With McCoy still forcibly restrained from returning to active duty, threatened with sedatives from his Head Nurse along with Vulcan backup, the duty of primary baby-sitter had been bounced around the command chain in the hours immediately following Jim’s aging to five years old. With Spock (quite rightly) refusing to abandon his duties to the ship despite the situation with her captain, someone had to make sure the little prodigy didn’t end up exploding the saucer section or irreparably damaging some crucial circuitry which grabbed his fleeting attention with its flashing lights.
On this particular morning, the one immediately after Jim’s last aging, Chekov had been unceremoniously given child-minding duty when Spock left early for the end of gamma through beginning of alpha shift due to some conference calls from scientific heads regarding their star-mapping, as well as an update with Starfleet Command in regards to their unusual captainal staffing problem.
Chekov had discovered the hard way both that a five-year-old was not old enough to dress himself despite his protests to the contrary, and that Jim Kirk at any age could tear his shirts with alarming ease. After the third such tunic finally made it front-side-front onto the wriggling little one, Chekov believed he had earned his wages for the month. It did not help matters that their soft-hearted quartermaster had scripted a clothing replication routine to produce tiny uniform tunics in each of the three colors, so that the child could costume himself along with his beloved crew however he saw fit.
Usually Jim gravitated naturally toward the gold, only donning the red when he was going to Scotty for babysitting – but today, probably due to the fact that he was to have breakfast with Dr. McCoy, he donned the blue with a sunny smile and submitted with good humor to Chekov’s attaching and tying his little boots.
“I wanna tricorder,” the child said suddenly as the ensign finished the last knot. “Can I have one, Mr. Pavel?”
Chekov ruffled the child’s hair, earning him a scowl and shake of the head. “I do not know,” he replied, highly doubting the child was capable of taking care of a delicate instrument. “Why do you want one, Jim?”
“Because they look cool,” the little one replied with a superior sniff, as if the young Russian should have known that without asking.
Chekov hid his grin, taking the child’s hand and leading him out the door for breakfast in Sickbay. “I do not belief we have one small enough for your hands, Jim. But perhaps if you are extremely well-behaved the Doctor will permit you to play with one of his scanners. Provided you do not take the instrument apart, of course.”
The child had the grace to look uncomfortable at the mild rebuke, and disconsolate at the idea of not getting his latest fixation. “I be careful,” he muttered, as he scuffed one boot along the wall in an effort to produce the loudest squeaking noise possible.
Perhaps it was that he loved children, and had little cousins of his own – or perhaps he was as much as sucker, as they said, for puppy eyes as Mr. Spock himself was. Whatever the reason, Chekov dropped the child off with the nursing staff and then headed down to Ship’s Stores and Requisition.
It took almost two hours and he had to call in a couple of favors with a friend, but before Chekov’s Bridge shift began Jim had his little tricorder. It didn’t do much more than whistle and chirp, and have several flashing lights, but it looked real enough and the child’s ecstatic smile was reward enough for the favors he now owed below decks.
It looked so real, in fact, that it took him nearly ten minutes to get the child through the corridor to the turbolift so that they could reach the Bridge; Jim wanted to stop and scan everything and everyone he passed, much to his crew’s tolerant amusement. Finally Chekov gently yanked the boy into the lift after him, breathing a sigh of relief when the door closed.
The small instrument whirred alarmingly as Jim shoved it against his stomach, staring in intense concentration at the randomized digital display numbers.
“Am I fully functional?” he asked with an entirely straight face.
“Hmm.” The little one squinted thoughtfully at the display, and then pressed another button, making the toy chirp alarmingly. “It says you have a…defi…defersh…”
“Deficiency?” the navigator hazarded.
“Yeah! A defisherncy, an ice cream defisherncy! We gotta fix that!”
“I do not think Dr. McCoy will agree with your medical opinion, Jim,” he returned, chuckling.
The lift doors opened, and he saw instantly that Spock was standing in the center circle, deep in a conference call with Starfleet Command. Uhura flicked him a warning glance as he entered, small captain in tow, and he instructed Jim to wait beside the Comms Chief and to be quiet until the call was over. He slid neatly into the Navigation Console as his predecessor left, not disrupting the conversation going on over his head.
“I agree with you, Commander,” the Admiral – Cartwright, he believed – was saying. “Frankly I think the situation will be best contained, medically and politically, by the child remaining aboard the Enterprise.”
“I am of the same opinion, Admiral,” Spock returned. “Especially as the Insonti people have assured me that the transformation requires outside help to complete.”
”What is your progress so far?”
Spock launched into a brief description of the past couple weeks, detailing Jim’s progression from infant to child, but Chekov’s attention was on the subject of the discussion. Two wide hazel eyes were peering over the dividing rail at the central figure, as their child-captain stood on tiptoe to catch a glimpse of Spock.
Someone aww-ed from behind him, earning a tolerant warning glance from Uhura. Chekov smiled, and then started slightly as the child ducked under the rail without warning and crept up noiselessly behind the Vulcan.
If Cartwright saw the little one, he gave no indication, and the rest of the Bridge crew studiously avoided drawing attention to the scene.
Jim moved curiously up beside his mentor as the Vulcan began a paraphrase of his last conversation with the Insonti medical staff, peering up at Spock and then to the viewscreen, then back again. He moved slightly to face the screen as well, a few inches or so behind the acting captain, and then squinted thoughtfully up again at the tall figure towering over him.
Drawing up to his full height (which was just adorably tiny), the little one fastidiously arranged his tricorder over one hip and then straightened up into a mimicking pose of Spock’s, little hands clasped behind him and feet planted apart. The child turned a suitably serious face to the screen, chin jutting out, imitating the Vulcan as best his little mind could see how.
A round of titters broke out among the usually well-behaved crew – because who wouldn’t, it was ridiculously cute – alerting Spock that something out of the ordinary was occurring. One glance downward told him everything, and his stern features relaxed at the first glimpse of the small figure standing rigidly at his side in a mirror of his posture.
On the screen, the image of Cartwright smiled. “I see you’re training him well, Commander. Make sure he doesn’t get too comfortable in those Science blues, though? Wouldn’t want to turn him into a miniature Vulcan.”
“I assure you, admiral, he is quite human,” Spock replied dryly, earning another round of muffled snickers from the Bridge crew who had been witness to the child’s last tantrum.
“Vulcans have cooler ears, though,” Jim piped up cheerfully, looking up at the screen with all the earnest truthfulness of childhood.
This time the laughter wasn’t muffled, and said ears turned slightly viridian.
Cartwright grinned at the little ray of sunshine. “So they do, young man. I’m Admiral Cartwright, Jim; how are you doing?”
“I’m good,” the child chirped, waving one hand at the screen and then retreating to safety with his other arm wrapped around one of Spock’s long legs. “I had pancakes this morning!” He beamed shyly at the viewscreen, and then glanced up at the Vulcan, whose lips quirked slightly. Spock laid a gentle hand on the child’s head before looking back at the screen.
Cartwright chuckled. “That’s good to hear, Jim. Commander, I’ll leave you to it; obviously you have the situation…well-in-hand,” he said, tactfully avoiding any more emotionally-inclined comments. “You’ve been granted an extra week of star-mapping duty, as the progress in aging Captain Kirk has been slower than anticipated. Provided the ship remains out of all active duty and therefore out of danger zones, you will be permitted to keep the child on board until he is sufficiently aged. Weekly reports will still be required, naturally.”
Spock nodded. “Acknowledged.”
“Don’ move, please,” Jim’s voice asked politely. A whirring chirp distracted them all momentarily, and Spock looked down to find a miniature tricorder scanning the viewscreen with all the intense concentration of a child genius.
Raising an eyebrow, the Vulcan shot a longsuffering look at the admiral, who looked as if he was trying gallantly not to laugh. “Will there be anything else, sir?”
“No, Commander Spock,” Cartwright managed, coughing briefly into his hand. “Cartwright out.”
“Heyyyyy, I wasn’t done,” Jim protested as the screen went blank.
Spock sent a warning glance around at the watching Bridge crew, indicating that there would be Severe Eyebrow Repercussions for people not returning to their jobs. Chekov turned back around with the rest of them, not willing to risk his dignity by gambling verbal evisceration; but he could still hear.
“Where did you get your tricorder, Jim?”
“Mr. Chekov gave it to me!” the child chirped happily, amid a chorus of beeps and chirps from the instrument. “Now I can look like you!”
Hearing the muffled murmurs from around the Bridge’s perimeter, Chekov suspected the majority alpha shift crew were now nothing more than so many puddles melted around the place.
“Only wifout the ears,” was Jim’s thoughtful addendum. “See I wore blue today because Science!”
“Indeed,” Spock’s calm voice remained without emotional overtone, though Chekov knew the Vulcan well enough to hear the fond amusement well-hidden in it. “Jim, did you thank Ensign Chekov for the gift?”
Chekov glanced over his shoulder, seeing that the Vulcan had resumed the center seat and was leaned forward to speak on eye level with their child-captain. “He did, Meester Spock,” he assured. “And he is quite welcome.”
Spock acknowledged him with a nod, before turning his attention back to Jim, who was examining his attire with close attention. “If you’re the captain, why don’ you wear yellow, Spock?” the little one asked innocently.
Every eye turned toward the center chair at least surreptitiously, as the Vulcan looked momentarily uncertain of his answer. They had up until now not hidden the facts of the transformation from the child, but nor had they volunteered any information when it had not been asked; the little brain was incapable of comprehending the truth as yet.
“The captain of this ship is incapacit- is unable to be the captain right now, Jim,” the Vulcan finally said. “I am the next in line under him; therefore I am acting in his place until he can be here again.”
“Why can’t he be the captain?”
“Because…something has happened to him which will take several weeks to fix,” Spock explained carefully.
“Oh. That’s a long time.”
“It is,” was the simple agreement; no doubt it seemed an eternity to one so young.
Jim fidgeted with his toy tricorder, finally hugging it close to his chest. “Do you miss him?” he asked curiously, looking up at the figure seated in a borrowed chair.
Spock froze for a moment before answering. When he did, it was a simple admission and without extraneous sentiment – and effective for all that.
The child nodded sagely, and leaned against the Vulcan’s knees as he stood on the steps in front of the chair. “But you is a good captain too, Spock,” he said with all the certainty of hero-worship.
Spock looked into the wide eyes for a moment, the lines of tension and stress around his stern features softening as he saw the unmitigated confidence well-hidden under a child’s faith.
“We can but hope so, pi'khart-lan,” he murmured, obviously unaware that the words were loud enough for at least the closest crewmen to hear.
Chekov glanced surreptitiously over his shoulder, concerned, and made a note to make sure the adult version of their current five-year-old vocalized the same complete confidence in the stressful role their First Officer had been forced into.