The little terror which was six-year-old James Tiberius Kirk (he had abruptly announced himself this age one morning, no one quite knew how or why but all could only be thankful for it) had been unusually well-behaved the previous evening, content with the company of Lieutenant Sulu and Ensign Chekov while McCoy caught up with some badly-needed sleep. Spock had taken the rare opportunity to meet with his Science department heads and actually learn in detail what was going on aboard besides the handful of chaos which occupied the majority of his time and patience. Jim had behaved all evening, and had been returned to his Sickbay cubicle-turned-nursery, going to sleep with a cherubic smile and nary a sign of a tantrum.
McCoy's overtired brain could barely believe it, but he was not one to look a gift horse in the mouth and only fell into bed that night breathing out his gratitude.
Given the Old Earth equivalent of the next day's Stardate, coupled with Jim's unnaturally angelic behavior during the hour between rising and breakfast in Officers' Mess, he should have suspected something of the kind. As it stood, he had not remembered that ancient and annoying Earth holiday known as April Fool's – and, apparently, Chekov and Sulu definitely had remembered.
This early in the morning, Mess was cheerily ringing with chatter and status reports, as late gamma shift workers stopped by for a snack before going to bed and alpha shift workers scrambled to prepare for their day. McCoy had given up trying to convince Jim that strawberry waffles did not require chocolate milk as an absolutely crucial accompaniment, and so stood in line beside the child, sighing, as he slid his card in a second time for the sugar-laced drink.
Vigilantly balancing the cup on his tray, tongue sticking out slightly, Jim then trotted after the doctor, careful to not jostle anyone he passed. He smiled readily up at anyone who stopped to say good-morning, and tolerated a few hair-ruffles with a cheerfulness that should have, in retrospect, made McCoy more suspicious.
The Command chain had a corner toward which they usually gravitated at meal-times, and he was relieved to see that the rest of the alpha-shift Bridge crew, with the exception of Uhura (who was watch officer this morning for shift change), had barely begun their meals. He would have help, then, making sure Jim ate his meal without ending up wearing three fourths of the whipped cream.
"Morning, Spock!" the child chirped, scrambling up onto his chair and beaming as the Vulcan's attention turned from the six data-padds before him, eyes softening as he saw the little one's eager face.
"Good morning, Jim. Did you sleep well?"
"Yup!" McCoy caught the milk glass as it teetered, and set it right, safely out of reach of gesturing chubby hands. "Mr. Sulu an' I played swords and I was so tired!"
"He wasn't the only one," the helmsman muttered under his breath, though his good-natured grin showed how little he minded being child-sitter for their small Captain Sunshine.
"Napkin," the doctor warned, as a glop of strawberry sauce nearly landed on him. He hadn't even sat down yet, and the kid was already threatening to trash his Medical tunic. "Tucked into your shirt, kiddo, unless you want to smell like syrup all day."
"Why not?" the child asked seriously, apparently thinking it was a grand idea.
He refrained from moaning, and shook his head, moving around Sulu and Chekov's chairs to the empty seat at the table.
"Jim, please desist from gesticulating with your cutlery," Spock said tonelessly, scrawling a signature across one of the data-padds and nobly ignoring the small blob of syrup which had landed on the screen.
Innocent hazel eyes blinked slowly. "Huh?"
"Do not wave your spork at people, Jim," Chekov interjected helpfully. "Is not polite behavior."
"Oh." The child looked down, slightly cross-eyed, at his eating utensil, before shrugging and digging the article into the depths of his topmost waffle.
Grateful that another mini-crisis had been avoided without his input, McCoy finally set his tray in place and lowered himself wearily into his chair.
The resulting noise – crude, and extremely loud – drew the attention of everyone in the near vicinity, and he froze, a dark blush beginning to creep up the back of his neck as the occupants of the surrounding tables stared his direction for a moment.
Spock circled a phrase and then clicked another page in his report, obviously choosing his battles this morning.
Sulu and Chekov looked down the table at him, slightly aghast, and then hastily returned to their meals as if nothing had happened, too well-mannered to make a comment about the incident.
Jim slurped his chocolate milk with single-minded determination, small mouth pursed up around the straw, and appeared to have not heard the embarrassing sound. Thank heaven; that was all they needed, a hyperactive child who had learned the interesting and impolite noises the body could make.
Face still slightly red, McCoy returned to his omelet and fruit, and made a mental note to dose himself with the appropriate supplements as soon as he could escape to Sickbay.
But ten seconds later, it happened again. The doctor's knife and fork dropped with a clatter onto his plate as this time everyone at the table looked at him in what appeared to be expressions ranging from an incredulous eyebrow to horrified fascination.
"Doctor," Sulu began.
"I swear, I…"
He paused, as their child-captain completely lost it, giggling like a baby hyena into his milk. Bubbles frothed upward with the force of childish laughter, and Spock's left eyebrow inched up to meet the right as McCoy glowered down the table.
"James Tiberius Kirk!"
The child gave a little shriek and slid out of his chair to hide, obviously ineffectively, under the table.
"Doctor?" Spock's face did its best do-I-really-want-to-know-and-will-I-be-scarred-for-life-if-you-tell-me impression.
A choked snort from his left made McCoy pause before doing so, and he pointed an accusatory finger at the man sitting next to him. "Do you know what I can do to you during your next physical, Mr. Chekov?" he said, deceptively soft.
The young navigator had been trying to hide his laughter in the thick egg sandwich he was holding before his mouth. Now, caught out by his inability to fully hide his guilt, he gulped down the last bite and shook his head. "I do not know what you are speaking about, Doctor," he said, making a valiant attempt to look innocent.
"Oh, you don't. Well maybe I can jog your memory a little bit when I lobotomize you, Ensign. Hold it, you!" A small squawk, and the physician hauled a squirming six-year-old out from under the table by his scruff. Jim aimed a half-hearted swat at the strong grip, the aim spoiled completely by the strength of his laughter. "Hand it over, Jim-boy."
"What?" the child protested, giving him a wounded look.
"The remote control, you little monster," he retorted. "Shoulda known better than to let you spend the night before April Fool's Day with Tweedledee and Tweedledum!"
Spock blinked, head cocked to one side, as if actually contemplating the relation between the fictional characters and their slightly chagrined but unrepentant navigator and helmsman. "Doctor, I am at a loss," he finally said, stacking the report padds and fixing the physician and snickering child with his full attention.
"This, Mr. Spock," McCoy replied with dramatic flair, holding up the device he'd just yanked out from under his seat, "is an old Earth toy colloquially called a whoopee cushion. Only change that's been made to it in the last three centuries is that now it's remote-controlled."
He received an expressionless blink, which only served to set both Sulu and Chekov off into a fit of snickers to accompany their small captain's hoots.
"It reproduces certain…uncouth noises which the body is capable of," McCoy explained, desperately hoping the Vulcan would simply drop the matter instead of wanting to dissect and discuss it until he fully understood the behavior.
"For what purpose?"
"Entertainment purposes, Mr. Spock." McCoy swatted Jim upside the head, sending the little one into another fit of giggles, and then shoved the boy back toward his chair. "Finish your waffles, kid, before I decide you don't deserve 'em anymore."
Suitably threatened, Jim hastened back to his seat and began shoveling strawberry-soaked pieces into his mouth at an alarming rate, eyes wide over the lip of his spork.
"I do not see the entertainment value in reproducing the audio effects of the body's gastrointestinal reaction to –"
"Just drop it, Spock, will you?" he interrupted, as the two nearest tables (obviously eavesdropping on the whole thing) finally broke down and howled with laughter.
Slanted brows knitted. "Humans' concepts of humor are entirely beyond my full comprehension at times, Doctor."
McCoy snorted and returned to his fruit, grinning despite himself at the incident. "Just be glad he didn't try it on you on the Bridge," he told the Vulcan, with a sudden flash of truly inspired evil. "Try explaining that away logically to a horrified alpha-shift crew."
Spock looked with some alarm at the device on the table, and McCoy knew he'd got his revenge when the six-year-old across the way fixed them both with a thoughtfully speculative eye.
Later that day, while at her motherboard diverting communications, Uhura absently wondered why the Acting Captain still hadn't sat down in either the central chair or the Science station's seat, a full four hours into alpha shift.