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“I don’t know why the Hell I have to go,” Jim muttered rebelliously as he packed his bag.


“Because it is a conference of starship commanders and you are one.” Spock, perched on their bed, was, as always, logical. “It is only for ten days, t’hy’la.”


“Yeah, ten days without you and ten days without Lira,” Jim grumbled.


“Papa?” Both men turned, startled. T’Lira Marie Kirk, the apple of her papa’s eye (and the center of her sa-mekh’s universe, although Spock would never publicly lose his Vulcan decorum and admit it), stood in the doorway of their room, dressed in her footie pajamas, the ones with the sehlat print. She was rubbing the sleep out of her enormous indigo eyes.


“Lira?” Jim asked, crossing the room and dropping to his knees to gather his daughter into his arms. “What are you doing up, sweetie? You’re supposed to be in bed.” And at least in theory, you’re not supposed to be able to climb out, he thought, resigned. At the age of eight months, their daughter was both walking and talking, and any ideas Jim might have entertained about keeping her safely confined were fast flying out the airlock. Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott had just rigged up a force field around her crib four days before; apparently, Lira was force field-proof.


“Papa go away and leave me?” She looked up at him appealingly. “Papa not love me now?”


“Goddamnit, that tears it,” Jim said. “I’m calling Chris and telling him I won’t go.”


“Papa, Goddamnit very bad long word,” T’Lira reminded him. She was still on a crusade to clean up Jim’s language; Spock privately wished his daughter luck with that particular task.


“Sorry, Lira; I forgot.” Jim kissed his daughter’s nose. “I love you very much, and I don’t want to leave you. Don’t worry, sweetie; I’m going to call Uncle Chris and tell him I can’t go play with the other starship captains.”


“Jim, that is not the solution,” Spock said firmly. “You have responsibilities.”


Jim sighed. “I suppose you’re right, but I don’t know what else to do.”


“Papa need answer?” T’Lira brightened. She loved to give Jim advice. “God help me, I’m being run by two bossy Vulcans,” Jim frequently said, but he secretly loved it.


“Um…yeah,” Jim said now, exchanging a quick glance with his bond mate. Maybe they could make this work for them.


“Tell me problem,” T’Lira ordered him. “Find answer.”


“Ok,” Jim said. “If I tell you, will you go back to sleep?”


“Yes; find answer, go to bed,” T’Lira announced. She glanced at Spock. “Sa-mekh hear answer, too, Papa.”


Jim grinned at his bond mate. “You heard the boss,” he said. He carried T’Lira over to their bed and sat down, with his daughter between him and Spock.


“You see, Lira,” he explained carefully, “Uncle Chris wants me to go on a trip and meet all the other captains who have big ships like ours. Then we will talk about our ships and how we can make them better. But I don’t want to go; I want to stay here with you and sa-mekh.”


T’Lira thought for a minute. “Me and sa-mekh go with you,” she suggested.


“Sweetie, I would like that a lot, but then there would be no one to watch the Enterprise,” Jim explained. “Sa-mekh has to be here and make sure everything is all right.”


T’Lira thought some more. “Me go with you; you not be lonesome.”


 “Your suggestion has merit,” Spock said solemnly, “but the meetings in question do not allow for the presence of small ones.”


T’Lira frowned. “Illogical,” she announced. “Small ones very important.”


“True,” Spock agreed, “but as we have discussed, not every environment is suitable for small ones.”


Yeah, Jim thought, and a conference on Risa with fifty horny captains is definitely not the right environment.


“Papa, you no have horns,” T’Lira informed him. Shit. She was reading his thoughts again.


“To return to your earlier suggestion,” Spock said hastily, “if you went with Papa, I would be lonely.”


“Yeah,” Jim chimed in, “and we don’t want sa-mekh to be lonely.”


T’Lira tilted her head at the precise angle Spock often tilted his and regarded her sa-mekh gravely.


“Sa-mekh be lonely? Sa-mekh not act lonely.”


“That’s because he’s a Vulcan,” Jim explained quickly. “Believe me, sa-mekh would be lonely without us.”


She thought about it for a minute. “Have answer,” she announced. She scooted off the bed and headed into her room. Jim and Spock exchanged glances.


“She is…remarkably perceptive,” Spock noted.


“Well, she is our baby,” Jim said with a grin. “And an empath to boot.”


T’Lira hurried back into their room, dragging Grumpy Bones, her beloved stuffed sehlat, behind her. She scrambled back into the bed and tucked Grumpy Bones into Jim’s suitcase.


“There,” she announced. “Grumpy Bones go with you, Papa. You not be lonesome. Sa-mekh stay and watch ship. Me stay and watch sa-mekh. No one lonesome.”


They both regarded her with astonishment. “You are one smart princess,” Jim said, hugging his daughter. “And thank you for loaning me Grumpy Bones.”


“Just loan,” she warned. “Want him back.”


“That’s understood.” Jim picked her up. “Now, let’s get you back to bed, ok?”


“Ok.” She glanced at Spock. “Go to sleep now, sa-mekh. Watch ship tomorrow.”


“I will follow your suggestion,” Spock said gravely. “Good night, small one.”


Jim carried T’Lira back to her room and put her into her crib. She’s getting so big; we’ll have to find her a new bed, he thought as he tucked her in with several of her stuffed animals.


“Yes, new bed. Big, fluffy bed,” T’Lira ordered.


Jim smothered his grin. “I’ll see what I can do.” He bent and kissed his daughter. “Go to sleep now, Lira.”


“Yes, sleep now.” The indigo eyes closed. Jim leaned over the crib.


“Lira? How did you turn off the force field?”


The eyes opened for just a moment. “Big secret,” his daughter said drowsily. “Smart like Scotty.” Her eyes closed again.


I never thought I’d say this, Jim thought with a grin as he dimmed the lights, but Scotty is a bad influence.


 


As expected, Commander Spock did well as acting captain of the Enterprise. There were no major emergencies, and Spock handled Jim’s duties as well as his own with quiet competence. As was usually the case when he and Jim were both on duty, T’Lira was cared for by Yeoman Rand, who was now also watching over Selik McCoy, the two month-old son of the ship’s CMO and his Vulcan mate, T’Rina. So T’Lira was well cared-for, and Spock was his usual efficient self.


And he was miserable.


No one would have guessed it, but Spock was terribly lonely without Jim. There was no logic in it; Spock was not a child, and he knew exactly how long ten days was. He had been alone for much of his life, especially once he had defied his father and left Vulcan for Starfleet. He was on a ship full of people, several of whom were his friends; he had a daughter to care for, and he had enough responsibilities to keep him busy for as many hours of the day as he wished to devote to them. There was no reason for him to feel restless and empty—but he did. He secretly wished Jim had told Chris Pike to forget about Jim showing up at the meeting, but he knew that was illogical as well.


 


It was the ninth night after Jim’s departure. Spock lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, knowing he was not going to sleep again that night. He sighed. The only bright spot in his entire universe was the fact that Jim would be home in 26.4 hours. 26.4 hours was no time at all. Spock sighed again. 26.4 hours was eternity.


Suddenly, his ears caught a sound from T’Lira’s room. Spock rose. She had been very quiet for the last few days, and Spock was secretly concerned about her. In his heart of hearts, Spock felt that Jim was the better parent to their child; he seemed to understand her instinctively, always knowing what to do for her. Spock loved her every bit as much as Jim did, but he occasionally felt awkward when he tried to address her needs.


Spock went into T’Lira’s room. “Lights ten percent,” he ordered quietly. He heard that noise again. T’Lira was crying.


Spock hurried over to the crib. T’Lira’s face was buried in one of her poly-stuffed bears, but Spock could still hear her sobs. He reached in and gently picked her up, cradling her in his arms as she sobbed softly on his shoulder. He sat down in the rocking chair Scotty had given them before T’Lira was born.


“It is all right, small one,” he said gently, smoothing the bright hair.


“No,” T’Lira sniffed forlornly. “Not supposed to cry.”


“Why not?” Spock asked her.


“Not Vulcan to cry,” she sobbed, the small body shaking.


“Small one, you may cry.” Spock held the shaking body tenderly. She wept for a few more minutes before her tears gradually subsided and she cuddled into Spock’s body.


“Not good Vulcan,” she whispered sadly at last.


Spock shifted her in his arms so he could see her face. He gently wiped away a few tears that lingered on her cheeks. “Small one, you may be any kind of a Vulcan you wish,” he informed his daughter tenderly. “I wish you to be yourself, not to pattern yourself on others.”


She thought about that. “Ok to cry?”


“Yes,” he replied softly, “if you need to. Even Vulcans cry sometimes.”


“Really?” She brightened.


“I would not give you false data,” he assured her. He gently kissed her cheek. “Are you crying because you miss Papa?” he asked, assuming that was the cause of her emotional upset.


“No,” she sniffed, tucking her head beneath his chin. “Miss Papa, but he ok, Grumpy Bones with him. Come back soon. Crying because you miss Papa.”


Spock froze. “You…you are crying for me?” he asked.


“Yes; sa-mekh good Vulcan, not cry. But you sad, sa-mekh; me feel you being sad. So me cry.”


“Oh, small one,” Spock whispered into her hair. “I am sorry. I should have realized that you would feel my pain.” He felt like ten kinds of a fool. With her empathic abilities, of course T’Lira had picked up on his feelings. Spock realized that he was going to have to re-evaluate how he dealt with his emotions, knowing that they affected his child so severely. Burying his pain was no longer an option.


“Yes, lonesome pain,” T’Lira confirmed. She ‘listened’ for a moment. “Not so bad now.”


Spock held his daughter close to his heart. “No,” he agreed gently. “Not so bad now.”


 


Jim beamed back aboard the Enterprise with a deep feeling of thankfulness for freighters with captains who could be bribed. Thanks to that universally-understood truth, he’d been able to make connections and get home almost a full day ahead of schedule. Of course, it was the butt-crack of night, so both Spock and T’Lira would be asleep, but he’d be able to greet them in the morning. He nodded a good night to the Transporter Room tech and hurried to his quarters.


He tiptoed into their rooms and headed to the nursery, wanting to peek in on T’Lira before he went to sleep. But her crib was empty. Odd. I hope she’s not roaming the halls. Jim wouldn’t put it past her. Fortunately, everyone on the ship, right down to the newest ensign, knew and loved Jim and Spock’s little girl.


Jim slipped into the room he shared with Spock, wondering if he should wake his bond mate and let him know T’Lira was MIA. He stopped at the sight which met his eyes.


Spock lay on the bed on his side. Next to him, cuddled close and clutching a stuffed monkey, lay T’Lira. Both were sound asleep.


With a silent chuckle, Jim toed off his boots and crawled into bed with his family. No need for a Red Alert. Everyone was exactly where they should be.


 


 

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