Looking For Shooting Stars

Chapter 1: Next Door

She moved into the house next door…


Up in his room, Spock tilted his head toward the sound but did not respond. The experiment he was currently working on was extremely delicate and, as he did not wish to necessitate the recompletion of said experiment, Spock felt compelled to stay in his room to monitor it until it came to an end. Whatever his mother needed from him would have to wait the 23.9165 minutes he required to achieve a conclusive result.

Unfortunately, Amanda did not appear to agree with Spock’s assessment of the situation. No more than 2.6324 minutes after she had called up to him, Spock became aware of the sound of her footsteps as she climbed the stairs before knocking.

“Spock, I know you’re in the middle of conducting an experiment, but I clearly remember telling you yesterday that we would be going next door to greet the new neighbors today,” Amanda called through the door.

Spock sighed and relinquished any hope he’d had of accomplishing the tasks he had set for himself today. “I will be down in 7.8235 minutes, Mother,” he conceded.

As he cleaned up the wasted materials from his experiment, he thought about how different his mother had been since their family had moved to Earth two years ago. The change had been gradual and would not have been readily apparent to most, but Spock had a certain skill for perceiving patterns that were not easily discernable, a product of his scientifically inquisitive mind. He had observed that his mother was growing progressively more social as the time their family spent on her home planet increased. She had also become more outspoken around the house, seemingly no longer worried about forcing herself to conform to the standards of a foreign culture. Now that the pressures of being a Vulcan ambassador’s wife had fallen away, she was doing things she had not dared to do before. Spock could not recall a single instance from their life on Vulcan in which Amanda had ever interrupted one of his experiments.

Spock knew that even Sarek had noticed the change in Amanda, though he did not know his father’s thoughts and opinions on the matter. Secretly, Spock was pleased by this alteration in his mother’s demeanor. Though Amanda had always been content before, she appeared to be much happier here than she had ever been on Vulcan. This made him think that moving to Earth had been a good thing, even if Spock was having a bit more difficulty adjusting to the relocation.

Spock had not previously spent a great amount of time among humans—aside from his mother, of course—and he was finding their overt emotionalism and almost constant need for physical contact to be not just overwhelming, but also terribly disconcerting. While his shields were sufficient to deter any thoughts attempting to make their way into his head on the occasional instance in which one of his classmates touched him, Spock’s Vulcan upbringing still made the thought of such unnecessary contact abhorrent. At least he had grown more accustomed to human emotions. It had been a much-needed adjustment, as humans rarely exerted sufficient control over their emotions, and had he not altered his usual manner of dealing with others, he was quite sure he would have gone insane.

“Spock!” his mother called up to him once again.

It had not been the 7.8235 minutes he had specified, but Spock knew that should he attempt to utilize the remaining 3.5613 minutes, his mother would most likely come back up to his room and drag him downstairs. He sighed and removed his white lab coat, hanging it on the wall hook by the door as he left the room.

He made his way down the stairs and, as he had every other time he descended this staircase, Spock paused to look at the “family photos” his mother had placed on the walls. They had had no such items when they had lived on Vulcan, nor when they had lived in the Vulcan Embassy in San Francisco. Since his family had moved to Riverside, Iowa, Amanda had insisted on “family photos” and “family activities” whenever Sarek was home.

Sarek was not home at the moment. Though Spock had pointed this out, Amanda had told him that greeting the new neighbors did not qualify as a family activity; it was simply the polite thing to do.

Spock had no care for what was considered “polite” in human society; however, it seemed to please his mother and so he was willing to capitulate to her will.

Amanda tutted as he entered the kitchen. “Oh Spock, what am I going to do with you?” Two years ago, Spock would have been entirely confused by her question, but time spent on Earth had taught him that humans often utilized rhetorical questions which, in Spock’s opinion, were quite illogical, as they served little to no purpose at all. “Couldn’t you have at least taken a few minutes to smarten yourself up a bit?” Spock ignored the slight quirk to her mouth that told him his mother’s human sense of humor was making an appearance.

“Mother, you are aware that, as per your own rules, I am required to clean up any experiments that I carry out within my quarters. The best way to facilitate this process is to do so immediately.” He looked down his nose at her in an arrogant way he knew she found amusing. “Procrastination is a human weakness.”

Amanda suppressed a chuckle and started to smooth his hair back into its usual shape. As his father was not in the vicinity, he allowed it. “Spock,” his mother cajoled. “Are you sure we can’t…”

“No, Mother,” Spock replied. They had discussed the issue at length many times over the years. Amanda had been trying to convince him to restyle his hair into something more akin to the styles favored by teenaged human males, but Spock maintained that, as his hair had been this way for approximately the last 16.72 years, changing it now was illogical. They had yet to reach agreement on the matter.

Amanda appeared disappointed by his continued refusal, but Spock knew that she wasn’t really upset about it. Her belief was that it would be easier for Spock to form relationships if he didn’t look so much like an alien, and though he knew that she wanted him to connect with others his age, Spock saw no reason for things on Earth to be any different from how they had been on Vulcan. His peers had not accepted him there, either. At least humans lacked the strength sufficient for a physical confrontation with even a half-blooded Vulcan.

“All right, then,” Amanda sighed with one last tug to straighten his sweater. “Let’s go meet the Kirks.”

The family that had just moved into the house next door—the Kirks—was very well-known in Riverside, even if Spock had never met them. George Kirk was famous in all corners of the Federation as the short-lived captain of the USS Kelvin who had single-handedly saved 800 lives by sacrificing his own. Following his death, what remained of the family (Winona, Sam, and the newly born James Tiberius Kirk) had apparently returned to Riverside, where Winona Kirk had eventually been remarried to a man named Frank.

Spock did not gossip, but his ears were much more sensitive than a human’s—something said humans tended to forget—and he had an unfortunately acute memory. From what he had heard in town, he knew that even though she had remarried, Winona and her children still went by the surname Kirk. He knew that Winona Kirk was often away for months, sometimes years, at a time, leaving her children in the care of their step-father. He knew that two years ago, James Kirk (or Jim, as he apparently preferred to be called) had driven a car into the nearby quarry, and afterward, both Kirk brothers had temporarily disappeared. Sam Kirk had yet to reappear as far as anyone knew, but Jim had returned 1.6715 months ago—looking “a bit worse for the wear”. If hearsay were to be believed, he was back from “doing hard time”, whatever that meant, and had promptly burned down the Kirk family home.

As they knocked at the Kirks’ door, Spock holding a plate of brownies his mother had made as a “welcome gift” and Amanda smiling in anticipation of the door’s opening, he attempted to dispel the negative thoughts these rumors provoked. Spock knew what it was to be judged based on the fictitious information spread by others. Vulcans did not gossip and they did not lie, but they also saw no reason not to disclose any information they deemed factual. As a result of his human ancestry, Spock had been closely monitored while they had lived on Vulcan. Anything he did became public knowledge and would be used when Vulcans “exchanged truths”. He remembered what it had been like to live under such scrutiny, and he would not do the Kirk family the dishonor of judging them based on hearsay.

The door opened, and Spock heard a woman’s voice call out from inside. The person who had opened the door—a small, teenage boy who appeared to be a few years younger than Spock’s own 17.26 years—turned back to yell, “I’m getting it!” Spock had been unable to make any observation of the boy’s facial features, but he did notice that the human was short for his estimated age and that he had unkempt blond hair. Overall, Spock thought he was a rather average human. Then, the boy turned and looked straight at Spock.

The first thing Spock noticed was the human’s eyes. They were a brilliant blue in color, but while they were aesthetically pleasing, the Vulcan’s first thought was that they were too wary, too shadowed to belong to so young a human. Then he noticed the bruises on the boy’s sunken cheeks and the way his clothing hung on his emaciated frame.

Spock glanced over at his mother and the fact that she was wearing the face customarily reserved for her role as a diplomat’s wife told him that she had observed all of this as well.

After a brief moment, Spock’s initial shock at the human’s appearance faded and, though he was curious about the ways in which a human could come to be in such a state, he found himself uninterested in the boy himself. Surely this boy would be much like the other humans Spock had met in the years he had been on Earth. As curious as they were at first about the hybrid Vulcan in their midst, all humans eventually realized that he was just too alien for them to want to spend time making friends with him. This human would not be any different. Meeting new people tended to make him dwell on things that were better dealt with during his meditations, and Spock found himself wishing—though he tried to tell himself that wishing was illogical—that he were back in his room, still conducting his experiment.

Spock turned his head back to the boy and realized that the human was still staring at him. This was not a strange occurrence in and of itself, as Spock was often stared at by humans. Most were not quite so obvious about it.

Spock angled his head slightly to one side and raised an eyebrow. The gesture seemed to fluster the boy, since he flushed and glared at Spock. Before the Vulcan could open his mouth to question the human, his mother said, “Hello, I am Amanda, and this is my son, Spock.”

Amanda gave him a look, one with which he was intimately acquainted with. Spock suppressed a sigh and inclined his head in greeting. “As our residence is 3.6248 meters from your own,” Spock gestured with one hand toward their house, “…my mother…” Remembering the look his mother had given him, he hastily added, “…and I wished to welcome you and your family. Your arrival has been greatly anticipated.” Well, Spock had not been anticipating their arrival, but he was not going to tell this boy that, especially since Amanda would probably restrict the amount of time he was allowed to spend on his experiments if he did. Instead he said, “My mother has taken the liberty of preparing a ‘welcome gift’.” He proffered the plate of brownies he was holding.

The boy glared at the plate warily before reaching out to snatch it from Spock’s hands. The movement was so abrupt that Spock was unable to prevent the human’s skin from sliding over his own as the plate changed hands. For a brief moment, Spock was inside of the boy’s head. Pain, unlike anything he had ever encountered, burst across his mind. A wave of images and feelings crashed over him, and he was helpless to understand their meaning. The images moved past so swiftly that he was barely able to catch a glimpse of them, but the associated emotions left an impression. He felt…abandoned and lonely and hurt and humiliated and sad and hungry and lost.

And the pain very nearly overwhelmed the rest. It was almost unbearable.

The pain was physical in some aspects, but for the most part it was emotional. There was something very wrong in this human’s life, something that was causing him incalculable anguish. Spock had been hurt before by his classmates. He had been beaten and ridiculed and insulted. But his pain had not come even close to that of the human in front of him.

Spock was brought back to himself when his mother placed a hand on his shoulder. “Spock?” she questioned gently. He had no doubt that Amanda had seen the boys’ hands brush and would want to make sure that her son was well.

He shook his head at her and turned his head to meet the boy’s eyes again. The human had been watching them. Spock did not consider himself to be accustomed to human emotions, but he could almost swear that the boy’s face reflected…longing.

“What is your name?” Spock asked. He knew what the boy was most likely going to say. From the evidence of the human’s appearance and age in comparison to what he had heard from the people of Riverside, Spock had deduced the boy’s probable identity. He needed to be sure, though; Vulcans did not guess.

The boy glared at him suspiciously, but before he could answer, a woman wearing a Starfleet officer’s uniform came up behind him. “Jim! You should be unpacking,” she reprimanded.

“Mom—” he protested, sending her an angry look.

“Now, Jim,” she said firmly.

“Yes, Mother,” he said contemptuously before turning away from Amanda and Spock without a word and vanishing into the house.

Spock was shocked. He had never seen such behavior toward a parent. Spock could not even contemplate looking at his mother harshly, let alone speaking to her in such a manner.

“Who are you again?” the woman at the door asked Amanda, drawing Spock’s attention away from where he had last seen Jim.

“We are your new neighbors, Amanda and Spock,” his mother said.

“I see. I’m Winona Kirk. It’s nice to meet you.” Winona held out a hand to Amanda, who shook it firmly in return, but did not offer it to Spock. It appeared that those in Starfleet knew of alien culture and actually respected it. “I’m sorry, but I need to be going,” the woman said. Spock’s brow rose. She did not sound sorry. “I am due for transport back to San Francisco and the starship will not wait for me if I am not there to go with her.”

Spock may not have been well-versed in human body language, but even he could tell that the woman did not want them there. It seemed as though his mother desired to speak with Winona Kirk for longer, but her mouth closed automatically when Spock rested his fingertips lightly on her shoulder. She gave him an assessing look before nodding and looking back at Winona.

“It was a pleasure to meet you, Winona,” Amanda said graciously. “If there is anything you or Jim need, please do not hesitate to ask.”

Winona Kirk nodded vaguely and muttered a quick thank you before retreating into her house. Amanda stared at the door that had essentially been shut in her face, affronted. She shook her head and motioned for Spock to follow as she made her way back to their own house.

Once they were in the house, Amanda bustled around the kitchen, preparing tea for herself and Spock. They did not speak until she had poured them each a cup and sat down across from him.

“So, what did you think of Jim?” Amanda prodded.

“Mother,” Spock said reluctantly. “I…”

Spock was able to acknowledge that his mother knew him better than anyone, apart from himself of course. This did not mean that he had to be pleased by that fact. Amanda cut off his protests before he could voice them.

“Spock, I want you to keep an eye on that boy,” Amanda told him seriously. “I don’t know why, but I have a feeling he’s going to need someone to look after him. Just look at him! He looks like he hasn’t eaten in weeks. I’ve heard his step-father has a bit of a drinking problem, and with his mother leaving… I just have a bad feeling about all of it.”

Later that day, Spock found himself alone in his room. He had finally been able to escape his mother and her questions by claiming the need to meditate. It was true that he did need to meditate; however, he felt a more pressing urge to just sit down and think.

Spock knew that the visit with the neighbors had not gone as his mother had planned. Knowing his mother, Amanda had probably heard that Winona Kirk had a son approximately Spock’s age—Spock used the term “approximately” quite loosely, as he did not consider the probable three-year age gap between himself and Jim Kirk to be negligible—and had hoped that if she forced them to interact, they would become friends. As Spock reflected on the matter, he became aware of the fact that he was for once pleased by his mother’s decision to meddle.

He was not sure whether he wanted Jim Kirk as a friend or not, but he was intrigued by the human. Though he hadn’t thought about it earlier, upon further contemplation, Spock realized that Jim should not have been able to break through his mental shields. Unless he had been trying, that is.

Spock entertained this notion for a moment before discarding it. The human had been unaware that the Vulcan was in his head. Spock was certain of this. Even had he not been so sure, Spock had sensed no inherent telepathic abilities with which Jim would have been able to access his mind. So how had Jim Kirk managed to slip past his shields with so little effort? Especially since Spock had been maintaining his shields with the utmost care since he had moved to Earth.

Spock ruminated on the matter. He needed to figure out what made Jim so unique. He would start by simply observing the boy. If this yielded no significant results, he would attempt to establish a relationship between them in the hopes of identifying other means by which he could comprehend this phenomenon.

His mother’s request had absolutely nothing to do with his need to understand Jim Kirk. Nor did what he had seen in the boy’s mind. This was a purely scientific endeavor.

At least, that is what he told himself, and as Spock knew very well, Vulcans never lied, even to themselves.

Jim wiped the blood off of his bottom lip and glared at the wall across from his bed. At that moment, he hated everything. He hated Frank, his alcoholic, abusive son-of-a-bitch step-father. He hated his mother for leaving again, for running back off to space when he needed her. He hated Sam for not coming back. He hated this fucking town and this fucking house. Most of all, though, he hated himself, and that seemed to make him feel worse than all the rest of his hatred combined.

He rolled over—groaning because of the bruises now forming on his torso—and reached under his bed to grab the plate of brownies that weird family had brought over earlier. Jim had added them to the stash of food he had hidden under his bed. He knew they needed to be eaten quickly so that they wouldn’t go bad, but like hell was he going to share them with that asshole Frank.

He looked at the brownies warily for a moment. Were they safe to eat?

Fuck it, he thought bitterly. He was alone, locked in his room. The Vulcan and his mother weren't going to come over and attack him.

Jim stuffed half of a brownie into his mouth, his hand shaking. He tried desperately to think of something else, anything besides the food he was currently chewing, and his mind latched onto the alien who had given them to him.

The Vulcan had been fucking weird. And hot. Weird and hot, if that combination was even possible. What the fuck was a Vulcan doing on Earth anyway? Didn’t being away from his home planet go against all of that precious logic or something?

Jim scoffed. Like anything in this universe was logical. How could anything be logical when there was so much death and hunger and grief? The idea was laughable.

His thoughts paused as he looked down at the brownie in his hand. It had been a few minutes and he wasn't feeling dizzy. The world wasn't going blurry.

He sighed and took another bit of the brownie, forcibly removing the Vulcan—Spock, his mind tried to whisper—from his head. Nothing was going to change around here. His life had been shit from the moment he’d been born, starting with the death of his father and ending with his most recent clusterfuck with…

A tremor went through Jim’s body; he still couldn’t even think the name.

Jim shook himself, pushing the memories as far into the back of his mind as he could. Nothing was going to change, anyways. He needed to keep telling himself that. Once he began to hope for change, it just got that much harder to pick himself up when real life caught up and knocked him flat again. Nothing in this shit storm was ever going to get any better for him and he just needed to accept that.

Jim wrapped the brownies up carefully and tucked them back under his bed. He needed to save them for his next beating. Then, he rolled over and went to sleep, trying his very hardest not to dream.

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