake. I have the perfect solution."
The solution was a quick call to her second-cousin, an exolinguistics expert and a Standard language teacher for aliens immigrating to Earth. Jacob called up vague memories of her presence at his and Gen's wedding ceremony when she shook his hand.
"Nice to see you again," she smiled, dark skin pulling back to reveal white teeth, "My name is Nichelle Uhura."
A/N: As a childhood trekkie just getting back into the groove, please forgive inaccuracies. However, do point them out for me so I can improve. ;D