When Bones gets the news from Spock that there have been unforeseen complications with the landing party, he makes the nurses prep an OR room, just in case. In his experience, unforeseen complications have never been good, especially when they arise on an away mission that Jim is on. Unforeseen complications when Jim is involved nearly always end with the man needing, at best, four hypos and a lecture. At worst, he needs complicated surgery, where Jim will inevitably try to bleed out or won't wake up from the anaesthesia as soon as McCoy would like.

The crew doesn't typically worry for their captain—after all, why would they? How many situations has he gotten himself (and all of them) out of? However, when Jim is on the brink of death—when he lies in the sickbay for days on end, stuck in a coma or drifting in and out of consciousness—crew morale plummets. Worry palpitates through the air. Even Spock develops a small, anxious crinkle in his brow.

So yeah, when Bones gets the news that there have been unforeseen complications, he makes the nurses prep an OR room.

When he gets to the transporter room, he frowns. It looks like only four are beaming up, despite the fact that five had beamed down. It's not often that they leave a crewman behind; even in the case of death they nearly always bring back the body.

When the people materialize, Bones realizes that five people have beamed back. In Uhura's arms is a small, soaking wet child.

McCoy's doctor instincts takes over and he takes a step towards the boy. The kid is shaking, whether from fear or cold, McCoy isn't sure. His tiny body is littered with bruises—some old and some seeming as though they were made not even an hour ago. It makes Bones sick, the unhealthy brown-yellow of old contusions and deep purple of fresh injuries. From the bruises around the kid's arm, McCoy suspects that it's broken. Uhura seems to be careful not to touch it. Tiny cuts are scattered up and down the left side of his face, as if someone smashed something over his head.

Beyond the bruises, Bones notices that liquid spilling off of the kid isn't water, like he originally thought. It's grey and metallic, almost like melted silver. Spock is already giving an order to an overexcited ensign from the science department to run tests on it.

"Uhura, what the hell happened? Where's Jim?" McCoy asked loudly, as five people were all talking at once.

"Leonard, there was an accident," Uhura says, sounding relieved that someone noticed her and the child in her arms. He—the kid— buries his face into her shoulder and begins to cling to her uniform with his good arm, gathering as much of the red fabric in his tiny fist as he can. "Before the natives could warn him, Jim fell into a river and when Spock finally fished him out, he was like this."

"Um...huh?" McCoy says eloquently.

"The natives explained to us after the fact that a substance in the river causes one who has ingested it to reduce in age. They explained that the captain should be back to his adult self in approximately two months. They could not clarify the injuries to us, but did tell us that one's body reverted to exactly the way it was. The captain obtained these injuries while he was, by my estimation, three years of age," Spock explains, materializing out of nowhere beside Uhura.

Bones swallows. He (and admiralty) had forced Jim into talking to McCoy about the abuse he suffered as a kid at the hands of his uncle. Jim was taken out of his home and placed in foster care, but only after twelve years of abuse had occurred. McCoy knew Jim didn't want anyone to know of this—"Starfleet captains aren't weak, Bones"—but Bones knows that he now has to tell at least the senior officers.

"Okay well, since he seems so fond of you, Uhura, come with me to sickbay so I can treat him," Bones says. "Spock, gather up Chekov, Sulu, and Scotty and then meet up with us in sickbay in half an hour." Before they go, Bones takes off his blue science shirt before helping Uhura take off the soaking, oversized yellow shirt the kid is wearing. He gives the gold shirt to a science ensign before help the child into his blue shirt.

When they reach the sickbay, McCoy immediately draws the curtains around Jim's biobed. He doesn't need the nurses oohing and awing over the young captain.

Uhura masterfully pries Jim's fingers off her uniform and somehow manages to coax him to sit next to her on the biobed. Jim grabs a hold of her hand with his good arm. At McCoy's questioning look Uhura says sheepishly, "When Spock or one of the men tried to pick him up he started crying." McCoy frowns and nods once.

"Hey Jimbo," McCoy says, leaning down so that he's eye-level with the kid. "My name is McCoy, but you can call me Bones. I'm a doctor." Jim lifts his eyes to meet McCoy's and Bones feels his breath whoosh out of him at the distrust in Jim's wide bright blue eyes. "Would it be alright if I took a look at your arm?" Jim looks at Uhura and when she smiles, he nods his head shakily.

Bones is right about the broken arm and he gets it fixed up in no time. "Now you're gonna have to keep your arm in this sling for a week, but you'll be good as new after that," McCoy says and gives the sling to Uhura so she can help Jim into it.

Bones manages to find a lollipop for the kid—Jim, he reminds himself—and gives it to him, saying, "Thanks for being such a good patient, Jim. You're better than most of the people I see." Bones ruffles Jim's white-blond hair for good measure, which earns him a smile from Jim. Bones considers that smile a personal victory.

Bones looks at the clock and sees that half an hour has passed. "Hey Jimbo, Miss. Uhura and I have to go and talk to some other grown-ups but before we go, would it be alright if I talked to you, just the two of us?"

Jim looks doubtful. "I'll only be gone for a few minutes, okay?" Uhura says and kissed the top of Jim's wet head. She moves to leave the curtained off area, only to have Jim cry out once and hold his good arm out to her.

"I should stay," Uhura says, rushing back to his side.

McCoy ignores her. "Hey Jim, it's okay. Miss. Uhura is going to be back real soon and I just want to talk to you, okay?"

"It's alright Jim," Uhura reassures him.

Jim looks doubtful but nods once, and lets Uhura go. "Uhura," McCoy says and she stops, "have Spock tell Sulu, Chekov and Scotty what happened while you guys were down there." She nods and disappears behind the curtain.

McCoy grabs his dermal regenerator and gets to work on the cuts on Jim's face.A couple of minutes later, McCoy exclaims excitedly, "All done! Now that wasn't so bad, was it?" Bones finds a sticker among his tools and gives it to Jim.

Jim smiles—an adorable, toothy smile that makes Bones' heart grow three sizes—and says quietly, "No!"

Bones smiles back. Jim is still working on his lollipop and as he munches happily on it, Bones comes and sits next to him on the biobed.

"Jim," he begins quietly. "Jim, why don't you tell me what happened to your arm?"

"It wasn't my fault!" Jim insists immediately. "I mean, I, um, I fell down when I was playing."

"Did you really fall?" Bones says. "Did someone push you?" He needs to make sure that Jim really did obtain these injuries from his uncle, before he goes charging into that meeting to tell the entire senior staff all about Jim's past.

Jim shifts his eyes downward. "It's okay, Jimbo. You can tell me," Bones says.

"Well, um, promise not to tell?" Jim says quietly. Bones nods. "Uncle Frank pushed me down the stairs," Jim blurts.

Bones sighs, kisses the top of Jim's head and says, "Well, don't worry kid, you don't have to go back to your uncle ever again."

They sit in silence for a moment or two before Bones announces that he has to go talk to some grown-ups. "Don't worry, Nurse Chapel is going to be in here with you the whole time," he says and she appears out of nowhere, with real honest-to-god colouring books and markers. Bless her.

"I'll be back with Miss. Uhura soon," Bones promises and goes to meet the rest of them.

He nods to Sulu, Chekov and Scotty as he takes a seat. Spock has clearly already debriefed them on Jim being reduced in age.

He's quick and brief when he tells them about Jim's past. He tells of how Jim was physically and psychologically abuse by his uncle Frank when his mother was off planet, until he turned twelve when couldn't explain to the ER doctor how his collarbone got broken.

The rest of the senior staff looks physically ill.

"He's..." McCoy says, trying to explain how their captain is now, "he's scared. Any kid would be scared in this situation, but Jim is...different. He doesn't trust anyone expect maybe Uhura, and the only reason he trusts Uhura is because whenever his mom was home, Jim was safe. Don't make any sudden movements and if he does something bad, this is going to sound obvious, but don't yell at him, at least until he starts acting...normal. He's unstable. All we need to do right now is take care of him. Try to get him to initiate physical contact with you. Make him laugh. Kiss his hair; his brother used to do that. Don't wrestle with him, even if you think he knows that you're just playing. He's...he just needs his friends right now."

He then goes into explaining how Jim will probably act around them. He hopes that Jim will learn to trust them, but before that happens he should be handled with extremely care.

"Doctor," Spock says, almost shyly, "it would appear as though I do not fully understand. On Vulcan, children are highly prized and adored by both their parents and other members of the community. It is only logical to nurture a child so that they may reach their full potential."

"Well Spock, on Earth, things don't always turn out like they're supposed to. Some kids get put with bad people who make bad parents and those kids get hurt."

"Vhen vill ve be able to see ze captain?" Chekov asks.

"Soon, probably," McCoy answers. "I want to try and get him as familiar as I can with all of us. He can probably hang out either here or on the bridge if we're all on duty. It shouldn't take too long for him to get comfortable with us—he's a good kid, despite how much trouble he makes as an adult."

They hear a clatter of bare feet slapping against the tile."Jim honey, come back here, you can show Doctor McCoy after he's done," Nurse Chapel calls. Before she can stop him, Jim comes running in the room, waving around in his good arm a colouring page that's been scribbled on.

"Look!" Jim exclaims, slamming himself into Bones' legs. "I did it all by myself!"

"Whoa Jimbo, be careful with that arm," Bones says and carefully lifts Jim into his lap. "Sorry," Jim says quietly and it's clear that he thinks he's done something horribly wrong. He puts his hand in his lap and casts his eyes downward. "Hey, no problem," McCoy says and tickles the back of Jim's neck; sure to avoid any bruised skin. Jim giggles and Bones thinks it's the best thing he's heard all day.

Bones sets Jim's drawing on the table and Jim notices, for perhaps the first time, the group of people staring and smiling at him. He turns away from them, scrambling further back in Bones' lap. His eyebrows crinkle worriedly.

"It's okay," McCoy reassures him. "These are some of my friends and they're so excited to meet you!"

Bones, wrapped a protective arm around Jim, introduces everyone. They all greet him back with smiles and friendly waves. Jim clings to McCoy.

Seeing his distress, Uhura asks Jim if he wants to go out into the other room. "Maybe you can show me how to colour all nice and pretty like you?" she says, a hopeful tune to her voice. She gets up and walks towards the door, holding her hand out for Jim to take.

Jim beams under her attention and nods his head excitedly. He scuttles off of Bones' lap and runs to take Uhura's outstretched hand.

"Would it be alright if Mr. Spock came in and played with us, Jim? I promise he's really fun," Uhura says, squatting down to Jim's level. He looks doubtful.

"I would find it interesting to engage in an activity with you, Jim," Spock tells him.

Jim looks quizzically from Spock to Uhura. "That means he wants to play with us," Uhura laughs.

At Uhura's laughter, Jim nods, though he still looks wary of Spock.

When Spock and Uhura leave, Scotty says, "How old did Spock say the weans was?"

"Around three, we're guessing," Bones says. "I know; he talks really well." Fondness creeps into McCoy's voice.

Bones dismisses Chekov, Sulu and Scotty, telling them to come by the sickbay as often as they can so that Jim can get acquainted with them.

When they've all left his office, Bones runs his hands over his face. It's not often that he feels older than the rest of them—despite the reality that he is, in fact, over ten years older than Chekov. Today, he feels it. He feels the weight of his age, the knowledge that only comes from years of experiencing life. He's seen so much they haven't, that they never will.

He's worked with abused kids before. He was once a trauma surgeon for a hospital in Atlanta. He saw plenty of abused kids—all the same, but all different.

He's worked with Jim before. Bones knows all of his best friend's ways—his common excuses, his methods of escaping from sickbay, his posing questions to Bones to draw the attention away from him during their therapy sessions. McCoy has learned all about Jim's particular brand of escaping his past and Bones has gotten himself very attuned to what Jim needs.

But that boy in the other room is not Jim. At least, he is not Jim, as Bones knows him. Nor is he simply another abused child that would eventually get collected by a social worker and taken to a new family. McCoy sighs.

Today, he feels the age in his body.

That night, Bones takes Jim back to his room so that he could sleep. Uhura and Spock want Jim to come back to their room, but Bones insists that Jim stay with him. "We don't know what kind of physical effects that stuff had on him. I don't want him to stay with you guys and then me not be there if he needs a doctor."

Really, it wasn't a lie. Bones doesn't want there to be an emergency and him be on the opposite side of the ship. The science department wouldn't be finished with the samples they took until next week. Bones doesn't want Jim to react badly to it.


The fact that Jim is happily trotting alongside him, chatting animatedly about a girl he met at school who had hair that went down to her waist, has nothing to do with his insistence. Bones' medical opinion that Jim needed to be near a doctor was in no effected by that fact that, when he was talking to Jim, the kid reminded him so much of Joanna that it hurt.

When they get back to Bones' room, he helps Jim into his pyjamas and out of his sling.

"That arm is looking better already, kiddo," McCoy says. He picks Jim up, and sets him on the ledge of counter top. He grabs a toothbrush, puts toothpaste on it and hands the brush to Jim. "Go at it," Bones says. "Make sure you get the teeth in the very, very back."

Jim looks confused and sad. He mumbles something that Bones can't hear. When asked to repeat himself, Bones barely makes out, "Sam does this for me." Jim's eyebrows knit together in a worried way.

"I want Sam."

Bones sighs, takes the toothbrush from Jim and sets it aside. Picking Jim up, Bones rubs his back and rocks Jim back and forth, the way he used to do with Joanna.

Bones knows Sam only by name. Some days, McCoy hates him with every fibre of his person. Sam abandoned Jim when he was fourteen. Jim was only ten. He left Jim alone to deal with the monster that was their uncle Frank. Sam often shouted abuse at Jim when they were growing up—that Jim was the reason their father was dead, the reason their mother left them on the dirt of Earth while she chased George's atoms across the stars. Jim couldn't keep his mouth shut so when Sam tried to stop Uncle Frank from hurting Jim,he beat them both.

Other days, McCoy adores Sam. Sam protected Jim. He took the blame for the broken plate. If Frank was going to beat one of them into oblivion, it was going to be Sam. Always. Sam nursed Jim's wounds when Frank wouldn't take them to the hospital. Sam made Jim lunch and convinced Jim to take his medicine when he didn't want it. Sam taught him how to tie his shoes and catch a football. Sam brushed his teeth when Jim was little.

"I know, baby, I know," Bones says gently. Jim begins to cry—a severely disturbing display, as Jim made almost no noise. Joanna had absolutely wailed. Nothing could get her to keep quiet. Joanna had kicked and screamed and hiccupped her way through tears. Jim, however, allows the tears to silently fall, occasionally sniffling.

"Where's Sam? He doesn't like to leave me alone," Jim asks.

"I promise you that Sam is safe," McCoy says, running his fingers through Jim's white-blond soft curls, "And you're not alone. Right? You have me, and Mr. Spock and Mrs. Uhura and all those other people you met today. Sam would want you to make new friends, right?" Jim gives tiny nod. "Alright then." McCoy smiles widely at Jim and earns back a tiny grin.

"Now, we are going to brush our teeth and go potty and then we're going to go to bed. Tomorrow, if you feel like it, we can go to the bridge. That's where all your new friends work and they're going to be so happy to see you."

Fifteen minutes later, both Jim and Bones are dressed and ready for bed. McCoy is staying up—he needs to write his medical report for Admiralty to review—but Jim yawns and fists his bruise-covered eyes with his good hand.

Bones watches from the doorway as Jim scurries himself into Bones' bed. "Goodnight, Jim," Bones says and tells the computer to turn the lights off.

"That's wrong," Jim insists.

"Lights twenty percent," Bones commands. "What's wrong, Jim?"

"You have to give me a story and song. And you have to say the part about the bugs," Jim says. "Sam always says 'Night night, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite.'"

Bones comes over and sits next to Jim on the bed. "Okay," he said, running his fingers over Jim's hair, "what song does Sam sing you?"

"I dunno what it's called," Jim says, yawning. "It starts like 'summertime, and the livin' is easy.'"

"Oh, I know that one, I used to sing it to Joanna when she was first born," Bones says as he goes into his closet to grab an old acoustic guitar that Jim left in his quarters a while ago.

"Who's Joanna?" Jim asks, weariness seeping into his voice.

"My daughter," Bones says. "Where is she?" Jim asks as he buries his face into McCoy's pillow when Bones gives him a gesture to lie down. "She's on Earth," McCoy answers.

"You should sing her to sleep," Jim says.

"Well, I can't because I'm up here and she's all the way down there."

"Sam says that Daddy used to sing the summertime song to him when Sam was little, but Daddy can't sing it to me because he's not here anymore. He's not on a ship, though," Jim explains. "Ma says that Daddy's in Heaven, but Sam says he's just dead."

Bones sighs. He kisses his fingertips before pressing them into Jim's temple.

"Summertime, and the living is easy
Fish are jumping, and the cotton is high
Your daddy's rich, and your ma is good looking
So hush little baby, don't you cry.

Jim looks up at Bones and gives him a sleepy smile.

"One of these mornings, you're gonna rise up singing
You're gonna spread your wings and take the sky
But till that morning, there is nothing can harm you
With your daddy and mommy standing by."

Bones strums the last few notes as Jim says, "Okay, now a story," and since Bones only has a daughter, and he doesn't know any other stories, he told Jim as story about a princess named Cinderella.

Bones kisses Jim's temples before saying what he soon learns to be the magic words.

"Night night, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite."

"Night night," Jim says and closes his eyes. Bones turns the lights out again and walks into the other room, wondering what the hell he's going to say for his report.

The next day, Jim wakes Bones up nearly two hours before they have to. Jim apologizes profusely for this when Bones mentions it, but Bones quickly stops him.

"If we're going to be up, we might as well get some clothes on and get something to eat," Bones says. Twenty minutes later, the two are making their way to the cafeteria.

People stare at them as they pass and it clearly makes Jim uncomfortable. Bones snaps at everyone and anyone who looks at Jim for more than a second. News spreads fast that the doctor is on a rampage and by the time they reach the cafeteria, no one even glances in their direction.

Uhura and Spock are sitting in their usual spot, a quiet corner of the cafeteria where they can get some last-minute alone time before beginning another busy day. Bones yells to get their attention before giving Jim permission to run into Uhura's waiting arms.

Bones grabs an apple and dry cereal for Jim and goes to meet them. Jim is chattering away about his favourite colour and Uhura's hair and bedbugs and anything else that seems to cross his mind. Uhura listens to him raptly, laughing at the appropriate places and expressing enthusiasm when Jim stops for it. Even Spock stops and listens interestedly to Jim's tales.

Bones hands Jim his apple and tells him to eat up. "Remember, I said that if you want to we could go up to the bridge?" McCoy asks and Jim nods.

Uhura gives Jim a wide smile and says excitedly, "Oh Jim, you're going to love it. It has a really big viewport so you can see all the stars and maybe Mr. Spock will let you sit in the captain's chair."

Jim bites into his apple and peers over at Spock. "Are you the captain?" Jim asks. "Ma told Sam that the captain is the boss of the whole ship."

Spock looks at Jim tenderly. "I will be the captain for a few more months."

"Oh," Jim says and goes back to eating, never taking his eyes off of Spock.

After a few minutes of having Jim's eyes follow him,Spock asks if there was something that Jim needed.

Jim smiles. "CanItouch?" he asks, pointing at Spock's ears before dissolving into a fit of giggles. Uhura and Bones laugh with him.

Spock's eyebrows crinkle, amused. It's the closest to laughter that Spock ever comes. He bends down so as to get to Jim's level. Jim reaches out and touches the tip of Spock's ear before pulling his hand away. He laughs again, louder.

Just as they're about to finish eating, Bones is hailed to sickbay. Something went wrong on Deck Six and a falling pipe banged three ensigns' heads. Spock gets notified of the incident almost immediately by an apologetic Scotty, who promises Spock that they've fixed the loose pipe.

Bones squats next Jim, saying hurriedly, "Jimbo, I've got to go, but Uhura and Spock are take you up to the bridge. I'll see you later, okay?" He kisses Jim's forehead and rushes away.

Uhura noticed Jim's tiny bottom lip tremble. He watches McCoy's fleeting form until Bones turns the corner and is out of sight. "Hey Jim, it's okay. McC—Bones will be back soon and in the meantime, you get to hang out with Mr. Spock and me on the bridge. And I know that Mr. Chekov and Mr. Sulu are so excited to see you. We're going to have so much fun."

Spock says, "Indeed, Jim. Lieutenant Sulu and Ensign Chekov have expressed interest in showing you around their stations at the bridge."

"See? It'll be a great day," Uhura says and puts her arm around Jim's shoulder. He shirks her touch at first but quickly leans up beside her. They finish their breakfast and head up.

Sulu and Chekov have already been on duty for an hour when Spock, Uhura and Jim come in. Uhura has Jim cocked on her hip, a protective arm wrapped around him. He rests his head on her shoulder, so painfully withdrawn that it makes her want to weep. She knows that Jim's behaviour is to be expected (McCoy explained this to all of them in grand detail yesterday) but she still aches for her tiny captain to behave like a normal, well-adjusted child.

Spock looks at her and Jim tenderly (well, as tenderly as a Vulcan can get) and runs his fingers through Jim's hair. Jim shrinks away from his touch. Spock says softly, "It is okay, Jim. You are safe here." Jim lifts his head from Uhura's shoulder and actually smiles—that toothy grin that makes pride rush to Uhura's heart—at Spock. Uhura kisses his soft curls.

The people on the bridge are staring. Spock goes and sits in the captain's chair, issuing orders to keep people from looking at Uhura and Jim, who are making their way to her station.

The bridge gets unnaturally quiet as Uhura explains her duties to Jim. He is constantly asking questions in a tiny, trepid voice, his genius IQ supplying him with enquiry after enquiry. He asks to press the buttons and takes the communicator out of her ear and puts it into his own. Jim squeals with delight as Uhura tickles his knees to get her communicator back.

Eventually, Uhura must take her attention away from Jim so she can get some work done. "Why don't you go see what Spock is doing?" Uhura whispers into his ear and points to her Vulcan, busy signing paperwork. "Maybe he'll let you touch his ears again." Jim's eyes get wide with excitement and he scrambles out of Uhura's lap, racing over to Spock.

Spock hears Jim coming, and has his arms out ready to catch him. He leans down, perfectly aware of the crew watching him, and allows Jim to run his finger across the pointed tip to his ears.

Jim feels the crew's eyes on his and tries to twist out of Spock's lap to retreat back to Uhura's safe and warm arms but instead, Spock, takes him by the hand and says, "I am aware that it is normal for human children to be curious about their surroundings. If you wish, I can show you around my station."

Spock, taking a clue from Uhura, allows Jim to press buttons and flip through science reports and even gives Jim permission to briefly call down to the science department. After many harsh glares from Spock, the other officers on the bridge stop staring at Jim and Spock, although the bridge does again become suspiciously quiet. After twenty minutes of playing at the science station, Jim is absolutely enthralled by Spock, and Spock even seems to be enjoying himself as he answers Jim's queries.

The lieutenant who was analyzing the liquid taken from Jim's shirt calls for Spock's help, forcing Spock to leave the bridge. He gives Uhura both Jim and con before leaving to attend to the problem.

Uhura has finally finished up some of her paperwork, so, with Jim hitched on her hip, she walks over Sulu and Chekov. Sulu explains to Jim about thrusters and warp speeds and parking brakes while slipping in stories about free fall and fencing and "this one time me and a man in gold accidently lost a shuttlecraft." Sulu gets Jim smiling and laughing at his stories, and Uhura feels overcome with happiness.

Eventually Jim takes his head off of Uhura's shoulder, and quietly asks to be put down. Uhura places Jim at her and Sulu's feet, and watches merrily as Jim asks Sulu if he can sit in his lap. Sulu picks their captain up, and sets him down in his lap, smiling to himself as Jim leans back against Sulu.

"Can you tell me another story?" Jim asks quietly. As Sulu launches into a story about "those dirty Romulans," Uhura quietly makes her way back to her station.

When Spock returns an hour later, he finds the bridge openly laughing at Sulu's tales about the crazy man in gold. (Jim eventually asks Sulu what the man's name is, to which Sulu answers, "Let's call him Jim." Jim giggles and exclaims "But that's my name!" Sulu tickles the back of Jim's neck as he says, "I know it is, buddy.") The crew tries to sombre themselves at the return of their Acting Captain, but when Sulu tells Jim about tribbles overrunning the Enterprise, the crew dissolves into laughter, the loudest of which comes from Jim.

Bones comes an hour later to collect Jim, and is pleased to find Jim sitting quietly in Sulu's lap as the pilot works around him.

"Hey Jimbo," Bones says, announcing his arrival to the toddler. Jim climbs out of Sulu's lap and runs to McCoy. Bones grabs Jim and lifts him, kissing the top of his head. "Are you hungry?" Bones asks and Jim's stomach growls in response. Bones laughs and begins to make his way off the bridge. "Let's go get some lunch and then it's time for your nap."

The last thing the crew hears before Jim and Bones make their exit is Jim loudly exclaiming, "No nap!"

Two weeks later, McCoy stalks around sickbay, silently sliding through like a snake. He walks to each biobed, examines it and leaves.


He sees his target.

"Gotcha!" He shouts before pulling the pillow out from in front of where Jim was hiding. Jim explodes into a fit of giggles, which Bones does nothing to alleviate when he lays Jim down on the biobed and blows a raspberry on his stomach. Jim absolutely squeals with laughter. Bones tickles Jim's sides and the bottoms of his feet.

Suddenly, Jim gets that panicked look in his eyes, like a trapped animal. Bones immediately stops tickling Jim, taking a step back. He knows that look. When Jim was an adult, he got it if a touchy subject came up or when he woke in the sickbay, not sure what day it was or the status of his ship. Terror, though, overruns this Jim,if they come up too quickly behind him or touch him for too long.

Bones smiles at Jim. The fear in Jim's eyes has already left, vacating the kid as soon as McCoy stopped touching him. "Come on Jimbo, let's see if we can find where Mr. Chekov is hiding," McCoy says, holding a hand for Jim to take.

Chekov, as it turns out, is quite the baby-whisperer. Jim absolutelyadores everything that Chekov has to offer him—a funny accent, youthful spirit and corkscrew curls that Jim loves to run his fingers through.

"I think I know where he is!" Jim yells. Bones is struck, for what must be the hundredth time, by how very much like a child Jim is. His voice has the adorable stop-and-starts of toddlers trying to impress their parents, where they pronounce every syllable as though it's its own separate word.

Jim races into the nurses' station and Bones knows that Jim finds Chekov when the toddler gives an excited yell. Chekov emerges from underneath a desk and picks up the young captain. Chekov holds Jim above his head, kisses his exposed belly and sets him down.

"You are wery good at zis game," Chekov says. Jim beams under his praise.

Bones watches satisfied as Chekov and Jim talk about hide-and-seek. Jim has finally taken on some characteristics of healthy children, at least around the senior staff. He spends the majority of his days in sickbay, under Scotty's watchful eye in Engineering, or on the bridge, although Bones knows that he prefers the bridge. Uhura has told Bones how Spock lets Jim sit in the captain's chair, sometimes allowing him to issue orders to Sulu to increase wrap speed or for Chekov to plot a new course. Jim as a child is, according to Uhura, absolutely enamoured with the idea of captaincy and likes to tell Sulu stories of how he will be the captain for his own starship. "Just like Daddy," Jim said to them one day, which prompted Uhura to grab Jim from Spock and cuddle him. "That's right baby," she told him, "just like your dad."

"Hey Jimbo," Bones says, drawing Jim away from his conversation with Chekov. "How would you like Mr. Chekov to bring you to lunch today and then put you down for your nap?"

Jim's brow furrows. "Don't you want to take me?"

Bones bends down so that he's eye-level with the kid. "Of course I do, you know I love having lunch with you, but today I'm really busy. Mr. Spock keeps telling me that I have to get some yucky paperwork done, and between you and me, Mr. Spock is kind of pushy."

"Ve vill have fun at lunch, yes?" Chekov says and holds out his hand.

Bones quickly explains Jim's bedtimes rituals—which absolutely cannot be changed, otherwise Jim, in all of his three-year-old glory, has a meltdown that Bones likes to akin to a small hurricane or tornado. Bones can't get too upset, though, when Jim goes into disaster mode because he's started to wail like Joanna used to—screaming, tears, snot. The joys of toddlerhood.

Jim takes Chekov's hand, kisses Bones' face and follows Chekov out of sickbay.

As Jim chatters on about his dream the night before, Chekov takes a good look at his young captain. Most of his bruises have faded, except the ones that were fresh. His arm is out of its sling, with very few physical markers that it ever even needed to be in one.

When Chekov first saw the captain as a toddler, he was furious. Chekov isn't typically a violent man—he's never enjoyed having to destroy an enemy's ship, having to take the lives of the creatures on that ship. However, when Chekov saw a split lip, black eyes, broken arm and scared eyes on his captain, he was overcome with the desire to punch something. Anything. After the meeting with McCoy, Chekov had gone down to the gym and fought a punching bag for a few hours. Two weeks ago, whenever he saw the kid, he wanted to turn away and hide from his captain's injuries. He didn't want to grapple with the realization that his captain, his friend, his brother of sorts, had gone through all that. Seeing the captain two weeks away made Chekov want to gather Jim up in his arms and never let harm befall him again.

Now, however, Chekov's heart surges with delight when he sees Jim. Every time Jim reaches out and initiates physical contact with someone, Chekov feels like a proud father. When Jim stuck his tongue out at Spock without fear of ramification, Chekov gave Jim a high-five. When Jim settles into Pavel's lap while on the bridge, Chekov leans down and kisses his hair. Always.

When they reach the cafeteria, Jim insists on getting his food himself. Bones has given the commanding officers a list of the things that Jim's allergy system can handle (which is basically just a slightly modified version of the BRAT diet) and Chekov is relieved when Jim gets rice and an apple. He didn't want to have to tell the kid to pick something else.

Jim has some trouble getting the rice from the plate into his actual mouth (apparently spoons don't fall into Jim's range of genius) so Chekov helps him shovel it in. Pavel is thankfully that Jim is a reasonably good eater for a baby—Chekov's baby brother would run around the kitchen avoiding all attempts by his mama to get him to sit down and stop throwing vegetables on the floor.

Jim grabs a fistful of Chekov's hair when he's not looking and tugs, bringing Pavel's ear to Jim's mouth. Chekov wonders if that was one of those aggressive behaviours that McCoy keeps harping on about.

However, most than anything, Jim sounds sad and scared when he says, "Those girls are laughing at us."

Chekov looks at the herd of botany ensigns giggling over him and Jim. Chekov has been noticing it whenever he goes out with Jim. He asked Sulu about it and Sulu told him that girls thought it was sexy for a man to be out with a baby. "They eat stuff like that up," he told him, with a wink.

"Zey are not laughing at you or me," Chekov explains in a soft voice. "Zey zink zat...vell...I vill let Doctor McCoy to explain zat to you, yes?"

Jim crinkles his nose like he does when he's confused, but he doesn't mention it again. When Chekov hears the women giggling again, he hands Jim the apple and tells him that he'll be right back.

He marches to the women. He knows that he's not particularly intimidating or physically imposing in any way, but anger rolls off of him. It pulses through the air and by the time he reaches the ensigns' table, they are no longer laughing.

"If you cannot behave like responsible Starfleet officials zen I vill have to speak vith Acting Captain Spock about having you transferred to a different ship. I have found your behaviour inappropriate and you all better hope zat I never see you laughing at Captain Kirk ever again, or I vill make sure zat Acting Captain Spock has you jettisoned out of ze ship. Now, get back to vork!"

The women sit, shocked for a moment or two before Chekov yells, "Now!" They scamper to throw away their leftover food and hurry back to work.

People are staring in earnest now. No one has ever seen the happy ensign lose his temper before. Chekov snaps at them before returning to Jim, who was half way through his apple. Chekov watches him eat for a few more minutes before Jim insists that he's full. He asks for Chekov to pick him up and the two make their way back to Bones' quarters.

Chekov sings a Russian lullaby ("Lullabies vere inwented in Russia, Jim") and tells Jim a story about Peter and the Wolf. He says the part about the bugs, turns the lights off, walks out to Bones' couch, lies down and falls fast asleep.

An hour later, McCoy shakes Chekov awake, roughly. Chekov knows that McCoy just came off a 22-hour shift, so he forgives the good doctor. "Get up, I need to lay down while Jim is sleeping," McCoy says and Chekov transfers to a nearby chair.

"How was he?" McCoy asks, his thick Southern drawl creeping into his tired voice. "Did he eat okay? Sometimes he doesn't like lunch."

"He vas good, he ate okay. He kept flinging rice everywhere so I had to use ze spoon for him."

McCoy smiles. "He does that for attention," he explains. "He likes to know we're focused on him."

McCoy closes his eyes as Chekov tells him about Jim pulling his hair.

McCoy grumbles something under his breath before saying, "It's not really something to worry about—toddlers pull hair all the time. I'll watch him though. Now, get out of my quarters, I have to get some sleep before he wakes up in an hour." He sighs again. "You forget how tiring having a toddler can be, you know?" Since Chekov doesn't know, he makes an agreeing noise in the back of his throat and leaves Doctor McCoy's quarters.

"He'll be fine, Leonard," Uhura assures him for the umpteenth time. "One little sleepover is not going to hurt him and if it does you're less than ten minutes away." McCoy tries to explain Jim's sleep schedule to Uhura, for what must be the hundredth time since she suggested that Jim sleep over two weeks ago.

"Leonard," she finally snaps. "He. Will. Be. Fine. Spock and I are perfectly capable of taking care of a three year old for one night. You've been working long shifts and you've been taking care of Jim. I know you haven't been getting enough sleep. Go and rest. You've been extra grumpy lately. I heard one of the xenolinguistics ensigns talking about how he doesn't want to go to sickbay because he's scared of you." McCoy rolls his eyes at this before Uhura commands, "Go rest, now. Jim will be fine. We'll follow the schedule and you'll get him back after breakfast tomorrow." She pushes him—literally grabs McCoy's arm and pushes him—out of her and Spock's quarters when he opens his mouth to argue.

She makes Spock go to the cafeteria to get them dinner while she and Jim settle on the couch. She's managed to find some children's books in the library. She gets halfway through the first book, only to find that Jim has no interest in this. "I want to read," he insists. "Sam taught me when I was little."

She laughs a bit. "You still are little," she points out.

Jim makes an outraged cry. "Nu uh! I'm a big boy!"

She laughs a lot. "My mistake," she says. "Okay big boy, you read."

Jim trips over a few words, but just as he finishes the end of the book Spock comes back with two trays of food. Uhura laughs when she sees all the food he brought back and although Spock knows it's illogical to have favourites, he also knows that Uhura's laugh is the sound he prefers over any other.

"Are we feeding an army of three year olds, or just one?" She asks.

Spock knows that she is employing sarcasm, so he simply says, "I was not sure what Jim would eat."

"I guess those observation skills that scientists are so famous for are just a rumour," she says, taking a tray from Spock while handing a sanitary wipe to Jim, indicating to Jim to wash his hands before dinner. "Jim eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner every night, with a tall glass of milk." She laughs again. "Don't you remember? Jim always gets so excited because McCoy lets him drink out of a grownup's cup, instead of the sippy cup he's normally got."

Suddenly, Spock does remember his young captain spilling milk all over his clothes when he tipped his glass back too far. "Perhaps I should return to the cafeteria and acquire what the child generally eats," Spock suggests. "Doctor McCoy has explained to us the importance of sticking to a child's routine."

Uhura shakes her head as she helps Jim wipe off his hands. "Don't be silly, Jim can just eat some of this, right big boy?" She flicks his nose lovingly.

Her com beeps, signalling that the communications department requires her assistance. She mutters a string of Vulcan profanity under her breath before grumbling; "I specifically told them that under no circumstances should they contact me tonight. I told them that if there were any problems to call Lieutenant Parker." She reads the message, and swears again before turning to Spock, an apology clear in her face.

"I have to go," she says. "There's an emergency. Don't worry, I'm sure it's just stupid ensigns who have no idea how to even form words, let alone be at the communications post. I'll be back soon" She kisses the top of Jim's blond, soft curls and the corner of Spock's mouth before marching out of the room in a huff.

"Don't worry, don't worry, don't worry," Jim repeats, banging a fork and spoon on the table like a drum in beat with his words.

Spock takes the utensils and sets them down on the table before saying, "These are for eating, not playing." Jim pouts at Spock before grabbing the fork and banging it on the table, slyly looking at Spock in gentle defiance.

Spock is about to take the fork again when he remembers a conversation he had with Nyota when their five-year mission was just beginning. Captain Kirk had done something terribly illogical (which ended up saving all their asses, but that was beside the point) and when Spock came to Nyota about it she simply shrugged and said, "When it comes to Jim Kirk, you have to pick your battles."

Spock chooses not to pick this particular battle, so he instead asks Jim what he wants to eat. Jim looks at the three trays of food, "I want a apple."

"An apple," Spock corrects and begins slicing one.

"No," Jim says. "I want crackers." Spock puts the apple aside and begins splitting the crackers down the middle.

"No, I'll do it myself," Jim says, grabbing the crackers. He doesn't manage to split them down the middle, but he does manage to smash them in his rough hands.

Doctor McCoy has explained to Spock human toddler's needs to give orders and make decisions, so Spock allows Jim to pick three more things (which takes much longer than Spock expected, although Doctor McCoy did say that toddlers are not capable of "sticking to" a choice they make). Spock puts the plate in front of Jim, along with the sippy cup that he arrived with.

"Bones lets me have a grownup glass at dinner," Jim says, clearly put out by the sippy cup. "I want a grownup glass with milk."

Spock tells him, "While Lieutenant Uhura and I do not have milk, I can get you a glass of water." He knows that Nyota doesn't like anyone drinking from the bottled water she's stashed away from their last visit to Earth, but Spock cannot think of an alternative, other than going to the cafeteria to retrieve a glass of milk for the toddler.

"No," Jim yells. "I want milk!"

"I am afraid we do not have milk." Jim throws the fork he was playing with on the floor before going into what Doctor McCoy calls "a meltdown."

Jim flings himself on the floor, surely bumping his head when he falls. He bangs his fists and stomps his feet against the hard floor, all the while screaming and crying. Spock freezes, not sure what the logical course of action is—sometimes Doctor McCoy allows the toddler to "cry it out" while other times he gives in to the child's demands.

He finally settles on a smoothing tactic that he see Nyota employ when the child gets upset. She often gathers the child in her arms and rocks him, which effectively calms him.

However, when Spock attempts this, Jim goes limb—something he heard Sulu once call "boneless." Spock finds that it is an accurate description of the sensation, albeit not a logical one. Despite Spock's best efforts to pick up the screaming child, Jim simply slips out of his hands. Spock is grateful for his quick reflexes and eventually he gets a hold on the toddler—who at this point is covered with tears and spit, snot dripping out of his nose.

Spock attempts to gather the child close to him like Nyota does; but instead, Jim leans back away from Spock. He has to put a hand on Jim's back to avoid dropping him. Jim screams as though Spock's touch is like fire.

Spock hears the door to his quarters whoosh open and when he turns to look, he sees Nyota standing in the doorway, holding a tall glass of white milk and a plate with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on it. Her eyebrows are raised, and Spock can't tell if she is amused or disapproving.

"I am attempting to soothe him, as I have seen you do on numerous occasions, but he does not seem to be responding appropriately," he yells over the screaming toddler.

Nyota tells him to put Jim on the floor. Jim goes back to beating and kicking the hot tile. "When I hold him, it's because he's sad. That," she points to Jim, "is not sad. That's angry. When he's angry, Leonard usually caves and gives Jim whatever he wants, but that's just because Leonard is a big softy."

Spock is about to comment on the fact that Doctor McCoy is not soft, when he hears Nyota say, "James Tiberius Kirk, that's enough." Jim stops crying and shouting and pounding his fists and feet long enough for Nyota to say, "I brought you some milk in a grownup cup, but I can only give it to you if you start acting like a big boy."

Jim wipes his tears and snot from his face and stands up. Nyota grabs a sanitary wipe and cleans off Jim's hands and face. "Now, give Spock a hug and a kiss, and then we can have dinner."

The rest of the evening goes relatively smoothly, with only a few minor bumps. Jim, as it turns out, hates the sonic shower so, Nyota ends up dumping all of her bottled water into a tub and washing him in there. As she is washing him, she mutters under her breath over and over, "You are so going to owe me in a month." After his bath, Jim runs naked around their quarters for ten minutes, effectively evading capture until finally he trips and Spock is able to grab him as he's crying. Nyota calms Jim and manages to wrestle him into his pyjamas.

Spock plays a melody on his lyre as Nyota sings him a song from when she was then tells Jim an Andorian story, which is rather long. By the end of the story Jim is fast asleep, clutching his sippy cup of water and sucking his thumb. Nyota clears his sweaty forehead of his curls and kisses it before orders the lights off and walking out, Spock following close behind.

As Nyota settles down with a twentieth century novel, Spock find himself thinking, rather illogically, about how pleasant seeing Nyota with a baby is. The gentle rocking to and fro of a crying toddler, kissing the baby's sweaty forehead, laughing as the child splashes her—Spock finds all these aspects of motherhood pleasing to see on Nyota. He decides to discuss the subject with her after the Captain has been righted.

Bones is trying to work. He is trying to focus on the ensign with a bleeding head wound and split lip in front of him. He is trying to both mop up blood and use the dermal regenerator.

However, Jim and Scotty are making Bones' job difficult.

Scotty brought up the ensign to sickbay after the ensign slipped down some stairs in Engineering. Scotty claims that he brought the ensign up himself because he cares about the people who work under him, but from the moment he stepped into sickbay, he hasn't even given the injured ensign a sideways glance. Instead, Scotty has chosen to chase a screaming, giggling Jim around sickbay. When he catches the child, he swings him up above his head before planting a raspberry on his stomach and kisses on his face. Jim is, of course, in love with the game.

Bones is still trying to stop blood from pouring out of the ensign's head when he finally snaps, "Scotty, take Jim down to engineering. I can't work with you two screaming and running around."

Scotty makes a funny face at Jim before suggesting to the toddler that they play follow the leader, successfully tricking Jim out of sickbay. In the past few days, Jim has absolutely refused to leave McCoy's side for more than five minutes, kicking and screaming his way through the days when he has to spend time on the bridge.

Scotty leads Jim to engineering. They go into Scotty's office, where Scotty gives him a piece of real, honest-to-god paper and a pencil, asking Jim to draw him a picture.

As Jim plants himself on the floor and begins doodling, Scotty thinks about his time with the kid. They only have three more weeks with Jim as a baby, and although Scotty misses his friend like crazy, he has to admit that toddler Jim is insanely cute and incredibly fun. Scotty loves the days when Bones lets Jim play in engineering, even if they do basically have to shut down work while Jim is visiting.

Jim especially likes climbing onto the control panels and pressing the buttons, gleefully clapping when he makes things go boom. Lieutenant Riley, although not technically not part of the engineering crew, is fond of coming down and teaching Jim different songs. Scotty knows that, when Kirk was an adult, he and Riley always greeted each other like old friends (although no one really knows how or when they met) and Scotty seems to be the only one who remembers that the two share a deep-seated friendship.

However, Riley is nowhere in sight and Scotty feels relieved at not having to share Jim today. He knows that it's silly to be jealous of McCoy, who Jim latches onto like his innocent life depends on it, or Uhura, who the toddler has trusted wholeheartedly since the beginning, or even Chekov, who just seems to get the baby. He knows that it's silly to be jealous, but he is.

So, he sits with Jim and watches him colour and gets Jim talking about banal things like the ABC's and cleaning up and the broccoli that everyone tries to get him to eat. As Scotty sits there and watches Jim draw stars and as he listens to the gentle hum of the Enterprise beneath his feet, he thinks that this is what happiness must look and sound like. He concludes that if he had a sandwich, then this is what happiness would taste like too.

"What are you drawing?" Scotty asks.

"The Enterprise!" Jim exclaims happily. "Mr. Chekov showed me what it looks like!" Scotty smiles.

Suddenly, the gentle peace gets broken. Sirens are blaring and the engineering crew is scrambling to their battle stations and Jim lets out a terrified scream that Scotty barely registers because he is trying to listen to Spock, who is telling him about the current attack.

Scotty springs into action, running out of his office while yelling out orders to various crewmen. He would like to say that, similar to Captain Kirk, he thrives on chaos. He would like to say that he is the kind of man who lives for these kinds of moments, when his adrenaline is pumping and everything is brighter and sharper. He would like to say that, because that is what Captain Kirk is like and Captain Kirk is the kind of man that other men wish they were more like.

Scotty, more than anything, panics in these kinds of situations. He kind of sputters his commands and he knows that his Scottish accent gets thicker than ever. He can't help it—the adrenaline running through his system is deafening, his pulse is so loud in his ears that he is surprised that he can hear anything at all. Kirk, of course, claims that Scotty does some of his best work under this kind of pressure, but the engineer suspects that his captain is only saying that to make Scotty feel better. Kirk is that kind of man, too.

The attack lasts a relatively short amount of time, with the other ship's captain surrendering in just fifteen minutes. The attacking ship is much older than the Enterprise, and was nearly destroyed by Starfleet's finest weapons. As an away team goes to the other ship to make arrests, a calm settles in engineering. After every fight, every battle, the same quiet occurs. Scotty knows that his crew is catching their breath and thanking whatever god they pray to that they've lived to see another day. Scotty likes this about his men—they, seemingly more so than any other crew on the Enterprise, understand the dangers of the job and know that there might be a day where they don't make it. It makes them grateful.

The calm, however, is very short lived. A scream pierces the air, followed shortly by one of the younger ensigns saying, "Oh, my God!" Scotty races the source of the screaming and sees Jim being cradled by the ensign, blood streaming down the side of the toddler's head. Scotty gives an order to alert Doctor McCoy that they're on their way. As a lieutenant is following those orders, the ensign holding Jim hands him over to Scotty. Jim is screaming and cradling his wound in his hands. Scotty rushes to sickbay.

By the time they get there, Doctor McCoy and Nurse Chapel are already waiting for them. Scotty lays Jim, whose face is red from screaming, down on the bed. As Chapel begins to clean up the blood, McCoy begins to talk to Jim in soothing tones, which stops his screaming, although tears do continue to fall down Jim's face, occasionally interrupted by Jim's hiccups. McCoy insists that Scotty hold Jim's hand as he and Chapel begin to fix the nasty gash that has taken up residence along Jim's hairline. Jim screams again, once, when they begin their work.

Scotty jumps in, launching into an old Scottish folktale, successfully diverting Jim's attention from McCoy's work. By the time the doctor is finished, Jim is asleep, having drifted off during Scotty's retelling of the story of St. Andrew.

"He'll be alright?" Scotty asks Doctor McCoy. Although the doctor looks at ease, Scotty is uncertain... there had been so much blood.

"Oh yeah," McCoy says. "He'll be fine. He didn't even get a concussion, which is a first for Jim. When he wakes up, I'll bring him back to engineering." McCoy ruffles the sleeping toddler's hair fondly.

"I should have been watching him closer," Scotty says, putting his head in his hands.

McCoy pats Scotty on the back and says, "Don't beat yourself up about it, these things happen. You can't watch them all the time, especially when your attention is needed somewhere else. We were getting attacked. You couldn't stay in your office with Jim and ignore Spock. Kids get bumps and bruises, it's okay."

McCoy leaves Scotty alone with Jim. Scotty rubs soothing circles into Jim's hand and ruffles his hair like McCoy did. Jim wakes up at Scotty's touch. "Oh, sorry Jim," Scotty says, but Jim gives him a sleep smile and reaches up. Scotty picks up the toddler, who immediately rests him head on Scotty's shoulder.

"I got a cut," Jim says.

"I know," Scotty says. "I'm sorry, I should have been watching you."

Jim lifts his head and looks at Scotty. He smiles again and says, "It's okay." He puts his hands on top of Scotty's hair before kissing his cheek. Scotty smiles and looks at Jim's cut. It's small. Tiny, even.

With Jim in tow, Scotty waves at McCoy and heads back to engineering, intending on letting Jim finish drawing the Enterprise.

Jim runs ahead of Bones, giggling. He loves these days, when Bones brings him to the gym to burn off all his pent up energy. They only have four days left until Jim gets righted and Bones is trying to do all the things that have become Jim's favourites.

Jims waits with annoyance for the doors to the gym to open. Bones runs to catch up with him as they're opening. Jim sprints into the gym, giggling as Bones chases him. Jim picks up a basketball and throws it at Bones' head, missing it by a margin. Bones makes a monster noise and runs to catch Jim.

Jim squeals with delight and races to evade capture. Bones runs slowly for a bit before grabbing Jim around the middle and lifting him, blowing a raspberry on his neck. Jim dissolves into giggles.

Bones sets him down and goes to sit by the wall, letting Jim run and play by himself. He likes to play by himself, Bones has noticed, and he's happy to let Jim tosses around basketballs without intervening. He's too old to chase around toddlers for two hours straight.

Suddenly, the doors to the gym open with a whoosh. Sulu comes in, twirling a sabre in one hand and an epée in the other.

"Mr. Sulu!" Jim screeches excitedly and runs to hug Sulu's legs.

"Hey kiddo," Sulu says and runs his fingers through Jim's hair. "Whatcha doing?"

"Burning off energy before his nap," Bones says under his breath. Sulu laughs.

"Playing! What's that?" Jim says, grabbing the epée. He tries to pull it out of Sulu's grasp, which Sulu half-heartedly rebukes. He hates disciplining the kid—they all do.

After his reprimand, Sulu says, "It's a sword. I use it for fencing." At Jim's confused glare, Sulu clarifies, "Fencing is a sport, like baseball or basketball. Except that in fencing, it's only two people and you use a sword and try to hit the other person...so...er...not like baseball or basketball. Fencing is kind of like boxing, except with swords."

Jim gives him a blank stare.

"You use these to try and hit another person," Sulu clarifies, holding up his swords. Jim's face lights up.

"Cool! Can I play with you?"

"Only is Doctor McCoy says yes," Sulu says. He gives Bones a look that quite clearly said I know you're going to say no, but please please please say yes. Jim turns around and laces his hands together and smiles the toothy smile that Uhura loves so much, his eyes getting wide and hopeful. Bones says yes.

Sulu hands Jim his sabre. He puts his mask on Jim and lets Jim wear his jacket, which is Jim absolutely swims in. Jim pulls the mask off but when he sees Bones giving him a disapproving glare, his scrambles to put it back on. Sulu sits on his knees so that he's at the same level as the kid.

Jim makes phew phew phew noises as he attacks Sulu. Most of his shots miss but the some do land. Jim whacks the sabre against Sulu's head with surprising force, from which Sulu is 100% positive a nasty bruise will form for Captain Kirk to make fun of in a week. Sulu taps the epée against Jim's masked head. The toddler giggles.

They continue on like for an hour, Jim going at Sulu with full force and Sulu tapping a sword against Jim. Bones left halfway through, giving Sulu strict orders to 1. Not let Jim get hurt and 2. Put Jim down for his nap after they're done.

When Jim starts yawning and his moves get sluggish, Sulu decides that's the end of fencing. He leaves the swords in the gym, vowing to come back for them later, and picks Jim up. Jim drapes his skinny arms around Sulu's neck and rests his head on his shoulder, yawning. Sulu brings Jim to his quarters, hoping and praying to whatever god that's listening that he didn't leave anything embarrassing lying about.

He breathes a sigh of relief when he gets inside his quarters and sees everything in order. Sulu lays Jim in his bed and sings him the Itsy Bitsy Spider (which is the only song he knows that's even remotely appropriate for children's ears). "Now a story," Jim commands.

"I know, I know, I'm getting to it," Sulu says. He thinks for a moment.

"Once upon a time, on a ship just like this, there was a man named Jim. And there was another man named Hikaru. You remember these guys, don't you?" Sulu asks and Jim nods. Sulu has told so many stories to the kid about themselves that he's begun to lose count. "Well, before they were even friends, they had to go on a really scary mission. See, there was machine that was drill drill drilling right into the centre of a planet! And this was before Jim was Captain, so when Hikaru and Jim's Captain ordered them go on the drill and disable it, they both had to go. They were excited about it though. So the Captain takes them on a shuttlecraft and drops them, right out of the sky! So, they're falling and falling until they finally land on the drill. They both almost fall off the drill, but they manage to stay on, even though Hikaru has to cut off his parachute. He hopes he won't need that later

"When they're shooting at the drill in order to stop it from, some big scary people come right of the drill and start fighting Hikaru and Jim. Jim almost falls right off the drill, but Hikaru saves him. Anyways, they defeat the bad guys right in the nick of time and they manage to stop the drill from working!

"But then the drill moves and Hikaru falls right off of it! Jim won't have any of that—he jumps after Hikaru...he just...jumps after him. When Jim catches up with Hikaru, he pulls his parachute so they're stopping falling but uh oh, it breaks! They call back up to their ship while they're falling down towards the planet. 'Beam us up,' Jim is shouting, over and over again, but no one comes or answers him. Sulu think he's going to die. He gets ready for it.

"All of the sudden, he hears Pavel yelling, 'Hold on, hold on!' And then Pavel yells, 'Gotcha!' and Hikaru feel himself being beamed back aboard his ship. He and Jim crash against the transporter platform and even though Hikaru is pretty they just broke the platform, he's so happy.

He can't believe that Jim just jumped after him. After that day, Hikaru vows to always being there for Jim." Sulu looks at the toddler. "Always and always."

He finishes his story and sees Jim looking at him, expectant.

"Can I have another story?" Jim asks, his voice high with drowsiness.

Sulu laughs and tells him no. "Go to sleep, Jim, you need a nap." Sulu kisses his hair, which was wet with baby sweat. Jim closes his eyes to placate Sulu. As Sulu stops at the doorway to look at the sleeping baby, Jim cracks an eye open.

"Jim," Sulu says laughing. "Keep your eyes closed and go to sleep."

"Yeah, yeah," Jim mumbles. Sulu laughs and walks out of the room.

He thinks back on the promise that he made the captain that first day—when Jim launched himself off the drill in order to save Sulu. He hopes he's managed to follow through with the promise he's made.

Always and always.

When Jim Kirk opens his eyes, his body is sore, so sore all over. Every movement hurts. It's not a blinding pain. If he was being honest, it felt like growing pains. He dismisses the thought almost immediately. He hasn't had growing pains in years.

His memory is fuzzy and he wonders if something happened when he was on planet. He panics for a moment before Jim feels the gentle arms of Morpheus try to pull him back under. Bones has got him on the good stuff, apparently. Jim allows himself to drown yet again in a sea of darkness and dreams and rest.

When he wakes up again, his muscles still ache. He wants to call a nurse over to complain before he realizes that he's in his own bed, in his quarters. He panics again. He needs to call Bones. He can't remember anything. He's groggy, so groggy. He muscles scream in protest at every movement.

Suddenly, it comes back to him, memories rushing into his head like a riot through the streets.

He's been pulled under the water of the river he fell in, pulled under and under, he's going to drown he's going to drown, he's going to die here in this river, on this alien planet, away from his crew and his ship. He's in so much pain, everything hurts. He's always heard drowning was painful, but he never imagined it like this, with every muscle protesting his every movement, his lungs desperate for some air, his brain feeling as though it will explode at any moment.

And suddenly

He's in a man's arms. But no, no, no. Men are like Frank and Frank pushed him down the stairs yesterday and he hates Frank. He screams and kicks and cries, desperate for the man with the pointed ears to drop him, just let him go, he wants to go back in the water, rather than be held by this man who is like Frank.

A woman rushes up to them and he reaches for her, almost on instinct. She looks nothing like Ma but Jim knows that women stop the scary men, they can stop Jim from being hurt. He's wrapped in the women's arms and he stops crying.

And then there's another man and he's talking nice and the woman—Miss. Uhura, he's learned—makes Jim sit next to her and then she's leaving, she's leaving and the man with the nice voice is going to hurt him, and Jim cries once for Miss. Uhura. She comes rushing back and she assures him that the man—the doctor—is a nice man and that she'll be back soon.

She's right, of course. He is a nice man, nothing like Frank.

Memories from the past two months assault Jim. Colouring in sickbay, Uhura singing to him, and Sulu's stories about the man in yellow. Chekov yelling at giggling ensigns. Playing hide and seek around engineering. Running his fingers over and over Spock's ears, trying to figure how how how he got them to be pointed.

Story and song. The part about the bugs. God. Jim had forgotten that Sam used to do that for him.

Sleep threatens to pull Jim back under, but he fights it. He doesn't want to forget.

He pulls himself out of bed, groaning when his muscles protest. He jumps into a sonic shower, hoping that the heat will soothe his muscles.

When that doesn't work, he gets dressed, straightening his gold shirt. He feels like he did his first day as Captain, with his stomach turning and flipping. Sweat forms on his upper lip. He wipes it off and leaves his quarters, headed to sickbay to talk to Bones.

He makes his way to sickbay, nodding along the way politely to people who have kind words. He's glad to be back. When he gets to sickbay, Bones is working on a cartography ensign. Jim can hear him mumbling about carpal tunnel and treatment plans. He hasn't noticed Jim standing in the doorway yet. Jim goes and sits on a biobed, smiling at Chapel when she comes over to check on him.

"It's good to have you back, Captain," she says with such sincerity that Jim almost asks her to stay, but Ensign Garza comes stumbling in to sickbay and she goes to attend to him.

Bones finally sends away the ensign he is working on. He nearly walks right past Jim before he stops and turns slowly. He smiles, quick and fleeting.

"I'm sore," Jim says, a smile spreading slowly across his face. "Can you give me a painkiller?"

Bones doesn't say anything, but goes to get a hypo. He brandishes it in his usual quick, aggressive fashion and Jim is thankful that he's not gentle.

The effects of the hypo take effect immediately, spreading cool medicine through his veins, soothing his muscles. "There's a meeting in my ready room in an hour," Jim says, hopping off the biobed.

Bones pulls him into a hug and says, "I'm glad you're back. It hasn't been the same around here." It's the closest thing that Jim will ever get to Bones telling him that he missed him. Jim hugs him back and walks out of sickbay. "Don't be late to that meeting," Jim says, knowing full well that Bones will be. The man is never on time.

Jim's nerves are soothed by the gentle hum of the ship. He's jittery, anxious about going to the bridge, although he doesn't know why. The doors open and he takes a step out unto the bridge. It looks the same as it did, which Jim finds strange. He expected it to look...different somehow.

Spock is sitting in the captain's chair, signing something that Rand has handed him. No one has noticed Jim's arrival on the bridge yet.

"Mr. Spock," Jim says in his usual cocky manner, "out of the chair."