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Vuhlkansu

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At seventeen Jim says that he wants to leave, and T’Sol suggests the Vulcan Science Academy, and that’s that.

--

That’s not really that, because even though Jim has spent the past four years on a Vulcan research vessel, he’s not actually Vulcan, and it’s an uphill battle against sehlats and windstorms and thousands of years of thinly-veiled xenophobia masquerading as traditionalism, but six months after his seventeenth birthday Jim is accepted into in the Vulcan Science Academy, and two weeks later when the ship docks on Vulcan Jim packs up his one bag of belongings, wishes his 300 stand-in parents peace and long life, and steps out onto Vulcan.

The less that is said about the heat, the better.

He survives on tri-ox and vitamin supplements and wonders how Amanda Grayson—the human who has lived on Vulcan for the longest time in history—stands it. He builds up his muscle mass and learns how to fight and collapses more times that he would like to admit and works ten times harder than anyone around him because he’s human and  has  to.

--

At twenty-two, he joins Starfleet.

Sivan informs him that the decision is illogical, as he is an otherwise satisfactory graduate of the Vulcan Science Academy and as such has access to Vulcan research that is not otherwise available. Jim informs him that he misses the stars. Sivan does not find this a satisfactory response, as T’Khasi has significantly less light pollution than San Francisco and as such provides greater opportunities for viewing any star that Jim intends to study.

Jim leaves anyway.

He becomes a cadet at Starfleet Academy, and in another life he would have chafed under the rules and regulations, but Jim has lived with Vulcans for nearly half his life, he just left a school where emotion is forbidden and rooms are not labeled because students are expected to remember their location, and Starfleet feels astonishingly lax.

Jim makes friends with a doctor from Georgia, and hits on every woman he can find and doesn’t sleep with any of them because he hasn’t had casual touch in ten years and isn’t quite sure he likes it anymore, and he keeps an IDIC pin on his undershirt but does not show it to anybody.

Despite his clear aptitude for science, he takes few science classes, his focus is instead on Command—the one subject he could have not learned at the Shi’Oren t’Ek’Tallar T’Khasi. He intends to graduate in three years; he has no need to spend that long at the Academy, but it is long enough not to draw undue attention to himself, and to reacclimate himself with Terrasu culture. He will need to be able to act adequately Terran, should he wish to Captain a ship. While the Federation espouses itself as being all-accepting, it still favors those who are Terran.

Sometimes, when nobody is looking, Jim forgets that people smile.

--

Watching the cadet take a bite from his apple, Spock reminds himself that anger is illogical, no matter how much disrespect grates on his nerves. He is a professional, and an officer of Starfleet; he will not succumb to petty tantrums no matter how gratifying they may feel in the short term.

About to inform the Lieutenant in charge of administering the test that he is unaware of how the cadet subverted the testing scenario, Spock sees a notification on his PADD informing him of the receipt of a file. The file, Spock sees upon opening it, is a sourced and annotated explanation of the logical reasoning behind the subversion of the testing parameters of the  Kobayashi Maru , as well as a detailed description of the method used to alter the subroutines necessary to effect such a change.

Spock decides it would be logical to reserve judgment on the cadet.

--

For the second time in Jim’s life, the world is ending around him.

He grabs T’sai Amanda’s hand, saying, “Sanu, T’sai, come with me,” and even though he is psi-null he feels the surprise in the stiffening of her hand before she begins running with him. The walls are falling around him, and through the running he feels a wave of grief at the loss of such history.

There will be much to grieve, but at the moment he has no time for grief.

When they are outside the katric ark, Spock calls for a beam-up. T’sai Amanda begins to pull away, and Jim grabs onto her wrist, saying, “There is a higher probability of successful beaming when lifesigns are in close proximity.

And then the world turns to light, and they are on the beaming pad in the  Enterprise .

Jim releases T’sai Amanda’s wrist, and she turns and wraps her arms around Spock, saying, “My son, my son.”

Kevet-dutar Sarek faces Jim and says, “I thank you for insuring the safety of my ko-telsu.”

Jim inclines his head. “I am pleased to have been of service, kevet-dutar.”

--

The less that is said about Delta Vega, the better.

--

Spock’s hand is around Jim’s throat, and Jim is saying, “It is illogical for you to claim to be anything but emotionally compromised when you are currently performing violence on a member of Starfleet and of your own crew, who has thusly committed no violence against you,” until his air runs out and the darkness begins to fold in on him and he thinks, my world is gone twice-over, and perhaps it would be logical for me to die as well.

--

Jim finds himself in Medical as the ship limps back towards Earth; he has several cracked ribs as well as other injuries, that the medical staff insist be seen to. He is still Captain, technically, but Sulu has the conn.

Beside him, Bones—Jim’s one attempt at creating a nickname—is attempting to treat pid-kom T’Pau despite the fact that all that she is suffering from is bond-failure due to the loss of T’Khasi and the Vuhlkantra rather than any physical ailment.

Jim turns, bracing one hand against his side so that he can move despite the pain in his ribs, to say, “Bones, you’re not going to be able to help. Pid-kom T’Pau isn’t injured.”

Bones squints at him, then says, “You’re not a doctor. What would you know about it? And what the hell is a pid-clam?”

“My title,” T’Pau says, and Jim straightens painfully at the sound of her voice, “is pid-kom. It indicates my position as the matriarch of the Clan Surak.” She turns her gaze on Jim. “You are James Kirk.”

“Yes, pid-kom.”

Pid-kom T’Pau switches to Vuhlkansu, saying, “Though your choice to leave Vulcan following your graduation from the Vulcan Science Academy was illogical, it served as the catalyst for your survival. The decision will thus no longer be viewed as a loss. Your service honors us.”

Jim swallows down the urge to gape at her, because that’s frankly the nicest thing a Vulcan has ever said to him, and it’s  T’Pau , instead saying, “Shaya tonat. Tushah nash-veh k’odu, pid-kom.”

“No thanks are needed for the truth, khart-lan. Tushah nash-veh k’du.” She looks back at Bones, saying in Standard, “I will meditate now.”

Bones blinks at her before turning on Jim to glare at him and demand, “What on Earth was that? Since when do you speak Vulcan?”

“It is illogical for you not to have informed your colleagues of your abilities,” T’Pau says reproachfully, and Jim sags a little, which hurts like a knife through his side. He should probably actually get his ribs dealt with sometime soon.

For the moment, though, he just says, “Restricting dissemination of my history ensured a meeting with my classmates on a more even ground, leading to greater bonds that will aid me in a leadership role in the future.”

T’Pau looks at him for a second, then says, “Your logic is sound.”

“What the actual fuck?” Bones breathes, then mutters, “Ma’am,” at T’Pau.

“I’ll tell you later,” Jim says. “Any chance you can fix my ribs now?”

Bones swears at him through the whole procedure.

--

“So,” Bones says at the start of gamma shift; the ship is almost back to Earth, so most of the crew is still awake. “The Vulcan thing.”

Jim leans his head back against the wall behind his seat, careful in how he moves so as not to agitate his partially-healed ribs. “The Vulcan thing,” he agrees, then sighs. “You must have guessed I wasn’t raised on Earth.”

“Given that you’re allergic to half the planet and didn’t know a single reference from the last ten years, yeah, I guessed that. I figured you were raised in a colony or something. Your whole family dropped off the earth until you showed up at the Academy.”

Jim lets out a slow breath, considering how much to tell Bones. There’s no logical reason to keep anything from him, but he finds the idea of telling Bones everything difficult regardless. Finally, he says, “I spent a few months on a colony, beginning when I was twelve and ending when I was thirteen. Following the evacuation, I lived on a Vulcan research vessel for approximately four years, after which I spent approximately four and a half years at the Vulcan Science Academy. Then I joined Starfleet.”

Bones whistles. “I’ll get to that later stuff in a minute—though, Vulcans, that explains a lot, actually—but evacuation? When did they have to evacuate an entire colony?”

“Following the massacre on Tarsus IV.”

“Fuck.” Bones lurches up out of his chair, pacing around the small office space with his hands clenched in his hair. Jim watches him walk, unsure of how he’s supposed to react. “ Fuck . Why didn’t I know this? Why aren’t you on the survivor list?”

“As I remained on the first-response ship and never boarded the Starfleet vessel for patient intake, I was never added to the survivor list. To avoid the additional scrutiny, it was logical to not alter that.”

Bones stares at him, then asks, “How did I never notice that you talk like a damn Vulcan?”

“It gets stronger during times of stress.”

Bones paces for another fifteen seconds, glancing at Jim twice during the time, before saying, “What about your family? I can’t imagine they were too happy with you living on a Vulcan ship instead of with them after Tarsus.”

Jim looks down at his hands. His knuckles are still scraped raw after his fight on the  Narada . “My brother ran away from home when I was ten, and my step-father was the one who sent me to Tarsus. And I haven’t spoken to my mother in eleven years.”

“Shit.”

“As far as I am aware, she is still alive, though I suppose she could have been on one of the ships sent to the battle.”

“She’s Starfleet?”

“A science officer. Last I checked, she was stationed on the  Gagarin , though that could have changed.” Jim shrugs. “She didn’t give a fuck about me, and as far as I know she never found out about Tarsus, though I suppose Frank could have told her.”

“Shit,” Bones says again, “I’m sorry.”

Jim drums on his thigh. “So anyway, that’s the Vulcan thing.”

“Does that mean you’re an honorary Vulcan?”

“I am not a Vulcan citizen, if that is what you are inquiring. I was raised—for some of my life—by Vulcans, and then I lived on Vulcan for another set of my life. I am connected to the Vulcan culture, and I had colleagues with the Vulcan Science Academy, most of whom are likely now dead.”

“Oh,” Bones says, then, “shit. Once we’re planetside, are you going to reach out and see who’s still alive?”

Jim shakes his head. “Those who did survive would not appreciate the distraction.”

“Damn emotionless hobgoblins.”

There are dual pings from their PADDs, halfway across the room from each other, and Jim leans over just as much as necessary to grab his and look at it. His ribs protest even that little amount of movement.

“An hour from atmospheric entrance,” Bones reports as he swipes across his PADD. “They need you on the bridge for that?”

“I’ll head there in fifty minutes. Given the amount of damage on the ship, we’ll need to be careful.” He swallows, shifting again with a hand pressed against his side to brace against the pain. Rib injuries are the worst. “It’ll probably take at least three hours from there to dock, and it might get a little bumpy.”

Bones nods. “I’ll notify the med bay, make sure they’re prepared to take on extra patients if needed. The beds are pretty much filled, but we can still triage if necessary until we can get them to the Starfleet hospital.” Bones’s eyes narrow. “Are you okay?”

“I am adequate.”

“Reassuring.”

Chapter Text

“You have the weirdest accent,” Uhura informs him during a xenolinguistics seminar he wasn’t allowed to get out of by virtue of having learned all of it in Vulcan. Apparently that’s less helpful for xenolinguistics when operating in Terran-controlled space, ironically.

Jim blinks at her. “Oh?”

“You know how Vulcans speak neutral Standard—they don’t have any sort of accent?” Jim nods. “You speak Standard like how Vulcans would if they had an accent when they spoke Standard. Or something similar, I think—I wouldn’t know, because Vulcans don’t have an accent when the speak Standard. Not that I think you’re actually speaking it with a Vulcan accent, considering that you grew up in Iowa, but it’s—maybe I need to get my ears checked.

Jim makes another note about the difference between stresses in Romulan and Vulcan syllabary. He doesn’t respond. He does not plan to lie if she asks him specifically if he was raised by Vulcans, but he will not inform her of it otherwise.

--

Sulu announces, “Captain on the Bridge,” when he walks in, and he gets a half-hearted acknowledgment that would be more disrespectful if he couldn’t see how exhausted they all looked. He feels just as exhausted.

Spock is back at his station as a science officer, and Kirk stops there first to ask, “Are you okay?”

Spock glances up at him, then says in that Vulcan way of not sounding particularly perturbed while making it absolutely clear that they are feeling perturbed, “I am adequate, Captain, and able to perform my work as required.”

“I am not questioning your ability to work, Spock, but rather confirming your wellbeing.”

“I’m fine , Captain.”

Jim gets the message and heads over to the Captain’s chair; Sulu gives it up to him with a tired nod, saying, “We’re ten minutes out from entering the atmosphere.” He lets out a slow breath. “I’m going to hold us as steady as I can, but this is going to be rough. We might need to be towed for the end, because I don’t think the ship will have the fine control necessary to dock safely.”

Jim nods. “Lieutenant Uhura, open a channel with Starfleet and confirm docking procedures given the damage to the ship.”

Uhura nods. “Yes, Captain.”

--

Since he began at the Vulcan Science Academy, Jim has been adequate at martial arts and hand-to-hand combat. Many old forms are still taught and practiced at the Academy, under the guise of maintaining traditions and providing defensive capabilities should one be attacked, and Jim studied all of them.

They were difficult, even indoors where the heat was marginally less oppressive, and he had to compensate not only for the reduced oxygen but also for the higher density and thus greater weight of Vulcan bodies. He wins, but infrequently, and only with great effort.

The first time he steps into a sparring ring at Starfleet Academy and hip-tosses the instructor before they can land a blow, he realizes halfway through the move that they are much lighter than he was expecting, and has to moderate his effort so that they do not slam into the mat and injure themselves.

He wins the next twelve matches, and then breaks a sweat.

The move him up to Advanced Hand-to-Hand so he stops beating up first-year cadets, which baffles him. He has never been advanced at hand-to-hand, is only proficient at anything other than a knife.

--

“What did T’Pau say to you?”

Jim glances over at Uhura from his Captain’s chair; they’re being towed the last couple miles into the spacedock because their landing gear is damaged, so he just has to sit there on the bridge and remain available for contact in case something goes wrong. “Excuse me?”

“T’Pau. Matriarch of the House of Surak. Most important Vulcan alive. You talked to her earlier in Vulcan, even though she hasn’t talked to anyone else except for other Vulcans and medical crew since she got on.”

Jim doesn’t particularly want to tell her, especially not on the bridge with all of these other people listening, but if people know he spoke to T’Pau it won’t be long before the rest of his history comes out. It was never intended to be hidden, rather something he simply did not discuss, but it has become something between a secret and a lie, and the part of him that was raised by Vulcans finds that uncomfortable.

Besides, Bones knows.

So Jim gives in and says, “She was informing me that, as my having left the Vulcan Science Academy was what allowed me to survive the destruction of Vulcan, it is no longer viewed as a loss.”

Uhura gapes at him as Chekov squeaks from his station. Jim has to resist the urge to sigh. “You attended the VSA?”

“I graduated from the VSA.”

“How is that even possible?”

Jim abruptly feels all 38 hours he’s been awake. “From the age of thirteen on I was raised by Vulcans. Application to the VSA was logical. There is, I feel, no reason to continue to discuss my personal history, as it has no bearing on my ability to Captain this vessel for the time being.”

“This explains your accent,” Uhura exclaims.

“My vocal patterns are in fact a result of my having resided solely with Vulcans from the age of thirteen until my entrance into the Starfleet Academy. Now let’s focus on getting all of us back to Terra safely instead of on how I talk.”

--

The media coverage of the Enterprise ’s return to Terra is vast and overwhelming. The number of media requests Jim receives is equally only by the number that Spock receives, and the two of them reject them all, Jim because it’s too much like his childhood, the Kelvin anniversaries and his mother, that look on his mother’s face, and Spock because of a reason he doesn’t choose to share, at least not with Jim.

Spock is in a romantic relationship with Uhura, Jim thinks, though even by Vulcan standards it’s hard to tell. Vulcans are prone to odd bouts of territorialism, from his experiences in the VSA, but he has seen no such thing between them, at least not on the part of Spock.

He thinks that Spock might be with her as part of his show of rebellion, as proof that he can be stay Vulcan even while playing at being human, but he tucks those thoughts away and keeps them to himself, because it’s none of Jim’s business. He’ll only truly concern himself with it if they both end up serving under him and it becomes an issue.

Fraternization is not strictly disallowed, after all, or he would never exist. For Vulcans it’s even written into the rules, was part of it when they joined the Federation, because of how their bonding works.

Jim has the somewhat crazy idea that the media attention will draw his mother back, that he will see her as a face in the crowd or at some Starfleet event, but of course that would never happen, not even if she had wanted to come back to Terra, because all non-grounded Starfleet vessels are needed to maintain patrols. They lost so many. He knows this.

He thinks he sees his brother’s face in the crowd, once, but it has been so long since he has seen Samuel that he likely would not recognize him as an adult, and by the time he looks again, the face is gone, swallowed up in a sea of faces.

--

Vulcans aren’t into shore leave, but twice during Jim’s time on the T’Nar , they stop on T’Khasi for large-scale overhauls of crew and materials. All other crew changes are done by intermediary ship, as they are primarily far from the planet, but there are two times when it is deemed logical for the T’Nar to dock.

The first time is three standard months after Tarsus IV, and Jim is too weak to be out in the Vulcan climate for even a short period of time; he doesn’t care about the stupid planet, anyway, doesn’t care about anything, wants to die or kill someone or learn about everything in the fucking world so he can make sure Tarsus never happens again, and so he mostly hides in his room and only stares out a window for a while when nobody is around to see.

It doesn’t look anything like Tarsus IV or Iowa, and he’s never been so glad to see sand.

The second time is when Jim is seventeen and ready to start at the Vulcan Science Academy, and he thinks that it’s just coincidence that they decided to return to T’Khasi just in time for that.

The crew members never tell him otherwise, and he never thinks to ask.

--

They’re letting him keep the Enterprise .

Jim hadn’t expected it, not least of which because he got it through a number of successive unorthodox and barely regulation actions, but newly-promoted Admiral Pike tells him personally, a week before the ship is officially put under his control, and Jim doesn’t have it in him to argue because he wants this more than he has wanted anything since he stood on the surface of Vulcan-that-was and decided he wanted to return to the stars.

Receiving official permanent command of the Enterprise does not actually mean that they can do anything with it, of course, considering the amount of damage it sustained and the personnel issues Starfleet is currently working through, but it gives Jim something to hold on to as the ground seems to shift and twist like Vulcan-that-was every time he goes to a funeral, every time he walks through half-empty halls, every time he closes his eyes.

He requests the bridge crew he had, partly because they are all qualified, partly because they have shown a willingness to serve under him that more experienced bridge crew members may not, and partly because their primarily being young means that they will not be taking needed veterans away from other ships.

Too many were lost, and it will take Starfleet years if not decades to rebuild to the point it was at before. Nearly half of the entire Academy was lost, as well as many of the instructors and researchers. The loss of Vulcan--a source of much-needed technological advances and scientific research, if not people--and the need for the remaining Vulcans to focus their efforts on their own rebuilding is only compounding the problem.

--

Amanda Grayson finds him just after Gaila’s funeral, when he’s somehow both raw and numb, like somebody cut off his skin and then gave him almost enough morphine.

They end up at a coffee shop that’s relatively out of the way, which is good because they’re both somewhat of minor celebrities at the moment, and after a few sips of his very large coffee, Jim blurts out, “You were always my idol, you know.”

T'sai Amanda starts, even though she had been staring at him, then says, “Forgive me, but I had expected you to speak in Standard.”

Jim switches to Standard to say, “I am equally comfortable in this language, should you prefer it.”

She shakes her head, answering in Vuhlkansu, “No need. I am simply used to being the only Terran capable of speaking Vulcan with any degree of proficiency.” She smiles slightly, more a twitch of the corner of her slips than anything else. It’s how he smiles when he’s alone with Spock, or with other Vulcan leaders he know will forgive him for his emotionalism but don’t want to see it nonetheless. “Your idol?”

Jim nods. “For living on Vulcan without any apparent difficulty. You always made it look so easy in the vids.”

That she laughs outright at. “As you know, living on Vulcan was anything but easy. Unlike you must have been, I was forgiven somewhat for my emotionalism, but the climate was brutal. I survived primarily on tri-ox and spending my life indoors.”

So how Jim had survived, basically, though he had spent far too much time outdoors, trying to build up a resistance that only vaguely ever came.

Not that it matters now, he supposes. What a strange thought, that the VSA is gone.

As though she could read his thoughts, T'sai Amanda says, “While the primary reason I sought you out was to thank you for saving my life, I must confess to an ulterior motive. As you may know, my husband is on the board of the Vulcan Science Academy, and he wishes to extend an invitation for you to return to aid in setting up the new VSA. They thought you might respond better to another Terran asking.”

Jim opens his mouth, realizes he has no idea what to say, and closes it again. He had been a perfectly adequate member of the VSA, proficient enough, but not so much so that they would want to dedicate resources—much less T'sai Amanda’s time—to him returning. “Why?” he asks finally.

T'sai Amanda takes a sip of her tea, her head tilting forward so her face is in the shadow of her headscarf. “Much of the Academy was lost,” she says finally. “The research still exists, but we lost so many teachers and researchers. Less than ten percent of the Academy was able to evacuate, as it was near the initial point of impact. Much more of the next generation was saved, as they were the first ones evacuated, but now we have thousands of Vulcan children crippled by their own emotions, and the reverberating emotions of all those around them.”

Jim swallows, closing his hands around his coffee shop. He feels cold. “Wouldn’t they not want…me, then? If too many emotions are the problem, shouldn’t Vulcans be the solution?”

T'sai Amanda smiles. “Vulcans are good at a lot of things, but emotions aren’t one of them. Frankly, the elders are floundering, and just saying ‘control yourself’ isn’t working. You understand how Vulcan society works, and you know how to control yourself, but you won’t lose yourself in the minutiae of Vulcan tradition.”

Jim touches a hand to his forehead, just a few light fingers; he wants to press at his temples and pinch the bridge of his nose, but he has better control than that. “I am honored to be offered the position,” he begins.

“Before you refuse,” T'sai Amanda says, “I would ask that you take some time and consider. I understand that there is some time between now and when you would be deployed, and there will be a number of transports between Earth and Vulcan-to-be. If nothing else, it would be much appreciated for you to visit the Vulcan-to-be schools at least once.”

“I cannot commit to doing that,” Jim says, “as where I go is determined by Starfleet. However, I will inquire as to whether I can be on one of the transports to help setting up Vulcan-to-be.”

“Thank you. And thank you from my husband and myself for saving my life. After examining the data, it seems likely that I would not have survived should I have separated from the rest of you.”

Jim ducks his head, taking a drink of now-lukewarm coffee to hide the burning in his face. “Should you have died,” he says, then swallows and tries again stronger. “Should you have died, I would have failed. There is no need to thank me for doing my job.”

“And yet I am grateful nonetheless.” She reaches out and touches his hand, the move so startling that he nearly falls out of his chair. She’s not Vulcan, neither of them are, but given how long she’s lived there, casual touch shouldn’t be her default. “Thank you for protecting my son, as well. He is...unlikely to thank you, unless Starfleet has changed him more than I am am aware, so I will thank you for him, and for myself. Thank you for keeping my son alive.”

Chapter Text

Jim still dreams of Tarsus IV. Rarely, but he has never managed to excise the dreams entirely. So when, on the ship to Vulcan-that-will-be, he dreams of Tom slumped over his body, their ribs digging into each other, breath fetid and smelling of rot, he is not surprised.

He has dreamed of Tarsus IV enough to know that it is a dream; this never happened. Tom lived. Jim almost killed some Vulcans to save him, but he lived, and is a xenoagriculturalist now, working on fungus-resistant crops, and he didn’t die starving and sacrificing himself for Jim.

Tom didn’t.

This is a dream, Jim knows, but the white wisps of fungus like snow (Jim can’t stand the snow, lived on a planet where only the highest peaks get snow, a planet that is gone now, and he is on Tarsus-Vulkhansu-an Iowa shipyard) is thick in the air, and Jim can feel the rocky ground beneath him and Tom’s body above him, and he wakes screaming.

A face looms over him, and he lashes out at Kodos-Frank-Jim has never unleared fear.

The hand that catches his wrist is gentle, though, holding him carefully, and he is abruptly furious, angry at whoever would treat him with such gentleness, as though he is a child, breakable. He starts to fight, struggling against their grip, wanting to hurt them, to hurt , but they just pin him down, pressing their weight down on him until he can’t move.

Vulcan, he realizes suddenly, going still.

They don’t let him go, though, despite the fact that he couldn’t put up a shield right now to save his life. He feels flayed open, raw, like somebody pulled his skin off strip by strip and left his nerves exposed.

“Peace,” they say. “Peace, Captain. I am not here to hurt you.”

Jim presses his eyes shut, then opens them again, and this time they focus on the face above his, expressionless, cool. Spock. “You can let me go, now.”

Spock releases him immediately, the sensation not like he wants to get away from Jim but like he is simply acquiescing promptly to Jim’s wishes. Amazing, how he manages that. His weight disappears from Jim’s limbs, and he straightens, giving Jim room to sit up.

“Sorry,” Jim mutters, shoving a hand through his sweat-caked hair. “Didn’t mean to wake you up.” They are sharing quarters for the trip; Jim is the only human on the trip, and though nobody said it, they put him with Spock because they think Spock is the only one who can deal with him.

“No apologies are necessary,” Spock says, hands behind his back in the Vulcan version of at-ease. “I was not asleep. You appeared distressed. Are you well?”

“I—” Jim swallows. He hasn’t had to explain the concepts of nightmares to Vulcans in years, and he’s pretty sure when he did it on the ship, his explanation consisted of ‘My dreams fucking suck, leave me the fuck alone,’ which probably won’t work with Spock.

“You need not share personal information if you do not feel comfortable doing so,” Spock says, looking like he could stand there forever. He probably could.

“No, I—” Jim sighs. “Could you just sit? Humans don’t like it when people loom over them, generally.”

Spock sits on his own bed, only a few steps away, saying, “I appreciate the additional information on human socialization.”

“Right.” Jim knows why he had the Tarsus IV dream, has known since the loss of his third home that he would dream of the fall of his second, and so he always knows that this probably won’t be the last nightmare he has. “I know Vulcans don’t dream, generally. Has anyone ever explained nightmares to you?”

Spock is unexpectedly silent, then after a pause says, “My mother had nightmares, on occasion, generally when my father was on diplomatic missions. Perhaps she still does. I am unsure.” He looks discomfited by the confession.

Honestly, it makes Jim uncomfortable, too, thinking of T’Sai Amanda having nightmares. But he’s not going to go down that route, particularly not right now, while he still feels like his skin has been scrubbed raw. “There are a lot of reasons why humans have nightmares, but one of them is prior trauma.”

“You were dreaming about the destruction of Vulcan-that-was?” Spock asks.

Jim has dreamed about that, about a red planet imploding in on itself, Jim watching helplessly from above, reaching out but unable to save what he loves. “Not this time.” He swallows, his throat clicking dryly. “I was dreaming of Tarsus IV.”

Spock stares at him. He surprised a Vulcan about something that isn’t human emotion. Will wonders never cease. “You are not a listed Tarsus IV survivor,” Spock says finally.

Jim kind of wants to curl up and close his eyes until he’s supposed to get up, but he’s started this conversation, and he’s not going to get out of it now. “You read my personnel file, right? After the Kobayashi Maru ?”

“Yes, Captain. You graduated from the Vulcan Science Academy prior to entrance in to Starfleet Academy.”

“And before that?”

Spock frowns. “There are a number of published articles listed, but no other information is provided prior to that. However, that is common for personnel files; unless information is necessary for actions to be taken, it is sealed from public access for privacy purposes. However, a notation should have been left regarding your being a Tarsus IV survivor, as there is a notation regarding your being considered part of the Kelvin last-run population.”

“The fact that I’m a Tarsus IV survivor isn’t in my personnel file because I never went through Starfleet intake. Rather, I remained on the first response ship, the Vulcan research vessel T’Nar , until my entrance into the Vulcan Science Academy. The publications that you saw, they’re all associated with my name and file now, but when I originally published the first three, they were done under another name. Kevin T’Nar.”

Spock stares at him. “You are Kevin T’Nar.”

“Yeah.” Jim looks down at his hands. Rough, scarred, with a cigarette burn scar just at the edge of his wrist. “Anyway, that’s what I was dreaming about. And I’ll probably do it again before we arrive, so just wake me up or throw something at me or whatever if I start screaming.”

“That does not seem conducive to sleep,” Spock says.

Jim has the abrupt, almost painful thought of how much he’s missed Vulcans. That’s such a fucking Vulcan thing to say, and he wants to cry at his loss, the loss of all of them. Instead, he says, “It’s not something humans can control, Spock, believe me.”

--

Jim approaches Starfleet Command the day after T’Sai Amanda approaches him regarding the Vulcan Science Academy.

He expects a fight of some sort, arguments that he must complete his time at the Academy or receive additional Command training before being adequately prepared to captain a vessel for any extended period of time, but instead Admiral Bartlett stares at him for 1.34 minutes before saying, “I have to say, I’m surprised the Vulcans want a human to help with their kids. It’s been made pretty clear they’re suffering our help only because they need it, not because they particularly want it.”

“I am a graduate of the Vulcan Science Academy, and prior to that briefly resided with a contingent of Vulcan researchers,” Jim says stiffly. “As such, I am viewed as somewhat less of a outworlder.”

To his surprise, Admiral Bartlett bursts into laughter, saying, “You’re the Vulcan Science Academy grad? The science faculty practically came to blows over who would get to work with you, and you went for Command track of all things.” He waves a hand. “Your ship is grounded for at least a couple months to repair the damage from the battle, and I looked at your Academy file; it looks like you’re only still at the Academy because you want to be. You want to go help the Vulcans, feel free.”

--

T’Sai Amanda approaches him in the cafeteria the next day, standing behind the chair across from him with a tray in her hand. “May I join you?” she asks in Standard, adding, “I feel like speaking Standard without any looks of judgment.”

“Of course.” Jim would never deny T’Sai Amanda anything, he thinks; she has been his hero for so long, he will probably never be rid of that feeling.

T’Sai Amanda sits, setting the tray down in front of her. She has plomeek soup on it, same as him, and she picks up a spoon but doesn’t begin eating yet. Instead, she says, “Spock informed me that you have been having nightmares.”

Jim is torn between laughing and groaning, and instead manages to repress it down to a sigh. “Spock has no sense of discretion, does he?”

T’Sai Amanda smiles, eating a spoonful of soup to cover it. “He actually does,” she tells him, sounding amused. “When it comes to emotions, however, I’m afraid he believes that I can fix all problems. A concept I must admit flatters me enough that I never particularly discouraged it. We need not talk about your nightmares if you do not wish to, though I am open to speaking about it if you would like.”

Jim doesn’t want to talk about it, or so he thinks, but when he opens his mouth he finds himself saying, “I have lost two of my homes, and perhaps I had no claim to either of them, but I sweated and bled for both, and yet both are gone, their inhabitants dead.”

“Two?” she asks gently, eating her soup in easy, even sips as though what they are speaking of is of no concern. Jim appreciates it. He doesn’t think he could talk about this, otherwise.

He’s not sure he can talk about it, period. But he forces himself to swallow and say, “I am a graduate of the Vulcan Science Academy, as you are aware. Prior to that, prior to my residing on the research vessel T’Nar , I was on Tarsus IV.” He swallows a gulp of lukewarm plomeek soup. “Before entering Starfleet Academy, I had not set foot on Terran soil since I was twelve years old.”

T’Sai Amanda’s hand presses to her mouth, her head ducking so that her headscarf shades her face. From across the room, Kevet-dutar Sarek’s head lifts, his eyes focusing on the two of them. He stands, walking over to stand next to T’Sai Amanda; his impassive gaze fixes on Jim. “You are distressed,” he says in Vulkhansu, and despite the fact that his eyes never leave Jim’s face, it’s clear it’s talking to his wife.

“I am often distressed,” T’Sai Amanda replies in the same language. “We lost our home.”

“You are particularly distressed.”

T’Sai Amanda sends Kevet-dutar Sarek an indulgent look. “Captain Kirk shared some personal information with me, information that made me upset for him. Information that is of no concern to you.”

Kevet-dutar Sarek’s fingers brush the edge of hers, a gesture that would have looked accidental if it weren’t for the meaning it held for Vulcans. “All information that concerns you concerns me, adun’a.”

“I mentioned my having been on Tarsus IV,” Jim says, unwilling to let this continue.

Kevet-dutar stares at him for a minute, then says, “You are the discrepancy between the Starfleet public Tarsus IV survivor list and the Vulcan Public Communications Log list.”

Jim rubs at his eyebrow, where his head is starting to prickle with a headache. “Do all Vulcans know the Tarsus IV survivor list?”

“It is part of the current Vulcan educational curriculum. Additionally, as Vulcan ambassador to Terra, and due to the high proportion of Terran citizens on Tarsus IV, I familiarized myself with the Vulcan involvement in the incident. However, I erroneously did not connect you with the child raised on the T’Nar .”

“It’s not part of Starfleet’s records,” Jim tells him, “so it’s not in my personnel file. My Starfleet one, at least.” He sees Spock enter the cafeteria from a door across the room and, catching his eye, gestures him over. He doesn’t know how often Spock actually gets to interact with his parents, but it can’t be much, even now, given how busy they all are.

Spock approaches, walking over to stand behind the seat next to Jim’s, across from the kevet-dutar’s. He nods to his parents. “Ko-mekh. Sa-mekh.” He glances at Jim. “Captain.”

“Commander. I was just getting to know your mother, who I think was about to start regaling me with stories of when you were illogical as a small child.”

Spock turns a betrayed look on his mother, who swallows a laugh to say, “Those stories will have to wait, I think. Perhaps next time, Captain.”

“Jim, please, T’sai Amanda.”

It looks like she winces. “Then you can call me something a little less formal, as well.”

That idea makes Jim uncomfortable, so he suggests, “Lady Grayson?”

Definitely a wince this time.

“How about just Amanda,” she suggests. “After all, if I’m going to show you baby pictures, I’d like to think we should be at least somewhat friendly.”

“Amanda, then.” Jim glances at Kevet-dutar Sarek, who very pointedly does not offer the use of his own name, then looks back at T--Amanda. “I look forward to those baby pictures.”

Spock’s baleful look turns on him. “Captain. Such would be inappropriate, given our relative standings--”

“I’m sure you were a logically adorable child,” Jim reassures him. “And wouldn’t it be logical for me to be made aware of what Vulcan infants look like, in the name of science and cultural exchange?”

“I am a Vulcan-human hybrid,” Spock says stiffly. “While my physiology is nearly indistinguishable from that of a full Vulcan, it is not truly identical. Thus, using images of myself as a child would not accurately portray the appearance of true Vulcans.”

Jim restrains himself from rolling his eyes through years of training by Vulcans and also the knowledge that Amanda would probably not be able to keep from laughing aloud if he did it. Instead, he says, “First, Spock, you’re a real Vulcan, and fuck anybody--sorry, Amanda--who says otherwise. Second, if you are, as you are insinuating, unique, seeing images of you as a child would be even more logical, as no publicly-accessible image could provide me with the same information.”

Amanda smothers a smirk in the drapings of her headscarf, before saying, “There is nothing to forgive. I would say the same thing, if it weren’t impolitic for the wife of an ambassador.”

“It wasn’t what I was saying,” Jim explains, “just the language.”

“As I said,” Amanda replies, then eats another spoonful of soup.

--

Kevet-dutar Sarek kind of looks like he wants to fuck his wife right there, in the cafeteria.

Jim pretends not to notice.

--

Despite the logic of it, Jim is dubious about this plan for him to help a thousand Vulcan children cope with the loss of their planet, particularly given that he hasn’t slept a night without a dream about Tarsus IV since boarding the vessel to Vulcan-to-be, so clearly he never fully succeeded in the coping aspect there. The fact that every other Vulcan aside from Spock and possibly the Ambassador seem to be somewhat dubious of this plan as well does not encourage Jim to think well of it.

This lasts until the moment Jim steps off the vessel into oppressive dry heat, sees a crowd of dozens of Vulcan children staring at him, and thinks I will keep these children alive if it’s the last fucking thing I do .