This is what Christopher Pike knows: Jim Kirk is his father’s splitting image, has his heart to, and is nothing but Winona in the head.
Too smart for his own good, and has too many ghosts smothering him for to make it on his own.
Jim Kirk will always defy whatever box you put him in.
Christopher Pike, from the Kelvin to Riverside, daring Jim Kirk to be better.
Christopher Pike meets George and Winona Kirk on the USS Kelvin. George is the first officer, and Winona is the Head Engineer, both of them impossibly young. Chris himself is an ensign, only just out of the academy, and George all but takes him under his wing. When Winona announces her first pregnancy a month later, she jokingly calls Chris their practice child. This is how it starts.
George Samuel Kirk is born, and once Winona is working again, never having left the ship, the only one she’ll trust with him for a good six months is Chris himself. Chris coins the moniker Sam, because if they’re going to treat him like the big brother they can bully into babysitting, than he’ll have the privilege of relieving the kid of the awful confusion of being a jr.
Three and a half years later, when Winona is pregnant once again, command has all but given up trying to get her and her children off a ship, and the Kelvin Crew couldn’t be more excited.
And then the lightning storm happens.
Chris is the one that gets Winona and Sam onto a shuttle. Because George is off being a hero, and its the least he can do to help. Then George dies, moments after James Tiberius Kirk is born. His eyes are electric blue. And Chris has a terrible, terrible, feeling that he chalks up to grief but turns out to be something more. Sam uses big brother privilege to term James T. Kirk as Jimmy.
But, as it always does, life happens. Time marches forward. The Earth continues to spin. And Chris can’t babysit Winona and the boys and Riverside forever. He holds her while she cries at the funeral. Holds Jimmy, because she can’t bear to look at him. But sooner than he’d like, he has to leave. Because Starfleet needs him to do his job. So, he gets on another ship. Eventually, Winona comes back too, though she stays away from any and every Kelvin survivor. Chris makes captain, and has Number One as his first officer. He keeps an eye on Riverside, on the Kirk’s hellions. Jimmy makes all sorts of fuss. Sam is calm and quite as can be, until he runs away. And then things start to go to hell.
Winona’s brother Frank sends Jimmy to Taurus IV, and Chris is on one of the first rescue ships when that call comes. Jimmy doesn’t know who he is. He wonders where exactly on the line he managed to fail George and Winona, and Jimmy worst of all.
Flash forward several years, the Enterprise is grounded to repairs, and if he requests Riverside to par homage to his mentor, no one up the chain of command questions him. As he checks on repairs, he checks on Jim, because he’s getting to old to be called Jimmy. And sees the bright eyed boy he knew, the one smart enough and brave enough to survive Kodos, wasting himself away.
And Chris comes up with an idea.
On paper, Christopher Pike is in Riverside because he is the will be would be captain of the starship enterprise currently being constructed there. He’s hitching a ride with the newbies in the morning.
The ship could have been anywhere- he still would have made it to Riverside. 22 years and he’s still staring down Jim Kirk.
Chris is in Riverside the night before the shuttle leaves for the next term of Starfleet Academy.
And he’s drinking in a cadet frequented bar, one he hadn’t been to since George Kirk had been alive.
He watches Jim Kirk drink, and flirt, and watches his charisma which is all George, but he knows the boy would hate the comparison. The tense set of his shoulders, the anger, the set of his frown, all are things learned from Winona, particularly, a largely absent Winona without George bringing out the best of her.
Its when he gets into a fight that he intervenes.
Jim ends of with a black eye, and a split lip, but he’s laughing as much as grimacing around the blood on his teeth. His mother’s son though and though if the adrenaline addiction is anything to go by.
Chris can’t stand to fail the second of George Kirk’s children. So, he dares the kid to do better. George was captain for five minutes, imagine what his boy could do. It comes out angrier than he intends, harsher too. But just as concerned as he is for Jimmy, he is angry with himself, with Winona, with the whole of Starfleet, for putting the weight of a legacy of a man Jim never knew on his shoulders and his alone. For seeing impossible lightning eyes first before seeing a boy. So, Christopher Pike dares James T. Kirk to be better, not than his father, but than his self. He doesn’t expect it to work, but he had to try.
The next morning, Jim just barely makes it onto the shuttle. Chris knows he’ll blow them all away.
Afterwards, he’ll sit and have a drink with Winona, like it’s a good 25 years earlier. When she was in engineering, he was on the bridge and only the first golden Kirk hellion had been born yet.
She’ll tell about that, in another life, she’d have been able to grow old with her husband, and raise two sons in the same end of the universe. In another life, her son Jim was a brown eyed steadier child, less ghosts following him, less pain weighing him down so young. In that other version, she gets gray hairs watching her youngest run full tilt to the stars before he can even walk right, to much like his father for his own good. In this version, her son has eyes like an impossible storm in space, and grifts about Iowa because he hates the stars with all his might and never much liked being compared to his dad either. This Jim had a shrewder head on his shoulders, becomes a hero far younger than the original- time will tell if he will be better or worse for it.