First Impressions and Quality Time
Chapter 18 - Winona
The doorbell rang again as Marissa made her way from the chaos of the birthday girl's room down the hall and into the living room.
"Traitor!" Jim called after her. This was quickly followed by an "umf" as apparently Shea decided to pounce from the top bunk onto his father.
"Shea!" Jim scolded, "I told you, you have to give me a warning first. No jumping without permission. Got it?"
"Sowry daddy," their youngest replied innocently. Marissa had to stifle a laugh when his reply was followed by a war whoop from Abby, a thud and hysterical giggles.
"I'm coming," Marissa muttered. "Sheesh, so impatient."
Opening the door she smiled automatically. "Len did you forget your…" she trailed off, her smile fading. Their impatient visitor wasn't Leonard McCoy.
Standing stiffly on their front porch was a stern older woman, with graying blonde hair and serious frown lines. She was wearing a casual pair of blue slacks and a white blouse, but everything about her screamed career Starfleet.
"Can I help you?" Marissa asked, instantly wary. They'd been back on Earth for months now, but they were still being occasionally bothered by reporters wanting interviews and paparazzi wanting a good story.
Their current residence was in what was nicknamed The Ghost Town – homes that belonged to Starfleet officials that were often off planet. No one but the residents and their close friends and family were supposed to have entry codes into the gated neighborhood.
"I'm here to see Captain Kirk," the woman said, her frown deepening.
She must have been a pretty woman at one time, Marissa thought as she looked over their unwanted visitor, but now she just seemed bitter.
"He's occupied at the moment," Marissa told her politely. "If you could please contact his office, his yeoman can make an appointment for you for some time next week."
"I don't want to make an appointment," the woman told her briskly.
"I'm sorry," Marissa said, though it was a lie, "but that's the way it works. Jim doesn't meet people or do interviews without an appointment and certainly not in our home."
The woman looked like she was about to protest, but then stopped at Marissa's words, her eyes sweeping up and down her body. Marissa did her best not to become flustered. At five months pregnant she was beginning to feel fat.
"Who are you?" the woman finally asked.
Marissa felt her irritation rise as the woman looked at her contemplatively, looking as if she didn't like what she saw at all.
"Haven't done your research, have you?" Marissa commented sardonically, keeping her body in the doorway in case the woman became pushy. "Most people who want to see Jim at least know that he has a wife."
"He's not married," the woman said automatically, her expression one of complete shock.
"Uh, yes he is," Marissa told her, resisting the urge to flash her wedding ring at her.
The woman looked her over once again, her disdain now obvious in the slight sneer on her face as she took in Marissa's pregnant belly. "I suppose that's one way to catch him," the woman commented dryly.
"Excuse me?" Marissa glared at her incredulously. She was used to people being surprised by her relationship with Jim, but not lately. The cat had been out of the bag, so to speak, for years now.
"Look, make an appointment," she said briskly, moving to close the door. "Jim doesn't see people at home." Marissa was surprised when the woman actually put out a hand to stop her from closing the door.
"He'll see me," the woman retorted. "I'm his mother."
"Jesus," Marissa whispered in shock, staring at the woman. "You've got some nerve."
Now it was the woman's turn to say, "Excuse me?"
"Look," Marissa sighed, glancing nervously behind her, "tonight is not a good night. Make an appointment or come back tomorrow; whatever you want, but just go now. We…"
Marissa was cut off by a loud screech followed by the padding of bare feet and giggles.
"Get back here you two," Jim's voice called out from the back of the house.
"Run, Shea, run!" Abby called out, her feet echoing through the living area now.
Jim gave a roar. "I'm gonna getcha! Birthday girls have to be dressed to get their presents. Ow! Shea," Jim finished with a yelp.
"Wun Abby!" a small voice yelled.
"Someone's here," Abby called out, her footsteps veering from their course across the living room towards the open door and her mother. "Uncle Bwones!"
"Yeah!" Shea squealed.
"Oh no you don't," Jim declared, apparently grabbing the little boy if his giggles were anything to go by. "The big mean dada has you!"
"Help! Help! Abbbbeeeee!" Shea called out to his sister and then giggled uncontrollably when Jim blew a raspberry somewhere on his body.
Abby wasn't paying any attention to her brother. "Uncle Bwones! Whadja bring me?"
"Abigail, manners," Marissa scolded automatically as the partially clad little girl wedged in front of her to stare at the woman at the door.
"Who're you?" Abby demanded, obviously disappointed that she wasn't McCoy. She stared at the stranger with her hands on her hips and her face in a familiar frown.
"My name is Winona," Jim's mother managed to choke out, looking dazedly between Abby and Marissa. With her wavy brown hair and pixie face Abby looked like a miniature Marissa, but her eyes were all Jim.
"Unca Bwones," Shea howled, "help! Dada's got me!"
"And I'm not letting you go," Jim cackled maniacally. The sound of another raspberry and more giggles echoed through the room again.
"Is not Uncle Bwones," Abby called back. "Itsa lady."
Jim's footsteps moved towards the door and Marissa let out a deep sigh, glaring balefully at Winona.
"Who is it Mariss?" Jim asked.
Turning she saw Jim holding Shea, dressed only in his big boy diaper, upside down from his ankles. Normally this would have made her smile fondly, but instead she sighed again; shaking her head ruefully at Jim as if to say sorry, she fully opened the door.
At first Jim just stared, Shea forgotten in his grip until he started squealing and twisting. Still staring at his mother, Jim quickly righted the child and held him in his arms.
"Hi mom," he said finally.
Abby looked between her father and the woman. "Nuh huh," she declared. "Tha's not your mom."
"It's not?" Jim asked, still staring, but his lips twitched at Abby's knowing tone.
"No," Abby shook her head wildly. "You don' have a mom."
"Really?" Jim asked glancing down at his daughter with a bemused smile. "How do you figure?"
"I's not seen her," the child said logically.
"Well, you're seeing her now," Jim replied with a nod that was more for his mother's sake than Abby's. "That is my mother – Winona."
Abby and Shea looked at Winona speculatively. "Where have you been?" Abby finally asked, her hands back on her hips, looking even more like her mother. "How come you never visited us? Or sent us presents? Or commed us?"
"Abigail, don't be rude," Marissa told her with a stern look. "Why don't you go get dressed? Everyone will be here soon." Abby started to protest but Marissa gave her a look and she closed her mouth. "Good girl," Marissa smiled. "Can you help your brother, please? You want to look nice for everyone, right?"
"Okay," Abby replied with a long suffering sigh and a last look at Winona. "Come on, Shea."
The three adults stood awkwardly while avoiding looking at each other as the children scampered away, Abby saying something quietly to her brother as they both glanced back to the entryway.
"Well, I guess you should come in," Marissa finally said, opening the door wider.
"Mom, what are you doing here?" Jim finally asked as the door closed. Neither he nor Marissa moved toward the living room or offered Winona a seat. "Now is really not a good time."
"That's what she said," Winona nodded over at Marissa. "Can't a mother visit her son?"
"Not after almost ten years of silence," Marissa said, crossing her arms and glaring in a manner very similar to her daughter.
"Marissa," Jim softly warned, putting his arm around her waist and holding her close.
"You're exaggerating," Winona countered. "It hasn't been that long."
Marissa opened her mouth to protest but Jim gave her a squeeze and she closed her mouth with an audible click of teeth.
"I was almost twenty-one, mom," Jim told her.
"And I bailed you out of jail," Winona said, her voice polite, but cool.
"And apparently washed your hands of me," Jim nodded. "That's the last time we talked; just over ten years ago."
"I've been off planet," Winona had the grace to look at least a little embarrassed.
Jim shook his head, his eyes closed, like he really didn't want to look at her. "Look, this isn't a good time. Today's Abby's birthday and everyone is coming and it would be…" he trailed off, shrugging his shoulders helplessly.
"Really damn awkward," Marissa chimed in, still glaring at Winona.
"How old is she?" Winona asked, ignoring Marissa.
"She's five," Jim told her. "Look, mom…"
"Where's the birthday girl?" McCoy's voice suddenly interrupted their conversation as the door swung open and he and a young girl, followed by Spock and Uhura stepped into the entryway.
Cries of, "Unca Bwones!" rang from the far corner of the house once more.
Seeing the stranger standing with Jim and Marissa, McCoy immediately apologized. "Sorry, we didn't mean to interrupt."
"It's okay, Bones," Jim said with pained smile. "Abby and Shea are getting dressed."
Everyone stood uneasily, looking at Jim and Winona and waiting to be introduced or at least directed into the house.
Jim sighed. "Uh, guys, this is my mother, Commander Winona Kirk. Mom this is Bones my CMO and his daughter Joanna."
"Ma'am," McCoy nodded politely, though his eyebrow had risen to his hairline in shock. He glanced carefully at Jim and then back at Marissa who gave a small shrug.
Jim pointed to the couple behind McCoy. "And this is Spock, my First Officer and Uhura my chief of communications."
"It's a pleasure to meet you," Uhura stated politely. Glancing over at Jim in curiosity, she held out her hand. She had obviously noticed the inclusion of his mother's title and no one else's.
"Likewise," Winona said as she shook Uhura's hand.
"Commander," Spock nodded stiffly.
"Mr. Spock," Winona replied.
Introductions made, they once again stood awkwardly, unsure of what to say.
"Uncle Bwones! Mr. Spock! Ny Ny!" Abby hollered as she ran into the living room dressed in a frilly blue princess dress complete with a crooked crown perched on her head. "Do you like my dress? It's my birthday dress." She spun around like a dervish. "Didja bring me presents? Didja? Didja?"
"Presents?" McCoy asked, pretending to be confused. "Nobody said anything about presents," he scowled playfully with his hands on his hips. "How do I know if it's really your birthday?" he scooped her up and kissed her cheek.
"Silly Uncle Bwones!" Abby laughed. "You know it's my birthday! You were there."
McCoy made a shocked face. "That's right! I was. Look who I brought with me," he nodded toward the preteen standing behind him.
"Jo!" Abby screeched right into his ear, causing McCoy to flinch. "You came!"
"Happy birthday, Abby," Joanna grinned, holding up a bag that obviously held the wished for present.
"JoJo!" Shea careened into the room, one sock on and his shirt askew. He immediately latched himself onto the young girl's leg. "Mine!" he declared happily.
"Hi Shea," Joanna patted his head.
"So, uh…" Marissa began, "why don't we…"
"Let the party begin!" Sulu opened the door and stuck his head in, not noticing the extra person. "We've got cake made from the famous recipe of Pavel's dear Nona."
"Is it chocolate?" Abby practically screamed.
Sulu looked at her aghast. "Is it chocolate? Pavel?" he glanced behind him, swinging the door open. "Did we bring a chocolate cake?"
"Of course," Chekov declared haughtily as he stepped into the room carrying a three tiered chocolate monstrosity of a cake with blue and pink flowers and a sparkly number five on top.
All the adults ooohed at the sight of it.
"Pasha!" Abby squealed, wiggling down from McCoy's arms and running to hug Chekov's legs. "You came!"
"Spurned for a younger man," McCoy joked, causing Marissa and Uhura to chuckle.
"I would not miss your birthday, kotik," Chekov told her, handing the cake off to Sulu and picking up Abby. She hugged him enthusiastically and gave him a sloppy kiss on the cheek.
"Chekov," Jim mock growled, causing Abby to giggle.
"Guess what, Pasha?" Abby said.
"Daddy has a mommy and she came to visit today on my birthday only she probably didn't even know it was my birthday 'cause she's never visited before," she managed to get out in one breath.
"Really?" Chekov looked over at Jim and then glanced hesitantly at the one stranger in the room.
"Chekov, Sulu," Jim introduced them, "my mother Commander Winona Kirk."
"Ma'am," they both nodded.
There was another awkward pause before Marissa stepped forward. "Hikaru, Pavel, this cake is absolutely gorgeous. I don't think we can eat it."
"Yes we can," the kids chimed in.
"Yes we can," Jim and McCoy declared just as fervently, causing everyone to chuckle and break some of the tension in the room.
"Dinner should be ready soon," Marissa told them. "My family might be a bit late, they missed their original shuttle. Let's not stand around," she began to shoo everyone into the living room. "You know where everything is. Help yourselves." Marissa led the way into their home, pointing Sulu to a small table where he could set down the cake.
"Do you need help with anything?" Uhura asked.
Marissa paused, thinking. "The roast is cooking, the potatoes need some more time – could you work on the salad? I'll have to set another plate and…"
"Done," Uhura interrupted, giving Marissa's hand a friendly squeeze. "I take it this was a surprise?" she asked quietly, watching Jim lead his mother towards his office.
Marissa gave a humorless laugh. "You could say that." She glanced around to make sure no one else was in ear shot. "She just showed up and asked to see Jim. After ten years she's got some nerve."
"Ten years?" Uhura asked in shock.
"Well, more like ten and a couple months," Marissa corrected herself with a shrug, "but still."
Uhura shook her head slowly. "I knew they weren't close. I mean, Jim never talks about his family, just his brother on Stratnon, but I thought…"
"She was on a mission," Marissa shrugged a frown marring her features. "We debated telling her about the wedding. In the end Jim did send her an announcement. We never heard anything back."
Uhura gave her a hug. "Don't let her get to you. This is Abby's day."
"I know, I know," Marissa sniffed, blinking furiously. "Jim's a big boy. He can handle this." The sounds of new voices in the living room drew both women's attention. "Sounds like my folks are here."
"Go," Uhura urged. "I'll see to the salad. Send Sulu in and he can do up the mashed potatoes."
"Oh, and there's a dish of plomeek for Spock," Marissa remembered. "It just needs to be warmed up."
"I've got it covered," Uhura assured her. "Go play hostess."
"Thank you, Nyota," Marissa smiled before leaving the kitchen.
The living room was a swarm of people. Marissa's parents had arrived with her two step sisters and step brother as well as Nana Rose who was currently enthroned on Jim's special chair, her feet up and Abby chattering on her lap while her hair was being braided.
Joanna had escaped from Shea's clutches and was now giggling with Marissa's youngest step sister Melinda and making eyes at her step brother Jacob. McCoy was watching her with a frown that made Marissa smile. Jo was too young for Jake, but she definitely had a crush.
Shea was now perched on Chris Pike's lap showing him his latest starship model.
Hikaru and Pavel had disappeared into the kitchen. Spock was talking with her father and Nancy, which left only Jim and Winona not in sight. Marissa couldn't help worrying as she made her rounds welcoming everyone and making sure they were comfortable. This was not the way the evening was supposed to be going.
Jim closed the door to the office and leaned heavily against it watching his mother look around the room. Like on the Enterprise, Jim and Marissa shared the space. They'd become used to working near each other and didn't see a reason to change now they were in a house that actually had room. Jim's desk was relatively clean. Midterms weren't for another month and the project he'd assigned wasn't due until next week, so he had nothing to grade. The blueprints for the Enterprise's engine upgrades were rolled up and resting on his desk, but that was about it.
Marissa's desk was a bit more haphazard, but Winona ignored it in order to move closer to the bookshelves against the far wall. Marissa had recreated her collage of memories as soon as they had moved in.
Winona quickly zeroed in on their wedding picture.
"I sent you an announcement," Jim told her. "It was kind of put together quickly, but… I thought you should know."
"Admiral Pike married you."
"On the Enterprise."
"It seemed fitting," Jim shrugged. "It's where we met and he… he's been a good friend."
"Was she pregnant with Abby?" Winona asked.
Jim felt himself stiffen at the veiled insult. "No, with Shea."
"I see," Winona nodded thoughtfully, still looking at the pictures.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Jim asked, trying not to sound defensive, but feeling the same knot in his stomach that his mother always seemed to cause tightening. Nothing was ever easy with his mother.
"It's just a comment, Jim," Winona told him in that condescendingly calm tone she had used when she had spoken to him as a child – whenever she wasn't yelling at him, that is.
Jim shook his head. "Nothing is ever just a comment with you." He watched her continue to look at the pictures waiting for her to make the first move, unfortunately patience wasn't his strongest suit and his mother knew it. "What are you doing here, mom?" he finally asked.
Turning, Winona looked at him with innocent eyes. "Can't a mother visit her son?" she asked, opening her hands and holding them out artlessly.
Jim continued to stare at her forcing back his knee jerk reaction to seek to annoy her. "No," he shook his head, crossing his arms and leaning in what he hoped was a calm manner against the door. "Not after ten years of silence, not to mention a lifetime of avoidance."
Winona frowned. "It's not like you kept in contact with me," she shot back, "and I never neglected you."
"I didn't say neglect, I said avoided," Jim pointed out. "And I got the impression, hung over though I was, that you didn't want anything more to do with me after that last time you picked me up from the sheriff's office."
"Again, you're exaggerating," Winona said with a sniff. "You were always so dramatic."
"I don't think so," Jim shook his head. "I think the phrase 'I wish you'd never been born,' was said at least once; as well as my old favorite, 'your father would be so disappointed.'" Jim smiled with no humor whatsoever.
Winona stared over his shoulder looking extremely uncomfortable and unable to meet his eyes. "It was said in the heat of an argument…"
"It wasn't the first time," Jim countered.
"I didn't really mean it. You were just such a…"
"Difficult child," Jim finished for her. "I know."
"Well, yes," Winona had the grace to blush. "Sam was…"
"So much easier to deal with," Jim interrupted again. "So much more like you."
"Well, he was," Winona shrugged. "You were always too smart for your own good. Too reckless. Too curious. Too…"
"Too much like dad," Jim finished with a sigh. They'd been over this before many, many times. "Look, mom, why are you here? You haven't made any effort to contact me over the years. You knew I joined Starfleet. I know Pike contacted you at least once about being my next of kin. And I know that you refused."
"It made no sense," she defended herself. "I was on…"
"And after the Narada? News about me was all over and you never…"
"Sexiest Man in the Universe?" she snorted in derision.
"And the hero of Earth and the youngest captain in the history of Starfleet," Jim pointed out, blushing slightly. The whole sexiest man thing was not something he put on his resume.
"You had thousands of people fawning over you, you didn't need me."
"It would have been nice to know you were relieved that I was even alive," Jim told her.
"I didn't even know you were in danger."
"Damn it, mom! You always have an excuse," Jim bit out, stalking to sit on the corner of his desk. "Why are you here? Why now?"
Winona ignored the questions and moved over to Marissa's desk, conveniently further away from Jim. She began lifting up random papers and glancing at the books and charts strewn about the desk.
"What does she do?" she finally asked, looking briefly at Jim and then glancing at the star map.
"Marissa?" Jim asked, not prepared for the change of topic.
"Is that your wife's name?" Winona asked in a scolding voice, raising her eyebrows and looking down at Jim like she used to when he was a child. "Honestly Jim, you didn't even introduce her."
"You would have known her name if you had opened our wedding announcement," Jim countered. He waited for Winona to say something, but she remained silent. "She's got her PhD in Xenohistory and Culture," he told her. "Have you heard of the O'Donnell-Killian database that was adopted by Starfleet a while back?"
Winona cocked her head in thought. "Something to do with first contact and a way of processing and correlating data?"
"Yeah, that's it," Jim nodded, still feeling a twinge of pride at what Marissa had accomplished.
"Did she have something to do with it?"
Jim started at her, boggled that she was that clueless. Had she really been avoiding anything to do with him all these years?"
"Something," he agreed, unable to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. "She helped write it: Marissa O'Donnell-Kirk."
"Really?" Winona's eyebrows rose in shock. "I am impressed. And here I thought she was just a member of your crew."
"And an advisor to my command team," Jim told her.
"Is that wise?"
Jim shrugged. "It's worked great so far. You might not have heard but the Enterprise is the top ship in the fleet for contact missions. We've had more successful first contacts that have entered the stages of becoming members than any other ship," Jim couldn't help brag a little. He was damn proud of his ship and crew.
"That's a lot of glory for you – Captain," Winona said condescendingly.
"Not me," Jim shook his head. "I never said it was me. It's the crew. I may be captain, but I'm only as good as my crew."
"So humble," Winona said ironically. "You've come a long way."
"It was a learning experience," Jim almost smiled at her.
"Five years – must have been a steep curve."
"Fairly," Jim smiled wryly. They smirked at each other for a moment, a semi truce, until laughter from the other room reminded them that there was a party going on.
"So you're a father," Winona said inanely. "I never thought I'd see the day."
"Yeah, I'm a dad," Jim shrugged. "I never figured it'd happen, but I can't imagine my life without them."
Jim's eyes narrowed. "Does it matter?" he asked coolly.
Winona shrugged. "Just curious."
"Why are you here?" Jim asked again.
Winona sighed. "I was talking with Sam," she finally told him. "And he mentioned that he'd run into you on Stratnon V. He knew I was going to be on Earth, so he suggested I contact you. Said that there were some changes in your life that I might be interested to know about.
Jim snorted. "He always was one for understatement."
"Yes," she agreed with a wry smile.
"How long are you here for?"
"Another two months," Winona told him, avoiding looking at him.
"How long have you been here?" Jim asked suspiciously, noticing how evasive she was suddenly being.
"Since June," Winona finally admitted under Jim's piercing stare.
"The Enterprise came back at the end of July," Jim said bitterly. "Pardon my ego, but there was quite a lot of fanfare and hoopla at the time. I've been teaching at the Academy since September – I've even given several lectures that were broadcast around the world and to all Starfleet facilities – and you… you want me to believe that you had no idea and it took you eight months to figure out where I was? You had no problem getting to our house now."
Winona didn't have any thing to say that.
"Would you have come if Sam hadn't said something?" Jim asked harshly.
"Does it matter?" Winona countered, trying to sound confidant.
Jim actually seemed to think about that for a moment. "Yeah, I think it does," he finally said. "It's been ten years, mom. True, I might have been a difficult child and teen, but my childhood wasn't exactly ideal, now was it?"
"That's not my fault!"
"Maybe, maybe not," Jim shrugged. "I try not to think about the past," he told her. "Not a lot of fond memories, you know? I get it why you gave up on me – I was going nowhere; sleeping around and drinking my way to oblivion. I guess picking me up from jail that last time was the straw that broke the camel's back. I get it mom. But later, when I enlisted in Starfleet, when I became a captain. Why didn't you even try to contact me? A call? A comm.? A goddamned post-it note? Something? You could have found me easily. I knew where you were!"
"I…I couldn't," she finally told him, her voice breaking. "Every time… I'd see you and I…you… you look so much like him. I couldn't…"
"Jesus mom!" Jim exclaimed with years of frustration. "He's dead. Dad is dead. He's been dead for over thirty years now. Why can't you let it go? He didn't die just for me. He died for you and the crew, too. It's not my fault. I'm your son, too, you know. Why can't you just see me? I'm not him. I'm not…" Jim broke off shaking his head sadly.
"Jim you don't understand what it was like," Winona reached out to him with a shaky hand before letting it drop to her side. "I was… he was my everything and I just couldn't… didn't want to live without him."
"So Sam and I counted for nothing?" Jim asked bitterly.
"You don't know what it was like," she repeated stiffly. "I had you and Sam was so young and I was alone…" she shrugged sadly. "You don't know what it is like being a single parent; faced with a future alone, two babies totally dependant on you…"
Jim's dark laughter interrupted her pleading. "The hell I don't know," he bit out. "I've been there – alone, Abby less than two years old, facing a future alone without Marissa. And do you know what? It hurt to get up every morning and I was barely holding it together. But I had to hold it together – for the ship and the crew. Do you know what got me through each day? My crew? Sure. My friends. Of course. But it was Abby that was the most important. It was Abby who got me through the hard days and the even worse nights. She needed me. And I needed her. She was the only thing of Marissa's that I had left. The most precious gift she'd given me. I couldn't… I can't… imagine living my life like you did, always running away. Hating your children."
"I didn't… don't… hate you," Winona protested weakly, her face pale.
"Well you certainly didn't love us," Jim said cuttingly. "And actually, apathy might be even worse than hatred. You just didn't care. You foisted us off on Grandpa Jim and Grandma Jo, then babysitters, then Frank – and we all know how that one turned out. The whole fucking universe knows that. And when all we wanted was for you to come home and stay, you shipped us off to Aunt Jenny's on Tarsus."
"Jim, I really didn't know…"
"I know mom, but you still passed us on; made us someone else's problem," Jim argued back.
"Jim?" Marissa's head popped into the room, she looked carefully between the two combatants on opposite sides of the room staring at each other. "It's almost dinner and… well, everyone is wondering where you are."
"Yeah," Jim shook his head as if waking from a dream and stood up. "It's Abby's birthday." He glanced briefly over at his mother and then left, kissing Marissa on the forehead as he passed her.
Marissa remained in the doorway, watching as Winona pulled herself together. She no longer looked like the ultra confident woman who had arrived unannounced less than a half hour earlier. She looked old and tired, and if Marissa wasn't mistaken her hand was trembling as she unnecessarily straightened her hair.
"I don't imagine you want me here," Winona stated, clearing her throat uncomfortably and not meeting Marissa's eyes.
"Not really," Marissa told her succinctly.
"I'll just leave then," Winona nodded, straightening her blouse in what was obviously a defensive manner; like donning armor.
"I don't think so," Marissa shook her head, still blocking the doorway. "You show up here all of a sudden, with no warning at all; crashing Abby's birthday party…"
"I didn't mean to," Winona protested.
"Doesn't matter," Marissa told her. "You want to see Jim's life now? See his family? His friends? See what he's become? Well there's no time like the present. He's not the boy you remember. He's an amazing man – and friend and partner. He's an amazing captain. And a damn good father, with no thanks to you."
The two women stared at each other, Winona silent and pale, Marissa angry and flushed.
"Marissa!" Jim called from the other room, breaking their staring contest.
"Coming," Marissa called back over her shoulder before turning back to frown at Winona. "I set a place for you at the table. Abby's excited about the idea of having another grandmother," she shrugged, her look saying that she wasn't nearly as thrilled as her daughter. "She's five. She doesn't need to be disappointed on her birthday, now does she?" With a look that was more of a dare, Marissa turned and abruptly left, leaving Winona alone and staring dumbfounded as she realized that the next move was all up to her.
Walking into the living room with a smile plastered on her face, Marissa made her way over to Jim who was standing next to McCoy but looking at her questioningly. She shrugged slightly at his unvoiced question. The ball was in Winona's court now. She could slip out the front door with no one the wiser or she could stay. It was her decision.
It took a couple more minutes, but eventually Winona walked into the living room, her expression one any of Jim's crew members would have recognized. McCoy called it The Kirk Game Face; he put it on whenever he had to go to a diplomatic function that he was dreading.
Nyota, bless her heart, stepped forward and brought Winona into the room, introducing her to Janice and Christine who had just arrived, as well as Marie Roose, Marissa's boss. The women chatted amiably enough until Sulu popped his head out of the kitchen.
"Marissa, I think we're good to go," he called across the room before he popped back in.
Squeezing Jim's arm, Marissa signaled him to make the announcement while she rounded up the birthday girl and her minion.
They'd set up two tables, one for the adults and one for the kids. Marissa had already apologized to her almost sixteen year old step-brother for adding him to the kid's table, but Shea adored him, so it was a good compromise.
"All right birthday girl, time for dinner," Marissa said, snagging Abby from Pike's lap. "Where's your brother?"
"Dunno," she shrugged before running towards her seat.
"I think he's with Joanna," Pike nodded over towards the corner where the other kids had gathered. Shea was sitting happily in Jo's lap playing with his ship.
"Jo, Jake, Mel, Maddy dinner time," she called over to them. "Can you bring Shea?" Joanna nodded and smiled; standing she hoisted Shea onto her hip.
Marissa moved into the dining area to the specially decked Birthday Girl Table. There was a blue plastic table cloth, fancy princess napkins, balloons attached to the table legs, confetti spread all over the table and an arrangement of flowers that Abby had picked out earlier that morning. Everything the birthday girl had demanded.
Abby sat down daintily on her 'throne' as she called her chair and looked around at her friends and Jo as they found their seats.
"Where's Pasha's chair," she demanded of her mother, her hands on her hips and elbows sticking out.
"Honey, we talked about this," Marissa sighed, reaching down to straighten her crown. "Pasha is going to sit at the grown up table with the other grown ups."
"But I want Pasha to sit with me," Abby pouted, "at my table." Her lip was starting to tremble in a very Kirk-like fashion, signaling the beginning of a fit.
"Abby," Jim warned in a firm voice and giving his daughter a stern look.
"But daddy," she whined, her blue eyes filling with tears. "It's my birthday and I want Pasha to sit with me." She stamped her little foot, causing both her parents to look heavenward for some support or at least patience.
All the adults were doing their best to hold in their grins and not look over at Chekov who was blushing furiously.
"Well, I don't know about Pasha," Sulu interrupted, breaking up the Kirk staring contest, "but everyone knows that the grown up table is boring. Can I join you, Miss Abigail? Maybe between the two of us we can persuade Pasha to join us."
Everyone turned to look at Abby. She was frowning at Sulu, seriously thinking his offer over. They all knew that Abby had claimed Chekov as hers long before she could even walk. When Chekov and Sulu had begun dating and Abby had caught them holding hands things had become pretty tense. It took weeks before Abby would speak to Sulu no matter how hard he tried to win her over. She simply did not want to share her Pasha with anyone.
"Okay, Hi'roo," she sighed, willing to compromise this time. "You can sit with Jake. Pasha sit here," she pointed imperiously to the seat next to her.
The rest of the dinner went smoothly enough. Sulu had the kids' table in giggles for most of the time. Shea only had one food throwing incident which Chekov quickly stopped. All the adults snuck fond looks periodically and joked along with Sulu and Chekov. Marissa enjoyed seeing Winona's perplexed expression as the adults indulged and joined in with the childish banter.
At the big table the talk was more subdued. Jim and Spock explained some of the upgrades to Marissa's dad. Nancy, Christine, Janice and Maria discussed an upcoming sale at one of the big department stores. Nyota and Marissa bounced between both conversations for awhile. Then the topic turned to teaching at the Academy, something all of the command team, except Scotty who was overseeing the upgrades, were doing, versus being on a ship and exploring the galaxy. Marissa's father was pushing hard for them to remain on planet and teach.
"Dad we've had this discussion before," Marissa interrupted before he could build up steam, a slight edge to her voice, though she tried to sound calm. "This is the perfect time for us to be on a ship. The kids are young – and portable."
"What about their schooling?" her father countered. "Another five year mission and Abby will be ten, she should be in school learning."
Marissa did her best not to roll her eyes like Abby when she thought her parents were being especially stupid. "She'll have Jim and me to teach her," Marissa stated. "The childcare center is being expanded to include an elementary school teacher, because we have several other families on board. And we have Spock and Nyota and everyone else. We haven't done badly so far."
"This is true," Spock spoke before her father could open his mouth. "Miss Abigail is highly intelligent and well beyond the skills of the majority of Terran five year-olds."
"It's not normal," her father protested. "She – they – should be around children their own age."
"It's different," Marissa stressed. "Who is to say it's not normal? Or that normal – whatever it is – is best for our children? And don't be a hypocrite. I was never around children my age, remember? Nana was my best friend until I met Janine."
"And we see how that turned out," he muttered under his breath.
"Matthew," Nancy protested, placing a calming hand on his arm.
Marissa opened her mouth to counter that, but Jim cut her off.
"This is not up for debate, Matthew," he said calmly. He was unfortunately used to referring arguments between Marissa and her father. "Marissa and I have discussed what is best for our family and our children. We realize that this is hard for you to grasp and that your protests are because you want to see Marissa and the kids, but to continue to argue over this will only antagonize us and I don't think you really want to do that."
"She has such excellent career opportunities here," Matthew countered, his face red. Obviously he didn't want to give up his argument; though it was obvious to everyone else that he had no chance of winning.
"Marissa has excellent career opportunities wherever she is," Jim countered, a bit of steel slipping into his tone.
"Convenient that," Matthew snorted, glaring at Jim. "Now she can follow you wherever you want to go.
"Dad! We're married, I'd do that anyway and besides this isn't about Jim," Marissa jumped in angrily. "This is about what is best for all of us – together – as a family, while also balancing our careers. And whether you believe it or not the Enterprise is the best place for me – and Jim and the kids."
"Just because he has nothing to do with his family…" Matthew leaned forward, glaring at his daughter.
"The Enterprise is our family," Marissa snapped back. "Sorry Nana, Nancy," she added sheepishly glancing over her grandmother and stepmother.
"This discussion is over," Jim declared in his captain's voice before Matthew could speak again. "This is Abby's birthday and we don't need to spoil it by arguing over something that isn't even up for debate." He looked severely at Matthew and Marissa. "I think dinner is over. Spock, Bones," he turned to his first officer and CMO, "will you help me clean up since Marissa cooked and Nyota and Sulu finished? I don't think we'll be able to steal Chekov from Abby."
"Of course, Jim," Spock replied, standing with everyone else.
"Sure," McCoy agreed, already grabbing plates.
"I can help too," Nancy offered.
"That's okay, Nancy, I think we'll need you in the living room watching over the kids," he not so subtly looked over at Marissa and then her father.
"Of course," Nancy replied, doing her best to hold back a grin.
Marissa narrowed her eyes at Jim and then went over to clean up Shea.
"I'm not a child," Matthew glared from his seat.
"Well, you're acting like one," Nana chimed in. "And a spoiled one at that. Now help me back to my chair. I don't want the Admiral stealing it. I outrank him in this house."
"Yes mother," Matthew replied with a long suffering sigh as everyone, including Admiral Pike, laughed.
"There's a good boy," Nana smiled as he helped her from her chair.
Later, as Jim was finishing the dishes, Spock already dispatched to the living room, Winona entered the kitchen.
"Mariss? Where do I put this big ass container?" he asked, not bothering to look around as he squatted, peering into one of the lower cabinets. "And why in the hell did you cook so many potatoes?"
"I don't know," Winona replied, causing Jim to spin around and almost fall on his ass. "Why don't you try above the fridge?"
Silently, Jim walked over and looked in the cabinet Winona had suggested. The other matching containers were already nestled there. He put the big one there too.
"Good guess," he told her.
"Thanks," Winona nodded.
Jim continued to put away the cleaned dishes, letting the silence drag out.
"You handled that well," Winona finally said, "earlier in the dining room."
"What? Marissa and her dad?" he asked with a raised eyebrow. "That's nothing. Now Klingons are another story. And don't even get me started on the Ferengi."
Winona cracked a small smile. "Still. The Jim I knew would have told him to shut the hell up and mind his own business. And the Jim I knew wouldn't have done the dishes, either."
Jim shrugged, throwing his towel next to the sink. "Well, I'm not the Jim you used to know."
"I see that," Winona said softly.
They stood there awkwardly, looking at each other across the now clean kitchen.
"Abby will be dying for her presents," Jim finally told her, motioning for her to precede him out the door. "We should get in there."
"Of course," Winona agreed. "Can't keep the birthday girl waiting.
"Well, we can," Jim said with a smirk. "It's just not a good idea."
And that folks is the end of FI&QT – I think. I've had this written for ages, but I couldn't post it because it talked about Marissa being missing and Shea being named Shea and not Tiberius. I hope you enjoy this. Now it's back to focusing on Completion. Finally – as Royalpinkdogs would say. ;-) She's been very patient with my little side stories. Speaking of…
Would any of you out there be interested in a mirror story based on Jim and Marissa? Ever since I wrote the Jim Kirk chapter (chapter 7 of FI&QT) I've been playing with the idea of what Mirror!Kirk would do if he got his hands on Marissa in his universe. The other day I got inspired to write a few pages. I honestly don't know if I could write something in the Mirror 'verse – it would be very dark and very sexual, but I like the idea that in any universe Jim loves Marissa and vice versa, even if he doesn't really want to.
Let me know if anyone is interested and I might seriously think about it. I could post the first 'chapter' that I've written to give you a taste of what I'm thinking.
Cheers - RA