builtofsorrow: (st | janice is not your barista)
[personal profile] builtofsorrow
title: Earth Is Like the Midwest of the Federation Planets
rating: PG, I guess? (for a bit of language and thematic elements)
word count: ~2,500
character(s)/pairing(s): Winona Kirk, primarily. George Kirk, vague appearances by Winona’s mother, Captain Robau, and James Tiberius. The requisite Winona/George.
author’s notes: Once upon a time, [livejournal.com profile] such_heights linked to [livejournal.com profile] latropita’s letter to Winona Kirk, which I may or may not have cried over (I totally did). And then another time, I started getting annoyed because I kept reading Winona written as kind of a bitch, so I decided to up the number of portrayals of her as AWESOME. Apparently. I’m giving it a shot, okay? I hope I succeeded. This is so un-betaed (other than my own, slightly obsessive self-editing) it isn’t even funny (so if you see any travesties, do give a shout).

On another note: I considered research; in fact, I began research. But then I thought: dammit people, I’m a fanfic writer oh, to hell with it. In other words, I’m ignoring some canon, some not!canon, a [likely significant] amount of stuff I have no clue about, and I’m making it my prerogative to make most of this up.

---


Four days after the USS Kelvin is destroyed in an apparent ambush by some Romulans (whose asses, quite frankly, she’d like to kick… well, if anyone could find them, anyway, damn it), Winona Kirk admits to herself that starships? Are not necessarily ideal for childrearing. And even if she thought she could win that argument with Command, it’s not like she can really begin to pretend that she can be a full-time new, single mother and a full-time medical officer, because, well, it’s only been four days and it definitely seems like Jim has been crying for every single minute of them. Okay, maybe not every single minute, but the point stands. She’s exhausted, in a myriad of ways. And even dealing with her grief isn’t going to make motherhood less time-consuming.

So at the time, going back to Iowa seems like the best course of action. Jim’s a newborn, and it’ll be years before he starts to realise how stifling small towns can be (how much of a small town Earth is). In the meantime, there will be the farm and his grandparents and freshly-baked bread and the animals and the barn where she used to burrow under the hay in the loft and pretend she was on an entirely different planet.

It’s not that it wasn’t a good idea, either; she gets some badly needed time off, and she focuses on both working through her grief and being Jim’s mother. Taking a break from her career isn’t something she’d ever envisioned, but then again, she also never envisioned being widowed. Whatever the case, it’s a sacrifice she’s willing to make, for her son.

So she moves back into her childhood bedroom, seals up her uniforms, and falls back into old routines of farm life, mixing them with the new ones of motherhood. And on the nights when she wakes, panicked and sweaty, arms stretched out off the side of her twin mattress, head tucked in against her chest to avoid the glittering shrapnel of an exploding starship, she shuts herself into her closet and pretends she’s back on the Kelvin.

(When she was 13, she’d covered every bit of the closet’s walls with glow-in-the-dark wallpaper of constellations. There’s an awful lot of irony in the fact that whenever she missed her parents too much, she used to stand on an observation deck of the Kelvin and pretend she was in her closet in Iowa, so she tries not to think about it too much.)

-----

She’d been assigned to the USS Kelvin for a month when she’d had her first real conversation with the ship's first officer.

‘So,’ George Kirk begins, wincing as she brushes antiseptic on a wound he’d received on the latest mission, ‘what brings a small-town girl from Iowa to Starfleet as a medical officer?’

She brushes a little less gently at his use of the word girl, even though she knows enough about him to guess he’s not trying to be insulting (and well, she
is one of the youngest officers onboard). But it’s the principle. He inhales sharply, and she starts talking to disguise her smirk.

‘Both my parents are brilliant in a kitchen,’ she murmurs, not meeting George’s eyes. ‘When they tried to teach me, I was such a disaster at it that my father joked that, were I to continue, I’d have to become a doctor to treat both myself for the burns and cuts, and my guests for the food poisoning.’

George laughs above her bent head. ‘And?’

‘And,’ Winona continues, looking up to flash him a grin, ‘I kicked his ass in the Pie Contest at the County Fair that year.’

He laughs again, harder this time, tilting his head back slightly, and the line of his throat does not distract her at all, okay, because she’s a medical officer, he’s her patient, and she’s bandaging his arm. Right, bandages. On his arm. She starts working on it.

‘Even still, I’m much better at the medical stuff,’ she continues, as she covers the wound, carefully. ‘I never really did like being in a kitchen, and I figured if I was going to ruin the joke, I might as well do the job fully.’ She’s finished with his arm now, and she steps back. She’s going to say something like, ‘There, all set!’, but she’s always thought that was a bit
too cheerily inane, so instead she completes her answer to his question. ‘I spent a lot of my childhood wanting to get out of that town, you know? Places like that, they sort of trap you. After awhile, even Earth starts to.’

(Later, he tells her that was the minute he fell in love with her. ‘I know,’ she replies, because she had, though she kisses him to soften the arrogance of it.)


-----

Three years and three hundred and sixty-four days after her entire world gets torpedoed apart, Winona Kirk realises that, without really meaning to, she’s gone and become domestic.

She is actually making a cake. With layers. And a colour scheme.

‘Oh my god,’ she says aloud, turning to lean against the counter and stare at her mother, who’s sitting at the table with Jim, sipping her coffee and pretending to listen to his incessant chatter.

Or, given the startled look she gives Winona at the interruption, actually listening, which is really kind of admirable on her part, because it’s more than Winona can say about herself, this early in the morning. She’s not actually certain she feels guilty about that, because something she is certain of is the fact that Jim hasn’t really shut up since he started talking more than three years ago, not even when he’s sleeping. Whatever the case, the comparison of herself with her mother goes along with the actual point here: she absolutely did not see this coming. When she says the relevant bits aloud, her mother just laughs.

(Jim, in spite of the slight confusion on his face indicating he knows he’s missing a joke, follows his grandmother’s lead and starts laughing too. He’s only nearly-four, but when Winona closes her eyes, she would swear on just about anything that it’s George’s laughter she’s hearing.)

-----

‘Do you ever feel guilty about being in Starfleet?’ she asks George one day, when they’re both off duty and relaxing up on an observation deck.

‘Do
you?’ he shoots back, incredulously.

Winona laughs. ‘Not even a little. But it seems like a lot of homesickness we encounter on the ship stems from a sort of guilt about leaving families behind, about running the risk of dying out here, I guess, or being so far away when a family member dies. It’s not that I don’t understand it on some level, I guess, it’s just that I–’

‘Think it’s kind of idiotic to feel guilty over having
this,’ he finishes for her, gesturing about them. ‘If anything, we should be gloating.’

‘I wouldn’t necessarily phrase it that way,’ she retorts, unable to keep from smirking. ‘But yes.’

George leans to kiss the corner of her mouth where it curves upward, humming an amused tone. It’s several moments before they separate, and even then they don’t talk for a long while, but she knows exactly what he’s referring to when he brings it up later.

‘When I was a kid,’ he says, somewhat abruptly, ‘my dad travelled all the time, you know? And I never thought of it as anything but exceptionally cool. When I considered Starfleet, I thought about what it would mean to leave my family and everything behind, of course I did. And it’s not that it wasn’t a frightening prospect, which you also know, but in the end it’s like– leaving for things like this doesn’t mean you don’t love someone. If he left, why couldn’t I?’

(Later, she tells him that was the moment she knew that she wanted to marry him just as much as she eventually wanted to become CMO on a starship. ‘I figured you’d known that when you said yes to my proposal,’ he says, a bit wryly. She smiles sweetly. ‘No, CMO was still more important.’ He grumbles a bit, but he doesn’t stop looking at her like she’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen in his whole life, so she knows he’s not actually offended.)


-----

Five years, three months, and fourteen days after George was killed, her father dies.

It’s quiet, expected, and timely (as much as death can be, anyway). Winona actually thinks of it like this: it’s everything George’s death wasn’t. And she goes into the barn that night, burrows under the hay, and screams until she’s no longer physically capable of it, muffling the sound with one of her father’s old plaid shirts.

They sell the farm to their neighbour, an old schoolmate of Winona’s. He lets them stay in the house. She still sits in her closet on more nights than she’s willing to admit. Every so often, she lets herself dream about what it would be like if she were still a medical officer on a starship. Less often, she lets herself admit that her dislike for this town has only increased.

-----

They get married on the Kelvin. They’re docked, and both sets of parents are present, and she’s fairly certain that both their mothers are at least slightly horrified (she knows for a fact her mother is). But once George had told her that Captain Robau had suggested they get married on the ship, she couldn’t envision having the ceremony anywhere else.

‘I think it may have been a joke, actually,’ George hedges, apparently not expecting her to be nearly as enthusiastic about the idea as she was.

‘Oh, but don’t you see how
perfect it is?’ Winona proceeds to list all the reasons it is, in spite of the fact that he really doesn’t need all that much convincing.

Neither does the Captain. She goes to discuss it with him, entirely prepared, if necessary, to draw charts or, possibly, resort to even more drastic measures. She doesn’t expect Robau to have charts himself. Okay, so it's not so much
charts as a list of reasons the idea had merit, but wow, does the Captain ever need a life, she thinks, because while his list is strikingly similar to hers, it's also her wedding. She's supposed to have lists. Although she guesses she can’t judge him too harshly, really. It can get kind of boring up here, especially when you have a first officer as fabulous as the one Robau has, making your job about seventy-five times easier. Not that she's biased, or anything.

So as it happens, she and the Captain and her closest friends onboard plan the most beautiful wedding anyone who attends has ever seen. And all right, here she can admit her bias, but really: she & George say their vows with a view of the stars that Winona would not ever trade for a million Midwest-sunset weddings like the one her mother had tried to convince her she would love. It doesn’t get better than that, in Winona’s book.

(
Everything and everyone I love is right here, she realises at one point: here in this room, on this ship, out these windows. And when she promises George forever, she looks out the windows, out at the galaxy stretched out all around them, and knows exactly what that forever looks like.)

-----

Five years, three months, and twenty-three days after Jim was born, Winona increases her hours at the local clinic she’s been working at since he was two. She finds that the more she works, the happier she is: the more she laughs, the more the fiery pain inside of her is banked into a dull, glowing ache. She’s not unhappy, not really. She loves her mother, and she loves Jim more than she thinks she has ever loved anyone in her life.

Mostly, she remembers why she became a medical officer in the first place. She’s forgotten what it’s like to be in love with a person, but she begins to remember what it’s like to be in love with her profession.

One day, she wakes up and realises she’s remembered what it’s like to love her life.

-----

’Do you think he’ll join Starfleet?’ George asks, softly, his lips brushing against the curve of her neck.

He’s spooned about her on their bed in their quarters, and she smiles, looking down at his hand, splayed over her scarcely rounded stomach. ‘I suppose she might.’

‘Fair point.’

Winona laughs. ‘Seriously though, sometimes I think about the fact that growing up in small-town Iowa made me want to live anywhere but there, you know? Our kid will probably hate space.’

George shudders overdramatically. ‘If insanity’s a genetic trait in your family, I really think you should have told me before.’


-----

The year Jim turns seven, she starts travelling, off-planet as much as possible, going to conferences, training sessions, even on the occasional mission. She packs her bags, and she lets Jim watch her, and she brings back souvenirs for him. She shows him her closet, and tells him that when he misses her, he can go inside and imagine he’s up there with her.

Someone asks her once if she ever feels guilty for leaving her son. Winona doesn’t hesitate when she replies that no, she doesn’t. She misses Jim, but she certainly doesn’t feel guilty.

She leaves, in part, because she wants him to know that he can.

---

crossposted to [livejournal.com profile] st_reboot & [livejournal.com profile] where_no_woman
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