“We don’t have time for this,” Frank growled.
Winona ignored him as her gaze surveyed the space station for her son. Where he’d gone to, she didn’t know. She had just gone to the bathroom and had left Frank there to keep an eye on him. Obviously she couldn’t trust him to do anything right.
“The shuttle leaves in less than ten minutes,” the man next to her whined.
She had grown to hate him. What she had ever seen in him, she no longer knew. It was thanks in large part to him that she’d nearly lost two sons. Sam was gone. She didn’t know where to find him. Had just walked off one day, Frank told her. Jim confirmed it.
And then Frank had sent Jim away.
To that hell hole.
Yes, she hated him.
But she hated herself more. This was really her fault, wasn’t it? If George had lived he would be so disgusted with her. But of course—
“Wi, the shuttle.”
God, she had grown to hate that nickname. She turned on him. “Well, why did you let him out of your sight?”
“The little shit tricked me,” Frank protested. “Said he wanted something from the vending machine.” Frank looked sullen. “And you said to feed him whenever he was hungry because-because-”
“I know why.”
Overhead they announced final boarding for the shuttle.
“If we don’t go now we’re going to miss it! There’s not another shuttle back to Earth until tomorrow morning.”
“You get on the shuttle,” Winona said. “I’m not leaving here without my boy.”
“He could be anywhere. He might even be on another shuttle somewhere else. Look—”
“Go, Frank,” she said, giving him a shove. “Get out of here. And when you get to Riverside, you can get your stuff out of my house.”
“I’m done, Frank. I should have been done before you destroyed my family. Get on that shuttle and out of our lives for good!”
“Bitch,” he muttered as he turned and headed for the ramp that would take him onto the shuttle and back to Earth and away from her and her son for .good. She only hoped it really would be that easy.
She turned toward the guard she had reported Jim missing to earlier. “Did you find my son?”
He nodded. “I think so. Come this way.”
They rounded a corner and then she saw her boy. So skinny, like a skeleton, really, and she wanted to weep at the sight, but she had to be strong for him. For her son. He was only thirteen and so fragile right now.
Jim was not alone though. He sat on the floor of a waiting area, sitting in the corner next to a boy who looked a few years older than him and Vulcan, from the looks of it. They looked to be having a very intense conversation. Jim kept nodding at whatever the Vulcan boy said, but she was relieved to see that Jim didn’t look afraid.
“Is that him?” the guard asked.
“Yes. Yes, thank you.”
She hurried over. “Jimmy!” Jim flinched as he looked up at her, blue eyes wide behind his glasses. He shrank back against the Vulcan boy. Her heart clenched in her chest. She forced herself to relax and to smile. “There you are, honey.”
“Hi Mom.” He glanced at the boy with him, who stared at her with dark, intense eyes. “Mom, this is Spock. Spock, my mom.”
“Hello, Spock. It’s nice to meet you.”
Spock held up his hand in a Vulcan gesture she could not recall the name of but before he could do more than raise it, a human woman dashed up to them, and she was holding two drinks. She smiled at Winona.
“Hello there. I’m Amanda Grayson. Spock’s mother. You must be Jim’s mother.”
Winona nodded. She was surprised the Vulcan had a human mother. She had never met any Vulcan who seemed to be particularly tolerant of humans, yet she could see that Spock sat very close to Jim, and her son did not seem to mind.
“Jim got lost, I guess, looking for food and something to drink, so I thought I’d just leave him here with my son while I got them a drink. And some candy.” She held up candy bar. “Is Jim allowed to have this?”
“Oh,” Winona said faintly. “Yes. Yes, he can.”
“Wonderful.” Amanda handed the drink and candy to Jim and then handed a drink to the Vulcan boy. “I was intending to have them page you after I brought their drinks.” She lowered her voice. “It’s just…he seemed so hungry, you know and I thought–“
“Yes. Thank you. Come, Jim.”
He bit his lip. “Do I have to go?”
Spock said something very softly to Jim that she couldn’t hear. But whatever it was, Jim nodded, and stood up, going over to Winona. Spock also stood.
“Where’s Frank?” Jim asked then, looking around.
Winona patted Jim’s arm, and then turned to the woman and her son. “Thank you so much for looking after him. What do I owe you for the drink and candy?”
“Oh, nothing. It was a small thing we could do. I’m glad you found your mama, Jim. Please stay safe. Come, Spock.”
Winona drew Jim away as the woman and her son departed. “Honey, Frank is gone.”
Jim frowned. “He left on the shuttle without you?”
“I told him to go,” she said fiercely. She hugged his small bones, tears springing to her eyes. “He’s never ever coming back.”
“No,” she whispered. “It’s just the two of us from now on, Jimmy. I promise. Nobody else. You’re going to be my priority.” She drew back and put her hand on his cheek. “We can’t go out of the space station until tomorrow. So we’ll get a room tonight. But in the meantime, are you hungry?”
Jim nodded, swallowing.
And of course he was hungry. It was a stupid question.
“We’re going to have a big dinner.” She held his hand, gently for his bones were fragile, and she turned to call out, as a thought occurred to her, “Amanda!”
Amanda Grayson and her son, Spock, stopped, and turned back toward them.
Winona smiled. “We have some time here. And Jimmy and I are going to have dinner at that restaurant down at the end near gate D. Would you like to join us?”
Spock turned that intense gaze on his mother, who smiled. “Yes, I think Spock and I would very much like to join you.”
Jim brightened instantly and he gave Winona a very tentative smile, but it was there, as he hurried to walk beside the Vulcan boy, who said nothing, but inclined his head in a way that seemed to please Jim, and they made their way to the restaurant.
“I’m Winona…Kirk.” She’d about to introduce herself with her married name with Frank, but then changed at the last minute. “And of course, you’ve met Jim.”
“Yes. And Spock is my son with my husband, Ambassador Sarek. We’re on our way back to Vulcan, but we don’t depart for a few hours ourselves.”
And she continued to chat as they walked along and Winona watched as Jim’s step was just a little lighter.