Jimmy stands on his tiptoes, trying to peer out the window. The lights flash red and blue from the police cars and he wants to know what’s going on. He makes another break for the door, but Mama catches him by the waist and hefts him onto her hip.
“I don’t think so, mister,” she laughs, “You’re going to stay inside with Sam while I go outside and see what’s going on.”
She plops him down on the couch and ruffles his hair. Jimmy kicks his feet and scowls.
“Stay inside, Jimmy. Sam, sit on him if you have to.” Mama laughs and drops a kiss onto Sam’s head. As soon as she’s outside, Jimmy runs for the backdoor.
Sam tackles him onto the floor and he wiggles, trying to get away, “Noooooo! Let me go!”
Sam just laughs, pins him down and sits on his legs. “Tickle monster!”
“No! No, Sam, don’t!”
Sam’s fingers find Jimmy’s most ticklish places and Jimmy shrieks with laughter. Seconds later, Mama comes back inside. She takes one look at them and grins, “Tried to run for it, didn’t he?”
Sam looks up at her and grins broadly. Mama drops down to her knees, pulls Sam into a hug and then tugs Jimmy onto her lap, holding them both close to her. They both wrap their arms around her, Jimmy’s around her middle and Sam’s around her neck.
Eventually, Jimmy gets impatient and squirms. “Mama, Mama, what’s going on?”
“Nothing, Jimmy. A meteor, but they’ve already taken it away. Nothing special.”
Jimmy can tell she’s lying to him, the way she does when there’s something really neat going on and she doesn’t want Jimmy having fun.
He goes to bed when Mama says, doesn’t leave his bed like he wants to after she kisses his head. He just snuggles his stuffed cat closer and goes to sleep.
When he wakes up, Mama’s already gone to work. Mr. Pike watches them when Mama’s not home, and Jimmy likes Mr. Pike, but he doesn’t let Jimmy get away with anything. Jimmy bribes Sam with his cookies at snack time (which means Sam gets four and Jimmy doesn’t get any) and Sam distracts Mr. Pike with never-ending questions while Jimmy sneaks out the back door.
Their field is mostly ruined, a big long trench that leads to a deep crater. Jimmy walks along it, curious, and peers into the whole but he doesn’t see anything. He pouts and sits back, looks around at the broken corn stalks and smashed crop.
Jimmy finally sighs and kicks at the dirt, disappointed that there’s absolutely nothing fun at all to be found. He turns and heads back to the house, glancing over at the barn to see if the hands have taken out the tractor to feed the cows. He freezes.
There’s a boy, a little boy not much older than Jimmy, peering out at him. The boy’s eyes go wide and he darts inside and Jimmy runs for the barn.
It’s dark and dusty in the barn, smells heavily of hay and cow manure. There’s an oil spot on the ground, darkening the dirt floor, and tools hanging along one wall. Jimmy looks around, peers into the corners and behind a pile of hay bales, but the only thing he finds is Mrs. Speckles and her new litter of kittens. No little boys, though, which means he must be in the loft.
Jimmy doesn’t really like the loft; its real high and Jimmy fell over the edge once and broke his arm. He goes up sometimes, when Sam calls him a scaredy cat just to prove he’s not, but only when Sam’s with him because he knows Sam won’t let him fall again.
But Jimmy wants to know who the little boy is, so he sets his shoulders and climbs up the ladder, not pausing or looking down once. The boy is curled up in the corner, looking frightened. He’s naked and Jimmy giggles at it.
The boy doesn’t look like any of the other boys Jimmy’s seen. Not like him and Sam or Johnny down the road. The boy’s skin isn’t pink like Jimmy’s; it’s kind of green. His eyes are really, really big, like a cow’s eyes, and his ears are pointed. Jimmy grins in delight.
“You’re an elf! Do you work for Santa?”
The elf stares at him and then slowly shakes his head. “Rai.”
“Is that your name? My name is James Tiberius Kirk, but you can call me Jimmy.”
The elf shakes his head again.
“Rai,” his voice is stronger, less afraid, “My name is Spock. Rai means negative. And I am not an elf; I am a Vulcan.”
“What’s a Vulcan?” Jimmy asks, eyes wide.
“Jimmy!” Mr. Pike calls and he sounds close. Jimmy’s eyes go wide and he scrambles to peer over the edge of the loft as Mr. Pike steps into the barn. Jimmy looks over at Spock and presses a finger to his lips.
Mr. Pike would never let Jimmy keep a Vulcan! And Jimmy really wants to, even if he doesn’t know what a Vulcan is. He likes Spock and he found him and finders keepers!
“James! Are you in here?”
Mr. Pike sounds worried and Jimmy bites his lip. He doesn’t want Mr. Pike to worry. He’d call Mama and then she’d get scared, too. “Up here!” He calls out, “I’m playin’.”
“Get down from there!” Mr. Pike yells, “You know your mother doesn’t like you being up there. Remember what happened when you fell?”
Mr. Pike’s real tall, with long arms, and he helps Jimmy climb down the ladder. He tries to tell Spock with his eyes that he’ll be back, but he’s not sure if Spock got the message.
“What’d you find?” Sam asks the moment Mr. Pike marches Jimmy into the kitchen.
“I knew you were in on it,” Mr. Pike mutters, cuffing Sam upside the head.
“Nothing,” Jimmy exclaims, “Just a big hole.”
“Jimmy decided to go play in the loft,” Mr. Pike explains to Sam, “Which means he’s in trouble. Bedroom, mister.”
Jimmy pouts. “Mr. Pike –”
“But, I don’t wanna go to my room! It’s boring!”
“You have a roomful of toys, it can’t be that boring.”
“No adventures in my room.”
“Pretend you’ve been thrown in the brig by nasty aliens.”
“You’re a nasty alien!” Jimmy yells and sticks out his tongue.
“Bedroom, James Tiberius!”
Jimmy stomps up the stairs, bringing his foot down as hard as he can on each step.
“FINE!” Jimmy yells back, slams his bedroom door shut and falls onto his bed.
He grins up at the glowing stars stuck to his ceiling. He’s got a pet Vulcan!
Mama doesn’t get home until really late on Tuesdays, so Mr. Pike puts him and Sam to bed. When Mama gets home, she sneaks into Jimmy’s room, kisses his forehead, tells him she loves him, and then leaves. Jimmy cracks an eye open and climbs out of bed.
He finds his backpack and stuffs some clothes, a blanky, and his stuffed cat inside. He tiptoes downstairs and around Mr. Pike, who is asleep on the couch. He grabs food –a banana, a couple apples, bread, and a juice pouch –and then trudges outside to the barn.
He climbs up the ladder to the loft and narrows his eyes, staring into the darkness. “Spock?”
“Jimmy. You have returned.”
Spock crawls forward across the hay, pale skin shining in the darkness. Jimmy beams.
“I’ve brought you stuff,” Jimmy tugs his backpack open. “Clothes! So you don’t have to run around naked anymore.”
“Clothing would be appreciated,” Spock agrees, holding out a hand. Jimmy hands the wad of fabric over and then fusses with spreading a blanket out across the hay while Spock dresses. He lays out his fruit and bread and juice and smiles brightly when Spock sits down across from him.
“Are you hungry?”
“I could eat, yes. I do not consume meat, however.”
“Well, I didn’t bring any. Mama gets mad when I eat all the hotdogs and there’s none when she goes to make macaroni and cheese.”
Spock picks up an apple, raises it to his nose, and sniffs curiously. He bites into it and makes a humming noise, chews thoroughly before swallowing. “It is palatably appealing.”
Jimmy’s nose wrinkles. “Pala table?”
“Palatable,” Spock corrects. “Sufficiently agreeable in flavor to be eaten.”
“You talk funny,” Jimmy decides. “How old are you?”
“I am on Earth?”
“Then by your standards, I am seven years, one month, and twenty-seven days old.”
“Well, I’m five, and Mama says I’m too smart for my own good.” Jimmy giggles proudly at that, because Mama never says that about Sam. “You said you’re a Vulcan… but what’s that?”
“Vulcans are the beings native to the planet Vulcan. You would consider us humanoid, though our physiology is very different from humans. My blood is copper-based where as yours is iron-based. There are other differences, as well.”
“You’re an alien?”
“You would consider me one, yes. However, I am only half-Vulcan. My people were curious and came to Earth to study the human race. My father found his mate in a human woman, Amanda Grayson. Therefore, I am half-human.”
Jimmy’s nose wrinkles. “So, you’re a good alien?”
“Vulcans are a peaceful race.” Spock paused, “Or…were a peaceful race.”
Jimmy’s face falls. That’s how his Mama sounds when she talks about his daddy. “What happened?”
“A Romulan ship attacked our planet. They had a weapon…it destroyed Vulcan. My father was able to get me into a shuttle. I am the only survivor. The only Vulcan left.”
“What’s a Romulan? Are they bad aliens?”
Jimmy wraps his arms around his new friend without thought. “I’m sorry about your mommy and daddy, Spock, but I’m happy that I get you as my friend.”
Spock says nothing, tense in Jimmy’s arms, and reaches for the juice. He fumbles with it, frowning.
“Here,” Jimmy takes it, holding the straw in one hand. “Like this.” He sticks his tongue between his teeth and carefully pokes the pointed end of the straw into the pouch. A little bit of juice squirts up, surprising them both.
Jimmy giggles and then yawns.
“Humans require more sleep than Vulcans. You should go back to your bed.”
Jimmy straightens up stubbornly. “I don’t need to go to bed.”
Spock’s eyebrow twitches, the first change of expression the other boy has shown. Jimmy is fascinated. He pokes curiously at the eyebrow. It twitches even more, as does the corner of Spock’s mouth like the two are connected.
Spock picks up the other apple. “What is this called?”
“It’s an apple.”
“My mother spoke of apples. She often referred to something called ‘apple pie’ as her favorite food. It is illogical to prefer one form of nutrition over another, but she insisted.”
“Apple pie is good,” Jimmy assures him. “My brother Sam likes peach better, but I’m allergic. I’m allergic to lots of things. Mama makes me wear this,” Jimmy holds up one hand and his medical alert jingles. He yawns again and then scowls. Spock’s too exciting; he doesn’t want to go to bed.
“I am growing fatigued myself, Jimmy.”
Jimmy bites his lip briefly before giving in. “Okay. I brought you my cat. My daddy gave him to me to sleep with until he came home… But then he died. You can sleep with him, if you want. His name is George. That was my daddy’s name.”
Spock’s small hand curls slowly around George. “Thank you. While illogical, the gesture is appreciated.”
Jimmy smiles shyly back at Spock. “I’ll bring you breakfast after my mama goes to work, okay? Have good dreams.”
Spock raises a hand, fingers split in a salute, and nods his head at Jimmy, who beams back and starts down the ladder.
His mama’s waiting in the kitchen for him, arms crossed and eyebrows raised.
Jimmy sighs. Caught again.
Jimmy sneaks food out to Spock for three days before Mr. Pike catches him at it.
Jimmy’s sitting on the blanket with Spock, one of his picture books open before them, as he teaches Spock about Earth things, like puppies and kitties and monkeys. Spock likes dolphins. They make him say “fascinating” the most.
“James Kirk, you are still grounded.” Mr. Pike sticks his head over the top of the loft’s edge. “What do you think you’re doing –”
He stops talking, staring dumbly at Spock. Spock makes a sound and scurries backwards, away from Mr. Pike and into the shadows. Jimmy frowns and steps between them. He might like Mr. Pike but he wasn’t gonna let him scare his Vulcan!
“This is Spock and he’s mine and you can’t take him away.” Jimmy glares fiercely at Mr. Pike.
“Woah, woah,” Mr. Pike finishes climbing up the ladder and holds his hands palms out in surrender. “I’m not going to take him away.”
Jimmy wonders if this is like when Mama says she’s not going to make him eat his vegetables if he just comes down stairs to eat and then makes him do it anyway. He stares at Mr. Pike for another second, “Promise?”
“I swear, James.”
Jimmy nods, because Mama and Mr. Pike only call him James where they’re being serious or he’s in trouble, and turns to Spock. “It’s okay, Spock. He’s nice.”
“Hi, there,” Mr. Pike says softly. “Spock, is it? My name is Chris, but Jimmy here has to call me Mr. Pike because his mama is still trying to teach him manners. You can call me whichever one you would prefer.”
Spock doesn’t move closer but he doesn’t move further away, either. “It would be improper for me to refer to you by anything but your proper title, Mr. Pike.”
“Okay, then. Can you tell me where you’re from, Spock?”
Spock’s eyes flit to Jimmy and back. He shakes his head slowly. “I do not know if that would be logical. I am still unsure if you are trustworthy.”
“Can you tell me why you’re in the barn? Where are your parents?”
Jimmy crawls over to Spock and wraps both of his skinny little arms around him. He glares hotly at Mr. Pike for bringing such a subject up. Spock answers in a tiny little voice, “They are dead.”
Mr. Pike’s face falls, so that he looks sad and concerned. “Who’s taking care of you?”
Spock shakes his head a little, as if confused. “Jimmy is.”
“Spock, Jimmy’s five. He can’t take baths by himself.”
Jimmy’s eyes narrow. He can take care of Spock. He can. Spock is his to take care of and Mr. Pike promised he wasn’t going to take him away.
“You promised you wouldn’t take him away!” Jimmy yells accusingly.
“I’m not.” Mr. Pike rolls his eyes at Jimmy. “But I don’t want anyone thinking your mother kidnapped him, either.”
“I do not understand your line of thinking, Mr. Pike. Why would anyone assume that Jimmy’s mother kidnapped me?”
“Because you’re living in her barn, Spock. Even if you’re parents aren’t around anymore, someone is going to notice you’re missing.”
“No one will report me missing, Mr. Pike. I am not from around here.”
Jimmy giggles, unable to help it. Spock shoots him a look, eyebrow raised slightly in confusion at the sound.
“You shouldn’t stay out here,” Mr. Pike decides. “Come with me inside, both of you. It’s nearly October; it’ll be too cold to stay out here.”
Spock has been wrapped up tight in his blanket every morning. Jimmy frowns and looks closely at Spock, who does indeed look cold.
“Okay,” Jimmy decides. He immediately brightens. “He can share my bed!”
Mr. Pike’s smiles in amusement as he watches Jimmy gather up Spock’s things. Spock doesn’t move from the shadows, also watching Jimmy intently. Jimmy holsters his bag onto his back and looks around for his cat. Once he finds it, he hands George over to Spock with a bright grin. Spock nods his head in acceptance and pulls the cat closer.
“I shall follow you down, Jimmy.”
Mr. Pike climbs down the ladder first. He grabs Jimmy when he is halfway down and sets him down on the ground and then reaches up to help Spock down as well. He freezes halfway through the movement, eyes fixated on Spock’s pointed ears.
“What are you?” Mr. Pike gasps.
Jimmy glares. “He’s my Spock and you’re going to hurt his feelings.” He grabs Spock’s hand and tugs him towards the house. Spock stares at their hands with wide eyes, but doesn’t pull away. By the time Jimmy releases him to pull the back door open, the corners of Spock’s mouth have curled into the teeniest of smiles.
Inside, Sam is sitting at the kitchen table, swinging his feet and eating a peanut butter sandwich. Jimmy’s belly grumbles at the sight, and he can hear Spock’s echoing growl, louder and more insistent. Spock flushes at the sound, places one hand on his belly in confusion.
Jimmy pulls out a chair for Spock and then sits down between him and Sam. He sends a glare at his brother, who is staring openly at Spock, and yells for Mr. Pike. “Mr. Pike! We’re hungry.”
Mr. Pike arches his eyebrows at Jimmy, who huffs and rolls his eyes.
“Mr. Pike, may Spock and I please have some food?” He says, obediently parroting the way his mother wants him to, exchanging Sam’s name for Spock’s. Mr. Pike nods his head.
“Yes, you may. Spock, what would you like?”
“I do not consume meat,” Spock answers, while his keen eyes dart around the room, taking in every detail.
His eyes linger on the paper taped to the fridge, and Jimmy glances over at it, as well. Across the top in large letters it reads: JIMMY’S FOOD ALLERGIES written in Mama’s neat writing and beneath that is a long list complied over the years, written by both Jimmy’s mother’s hand and by Mr. Pike’s. Jimmy is always developing new allergies, unable to eat the foods he once loved. Jimmy sometimes fears that one day he’ll be allergic to everything and he’ll just slowly waste away.
“Tell me your allergies,” Spock requests suddenly, looking toward Jimmy.
Jimmy blinks. “Why?”
“I would like to know, so that I can alter my diet accordingly. Allergic reactions can be induced by something as small as the oil on my skin. I do not wish to harm you.” Spock states it clearly, seriously.
“Okay,” Jimmy accepts the answer easy enough and begins to list his allergies, in alphabetical order. Jimmy is allergic to citrus fruits, gelatin, dairy products, and any form of nut, as well as twenty-two other different kinds of foods and spices. After they finish foods, Spock makes him list the medicines he can’t take and the animals he can’t touch and every other allergy he has.
Mama tells him sometimes she’s gonna put him in a bubble. She says she wishes she could send him into space, where there was no dust to make his eyes itch or pollen to make his throat swell or pet dander to make his skin break out in angry, itchy welts.
Jim thinks that if he went up into space, at least Sam could have the puppy he always wanted.
Mr. Pike makes them different things for lunch. Jimmy gets leftover macaroni and cheese with hot dogs, homemade by his Mama and safe for him to eat. Spock gets tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, the later he eats slowly with a little frown before he decides he likes it.
Mama comes home early and she startles when she sees Spock. Mr. Pike pulls her aside and they talk for a long time. Jimmy latches onto Spock’s hand and doesn’t release it until Mama walks back over to them. She kneels down, touches one of Spock’s ears, and looks at him for a long time before nodding.
“You can stay with us. I’ll keep you safe.”
Jimmy beams and hugs her around her middle, “Thank you! Come on, Spock, you can sleep in my room with me!”
They sleep that night curled up together, George the cat scrunched between their bodies. Beneath the blankets, Spock’s body radiates heat and makes Jimmy sweat but Spock shivers and curls closer. Jimmy gets an idea and pulls another blanket from the closet, the heavy winter quilt that doesn’t usually come out until November or December and spreads it across the bed. Jimmy can barely stand the heat underneath, but Spock stops shivering.
Mama’s got the next day off and she makes Sam and Jimmy clean out the storage room. Jimmy pouts; he doesn’t understand why Spock can’t stay with him. Spock sits on the rollaway bed and doesn’t move a muscle, exactly like Mama said.
Jimmy can hear Mama that night, tucking Spock in the same way she does Jimmy and Sam, even though Sam says he’s too big for it anymore. Jimmy’s bed feels cold and he clutches George closer than he has in years and feels scared and alone.
Spock appears in his doorway, eyes dark and intense. He shivers visibly, but doesn’t say anything. Jimmy pulls back the covers and Spock gratefully climbs in.
“Jimmy,” Spock breathes, breath hot against Jimmy’s ear. “My mother told me I found someone to trust, I must bond with them as not to lose them. Will you bond with me?”
Jimmy nods, not sure what he’s agreeing to but happy to do so because this is Spock. He likes Spock, likes that Spock is his and no one else’s. Jimmy found Spock and Jimmy gets to keep him, forever and ever.
Spock’s fingers are small and move clumsily across his face, looking and searching but Jimmy doesn’t know for what.
And then there’s a, a twist. Inside his head, something tugs and pulls and yet pushes, presses closer. He can feel him, feel Spock there, inside his head, closer than anyone has ever been, wrapping around him and encasing him and filling him, like a blanket, everywhere at once and almost smothering but not quite.
He can hear Spock’s voice in his head, but the words are jumbled, mixed with images he doesn’t understand and emotions that fill him up and choke him and he can’t handle it, can’t handle it at all.
He’s standing in a circle, surrounded by seven other children his age. Five of them are boys, but T’Pring stands next to her sister and watches silently. They boys jeer at him, their hollow voices pushing and pressing at Spock, taunting him about his mother and his human heritage. Anger and fury flood him, blood hot as it pounds in his ears, and he shoves it down, shoves it away where it’s safe, tries to fight back with logic as best he can. He is Vulcan, not human. He is Vulcan.
His father is away and Mother holds him close, lets him rest his head on her breast as she pets his hair and sings a soft Terran lullaby. She tells him about her home on days like this, when Father is away. She tells him about all the differences that appeal to his curious mind: the thicker atmosphere, the cooler temperatures, the feel of grass beneath her feet. She tells him of the foods and the places and the culture, teaches him the language. She keeps her hands on his bare skin and her mind open, lets him feel her love for him, the pride she feels that he is her son. It fills him, the love he feels for her, his mother, the ease of content he feels as he settles against her and lets her lull him to sleep with her soft humming. In this moment, he is truly happy.
He is trying to be brave, trying to be logical and calm, but his back is pressed against the cliff and the le-matya approaches, growing at him. His ears prickle, the sound of the beast’s claws dragging against the ground. Poisonous claws, he knows this from his studies. He must stay away from them, if he can. He must get away, must survive. It is the only way to prove that he was Vulcan, prove he was worthy of being the son of Sarek. But he is afraid, scared and alone. Logic tells him he will die here. He is afraid.
Mother’s hands are on his shoulders, her thumb cool where it presses against his neck, bleeds her love into his skin. His father stands next to him, tall and proud like any true Vulcan, and he steps away from his mother’s soothing hands. He stands tall and proud next to Father, face cool as he is introduced to T’Pring. She will be yours, Spock. Your wife and bond mate, when the time comes upon you, Father tells him. He nods in acceptance.
He stands next to Father and watches in confusion as Sybok is told to leave. Sybok is his brother, the son of his father. He did not understand why Father sent him away. Sybok is angry, shows his anger. Shows the emotion. Father tells him to leave and Mother jerks him back against her as Sybok lashes out. He doesn’t understand; physical violence is not logical. It is an emotional response, a human response expected of him, but Sybok was Vulcan, not hybrid. He does not understand at all.
Mother has him by the hand, dragging him quickly along. He must run to keep up, her legs so much longer than his own and her stride far quicker, human though she maybe. He cannot keep up and Father grabs him around the middle, picks him up from the ground and carries him to the pod. You must keep Vulcan alive in you, Spock, Father tells him. Mother presses her lips to his skin and his hand desperately to her temple, presses her fingers against his so that he finds the psi points more easily. He slips easily into her familiar mind, feels her love but there is fear there and grief and sadness. Father is still talking and he must listen to both Father’s voice and Mother’s emotions. There isn’t much time, he knows. Father is trying to teach him everything he must know at once, but it’s too much to take in and he can’t process the information quick enough, not while melded with Mother. When you find someone, she tells him, as if it’s the most important thing she ever could, When you find someone you can trust, someone you can love, bond with them and never let them go, Spock. Remember all that I have taught you about Earth, my son. My beloved son. Mother is pulled away and Father shuts the pod and he jerks as it rockets away from the planet. He presses his face to the window in time to see Vulcan implode, leaving nothing in its wake but one small pod with one small Vulcan.
Jimmy’s head aches, throbs and burns as Spock shoves more and more of himself into him.
Jimmy, Spock’s voice at last cuts through the static in his head. Parted from me, and never parted. Never, and always, touching and touched. I will always be with you.
Yes. That is what he wants. His lips fumbled with the words, stumbling over them, but he threw them into Spock’s mind with as much feeling as he could. Parted from me, and never parted. Never and always, touching and touched. I will always be with you.
Everything went blissfully quiet, just Jimmy and Spock, and they both slipped gratefully into the blissful darkness.