Author's Note: So I was watching the special features on the DVD the other day and, like, had the urge to write about the Kirk family for the first time ever. (It was weird.) Anyway, this is what came of that. The story takes place just before the last scene in the film, although the actual plot points of the movie are mostly moot. All of the people named in the story are from TOS canon, as is Jim calling George "Sam" (which I then parlayed into George's nickname for Jim being "Ty" for "Tiberius" and, well, there we are). I left it vague as to whether Frank was the step-father or uncle (in my head-canon, he's their uncle) but he only gets a mention, anyway, so I don't think it's too important. Also, in the handful of years prior to his recruitment to Pike that Jim was an adult, I imagine he only saw his mother and brother a few times and never because he'd taken the initiative; I just couldn't figure out a way to fit that into the story organically. Not beta'd, I'm afraid, so please poke if there are errors! Um, right. I think that's about it. (Long note much?) Cheers!
Disclaimer: Characters mentioned are used without permission and are trademarks of CBS/Paramount/Gene Roddenberry. I do not own them and am simply borrowing for my purposes. Please don't sue.

The Prodigal Son
by, Caliente

This is the trip James T. Kirk has been successfully avoiding for years. Things are different now, though—he's just been given the command (command!) of the Enterprise and instructions to take her out on a five year mission. They leave in two weeks.

Five years isn't such a long time, in his opinion, but when added to the three he's spent avoiding visiting, it's too much. He knows his mom will forgive him (because she always does) but his brother is another story. Of course, he doesn't think George Samuel Kirk has yet forgiven him for joining Starfleet, either, so maybe it doesn't matter.

Jim goes anyway because it's the right thing to do.

Iowa is exactly as Jim remembers it—flat and dull. His mother's home isn't. (It strikes him how he doesn't even consider it his home anymore, not even a little bit. The Enterprise is now and before that, well… he pretty much didn't have one, he supposes. He wonders if that makes his crew his family and, if it does, how he feels about that. He decides not to think about it anymore.)

Winona Kirk is standing on the porch, eyes shaded by one hand as if she's been expecting him. (Maybe she has been.) When she smiles at him, there are tears in her eyes and she hurries forward to wrap him in a hug. It strikes him for the first time how tiny she really is, how slim—almost frail. He's never thought of her as anything except a strong, capable woman, and he's surprised by how much it bothers him that he is now.

"Oh, Jimmy…" Winona pulls back just enough to inspect his face closely. The last of his bruises are still healing and he sees the worry on her face as she ghosts a hand over them. "I'm so glad you're here."

He feels guilty then because he knows he'd rather be just about anywhere else. He thinks she sees it, too, because she begins a steady stream of mostly one-sided updates on the townsfolk and the experiments she's been running on her garden and the work on the house a neighboring farmer has been helping her with.

They only last two days before he picks the same fight he's been having with her for years. They're sharing dinner in the kitchen when his mother sighs. "I really wish you'd visited more." Because she knows his assignment means he may not be able to over the next few years.

Jim can't help the petulant frown that forms on his face. "Why?"

"You know why, Jimmy," Winona insists. He just stares at her and she sighs again. "Because I've missed you."

A muscle in his jaw twitches. "How can you miss someone you don't even know?"

Winona's expression hardens—something that's more obvious now that there are lines of age on her face. "That's not fair, James. You know I was just following my orders; I didn't have a choice."

Jim throws his fork down and pushes into a standing position. "Yes, you did. They offered you early retirement when you got back to Earth but you didn't take it!"

There's shame on her face as Winona looks down at her plate. "You don't understand…"

"You're right about that," Jim retorts as he storms out; "I really don't."

Jim drives into town, letting his anger lead him along a familiar path. (It's one he hasn't walked in some time but he thinks it's not unlike slipping into an old pair of jeans—familiar and comfortable. Almost so much so that it bothers him. Almost.)

His destination is an old dive bar and he isn't surprised to see it hasn't really changed a bit. The pool tables are still old as sin, everything is cracked and worn, and Jim's half convinced the patrons are exactly the same old men he'd left behind three years earlier.

The bartender isn't the ancient owner anymore, though—it's one of his former classmates. "Well, well, well. James Tiberius Kirk. As I live and breathe, I never thought I'd see you in this dump again." He can't help thinking Emily looks the same now as she did at eighteen, and he wonders how that's possible when he feels so much older. She comes out from behind the bar to give him a warm hug, kissing each of his cheeks once. "What can I getcha, hero?"

Jim blinks a few times, surprised and she laughs a little at his guppy impression. "We do get news out here in the boonies, y'know," she reminds him fondly as she moves back toward the bar. "So what'll it be, J.T.? Anything you like—on the house."

The old nickname (from an old life, he thinks) snaps him back to reality and he wags his eyebrows suggestively. "Anything?"

Emily rolls her eyes, but she's smiling. And, for the first time, Jim actually thinks maybe this visit won't be just a replay of old mistakes. Maybe it won't completely suck.

(This is proven true when Emily takes Jim home with her and they have more fun in a few hours than he's had his entire trip thus far.)

As an apology to his mother (because he didn't come here to fight or reopen old wounds, honestly), Jim decides to fix and paint her fence. This leads him into town for supplies. There's only one hardware store around and he nods to the owner as he enters. (It's the same man he remembers from throughout his childhood and, if he's surprised to see Jim, he doesn't show it.)

Jim's just scanning his paint options (seriously, how are there so many shades of white? isn't that a contradiction?) when he senses a shift in the atmosphere. He looks up to see his brother standing a few meters away from him.

George looks just as Jim remembers him right down to the frown he's wearing on his face. "Heard you were in town, Ty," he comments casually. Too casually.

It makes Jim wary. "Yup."

"Were you planning on visiting?" Again, too casual.

Jim shrugs. "I hadn't decided yet." It's not the answer he'd like to give but it's the most honest one he has.

George crosses his arms, eyes narrowed. "Well, you let me know when you do." Then he sweeps out of the store.

Jim knows better than to go after his brother when he's like this, but he does, anyway. "What did you expect me to say, Sam? Pretty sure the last time I saw you, you said you never wanted to see me again." And that was after punching him in the face. (Jim could've ducked it—he'd always been a better fighter—but he hadn't; he'd thought his brother might really never forgive him if he did.)

They're outside the store now and George turns to face him. "As if you ever listened to a word anyone said a day in your damn life," he scoffs. "You were always so sure you knew better."

"That's not—"

George shakes his head. "Forget it. I'm not doing this with you." He pulls out his wallet and takes out a photograph, throwing it down at Jim's feet. "Got married a couple years back, thought you should know."

This time Jim lets him storm off, too stunned to stop him. When he gathers up the worn image he sees his brother and a pretty woman he doesn't recognize dressed in wedding clothes. They look happy. He wonders why no one told him.

When he asks his mom, she says that George told her he did tell Jim and that she hasn't mentioned him much because she knows they aren't on the best of terms. Jim isn't certain he believes Winona entirely, but he lets it drop. He doesn't think he wants to know anything more.

Winona and Jim are sitting together on the porch, watching the night sky when she tells him she has cancer. "It's not so bad," she says. "They caught it early and I'm getting treatment that seems to be working."

There's a lump in Jim's throat and he doesn't know how to respond. When she opens her arms to him, he hugs her tightly—like he used to before she'd leave for assignment. Like he hasn't done for far longer than three years.

Once he's composed himself again, he pulls away. "Why didn't you tell me?" He can't hide the hurt in his voice. He thinks maybe he wouldn't even if he could.

She touches his face gently. "I wanted you to come home on your own terms, not because you felt you had to."

Jim decides then and there to never tell her he did come because he felt like he had to. He thinks it'd break her heart, and he's not going to do that to her—not again.

It's a Wednesday afternoon when Jim visits his brother's home. He knocks on the door, not entirely certain it'll be answered. When it is, he's surprised to find the woman from the photograph standing barefoot and heavily pregnant.

"Hello," she says with a knowing smile that only women ever seem to possess. "Ty right? I'm Aurelan."

George has only ever been allowed to call him that (it was kind of their thing, calling each other by their middle names) but Jim finds he doesn't mind this petite pregnant brunette calling him by it so much. "It's a pleasure to meet you." He smiles charmingly because he thinks winning over his brother's wife wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

Aurelan ushers him inside. "Come inside, come inside! Let me show you the house."

The tour doesn't take long and, after, Aurelan insists Jim join her for some iced tea on the back deck. They sit in comfortable silence for a few minutes before she lets out a small gasp. "Oh! He's kicking. Here, Ty—" she grabs Jim's hand—"feel."

He touches her stomach because he doesn't really have much of a choice and it's astonishing. How there's something inside there and that something is alive.

His awe must show on his face because Aurelan laughs a little. "That's your nephew in there."

"Wow." Jim thinks this may be the most amazing thing he's ever experienced, and he's seen and done more than most.

Aurelan looks up at him through her lashes. "You're going to have to come visit him whenever you're back on Earth."

Jim pulls his hand back and tries not to look too uncomfortable. "I'm not sure—Sam and I don't really get along…"

There's that knowing smile again. "I know. But he loves you and you love him. Everything else will fix itself."

Jim wishes he could believe that but it hasn't happened yet, and he doesn't think it's going to anytime soon. He doesn't argue, though; he knows better than to get on a pregnant woman's bad side.

George arrives before Jim can make a graceful escape and if he's surprised to see his brother in his home, he hides it well. He kisses his wife hello and then invites Jim to accompany him on a walk through the fields. It's only because he's a skilled navigator and scrappy fighter that he agrees.

The brothers walk together in silence for a long time. The sun is low but hasn't begun setting yet and the fields look endless in most directions.

George isn't looking at Jim when he finally speaks. "You always have to be better than him."

There's no question who the him he's referring to is. "It's not about that, Sam; Dad will always be a hero no matter what I do." Jim just doesn't feel it weighing on him like an impossible anchor anymore. He wonders why his brother sees that as a bad thing.

"I know." George looks at him now. "But it's like you're determined to make people see you—see James T. Kirk—instead of the son of George Kirk, Acting Captain of the Kelvin who saved eight hundred lives."

Jim frowns. "Not instead of; never instead of." He shakes his head. "I'm proud of Dad and what he did. I just want to make my own name—in addition to his." He pauses, looking up at the sky for a moment. "I want him to be proud of me, too."

George puts a hand on Jim's shoulder and squeezes. "He would be." Then he sighs. "I still don't know how you can work for Starfleet. They took Dad from us, Ty—and Mom."

"Mom took herself from us," Jim returns bitterly.

George holds up his hands. "Let's not argue semantics."

Jim actually chuckles at that. He's not used to his brother not picking fights with him; it doesn't suck. "I think married life has made you soft."

For the first time, George smiles. It's small but it's there.

They turn around and begin wandering back. The silence between them is comfortable until Jim breaks it. "So, you're going to be a dad."

Now George is grinning—full on and proud. "Yup. Due date's two months away."

Jim smirks. "Pick a name yet?"

They talk about the baby all the way back and when they part, they hug. Jim asks them to come see him off if they can and when George says they'll try, he actually believes him.

When Jim tells his mother he wants to accompany her to the oncologist, she's visibly surprised. "Why?" she asks, a crease of worry between her brows. He doesn't know why she's concerned about him when she's the one who's sick, but he thinks it might be a parent thing.

"Because Sam shouldn't be stuck with all the responsibility and you shouldn't have to go alone," he answers simply. Honestly, though, he mostly just wants to hear from the doctor herself that Winona Kirk really is doing all right.

The way she smiles at him for the rest of the day makes Jim think maybe his mom knows him better than he gives her credit for.

Even though he doesn't have any need to wear it, Jim puts on his uniform when it's time for him to leave. His mother's eyes tear up at the sight of him entering the living room and she covers her mouth. "Oh, Jimmy… you look so handsome. So like your father."

It's not the first time he's been told he looks like his father and he doubts it'll be the last. It is, however, the first time he asks this question: "Is that why you left us? Because we reminded you of him?"

Winona looks at him sadly. "No, I—I was selfish. Being out among the stars… it made me feel close to George again." She shakes her head. "Maybe if I'd stayed here long enough, I would've realized I didn't need to go into space for that."

Jim doesn't move; doesn't speak. Because he has absolutely no idea what to say to that. None.

"James," Winona looks up at him with shining eyes, "I know it was hard for you. I know Frank wasn't—that he didn't treat you boys well. I swear to you, if I'd known then, I never would have—"

Jim takes her hands between his and looks her dead in the eyes. "I know, Mom." He believes her. For all her faults, Winona Kirk has always loved her sons.

Wrapping her arms around him, she hugs him tightly. "I'm sorry I wasn't a better mother for you, James."

The lump in his throat is back but Jim does his best to swallow it away. He kisses her cheek and smiles at her. "I know," he repeats softly. And maybe that doesn't make it right but it's something. "I love you, Mom."

"I love you, James." Winona kisses him once on each cheek and hugs him again. "So much." She holds his face. "Please be safe." Jim rolls his eyes. "Please."

"I'll do my best," he promises, mostly because he thinks it's what she wants to hear. (Much to her chagrin, safety has never been too terribly high on his priority list.)

She straightens his uniform and smiles broadly at him. "There. Now you look like a captain." There's nothing but pride in her voice and eyes, just as there's always been, but for the first time Jim feels like he might actually deserve it.

They walk out together, her hand in his. He leaves her on the porch as he heads for his car. "Wait until you see my ship, Mom," Jim calls back with a mischievous smile. "You're going to love it!"

He's glad to leave her with a smile on her face, even though there are still tears in her eyes.