Title: Lost Property
Length: 2000 words +/-
Summary: Written for the flash fic challenge at Jim-and-Bones for the release of People Like Us. The premise: Write a fic about Jim and family. This idea was inspired by a picture of Chris sitting next to the little girl from Small Town Saturday Night.
Jim pulled up the car in front of the house. It had been years since he'd been here; even before he'd taken up Pike's dare. Yet it was a house where he'd spent a several years of his childhood. He'd felt safe here and if not loved, then at least cared for. After all, Mrs. Cooperman ran a daycare. She had the well-being of not only her own two children to worry about, but a dozen or so more. Still he had fond memories of this place.
He knew he'd missed the funeral. The notification had reached him almost two weeks ago. It had taken him several days to get things squared away with Starfleet and Spock, and then seven days hopping transports and shuttles to get back to Earth. Then he'd spent a day in San Francisco pacing and wondering if he was doing the right thing.
It had taken a comm. from Bones to finally kick him in the ass and get him on a shuttle to Riverside. He'd started the day in a pair of slacks and a dress shirt, but once the humidity had hit him as he waited for his rental car, he'd shrugged off his shirt and was much more comfortable in his white undershirt.
Hands gripping the wheel of the vehicle, Jim took a deep breath. Was he really doing the right thing? Could he do this? He hadn't spoken to Kristen since her 18th birthday – the day before he met Pike. And now she was dead, killed by a drunken motorist, and he was here. Too late for her funeral, but maybe not too late for everything else.
The slamming of the front door caught his attention and he watched a young girl run down the front stairs and around the garage. It was obvious to him that she was upset. Her cheeks were too red to be from the heat and her expression had been heartbreaking.
Not giving himself time to think, Jim got out of the car and followed her. She had plopped herself down in front of one of the open garage doors, out of sight of the main road and the front door, but facing a lovely garden area that hadn't been there when Jim was a kid.
She was dressed for the 4th of July, only a day away, in a red, white and blue sundress, and her golden hair was down around her shoulders. Her mother had always worn pig tails at that age, but despite that, she looked exactly like Kristen, causing Jim's heart to wrench painfully.
"Hi," he said softly when he was within a few feet of her.
She wiped ineffectually at her face. "My grandma and uncle are in the house," she told him.
"I figured," he told her. "Mind if I sit down? Looks like you could use some company." His heart was pounding as his eyes drank in every detail of the girl before him.
She looked up at him warily. This time her expression was familiar, but didn't remind him of Kristen at all as her blue eyes squinted up at him, giving him an appraising look; sizing him up as only a seven year-old can.
"Who are you?" she finally asked.
"I'm…" Jim had to clear the thickness from his throat. "I'm an old friend of your mom's."
After a moment she shrugged. Jim didn't know if it was consent to sit next to her or not, but he took it as such, sitting down carefully and leaning against the garage wall. Not too close, but not too far away.
"You missed the funeral," she finally spoke.
"I know," Jim said, blinking his eyes as he stared at the garden. He didn't recognize any of the plants, but they were pretty; reds and yellows and purples and pinks. "I'm sorry."
She shrugged again. "It's okay. There were a lot of people. Grandma said it was a nice."
Jim made a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat. "Did you think it was nice?"
Reaching forward, she picked up a stick and began tracing patterns on the permacrete. "I guess."
They remained silent for awhile. Jim listened to the sound of her stick scraping on the ground, the call of birds from the back of the house in the wooded area, and his heart beat echoing in his ears. This was Kristen's daughter, this was… He didn't know what to say. He wanted Bones here. He had a daughter, surely he would know what to say, how to reach this sad little girl who had just lost her mother.
She was crying again. Silent tears were running down her cheeks as she focused on whatever she was drawing. "Grandma says she went quickly. That she didn't feel any pain."
"That's…good," Jim replied. The lump in his throat was back and he could feel his eyes burning. He wanted to reach out and touch her; pat her head or arm, or even pull her into his arms and let her cry, but he was frozen.
There was a soft hitching breath from beside him and then she whispered, "I miss her," in the tiniest, most broken voice he'd ever heard. Jim couldn't help it, he reached out a hand and wrapped it around her shoulders. She leaned against him, though her body was stiff.
"I know you do," Jim said softly. "I…my dad died when I was…when I was really little. I don't even remember him. But I miss him. It's okay to miss her."
She sagged a little against him and he could feel her tears through is thin shirt. "Uncle Curtis says I have to stop crying all the time. I'm going to have to live with him and Aunt Kim, 'cause grandma's too old and she broke her hip and grandpa's sick and she has to take care of him and I'd be too much of a bother." She paused drawing in a shaky breath. "I don't want to," she confessed brokenly.
Jim had never had a high opinion of Curtis Cooperman, but he wasn't going to share those feelings with the little girl next to him. "Who says you have to live with them?" he asked, running a hand comfortingly through her hair.
"Everyone," she said in a small voice. "I don't have no where else to go."
Jim took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "What about…your dad?"
She shrugged, wiping her nose with her arms and sitting up again, tapping her stick on the ground. "He doesn't know about me," she said matter-of-factly. "I think he's in space."
"You think?" Jim asked, his voice catching.
"Yeah, I heard grandma talking to someone once. Mommy never told him about me."
Jim closed his eyes, resting his head back against the garage wall. "Did she…did she tell you about him?" he eventually managed to ask.
There was more scraping of her stick and one of her shoulders hitched. "On my birthday she told me some. He was her friend and she loved him very much and she said that he would love me too, but that she was too greedy and didn't want to share me with him right now. She said some day she'd tell him and we could be a family, kind of, like Jack maybe. He has two houses and a mom and dad and another mom."
"Oh," Jim managed to say thickly, blinking his eyes rapidly.
"I wish she'd told him sooner," the little girl admitted. She was now peeling the bark off of her stick. "Then I wouldn't have to live with Uncle Curtis and Aunt Kim."
Jim swallowed. "You'd want to…live with your dad?"
She gave him a 'well duh' look that almost made Jim smile. "I don't like Aunt Kim. She doesn't like kids."
"Even if he did live and work in space?" Jim prodded.
She shrugged again. She seemed to do that a lot. "I like space. Mommy takes me…took me," her voice hitched, "to the planetarium all the time. I even got to go on the free fall ride on my last birthday."
"That sounds like fun," Jim smiled weakly. "What if I were to tell you that your mom did tell your dad? Or that, rather, she had a letter ready to send to him – if something happened to him?"
"She did?" blue eyes looked up at him.
Jim nodded. "She did."
She turned towards him and really looked at him. "Are you…Jim? I heard grandma say my dad's name is Jim."
Jim nodded, his voice not working.
Getting up on her knees, she put a little hand on his arm. She looked at him, her blue eyes watery. "Can I come live with you? Please?"
Jim broke then, pulling her into his arms and holding her tight. "Oh, baby, I can't think of anything I want more."
She clung to him, her little arms wrapped tightly around his neck. He felt little puffs of breath and more tears against his neck. Turning his head slightly, he pressed a kiss to the top of her head, taking a deep breath and cataloguing the smell of her – mint shampoo, sunscreen, sweat – the smell of his baby girl.
"Really?" she asked, pulling back and looking at him.
Jim smiled through his tears and nodded. "Really," he replied gruffly, reaching out to tuck some hair behind ear, looking into her eyes that were so like his own.
"Okay," she nodded, cuddling back up against him.
Jim shifted her so that she was sitting in his lap, rather than kneeling next to him, letting the weight of her anchor him. Her head was tucked under his chin, and one hand his hands was rubbing slow circles on her back. He had know idea what was going to happen in the next few hours, but he knew that when he left Riverside he wasn't going to be alone.
"Did you love my mom?" Hannah's little voice interrupted his thoughts.
"I did," Jim answered immediately, pressing his lips to the top of her head once again. "She was younger than you when we first met," he told her, his voice thick and the tears once again building behind his eyes. "She called me Jiminy because she loved the movie Pinocchio."
"We used to watch it all the time," Hannah told him. Her hand was lightly stoking his arm, playing with the hairs. It tickled, but there was no way Jim was going to stop her.
"Did you?" Jim asked with a smile. "I'm not surprised. I called her Cricket because she was cute as a bug." Hannah giggled. "And she was my best friend. She took care of me and fixed me up and I…I loved her very much. I just didn't know how to tell her." His voice trailed off to a whisper. There were things Hannah didn't need to know, at least not right. And there were regrets Jim had that he wasn't about to share with a seven year-old.
"I wish," Hannah began hesitantly. "I wish she told you I was born."
Jim squeezed her. One tear falling down his cheek as he pressed it against her hair. "Me too, kiddo. Me too," he told her. "But I'm here now."
Jim could feel her body relaxing, her breathing slowing into as steady rhythm as he held her. The siding of the garage was digging into his back, his butt was sore from sitting on the permacrete and one of his legs was falling asleep, but there was no way he was moving anytime soon.
Not when he was holding is sleeping daughter for the first time.
If you are interesting in reading the story of Jiminy and Cricket you can find it at: s/6087409/1/Jiminy_and_Cricket It's not at my livejournal yet.