Whatever reservations McCoy had had about Spock's ability to hold out against a rebellious, teenaged Jim Kirk, they were put to rest within a quarter-hour of the young man's return to the Enterprise. After his miniature freakout regarding the horrifying prospect of pubescence, Jim had taken one look at Spock's stony expression and had promptly quailed before it, as any other mortal would.
"I'm in trouble, yeah?" he asked, peering at McCoy with a wordless plea for mercy. The physician raised an eyebrow pointedly, and Jim's eyes dropped to the deck. "Yeah, thought so. Look, Spock -"
"Spare us the juvenile rationalization of your complete disregard for orders and your personal safety."
"You can't give me orders," Jim retorted hotly, hands fisted on his still-slim hips. "I'm really the captain of this ship!"
Spock took one long-legged step into the young man's personal space. "I can, and you are not," he enunciated evenly, skewering Jim on the end of a truly fearsome glare. "You will not be the captain of this vessel for another sixteen of your years - and while I have no desire to assume command in your stead I have done so and shall continue to, until you are of sufficient age to perform your duties."
Jim looked up, glaring from under his unruly hair, and opened his mouth, but wisely snapped it shut after consideration. "Until that time," Spock continued, "you will behave in a manner befitting a Starfleet crewman, if you presume to have the freedom aboard you seem to expect. Failure to comport yourself as such will result in the restriction of your movements aboard the ship you will someday command." The Vulcan's eyes softened ever-so-slightly, but his stance remained firm. "I fully recognize that you are no longer considered a child by human standards, but nor are you an adult, Jim. How much liberty you have to acquaint yourself with your ship and its people is entirely dependent upon you."
"You're saying if I don't toe the line or whatever, you're going to have me restricted to quarters?" Jim muttered rebelliously, arms folded as he slouched against the wall. "That's ridiculous!"
Even McCoy intelligently stepped backward as fire sparked in the Acting Captain's eyes, and he'd be real surprised if the crewmen in a cross-corridor who had done sudden about-faces at the sight hadn't wet themselves. Spock was downright terrifying when he wanted to be, and he obviously wanted to be.
"Were you a crewman, who had endangered himself and this ship by an unauthorized beam-down into a Class Three planetary emergency, followed by an evasion of authority in returning to the ship and blatant disregard for orders from inception to conclusion, I would have you in the brig until we reached the next starbase," Spock said with quiet menace. Jim paled, straightening up instinctively under the tone of authority, as well as the veiled reference to Spock's original threat, to return him to a starbase to wait out his re-transformation in protective custody. "And that is most certainly the sentence you, as captain of this ship, would have carried out were you in my place," the Vulcan added, more gently.
Jim looked a bit sick. "Are you going to - you're not going to do that, are you?" he asked, the rebellious tone gone from his voice as common sense penetrated his knee-jerk defense.
"Negative," Spock replied calmly. "I believe such measures would be overly harsh in this case." Jim huffed out a quiet breath of relief, and the Vulcan continued dryly, "Also, you have in the past broken out of the Enterprise brig on three separate occasions; obviously such a punishment would be an exercise in futility."
Jim grinned, for the first time since Spock had begun his chastisement, though the smile faded within a few moments. He scuffled a toe along the durasteel wall, and then glanced up. "I'm sorry, for what it's worth," he offered with a reluctant casualness, though the sloppy apology appeared sincere enough.
"And what do you believe 'it' is worth, Jim?"
Jim winced; McCoy was starting to feel sorry for him. Then he remembered that the kid had beamed himself down to a plague planet while suffering from PTSD and malnutrition, and he went back to being mighty ticked off at the brat. If he'd ever tried something like this his momma would have had his hide, and no mistake; the kid was lucky to have a member of a pacifistic species as his primary guardian.
"You will behave yourself according to the standard held to every Starfleet crew member, if you wish to be treated as one rather than as a civilian passenger," Spock stated, as if it were fact and not an offer. "If you blatantly defy authority again, you will be dealt with as any crewman would, by being placed on report, banned from ship privileges, or restricted to quarters. And," his voice deepened with uncompromising coldness, "escape ability or not, you will spend the night in the brig should you again deliberately disobey my or Dr. McCoy's strict injunctions as you did this morning, to the point of endangering the safety of this ship."
"You wouldn't," Jim gasped, aghast.
Spock's eyebrows rose a fraction. "I most definitely would," he replied sternly. "You have voiced in recent minutes that you believe yourself to be captain of this ship - what would you do, had a crewman defied you in such a manner, fully knowing of the consequences?"
Jim looked properly chastised, and vented a long, mournful sigh. "I would...realize that the guy's a real moron, and be very merciful if he promises not to screw up that badly again?" he tried with a winsome expression, employing a very good teenaged approximation of his toddler-aged puppy eyes.
McCoy snorted, more because he knew Spock was a sucker for the ploy even with the adult version of their captain than out of amusement at the kid's antics. Spock merely regarded the hopeful youngster with incredible calmness, before inclining his head a fraction in what constituted agreement.
"A very wise human once told me, that every good man deserves a second chance," the Acting Captain finally said quietly. "See that you use it well, Jim."
The teenager nodded, apparently genuinely ashamed of his actions.
"I would suggest you return to your quarters for a change of clothing and a precautionary decontamination shower," Spock continued. "Doctor McCoy will then meet you in Sickbay for a physical and psychological examination, which is, I remind you, standard procedure for any crewman returning from even an uneventful away mission." Jim's protest died on his lips unspoken at the explanation, and he nodded in unenthusiastic accord. "I would then be...agreeable to dining with you in Officers' Mess, if you have no objections to my presence?"
A genuine smile curved the teenager's lips, all animosity surprisingly vanished in the face of an implacable authority. McCoy suspected the kid simply needed an authority figure to slap him in the face with the reasons behind rules before he'd submit to them (or decide if they were worth breaking), if said authority had already proven its trustworthiness beyond doubt. It was textbook for an adolescent coming out of a traumatic experience such as Jim's (textbook for Jim's career, now that he thought about it, which made all kinds of sense), and it boded well for the teenaged years and their inadequate but well-meaning quasi-parenting.
Standing tall, Jim acknowledged Spock with a solemn nod, and then relaxed, flipping them both a sloppy salute before setting off down the corridor, headed for the nearest turbolift.
The CMO exhaled only slightly more loudly than his Acting Captain, and they exchanged a set of raised eyebrows that clearly said well-that-could-have-gone-worse.
"Not too awful bad, for a Vulcan," he observed without rancor. "Don't you think you were a little hard on him, though, Spock? He's just a kid, we gotta remember that."
"Perhaps, Doctor," came the pensive reply. "Though if we were to ask the Captain, I believe his answer would be that he was never 'just a kid'. Time will tell."
McCoy nodded, shoving off from the wall where he'd been leaning, watching the fireworks. "Well, you've set yourself up as an authority he'll respond to, at least - and good call, with the whole crewman behavior shebang. That's something he'll take seriously, and hopefully it'll put off his wanting to take over the ship when he's sixteen and depressed and hormonal and God-knows-what-else. I have a lot of studying to do, let me tell you."
Spock inclined his head, and turned to proceed down the corridor to the Bridge turbolift.
"One thing, Spock," McCoy called before he got very far.
A long-suffering close of the eyes. "Yes, Doctor."
"Who was that 'wise human' you were goin' on about?" the physician asked curiously. "The Lady Amanda, was it?"
Spock cocked his head to one side, regarding him silently. Finally, he straightened and answered, "Negative, Doctor. It was Captain Kirk."
"But when -"
"Shortly after I returned from escorting Captain Pike to the Transporter Room at Talos IV, Doctor," was the quiet rejoinder, and with a curt nod Spock disappeared around the corner.
McCoy looked after him in surprise, and then smiled. Maybe, just maybe, they would all escape the next few harrowing weeks without killing each other.