Chapter One: A Birthday
It wasn’t quite a coronation, but the birthday party of T’Mimya Winona Kirk, known to one and all as Mimi, was likely as close as Vafer-Tor would ever see, given that coronations were illogical.
“My God. It’s an invasion.” Half-laughing, half-exasperated, Jim Kirk stood, hands on hips in his usual commanding stance, looking around the garden of the home he’d shared for the past five years with his bondmate, Spock cha’Sarek, his daughter Mimi and a dozen cats (yes, they were responsible pet owners and had their cats fixed, but for some reason that defied both logic and veterinary science, the “fix” never took. Fortunately, Vafer-Tor was a cat-friendly planet, so over the years they’d managed to find homes for most of the kittens; the rest just became part of the clan).
There were children everywhere—in the giant sand pile, in the wading pool, under the double row of palm trees Spock had had shipped at outrageous expense from Earth in order to provide shade for his Terran spouse and half-Terran child. There were children in the house watching Bugs Bunny cartoons on the giant vid-screen. There were children eating cookies and ice cream, and the occasional solemn Vulcan child munching on a spear of t’kelvea (nasty-ass Vulcan broccoli, as Jim called it).
The children were all Vulcan, but “Vulcan” no longer carried the same meaning it had some fourteen years before. After the destruction of the planet itself and the annihilation of nearly 85% of its population, this planet had been settled by the grieving, shell-shocked survivors. There weren’t enough minds or hands to do everything that needed to be done to build a new world, so the Vulcans had instituted a very generous immigration plan for those who wished to join the colony (subject to a thorough screening process, of course; Vulcans weren’t stupid, and they knew that many criminals were eager to find a new frontier world in which to hide). The call had been answered enthusiastically. Some people were looking for adventure, others for profit, and many genuinely wanted to do whatever they could to help a widely-admired Federation member population rebuild their lives as best they could. So colonists had flocked to Vafer-Tor, some bringing families and some meeting and bonding with Vulcan survivors. Under the planet’s new constitution, all were citizens. So while there were little Vulcan-Vulcans, there were also human-Vulcans, Andorian-Vulcans, Caitian-Vulcans—a veritable interstellar Coca Cola ad, all running and laughing and shrieking as children do when virtually all behavioral restraints are removed. Mimi was hugely popular, and it seemed like half the children in Shikahr had been invited and had accepted the invitation to Mimi’s party for her twelfth birthday.
Standing at Jim’s right shoulder was his bondmate, Spock cha-Sarek, formerly a commander in Starfleet, now a computer and environmental specialist for the governing council on Vafer-Tor. He raised an eyebrow and didn’t quite wince as a particularly piercing scream of joy floated across the lawn from where three Caitian kitlings were wrestling with S’Jenes, the neighbor’s sehlat, who had also been invited to the party.
“Ashaya,” Spock said in the resigned tones of one willing to suffer martyrdom for the sakes of those he loved, “I believe I suggested that in an effort to control the chaos, this year’s party should have fewer invitees. You and our daughter loudly and vehemently vetoed that suggestion.”
“Of course we did,” Jim replied with a grin. “What’s a party without some chaos? Besides, look how happy Mimi is.”
Spock’s eyes followed those of his mate to the group in the middle of the lawn, who were playing a wild game of freeze tag. In the middle of the group, as she so often was, stood Mimi.
Mimi had always been small for her age, until this past year. She’d embarked on a growth spurt that Jim had jokingly announced was likely to ruin the family’s clothing budget. For a time, it seemed like they did nothing every week but visit the stores in Shikahr’s market district, buying longer pants and skirts, larger shoes, and new tunics that actually covered Mimi’s navel. Jim had just measured her this morning as part of the annual birthday ritual, and discovered that she now stood five feet tall. She’ll probably end up taller than me, Jim thought as he watched her dash across the grass.
Mimi’s hair, which had been quite dark at birth, had lightened over the years to a rich chestnut/caramel/maple sugar shade that defied any color wheel ever created. The big blues eyes were the same, though, as were the pointed ears and high cheekbones she’d inherited from Spock. Her fair skin was an inheritance from Jim, but fortunately there was plenty of sunblock available on Vafer-Tor.
Mimi was in school, of course, but not in a particular grade. Vulcans did not believe in pigeonholing children based on their biological age, so for each subject, each student was in the appropriate class for his or her achievement level. Since Mimi was the child of not one but two geniuses, she was ahead of her age in nearly every subject except physics. Much to Spock’s hidden dismay, she was not currently studying that discipline.
“I do not have time right now, sa-mekh.” Mimi had carefully explained the situation to her father. “I wish to concentrate on my classes in Romulan, Klingon, astronomy, trigonometry, chemistry, Earth history, Vulcan history, Earth literature, Vulcan poetry, Old High Vulcan language, drawing, music…”
“Mimi, I agree your academic schedule is quite comprehensive,” Spock had said. “However, I feel that physics would be a more useful pursuit than art or music.”
Mimi had shaken her head. “No, sa-mekh,” she replied politely but positively. “Art and music are very important for a well-rounded individual.”
“That’s right,” Jim had put his two cents worth in. “And you certainly want Mimi to be well-rounded, don’t you?”
Spock had given in, as he usually did. There was time for Mimi to learn physics. There was time for everything.
More than five years earlier, after Jim’s kidnap and torture by a mysterious alien force known as the Borg, he and Spock had both quit Starfleet and settled on Vafer-Tor. Jim had been badly wounded, both physically and mentally; indeed, he’d nearly died. Somehow, the joy of space exploration had been destroyed for him. Spock, who only wanted his t’hy’la to be happy, had willingly resigned as well, knowing there was plenty of work for them on Vafer-Tor and realizing that Mimi would benefit from growing up on a planet and with extended family nearby.
So it had proved. Sarek, Spock’s father, had been delighted in his restrained way to have his first grandchild living nearby. He had remarried after the destruction of Vulcan, and Spock now had three half-siblings, all younger than Mimi, all present here today in the melee of children. “Toz’ot Selik”, as Mimi called him, the elder Spock from beyond this galaxy, lived nearby as well, and Mimi saw him nearly every day. Since Selik was the father Jim had never had, his presence was beneficial for Jim as well.
Jim had been fragile for a long time after the terrible events of the Borg attack. They had invaded his mind and all but carved his body into spare parts. He’d believed that the Borg had killed his mate and his child, so he had willed himself to die. Only Mimi, able to reach his mind, had managed to save him. For months—years—after Jim’s rescue, he fought nightmares of the Borg, his subconscious always afraid that one day, they would return and claim him again.
“I’ll die first,” he’d whispered to Spock one night after waking from a nightmare. “I mean it, ashaya. I won’t let them take me.” He was shivering violently as was so often the case after a nightmare. Spock wrapped the down comforter around them both and held his mate close, soothing him with all the love he now allowed himself to show this extraordinary individual.
“I know,” Spock murmured. “Do not fear, beloved. They will not find you. They will not take you from me again.”
Gradually, so very gradually, Jim lost most of his fear and slept through most of his nights. With the exception of a few faint scars on his chest and the mechanical right hand he’d had to have, he was the Jim Kirk of old. He was happy here on Vafer-Tor, happier than he’d ever imagined being, content with his work as an agronomist (‘the farm boy breeds true,” Nyota had teased him in one interstellar call), helping the new Vulcan colony thrive, happy with his miracle child, and happy with Spock, who he’d loved for so long and so hopelessly until Mimi finally brought them together. They were all happy here on Vafer-Tor, this planet of new beginnings—and they were especially happy today, on Mimi’s twelfth birthday.
“Sa-mekh-il!” Mimi abandoned her game of tag and skipped across the lawn to throw herself into Sarek’s arms. Spock’s father, who had seldom hugged him as a child, had been gently but firmly taught the error of his ways by his granddaughter and now gave and received hugs freely.
“Come on, ashaya,” Jim said to Spock. “We’d better go formally greet our Clan Leader.” The two made their way through the party, neatly sidestepping a rolling Horta hatchling and a water balloon fight, finally reaching the patio at the back of the house where Sarek stood with Mimi holding his hand.
“See, sa’mekh-il?” Mimi was saying. “Isn’t this a great party?”
“Yes, Sarek,” Jim grinned and ducked as a water balloon his the stucco side of the house with a satisfying “splat!” “Isn’t it great?”
“I am sure it is appropriate for your age group, my child,” Sarek said to Mimi. She grinned and gave him another hug.
“It’s okay, sa-mekh-il,” she said reassuringly. “You can go inside and hide with papa and ko-mekh and Toz’ot Selik until it’s time for my birthday cake.”
“And what makes you think we got you a birthday cake, young lady?” Jim asked with mock-sternness. Mimi just giggled.
“I know you got me a marble cake with three inches of icing on it, ko-mekh, because you love marble cake.”
“All right; guilty.”
Mimi gave Sarek another peck on the cheek. “I’d better go. I’m It, and the game’s waiting for me.” She dashed off to rejoin her group.
“She is growing quickly,” Sarek observed.
“Yeah, pretty soon she’ll be driving and writing about boys in her diary.” Jim’s shudder was only half-fake. He was in no hurry for Mimi to grow up.
“I do not doubt you will manage those challenges as you have all the rest,” Sarek assured him.
“I’ll teach her to drive, and Spock can nerve-pinch all the boys,” Jim said with a grin. “Come on, Sarek. Let’s get you some iced tea.
The cake, baked by Mrs. H’gasrhas down the block, was a huge success. Mimi blew out her “12 candles and 1 to grow on” on her first attempt, and then sliced and served up cake for all while Jim poured glasses of homemade root beer and Spock eyed the carpeting in the huge reception room and wondered just what chemicals would remove marble cake from it.
There were more games and more chaos, but finally, the party began to wind down. Mimi said good-bye to all of her little friends, and then she helped Jim clean up the yard, stuffing a half-dozen large recycling bags with everything from streamers to paper plates.
“Did you have fun, sweetheart?” Jim asked, just to hear her answer. The smile on her face told him she had.
“Yes, ko-mekh; it was loads of fun.” From the time she’d first been able to talk, Mimi had called Jim “ko-mekh,” and he had allowed it, not knowing it was Vulcan for “Mama.” Mimi had never broken the habit, and Jim never expected her to. Besides, there was no word as dear to him as that one.
“Next year, though, we’ll need to do something different,” Mimi said thoughtfully.
“Oh? We’re already planning next year’s party?” he teased.
“It’s only logical,” Mimi said with all the dignity she could assume. “After all, I will thirteen, which is a very important age. Perhaps we should have a dinner party or even a tea dance—yes. A tea dance with cucumber sandwiches and nice young men in formal dress, and….” She burst out laughing at the look of consternation on Jim’s face.
“Oh, ko-mekh.” She was giggling so hard she dropped the recycling bag. “It’s so much fun to tease you.”
It was late. All the guests were gone. The house was finally clean, even the carpet. Mimi had gone to bed, and Jim and Spock were having a nightcap in the small study where Jim kept his real paper books. They were sitting together on the huge leather couch that Scotty had brought all the way from Earth as a house-warming gift. Since the evening air was cool, Jim had lighted the fireplace he and Selik had built together three summers before.
“It was a wonderful party,” Jim said.
“It was,” Spock concurred. “I saw you eat two pieces of cake, however. Tomorrow night, when Mimi is staying over at her grandfather’s you and I will have to indulge in some extra aerobic—activity—to burn off those calories.”
“Deal.” Jim chuckled and snuggled closer. “I may just have cake for breakfast, too, if I can get you to help me work it off.” They were silent for a few minutes, enjoying the fire and their closeness.
“Our little girl is growing up,” Jim said at last. “I’m glad, but I hate to see it. Sometimes I wish she could have stayed five years old forever.”
“I understand your feelings, ashaya,” Spock said softly. “Believe me, when I recall all that I missed during the first years of her life, all because of my anger and selfishness…”
Jim’s hand found his. “I’m sorry I ran away, t’hy’la.” Spock shook his head. “No, you were right to do so. I had no justification for trying to take our child away from you, and I am grateful each day for the miracle of both your love and hers.” He ran his thumb lightly along the back of Jim’s hand.
“Would you be interested in a bit of—aerobic exercise—here and now?” he murmured.
“Why Mr. Spock,” Jim all but purred as he felt their minds begin to touch through the bond that made them one, “I believe you are trying to seduce me.”
Spock sat up and pulled Jim into his arms, quickly pinning him to the sofa cushions, dark eyes staring down into Jim’s.
“I do not try,” he murmured. “I succeed in all my endeavors.”
“Prove it,” Jim whispered, He stretched up to pepper tiny kisses along Spock’s jawline.
“Willingly,” Spock said softly.
And he did.