Title: Never Too Late
Fandom: Star Trek (XI)
Rating: PG (K+)
Pairing: Kirk/Spock (friendship)
Word count: 6244
Summary: Also known as, "Five times Spock thought no one was looking, and one time he knew he was caught." De-aged/kid!fic.
Warnings: OOC-ness, LOADS of fluff (seriously, you might die from it), some mentions of past emotional child neglect.
Notes: Written for a prompt on LJ's STXI Kink Meme, which asked for a de-aged Kirk being smothered with affection by Spock (who does so when he thinks no one's looking). (Also, while I list this as a "friendship" fic, in the end it can really be taken either way. Reader's choice!)
Never Too Late
"It is never too late to have a happy childhood." –Tom Robbins (b. 1936)
It isn't exactly pleasant when Jim Kirk is brought into sickbay as a four-year-old. Nevertheless, two minutes of cursing and an explanation later (something about a ritual gone wrong during a diplomatic mission to their most recently-visited planet), McCoy determines that Jim is in good physical health given his new age and that the condition will wear off in about three weeks.
The only thing McCoy picks up on is something he notices only after his tricorder readings are complete. His brow tightens in concentration and he frowns, daring himself to believe his new findings.
Next to him, Spock raises an eyebrow. "Doctor?"
"He's showing signs of emotional neglect." McCoy just comes out and says it; there's no point in beating around the bush with his pointy-eared superior. Spock is motionless beside him, but there is still a question in his gaze.
"They're minute," McCoy elaborates. "The signs are very subtle, but they're there." And it's true: Jim has made little eye contact with either of them throughout the entire examination; his posture is slightly hunched – almost defensive, nervous – while sitting on the biobed; and he hadn't complained once during any of the medical tests. "It's obvious he's not adverse to touch – hell, he let me examine him without so much as batting an eyelash – but the fact that he doesn't seek it out on his own, especially at his age now, it's… unnerving."
"…I'm afraid I do not fully understand, Doctor."
There is a quip ready on his tongue, but McCoy forces it down. Now's not the time. "Children thrive on physical contact," he explains. "Human children, anyway. The presence of a stable, constant, and devoted caregiver is necessary in order for a child to develop properly, especially during the first few years of his life. Without that presence, a child would fail to properly bond with other humans and would ultimately become withdrawn, emotionally depressed, even sickly; hell, children have been known to die from lack of human contact."
McCoy glances down at the list of observations in his PADD. "Now I'm not saying that Jim – this Jim – is that far gone. If my theory's any good, it means that he's been reverted mind-and-body to how he actually was when he was four. And if that's true, it means that based on his behavior and interaction skills he's obviously been given decent care… But he's certainly no little ball of sunshine." The last part he mutters more to himself.
"You are suggesting that the captain was mistreated as a child?"
"I'm only saying he could've used a little more love," McCoy says somewhat bitterly, sliding the stylus back into his PADD. His heart lightens a little as he absently adds, "That's something he'll be sure to get a lot of before this thing wears off, especially with this crew. Isn't that right, kiddo?" He reaches out and lightly tousles Jim's hair, unable to stop the slight grin when the toddler jumps ever so slightly in surprise and meets his eyes with a curious gaze and a soft, "Yes, Doctor Bones." Beside him, Spock has looked away, hands folded behind his back and looking as if he is contemplating a deep thought that only just crossed his mind.
McCoy sighs and leaves the examination room. He takes a long couple of minutes to put away his equipment and fetch a nutrient-rich hypospray. The kid is gonna need some good ol' TLC before leaving his sickbay, he can already tell. McCoy can't help but chuckle at the thought: even as a small child, Jim's still got him working around the clock.
As he slowly makes his way back to the examination room, McCoy can't help but think how quiet it is. Granted, it's just Spock and a shy four-year-old Jim Kirk in the other room, so he shouldn't really expect much. But still. Couldn't the man at least try to engage the kid somehow? Talk or something?
He nears the doorway, readying a good-natured stab at the Vulcan's logical lack-of-action, when something comes into view that makes the doctor come to a slow, dead halt.
In his absence, Spock had moved closer to the biobed and was now gently petting Jim's hair. Either the first officer had thrown all regard for Vulcan social etiquette to the wind, or he hadn't noticed McCoy standing just feet outside the doorway. The doctor was willing to bet on the latter.
Jim looks just as surprised as McCoy feels – the boy's eyes are wide and focused on the man touching him, slowly filling with a warmth that resembles awe. McCoy crosses his arms and settles himself just outside the entryway, oddly content to simply watch the scene before him. The toddler begins to lean into Spock's touch and suddenly the half-Vulcan leans down and presses an experimental kiss to Jim's temple. Then a second. Then three more in quick succession. Jim reaches up and grasps Spock's wrist loosely; McCoy can hear a low, soft giggle escaping from him.
The doctor shakes his head. Well I'll be goddamned…
He feels a chuckle bubbling up from inside his chest – he can't help it, it's just so goddamned cute – and carefully backs out of the doorway and leans against the wall, trembling in silent, near-involuntary laughter at what he'd just seen. Leave it to a Vulcan to get an emotional response out of an emotionally-distressed kid.
McCoy finally regains himself and goes to reenter the examination room, making sure his movements announce his arrival thoroughly. He sees Spock smoothly move back from the young captain as he walks in, his hands automatically moving to rest behind his back and his expression stoic. McCoy says nothing as he approaches Jim with the hypospray, suppressing his grin and trying to act like he doesn't notice how the child is now looking at Spock as though he is the center of the universe.
He isn't there when the incident occurs. He isn't directly told of the captain's resulting condition, either, but that isn't too hard to figure out after a while. The news spreads quickly from the transporter room to sickbay, to the mess deck, to the main bridge, until the entire ship has heard of Jim Kirk's odd transformation.
The news of the now-four-year-old captain's emotional state, however, is passed on only to a select few. Chekov isn't sure if he should feel proud to be one of the confidents of such information, or if he should even know at all. He takes it in stride, however, and the first time he sees the small captain he makes sure to smile extra big and give the boy's hair a few ruffles.
That first time is in sickbay, however, where he comes to understand that Doctor McCoy has volunteered to care for Kirk as a child until he reverts back into his adult self. It makes sense to Chekov – McCoy is a father himself, and Chekov knows that the captain and the doctor have been friends since their academy days, and the child already appears to be relatively comfortable around McCoy.
It's when the doctor first brings Jim up to the bridge that Chekov sees evidence of just what McCoy had explained to him and the rest of the bridge crew one day prior. When it had just been him and McCoy in sickbay, Jim appeared reasonably relaxed, although he was not as playful and bouncy as Chekov would have liked to have seen. But when McCoy steps out of the turbolift with Jim in his arms, the subtle signs of his old childhood begin to make themselves known. The child doesn't look afraid, the navigator notices; rather, he looks more overwhelmed than anything at the sight of so many people – people that he probably doesn't remember, Chekov reasons. Jim's grip tightens a little on the doctor's tunic and he hunches in a bit, blue eyes shifting around carefully and trying to take everything in.
From his station, Chekov watches as McCoy whispers something into Jim's ear and nods towards something off his right. It's as though a light switches on: the child perks up slightly and shifts around to look for whatever it was McCoy had pointed out. Chekov sees the boy's face begin to light up as the doctor sets him down and suddenly Jim is making a beeline straight for the captain's chair where Commander Spock is currently sitting. It's as though Jim doesn't even remember that the majority of the bridge crew is still looking at him – he stops at the arm of the chair and looks up at Spock as if to greet him. Spock raises an eyebrow at the child and McCoy has a satisfied smirk growing on his face.
Now Chekov is curious.
It's not that Chekov thinks ill of Spock – the half-Vulcan is practically a mentor to him. But he knows that even McCoy had to work at forming a bond with the now-child captain, despite the fact they were extremely close before his transformation. The fact that Jim had gone straight up to Spock without any real urging was an interesting one, and Chekov's desire to know why it happened was beginning to get the best of him.
His shift ends early, so he can't pull Doctor McCoy aside and ask him right there on the bridge. But the next chance he gets he heads of towards sickbay to ease his curiosity.
After his lunch break, he exits the mess and makes his way down the hall towards the turbolift. As he rounds the final corner, Chekov hears the lift doors shut and comes around in time to see Spock turn off from the lift and disappear down another corridor. Chekov's interest is abruptly caught when he notices that Jim is following behind, clinging to the first officer's hand.
Unable to stop himself, the Russian hurries forward to see where the two are going, turning the corner just in time to see Spock reach down and scoop the four-year-old up into his arms. Chekov immediately hushes, quietly backing up to hide just behind the hallway wall, but unable to look away. The half-Vulcan hasn't appeared to notice him – instead, he tosses Jim gently into the air, eliciting breathy, surprised laughter from the child. When he catches him, Jim reaches out and hugs Spock around the neck. Chekov can't imagine the commander's expression when he hugs the child back, but it's clear to him that Spock is quite welcoming to the contact.
For long seconds the commander simply stands there, holding the toddler close. Chekov is sure to stay quiet. He hears Spock quietly say something, and hears Jim's just as quiet, but eager response. Chekov feels his surprise grow as he watches Spock nuzzle the boy's hair before setting him down and crouching in front of him. Jim climbs onto the half-Vulcan's back and wraps his arms around the man's neck as he straightens. Spock folds his arms behind him and under the child in a secure hold before taking off at a gentle run down the corridor.
As Spock disappears out of sight, Jim's bright laughter following with him, Chekov falls back against the wall, slightly blown away at what he has just witnessed. While his mind processes everything, he realizes that he is unconsciously smiling. He touches the corner of his mouth in awe and shakes his head; everything seemed to make sense now.
Pushing himself off the wall, Chekov heaves a refreshed sigh and makes his way back to his quarters – he doesn't need Doctor McCoy to answer his question after all.
He and Jim Kirk were not best friends, per se, but they were indeed close. Sulu knew this fact was proven when Jim was first brought to the bridge after his transformation into a child – the sheer volume of protectiveness he felt toward the kid when he saw him spoke loud enough.
As he thinks about it now, Sulu is pretty sure he's not the only one who feels this way towards the captain. After working with him for over a year, the crew – particularly the main bridge crew – feels a rather deep sense of loyalty to their captain. Jim Kirk is a friend to all on the ship, regardless of background, and the idea that such a caring, friendly man like the captain grew up without the same kind of care and attention he always gives out is simply too unsettling for anyone.
The incident with Spock during Jim's first bridge visit inspires hope among the crewmembers who witness it – hope that the Jim Kirk they've come to know and love is somewhere within the child he's now become – but it also inspires rumors. Now Sulu can't go anywhere on the ship without hearing a new account from someone regarding Jim's interaction with Commander Spock. He hears stories ranging from gamma shift crewmembers witnessing the commander briefly allowing Jim to sit on his lap while at the science station, to a yeoman insisting she caught Spock cuddling the child while exiting the turbolift. Even Chekov lists off an account of his own to Sulu.
In the end, it doesn't really matter what is fact and what is fiction, because four days after his transformation, Jim is finally beginning to act the way a four-year-old should, in Sulu's opinion. His apparent curiosity in everything around him is making itself more and more visible: he's less afraid to approach the bridge crewmembers and ask questions about their jobs and what they're doing. Now, every time he sees him, the helmsman is greeted with a smile and an increasingly bright, "Hi, Mister Sulu!" It's these little things that suddenly seem to make everything right in the universe, if only for the moment.
One day after his shift, Sulu realizes he hasn't seen the kid all day. It's slightly surprising to him that the reason he notices this fact is primarily because of the current level of tautness in his shoulders from the long shift. Apparently, having the increasingly carefree toddler around is pretty relaxing. Shaking his head, Sulu makes the decision to take his sword and go down to the gym to train in order to unwind. If he's able to, he can try and see the kid afterwards.
When he enters the gym, he feels he is in luck – no one appears to be around. Before he can ponder over the fact that the gym lights are on despite its emptiness, Sulu hears a light commotion near the back of the room. He stays within the shadows near the entrance, but steps forward just enough to peek around the second doorway and look towards the source of the noise.
Spock is on one of the gym mats, crouched down in a cat-like position. Sulu can't be sure exactly what the man is doing – or what he seems to be waiting for – until he sees a small figure run into his line of sight and towards the half-Vulcan. It's Jim, Sulu realizes, and he can't help but remain hidden and watch the scene unfold before him.
Jim runs forward as if to tackle the older man – something that would be near impossible for the child due to the half-Vulcan's strength, Sulu knows – but as the child reaches him, Spock relents easily, allowing Jim to push him over onto his back. The young captain scrambles on top of his opponent, giggling lightly at his victory. Spock suddenly loops an arm around Jim's back, rolling them both over so that the child is underneath him, a pale hand gently cradling the blonde head as he is carefully flipped onto his back. Spock's other hand trails down and begins tickling Jim's side; Jim's giggles turn into squeals of laughter and he squirms wildly in the half-Vulcan's gentle grip. His shirt begins to ride up as he laughs, and suddenly Spock dips his head and nuzzles at the newly exposed belly, eliciting even more squeals from the young captain.
After a minute or so, Spock finally pulls back and lets Jim up. Jim is all smiles and mirth as he sits up to catch his breath. A few seconds pass before the child stands and makes his way over, crawling into Spock's lap and burying his face in the blue tunic. Spock remains still, looking rather comfortable as he places a hand on the boy's golden head. The two simply sit together, breathing gently, appearing to be taking a short rest from their activities.
Sulu slowly backs away, surprised and oddly not surprised, knowing that the mild pain he feels in his cheeks means he has been grinning the whole time. Looking down at his sword, he shrugs inwardly; there will be other times to practice. He quietly turns and makes his way back to the corridor.
And for some reason, Sulu thinks as Jim's laughter starts up again behind him, his intented goal has been reached: he leaves feeling much better and more relaxed than when he had come in.
It's a whole week after Jim Kirk's transformation that Montgomery Scott finally gets a glimpse at him, and damn him if Jim isn't the cutest little tyke he's ever seen.
The first thing he does is immediately pick Jim up and give him a big hug. He's pleased when the child responds in turn, and is absolutely ecstatic at the laughter he hears when he twirls the boy around. The engineer can only imagine what Jim must have been like one week prior, and he's grateful that his first meeting with the boy is one so happy and carefree – after all, that's just how children should be.
Scotty is a little surprised that Spock is the one to accompany Jim on his first trip to the engineering department. He remembers being told that Doctor McCoy was taking care of the boy, but he is quick to brush his thoughts away. He knows that the captain was – and apparently still is – attached to both the doctor and the commander, so Scotty decides that he shouldn't be too surprised that Jim has gone and reattached himself to Spock after all that had happened. (Plus, he supposes that it's only natural that the commander continues honoring his duties by watching out for the captain's wellbeing.)
He doesn't push his thoughts and observations too much and gives Jim a quick tour of the engineering deck, Spock following silently behind. Jim's curiosity is childlike and endless – as it should be, Scotty thinks – and as he eagerly answers all of the questions he's being bombarded with, he can't help but notice the attentive, watchful eye that Spock has placed on the child as they walk. A gaze that, particularly whenever Jim turns around to look at the half-Vulcan, seems soft and protective.
But for all Scotty knows, he could be imagining things.
Their tour is cut short when trouble occurs with one of the impulse engines on the other side of the deck, and Scotty is forced to go and fix it. ("Forced" only because he'd personally rather spend more time with his wee little captain; his work is otherwise his favorite pastime.) He bids the toddler goodbye with a tousle of his blond hair and gets to work.
The repairs drag on for hours – turns out a few less-experienced engineers had tried to resolve the problem themselves without consulting him first, and instead made it worse – and by the time he is finished Scotty is rather famished. It's late into the evening by the Enterprise's time standards, and the idea of a freshly replicated sandwich sounds like a little slice of heaven. He stands, stretches, and heads off to the turbolift.
When he exits the lift on the appropriate deck and makes his way to the main mess hall, Scotty realizes that it's later than he previously thought. He's run into hardly anybody on his way up, and from the faces he's recognized of those assigned the graveyard shift, Scotty figures that the majority of the crew are currently sleeping in their quarters. That just means the mess will likely be completely empty, and the idea is not completely adverse to the engineer.
He rounds the corner and goes through the mess doors, about to let loose a gigantic yawn, when his eyes catch a glimpse of something that makes him abruptly clamp a hand over his mouth and stop silently in his tracks.
Near the edge of the mess, by the wall of replicators, stands Spock, and cradled against his chest is a sleeping Jim Kirk. The commander doesn't appear to notice that he's come in, and Scotty keeps still just to be sure. He isn't quite sure what he's walked in on, and while he gets the feeling it's something of an intimate nature that he's looking at, Scotty stays quiet, hand still clamped over his mouth, and watches.
His initial presumption is correct – the mess hall is completely empty, save the two near the far table, on the surface of which sits a small, lightly fogged glass of white liquid. (Warm milk? guesses Scotty.) Spock is holding Jim carefully, one arm underneath the boy to support him and the other behind him, a hand pressed lightly against the thin back. Jim suddenly stirs in his arms, whimpering into the half-Vulcan's shoulder and scrunching up tightly against him. Spock is quick to hush the child, tucking Jim closer against his body and gently rubbing his back. He slowly rocks from side to side and starts softly humming something akin to a lullaby. The hand on Jim's back slides up to tangle itself loosely in locks of golden hair, fingertips gently brushing against the child's temples, and soon Jim is calming down. He resettles against the man holding him, shifting until his face is buried against the half-Vulcan's neck and his small hand is fisted into the material of the blue tunic. Spock leans down and presses comforting kisses against Jim's hair before laying his cheek on top of the blond head, shutting his eyes and continuing his gentle rocking motions.
Eyes wide and not wanting to intrude any further, Scotty backs out of the mess with deliberate slowness. Clearing the doorway, he steps out into the corridor, his hand still covering his mouth – as well as his growing grin.
Deciding that he's still hungry, the engineer starts down the hallway with the intent of returning to his department; after all, there isn't a single replicator on the ship he can't bend to his will.
As the turbolift comes into sight, Scotty starts whistling, a bounce worming its way into his step.
Hot damn, he liked this ship.
She isn't surprised in the least to discover that even as a four-year-old, the captain is a hit with the ladies.
Uhura, like many others on the ship, finds she can't contain her initial curiosity, and within hours after the announcement of Captain Kirk's condition she finds a decent excuse to pass through sickbay and goes to have a look for herself. She is greeted by the sight of a multitude of mostly female officers – many of them nurses – gathered around a biobed and cooing at the child sitting on it. Uhura shakes her head in fond exasperation – some things never seem to change.
When she actually gets close enough to see Jim in his new state, the actual reality of the situation hits home. Only she and the rest of the senior and main bridge crew were informed of Jim's current emotional state, and at Uhura's first glimpse of Jim's face she understands what McCoy had been talking about. It is not fear she sees on the child's face, but a state of helplessness: Jim appears so overwhelmed at the amount of attention he's receiving that he doesn't seem to know quite what to do. He sits still as nurses pet his hair and yeomen fuss over how cute he is, and while he makes no move to stop all the attention, he does nothing that signals encouragement.
Something in Uhura's chest constricts at the sight, and for a moment her thoughts blacken. Was Jim really never properly loved as a child? Did he really go through his childhood without so much as a hug hello or a kiss goodnight? It's a horrible thought, and suddenly the enigma that is Jim Kirk makes all the more sense.
She had never seen eye-to-eye with Jim during their academy days, but over a year of service together on the Enterprise had established a sibling-esque relationship between them, so the habitual flirting and teasing remarks are now a humorous staple in their lives. Uhura misses her captain – her friend – and while it pains her to learn the nature of Jim's early years, she takes it in stride the fact that she can help make it all a little bit right in the end. When the child first approaches her during his first bridge visit, smiling shyly up at her and offering a soft, "You're pretty," Uhura is freaking sold and takes it upon herself to mother the four-year-old every chance she sees him from that point on.
And if she notices how close Jim seems to Spock just days after his transformation, she doesn't say anything outright about it. Uhura knows she's not the only one who sees it either, if the occasional knowing glances Chekov and Sulu share together at the helm mean anything. Frankly, she thinks it's rather sweet, and in any case, Uhura figures that some things are just best left unanswered. (Besides, whenever she tries to corner McCoy and wheedle an answer out of him, the doctor just shrugs, claims he doesn't know what she's talking about, and walks off with a conveniently-snatched-off-the-counter PADD and a mocking, stifled grin.) In the end, all is well.
The Klingon attack happens one week and three days after the captain's transformation.
They're lucky it's just a scouting vessel and not an entire fleet. The attack is unprovoked – the Enterprise simply drops out of warp in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Enterprise wards off the small onslaught relatively easily, despite being caught by surprise, and while the ship endures a fair share of jarring impacts, it succumbs to no serious damage.
Uhura mentally dismisses the incident as ultimately insignificant until the call comes in from sickbay fifteen minutes after the red alert is silenced.
Jim is missing.
She doesn't panic, but she tenses along with the rest of the Gamma shift officers at the news. While security is alerted and various crewmembers voice their willingness to help look for the boy, Uhura passes the con and heads toward the turbolift with a set goal in mind: she has to tell Spock.
Uhura knows that Spock would have been woken up by the earlier attack and that perhaps McCoy's already alerted him to the situation, but it doesn't stop the need she feels to inform him directly. As far as she knows, it was only the bridge that McCoy sent his message to (most likely not wanting to incite mass worry at Jim's disappearance, seeing as how there were only so many places the child to get to), and if Jim is as close to the commander as it seems, Uhura wants Spock to hear the problem in person. After all, it just doesn't seem right to break such news over an intercom.
Five long minutes after the call from sickbay, the communications officer runs down the corridor until she reaches Spock's quarters. She begins punching in the only access code for his door that she knows, hoping that it hasn't changed since the time she had been dating the half-Vulcan, and silently commends her memory when the code works. When the door opens, Uhura steps over the threshold. Spock's name is just beginning to leave her mouth when she sees it, and she quickly lets the rest of the word die in her throat, exhaling the rest of her breath as softly as she can as she takes in the sight before her.
Spock is lying asleep on his bed, and curled up against his chest is Jim. The child's head is pillowed on top of a strong shoulder, Spock's arm wound protectively around his back. Jim's small hand is splayed across the half-Vulcan's chest, Spock's larger hand lying close to it, fingers resting lightly on the back of the pale skin.
At the brief noise of Uhura's entrance, Spock shifts, stretching lengthily, almost like a cat after a long nap, before settling back down with a light, nearly inaudible sigh. In his sleep he gently secures his hold on the child in his arms, cuddling him closer and burying his nose against Jim's hair. From the doorway, Uhura can hear the low, rich purr Spock is unconsciously emitting and watches as the two in the bed fall into deeper slumber.
She bites her lip to keep from making any further noise, and it's hard because what she's looking at is so ridiculously adorable that it's almost mandatory that she giggle. Wanting to stay longer but deciding against it, Uhura turns and leaves Spock's room, letting the door slide silently shut behind her.
Uhura leans back against the wall and smiles, replaying what she's just seen in her head over and over until she decides it'd probably be a good idea to let the crew know that Jim is safe.
Pushing off the wall and letting one last flash of the image in her head flicker by, she centers herself and makes sickbay her first stop.
Somehow she feels Doctor McCoy won't be too surprised at Jim's choice of refuge.
But that's just her.
When he wakes up and everything is back to as it should be, the first thing he thinks is that he remembers.
He remembers that first day in sickbay when Spock touched him, feeling those warm projections of fondness and safety through the fingers in his hair and the lips on his forehead.
He remembers being surrounded by smiling, caring faces on his first trip to the bridge, and the sight of Spock and the smiling light in his eyes standing out from all of them.
He remembers hidden hugs and cuddles in vacant hallways and play-wrestling in the gym.
He remembers seeking out Spock the night the ship wouldn't stop shaking, and staying with him every night since, waking up each morning to fingers petting his cheeks and a softly uttered, "Good morning, little one."
He remembers a string of days filled with attention and happiness and love.
He remembers, and it's amazing.
Jim lifts his head slightly and takes a glance at the still-sleeping Spock. This is the first time he's woken up before the other; he wonders briefly if it was his reverting transformation that was the cause. He finds that in the end it doesn't really matter, because he's still here with Spock, feeling as safe and content as he had for the past two weeks. Jim carefully sets his head back down on his first officer's shoulder, pondering over his immediate future. Should he stay in Spock's room or leave? How will Spock react when he wakes to find Jim an adult in his arms? Will he still be welcome? What will he do now that everything is back to how it was before?
He is unconsciously tightening his fingers into the fabric of Spock's undershirt, and suddenly his thoughts are broken as Spock begins to wake. Jim sucks in a breath and releases it slowly, shutting his eyes as Spock stirs. He can practically sense it when Spock opens his eyes, and quickly feels it when the half-Vulcan's body tenses rigidly against him.
There's no turning back now.
Jim's blue eyes open and he tilts his head up to look at Spock, who stares back at him with his schooled stoic mask. For once, Jim can't tell what his first officer is thinking – it's a blessing and a curse.
The seconds drag on before Jim gathers the courage to speak.
"Hey," he finally offers, and is surprised to feel the other's body relax marginally.
"Hello, Jim," comes the eventual response. More time passes – Jim can't tell how long – and neither of them move. The captain takes it as a good sign and speaks again.
"I remember," he admits.
Spock relaxes a little bit more next to him. "…Indeed?"
"Everything. All of it." Jim finds solace in the fact that Spock still hasn't kicked him out, and shifts his hand across the half-Vulcan's chest, stopping when his fingertips brush against the top of Spock's knuckles. When the hand isn't pulled away, Jim swallows and finishes the rest of his bit:
"Best consecutive seventeen days of my life."
The tension in Spock's body relaxes completely next to him, and after a brief murmur of, "Lights to twenty percent," suddenly Jim is pulled forward and being engulfed in a warm embrace. The human gasps in surprise, but revels in the welcome feel of Spock's nose tracing his hairline before a pale cheek comes to rest against his forehead. Jim can feel a familiar hum against the edges of his mind, seeping in and bathing it in a calming swell. He shuts his eyes and clings to Spock, feeling very much like the child he had been just hours before.
"When I was a child," Spock says after a beat of silence, "my mother… would often take it upon herself to provide me with physical affection, particularly when my father was not present." A brief flicker of mirth peppered through Jim's thoughts. Spock seemed to contemplate his next words before continuing. "It was an agreeable experience while it lasted, but as time passed and I grew older, my mother's actions were forced to cease. The Vulcan way would not permit such behavior, and eventually I did not desire such contact – told myself I did not desire it.
"When Doctor McCoy explained to me the general perception of ideal human parenting, I was reminded of her. The purpose of her actions during my youth suddenly became clear. It was perfectly logical that she behave in such a way, because that is how humans are naturally guided to care for their children: loving them openly and with both mental and physical affection.
"…And when I was informed as to the nature of your childhood, Jim, I…" Spock pauses again, then tightens his grip around his captain. "I could not comprehend the thought – the idea that you did not experience the same kind of devotion as I did. It was very… unsettling."
Jim frowns, flushing lightly. "She wasn't a horrible mother," he offers. "She was there; I could see her. But she was hurting… and we just… I just…"
"That is no excuse." Jim internally flinches at the intensity of Spock's voice. Strong fingers grip his chin and tilt his face upward, forcing him to endure the half-Vulcan's resolute gaze. "There is no excuse for what your mother allowed to happen. Losses are heavy things and should be grieved in accordance, but she allowed the loss of one to endanger the safety of another, and that in itself is unforgivable."
Jim can't help it: he collapses fully against his first officer. He doesn't cry – he is past crying at this point – but the long-unaccepted truth coming from one as truthful and logical as Spock bears a heavy weight. Spock just continues to hold him, combing familiar fingers through his hair and purring gently into his ear. Jim simply relishes the contact.
The captain eventually pulls back. "Thanks, Spock," he says rather steadily. "I know I… probably wasn't very easy to–"
"Caring for you was not a burden, Jim," Spock assures quietly, brushing a stray lock of hair off of the human's forehead. "It was… my pleasure." Jim is graced with the hints of a smile. "You of all people should know how devoted your crew is to your wellbeing."
A genuine grin is slowly forming on Jim's face. "Damn right I should," he says, warmth bubbling in his chest. Every member of the crew would be getting a hug and a personal thank-you by the end of the week, or his name isn't James Tiberius Kirk.
Another thought pops into his mind, and Jim sits up again. Spock raises a questioning eyebrow.
"You said your mother doted on you in secret in order to keep it from your father," Jim says, brows drawn down in thought. "But why did you hide it with me? You know that Bones and Uhura and the rest of the crew wouldn't care."
"I believe the expression is, 'I have a reputation to keep.'"
Jim laughs, the sound filling Spock's quarters like the welcome blanket of dawn's first light. Spock's smile becomes more pronounced. Noting the early hour, he reaches up and guides Jim's head back against his shoulder.
"Sleep a while longer, Jim," Spock says, his thumb caressing the skin behind Jim's ear. "I have you."
Jim settles back down against Spock, but not before hesitantly placing a chaste kiss against the narrow cheek. The half-Vulcan's eyes are warm as he runs two fingers down the human's cheek in return.
A murmur of "lights off" and the room goes dark. Jim dreams of laughter and all things warm.