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One

 

Frank’s jaw crunches when her fist sinks into it, and through the haze of red and fire and pure, unadulterated fury, she feels satisfaction course through her veins better than any drug.

Let it be known that Winona Kirk has the meanest right hook in the ‘Fleet, and she isn’t afraid to use it.

Especially when it comes to protecting her son.

She’d booked an early shuttle back to Iowa, intending to surprise Jimmy for his tenth birthday, but instead when she walked into the house she found her son sprawled on the kitchen floor, blue eyes hard as diamonds as he pressed a hand to his already rapidly-swelling cheek. And over him stood her boyfriend, hand still raised.

Well. She only had one response for that.

Frank picks himself up from the floor, eyes wide and slightly wild as he stares at her. Red stains his teeth and drips down his jaw. Winona clenches her fist, ignoring the pain that flashes from clearly bruised knuckles. It’s worth it.

“Get out,” she hisses. Her fingers itch for her phaser; she’s glad she left it on the ship.

Frank spits blood, a Pollock splatter on the floor. “You don’t get it,” he protests, the words garbled around broken teeth. “The little bastard drove my car off a cliff!”

He jabs his finger at Jim as he speaks. Jim flinches like he can’t help it. Winona feels the anger rise again, terrible, like a gathering thunderstorm.

“Get out,” she repeats, “or God help me, I’ll get my husband’s shotgun off the wall and blow your fucking head off right now.”

Frank goes. Winona remains in the kitchen and takes several deep breaths. She can’t believe she let that asshole into her house, much less anywhere near her son. She won’t make that mistake again. Jim deserves more than that.

Her son slowly gets to his feet, and when he looks at her, Winona knows she needs to get a leash on this terrible thing inside her. Jim’s eyes are still hard and unreadable, but the way he holds himself, shoulders set with a slight bend at the knees, shows he’s ready to bolt the instant she does something he doesn’t like. He’s never been afraid of her before.

She closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, and counts to ten before letting it out. She wills her anger out with it, packing the warrior and the Starfleet officer neatly back into their boxes so she can find the mother within her again, the mother that Jimmy needs right now.

When she opens her eyes, Jim seems more relaxed. His voice, when he speaks, is still careful though. “Frank’s right,” he says. “About the car.”

She nods and tries on a smile. “I’m sure you had your reasons.”

They watch each other for a moment, the entire house silent save for the creaking of the old window shutters upstairs. Then, at last, Jim’s face crumples a little. The diamonds in his eyes shatter and he bites his lip. “I’m sorry, Mom,” he whispers.

She moves without thinking, gathers her son close and kisses the top of his head as he trembles. Jesus, he’s barely up to her chest, still so very young, and Winona wants nothing more than to tuck him away in their little farmhouse, to wrap him up in love and protection and never let him out because then he’ll be safe, he’ll be hers, her precious, beautiful baby.

But she won’t do that, because even though he’s only nine she already knows James T. Kirk is destined for great things. She sees it in him: the leader, the great man he will become, and even though she would gladly take on the entire Klingon Empire to protect her son, she won’t ever hold him back.

So she strokes his hair—soft and golden blond, just like her own—and whispers, “Which car was it?”

He sniffles into her shirt. “The red one.”

Winona spares a moment for a brief pang of regret. She remembers all the afternoons she spent in the garage tinkering with that car behind Frank’s back. How the custom leather steering wheel had felt so smooth and right beneath her fingers. The antique Z-28 engine she’d secretly spent half a month’s salary on just so she could hear it purr when she keyed the ignition.

She tightens her hold on Jim. “Good. I hated that damned thing.”

 

Two

 

Winona has made roughly a million phone calls, called in every favor she has and pulled strings she didn’t even know existed in order to get Jim on the waitlist for Dr. Pimirkus. Even then, they had to wait three more months before an appointment became available. So when Jim reemerges from the examination room less than five minutes after he first went in, she doesn’t know what to think.

“You’re done already?” she asks.

Her son shrugs. The movement shifts his shirt so that she gets a glimpse of collarbone, stark beneath his too-pale skin.

“He gave me this,” Jim says, and hands her a little square piece of paper.

Winona takes one look at the scrawl, and the rage blindsides her. Bripormazine, 350 mg daily.

“Jim,” she says, very slowly so that she can keep the anger beneath the surface of her skin, boiling and bubbling like poison. “Go wait for me in the car.”

He goes without a word, which makes her even angrier. He hasn’t snarked at her in months, hasn’t laughed or made jokes or snuck a cigarette in the barn because he thought she didn’t know about his stash in the dresser. She misses Jim’s cocky smile, his dancing eyes and the fire that made him a Kirk above all else. Dr. Pimirkus was supposed to give her her son back.

Crumpling the script in her fist, she stalks down the hallway toward the examination room door, which slides open just as she approaches, admitting Dr. Pimirkus with a clipboard. He glances up at her briefly with vague disinterest. “Oh. Commander Kirk.”

She plants herself in the hallway between him and the rest of the office and looks straight into his eyes. She’s not sure what he sees, but it’s enough to make him shrink back a little as she demands, “What did you ask him?”

Dr. Pimirkus clears his throat. “Commander, I hardly think—”

“Did you even ask him anything?” She sneers. “His name, maybe? His age?”

The doctor attempts to draw himself up to his full height, which just brings him to Winona’s eye level. “I assure you that Bripormazine has been clinically proven to be effective in reducing symptoms of posttraumatic—”

You shut your fucking mouth.

The click of Dr. Pimirkus’s teeth coming together is audible. Winona steps forward and has the satisfaction of seeing the doctor take an immediate step back.

When she speaks, it’s a miracle her voice remains steady. “You are going to give me a referral to a therapist,” she says. “A good one, one who isn’t you. And then you’re going to get your sorry ass back to med school so you can figure out the difference between turning a profit and helping people, or I will come back here and put my boot so far up your ass you’ll taste the fucking leather. Are we clear?”

The doctor swallows. “Yes, Commander,” he squeaks, and hurries to obey.

Three sessions with Dr. Patel later, Jim slides into the passenger seat of the car and smiles for the first time since he stepped off that shuttle from Tarsus six months ago. It catches Winona off-guard, she’s missed it so, and she’s sure her own smile could split her face as she starts the ignition and asks, “So what do you want for dinner?”

“Anything’s good.”

As she pulls out of the parking lot, Winona reaches across the seat with her free hand to ruffle her son’s hair exactly in that way he hates, laughing at his indignant squawk. Then she allows herself a brief, savage hope that Dr. Pimirkus has taken an entire bottle of his fucking Bripormazine and choked to death on his own vomit.

 

Three

 

Jim’s eyes widen when she steps into Engineering, but in the next instant his face melts into a grin so blinding it’s a wonder she’s able to see anything. “Holy shit—Mom!

She welcomes his embrace, laughing into his shoulder. “Surprise.” When they pull back from each other, she reaches out to straighten his collar and thinks she must look ridiculous, her smile is so big. “Look at you, a big bad Starfleet captain.”

Jim ducks his head at that, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly, the way he did when he’d been sixteen and come home late to tell her he’d finally scored with Becky Wrightman. “Oh, come on, Mom, that’s old news by now.”

He’s right: the incident with Nero was almost a year ago. Winona had wanted so badly to be present at the ceremony where they gave her son the Enterprise, the pride swelling up inside her until she thought she might burst with it. But the Nottingham still had another ten months in the Laurentian system, so this is the first time she is seeing her son in person since his promotion.

Jim abruptly straightens as if he just remembered something. “Oh, right, let me make introductions. This is Scotty, my Chief of Engineering, and Commander Spock, my First Officer. Guys, meet my mom.”

“A pleasure, ma’am,” says Scotty as he shakes her hand. His accent is so thick Winona almost doesn’t understand him at first.

“I have heard many positive things about you from the captain, Commander Kirk,” Spock answers, perfectly level, and Winona suppresses a grin. In the past year, she’s received exactly forty-seven transmissions (yes, she counted them) from Jim about his First Officer. Most of them have contained variations of He is the biggest fucking asshole in the universe, Jesus Christ, but recently she’s noticed a certain fondness underlying the exasperation, as if Jim is just keeping up appearances.

Looking at Spock now, the way his gaze almost involuntarily slides to her son over and over like iron filings to a magnet, she can see the feeling’s mutual.

She clears her throat and decides to try something. “I wasn’t aware the Enterprise’s First Officer was supposed to oversee repairs of her engines.”

“I am not,” Spock answers. “However, the captain has a rather peculiar preference for involving himself directly with said repairs, which has resulted in injury on at least one occasion. As his First, it is only logical that I be present to ensure the probability of an accident remains at a minimum.”

Jim rolls his eyes at that. “For God’s sake, Spock, it was one time,” he says, before turning to Winona. “A Myers coil. Ya know?”

“Ah.” They were damned finicky things; Winona herself had more than once had one spring out of her hands and almost gouge out an eye.

“Anyway, I guess I could have worse things stuck to my hip,” Jim says, shrugging. He turns back toward the warp core, clapping Spock companionably on the shoulder as he goes.

Spock raises an eyebrow, but otherwise does not react. Winona thinks of all the other Vulcans she’s met, the hissy fits they inevitably throw when touched without warning, and coughs to hide her grin. This is fucking gold.

 

Four

 

The diplomatic conference has been going on for three days, and Winona is bored out of her fucking mind.

It’s not that the Shar’a aren’t hospitable; in fact, she’s eaten so much good food in the past few days that she’s pretty sure she’ll have to be rolled back onto the Nottingham by the time the conference is over. They’re a friendly species, curious yet polite, with a warp theory so ingenious it could probably give her an orgasm, the equations are so awesome. Winona knows that they will be a great addition to the Federation. She just wishes she didn’t have to be present at the conference itself; she hates diplomacy.

At least Jim is here. The Enterprise and the Nottingham are just two of the more than ten ships that have shown up at this conference, Starfleet wanting to make it known just how much it values the contribution the Shar’a will make to the Federation. Winona hasn’t seen her son in at least a year, not since she stopped by when the Enterprise was parked on Earth for repairs, and she can see just how much Jim has grown into his captaincy. It shows in the way he holds himself, the way he speaks low and polite with the Shar’an representatives, the way he glances at Spock every now and then, seeking his First Officer’s input as the negotiations progress.

And Winona isn’t blind. She sees how the Vulcan looks at her son, how his eyes track Jim from one end of the room to the other, bright with attention and longing. She’s pretty sure Jim sees it too, but she knows her son, knows how hard he’s been trying to stick to the books, the respect he has for his First Officer, and underneath all that, the undercurrent of insecurity Winona has never been able to completely eradicate no matter how hard she tries.

For all his cocky bravado, Jim is never going to make the first move. Winona knows this, because she’s seen the smiles and warm looks Commander Sharp, the Nottingham’s First Officer, has been sending her way for the past few months. The attention makes something warm and hopeful tingle inside her, excitement and a shy longing she hasn’t felt since George, but she hasn’t said or done anything, and not just because Starfleet has about fifteen different regulations against fraternization between officers.

She and Jim are more alike than either of them like to admit.

But that doesn’t mean she’s going to let possibly the best thing that could ever happen to her son slip out of his grasp because he was too stubborn to pursue it himself.

She catches Spock at one of the side tables during a break in the negotiations and, as with every other time it’s had something to do with Jim, she doesn’t beat around the bush. “You need to do something about this, Spock.”

The Vulcan’s attempt at ignorance is so pathetic it almost makes her laugh. “I do not understand your meaning, Commander.”

“Oh, I think you do.” She nods at Jim. Her son is currently across the room, conversing with the Nottingham’s captain, Tom Bridgeton. Winona respects her captain, but she’s never liked him. Sometimes he gives her these looks when he thinks she isn’t watching, something dangerous and just this side of slimy and nothing like Commander Sharp at all. At least she can tell Jim doesn’t like him either, if the stiff set of his shoulders and the crease between his eyebrows that forms as they talk is any indication.

Shaking herself a bit, she turns back to Spock. “You don’t have to be afraid. Jim’ll give you anything you want, so long as you ask him first.”

“Vulcans do not feel fear.”

His attempt at redirection is cute, really. Winona smiles and pats his arm. “Trust me, Spock. I’m his mother. He’ll welcome you with open arms.”

Spock doesn’t answer for a long time, but Winona has an almost infinite well of patience—one must, having raised Jim Kirk—and she just waits. Finally, the Vulcan straightens a bit, seems to come to a decision, and nods. His eyes fall once again on Jim, and his voice softens. “Thank you, Commander. I will…consider your suggestion.”

“See that you do.” She pats him again, just because she can, before turning away. “And send me a fruit basket or something when it all works out. You owe me.”

Back on the Nottingham that night, she decides to stop being a hypocrite and comms Commander Sharp, asking him rather shyly if he would like to join her in her quarters for dinner and a holovid. He smiles, tells her to call him Jason, and says yes.

About a month later, she receives a fruit basket. The little card that comes with it is blank, but she still finds herself smiling so wide it actually hurts.

 

Five

 

The instant the white fades from her vision, revealing the transporter room of the Enterprise, Winona steps forward and says, as evenly as she can, “Where the fuck is my son?”

The ensign manning the console instantly springs to his feet and leads her to sickbay. As she trails his footsteps, she thinks over the transmission she received from Dr. McCoy not two days ago. Klingons kidnapping Jim on an away mission. The eight and a half hours of torture he endured before Spock and the rest of the crew finally rescued him. The self-induced coma they found him in, and have been unable to awaken him from for the past six days.

Jason, of course, had taken Winona’s side when she begged Bridgeton to divert the Nottingham so that she could beam aboard the Enterprise. Bridgeton at first would hear none of it, insisting that they had to stay en route with their own mission, but when the other members of the bridge crew started voicing their opinions, he’d finally backed down and approved a course change. Winona has never felt so grateful to her fellow crewmembers. They all saw her face when she first received McCoy’s message.

When they arrived within transporter range, Bridgeton told her to make it quick. Winona already knows he’ll make her pay for this, likely with double shifts and an order to scrub all the Jeffries tubes on Deck 4 with a toothbrush. She doesn’t care. She thinks he knows about her and Jason, if the not-so-subtle glares he’s been giving both of them is any indication, but as far as she’s concerned, Bridgeton can go fuck himself. She’s Chief of Engineering on an awesome ship, she’s got the love and attention of the best man in the universe, and right now the only thing keeping her from complete happiness is her son, lying pale and still on the biobed in the middle of sickbay.

They’ve covered most of him up with a sheet, but they shouldn’t have bothered. Winona knows physical injuries are nothing to Jim; despite the splints where the Klingons broke his fingers, and the fading bruises where they laid into him during their interrogation, she knows Jim will hardly notice the wounds when he wakes. He’s always been resilient that way.

It’s the readouts on the screen above his head, the brain waves dipping and holding in the red, that really worry her. Jim has never been still, or quiet. That, in and of itself, scares her the most.

McCoy steps forward first, voice low and strained. “His readings have been like that ever since we got him back,” he says. “I’ve tried everything in the book. Even Spock hasn’t been able to reach him.”

His words make Winona look at Spock for the first time, and she has to quickly suppress an urge to rush to him. Jim’s Fir—boyfr—husb—whatever the hell that fancy ceremony on New Vulcan six months ago made him—Spock looks like he should be laid out on a biobed himself: his skin is so pale it matches the sheet covering Jim’s body, and his eyes are sunken in his face, ringed by dark shadows. He’s holding Jim’s hand in a tight, bloodless grip, and Winona doesn’t have to look to know his fingers are trembling.

Taking a deep breath, she steps forward. “Have you tried a meld?”

Spock clears his throat. When he speaks, Winona bites her lip at the way the words shake, barely concealing the despair beneath. “Several times, Commander. It is as if he has built a complex mental fortress around his consciousness. I cannot find him.”

Winona nods and slowly rounds the side of Jim’s bed, reaching out to brush fingers through her son’s soft hair. He needs to shave, she thinks all of a sudden, nonsensically. He’ll give Spock stubble burn if he doesn’t.

Across the bed, Spock watches her, eyes bright and desperate. “If there is any insight you can offer,” he says, “it would be most appreciated.”

Winona swallows and looks down at her son’s face. She thinks long and hard: if Jim were a puzzle, how would she solve him? What would his tells be, his clues, his cracks she can worm her way into?

And then, like a blow to the head, it hits her. She straightens. “A Sykoran puzzlebox.”

Everyone blinks. “Ma’am?” McCoy asks.

But Winona is already standing, rounding the bed to put a hand on Spock’s shoulder. “It’s a wooden cube with interlocking pieces and pivots in the corners. I bought one for Jim when he was little to keep him busy for a while. He keeps it on the desk in his quarters.”

She can tell the instant Spock catches on to what she is talking about by the way his eyes light up, even though the rest of his face does not change. “Are you saying…?”

She nods. “Imagine his mind as a Sykoran puzzlebox. Then solve it the same way.”

Spock, to his credit, doesn’t hesitate. Winona keeps her hand on his shoulder—it’s thin, way too thin even for a Vulcan—as he leans forward, touches the tips of his fingers to Jim’s meld points, and closes his eyes. A minute passes, then another. Winona doesn’t move, concentrates on projecting calm and neutrality through her touch in case Spock needs it.

They wait like that for what seems an eternity. Then, all of a sudden, Spock lets out a breath, shoulder relaxing beneath Winona’s hand. On the monitor, Jim’s readings suddenly flutter before rushing into the green like children coming home.

For a moment, all they do is stare at the readings. Then McCoy gives this shaky laugh, reaching out to clutch the edge of the biobed as if he suddenly can’t support himself anymore. Spock lifts his hand from Jim’s face and takes a breath. When he turns to Winona, she thinks his eyes may be wet.

“Thank you,” he whispers.

But she just smiles and shakes her head. “No, thank you. For everything you’ve done for him.”

Jim doesn’t wake, but she leaves a few minutes later anyway. Later that night, as they lie side by side in bed, Jason asks her why she didn’t stay.

She reaches underneath the blankets, finds his hand, and intertwines their fingers. “I didn’t have to,” she answers. “Spock will take care of him better than I ever will.”

 

Six

 

Everything fell apart so fast.

She can barely even remember the last few days. Bridgeton following her into a conference room on the Nottingham, then not taking “no” for an answer, then grabbing her arm and throwing her into a wall so hard she saw stars. Jason running into the room with a shout, the sounds of a scuffle. Being brought up before Starfleet Command on charges of assaulting a superior officer. Bridgeton’s smug face as he’d recommended they both be dishonorably discharged, not just for the assault but for their blatant fraternization.

She hasn’t seen Jason since she left San Francisco, numb and barely able to put one foot in front of the other. He called once, told her he’s staying with his sister in London, told her he needs time, he can’t make a decision about them right now. It sounded so much like a goodbye that she hung up first.

Now she’s alone in their old farmhouse in Iowa, feeling for the first time weary and old. The house creaks around her, barely holding up on its foundations, and she almost smiles at the irony, how it feels just like her soul.

The only bright spot in this entire fiasco has been the news of Jim’s upcoming promotion. Youngest Admiral in the ‘Fleet, and the official ceremony will take place in San Francisco tomorrow. She wants to go, but knows she can’t. Bridgeton will be there, and she doesn’t trust herself not to kill him the instant she lays eyes on him.

Jim, at least, had understood. It’s okay, Mom, he’d said, during their last transmission. Hang in there. I love you.

The sound of a car pulling up outside startles her out of her thoughts. It’s almost two in the morning; who would come around at this hour? Maybe one of the Nottingham’s bridge crew, come to check on her. They all know what really happened between Jason, Bridgeton and herself—there are rumors of an official letter being drafted to Command—but it won’t be enough. Everything is ruined, and she has never felt so alone in her life.

Footsteps come up the front porch: two sets, and Winona sighs. It’s probably Lieutenant Cavell and his sister; they’d always been the ones closest to her and Jason on the Nottingham. Pulling on a sweatshirt—she hasn’t bothered changing out of her pajamas in days—she goes to the door and pulls it open, already preparing to tell them to go away.

Instead, she freezes, staring. For a moment, she can’t even comprehend what she’s seeing. “Jim…?”

Her son smiles. He’s in uniform, slightly rumpled from travel. “Hey, Mom.” Next to him, Spock inclines his head in greeting.

Winona can’t say anything at first. Jim is supposed to be in San Francisco right now, preparing for the ceremony tomorrow, rehearsing the speech he’s going to give in front of an audience of dozens of reporters and over two thousand Starfleet officers and cadets. He shouldn’t be here. He’s not supposed to…

But he is. And something inside Winona just breaks, shatters to a million pieces and she suddenly can’t see through the tears that blur her vision. Vaguely she’s aware of Jim stepping forward and wrapping her in a warm embrace, his voice a soft, comforting murmur even though she’s sobbing too hard to comprehend the words. And then they’re leading her into the house, helping her sit down on the old couch in the living room. Jim sits on one side of her and Spock on the other, a firm wall of protection and support, and Winona grasps both their hands tightly in her own, trying to convey how much she appreciates them coming here, how much she loves them both even though she’s too choked up to say it.

After a few more minutes, she finally gets enough of a hold on herself to accept the box of tissues Jim hands her, wiping at the wetness on her face. “God,” she whispers after a moment, and though a smile is hard right now, she still manages it. “I really needed that.”

Jim smiles too, gently stroking his thumb over the back of her hand. “I know.” He tilts his head, frowning a bit. “Mom, when was the last time you slept? Or ate anything?”

Winona hiccups, looking down at the coffee table. “I…don’t remember. You know how I get when I’m stressed.”

Jim nods and looks at Spock. The Vulcan rises without a word and moves into the kitchen. Jim scoots a little closer and squeezes her hand. “Mom. Why didn’t you tell them the truth about Bridgeton? About how he tried to sexually assault you?”

She winces at the memory, a brief flash of phantom pain zinging up her wrist from where she’d cracked it when Bridgeton threw her into the wall. She sniffs, and swallows back more tears. “It wouldn’t have mattered. Jason and I still would’ve been sacked on the fraternization charges.”

“It isn’t right.” Jim looks away; his expression is hard, but his grip on Winona’s hands remains gentle. “All of Starfleet Command knows about me and Spock, but they always look the other way. They shouldn’t have discharged you just ‘cause you and Jason aren’t their sparkling poster boys.”

“It is, indeed, a most illogical move given both you and Commander Sharp’s long and spotless records of service,” Spock adds, settling back down on the couch. He hands Winona a steaming mug of tea, and she nods at him in thanks.

“Bridgeton’s the one who should’ve been kicked out of Starfleet, not you,” Jim says.

Winona just shakes her head. She sips the tea and tries to calm herself with its warm, comforting taste. “It doesn’t matter now.”

They sit in silence for a few moments. Winona closes her eyes and focuses on the warmth of Jim and Spock beside her, concentrating on her son and his partner instead of Jason and Bridgeton, the Nottingham and Command and how her entire world has crumbled around her in the matter of only a few days.

When she opens her eyes, Jim and Spock are looking at each other. Their eyes are intense, and she has to blink and stare for a moment at the depths to their gazes, how they seem to be communicating volumes with each other without speaking a single word.

Then, so subtly she wouldn’t have caught it had she not been looking, Spock nods. Jim straightens his shoulders, takes a deep breath, and turns to her.

“We’ll stay here till you go to bed,” he says, “and then we’re heading to SF. The ceremony’s going to be on all the news stations tomorrow, so make sure you watch it, okay? I want you to see it.”

She nods; of course she’ll watch it, it’s the biggest step of her son’s life and she wouldn’t miss it for the world. She wonders why Jim would even bother to ask, but maybe he’s just worried. She’s barely been able to get herself out of bed each morning since arriving back at the farmhouse, after all.

They follow through on the promise, and stay until she finishes her tea and finally retires to her room. She hears the rumble of the car’s engine starting in the front yard, and allows herself a tiny smile as she curls up under the bedcovers. Her whole life may have gone to shit in the last week, but at least she’s kept Jim away from the fallout. She will always be grateful for that.

It turns out she forgot to set her alarm before bed, because when she finally eases her eyes open the next morning, bright sunlight is already spilling through the bedroom window. It’s past noon, and Jim’s promotion ceremony was supposed to be at 0800, Pacific Time.

She curses all the way down the stairs to the living room, flicking on the vidscreen and paging frantically through the channels. Oh God, she’s missed it. Her baby’s biggest moment, and she’s missed it

The reporter on screen looks like he’s about to have an aneurysm, speaking so fast Winona can barely catch the words. “—ames T. Kirk’s astonishing display at the Starfleet ceremony this morning…”

Winona blinks, staring at the screen as the reporter continues, “For those of you who are just joining us, Starfleet Command is in disarray this morning after newly promoted Admiral Kirk publicly announced his relationship with his First Officer, Commander Spock, at his promotion ceremony this morning in San Francisco. Kirk interrupted himself in the middle of his speech in order to make the pronouncement, before surprising the audience with a spectacle no one is likely to forget anytime soon.”

The feed switches to a recording of the ceremony, and Winona stares as her son, sharp and immaculate in his dress uniform, steps away from the podium, grabs Spock, and kisses him. Shouts of surprise—interspersed with applause and a few cheers—erupt from the crowd, and Winona finds her legs suddenly can’t support her anymore. She collapses onto the couch, continuing to stare at the screen as Jim pulls back from Spock, sliding a thumb over his partner’s bottom lip before approaching the podium again. Spock himself makes no expression; just returns to attention with the rest of the Enterprise’s bridge crew as if nothing happened.

At the podium, Jim starts speaking again. “Starfleet’s fraternization regs are out-of-date and pitifully ineffective. My First Officer and I have been involved for over three years, and I daresay our effectiveness as a command team has improved, rather than deteriorated, as a result. If Command wants to fire us for this, they can. But Starfleet was founded on principles of progressiveness and excellence, so I encourage my fellow Admirals to keep that in mind as we move forward.”

The feed cuts back to the reporter. “Rumors are already circulating that Starfleet Command has called an Admirals’ meeting in order to evaluate the merits of Kirk’s rather unorthodox argument. As of this time, neither Admiral Kirk nor Commander Spock have been disciplined in any way. Sources tell us Kirk’s announcement at the ceremony may have been motivated by a recent incident involving his mother, former Commander Winona Kirk, who was dishonorably discharged after—”

She turns the vidscreen off. The house falls silent. Winona presses a hand to her mouth and doesn’t recognize the sound that comes out: half-sob, half-laugh. Jim, she thinks. My stupid, unthinking, beautiful, wonderful Jim.

It takes her an hour of pacing back and forth in the living room before she finally mutters, “Fuck it,” and comms Jason. They talk for hours. Both of them cry, and at the end Jason says he loves her, he’ll always choose her, and that he’ll be coming to Iowa at the end of the week. With a ring.

Not half an hour after that, when she can barely breathe for her happiness, her personal padd beeps, indicating the arrival of a new message. It’s from Starfleet Command. They’ve taken Jim’s suggestions about the regs under advisement, and they’re offering her a job as First Officer of the Nottingham. Under newly-promoted Captain Jason Sharp.

Former captain Tom Bridgeton is apparently under investigation for fraud and attempted sexual assault. A letter signed by every member of the Nottingham’s crew is being considered as evidence.

Winona has about worn a hole through the living room rug when she finally hears the sound of a car approaching outside. She’s out the door and down the front steps in a flash, throwing herself at her son before he’s even fully gotten out of the vehicle. He bowls backward with a startled “Oof!” but she barely even hears him, burying her face in his shoulder and hardly able to speak through her tears. “Jim,” she whispers, and hopes he can hear everything she feels in the way she says his name. “Oh God, Jimmy.”

He must, because Jim just laughs, squeezing her tight. “I know, Mom.”

She holds him for a moment longer, thinks about the squalling infant the nurse placed in her arms that fateful day in the shuttle, the fiery little boy she raised never to believe in no-win scenarios, the strong, capable young man before her now who would change the course of the universe because he believes it is right.

She is a fucking awesome mom.

Jim pulls back with a chuckle at that, and she doesn’t realize she said that last part out loud until he grins at her and says, “Yeah, all things considered, you did pretty good.”

Winona can’t help but smile back, patting her son’s cheek. That’s when Spock comes around the car, dress uniform neatly pressed as always—they must have got on the first plane to Iowa after the ceremony—and Winona thinks, Fuck it (that’s been happening a lot today), and hugs him too. Spock doesn’t stiffen in surprise or push her away, and when Winona pulls back and looks at him, his eyes are nothing but soft.

“Thank you,” she says, remembering a day years ago when he’d pulled out of a mind meld, turned to her, and said the same thing. Spock just nods.

Up ahead, Jim stretches his arms behind his back to pop his spine before picking his bag up from where he’d dropped it when Winona first tackled him. “Well, I’m starving,” he says, heading toward the house. “You still cook, right, Mom? I swear I’ve been having wet dreams about your pot roast.”

Winona laughs and flaps her hand at him. Jim grins and walks up the front steps. Spock comes to stand beside her and offers her an arm, and when Winona takes it and smiles at him, he smiles right back, mouth curving upward and brown eyes dancing, and Winona has to stare for a moment and think, Jesus. Jim did that.

Together they walk into the house. Jim heads up the stairs, saying she’d better still have their old deck of cards because he’s finally going to beat her in poker, damnit, and Spock goes into the kitchen to make them all tea. Winona stands for a moment in the living room, watching Jim’s back as he disappears upstairs. She considers her son, the broad set of his shoulders, the unmistakable way that command pours from him like he was born for it. And in a way, he was—she made sure of that. James Kirk is her contribution to the universe, the greatest thing she ever did, and for the first time in her life, she allows herself the thought that she has done something completely, irrevocably right.

Winona Kirk has made a lot of mistakes in her life.

Jim isn’t one of them.