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The crew of the Federation starship Enterprise were the most courageous of all members of Starfleet. They had to be, and were warned that they must be, due to the occupational hazards of being the Federation's flagship and the vessel most likely to be sent into hostile or volatile situations. The death count aboard was higher than any other of that class starship, and yet its positions were the most coveted and dreamed of by young Academy hopefuls. The Enterprise crew were known across the galaxy, even for years after their terms aboard, as the best of the best, the bravest of all brave explorers in the final frontier.
But, brave as they were, not even the command crew of the Enterprise was brave enough to comment when Acting Captain Spock showed up an utterly unheard-of three minutes late to a morning department head meeting, his usually impeccably groomed hair slightly askew and uniform sporting an orange juice stain, carrying a scowling toddler.
"My apologies for keeping you waiting, gentlemen. I believe one could classify the delay as a personnel crisis," was all the explanation they got, and no one dared reply for fear of laughing in the face of their acting captain.
Except Jim, who made a rude noise at his no-longer-beloved hero as he was plopped unceremoniously into a chair next to Chekov.
"You will be quiet during the meeting, Jim," the Vulcan said sternly, and though the child shot him a disgruntled pout he seemed content enough to scribble on the coloring-padd Spock had brought with them, small tongue sticking out of his mouth slightly as he concentrated on the artistic monstrosity. Sulu privately thought he'd never seen anything so adorable in his life. Grumpy adult James Kirk was half-horrifying, half-exasperating; as a grumpy toddler, he was just insanely cute.
He wisely kept that opinion to himself.
"Now, gentlemen. The first order of business: the stellar cartography and its effects on crew morale and efficiency. Mr. Chekov, have you coordinated the shifts for the new week so that all personnel are rotated out for two shifts before being scheduled again?"
"Yes, sir," he replied, briskly shoving a padd across the table. "The department heads have been notified. No more double-shifts, and everyone has two days off per your and Dr. McCoy's orders."
"Do you believe that will set us far behind in the star-charting?"
"No, sir. With the addition of Dr. McCoy's research personnel for recording purposes, we vill make up the difference in manpower with time to spare."
"Very good. Jim, do not scratch the table; remain within the boundaries of your art padd. Lieutenant Uhura, have you given any more thought to a recreational/social event for the crew? Dr. McCoy agrees with your assessment of morale; something must be done about the seven percent drop in status."
Sulu watched absently as the toddler version of their captain studiously ignored all else but his artwork. Someone had found him a multicolored digital pen, where by clicking buttons on the side he could scribble in different colors. Currently the datapadd had an abundance of yellow and blue. No surprise there.
"Aye, sir. There has been more interest shipwide in just a general social event rather than, say, a play or talent show. A party, in other words, with food and dancing and so on," Uhura replied with a smile, knowing Spock did not see the necessity of social interaction.
An eyebrow went up. "I do not profess to understand the need, but if that is the crew's preference then by all means proceed, Lieutenant. Please notify me as to your progress, and clear all plans with Lieutenant-Commander Scott before finalizing details. I remind you of the regulations against alcohol being permitted to those on alpha shift the following morning, but besides that I do not foresee any difficulty in creating this ‘social event.’"
Bored, since Piloting was basically unnecessary during a star-chart when the ship was sitting still (and he was practically useless as Acting Second Officer, or First when Scott wasn't on the Bridge, since Spock did what he darn well pleased), Sulu sneaked another look at the child sitting across the table. Jim was frowning at his pen, shaking it vigorously. He hid a grin as the toddler scowled, then banged the instrument a few times against the tabletop.
"Jim, we do not inflict damage on Starfleet property," Spock said automatically, not even looking up from his notes.
"But -"
"Enough," the Vulcan said with more sharpness than any of them had heard from him toward the child before, and a conjoined look of uh-oh, somebody’s on his last frayed nerve encompassed all of their faces. Obviously, the strain of the Terrible Twos and a lack of adult captainal companionship were taking an ever-so-slight mental and emotional toll on their First Officer.
The child drooped, eyes welling, and Sulu felt the sudden urge to hug the poor kid even if he was probably just manipulating them all with crocodile tears.
Chekov cleared his throat, bless him, and successfully diverted his frazzled (did Vulcans get frazzled?) mentor's attention to the next item on the list.
Uhura's eyes flicked over to Sulu, and he shrugged; he wasn't about to get on Spock's bad side by making a sound. He'd volunteer to take the kid for a little while at least except that he had a full teaching schedule booked today in the gym and Botany labs. McCoy was noticeably absent from the department head meeting because he was up to his neck in paperwork, and so apparently Spock had been saddled with their resident wunderkind.
Jim had apparently recovered as soon as he realized no one was going to cross the Vulcan in charge to take his side, and was now busily engaged in taking apart the defective pen. Sulu choked back a laugh as the instrument was methodically destroyed in a matter of seconds, broken down into a neat pile of its various components.
Scotty, half-dozing across the table while Chekov and Spock talked geeky with each other about something, actually did laugh at the child's method of dealing with his defective writing utensil, and Spock paused mid-sentence at the sound, looking up.
The dismay clear on the usually expressionless face nearly set them all off.
"Jim," Spock sighed (yeah, it was bad if Spock was actually sighing). "What have I instructed you regarding the dismantling of electronic devices?"
"It was busted!"
"Broken," Spock corrected.
"It was!" the child protested, trying to fit the pieces back together again. "The gween quit working!"
"Grrreen," Spock enunciated with admirable patience.
"Pronounce the r correctly, Jim. Grrreen."
The toddler stuck his tongue out. "Grrrreen was busted," he repeated, scowling down at the pieces of writing instrument.
"Broken." Sulu thought Spock was going to pop a vein if he had to rein in any more non-Vulcan frustration. "You could simply have used a different color."
"Could not!"
"Jim -"
"I couldn't!"
"Why, laddie?" Scotty asked, interest piqued. He leaned over to look at the coloring padd.
"Because it hasta be perfect!" the toddler practically wailed.
Scott's face was slowly forming into a grin. "I see, laddie. You keep that padd and I'll see ye get a new pen that works, all right?"
Jim looked disconsolately down at the drawing. "I wanted it ta be done by the end of the meeting," he said sadly. "Was s'posed to be a surprise, Spock."
Slightly surprised to be addressed, the Vulcan raised an eyebrow. "What was?"
Scott grinned and held up the padd, showing an eye-offending conglomeration of yellow and blue. Two stick figures were barely decipherable, one in each color, a blue one with exaggeratedly pointed ears and a disproportionately smaller one with wild yellow hair. Sulu choked back a laugh at the half-completed emerald heart (any normal child would have chosen red) which surrounded the two figures; that would be a bit awkward to explain come re-aging, when the adult Kirk found it tacked up on McCoy’s office wall (and somehow it would make its way there for blackmail purposes, he just knew).
"Why did you need the green to finish, Jim?" Uhura asked kindly.
The child smiled up at her, unconsciously turning on the charm like a normal person flipped a light switch. "’Cause it’s my fav'rit color!"
"Well, that figures," Scotty chuckled, ruffling the child's hair. "We'll get ye a green pen, laddie, just wait a bit."
Speaking of, Sulu thought with a grin, Spock's ears were turning a remarkable shade.