Soon after he had spoken his first words, the tiny captain of the Enterprise apparently lost his wariness of being left with anyone but his primary mentors, and he did not want for a babysitter once he ceased throwing tantrums whenever left in the care of an eager crewman. As a result, his vocabulary improved at a rapid pace, making up for the lateness of its development in relation to his age.
The ubiquitous toddler No was of course his next word, followed shortly by Tine for Nurse Chapel, with whom he spent the most time, and Lieutenant Uhura was delighted when he managed a passable Nota at midday mess the next day. Ba followed shortly after (apparently the general term for food, usually accompanied by unintelligible babbling demands), and then the definitive Ow (overheard by a crewman in the outer ward, unfortunately, and soon to be one of the child's favorite repetitions, usually accompanied by another vociferous No and a shriek of epic proportions) when McCoy gave him his first immunization the second week aboard. McCoy was slightly disturbed by the fact that ship was the next to form (thank you, Scotty), followed by Momo (what the heck, Jim?) which apparently was the name bequeathed to the mangy stuffed cat, the child’s prize possession.
Spock sat in Officers’ Mess later in that same developmental week, attempting to ingest his meal in the first peace he had had in several days thanks to Ensign Chekov’s volunteering to administer the captain’s wet cereal and mashed fruit mix to him (a task for which he held no fondness, as it invariably ended up more on his clothing than in the little one’s mouth; also, he refused to make ‘airplane noises,’ as Dr. McCoy had suggested).
The young Russian was diligently coaxing the child to take mouthfuls of the unappetizing mixture (McCoy’s orders; while Jim needed little more than soft foods he required more nutrients than the standard toddler, if they were to accelerate the growth process), all the while attempting to cajole some rendition of his name out of the disinterested little one.
After the third blank look in response to his “Kin you say Chekov, Jim? Two syllables – Chek—off. Chek—off?” the ensign sighed with a gesture of resignation. Spock resisted the urge to shake his head, as the phonetics involved were obviously beyond the child’s capabilities at his present age. “Perhaps Pa-vel? That is easier, da?”
“Phhhhbtth,” the child responded, spraying soggy cereal in a complete two-meter radius. Spock neatly dodged the worst of the mess and ignored the squeak of dismayed protest from his protégé-turned-babysitter.
“That is not nice thing to do, Jim,” the Russian declared, mopping the child’s wet face and chin with a nearby napkin. “Is messy.”
“Da, I see it is ba,” was the muttered response, and Spock spared a moment of pity for the well-intentioned foolishness of youth.
“Spa!” Jim chose that moment to fling a slice of banana into his soup bowl with deadly accuracy. Spock eyed the floating chunk indecisively for a moment and then exhaled slowly through his nose, deciding that picking the offending fruit out was not worth the expenditure of energy.
Large hazel eyes blinked innocently at him from across the table, uncannily looking much like the adult version of his captain when he was caught doing something…unorthodox. And usually wanting attention for it.
“I do not wish your nutritional supplements to share space with mine, Jim,” he said, trying the direct approach first. “We do not use the contents of our meals as projectiles.”
Another banana slice hit him in the face, sticking to his cheek for a moment before dropping off onto the table.
“Keptin! Jim, that is not nice!” Chekov’s horror at the child’s giggle was palpable, his eyes darting nervously to his mentor’s expressionless face. Spock was not ignorant of the fact that everyone within three tables of them was currently laughing hysterically.
Had it ended there, he might have been tempted to ignore the toddler’s behavior. However, he had not been on the best of terms with this crew of late due to his near-disappearance from the public eye in his new duties, and he had learned advice from the captain himself that sometimes one must act slightly out of his own comfort zone in order to connect with his subordinates. His crew needed to see a non-Vulcan side of him if they were to continue to follow him until the safe return of their true leader; he had learned that lesson long ago with the Galileo shuttle disaster.
That, and the fact that the next airborne banana slice splash-landed in someone’s water glass at the adjoining table, prompted his admittedly illogical response.
He fished the fruit from off the table and, reaching across, applied the sticky slice to Jim’s small forehead. He then calmly returned to finishing his salad.
Jim frowned, and crossed his eyes upward.
Chekov and two crewmen at the next table choked on their sandwiches.
The child whimpered a little and waved his chubby hands, trying to figure out what was stuck to him, before scowling and flinging the remaining contents of his cereal bowl in the acting captain’s direction.
Naturally, Vulcan reflexes ensured that Spock ducked effortlessly.
Unfortunately, this meant that the entire messy brunt of the assault fell upon Christine Chapel, who was coming to take the little captain back to Sickbay for his afternoon nap. Chapel had long since gotten over her crush on the Vulcan First Officer, but she was still quite aware that no one could fluster him like she could; and she used that knowledge to her advantage whenever it suited her.
This time, she really did not need to act, standing with hands on hips and covered in soggy baby-cereal. Spock turned the most peculiar shade of jade she’d ever seen and looked like he would much prefer an airlock to suck him out into space just at that moment. Chekov hastily scrambled out of the line of fire, taking cover at a nearby table of wide-eyed, frozen Science personnel.
Jim, the little brat, giggled uproariously.
“Mr. Spock,” she said with deadly sweetness. “Would you be so kind as to take His Royal Messiness back to Sickbay? I believe I will have to go and change my uniform.”
Spock murmured something unintelligible and beat a hasty retreat with a squawking Jim tucked unceremoniously under one arm, dignity still partially intact.
The crew were gallant enough to let the mess doors close behind him and their pint-sized captain before they gave in, howling with laughter.