In another life, she thinks, her second son would have had his father’s brown eyes, her husband would have lived, and everything would have been right.
In this life, she is a widow, and she cannot look her son in his impossible blue eyes.
Winona Kirk, after the Kelvin disaster.
Winona meets George Kirk in Riverside, Iowa. This is where everything starts.
Winona is the one Riverside can’t contain, all manic energy, too smart for her own good. But George is the one with his head screwed on right, the one who thinks, Starfleet might just be the thing for them.
George is the one that reins her in when its time to follow the rules. Winona is the one who pulls them ahead, when its time to break them. They make a good team.
They get stationed on the USS Kelvin. George is the youngest first officer the fleet has seen in decades. Winona is the youngest, female, head of engineering, well, ever. When Winona gets pregnant, command tries to station them Earthside – they laugh in their faces. The Kirk’s will do as they please. Command resigns themselves, and assigns ensign Pike to essentially babysit them. Winona thinks they may have traumatized the kid, calling him their practice baby.
George Samuel Kirk is born on the Kelvin. Christopher Pike names calls him Sam, because two George’s would just be confusing. (Later, Winona would thank him, she doesn’t think she’d have been able to say George’s name, after…)
Then, the unthinkable.
8 months pregnant with their second kid. The Kelvin goes down.
Their son is named James Tiberius Kirk, he is born on a shuttle, and his eyes are the color of a lightning storm in space.
This is the beginning of the end.
They go back to Riverside, because where else is there to go.
They go to George’s parent’s old farmhouse, it’s the first time Sam has ever been there.
Winona tries, but it was George who knew how to play Happy Family, she doesn’t think she can do it alone.
Winona calls Frank – her brother – to the farmhouse, asks if he’ll take care of the boys. Because the fleet would love to have one of their best engineers back in the black. Engines, Winona can fix, its people, her kids, that she doesn’t know what to do with.
She leaves before Jimmy’s first birthday. She doesn’t want to be her for the anniversary.
She never had to be Winona-Without-George. She needs to figure it out before she can be a single mother. She thinks she’ll only screw them up worse by staying.
Sam understands, more than he should for five years old.
Jim screams to the high heavens, until his voice runs out. Winona thinks she can still hear him screaming when the shuttle takes off.
The first time she comes home, is six months later. Sam clings to her legs for a solid week. Jimmy, who is, according to Sam, a walking, talking terror, won’t say a word to her. Or acknowledge her in anyway.
He’s a year and a half old, he shouldn’t be able to hold a grudge, but she supposes she deserves it.
They develop a pattern. She leaves, she returns, Sam clings, Jim sulks, Starfleet makes a big to-do about the anniversary of George’s death, and everyone, including Jimmy, ignores his birthday.
When he’s five, an interviewer asks Jimmy if he wants to be a captain like his daddy one day. Jimmy looks her in the eye and says fiercely, “I hate Starfleet”. No one quite knows what to do with that. But they don’t ask Jimmy anymore questions either.
Once, they have her out in the black for over a year, the last few months of which, have no communications to family down on Earth.
When she returns, its to a Frank that’s passed out drunk, and a Jim whose sulking in the cornfields with a black eye. He doesn’t look at her, but does say “Sam ran away a few months ago, don’t bother going to look for him”. She wonders how no one could have told her her 12 year old ran away. Why her 8 year old seems for world-weary when he’s barely ever left Riverside.
A month later, Jimmy drives George’s old car off a cliff to get back at Frank for trying to sell it. She sends Frank away, because she won’t stand for anyone hurting her boys. But she thinks the damage has been done.
She sends Jimmy to Tarsus IV, she has some friends going, and wonders if it’ll do him any good.
She’s out of options when it comes to that boy, and thinks, he’ll just have to make do.
She wonders sometimes, if that lightning storm did something to him, broke him in someway other than the color of his eyes. It would explain a lot. Or, maybe, it broke her.
Either way, she thinks she’d have an easier time with him if his eyes were brown.
Jimmy survives the Tarsus IV massacre.
She’s never been more thankful for her son being exactly how he is.
(The fleet still can’t find Sam, she wonders how much of their shortcomings is her fault, because she certainly doesn’t get credit for any of their positive traits.)
Jimmy gets better.
Winona goes back to space.
The song remains the same.
Neither of them has ever known what to do with each other, that doesn’t change.
Jimmy is 10, but she leaves him alone in Riverside.
He can take care of himself, and really, it isn’t like he listens to her anyway.
This is what she knows about her son.
He goes joyriding and gets arrested a few times.
He skips school a lot.
He flirts with any sentient thing.
He hangs out at the shipyard, and likes to watch them build the newest flagship, the one that doesn’t yet have a name.
He’s also too smart for his own good (where has Winona heard that before).
At 12, he tests out of school, to get is diploma just so they’ll stop making him go.
He’s taught himself about 4 alien languages just by hounding cadets in the bar he keeps charming his way into.
He’s reprogramed the replicator – to bypass nutrient guards and to acknowledge his allergies – of which there are many.
She has one smart kid.
she’s certain none of the credit and all of the blame falls on her.
When he’s 15, she more or less stops coming home all together.
Winona knows how to fix engines, she doesn’t know how to fix her son.
Case in point, he gets into a bar fight at 20, in a cadet bar no less.
It isn’t his first fight, or first broken nose (inflicted or received), but its the first time anyone thinks to call her.
Because Christopher Pike, a boy she one called her practice child two and a half decades ago, is now a captain, and has decided he wants Jimmy to join Starfleet Academy. She laughs in his face and wishes him good luck with that. If there is one thing she knows about her son, its that, getting him into the black will involve grievous bodily harm and tranquilizers.
A week later, he emails her his course schedule. He’s tested out of most first year and several second year courses. The message at the bottom reads “he’ll do it in three”.
James T. Kirk makes captain in the only way he ever would in this universe.
For sneaking onto a ship, mutinying, and saving Earth doesn’t its impossibility by even a Vulcan’s standards.
Winona has a drink with Pike, and thinks, Jimmy will be alright.