this is a disclaimer.
of cloudless climes, and starry skies
"James is a boy's name," the girls all sneer at her, caught between laughter and disdain. "What kind of girl has a name like James?"
Jamie draws herself up to her full height. At five and a half, it's not much of a height, but still. "I do," she declares with a self confidence everyone in the school will be envying by the time she's ten. "My Dad gave it to me."
And that is that. So there.
Mommy's away so much because she loves to fly, Granma Kirk tells them softly. So did Daddy.
"I hate it," Sam bursts out in a fit of passion. "I hate all of it! There's nothing up there!"
Jamie can't understand why it makes him so mad, why he doesn't want to watch the stars with her. She tilts her head back and lets the breeze wander through her hair, wrap around her, whisper secrets to her.
"Everything's up there," she says. "Isn't it, Granma?"
Granma grips her shoulders tightly. "Yes, baby girl," she says softly. "Yes, it is. But sometimes, Jamie – sometimes people are happier not knowing that."
Jamie worries at her bottom lip. "You mean," she says hesitantly, "because – Daddy knew, and that's why he died?"
Granma rubs her hands over Jamie's shoulders, down her arms, and doesn't answer.
When Granma dies, Jamie is seven. She doesn't remember much about it, to tell the truth. The days slip by in a haze of gray and loneliness and an ache inside her where Granma used to be, fragmented by jagged edged images: Mommy coming home, face pale and hands trembling. The church, a building as hollow as her stomach. A blur of faces, men and women dressed in black, bending to hug her and Sam, clucking over them, pretending to care.
All Jamie really knows is that Granma's gone, and Mommy's home; but Mommy, much as Jamie loves her, is a stranger, more like a favourite aunt than a mother.
Jamie knows it, Sam knows it, and Mommy knows it, too.
Frank doesn't beat Jamie like he does Sam. He doesn't hit girls, he says. That's not what gentlemen do. Hitting girls, Frank says, is wrong; but Jamie is wrong too, and she needs to be punished.
Sometimes she falls asleep in the closet he locks her into, she's been in there so long, and it's like he can tell, because he walks past and bashes on the door, making her jump awake and hit her head or her elbows on the sides, the door, the boxes locked in there with her in the dark. He shouts at her, through the door, and it's worse than when he shouts at her while she's in the kitchen, because at least in the kitchen she can run away if it gets too much, dart past him and bolt for freedom, out of the back door, pounding across the yard and through the grass to wriggle under a fence and disappear till nightfall.
In the closet, there's nowhere to run.
Frank beats her for the first time after she destroys Dad's car. It doesn't matter; in fact, it's a relief.
She prefers the beatings to the closet. The beatings feel more... more honest. There's no darkness there, waiting to swallow her. There are no walls.
Mom comes home a few weeks after, takes one look at Jamie's bruises, at the dull glaze in Sam's eyes, and punches Frank: right there in the yard, sends him stumbling over backwards, ass hitting the dust with a thump.
Jamie never sees him come back for his things.
Aunt Sally is a sweetheart. Jamie thinks she would be her favourite aunt if Mom wasn't already.
Sam sulks a lot; he hates Tarsus almost more than he hated Riverside, but the doctors told Mom that yes, it might be a good idea for the children to have a change. It would certainly not benefit them to be caught up in the divorce proceedings. And anyway, Mom's going back to Starfleet when it's all sorted out, and someone has to look after Jamie and Sam.
Life on Tarsus is hard, no denying it. Jamie and Sam have to work on the farm after school, which they didn't need to in Riverside because the farm there is a farm in name only. Cousin Mike teases Jamie about her name and pulls her hair when Sam isn't looking (the only thing that can get Sam to stop sulking is someone being mean to Jamie), and she shoves him like she is a boy and does her lessons and reads books when she can and falls in love with this boy at school.
Sam's the one who teases her for that, but Jamie resolutely ignores him. Jake has beautiful eyes, and his smile flashes very bright in his dark, handsome face. It feels like it's just for her, and no one else.
It's just past Jamie's thirteenth birthday when she gets her first period, while she's at school. It's no big deal. She's had sex ed. classes, she knows what it is, what it means. It's weird to walk around with the sanitary pad in her knickers, but only for a little while before she gets used to it. It's fine, really.
Aunt Sally finds her hunched in the bathroom, sitting next to the toilet with her knees drawn up to her chest the way she used to crouch in the closet.
"Jamie-girl? What's wrong?"
Jamie gulps a bit. "I didn't know it would feel so – so weird," she says. "I mean. I'm bleeding from the inside. It's sorta surreal."
"That's where you usually bleed from," Aunt Sally agrees mildly. "Didn't Win – talk to you? At all?"
It's been two years since Jamie's seen Mom in person; the only stipulation Winona Kirk made about her children's education here on Tarsus was that they both take self defence classes. "No, why? It's not like I didn't know about it. I've been to school!"
Aunt Sally sighs. "School is sometimes – a little impersonal. You know?"
Jamie rolls her eyes. "I'm not traumatised, Aunt Sal," she says exasperatedly. "Just a little – weirded out."
Aunt Sally holds out an arm to her. "C'mere."
She kisses Jake for the first time a couple weeks later, down by the river, ankle deep in the mud. They're both filthy and wet and starting to get cold; night's coming on and the wind bites at their bodies through their thin swimsuits.
Jake's hands are cold and damp on her bare shoulders, but his mouth is warm, and Jamie thinks she can taste the ice cream they had earlier on his tongue. He tells her afterward that she tastes like mint and wide blue skies, and Jamie blushes red, and then laughs.
"You can't taste blue skies," she objects.
Jake shrugs. "I don't see why not," he says.
Things are getting bad. Jamie knows this, because the grown-ups have started to whisper in corners and Aunt Sally, who has had several long conversations with Jamie about things like sex and dieting and her body image (especially after she found out about Jake), has put the whole family on a diet.
Mike complains a lot. So does Sam. Jamie doesn't. She can read grown-ups too well, she guesses. She can almost taste their fear sometimes.
When it gets really bad, Jamie hides in a book.
For all that her teachers have often been heard to call Jamie 'wise beyond her years', she never will be able to remember when or how the audience Aunt Sally went to in the Governor's palace became –
They don't even bother with phasers, and the shiny red blade bursts out of Aunt Sally's chest like something out of a horror movie, dripping and furious. Jamie can't even hear the sound of her own scream over the pounding of her heart, the rasp of her breath in her throat.
Hard to tell if Aunt Sally meant to whisper 'run' or if that's just the movement of her mouth as she loses control over her muscles, knees hitting the stone floor and the guard standing behind her wrenches at the blade, so casual, so natural, not even looking when Aunt Sally's body slips free of it and falls limply to the ground like a rag doll, like a heap of clothing.
Jamie doesn't run. There's a knife on the man's belt, and she knows enough about human biology to know that his femoral artery is in there somewhere.
She makes her way through the city with the bloodstained knife clenched tight in her right hand, wary as a hunted animal.
Got to get home. Got to find Mike and Sammy and Jake and Ziva and... got to get home.
She knows better than to think that Sam is capable of protecting anyone. She learned that in the closet.
Weeks before they're rescued. Jamie cuts her hair off with emotionless precision after she finds the first louse. Makes the others do the same.
She finds Jake's body on the third day, along with his mother and father and baby brother.
They live in the woods, mostly, scavengers out of a blood drenched fairy tale. Jamie gets better and better at using the knife she took off the dead soldier. More and more kids find them, as well as a few adults, most of them wounded (many of whom die and are buried, laboriously, by Jamie and the others. Sometimes the salvaged medkits just aren't enough; and when Mike sulkily demands why they bother burying them, it's Sam who tells him that otherwise, they'd get sick.). Soon they're a loose gang of more than thirty, with signs and countersigns and secret handshakes, roaming away from each other in search of food and in order to hide from the soldiers but always finding their way back to Jamie.
She doesn't know how she managed to get appointed leader. It just seemed to happen, the reassuring words coming as easily to her lips as the hard decisions, the orders. Maybe she's just read too many books.
Tommy Leighton's her First Officer, even though he's seventeen to her fourteen. Burns or no, he's the steadiest one of them all, can keep calm under any circumstances. He'd have to, in order to escape the city despite the pain.
He's the one who explains about the bug that destroyed the crops.
"My Dad said they didn't think it would get so bad," he says.
"Guess they were wrong."
When Jamie looks at Sam, she can tell he doesn't recognise her anymore.
Seeing Winona Kirk in tears – actual tears, actual sobs that shake her body and make her hands tremble – is worse than the woods. At least Jamie knew what she was doing in the woods.
It takes her all of a week to figure out what the counsellors want her to say and feel and do. They're not even as smart as the soldiers who were sent to hunt them down and stop the thievery.
They tell her she's one of the only ones left alive who were in the audience chamber when Kodos – made the announcement. They tell her he's dead, and they tell her everything will be alright.
Jamie just looks at them.
Iowa is a dream, unreal, too-good-to-be-true. Slow and soothing, hiding all the pain.
Pain, Jamie's learned, is what keeps you alive.
"If you can feel it, you can fight it," Tommy used to say. She's not sure even he knew what he meant, but it's a good mantra. It feels good in your mouth when you say it.
People whisper and talk and point and mutter and stare, but Jamie tosses her new-grown hair and flings herself into the business of being alive with a gusto she didn't know she had. She feels and she fights and she puts her newly acquired skill set to a more ignoble use than procuring food for starving children, because no one needs her out here. Instead, they tiptoe around her and talk behind her back like she's made out of glass when in reality she's stronger than any of them.
She could almost pity them, sometimes.
Sam disappears one fine Sunday morning without leaving a note or saying a word. Winona, posted to the Riverside shipyards at her own request, helping to design and oversee the construction of the new Constitution Class starships, is frantic, but Jamie just shrugs.
"He'll come back when he's found what he's looking for," she says, because that's what the agreement was. That was always what her orders were.
She's nearly seventeen before her periods come back and settle into something like a regular cycle again. Jamie whoops when she realises it, and decides to celebrate her new found normalcy by going out and getting laid.
The first time is kinda disappointing, so she does it again. This time the guy's a little older, and he knows what he's doing, and hell yeah, she could get used to that.
Jamie has her Fallopian tubes tied in a hospital in Los Angeles. She's nineteen, but she gives the doctor a false name and fake documents and lies about her age, and they do it with the minimum of fuss and bother.
But despite all her precautions, Winona finds out about it, and that, as they say, is the beginning of the end.
"My God, Jamie, you're nineteen!" she yells, as if Jamie's some fragile little child who needs Mommy to protect her, Winona's hands clenched on the back of the kitchen chair, eyes very wide and face horribly pale, as if she's just realised for the first time in her life that – what? That her daughter is about as mentally stable as a firecracker right about now?
Or that she, Winona Kirk, was the one who sat around and did nothing while Jamie became this way?
"I don't see how it's any of your business, Mom," Jamie says, soft and slow. (In ten years time, four hundred and twenty nine people and several members of the Fleet Admiralty will be able to tell Winona exactly what that voice means. At the moment, no one can.) "It's my body. I get to choose what happens to it. Remember that speech? I was – oh no, wait. Aunt Sally was the one who gave me that speech."
A muscle in Winona's jaw jumps. "Jamie," she says, struggling for control, "this isn't a joke. And this isn't a legitimate way of lashing out at me, you understand? This is an irreversible procedure that's changed your whole life."
Jamie barks a laugh. "Changed my whole life? What rock have you been living under, Mom? Did you really think I'm going to spend the next forty, fifty years barefoot and pregnant in some dumb Iowa redneck's filthy farmer's kitchen?"
She puts all the disgusted scorn she can summon up into her words, and they sting, she knows it. Winona never wanted to be stuck in this place, on her husband's parent's farm in the middle of nowhere. She's a New York City girl, and she's a Starfleet officer. To her, this place is hell, and something inside Jamie knows it.
But she manages, somehow, to keep her cool just the same. Of course. She's a Starfleet officer.
"Jamie, please, can't you see what you're giving up?"
"Yeah," Jamie says. "This place. This life. Any and every possibility that I will ever be trapped into staying in this dump. Any and every possibility that someone else will ever be able to dictate to me, or manipulate me, or use me, in any way."
Winona clamps down on her horrified look as fast and as completely as she can, but it's not quick enough, and Jamie feels a rush of triumph.
"Is that what you think motherhood is?"
Jamie shrugs. "I don't know jack about motherhood. Well, except for its absence, of course. I know about that."
She'd been expecting a hurt look, a slammed door, a shouting match, a tearful apology in a few hours time – it's perverse, really, the way she can predict the course of the next several hours before the fight even starts but is still powerless to change it.
She hadn't been expecting the slap to the face, the sharp sting in her jaw, the way it snaps her head to one side and even makes her stumble, albeit more with the surprise than the impact of the blow.
It's the space of a heartbeat before Winona realises what she's done. She gasps, soft and terrible, and reaches for her daughter, but Jamie...
Jerks back, hands trembling, blue eyes the only stab of colour in her bloodless face. She starts to back away, heart beating hard and high in her throat, breath coming short and desperate, fighting the age old instinct to hit back, the insistent voice in her gut telling her to –
Her shaking hand, outstretched behind her, meets the doorknob. She turns it, staggers backwards over the porch and down the steps, and starts to run.
OK, so the split from Mom makes leaving Riverside a leeetle more difficult than Jamie had anticipated.
She can live off her wits if she has to, but adept as she is at using the knife in her boot, having a back-up plan is always a good idea. It's only when civilisation collapses that you're allowed to kill to survive.
"Xenolinguistics? Sounds kinds dirty."
Jamie puts the shots down in front of the girl in the Fleet Cadet uniform and smirks at Adam Meary. He never has any luck with the ladies. "Means the lady has a talented tongue," she says. "Try not to get blood on the bar when you punch him, sweetheart."
The girl – Uhura? – laughs. "I'll do my best. And can I get a Slusho, too?"
"Sure, honey. On the house."
"No, really. I'm good for it."
Jamie grins again, wide and bright. The Mysterious Uhura has a lovely smile.
And some very attractive... assets. She's had sex maybe ten times over the last three years, the operation having destroyed her libido as well as her fertility, but damn. Maybe it's coming back.
"Yes, you are," she agrees, pouring on the charm, and Uhura smiles that smile again and Jamie thinks here we go and then Meary grabs hold of her elbow.
"Fuck off, you little slut. Ain't it enough you gotta sleep with everyone in town, now you're hornin' in on everyone who comes through here?"
"There's nothing to horn in on, asshole," the Mysterious Uhura snaps, but Jamie isn't looking at her.
"Take your filthy hands off me, Meary," she says softly.
Meary tightens his grip and yanks her closer, forcing her torso against the edge of the bar so that it digs into her lower ribcage and she almost loses her balance. "Why? Must be the only guy in the place who hasn't had you yet."
Jamie breaks his nose without a second thought, and that would have been that if he hadn't fallen backwards on top of the Mysterious Uhura's bully boy fellow cadets.
"What the fuck?" the biggest one yells, shaking Meary off and onto the floor.
"Relax, Cupcake, it's none of your business," Jamie says, but Meary chooses that moment to stagger to his feet and take a wild and badly aimed swing at the guy and – everything goes downhill from there.
"And this," Jamie drawls, low and husky as she leans forward and presses her arms in so that her breasts push together and threaten to pop out of her top (they won't, she doesn't have the cup size for it, but whatever), "is where you tell me you could be good to me if I do you a few favours, and then we fuck in the restroom, up against the cubicle wall."
Pike raises an eyebrow. "Sorry, not interested," he says, and doesn't once take his eyes off her aching, bloodstained face.
Jamie sits back in her chair sharply and reaches for her beer. "Man, why else are you talking to me?"
"I know who you are," he says. "I've seen your test scores. Frankly, I'm trying to recruit you."
She stares at him for a moment and then bursts out laughing.
He sits back and crosses his legs quite calmly, waiting for her amusement to run out.
"Bullshit," Jamie says at last. "Bullshit. If you know who I am then you know I have a juvie record longer than you are tall. And you know that I've been diagnosed, variously over the course of the last nine years, with everything from some kinda narcissistic personality disorder to PTSD. And you know that aptitude tests are not the same thing as an actual education. Starfleet doesn't recruit people like me, it arrests them."
Pike actually deigns to grin, a little, in acknowledgment of her words. "Mostly, yes. But I have – influence. With certain people."
Jamie huffs. "And this is where it turns out you do wanna screw me after all."
"Jamie Kirk," Pike says. "Daughter of Acting Captain George Kirk, hero of the Kelvin, and Commander Winona Kirk, one of the most respected computer engineers we've got. You know, if you were a guy, I'd be giving you a speech about how well you could do, how easily you could make Captain if you put your mind to it. Your own ship within a decade."
She takes a long sip of warm, flat beer, inwardly wincing at the taste. "But?"
"You're not a guy."
Jamie barks a laugh. "You're tellin' me."
"There have been three female starship captains since Archer took the Enterprise NX-01 out for her first cruise," Pike says. "Three. All in the last twenty years. Tell you the truth, your mother might have been the fourth, if she'd wanted it badly enough. Starfleet is a military organisation first and foremost, no matter what we do in diplomacy and relief efforts and science and so on. Just under a third of all cadets passing through the Academy right now are female, and for Fleet, that's a lot."
Jamie watches him, silent, intrigued despite herself.
Starfleet. Starfleet is Winona's world. Starfleet is Dad's death.
Everything is up there, isn't it? Up in the stars?
"Jamie," Pike says, focussing her attention on him again. "In light of what I've just said, do you really think that a fourteen year old girl can lead a group of kids to relative safety during a genocide without there being more rumours about it in the service than you can shake a stick at? I want that girl in the service, Jamie. I want that girl captaining a starship. Fleet will want that girl. That leader."
He doesn't tell her until years later that he was taking a shot in the dark when he said that; that he couldn't be sure if the rumours were true or even if she was the girl they spoke of. But right now, fury flashes through Jamie like a lightning strike, and she leans over the table towards him and says, fierce and low, "If I ever find out you breathed a word of that to another living soul, I'll cut your fucking throat."
Pike grins like he's proud of her, the son of a bitch, and she realises: that show of temper, that flash of spirit, was what he was waiting for. "Shuttle leaves the shipyards at 0800 tomorrow morning. Don't bother to pack, you probably won't need any of it."
"I haven't said yes," Jamie says, still too soft.
"You will," he replies. "You will. You're wasted out here and you know it. You know what you're capable of. I can show you how to take those talents and use them."
"For the good of the whole galaxy," Jamie says breathlessly.
"For your own good. Before you rot out here in the Midwest, before you die in a bar fight provoked by some dumb hick who's had a few too many. You're too good for this life, Kirk. And what's more, you know it. You've proved it to yourself once. Now go prove it to everyone else."
He gets up then, and walks away from her, and Jamie toasts his retreating back with the beer glass.
"Screw you, Christopher," she murmurs, and grins. "Ten years? I'll do it in eight."
Everything's up there, isn't it? Up in the stars?
Yes, baby girl. Everything.
Not since Tommy Leighton last put an arm around her shoulders and called her Jamie-girl has Jamie felt as safe with anyone as she does with Leonard McCoy.
And then he names her Jim, and that's kind of when they become soulmates.
Hard to tell which of them throws themselves into Starfleet with more enthusiasm, two overly private, screwed up people who have nothing else to do and nowhere else to go, and damn, but it's fun.
McCoy had expected a lot of things about the Academy: the discipline, the physical training, the long hours spent studying, the wrench of realising, before birthdays and anniversaries, that he wouldn't even be in the same state as his little girl anymore – but what he hadn't expected was how interesting most of his classes are, how easily he fits shifts at the hospital around study hours, how much fun it is to sit in Jim's bar with a bunch of friends and trade insults with her over the heads of the other patrons, how quickly he'd make those friends.
Jim, he knows, feels the same way. There was a restless, reckless vigour to her in those first few weeks, a purebred racehorse wanting to get out of the stables and run, but McCoy has a front row seat to her transformation, and it's a thing of beauty to watch all that boundless energy, that knife sharp gut instinct, that force of personality, become honed and concentrated and polished to a gleam.
The girl isn't just trouble. She's downright dangerous.
Nyota Uhura admits, in her weaker, more drunken moments, that she has a certain fascination with the vibrant bundle of contradictions that is James Kirk, but she swears Gaila to secrecy before she does so and suppresses it in public.
She falls for Spock for a lot of reasons: he's intelligent, he accepts and applauds her ambitions, he challenges her to be better than she is. He's gorgeous, too. But mostly, Uhura falls for him because of his self-confidence. It's been called arrogance by some, and that's probably not entirely inaccurate, but the point is that his whole bearing exudes a simple confidence in his own abilities that is the exact opposite of the loud, overbearing bragging of most of the other men she knows, and it draws her in and even puts her at ease, allows her to find that same kind of confidence in her own capabilities.
And when he starts relaxing around her, just a little, she wants to run up and down the corridors whooping with joy, and gloat over it in front of Jamie.
When Chris Chapel tries to explain to Roger why she's friends with that Kirk girl, she fails miserably.
"She's like gravity," she says, waving the fork around. "She pulls people in – she's fascinating, Roger. And fun, and smart, and – you just wanna be around her, no matter how crazy things get."
Roger laughs, and reaches over the exquisitely decorated table top to touch her free hand. "Christine, really? Gravity?"
"All right, my love. I just worry that – well, that she's a bad influence."
After Chris breaks up with him and Jamie holds her hair back while she throws up into the toilet, the bathroom filling up with the stench of regurgitated whiskey and old sweat, she chokes into the toilet bowl that Jamie really is a bad influence, and that Chris loves her more than anyone except possibly that asshole Len, and Jamie chuckles and hugs her tight. Chris nods to herself, rather shakily.
"Gravity," she tells the toilet solemnly. "But not like a black hole. Earth gravity, the kind that holds you up."
Gaila falls in lust with Jim Kirk the minute she sets eyes on her, but she doesn't lay in a campaign plan and launch the attack until she sees Jim call that asshole Tucker Cupcake in the mess hall and stare him down when he tries bullying some seventeen year old freshman into giving up the last bottle of orange juice in the fridge.
After that, Gaila doesn't stop until she's got her.
"You're perfect," she says lazily, running a hand over Jim's back.
"I do my best," Jim said contentedly. "Ah, you don't know how good that feels."
Gaila arches an eyebrow. "Has it been a while?"
Jim snuggles into the covers, turns her face to the side to look at her lover. "A little while, yeah."
Impossible, surely; how does anyone resist such gorgeous messy perfection as Jim, stretched out naked in the sheets, all tan lines and old scars and golden hair like Guinevere's?
Jim actually, honest to God giggles when Gaila asks her this, and squirms under the touch of Gaila's sure strong hands, and the look she's wearing – bright and open and unguarded – makes Gaila's breath catch in her throat.
Jim deserves to look like that all the time.
Every time some nosy colleague sends Pike a report about that Kirk girl's latest triumph, he grins like an idiot.
"Means a lot to you, doesn't she?" Number One asks, leaning over his shoulder to read the screen with him.
"She's my secret weapon in the fight against the Admiralty," Pike agrees. "In twenty years time we'll either be working for her or dead by her hand, you mark my words."
"She's a Kirk," Number One says dryly. "I believe you."
The Kobayashi Maru is hardly the first time James Kirk, more commonly referred to as Jamie or even Jim, has come to Spock's attention. She is a brilliant student, after all, consistently in the top five students of any class she takes. Rumour has it she tested out of more than half of her first year classes, but Spock pays little attention to such rumours, and would never stoop to reading her personal records to discover the truth.
It is not just that. The fact of the matter is that James Kirk is very difficult to ignore; she laughs too much and too loudly, runs when she should walk, bursts into a room with a vibrant energy that Spock is wholly unaccustomed to.
And then she reprograms his simulation and beats the Kobayashi Maru scenario and grins a twisted, triumphant grin up at the one way window pane behind which the instructors are gaping at her in astonishment, and Spock feels something very much akin to anger rising in him.
Kirk has thrown him a gauntlet, and Spock intends to pick it up.
The ease with which that Vulcan sonovabitch got under her skin and tore apart her composure grates on Jim. There he was, perfectly calm and perfectly fucking logical, impeccably dressed without a hair out of place, flaying her open for the entire Academy to see – oh, he'll regret it. She'll take his precious arguments and grind them into dust when they get back home, and then she'll tear that smooth flawless mask off him and see what he's really made of.
She tells Bones so, in Sickbay, and he nods and pats her shoulder.
"Sure you will, Jim."
"Watch me," she says, and would have said more, but then someone drops a tray behind her.
"Oh my God, what are you two idiots doing?"
It's Chris, and she looks horrified.
Goody goody two shoes. Jim sticks her tongue out at her.
"Is this because I'm a girl or because you think I'm a cheater?" Jamie demands of Spock, right there in the Engineering room with Sulu one step behind them and Pike one step ahead, and he raises an eyebrow.
"It is because I know you are a cheater, Cadet Kirk," he says, and is taken aback by the illogic of the grin she gets.
"I can live with that, sir," she says.
Captain Pike looks almost approving. Spock is at a loss to understand the man.
"Well," Jamie says to her duffle bag as she stares out over the vast snow plains all around her. "At least he really didn't hold back on me because I'm a girl."
Bones will be OK. He's too smart to get himself marooned on an ice planet while there are people up there in space, on the Enterprise, who still need his help. He's too smart to piss the Acting Captain off in front of the bridge crew and very nearly incite a mutiny by doing so.
And even if he isn't, Chris is right there with him. She'll look after him.
Sulu would not, under normal circumstances, describe himself as the kind of person who would ever instigate a mutiny, but he's certainly more than a little undecided as to the advisability of marooning a girl like Kirk. Whatever else you wanna say about her, she more than knew what she was doing on that drill, and she was the one who realised they were warping into a trap in the first place, and Sulu is starting to feel like maybe it's just logical to respect competence more than simple rank.
(He absolutely does not grin delightedly when, several hours later, Kirk saunters back onto the bridge like she owns it. That would be unprofessional.)
Giant alien lobster snow monsters are one thing, but the terrible grief she feels when their minds touch is a wave that threatens to drown her, an expanding black hole like the one that swallowed Vulcan, and Jamie, long practiced at suppressing emotions that feel as if they were engulfing you whole, can see the way this Spock reins it in, tucking his pain and sorrow and loneliness into a corner of his mind, to be put aside and hidden away as completely as possible.
She doesn't know if she admires his technique or aches for the practice he so obviously has at using it.
"So you do feel," she croaks when they draw apart, the grief staying with her far more than the information about Nero.
Spock starts, but she doesn't see. "Jim, k'diwa –" he says, and then stops. "I apologise. Emotional transference is a side effect of the meld."
Later on, she'll look up the meaning of that word. Later on, she'll stare at the screen in numb, silent shock, and ache inside for a chance long missed, a life no longer possible, a love not realised.
For now, she has a ship to captain, and a planet to save, and a world to revenge; so she pretends she didn't hear, and staggers to her feet.
Bloody hell, but it's been a long time since Montgomery Scott has had the distinct pleasure of seeing another humanoid, let alone a human being, and when said human being happens to be a pretty girl as well...
But that train of thought fades away quickly in the face of Kirk's professionalism and fierce determination – not to mention her understanding of transporter technology, which is by no means complete, but very impressive for a Command Track cadet just the same.
"She draws you in, doesn't she," he says quietly to Spock, and the old man looks at him with a strange expression, somewhere between sorrow and delight.
"Indeed she does, Mr Scott," he says, and Scott is briefly taken aback by the familiarity with which Spock speaks his name. "Indeed she does."
And then Kirk calls him Scotty and saves his life and takes command of the most beautiful ship Scotty's ever seen by the most audacious, ruthlessly pragmatic method in history, and he thinks that that audacity alone is enough to make anyone follow her to the edges of the galaxy and beyond.
Chekov doesn't need the files to tell him he's the youngest person on the ship; whether or not he's one of the smartest isn't the issue, as his age automatically disqualifies him from – well, everything, really, but it grated on him more before he lost the Lady Amanda – before her signal just blinked and was gone and it was all he could do to keep the lock on Commander Spock and the Vulcan elders.
He knows he's as pale as a ghost, sitting here in Sickbay and getting checked over. Dr McCoy insisted on seeing everyone on the bridge crew when the shifts changed; he's checking Commander Spock's readings for the third time at that very moment, muttering to himself.
Captain Pike is lying, prone and unconscious, two beds over from Chekov, his face turned away from him, hooked up to monitors, looking terribly like a corpse even though he's been out of surgery for two hours now and the prognosis (for his overall health, not necessarily his continued use of his legs) is good.
A hand comes down on his shoulder, and Chekov jumps; it's Kirk.
"Realised I never thanked you for saving my life," she says, hoarse and low.
Chekov catches those too-blue eyes with his and holds their gaze for as long as he can, feeling like he's staring into the sea. Into space itself. He nods, once: all the acknowledgement he can give. She understands, he can tell.
"Outta here, Ensign," McCoy says, joining them; Chekov jumps, tearing his eyes away from Kirk's. "You're looking good. Just make sure you sleep."
"Da – yes, sir. Thank you, Dr McCoy." The slightest of hesitations, because Pike's right there, alive and breathing. Then, "Captain Kirk."
Kirk knows what he's implying, and her mouth twitches, too tired to smile. She's swaying dangerously, leaning towards McCoy without even realising it.
Today, tomorrow, for the rest of all their lives, she is their Captain, Chekov thinks. No matter what else happens to them, where they get assigned – Jamie Kirk could draw them together again with a word, from all over the galaxy, just because she said so, and she's Kirk.
Chekov knows he's being melodramatic and overwrought, but today, of all days, melodramatic and overwrought is the only thing that fits.
"I am relieved," Pike says, almost too quietly, and Jamie clutches his hand that bit tighter for a brief instant and smiles that bit wider, because it's Pike, and he's the closest thing to a father she's ever had, and the first person since Tarsus to look at her and see someone capable of so much more.
"This is all your fault, Christopher," she hisses at him out of the corner of her mouth, not once moving her lips, and Pike grins even wider, because he knows it.
"Inside of ten years," he says smugly. "What did I tell you?"
It started with a look, Jamie decides, and a slow approving nod.
She likes things to have a beginning.
It continues with briefings and interviews and all night sessions bent over mission reports and diagnostics and personnel files and the finer points of applying Fleet regs to real life. It continues with a game of chess that turns into several, and a swapping of books, and mutual savings of each other's lives (rumour has it McCoy and Chapel are keeping score). It continues with an easy, thoughtless efficiency that remains unmatched in the Fleet, and with a working relationship that is best described as 'two completely different people approaching a problem from opposite angles and meeting in the middle'. Ideal, really. The great, shining example.
It continues with a six hour conversation on the deserted observation deck in the dead of night, after a mission gone completely, terribly wrong, about childhoods and dead parents and siblings and schoolmates and the Meaning of Life, which Jamie explains quite seriously as she waves the whiskey bottle around is 42, or rather, 42 is the answer to the question which no one has, as yet, been able to ask, and Spock looks as amused as Spock ever looks and says he knows. He's read that book.
Jamie gapes at him, and then bursts out laughing, completely enchanted.
But she wakes up the morning after that conversation with a pounding hangover and another, rather worse roiling in her stomach.
"You're on the edge, Jim girl," she tells herself in the mirror, hands clenched tight on the rim of the washbasin. "And you know your history with ledges, and cliffs, and falling off of things."
There follow two perfectly ordinary, perfectly professional weeks during which Jamie spends most of her time off duty hidden in her quarters working like a Captain possessed and calling herself every name in the book whenever she puts the stylus down.
She swore she wouldn't do this. When she looked up that word – that word The Ambassador called her – she swore. Vulcan self control? She scoffed at Vulcan self control. Vulcan self control had nothing on Captain James Kirk. Nothing at all. Absolutely niente.
"Hence the sudden onslaught of the evil alcohol," Chris agrees with her equably, holding her hair back when Jamie leans forward to retch into the toilet again.
"This has got to stop," McCoy mutters in the outer room.
Three more days in which the ice cold atmosphere on the bridge is such that Scotty refuses to set foot on it, insisting the place reminds him of Delta Vega.
Jamie barely notices, too caught up in work. And her self control. Yes. That remains impeccable. Even Spock would have to concede that, if she ever asked.
This would all be a lot easier if she could bring herself to indulge in some serious self pity. That stuff comes with ice cream, after all. Jamie knows this; she's seen movies.
"The worst part," Uhura says to Rand exasperatedly, "is that she hasn't even noticed yet. I mean, if she had, I could at least have an excuse to hate her, right? But it's been three days. And nothing!"
Rand shrugs. "Some people never get a clue," she says, equally gloomy
So in reality, it begins like this:
Jamie shakes her head, hair falling over her shoulders, and glares at him. There is a stubborn set to her mouth that Spock recognises; but it is too late now to turn back and give in to her.
Never mind that he was on the verge of doing just that when McCoy – but that is one conversation Spock would prefer not to remember in too great a detail. There are personal matters, and there are personal matters. And the doctor has a razor sharp tongue, after all.
"This is all kinds of wrong, Spock."
"If you truly think I would not settle the question of my relationship with Nyota before coming here –" Spock starts to say, and Jamie shakes her head angrily, again, like a restless lioness.
"I don't care what you've settled!" she exclaims. "I don't care what she said, or how you feel, or any of it! I'm the Captain of this ship, Spock! You're my subordinates. Both of you. And I – I'm having enough trouble with the idea that I might – that I want you without turning into the slutty homewrecker people accuse me of being."
"Falsely," Spock says quietly.
"What difference does that make!" Jamie exclaims.
"You don't get to call me that when I'm breaking up with you."
"Logically, in order for you to do so, we would have to have had a relationship in the first place," and when the hell did he get so close to her?
"Stop it," Jamie says harshly. "Enough, Spock. I'm ordering you –"
"Jim," Spock says again, and there's a quiet finality to his tone now. "While it is commendable of you to be so concerned with the feelings of others, it is not logical. The question at stake here is whether or not you wish a – more intimate relationship with me. Therefore, it is a question which concerns no one but the two of us. I believe I have made my intentions and wishes clear. The only thing you have to do is decide what your wishes in this matter are."
Jamie turns her face away from him, hair falling over her shoulder, breath coming quick. His hands are stroking over her hips, barest flutter of contact between his fingers and her clothes. The last time she was so acutely conscious of how much taller Spock is than she, she was provoking him into attacking her on the bridge of her ship.
But the truth is, the Captaincy, Uhura, the gossip, all of it, it's an excuse, and a flimsy one at that, because she's terrified and he knows it. There's a door opening in front of her that she'd thought forever inaccessible. She's glimpsed behind it once, on Delta Vega. Walking through is taking more courage than Jamie knew she had.
"K'diwa," Spock urges softly. That word – that one word –
Jamie closes her eyes and lets her body slump, back curving, shoulders sloping, all the sharp angles she'd been holding herself at melting away.
She turns her face up for a kiss with the tiniest of sighs.
"Did we have children?" she asks The Ambassador the next time they meet, on New Vulcan.
He looks away for an instant, pained, and Jamie almost wants to retract the question, but – "Yes," he says at last. "One. Samuel was conceived during my second pon farr; after that, Jim was too old to bear children. We often gave him into the keeping of your parents, and he grew close to his cousins."
"What about your parents? Vulcan?"
The Ambassador raised an eyebrow. "Has he told you nothing of his childhood?"
"Only through the bond. I can tell it wasn't all sunshine and roses; I just thought, a child who is part Vulcan –"
"Sam's physical characteristics were closer to human than Vulcan," The Ambassador says. "At least my father was a full Vulcan; it would have been worse for Sam."
Jamie draws her knees up to her chest, heels resting on the very edge of the couch they're sharing, and stares a hole through the floor.
"I used to think you and Dad were getting it on," Joanna says bluntly to Jamie. The Christmas party is in full swing, and Bones is dancing with Chris Chapel.
Jamie whoops. "We very nearly did," she admits.
Jo nods once. A guess confirmed. She's silent for a while before she shifts and says, "It doesn't really matter, does it?"
Jamie looks over at her. Jo's dark hair falls in a long sweep over her right shoulder, thin face pale and tired. She's only twelve; should have been in bed an hour ago. Stubborn like her Dad; determined to enjoy herself. "What do you mean by that?"
Jo's brow furrows, like she's searching for words. "Definitions," she says at last. "They're not so important. Or they don't need to be important, if you don't want." She shuffles to one side and leans against Jamie's shoulder with a sigh. "I love you, Aunt Jim."
Jamie kisses the top of that curly head. "I love you too, Jo."
Mom comes to visit her: just appears one morning at Fleet HQ and saunters into Jamie's office like she owns the place. Mom has always walked like that, as far back as Jamie can remember. It's not arrogance. It's a self-confidence, a bearing and attitude that demands respect because Winona Kirk knows damn well she deserves it.
Everything Jamie has learned about confidence, she learned from her Mom.
"Rumours true about you and your Exec?" Winona asks as if they last saw each other yesterday, for cryin' out loud.
"Probably," Jamie says with equal ease. "Course, it depends which ones you've heard."
"Hmm. Where's it going?"
Jamie raises her eyebrows. Is that motherly concern? Fascinating. "Second star to the right, and straight on till morning," she says.
Winona grins. "My favourite route."
The next summer, when they return home for shore leave, Jamie moves out of the apartment she shared with Bones and Chris with a twinge of regret for good times gone. But Spock's apartment is just as big, and as airy, with a view of the city rather than the bay, and an extremely comfortable double bed, which is situated directly in the path of the afternoon sunlight. There's a breeze meandering through the room, and Spock's fingertips are tracing slow fiery paths from the base of her throat to her navel.
The sunlight is striking shining highlights in her hair and turning her skin to smoothest gold, but Jamie doesn't know that; all she knows is his touch, and the solemn warmth in his eyes.
"She walks in beauty, like the night, of cloudless climes and starry skies," he says at last, voice slow and deep, and Jamie thinks she's never heard Byron sound so lovely.
She still tries to laugh it off, though.
"You mean I'm mad, bad, and dangerous to know."
"And all that's best of dark, and bright, meet in her aspect, and her eyes," Spock finishes the verse as if she hadn't spoken, and then he leans in to kiss her again.