Title: A Change of Perspective
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: Property of Roddenberry, Paramount, JJ Abrams, etc. Alas.
Summary: Jim hadn't believed at the time that he'd ever have anything to come back for. Jim & Winona Kirk; 2500 words.
Spoilers: Star Trek XI (2009)
Notes: Written for the June '09 sticksnstrings ficathon, for the prompt of Middle American Saturday Night by Kane. Set several months after the movie in my sequence of STXI gapfillers.
Jim Kirk stepped off the shuttle in Riverside three years and change after he'd last set foot in the dockyards, appearing much the same as he had the day his life had altered forever. A bit ragged around the edges, casually dressed, evidence of recent bruising on his face-- and a cautious hope lurking behind his quirked half-smile at the prospect of a fresh start. The skeletal starship looming overhead looked much the same as well, on an external level, though of course she wasn't the one that had watched over his departure any more than he was the same rabblerouser who'd first stared up at his lady's frame.
The new cruiser was the NCC-0514-A, planned out along the same lines as the NCC-1701. Fitting, he thought, that the new Kelvin should be the same model that had taken down the original's destroyer. Jim grinned up at the patchwork of girder and white hull for a moment, looming against the blue Iowa sky like a wounded seabird come down to rest, and nodded his respect. Then he set off toward the town proper, kicking up sprays of windblown dirt as he walked. He had a long trek ahead of him.
Memories unfolded with every step down the dusty road, jolting up his spine in little flashes of color and sound. He'd traveled this way a thousand times in his childhood, both alone and with others; in his father's convertible, in his mother's used flitter, on the back of one of the farm horses, and later, on the antique motorcycle he'd converted himself. The machine had been worth every hour of work he'd spent on it-- until the day he'd signed up for Starfleet and decided he was never going to need it again. So, yeah, maybe that decision had been a little premature. But to be fair, Jim hadn't believed at the time that he'd ever have anything to come back for, and he'd been eager to leave everything behind him, to start over with a clean slate. No one could ever leave the past completely behind, though, could they?
The fields passed by at a leisurely, sleepy rate; it was early summer, warm in the days and cool in the evenings. He'd brought his leather jacket down with him just in case, but kept it slung over his bag now, a casual t-shirt baring his arms to the afternoon rays. Jim had started to lose his tan a little the last few months in space, and thought it would be nice to put some color back in his face before he returned home. (And maybe it should bother him how easily that term applied to the Enterprise now, rather than the house he was headed for-- but it really, really didn't).
He made two stops along the way, the first at the bar near the shipyards to pick up something to eat and a cold one for the road. He'd almost stopped drinking, the last few months aboard-- the last thing he needed was censure for conduct unbefitting, given all the scrutiny now following him as the youngest Captain in the fleet-- but there was nothing like the taste of a cold beer on a warm, hay-scented day, and he had nowhere else to be, after all. He picked up a few double-takes from the handful of regulars inside, but the evening crush hadn't arrived yet, and no one was brave enough-- or stupid enough-- to ask if their Jim Kirk and that Jim Kirk were really one and the same.
He was, of course. But he'd just as soon not be treated as a celebrity in the small town that had seen his first skinned knees and fist-fights, his first kiss, first drink, first party down by the river with the bass cranked so high in the cheerleader's flitter that the music made his teeth ache. (He'd still never told anyone exactly when and where he'd lost his virginity-- or how embarrassed he'd been afterward. Even the Great Jim Kirk had needed at least a little practice to make perfect). He'd been arrested-- and talked his way out of a jail cell-- too many times in this county to feel at all comfortable with the kind of treatment he'd begun to get just crossing the quad at Starfleet Headquarters. If any of the major media outlets ever decided to make a public spectacle of the Troubled Local Boy Makes Good storyline, they'd find plenty of witnesses in Iowa to fill them in on the details.
He'd finished the bottle of Bud Classic by the time he passed the road to the old quarry; he made his second detour there as the sun sank toward the horizon, and stared down for several minutes into the dusty old gash in the earth. It reminded him as much of Vulcan now, of his vision filling with the shivering, sandy surface of a dying planet as he plunged after Sulu, as it did his childhood; the incident with his father's antique car hadn't been the last time he'd flung himself from a moving object with only a fraction of a second's clearance between salvation and certain death, but it had been the first. The quarry had also been the place where he'd made his decision to join Starfleet; several beginnings, of a sort, all linked by the same tragedy.
Well, closure was what he had come back for. Or-- turning over a new leaf, at least. He pulled two twisted bits of heat-scarred metal from his pocket: one a fragment of the Narada's drill, salvaged from the bay in San Francisco by Starfleet engineers looking to analyze its advanced technology, the other a tiny piece of hull from the Enterprise's damaged starboard nacelle, scarred by the impact with what had remained of the Mayflower's saucer section. He weighed them in his hand a moment, then released them to tumble after the memory of the tiny Kelvin-shaped saltshaker he'd dropped three years ago, and the car he'd sent down a decade before that. Monuments to his past, every last one of them. Bookends for the loss that had shaped his early life.
He had a new life, now. A better one, he thought; but one built atop what he'd learned from the old, not in place of it. Jim had become more than the wastrel son of the heroic, doomed George Kirk; he was a Captain in his own right, a hero, a son and brother, a friend, a crewmate, a vital part of the Federation's peacekeeping force... but he was who he was because of his origins, as much as in spite of them. It had taken a long time, and far too many fresh losses added to the tally, to teach him that.
The last crescent of molten light finally slipped beneath the horizon as Jim trudged away from the ledge again, limning the edge of the world for a moment in a wash of gold. A rich fabric of paler hues faded into blue and then black up and over the arch of sky, studded at its other hem with the flickering pinpricks of stars. He smiled as he walked onward, picking out the quadrant of sky presided over by Starbase One, then the cluster of diamond dust obscuring Sam's new home.
Jim and his older brother had talked more in the past three months than they had in all the years since Tarsus IV. He'd been surprised how easy it was to slip back into a comfortable friendship with him; to remember the days when Sam had been his confidante, protector, and role model, rather than just another source of disappointment and abandonment. He was looking forward very much to the Enterprise's planned stop at Deneb on its way out towards deep space for her first real mission. With the shakedown done, the Admiralty had no excuses left for keeping them close at hand, and several very good reasons to send the flag out to the front.
He reached the old farmhouse as the Moon rose. The shining crescent wasn't as brilliant as she'd appeared in some of the old two-dee vids, a white disc not yet marred by the heavy tread of pressure dome colonization and artificial gravity generators, but she still cast a pearlescent glow over the darkened landscape. Gray shadows stretched across the farmyard under her gentle touch; one in particular reached out from the blocky shape of the barn, and he set his bag down at the corner of the building with a sigh. Then he slipped his jacket on and headed for the ladder up to the loft.
"Jim," his mother greeted him, as he stepped through the open loft window to a gently sloping section of the roof.
"Mom," he acknowledged, working his way across to Winona as she continued to stare up at the stars.
He stilled as he reached her, following her gaze to the distant spot where Nero's unbalanced rage had first disrupted their lives, and waited quietly, sharing the silence with her. At least, as close to silence as one could get on the farm, with crickets chirping in the fields, animals making sleepy noises below them, and one late flitter zooming down a road in the distance-- he missed the nearly-subliminal hum of the ship's engines and the peaceful white noise of his crew, busily efficient around him. This wasn't about him, though. Or-- not only about him.
Eventually, she turned to him, inspected him for a moment, then took him in her arms, wrapping him up in an awkward but heartfelt hug. "I'm sorry I missed your promotion ceremony," she said.
"That's all right," Jim shrugged as he pulled back again. His crew had been there, applauding him; Pike had been there, approving of him; the elder Spock had been there, believing in him; and really, that was more than he'd ever hoped for, the last time he'd stood here. "You could hardly expect the Lake to change their whole schedule so you could get back earlier."
She smiled at him, tearily, then turned back toward the stars. "Do you remember coming up here with me, when you were little?" she asked. The moonlight gave the silver strands in her close-cut, wavy blonde hair a luminescent glow; there were more of them than there used to be, but she was still a handsome woman. "You and Sam-- all the dreams you used to dream, all the places you wanted to visit. You'd point the stars out to me and tell me what you'd learned about them that day, and whether you'd get to be the first ones to set foot on their planets."
"Yeah, I do," Jim said, softly. That had been before the stars had stolen her from him, almost as thoroughly as they had his father; before Kodos; before his brother ran away for good. Before he'd decided to start living in the moment, rather than planning futilely for moments never to come. "I still do that now," he quipped, hoping to lighten the mood. "It's just accompanied by a lot more paperwork and arguing with my first officer about whether or not I get to be on the away team."
She flashed another smile at him, then; and there was something soft and pained in her eyes that brought back the first conversation they'd held over subspace after the battle with Nero. She was his mother, and Jim had always loved her-- but he hadn't always liked her, and he'd felt alternately vindictive and guilty about that for half his life. Since stumbling into this Captain thing, though, the grievances he'd carried around with him had begun to fade away like mist. A consequence of finally growing up, Bones would say; Jim liked to think it was because he'd finally gained enough perspective to understand a little of her grievances, and to respect her for doing as well as she had. He and Sam were both healthy, after all, successful and more-or-less happy in their chosen careers; and despite everything, had actually led privileged childhoods. It hadn't been her fault their father had taken the light from her eyes when he'd left them.
"Captain Kirk," she said, softly. "George would be so proud, if he could see you now."
"So everyone keeps saying," he replied, shrugging.
"I'm so proud of you, Jim," she rephrased then, reaching out to lay a hand on his arm. "I don't think I ever told you-- but the day you went into Starfleet, I knew you would be something special." Her smile grew, though it wavered a little around the edges. "I wanted to kill Pike for putting my baby in harm's way-- but I was proud of you then, and I'm even prouder of you now."
"Really?" he couldn't quite stop himself from asking.
"Of course." She reached out to him again, but not to hug this time; she touched his cheek with one callused hand, searching his face with her eyes for whatever it was she always looked for there. This time, though, he somehow got the feeling that she'd found it, when she never had before; it made him feel vaguely out of breath, and desperately grateful, and irritated at himself for that reaction-- but mostly grateful. What he wouldn't have given to see that from her a few times in his childhood.
"I'm sorry I never made that clear to you before. I was just-- so afraid I'd lose you, too."
Jim took her hand as she lowered it, and clasped it as he stared her seriously in the eyes for a moment. She was making the effort; and he found he couldn't do any less. "I can't promise anything, Mom. You know that. But I have the best crew in the 'fleet, and the best ship, and I don't believe in no-win scenarios."
"Neither did your father," she replied, softly-- still seeing him, not lost in misty memories.
"He didn't exactly lose, either," Jim replied, echoing Pike's words from three years before-- finally believing them. "We're still here, aren't we?"
Winona gripped his hand tightly, nodding, then let go of him. "Yes, we are," she echoed, then sank down on the roof, patting the space beside her. Feet stretched out in front of her, she turned her gaze outward again, this time toward the town rather than up at the stars.
"Did I ever tell you about the fight he got into the summer before we enlisted? It was a night a lot like this, a Saturday with the moon riding high, and we'd just come back from a party at the river..."
No, Jim thought idly, he'd never leave the past completely behind him. But there was more to it than the legacy of loss he'd always fixated on before; there was good there, too.
He dangled his feet off the roof next to his mother's and let the story wash over him.