Jim Kirk at age five was nothing more, Spock decided, than a hyperactive and precocious bundle of non-stop questions and child genius. The young one was inquisitive beyond belief; curiosity was a desirable characteristic in one so young and impressionable but in this case it was simply Never. Ever. Ending. Spock had already, by this point in the afternoon, taught the child the functions of nearly every portion of the ship’s engines, explained elementary mathematics, informed him of the names of various articles of machinery in Sickbay, told him the names of alien species which showed up on the program the child was playing on the ship’s computer…and those were only in the last forty minutes.
Anyone listening would have marveled at the patience, even for a Vulcan. Spock resisted the urge to fabricate an emergency in the labs and comm McCoy for transfer of child-minding. But it was not Jim’s fault that he was trapped in the body and mind of a five-year-old, with the attention span of such. “Yes, Jim.”
“Can you play the guitar?”
He raised an eyebrow, but should not have been surprised at the in-apropos inquiry. Possibly this was brought on by the vid-game Lieutenant Sulu had allowed the child to borrow, something to do with dancing and music containing an entirely too-heavy beat.
“Negative. I am, however, proficient at the Vulcan lyrette, which is also a stringed instrument. Similar to your Terran harp, but more complicated in methodology.”
Hazel eyes peeked over the edge of the desk, under a mop of unruly curls – the child needed a haircut, he absently made the note to tell Nurse Chapel next he saw her. “What’s it look like?”
Spock sighed silently and rose from the desk, knowing he would get no more work done until he demonstrated both the instrument and his ability to play it. Thankfully, it was nearly time for Jim to have his afternoon nap; perhaps he could, as they said, exterminate two avians with one projectile.
“Make yourself ready for your nap, Jim, and I will show you,” he said, moving toward his living space.
The child grumbled something unintelligible under his breath, but by this point in his young life knew better than to argue with the Vulcan. Monty was dragged out from the crawl space under the beverage replicator (Spock did not want to know why the panda had been cached there in the first place), and Jim toddled across the room to his small cot, dragging the bear by one leg. The child clambered up onto the bed, bouncing upon it until Spock returned with the lyrette.
Spock placed the instrument safely on the floor while he coaxed the wriggling bundle of arms and legs under the blanket; while the air in his cabin was warm for a human Jim would wake up if he grew chilled while asleep, he had learned from experience. After pulling the blanket up to the child’s forehead, whereupon the boy giggled and yanked it down to below his chin, he seated himself on the edge of the bed and picked up the instrument.
“Lootent Nyota says you play bea-u-ti-ful,” Jim enunciated his new word carefully, and Spock refrained from correcting the proud child for his grammatical inaccuracy this time. A strange feeling of warmth suffused him at the idea that his crew-mates actually were pleased and even impressed with his ability.
However, “Musical taste is largely a matter of opinion, Jim, as is any artistic ability,” he merely said, aware that the child’s sharp eyes were probably seeing far more than even the little one was aware of. There would be some interesting conversations to be had in a few weeks, if the adult version of their captain retained his second childhood memories.
But his thoughts were broken by the return of the child-captain, for a wide yawn threatened to distort Jim’s small features. “What would you like to hear, little one?” he asked quietly, hoping to ease the child into a restful slumber, as the last few days had been exhausting for all of them.
Jim blinked sleepily up at him. “Dunno,” he murmured, scrubbing a fist across his eyelids. Then, attention sharpening for a moment, “Ma always sings me Catch a Falling Star an’ Put It in Your Pocket before I go t’seep? It keeps bad dreams away, she says.”
Spock blinked in surprise, for his own mother had done the same thing for the early years of his life. Perhaps it was a human ritual? Or perhaps it was simply coincidence. Either way, he had not heard the song even referenced in many years.
“I do know it,” he replied, and saw the child’s smile light up the room. “My…own mother sang it more than once to me, when I was a child learning about the constellations and space travel.”
Jim’s eyes shone through the haze of sleepiness. “Really?”
“Really,” he replied, lips quirking. “I will see if memory serves me correctly.” Strumming a few chords to set the key of the music, he began to hesitantly play the song by ear, surprising himself at how easily the memory surfaced from his admittedly small store of pleasant childhood remembrances.
“Catch a falling star an’ put it in your pock-et, never let it fade a-way,” Jim was murmuring drowsily, singing along with his music by the end of the first chorus with one small hand waving aimlessly in the air, as if conducting an invisible orchestra. A yawn broke the train of lyrics, but did not deter the child from continuing as if he had not paused, “…pock-et, save it for a wain-eeee day. For love may come an’…” The child paused, brow wrinkled, obviously trying to remember the words.
“Tap you on the shoulder,” Spock prompted softly, not even having to think to recall the words and the voice that had sung them so long ago.
“Some starless night,” Jim whispered, eyes fluttering closed and then jerking back open, obviously fighting sleep. “Jus’ in case you feel..." the rest of the line was unintelligible as the child was falling asleep, "...have a pocket of starlight. Catch a fallin’ star an’ put it in your pock-et, never let it…fade…’way.” The child’s eyes fluttered again, voice trailing off into a small sigh.
“Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket; Save it for a rainy day,” Spock finished mentally and let the chorus fade into a drawn-out chord, watching to make certain Jim remained asleep, smiling into the side of his panda bear.