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Only Human

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Spock of Vulcan dislikes Sol III, or Terra as it is colloquially termed, with an emphatically unVulcan revulsion.

He simply cannot fathom why any being in his, her or their correct mind would wish to inhabit such a frigid, watery world crammed full of beings who are totally incapable of controlling their emotions. Everywhere one looks, there are humans upon a few alien species upon yet more humans, jostling and shoving each other through the terminals and talking far too loudly for his sensitive hearing into various communication devices. Even the children of this distasteful planet are boisterous, raucously noisy as they dart through crowds intent upon knocking over luggage and other humans; or else they simply perch on whatever is at hand, heels banging upon the nearest object and noses buried superciliously in expensive handheld vid-games or communicators. It is these who are the most irksome, for they cast him rudely curious glances over said games when they apparently believe he is not aware of their staring.

Spock can, conversely, quite understand why his mother was perfectly happy to leave such a loathsome place and live on the much more orderly and peaceful planet of Vulcan. When he voices this logical opinion during their walk to the terminal, however, he is met with only that knowing smile and conciliatory nod which indicates his mother has a differing opinion which she will keep silent due to Vulcan propriety. Which is only to be expected, as they have been traveling under diplomatic escort out of New San Francisco. Now, they have made it through the primary transportation terminal which will transport them to their ambassadorial ship docked outside the secondary shipyard in Riverside, and are waiting for their party's electronic signature to be transmitted in order to finalize transport proceedings.

He stands quietly, hands folded neatly before him, and waits with admirable Vulcan patience for the last leg of their journey to be finalized. This earns him an approving nod from his father, when Sarek finishes speaking with his primary ambassadorial aide, and a quiet ruffling of his hair from his mother. He waits until she turns back to Sarek, of course, out of regard for human feelings, to hastily move the offending fringe back into place, using the highly reflective surface of the duranium pole next to him to aid in the proceedings.

He has not quite managed to return to his previously immaculate state, when something slams heavily into his back, causing him to stumble alarmingly close to the unforgiving support pole. Being Vulcan, he displays neither annoyance nor surprise, but turns to fix the offending object with the amount of Vulcan disdain that is appropriate in such circumstances.

A tiny little human child, at least five inches shorter than he and sporting two missing front teeth, stares wide-eyed up at him from under a mop of shockingly curly blond hair.

He is accustomed to being stared at, and therefore this is no hardship, especially when the child appears to be merely curious rather than intent upon using his appearance as a medium for personally combative mockery.

"Sorry," the child finally lisps with surprising politeness, after another (admittedly less polite) long look at Spock's pointed ears. Spock notes with scientific curiosity the difficulty of proper enunciation without the front teeth necessary for correct phonemes, as he was never without both teeth at the same time.

"No harm was done," he returns, with equal courtesy. "Are you not traveling with an adult caretaker, ax'nav?"

"Huh?" Hazel eyes blink at him in total confusion.

"You cannot be in such a place as this all alone," he responds, frowning; for what kind of parent, even an admittedly human parent, would permit such a youngling to roam the crowded terminal without escort?

"You talk weird," the child observes candidly, although the words are missing any trace of malice; simply an honest observation, then. It is a communicative difference which a scientific mind, accustomed to being the butt of jokes even in his own culture, can appreciate. Spock is about to comment on this, though it no doubt will be of little interest to such an immature mind as this child, when the little one thrusts out a chubby hand, thankfully free of dirt and at least visible germs. "I'm Jim," he offers with what appears to be an excess of enthusiasm.

Unsure of what to do with the child's hand, but not wishing to offend an innocent alien culture, Spock returns the gesture by offering the ta'al at the same level as the child's outstretched appendage. "I am Spock, son of Sarek," he responds.

"You ain't human," the child observes after a moment, though to Spock's relief he does not appear to be offended by their differences in greeting.

"Are not human," he corrects, for his mother has impressed upon him that to a scientific mind, it is always the proper time to learn.

“Tha's what I said," the child protests, the words whistling strangely through the gap in his teeth. "Where you from?"

"I am a Vulcan, from the planet of the same name," he replies, for now ignoring the child's total lack of concern for incorrect Standard verb tenses. "It is the closest Class M planet to your Earth."

The youngling’s eyes widen. "Issat why your ears look different?"

Spock is taken aback, pleasantly so, by the word choice; already today he has heard at least six children, far older than this tiny little scrap of human boy, laugh behind their hands and tell their parents to "look at his funny ears."

"It is," he finally answers, uncertain in this new sensation. "Our species are physically similar in many ways, yet different in certain aspects of our physiology."

The child tugs suddenly at his own rounded ears, half-hidden under the mop of hair, and then favors him with a blinding gap-toothed grin. "I like 'em," he chirps, still staring with evident fascination. "They're pretty cool, y'know."

Spock cannot accurately place the Terran slang, but judges from the intonation that it is a complimentary term rather than a derogatory. He spends a few moments mentally shuffling through his Terran linguistic banks for the proper reply to such sentiment, and settles on a simple expression of gratitude. Jim nods solemnly in response.

Then suddenly, the child flops down on the floor beside the pillar Spock nearly impacted earlier in their conversation, and a moment later is tugging at the edge of his traveling robe.

Jim looks up at him with another smile, waving a pocket gaming device dangerously close to his own eyes with his free hand. "I got the new Math Pirates game," he says, gesturing again with the device. "You wanna play? I bet you can win in, like, ten seconds! I can't do all the mul-ter-plu-cation problems yet."

Rather than continue to have his robe tugged on by over-eager human fingers, Spock refrains from visual expression of his mounting exasperation at the butchered mathematics terminology and instead seats himself gingerly at a safe distance from the little one's dangerously waving arms. "I have never played such a device," he admits, for there is no shame in the truth, and most of these Terran games seem to possess very little actual educational value.

Jim stares at him, this time with incredulity. "Are you for real?"

"Am I…affirmative?" he replies uncertainly.

"Duuuuude." Yet another expression Spock cannot reply to, as he has no idea what the intonation means. "Here, look." The vid-game lands in his lap unexpectedly, and he suddenly has a shoulder full of pointy human chin. "See, you hafta solve the math problems first, t'build up power in the phasers and torpedo banks. Then you get to go out an' shoot the pirate ships!"

Spock believes the educational content of the game is dubious at best, as he progressed past such basic mathematical problems two years ago in his own schooling, but there is something about the fast-paced challenge of strategy and coordination that makes the game appealing, he must admit, after ten minutes of playing.

"Duuuuude." That word again, but this time in a tone of awe rather than disbelief. Obviously the word is a multipurpose expression in Terran Standard. "You are so good!"

"Am I?" he inquires, eyebrows raised doubtfully.

"Yes! You sure you never played this before?" Hazel eyes squint suspiciously at him for a moment.

"We do not have such things on Vulcan," he responds quietly, staring down at the game. "They serve no logical purpose in childhood development."

Jim looks highly affronted. "Bull," he declares, eyes shining with indignation. "They're, like, totally part of bein' a kid! You ain't that old!"

"Are not that old."

"'S what I said!"

Spock represses a sigh of lament for the painfully dying verb tenses, and then glances up quickly as a shout reaches his keener hearing – another child, several years older than this, shouting Jim's name. He stands to his feet, Jim scrambling to follow.

"Someone is calling for you," he says unnecessarily, as the bellowing voice now can be heard throughout the terminal.

Jim scowls. "'S just Sam," he mutters, scuffing a toe along the floor with a cringe-worthy screeeek.

"And Sam is?"

"My big brother," the child grumbles, glaring at the approaching human boy with a ferocious glare that Spock thinks is fairly undeserved.

"Should you not have stayed with him?"

"Mayyyyybe," Jim hedges cautiously, shuffling a step closer to Spock as if in some show of solidarity.

Spock sighs, this time aloud, as the older boy approaches, looking thunderously at his tiny brother.

"Dude, you are in so much trouble when we get back," Sam declares, lightly cuffing the child on the back of the head. "Dad's threatening to have you chipped with a tracker like a puppy, you little squirt."

"Am not a puppy!"

"Well then, quit running away like one!"

"I didn’t run away! I walked. You coulda seen me."

While Spock cannot precisely fault the logic in the statement, he is quite certain a fault exists.

"Ughhhh." Sam turns to Spock, who has stood silently aloof from the family drama, and he braces himself for another shock-induced staring match. To his surprise, the older boy merely gives him a thorough glance and then nods, apparently satisfied. "Hope this little brat wasn't bugging you too much," the child offers, in a friendly enough tone.

"He was not…bugging me, at all," Spock replies, the unfamiliar word stumbling off his tongue.

"Sammmmm, stop it!" Small hands unsuccessfully try to pry the older boy's knuckles out of unruly hair. Jim kicks half-heartedly at his brother's ankle. "You're so mean!"

"Right. I'm mean," Sam drawls, grinning at the little one's flushed, scowling face. "So mean that I offered to come find you instead of letting dad be the first one to get his hands on you. You know that a starship captain can never be late, kiddo. Keep this up and you'll never even make it into Starfleet Academy someday 'cause some space trader will be snatching you up and flying awaaaaay with you!" The words are punctuated by the child's giggle as he is swung up into the air and around in a circle, little shoes flying madly.

Spock watches the interaction with fascination, for it is a strangely tactile, strangely alien culture, completely foreign to every sibling interaction he has ever seen on Vulcan.

Jim finally hiccups from his perch now atop Sam's shoulders, and smacks the older boy in the eye on accident, causing a yelp and a returning swat to the ankle. "Well, thanks for watching this one for me," Sam says, suddenly turning back to Spock. "Sorry for imposing on you; I imagine he's been quite a shock to a more logical species."

"It was no imposition." Spock looks up at the grinning child once more. "And your generosity in sharing your game was much appreciated, Jim," he says, quite sincerely.

"Sam, Spock says they got no vid-games on Vulcan!" Jim is still apparently quite horrified by this idea, judging from the tone. "Ain't that awful?"

"Sure is, kiddo. I'm glad you shared with him."

"Spock?" Jim leans dangerously over the side of his brother's shoulders, causing the older boy to mutter and shift his weight to a more stable position.

"Yes, Jim?"

"You…you wanna keep this one?" Spock stares at the gaming device, held out in mid-air by this strange little human, and then glances up at the reluctant but still sincere offering in the child's eyes. "I got more at home. You can…you can have this one if you want."

Sam opens his mouth, no doubt to protest the wisdom of the child offering a prized possession to a total stranger; Spock does not blame him for this, but apparently Jim does, for the child kicks him with a well-aimed sneaker toe and receives understanding silence in return.

But it is the thought behind the gesture, rather than the game itself, which has already changed the way in which Spock sees this human culture. He does not need the physical presence of a vid-game he has mentally outgrown years past to remember this moment.

"You are very kind, Jim," he replies, wishing there were appropriate Vulcan gestures to express what Vulcan words do not permit. "But you should keep your game. After all, you must learn those multiplication problems and you cannot do so if I have the game."

Apparently it is logic enough for a human toddler, and he sees the relief in both boys' eyes at his polite refusal. Oddly enough, it is that knowledge that warms him the most; that one child could be so unselfish, despite not truly wishing to part with a prized possession.

Perhaps, not all humans are as those he has up to now encountered on this, his first journey to Terra.

The loudspeaker sounds overhead, and the transport call number must be that of the two young humans, for Sam shuffles his brother to a better position and then turns to leave.

"Thanks, man," the older boy says over his shoulder, and gives him a companionable nod.

"Bye, Spock!" Jim calls, offering him one more enormous gap-toothed grin, and gives what looks like a bizarre crab-like approximation of the ta'al with both hands waving wildly in the air, as they disappear into the crowded terminal.

Spock fights down a twinge of amusement, reluctantly compartmentalizing it as yet another childhood failing of his Vulcan heritage.

A shadow falls over him, and he looks up to see his mother, smiling after the retreating figures in the crowd. "Who was your friend, Spock?" she asks, quietly enough that Sarek will not hear.

"Vulcans do not have friends, Mother; you are aware of this," he replies with perfect equanimity.

Amanda sighs, and rests a gentle hand on his head. "Of course, my son. I ask forgiveness."

He nods, watching as the bouncing little human finally disappears down the next terminal. His mother gives him a fond pat upon the shoulder, the only gesture of affection she will offer in public out of respect for his Vulcan upbringing, and then turns away to gather up their luggage and re-join Sarek and his aides.

"His name is Jim," Spock says softly, once she is out of earshot.