Kirk sighed impatiently as a fresh stream of cadets flowed onto the steps leading to the ground floor and out the hall. His eyes watched their rhythm, looking for an opening. A female cadet plodded blearily with the line of cadets, she yawned and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes – obviously another one deprived of sleep from the crazy amount of work required by the academy. Jim waited until it was her turn to enter the aisle before quickly slotting himself between the girl and the cadet in front of her.
Getting out of the main hall was always a dragged out event. Aisles became congested and elbows inadvertently maimed. Jim struggled down the steps and was relieved to find that it was immensely easier to move now that he was at ground level. He walked at a brisk pace for the nearest entrance.
'Hey, Mr. Wilcox has a shiny head.'
Tom walked down the steps leading up to the stage, his hands in his pockets and a smile playing on his lips. Jim raised his eyebrow quizzically as he neared his friend, ignoring the curious glances they were getting at Tom's unusual greeting.
Mr. Wilcox had been Kirk's physics teacher at Tarsus Academy. Kirk had remembered him so vividly on account of the fact that he'd been balding considerably before school had been rendered inert by the massacre. During the months that followed the massacre, 'Mr. Wilcox has a shiny head meant – meet at the cave in two hours'. Kirk and his kids had used it whenever they wanted everyone together so that they could share important information or news without an eavesdropper following them and consequently discovering the location of their haven.
'Earthside I hope?' Kirk joked, he doubted Tom wanted him to meet him on Tarsus.
'Portsmouth Square' he told Kirk in German, 'in the trees, beneath Democracy.'
Kirk inclined his head in surprise.
'Since when?' he asked, referring to Tom's linguistic skills.
Tom snorted and rolled his eyes.
'Same time as you – I just never used it till now,' he switched back to English, 'everyone knew everyone, remember? I knew Hoshi too but I only managed to learn one tongue,' he shrugged.
'I'll see you,' he said before returning to the flow of people streaming towards the exit.
He threw another glance behind him in time to see an Admiral approach Tom. The decorated man attempted to unsuccessfully to strike up a conversation with the young man, his hopes having being restored after watching their cryptic conversation. Kirk smiled and returned his gaze back to the front.
Five metres away, Nyota Uhura frowned in deep thought. She had been close enough during Kirk's brief exchange with Tom to hear the survivors last comment. The first thing that had come to mind when she heard the name 'Hoshi' was the woman she looked up to as her role model – Hoshi Sato. But the way Thomas Leighton had talked about Hoshi sounded as if it Hoshi had taught him German as well as multiple languages to Kirk. For someone like Kirk, she guessed she wasn't really surprised that he knew Hoshi but Leighton? How would he have come to know Hoshi let alone convince her to teach him? One thing was for sure – Kirk's fluency in Romulan had come from an amazing teacher.
From what she knew, Hoshi Sato had been murdered in the Tarsus IV massacre, which suggested that Tom knew her from that planet before the massacre. She remembered vividly the day she had been told that the woman she idolized had died – J.T, Tom's leader had told her… Tom's leader and friend.
Uhura snapped her head towards Kirk and narrowed her eyes. As far as she knew from rumors and whatnot, he was the only person Tom freely talked to… as if they were friends. Then her eyes widened in recognition.
She immediately slapped her hand over her mouth, horrified that she had broken one of the Academy's rules. She hadn't spoken purposefully – the word had been a reflex reaction to her shock and realization.
'Cadet Uhura, please refrain from using such language.'
A monotone voice fueled her shame and she blushed.
'Yes, sir. Sorry, sir,' she replied to her linguistics instructor, Mr. Spock.
The Vulcan merely continued to regard her with his emotionless expression and she quickly looked away, thankful that she had only been reprimanded.
Kirk breathed out slowly to calm his nerves as he sighted Portmouth Square and headed for the trees that lined the park. For the past two hours he had been plagued with curiosity and anticipation as he wondered what Tom was going to tell him. He vaguely noticed that the environment was similar to that of Tarsus IV as he stepped into the small forest. The only difference was the healthy environment and trees spaced far enough apart that there was considerable room for a bench situated beside a lifelike sized statue of the goddess of Democracy.
Around the clearing were a small group of young adults and teenagers. Tom was amongst them, he was laughing jubilantly at a fifteen-year-old boy who appeared to be telling him a story, his hands waving animatedly through the air. As Jim neared, Tom looked up from his conversation and grinned in delight.
'I like those better than the gaudy reds,' Tom greeted him; nodding at the plain civilian clothes he had decided to wear.
Jim smiled and shrugged.
'Yeah, they're a lot less restrictive,' he agreed.
The other people – not all humans – had turned towards him whilst Tom made his comment about Jim's clothes. They all had wide grins on their faces – besides the Vulcan standing beside Democracy of course, although his emotionless expression was betrayed by the minuscule upward turn of his mouth.
Jim began to feel a bit self-conscious at all their attention.
'You know what sucks?'
The teenager Tom had been conversing with finally broke the silence, his voice oddly distorted with emotion as he tried to speak in a casual tone.
'You …and I still don't know your real name,' he said.
Jim blinked in surprise. This kid made it sound as if he had known Jim for a considerable time but didn't know his real identity… damn, he'd forgotten – when a rendezvous was called, all his kids were meant to be present.
'You mean… all of you… you're…?' he stammered, his breathing shaky with shock.
A young man stepped towards him.
'Hey, J.T,' he said quietly, 'we missed you.'
Jim's hand rose to cover his mouth and he choked out a strangled laugh. The man walked forwards and Jim reached out with his free hand to wrap his arm around the man's shoulders as his friend embraced him. The others laughed and congregated around pair. Soon they were all crying, enveloped in a group hug. Even the Vulcan joined in.
'I remember your faces now,' Jim whispered, 'I spent so many years trying to find all of you and you all end up finding me.'
'It's Tom's fault,' the teenage joked, 'he was the one that finally found you.'
Jim laughed and in that moment, he felt at peace for the first time since he'd been separated from his kids. They finally broke apart but strayed no more than a few metres from J.T.
'So who are you really?' the teenage asked him.
Jim regarded the boy thoughtfully.
'Kev, right?' he asked.
Kevin Riley nodded and grinned, ecstatic that he had been recognized. Jim smiled at his friend's reaction and stuck out his hand. Kevin was, after all, meeting a completely different person to the boy he remembered from Tarsus IV.
'Jim Kirk,' he said as Kevin shook his hand.
'Jim… Kirk?' a girl of similar age to Kevin spoke up, Jim recognized her as Lucy.
'Yeah,' he admitted, 'but I'm not the same person as my dad.'
'I wouldn't speak so soon,' Jim studied the teenager's face for a few seconds before his name popped into Jim's memory, 'no wonder you were always so brave – we couldn't have asked for a better leader,' Luke affirmed.
Jim shook his head.
'I was terrified,' he said, 'the only reason I was brave was because of you guys.'
And it was true, he realized as they all laughed and cried again, overwhelmed by their resurfacing memories. He remembered the day that Christopher Pike and Stephen Garrovick had led those Starfleet Officers into the forest – they'd all been together. On Earth, Jim had sorely missed that feeling – belonging. But now it was Ok, because they were finally reunited. Even if Abby and all his other kids who had died on Tarsus IV weren't here with them, they were still here in their hearts and would be continually. Jim looked around him at each and every face, changed by age. Without them, he would have never found the strength to endure Tarsus IV and Kodos' wrath. He loved them as a family.
After all, a Captain was nothing without his Crew.