A/N: I fucked up
(Explanation at the end.)
Curiosity had pressed her to look up more information about Jimmy's father.
Commander George Kirk had served with Starfleet for fifteen years, working first in engineering and then later as navigator and First Officer. He had met Winona, an engineer, during his first tour; they had lived briefly on Earth before returning to serve together under Captain Robau, George as First Officer and Winona as CEO. That was where everything went to hell.
Amanda remembered hearing about George Kirk's sacrifice on the nets. She couldn't believe she hadn't figured it out earlier- Jimmy was a miracle baby, the son of a hero. George's name was spoken with reverence by reporters across the nets, his "eight minutes of captaincy" the stuff of Starfleet legend.
And yet it seemed everyone had forgotten his family.
Winona was generally…okay. Though Jimmy was certainly growing into the spitting image of his father, he and Winona had the same sort of spirit. The laugh lines crinkling in the corners of her eyes spoke of a life lived without fear or reservation, and she was generous and unwaveringly kind towards Amanda and her family. (Sarek even liked her, and Sarek hardly liked anybody.)
Sometimes, though, the laughter and life faded and her eyes turned hollow, haunted by memories and a sharp pain that Amanda couldn't understand.
Her dark spells came in spurts, and Amanda always made sure to take the boys off her plate when she knew it was a bad day. So things progressed easily enough, and Spock and Jimmy grew closer every day.
There was a room to the left of Jimmy's that she'd caught a glimpse of one day while picking up Spock. Curious, she'd pushed the door open and peeked inside.
It had clearly been a child's bedroom, and it was covered in a layer of dust. Clothing and toys were scattered across the floor along with a broken PADD and the drawers of the dresser were flung open and empty, like someone had packed up and left in a hurry. Carved into the door were initials: GSK.
It looked…bad. And thoughts had crept in, unwelcome and unlikely and frightening, and suddenly Winona's bleak moments seemed somehow more dangerous.
Amanda had considered pressing the issue, but it didn't feel right. So the empty room fell under the same "do not ask" file as the Starfleet command badge Winona kept on a chain around her neck and the photo with the torn edges she kept in her bag. Every family had their secrets, after all.
She just hoped the Kirk family's were not as dark as they appeared.
"So are you looking forward to teaching again?"
Amanda smiled, sipping at her drink and watching the afternoon sun cast tall shadows over the yard. Jimmy and Spock were playing some form of hide and seek which seemed to consist of Jimmy picking increasingly obvious hiding spots and Spock pretending not to see him.
"Very much so. I loved it, and I've learned so much since the last time I was in the classroom. It'll be amazing to pass that experience on to the students."
"What courses are you teaching?"
"Oh, a handful of universal diversity classes, some Vulcan language seminars…a few literature courses, which I'm looking forward to."
"That's fantastic. Have you told Sarek yet?"
Amanda pursed her lips. "Sarek's on Vulcan for the next week. I haven't gotten a message through yet."
Winona shrugged. "Then we'll just have to celebrate without him."
Amanda laughed awkwardly. "No, Win, it's fine-"
Winona's mouth set in a stubborn line that was so reminiscent of Jimmy's pout Amanda had to hold back a snort. "It's not. I understand that Sarek has his 'ambassador-ly' duties, but you deserve it. We can go to Des Moines. It may not be much, but it's got some nice restaurants and we can catch a show or something."
"We've got the boys…"
"We'll call a sitter."
Amanda rolled her eyes. "Find me a sitter that can handle those two and I'll pay them in gold."
Winona smirked. "Pay up, 'cause I've got one. My doctor's son, Leonard- he's only thirteen, but he's incredibly responsible and he's the only one who can keep Jimmy in check. Spock's so quiet, I'm sure Len will be able to handle them."`
"Spock's quiet on his own," Amanda said, frowning. "But the two of them together…"
Winona sighed. "Amanda, I trust Len. He's got a way with kids, and Jimmy loves him. It'll be fine."
Amanda thought about how long it had been since she'd gone out to dinner with a friend just to chat and eat and smile, and she relented. The worst that could happen was-
Well, she tried not to think about that.
Leonard McCoy was a Georgia-bred boy with dark hair and a spattering of freckles across his nose. He had warm, kind eyes, a first aid kit tucked under one arm, and the most pronounced Southern drawl she'd ever heard. She liked him immediately.
They were all standing outside the Kirk house. Len had been dropped off by his mother minutes before, lugging a bag over his shoulder and grinning widely.
"Len McCoy, ma'am," he said politely, offering her a hand. She shook it, smiling.
"Amanda Grayson. I've heard a lot of good things about you, Len."
He grinned blindingly, all Southern charm. "That's good to hear, ma'am. I hear you've got another little hooligan for me to look after."
Winona covered her snort with a cough and called, "Jimmy, Spock, Len's here."
From inside the house came Jimmy's distinctive shriek: "BOOONES!"
Amanda sent a questioning glance towards Winona, who rolled her eyes. "Jimmy gave him that nickname the first day they met. I'm not sure even Len knows why."
"'Cause he's nuts, that's why," Len said, huffing indignantly. As if to prove his point, Jimmy came hurtling out of the house, dragging Spock behind him by the sleeve.
"Bones, Bones," Jimmy gasped, delighted. They slid to a halt in front of the wary teen, who crossed his arms and cocked an eyebrow. "Look, Bones, this is Spock!"
Jimmy gestured proudly at his new friend. Spock blinked, looking a little nervous. After a moment he hesitantly spread his fingers in the ta'al and said, "Hello, Leonard. I am Spock."
Leonard, thankfully, adapted quickly. "Hey, Spock" he said easily. "Call me Len."
Jimmy was stomping his feet impatiently, eager to return to the center of Leonard's attention. "But Bones," he said eagerly, "Look, I got a fighting partner now! I'll be a dwarf and Spock can be an elf and you can be an orc, or a goblin, maybe-"
"Gee, thanks," said Len dryly, and Amanda smothered her laughter. "Knew I shouldn't have read you those books."
"We can make swords and everything, Bones, it'll be the best."
"Yeah, yeah, you and your nerd stuff," Len said. "Tell you what, Gimli. Go show Legolas here your weaponry. Go on, get- I'll be there in just a minute."
Jim nodded, bellowed, "Bye, Mom!" and tore back into the house, yanking a bemused Spock behind him.
"Tolkien- that's pretty heavy stuff for a five year old," Amanda said as the boys' thundering footsteps faded away.
"Kid's hyper, but he's a genius," said Len fondly. "I hear yours is too, Mrs. Grayson."
"Spock certainly has a flair for all things scientific," she said dryly. "Don't let him near anything electronic, he'll try and talk you into letting him take it apart."
"He as much of a troublemaker as Jimmy?" Len asked, eyes glinting with amusement. "It seems like they get along pretty well."
"Oh, Jimmy's the light of Spock's life. He follows him around everywhere," said Amanda, grinning. "It's hilarious."
"We should get going," Winona reminded her gently. Amanda bit her lip.
Len seemed to notice her reluctance. "Don't worry, ma'am, I'll take real good care of them," he promised.
"I know," she assured him. "It's just…it's the first time I've really been away from him since we came to Earth."
"I understand. Is there anythin' I should know?" he asked. "Any problems he might have? Vulcan stuff, I mean. I know he's a telepath an' all, but I couldn't find much about them on the nets."
"Well," she said, "He is a touch telepath, so try to keep physical contact to a minimum- especially hands. If we're out later than 2100 hours, he might want to meditate, or even sleep if Jimmy wears him out. He gets cold easily. And there's the whole 'emotional control' thing, but that's normal." After a moment, she lowered her voice and added, "Also, he's got a stuffed sehlat-kinda like a teddy bear for Vulcans- in his bag that he thinks he's far too logical and mature for- which is why he carries it around everywhere, of course. If he gets upset, that usually helps."
Len nodded, taking it in, and then grinned at her.
"Piece of cake. Ya'll enjoy yourselves, I'll look after them all right."
Amanda shook off the lingering anxiety and waved a cheerful goodbye. When they took off for the city, she kept her head clear and thought it through- logically, what could really go wrong?
Len was having a crisis.
He was a darn good babysitter. Kids liked him. Trusted him. Even Jimmy, who had more issues than a kid his age should've ever been saddled with, had warmed up pretty quick.
But Spock was becoming a problem.
And yeah, Vulcans were different, whatever. Different lifestyle, different culture. But something about the total lack of emotions just rubbed him the wrong way. He wasn't xenophobic or anything, but jeez, the kid was practically icy. It was kind of freaking him out.
They'd started out okay, with Jimmy beaming and dragging them both around the house, chattering eagerly. But Spock was quiet and withdrawn, never speaking unless asked a direct question and staring coldly at his shoes. He ignored or declined all of Jimmy's increasingly desperate requests for play, preferring to keep his distance. It was hard for Len to say he disliked a kid, especially one as young as Spock, but…
They had ended up in the living room, sitting in cold silence. Jimmy had tucked himself into one side of the couch and was fiddling with a puzzle toy Len had brought him while Spock sat stiffly on the other side, reading something written in a scrolling, complicated looking script that could only be Vulcan. Giving up, Len had settled in an armchair, begrudgingly working his way through his summer reading assignments.
Suddenly a hand yanked on his sleeve. "Bones?"
He glanced down to find wide blue eyes staring at him imploringly. "Can we talk in the kitchen?"
"Uh…" he said. "Sure, kid. Spock, give us just a moment. Holler if you need anythin'."
Spock nodded silently, not looking up from his PADD. Jimmy's shoulders slumped, and Len looped a concerned arm around them as he led the way into the kitchen.
"Alright, what's up?" he asked, noting the way Jimmy refused to meet his eyes. It was a worrying habit, one that Len was trying to break. He leaned against the kitchen wall and tried to keep his posture relaxed and open. "Jimmy? You all right?"
"I'm worried," Jimmy admitted quietly. Frowning, Len stooped and tipped the kid's chin up.
"What's wrong, buddy?"
Jimmy bit his lip and glanced towards the living room. Lowering his voice, he said, "Spock's all quiet. He's usually-nicer, I don't know, more…Spock-ish."
Len blinked, processing. "He's not normally like this? That's just kind of how Vulcans are, Jimmy. It's their way."
"No," said Jimmy resolutely, shaking his head. "Not Spock. He's usually quiet, but he talks to me. He was okay at first, but now he's all...robot-y."
"Huh," said Len, doubt creeping in. What if the kid was sick? Would he even be able to tell? They didn't exactly teach about the Vulcan common cold in biology. "Okay, you want me to talk to him? See if something's wrong?"
"Yeah," said Jimmy quietly, ducking his head as he always did when he felt like he was asking too much- and, as always, Len's heart clenched at the sight. "Please?"
"You got it, kid," Len said gently, standing back up and pulling Jimmy into a one-armed hug. "Thanks for letting me know. Remember- any problems-"
"And I ask you," Jimmy said, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. Some of the gloom was leaving his eyes. "Or mom. I know."
Len grinned at him and began to lead the way back into the living room. "That's what I like to hear. Don't worry, I'll take care of it."
See, here was the thing about Jimmy Kirk.
When Len had met him the first time, Jim had been a silent, unhappy genius of a kid with no friends and a talent for keeping quiet when he needed anything. (Actually, just a talent for quiet in general.) Len knew about his dad-jeez, everyone knew about his dad, poor kid- but something had still seemed…off, about the way Jimmy refused to take up any space in his own life.
He'd had doubts about Winona at first, but Jimmy's mother was about as far from abusive as Len could possibly imagine. She was gentle and affectionate, if sometimes awkward, and clearly loved her kid. She was also incredibly busy, and as the school year ended, Len had picked up the babysitting job pretty much full time.
Spending day after day with Jimmy had helped him earn the kid's trust and even his friendship, though it also revealed just how much Jimmy needed someone other than his mother. Len knew he didn't get along with other kids; he was too smart, too independent, and too old too soon. But he was still painfully lonely, and it worried Len sick.
So hell, if Jim saw a potential friend in Spock, then Len was going to give the kid a chance.
He gave it a few minutes, sitting back down in the uncomfortable silence of the living room and hoping that Spock would work himself out of his weird mood. A few unbearable minutes later, it was pretty clear that it was not happening. Len pushed himself out of the chair with a sigh and called out to the Vulcan reluctantly.
"Hey Spock? Mind if we talk?"
Spock looked up, slight confusion marring the blank features for a moment before he nodded and hopped down from the couch. Jimmy cast him a hopeful look, and Len attempted to look reassuring as he led the way into the kitchen and tried to come up with a good approach. It was frustrating- he was good with kids, with human kids, but Spock was a puzzle he couldn't figure out. He just didn't have all- or any, really- of the pieces.
When they reached the kitchen, Spock wandered over to the window and leaned against it, turning his face into the light like a sunflower. There was something tight in his face, something a little off.
Huh. Maybe Jimmy was right.
"Hey, Spock?" he asked cautiously, heading over to the window to stand next to the kid in the sunlight. "Everything all right? You need anything?"
Spock shook his head and mumbled, "I am fine."
Len frowned. That seemed pretty vague for a Vulcan. "Plenty of definitions for 'fine.'"
Spock shrugged and avoided eye contact. Sighing, Len squatted down to his level and waited for the kid to look at him.
"I want to help, Spock," he said earnestly. The kid eyed him for a moment, judging his sincerity. Len kept his face honest and encouraging, hoping Spock would decide to trust him.
"It is…cold," Spock said finally. Len blinked.
"You want me to turn the heat on? That's no problem."
"No," said Spock quickly. "Not in the house…outside." With that, the floodgates seemed to open. "Earth is cold. Vulcan was never cold, even in the winter. And the sky is the wrong color, and everything is damp, even when it is not raining-"
Well, that explained it. Kid was missing home. And now he felt like a jerk.
"You know," said Len gently, "I'm not from around here either." At Spock's dubious glance, he admitted, "Well, I am from Earth. But Iowa's not home. I come from Georgia. You know where that is?"
"The far Southeast region of the United States of America."
"That's right," said Len. "Right on the coast. Always warm there, like on Vulcan, but humid as it could get. When I moved here with my family, I could never get warm either. We call that 'homesickness,' Spock."
"It is a disease?" asked Spock, alarmed, and Len just barely kept himself from rolling his eyes.
"Not a disease," he said. "More of an emoti-mental thing," he corrected hastily as Spock tensed up. "It happens when you move away from where you've lived for a long time, or are away from family. You think you're missing your mom, too?"
Spock shrugged, which meant yes. "I am…unaccustomed to her absence."
"Well," he said, standing and offering the kid a hand. After a moment of hesitation, Spock latched onto his sleeve. No hands. Right. "I know of a few cures for homesickness. What d'ya say we go see if Jimmy's blown something up? Then we can get started on your treatment, courtesy of Doctor Leonard H. McCoy."
"You hold a medical degree?" Spock asked skeptically, and Len grinned.
"I will one day. Gonna be a doctor like my dad, and I know all his tricks. Tell me, you ever had ice cream?"
Spock made a face. "I have attempted," he said. Len wondered how that particular story ended.
"Well, you've never tried the McCoy family peach ice cream. I always bring some over for Jimmy when I stay with him, and he loves it. Zooms around like a rocket afterwards though. Think we can handle him?"
"I find myself incapable of predicting any of Jimmy's actions," Spock admitted, startlingly a laugh out of Len.
"No kiddin'," he said, unable to resist the urge to ruffle the kid's hair. Spock blinked up at him, startled, and began to comb it meticulously back into place. Grinning, he mused it again, delighted at the frustrated scowl that graced the Vulcan's face.
"Best thing for homesickness is a little fun to take your mind off of it," he said, steering Spock back into the living room. Jimmy looked up from where he was sitting dejectedly on the couch and flashed them a tentative smile. To Len's relief, Spock offered a small twitch of his lips in return. "What do ya say? Think you can handle that?"
"We shall see," said Spock, shrugging. He hesitated. "However, I believe the process would be facilitated with the addition of the ice cream you mentioned earlier."
Jimmy sprang out of his seat at that, and Len laughed.
Human or not, kids were all pretty much the same.
"Amanda, you need to relax."
"I am. Totally relaxed. Couldn't be calmer. I'm thinking of ordering the risotto-"
"You're going to rip the menu apart if you keep folding and unfolding it like that."
"Sorry. It's just a habit. Um. Salad, and for, uh…"
"They're going to burn the house down," she said helplessly, dropping her head in her hands. Winona sighed and set her menu on the table patiently. Amanda glanced up feebly through her fingers. "Spock's going to take apart a toaster or something and catch the whole damn place on fire."
"It's okay," Winona said soothingly, patting her arm. "He already took the toaster apart last week."
"Do you think they're all right?"
Winona sighed. "Amanda, I'm telling you, Leonard is a miracle. I thought I'd never be able to leave the house again- Jimmy hated all of his babysitters. Wouldn't stay in the same room as them. But then Len came along and the two of them were best friends by the time I left for work."
"It's not Leonard," Amanda insisted. "He seemed like a nice boy, it's just…Spock and Jimmy, they're a little high-maintenance."
Winona snorted. "That's an understatement." She softened as Amanda's face fell. "Look, I'm sure they're fine. Maybe a little hyped up, but nothing Len can't handle."
"Jimmy Kirk, get out of that tree or so help me God-"
"But Bones, I never got this high before!"
"Never…how did you even get up there?" asked Len helplessly. They'd settled outside on the porch, Len hoping the bright sunlight and warmth would help ease Spock's discomfort. He'd turned his back for three seconds to dump their empty ice cream bowls in the dishwasher, and when he'd come back-
"Spock helped me!" said Jimmy brightly, and with a rush of dread Len noticed the absence of their resident hobgoblin.
"Spock?" he called, panicked. To his horror, Spock's head popped out from the higher branches of the tree Jim was a tempting to scale- at least seven meters off the ground.
"Hello, Leonard," said Spock, remarkably calm for a six-year-old hanging upside down from a really not that sturdy looking branch.
Oh god, the kid was going to die. He was going to die, and then Len would be the accidental murderer of son of the Vulcan ambassador to Earth and Vulcan probably had ritualistic blood sacrifices or something and he would be condemned to death and thrown logically into the middle of a volcano at high noon-
"Down," he squeaked, voice cracking pitifully. Jimmy giggled, and Len's glare darkened into something dangerous. "Down, boys. Now."
Jimmy took the hint and began sullenly making his way down the tree. Len hovered anxiously, regretting the ice cream with every fiber of his being (though it had served it's purpose in cheering up their sulky Vulcan.) Had he known sugar would affect Spock nearly as badly as Jimmy, he would have never given ether of them even a spoonful.
"You're no fun," Jimmy muttered, once he was safely back on the ground. Spock landed lightly next to him a moment later, and Len scowled.
"Do you know what's not fun? Broken limbs aren't fun. Brain injuries aren't fun. And I'm a babysitter, darn it, not a doctor. So you two better stay on the ground from now on, you hear?"
Spock (thank god) seemed to think that was sensible. "A reasonable restriction," he said. But just as Len was getting ready to thank him for his possession of common sense-
"As Jimmy is human, it would be best to exercise caution in his play habits. I, of course, face no such limitations."
Jimmy scowled. "Hey!"
Len grit his teeth. Spock's Vulcan superiority complex was seriously wearing him down. You are above this, Leonard. Do not pick a fight with a six-year-old.
"That definitely applies to you too, Elf-ears."
The look on the kid's face was worth every drop of dignity he'd just lost. "Elf-ears?"
Len shrugged, trying to hide his delight. "Sorry, kid, they look pretty pointy to me."
Spock glowered. "I am not an elf."
"I don't know, you're pretty short too. Fit right in at Santa's workshop."
"I do not understand what-"
"I'm bored," Jimmy announced loudly, glaring at them both. "Stop fighting, let's do something."
"We could go back inside," said Len hopefully. Jimmy grinned.
"Spock, didn't you say you wanted to take apart the stereo?" Spock's eyes lit up.
Len was at the end of his patience. "We can…I don't know, don't you have a game that doesn't involve either of you doing dangerous things?" he asked desperately.
Jimmy thought for a moment, and his face brightened with the all too familiar thrill of adventure.
"Bones," he said. Len took a moment to find his faith and pray to whoever might be listening.
"Are you good at roaring?"
Several hours later, Len was sporting bruises all over his calves and lying prone in the tall grass, doing his best to play dead. Jimmy stood triumphantly above him, toy sword gripped in one tiny fist and faced fixed in blinding grin. Spock stood solemnly to his right, hands clasped lightly behind his back and plastic axe laid carefully at his feet.
"Today," Jimmy began gravely, "Was a great day. We did cool stuff, and fought like pirates but better. We killed the mean dragon too. He breathed fire and everything. Invisible fire."
Well, not bad for a kid barely out of kindergarten. Jimmy certainly had a strange kind of stage presence.
"We will cellgrate-"
"Celebrate," Spock corrected gently. Jimmy ploughed on.
"Yeah, that- We will cell-brate this day for all years. And we'll eat cake and more ice cream because me and Spock are the best team ever. Right, Spock?"
"Indeed," said Spock seriously. Jimmy smiled, and called out to the world:
"Long live the king!"
He wasn't sure exactly which king Jimmy was referring to, but regardless, the boys seemed cheered by their victory. Len just hoped the 'battle' had tired them out enough to go back inside for something a little more low-key.
"Great," he muttered, starting to painfully haul himself off the ground. "Good job, now could we maybe…"
Immediately the boys sprang into action. "The monster is still alive!" Jimmy shouted wildly, whirling around and pointing with his sword. "Get him!"
Len huffed. "All right, seriously, guys, that's enough-"
…Okay, so Spock was really really strong. Like, way stronger than anyone who barely came up to his waist had any right to be.
"Ow," he said, dazed. "Um. Ow."
"Uh, Bones?" asked Jimmy nervously. "You okay?" Spock, sitting up from where he'd landed after his spectacular tackle, looked a little guilty. Len waved a hand to show that he was all right (even though he had some serious doubts.) Where the hell had that come from?
"I though Vulcans were all about negotiation?" he wheezed, laying a hand gingerly on his ribs. Bruised? Maybe. He couldn't tell.
"…Perhaps I do resemble Tolkien's elves. To some extent," Spock said. The slow blink that followed was entirely too innocent.
"Well played," he acknowledged. Jimmy grinned, relieved, and Spock's lips twitched in what Len was coming to recognize as his version of a smirk. Then-
"Round two?" Jimmy asked hopefully.
Len took a moment to gather his sanity and glanced at the clock on the wall. Four hours to go.
God help him.
By the time Amanda and Winona returned, the sugar rush had worn off and the sun had set. (Len had also acquired a fresh set of bruises that he'd affectionately dubbed 'battle wounds' to placate his guilty attackers.) He was reading on the back porch when he heard the front door unlock and Winona's voice call out:
"We're back! Len?"
"One sec, Ms. Kirk."
With one last exasperated look at his charges, he saved his place on his PADD and crept back into the house, careful not to make too much noise.
"We're in the back," he called softly. "Try to keep quiet if you can- they're sleepin'."
Two figures appeared in the living room, and Len led the way back to the porch, whispering:
"Jimmy wanted to stay out, look at the stars. Hope that's okay- I figured there was no harm in it. And Spock said he was 'eager to observe the difference in the movements of celestial bodies from Earth's perspective.' Or somethin. I got them all ready for bed, too. Spock said he had to meditate first, but he looked pretty beat, so he mighta skipped out on it."
He pushed open the back door. Behind him, Amanda let out a soft, "Aw..."
Len had grabbed a blanket from a closet and spread it out in the backyard. On it, Spock and Jimmy were curled up together, fast asleep under the stars. Spock had his stuffed sehlat tucked under one arm and his face pressed into Jimmy's neck- probably seeking out warmth.
"Don't be fooled," Len said dryly as the mothers cooed. "I've got bruises all over from their sword fighting earlier. They may be cute, but they're little monsters."
Both mothers burst into laughter, and Jimmy and Spock jerked awake.
"Hi mom," said Jimmy blearily, rubbing at his eyes. Spock murmured something that might have been a greeting and curled tighter around his sehlat, clearly planning on drifting back to sleep. Len rolled his eyes.
"All right, you two," he said firmly. "Back inside."
"But Boooonness," Jimmy whined, turning over and burying his face in the blanket. "I'm comferble. Com-for-ta-ble."
"You may be, Jimmy," said Len reasonably, walking over to the blanket and nudging the kid lightly with his foot. "But Spock's cold, aren't ya buddy?"
"Really?" Jimmy's head shot up, glancing over to Spock anxiously.
"This is not my…optimum preferred temperature," said Spock sleepily.
"Okay," Jimmy said reluctantly. "I guess we should-"
Without warning, Len scooped him up and threw him over his shoulder, ignoring Jimmy's startled shriek of laughter.
"C'mon," he said, beginning to trek back into the house. "Bedtime."
"I can walk."
"But isn't this more fun?"
"All right, all right, hold your horses-"
"Horses? I do not see-"
"It's an expression, Spock."
"You use many nonsensical idioms, Leonard."
"Jesus, how d'ya know the word 'idiom' anyway? You're like, five-"
"I am six. In Earth years."
Jimmy tugged at his hair; Len yelped and nearly dropped the kid, instead swinging him down from his shoulder with a glare. "What was that for?"
"Okay, boys," Winona said, reaching out with a grin. Len carefully transferred Jimmy from his shoulders to her arms and Jimmy rubbed his eyes, deflating as exhaustion finally hit. "I think your valiant sitter has had enough for one day. Amanda, is it all right if Spock stays the night?"
Amanda took one look at Spock's sleepy face and nodded, smiling. "That's fine. They look pretty beat."
"We fought a great battle, Mother," Spock said seriously. The levity of his statement was somewhat muted by the enormous yawn that followed.
"Of course you did," Winona said. "But even warriors need their rest. Come on upstairs, Spock, and I'll get you settled."
With her arms full of nearly-asleep Jimmy, Winona led the way back inside, carrying Jimmy and leading Spock up the stairs. Len and Amanda followed, chatting as Amanda walked him to the front door.
"Thanks so much for the help, Len. Hope they weren't too overwhelming."
"No problem at all," he said. "By the way, I think Spock's feelin' a little homesick."
"Really?" she said, frowning.
"Yeah," Len said. "But a little bit of fun and torturing his poor babysitter fixed that right up." He grinned, though it felt a little strained.
Amanda groaned. "God, I'm so sorry. He's usually well-behaved."
Len waved her off. "Nah, they were fine. Just a little rowdy, and that's healthy for kids their age. Spock just, uh…doesn't know his own strength, sometimes."
"Hey Amanda? Len?" Winona called, sounding frazzled. Her head poked out from the top of the stairs. "Jimmy slipped away, can you get him? He's probably outside."
Len rolled his eyes. "Never likes to listen. I'll grab 'im."
He hurried back through the house and outside. Sure enough, he caught a flash of blond hair in the dim light.
Jimmy was standing, unmoving, staring straight up at the sky. Len sighed.
"Come on, kid, inside. Your mom's waiting for you."
A heavy sigh. "Yeah?"
"I like space."
"I know you do, Jimmy. And believe it or not, space'll still be there tomorrow night."
"Do you think that's bad?"
"Why would that be bad?"
"'Cause space killed my dad."
Len's heart stopped.
"…Sorry. I know I'm not supposed to talk about it. Mom said."
"No. No, it's- it's fine. I, uh…I don't think that's the full story, Jimmy. Listen-"
Len kneeled, putting gentle hands on Jimmy's small shoulders.
"Your dad went into space because he loved the stars, just like you. And when he was up there, something bad happened, but that wasn't 'cause of space. That's just because…sometimes bad things happen. And it comes outta nowhere and it's not fair or right or anything, but it happens anyway. And I know this is gonna be hard for you to understand, but…you don't have to live a certain way just because your dad died. You don't have to settle for anything less. So if you love the stars, if space is something you wanna aim for, go for it. There's no shame in dreaming. You understand?"
"Not really," Jimmy admitted. "But I do feel better."
"Well, that's a start," Len said. He pulled Jimmy in for a hug and Jimmy returned it eagerly, pressing his face into Len's shoulder.
Neither noticed Winona standing in the doorway, bitter eyes turned toward the stars.
Amanda closed the door quietly, taking comfort in the sounds of deep, steady breathing and soft, whistling snores. Spock and Jimmy had been easy to set to sleep- they were both exhausted and content. Leonard really was a miracle.
But she was worried about Winona.
She'd fallen into one of her moods again, though it seemed a little more intense than usual. She had been distant when Len had wished them a good night, and even more so when they'd been putting the kids to bed. Eventually she'd retreated to the kitchen, slumping against the counter with her hands rubbing her temples, and Amanda had taken over.
It couldn't go on.
She made her way downstairs and into the kitchen, stopping in the doorway and staring at the quiet figure still leaning against the wall.
"Hey," she said. No response. She shifted awkwardly, running a nervous hand over her hair.
"I should, uh. Get going."
Well, progress. She took the plunge.
"Listen, Win, are you okay?"
"…I really don't think you are."
"It's fine, Amanda. Good night."
"No, damn it, it's not!"
It had gotten to the point where Amanda couldn't just let it go.
"Win, you can't just keep burying this away anymore. If this is about George-"
Her nostrils flared, the first sign of life since she'd fallen into her slump. "It's not about George!"
"Well then what is it?" Amanda demanded. "Because whatever it is, it's hurting you! And Jimmy!"
They stared each other down, glaring. Amada took a seat at the table defiantly.
"Tell me," she said. And then she waited.
Winona stood in stubborn silence, faced turned away and fists clenched, stone cold. Eventually Amanda sighed and reached for her keys. She couldn't force it out of her-
"Sam," Winona said abruptly. Amanda froze.
"That's- that's Jimmy's brother's name. Sam."
Of course. The other bedroom. There was another child.
Winona fell into the chair across the table and crossed her arms over her chest defensively. Her jaw worked silently for a time before she was able to keep going.
"He was ten when it happened, when- when George. Yeah. Old enough to remember his dad and young enough not to understand why he died."
She fell silent. Amanda prompted quietly, "It must have been hard. For both of you."
Winona laughed, an ugly sound with no humor to it. "Yeah. I-yeah. And after George died I kinda…shut down for a while. I left Starfleet and didn't find work again for a long time; we had enough to keep going, but everything just felt…empty. We didn't do holidays or birthdays or anything- every time I would try and pull it together, Sam would get upset at me for pretending to be happy, or even just for trying to move on. Neither of us could let go. I should have forced the issue, gone to see someone and brought Sam in too, but I just…didn't do it. Without George, we were hardly a family anymore."
"I'm sure that's not true-"
"It was. And see, Jimmy hardly knows what 'family' is," she said, face cracking in a small, bitter smile. "So he doesn't really know what we lost. But Sam knew. He knew, and he was angry. And he just kept getting angrier. At me, at Jimmy, at...everything- and then I woke up one day and he was gone. Left a note, hacked a stack of credits out of my account, made it clear he wasn't planning on coming back."
Amanda couldn't think of anything to say. Winona looked up, suddenly desperate.
"I've looked everywhere," she said. "I'm still looking, but he's skipped planet, gone out on his own-hell, he's a genius, and he doesn't want to be found. The authorities have all but given up. I don't even know if-"
If he's alive rang in the empty silence, and Winona clenched her fists on the table.
"And everything in me wants to leave, take a shuttle and find him myself, but then there's- there's Jimmy. So I can't."
"I'm so sorry," Amanda said softly, because there was nothing else she could think to say. Winona was blinking back tears, but there didn't seem to be any passion behind them; they were tears of defeat, not grief.
"We wanted to be good parents," Winona said lowly, eyes focused on some spot on the floor. "We had it all planned out. The minute Jimmy was born we were going to leave Starfleet, be there for him and Sam. Do the…the scrapbooking, the family Thanksgivings, the fucking…PTA meetings, I don't know- but then those bastards blew up our ship and everything just…"
She fell silent again and seemed to gather herself. When she looked up again, the tears were gone and only bitterness remained.
"And now I'm doing it alone, and with my head all fucked up and…Jimmy deserves so much more."
Amanda stayed silent for a long time. Finally, she spoke, considering every word carefully. "I think," she said, "That you at your lowest is probably still better than a lot of people's best, Winona. And I know that you don't have to do this alone anymore. Jimmy will have Spock, and you'll have me. And Sarek, in his own way."
"I know, but…George was always better at this," Winona muttered. "He was amazing with Sam- they were so close. They just had this bond, and…I'm an engineer," she said helplessly. "I knew every bit of my ship and how it worked, but I…I really can't do people. I can't even figure out what to do with my own kids."
"We're not supposed to know, necessarily," said Amanda cautiously. Winona looked like she was ready to fly apart. Amanda wondered how she'd missed all that pain sitting so close to the surface. "Just try to fix the problems when they come. That's all I've ever been able to do, that's all anyone can do. Take it one day at a time- Jimmy doesn't need you to be perfect, or to always know what to say. Just be there."
They sat in silence for a few long moments, listening to the sounds of crickets and the steady drumbeat of rain on the wooden roof. Amanda had nearly forgotten the sound of Earth in the summer- it was soothing and strangely unfamiliar all at once.
"Okay," said Winona eventually. "Okay, yeah. I can do that."
"Good," said Amanda, reaching out and clasping her hand. Winona smiled weakly a gripped hers back. They sat in comfortable silence for a few moments before Amanda hesitantly breached it.
"Are you seeing anyone about all this?"
"Yeah. On Wednesdays," Winona said. Amanda recalled the weeks of playdates, always consistently at the same time, and understood.
"That's good," she said gently. "I'm glad."
Winona nodded. "Yeah. It's been helping. I just-sometimes there's bad days, you know? And it always feels like there's so much to do, and the house is a wreck..."
She glanced forlornly around the shabby kitchen, and Amanda smiled.
"Well, I'm no engineer," she said. "But I can donate myself and Spock for work if you tell us what to do. And if we need any heavy lifting, I've got a full-sized Vulcan on hand- maybe we can get Sarek into work overalls. I'm not kidding when I say that would probably make my year."
Winona's laughter, when it came, was a little brighter than before.
Next chapter: Sarek gets a taste of babysitting, and also a wake-up call.
(Sam is not gone forever.)
A/N: So I'm sorry if that was disappointing but my computer broke and then I this was the hardest thing to write I swear and tbh I'm just really tired of looking at it because I want to move on to more exciting chapters
Also I just started college and I am in wayyyyy over my head I'll try to get things out faster but regardless of how long updates take I promise that this story will never be abandoned okay
And despite how much of a loser I've been lately it still means everything to me when you guys take the time to comment, favorite, follow, or read my work so seriously thanks to everyone who's been supporting this story you are all shining stars