Hey guys! Sorry it took so long, I was stressed out from finals and studying and ugh. Uni sucks.

Anyway, Thank you for all your wonderful reviews!

Also, I have no idea what the hell this chapter is supposed to be. Sorry for any mistakes, weird name scrambling (I bet I accidentally wrote 'Stiles' at one point. I just know it) and whatever else you can find!

Enjoy!


Encoded

Chapter 3:

The apartment was large on a level that bordered on extravagant. The living room included a broad, dark grey couch, a TV that seemed to be wider than Jim was long and the southern wall was made entirely of glass, covered halfway by plain, cream coloured curtains. On the right side, the living room overflowed into the generous kitchen, the two rooms divided by the kitchen island on which various bowls filled with exotic fruits had been placed.

The bottom floor of the apartment also located a spacious bathroom, a toilet and a room Commander Spock had called his office. A circular staircase in the anteroom led to the upper part of the apartment, which contained another small bathroom, another toilet and two bedrooms.

All in all, the apartment was much too big for a single person.

Jim glanced towards Commander Spock when the Vulcan moved past him to sit down on the couch, "I have taken your suitcases upstairs and put them into the last room on the left."

"Thanks," Jim muttered, brushing his fingers through Little Spock's hair.

The little boy had fallen asleep halfway to Spock's apartment, wrapped in one of Jim's jackets, head covered by a bright red knit hat, that had been promptly declared 'illogical' by the Commander. Jim had told him that his face was illogical which had prompted a heated discussion about Jim's need to be 'even more illogical than any other human'.

After the revelation that Jim was supposed to move in with his Professor, Jim had demanded an explanation. It turned out that, while the Academy board hat not initially been convinced that Jim was the best option to ensure the Vulcan child's health, Pike and the entire med bay had done their best to change their mind. Hours of long winded explanations regarding behaviour and psychological health in traumatized children, the Academy board had given in and declared their arguments valid.

Jim had the suspicion that the real reason behind their willingness to leave Little Spock in his care was the fact that they had been scared that by taking a chance at damaging the child's psyche by taking him from Jim would cause a huge controversy with the Vulcan Council. Something nobody in Starfleet wanted to take a chance at.

The entire situation concerning the remaining Vulcans had been difficult to work with. Most children were able to be returned to their mothers and fathers once they had landed on Earth while those that had been left orphaned had been taken in by the doctors and psychologist that had been in charge of their care aboard the Excelsior. The Vulcan Council had not been thrilled by this, but after a throughout and logical conversation with Doctor Wong understood that those children could benefit from a less emotionally controlled environment to help them through their pain.

When Jim had attempted to argue that living with Commander Spock would be horrible and awkward seeing as they did not get along that well, Pike had laughed at him again and told him to get over himself.

Jim knew that this entire situation with Spock and the apartment was a set-up. It was the only explanation that made sense to him. The two days it took to get back to Earth had not changed his mind on the situation. He knew he needed the Commander's help since he was neither a trainer doctor nor in any way versed in Vulcan child psychology and the Commander was at least able to provide knowledge regarding his own species.

A soft sigh escaped his lips and he moved towards the couch to settle the sleeping child onto the cushions. Little Spock's stubby arms curled towards his chest a mere second later, both hands balled up beneath his chin as the boy attempted to trap his own body warmth within Jim's jacket.

Spock made his way into the kitchen and retrieved a small plate. He then began to peel a few of the greyish blue fruits lying in one of the fruit bowls, setting the fleshy pulp that was revealed onto the plate, "I have ordered a bed for the little one to be delivered. It should arrive within the day."

Jim nodded, "Okay. He can sleep on the couch for now, right?"

"Yes," Spock carried the plate over to the coffee table and set it down, "Eat."

"Is that how it's going to be?" Jim muttered but reached out to pick a fruit off the plate, "What are these?"

"Pla-savas. I have consulted with Doctor McCoy, seeing as your allergic reactions are well known within the Academy after-"

"Yeah, yeah," Jim waved his free hand through the air, "I know. I messed up the Annual Academy ball, no need to remind me. I was there."

"Indeed," Spock's eyebrow twitched, but he did not, "As I was saying, I consulted with Doctor McCoy and he was willing to send me a complete list of your allergies. After studying the list, I have concluded that nothing contained in pla-savas poses a danger to your health."

"Oh. Well, thanks," taken aback by the Vulcan's thoughtfulness, Jim took a careful bite.

The pulp was of a smooth, soft consistency, similar to that of a ripe mango. It tasted a tad sour and left a strange, tart aftertaste. Jim decided he liked it, "It's good."

Spock inclined his head, "They are very nutritious and should provide enough energy until I am able to procure dinner for us."

"I could cook," Jim said, reaching for another fruit, "We'd have to go shopping, of course, because from the sound of that, you don't use that kitchen for anything else but to stow fruits."

"The art of cooking has always eluded me."

A chuckle tumbled from Jim's purple-stained mouth, "Yeah, Aurelan, my brother's wife? She's like that, too. Give her a broken computer and she'll fix it in ten minutes. Ask her to make noodles and she'll burn the entire kitchen down in seconds."

"I have never set the kitchen ablaze while attempting to cook pasta."

Jim narrowed his eyes, "Did you set it on fire while trying to cook something else, then?"

When no direct answer was issued and his questioning stare was met with a raised eyebrow, Jim's lips curled into a knowing grin. It seemed like Mr. Proper Vulcan Spock did have a sense of humour hidden somewhere behind that more or less blank exterior. About to make another snarky comment, Jim opened his mouth but was interrupted by Little Spock's soft whine.

Turning his head, he found the small boy squirming beside him, fighting his way out of the zipped jacket as his eyes roamed around the living room. As quickly as he could without scaring the unnerved child, Jim reached out and hefted Little Spock into his arms, "Hey, sweetie. It's okay, we're at Commander Spock's apartment, you know? We're going to live here a little while."

Little Spock ceased his wiggling and blinked at him, sleep still glazing his half-lidded eyes. The boy gave another whine and let his cheek drop onto Jim's shoulder. Jim hummed and unzipped the jacket, tugging it off the boy's small frame before dropping it onto the armrest of the couch. The Commander did not even hesitate to carry the garment into the anteroom, most likely to hang it over one of the hooks sprouting from the wall.

When Spock returned, Jim addressed the question he had wanted to ask since he had been told to that he was to be the boy's temporary guardian, "So, uhm... how exactly are we going to do this?"

A slight crease appeared between Spock's eyebrows. "I do not understand."

"I mean...," Jim sighed, running his free hand through his hair, evading Little Spock's fingers when the boy attempted stick them into Jim's mouth, "We've been practically thrown together to raise a child. How are we doing this?"

"You seem quite capable of taking care of the child. He seems content, although I believe it would be prudent to at least attempt to implement emotional control training once he has recovered enough," Spock gestured at Little Spock, who had taken to chewing at his own knuckles as he inspected the comic rendition of Ironman on the front of Jim's sweater, "Should the Vulcan Council insist on him being placed into the care of a Vulcan family, he will be unable to adept otherwise."

Jim nodded, "Okay," he stood, carrying Little Spock towards the large window pane functioning as wall, "Look, sweetie. That's San Francisco."

Little Spock turned his head and followed Jim's gaze. He seemed captivated for a few seconds but began to swing his short legs, kicking his socked feet against Jim's abdomen and hip after another minute of staring through the glass.

For the next twenty minutes, Jim proceeded to show the boy around the apartment. Everytime the toddler gestured at something that interested him, Jim would explain it the best he could. When they ended up back on the couch, Jim tried to feed the boy small pieces of the pla-savas but the child seemed more interested in playing with the wooden spoons Jim had given to him on their way through the kitchen.

"Say," Jim spoke up, "I've never seen a blond Vulcan before. Is it something rare or...?"

Spock nodded, "Vulcan is a desert planet. Much like Earth, the appearance of Vulcans has adjusted to withstand the sun for as long as possible. Blond hair is usually found in the colder regions closest to the poles where the sun is unable to reach the ground for more than a few hours due to the large mountains cutting through the landscape surrounding the few populated areas."

"Huh, I didn't know that," Jim muttered, brushing the boy's curls from his forehead, "So, Little Spock comes from the Vulcan equivalent of the North Pole? Guess Bones had a point when he called him 'tiny space elf'."

"... I understand that it is a reference to the helpers of the mythological persona of Santa Clause, who resides in an imaginary town located on Earth's North Pole?"

Jim grinned, "Yep."

"I assure you that Vulcans are in no means the workers of an obese man wearing red garments while riding a sleigh drawn by a subspecies of the Cervidae family."

"Just call them reindeers, Spock. We all know how smart you are, no need to remind us," Jim winked at the Vulcan, laughing when it caused the Commander's eyebrows to shoot up towards his hairline.

Little Spock chose that moment to start yawning. His tiny hands released the wooden spoons, allowing them to clatter to the ground while the boy reached up to rub at his eyes. Smiling at the boy's obvious need for more sleep, Jim gestured at the ceiling, "I'll go and put him to bed for now. You want to come with me so I don't get lost and accidentally raid your wardrobe?"

Spock tilted his head. "I do have confidence that you are capable to keep your hands off my garments, Mr. Kirk."

"So nice of you," Jim drawled, getting to his feet. "I'll be right back. Don't burn down the kitchen while I am gone."

Not waiting for an answer, Jim made his way out of the living room towards the stairs. Once he reached the top, he shuffled towards the last door on the left side and stepped into the large bedroom beyond. It contained a large bed, a wardrobe and a commode, all of them painted a neutral white. Jim settled the small boy onto the bed, pulling off the pants he was dressed in leaving him to pout at the colourful pull-up Jim had forced him to wear.

"Don't pull that face, you know why you need to wear it, kiddo," Jim kissed Little Spock's hair and gestured for him to lie down, "Come on, it's nap time for you."

Little Spock whined but did as he was told, curling up in the middle of the large bed as Jim began to stack the numerous pillows around the child, both to keep the boy warm and to prevent him from rolling off the bed in the middle of the night. Whether or not the second reason was even something to worry about, Jim did not know.

Once he had finished creating a nest for Little Spock, Jim covered him with the blanket and pressed another kiss to the boy's forehead, "Goodnight, sweetie."

A tiny hand touched his face and Jim felt the tiny speck of warmth in his mind flare up for a brief second before the boy's hand dropped away once more. The warmth lingered instead of vanishing, settling back within Jim's mind without diluting itself in the stream of his thoughts like it usually would. With a shake of his head, Jim waited until Little Spock's breathing had slowed to indicate that he was asleep then moved out of the room, pulling the door halfway shut to ensure that he would hear the boy if he woke.

Walking back downstairs, he found the Commander gone from the couch and back in the kitchen, peeling more of the pla-savas. Jim cleared his throat and shuffled towards Spock, "I see you didn't burn down the kitchen."

"Contrary to your apparent belief, I am indeed capable of containing myself," Spock responded.

Jim snickered, "I'm so telling Bones that you have a sense of humour, just so you know."

"You may do so. I will deny it until the day I perish."

It was like stepping into another world; the Professor seemed a lot more relaxed now that they were not surrounded by others. It confused Jim to no end. A few weeks ago, them being in the same classroom had ended in a verbal battle that left the remaining students sitting in awkward silence as they waited for the Professor to stop letting himself be riled up by the infamous Jim Kirk.

And now, the Vulcan acted like none of it had ever occurred. Like Jim had not manipulated the Kobayashi Maru and gotten away with it. Jim shook his head to himself, "You know, I would have thought you'd hold that grudge against me a little longer."

"Vulcans do not hold grudges. They are illogical," Spock pushed the plate filled with peeled fruits towards Jim once more.

Jim plucked one of them off the porcelain and nibbled on it, "Mhm. Could've fooled me."

Spock moved towards the sink and washed his hands, "You were clearly bored in my class. Giving you additional work was a logical thing to do."

"Right. But only after I decided your test needed some patching."

"As I have already explained the meaning behind the Kobayashi Maru, I will not do so again. You have cheated and misunderstood the message of the test. However," the Commander turned his head to look at him, "I understand your reasoning. Which is why I decided to implement your 'patch' into the program; a Captain should always attempt to save their crew. It is only logical to reward those that do not give up and do not only display tactical knowledge but personal strength with a chance to win."

Jim blinked. He really hoped that their sudden ability to not only keep from jumping at each other's throats but lead normal conversations, too, was not a one-time thing. After all, he really liked this version of Spock. "Thanks. I think?"

The Vulcan gave a short nod and gestured towards the pla-savas. "Please, continue to eat. While you have fed the child twice today, you have forgotten to procure food for yourself. Optimum health can only be established if your body receives enough nutrients to keep itself balanced."

Jim grumbled, "I'd say you sound like my Mom, but Mom never talks like that."

The Commander tilted his head and Jim rolled his eyes, stuffing another pla-savas into his mouth to appease the Vulcan.

"So, do I call you Commander or Professor when I talk to you?" Jim asked, wiping fruit juice off his chin as he reached for another piece of pulp.

"Seeing as I am neither your superior nor your teacher at the moment, I believe calling me Spock will be an adequate solution to that particular problem," Spock answered.

"Okay. But you have to stop calling me 'Mr. Kirk', alright?"

"Of course, James."

Jim groaned, "Jim. Please, call me Jim. The only one who calls me James is Mom, and that only happens when I forgot to take out the trash in the morning."

"You live with your mother, still?"

"Only during the summer break," Jim shrugged, "Usually I live on campus, because Mom's in Iowa and I can't exactly take a shuttle back and forth every day. That'd be pretty expensive and not to mention unnecessarily complicated."

"Indeed."

Jim watched as Spock turned and left the kitchen area to sit down on the couch. Huffing, Jim picked the plate of fruits up before making his way over, too, plopping down at the other end of the sofa, the plate balanced on his lap. "So, you live here alone?"

Spock lifted an eyebrow at him, "Yes, Jim. Why do you ask a question you already know the answer to?"

"I'm trying to keep the conversation running," Jim answered. "I would have thought you'd have a girlfriend or boyfriend or something along the lines. I mean, you're... uh... not bad looking?"

Smooth, James Kirk. Very smooth.

"While I appreciate your rather strange compliment, my physical appearance does not automatically guarantee that I am in a relationship," Spock replied after a long bout of silence. "I also believe that this line of conversation is not a proper one, Jim."

"Yeah, you're probably right," Jim muttered, cheeks burning.

The next hour passed in relative silence, broken only when Spock turned on the TV for Jim and retreated into his office for a brief moment to retrieve his PADD. Jim had no idea why the Vulcan saw the need to work now, but he was still too embarrassed to ask. Jim flicked through the channels, stopping at some horribly cheesy romance movie about an Orion female trying to woo a human princess. Spock commented on the illogical and predictable reactions of the main characters and Jim fell asleep somewhere between agreeing with Spock and smiling when the Orion and the princess got together close to the end of the movie.

Jim woke to the sound of someone move past him, sitting up with a confused frown. He was still on the couch, but someone had covered him with a thick blanket and had the foresight to place a pillow underneath his head.

Rubbing at his eyes, Jim shuffled off the couch and upstairs. Barely awake he managed to take a shower, brush his teeth and get dressed. Halfway down the stairs, he realised that Little Spock had not been in Jim's room, neither in the large bed, nor the child's bed that had been tucked into the corner. Jim could not quite fathom how he had missed the Vulcan carry a bed upstairs. Shrugging, he skipped down the remaining stairs and followed the sound of Spock's baritone towards the Vulcan's office. Peering inside, he found Spock and Little Spock sitting on something that resembled a yoga mat covered in intricate patterns. Curious, he stayed in the doorway, watching as Spock placed one hand against the child's cheek.

The atmosphere was tranquil and heavy like a cotton blanket. Little Spock's eyes were shut halfway, lids flickering whenever the boy blinked. Jim was not sure what was happening at the moment. While he knew Vulcans were touch-telepaths, there was not a lot that was known about how a Vulcan childhood looked like. Maybe this was some sort of ritual between parent and child?

Little Spock's expression lit up and his mouth curled into a tiny smile as the boy's eyes fell shut. Jim watched as Little Spock's tiny hands reached up to latch onto Spock's sleeves, stubby fingers curling into the fabric of the Vulcan's knitted sweater.

Shaking his head, Jim moved away from the door and tiptoed back towards the living room. As quietly as he could, he began to prepare breakfast with the few things that were available. Somehow, he managed to scrape together a meal made out of toasted bread smeared with butter and jam, bowls filled with fruit salad and three glasses of orange juice. All in all, it was not that bad.

Jim had just finished setting the table, when Spock walked in, Little Spock toddling after him like a baby duck. The small boy gave a soft hum upon seeing Jim, holding out his arms in a clear indication that he wished to be picked up. Laughing, Jim hefted the child into his arms, kissing his nose, "Good morning, sweetie."

Little Spock pressed his palms to either side of Jim's face, eyes scrunching up as the boy gifted Jim with a wide smile. Chuckling, Jim sat down at the table, "You slept well, huh? What were you and Spock doing, hm? Was it fun?"

Little Spock nodded and Jim felt his chest becoming tight at the way the boy smiled at him, the sight telling him that the child would be alright. Just like Jim's mother had been alright after his father had died.

"I have built a few necessary shields around his psyche to ensure that he would not be distressed by accidental contact from strangers," Spock explained, seating himself on the opposite side of Jim.

Jim nodded, ripping off a piece of buttered toast to hold it up to the toddler's mouth, "We should go shopping. Little Spock needs clothes and we need to fill that black hole you call a fridge."

"What 'Little Spock' needs, is a proper name," Spock responded, "Have you attempted to-"

"I tried asking him. But all he knows is that his mother called him el-keshtanik. If he ever had a name, it's lost until we find a birth certificate or what's left of his family," shaking his head, Jim ate a spoonful of fruit salad, "Anyway... if you have an idea what to call him I'd ask you to share it with the class."

"We are not located inside a classroom at the current time."

Jim snickered, "Yeah, yeah. So, what about... uhm... I really have no idea. I never cared much about Vulcan names, they usually sound really funny. And I doubt the Vulcan Council would appreciate if I named him something like Jason."

The Commander took another bite of his toast, chewing as he studied Little Spock's clumsy attempts at taking away Jim's spoon. There was a moment of silence before Spock spoke up once more, "Elonat."

Jim blinked, "Elonat?"

Spock nodded. "Yes. The approximate meaning of the name is 'both different and free'. It seems fitting."

A soft smile curved Jim's lips. The name was not only fitting, it referenced back to the one the boy's mother had called him and the fact that the child himself was different from what was the Vulcan norm, without making it sound like something disgraceful or even unwelcome.

"It does," he glanced down at his little companion, "What do you think, Elonat? Do you like that name?"

The toddler blinked at him, then nodded and grabbed onto Jim's hand. Flickers of emotion and pictures weaved through the contact into Jim's brain, dissipating once Elonat removed his hand. Jim grinned, "He likes it."

It could have been Jim's vivid imagination, but for a moment, Spock's chest seemed to puff out a tad more than usual upon breathing in. Deciding it best not to comment on his observation, Jim moved to stand, "So, about that shopping trip I proposed."

"Ah, yes," Spock stood, "Does this 'shopping trip' require my presence?"

"Absolutely. I have no idea what you like to eat and we need to get Elonat something to wear that doesn't upset your delicate Vulcan senses."

"I believe you are mocking me," Spock moved past him into the anteroom, "In addition, you have forgotten to mention that you lack the ability and the permission to drive a car."

Jim rolled his eyes, "Yeah, well. Not everyone has the time and money to get a freaking driver's license. Or a car for that matter."

Spock's car was a black, sleek model, more built for speed than storage space. The fact that the Commander preferred fast cars added a whole new layer to the enigma that was S'chn T'gai Spock. To Jim's surprise, there was a child seat installed in the backseat of the vehicle, throwing off the dark grey seats with its bright red colouration. Jim grinned as he strapped Elonat into the seat, shutting the door with a kiss to the child's forehead before hopping into the front passenger seat, "Didn't take you for a sports car fan, Spock."

"The car is efficient and aesthetically pleasing to me. It would have been illogical to buy a different vehicle," Spock started the car and Jim whistled at the low hum indicating a strong engine, "You do not seem particularly unhappy with my choice of transportation either, Jim."

"Why would I be? This thing is awesome," he buckled his seat belt and turned to smile at Elonat, "Right, sweetie? We love Spock's car!"

Elonat gave a quick nod and began to play with the clasp of the seat belt. Directing his attention forward once again, Jim watched as Spock moved the car out of the parking spot and out onto the street.

Jim had not seen much of San Francisco in the years he had spent at the Academy. Going shopping had never been his thing, at least, if it did not include food. Groceries were no problem; there were enough stores close to the cadet quarters on Campus. But clothes? Not one of his strong points. Mostly because he had the fashion sense of a five-year-old and grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere.

"The Vulcan Council contacted me while you slept," Spock changed gears with a practised motion of his right hand, "They will send a Vulcan mind healer down to Earth to assess the health of the survivors that will not return to Vulcan in the next two weeks. This includes Elonat."

"Is that the actual reason why you built him shields?" Jim asked, playing with the radio until he found a station that he found passable to listen to, "To make him presentable to the healer?"

"No. A mind healer will neither question nor judge the lack of shielding in a child or an adult. That is why they are mind healers. As I have told you, I built these shields to protect him from an overload of telepathic and empathic input. It could prove detrimental to his health and causing him more distress is the last thing I desire."

"Oh," Jim cleared his throat, "Uh. Sorry. Yeah, that was... that was a stupid question. I shouldn't have assumed that."

Spock inclined his head. "It is of no matter."

The rest of the drive was done in awkward silence. Spock parked the car and unlocked the doors, allowing Jim to scramble out and escape the thick atmosphere within the vehicle. Moving towards the backdoor of the car, Jim opened it and unbuckled Elonat from his seat, cooing when the boy latched onto him once he was free. They made their way down the large shopping street, passing by various stores before entering one that looked promising.

Elonat seemed torn between hiding himself against Jim's front and gazing around the bright interior of the store. Jim led the way towards the children's department, suppressing a bout of laughter at the way Spock moved through the store. All serious and straight-backed, the Vulcan looked utterly misplaced in the midst of colourful children's clothing. He received a raised eyebrow for his troubles.

After Jim had gathered a decent amount of clothing, he retreated into one of the changing rooms with Elonat and helped the boy change. Spock had sat down on one of the comfortable chairs outside the row of changing cubicles and merely nodded everytime Jim presented a newly dressed Elonat to him.

"Oh, come on!" Jim groaned, "I'm sure you have something to say! You always do!"

"I do not believe my opinion regarding the clothing you have picked for Elonat will be of any real interest to you, Jim."

Jim sighed, "Just tell me if you think it suits him, for Heaven's sake, Spock. It's not that difficult!"

The Vulcan was quiet for a long moment, eyes not once straying towards Elonat as he answered, "It suits him."

A tiny, gurgled snarl escaped Jim's mouth and he whirled back around to carry the boy back into the cubicle. Jim helped Elonat dress back into his own clothes, before chucking a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and a thick pullover over the door of the cubicle, "Pay for that and ask them to take off the price tags, then bring the clothes back here so Elonat can put them on."

Jim heard Spock sigh and, upon peering out of the cubicle, found that the clothes he had thrown had landed on the Vulcan's head with frightening accuracy. Snickering, Jim watched as Spock dragged the clothes off his head, leaving his hair ruffled and his face carefully blank. The Vulcan stood and moved away, carrying the clothes with him.

Elonat gave a tiny giggle and, after kissing the boy's cheek in delight upon hearing the sound, Jim began to fold the other clothes the boy had chosen from the pile Jim had accumulated. By the time Spock returned with the paid clothing, Jim was able to push the stack of clothes into the Vulcan's hand.

"We're buying that," Jim declared, then hastily added a meek, "Please?" when Spock's gaze hardened into an expression of mild reprimand for a moment.

Spock nodded once and moved away again. Jim tugged the tiny boots back onto Elonat's feet and hefted the boy into his arms once more to follow the Vulcan towards the check-out counter. He came to stand beside him, grinning at the man behind the counter that had been eying Spock. The man tilted his head then did a double-take when he noticed Elonat in Jim's arms.

Suddenly, the man was a lot quicker at scanning the tags on Elonat's new clothing and two minutes later, they were wandering down the shopping street again. Five minutes was the amount of time Jim managed to keep his laughter from bursting out. After that, he had to stop, handing Elonat over to Spock before practically folding himself in half as he began to guffaw.

"I do not see what is so amusing, Jim," Spock said when Jim had calmed down enough to straighten up again.

"Did you see that guy's face when he saw Elonat?" Jim chortled, wiping at his eyes.

"I did not," Spock held Elonat out towards Jim once more, releasing the child when Jim had wrapped his arms around the boy, "I also do not see the correlation between a stranger's face and your laughter, Jim."

"That means you didn't notice him checking you out either, right?" Jim had a feeling that Spock was beginning to feel very annoyed underneath all that Vulcan pretence.

"I was aware that he seemed quite taken with my person. I still do not see the connection, Jim, and I would appreciate if you would explain it to me."

Yes, Spock was definitely starting to become annoyed, shifting the bags of clothing into his other hand. "I'm pretty sure he thought Elonat was our son."

Spock's shoulders slumped at the same time his eyebrows shot upwards towards his hairline. Jim grinned at the Vulcan, snickering when Spock was unable to utter a sound in response. His expression, Jim guessed, was pretty much the Vulcan equivalent of someone gaping in surprise. Waving one hand at Spock, Jim turned away to start walking again. Elonat cooed, imitating Jim's wave, giggling when Spock blinked and stumbled after them.

They wandered up and down the long shopping street for a few hours, until Elonat's stomach made itself known with loud, gurgling growls. Responding instantly to the boy's hunger, Spock guided them into a small restaurant where they settled in a booth by the window. Seating Elonat on his lap, Jim reached for the menu, skimming over the options for a moment, before addressing Spock, "Maybe you should order, I have never been here before and you seemed pretty intent on coming here, so I'm guessing you had lunch here once or twice."

"Indeed," Spock agreed, "Your idea is logical."

A young waitress moved towards their table barely a moment later and Jim presented her with a quick smile, before ducking his head down to allow Elonat to touch his cheek. Jim was met with the sensation of confusion and hunger, "You'll get something to eat soon, sweetie. The nice lady over there will bring us food in a little while," he gestured towards the waitress, who smiled at Elonat when the small boy turned his head to gaze at her.

Elonat hummed and tucked his face into the front of Jim's cardigan, prompting a coo from the waitress. Spock cleared his throat and ordered a kind of lasagne for himself, some kind of noodle thing for Jim and a plate of roasted vegetables and fries for Elonat, asking for three glasses of water after doing so. The waitress nodded as she jotted the order down, twirling around and walking away a moment later.

"What did you order for me?" Jim asked, kissing Elonat's short fingers in hopes of eliciting another giggle from the boy. It worked.

"Spaghetti topped with tomato sauce and roasted zucchini slices," Spock answered, putting away the menus with more care than necessary.

"Huh," Jim smiled, "Sounds good. What about you?"

"A simple vegetable lasagne. They use Vulcan spices in some of their recipes. It is one of the reasons why I prefer to come here instead of the other restaurants in the area," Spock tilted his head at Jim, then glanced down at Elonat, "I believe Miss O'Malley was very enamoured with Elonat."

"He's a real charmer, yeah," Jim kissed the boy's fluffy hair, grinning. "I bet he'll have the ladies and the guys drooling all over him when he's older. What do you think? And... how often do you come here that you know the waitress' name?"

"I cannot calculate the possibility efficiently enough to give you an estimate of what I think, Jim," Spock responded, reaching out to pull the salt shaker from Elonat's hand, placing it into a safer spot, away from the boy's curiosity-driven fingers, "I do not have the necessary data to do so. Also, I do not know her name, I merely read the nameplate attached to her shirt, Jim."

Jim felt his face grow warm and he grabbed onto Elonat's tiny hands to keep him from crawling onto the table to get to the shaker Spock had taken from him. Elonat gave a soft whine in response, but did not try to reach for the salt shaker again.

"You're no fun at all, Spock," Jim huffed, brushing the curly fringe away from Elonat's forehead, pressing a kiss to the side of the boy's head, just above the point of his ear, "Right, duckie? He's no fun at all."

"I believe you have not once called Elonat by the name I have given him. Instead, you continue to give him strange nicknames. Why is that?" Spock lifted an eyebrow at him, head tilting to one side.

Jim shrugged, "I don't know. It's my way of showing... uhm... adoration, I guess?"

Spock blinked twice in quick succession and turned his head away from Jim when their food arrived. The young waitress placed their glasses and plates onto the table, stepping away with a tiny wave towards Elonat. The boy returned the gesture, ducking his head when it conjured a smile onto the woman's face.

The food turned out to be delicious, and by the end of it Elonat had managed to cover his face and hands with the ketchup the little boy had requested to be added to his plate. Jim questioned himself for even asking the boy if he would like to try ketchup in the first place. It had clearly been one of his less than stellar ideas.

After spending about ten minutes in the restaurant's bathroom cleaning up a very uncooperative Elonat, Jim returned to find Spock had paid for their lunch. The Vulcan was already waiting by the door, holding their coats and the bags containing Elonat's clothing. Once both Elonat and Jim were fully dressed for the weather outside, they left the restaurant to make their way towards one of the grocery stores located along the shopping street.

Jim had thought Spock would be more helpful now, but oh, was he wrong.

While Elonat was at least doing his version of 'helping', meaning, collecting everything that had the colours green and red for some reason, Spock did nothing but follow them. Jim was pushing the cart, getting increasingly annoyed by the stoic Vulcan's inability to even prevent Elonat from reaching for the yogurt for the third time.

"Spock," Jim huffed, "A little help here?"

"Of course," Spock hefted Elonat out of the shopping cart and into his arms, now juggling both the shopping bags and the little boy.

Jim lifted an eyebrow. Alright, that solved the problem, too. Sighing, he strolled down the aisles, plucking vegetables and fruits off the displays to inspect them before placing them into the cart after weighing them. Elonat had taken to rest against Spock's shoulder, eyes wide as he observed the brightly lit store around him.

"Is it okay if I buy stuff to make cookies with? Not with chocolate, of course," Jim asked as he placed three cartons of milk into the cart, followed by a pack of eggs, "I'll do it anyway, no matter what your answer is, by the way. I'm just asking because my Mom said that's the polite thing to do."

Spock was silent for a long moment then exhaled a long breath that might have counted as a sigh, "I see. Then I give you my permission to buy what you please, Jim. As long as it is necessary and does not make me question your sanity."

"You're already questioning my sanity. I could practically taste the 'not more than I already do' that you wanted to tack onto that last part," Jim threw a bright grin into Spock's direction and added another carton of eggs, just to be sure.

"I do hope that you are not expecting an answer to your statement," Spock responded, hitching Elonat higher up in a movement that made Jim wonder if he had practice holding a child or if it just came naturally to the Vulcan.

Like, for example, looking sexy in a bowl cut and working that ridiculous, knitter sweater Spock was wearing beneath his jacket. Where did one buy these anyway? Was that standard wear on Vulcan? Jim would not be surprised. The bowl cut thing alone should have been an indicator that their fashion sense would not make a lot of sense either.

Shaking his head, Jim turned his eyes away to inspect the row of cereals they passed, "Elonat seems a lot less scared. He was so shy at first... does that have anything to do with the shields you built him?"

Spock tilted his head ever so slightly forward, "Indeed. The shields are helping his mind recover from the trauma faster. It is a method that has been used among my people for a long time and the basics are taught to every child due to the fact that our minds are not only our greatest strength, but also our biggest weakness. A Vulcan's brain is not easily broken, but once it is, it is often impossible to repair it."

Jim huffed, "That sounds terrible. Alright, I think we got everything."

He moved towards the check-out counter, glancing backwards every so often to see if Spock was still there with Elonat. The little boy had grown on him and Jim was still taken aback by how much the little boy had come to mean to him in so little time. It seemed mutual, seeing as Elonat kept looking at him as the little boy chewed at his own thumb, causing flecks of drool to dribble onto the front of Elonat's shirt.

Jim held his arm out for Elonat once he had piled the groceries onto the conveyor belt. Spock handed the boy over and proceeded place the scanned groceries back into the cart before paying. Somehow, they managed to pack everything into various smaller bags and left the supermarket. Jim felt a little bad about letting Spock carry both the bag holding Elonat's new clothes and the grocery bag, but then again, Spock had not complained yet and he was three times stronger than a Human. Or something.

"Alright, we're going to get Elonat some toys and then we can go back home," Jim declared, kissing Elonat's curls when the boy gave a soft sound of delight.

The toy store was huge. Jim did not think he had ever seen so many toys in one place before. Neither had Elonat it seemed; the boy had begun to wiggle, the hand which was not being gnawed on reaching out towards the colourful displays.

The next hour was spent collecting toys, Spock keeping up a constant commentary about the usefulness of building blocks and learning programs for the PADD. Jim nodded along, humming when it was needed and breathing out a sigh of relief when they reached the check-out point.

Jim waited for Spock to place the things they had collected onto the conveyor belt. Adding the few he had carried himself, Jim noticed the relatively large, soft looking stuffed toy Spock had settled down on the conveyor belt. It was a lion, complete with a soft, fluffy mane and big, flopping paws. Suppressing a grin, Jim watched as Spock paid and gathered their shopping into another large bag before holding the lion out to Elonat after he had removed the tag on its ear.

Elonat grabbed the lion with a soft squeak, pressing the toy against his face. Jim smiled, looking up at Spock, chuckling when the Vulcan ducked his head a little and turned around to walk out of the store.

Apparently, Spock was a marshmallow underneath that granite exterior.

Eyes narrowing with suppressed laughter, Jim hurried after the Vulcan. This was definitely going to be a very interesting day.

They made their way back to Spock's car, put the shopping bags into the trunk and Jim grimaced when he noticed the greenish colour of Spock's hands, "You okay? I could have carried some of those bags, you know?"

"I am alright," Spock flexed his long fingers a few times, meeting Jim's eyes, "You were carrying Elonat."

"And you were carrying eleven shopping bags," Jim drawled, "I don't see your point."

Spock lifted an eyebrow, "You would have needed to release Elonat with one arm to carry the bags, which means, that the danger of him squirming out of your hold, would have been heightened."

Jim snorted, "I can hold a two year old child and a few bags, Spock. He's not that heavy."

"This discussion is irrelevant now, Jim. I have carried the bags, they are now in the trunk of my car," Spock shut said trunk, moving towards the front of the car to climb in behind the wheel.

Jim grumbled, opening the backdoor of the car to settle Elonat into his seat and buckle the boy in before he shut the door and got in on the front passenger side, "Alright. I probably would have dropped one of those bags anyway. I'm lucky like that."

Spock lifted an eyebrow at him, "Is there a story behind your statement?"

"I once managed to drop a bag full of eggs and milk after stepping out of the supermarket," Jim grinned, "Mom wasn't happy."

"Which is, of course, not surprising," Spock answered as he started the car, "Please, buckle your seatbelt, Jim."

"Oh," Jim did as he was told, offering a sheepish grin, "Sorry. I sometimes forget. So, anything you'd like for dinner? Is there anything Elonat's not supposed to eat? Anything you're not supposed to eat? I know most Vulcans are vegetarian, which I have absolutely no problem with. Mostly because the only meat I can eat without bursting out into a disgusting rash is chicken, but I can live without that, too."

Spock sat up a tad straighter, "You enjoy talking."

"...Yeah. And since you're not particularly talkative, I have to talk even more! Now, do I get an answer?"

"As you have said, most Vulcans are vegetarian. Elonat is safe to eat everything but chocolate and, should you think about cooking with cinnamon, it would be prudent not to add too much of it to his plate," Spock said, manoeuvring the car around the next corner.

Jim nodded, "Say, since we've named him, do we have to get him legal documents? Do you have to contact Vulcan for that?" he frowned, "How does that even work? I have no idea, I swear, if I ever end up living alone, I'll be calling Bones and my Mom 24/7."

"That does, indeed, sound dangerous," Spock replied and Jim narrowed his eyes at the even drier delivery of the response.

"Yeah, yeah. Very funny. Please, continue to make fun of me," Jim grumbled.

"Vulcans do not 'make fun of' others."

Spock's voice had gone quiet and Jim wondered if maybe some Vulcans did make fun of others. Thinking it better not to ask, Jim shrugged, "If you say so. You still didn't give me an answer, though! What do you want to eat for dinner?"

"I will be satisfied with whatever you decide to cook, Jim."

Jim huffed and turned around in his seat to look at Elonat to see if their discussions had disturbed him. The little boy was looking at the lion in his arms, smoothing one of his hands over the toy's fluffy mane, brows furrowed in concentration. Shaking his head with a fond smile, Jim sat back down properly again to address Spock once more, "You're the worst. Can't you just tell me what you like? I'm sure there's something. You can't find every damn thing you eat to be 'acceptable'."

"Jim, I will not discuss this with you. I have told you my answer. Please accept it."

"I won't accept it, because it's stupid! I want to make this entire thing as comfortable as possible for everyone and I need you to cooperate!"

"Jim, lower your voice, you are being illogical. I am Vulcan and thus do not prefer one kind of food over the other. You know this."

"That's bullshit."

"It is not. You must learn to accept other cultures, Kirk."

"You should-!"

A soft sound from the backseat made them both stop and Jim scrambled around once again to look at Elonat. The little boy had frozen in his seat, both hands clamped over his ears, the lion draped over his knees. Jim reached out, touching Elonat's arm. The boy flinched and Jim could practically feel his heart crumble into tiny, tiny pieces within his chest.

Elonat curled away from Jim's fingers and Jim moved back into his former position, swallowing at the thought of him raising his voice like that might have done to Elonat's, at the moment, fragile psyche. Spock was quiet, too, shoulders tense as he gripped the steering wheel. The rest of the drive was done in silence, broken only by the almost inaudible sniffling coming from the backseat.

And the day had started out so well.

Jim was out of the car as soon as Spock had parked it close to the entrance of the ridiculously expensive apartment complex the Vulcan lived in. Moving towards the back, Jim opened the door on Elonat's side and crouched down to look at the boy's face.

"Sweetie?" he said softly, "I'm sorry I got loud. Elonat? Please look at me. I'm sorry."

The boy lowered his hands, looking up at Jim with wide, watering eyes. Jim curled his lips into a soft smile, hoping to calm the shivering child down a little more. Carefully, he reached out again and touched his thumb to the boy's soft cheek, rubbing at the tear tracks marring the skin.

Ignoring Spock as he unloaded the trunk of the car, Jim proceeded to speak to Elonat, coaxing the boy into allowing him to unbuckle his seat and pulling him out of the car into his arms. The lion was trapped between Elonat's tiny body and Jim's shoulder, tickling Jim's chin as he shut the car door. Spock had slammed the trunk shut and locked the car, and was now moving towards the entry door to the apartment complex.

As they ascended the staircase towards Spock's apartment, Elonat's sniffling became less frequent and the little boy tucked his wet face against Jim's throat. Spock unlocked the door to his apartment, stepping aside to let Jim pass through first before following.

Jim slipped out of his shoes, tugged his jacket off and sat Elonat down onto the commode to divest the child of his own little boots and the coat he was wearing. Elonat's eyes followed Jim's every movement and Jim wondered if the smiles and giggling the boy had uttered beforehand had been some kind of relief reaction. Like those that one experienced when they find out they could have died.

Jim hefted Elonat back into his arms to carry him over to the couch, sitting down with a tiny huff. The boy did not even stir, but he was clutching the lion with his stubby fingers as if his life depended on it. Breathing out a helpless sigh, Jim listened to Spock unpacking the bags, putting away groceries, setting the folded clothes on the kitchen table and placing the toys into a corner of the living room for later.

For a long while, the only sound was the large clock ticking away close by the staircase.

"Elonat," Jim prompted, meeting the boy's eyes when he looked up, "I'm really sorry, alright? Do you understand me? I didn't mean to get loud. Spock and I were just being idiots. I was being an exceptionally big idiot."

Elonat frowned, one stubby hand reaching out to touch Jim's cheek.

For a moment, Jim was caught within a swirl of foggy impressions of emotions. The ones he was able to pick out were fear, apprehension and a slight glimmer of hope.

Jim touched his ow


n palm to the back of Elonat's hand, "I'll try not to yell anymore, okay?"

Elonat nodded and released his lion to rub at his eyes. Jim cooed, using his own sleeve to wipe away the tear tracks, jumping where he sat when Spock's elegant hand reached past his ear and touched Elonat's temple. The boy sniffled, eyelids drooping when Spock pulled away again, but Jim was relieved to see the beginnings of a smile on the child's lips.

"What did you do?" Jim whispered softly.

"I have told him that I am... displeased by the fact that we have caused him to feel afraid by getting carried away in our discussion," Spock answered.

Jim nodded and turned his head, "I'm sorry, you know? I get a little... well. I don't know. I'm still sorry, though."

"It is of no matter. I realise that I can be... difficult to work with. While I will not turn away from Vulcan customs, I see that I will need to compromise to create an environment where Elonat will be comfortable," Spock inclined his head, "I apologise, too, for not being willing to cooperate."

Jim grinned, relieved, "It's okay. I mean... I knew the day was going too well. It was only a matter of time before something happened. I'm just glad Elonat's not... suffering from flashbacks or something... is that a possibility?"

"I am uncertain. The mind healer will be able to tell us more. For now, we should avoid causing him unnecessary stress," Spock answered, keeping his voice low.

Jim glanced at Elonat, finding him half-asleep, one thumb seated firmly within his mouth. Smiling, Jim moved, settling the boy onto the couch between two large pillows. Elonat gave a tiny huff and curled up, sighing when the blanket that had been lying on the armrest of the couch was tucked in around him by Spock.

Before getting up, Jim leaned down to kiss Elonat's forehead, moving away a moment later to address Spock, "I'll start dinner now, is that okay? We don't have to eat it yet, but I want it to be done when Elonat wakes up."

Spock nodded and, to Jim's surprise, followed him into the kitchen. Jim opened the fridge and looked at Spock, "Are you thirsty?"

"No. But I would like to offer my assistance," Spock answered, moving his hands behind his back in a gesture that Jim began to understand was something akin to a display of uncertainty.

Jim felt another smile bloom on his face, feeling a little giddy, "I'd like that. You're okay to use a knife, right? Of course you are. Could you peel and cut two onions? You don't need to cut them into neat cubes or anything, just try not to chop your fingers of."

Spock lifted an eyebrow, but reached around Jim to pluck two onions from one of the drawers located in the bottom of the fridge. Jim grinned and bumped his hip against Spock's, laughing when he received a small, confused glare for his troubles.


What a shitty ending *headdesk* Sorry! Ugh.