- II -

Jim Kirk was well aware that his mother wanted him married; he was not in the least that way inclined. Marriage, to him, meant stultification - a continuous, endless compromise on the most essential of freedoms. The freedom to hurtle down the deserted outer roads on a shuttle-bike built to his very own specifications, and to stagger home bruised and bleeding and with a hundred more specifications in mind. The freedom to gad about town with Bones in tow, kissing the prettiest girls and convincing the most charming bellboys that a quick, breathless fumble in a coatroom was a capital idea. The freedom to spend a night doing nothing but stargazing, and a day doing nothing but stretching out beneath a giant carburetor and the near-molten heat of the sun.

His mother called it time-wasting; he called it time-making. Those apparently idle hours were often the source of his greatest inspirations, and led to him spending the subsequent days in front of his blueprints, or in front of his computer, running simulations and writing papers and generally (as Sam put it) making a clod of himself. No gentleman or lady of reputable standing would marry such a peculiar fellow, such a distracted and often depraved degenerate - and while he was right, Jim had no interest in marriage, in any case.

Sam could keep his epithets to himself.

And thus, Jim had every plan to absent himself from any social event that the new arrivals to Netherstar Park might be attending, since, well, even if Jim didn't intend to wed, he did have a face entirely capable of launching a thousand ships - courtships, even - and he had no illusions whatsoever that people of any species, including Vulcans, were capable of resisting him.

Hubris? Surely not. It wasn't hubris if it was fact. The pretty girls and the bellboys could attest to it. In lurid detail.

Mrs. Kirk, of course, was having none of it.

She sat on the chaise longue with the brocaded sleeve of Jim's finest frock coat over her lap, mending a tear that had more to do with clandestine trysts engaged in with a noble's daughter than any respectable misadventure.

Jim happened upon her in that state, with a needle in one hand and a thread held fast between her teeth, and was, for a moment, so flabbergasted that he forgot to turn around and pretend not to have seen anything.

Her eyes glinted at him. "I hope Mr. Sybok will like it, Jimmy."

"We are not in a way to know what Mr. Sybok likes," Jim returned, resentfully, "since we are not to visit. I am not to visit."

"But you forget, child, that I hold the purse-strings of this house - "

" - and you wear the britches, too," Jim muttered.

"You forget that I hold the purse-strings of this house, and so long as you are in it, you are obliged to follow my edicts - or risk losing the very allowance that permits you to indulge in your bizarre experiments and various devilries."

Devilries? Plural? There had only been one satanic rite, and even that, only because it was fueled by opium and absinthe and the laughter of several very lovely, very unclad girls…

"Your father thinks it a most excellent idea, as well."

"My father," said Jim, "was likely hounded into revising his personal definition of the word, 'excellent'."

"I do not hound anyone, Jimmy, don't be ridiculous."

Jim raised his eyebrows. And gestured to himself.

"This," said Mrs. Kirk, "is mothering. A distinctly different pursuit."

"I believe you have just admitted that it is a pursuit. I am pursued. Thus, I am very much the helpless fox, and you, Mother, are the hound. The cruel, callous - "

"Yes, yes, I must appear very carnivorous to you, little doe." Her mouth twitched. "Therefore, I bid you admit your defenselessness, and obey the missives of this hound's teeth."

"Will they close about my neck, if I do not go?"

"If you do not go," she replied, "they will."

Jim lapsed into a sulking silence.

"Don't worry, dear. He may not like you."

An incredulous snort escaped him before he could stop it.

"Your high opinion of yourself is, perhaps, explicable, Jimmy, but it shall net you more trouble than it is worth."

"Spare me your words of dubious wisdom, Mother. When is this hellish event that I must attend in glittering finery?"

"To-morrow fortnight."


"A full week in advance of Lady Uhura's return to our town! We shall have the advantage of her!"

Jim blinked. "Nyota has her sights set on the Vulcans?" Nyota? She disdained romance. Well, she disdained him. And that was a rare enough event - no one denied Jim - to make an impression upon his psyche as a matter of some insult. And also, as it happened, of some intrigue.

"How many times," said Mrs. Kirk, "must I ask you not to address her so familiarly? Not only is it unseemly in society, but she, herself, does not desire it."

"Oh, she will," said Jim, a steely glint of his own entering his eyes. He was his mother's son. "If I must attend this ball, I shall see for myself these hopeless sods that Nyota deems so estimable."

The lady gasped, quite horrified by her son's language. "Do not insult our hosts, Jim."

"Hosts? They would be my hosts if I were their guest. As it stands, Mother, I am attending under duress, and am more akin to their prisoner."

"Prisoners must be especially deferential," said his mother, sweetly. "Or hadn't you heard?"

Jim grunted.

"There!" Mrs. Kirk shook out the frock coat, apparently done mending it. Certainly, the tear was quite invisible. Had Jim not very vivid memories of the stolen kiss upon a balcony that had caused it, he wouldn't have been able to place it, at all. "All done! Mr. Sybok will be overcome!"

"I am sick of Mr. Sybok," declared Jim, feeling, all of a sudden, quite literally sick, indeed. He'd have to waste an entire evening on an unwanted social call, where he would, additionally, be expected to attempt something resembling civil conversation with a dry, logic-maddened stick in the mud. Two sticks in the mud. Sybok did have a brother, after all.

"I am sorry to hear that, my love. But as your father has actually paid the visit and accepted the invitation; we cannot escape the acquaintance, now."

"Escape it? Your intention was ever to doggedly pursue it. Goddess of the hunt that you are."

"That I am," his mother agreed, "but you must thank your father, too. It is only his genuine affection for you and for Sam, and his desire to see you both settled, that has led him to follow my advice."

Advice? It was tyranny. Perhaps Jim's expression said so, for the good lady quirked a smile.

"At our time of life it is not so pleasant, I can tell you, to be making new acquaintances every day; but for your sakes, we would do anything. Jimmy, my love, though you are the youngest, I dare say Mr. Sybok will dance with you at the ball."

"How positively encouraging," Jim remarked, a jot more sharply than was justified. "I only hope that Vulcans can, in fact, dance."

"Oh, they can," insisted Mrs. Kirk, and the rest of the evening was spent in conjecturing the how and why of Vulcan mating rituals, and what either Jim or Sam could expect should their efforts come to fruition.

Jim had no interest in those rituals, or in their fruition, but once Sam returned from his shipyard and Father from his office, the conversation became, alas, even more difficult to escape.

to be continued.
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