Jim smiled as he watched Selek, Ambassador to the Romulan Empire, lean down and gently cajole T'Lema into eating her veggies. Whatever he said worked because his four year old daughter suddenly shoveled them into her mouth and then ran to put her tray in the disinfecting unit. While she did, Jim couldn't resist prying.
"You're very good with her. Did you ever have children?"
He saw a wistful sorrow on the other man's face that was quickly subdued.
"No, it was something Jim and I could never consider."
"Our Starfleet was less accommodating of couples than yours apparently is. Any evidence of fraternization would result in the parties being placed on separate placements or even removed from service."
Jim looked a little stunned at that, although Spock did not. Their Starfleet was weakened and could not afford to lose members over something so minor. Married couples were even stationed together and allowed to keep children on board until they reached school age. "Oh, I guess a baby would be definite evidence of fraternization, huh?" Jim remarked.
"Indeed" was the response.
They were silent for a moment when Selek added, "I helped to raise Saavikam, she who was my wife."
Jim gave him a disbelieving look then grinned as T'Lema came back to the table and sat herself in Selek's lap without invitation. Yeah, she got being a pushy little brat from him, he decided.
Spock scolded her, but Selek said it was okay (his exact words were "Her presence on my legs is no hardship, as her weight is light.)
."You raised her from a child and then married her? That's kinda messed up." Jim remarked, and Selek looked at him tolerantly. "It was a marriage of convenience for both of us, but we had a great fondness for each other. It was many years after my Jim's death."
"I'm sorry if I brought up painful memories."
"No regrets are necessary. I am however delighted to enjoy the decision you and my alternate self have made to have your own family." he stated, looking down fondly at the child sitting on his lap. She smiled briefly up at him, and then was distracted by the game he had loaded onto his PADD for her.
"Damn, he's good!" Jim thought he would have waited for T'Lema to whine or begin fidgeting before attempting a distraction.
The older Spock (Selek, he reminded himself. The Ambassador had decided early on that calling them both Spock was "detrimental to my younger self's mental stability") was looking at T'Lema again. "It is most remarkable to look upon T'Lema and see the combination of both of her parents' human and Vulcan features. Her hair color is most rare on Vulcan as well. Most fascinating and pleasing."
"You'd better stop praising her, because I promise she is listening to everything you say with those pointy, little ears of hers." This earned Jim a small pout and a threatened kick to the shin from his daughter.
Selek smiled and remarked fondly. "Indeed, I would expect no less of a child of Spock."
Spock looked pointedly at his daughter. "It is illogical to be prideful of one's appearance since physical characteristics are determined by genetics, not one's own actions."
Jim looked offended. "Hey! It takes a lot of work to look this good, right Lem?"
The conversation continued in that thread, and after a time Spock suggested that the Ambassador might care to view the Bridge. When he nodded an affirmative, they headed in that direction.
First, when they reached the turbolift T'Lema insisted to state their destination.
"Let me! Let me! Bridge please!"
Apparently this was a common occurrence because the system recognized her access to the bridge and the turbolift began moving. T'Lema promptly propped herself up to sit on the narrow hand bar, legs dangling. The fact the only response was Spock giving her a pointed look until she dropped down showed this must be a common occurrence as well.
When they entered the Bridge, T'Lema ran ahead, flitting from station to station. Sulu, Chekov and Uhura were all on shift, along with a few other science and security officers he didn't recognize. They all treated the Captain and First Officer's child indulgently, explaining what they were doing when she asked, accepting the hugs and lap climbing she graced them with.
Selek walked around curiously, noting the differences from the ship he remembered from his own time. The Bridge, in fact the entire ship, was less functional and more aesthetic, although the lighting left something to be desired, in his opinion. He also noted that the bridge rails were silver and thinner, watching T'Lema scramble up on one and then drop down to hang upside down by her knees. Jim and Spock noticed and simultaneously ordered her down.
T'Lema appealed to Jim, apparently recognizing he would sympathize with her more. "Dad! I just want to play!"
She received an understanding smile. "We'll hit the gym next, okay?"
Jim turned to Salek and commented, "We usually go to the gym every morning and let her run off some energy. We didn't do that today though."
"Perhaps it would be beneficial to do so now?"
So they made their way to the gymnasium. Selek sat and watched as Spock worked out normally, but Jim and T'Lema climbed all around a massive playset that most definitely never existed on his own Enterprise. He watched with amusement as Jim followed his daughter down slides, up climbing walls and on the swings.
Spock came and sat beside him, after he had showered and re-dressed. "The only other children on board are infants, so Jim is often her playmate. She has a need for age-mates."
"How will you remedy that issue in her development?"
His younger self looked conflicted as he responded, "T'Lema must leave The Enterprise next year to attend school, and that will remedy the situation, but Jim refuses to consider doing so. His own mother spent his childhood in space and he does not want the same for our child."
Selek nodded agreement. "Yet he would not be happy if he gave up being Captain to be planet side with her."
"No, he would not. I would not either. We are not at a point in our careers where we would wish to take leave or retire, and yet we have few options open to us regarding T'Lema."
Selek looked at his younger self calculatedly. He had rarely been in contact with Spock these last few years, mainly communicating through Jim, yet his counterpart had made a point of offering to pick him up for his latest mission personally. He had a feeling this was the reason.
"Would you be adverse to T'Lema growing up on New Vulcan? She would receive an excellent education there."
Spock looked torn. "Her educational needs would be met, but I worry that she would lack childhood companions and face a great deal of prejudice. She is very human, Selek, and even I was too human for most Vulcans. I would not have her hurt."
Selek nodded, but explained, "New Vulcan is not the same as old Vulcan, my young friend. More than 75% of the female population was lost in Vulcan's destruction. You know that as a result, many Vulcan males are now bonded with Romulan or human females. The society is becoming more tolerant of emotion as a result, and there are many children who are hybrids of two races. She would be one among many."
Spock eyed his disbelievingly. "Is this true? Because she has been raised as a human child, not Vulcan. I … did not wish her to feel lacking, and Jim would not allow it in any case."
By this time, Jim and the child, sweaty and flushed, had wandered over to where the Vulcans were seated.
Selek turned to greet them both, and the conversation ended, but he knew he had placed seeds of the thought in the younger man's mind. The offer in his statement was implicit. He had helped raise a half human/half Romulan girl who had literally been through hell once. Surely a happy, mentally healthy human/Vulcan hybrid would be less difficult.
The rest of the day was spent exploring the ship as the Captain and First Officer fulfilled their duties. T'Lema simply tagged along, and the only time she was still was when she was enthralled in learning something new.
Later they adjourned to the Officer's quarters that Kirk and Spock had converted as well as they could to contain themselves and their child. In the end, they had changed Spock's quarters to a living area, with the Captain's former quarters as a sleeping area, with a room divider between T'Lema's bed and their own for privacy. Noticing the stuffed tiger on top of the larger bed though, Selek had a feeling she often slept with her fathers instead.
"She won't be used to sleeping on her own. I may have to start with her bed in the same room and gradually move her out to her own room, " Selek thought, realizing he was already assuming she would soon be in his care. And yet, it seemed like a likely conclusion to make.
He discovered that T'Lema hadn't yet mastered chess but was quite good at checkers, so the two of them played this while her fathers took the opportunity to review reports while she was occupied. She showed him her numerous toys, which did seem to be mainly of the constructive or educational variety, although he noticed a few action figures that were likely of Jim's choosing. She also demonstrated her reading abilities for him, which Spock noted she had taught herself. All in all, she was bright, happy and very active. The latter would be most trying for someone of Selek's twilight years, but he had hopes she would have other children to play with and school work to help alleviate some of that energy.
They ate dinner in the mess hall again, and this time he found himself a point of interest, with many crewmembers stopping by to ask questions about New Vulcan or trying out their Romulan language skills. If more than a few people noted the resemblance between himself and Spock, it was easy to respond that the two of them were cousins. Strangely, the longer he had lived with his cover identity of "Selek" the more natural it had felt. Only Jim and Sarek ever referred to him by any other name, and even then only sparingly.
After, Spock left for the science lab and his older self followed Jim and T'Lema back to the Captain's quarters. There Jim dragged a protesting T'Lema in the bathroom facilities and Selek listened in amusement as Jim convinced her to undress and bathe in the small folding tub they acquired for that purpose. Jim came back out more than a little soaked and shut the bathroom door halfway behind him.
At Selek's look he explained, "We try to give her some privacy now that she's getting older, but last time I actually closed the door I walked back in to find a lake across the floor. We have to keep all the shampoo and soap dispensers up high too, or she's sit there and mix them all into the water."
At the older man's surprised look, Jim shrugged and said, "She's curious and into EVERYTHING possible. You can't tell what she will do until you've seen her do it once, and then you try to make it harder for her to do it again. She's got my impulsiveness and Spock's curiosity. Lem is a real handful."
As the splashing became louder, Jim called out "The water stays IN the tub, remember?"
The sound of water got quieter, and he heard a little sigh and an, "I know, Dad!" in response.
It was quiet for a moment and he could tell Jim was trying how to broach the subject. "Spock said he talked to you about T'Lema. We've been worried about what to do about her going to school next year. There are some good boarding schools available for Starfleet personnel but I would feel better if she was with… family. Someone we could trust."
He then looked uncertain. "I'll understand if you've too busy working as the Romulan ambassador to do something like that. Spock says things have changed from when he was a kid on Vulcan, but I worry about that too…"
"Jim, I would be honored to have care of your daughter while the two of you continue with your careers. I would welcome the opportunity to see what I missed by never having my own child in the timeline I came from, and I can certainly arrange for Sarek or someone else appropriate to help care for her when I leave for diplomatic missions."
"It feels like we're asking too much of you…"
"Jim, it would be an honor I've never dared to dream of." Selek replied, letting his own longing to play father, or at least uncle, to the child shine though.
Suddenly there was a yell from the bathroom, "Daddy! I'm finished bathing!" and she was standing dripping wet at the door as Jim fussed at her to get a towel and cover up.
By the time Spock returned to the room later that night, T'Lema had changed to one of Jim's old t-shirts and been tucked into bed after a number of stories from "Uncle Selek" and she was sleeping soundly. Jim and the ambassador were in the living quarters playing chess and discussing plans to prepare T'Lema for her change in living situation the following year. The three of them began scheduling a number of times to come visit New Vulcan so she could become familiar with it, and Spock wished to tour the nearby educational facility to deem it appropriately challenging. Selek began thinking about the plans he needed to make as well, especially changing from his small single building to a larger home that would accommodate a growing child as well as her parents as they visited.
Once again, he was asked if he had seriously considered the ramifications of becoming the child's guardian, this time by Spock. He finally decided to simply answer with the truth.
"Once, in my own timeline, my Jim and I were in a position to have a child if the pregnancy had been allowed to progress. We chose not to, and I will admit I have always been most curious as to what our child would have been like, if we had chosen differently. After Jim's death, I always thought perhaps we made the more logical, yet less emotionally correct choice. I would have likes something of Jim Kirk to existed in the universe after he was gone"
He watched this Spock and Kirk gently touch hands, and continued, "I am very… relieved that you were both able to make a different choice. I will assist you in any way I can."
During the next two days of travel, Selek spent a great deal of time with T'Lema to get to know her better, in Jim's words. By the time they reached the point where he was rendezvousing with the Romulan representative, she was quite attached to her "uncle" and he was graced with a fierce hug and kisses on his cheek before she waved goodbye. He nearly laughed when she attempted the traditional Vulcan handsign, very poorly with fingers all together. He knelt down and very carefully placed them in the correct position. "You must practice this," the old Vulcan told her seriously, "You will soon have use for it."
He thought that he would never view this universe's Spock and Kirk with their child without an illogical wish for what-might-have-been, but perhaps caring for the child that could have been his own would relieve that feeling over time. If nothing else, she would be a welcome companion and distraction to keep him from focusing on all he had left behind. Spock or Selek, whichever name he went by, knew already, T'Lema would be a joy to have in his life.