Chapter 3

They got a table at Giuseppe’s in the back of the restaurant, close to the kitchen, but Jim didn’t mind, because it had been where they’d sat before, all those years ago, and he was pretty sure his mom had done it on purpose.

“It’s been years since I’ve been here,” she declared as she picked up the menu. “I even wondered it if it was still here. Everything changes so fast. Are you going to have a drink?”

Jim thought about it but shook his head. “I think I’ll stick to iced tea or something. But head’s still really fuzzy and I’m so damn tired, I don’t think adding booze to the mix is a good idea.”

“Hmm. What did the doctor say, anyway?”

“You know.” Jim waved his hand vaguely.

She narrowed her eyes. “James Tiberius, are you lying to your mother?”

“Well. I’ve just been busy. And anyway, you can see that I don’t have severe injuries.”

“Except all those bruises around your neck.”

“Just a bit of soreness. What are you going to get?”

His mother sighed. “Do you know you’ve been like this since you were a tiny boy? Never did want me to tend to your boo-boos. And when you came back from Tar…that place, you didn’t want to deal with that either.”

“Lots of people came away from there a lot worse than I did.” Jim paused. “Or not at all.” He didn’t add her own husband being one of them.

After Sam left, and Jim lost the car over the cliff, Frank had taken Jim to Tarsus IV. He had a sister that lived there with her family. Eventually Jim’s mom was to join them there. It was supposed to be a new start for them, or so they’d all said. In the end, of the group of them, it had only been Jim and Frank’s sister’s son, Kevin, who got out alive. The rest perished at the direction of Kodos.

Mom got quiet for a moment, her gaze sliding over the content of the menu. The waitress arrived and Jim ordered iced tea and his mom coffee.

“Remember when we came here last? Well.” She paused. “Not the very last time. That was right after you returned and even then you wouldn’t eat much.”

Jim nodded.

“The time before that. It was you, me and Sam then.”

He smiled faintly. “Yeah. We got the biggest pizza they had and a huge plate of spaghetti and meatballs.”

She laughed. “And garlic bread. Spumoni for dessert.”

“Sam threw a meatball at me.”

“Yeah.” Her gaze moved away, out to the rest of the restaurant. “Think he’s okay?”

“Sam?” Jim shrugged. “Maybe. He always did seem to land on his feet. He’s probably out there somewhere without ever a thought to us.”

“Mmm.” She put down her menu. “I think I’ll have the fettucine alfredo. All that cream sauce is terrible for me, but why not indulge? My baby is alive, and surely, that’s something to celebrate.”

He rolled his eyes at the baby. “I’m going for the spaghetti alla puttanesca.”

“Look at you, all fancy now. No more simple pizza for you.”

He laughed. “Well.”

After they ordered, his mom put her chin on her hand. “First time I came here was with your dad.”

“Yeah?”

“Ages ago, obviously. Back in our academy days, so we were babies then. And neither you nor Sam were even on our radar.”

“Bet you were cute.”

“George definitely was. When I first met him, he was seeing a classmate named Pamela Wenton. I hated her, of course.”

Jim laughed. “Of course.”

“Well, she had what I wanted. Or who.”

“I get it. I do. When I first met Spock he was dating Uhura.”

His mom snorted. “Oh, goodness. She was never right for him. He’s clearly interested in males.”

“Sure, but I am too.”

Only males. I don’t know what that girl was thinking.”

“That he’s insanely hot and extremely fascinating.” Jim grinned.

“Yes, dear.” She patted his hand. “Obviously, the moment he laid eyes on you, he was a lost cause.”

Jim’s smile slipped. “Or was. I just…I really don’t know what to think.”

“I don’t know much, I suppose, Jim, but what I do know is that boy loves you. I can see it in his eyes. I recognize it because it’s just how I used to look at George. He’ll come around, honey. He will. Some things are just meant to be.” He tried to smile again, but it faltered a little, so he took a sip of tea, trying to ignore the burn in his throat as he swallowed.