Disclaimer: I apologize to Hans Christian Anderson. Paramount owns them.
Word count: 4048
Summary: Jim Kirk is no taller than a thumb, but his dreams reach the stars. Based loosely on the story 'Thumbelina'.
Notes: Written for the fairy tales prompt at st_respect. Beta by the lovely cicero_drayon with special thanks to those on my flist who read drafts and gave me feedback.
When Jim Kirk was born, the doctor had thought, at first, that there had not been a baby born at all. Luckily, the nurse standing next to the doctor had caught sight of a very small form on the table. The room had quieted and a tiny wail reached the ears of Winona Kirk, who cried herself. Unlike mothers who could hold their babies in their arms, Winona could only cradle her new baby boy--swaddled in a Kleenex tissue--in the center of her palm.
Scientists had been called in from all over the Earth, and even from other worlds. Jim was carefully poked, prodded, and pricked with specially-made needles until his mother had them sent away with no more answers than before they had begun. No one could tell her why Jim had been born so tiny, only that one single chromosome was different than any other human. But Winona loved him deeply, for her husband and eldest son had been killed in space only weeks ago, and Jim was all she had left.
Jim slept in a matchbox bassinet. A special baby monitor had to be installed so Winona could hear his cries. His diapers were changed with a pair of tweezers. He was fed with a bottle held between Winona's thumb and index finger, and when he was old enough to hold the bottle in both of his minute hands, Winona could think of no sight more dear.
When Jim learned to walk by Winona guiding him with her pinky, Winona was forced to confine him to a small fenced-in playpen, for he was an adventurous and carefree toddler who would stumble off tables if given the space. Jim was also very intelligent, learning to speak and read early, deriving pleasure from turning the heavy pages of books himself. Winona attempted to make his life as comfortable as possible, buying him doll furniture and gifting him with a palm-sized PADD to read and practice his writing, but a larger problem became obvious when Jim was four. He was not allowed to play with children his own age, for Winona feared they would be careless with Jim in their hands or running along with him. Throughout the rest of his childhood, Jim was often lonely, wishing desperately that he could do what everyone else his age could do.
Things got better and worse when Jim reached his teen years. Jim could now attend school with normal-sized students, seated on top of his desk with a new PADD that was as big as he was, writing out notes using a stylus held in his fist. Jim made friends with others, but it was difficult maintaining friendships when you had to go to the mall in someone's pocket, and not everyone Jim went with was careful not to shake him too much. Winona was terrified all the time that Jim would get hurt, because Jim loved to explore and would disappear in their backyard for hours at a time, heedless of the thousands of risks that lurked in just one patch of grass–a mere bee sting could end her son's life.
So Winona coddled Jim, and Jim rebelled, going off on his own more and more. When he was 16, he fell in love with a new girl in his class named Carol. He talked about her all the time, and one day he asked Winona what he should do about his feelings.
"You should tell her," Winona told him simply as he swung in a hammock made from an old torn pocket of hers and the salt and pepper shakers.
"Why? It's not like I can kiss her, and I know girls like dolls and everything, but I don't think they imagine marrying one."
Winona sighed and touched his hair lightly. "Love isn't about size. If she cares about you, it shouldn't matter how big you are."
Jim ended up telling Carol about his feelings, and Carol was kind to him, but she didn't feel the same. He wandered off by himself again, except this time he did not return at dusk, and it had begun to rain. Winona, terrified, searched her yard for hours. When morning came, a young man appeared at her door.
"Ma'am, is this yours?" he asked, opening up his hands to reveal a soaked and unconscious Jim.
"Is he...?" she asked, terrified that Jim was dead.
"He's still breathing. I found him in the gutter outside our house; he probably fell off the curb or something pushed him."
Winona, eyes full of tears, carefully laid him in his small bed. "Thank you for returning him. What is your name?"
"Leonard McCoy, ma'am. I'm studying to be a doctor, so maybe I can go get a couple of scanners and see if he's going to be okay."
McCoy nursed Jim back to health. It turned out that Jim had been chased into the gutter by a stray cat.
"It was freaking terrifying," Jim said, eyes wide.
"Then maybe you shouldn't go wandering around in the rain at night," McCoy retorted.
From that day on, Jim and McCoy became good friends. Jim liked him because he talked to Jim just like anyone else. He even scolded him, which not even Winona could bring herself to do often. Winona liked him because McCoy probably worried about Jim more than Winona did, even if he didn't outwardly show the same kind of motherly affection. McCoy helped Jim get over Carol, and Jim finally found someone he could honestly talk to besides his mother, which was liberating for him.
"Bones, I'll never get laid," Jim said mournfully one evening. He was pacing on McCoy's outstretched leg while the latter tried valiantly to ignore Jim and finish reading for class.
"I'm sure you've learned how to depend on yourself for that by now," McCoy groused, trying valiantly not to shake his leg when it began to itch from Jim's strides.
"I mean sex, man. With a partner. I don't think I'll ever get some, unless I start chatting up insects or something."
"I wouldn't recommend a female praying mantis," McCoy deadpanned.
"Bones, you're not taking me seriously. I have the tiniest case of blue balls in the world. And..." here Jim faltered, sliding down and off of his friend's leg. He wandered over to a small rock and laid across it, staring up at the stars above him. "I want to be close to someone without seeing them as a mountain or them seeing me as a punchline."
McCoy looked past the screen of his PADD and stared at his friend for a while. Eventually, he set the PADD to the side and lay down so his head was next to Jim's rock.
"You know, in just one little patch of sky, we can see thousands of galaxies, and in those galaxies there's the possibility of billions of planets. Don't you think that in all those planets, there's someone for your scrawny butt?"
"Sure, I'll just hitch a ride to the next galaxy, no problem."
"Well, I was trying to be supportive." He began to laugh hard. Jim turned to look at him.
"I was about to suggest introducing yourself to that lightning bug over there, because then I'd be an actual wingman."
Jim groaned and ran a hand over his face. "I can't believe you just made that lame ass joke."
The years went by and eventually McCoy decided to enlist in Starfleet. Jim, having graduated and taken a few college classes, wanted to go with him.
"Jim, I know you want to be like everyone else, but why enlist in Starfleet when you won't be able to serve?" Winona asked him the night Jim told her his plans. Winona was making a homemade dinner, and Jim stopped adding handfuls of spices to the pot when she asked her question. He climbed on top of a hanging skillet, his hair damp from steam.
"I can do some things, Ma. I know they won't let me on a starship, but I can do a lot planetside. I'm good with computers, and a lot of that I can do right on my PADD or on a control panel."
"You can go to a regular college and get a degree just the same."
"Mom," Jim said quietly. "I know what this is about. I'll be okay by myself. Bones will be there, and I'll even use that damn hamster ball."
Winona smirked faintly. "It's not a hamster ball. It's a hoversphere."
"Trust me, no one can accidentally squash me when I'm piloting my own personal hamster ball."
"Honey, it's not just about you being safe. I...I don't want you to go there and get your hopes up."
Jim frowned, then shrugged lightly. "I'll be fine, Ma. I gave up dreaming too big a long time ago."
Except Jim had not. Indeed, Jim's dreams were grander than most, for he wanted so much more.
Starfleet was much like Jim's old college, except here he stood out even more. Whereas back at home he was taken to class by his mother, McCoy, or people he had known since grade school, Jim had to constantly use his hoversphere to get to classes that were on opposite ends of the campus from where McCoy attended his own. The cadets and staff alike were intrigued by Jim, and everyone knew to be extra careful and extra friendly to their pint-sized peer.
It was on a particularly nice day that Jim's hoversphere malfunctioned. Jim had just finished his lunch and was delightedly piloting his hoversphere through the main courtyard, diving and spinning, speeding and weaving through the grounds. Then sparks issued from the wirings and Jim made an impressive crash landing in the center fountain. Cursing, Jim unbuckled his restraints and crawled through the clear hatch. Jim's crash had attracted a few stares, but no one rushed to help him, and he wondered why until he saw a Vulcan who had been sitting on the edge of the fountain. Jim had never seen a Vulcan this close before. The Vulcan leaned toward him, focusing on Jim like this was something that happened to the Vulcan every day. His eyes were big and brown.
"Do you require assistance?" he asked. Jim immediately liked him. People usually just automatically fretted over him.
"If you could pick this thing up and put it on dry land, that would be good."
The Vulcan obliged, gently picking up the sphere and placing it and Jim next to him.
"Is this sufficient?"
"Yeah, thanks." Jim shimmied back into his hoversphere and began investigating its circuits. He snuck a glance at the Vulcan, who had serenely resumed eating his lunch. Jim idly wondered why he ate it out here instead of in the mess hall, but then again it was nice weather. Jim worked for three minutes before sighing in dismay. Water had leaked into the circuitry, so now the whole thing was ruined. And here Jim was, stranded. It would probably take him a couple of hours to get back to his dorm room, and he would have to miss class.
He climbed out of his sphere and sat beside it, looking out over the grounds to see which parts of the courtyard were frequented the least by cadets with heavy boots.
"Were you successful in repairing your hoversphere?" the Vulcan asked.
"No. It's got flood damage." Jim stood up and went to the edge of the fountain's ledge, seeing little chinks in the stone that would allow him to climb down easily. He turned back to the Vulcan. "See you around, and thanks for fishing me out."
"I do not think it would be wise of you to attempt solitary travel."
Jim stiffened. Just when he was starting to like the guy.
"I can manage," he said tightly, swinging himself around and beginning to climb down.
"I believe that you can. However, unless I am mistaken, the grounds are to be mowed this afternoon."
Jim paused, then sighed and climbed back up. He sat down cross-legged next to the Vulcan.
"Guess I'll just wait until they're done."
"Have you any scheduled engagements?"
"Class in fifteen minutes, but it won't kill me to skip."
"If you are amenable, I can provide transport of your person to the location of your class."
Jim usually declined offers for people to carry him unless he knew them well, but something about the Vulcan compelled him.
"Promise not to drop me?"
"I will endeavor not to. Your name is Jim, correct?"
"Yeah, I suppose everyone knows that. What's yours?"
"So Spock, just stick me in your pocket and we'll get going."
Spock's eyebrows furrowed. "I do not have a pocket."
"Oh." Jim took in Spock's black uniform. "So you're a commander?"
"Only very recently. At present I am a graduate student and am being considered for a teaching position."
"That's cool," Jim said with little emotion. It sort of hurt to be reminded of what others could do with their rich and vibrant lives while he was lucky to hitch a ride with one of them. "How are we going to do this?"
"Would you be comfortable on my shoulder? It is a level platform on which to stand."
"I'm not a parrot."
"Obviously," Spock said, as if Jim had randomly told him that the sky was blue and he didn't quite get why Jim was informing him of the fact.
"I can just ride on your hand."
Spock seemed to tense, which made Jim want to back out of their agreement, but Spock lowered his hand to lay next to Jim.
Jim crawled into Spock's palm, which was insanely warm and soft.
"Hold up your thumb!" said Jim. Spock did so, and Jim balanced himself with the appendage. Jim thought he felt a minute shiver run through Spock, but it was so small that it could have been in reaction to anything. "Grab my PADD from the hamster ball, would you?"
Their trip to Jim's class was short and apparently newsworthy. People who didn't so much as glance at Jim as he was carried around by McCoy were openly staring as they walked by. But Spock, unlike most everyone else who carried him for the first time, did not react to any of the looks directed at them and instead kept up a conversation about what Jim was taking that semester. They reached Jim's class and Jim walked from Spock's outstretched palm to the top of the desk, Spock laying Jim's PADD beside him.
"Thanks, Spock," Jim said, grinning up at him. Spock nodded once in acknowledgment. Jim didn't really want Spock to leave, and he was pleased when Spock lingered, like he too found it difficult to simply walk away. "Listen, I like you, and I think we should hang out sometime."
One of Spock's eyebrows flew to his hairline, and Jim was sure that this was the Vulcan equivalent of being floored. Jim laughed.
"I'm not exactly subtle, am I? But I mean, if you know what you want, why dance around it?"
"Your pattern of thinking is surprisingly linear, for a human," Spock said. He sounded mildly impressed, and not condescending.
"On some things, yeah. Hey, Vulcans like chess right? How about a chess game in rec area B tomorrow night?"
Spock shoulders lost some of their tightness, and his mouth curved slightly in something approximating a smile.
"A chess game is most agreeable."
Spock arrived exactly on time for their game. Jim's new hoversphere wouldn't arrive for a week, so McCoy brought him to the match and met Spock.
"He's acts like a computer," McCoy whispered to Jim.
"He's just really smart," Jim said, sort of hurt by what McCoy said, even if it wasn't an insult or even directed at himself.
They immediately began playing when McCoy left. Jim pushed pieces that were about the same height as himself. As the game progressed, they both discovered that they enjoyed the other's company. Jim liked Spock because he never talked to Jim like Jim was somehow less important than anyone else. In fact, Spock spoke to Jim like he was better than most everyone else. Jim never had to shout to be heard, and Spock even argued with him about things. Spock liked Jim because he was intelligent and independent. Jim not only treated Spock like he was the most interesting being on the planet, but he also seemed genuinely delighted by his presence. In Spock's experience interacting with humans, discomfort was the primary emotion he instilled in others.
Jim and Spock enjoyed each other's company so much that they agreed to see each other every other night for a game of chess. Spock also offered to take Jim to his classes, and Jim surprised himself by agreeing.
A month after they had met, Spock gave Jim a present. It was a 3-D chess board, its dimensions so small that Jim could now move the pieces with only his hand.
"It is only fair, after all, that when we play, I be inconvenienced by size as well."
His whole life, Jim had had to fit into everything else, and Spock with one gift had fit himself into Jim's world.
Three months after they met, Jim was depressed and angry in his dorm room. Spock had come there looking for him, and Jim ended up confiding in him.
"My whole class is going into space for a training mission. I can't go because it's against regulations."
"There are logical reasons why you were precluded," Spock said.
Jim turned his anger on Spock, snapping at him for the first time.
"What would you know about being left out? You're normal."
Spock went quiet, and Jim feared that he had went too far. But then Spock spoke.
"One does not need to be your size in order to be alone. You know that I am only half Vulcan, but I have not told you that in the society I come from, I was outcast because of my human half."
Jim suddenly remembered McCoy calling Spock a computer, and instantly he felt terrible for lashing out at his friend.
"I'm sorry, Spock. We all have our problems."
Two weeks later, Spock surprised him with seats on a shuttle that orbited Earth.
"My father is an ambassador, therefore certain regulations were lifted. It is not a starship, but it is space."
The four hours they were on the shuttlecraft were the most amazing of Jim's short life. Spock placed Jim on the Galileo's window, and Jim looked out over the billions of stars, wishing with all he had that he could be out there exploring each and every one. Eventually the trip ended, and the hour was late on Earth. Spock took Jim to his apartment off-campus. Jim had never seen a sadder home. Its walls were white and unadorned, and there was only a plate, a cup, and cutlery for one. Spock fell asleep first, Jim too caught up in his dreams to sleep. At some deep hour in the night, Jim left Spock's window and crept up beside Spock's face. He leaned forward and kissed him softly. Spock woke at the touch.
"Jim?" he whispered.
"You're not supposed to wake up when I'm being creepy," Jim said, embarrassed.
"I do not think of you that way. I care about you very much," Spock said, voice brittle, almost broken.
"Doesn't matter anyway, right? I can't even hold you."
A strange expression crossed Spock's face.
"Perhaps you can." Spock lightly touched the side of Jim's face with two fingers. "My mind to your mind."
It was an explosion of colors and sounds, feelings and wants.
"We are the same," Spock said, surprised. Jim turned to see him, and smiled brightly.
"I don't think of myself as small."
Spock moved very close to Jim. "Neither do I."
Jim's heart leaped, and he moved to kiss Spock. Unfortunately for both of them, they had no idea what a real kiss felt like, so they merely felt pleasant sensations. When Spock broke their telepathic contact, it was with a resigned and wistful air. They did not speak of it again.
Six months after they had met, Captain Pike came to tell Jim that they had discovered a planet filled with over one million humanoids that were his size.
"Lilliput?" Jim asked jokingly.
"Terratin," Pike corrected, smiling. "They're the descendants of a 21st century Earth colony whose DNA was compacted to 1/16 of their size by the spiroid epsilon waves that surround Terratin. We have just admitted them to the Federation, and I'm sure you'll be pleased to note that your Starfleet Academy skills can be transferred to the Terratin Allied Forces. I hear they're in need of captains."
Six months ago, Jim would have left as soon as he heard of this planet. Now he found that he had an even larger dream. Jim told his mother and McCoy first, who both wished him well and warned that Jim had better visit them frequently or they'd disown him. But their enthusiasm drained Jim, and the hardest to tell was Spock.
"It is a unique opportunity," Spock said.
"I won't go," Jim said adamantly.
"It is your dream."
"You're worth more than that," Jim said.
"Jim, there is no logic to what you are suggesting. On Terratin, you can live the life you were always denied. Exploring space is your first, best destiny. You will..." Here, Spock faltered. "You will be able to hold someone. I am pleased that you would choose me, but it appears that we are destined to stand apart. I could not allow you to stay by my side when you are being offered an entire world."
"It's not right."
"It is what it is."
Jim journeyed to Terratin.
The inhabitants of Terratin were not all that different from those at home, except now he no longer had to look up at most of them. Jim made a few friends, and within two weeks he received his first kiss from a girl in his tactics class. He felt absolutely nothing. Jim turned himself to his studies, yet even when he was on the bridge of a starship, looking out into space, he felt as if his new life was not wishes granted but a world of distractions from what he so desperately wanted.
Then as all great and tragic events in life are wont to do, a day dawned in which one of these events arrived quite unexpectedly. The weather matched Jim's mood that day, drops falling out of the sky as if nature was doing the crying for him. Jim paid it no mind, walking straight through Terratin Academy's courtyard when he could have avoided the downfall altogether. He was arrested at the sight of a familiar figure sitting on the edge of a fountain, but it was impossible and the angles were all wrong. But Jim's feet and heart both sped up in hope, and then it was Spock standing up, and they were the same height. Jim immediately pulled Spock close, every part of his soul alive with the simple feeling of holding the one he loved most in his arms.
"Is this real?" Jim asked.
"It is indeed real. I discovered that the radiation surrounding this planet would compact my DNA, just as it had the descendants of this culture."
"But Spock, you did all that just to be with me? What if I had moved on?"
"I had considered that. However, just your friendship was more than worth the risk."
"Well I haven't moved on, and I want you."
"You have always had me, Jim."
When they kissed, it was sweet and slick with rainwater, and then it was slightly ruined by a choking sound.
"Damn it Spock, I'm not here to watch you make out with Jim. You promised me good medical facilities and a 10% less chance of dying of space-related disasters."
"Bones?" Jim exclaimed happily, still clutching Spock. McCoy rolled his eyes.
"It's about damn time you carried me around for once."
And from that day forward, Jim's dreams were smaller than he was, for he needed so much less.