Their CMO out of commission (read: sedated by a ferocious Christine Chapel when he protested bed-rest) with the same ‘flu bug which had laid their gallant little captain low for two days, Spock found himself shouldering the brunt of baby-sitting, along with help from various medical staff and well-meaning, eager crewmen. Jim responded best to Chekov and Sulu, who introduced the little one to the joys of what Spock believed were referred to as ‘sock-puppets’ one evening, though Lieutenant Uhura was also a favored guest due to her musical ability, which seemed to soothe baby fever-dreams better than even physical contact did.
But on the third day since Jim had fallen ill, Spock found himself at his wits’ end how to entertain a convalescing human child. Jim was still too weak to have enough energy for extended play outside his small cot, but too awake to sleep when he was supposed to be, this time of the afternoon. Even the shameless bribery of hot cocoa (wif sprinkles, Spock, everybody knows that) did not calm the child enough to make him more than cranky due to drowsiness. James T. Kirk fought what he did not like with every fiber of his being, and his childhood stubbornness regarding naptime was no exception.
“Don’ wanna,” the toddler stated definitively, small arms crossed over his sunshine pajamas. “Imma supahero. Captain Sunshine don't hafta take naps. He’s too busy savin’ the world.”
“Captain Sunshine should be intelligent enough to realize when a period of inactivity is advisable for the sake of his health,” Spock returned logically.
Jim blinked at him. “You talk weird.”
Surak grant me patience. “Jim, the matter is not up for debate. You are going to take a nap, so that you may take Dr. McCoy his dinner as Christine promised you, do you remember the agreement?”
“Nope.” A clear falsehood, but delivered with a look of angelic innocence.
Spock closed his eyes. “Jim –“
“Captain, you have had your cocoa and are in need of rest. It is time to be quiet. Go to sleep.”
“But Spock, I can’t sleep wifout a storyyyyy,” the toddler whined, picking mournfully at a ball of fuzz which was stuck to the fleece blanket.
“You wish me to read you a story?” Anything at all, if it would just get the child to be silent for ten minutes…
“Nooooo,” Jim responded loftily. “Want you to tell me one. ‘S always better made-up.”
Spock had the feeling his utter cluelessness was visible on his face, for the child’s shoulders drooped. “Neva mind,” the little one snuffled into the back of the stuffed panda’s head.
Reverse psychology, thy name is James Tiberius Kirk. Spock was completely undone, and surely no one could blame him. Magic Hugs was not the child’s sole superpower.
“I…am unaccustomed to creating such tales from scratch as would be interesting to one your age, Jim,” he hedged cautiously, seating himself on the edge of the cot.
One green eye peeked out at him.
“But I will make the attempt, if you wish,” he sighed, surrendering.
”YAY!” The panda flew three feet into the air and landed on its back at the foot of the bed, as the little boy threw his arms around Spock’s torso and squeezed, hard.
“But then you must sleep for at least one hour following the tale’s conclusion, is that understood?” he admonished, returning the plush animal to its owner.
Jim squirreled back under the covers, beaming up at him. “Pwomise!”
“Prromise,” he corrected gently.
“Prrrrrromise,” the child agreed, shrugging easily. “Now tell me!”
“What sort of story would you prefer to hear, Jim?”
The small nose scrunched up in thought. “Make it a space story!”
That, he could most likely manage. “And?”
“With a starship an’ danger an' something exciting happenin’ an’ a pretty girl!”
Typical. Spock’s lips quirked fondly.
“Do you wish a story with a happy ending, Jim, or one which will make you think at the end?” he asked carefully, for this could well be used as a teaching tool if the child was so inclined. Spock was more than ready to have his captain back in his proper body and age group.
Sharp eyes squinted suspiciously at him. “Dunno. You pick.” The child shrugged, hugging his panda tightly.
“Very well.” Spock nearly smiled, but only moved closer to the little boy and began, his hypnotic voice filling the room.
“Once upon a time, Jim, there was a planet, deep in the heart of space. And on this planet, lay a portal, a…magic gateway, you would call it, to other worlds and other times upon those worlds. The gateway called itself the Guardian of Forever.”
“Fo'ever,” the child murmured, eyes sparkling over the top of the panda’s ear.
“And traveling to this planet there was a starship, filled with a brave crew and commander, who were going to explore the planet below. But when they drew near the planet, the ship struck a series of temporal dist…it hit a space-storm, Jim, and one of the crew had an accident which caused him to temporarily go insane.”
“No,” Spock corrected, “it was not, because this crewman beamed down to the planet and jumped through the portal before anyone was able to stop him.”
Jim’s eyes widened. “Uh-oh.”
Spock looked down at the small hand which had crept its way into his, and could only hope that the lesson would take hold.
“As you can imagine, the captain of the ship was very worried about his missing crewman, and so he transported down to the planet to find him…”
“And so you see, Jim, that the pretty lady you asked about was the most important piece of history in that time, and if she had not gone away, then all of history would have been changed.”
At a previous point, Spock had shifted to rest against the headboard, and the child had curled up next to him, small hand clutching at his tunic and the little face sad. “She was very brave,” Jim murmured sleepily.
“Indeed she was, and very talented, brilliant, kind, and good – a rare combination,” Spock said quietly. “But she knew even then, would have told the starship captain if she knew the truth, that he had done the right thing – that history must be set right, for the good of the millions of beings who would come after her.”
“He must’ve been so sad,” the child whispered, sniffling a little into the panda’s fur.
“He was,” Spock returned softly. “Very sad, but also very, very brave. You wish to be a captain someday, Jim; that is part of a captain’s duty, making the most painful decisions which no one else aboard ship can.”
“But it has a happy ending, right Spock?” the toddler begged, looking up beseechingly. “’Cause the captain still had all his friends an’ his ship an’ they all gave him hugs and he let ‘em make it all better?”
Spock looked down at the upturned, eager face, and shook his head regretfully. “No, Jim. He believed it was better to grieve alone, and did not wish to inflict his sorrow on others.”
The child’s eyes grew sad. “He wouldn’ let anybody help him? No making him cookies or giving hugs?”
“No, Jim. He did not wish to cause pain to anyone around him, and so he grieved all alone.”
“But didn’ his friends worry about him anyhow?”
“Indeed they did.” Spock’s arm tightened imperceptibly around the small shoulders. “That is very perceptive of you.” He looked down. “What do you believe his friends should have done instead of leaving him alone as he asked, Jim?” he asked hesitantly.
The little one frowned deeply for a moment. “They shoulda hugged him an’ not let him be alone at night, an’ let him cry if he wanted to because the pretty lady died,” he said after a minute’s thought.
Spock closed his eyes in regret, for the moment setting aside the surprise that the child had picked up on death rather than his diluted version of events; perhaps Jim had already gained more maturity than they had realized. “Indeed.”
“And cookies woulda helped. Chocolate-chip, wif nuts.” Spock blinked in some amusement at the non sequitur, and chalked it up to human childhood’s comfort foods. “But it wasn’t nice of him to tell them he didn’ wanna be with them, make them worry ‘bout him!” the child said indignantly, scowling into Spock’s tunic. “He was stupid. You got friends for a reason.”
So it was spoken with all the authority of toddlerhood, and the little one proceeded to promptly fall asleep.
The lines smoothed unseen out of the Vulcan’s forehead, and he looked down fondly at the yawning bundle of fleece blanket and curly hair which had at some point burrowed serenely into his side. “Indeed you do, pi’khart-lan. Indeed you do.” (1, 2)
The next morning, Jim turned five years old.