As if the infant Jim’s uncannily positive response to Spock’s voice and presence weren’t creepy enough, McCoy opined with understandable grumpiness (I mean really, Jim, smiling at the hobgoblin but scowling and throwing stuffed animals at the man who’s pulled you back from death more times than he can remember? Come on.), the toddler Jim’s hero-worship of the same was even more adorable and slightly disturbing.
Spock, bless him (McCoy had no sympathy, and thought it was hysterical), had absolutely no clue how to deal with an adoring baby-shadow.
“It is inappropriate,” the Vulcan had protested feebly, when the physician had given him a good piece of old-fashioned fatherly mind for refusing to let the toddler on his lap during one of their conferences one evening. “Despite appearances, he is yet my commanding officer, Doctor; any such permitted behavior only leaves room for awkwardness once he regains his proper age.”
“So by that same logic, we shouldn’t feed him either, I suppose, since physically feeding a superior officer is inappropriate?” McCoy had snapped, trying to placate the sobbing child, who was still tugging feebly at Spock’s trouser leg. “And would you prefer I didn’t dress him in the mornings, just let him run around in the same pajamas for the next two months, because it’s also not appropriate?”
Spock was silent, looking down in dismay at the tear-stained face which was upturned in his direction.
“He’s just a child, Spock! I don’t care about your notions of propriety, Vulcan or human or otherwise – pick the kid up and for Pete’s sake give him a bit of loving. He obviously worships you, heaven only knows why! If you can't do that, then Lord knows how long it's going to take him to change back!”
The Vulcan had, against his better judgment, relented after a token protest, and smiles and sunshine had returned to the baby supernova which was their de-aged captain. However, the mindset did not subside as the child aged, and Spock was continually aware of the possible ramifications of Jim’s deep-rooted adoration. He had no wish to endanger a beautifully fragile friendship – for that it was, if he were to choose the closest possible Standard approximation of the Vulcan term – by regrets over behavior occurring during the interim.
He drew the line when the toddler began crawling into his own bed of nights.
He had tried simple reasoning at first, appealing to the future adult hidden within a two-year-old body. “Jim, you will regret your actions when you regain your full age. This is not appropriate.” He’d received the most woeful set of tear-filled golden eyes that he had ever encountered, and had surrendered – just that once – to the inevitable.
On the next occasion, he had endeavored to convince the child to sleep in his own bed by means the toddler would understand. “Jim, you have left Monty [the name bequeathed to the unfortunate stuffed panda, in honor of the man who gave it to the child after Momo’s demise] in your own bed; will he not be…lonely, without you?” When the little one had nodded thoughtfully, Spock assumed he had won, and closed his eyes again – only to jerk them open in painful ear-splitting shock when the child only hollered “I'm over here wif Spock, Monteeee!” at the top of his powerful lungs, and snuggled down into the blankets, soon fast asleep.
The next time, he had attempted to ascertain why, exactly, the little one felt the need to share a bed with him; it was not Vulcan child behavior, though he was given to understand it was not uncommon in human children’s households. “Jim, why do you not wish to sleep in your own bed? Do you require a night-light? A drink of water? Music?” When he received the pillow-snuffled answer, “Bad dreams…everybody gone an’ the ship’s all empty, Spock,” he could not find it in his heart (or mind, more importantly) to deny the child – just once more.
However, the intrusion into his privacy did not go without its ramifications; the knowledge of the child’s presence and the discomfort at its potential for awkwardness soon completely derailed his own regular sleep schedule. He found himself engaging in fewer hours of slumber, rising soon after Jim had fallen asleep, and instead resorting to more frequent periods of meditation, adjusting his schedule accordingly. McCoy gave a cautious go-ahead for the process, as his Vulcan physiology did not necessarily require a set number of hours for each so long as a minimum were met, and in that manner much of the tension between the two during evenings spent together was relieved.
The physician still worried that the Acting Captain was getting too much flak from his subordinates and the powers-that-be, and not enough rest to counteract it (not that he’d ever in a million years tell Spock he was concerned; he had a reputation to uphold, after all). And so it was, one late evening during the laziest part of beta shift, he decided to check up on their resident babysitter and the hyperactive ball of sunshine and lightning which was their de-aged captain.
He entered through the unlocked Captain’s cabin and from there silently took the connecting bath into Spock’s quarters, not wanting to wake the Vulcan if he were indeed sleeping or the toddler if he had for once in his life actually wound down before 1900 hours. Rounding the corner of the partition dividing private living area from public workspace, he halted in his noiseless approach, and watched with some fascination.
Spock was meditating, he recognized the blank, open-eyed stare which unnerved everyone who saw it for the first time. (1) Hands loosely clasped across his midsection and eyes unseeing the ceiling above, Spock was relaxed and utterly unaware of his surroundings. It was a common myth that Vulcans sleep with their eyes open; rather, that was their meditative state. He’d seen the two often enough in Sickbay to not confuse them.
The open eyes, however, evidently were confusing an inquisitive Jim, who was standing on tip-toe beside the low-slung bed, curiously poking Spock repeatedly in the arm with one finger. Chaotic blankets and sheets indicated that the child had been sleeping in his small cot across the room until for whatever reason he decided he’d had enough and had tumbled out of bed in true energetic fashion. Receiving no response from the meditating Vulcan, the small mouth turned down in a baffled frown, and a tiny huff sounded in the stillness of the warm room.
McCoy saw determination take root in the toddler’s sharp eyes, and covered his wide grin with one hand as Jim began methodically wriggling his way up onto the bed with handfuls of sheet and in one case Spock’s meditation robe (nothing could disturb a Vulcan in that state, he’d found during the Babel conference voyage, when a post-operative and bored Captain Kirk had been in a mischievous mood and had experimented for a good fifteen minutes on the resident of the bio-bed opposite, much to his human mother’s amusement). Within seconds the child had squirmed and clambered his way up onto the low bed, and with a bit of maneuvering which showed remarkable determination in one so young had somehow wormed his way between the Vulcan’s hands and torso.
Making a small noise of contentment when he was cuddled to his satisfaction between Spock’s arms and body, the toddler yawned and closed his eyes, and was soon fast asleep, nothing more than a small fleecy bundle of gold on the black of Spock’s meditation robe.
McCoy might be a crotchety old country doctor and as such was entirely immune to the charms of cuteness – but he sure did know blackmail potential when he saw it.
He backed silently out of the cabin; not because he wanted them to get their rest, but because he had a holo-camera to locate.