Title: Ham, or, the Dog that Ate the Enterprise
Summary: For 2011. Prompt 57: "It's not like life on the Enterprise is ever calm, so of course Jim's Christmas present tries to eat them all", with guest appearances by unclaimed prompts 59 and 61: "Mistletoe shenanigans!" and "Someone hijacks the comm system and blasts holiday music. Bones is… less than pleased. Jim finds his reaction hilarious".
Mostly unbetaed. Also, total rush job. You have been warned.
Ham, or, The Dog that Ate the Enterprise
It was half over. Twelve straight days of tinsel all over the rec areas, eggnog-flavored shit randomly coming out of the replicators and worst of all, non-stop holiday music piping out over the public comm system in a low drone of unrelenting cheer, and the most he could say is that it was half over. The Andrews sisters were crooning about walking in a winter wonderland, his coffee tasted like rum and nutmeg, and McCoy was ready to hypo himself through the eyeballs if it would make his headache go away. Christ. Twelve more days of this would kill him.
"Chapel, can you just—?" He waved a vague hand at the empty bay. She made a sympathetic face and shooing motions, and he smiled gratefully. "I'll be in back if someone needs me."
As he stepped over the threshold, something beaned him in the forehead. Come December 26th Terran GMT midnight, he was going to take a real special pleasure in tearing down and stomping on the fucking stealth mistletoe someone had programmed to drop out of the ceiling on various decks, but for now he batted it angrily out of the way and continued into his office.
The Andrews sisters were cut off mid-chorus, and there was finally silence. Bliss. He slumped down behind his desk and for the first time in eight hours felt his shoulders start to relax. December 26th couldn't come fast enough.
Five minutes later their captain waltzed in whistling, fresh from a diplomatic mission to the planet they're orbiting, and really it was such a shame that looks couldn't actually kill.
"Whoa, Bones, put that away or you'll strain something," Jim said in response to his murderous glare.
"Why are you here?" McCoy growled, and Jim reached into his away kit.
"I brought you something," he said, and leaned forward to place in the middle of McCoy's paperwork a small, unassuming cube.
"… it's a box," McCoy said, looking down at it in quiet horror.
Jim gasped theatrically. "Would you look at that, it is!"
"Why is it here?"
Jim tilted his head, an exaggeratedly considering look on his face. "Gee, I wonder? Why don't you open it and find out."
McCoy grimaced. "But it's such a nice box. I'd hate to ruin it."
"Bones, it's a Christmas present. You're supposed to ruin the box. You're supposed to rip the box to shreds."
"It's too early for Christmas presents!" McCoy protested. He was supposed to have a whole twelve days left, damn it, and of course Jim's gift was still in the replicator queue.
Jim, because he might be a smart son of a bitch but he didn't have the native sense of self-preservation God gave hamsters, patted McCoy on the shoulder with a patronizing smile. "Relax, this is just a little something extra. Go ahead, open it."
"Do that again and I'll break your hand," he muttered, but slid his fingers over the smooth surface of the cube, looking for the catch. There was a faint click, and the top panel folded away to reveal—
McCoy looked up at Jim, expression dire. "Please tell me this is a sterilized research specimen and you got it for the pretty shell."
"What? No!" Jim squawked, curling his hands protectively over the small violet egg.
"It's only temporary," he said in a rush. "It's some grand symbolic thing with the Thessalians, the king gave everyone on the diplomatic team a kultka to raise as a gesture of joining our villages or someshit like that—"
"—it's really easy, they gave us the food and everything, and they're so cute, Bones, they look like a floppy-eared squirrel jumped a deer and—"
"Are we talking about the things that grow to the size of cattle? That the Thessalians eat, like cattle?"
"Well, yes," Jim admitted. "But the symbolic-gesture kultka don't get eaten. They live out their happy little squirrel-deer lives as part of the royal herd."
McCoy squeezed his eyes closed. "You're giving me a cow egg. An alien cow egg."
"Temporarily. Just until we finish mapping the solar system. And it's not your only present." Jim looked at him, eyes wide and pleading. "The king asked if I had a wife, and then he was handing it over with some speech about partnership and fertility—"
"You told a foreign dignitary I was your wife?"
"Well, I didn't want to break up the flow of the ceremony with, 'No, sorry, but I do have this friend with whom I enjoy a committed but occasionally polyamorous relationship—'"
"So what you're really saying is that this is my gift to you," McCoy said, rubbing his forehead.
Jim bit his lip and stared up through his lashes in a terrible imitation of humility. "Please, Bones? For the good of interplanetary relations?"
"Damn it, Jim," McCoy growled, and Jim grinned.
"Don't worry, I got us the biggest one," he promised.
Of course it was more complicated than keeping the egg in its nice box and sticking the resulting squirrel-deer in a cage.
"The pouch should be placed under your clothing, so that the heartbeat is audible," Spock fussed, and started tugging at the straps criss-crossing Uhura's back. McCoy met her eyes and they shared the kind of patiently bloody-minded look more common between supportive fathers in Lamaze class.
But no, they were the 'wives' in this farce, thermal purses stuffed down their shirts like they were smuggling throw pillows, 'husbands' cooing at the resulting bulges. Adding insult to injury, the insipid lisping of "Santa Baby" was playing over the comm, and if McCoy's jaw clenched any tighter he was going to break his own teeth.
"Mmmm, you're even sexier when you're carrying my ba—hurk," Jim grunted, McCoy's elbow in his ribs.
"Not carrying your baby. Not carrying a baby."
"He doesn't mean it, sweetheart," Jim told their egg as he lifted it from its box, cradling it carefully in two hands. "Papa lo-oves you."
"Oh Lord," McCoy muttered, but he held the pouch open wide so Jim could place the egg gently at the bottom. Around the room, a dozen more couples followed suit.
"The egg should hatch within the next forty-two hours," Spock said, turning to address the room at large. "From that point, development will be rapid, and so it is absolutely imperative that you leave this meeting with the appropriate supplies. First, colostrum—"
As the science officer went on to list twenty different items, McCoy said in aside to Jim, "You don't think your yeoman might have been a better choice? I'm the CMO for a four-hundred-person mission, I'm a little busy for this."
On the comm, "Santa Baby" ended and "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays" began, which McCoy thought was unnecessarily cruel.
Jim shuddered. "Bones, believe me when I say that I want to give Yeoman Rand as little reason to plan our future together as possible. Asking her to help me raise an infant, whatever the species? So not happening."
"Just drink the damn milk, won't you?"
Newborn kultka were not cute. They were scrawny purple dinosaurs with the barest beginnings of fuzz on their flanks, owl-eyed and loud. Also, nippy, as a half-asleep McCoy had found out when he stuck his fingers into the pouch to see what all the sudden wiggling was about.
Jim burst into the room, hair a mess and his regulation sleepshirt on inside-out. "I'm here! I'm here! What the fuck is that noise?"
"I think it's brain-damaged," McCoy said, dropping the bottle and letting the pup go back to sucking on his still-bleeding finger. The thin piercing wail stopped immediately, and the kultka's tiny paws started kneading his chest. "Sounds broken, anyway."
"These things grow six inches in the first twelve hours, it has to drink the milk," Jim said a little frantically, grabbing for the bottle.
McCoy shrugged, still flat on his back. "Be my guest."
Thirty noisy and exhausting minutes later, and Jim finally did get the thing to nurse. It fell asleep with the teat still in its mouth and a liter of formula distending its belly, curled up low on McCoy's stomach.
Jim squinted down at it, his head tucked into McCoy's shoulder. "Is it my imagination, or is it getting cuter literally by the second?"
McCoy stroked a finger over the angular head, feeling the prickle of new fur growing in. "Fuzzier, anyway."
"We should give it a name."
McCoy played with one long, floppy ear, earning himself a sleepy grumble-chirp. "It looks a bit like one of my grandpa's coon hound puppies."
"Yeah?" Jim asked, smiling softly.
McCoy nodded. "Yeah. And Grandpa named every coon hound he ever had the same thing: Duke. Think he'd gotten up to Duke the Seventeenth by the time he died."
"You can't name our kid Duke," Jim said, scandalized.
"What do you think, darlin'?" McCoy said, addressing the kultka. "Think you could be Duke the Eighteenth?"
It slit open an eye as he stritched the fur under its chin, and gave a quiet "Merp!"
"He doesn't look anything like a Duke!" Jim exclaimed, pinching the kultka's head between index and thumbs and turning it to face them. "What about Alex, or Gabby or—ouch! Bones! The baby bit me!"
"Bloodthirsty little shit," McCoy said fondly.
"It's a girl. Felicitations," Spock said over Jim's communicator the next morning. He looked tired and hollow-eyed, and the tell-tale straps of a kultka pouch showed slung over his shoulders.
"We named our little girl Duke," Jim moaned into his pillow.
Onscreen, Spock made a notation. "And how many centimeters long is Duke, head to base of tail?"
McCoy, already dressed and ready for Alpha shift, leaned over and took the communicator from Jim's loose grip. "Approximately twenty five to thirty."
Spock arched a brow. "That seems a bit large. Accuracy is appreciated, doctor."
"Accuracy can wait, then," McCoy said. "It finally fell asleep ten minutes ago—"
"She," Jim insisted, still facedown in the pillows. McCoy rolled his eyes.
"She fell asleep ten minutes ago, and I am not waking her up." Just the muzzle of the kultka protruded from the pouch, warm breath ghosting rhythmically over McCoy's neck. He rubbed the pad of a finger over her snout, and she snorted irritably at him.
Amazingly, Spock's face went a little… gooey. Disturbingly so. "Then, as soon as you are able," the Vulcan said quietly, and signed off.
McCoy dropped the communicator on the bed next to Jim's head. "So your XO's not immune to cute after all."
"Dude, were you even here for the tribbles?" Jim asked on a yawn. He held his arms out. "Kiss."
McCoy bussed him on the forehead, and Duke took the opportunity to bite his nose.
"Why, you little thief," McCoy scolded as Duke scampered away, making those tiny yip-mewls she did when she was excited. Dangling from her mouth was McCoy's lunch—specifically, the ham from his sandwich, which the kultka had made off with while McCoy was too distracted to notice her creeping out of her pouch.
The pup darted under his desk and McCoy got to his knees to peer under it, just in time to see her jerk her head up and bolt the meat down whole. Appropriately, "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" was playing in the background.
"You know you're supposed to be vegetarian," McCoy informed her as Duke trotted back to him, licking at her lips and butting at his chest.
He felt along the top of the desk for the rest of his sandwich and offered it, watching the kultka paw the various layers apart to get to the ham and cheese. When nothing but bread and lettuce was strewn over the floor she chirruped at him, eyelids already drooping as she nosed at the collar of his shirt and the pouch opening. Two days old and Duke was almost too big for it, the size of a tomcat and tiger-striped to boot. She had wild yellow eyes and damn mean teeth; he didn't know what the vegetation on Thessala looked like, but judging by the kultka's mouth he was betting on thorny and possibly man-eating.
He scooped Duke up and the pup wriggled down into the pouch until just her head stuck out, firmly butted up against the underside his chin.
"Ham, huh?" he mused.
"Seventy-five centimeters? Are you quite positive?"
"I think I can read a damn tape measure," McCoy said, then barked, "Damn it, Duke!" as the kultka made another bid for freedom, claws scrabbling across the polish metal surface of the sick bed. She yowled plaintively as he pinned her in place, difficult to do now that she was the size of a lab retriever.
"Seventy-five centimeters is quite the outlier," Spock mused. "T'Pla has reached only forty-four centimeters, and she is the next largest of our fourteen samples."
"Whoop-de-frickin'-doo," McCoy snapped at him, as Duke finally pulled herself free and scampered away. "Damn it! Computer, activate replicator preset 'ham'."
"Acknowledged," the system responded. Duke's lop-eared head whipped around at the grinding noise of the replicator working, and she barreled straight for it.
On the small PADD screen, Spock's face looked constipated. "Are you feeding the kultka Terran meat products?"
"No," McCoy said mulishly, just as the replicator dinged and Duke gave a happy warbling howl, coinciding perfectly with the sliding scales of "White Christmas". Good God, his head ached.
So Duke ate meat. Lots of meat. She preferred pork to beef and beef to chicken, but her absolute favorite remained cured sliced ham. So what? It didn't seem to hurt her any; in fact, she grew faster than any of the other kultka, which Jim never failed to point out with pride—like he had anything to do with it, the absentee bastard.
The little pups wouldn't even play with Duke during Spock's designated socialization hours, crowding themselves into corner and bleating fearfully every time she came sniffing around them. Then the other 'parents' all stared at him like it was somehow his fault they'd raised spineless alien squirrel-deer, so McCoy stopped bringing her altogether.
Thank the newborn Baby Jesus that they only had a week of solar system exploration left, and that then they'd reenter Thessalian orbit and beam down with the kultka; if Duke got any bigger, she wasn't going to fit through doors. He kept her in his office and lab, where her growing aggressiveness couldn't unnerve his patients. Mostly his office, because the lab was still considered a public space and the canned holiday music played there continuously.
So Duke ate meat, and was huge, and generally seemed to hate people who weren't Dr. Leonard McCoy. He still wasn't really worried until the day he walked into the lab to find empty platters where he'd previously been growing human livers for vaccine testing.
For a moment he stood there, dataPADD in hand and completely baffled. He couldn't rule out lab accidents, theft or even that he'd unwittingly synthesized sentient organs that had gotten up and walked away of their own accord. Stranger thing had happened on this ship.
A serious of quiet burps led him to the Bunsen burner set, under which lay Duke, hugely fat and radiating contentment. In the corner, her mountain of Thessalian hay sat entirely untouched.
McCoy hauled her out and the pony-sized pup immediately went in search of her pouch, rooting sleepily around McCoy's collar until he relented and let her stick her massive, bony head under his shirt. She made a low crooning noise, and started trying to climb into his lap.
"This might be a problem," he said, then wheezed out a surprised, "Oof!" as she put a foot in his stomach and laid him out flat. Over the comm, Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey brayed.
A shift cycle later, McCoy woke to a red alert klaxon and Jim's tinny voice yelling, "Pick up the fucking communicator, Bones, I am not fucking around here!"
He slapped it on. "What the hell, Jim?"
"Finally, Jesus Christ. Okay, first of all, Merry Christmas! Secondly, I think our baby girl ate Cupcake."
McCoy, still mostly asleep, tried to parse this statement and failed utterly. "Wait, what?"
"Duke got out of your office, and she's been loose on the ship for five hours and there was blood and we can't find half the security team," he said in one breath. "Also, Spock says you've been feeding her meat? Seriously, what the actual fuck, Bones?"
"She likes ham," McCoy said defensively, struggling out of the tangled sheets and reaching for his regulation trousers.
"Well apparently that translates to human flesh just fine. Right now my orders are to set phasers to stun, but this is really bad, Bones. I have the entire ship on lockdown. Does she respond to, I don't know, dog whistles or something?"
"She responds to ham," McCoy said grimly, and opened the door to the hall.
Duke's heavyset body flopped from where she's been lying against it, and she yipped out of joyful "Merp!" All three hundred-odd blood-splattered pounds of her bowled him over in her mad rush to slobber on his face.
"Goddamnit, Duke!" McCoy yelped, in between incredibly painful, bony-headed nuzzles.
"Holy shit, is she there? I'm coming, Bones!"
"Grnf!" he grunted.
"So it turns out that kultka have a naturally-occurring mutation that pops up when the population gets too dense," Jim told him from a safe distance away. "The species grows so fast that herds can balloon out of control in just a few months, so occasionally the genes produce a super-predator kultka. No big deal."
Although it was kind of a big deal. Duke was to spend the rest of her time on the Enterprise under armed guard. Probably a good idea, when she was growling when anyone got too close to her and whining pathetically when McCoy wasn't close enough. It helped that they found Cupcake hiding in the air ducts, scratched up and gibbering hysterically but very much alive.
Jim tapped through the information the Thessalians had sent, on the new personal PADD McCoy had gotten him. The gold paper it had been wrapped in was scattered all over the floor. "And killer-kultka are considered good luck, because they usually mark a good harvest season, so the king promises to take really good care of her."
"I know he will," McCoy muttered, arms around Duke's neck. She was fully as tall as he was now. His own Christmas present, a very expensive Cardassian liquor, lay abandoned on the bed beside them.
"And Thessala is applying for full Federation membership, so you can come back and visit whenever you want."
"Yeah?" he asked, smoothing a hand up and down her broad back. She gave a low grumbling purr and collapsed over his shoulder, forcing him to sit.
Jim smiled. "Yeah."
Jim's PADD chimed the twenty-fourth hour, and out in the hallway, where the remaining members of the security team stood guard at the open door, "Christmas in Sarajevo" was cut off with a sharp hiss of feedback. December 26th. McCoy smiled back.