The first Federation ship that arrives to rescue the Kelvin survivors is the USS Endeavor. It's a small ship, an older one that is far out of date and soon to be retired. There is only a single doctor aboard, with two nurses, and he sees to Winona and her newborn son immediately.

He is a young Vulcan who does not object when Winona refuses to release her son; he just moves around her and asks the physicians that escaped in the pod with her questions. He listens to the child's heartbeat, examines his eyes, nose, and mouth, and takes his temperature using old-fashioned methods.

"The child's vitals appear to be stable. His heart and lungs are functioning proficiently. His premature birth seems to have been caused by the personal stress of the situation and there does not appear to be any cause for alarm."

Winona strokes a finger along her son's ample cheek and nods distractedly. She pays the Vulcan no more mind, too concerned with her grief and her child.

Winona does not speak during her stay aboard the Endeavor. She sees to her son and seems not to notice those around her, lost within herself. The trip back to Earth seems to take a great deal longer than ever before.

She holds her son –James, her mind tells her. George had decided on James– and stares out a window at the shuttles arriving from Earth. She thinks of Sam, her beautiful boy they'd left behind, and wonders how she will ever find the words to tell him his daddy isn't coming home. She wonders how she will be able to walk into the home she'd shared with George in Iowa since they'd first wed, how she will ever be able to fall asleep in their big, empty bed.

She takes a step back, bumping immediately into someone. Winona lets out a gasp and James a soft cry, which she instinctively soothes even as she turns and begins to apologize. The words die on her tongue.

The Vulcan doctor watches her silently. His face appears to be so grave and his eyes very serious, much like any other Vulcan Winona has ever met. "I apologize. I did not intend to startle you."

Winona shakes her head and speaks for the first time. A distant part of her mind notes that it is quite anti-climactic. "You didn't."

The Vulcan –Winona is sure she should know his name, but little has mattered to her of late –inclines his head, a fraction of a gesture. "I, too, lost my mate recently. I grieve with thee."

Winona can see it, then. A sort of understanding in the dark of his eyes, the lingering grief, an air of defeat in the set of his shoulders. Without thinking, she reaches out and touches the back of his hand.

It is a human gesture and Winona has always been a tactile person. The poor Vulcan, however, had not been expecting such a thing. He jolts, jerking his hand away, and the tips of his ears went very green. Winona took a step back.

"Forgive me. I forgot that Vulcans are touch telepaths. You would not wish me to touch you now."

The Vulcan did not protest this.

"I am Winona… and this is James," she indicates her son. Her eyes travel to the window again, and the slowly churning Earth. "My other son, Sam, is waiting for me. I can't find the words to tell him of what has happened."

"I am Sevak. My bond mate died during childbirth. Both she, and the babe, were lost to us."

"I'm sorry," Winona whispers. She could not imagine losing James and George in a single blow.

Sevak inclines his head again. "It would appear that the shuttles have arrived." He raises one hand and forms an odd gesture. "Live long and prosper, Winona, James."

Winona attempts to mimic his gesture, but it is difficult and she laughs as she struggles awkwardly to get her fingers to obey her command. It is the first time she has laughed in a world that no longer has George Kirk and the sound cuts off as soon as the thought occurs to her. She drops her hand.

"Goodbye, Sevak."

Winona expects not to see him again.

It is almost unbearable, living in the house she was meant to share with George. He is dead now, gone where she cannot follow, and Winona is but a shade of the woman she used to be without him.

Life without George is quieter and grayer. There is much less laughter. Winona wonders if perhaps she dragged George's ghost across the galaxy and how, exactly, she is supposed to fix it.

Sam clings to her and takes his job as big brother very seriously. In contrast, James –Jimmy, by now–skips crawling and dives right into walking. He's running circles around Winona before he's even a year old, learns how to open doors despite the best locks Winona can find, and has a completely adoration for water. The first time Jimmy nearly drowns in the small pond behind their house, he's not even three years old and Sam has to drag him out. Winona has the feeling that this is but a glimpse into how raising James Tiberius Kirk is going to go: Jim barreling headfirst into trouble and Winona or Sam running after him to pull him away from the edge of danger.

When Jimmy is three, Winona sends him to school, though he is perhaps a little young for it. He's far too bright for his own good and she hopes that the structure and adventure school offers will satisfy his never-ending curiosity. It doesn't really go as planned, but Winona had long ago accepted that Jimmy is too much his father's son to be anything close to an ordinary child.

With Jimmy and Sam both at school, Winona has little interest in staying in an empty house that does nothing but remind her of George. On a whim, Winona begins to study the Vulcan language, history, and culture.

Winona's first trip to Vulcan occurs when Jimmy is seven. She is on the planet for less than an hour before she runs into a face that is astonishingly familiar.

"Sevak. I hadn't expected to ever see you again."

"Winona. The likelihood of us meeting again was slim. I, too, am surprised to see you again. What has brought you to Vulcan?"

"I am an ambassador from Earth. One could say that our chance meeting had a lasting effect upon me. I was just headed to meet with Amanda Grayson, but I seem to have gotten turned around. This is my first visit to the planet."

"I am familiar with Ambassador Sarek's wife. I could assist you in your journey to his residence."

"I would be grateful of the assistance, thank you."

Winona and Sevak spoke frequently, communicating even when Winona was back home, for three years. On two instances, during visits to Vulcan, Sevak went as far as to initiate a mind meld and Winona found herself to be drawn more and more towards the Vulcan.

Winona is once again on a visit to Vulcan when Sevak approaches her. His ears are inflamed green and he cannot meet her eyes as he speaks with her in a scarcely audible voice. Afterwards, Winona finds herself blushing.

"But, shouldn't you already have a bond mate? It has been more than seven years since T'Preen died."

"I have endured the fever once since. I bonded with another woman; however, it was not satisfactory and she implored for our bond to be broken. It was a mutual and logical choice."

Winona nods, though being human it is almost impossible for her to understand.

"I," Sevak seems to be at a loss for words, his ears turning an even darker shade of green that is beginning to spread across his cheeks and creep up his neck, as well. Winona smiles, finds the spreading flush endearing. Sevak licks at his lips and tries again. "It would please me, Winona, if you would consent to establishing a bond with me and become my wife."

Winona is shocked, though perhaps a part of her had known where this conversation was headed. She takes a moment to think and doesn't have to worry about Sevak taking offense to her hesitation. He may be the most emotional Vulcan Winona has ever encountered –Amanda Grayson occasionally alludes to her husband being more free with his emotions, as well, but only when they are alone –but Sevak is still a Vulcan and understands logic and the process of thought.

Winona hesitates for several reasons. The first is her sons. Sam and Jimmy have never truly met Sevak and she worries that they would resent him. Sam holds the memory of his father close and Winona does not expect him to be open to any kind of replacement. Though Winona does not see Sevak as a replacement for her late husband and knows that Sevak would never attempt to take his place, she fears that Sam would never be able to see the Vulcan as anything but his father's replacement. The only men Jimmy has ever had in his life have been his grandfathers and uncles, all of whom they see only a few times a year, and Jimmy has never handled authority well. The strict lifestyle of a Vulcan would not befit her son, and Winona doubts Sevak's ability to cope with the overly emotional boy.

And, at the heart of it, Winona still thinks of herself as George Kirk's wife. At some level, it feels like a betrayal to his memory to take another husband. She cannot, however, deny the love she does indeed feel for Sevak.

Looking at him, though, Winona cannot bring herself to give him her logical answer. She answers with her heart.

"Yes, Sevak. I will consent to being your wife."

The first time Jim Kirk ever meets a Vulcan, it's on the day of his mother's wedding ceremony.

He is a tall man, broad shouldered and somewhat burly. His skin is tinged green, his eyebrows look funny, and his ears are pointed. Jim thinks he kind of looks like an elf, but he keeps that opinion to himself. He doesn't think it'd make Mom very happy.

His name is Sevak. Mom tells him and Sam that he was the doctor that saw to her after their dad died, that he took good care of her and Jim. She tells them that she has known him for years and that he's a good man.

"He is not your father," she says, brushing her fingers through Sam's hair. Sam jerks away and crosses his arms over his chest. "Sevak understands that he could never take George's place in our hearts and our lives, but he doesn't wish to do so, either."

"Why do you have to marry him?" Sam asks angrily.

Mom smiles softly, "Because I love him, Sam. He makes me happy. I have been sad for a very long time and I'm tired of it. I would like to be happy again."

Sam flounders for a moment, wanting to remain angry but not wanting Mom to be unhappy. Finally, he turns and stalks away. Jim looks from Sam to Mom and back again. He shrugs and stands up from the table to go find something to amuse himself with.

Jim never met his father. He heard his voice only once, for a few mere seconds after his birth, and if the memory lingers in his mind, it is buried so far in his subconscious that he cannot access it. He never knew the man, knows only what Sam and his mother and grandparents have told him.

If Sevak is going to make his mom happy again, Jim decides he can't be that bad of a guy.

After the Earth ceremony, which is short and witnessed by only a small number of family members, including all four of Jim's living grandparents, they move to Vulcan. Jim doesn't understand why they can't stay in Iowa, but he doesn't argue and scream like Sam does.

He decides almost immediately, however, that he's going to absolutely loathe Vulcan.

Vulcan is hot and dry and it's very hard to breathe, at first. The whole planet seems to be made of sand and it gets everywhere. Mom is forever scrubbing sand from behind Jim's ears and sweeping it from the house.

School sucks. Jim hatesit. The other children are so serious and they think they're better than Jim, just because they're Vulcan and he's human. Jim gets into fights a lot –fights he usually loses because Vulcans are stronger and faster than humans, but he grins through his split lip and laughs when they try and hurt him and still makes one kid think twice about ever calling his mother a whore again.

There is one boy, though. He is quiet and doesn't seem to have any friends. He watches Jim silently, but he never taunts him or belittles him for being human. His name is Spock.

Jim's nose is broken and bleeding all over the place. Stonn, the boy that was the cause of his current predicament, had run off with a few other Vulcan boys. Only Spock remained, watching Jim impassively with his head cocked slightly to one side.

Jim scowls at him. "If you wanna start something, go right ahead. I don't need my nose to fight."

"I do not wish to engage you in confrontation," Spock says. His voice is as blank and inexpressive as his face, a complete monotone. "Do you require assistance in ceasing the bleeding?"

"I don't need help. I don't need anyone'shelp."

"Oh, Jimmy, what have you done now?" Mom appears out of nowhere, an ability mothers seemed to have on Vulcan. Jim had been expecting her, she always picks him and Sam up from school, but she's early and she moves quietly. All of the women of Vulcan are quiet and Jim finds it strange. She glances over at Spock and surprise registers across her face. "Spock. I didn't realize you and Jimmy knew one another."

"We are classmates, Ambassador." Spock's voice is perfectly polite.

"Wonderful. How is your mother? I haven't had the chance to go and see her in a while."

"Mother is well."

Mom pulls a handkerchief out of her pocket and presses it to Jim's nose to stop the bleeding. "Spock's father is the Vulcan ambassador to Earth, Jimmy. You may find you have many things in common."

"Doubt it," Jim grumbles, taking the cloth in hand. Mom clicks her tongue at him.

"What on Earth did you do to deserve this?"

Jim scowls.

"Excuse me, Ambassador, but," Spock hesitates on the name, "Jimmy did not engage Stonn in confrontation. Stonn takes pleasure in the emotional responses of humans. He verbally antagonized Jimmy through the use of several unsavory statements concerning you and the human race at large."

Jim sends the Vulcan boy a disgusted look. Now she's going to worry. "It's Jim, not Jimmy."

Mom is watching Jim carefully. "You must keep your temper. I know what is said about me. It does not bother me and you should not let it bother you."

Yeah, Jim thinks. Because that is going to happen. He's just going to let them say whatever they want. Uh-huh. Right.

"Wait here while I find Sam," Mom commands and leaves him with Spock.

Spock watches him solemnly for a moment before he walks away. Jim scowls at him.

Stupid Vulcan.

Jim has been living on Vulcan for several months before he gets the chance to meet Spock's mother. He is astounded.

"You're a human!"

Amanda Grayson is clearly amused. "Why, yes. I believe I am. Fascinating."

The delivery is perfect imitation of Vulcan speech, with no inflection at all to her voice. She moves like a Vulcan, dresses like a Vulcan, but there is a glint of humor in her eyes that tells Jim she has not forgotten she is human. She seems to be making fun of the entire race while being perfectly respectful at the same time.

Jim approves.

"I am told that you are eleven and that you go to school with my son, Spock. He speaks of you often."

That surprises Jim. Even though Spock is always watching him, they've only had the one conversation.

"I understand that you are having a problem with bullies, as well. I'm afraid that, despite my best efforts, most Vulcans still view humans as an inferior race."

"Spock is bullied because he is half-human," Jim says, with sudden realization. Amanda nods.

"Yes. They say cruel things, trying to elicit a response. It is not anything I haven't heard before, but I am Spock's mother. He loves me very much and his anger gets away from him."

Jim turns and looks to where Spock is studying a PADD in the other room. "Oh," is his only response.

It takes Jim two days to approach the half-Vulcan.

"Why didn't you tell me your mom was human?"

Spock quirks an eyebrow. Sevak does that when he's curious, Jim has noticed. Spock's eyebrow appears to be more mocking.

"I was not aware it was information that you were not privy to."

Jim supposes that's understandable. Spock's mixed genetics seem to be common knowledge, now that Jim is paying attention. "I wasn't. I thought you were making fun of me, just like them."

Spock frowns, just a little. He is clearly displeased at the idea of being just like them.

"I think we should stick together," Jim suddenly decides. "We should be friends."

"Vulcans do not require friends."

"But humans do."

Spock doesn't seem to have an argument against that logic.

¬-Nine Years Later-

Spock is being quiet. It's taken Jim years to get Spock to lighten up and joke with him, and now Spock's being quiet again and ruining all of Jim's hard work and it's annoying. Jim kicks at him.

"What's your deal?"

Spock moves his legs away, sending Jim an annoyed look. "I must ask you to cease attempting to harm me."

Jim rolls his eyes. "I'm not. I was just getting your attention. What's up?"

Spock chews on his lip. It's a habit Jim had carefully instilled in him. He's rather proud of it, personally.

"T'Pring's father is concerned that I am becoming too human under your influence."

Jim grins, feeling rather smug. "Really? Awesome."

Spock's eyes narrow at him. "He has asked to have a conference with my father. Mother believes that he will attempt to sever the bond between T'Pring and myself."

Jim's grin dies away rather suddenly. Bonds are very serious on Vulcan. They are necessary, for the sake of sanity and stability. An unmated Vulcan is more susceptible to the emotions and thoughts of others, as well as their own emotions.

"What's going to happen if he does?"

"Father will have no choice but to agree. It is unlikely that he will be able to find another for me to bond with."

"What about T'Pring? Doesn't she need a bond, too?"

Spock looks away. "T'Pring enjoys the company of Stonn, who is unmated. It is logical to determine that a bond between the pair will be pursued."

Jim tosses his arm around Spock's shoulders. It's a familiar enough gesture that Spock no longer starts, but rather leans subtly into the contact. Jim leans his head against Spock's. "I'm sorry, Spock."

Spock fears his own unruly emotions. He is already considered unstable for a Vulcan and, if he becomes too emotional, he will be ruled a V'tosh ka'tur and turned away from society. Jim privately thinks he'd steal Spock away to Iowa before he let thathappen.

"We'll think of something."

Later, Jim pushes his food around his plate before suddenly looking up at his stepfather. "Sevak, what happens to a Vulcan after their bond is severed?"

"The consequences of a severed bond can differ greatly, depending upon the age and mental capabilities of the Vulcan in question, as well as the strength of the bond. T'Preen and I were very close and our bond was very strong. After her death, my mind was damaged extensively. If it had not been for the diligence of a mind-healer, I may never have regained my sanity."

Jim suddenly pictures Spock, his mind in tatters, virtually insane. He shudders. "But a Vulcan that has only the initial bond, that has never melded with his bondmate, how would he be affected?"

"You are speaking about someone very young. It would depend on the Vulcan, Jim, as I said, but in most cases, the young adapt much more easily to bonds that are formed or bonds that are broken. Their minds are malleable to change, not quite as disciplined as the mind of an adult Vulcan."

Sam is watching him curiously, but Jim doesn't have any plan on explaining and Sevak will not ask. Instead, the Vulcan looks over at Sam and begins a discussion on Sam's impending meeting with the Elders who will decide if he would be accepted into the Vulcan Science Academy in a few months' time. It had taken several years for Sam and Jim to obtain Vulcan citizenship and Sam, if accepted, would be the first non-Vulcan to ever be admitted. However, Sam is a complete genius when it came to science, receiving high praise from his Vulcan instructors, and Jim personally thinks the Vulcan High Council would be stupid to toss him away simply because he's human.

Jim in thankful for his stepfather's subject change.

Jim watches Spock with silent concern. Spock's bond with T'Pring had been severed several months before, and Spock still struggled with the adjustment. He had begun to avoid touching Jim and Sam at all costs, keeping his hands locked behind his back. Jim had even witnessed him shying away from his mother. Any human, it would seem. His emotional outbursts, which had always been few and far between, were coming with alarming frequency.

And just yesterday, Jim had seen Spock's father discussing something with the mind-healers when he'd gone to visit Sevak at his place of work.

Jim is worried. He can't just tell Spock he's worried, though; that would just make Spock pull further away, stiff-backed and emotions tucked away as best he could. Jim would have to be careful and patient, neither of which are virtues Jim is very familiar with.

Jim sits as close as Spock will allow, with several inches between them. He has a PADD in his hand that he is pretending to study, but he hasn't the faintest what it says. He's much more focused on his oldest –and only –friend.

Spock is studying too, though probably with a lot more success than Jim. His brow is furrowed and he's rubbing absently at one of his ears. Jim is somewhat amazed; he's never seen a Vulcan make something that in any way resembles a bad habit.

"Would you please stop that!" Spock suddenly burst out, surprising Jim enough that he nearly dropped his PADD.

"Stop what?" Jim asks, innocently.

"Watching me. I am not so great an anomaly that you can peer at me and study me for your own entertainment." Spock's voice is cold as ice, with a hint of steel. Jim reads irritation, anger, and shame in Spock's expression–his lower lip curling, eyes flashing, jaw clenched, cheeks flushed faintly green–and is astounded by the open display of blatant emotion.

Astounded, amazed, and awed. Spock is beautiful like this. Even with all that fury focused on him, Jim can't help but stare. His heart pounds, suddenly racing, and his skin feels hot, his hands clammy. His stomach twists and clenches and everything just stops, just for a moment.

And then Spock abruptly stands and stalks off, his PADD gripped tightly in one hand. Jim watches him leave helplessly, completely flabbergasted.

He has no idea what just happened.

Jim has never liked T'Pring. She is often found in the company of Stonn, who is perhaps Jim's least favorite person to ever exist, and the first time they'd met, Spock had introduced her as his bond-mate. Jim had been childishly jealous of her attachment to Spock, the only friend he had. Jim had guarded his friendship with Spock carefully, unwilling to release Spock into the hands of another.

Spock was his.

His friend, his classmate, his confidant, his own personal Vulcan.

And now Jim finds himself thinking of other ways Spock could be his.

For several days, Jim can't so much as look at Spock without flushing, skin growing hot and sick nerves churning his stomach. He's hopelessly confused, unsure of his own feelings and feeling strangely at odds with the world around him. Everything he thought he knew and understood has suddenly been upended, even parts of his life he hadn't thought Spock had been at all entwined with.

Jim had never before realized just how dependent upon Spock he'd grown, but the Vulcan had somehow inhabited every part of his life. Jim cannot sulk in his bedroom, for the walls and surfaces are littered with pictures his mother had taken of him and Spock. He cannot play chess, as Sam is horrible at it and the only one he knows that is halfway decent is Spock. He cannot read without remembering what Spock had had to say about this book or that PADD file.

Jim avoids Spock for four days. He skips school, something that will infuriate his mother should she ever find out, rejects Spock's persistent comm calls, and doesn't appear for a scheduled dinner date that Spock's mother had invited him over for. Those four days are empty, barren, and Jim is horribly lonely the entire time. On the fifth day, Jim's will breaks.

He goes to find Spock.

Spock, at least, is relatively easy to find. He is a creature of habit, as most Vulcans are, and Jim finds him after their classes at the library. He sits at the same table in the back, claims the same chair as always, and starts his homework. Jim takes the chair that has long ago been deemed his own, as if nothing has happened and nothing has changed.

Spock looks up. He does not say anything, though a single eyebrow raises slightly. It's a silent question, a display of surprise, but Spock's emotions appear to be under control, at least for the time being.

Jim offers him a shaky grin and Spock pushes over a PADD.

"I have gathered the notes I took during your absence and transcribed them to this PADD for your use. If you require further assistance in catching up, I would be willing to provide such aid."

Jim feels like shit. "Thank you, Spock. I'd like that."

Spock hesitates. "I apologize, Jim. My behavior during our last meeting was uncalled for. There is no excuse for it."

"What?" For a moment, Jim has no idea what Spock's talking about and then it clicks. Spock had yelled at him. "Oh. Hey, man, no. Don't worry about it."

"You were upset with me."

"No." Jim shakes his head. "I wasn't."

He doesn't elaborate and Spock looks confused, like he doesn't understand at all.

Amanda Grayson is talking to Jim's mother.

She'd shown up right before dinner, looking panicked. Mom had welcomed her inside and taken her to Sevak's study–the most private room in the house– with an order over her shoulder for Jim and Sam to finish cooking.

Jim sits through dinner, barely able to eat. His insides are twisted up, anxious nerves making him feel nauseous and sick. Jim's never seen Spock's mother appear anything less than composed, almost like a Vulcan except with that unwavering humor glinting in her eyes. To see her so blatantly afraid is frightening.

Especially since he knows the only thing that could frighten her so much is a threat to Spock.

After dinner, Jim lingers outside of the study. He can't hear what's being said inside, just bounces from foot to foot and waits.

When the door finally opens, Mom doesn't look to surprised to find Jim pacing the hall. She raises an eyebrow at him –a habit she picked up from Sevak. Jim thinks it's contagious if someone hangs around Vulcans too much, because Sam does it too.

Amanda's eyes are red, like she's been crying. She smiles at Jim, though, and beckons him into the room.

"Let's talk, Jim."

Jim has never spent a lot of time in Sevak's study. It's a dark room, filled with books and data PADDs and the like. Jim sinks down on one of the mats and Amanda does as well. Mom leaves them alone, shutting the door behind her. Jim's heart hammers with fear.

"Is Spock okay?" Jim asks, words tumbling out before he can help himself.

Amanda reaches out and touches his cheek briefly, smiling that sad little smile. "He is perfectly fine, in the eyes of a human."

"But in the eyes of a Vulcan?"

Amanda sighs, her hand dropping back into her lap. "Sarek believes that Spock has become too emotional. Too… human, for lack of a better term."

"But you're human," Jim points out, "and Ambassador Sarek chose you as a bondmate."

"Yes. As the Ambassador to Earth, it was a logical choice. Do not misunderstand me, I am aware that my husband loves me dearly, but his decision was logically sound, as well. Spock, however, is not human. He is Vulcan. He chose to take that path long ago."

"What's going to happen to him?"

"Sarek is imploring the council for a suitable mate for him, but if he does not find one… Spock will be treated as V'tosh ka'tur."

V'tosh ka'tur. The Vulcans that reject the path of logic, that embrace their emotions. Jim has never been able to understand why that is a badthing, but he knows that they are exiled, banished. No longer seen as Vulcan, no longer welcome. Family bonds are severed, all bonds are severed, and they are sent away.

"Will Sarek find a bondmate for Spock?" Jim asks.

Amanda looks away. "No. No Vulcan will willingly bond with Spock as he is now. He has become too… compromised."

Jim looks at her sharply, his mind whirling. "No Vulcan?"

Amanda's eyes return to Jim, staring at him steadily, "A Vulcan does not require his bondmate to be Vulcan. Human bondings are rare, for instance, but I, and your mother, are proof that they happen."

Jim feels stupid. He hadn't even thoughtabout that…

Amanda suddenly reaches out, hand clasping around Jim's. "Jim, have you ever heard the Vulcan word t'hy'la?"

Jim is fluent in Vulcan, more or less. He can converse with them as naturally as he can a human, but there is the occasional word he doesn't know, words that are rare or to do with subjects never spoken of. He shakes his head.


"Perhaps you should look it up."

Jim frowns.

After two days of pointless searching, Jim gives up and decides just to come out and ask Sevak directly. The last time he did this was when he hadn't been able to find the word "pon farr" in any of his books and curiously asked Sevak about it. Sevak had turned a deep shade of chartreuse and more or less bolted from the room, leaving Jim's mother to explain, which she hastily had.

Jim hasn't gathered much tact in the two years since that incident, but he tries.


"Yes, Jim?"

"I cannot find the translation to a word I've stumbled upon in my reading." For some reason, Jim doesn't think he should reveal Amanda had been the one to cryptically advise him to look into the word. "I don't want to embarrass you in any way." Sevak's ears darken almost imperceptibly and Jim rushes forward, to get his stepfather's mind away from the whole pon farr thing. "But could you please tell me what 't'hy'la' means?"

Sevak's eyes widen minutely. "T'hy'la? I am surprised you could not find such a word on your own. It is very hard to translate into Standard, but approximately it is a word to mean 'soul mate'. It is the word used between a bonded pair that is particularly strong. Most commonly, the pair share an uncommonly powerful emotional connection. It is usually a bond entered later in life, between two consenting individuals and not a bond that is produced at the age of seven, as most Vulcan bonds are. One's t'hy'lais bondmate, friend, brother, and lover... it is a very rare thing. Does that answer your question effectively?"

Jim, his heart pounding, nods. "Y-yes. Thank you."

He walks away in a daze. He is completely, unquestionably sure that Amanda Grayson wishes for him to enter into a t'hy'labond with her son.

Jim… is not opposed to the idea.

"Jim, I do not understand." Spock looks so lost and confused, Jim can't help but smile. "What are you doing here?"

Jim looks up at the High Council of Elders nervously. He's stood before them once before, the day he was given his Vulcan citizenship, and had been scared shitless. Not a lot has changed, apparently.

Jim swallows hard, a nervous giggle-like sound escaping before he clamps his jaws shut and inhales sharply through his nose. "I, um." Amanda had told him the words had to be specific, that they were important. "I have come to propose establishing a bond between myself, James Kirk, adopted son of Sevak, and Spock, son of Sarek." He licks at his suddenly dry lips.

Spock's eyes are wide. He's staring at Jim, not saying a word. Jim's pretty sure Spock should be saying something by now.

"Um. Spock?" Jim glances at Amanda nervously. "Spock, I think you're supposed to be saying something. Something like 'yes, Jim, I accept'."

Spock blinks and jerks. "Oh. I, um." He clears his throat. "I consent to the establishment of a bond between myself, Spock, son of Sarek, and James Kirk, adopted son of Sevak."

Jim jumps a little when Spock's fingers land on his face, simply not expecting it. He relaxes almost immediately, though. One thing Jim knows without a shadow of a doubt is that he trusts Spock, more than he trusts anyone.

Spock's fingers dig in, just a little. Just enough to cause pressure, a pressure which seems to sink deeper, seeping into his brain with a flutter that Jim knows is Spock. Jim's head feels full, like his brain is expanding, and Jim fights the feeling on instinct.

Relax Jim, Spock's voice sounds in his mind. Relax and let me in.

It's hard, harder than Jim ever thought it would be. His head hurts, pulsates full and heavy, and the feeling just grows and grows and then–

Everything clicks and suddenly he can feel Spock. Christ, but Spock's happy. He's just, just radiating joy. Joy and relief and disbelief and, and, fuck. Fuck, Spock is so full of love. There's a constant, warm glow of love for his mother, throbbing at the very core of his being, but more than that, more than that is a burning, intense love, a deep, intimate need, pure and bright and shining and so intense it nearly hurts just to touch it, a love that is all for Jim.

Spock breaks away and Jim nearly cries out from the loss. He feels empty, barren without Spock's mind in his own, and opens his eyes because he needs to see, needs to confirm all that he's felt. Spock's looking right back, eyes wide and open and burning.

"T'hy'la," Spock breathes with utter certainty. Jim nods, tongue feeling useless in his mouth, barely able to mumble out an agreeable, "Yeah."

Because, yeah. Jim understands know why there isn't a translation for the word. There is no way to explain it, the bond Jim knows without a doubt now burns between him and Spock.

Earth is a disconcerting place. This is not Spock's first trip to Earth, of course, but previous trips usually only involved him and his mother visiting his maternal grandparents while his father saw to business and politics. Never before has Spock been exposed to such a high quantity of humans.

At the end of the shuttle landing, Spock takes a pause to regain his bearing. He finds it necessary to adjust his mental shields to further block the emotions that seem to radiate from the humans surrounding him.

"Spock?" His mother does not touch him, but her hand hovers just over his arm. "Are you alright?"

"I am fine, Mother," he responds automatically.

"'Fine' has variable definitions; 'fine' is unacceptable," a mocking voice parrots. Spock does not smile, but he is sure his eyes are warm as he turns to regard his bond mate. Jim is smirking at him, eyes bright.

"You are correct, Jim. I correct myself, Mother: I am well."

His mother smiles fondly at him and then turns to eye Jim critically. "Jim, please comb your hair before your mother sees you."

Jim reaches up and pats at his hair, smoothing it. "Eh, its fine."

"James Kirk, listen to your mother-in-law," Winona Kirk orders, coming up behind them. Her hand rests low on Sevak's arm, Spock notes. It has always intrigued him how at ease Sevak is with his human wife. Spock's own father is rarely so unperturbed by his mother's lack of emotional control and Spock has come to be aware, since the Kirks first came into their lives, that his mother is hardly an emotional human.

Jim makes a face at her, but stands still while Spock's mother combs her fingers through his hair and fixes the messy spikes. Jim's proffered hairstyle continues to confuse Spock, as it always has. Why anyone would wish to look as if they had just rolled from bed without bothering to properly ready themselves for public presentation, he would never understand.

The absence of Spock's father has not been mentioned by any present, but Spock feels it acutely. Spock is not surprised by his father's anger. Spock had insulted the Vulcan High Council, a most illogical choice on his part, but one he does not regret. An insult, for an insult.

Jim had beamed with pride for days. It made the cold anger of his father easier to endure. Spock was sure that, with Jim by his side, he would be able to endure anything.

There is a skip to Jim's step that pleases Spock, as he follows behind the eager human to their pre-appointed rooms. As a bonded pair, they have of course been given a set of rooms in the apartments appointed for married couples and families. Their apartment is small, with two bedrooms and a serviceable bath. Jim sniffs at the size of the bathtub and visibly pouts; Spock looks away before his ears have a chance to burn.

While Spock speaks with his mother and Sevak, Winona examines the replicator and Jim paces the room. It is not long before Jim ventures out of the apartment into the hall beyond, almost immediately starting up a conversation with a disgruntled-looking human male that, as far as Spock can determine, is their neighbor.

"Spock! Come meet McCoy. He and his wife and kid live next door," Jim calls. Spock can just barely see him; he's bouncing on the balls of his feet and grinning broadly.

Spock excuses himself from the conversation he'd been involved in to join Jim. He brushes his fingers inconspicuously against Jim's, only for Jim to stop in mid-introduction to twist and present Spock with a "human" kiss. Spock is aware of his skin going aflame and he fights the instinctual urge to blush when embarrassed, even as he pushes the embarrassment aside.

When Jim pulls away, the man called McCoy is looking bemused. Jim finishes his introduction.

"Spock, this is Leonard McCoy. McCoy, this is my bond mate, Spock." Spock has never admitted to the thrill it gives him to have Jim so blatantly announce their relationship, but he's sure Jim is aware of it, considering Jim's insistence to do so.

McCoy nods, doesn't offer a hand like most humans would, and Spock inclines his head in return.

Later, after Spock's mother and Jim's parents have departed to the motel they'll be staying in during their duration on Earth and it's just Spock and Jim, Jim settles down and helps Spock unpack the few possessions they'd both sent over in advance.

Spock spreads down mats in the main room, aware that Jim will insist on going furniture shopping soon, and makes their bed while Jim stacks books away in their shelves, sets up their chess set, and arranges pictures on the walls. Spock's two pictures –a hologram of his mother and a similar one of Jim –sit on his side of the bed, while Jim carefully sets down three pictures: a family portrait of him, his mother and brother, and Sevak; a snapshot hologram of Spock and Jim that had been taken before their bond, at the celebration of Jim's fourteenth birthday; and, finally, a small, old-fashioned, two dimensional picture of Jim's biological father, George Kirk.

They work together in silence, occasionally broken by Jim's asking of Spock's opinion on where to hang something or to share his thoughts about this book, that picture, or how he is sure that Spock's array of Vulcan weapons and shields are against Starfleet regulation, to which Spock cited Starfleet regulation on cultural weaponry housed in private quarters. Eventually, they complete their task of unpacking and tiredly crawl into bed, curling their bodies around one another.

It is not, Spock thinks, an unpleasant way to spend his first day as an inhabitant of Earth.