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“Scott to sickbay. Doctor, we need you in the transporter room immediately.”

Spock watches the man on the other side of the plexiglass. His face is washed in blue light as he presses buttons and looks frantically at the controls. His voice has a lilt to it that Spock identifies as being of Earth origins, specifically the Scottish Lowlands. Spock isn't sure where the information comes from, but he is certain it is correct.

A door whooshes open and another man enters. He is taller and of slightly larger build than the man seated at the control panel. He appears concerned, and the look worsens when his eyes fall on Spock standing on the transporter pad.

“What happened?”

“I don't know. They were beaming back, same as always, and they showed up like this.”

“Was there communication before they beamed back?”

“Ay, the Captain called for two to beam up. There was some static, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary and he didn't say anything was wrong.”

At the mention of 'they' Spock realizes he's not alone on the transporter pad. He glances back and discovers a blond boy standing on the target directly behind him. Spock only catches a glimpse before he's distracted by the man kneeling before him, but he recognizes a look of anger and fear on the other boy's face.

“I'm Doctor McCoy. Do you know your name?”

“Spock.”

“Do you know where you are?”

“I am unable to identify my location.”

McCoy turns quickly to the blond boy. “What's your name, son?”

“Jimmy Kirk.”

“That's right, Jimmy, and do you know where you are?”

“No.” The boy is looking furiously at McCoy, but Spock is still able to spot an undercurrent of fear in his eyes.

“Do either of you remember where you were before you showed up here?”

Spock responds as Jim shakes his head. “I have no memory of events prior to four point one five minutes ago.”

McCoy nods carefully, glancing back at the man behind the controls.

“Scotty, they look to be about five years old.”

“Ay. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't see it with my own eyes.”

“I'm taking them to sickbay. If you figure out the problem with the transporter, page me there.”

“Ay, Doctor.”

McCoy turns back to them. “Spock, Jimmy, you're going to come with me. That sound okay to you two?”

Jim doesn't respond, so Spock speaks for them both. “Your position as a doctor makes you appear trustworthy. We will accompany you, as staying here would serve no purpose.”

The doctor appears to suppress a laugh as he stands and holds out his hands to Spock and Jim. Spock cautiously takes the offered hand, but Jim refuses.

“I'll go with you but I'm not holding your hand. That's for babies.”

“Fine, but you stay by my side while we're walking. Come on.”

Seemingly happy with the compromise, little Jim Kirk steps off the transporter pad and follows them out the door.

*

“My name's Jimmy.”

“I am aware.”

They are sitting on adjacent beds in sickbay, having been left alone momentarily. Jim kicks his legs as he glances around the room. He has already managed to crumple the sheets on his bed and his gown is hanging low on one shoulder as if it's too big for his tiny body.

Spock sits calmly on his still perfectly-made bed, watching the other boy slowly destroy his surroundings.

“You're Spock, right?'

“Affirmative.”

“Are you bored too?”

“We are here for a purpose so, no, I am not bored.”

“Well I'm bored. I wanna go play.”

Spock can't think of a response, so he remains quiet. The machines hum and beep as they monitor the vital signs of the two boys. Spock turns his attention to the screens behind them, but finds himself unable to determine if the information is positive or negative.

“I wish that doctor would come back.” Jim's voice, and the sound of rustling, draws Spock's attention and he turns just in time to see Jim sliding off the end of his bed.

“His name is Doctor McCoy.” Spock says quietly, watching as Jim begins to explore the room.

“Yeah, McCoyyy.” Jim drags out the end of McCoy's name as he says it. He walks slowly around the examination room, not quiet tall enough to see anything of interest but pretending to be intrigued all the same.

“Lotsa fun stuff in here.”

“It is quite fascinating.”

“We should go explorin'.”

“That would be unwise. Doctor McCoy is likely to return soon and he will require us to be present.”

“We can go and come back after.”

“I am not sure--”

Jim is yanking his hand then, encouraging him to jump off the bed. Spock puts up a fleeting show of resistance before reluctantly sliding to the floor beside Jim. At that angle Spock can tell that the other boy is slightly shorter than him. He is a skinny, scrappy little thing with bony knees and a mess of blond hair. Being so close, Spock also notices the boy's brilliant blue eyes.

Somewhere in his memory Spock knows he's been in contact with human children before, but always dark-eyed and dark-haired like himself. Jim's appearance is something new entirely.

“I find you to be an intriguing human, at least so far as in appearance.”

“What's that mean? You're human aren't ya?”

“Negative,” Spock says, shaking his head. He points to his ears. “I am Vulcan.”

Jim falls silent as he stares open-mouthed at Spock's ears, which he had apparently failed to notice until that very moment. “I never met a Vulcan before.”

Without asking permission, Jim reaches forward to touch the tips of Spock's ears and Spock ducks to move away.

“You got pointy ears, but you look like a human.”

“Vulcan and humans do bear a resemblance, and I should specify that my mother is human. So, therefore, I am half-Vulcan and half-human.”

“Do all Vulcans talk weird like you?”

Spock nearly frowns. “There is nothing strange about my speech patterns.”

“I didn't mean it in a bad way. You just use big words.” Jim appears nervous for a second, fearing he's hurt his new friend. “Come on, let's go see what's outside.”

“Outside?”

“That door. There's gotta be fun stuff out there.”

Spock glances at the door which Doctor McCoy had exited from ten point two minutes earlier. He knows the doctor expected them to stay in the examination room, but he also feels an overwhelming desire to join Jim in his exploration.

“Perhaps a minute or two, and then we should return.”

“Yeah let's go!”

Jim is at the door before Spock has time to change his mind. He catches up quickly and waits while Jim stands on his toes to press the button for the door. As it whooshes open they are faced with a narrow corridor. It curves, so where it leads is a mystery, but there were several other doorways along the route.

“Which way you wanna go?” Jim asks, glancing in both directions.

“As we are exploring, I believe either option would be acceptable.”

Jim nods as he steps cautiously out into the corridor. His small bare feet are silent as he pads across the floor. Then he moves suddenly so his back is against the wall and proceeds to slide to the right.

“We're spies. Slide like this.”

Spock, also bare foot, steps in next to Jim and presses his back against the wall. They slide quietly down the corridor, passing one closed door and slowly approaching another.

As they reach the second door a voice echoes down the corridor – a man's voice and it is getting closer. Within seconds Spock identifies it as the voice of Doctor McCoy.

“It's the bad guys!” Jim whispers excitedly. “We gotta hide!”

“But Jim, it is the doc--”

“No, Spock, hurry!” Jim grabs hold of Spock's sickbay gown and pulls him over to the second closed door. To Spock's surprise, Jim presses a few buttons and the door slides open.

The room is bright but unoccupied. A large desk sits at the far end, covered in various instruments, and the wall behind the desk holds two long shelves which house a collection of bones and skulls.

“We gotta hide somewhere! We can look at the treasures later,” Jim says quickly as he pulls Spock to the desk and proceeds to crawl under it. “Come on, down here!”

Spock stares wide-eyed at Jim. “I do not think--”

“Hurry!” Spock jumps at the command, as if suddenly they really are in some sort of danger, and quickly crawls under behind Jim.

It is dark under the desk, and they are sitting side by side. Jim looks at him and raises his eyebrows as he whispers, “listen for the bad guys!”

They both listen quietly, hearing nothing at first except Jim's rushed breathing. Suddenly there is a shout from the hallway – the doctor's voice.

“Goddamn it. They're gone!”

Then there is a slam followed by a few more raised voices.

“Call the bridge, tell them to check the security visuals.”

Jim is kicking his legs frantically, covering his mouth in excitement.

More raised voices and rapid footsteps pass the door.

“Avoid red alert for now. We don't want to scare them.”

From beneath the desk they hear the door slide open and Jim is staring at Spock with a look of silent terror and amusement. Spock suddenly realizes they should have never left the examination room, as doing so has clearly caused concern and chaos. Before Jim has a chance to react, Spock is out from under the desk and standing, suddenly looking up at the face of a very surprised McCoy.

“Damn it, Spock. There you are. Is Jim with you?”

Spock doesn't respond, doesn't want to risk upsetting his new friend by giving away his location. So he simply flits his eyes in the direction of the floor hoping to signal to the doctor that Jim is indeed with him and hiding under the desk.

“I see.” McCoy says. “Not telling, hmm?”

As the doctor slowly makes his way around the desk, Spock realizes he's picked up on the signal and is playing along.

“I'll just have to find him myself then.”

McCoy reaches the edge of the desk and pretends to be distracted by the shelves. “Well, he's not up here..”

He examines the shelves for a moment before casually turning to face the underside of the desk. He leans forward slowly, his face suddenly on level with Jim's under the table.

“Found you, kid!”

Jim lets out a squeal of laughter and kicks his legs. McCoy doesn't reach out a hand to help Jim up, but simply waits for him to crawl out from under the desk.

“We were spies,” Jim explains when he's finally standing properly. He watches as McCoy takes a seat in his desk chair. “You were the bad guy.”

The doctor grunts and seems to suppress a smile. “Spies huh? How'd you get in here?”

Jim points at the door. “I pushed the buttons.”

“The security code buttons?” McCoy is looking at him curiously.

“The door buttons, it wasn't hard.”

“Well wonders never cease, kid.”

Jim smiles up at the doctor before turning to wander around the room. Spock sticks close to McCoy as Jim explores. He peers over the desk, standing on his toes and attempting to touch various instruments which the doctor silently pulls out of his reach. Giving up, Jim moves back to the shelves behind the desk.

“What's all the skulls for?”

“I collect them. And sometimes people give them to me.”

“Did you kill them?”

A hearty laugh bursts from McCoy's mouth. “No, Jim, no. Some were purchases, some were gifts, and some were found on various planets.”

Spock tenses for a moment when the doctor points at him. “You gave me one of those, do you remember which one?”

He looks up at the shelves, running his eyes over each skull. “None appear familiar.”

“I figured as much,” McCoy replies. “Just trying to jog your memories.”

“Why?” Jim asks. He's standing close to McCoy now, his hands on the doctor's knee.

“Do you know how old you are?” McCoy asks.

Jim holds up his outstretched palm. “Five.” He points at each finger as he counts aloud, “one two three four five.”

McCoy takes a deep breath for a moment, and Spock can tell he's choosing his words carefully.

“That's right. You're five. But before today, you were older than five. Do you remember that?”

Jim furrows his brow. “No. How old was I before?”

“Before today, you were twenty-six.”

Jim's eyes grow wide. “Twenty-six? That's old.”

“Hey, watch it, kid.” Spock can tell the doctor is taking mock offense as he is clearly older than twenty-six. McCoy smiles as he pats Jim's blond head. “Twenty six isn't old, but it's a lot older than five.”

His gaze turns to Spock then. “Do you know how old you are?”

Spock nods, “I heard you confirm to the man in the transporter room that I am the same age as Jim, which would indicate that I am also five years old.”

McCoy laughs again. “You sure as hell don't sound five but, yeah Spock, you're five too.”

“In reality, am I also twenty-six years of age?”

“No, that's where this whole business gets even more goddamn confusing. You're actually three years older than Jim. But today you're both five.”

“You cuss a lot,” Jim pipes up.

“Sorry, kid. I've gotta watch my mouth for awhile, I suppose.”

“You call me 'kid' a lot too.” Jim looks at the floor and shifts his foot against the toe of McCoy's boot.

“Sorry, Jim. You're a kid, is all. And I call twenty-six year old Jim a kid sometimes too.”

Jim looks up at him with a frown. “You do?”

“Yeah. But he doesn't mind. Guess it's different being called a kid when you're actually a kid, huh?”

Jim nods. “Well if you get to call me kid then what do I get to call you?”

“You can call me whatever you want. Usually you call me Bones.”

A smile washes over Jim's face. “I call you Bones?? That's a good spy name! Or a pirate name!”

McCoy laughs again. “Yeah, I suppose it is. If you like it, you can call me Bones.” He turns back to Spock. “You can too if you want, Spock.”

Spock ponders the name for a minute. “As it is not your proper name, I would rather call you Doctor McCoy.”

“Fine with me.”

“Well I'm gonna call you Bones,” Jim pipes up again. “And you can call me Jimmy. Or Jim. Or kid..” His voice trails off at the last word, but Spock senses Jim no longer minds the 'kid' moniker.

“You got a deal, both of you.” McCoy pats them both on the head, and Spock resists the urge to pull away. Already he feels a sense of trust in the doctor.

“For now, I've got more tests to run and you two need to eat.” McCoy presses a button on his desk, and speaks into the air. “Sickbay to bridge.”

*

 

After helping them dress in small black pants and t-shirts –similar to the outfit McCoy himself is wearing under his uniform shirt– the doctor takes Jim and Spock to the mess hall. Spock knows it's illogical, but he cannot deny a feeling of nervousness as he watches McCoy's retreating figure exit the mess after leaving them with an ensign.

When Spock turns back around the young man is looking at him expectantly. He is tall and thin, with large bright eyes and the curliest hair Spock has ever seen. Jim is already staring back at the ensign, with an equally expectant expression.

“Keptin, Commander.” The young man says, and Jim gives Spock a confused glance. The two boys look quickly behind them, wondering who the ensign is addressing. There's no one behind them, so both boys turn their attention back to the young man.

“Are you talkin' to us?”

“Of course, Keptin. Doctor McCoy put you in my care for the dinner hour. Are you hungry?”

Jim is still staring wide-eyed at the curly-haired young man. “My name's not Keptin. It's Jimmy.”

The ensign appears confused. “The doctor did not tell you anything about..” He pauses briefly before continuing. “The.. Keptin?”

“Uh-uh.” Jim looks around the room suspiciously, as if he's hoping to catch a glimpse of this 'Keptin' fellow.

Finally the ensign distracts him with a proper introduction. “Never mind, Jimmy, Spock. I am Chekov, Pavel Andreievich. But you may call me simply Pavel.”

“Are you of Russian origin?”

“Ay, Spock! Can you tell this from my accent?”

“Affirmative. Also, the use of 'evich' in your middle name tells me your father was named Andrei.”

“You are a very knowledgeable five year old.”

Spock simply nods.

Jim watches this exchange before speaking again. “Pavel, your hair is really curly.”

Chekov laughs as he looks at Jim. “And your hair is very blond.” He turns back to Spock. “And your hair is very straight. So I think we will all get along well then.”

Jim gives Chekov a look, as if he's trying to decide what to make of the young man. “That doesn't make much sense.”

Chekov grins at him. “I think you are right. But it is funny, yes?”

Finally Jim allows himself to grin back. “Maybe.”

*

Fifteen minutes later they're sitting at a table in the mess, and their trays are piled high with food. A chicken sandwich and chocolate pudding for Jim, and vegetable rice pilaf and strawberry cake for Spock. And apple juice for both, despite Jim's request for coffee.

Jim is sitting close to Spock on the bench, ripping the crusts off his sandwich. Chekov sits on the opposite side of the table and watches them for a moment before speaking. “So boys, tell me what you have been up to so far today.”

Jim's mouth is full of sandwich, so Spock speaks first. “We were examined and monitored by Doctor McCoy. He performed a series of tests and asked us several questions.”

“And we explored and played spies and hid under a big desk.” Jim adds, as crumbs fly out of his mouth.

“Under a big desk?” Chekov asks with a laugh.

“Yeah, Bones's desk.”

The ensign looks from one boy to the other. “You both did this?”

The two boys nod.

“Yup.”

“Indeed.”

Chekov seems hardly able to suppress his grin. “I am sorry I missed this event.”

“We can play again someday if you wanna play too.”

Chekov just nods with a look of amused bewilderment on his face.

The two small boys continue eating until Jim finally speaks again. “Hey Spock, you wanna play a game after supper?”

Spock turns to look at Jim. “To what sort of game are you referring?”

“I don't know. Somethin' fun.”

“That sounds acceptable. And you appear to have mayonnaise on your shirt.”

Jim looks down at his shirt and then reaches up to smear his hand across the stain. “You know any good games?” He's suddenly forgotten about the mayo, and his attention is on Chekov.

The ensign reaches across with a napkin to try to wipe the food from Jim's shirt. “Chess is a good game. Maybe you will remember it.”

“Chess is boring,” Jim mumbles. “Nobody can ever beat me.”

“It is likely I could beat you,” Spock says quietly between bites.

“Nuh uh. Everyone I play with always loses and I win. I wanna play something fun.”

Spock doesn't reply although he's confident he could beat Jim in a chess match.

“Maybe you would like to see the botany lab?” Chekov asks. “Mister Sulu has many interesting plants.”

“Who's Mister Sulu?” Jim picks up his spoon as he moves on to his pudding.

“He is the pilot. He flies the ship.”

Jim freezes in his seat and the spoon drops to the table with a clatter. “Are we on a ship??”

Chekov grins as he picks up Jim's spoon and hands it back to him. “Yes, of course. We are in space.”

Jim looks at Spock, his eyes wide with surprise. “Spock, did you know that?”

“I suspected when we arrived in the transporter room, but I have only now received confirmation.”

“I never been on a ship before,” Jim says quietly as he looks around the mess hall. “Except when I was a baby. My ma says I was born on a ship.”

Jim shoves a spoonful of pudding into his mouth before continuing.

“My dad was on the ship too and he died but he saved a lotta people.”

Chekov nods slightly, seemingly unsure of how to respond.

Jim pauses then and eats another mouthful of pudding. “So when can we see this botana place?”

Spock watches Jim for a moment, his mouth is coated in chocolate and despite the change in subject Spock can sense sadness in the small boy.

“The botany lab,” Chekov replies. “We will visit after you finish your dinner.”

“I'm gettin' full,” Jim says before turning to Spock and holding out his pudding-covered spoon. “You want some of this?”

Spock shakes his head. “Vulcans do not eat chocolate.”

“Never ever??”

“Affirmative. Never.. ever.”

There's another wide-eyed look from Jim as he seems to attempt to imagine never eating chocolate. “Is your cake good at least?”

Spock nods. “It is an acceptable option.”

Jim considers this and sets down his spoon. “Good.”

*

As they exit the lift and make their way down the corridor to the botany lab, Spock walks stiffly by Chekov's side as Jim runs to keep up while looking curiously in doorways and down connecting corridors.

He looks over to Spock as they walk and whispers, “I shoulda known this was a ship. There aren't any windows.”

“Indeed,” Spock whispers back.

“We do have windows,” Chekov whispers down at them with a grin. “You have just not seen them yet.”

They finally reach a set of doors and the two boys follow Chekov inside. The room is hot and damp, and the lighting is dim. Various types of flora and fauna cover tables and shelves, with individual lights of differing colors and intensities beaming on them.

Jim immediately runs to the nearest brightly colored flower, but Spock resists the urge to examine the plants as he waits for instruction from Chekov.

“Mister Sulu?”

Chekov's voice echoes through the lab, and another voice responds from behind several shelves. “Pavel? We're back here.”

Chekov motions for the boys to follow him, and they make their way past some large swaying flowers to the back of the lab where a dark-haired man is standing over two seated technicians.

“Sulu, I have brought..” Chekov pauses for a moment as he glances down at the two boys. “Jimmy and Spock here to see you.”

Sulu turns quickly and smiles as he catches sight of Jim and Spock.

“Oh hey, I heard about this,” he says as he kneels, bringing himself down to eye-level. “How are you guys doing?”

Before Spock has a chance to respond Jim speaks, “did you grow all these flowers?”

“Some of them, yeah! But a lot are from different planets I've visited. What do you think of them?”

Jim is peering wide-eyed at a shelf of shimmering purpled-leafed vines. “They're nice!”

“Do you want to stay and check them out?”

“Yeah!” Jim exclaims as he glances over at Spock. “We wanna stay, right Spock?”

“Yes,” Spock nods. “That would be interesting.”

Sulu glances up at Chekov. “You want to leave them here, Pavel?”

“Ay, if it is no trouble. I need to return to the mess to eat.”

Sulu looks back at Jim and Spock. “No trouble at all! I'll give them a tour and it'll be fun, right guys?”

“Yeah!” Jim grins as Spock glances nervously at Chekov. He's interested in learning about plant life in the lab, but he's also hesitant to be passed off to another crew member.

“Will Doctor McCoy have difficulty finding us if we do not stay with you?”

Chekov kneels down beside Sulu in order to speak directly to Spock. “You will be fine with Mister Sulu, and I will comm the doctor and let him know where you are so he can find you when he's finished his work. Does this sound okay?”

“It sounds acceptable,” Spock replies.

“It's alright, Spock!” Jim announces, taking Spock's hand. “I'll be right here if you get worried.”

Spock looks into the boy's bright blue eyes. Jim is smiling at him, and Spock can't deny a feeling of comfort as if somehow things will be alright as long as he and Jim stick together.

Suddenly there's laughter from behind Sulu and Chekov, and Spock shyly pulls his hand out of Jim's grip as he realizes the two lab technicians are giggling.

Sulu furrows his brow as he turns to them. “Kotter, Richards, you're dismissed for the evening.”

One technician responds, as the other muffles her giggles with her hand, “Sorry, sir. Thank you, sir.”

They walk away whispering to each other, and Spock fights to withhold a frown.

“Why were they laughin'?” Jim asks, a mix of hurt and anger on his face.

“They probably just think you're cute,” Sulu explains as he pats Jim on the shoulder.

“I'm not cute!” Jim stomps his foot. “I'm tough.”

“You can be tough and cute,” Sulu says with a smile. “Nothing wrong with that. And don't worry about them anyway, we have plants to see, right?”

“Yeah!” Jim throws his small fist in the air and, just like that, he's happy again.

*

After saying goodbye to Chekov, Spock and Kirk follow Sulu around the lab as he points out flowers and plants. He briefly explains where he obtained each specimen, and proudly shows off the ones he grew himself.

Spock listens carefully to each explanation, and nods with interest. Jim attempts to listen while also being clearly distracted by the bright colors and the constant movement of some of the plants.

It is during examination of a very rare species of rose that a shriek is heard from another section of the lab, and Spock suddenly realizes Jim is no longer at his side.

“Jim!” Spock gives Sulu a look of panic, and then runs towards the sound of the shriek.

Spock dodges a shelf and there's another shriek just as he rounds a corner and finally sets eyes on Jim.

Two green vines are holding him in place, suspended in the air. Jim is dangling two feet off the ground and leaves muss his hair as he kicks his legs.

And he is laughing.

“Spock!” He exclaims between giggles. “Look what's happening!”

Sulu rounds the corner then and Spock turns to him with a look of worry and confusion.

“Maggie!” Sulu is suddenly laughing too, but his voice is deep and commanding. “Put him down.”

The plant seems to hesitate before it slowly lowers Jim to the floor. The vines around his arms loosen, and the leaves give his blond hair one last ruffle before pulling away completely.

Jim is still laughing as he turns to look at the plant. The vines swirl over his head as if teasing him, and he jumps as he reaches to grab at the leaves.

“Mister Sulu,” Spock says, still slightly worried as he watches the vines swirl around Jim. “What is that?”

“That's Maggie. We rescued her from Trylos VII.” He walks closer to the plant, and reaches out to stroke the leaves. They curl around his hand, and seem to stroke back. “She's sentient.”

He motions for Spock to join him. “It's alright, she's harmless.”

Spock approaches the plant, reaching one arm hesitantly towards it. One long vine reaches back and brushes softly against his hand. As he takes another step forward, a second vine reaches forward and pats him on the head.

He bites down a smile as several leaves press flat against his head and stroke his hair, following the perfectly smooth style of his haircut.

“I think she likes you,” Sulu says as he watches Maggie pet Spock's head.

Spock simply nods. “She is quite interesting.”

They hear the lab doors open then, and a deep voice echoes from the other side of the room – it's McCoy.

“Mister Sulu? Are Jim and Spock with you?”

“We're back here, sir!”

“Yeah, we're back here!” Jim shouts as he continues jumping in the air. “Come see!”

A smile hits the doctor's face as he rounds the corner and catches sight of Jim and Spock.

“Well I'll be damned.”

McCoy watches them for a moment before he claps his hands together and speaks, “well boys, you ready to go?”

Spock obediently steps beside McCoy. “Affirmative.”

“Jimmy, you ready to go?”

Jim stops jumping and turns to look at McCoy. “Where are we going?”

“It's your bedtime.”

“But I'm not tired!”

There's a moment of protest before McCoy and Jim make a deal. The doctor allows two more minutes of playing with Maggie, after which Jim follows Spock and McCoy out the door.

“Night Mister Sulu!” Jim shouts and waves, while Spock gives Sulu a nod.

“Goodnight guys!” Sulu waves back at them as the doors whoosh shut.

*

 

McCoy is piling blankets at the foot of the small bed when Kirk and Spock finally wander out of the bathroom. They're both wearing gray regulation pajamas, and Jim's are buttoned haphazardly.

“Did you boys brush your teeth like I asked you to?”

“Yeah,” Jim says as he grits his teeth and gives an exaggerated smile. “And then I showed them to Spock and then I brushed them again.”

“Glad to hear it,” McCoy says as he points to the bed. “I had my yeoman bring an extra cot to my quarters. You two will sleep in here together, and I'll be in the next room if you need anything. Alright?

Both boys nod as they climb onto the bed. Spock lies stiffly on his back while Jim throws himself down on his front and buries his face in a pillow. McCoy pulls the sheet and blanket over them and lays an extra blanket over Spock.

“Computer, lights off.” McCoy says as he heads for the door, and Spock feels Jim tense beside him.

Jim turns his head just as the lights go dark. “Bones?”

The doctor's silhouette fills the doorway. “Yeah, kid?”

“Can I have some water?”

“Sure. You want some too, Spock?”

“Negative. I am sufficiently hydrated.”

There's a low chuckle as McCoy disappears into the other room.

Jim sits up when the doctor returns. McCoy sets the lights to 20% and watches as Jim gulps down the water.

“Easy, Jim. Not too much before bed.”

He takes the cup from Jim when it is half-empty and sets it on the small table beside the bed. “I'll leave this here in case you're thirsty, but remember not to drink too much. If you boys need me in the night just holler.”

McCoy turns the lights off again, and heads for the door.

“Bones?”

The silhouette in the doorway turns back again. “Yeah?”

“Can you tell us a story?”

McCoy turns the lights up again and sits on the edge of the small bed. “It's way past your bedtime tonight, kid. But I'll tell you a story tomorrow night, okay?”

“Promise?”

The doctor makes an X across his heart with his index finger. “Promise.”

Jim seems content with that answer and is silent until McCoy turns the lights off again. “Bones?”

“What is it, kid?”

“Can we have a snack?”

The silhouette in the doorway laughs again. “Now you're just finding excuses to stay up. You had a snack right before you brushed your teeth. Now it's bedtime.”

Jim turns his face into the pillow and his voice is muffled when he replies, “okay.”

“Goodnight Jim, goodnight Spock.”

“Goodnight,” they reply in unison.

There are a few minutes of silence, save for the rustling of Jim's head against the pillow, and Spock is nearly asleep when Jim speaks again.

“Spock? You awake?”

“I am very tired but I am currently still conscious.”

Jim turns his head on the pillow so he's facing Spock. “Can I tell you a secret?”

Spock has never been told a secret before, and he silently acknowledges a sense of happiness and surprise within himself.

“Of course, Jim.” Spock pauses for a moment before admitting, “I would like that.”

“You promise you won't tell? Not even Bones?”

“I assure you, the idea had not occurred to me.”

“But promise.”

“I promise, Jim.”

Jim takes a deep breath before he leans in closer and whispers, “I'm scared of the dark.”

Spock knows it's illogical to be afraid of the dark, but he is also no stranger to illogical fears. Spock turns to look at Jim, just barely able to make out the bright blue eyes in the darkness, and when he senses Jim's fear he suddenly feels the need to protect him.

“Jim,” Spock whispers back. “Do you realize this room is the same in the dark as it is when the lights are set to 100%?”

“Yeah, I know,” Jim replies. “But it still looks scary when the lights are off.”

“Does it help you to know that I am not afraid of the dark?”

Jim shifts again and pulls the blanket up to his chin. “A little bit, yeah.”

“So you might feel fear, but I am confident that we will be perfectly safe in this room until morning.”

“Okay.”

Jim is silent for several more minutes.

“Spock?”

“Yes?

“Will you hold my hand until I fall asleep?”

Spock reaches out and is pleased to discover his own small fingers fit perfectly in Jim's hand.

Jim turns back onto his stomach and buries his face in his pillow. Spock smiles to himself in the dark as he thinks about the first secret anyone has ever shared with him, and he holds his new friend's hand until they both fall asleep.

*

 

Spock blinks awake 4.25 hours later. He shifts his gaze in the darkness and glances towards the open doorway. The attached room is now dark as well, and Spock is able to hear the doctor's shallow breathing as he sleeps.

Spock blinks again as he notices a soft glow in the corner of the room. He stares at it for a moment before determining that the doctor rigged up an ophthalmoscope as a makeshift night-light. Jim shifts beside him, and breaths out a small huff of breath against Spock's face. He turns and watches the small figure sleeping beside him, before determining Jim is sleeping soundly enough for him to leave the bed without much disturbance.

He slips out from under the blankets, and slides down the side of the bed. His feet hit the floor with a soft thud.

The ophthalmoscope emits enough light to highlight a path from the bed to the doorway, and Spock tiptoes quietly across the floor.

As he reaches the door he hears a sudden shift on the bed, and a sharp intake of breath.

"Spock?" Jim's small voice is hoarse from sleep, but there's an underlying tone of panic.

"Jim," Spock whispers. "I am here, in the doorway."

In the dim light Spock can see the outline of Jim's wild hair move as he glances in the direction of the door.

"Where you going?"

"I need to use the facilities. I believed you to be sleeping soundly, and I would only have been absent for a moment."

Jim is already sitting up and sliding off the bed before Spock finishes his reply. His bare feet hit the floor, and he pads across the room. "Can I come too?"

Without giving it much thought, Spock reaches out to take Jim's hand. "Of course."

As he clasps his hand in Spock's, Jim notices the ophthalmoscope on the floor. "We gotta take that!" Jim lets go of Spock's hand long enough to grab the light and heads back to the doorway, holding the ophthalmoscope in front of him to light their way.

They walk side-by-side as they enter the living area of the doctor's quarters. Jim lifts his arm to shine the light in the direction of a couch and a large sleeping figure there. "Bones," Jim says, wandering over to the doctor and shining the light on the open-mouthed sleeping face. McCoy doesn't notice the light and continues snoring deeply.

"He's sleepin'." Jim sounds surprised, as if he wasn't expecting the doctor to remain with them through the night.

"Indeed," Spock whispers, reaching over to tilt the light away from McCoy's closed eyes. "We are in his quarters, and he is acting as our guardian, it is logical he would be sleeping here."

"Yeah," Jim says simply before turning away from the couch and seeking out the door to the bathroom.

They wander inside and Spock instructs the computer to set lights at 50%. Jim goes first, and Spock faces the door in order to give his friend a sense of privacy.

"Done," Jim says, and Spock turns around to see Jim wiping his hands on his pant legs.

"Do you wish to wash your hands?"

"I guess," Jim says as he stands on his tiptoes and shoves his hands below the sonic tap.

While Spock takes his turn, Jim opens the doors below the sink. "Woah, look at all this stuff!" He exclaims as he climbs into the cupboard.

Spock finishes up and holds his hand under the sonics as a few quiet bangs and booms emanate from the cupboard. Finally he cranes his head to look inside. Jim has somehow situated himself at the very back and is surrounded by opened boxes and spools of unwound medical tape.

"Look," he says excitedly, glancing up at Spock with a smile. Jim wraps a piece of white medical tape over his forehead, and across his nose, leaving only his eyes exposed. "We can be ninjas!"

Spock's eyes grow wide as he surveys the destruction. "Perhaps we should put everything back where you found it."

"We will," Jim says, motioning for Spock to join him in the cupboard. "We just gotta play with it first."

Spock pulls out a few boxes and sets them on the floor, making room for himself, before reluctantly climbing in next to Jim. He says nothing as Jim reaches out to wrap medical tape around his head, and even gives in to his own curiosity by opening a box of gauze.

"We could mimic the ancient art of wrapping corpses," he says as Jim looks at him with mild confusion.

Spock points to the gauze. "We could be mummies."

"Yeah! Good idea, Spock!"

Spock smiles shyly to himself as Jim beams at him.

They're nearly finished wrapping each other's arms when the bathroom door slides open, and they're too distracted to hear McCoy approach.

"I thought I heard noise in here."

Both boys freeze at the sound of the doctor's voice. Jim's eyes grow wide, and Spock spins quickly as he pulls the medical tape from his head and finds himself face-to-face with McCoy.

The doctor looks at their wrapped arms, and the medical tape still wound around Jim's head. Spock is panicked as he prepares himself for disciplinary action, and is is unable to hide his surprise when McCoy lets out a hearty laugh. Spock turns to look at Jim, and can tell by the look on Jim's face that he is not alone in his sense of surprise.

"We're not in trouble?" Jim asks cautiously.

"No," McCoy says with a smile. "You're not in trouble. But what're you boys doing in here? It's almost four a.m."

"We are being mummies," Spock replies, holding out his arms. He points to Jim's head, "and ninjas."

“Were you having fun?” McCoy asks Spock directly, and Spock pauses for a moment to consider.

“Yes.”

“Good,” McCoy chuckles as he motions for the boys to exit the cupboard. “Now come on, back to bed.”

He helps them unwrap their arms, and Jim's face, before shuffling them back to their room.

"I forgot the light thing!" Jim whispers to Spock, just as McCoy turns the lights off. "It's in the cupboard!"

Spock reaches out to take Jim's hand again. "It is only a few more hours until morning. We will be safe until then."

Jim links his fingers in Spock's. "Okay."

Spock lies quietly while Jim shifts around on the bed.

"You asleep, Spock?"

"Negative," Spock replies. "Vulcans need less sleep than humans. I am already sufficiently rested."

"You're not goin' back to sleep?"

"It is quite likely I will not." Spock feels Jim tense again. "However, I guarantee I will stay here while you rest."

"Promise?"

Spock grips Jim's hand tighter. "Promise."

Spock can sense him relaxing as Jim lets out a yawn. "Are you gonna pretend you're a guard or somethin'?"

"I could, if it would make you feel safe."

"Yeah. You can be the guard of the room. Only you and me are allowed in here." Jim yawns again. "And Bones if he wants."

"Affirmative, sir," Spock says.

Jim giggles. "Night, Spock."

"Goodnight, Jim."

"See you when I wake up."

*

After spending breakfast in the mess hall with Chekov –replicated scrambled eggs for Jim, and replicated oatmeal and fruit for Spock– the boys are taken to engineering.

Spock immediately recognizes the man standing at a control panel as the same one from the transporter room the previous day.

“Jim, Spock,” Chekov says, gesturing to the man. “This is Mister Scott.”

“Glad to see you boys,” the man says as he reaches out to shake their hands. “Call me Scotty.”

“Scotty!” Jim says excitedly. “I know you! I seen you before!”

“Ay, lad. I saw you yesterday.”

“Yeah!” Jim wanders over to the control panels, with Spock following close behind, and stands on his tiptoes in an attempt to see beyond the steel facade. “What're you doin'?”

“I'm doing my morning check of the ship.” Scotty slaps his hand on the side of the control panel. “She's workin' just fine. No surprises here!”

Jim nods and stares at the buttons and lights as if he understands each one. “Looks good to me!”

Scotty laughs. “Glad to hear it, lad.”

As Spock and Jim wander across the room, Spock can hear Chekov questioning Scotty about the repairs to the transporter pad.

“We've made some progress,” Scotty says quietly. “Still need to run tests.”

“You will run these test today?”

“Ay. Lots of 'em. Don't want to risk anything, if you know what I mean.”

As Spock watches Chekov nod, he loses sight of Jim.

“Ay!” Spock jumps as Scotty shouts in his direction. “No climbin' lad. You'll hurt yourself.”

Spock turns to see a guilty looking Jim standing on the third rung of a ladder.

"Down you get," Scotty calls as he walks quickly across the room, Chekov close on his tail. "If you want to play there's plenty of interesting things down here. But no climbing without a grown-up nearby."

Jim carefully climbs down the ladder and hops off the last rung. "I wanted to play pirates," he says shyly as Scotty kneels in front of him.

"You needed to climb up there to play pirates?"

"Yeah," Jim says quietly, pointing to the platform at the top of the ladder. "That's the crow's nest. We can look for treasure from up there."

Scotty grins at him. “Sounds like you've got quite the imagination, lad!”

Jim smiles back. “I guess.” He's silent for a moment, before quietly asking, “so can we play?”

“Well, I can't say no to that face,” Scotty says as he slaps a hand on Jim's tiny shoulder. “And you know, I'll bet I've got some costumes around here somewhere. We'll make you two look like real pirates.”

Scotty hops to his feet and gives Chekov a wink as he heads for an attached room, leaving Chekov with the two boys.

“He's got costumes?” Jim says curiously.

“I am not sure.” Chekov replies, staring at the doorway Scotty disappeared through.

“Spock,” Jim says, turning to him. “He said he's got pirate costumes!”

Spock gives a puzzled nod. “He did indeed say that.”

Scotty suddenly reappears with red fabric draped over one arm, and several objects in his hand. He kneels in front of Jim and Spock again, and allows the objects to clatter to the floor. A hollow pipe rolls off in one direction, and Chekov grabs it before it gets too far.

“Old uniform shirts,” Scotty says, holding up the red fabric. “We use these as rags, but I think this is a better idea.”

He grips the fabric and tugs it in opposite directions, ripping it into strips.

“Here, lad,” he says, motioning for Jim to step forward. Scotty spins Jim around and places the fabric over his head, tying it tightly in the back.

He spins Jim back to face him. “There. A pirate bandana.”

Jim looks wide-eyed at Spock. “Do I look like a pirate?”

Spock nods. “Affirmative. You look very pirate-like.”

Scotty motions for Spock to step forward, and he spins Spock away from him too before placing the red fabric over Spock's hair.

“Now, both of you, come here.” Scotty reaches down for something as Spock and Jim stand in front of him. He produces a jar containing a black substance and pops the lid off.

“Grease,” he says as he sticks his finger in the black goop. He pulls it out and smears the grease on Spock's face, circling his eye. “Looks like an eye patch.”

Jim watches excitedly, and beams when Spock turns to look at him. “Spock! You look like a pirate!”

Spock allows a smile to escape as he watches Scotty smear grease on Jim's face. When he's finished, Scotty reaches for the other objects. He hands Spock the hollow pipe, telling him it's a telescope, and hands them both a plastic rod.

“Swords,” he says as he gives them both a stern look. “You can pretend fight, but no hitting. Someone gets hurt and the game is over, alright?”

“Yes!” They reply in unison.

Scotty pushes them towards the ladder. “Up the crow's nest then! You've got treasure to find!”

There are brief tears when Jim slips in his excitement and bangs his chin on a rung, but soon the boys are up the ladder and searching for land and buried treasure.

“Arr me hearties!” Jim shrieks as he raises his sword in the air. “We got treasure to find!”

Spock awkwardly mimics Jim, raising his own sword in the air, and Jim marches around the platform while Spock follows close behind.

“Pirate Spock!” Jim shouts, “do you see some land?”

Spock raises the hollow pipe to his eye. “Affirmative Pirate Jim. I see--” He pauses as he attempts to play along with Jim's imaginary pirate game. “I see.. a vast landscape of trees and sand.”

“Is there treasure there?”

Spock squints as he looks through the pipe. “Yes, there appears to be treasure.”

Jim jumps and pumps his tiny fist in the air.

“Turn the sails! Take us that way!” He shouts as he points in the direction Spock is looking.

As the two boys play, Scotty and Chekov stand below deeply engaged in conversation and theories about the transporter repairs. Scotty pauses long enough to reach up and place a box of nuts and bolts by Jim's feet.

Jim squeals when he notices the box and lifts it to show Spock. “We found the treasure!”

Even Spock can't stop his eyes from lighting up at the appearance of the box, and they sit on the floor to open it together. Nuts and bolts spill out over the concrete and Jim watches quietly as Spock sorts each piece of treasure into specific piles.

When Spock is done sorting, Jim finally speaks, “what's our loot?”

Spock points to each pile of nuts and bolts. “Five gems, four pieces of silver, seven pieces of gold, and twelve dilithium crystals.”

As they're admiring their loot, Chekov's head appears at the top of the ladder. “Doctor McCoy is here. He will take you to lunch.”

Although it means the end of their pirate game, both boys are happy to see McCoy again as he greets them at the bottom of the ladder.

“Goddamn it, Scotty,” he says with a laugh. “Can't leave them with you for a second and you've got them covered in grease.”

“We're pirates!” Jim shouts as he hops off the last rung.

“Come on, we'll get you cleaned up and then it's time for lunch.” McCoy bends down and scoops Jim up in one arm and scoops Spock up in the other.

“You don't have to carry me, I'm not a baby,” Jim says as, despite his protest, he rests his head on McCoy's shoulder and yawns.

“I know you're not a baby, and Spock's not either” McCoy says quietly. “Just thought you might have a better view of things from up here.”

Jim nods against McCoy's neck as he raises a small hand to wave at Scotty and Chekov. They wave back at the boys, and Spock lifts his own hand to wave back rather than give his usual nod.

“What're we doin' after lunch?” Jim asks as his greased eye leaves streaks on McCoy's neck.

“You'll be taking a nap.”

“But I'm not tired,” Jim mumbles through a yawn.

McCoy smiles, but says nothing, as he carries the boys out of engineering.

*

 

“Do we really gotta take a nap after lunch? I'm too old for a nap.”

McCoy sets two trays down in front of Jim and Spock. “Well, kid, let this be a lesson. If you hadn't spent half the night in a cupboard playing with my medical supplies, you wouldn't have to take a nap today.”

Jim sighs in defeat as he takes a bite of his chicken sandwich. “How come we're not eating with Pavel?”

“You boys don't want to eat with me?” McCoy asks, feigning insult.

“We are more than content to eat our meals with you,” Spock replies quickly. “I believe Jim was simply asking out of curiosity.”

McCoy smiles at him. “It's alright, Spock. I was kidding. Chekov is about to go on duty, so you're dining with me. I just hope I can be half as entertaining.”

“Your presence is acceptable.”

McCoy nearly chokes on a mouthful of soup. “I'll take that as a compliment,” he sputters.

Spock worries for a brief moment that he's insulted the doctor, but his thoughts are interrupted by Jim who had been busying himself ripping the crusts off his sandwich. Jim leans towards Spock and whispers, “Spock, you wanna go see Maggie again?”

Spock nods as he whispers back, “that would be enjoyable.”

Jim turns to McCoy, “can we go see Maggie again?”

“I'll have to talk to Mister Sulu, but I'm sure we can arrange it.”

Jim holds his sandwich to his mouth with both hands as he takes another bite. As he's chewing he flashes a smile at Spock.

*

As the boys follow McCoy down a long corridor to a set of doors, Jim stares at his reflection in the floor. He jumps a few times, as if trying to stomp on the boy in the reflection, but only receives a mirrored stomp in reply.

“The floors are shiny,” he say as he jumps again.

When they reach the end of the corridor McCoy presses a button and the doors whoosh open to reveal an elevator.

“Where we goin'?,” Jim asks, as he jumps with both feet into the lift.

“We're heading to the bridge.”

“What's the bridge?”

“You'll see.”

McCoy stands in the middle of the lift as they ride, with Spock standing quietly at one side. Jim stands at the doctor's other side, McCoy's hand clasped gently on his shoulder to keep him away from the panel of buttons. Jim's gaze moves quickly from the various colored buttons to the information panel outlining their location as they travel upwards. He leans over to glance around McCoy, his eyes catching Spock's.

“We're goin' up!”

Spock nods. “Indeed.”

Jim whispers to him, “hey Spock, do you know what the bridge is?”

“I believe it is the command center for the ship. Where the Captain sits.”

Jim's eyes grow wide. “We're gonna meet the Captain?!”

McCoy chuckles softly above them as the lift comes to a smooth stop and the doors slide open to reveal a brightly lit room. Both boys' eyes grow wide as they take in their surroundings and McCoy gives them both a soft push out the door. “Boys, welcome to the bridge of the Enterprise.”

All eyes turn to the two small boys stepping off the lift. There is a moment of stunned silence and then various whispers and giggles. Spock remains close at McCoy's side, while Jim seems torn between his urge to explore and a sudden sense of shyness. As his hand moves up to clasp the hem of McCoy's shirt, the doctor places his own hand reassuringly on Jim's head.

“It's alright. Look, Sulu's here, and Chekov.”

Jim and Spock glance around to see Sulu grinning at them, and just past him they spot Chekov waving. Without thinking, Spock raises his hand to wave back at Chekov. There's laughter to his left.

“He's waving, that's adorable,” someone says, and Jim's head whips around and then up to look at McCoy.

“Why're they laughin' at Spock?”

“Well now, they're not.” McCoy casts a glare at the laughing crew members. “Not really. They're just surprised, is all. Not used to seeing kids on the ship.”

He nudges the two boys a little further onto the bridge as Sulu rises and motions for them to approach. Jim finally breaks free of his shyness and sprints towards Sulu while Spock walks quickly behind.

“Hey Mister Sulu!”

Sulu kneels down so he's at their level, “hey Jim! Hey Spock! Have you guys been staying out of trouble?”

Spock says nothing while Jim breathlessly explains the cupboard adventure from the night before. “We got into Bones's stuff last night, but he wasn't mad. We played mummies and ninjas and we explored in the dark while Bones was sleepin'. We had a flashlight thing--”

“An ophthalmoscope,” Spock says quietly.

“Yeah, a ofalmoscope, so we could see in the dark.”

Sulu listens quietly, grinning and nodding as he glances between Jim and Spock. “Sounds like you've been busy!”

“Yeah, we've been doin' lots of stuff. Mister Sulu, can we visit Maggie today?”

“Of course! Any time you want. She'll be happy to see you two.”

Jim grins and finally allows himself a proper glance around the bridge. “Where's the Captain? Are we gonna meet him?”

Sulu looks cautiously at McCoy before responding. “The Captain is on an away mission right now, so I'm taking care of his ship while he's gone.”

“You get to run the ship?”

“Sort of, yeah. Me and Mister Scott, we're keeping things running while the Captain and his First Officer are away.”

Sulu reaches over to pat the seat of the chair he'd been sitting in earlier. “This is actually the Captain's chair. Do you guys want to sit in it?”

“Yeah!” Jim pauses for a moment, “are we allowed to?”

Sulu laughs. “Of course. I think the Captain would be happy to have 5-year old Jim Kirk sit in his chair.”

Jim grins happily as he climbs up onto the seat. He gets himself situated, with his feet dangling over the edge, and then looks down to where Spock is standing.

“There's lotsa room, Spock.” Jim pats the empty space beside him, “you wanna sit here too?”

Spock nods, eying the space next to Jim. He climbs up carefully, fitting himself perfectly between Jim and the arm of the chair. They look at each other for a moment, and Jim smiles brightly at him before turning to examine the details on the chair.

“Can we push these buttons?”

“No, sorry guys,” Sulu says. “But how about this, when I push this button here,” Sulu points to a button next to Spock's arm, “you can say hello to the crew on board. Sound good?”

“Yeah!”

“Indeed.”

“It has to be quick. Just say hello and tell them who you are.”

The boys nod as they stare at Sulu's finger poised over the button. Jim's mouth is already open, ready to speak, but he waits his turn when Sulu pushes the button and points to Spock first.

“Greetings crew of the Enterprise.” Spock can hear his own voice echoing through the ship. “This is Spock.”

He pauses then and turns to Jim who is grinning madly and kicking his legs as he waits for Sulu's signal to speak.

“Hello Enterprise!” He shouts when he gets the signal. “This is Jimmy.”

Sulu releases the button. “Great job. Sounded just like future Starfleet officers to me.”

Jim grows quiet suddenly. Spock watches as Jim fixes his gaze on the buttons beside him until he finally speaks. “I sounded like a Starfleet officer,” Jim says so quietly only Spock is able to hear him. “Like my dad.”

Spock hesitates for a moment before quickly touching Jim's hand. “Yes, like your father,” he whispers. Jim breaks from his daze and smiles, squeezing Spock's hand tight in his own.

“You two had enough of that chair yet?” The boys turn to see McCoy approaching. “It's about time for that nap.”

Jim frowns, and Spock can't deny the urge to frown as well. “We don't wanna nap,” Jim protests. “We're sittin' in the Captain's chair.”

“There'll be plenty of time for that later,” McCoy says with a laugh. “Trust me, you boys will like this.”

He waits patiently as the boys climb down from the chair, and then motions for them to follow him across the room. Both boys stare in awe as McCoy leads them to a large viewscreen and points to the floor where two small pillows and a few blankets are spread out. “This is where you're gonna rest. Not such a bad place for a nap, if I do say so myself.”

Jim and Spock step towards the viewscreen, and Jim presses his hands against it as he stares out at the stars.

“Space!” he says with amazement.

Spock nods silently, pressing his forehead against the view screen in an attempt to gain as much of a view as possible.

Jim turns away for a brief moment to glance at the doctor. “We get to sleep in front of this window??”

“Yeah, kid. Would you like that?”

Jim sighs happily as he turns his gaze back to the view outside. “Yeah!”

McCoy allows them to stare for a few minutes before encouraging them to lie down on their makeshift beds. “A quick nap on the bridge, boys, and then we'll find something fun for you to do.”

“We have to visit Maggie,” Jim says quietly.

“You're right.” McCoy tosses a blanket over them both. “Well, we'll take you to the botany lab then. But for now, just lie here and rest.”

*

“Hey, Spock?”

“Yes, Jim?”

They'd been staring up through the viewscreen for several minutes before Jim finally spoke.

“Do you wanna join Starfleet when you grow up?”

“It would be a fascinating option.”

Jim nods. “You wanna join when we grow up? And then we can explore space and live on a ship?”

Spock turns to look at the small boy for a moment before whispering back, “Jim, I should remind you, according to Doctor McCoy we are already adults.”

Jim lets out a disappointed sigh, “oh yeah.”

Spock is unsure how to reassure Jim, so he simply counts out the full minute of silence before Jim speaks again.

“I wonder if we're Starfleet officers.”

Spock considers this for a moment before responding, “I suspect we are members of Starfleet, as we appeared in the transport room of a Federation vessel.”

Jim turns to Spock with a look of amazement, “I forgot about that! You think we're officers when we're grown ups?”

“It seems quiet possible, yes.”

Jim turns his gaze back to the viewscreen. “I hope we travel together when we're big. We could have adventures and visit Maggie and sleep here all the time.”

Spock smiles to himself. “I would enjoy that.”

They focus their gaze on the stars, and Spock allows himself to imagine future space adventures. He sees distant planets, and interesting looking aliens, and the doctor's kind face, and Jim in a pirate costume jumping under Maggie's fluttering leaves.

Spock can feel himself drifting into sleep as Jim speaks again.

“Hey, Spock?”

“Yes?”

“You're my best friend.”

Spock opens his eyes and allows himself to smile at Jim before he turns his gaze back to the viewscreen. “I am honored, Jim. You are also my best friend.”

Jim grins and the blanket rustles as he kicks his feet happily.

Spock watches the stars for a moment before making a confession, “I have never had a best friend before.”

Jim looks at him in surprise. “I can't remember having one either, but I'm sure I must've had lots.”

Spock simply nods.

“But you're the best one,” Jim reassures him. “I wonder if we're best friends when we're grown-ups.”

“I see no reason why we would not be.”

“I'm gonna ask Bones later,” Jim says with a yawn. “He prolly knows.”

Jim's yawns continue as they stare up at the viewscreen. Spock can feel himself drifting into sleep, and he reaches over to take Jim's hand.

“I'm not afraid,” Jim says. “It's not dark here.”

Spock pulls his hand away in embarrassment.

“I didn't mean--” Jim says apologetically.

He reaches for Spock's small hand again.

“Let's not go to sleep,” he says with another yawn. “Let's just pretend we're sleepin' so we can watch the stars.”

Spock nods as his eyes begin to close.

*

 

“Bye Maggie!”

Jim grasps at a vine as it ruffles his hair, and jumps up to blow kisses at the leaves fluttering above his head. “See you soon!”

“Bye Maggie,” Spock whispers as he stands by Jim's side. He smiles as Maggie's leaves smooth over his hair and tickle his ears, before he reluctantly follows McCoy out the doors of the botany lab.

Jim follows slowly behind, waving and grinning as the leaves wave back at him.

“Bones, do you like Maggie?” Jim asks once he's in the corridor jumping along behind the doctor.

“Never given it much thought, kid. But I suppose she's an interesting plant.”

“She is quite fascinating,” Spock comments quietly.

“Yeah! She's fascinatin'!” Jim says excitedly as he hops into the lift. “I'm gonna come visit her everyday. Mister Sulu said it was okay.”

McCoy laughs. “That so?”

“Yeah! Spock's gonna come too, right Spock?”

“Indeed. I would enjoy visiting Maggie on a daily basis.”

“Yeah yeah yeah!” Jim squeals as they ride the lift back up to McCoy's quarters.

“Looks like that nap did wonders for your energy level, kid.”

Jim grins. “I don't like naps, but that one was fun.”

“Did you like the view?”

“Yeah! The stars were fascinatin' and Spock and I decided we're gonna join Starfleet when we grow up!”

“When you grow up, huh?”

“I reminded him that we are already adults,” Spock interjects as they step off the lift and head down the corridor. “However, we theorized that we could already be members of Starfleet.”

There's a curious glint in McCoy's eye as he looks between the two boys. “How do you figure that?”

“We arrived in the transporter room of a Federation vessel. You are the chief medical officer of this ship, and you seem to be quiet familiar with Jim and myself. It seems quite likely that as adults we are already members of Starfleet.”

“Pretty damn observant for a five year old,” McCoy laughs.

“So are me and Spock officers when we're grown-ups?”

“Well,” McCoy begins carefully. “Yeah, yes, you boys are Starfleet officers. Grown-up Jim and Spock, I mean.”

Jim spins around in a circle, grinning at Spock as they head through the doors of Bones' quarters. “You were right!” he whispers.

*

“I don't wanna play chess.”

Despite Jim's protests, McCoy continues setting up the pieces on the board. “Hey now, you were happy a few minutes ago.”

“I'm still happy, but I don't wanna play chess.”

Jim stands stubbornly next to the table while Spock takes a seat on one side of the chess board.

“Come on, kid.”

“No.”

“Look, Spock obviously wants to play.”

Jim looks reluctantly at Spock. “Do you really wanna play?”

“Indeed.”

“But I don't like chess. I always win, and it's not interesting.”

“I believe we would be relatively equal opponents.”

Jim shrugs. “If you really wanna play I'll play.”

“I believe I would enjoy it, regardless of the winner.”

Spock catches the doctor smiling to himself as Jim climbs into the seat across from Spock. “That's a boy, good sportsmanship. Both of you.”

*

Spock wins one out of three games, and Jim giggles with delight when Spock puts him in checkmate.

McCoy looks up from his PADD when Jim and Spock climb off their chairs. “Did you have more fun than you expected?”

“Way more fun! Spock can beat me at chess!”

“Never thought I'd see you happy to lose, kid.”

“We should always play chess together,” Jim exclaims as he grasps Spock's hand. “Bones, do me and Spock play chess together when we're grown-ups?”

McCoy appears reluctant to respond, and Spock notes a look of relief in the doctor's eyes when their conversation is interrupted by a buzz at the door.

“That's probably Pavel, wanting to take you boys for dinner.”

He presses a button and the door slides open.

*

“Hi Christopher, I'm Bleero.”

“Make it scarier!”

“Scarier?”

“Yeah, scary monster voices!”

“Hullo Christopher,” McCoy grunts at the boys as they pull their blanket up to their chins. “I'm Bleeeero.”

“Yeah!”

“Arrgh,” McCoy growls. “Come aboard our horrible smelly ship for negotiations.”

“No way!” Jim squeals. “We're gonna shoot you Bleero!”

“Nope, no shootin', kid. Here's your first lesson in Starfleet rules and regs. Shooting is an absolute last resort.”

Jim frowns. “So what do you do?”

“We attempt to negotiate and end conflicts peacefully.”

“Bleero! We're gonna negotriate so you better be nice!”

McCoy smiles. “That's right.”

“So what then!? The captain and his crew negotriates with Bleero and what then?”

“So Bleero says, 'grrr I'm angry and I don't want to negotiate.' And he takes the captain, Captain Trike, and makes him a prisoner on his ship.”

Spock can't deny a feeling of excitement as he listens to the story and watches Jim shout at McCoy. “Leave the captain alone Bleero!” Jim points directly at McCoy's face. “Or we're gonna take your ship away!”

“Raahhh!” McCoy growls, playfully grabbing Jim's hand. “I'm awful and I smell bad and I don't want to be nice today.”

Spock speaks up finally, his voice barely audible from under the blanket. “How does the captain manage to escape Bleero's imprisonment?”

“The acting captain and his crew work together and come up with a plan to save him. And when it's all over Bleero says 'Arrr I don't want your help!' and he disappears in a black hole.”

Spock and Jim's eyes grow wide.

“A black hole?” Spock says quietly.

“What happens to Bleero in the black hole?” Jim nearly shouts.

“Well now, I'm not entirely sure. But he would've been better off accepting assistant from the captain and his crew. The end.”

Jim grins at McCoy. “That was a good story.”

The doctor grins back as he ruffles Jim's hair. “Thanks kid.”

McCoy glances at Spock and hesitates for a split second before reaching to ruffle his hair as well. It reminds Spock of his mother's goodnight rituals, and he leans into the touch.

“Night boys.”

“Goodnight Doctor.”

“Night Bones!”

McCoy is barely at the door when Jim calls his name.

“Hey Bones?”

“Yeah, kid?”

“Are me and Spock best friends when we're grown-ups?”

The gentle smile fades from McCoy's face. Spock watches him carefully as he seems thrown by the question. McCoy's mouth opens and then closes again, and there's a long pause before he finally responds. “Best friends? I don't know, kid. I think you get on well enough.”

“Do we do fun stuff together when we're grown-ups? Like visit Maggie and play chess and eat with Pavel?”

McCoy approaches the bed, hesitating again as if he's choosing his words carefully. “Sure you eat with Pavel, you eat meals with other crew members all the time.”

Jim shuffles impatiently under the blanket. “But what about the other stuff?”

“Jim, grown-ups don't have time to do all that stuff. You and Spock, when you're grown-ups, you're busy with other things.”

“But Spock and me are friends, right?”

“You're-- you're great acquaintances, yeah.”

“What's acquaintest mean?”

“Acquaintances,” Spock whispers to Jim. “It means we are familiar with each other.”

Jim's brows furrow as he looks from Spock to McCoy. “We're not friends?”

McCoy reaches for the blanket and adjusts it, folding the fabric down below the boys' chins, before he turns and heads for the doorway again. “It's late, you boys should get some sleep. Busy day tomorrow.”

“Bones?”

The doctor turns to look at the two small boys. “Yeah?”

“Me and Spock aren't friends?”

McCoy sighs in defeat. “You're not best friends, no.”

Jim turns his head to face the wall.

“Look kid, the important thing is you're friends now. Right?”

“Yeah,” Jim mumbles.

“Right, Spock?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Now you boys get some sleep.”

Jim says nothing as McCoy turns out the light. Spock shifts in the darkness, and waits for his eyes to adjust to the dim light emitted by the ophthalmoscope, while Jim lies silently beside him. In his head, Spock counts out the one hundred and thirty seven point six seconds that pass before he musters up the courage to speak.

“It does not matter,” he says quietly, turning to glance at the back of Jim's head. The blond hair sticks up in all directions and Spock can't help but smile when a sad little voice replies, “what don't matter?”

“Whether or not we are friends as adults.”

There's a small sniffle as Spock continues. “Because we are friends right now.”

Jim says nothing, so Spock wills himself to continue speaking. “Jim, please do not be sad.”

“I'm not cryin', cryin' is for babies.”

“I did not imply that you were crying.”

“Oh.” Jim shuffles beneath the sheets, wiping his eyes as he turns to face Spock. The blond head thumps down on the pillow and Jim lets out a frustrated sigh.

“You are still my best friend,” Spock says quietly, as he reaches for Jim's hand. The small fingers clasp tightly around his own, and Jim brings his other hand up so Spock's hand is captured in two of Jim's.

“You won't forget when we grow up again?”

“I see no reason why I would forget.”

“Everybody forgets me.”

“I will not forget.”

“Promise?”

Spock reaches up with his free hand to make an X over his heart, imitating McCoy's action from the day before. “Promise.”

*

Spock opens his eyes and furrows his brow at the dark figure standing beside the bed. “What is happening?”

“Boys,” the doctor's whispers echo through the room. “Sorry to wake you, but Mister Scott has found a solution to the transporter malfunction. You boys need to get up.”

Spock attempts to move, but realizes his hand is still clasped tightly in both of Jim's. The small boy breathes softly next to him, his sleep undisturbed.

“Jim,” Spock whispers, grasping Jim's shoulder with his free hand and shaking him gently. “Jim, wake up.”

Jim opens his eyes and squints at Spock. “What's wrong?”

“Nothing, however we must wake up now.”

“It's too early,” Jim mutters as he closes his eyes again. “I'm too sleepy.”

“Jim, please listen to me. We have to go.”

The blue eyes open and lock on Spock. “Where we goin'?”

“We are going on the transporter.”

A look of fear travels over Jim's face as his fingers tighten around Spock's.

*

 

Jim and Spock step out of the bathroom, after changing into their black underclothes, when there's a buzz at the door of McCoy's quarters. The doctor presses a button and Scotty walks in, followed closely by Chekov.

Scotty smiles brightly at them. “Morning, boys! Lookin' forward to being back to your old selves again?”

Spock remains silent as Jim frowns up at Scotty. “I don't wanna be my old self.”

“I don't think you'll mind it so much once you're back there, lad.”

Jim looks away, focusing his attention on a shelf. His small fingers pick at the binding of one of McCoy's ancient medical texts. “I don't wanna be back there.”

“We have no recollection of being adults,” Spock adds quietly. “The idea of returning to adult bodies is a daunting prospect.”

“Ay, understandable,” Scotty says with a nod. “But no worries, we'll have you fixed up right and proper, and soon this'll all just be a great story.”

Jim doesn't respond as his fingers travel over the gadgets on McCoy's shelf. Spock moves to stand beside him, offering silent comfort as they wait for instructions from the adults.

As McCoy talks to Scotty and Chekov, questioning them on the process, Spock follows Jim around the doctor's quarters. His inner clock tells him it is approximately 04:00 hours and if Jim's yawns are any indication he is absolutely correct.

Spock leans in to inquire, “are you still tired, Jim?”

“Nah,” Jim replies untruthfully. “I'm just lookin' at stuff.” He yawns again, so forcefully his eyes water.

“I assume we will have the opportunity to resume sleep after we are re-aged.”

Jim looks cautiously behind him, before leaning in closer to Spock and replying, “I'm not goin'.”

Spock can feel his eyebrow disappear into his hairline. “Jim,” he whispers. “I do not believe we have a choice.”

“I'm gonna run away.” He grins at Spock. “You're gonna come with me, right?”

“Jim, I--”

Spock is about to explain the logistical problems they'll face in attempting to run away on a starship, when he is interrupted by McCoy.

“You boys ready? We're heading to the transporter room now.”

Jim gives Spock an exaggerated wink just before they turn to face the doctor.

“We gotta visit Maggie before we go.”

“I'm not sure we have time for that, kid.”

Jim frowns. “I told her I'd come back everyday. So we gotta say goodbye.”

McCoy glances between the two boys, before focusing on Jim who lets out another yawn. “You boys really want to say goodbye to a plant?”

“Yeah,” Jim replies. “Or she'll be sad.”

The doctor glances at Spock, and Spock nods. “It is unlikely to interfere with our transporter trip. A few minutes will only delay the re-aging, not effect it. Besides, doctor, she is not simply a plant. She is a sentient being who is capable of thought and feeling.”

A smirk rises on the doctor's mouth. “Five years old, my ass.”

Spock glances at Jim who is staring at Bones with surprise.

“That's another swear,” Jim says quietly.

McCoy smiles and reaches over to pat Jim's hair. “Sure was, kid. And once you're back to your old self you won't even think twice about my cussin'.”

*

“Mister Sulu, you wanna jump with me under Maggie's leaves?”

Sulu smiles at Jim, watching as the small boy jumps in the air. Jim's arms flail above him as he reaches for Maggie's branches.

“Maybe next time.”

“I'm supposed to grow up later. But I'll come back and we can jump.”

Sulu's smile widens and he winks at Jim. “Sounds good.”

Jim grins and glances over at Spock who is standing quietly and smiling to himself as Maggie curls her leaves around his ears.

“How come she always touches you, Spock? I keep tryin' to touch her leaves, but she won't let me.”

Sulu interjects, “I think she's teasing you, Jim.”

“Teasin'?” Jim looks up at the swirling vines and pouts. “Maggie, stop teasin' me.”

The vines slow to a stop above Jim's head, and seem to droop slightly.

“She wasn't teasing to be mean to you,” Sulu explains. “She does it because she likes you. The same way she pets Spock because she likes him.”

Jim continues peering up at the vines as one branch moves cautiously towards his face. Maggie rolls one of her leaves and taps Jim gently on the nose. He waits patiently as the leaf moves down, pausing, outstretched and waiting as if offering a handshake. Jim raises his hand and slips it inside the leaf, grinning as he shakes hands with Maggie.

“Pleased to meet you!” Jim says with a laugh.

Maggie's leaves flutter, as if mimicking Jim's laughter, before several vines move forward to wrap around Jim's arms and curl through his hair.

“Pick me up again, Maggie!” Jim is laughing and jumping, encouraging Maggie to lift him like she did the day they met.

McCoy, who had been watching from the sidelines, suddenly steps forward. “Now, Jim, be careful.”

“It's alright,” Sulu says, his hand raised to pause McCoy's actions. “She won't hurt him.”

Spock watches with wonder as the vines grip Jim's arms tightly before lifting him into the air. Jim grins down at Spock, squealing with delight as he kicks his legs out. Maggie bounces him once or twice before gently lowering him back to the floor.

“Perhaps I--” Spock looks up shyly at Maggie's vines, almost embarrassed to ask. He whispers to the leaf closest to his face, “perhaps I could have a turn?”

The leaves flutter around him suddenly, and Spock can feel strong vines wrapping around his arms. He looks at Jim in surprise, and the blond boy looks back at him in amazement as he rises off the floor.

“Spock! You're up in the air!”

Too thrilled to speak, Spock simply nods and allows himself to smile down at Jim.

The grip on his arms seems to tighten slightly, and Spock can feel himself being bounced up and down. He kicks out a leg, testing the feeling, before kicking both legs in the same manner as Jim.

“Having fun up there?”

Spock feels himself tense as he glances over at McCoy and Sulu, but is relieved to see they look amused. Spock nods at the doctor, and they exchange a smile.

Maggie bounces him once more before slowly lowering him to the floor. The vines unravel, releasing his arms, and Spock reaches up to pet the leaves as they pull away from him.

“Alright, boys,” McCoy says quietly. “Time to go.”

Maggie reaches out two branches, one towards Jim and one towards Spock. Jim raises his hands to grasp Maggie's leaves and press them flat against his cheeks. He's whispering, but Spock is close enough to hear him.

“I'm gonna come visit you. Even when I'm big. I promise.”

Spock closes his eyes as he reaches up to touch the leaves curled around his ears. “Goodbye, Maggie,” he whispers. “I will miss you.”

Maggie pats their heads before pulling her vines away completely, swirling them above the boys' heads and fluttering her leaves in a waving motion.

As they head for the door, Jim slips his hand into Spock's.

*

They round another corner, heading for the transporter room, and Jim's pace seems to slow. He still grasps Spock's hand, but he falls at least two steps behind with their arms outstretched between them.

“Bones, is the transporter gonna hurt?”

“No,” McCoy replies as he continues marching down the corridor. “You'll barely feel it, kid.”

“Oh.”

Spock attempts to keep up with the doctor while also slowing his pace enough for Jim to keep up with him.

“What alterations did Mister Scott make in order to facilitate our transformation?”

“I couldn't tell you, Spock.” McCoy says with a smirk. “All I know is Chekov came up with a suggestion and it worked. But I promise, you'll have plenty of time to discuss it with them later.”

Jim gives Spock's hand a quick squeeze before letting go. Spock halts his footsteps, and looks back to see Jim crouched over his boots.

“Laces are untied,” Jim mumbles as he reaches for the trailing strings.

McCoy travels several steps ahead of them, distracted by something on his PADD, before turning around. “What's the hold-up?”

“It appears Jim's laces have come undone.”

“Not sure why that yeoman gave you boots with laces,” McCoy mutters. “Can ya do them up yourself, kid, or you need help?”

“I can do it,” Jim replies as he makes two loops and twists them together.

“Alright, do it quick and catch up. Scotty and Chekov are waiting for us in the transporter room.” McCoy continues down the hallway, his eyes locked on his PADD.

Spock watches Jim tie his boots, waiting for the small boy to catch up with him, when Jim suddenly turns and runs. His footsteps are seemingly silent as his small feet hit the floor, and he nearly reaches the end of the corridor when he turns to shout at Spock, “come on!”

At the sound of the shout, McCoy turns back in surprise. “Jim!”

Jim stands at the end of the corridor, motioning for Spock to join him, while Spock remains stuck to his spot on the floor.

“Come on, you two, this is no time for games.” McCoy takes a lumbering step forward, and Spock briefly considers his options – obeying the doctor, or following Jim.

“Spock!” Jim shouts at him, his arms flailing as he appears torn between waiting for Spock and running for his life.

Glancing back at McCoy, Spock gives the doctor an apologetic look. He doesn't want to disobey, but he doesn't want to leave Jim to wander the ship alone. McCoy is only a few feet away when Jim shouts at him again. “Spock, run!”

And suddenly he's running.

“Yeah!” Jim jumps at the end of the corridor, punching his small fist into the air.

Spock's feet seem to soar as he runs towards Jim. He can't remember running before, other than for physical education purposes, and he can't deny the feeling of freedom that comes over him.

Jim's eyes grow wide as Spock gets closer. “Bones is comin'!”

When Spock reaches Jim they turn the corner together, linking their hands, and run down another corridor. Behind them they can hear Bones' raised voice as he shouts into his communicator, “--running away, or some fool thing. Right now they're headed back to the lift. Someone cut them off, but don't scare them.”

Jim's giggles echo through the corridor as the lift comes into sight. “We're runnin' away!”

Spock nods in agreement as they reach the lift, his fingers mashing the buttons in his excitement. The doors slide open and the boys run inside. They turn and see McCoy round a corner just as the doors whoosh shut.

“What is our plan, Jim?”

“I didn't think of one before I started runnin',” Jim admits as he examines the information panel. He reaches up and presses a button for the lowest level of the ship, and the lift springs into motion. “We'll just figure somethin' out.”


As the lift slides to a stop, Jim and Spock step cautiously off the lift. “Nobody's here,” Jim says quietly as they look from side to side, trying to decide which corridor to take.

As if on cue, voices echo up the corridor on their right. Footsteps follow, and Spock can tell there are at least three people running towards them. Jim's eyes grow wide.

“Jim, we must run.”

They bolt to the left, scurrying up the corridor. Spock notes each door as they run past, trying to decide which room would be best for hiding.

“This one!” Jim shouts as he grasps Spock's hand and pulls him through a large door. Immediately Spock recognizes the area as the engineering room in which they played pirates.

“I remember this one from before,” Jim explains as he leads Spock to the back of the room. “Lotsa good places to hide.”

As they encounter a series of tubes, they hear the large entrance door slide open.

“Security says they detected movement in one of the engineering rooms. I'm checking it out right now, sir.”

“Comm me if you find them.” McCoy's voice rings out over a communicator, and Jim looks at Spock with fear.

“We gotta hide!”

They enter the tube as quickly as possible, and climb up the ladder inside. Spock reaches the top first and Jim climbs up behind him, standing close as they share the same rung.

“We can stay here until they go away,” Jim whispers. “Then we'll hide somewhere else.”

Spock glances around the inside of the tube, listening to the ensign walking around outside, and he suddenly feels defeated. “Jim,” he whispers back. “I am not sure we can hide on the ship indefinitely.”

“Maybe not indefitedly, but maybe for awhile?”

“How will we eat?”

“We can sneak into the mess hall, likes spies!”

“Where will we sleep?”

“We can hide somewhere and sleep there and no one will find us.”

When Spock doesn't reply, Jim's mouth falls into a frown. “You don't wanna run away anymore?”

Spock reaches for Jim's hand, attempting to reassure him. “I am not sure how we will manage to hide indefinitely. A starship is not conducive to remaining hidden for long periods of time.”

He smiles shyly at Jim. “However, if you wish to continue our adventure, I will stay with you.”

A small smile moves over Jim's face. “You mean it?”

Spock nods.

He stares into the bright blue eyes for a moment, and suddenly Jim leans forward and plants a kiss on his cheek. Spock's free hand flies up to touch his face, his fingers moving over the spot.

“Jim, why?”

Jim hesitates for a moment, and suddenly a strange face appears at the bottom of the tube. The man speaks into his communicator, “found them. They're in a Jefferies tube.”

Jim frowns as McCoy's voice replies that he's on his way.

*

“Bones, I don't wanna go.”

Jim sits on the edge of the transporter, Spock sitting on one side and McCoy sitting on the other. Jim leans against the doctor's leg, and McCoy's hand rests on his head.

“I know, kid. But it's something you have to do.”

Jim presses his face into his knees, sniffling, and McCoy's hand moves down to rub his back.

“And it's okay to cry.”

“I'm not cryin'.”

“Alright. Well, if you were crying it's nothing to be ashamed of.”

Jim is silent for a moment. “I'm scared,” he finally whispers.

“It's okay to be scared,” McCoy whispers back. “Jimmy, you want to know a secret?”

Jim glances up as he wipes a few stray tears from his face. “Yeah.”

“I'm afraid of transporters too. And flying. And space.”

Jim's eyes grow wide. “You are??”

The doctor nods. “Sure am. But you know what I do?”

Jim shakes his head.

“I take a job in space, and do it all anyway.”

Jim smiles slightly. “Because you're brave?”

McCoy winks at him. “Brave or crazy, kid, I'm not sure which yet.”

“Bones?”

“Yeah, Jim.”

“Will you be here when we get back?”

McCoy pats Jim's head reassuringly. “Sure will. I'll be here the entire time.”

Jim turns to Spock. “Are you scared?”

Spock shakes his head. “I assume Pavel and Mister Scott have made the necessary repairs to the transporter, and I trust that Doctor McCoy would not put us in danger. Therefore I am not afraid.”

“Oh.” Jim glances at the floor. “Well, can I hold your hand when we go?”

“Of course,” Spock replies, reaching for Jim's hand. “Assuming it will not interfere with the transportation.”

Jim turns back to McCoy. “Can I hold Spock's hand when we go?”

“We'll have to ask Mister Scott,” McCoy glances in Scotty's direction and the chief engineer nods his head silently. “But I'm sure it won't be a problem.”

*

Spock and Jim stand together on the transporter pad, their arms outstretched far enough to allow their fingertips to touch.

“On my go,” Scotty says. “We beam them out slowly, wait ten seconds, then beam them back. Should be enough time for the changes to kick in and reverse things.”

Scotty counts down from three. “Three, two, one, GO.”

Spock watches as a swirling white light seems to envelope him. Then darkness for what feels like a split second, and suddenly he's back on the transporter pad staring into the face of Doctor McCoy.

He glances down at himself to discover an adult body, and quickly glances to his left to see an adult version of Jim Kirk.

Jim is also looking down at himself curiously. He raises his gaze to the transporter console, and then turns to his right. As he catches a glimpse of Spock he glances down at where their fingertips are intertwined. He jolts suddenly and pulls his fingers from Spock's. His brow furrows as he glances back at McCoy.

The doctor steps forward. “Jim, Spock, do you know where you are?”

Jim nods, “yeah, the transporter room.”

“Spock?”

“We are currently standing in the transporter room of the USS Enterprise.”

McCoy sighs with relief. “Do you remember what just happened?”

Jim is silent as Spock replies. “A transporter malfunction turned us into five year old children for a brief period of time. A solution from Mister Chekov allowed us to return to our proper forms.”

Jim is watching Spock with an amused expression. McCoy turns to him. “Jim?”

Shaking his head, Jim lets out a laugh. “I don't know what you guys are talking about, but last thing I remember I was beaming up from Straythos VII. Spock was carrying a bunch of rocks, and I was looking forward to catching up on sleep. Now we're here and I don't have a clue what's happening.”

Spock turns to him. “You do not recall arriving in the transporter room de-aged to five years old?”

Jim laughs again. “No.”

“You do not recall playing with Maggie or eating with Ensign Chekov?”

“Nope, but who's this Maggie chick? Sounds fun.” Jim moves forward and claps Spock on the shoulder before stepping off the transporter pad. “Everything back to normal then, Bones?”

McCoy nods, eying Jim suspiciously. “Yeah, as normal as it can be, I suppose.”

“Good. Now if you'll excuse me gentlemen, I've got work to do.”

Jim heads for the door as McCoy calls after him, “report to sickbay, Jim. I want a complete physical before you're back on duty.”

Jim waves his hand in vague agreement as the doors shut behind him.

Spock remains on the transporter pad, staring in silent shock at the closed doors.

*

 

Spock and McCoy travel in silence from the transporter room and, as Spock follows him through the doors of sickbay, McCoy falls quickly into his role as CMO as he orders Spock to disrobe.

“Shirt off, and up on the table. This shouldn't take long.”

The doctor rifles through a drawer as he speaks, and Spock barely has time to remove his shirt before a tricorder is humming in his ear.

“Doubt there's much wrong with you, but I've gotta confirm it before clearing you for duty.”

Spock sits silently, watching the doctor and noting that he seems hesitant to make eye contact. McCoy meets his silence with a snort. “What, not even a 'logical' from you?” He moves to Spock's other ear. “Maybe there's something wrong with you after all.”

“I assure you, Doctor, I am perfectly fine.”

McCoy jots a note on his PADD before moving to examine Spock's eyes. He fixes his gaze on McCoy, blinking only when the doctor snaps his fingers. “Eyes up here,” McCoy says, snapping his fingers again. “Follow the light.”

Spock obeys, following the light to the left and right, and McCoy seems satisfied as he moves the tricorder down Spock's torso.

“Readings seem normal to me. Well, as normal as they can be for a Vulcan.”

“Indeed.”

McCoy sets the tricorder aside before finally chancing a proper glance at Spock. He eyes him suspiciously for a moment before speaking. “You sure you're alright?”

“Aside from my bewilderment at the Captain's lack of recollection, I am well.”

McCoy nods. “That's Jim for ya.”

They both fall silent, and the two men regard each other awkwardly, both unsure of what to say.

Spock is the one to break the silence. “Doctor, if you would permit me, I have something I would like to convey.”

McCoy takes a deep breath, as if he knows Spock is about to say something emotional and he's not sure he wants to hear it. “Well make it quick because I've got work to do.”

“This opportunity to experience a second, albeit brief, childhood has given me new insight into both Jim and yourself.”

“That so?”

“Indeed, and I would like to express my sincere gratitude for your kindness.”

McCoy grunts and turns away, seemingly in embarrassment. “Not necessary, Spock. Just doing my job.”

“Your humbleness is admirable, however it is clear you went beyond your regular duties when you became our temporary guardian. You were not simply 'doing your job.'”

“Well, I appreciate you saying so,” McCoy says quietly, as he fiddles with the tricorder. “But, to be honest, you and Jim didn't exactly make it difficult. You two were pretty damn cute.”

McCoy turns back to face Spock, pointing a finger in his direction. “And if you tell anyone I said that I'll jab you with a hypospray.”

“Doctor McCoy, if I had not experienced your kindness firsthand, I would tell you your bedside manner is in need of improvement.”

McCoy chuckles as he reaches for Spock's shirt and tosses it in his direction. “Now we're back to normal.”

Spock pulls the shirt over his head, and allows himself a brief smile while his face is hidden beneath the fabric.

“I want you back in here if you experience any side effects. Even if you consider them minor – that's for me to decide, not you.”

Spock nods in reply.

“And if you see Jim, tell him to get his ass in here.”

“Affirmative, Doctor.”

McCoy suppresses a smile as he lowers his head to reread the information on his tricorder. “Now get the hell outta my sickbay.”

*

Spock keys in the code for the botany lab. The lab is dim and empty, and shadows from a few lamps move over the aisles as Spock makes his way to the back of the room. As he rounds a familiar corner he spots Maggie. Her vines are wound tight, and her leaves move gently – imitating the soft breath of sleep. Spock glances around in the darkness, looking for a blond head in the shadows, before turning quietly and heading back the way he came.

*

The visit to engineering is similarly unsuccessful. Spock stands below the platform, imagining two boys in pirate costumes marching around and wielding imaginary swords. “Five gems, four pieces of silver, seven pieces of gold, and twelve dilithium crystals,” Spock whispers before being interrupted by an ensign who nervously congratulates him on returning to adult form. Spock nods politely and excuses himself.

*

As he heads in the direction of the lift, Spock comes to a sudden stop in front of the doors to the lower observation deck. He considers them for a moment before pushing the button to enter. At first the room appears empty, and Spock is about to retreat when to his right he hears something shift in the darkness. As he allows his eyes to adjust, Spock detects the outline of a familiar figure leaning against the railing of the observation windows.

“Jim,” he says quietly, and the figure suddenly stands and turns to glance in his direction. The room is too dim for Jim to see Spock clearly, and he speaks into the darkness.

“Someone there?”

“Captain,” Spock replies. He doesn't explain further, trusting that Jim will recognize his voice.

There's a slight pause before Jim replies, “Oh, hey. Yeah, Spo– Commander.” Another slight pause. “What're you doing in here?”

It's Spock's turn to pause as he considers his reply and decides the truth is the best option. “I was attempting to locate you.”

“Yeah?”

“Yes, Captain.” Spock takes the opportunity to step forward and join Jim at the window. “Are you well?”

Familiar laughter falls over Spock's ears. “I'm fine, Spock. I'm fine. Just came down here to look at the stars.”

“Would it be wiser to catch up on your sleep?”

“Nah, I'm fine. Besides,” Jim taps the window. “If I was sleeping I'd be missing this.”

Spock glances outside just as a bright light streaks across the sky.

“Meteor shower,” Jim says. “Apparently that's what caused the transporter malfunction.”

“Indeed? I have not had an opportunity to question Mister Scott on the specifics of the situation.”

“Yup. One of Jaylion IX's moons exploded. The debris is electromagnetic. Picked up a bunch of the dust in their atmosphere when the explosion happened, and BAM.”

Jim falls silent as another bright light whizzes by.

“Then those things interfered with the transporter signal and.. well, you know.”

“Fascinating,” Spock says quietly, focusing on the light streaking past. “If it is possible, I would like to collect samples.”

“Definitely, yeah.” Jim nods. “Starfleet is giving us a couple days to rest anyway, so collect all you want.”

They discuss a brief away mission for Spock and the science team before falling into comfortable silence. Spock watches Jim out the corner of his eye, while Jim keeps his own gaze focused intently on the window.

“Permission to speak freely, Captain?”

“It's Jim, Spock. And yeah, of course.”

“Jim.” Spock considers the name for a moment, ignoring an urge to say 'Jimmy', before continuing. “I must admit, I found our experience as five year old children quite fascinating.”

“Fascinating?” Jim laughs. “No offense, but it sounds like a science experiment gone wrong.”

“In my personal view, it was not-- it was anything but a science experiment.” He watches as Jim keeps his gaze fixed on the window. “I cannot deny I found the experience both enlightening and rewarding.”

Finally Jim glances over at him in interest. “Oh yeah? How, exactly?”

“It allowed us both an opportunity to experience a second childhood.”

Jim rolls his eyes. “I didn't enjoy my first one,” he mumbles. “Not sure why I'd want a second one.”

“I admit to knowing very little about your childhood. However, I find the idea that you were an unhappy child difficult to accept.”

“Well, accept it,” Jim mutters. “My dad was dead, my mom was gone, and I can probably count the number of good days on one hand. Not complaining, that's just the way it was.”

“I accept the situation as fact,” Spock replies. “I simply find the idea to be displeasing.”

“Displeasing?” A slight grin moves over Jim's face.

“Indeed. The idea that you experienced an unhappy childhood is displeasing to me.”

“That's unexpected, but I'll take it.”

“Take it, Captain?”

“Yeah, take it as something nice. And I told you, it's Jim.” He says with a laugh. “We're almost talking like friends here, call me Jim.”

“Jim, as I am sure you have surmised, I am not someone who makes friends easily. However, after our recent experience, I believe we are friends.”

Jim's laughter stops as his gaze turns back to the window. “Yeah, I guess..” He appears lost in thought, and several minutes pass before he speaks again.

“Bet I was an annoying kid, huh?”

“An annoying child?” Spock barely manages to mask his surprise at the suggestion. He turns to Jim then, striving to catch his eye as Jim looks anywhere but in Spock's direction. “Negative, Jim. The child I encountered, the five year old version of you, was intriguing. You seemed very bright, and full of curiosity and wonderment. I believe the appropriate term would be 'precocious.'”

“I was five. I think everyone is like that when they're five, aren't they?”

“I was not.”

“Oh.” Realization seems to dawn on Jim then and he turns his head, finally allowing his eyes to meet Spock's. “Yeah, you don't really seem like you'd be the precocious type.” Jim grins and then stops himself quickly. “Sorry, I just meant...” He trails off as his gaze moves back to the window.

“An apology is unnecessary,” Spock states, keeping his eyes locked on Jim. “You are correct in your assumption that my childhood behavior was different from your own. I was raised on Vulcan, as you are aware, and Vulcan children are encouraged to learn and be silent.”

“Sounds like you had a depressing childhood too.”

“I would not call it depressing. Vulcans believe such behavior is necessary, and emotional control is taught early. It is what we know.”

“Still, sounds like a drag.”

“I would not use that specific word, however it is true that my actual childhood was not as idealistic as our recent experience.”

“Idealistic? So does that mean you enjoyed being five again?”

Spock turns his own gaze to the window as he considers the question. “I did.”

As silence falls between them, Spock suddenly feels very brave. He takes a deep breath before he speaks, and with Jim standing next to him the words flow freely.

“Spending time with you, as children, allowed me to learn several things about myself. It allowed me to open myself up to new experiences, and to do things which would have been discouraged during my childhood on Vulcan.”

Jim nods, but doesn't respond.

“You encouraged me to play, and use my imagination. We pretended to be spies and pirates. We played chess together and you deemed me a worthy opponent. I indulged my human side. I was brave.”

“What're you talking about?” Jim scoffs. “You're probably the bravest crew member I have.”

“I am referring to a different type of bravery,” Spock says quietly. “The ability to ask for things I would like to have or experience, regardless of how illogical they may be.”

Jim doesn't respond.

“Your five year old self taught me many things.” Spock allows his head to drop, and the words sound almost sad. “I felt connected to you, as if I could trust you with my secrets in the same way your five year old self trusted me with yours.”

“My secrets?”

“A fear of the dark, for example.”

“Oh man,” Jim laughs, shaking his head as he glances down at the floor.

“Jim,” Spock nearly whispers. “I must admit, I feel disappointment that you do not recall our experience.”

Jim simply nods as he moves to another window. “Better view over here.”

Spock follows silently. He opens his mouth to speak again, but closes it quickly. Enough now, he tells himself. He's managed to convey everything he wished to convey and, with Jim unable or unwilling to recall their experience, Spock forces himself to focus his gaze on the window. He counts out the passage of time in his head, and at the six minute forty-seven second mark Jim finally speaks.

“You're not wanting to catch up on sleep?”

“Would you prefer for me to leave you alone?”

“No.” Jim says. “No, not at all.”

“Then I would prefer to remain in your presence.”

Jim laughs quietly to himself. “You're a stubborn one, Spock.”

Spock allows himself to frown at the statement. “I am unsure of your meaning. If you would like me to leave you alone, you need only tell me and I will depart.”

Jim claps his hand on Spock's arm. “No, don't. I told you--” Jim pulls his hand back and leans against the railing. “I told you I don't want you to leave. Never mind the stubborn thing. Just stay.”

“I do not intend to leave, however I admit I am perplexed by your behavior.”

“Aww fuck.. Spock, look..” Jim mutters before taking a deep breath. “I remember.”

While the admittance doesn't come as a complete shock to Spock, he finds himself taking a step back. “Jim, I-- if you would clarify, what do you remember?”

Jim sighs. “Arriving in the transporter room, being five, all of it.”

Spock nods, choosing his words carefully. “If I were to say I had my suspicions, would it surprise you?”

“No, that wouldn't surprise me.” Jim laughs, setting Spock at ease. “I was hoping I could slip this one by you, but I should've known better.”

“Why would you wish to slip this by me?”

“Spock, look..” Jim sighs again, closing his eyes as he rubs his forehead in frustration. “The real me, the real five year old me, didn't have many friends.” His eyes meet Spock's then, and he slowly nods at him, waving his hand in the air as if willing Spock to understand the implication.

“I find that extremely unfortunate, however I fail to see how it relates to our recent experience as five year old children.” Spock pauses, considering another implication. “Unless.. you did not find our experience as positive as I found it to be.”

“No, no,” Jim stresses. “Christ, that's not it at all. You, the five year old you, were my best friend. I didn't have a best friend as a kid, and, weirdly enough,you ended up being my best childhood friend.”

“You were also my first and best childhood friend, Jim.”

Jim nods, looking from Spock to the window and back again. “It was less than a week, but.. it was the best experience of my childhood. Or my pretend childhood, or whatever it was.”

“Jim, I do not-- If your experience was so positive, I must admit, I am struggling to understand why you would feel the need to lie about your recollection.”

“Don't take this the wrong way, but it's because it's you Spock. You're you, always so Vulcan and logical. Once we were adults again I figured you'd go back to being you and you wouldn't care about our silly childhood friendship. It was just easier to pretend I didn't remember, to save myself the disappointment.”

A frown falls over Spock's face and he doesn't attempt to suppress it. “I acknowledge that being Vulcan and logical is a significant part of who I am,” he explains. “However, the five year old you met, he was also me.”

“I know,” Jim says quietly. “I didn't really think of that.”

Spock turns to the window. “And I would not call our friendship silly, regardless of what age we were when it developed.”

“I wouldn't either, I was just trying to make a point.” Jim places his hand on Spock's shoulder, attempting to turn his focus away from the window. “Spock, I'm sorry. C'mon, look at me.”

He turns to face Jim, his expression neutral again. “There is no need to apologize.”

“Yeah there is.” Jim grins cautiously. “I'm an ass, and after all this I don't think I could take it if you were mad at me.”

“I was not mad. Anger is an emotional respon--”

“Spock, shut up.” Jim cuts him off with a laugh. “You were upset, and you probably have every right to be, and I'm sorry.”

They stare at each other for a moment, Jim's blue eyes meeting Spock's dark ones, and their close proximity suddenly brings Spock back to the Jefferies tube from earlier that morning.

“Jim, may I ask a question?”

“Yeah, of course.”

“In the Jefferies tube this morning, you--”

Jim forces out an awkward laugh. “Yeah, that was.. just a silly kid thing. Don't think twice about it.”

“I would estimate I have thought about it at least four times.”

There's a real laugh this time, as Jim raises his palm to the bridge of his nose and presses. “Spock, it's a figure of speech. It means it's no big deal and not worth closer examination.”

“I see.”

“Yeah, so no big deal.” Jim shrugs at Spock. “I was five and doing things five year olds do.”

Spock's gaze moves from Jim to the window. “Understood.”

Jim is silent for only a moment before he speaks again. “You thought about it four times?”

“I was under the impression the topic did not bear closer examination.”

“Yeah, no, it doesn't.” Jim turns to the window before slowly chancing a glance at Spock. “I was just curious.”

“Would you like to discuss the topic?”

“No, no, I just find it interesting.”

Spock gives an uncharacteristic sigh as he turns to face Jim. “I must tell you, your behavior today is both frustrating and intriguing.”

Jim flashes him a grin. “Typical though, right?”

“Indeed.”

As they face each other, Jim's grin fades as nervousness seems to set in. Suddenly feeling very brave, Spock leans closer until he can feel Jim's breath coming quick against his cheek. When Jim doesn't speak or push him away, Spock tilts his head and places a soft kiss on the side of his face.

He leans in to speak quietly against Jim's ear. “Would you like to discuss the topic?” He asks again.

A huff of breath escapes Jim, a soft laugh against Spock's cheek. “No.”

Frustration and disappointment wash over Spock in that second. “Very well,” he whispers as he begins to pull back. Then a hand grips the back of Spock's neck, and Jim's lips are pressing against his.

“Damn it, Spock, I just meant I don't want to talk about it,” Jim says against Spock's mouth, soft lips moving against Spock's own. “I'm not good at this kind of thing.”

When Jim finally pulls away he rests his forehead against Spock's, sighing as his eyes close.

“I suspect you are better at this than you think,” Spock whispers.

Jim smiles. “We'll see.”

After a moment he casually reaches down to take Spock's hand. As their fingers touch there's a slight gasp from Spock.

“You like that?” Jim asks.

“It is enjoyable.”

“It's sort of like kissing for you, right?”

“It is similar, yes.”

As Jim considers the admittance, his eyes suddenly grow wide with horror. “When we were kids I was holding your hand all over the ship!”

“Jim--”

“Anyone who knew anything about Vulcan culture would think I was kissing you all over the place!”

A slight smirk escapes Spock's lips. “Would that be a problem?”

“Well, no..” Jim replies as his tone returns to normal. “Not now.”

Spock slides his fingers against Jim's before gripping his hand tightly. “If it is any consolation, hand-holding does not have the same connotations for Vulcan children as it has for Vulcan adults. It is similar to your excuse for kissing me when you were five years old.”

“It wasn't an excuse” Jim mumbles as he attempts to mask a grin. “It was an explanation.”

“Your explanation, then,” Spock continues. “This is similar. For children it holds little meaning beyond friendship and innocent affection.”

“Yeah, well, if you're going to keep pressuring me to be honest, I have to tell you I have more than innocent affection for you.”

“The feeling is mutual, Jim.”

Jim pulls Spock to him again, grinning against his mouth as they kiss. “I'm glad.”

As they stand together, Spock seems lost in thought as he cards his hand through Jim's hair. “You had fascinating hair as a child.”

“Did I?”

“Indeed. I began to be able to recognize you by your uncontrollable hair.”

“Want me to grow my hair out?” Jim teases, playfully running his hands through his hair in an attempt to make it stand on end.

“Negative. Your current hairstyle is more appropriate for a Starfleet Captain.”

“True. Besides, I'd never hear the end of it from Bones.” At the mention of the doctor, Jim suddenly freezes. “Oh god, I've gotta go see Bones.”

“That is correct. When he examined me earlier he asked me to convey instructions for you to get your buttocks to sickbay as soon as possible.”

Jim laughs. “Good old Bones,” he says quietly. “I've gotta apologize to him too.”

Jim appears thoughtful for a moment. “He was great, huh?”

Spock nods. “Affirmative, he went above and beyond his duties as Chief Medical Officer.”

“Yeah.. Bleero..” Jim smiles to himself before glancing back up at Spock. “I've gotta go talk to Bones, but we should meet up after that.. If you want...” Jim trails off.

“I would like that very much.”

Jim grins as he leans in to give Spock one last kiss. “Me too,” he says with a wink. “We can play chess or something.”

Spock allows himself to smile as Jim heads for the door. When the doors slide open, Jim turns suddenly. “Hey, Spock?”

“Yes.”

“I'm not afraid of the dark anymore. I mean, that was only when I was a kid.”

“I had assumed as much, Jim.”

“Right. Just gotta make sure.”

“I will visit you later.”

Jim grins. “Good.”

Spock watches Jim's silhouette disappear into the corridor, a few stray pieces of hair still standing on end.

*

end

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