He's playing Hearts with Uhura when the young woman knocks on the door frame to his room. She can't be much older than mid-twenties, with olive-toned skin, wiry black hair pulled into an elaborate braid that trails down her back, and a short, curvy body she's still growing into. With Uhura sitting right there the only thing Jim does is stare at the visitor (he can feel Uhura giving him a 'don't even think about it' look).
"Lieutenant, Captain. I'm sorry, I hope I'm not interrupting."
"Ah, no, not at all," Jim says. "Come in." She has a small bundle tucked under one of her arms, something flat and rectangular and wrapped in a plain, linen bag.
"Thank you." After crossing the threshold, she pauses, teetering on the edge of something. Then she says, "Sir, ma'am, my name is Amanda. Amanda Pike."
Jim feels the entire room lurch sideways. He sets his cards down (because otherwise he's going to drop them) and takes a second to gather his scattered thoughts. Next to him, Uhura is getting up and saying, "Maybe I should--"
"No, no. It's okay." Jim holds out his arm in a plea for her to stay, and she stops, half-risen, studying him. She sits back down, and he asks Amanda, "If that's alright?" He feels breathless all of a sudden.
Amanda's expression clouds with understanding and something else he can't name. "It's fine."
"Well in that case, I'm Nyota Uhura."
"Very nice to meet you, ma'am."
There's an awkward pause where Amanda hesitates, then she brings the bag up. "We, um, they read dad's will, the other day." Her voice gets a little rough. "And he left you some things."
Jim swallows and reminds himself that it's been weeks now, and is disappointed that it doesn't ease the lump in his throat. Amanda comes around the opposite side of the bed from Uhura and pulls a plain, white, padded envelope out of the bag, maybe a foot in length and half that wide, and offers it to Jim. It's not very heavy, and when he takes it, he can see his hands are shaking now.
Jim clears his throat. "Thank you," he says, focusing on a convenient place on the bed until he can get himself under control. When he looks up at Amanda again, he can see how grief has left its mark on her too, though she manages a small smile.
"He always wanted us to meet you," she says, and that seems to give her new strength. "So, please--don't be a stranger."
She nods to them and leaves, and Jim finds himself gripping the corners of his bed like it's a life raft. He's terrified to look inside the envelope.
Next to him, Uhura gently touches his arm, and he forces himself to relax and take a deep breath. "I didn't know he had children," she's saying, eyes on Amanda's retreating form.
"Adopted," Jim says. "Two of them. A boy and a girl. He said she works with computers. His son's a scientist. In South America somewhere, I think." He realizes he doesn't feel like he's going to rattle apart, and is in that moment sure he can't be more grateful for Uhura's presence. "He never gave up on me," he says, relieved it comes out without the added pain of thinking on how his mother and stepfather had. "I never thanked him for that."
"Yes you did." He looks askance at her, and Uhura explains, "You got through the academy, and were made captain of a starship. I think that's the kind of thanks he would have wanted." Her eyes indicate he shouldn't bother arguing this point, so he just nods and looks away. Uhura sighs and rubs his arm.
"How about I get us something to drink."
On her way out, Uhura pauses in the doorway. "You should take her up on that offer."
Jim blinks and leaves off his assessment of their abandoned game of Hearts. (He was about to lose, quite pathetically.) While in the past he would've answered her with whatever came to mind that had a chance of evading the conversation, now he finds himself saying, "Yeah. I think I will," and meaning it.
She gives him a small smile and leaves to fetch them tea.
Later, after Uhura has gone home and his mug sits empty, Jim considers the envelope. Exhaustion is encroaching, and he could leave this until morning, except he's afraid then he'll never be able to, and Pike deserves much better from him than that.
Inside is an orange velvet bag, faded and worn bare in some places, and inside that is a small collection of items: a pale, curling, glass and sand tube about the length of his hand that Jim recognizes as a fulgurite; an old, stainless steel stopwatch with a black sunray dial and pearl backing on the numbers, still ticking; an intricately carved scrimshaw tooth, perhaps from a whale; and one of Pike's rank badges, sharp-edged in gold and gray and white.
He examines each gift in turn, running his fingers over them and trying to understand why Pike would have chosen to give him these in particular. He had mentioned growing up in a desert to Jim once; the fulgurite is no doubt a piece of home. The rank badge could be another challenge ('let's see you get one of these'), or maybe it's just a simple reminder of how much Pike saw in him. The watch has an inscription on the back, a bit of poetry he doesn't recognize: I saw you sink and vanish, pitiless Arcturus, you will not stay to share our lengthening night. The fact that it's in working order makes him wonder if Pike had been wearing it at Daystrom, and he stares at the numbers for several long minutes as that nightmare plays out in his head yet again. The tooth looks like a family heirloom, or at least it's old enough to be one, and accordingly he gives it the most scrutiny. Is this part of a collection dispersed to Amanda and her brother, with Pike sparing one small piece for Jim? Or is this the only one, with Jim now carrying that fragment of Pike's family history? He could have the answers to these questions, but first, he would need to reach out.
Once he's looked at everything, he takes up the fulgurite again. He grips it, letting the hard points bite at his hand. Before looking inside the old velvet bag, he'd felt like he had much more in common with Khan when it came to family, and had been worried about all the things that implied for his future. Now he's not so sure, and maybe that was Pike's real intent: to remind Jim that he wasn't just a captain with a crew and no one else to look after him and to look after in turn.
Don't be a stranger, Amanda had said.
He looks down at the bag and its gifts, and thinks maybe now he won't be.