Jim had finally gotten over his terror at being forcibly detached from his self-appointed Vulcan nanny, though the occasional tantrum let everyone within earshot know that Spock was on Bridge duty again and it would be a long, loooooong day. Once he had learned to crawl, however, that seemed to offer enough distraction that as long as there were people within earshot, the child would be at ease enough.
On the one time that McCoy left him bumbling about an empty Sickbay cubicle-turned-nursery (one in which Scotty had spent four hours removing sharp equipment, attaching padding to the walls and a plush carpet on the floor for the child’s safety, then dumping a veritable army of age-appropriate toys for company) for more than twenty minutes due to a medical emergency, though, he had returned to find the little one sobbing quietly in the farthest corner of the room, stuffed cat clutched in small hands. Jim wasn’t wailing, shrieking, even crying loudly – just silent, miserable sobbing.
Christine always said he was nothing more than ‘a giant marshmallow covered in cactus spines,’ but not even a Vulcan’s cold heart would be able to withstand the realization that even in this state, the captain’s worst fear was of being alone – and that he refused to broadcast that fact loudly enough for anyone to hear.
“Aw, Jim,” he murmured, scooping up the sobbing infant and cradling him close. “I’m sorry, kid. Reynolds was havin’ an allergic reaction to the local anesthetic…right, you don’t care about the particulars. I know.” A strangled hiccup sounded close to his ear, and he gently rubbed the child’s back, one hand moving up to cup the small head. “Shhh. I know, Jim.”
The hiss of pneumatic doors indicated Christine had come back with the results of Reynolds’ minor surgery, and he turned, the infant still crying silently into his medical scrub-shirt.
It wasn’t his head nurse, but an inquiring Vulcan gaze which fixed him in place. The tiny twitch of a wrinkle between the slanted eyebrows told him that Spock would just as soon kill him as look at him if he’d been responsible for causing Jim distress. Honestly, the kid was going to put a whole new meaning on ‘Fleet brat, if the Vulcan kept this up. He was worse than any doting grandmother spoiling an only grandchild.
“He’s fine, Commander,” he snorted, looking down into the child’s wild hair to hide his laugh at a very unVulcan glare. “Got a little worked up at being left to his own devices for twenty minutes, that’s all.”
“Do you not deem it unwise to leave one so young alone for an extended length of time, Doctor?”
The small body in his arms twitched at the sound of the deep voice, and he sighed. “Spock, the place is padded and proofed, he had toys to play with, the room's medical sensors are tuned to pick up any change in body temperature, heartbeat or noise, and sound an alarm if he so much as sneezes. And I only meant to be gone for five minutes – Reynolds was seizing on the table and Christine’s not strong enough to hold a man of his size down. The kid’s fine.”
The small head lifted slowly from his now-damp uniform tunic. One hand scrubbed fitfully at a tear-streaked face, and he looked down. “Isn’t that right, Jim? Just needed to get it out of your system?”
The child frowned at him, darkly enough that it was a little disturbing; what if some part of the baby-brain could actually comprehend what they were saying and would remember it as an adult?
“Annnnd I think that’s my cue to hand him over to the father of the year,” he said hastily, holding the scowling infant out at arms’ length toward the austere figure currently glaring at him.
Jim’s small head swiveled to stare wide-eyed at the change of scenery, forcing Spock to take him from the doctor’s outstretched arms to return support to the child’s skull. Hazel eyes blinked dizzily up at him, and then the little one clapped excitedly.
McCoy froze, staring at the scrap of starship captain currently beaming up at them.
Spock blinked, with that brain-now-rebooting-please-hold look he got when humans behaved outside their predicted parameters. “…I would suggest you take a reading to see how much he has aged, Doctor, as I was under the impression that human children do not begin speaking, as you say, ‘out of the blue.’”
His hand-held scanner was already whirring over the small body. Jim cooed and tried to catch the blinking lights before the instrument was jerked out of the way.
“Thirteen months,” he reported, surprised, but the readings were quite clear. “He’s gained a month in five days.”
“We may safely assume he learned whatever lesson was necessary for that stage, then. At the current rate of aging, however, it will take him five-point-seven-two years to regain his adult status.” The Vulcan glanced down at the chubby finger currently tracing the outlines of the Science insignia on his uniform tunic. “That is unacceptable.”
“We’ll obviously have to try to speed him along, then,” McCoy retorted crossly. He tossed the scanner onto the desk and then bent closer to their infant captain. “We don’t even know what ‘lesson’ he learned this week!”
Jim blinked up at him, focusing on his eyes, and then beamed suddenly in recognition. “Bo’!” he announced, arms outstretched. “Bobobo!”
Spock’s eyebrow made him blush even redder than he had been. “Apparently he has learned that, despite outward indications, you are supposedly trustworthy, Doctor McCoy.”
“Oh, shut it, you pointy-eared wet nurse,” he muttered, taking the child back from Spock’s hands. “So you’ve decided to forgive me, huh, kiddo?” He bounced the small form on one hip, eliciting a giggle.
Spock pointedly did not roll his eyes, and turned toward the door to return to duty. He paused, turned back, when he heard the next mischievous line out of the physician’s mouth.
“C’mon, Jimmy, you like me better than Spock, don’tcha?”
Wide-eyed, Jim wisely refused to take sides on that one.
“May I remind you, Doctor, what the child’s first word was,” Spock answered sagaciously, and scooted out the door before the nearest toddler toy impacted it with a thud and a volley of giggles.