Jim tiptoed into the nursery, wanting to have one more peek at his daughter before he went to bed. Even two months after T’Lira’s arrival, he sometimes found it hard to believe she was here. She was such a beautiful baby and so loving, so eager to explore her world. From birth, she had been able to communicate with Jim and Spock telepathically, but now she was able to “talk” to almost everyone on the ship, anyone who had even a scrap of telepathic ability. She was already sitting up, and she seldom cried. During Alpha shift, she was looked after by Yeoman Rand, who came from a family of twelve and was thrilled with the opportunity to be T’Lira’s caretaker. Rand was envied by half the women on the ship, and a few of the men, too. The rest of the time, Jim and Spock took turns caring for T’Lira, playing with her, and just loving her. Of course, Spock was attempting to gently instill some Vulcan disciplines in T’Lira; Jim was simply concentrating on spoiling her rotten. So far, it seemed like a good division of labor.
T’Lira was lying in her crib, covered with a light blanket and surrounded by what Spock called “physiologically-inaccurate poly-silk replica mammals,” or to put it more simply, stuffed animals. She had several favorites, and they all had names, except for her stuffed sehlat. T’Lira loved it, especially once she’d learned that her sa-mekh, Spock, had once had a real sehlat (Jim had a sinking feeling that his daughter would be campaigning for her own I-Chiya before long). But she refused to name her stuffed Vulcan animal.
He not have name, she’d insisted when Jim tried to find out why this one animal didn’t have a name yet. Me find his name. And from that position, she could not be budged. In the meantime, the poor stuffed sehlat was nameless.
Jim felt Spock coming up behind him, felt his bond mate’s arm slip around his waist.
“She sleeps?” Spock whispered. Actually, there was no need to whisper; since T’Lira communicated largely with her mind, she didn’t pay that much attention to noise, and she slept like most Vulcan babies—with singular concentration. But Jim whispered around her when she was asleep, so Spock had taken to doing so as well.
“Yeah, out like a light,” Jim said fondly. He could almost feel the eyebrow rising.
“I fail to comprehend how a living being can be compared to a source of mechanical illumination…”
“Yeah, yeah.” Jim turned and hugged his mate. “Let’s go take advantage of our rare free time, huh?”
He could feel Spock’s immediate…interest. “Your…suggestion has merit.”
One hour and some vigorous activity later, the entire family was asleep.
I cannot fucking believe this.” Jim was getting dressed a few days later, swearing at the universe as the reports came in from all over the ship.
Bad word! T’Lira piped in from her high chair, where Spock was patiently trying to spoon some mashed yams into her. Unfortunately, Jim was finding it hard to break his swearing habit. Equally unfortunately, T’Lira had ears like a lynx—a Vulcan lynx, and her vocabulary was growing by leaps and bounds, so she’d soon figured out which words Jim wasn’t supposed to use..
T’Lira jerked her head away from the spoon. No want, she announced. No want mush. Since she was growing so quickly, Dr. M’Benga was concerned that formula alone was not providing T’Lira with the nutrition she needed, so he’d instructed Jim and Spock to introduce her to a limited number of soft foods. So far, the experiment was not going well.
“Very well, small one,” Spock said patiently. “What would you like to eat?”
Spock glared at Jim. Jim shrugged.
“I didn’t give her any; I just ate a piece with her on my lap. I can’t help it if she knows what smells good.”
Popperroni! their daughter proclaimed.
“Pepperoni, sweetheart, and it’s big people food, I’m afraid.” Jim swooped in and kissed the yam-covered face. “Bleech. I can see why she doesn’t like them.”
“Jim, exactly why were you cursing a few minutes ago?” Spock asked, setting the dish of yams aside and giving T’Lira a bottle, which she managed with the skill of a back-alley drunk. The training of her palate would have to wait.
“Because we can travel at ten times the speed of light, but we can’t cure a simple virus,” Jim replied, disgusted. “Half the damned ship is down at this point. To make matters worse, Dr. M’Benga’s off at that conference so Bones is short-handed and bitching to me about it.”
Bad word, bad word. T’Lira sang, dropping her empty bottle. She held her arms out to Spock. Out, please sa-mekh.
He picked her up and looked at Jim. “Do you need me to take an extra shift today, ashaya?”
Jim nodded. “Yeah, I’ve got three people in the astrophysics lab on sick call, so if you could at least check out the current experiments and make sure nothing’s falling through the cracks, I’d appreciate it.”
Spock nodded. “Consider it done.” He handed T’Lira to Jim. “Yeoman Rand should be here in seven minutes, so if you can wait for her, I will go to the lab now before my shift.” He placed a tender hand on T’Lira’s head. “I will see you tonight, small one.”
Pizza dinner, T’Lira agreed cheerfully.
Jim wondered what pizza puree would taste like.
The sad little voice echoed inside Jim’s head. He opened his eyes and blinked blearily at the chronometer. It was 0235.
Papa. Hot, Papa.
It was T’Lira. Jim got out of bed and hurried into the nursery, hitting the lights.
T’Lira was sitting up in her crib. The baby’s face was flushed, and her neck was covered in what looked like heat rash. Her tiny mouth was screwed up in a sad grimace.
Hot, Papa, she whimpered as Jim gently lifted her from her crib. The tiny arms went around his neck in a fierce grip.
“Ashaya? Is she sick?” Spock hurried in.
“I think so,” Jim replied. “She feels hot, and she’s got some kind of rash.” T’Lira’s body temperature was about three degrees higher than Jim’s and four degrees lower than Spock’s, so she always felt warm to Jim’s touch. But now she felt a lot warmer.
Lights hurt, T’Lira whimpered, and Jim ordered the illumination to 40 percent.
“Let me see her,” Spock said gently, and Jim handed their daughter over. Spock didn’t need a thermometer; his heat sense was extraordinarily accurate. He laid his fingers against the flushed forehead.
“Yes,” he noted, “her temperature is significantly elevated.”
Head hurts, T’Lira said. Hot.
“I know, baby.” Jim took her back into his arms. “We’ll take care of you, make you feel better. I think I’d better take her to Sickbay,” he said to Spock.
“Agreed,” his mate replied. “I will accompany you.”
It was one of those nights when Leonard McCoy wondered why the Hell he’d thought being a doctor was a good career move. It seemed like every person on the ship who had felt a little bit “off” during their shift had waited until NOW to come to Sickbay and complain. He’d already worked a 12-hour day, but two of his nurses and three of his orderlies were down with this crud, and M’Benga was off on Camus Four, knocking back cold, fruity drinks and finding out where Andorians kept their spleens. So Bones kept going. And now Jim, Spock, and their baby were here, and Jim was acting like every first-time father McCoy had ever known.
“Damnit, Jim, would you calm down?” he said as he watched Jim pace. Spock sat quietly on the exam table, T’Lira in his arms, her head drooping onto his shoulder. The casual observer might have thought Spock was indifferent to his daughter’s illness—until they looked into his eyes.
Hot, T’Lira whined piteously, and all three men could hear her. Hot. Head hurts.
“Jesus, Bones, you’re the doctor. Do something!”
McCoy plucked T’Lira out of Spock’s arms, ignoring the sudden stiffening of the little body. “Jim, there’s not one Hell of a lot I can do. She’s got the same virus half the ship has, and I can’t give her Antivan; she’s allergic to everything, just like you. So other than a cool bath and some baby aspirin, I don’t know what you think I’m going to do for your little hobgoblin.”
Me not hobgoblin! T’Lira ‘hollered.’ With that she burst into tears, but not before throwing up violently all over McCoy.
“Shit, Jim. I’m sorry.” McCoy slumped behind his desk, head in his hands. T’Lira had been sponged off by Nurse Chapel, soothed by her sa-mekh, and dosed with baby aspirin. She was now asleep in their quarters, with Spock watching over her. Bones had been sponged off as well, and he and Jim were now having a very late nightcap.
“It’s ok, Bones.” Now that the crisis was over, Jim’s equanimity had restored itself. “I’ve known for years that your bedside manner sucks.” He grinned at his friend.
“No, it’s not ok,” Bones said, disgusted with himself. “Sure, I was tired, and frankly, I’m scared to death to touch your kid for fear Spock will kill me. But I should have remembered that she’s sentient, especially since I’m going to be facing the same damned thing in a few months.” T’Rina, McCoy’s Vulcan wife, was expecting a baby.
“Yeah, it does take some getting used to.” Jim rose and stretched. “I’d better get back to my family,” he said.
“Keep an eye on T’Lira and if she gets worse, bring her back down—assuming you can bodily drag her in.” Bones was still mad at himself.
“Don’t worry, Bones; you’re not as bad as mashed yams.”
T’Lira’s virus soon ran its course. The rest of the crew recovered as well, and life got back to normal aboard the Enterprise.
Two evenings after their Sickbay visit, there was a buzz at the door of Jim and Spock’s quarters. Spock was alone with T’Lira, and he went to the door, his child in his arms.
Bad man! T’Lira yelled when the door slid open to reveal Doctor McCoy.
“Small one, that is not polite,” Spock admonished his daughter gently. “Come in, Doctor.”
“Thanks.” McCoy stepped into the room. He and T’Lira eyed each other like a pair of sehlats ready to fight over a juicy bone.
“I am sorry, but Jim is not here,” Spock said.
McCoy hesitated. “Actually, I came to see T’Lira,” he said.
No see! Go ’way.
McCoy picked up on her mental chatter and grinned. “Can’t say that I blame you,” he said, looking straight at T’Lira. “But I would really like to talk to you, please?” McCoy could turn on the Southern charm when he wanted to. After a moment’s consideration, T’Lira turned to her sa-mekh.
Talk to Dr. Bones, she said firmly. She stretched her arms in McCoy’s direction. Hold, she ordered.
One eyebrow raised, Spock handed his daughter to the doctor. “I will go and check my messages,” he said, beating a hasty retreat.
Bones sat on the couch and put T’Lira on his knee. She glowered at him. Grumpy, she said. Grumpy Bones doctor.
“Yes,” McCoy agreed. “I was very tired and very grumpy. I am sorry I hurt your feelings.”
Not hobgoblin, she said firmly.
“No,” McCoy agreed. “I should not have called you a hobgoblin. T’Lira, can I tell you a big secret?”
“Yes, something no one else knows.”
She thought about it for a moment. Tell secret.
“Well, you see, in a few more months, I am going to have a baby,” McCoy explained.
She looked at him. Like sa-mekh?
“Well, not exactly,” McCoy replied hastily. “My wife is going to have the baby, but I will have to help, just like your papa does.”
“Yes, he is, and I don’t know if I can be as good as he is. I do not have much practice being a papa, and it makes me scared.” McCoy looked at her solemnly. “Would you let me practice with you so I am good when my baby comes? Please?” As noted, Leonard McCoy knew how to be a charmer, especially with the ladies.
T’Lira considered it. Then she settled into McCoy’s arms.
Practice, she said. Feed mush.
That night, T’Lira ate her first plate of mashed yams.
“Good night, sweetie.” Jim tucked his daughter into her crib.
Kiss, she demanded. Jim bent down and kissed her cheek. She held up her stuffed sehlat.
Kiss Grumpy Bones.
“Gumpy Bones?” Jim chuckled and kissed the stuffed animal.
Yes, she said serenely. Grumpy Bones.
From that day forward, the stuffed sehlat had a name.