McCoy rang the doorbell to Spock and Jim's house, feeling anxious about the coming conversation. It seemed his life would never be dull now that Spock was in his life. The door opened immediately. It was the hobgoblin himself.
"Dr. McCoy," Spock stated, raising his eyebrow. He had not expected visitors today. "Come in."
"Spock," McCoy greeted, wringing his hands.
"Jim is in his room. Do you wish for him to be present?" Spock asked, wondering why McCoy had dropped in unannounced and hadn't simply called.
"Not yet," said McCoy seriously. "I think I should tell you first."
They both sat down in the living room, keeping their voices low. "Winona is making an appeal to have partial custody," McCoy announced without preamble.
"Did not the court already decide against it?" Though his posture was neutral, Spock's eyes were serious and concerned.
"They did," McCoy grumbled. "However, when they decided against her, Winona came forth with new testimony and evidence, and they are reconsidering." Hadn't taken long, either. The adoption had only been finalized a few weeks ago.
Something changed subtly in Spock's eyes. McCoy thought he recognized worry and some devastation.
"They won't give her back full custody, I am sure," said McCoy, trying to reassure him in some small way. "Still too much against her for that. But, I am one of the few with access to the appeal, and I have to say, it's not looking good. She might win partial custody."
"What do you suggest we do, doctor?"
"First of all, we have to break the news to Jim. What do you think? You've been living together for a few weeks now, you know him better than I do."
"He still shows signs of doubt that this situation is permanent," Spock admitted. "He has been having nightmares and continued uncertainty in my presence. I do not believe that this development will be beneficial to him, or his confidence. I am uncertain how to "soften the blow," as you say."
"I know," agreed McCoy. "Just keep telling him you'll be there for him. Make sure he knows she'll never have full custody."
Spock acknowledged him with a look. "Understood, doctor," he said gravely. "I will retrieve him now."
"Now?" said McCoy reluctantly.
"There is no logic in delaying," stated Spock.
McCoy, looking unhappy, nodded his assent. Spock got up and gently knocked on Jim's door. He was not surprised Jim had not come out yet. Jim had not been allowed to answer the door at his previous residence, or greet visitors until asked, and though he answered the door a few times here, old habits usually took over. "Jim," he said. "McCoy is here. We would like to talk to you."
The door opened within seconds. Jim took in Spock's expression. "What's wrong?" he asked anxiously.
"Nothing you have done," Spock assured him immediately. "However, it does concern you."
Jim followed him out to the living room and sat down next to him on the couch. McCoy was sitting in a chair. "Hi," he said to the doctor, the sick feeling in his stomach preventing him from being chatty.
"Hi, Jim. How have you been doing?" McCoy asked.
Jim wished he would just get to the point. He had a feeling it wasn't good, and the suspense was killing him. "Great! I love it here," he said.
McCoy smiled wanly. "Glad to hear it, kid. Listen, I'm afraid I've got some bad news."
Jim waited with a sinking feeling as McCoy struggled for the right words to say. Spock placed a hand on his shoulder, and their eyes met for a moment. Spock's eyes seemed to say, "I'm here for you." Jim, unable to hold that loving, loyal gaze, turned back to McCoy.
"Your mom is making an appeal," McCoy said, unable to find a way to ease into it and deciding to just spit it out. "She wants partial custody, and she might get it."
"She will not get full custody," Spock jumped in firmly. "You will not be taken from me. You will always be home here. She may not even succeed at all. We merely wish for you to be apprised of the situation."
Jim sat still for a moment, letting it sink in. He knew this life was too good to be true. He didn't think it would be okay as they were -
"Jim," Spock said, squeezing his shoulder, putting an arm around him. "Jim. I will not leave you, no matter what the court says. We do not know the extent of the custody she might gain. It could be weekends, or it could only be one weekend a month. It could be even less. She also is gone for long periods of time in her work for Starfleet. Much of the year, she won't be able to have custody. It is not as bad as you think, and it is illogical to speculate when we do not yet have all the facts."
Jim leaned into Spock, wanting to believe his words.
"Kid, if this ends unfavorably we'll come up with an appeal of our own. We'll battle it out," McCoy promised. "This ain't over yet!"
Jim nodded, unable to speak.
"I'll keep you two updated. Soon as I know anything, I'll let you know," McCoy assured them. "I've got to get back to my clinic. Let me know if you need anything."
"Live long and prosper, doctor," said Spock. "Feel free to use my transporter pad. It is still set to your coordinates."
"Bye," said Jim, realizing with regret that he had barely said a few words to him. The arm around him was distracting him from too much self-recrimination, though. It just felt so good. He wanted to savor it while he could. He felt himself being pulled closer to his adopted dad, a whispered "Jim," and a kiss to his temple. Jim's face flushed with pleasure, but he kept his eyes averted.
Jim and Spock stayed that way for a long time, thinking over their current situation. Spock revisited the most illogical fantasy of taking him away in his ship. Jim's thoughts, incidentally, were much the same, the light telepathic contact enhancing the harmony. Despite Jim's determination to stay awake, he eventually succumbed to slumber, Spock still keeping vigil. He decided there was no logic in moving, since he was comfortable where he was, so he eased into a light meditation to pass the night.
Jim woke groggily the next morning, momentarily confused by his surroundings before it all came rushing back to him and he realized what happened. Somewhat embarrassed, he froze in place as he tried to figure out if Spock was awake or not.
Spock could feel Jim's pleasure, embarrassment and uncertainty through the physical contact. His eyes softening, he thought on how to smooth things over for him. "I seemed to have inadvertently trapped you in my embrace for the night," commented Spock, his arm still around Jim. "I hope you were comfortable, at least."
"I'm fine," Jim insisted. "It's okay."
When Jim made no move to leave, Spock said, "It is time for you to get to school."
Jim got up. Spock put a hand on his shoulder, rising with him. "Jim. It will be all right."
Jim smiled wanly and nodded.
The ride to the school was quiet. Spock now drove him, instead of Jim taking the bus, their previous miscommunication now cleared up.
When Jim entered the school, he was surprised to see Mr. Kalomi pull him aside. When they were seated in his private office, he spoke. "Jim. As your school principal, I have been told about the appeal on your custody. I know you have to get to class, so I'll keep this short. I suggest you keep this to yourself and not talk about it where others might overhear or find out. I don't want to hear you've gotten in to fights over this, understand?"
Jim nodded, and Mr. Kalomi gestured for him to go. He hurried to class and made it just in time to get his usual seat next to Gary. He felt his friend's stare, and he knew he'd have to explain everything to him soon.
At lunch, before he could pull his friends aside, he saw a crowd of people gathered around a kid a few grades below him. He glanced at Gary. "That's Kevin, right? What's going on?"
"Yeah, Kevin Riley," agreed Gary. "I'm not sure what's going on, let's find out."
Ben caught up with them as they integrated themselves into the crowd. As they got closer, they could see that Kevin was very excited about something, and the other kids kept plying him with questions with some jealousy.
"Yeah, it's going to be awesome!" Kevin exclaimed, glowing. "We'll be leaving in a few weeks, at the end of the school year. If we all like it, we might just stay there!"
"Are you going on a starship?" asked one kid.
"No, that's for Starfleet personnel only. Family members get to go on their special cruise shuttles. I can't wait to be in space for the first time!"
It sounded like Kevin was going to live on another planet. No wonder he was so excited. Jim felt jealousy flare in him a little. "What planet?" he asked.
"Tarsus IV. It's a new colony they're building. My mom is in Starfleet, so they invited her and us to go."
"Cool," Jim responded. He, Gary, and Ben exchanged glances, then left to eat their lunch. Jim pulled them aside to a more private table, and brought them up to speed with what McCoy had told him the night before. He kept a sharp eye out for Finnegan and relayed to them what Mr. Kalomi had advised him. His friends offered to be with him if he had to spend time with Winona, if she let him have friends over. Jim felt better with his friend's support. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. Though, maybe if he could convince Spock to take him to Tarsus IV, none of this would be an issue. Maybe that would make it too hard for Winona to be with him. Maybe that would work! Jim resolved to ask him when he got picked up.
When Jim saw Spock's hovercar pull up later, Jim ran eagerly towards it and climbed in. "Hi Dad!" he said cheerfully.
Spock's eyes softened. "Jim. I am glad to see that you are in good spirits."
"Yeah. Guess what! One of the kids from a lower grade, Kevin, is going to Tarsus IV! Isn't that wild?" Jim was about to plow into his idea when he took in the expression on Spock's face. "What?"
Spock looked grave and conflicted. "I am not impressed by Tarsus IV's reputation," he said finally.
"Oh," said Jim, disappointed. Looked like his idea wasn't going to fly. "Why?"
More silence. Just when Jim thought Spock wasn't going to answer, he said, "I have heard some unsettling things about the Governor, Kodos. I do not believe it wise to live under his jurisdiction."
"Oh," said Jim, deflated.
Spock, noticing this, tried to soften his statement. "I can understand your excitement at space travel. I do not wish to imply disapproval of Kevin's plan to colonize another planet. Merely of that particular planet." He paused. "This is Kevin Riley you speak of?"
"Yes. You know him?"
"I have spoken with his father a few times while waiting for you," Spock explained. "He did not mention anything about Tarsus IV to me."
"Oh," said Jim.
Spock decided to leave out the fact that while he had been talking to Kevin's father, he had overheard Leila Kalomi telling another girl that she thought he was cute. Apparently his great age had not diminished that in her eyes. He felt some small satisfaction that he still "had it going on" as Kirk Prime used to say. "I know you wish to go to another planet. However, doing so at this time is not the way we need to solve our current problems."
Spock knew him too well, Jim thought. As he always seemed to. As he thought about that, he wondered again about the things Spock was hiding. So much was going on, with him settling in and adjusting, and now the appeal, that he did not give it much thought. But, maybe he could now risk saying something. "Dad? Can you read minds?"
That earned him an amused look. "To a limited extent, I am a touch and proximity telepath. However, I usually shield so I am not affected by the emotions and vague impressions I receive. To read a mind, I need to meld with the person's psi points with my hands and have sufficient time to sift through to relevant data."
Still unsure of what Spock meant, he decided to press further. "So, what kind of things can you pick up from me without doing the meld thing?"
"I can pick up vague impressions of feelings and intent, but no specific details. For example, not the cause of the emotions. Jim, if you are not comfortable with this, I will attempt to shield better."
"No, it's okay," said Jim, satisfied for now. This somewhat explained some of Spock's unusual behavior. "You don't have to shield or whatever if you don't want to."
A glint of satisfaction gleamed in Spock's eyes. He had not wanted to shield from Jim, and now he did not have to.
"Have you mind melded with someone before?" asked Jim curiously.
"Yes. Many times, usually ordered by my former Captain. It is a useful talent, but one I use sparingly outside of my immediate relationships."
Jim wanted to ask about the former captain, but he remembered how upset Spock had gotten the last time they'd talked about it, so he decided to ask about something else and leave that for a better time. "What's it like? Would you - would you - ever...meld with me?"
"The experience varies from mind to mind. Some minds are unpleasant. Some are very fragmented and difficult to navigate through; others, more structured. Jim," he said, stopping the hovercar as they pulled into the garage. He turned toward him. "Jim. I will meld with you. However, I cannot do so at this time. Please understand. It is not that I do not want to. Nothing would please me more. However, there are some mental disciplines I must employ in order to ensure your safety, and I have fallen out of practice. I will let you know when I am ready." It wasn't a lie. If he was to successfully meld with Jim without giving too much away, he would need to apply some Kolinar disciplines. With McCoy, he did not need to be so disciplined, since he hid very little from him. This would require careful preparation.
"Okay," said Jim, as they climbed out.
"Please inform me if you need any help with your homework," Spock encouraged, as he always did.
"I will," Jim promised. He often took him up on it, not necessarily because he really needed it, but as an excuse to spend more time with his dad.
"I will be in the hanger repairing the Jellyfish." Spock turned and left, modified communicator in hand, to open the doors and begin his work.
Jim carried his small backpack to his room and tried to start on his homework. He'd been working extra hard in school since he started staying with Spock, to make him proud. But today, he could not summon the concentration for it. Once again, he wondered about Spock's secretive past. So far, he had not gleaned much of anything about it. Spock did not seem to be in any hurry to reveal it, and piecing together what he let slip here and there did not amount to much. Repeated galactic web searches had been futile, because all he ever got was things about a young Spock and not much information on his dad, certainly not stuff he didn't know already. His dad was not friends with anyone he knew that he could get the information from either, except maybe McCoy. In fact, he had tried to get McCoy to talk about it last week, but the doctor was frustratingly tight lipped, citing doctor/patient confidentiality.
"He has very excellent reasons for keeping it quiet," McCoy had assured him at Jim's mulish expression. "He'll tell you when the time is right. You've just got to trust him, and trust me."
So, the doctor was a no go. Jim felt a bit jealous that Spock would trust McCoy with his past, but not him. It made him feel like a stupid kid, and he didn't like it at all. He could handle it, and he wanted to prove it.
There really was only one way to find out. He would have to poke around Spock's things, then maybe he'd start piecing things together. He would have to be very careful though, since Spock had warned him he had many systems in place to protect against intruders, citing his Jellyfish project as his reason for extra precautions. Jim thought it was more than that, though.
The best place to start poking around seemed to be Spock's room. He glanced out the window in his room. If he squinted through the trees and bushes, he could see the hangar doors open. Spock was busy. This was his best chance.
Jim tiptoed to Spock's room and stopped outside the door. He rethought what he was doing. Was he betraying Spock's trust by doing this? He sure did not want to get caught. It would be terrible to disappoint him. But, what was he hiding?
Jim told himself a quick peek around couldn't hurt. He had, of course, been in there many times, but never without Spock. He crossed the threshold and entered.
The room was pretty bare, as he'd known already. The closet held only clothes. There was only the bed, and the nightstand with two drawers. The walls were completely bare except for the pendant. Jim headed for the drawers, opening them. The bottom held a phaser. This wasn't too surprising, since he had found phasers in random places around the house for a while. That kind of paranoia did not seem to fit in with Spock's calm, confident personality. There had to be some huge reason why he prepared himself like this. But what?
The top drawer held a few medicines to help Spock in his old age. Jim gave those a cursory glance. There was an extra communicator. He lifted it and found pictures underneath.
Jim thought it unusual that Spock would have paper pictures. He took a good look at them. One was am elderly human woman with an aged Vulcan male. Looking closely, he thought it could be Spock's parents. He could see the resemblance. But, maybe not. Wasn't he supposed to have been raised in an orphanage? Or was that not true? He shrugged and went to the next picture.
It was an older man in a Starfleet Captain uniform, but not of any design Jim recognized. He looked quite a bit like his deceased dad, George Kirk. In fact, the resemblance was quite startling. The man had his arm around a younger looking Spock, grinning broadly. Spock was also dressed up in a Starfleet uniform he did not recognize. Though he did not smile outright, the look in his eyes was pure bliss.
Jim flipped both pictures over, but there was nothing on it to give any clues as to who these people were. Judging by how worn the paper was, though, they had been handled many times. These people meant a lot to Spock. The Captain must be the Captain he spoke of when he had cried that one time. Perhaps he had died? Maybe that was why he had moved here to Iowa, to get away from memories that hurt him?
Jim put everything back, then looked at the one remaining thing in the room: the pendant that was really a data chip. What was on it? Jim listened hard, and checked out the window again to be sure Spock was occupied. Satisfied, he activated the chip. The Captain from the photo appeared and began to speak.
"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you… " The man stopped and grinned. "I know I know, it's illogical to celebrate something you had nothing to do with, but I haven't had the chance to congratulate you on your appointment to the ambassadorship with me being away, so I thought I'd seize the occasion... Bravo, Spock — I know your first mission may take you away for awhile, so I'll be the first to wish you luck… and to say…" The captain paused for a moment, his emotions almost seeming to get the better of him. "I miss you, t'hy'la.. I suppose I'd always imagined us as we are… outgrowing Starfleet together. Watching life swing us into our Emeritus years… I look around at the new cadets now and can't help thinking… has it really been so long? Wasn't it only yesterday we stepped onto the Enterprise as boys? That I had to prove to the crew I deserved command… and their respect? I know what you'd say — 'It's their turn now, Jim…' And of course you're right… but it got me thinking: Who's to say we can't go one more round? By the last tally, only twenty five percent of the galaxy's been chartered… I'd call that negligent. Criminal even — an invitation. You once said being a starship captain was my first, best destiny… if that's true, then yours is to be by my side, t'hy'la, as you are when life isn't leading us separate ways. If there's any true logic to the universe… we'll end up on that bridge again someday. Admit it, Spock. For people like us, the journey itself… is home."