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Fluffy Christmas gift fic! rated for language

Mccoy isn't sure whether to call it an epidemic or a series of highly unlikely coincidences, or whether he should just accept that the impossible, the improbable, were somehow built into this ship at her very core, disbelief a permanent extra element in the air.

At least there are parts that make sense. This ship may suffer more de-aging episodes than any other in any galaxy, but it's always Kirk and Spock because they go on the planetside missions, and Kirk always is the first to explore anything, and Spock is always right beside him. There have been a few instances of others finding de-aging spores or liquids or places; Chekov was an unbearably smart-mouthed six year old that Sulu chased around for a while, Sulu spent a few days as a quiet, peaceful baby everyone fought to hold, Scotty became twenty-one for a while and severely tested the limits of how much alcohol can be safely consumed while still fixing circuits and relays with ease, and McCoy was turned into his surly sixteen year old self for a couple days.

Kirk and Spock, though. McCoy's been able to see them grow up like their lives are film strips with portions cut out, two films that sometimes meet now where they never did in the past, a story McCoy's watching where he already knows the end and it's the process that he's never seen before.

Kirk, age 2

McCoy had always thought Kirk was overly talkative, but, he realises that the Kirk he knows is actually holding back. Little two-year-old Kirk, with big blue eyes and golden blonde hair, is constantly making noise. McCoy sits Kirk on the carpet to play with hastily replicated toys, so he can work on the stack of unfiled reports on his desk. Two minutes in, however, it becomes apparent that this will not work.

"Zooooooom!" Kirk runs a little car into the leg of Mccoy's chair. "Vrrroooooom!" Another car smashes into the first one, "Where red car?" A second later, another car pelts across the room, "zooooom!"

"Jim," McCoy finally says. Kirk doesn't look at him, just continues smashing cars into the chair. "Jim." Kirk looks up.

"Who Jim?" he asks, and Mccoy frowns.

You are, seems like too confusing an answer, so he settles for, "never mind. What's your name?"

"Aaames" Kirk declares. Jim arches an eyebrow.

"James?"

"Aaames!"

"Okay… James. Here, want to listen to music and be quiet?" McCoy turns on the radio on his desk, a gift from Scotty; McCoy had been complaining about the complexity involved in just listening to music, so Scotty had built him this mock replica. Something like pop music starts to play, the kind of thing that emits from Chekov's headphones when he's on break.

"oooh!" Kirk –James – giggles madly. For a second, McCoy thinks he'll quiet down. Then, once the song hits its chorus again, Kirk pipes up from the floor, half-screaming "faaaallll! Loffff is faaallll!" he's singing along, McCoy realises with a groan.

"Kid," he mutters, "are you ever quiet?"

"Quiet!" Kirk chirps, and makes a face, "I no want play quiet game."

"The quiet game?"

"Mama play quiet game! She say ssshhh, Aames quiet now," Kirk mimics his mother's shushing, then frowns. "Quiet game stupid."

"Sounds genius, actually" McCoy mutters, but he lets Kirk keep sing-screaming along to the song.

Spock, age 2

"What is that?" Spock's articulation is uncanny; every single time he speaks, McCoy blinks in stunned silence. Spock points at the brightly coloured plastic trucks and cars on the floor. There's a bright green tractor, a yellow dump truck, and a couple of blue and red cars, the ones Kirk had cheerfully spent an hour smashing into McCoy's chair last time.

"Um… toys."

"For a baby," Spock adds, looking up at him for confirmation. Spock has the same extremely calm expression as a toddler as he will have as an adult, and it's almost unsettling in its placidity.

"Well… kid, you're a baby, you know. You're like, two."

"Yes, I am two," Spock frowns, "but these are for a baby."

"Jim played with 'em," McCoy grumbles, sitting down heavily in his desk chair. There are dents in the legs and the bottom of his desk, thanks to Kirk. McCoy pointed these out to the captain, who laughed and said it'd have been worse if McCoy had dared play the quiet game with him.

"Jim?" Spock looks up, an unexpectedly hopeful look on his face. "Who is Jim?"

"He's –" McCoy paused, and decided to go with the simplest explanation, "he's a baby, he's two, like you, but he's a human. He liked those toys," he adds, a little snarky despite himself. Spock, however, fails to even notice that. His mouth falls open, and his dark eyes light up.

"Is he here? Can I play with him? I want to play with someone. Please? Is he here?" The sheer hope in his voice quavers for a second, "is he Vulcan?" Spock asks guardedly.

"No, he's a human, but –" he's grown up about twenty-five years since then, McCoy's going to add.

"Can I play with him?" Spock begs again, "please? I want to play with someone!"

"Sorry," McCoy finally brings himself to say, and the swift look of disappointment that comes to Spock's face is as confusing at it is concerning. "He's not here anymore. He, um, went home."

"Oh…" Spock mutters. He climbs into the chair across from McCoy's desk and sits there in silence, looking at the baby toys with a look of something like sadness. He doesn't move from the chair until McCoy's finished all his reports, and when McCoy leads him out of the room, Spock casts one last look at the little cars, sitting unused on the floor.

Kirk, age 7

"Puh-leeeezzzeee?" Kirk tugs on McCoy's hand, whimpering, "pleasepleasepleaseplease!"

"Jim," McCoy warns, and Kirk gives him that look, the one that McCoy ought to be used to by now. It's the one that clearly says who are you talking to? "James," McCoy says firmly, "no."

"But I want it! Please!" Kirk strains towards the case filled with desserts. The cafeteria is noisy around them, but Uhura is nowhere McCoy can see. She's a lot better at dealing with this kind of thing. "Pleeeaaaaaaasssseeeee!"

"Definitely not." McCoy wouldn't be able to handle Kirk with sugar; Kirk like this is already too much for him.

"But," Kirk looks up at him, baby blue eyes bright, "I'll be good. Really good. And after lunch I'll be really quiet when you have patients, and, I'll even help you! I can hold your clipboard! I'll be super good, I promise." Kirk gives him a brilliant smile. McCoy sighs.

"Pick one," he growls, and Kirk throws his arms around McCoy's legs and squeals in delight.

After lunch, it's clear that Kirk's completely forgotten about his promise, because he runs out of the sickbay as soon as McCoy's busy.

"Goddamnit," Mccoy growls as he stalks through the ship, hunting for the blonde seven-year-old. When he gets to the bridge, the first thing he hears is Spock's voice.

"You need to be responsible," Spock's saying, "and listen to Mccoy like you're supposed to." Kirk is nodding seriously, even as he bounces on his knees in the captain's chair and waits to go racing off again.

It's strange, for McCoy to see this normally perfectly matched pair like this. Spock's strong sense of responsibility and respect for rules is the perfect flipside to Kirk, and yet, here they are, two halves that can't match. If Spock were his age, it would be like seeing them the way McCoy knows them, would be eerie.

"Come with me, James," McCoy says sternly, and Kirk comes, but not before waving goodbye to Spock after climbing out of the captain's chair.

"See you later," he says, with an assuredness that somehow says that this child knows exactly where he'll end up, twenty years from now.

Spock, age 8

McCoy knows he should be ashamed of himself. He's taking advantage of an unfortunate situation, and he should have better morals than this, but, really, he doesn't.

"So," he says, and eight-year-old Spock looks up from a PADD. He's sitting across from McCoy in the office, and has been for the past hour. Kirk would have been bouncing off the walls by now. "Not bored?" he asks conversationally. Spock shakes his head no.

"This is very interesting," he says, holding up the PADD. McCoy fights the urge to roll his eyes; Spock's reading medical journals McCoy didn't see until medical school. "I have a question, however," he says, tapping through screens on the PADD. "Who drew this?" He shows McCoy a picture he found in the document files. It's a simple drawing of two boys in a cornfield, one blonde and one with black hair, smiling under a sky filled with stars.

"Jim, I guess," McCoy says. Spock's looking down at the picture, smiling for once.

"Who is Jim?"

"He's a little boy your age."

Again, Spock's eyes light up at this. "A human boy?" Mccoy nods. "Is he here? Can I meet him?"

"He went home," this time, McCoy knows to expect the crushing disappointment this gets him. "Speaking of home… what's yours like?" He's shameless, he knows it, but eight year old Spock is far more open than he'll be once he's older.

"It's nice," Spock shrugs. "I live with my mom and dad."

"What're they like?"

"Well, my mom is nice. She hugs me a lot, and teaches me how to do weird things, like make paper snowflakes and paint pictures."

"How about your dad?"

"He's nice," Spock says, but there's a bit of a flinch when he says this. "He wants me to do very well in school. He doesn't like it when I get emotional." He nearly spits out the word, and the evidence of such deeply learned connotation makes McCoy hold back a frown.

"Do you get emotional a lot?"

"Sometimes," Spock allows reluctantly.

"Well," McCoy moves on, not wanting to test his luck too much, "what are you friends like?"

Spock's face darkens. "I don't have any friends," he says quietly, "no one at school likes me. No one my age likes me."

McCoy doesn't really know what to say to this, for a moment. Spock just looks at him, and that's when McCoy thinks of it.

"You know," he says, "I know someone your age who would absolutely love you." You're going to discover entire worlds together, he doesn't say, no one has ever loved you as much as he will.

Spock smiles serenely and goes back to reading.

Kirk, age sixteen

"I hate you," Kirk informs McCoy. McCoy blinks.

"Uh, excuse me?"

"I hate you," Kirk repeats, slowly, "a lot. I just wanted you to know that."

"Okay," McCoy says evenly, unphased, "but you've still got to give me that." He points to the data chip in Kirk's closed hand. "Because taking over the ship is not something you're allowed to do."

"Whatever." Kirk drops it into McCoy's hand with a sneer. "I can make another in like, two minutes." McCoy doesn't doubt this. He watches Kirk stalk away to sit on one of the cots in the sickbay.

"Why do you always get in so much trouble, Jim?" McCoy asks. Kirk shrugs a shoulder, not turning around. "You're a smart kid," McCoy says gently, "you could get everything you want just by being charming, for God's sake."

"Right," Kirk scoffs. "Everyone's always looking for any excuse to be an asshole to me. I figure I may as well get my money's worth, if they're gonna be dicks. Rather do the fun shit it takes to get me in trouble than to just be treated like that for no reason."

"You think everyone's got it in for you," McCoy says, unsure whether this is a question or not.

"Duh," he says. "It doesn't matter, though, cos in a year I'm joining the Academy and leaving fucking Iowa forever. Everything's gonna be different."

"How do you know that?" McCoy knows Jim now, though. His captain is clearly a product of this smart-mouthed, quick-witted teenager, and he knows better than to make assumptions he wouldn't make about Captain Kirk. If Captain Kirk were to declare that someone was out to get him, McCoy would ask why, he wouldn't wonder whether it was all in Kirk's head. Even as a surly teenager, McCoy can't imagine Kirk as dramatic and creating problems for himself.

"Just do."

"Jim," McCoy sits on the edge of one of the cots, Jim's back still to him, "I've gotten to know you pretty well. You're a likeable person. A really fucking likeable person. I don't believe that anyone would just up and hate you –"

"It's because they're all bigoted assholes, and I never should have told any of them in the first place," Jim snarls suddenly.

McCoy has never asked about Jim's childhood. Jim appeared suddenly in his life, with little explanation about where he'd come from. Jim-at-Academy was the first chapter in their story together; Jim made sure of that, offering no backstory whatsoever other than "I'm from Iowa," and the well-known story about his father.

I'm so sorry, McCoy wants to say, wants to ask when Jim told everyone, or if he told just one person who didn't keep it a secret. From the angry set to Jim's shoulders, McCoy would guess that Jim told them fairly early, that he lived with it for a long time, that at sixteen, he's still going to suffer more.

"You're going to the Academy," he says instead.

"Uh-huh."

"To help protect the planet."

"Yup."

"You know, Jim, that's the thing that defines you as a person."

"Huh."

"Even though some people have been horrible to you for something that's not your fault, you're still going to dedicate your life to protecting people, because you haven't given up on everyone even though you have every right to."

Jim doesn't say anything. McCoy can practically hear his thoughts, that the things people have said to him are rebounding in his mind, so loudly it must be killing him.

"Jim," McCoy says, "I could, and do, spend my life aspiring to be like you, but I could only ever be half the man you are."

"Well," Jim half turns towards him, the slightest smile on his face, "I'm sorry I'll always be better looking, too." There's still something sad in his eyes, so McCoy adds the thing he's been thinking since he met this sullen Kirk.

"Someday," he says, "And I don't mean someday, I mean a specific day from now, you're going to meet someone who'll love every piece of you."

"They'd better," Kirk says, "I'm pretty awesome." This time, he sounds like he believes it too, and when he smiles, McCoy isn't worried anymore.

Even if he didn't know the man this teenager would grow up to be, McCoy wouldn't be too worried about Jim.

Spock and Kirk, age eighteen

Spock and Kirk aren't eighteen for very long. It's one of the shortest amounts of time anyone's been de-aged for; both of them stumbled into the same domed tree trunk, coming back out a good nine years younger. They're on a distant planet with a Vulcan settlement, and one of the haughty Vulcans gives Spock a look of scathing disappointment when Spock snarls at him in frustration. The Vulcan had been evading giving them answers – McCoy himself would have been screaming by this point, because they're trying to find hostages the neighbouring settlement is holding, and the Vulcan man keeps repeating how should I know what savages do? with a sniff of disapproval.

"Say that again?" Kirk hisses, stepping forward before McCoy can do anything. Spock shrinks back, his shoulders slumped. Kirk, however, doesn't look at him. "Hey," he snarls at the other Vulcan, "say. That. Shit. Again." Spock looks up, something like surprise on his face, that he isn't the one Kirk is angry with.

"And who do you think you are?" the man says. Kirk growls.

"I'm the guy who's going to tear your throat out if you don't tell me what you just said to him."

"I said," the Vulcan's tone remains far closer to metered than Kirk's does, "someone so emotional," the word drips with venom, "is a disgrace to Vulcans, and I'm sure the only reason he's gallivanting around with the likes of you is because he was shamed off of Vulcan."

McCoy barely has time to comprehend the Vulcan's words before Kirk's fist is smashing into the Vulcan's face. Spock's a little faster than him, leaping forward to separate them before Kirk is educated on just how strong Vulcans are.

"You take that back!" Kirk's yelling, fists still flying, even as Spock yanks him away from the Vulcan.

"Every word is true," the Vulcan replies smoothly.

"Take it back!" Kirk roars.

"Listen," McCoy steps in towards the Vulcan, "I think you should leave, before we're forced to do something you'll regret." The Vulcan slinks away at this, and McCoy takes note to investigate whether this colony is affiliated with the ones that took hostages, because only a Vulcan fearing their power would ignore Kirk, who's screaming obscenities at his retreating back.

"Why did you do that?" Spock asks Kirk. Kirk's still breathing heavily, and he looks at Spock as he wipes blood off his face, from the few hits the Vulcan got past Spock.

"He was being mean to you," Kirk says blankly, like he doesn't understand why Spock would be asking this question. Spock smiles, something McCoy's never seen him do as an adult before, never, and Kirk grins back. McCoy can see so much of their present-day selves in these teenagers. "Dumbass," Kirk says fondly, "I'd fight fuckin' armies for you."

When they're both back, he sees this secretive moment between them. Spock gives Kirk a smile McCoy's never seen before, one somewhere between a secret and a thank you. Maybe, McCoy thinks, that brief moment where Kirk and Spock met years too soon somehow became one of their teenage memories. Maybe all their de-aged memories did. McCoy likes to think that little eight-year-old Spock grew up with an inexplicable memory that assured him that somewhere, there was a human boy that would adore him even as the other Vulcan children shunned him in class, that sixteen-year-old Kirk would hold his head high as his classmates sneered at him, safe in the knowledge that someday, there would be someone for whom this fight would be worth. It's like they've always been meant for each other, even when they weren't together.

It makes sense to McCoy, that no matter when he meets Kirk or Spock in their lifetimes, the other is a comfort. Whether he's talking to a toddler or a teenager, Kirk is always comforted by Spock, and the mention of Kirk always makes Spock feel loved. McCoy doesn't know if he'll ever understand the whole process of de-aging. Sometimes they've been displaced out of their lives and treat it as such, no knowledge of their futures, and when they were both eighteen together, it was like they both knew what would happen, what they'll be together.

Maybe they don't know, McCoy thinks, maybe their feelings for each other are instincts, so deeply ingrained in who they are that no matter when they meet in these distorted timelines, they'll always feel the same.

When he sees them on the bridge now, McCoy thinks of little Kirk's drawing of himself and Spock in Iowa, a place where they've never been together, thinks of the way that drawing made Spock smile like he somehow knew it was him in the picture, the same way Kirk somehow knew this dark-haired boy had to be standing next to him in the cornfield. They never met in Iowa, for a combined childhood that would have been so much happier for both of them, but here, far out amongst the stars, Kirk and Spock are finally one.

 

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