There were seldom any accidents in the 23rd century. Medicine in general, and birth control specifically, had evolved far past the days when unscheduled surprises were common.
Sam had been born because they wanted him born. George Samuel Kirk, II, absolutely perfect in every way, with ten fingers and ten toes, and a wail that demanded the attention of anyone within a two-mile radius. George had claimed that the louder than average screams were a sign that their son, not even a day old, knew damn well what he wanted and by God, he was going to pull out all stops to get it. So very Kirkian, that. She and George couldn't help but be amused at the thought.
And Sam, for all that he was spirited, was pretty easy to care for. All warm smiles, and giggles, and the smell of fresh baby powder. So easy, in fact, that by the time Sam was two and a half, she and George were convinced that they had the whole parenting thing down to a science. God, they were good, career officers and the producers of perfect offspring… wouldn't it be nice to give little Sam a sibling?
Jim had been wanted, too. Planned. Coveted.
Two was a good number, an even number. They had always intended to have more than one child, had discussed it even before they were married. They would flex their assignments so that one of them would always be home, and neither would accept deep space assignments. It was as simple as that.
George dying had never been a part of the plan.
Sam had been easy because there were two of them there to take care of him. Two adults on diaper duty, two adults to switch off for late night cuddle sessions during colic. But one adult, a toddler, and an infant only equated to insanity.
The thing was, Winona knew full well her children had a bummer of a deal. No father left alive, and a terrible legacy of horrific heroism and dying young to grow up under. She hated that they had to live with that, absolutely hated it, but being a single parent was… hard. There were days when she would kill for an adult conversation, and other days when she was certain her two way-smarter-than-they-should-be boys (both a curse and a blessing, that) were combining their talents and conspiring against her.
Let's tag-team mom to get the cookies we want, or to stay up late, or watch the ninja holovid she won't otherwise let us watch, not appropriate viewing for children my ass.
Sometimes she was convinced that they were actually little adults stuck in small bodies, always assessing, always plotting, only masquerading as infants to hide the devious minds that lurked underneath. An insane thought, certainly, she was convinced everyone would look at her funny should she ever voice the idea out loud, but there were days when it just seemed there could be no other explanation. Sam and Jim were pack wolves, ever testing their leader for weakness, and whether that was a figment of her imagination didn't matter, what mattered was that was how she felt.
So yes, her children, for all that she loved them, drove her nuts. They had been planned and they had been wanted, but they weren't the only life she had wanted. She had wanted to reach the stars, she had wanted to stretch her mind, she had wanted to have it all: career, love, family. Now it seemed like she could go days without time for anything more than one minute in the refresher in the morning, her appearance unkempt, and her mind fogged from the combination of lack of sleep and frequent frustration. And the house, no matter how many times she cleaned it, was always a pigsty, toys upon toys stuck in every nook and cranny and all over the floor, often in places that would cause her to trip over them, frogs and grasshoppers and stray cats that little Jimmy had adopted as pets all staring at her with accusing eyes.
Her house was a cage, hell, Earth was a cage, and trying to keep up with two brilliant boys was keeping her on edge twenty-four hours a day.
So when her younger brother Frank came to her and asked if he could stay, being between jobs and rather down on his luck, she saw a golden opportunity to get some semblance of a life back.
So she left her boys, her precious little men, just slightly older than toddlers, in her brother's care, and got her ass back to work. And by God if it didn't make her feel like a person again, didn't serve to remind her that the universe was large and existed outside of a stifling farm in Iowa.
But yes, the guilt over leaving her sons behind on Earth sometimes ate her alive. Immense guilt. And it would hit her at odd intervals, off and on during the course of her day. When she was home she'd creep into their rooms at night and stare for hours at their little faces, so innocent in sleep, and her heart would squeeze and tears would gather in her eyes, and she would be overcome with love. But that didn't stop her from leaving again, because as much as the guilt ate her, burned through her blood like red-hot shame, and as much as she loved them, she had aspirations and desires that couldn't be denied. It seemed like she would forever lose herself if she tried.
For a few years it seemed to work. The boys were happy enough when she got home, and Frank seemed to be managing them well. Sure, Sam was a bit moody, with anger flashing in his eyes, but then, Sam was becoming a dreaded teenager, such behavior was only to be expected, wasn't it?
So yeah, getting a comm from the Riverside County Sheriff, a nice gentleman with a polite smile and pity in his eyes, with the surname of Owen, was a bit of a shock. Finding out that Sam had run away, Frank had reached the end of his tether and was refusing to have anything to do with either boy anymore, a free roof over his head or no, and Jim had almost died joyriding his father's corvette off a cliff, was a full on blow.
Guilt was a horrible thing. It attacked the mind like a sickness, an infectious disease. The problem was, however, that like any form of pain, gradually, over time, the body, and the mind, grew accustomed to it.
She felt it, but she had learned to live with it, and it didn't stop her. Her parents offered to take over in watching the boys.
She and Sheriff Owen, or Roy as he liked to be called, got to know each other well in the years that followed. So much so that they met for dinner whenever she was in town and exchanged Christmas cards. Sometimes she brought him gifts from her travels.
She didn't even have start one of their conversations off with a greeting anymore, usually opting for the blunt…
"What did Jim do this time?"
"I'm sorry to have to tell you this, Winnie, but drunk and disorderly conduct and assault. Bar fight again."
And all the while the politeness of his smile and the pity in his eyes never changed. Roy understood Jim's behavior, they all did. It didn't take a genius to figure this one out. She and George had failed as parents, George by dying far too young, and she by needing something more than single parenthood.
She could never be mad at Jim, she couldn't. She had done this to him. The entire mess was her fault. But the thing was she just didn't see how she could have done anything different. If there were such a thing as time travel, and she'd were miraculously given the choice to stay or leave again, she'd still go back to space. She hadn't been meant to be a housewife. Hell, she probably hadn't been meant to be a mother. But hindsight was 99% of the time utter bullshit. People did what they needed to do to survive. That's how life worked.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs and all that rot.
She didn't regret bringing her boys into the world, she loved them. And while she had long since learned to live with guilt, she also had adopted a policy of hope. Hope that Jim, and Sam, would learn to survive in whatever way most suited them, the way she had.
And Sheriff Roy Owen was there to keep an eye on Jim for her when she wasn't there to do it.
Coming home to find her youngest son in bed with a pretty blonde girl was right up there in the top five things Winona never wanted to experience again.
It wasn't that she was naive. She knew full well that Jim was a teenager full of hormones run rampant. (Lord, if she and George hadn't spent at least half of their dates in bed once they started seeing each other earnestly back in the day.) She just didn't need it confirmed so vividly.
As long as Jim's sex life was an abstract thought she could still see him as that premature infant, with the wide, wondering blue eyes, born during a time of strife, yet determined to survive all obstacles.
And babies were not meant to indulge in the full gamut of adult relations.
At least Jim and Miss-Blonde-Tramp-Who-Had-The-Nerve-To-Have-Sex-With-Her-Baby-In-Her-Own-Home had the decency to look embarrassed, both of them blushing bright scarlet. It was that, more than anything, that did her in, her anger evaporating like rain puddles on a hot summer's day.
"How about the two of you come downstairs and join me for some coffee. Fully clothed, if you don't mind. Jim, of course, I've already seen you in your birthday suit, and have the quintessential naked-as-a-jay-bird baby pictures to prove it, but I like to get to know strangers and meet with them once or twice before I see them naked."
Jim's fully exasperated "Mo-o-o-o-m!" had her chuckling all the way down the stairs. Turnabout was fair play. The only clear way to defuse a shock was with another, her granddaddy used to say.
The blonde turned out to be a smart little thing, one Iowa State microbiology student by the name of Carol Marcus.
Winona liked the fact that when Jim and Carol joined her at the kitchen table, Carol's eyes met her straight on. Apparently her embarrassment had run out, and she now looked at Winona without the need to stumble over awkward explanations. She knew what she wanted and she went for it.
A girl after her own heart. Someone who might actually be good for her son.
It was high time Jim found someone to hang out with ('hang' being perhaps being too apt a word), who matched him for intelligence, and it only took about a half hour with the girl for Winona to decipher that she clearly had some smarts. It was probably one of the things that had attracted Jim to her.
Jim was the nervous one, glancing back and forth between his girlfriend and his mother as they spoke, calmly and rationally, over the rims of their coffee mugs about colonization efforts in space and class M planets in the very early stages of evolution, the look on his face saying quite clearly what the fuck is going on here? Why isn't there lecturing? Why isn't there fireworks?
Winona would have laughed if she didn't feel it would frustrate the poor boy more. And by the sparkle in Carol's eye, she could tell she felt the same.
By the end of the evening, Winona had thought that she could actually like Carol Marcus. Had thought that maybe, just maybe, Carol could get Jim to follow her into college, give her baby some direction in his life, end up being a positive influence.
Leave it to life to lull a Kirk into a false sense of security, and then hit them with a bang when they least expected it.
She wasn't quite sure what she was expecting when she answered an urgent call from her youngest son in the middle of the night, but "Mom, Carol is pregnant," certainly wasn't it.
There were seldom any accidents in the 23rd century, but that didn't mean that they didn't sometimes happen. Leave it to Jim to be the one to fall through a loophole.
Fear gripped Winona's heart in that moment like an old fashioned animal clamp. Her son was barely 18, troubled, confused, had never had a father of his own and hell, barely had a mother, she could own up to that much. Yeah, she loved Jim, but that didn't mean she thought him capable of parenting a small child. Hell, Jim could barely look after himself.
Winona took a deep breath, let her panic die down a bit, before she asked, "And is Carol going to keep it?"
"Yes," Jim replied, clearly distraught, and oh boy, that panic was right back up in her throat again, threatening to choke her.
Not for the first time in her life, Winona wished that George had been the one to survive. Surely he'd know how to deal with this? Right now she just had the urge to grab Jim by the shoulders and shake, "Listen here, kid, get yourself and your life together! Why do you keep pulling this destructive shit? You're smarter than this. Hell, you're a fucking genius. Have you not heard of the male repressant shot? Or the gel, or, Jesus Christ, an old fashioned condom should all else fail? There is no damn excuse for this!"
But she held her anger in check in the wake of Jim's very clear distress.
"She doesn't want me to have anything to do with it, though, she doesn't think I'm ready to be a father," Jim replied bitterly, sadness evident in his tone. "And Mom? I think she's right."
Oh thank gods and goddesses above. There was hope for Jim after all. And while she couldn't help but feel sorry for Carol, the bright, pretty girl with her whole future ahead of her, her relief at Jim's admission was all encompassing.
"Jim, when I get home, expect a talk about the birds and the bees. I realize that I'm a little late for this, and should have done it years ago, but oh boy are you in for it. There might even be diagrams and pictorials of different species of mammals in various positions throughout the animal kingdom."
Jim didn't smile at that, but the lack of deadness in his eyes more than made up for it.
Winona did call Carol every now and again, just to keep tabs on her, and to hear tales of David, Jim's biological son, but she couldn't bring herself to regret Carol's decision to leave Jim to do his growing alone.
Neither Carol nor Jim, and certainly not David, deserved the massive load of resentment that would have resulted had any other path been followed.
Winona was a firm believer in human (and alien) pheromones. What else could explain an instant attraction or an instant dislike?
There were some people who could put her immediately at ease, within seconds of meeting them, and others she felt the instant need to strangle.
Aurelan, Sam's girlfriend,-oh, excuse her, fiancé—was unfortunately one of the latter.
Of course that could have something to do with the young lady's rather stiff greeting and barely concealed glare. Apparently the instant dislike was entirely mutual.
Sam, bless his ever devoted little heart, did his best to play referee, clearly upset that his future wife and his mother didn't hit it off immediately. Despite both Jim and Sam's reputation for possessing enough attitude between them for fifty adult men, if there was one thing both of her boys had in abundance, it was heart. After all that she had done to them, or rather, not done for them, they still wanted people to like her, still got defensive on her behalf.
The Kirks were always protective of their own, it was as much a part of their genetic coding as the reckless sense of invincibility. They could complain about each other till the cows came home but heaven help anyone outside the family who attempted to utter a negative word.
Aurelan had a thing or two to say about that, although she waited till Sam was distracted by an incoming call to voice it.
"So Sam was pretty messed up when he and I first started dating. I almost passed him over as an alcoholic with massive aggressive tendencies, for all that he was top of his class at the Uni."
What she didn't add to that, but Winona heard loud and clear was, "and I blame you for almost destroying my man even before I even met him."
Winona had to give the girl credit, she had spunk. And that attitude of hers would definitely give Sam a run for his money. Good Lord, she feared any offspring they might decide to have together.
'Twas a pity the girl didn't realize that 23 chromosomes of Sam's attitude came from his mother. Winona answered to admirals, once in a great while her boys, and her own conscience, but she did not answer to upstart know-it-alls who had never walked a mile in anyone else's shoes.
"My boys, both of them, had a hard life, and yes, a large part of that is my fault. The three of us did the best we could with the hand we were dealt, no more, no less, and things would probably have been worse were different decisions made. Sam and Jim would have lost both parents, not just the one."
She made no apologies. Her guilt was always with her and always would be, wrapped around her shoulders like a crocheted shawl of shame, but her life had been hers for the shaping and she had shaped it. She wasn't sorry for that.
Little Miss here had a lot to learn about Kirks and Winona could only hope that Sam was a good teacher. She might not have the warm fuzzies for the girl, at least not yet, but Sam deserved to be happy, deserved to have love and laughter in his life. If this girl could give Sam that, well, Winona didn't have to like her.
The anger in Aurelan's eyes did not let up, but the beginnings of understanding did start to dawn there, and Winona took that as a win. Rome wasn't built in a day.
Clearly she had startled the girl by answering her unvoiced accusations head on, and Winona couldn't help smiling at that, but well, the girl was marrying Sam and was soon to be the sister-in-law of Jim.
Aurelan had best get used to being startled.
She had seen Christopher Pike around the Academy occasionally when they were both students there, yet they had never managed to actually converse. Pike had been on the command track, and she on the Engineering and Sciences. Plus, she had been head over heels in love with George at the time, so other men seemed to just kind of exist, but not really make an impact.
Young love was nothing if not blinding and intense. She made no excuses for that. It was a heady, exciting period of her life.
She did vaguely recall one Cadet Christopher Pike trying to contact her in the wake of the Kelvin's demise, something about a dissertation, but well, she had repressed most of her memories from that time period, having reserved most of her efforts for forcing herself out of bed in the morning, and just kind of semi-remembered telling Pike where he could shove his dissertation .
So it was a bit of a surprise to get a call from him just out of the blue one day not weeks following Jim's 22nd birthday.
"I have enrolled Jim into the command track at Starfleet Academy. I thought it might be best if you heard this from me, and not the recruitment office."
Captain Pike's voice was steady, determined, but held no inflection of any other emotion: no judgment of Jim or her, no accusation that Jim should have been enrolled in the program years ago. If anything Pike looked excited to have Jim in his grasp… as he damn well should be.
Jim was brilliant, Jim was capable, Jim was a force to be reckoned with. He was her son, had her blood pumping through his veins, hers and George's, but he also had a lot of growing up left to do. He was young yet, and possessed a little more than the normal Kirkian recklessness.
Starfleet, hallelujah, might just be the answer to all their prayers.
Though she'd never show it in front of Pike, the relief Winona felt in that moment filled her with warmth like sunshine.
That Jim would follow in his parents' footsteps into a life of service and adventure, that Jim would finally utilize that ever calculating brain of his for the good of the Federation and its billions of citizens; it was beyond alleviating to a worried mother's mind.
Winona could kiss Christopher Pike, despite the fact that she was now sometimes, on and off, dating Roy, the sheriff.
And that feeling of continued goodwill lasted right up until the day she pulled every string at her disposal to return to Earth early to watch her son, the youngest man in recorded history, receive his Captain's stripes, and found someone else giving him a congratulatory hug after the ceremony and looking him up at him from his wheelchair with a look that could not be mistaken for anything other than parental pride.
The thing was she was fully aware of every sacrifice she had made to pursue a career. And there had been sacrifices, tremendous ones that went by the names of Sam and Jim.
She had willingly missed long stretches of their lives, and now, with both her boys grown, she sometimes felt more like their friend than their mother.
She had no one to blame for Jim finding a substitute parent but herself. She realized this fully. But that didn't stop a huge surge of jealousy from taking possession of her soul.
She wanted to be the one hugging him now. She wanted to be the one to smother him with overly zealous congratulations.
It wasn't exactly startling to realize that she had nothing to do with how successful Jim had ended up, but it was somewhat heart-wrenching.
Jim, alone, was mostly responsible for the man he was today, and what he couldn't accomplish on his own Christopher Pike had eagerly done for him.
She had made the right choice, for her, all those years ago, but that didn't make it any less painful to witness the unpleasant side-effects of that choice.
Friend, then, she would have to be.
Newborn human infants looked more like hairless monkeys than anything else. Of course, when her own two had been born she had thought them the most beautiful things she had ever seen, but then, she had been so stifled with overwhelming love at the time that she could have died from it, so she had been a bit blind to their red and wrinkled appearance.
And while she did love her new grandson more than mere words could convey, becoming a grandmother and becoming a mother were two totally separate experiences. Becoming a mother made a woman believe in love at first sight, becoming a grandmother reaffirmed that belief, but also made her hyper-aware of just how quickly time sped on.
She still couldn't wrap her head around that fact that she was a grandmother. If George were still around he'd get a kick out of it, too.
"We're going to call him Peter," Sam announced with a mile-wide grin, looking so much like George in that moment that Winona felt something large and jagged lodge in her throat.
For a moment it was as it was 29 years before, with a Kirk male smiling at her with a look full of wonder. "Just look at what I help create, just look! Isn't he amazing?"
And for that she could cry.
Genetics were tricky things. Through centuries of studying the human genome, since that very first day that Watson, Crick and Franklin had first tentatively started to map the double helix DNA sequence, there were still no clear-cut answers, even in the 23rd century, on which parts of the personality were attributed to genetics, and which parts were learned. Though Winona would place more credits on the former than the latter.
Just look at Sam and Jim, both successful, both smart as all get out, both going places and going fast… unfortunately the part nurturing had played in that had been sadly small.
Nurturing and Winona didn't really get along. Some people were meant to reproduce, and others could, perhaps, make a healthy go at it, under the right conditions...Conditions that would allow them to pursue other ventures simultaneously to parenthood.
So she could only pray now, as she looked down at the grandson who looked so much like the father, red, wrinkled, and wailing as if to say, 'feed me, feed me, now', that her bets were sound and that nature would once again reign supreme.
Sam hadn't had much in the way of nurturing during his formative years. If parenting were learned behavior then poor Peter was screwed.
But the hope that had held her up during her life, the same hope that had let her live with the guilt of leaving her boys behind to pursue a career out in space, grasped her now.
Sam held his son with such tenderness, and looked at him with such love, that Winona's hope became nearly a blinding thing.
And that hope told her that sins of the mother would not be handed down, generation to generation, that it would stop here.
Aurelan met her gaze, and in those bright green eyes was a promise. She would make a different decision, one that she would live with best. They were not the same.
Winona smiled. For all her posturing and complaining to Sam, she was really starting to like that girl.
Winona didn't know what to think of Leonard McCoy the day Jim brought him home for a visit following the first year of his five year mission.
Jim hadn't brought anyone home since Carol, and even that meeting had been chance rather than planned.
Leonard was exceedingly polite, possessing all that reputed Southern charm, and he was handsome as a holovid star. She could easily see what had drawn Jim to him.
But closer observation of the two during the course of the afternoon added a great deal to her initial assessment. Jimmy was solicitous of McCoy, couldn't go five minutes without touching him in some way or looking over in his direction.
Jimmy did more than like this man, Jimmy was in love with him.
That, in itself, was a bit of a shock. She had worried that Jim had problems forming attachments, that her distance and Frank's impatience had ruined him for love. It was a relief to see Jim like this, and touched a place in her heart that hadn't been touched in years. Her son was going to be okay. Truly okay. And with more than just the discipline Starfleet had instilled.
McCoy's feelings, however, were more of a mystery. He wasn't as easy for her to read as Jim was, and a fear had begun to take root in her mind that maybe Jim's feelings weren't returned.
Wouldn't that just be a nail in a coffin, for Jimmy to finally fall in love and have it go unrequited? The protective instinct rose up within her like a cat unsheathing its claws.
It wasn't until Jim went off to shower that Winona launched her inquisition. Within hours of meeting him she could tell that McCoy was a man who appreciated directness—well, direct she would be.
"You know, Jimmy's never really brought anyone home to meet me. Not like this. You must be very special to him."
The doctor grinned at her, flashing white teeth, amusement shining in his eyes as if to say that he was on to her and he knew exactly what she was trying to wheedle out of him.
"Ma'am, I love your son. We're a darn sight more than just special to each other. I followed Jim into space. Jim will tell you that I hate space and I hate flying, but for Jim I'd do just about anything."
So that's where it all stood. Winona felt tears gather in her eyes. It wasn't as if she was the emotional sort, prone to outbursts of sentimentality, but well, she was so happy for Jim, had wanted this for him for so long.
"I'm very pleased to hear that. Jim is 26 years old and has shown no signs of settling down, I was beginning to worry…"
"That Jim has a problem forming attachments?" McCoy finished for her with a grim expression on his face. A smart one then, pretty damn perceptive, a good partner for her son. Winona doubted Jim got away with much with this one.
McCoy leaned back in his seat, setting his mug down, and fixed her with a look that made her believe he must be a damn fine doctor in his professional life."I don't think it is so much that Jim has problems forming attachments as it is a problem of feeling secure within them. It took me over four years to convince Jim that I wasn't going anywhere, that he could trust me to love him for the long haul."
Yes, very perceptive. A man who saw the world exactly how it was, beyond the games that people played to delude themselves that one and one didn't actually equal two. Kind of refreshing. It was no wonder Jim had fallen head over heels for this one. Jim, for all his charm and ability to wrap people around his little finger, probably appreciated McCoy's honesty. Jim would always know where he stood, there would never be a cause for doubt.
"That would be my fault," Winona said with a sigh, the guilt she had lived with so long manifesting itself once more. She had consciously made the decision to leave Jim all those years ago, she would force herself to meet his lover's eyes, to deal with any accusations he might level at her. She had already done it with Aurelan, she would do it again now. It was her penance.
"I'm not about to cast stones, Ma'am. I have a little girl in Georgia. My ex-wife got custody and immediately after the divorce I enlisted. I was so bent on getting away from it all that I guess it didn't really sink in that I'd only be able to see Joanna once or twice a year, if that. Watching Jim gives me hope that maybe she'll turn out okay, too. You should see him out there, he's really something."
And Winona felt herself smile through her tears, her heart lifted in a way it hadn't been since George was alive and they were on the cusp of love, life, and youth, having babies and taking the galaxy by storm.
She liked McCoy a lot. He would be good for her son. He understood about survival, how life worked, and he was good people. A mother knew these things.
"He gets that from me," she said, and if her voice was a bit wobbly, she figured Leonard would excuse her for it.
Jim's lover grinned. "I bet," he responded with a drawl, eyes sparkling. "Do I have you to thank for the foolhardiness, too?"
She couldn't help it, she laughed, her spirit lighter, freed in its happiness for Jim and the relief his lover has brought to her soul.
"I'm afraid not. That is all George, there. Jim's brother has it, too. You're going to have to get used to that, son, you're with a Kirk now. Perhaps not a traditional way to say welcome to the family, but there you go."
And if Jim wondered why both his mother and his lover were chuckling when he returned, he didn't say. He simply flashed that trademark grin and joined them at the table.
To ambiguouslyfey... thank you. :-)