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Blaring sirens pulled Jim back to consciousness. Red alert. Of course. He groaned and rubbed the bridge of his nose, mumbling, “Time, Spock?”

Spock didn't answer. He was still in the room, but he didn't answer. That was when Jim realized the budding headache forming behind his eyes didn't start from the lack of sleep or the shrill alarm. Spock was in pain. Jim sat up, eyes darting to where his spouse sat at the end of the bed, his head down, face buried in his hands.

“Spock?”

Spock shook his head, “Vulcans. Nearby. Some killed. Others dying.”

So it was like that time years ago, only no one had believed the First Officer could feel other members of his race dying in his head. Just one of the perks of being a telepathic race.

Another shake of his head before he brought his hands down, gripping the edge of the bed. His face was still contorted in pain, but it was easing. Jim could feel his own headache dying to a dull ache. Spock began to speak again, his sentences no longer clipped and terse, “Romulans in the area. They're attacking the To'sai, a science vessel commissioned by the VSA.”

That explained the alert. Jim gave his bondmate an affectionate squeeze on the shoulder as he got off the bed. They needed to be on the bridge. Or at least, he did. “Are you feeling fit for duty, Mister?”

“I have managed to block most of the pain, Jim. By the time we are dressed and on the bridge, I will have completely shielded my mind from the distress.” Spock responded, standing himself to grab his uniform.

Jim gave him a concerned look as he tugged his pants on.

“You worry too much, Captain. I will be fine.” Spock sighed, feeling his husband's concern bleeding through the bond.

“I hope you'd be worried if I didn't. At least when it comes to your well-being.” Jim replied.

- - -

They were on the bridge just a few moments later. In fact, Jim had just managed to finish putting on and straightening his command jacket when the turbo lift's doors opened. He reached over and gave Spock's hand a quick squeeze before they exited; Spock allowed it.

“Report, Mr. Chekov.” Jim asked as he sat in his chair. Spock was already at his station, quickly working the console to search for signs of life on the Vulcan ship. Jim hoped there were survivors.

“Our scanners picked up a Romulan ship speeding away from the Vulcan ship once we were within firing range. They must have decided we were not worth the risk.” Chekov responded, his voice lower than usual. The red alert must have dragged him out of bed as well.

“That or they went to get back up.” Kirk leaned back in his seat considering the possibilities. The Romulans very well may have abandoned their target when they noticed a Federation star ship approaching. But they could have also simply chose to make their retreat a temporary one, knowing the Enterprise would be delayed in their pursuit as they had to take care of the damaged ship they were attempting to rescue. Perhaps enough time to get another ship or two to make a joint attack. Or to engage their cloaking device in order to launch a surprise attack. He turned his attention to Spock. “Any life readings, Commander?”

“Yes, Captain. While the scanners are experiencing a slight difficulty due to the debris between our ships, it is currently reading ten biosignatures.” Spock turned from his computer, his expression a serious one. Serious even for a Vulcan. “But we will have no way of knowing if the survivors it is picking up are Vulcan or Romulan, Captain.”

Jim nodded, rubbing a hand across his jaw. Another possibility. It would not surprise him if there were Romulans who had been left behind to ambush a rescue team effort. But they had to take that risk. If there was a chance to save any of the Vulcans on board, he had to go. It was decided then. He lowered his arm and pressed a button on his chair, “Bridge to sick bay, paging Doctor McCoy.”

“Yes, Jim?” Bones responded a moment later. He had probably been expecting Jim to call for him.

“I need you to assemble a few of your finest nurses to accompany myself, Spock, and a security detail over to the To'sai. Meet us in the transporter room in ten.”

“I'll see who I can grab.”

“Thanks, Bones.” Jim flicked the communication off. He stood from his chair, pulling his jacket down. “Mister Chekov, you have the Conn. Spock, you're with me.”

“Yes, Captain.” Chekov stood from his usual chair and took the newly vacant captain's chair once Kirk had stepped away.

“Lieutenant,” Jim said, pausing briefly at Uhura's station before heading back to the lift. He waited until Uhura glanced up at him, “Contact Mister Scott and have him assemble a security team and meet us in the transporter room, if you would.”

“Of course, sir.”

He patted her shoulder affectionately before joining Spock in the lift. As the doors swished shut, he turned to face Spock fully. “You okay to come with us? I know you've got the pain blocked out, but being so close to that much carnage-”

“I will be fine, Jim. I do appreciate your concern, but someone who fully understands Vulcan biology needs to be there for the survivors.” Spock paused for a moment, as though rethinking what he had said. “I mean that as no offense to the Doctor or his medical staff. However-”

“Spock, I get it. There's some things us humans will never fully understand. That's part of why I chose you to be part of the team.”

“Part, sir?”

“Well, sometimes I just need my Vulcan emotional security blanket.” Jim smiled, holding up two of his fingers to ask for a Vulcan kiss. Spock obliged, though not for long as they were almost to their floor. It was enough for Jim. It would probably never cease to amaze him how much love, devotion, and support could be transferred from such a simple touch.

- - -

Jim paced in front of the combination medic and security team that stood before him. It gave Jim a small relief that Bones had managed to convince the off-duty M'Benga to join the away team. He had to remember to do something amazing for M'Benga once they returned to the ship. Maybe an extra-long shore leave.

“Alright, men. As you should already be aware, the To'sai, a Vulcan science ship, was attacked by a Romulan vessel. There are still life signs on board, but we do not know if they are Vulcan or Romulan, so do not drop your guards. Our job is to save and transport any and all surviving back to the ship. Once myself, Spock, and the security team have ascertained the ship to be safe, I will signal Mister Scott to beam the medical team on board. Any questions?”

A chorus of “no, sir”s responded to his inquiry.

“Then let's get going. We don't have time to waste.” He stepped up onto the transport pad, followed by Spock and the security detail. Once they were all prepared, phasers already drawn, he inclined his head to his Chief Engineer, signaling him to beam them over.

- - -

Scotty beamed them over to one of the least damaged portions of the To'sai's bridge. As Kirk took in his surroundings, he cringed. There were consoles sparking all around them, pieces of metal jutting from the wall, and a haze of smoke. And the smell of iron and death. If this was what 'least damaged' looked like... He shook his head. He wasn't some ensign fresh from the academy. He lost his green many years ago. He had a job to do.

“Alright, we're going to split up in pairs and cover as much of the ship as we can get to. Note the location of any surviving Vulcans you can, but do not attempt to move them until the med team gets here.” He looked at each of his men as they split themselves up into teams, Spock remaining by his side. Once they had finished dividing themselves, he resumed speaking. “Be sure to stay alert. Watch each others' backs. Once you've cleared your section of the ship, let me know. The faster we do this, the faster we can get Doctor McCoy and his team over. Alright men, time to move out.”

- - -

So far, his and Spock's section had been free of any Romulans. Maybe they were going to be lucky. Spock had been making mental notes of where the few injured Vulcan scientists they had found had been, and had even explained to the coherent ones that they would be returning for them in their shared native tongue.

He reached for his communicator, about to page the other members of the away team for an all-clear when he was tackled to the ground. He let out a yelp of confusion and pain as his body hit the floor, hard, a heavy weight pinning him down. He could feel it was Spock, thanks to the bond, but it didn't alleviate his confusion until a shot fired and hit the wall above them.

Spock jumped to his feet, having already spotted the culprit, a Romulan soldier they hadn't noticed as he was pinned beneath some of the rubble from the attack on the ship. Spock fired his phaser at the Romulan, stunning him, before looking back at his husband. “Apologies for not warning you, Jim. But-”

“Thanks, Spock. You're always there to save me.” Jim smiled and rolled over, reaching up to take Spock's hand when it was offered to him.

“And I shall continue to do so, so long as I am able.” Spock said, pulling his Captain back to his feet. Jim brushed himself off before bending over to retrieve his dropped communicator.

“Status report, everyone.” He waited for responses from the three other pairs, watching as Spock crossed over the rubble to the Romulan to check on his health. The other teams checked in, reporting that they had not found signs of any other Romulans on board in their sections. Jim sighed in relief, just the one then. They were lucky. He fiddled with his communicator again to change the channel, “Kirk to Enterprise, Kirk to Enterprise. Mister Scott, send over McCoy and his team as soon as you are ready. We'll meet them on the bridge.”

“Aye, sir.”

“So how is our friend?” Kirk asked Spock, snapping his communicator shut and placing it back in its holder on his belt.

“He is suffering internal bleeding, organ damage, and possible spine damage as well. Leonard will be able to better assess his condition better than myself, but I believe he will survive.” Spock stood and carefully crossed back to Jim's side. “Which is fortunate for us, as we will be able to interrogate him once he regains consciousness.”

Jim nodded, already beginning the trek back to the bridge. Spock trailed behind him, phaser drawn just in case.
- - -

“Doctor McCoy!” M'Benga yelled into his communicator, his voice panicked. “Doctor McCoy, do you read me?”

“M'Benga? What the hell are you yelling for?” Bones responded, trying to balance the communicator in the same hand he had a hypo in, the other pressing a cloth firmly against the still bleeding leg wound of one the Vulcans.

“Is Commander Spock with you?”

“Yeah, he's in yelling distance. Now you gonna tell me what's going on?”

“I need the Commander to my location immediately.”

- - -

Spock slid to a stop once he reached M'Benga. His eyes darted from the doctor to his patient, an obviously pregnant Vulcan woman in the prime of her adulthood. Her lips were moving rapidly, but no words fell from them.

“Mister Spock, she won't let me treat her. I've tried telling her I could, but she only responds in high Vulcan.” M'Benga had the look of a tired and frustrated man.

Spock crouched next to the woman, his voice low when he spoke, “I am Spock, of the house of Sarek. I wish to talk, will you listen?

The woman looked up at him, her darker eyes filled with pain and desperation. When she spoke, her canter was fast, “Son of Sarek, please. My time is short, you must save her.

'Her'? Your child? We can save you both-

You must promise me you will save her, Son of Sarek. My life is as the desert sand, but her's is precious water. But she is... she is fading. She will die if you do not act now.

We will save you both.” Spock turned his attention back to M'Benga. “We need to get her back to the Enterprise. She says her child is dying and she refuses treatment of her own wounds until we guarantee her child will live.”

- - -

As they prepared to transport her to the Enterprise, Spock stayed by her side, holding her hand gently. He kept talking to her, trying to keep the topic away from her injuries or her child. It was the only way he knew to keep her calm. “What is your name, sister? We will need it for our reports.

I am Giniv, of the House of Selen.” Her voice still carried a hint of panic, her eyes wide with frenzy and pain. She tried to focus on him, but seemed to be failing. “My bonded, Vorik... he is no longer alive.

He was serving on this ship as well?

Yes. The bond was severed soon after the attack began. I felt him perish, but I could not find him before I was injured.” She was losing her hold over her emotional control, openly frowning and eyes watering. Spock could not fault her for it, however. He would be in a worse place if he lost Jim.

- - -

The operation was long and grueling. It had been years- decades- since he had delivered a baby, let alone performed a cesarean. He was thankful when the anesthesia kicked in and Giniv slipped into unconsciousness. Before it had, she kept blabbering at them in Vulcan. Without Spock there to translate, he could only assume it was regarding her child.

It was just him and M'Benga tending to her, M'Benga being there to give him instructions while McCoy put his legendary surgeon skills to use. Bones had left Doctor Chapel in charge of the other doctors and nurses that were scrambling about to save whoever they could.

Sadly, the number of survivor’s was going to be low. But, dammit, Bones was going to add two lives to that count after this delivery. He had to.

- - -

Hours later, Spock received a comm alert in his and Jim's quarters.

“Spock, Jim? Either of you there?” Bones' voice carried out, sounding tired and... Spock could not place the other emotion.

Spock crossed the room and pressed a button to open the channel. “I am here, Doctor. The Captain is on the bridge, in communication with Star Fleet.”

“The... The caesarian was a success. She- the baby- she's premature but by god she's alive.”

Spock let out a breath he hadn't realized he been holding. It was a relief that the child had survived. “And the mother? Is she recovering well?”

A choked noise emitted from the comm unit. “No. She didn't make it, Spock. After all we tried, she bled out on us. We did everything but now we have a damn orphan on our hands.”

“You fulfilled her final wish, Doctor. You need not grieve her.” Spock still wasn't great at consoling others, but he felt he had to try considering how Leonard took the death of his patients to heart most times.

“I could have...” Bones trailed off, going silent for a moment. “If its no trouble to you, I'll need you in sickbay as soon as possible. M'Benga's great with Vulcans but even he's lacking on what a newborn Vulcan needs.”

“I will be there shortly.”

- - -

As soon as Jim ended the call with Admiral Ross and received his orders, he shot down to sick bay. He had a lot of patients own there, but there was only one he needed answers from. He tapped his foot impatiently as he waited for the lift to reach the correct floor, feeling a headache building since his adrenaline faded away.

The doors slid open and he began his brisk walk to sick bay, catching Doctor Chapel as he entered. “The Romulan prisoner we brought back. How are his injuries?”

“He's stabilized, Captain. No real risk of dying on us now. But we plan to keep him sedated for the next twenty-four hours so we can monitor him.” Chapel looked as tired as Kirk felt.

“If he's capable of it, I want him in the brig in no more than forty-eight hours. I need to have a talk with our guest of honor as soon as possible.” He gave her a smile then, patting her shoulder lightly. “And you be sure to get some rest, Christine. You won't do anyone any good if you pass out from exhaustion.”

She gave him a look and motioned back to McCoy's office, “If there's anyone you should be talking to, its him. I know how to handle myself. Leonard never quite learned.”

Jim gave her a sheepish look and made his way to Bones' office. He didn't bother buzzing, just entered. And Bones looked miserable, head on his desk, buried in his arms. “You wanna talk about it? Or should I go break out your secret stash?”

“I lost her. I did everything I could but I still made an orphan out of that kid.” Bones grumbled. Oh. So the pregnant Vulcan didn't make it. Bones always took deaths too harshly, as though they were a burden on his soul, a sin.

Jim walked around the desk, leaning against it, and placed a hand on Bones' shoulder. “You said you did everything you could, and that's all you can do.”

“She should have-”

“Don't even start with that, Bones. You gave that child a chance at life. That's something only you could have done.” And he meant it. He sat there in silence with Bones for several minutes. At least the doctor had learned not to argue with him over stuff like this, even if he was still beating himself up over it. Finally, he straightened, walking back to the door. “I'll be back in a moment with that whiskey you don't have stashed away, alright?”

Jim took the grunt he got in response as a yes.

He was surprised, however, to run into Spock, almost literally, as soon as he exited the office. He grinned and bumped his shoulder against his husband's arm. “Fancy meeting you here. I was just about to break out the good doc's drinks. Care to join me in trying to get him out of his funk?”

Spock shook his head. “I apologize, Jim. But I need to meditate.”

Jim's grin turned to a frown and he grabbed Spock's arm, “Are you okay?”

“I will be. I have just spent the past hour forming a bond with Giniv's child.” Spock began explaining, lowering his mental shields to soothe Jim's worry. “Vulcan infants need a mental link in order to develop their telepathic pathways and aid in their mental health and growth. And given that the child in question was born premature, she will require more help than normal. I simply need time to recover my own mental facilities after the ordeal.”

Jim nodded, “Alright, alright. You go meditate. I'm going to spend some time with Bones, but I'll be back in the room in a couple hours.”

- - -

Once Jim finally got Bones to crack a smile- several drinks in- he decided to call it a night. “You gonna head to your quarters anytime soon? I'll walk with you.”

“I have some paperwork to finish. Pro'lly just going to sleep in on of the cots down here tonight.” Bones replied, pouring himself another drink.

“If you insist. Just make sure to drink plenty of water-”
“Who's the doctor around here?” Bones glared at him over his glass and Jim laughed.

“You are. But someone has to look after you.” He stood and started out the door, “Now if you don't mind, I'd like to see my husband tonight.”

“Tell Pointy I said thanks!” Bone yelled out after him.

“You'll never live it down if I do.” Jim replied as the door shut. He started towards the hallway, then paused for a moment. After a second of debating, he turned and headed for the neonatal intensive care unit Bones had set up in the furthest corner of the med bay. He had admitted to Jim that he was surprised the portable unit they had stashed away was still functioning, but it was lucky for them. The infant had been at least a month premature and incredibly underweight. And, as he peeked in at her, he could see just how sickly she looked.

But despite her pale green complexion and lack of size, Jim was awestruck as he watched her sleep. Maybe it was the way her ears curled up gently into what would be points. Or maybe it was just his desire to have a family- a child- since he found and lost the the only one he had had in a short span of time. But he now understood how parents could fall in love with their children at first sight.

- - -

By the time Jim returned to his quarters, Spock was already in bed. He slipped out of his uniform as quietly as he could and made his way to the bathroom to relieve himself before going to bed. The events of the day all crashed around him seemingly at once, exhaustion rearing its head the moment he stepped out of his boots.

He blinked in surprise when he noticed Spock was sitting up as the dragged himself from the bathroom. “I didn't wake you, did I?”

“Perhaps. But it is of no consequence.” Spock replied, lifting the sheets as Jim approached the bed so that he could just slide under them. “I had not expected you to stay with the Doctor so long. He did not get ill, did he?”

“No, no. Just got distracted and lost track of time.” It wasn't a total lie, just an omission of the truth. After all, he had been distracted, just not by talking and drinking with Bones. He simply hadn't realized how much time he spent watching the Vulcan infant sleep. Jim pushed Spock back to get him to lay down an snuggled into his side. Spock held him close, one hand on his husband's hip, the other going up to stroke Jim's hair. Jim hummed contentedly and pressed a kiss against Spock's neck. “I love you.”

“And I love you.”

- - -

Jim got word that the Romulan prisoner had been moved to the brig from Yeoman Bixton towards the end of his shift. Bixton, a short non-gendered human with light blond hair, had handed him the PADD containing the transfer information and a cup of coffee. Jim liked Bixton. He hoped he could convince them to stay as his yeoman. He took a sip out of his coffee- just the way he liked it. “Thanks, Bixton. Have I told you you're amazing yet? Because you are.”

Bixton smiled, “I believe that's the fifth time, sir. This week.”

“Only the fifth? Well, there's always tomorrow for more compliments.” Jim replied, turning his attention to the PADD they had handed him. Still no name from their prisoner. No words at all, apparently. He had been quiet the entire time after he had regained consciousness. But Jim would pry some words out of him. He stood, tucking the PADD under his arm. “Mister Sulu, you have the Conn.”

“Aye, sir.”

- - -

“Well, you certainly look comfortable.” Jim said, staring at the Romulan who had been sitting on the small bed the brig provided. The Romulan tilted his head, eyes narrowing into a sharp glare. Fortunately for Kirk, he had had years to get used to hate-filled stares that this one had no effect on him. He returned the look with a charming smile. He didn't expect his charm to lower this one's guard; most likely, it would just irritate him. But that was what he was going for. “I'll keep this short and sweet. You want to tell me why your crew decided to attack a Vulcan research ship?”

The Romulan stood, moving towards the force field separating him from the Captain. He was taller than Jim and looked to be half his age, with sharp features, and dark, almost pitch black eyes. His black hair was cut short, though enough had been left on the right side to make a short braid. And he just kept staring.

“Not very talkative, are we?” Jim crossed his arms across his chest. “Won't you at least tell me your name?”

The Romulan just curled his upper lip back and snarled at him.

- - -

An hour later, Jim peeked into the curtained-off area of the sick bay Bones had sectioned off for their makeshift neonatal ICU, feeling Spock's presence back there before he even saw him. A small smile spread across his face as he watched his husband lean over the portable incubator, watching the sleeping infant. He really shouldn't be smiling.

The child- they really needed to name her- was so tiny and no one knew for sure if she would pull through. Her temperature still hadn't stabilized, her breathing sometimes stopped for long enough to give the nurses a heart attack, and Spock had mentioned that her mind was incredibly overwhelmed and underdeveloped. Even with the tentative mental link he had formed with her to guide her mental and telepathic development, he wasn't sure she would ever be able to fully utilize her telepathic abilities as she grew. Provided she survived, of course.

But... There was something about how Spock looked at her. A softness, something tender. A pang filled his heart. With careers like theirs, they'd never be able to have...

“Any answers from our prisoner, Captain?” Spock asked, straightening himself, though not turning to face Jim.

“None, so far. He seems adamant about keeping his silence.” Jim's smile shrank into a tight-lipped grimace. He hated having a... a war criminal on the ship, but the Romulan's stony expression and cold stares only unnerved him further. “But he won't be ours to interrogate for much longer. We have orders to report to Starbase 21 to drop our guest off as soon as we are able. Should only be a week tops, at our current speed.”

“Perhaps we could arrange to leave the little one with them as well.” Spock motioned to the sleeping infant before turning his head towards Jim. “Their medical facilities would be better equipped to handle her development and have her transported to Vulcan once she is-”

“Let's not get ahead of ourselves, Mister. We don't know if they have a doctor suitable for dealing with premature newborn Vulcans there. It may wind up being better for us all if we too her to Vulcan ourselves after our prisoner is taken care of.” Jim replied hastily. Spock gave him a quizzical look. “We have the best Vulcan doctor in the fleet on our ship. And if they don't have a Vulcan on the starbase, who would look after her mental needs?”

Spock opened his mouth, as though to protest, but quickly shut it and turned his attention back to the infant.

“We really should consider naming her. We can't just keep calling her 'Vulcan Baby'.” Jim spoke up after a long, awkward pause.

“I believe that her adoptive parents would like the pleasure of naming her.” Spock's tone was colder than Jim had heard in a while, and it made him flinch.

- - -

“Jim, did you ever think that Spock may equate naming her with becoming attached to her?” Uhura chastised him at dinner later, between bites of her pasta. Jim... hadn't really thought of it like that. And he and Spock hadn't had a chance to discuss it since Jim left the sickbay in a huff. “He already had to forge a bond with her, one that he's going to have to break when he parts with her, so it has to be hard for him to maintain the detached Vulcan he logically has to be around her. If we name her- if we attach a name to her, it'll only make it harder for him to let go when he has to.”

“...What if we didn't have to give her up.” Jim asked quietly, poking at his salad. He hadn't meant to make that comment, but his traitor mouth let the words spill from it before he could stop them.

“Have you talked to Spock about this? Adopting a child is a big commitment-”

“No. Because I know what his response will be.” Jim smiled morosely and set his fork down. He just wasn't hungry anymore. “It just isn't logical for men like us to start a family.”

“I know how rough it is, but you have to do what's best for her.” Uhura reached across the table and covered Jim's hand with hers. Giving it a tight squeeze, she continued, “But you should still talk to Spock about it. It won't do you good as a couple for you to keep this bottled up.”

“I know. I just want to avoid the inevitable disappointment for a bit.”

“Jim...” Uhura gave him a sympathetic look, “I’m sure if Spock knows how important having a family is to you, he’ll consider it at least.”

“Yeah, maybe.” He forced a small smile for her, though he really didn’t feel any better. “So how are you and Scotty doing?”

“Don’t you dare try to change the subject, Captain Kirk.” She batted at his hand playfully and glared at him, though her blush gave her away. “Mister Scott and I are friends. You know that.”

“Friends that have dinner together regularly and flirt more than Spock and I ever did-”

“Jim-”

“I just want to know when you need me to officiate the wedding.” Jim’s smile was more genuine when she smacked his hand less than playfully this time.

- - -

After his talk with Uhura, Jim still took to avoiding Spock as much as he could. He volunteered for Delta shift the same night, and spent time napping in the observatory during Spock’s off shift. He was being ridiculous, but he did not want to risk the conversation coming up if he could.

“Jim.” Spock’s voice brought him back to the land of the awakened with a start. He flew up into a sitting position on the bench he’d turned into a makeshift bed and grimaced at the pain his back was in. Spock’s face was drawn with concern, though he did not move from his spot at the end of the bench. “You did not return to our quarters after your shift. I was... worried.”

“Sorry ‘bout that, I just came down to watch the stars for a while and I guess I just dozed off. Not used to Gamma shift, I guess.” Jim twisted in spot, wincing at all the cracking his spine was making.

“Jim, have I... Did I... Are you angry with me?” Spock said after a moment’s pause, trying to not look upset at the notion. But the Vulcan’s expression made Jim’s heart drop. “You have been avoiding me and I cannot discern the reasoning behind it.”

“No, Spock. I’m not...” Jim shook his head. In his own selfishness to put off the conversation, he’d made Spock assume that he was mad at him. “I’m not angry with you. I’ve just had a lot on my plate and I need some time to sort it out, okay? But we’ll talk about it later, I promise.”

“Very well.” Spock looked skeptical, though less upset than he had been. “My shift begins shortly, so I must go to the science labs. Perhaps we can have dinner tonight when I’ve finished?”

“Sure. Sounds great.” Jim gave him a smile and stood. “And I’m going to the room now, so maybe I can get a few hours of proper sleep. Love you.”

“And I cherish you.” Spock replied, leading the way out of the observatory.

- - -

Jim rushed down to sick bay as soon as his shift was over, a grin threatening to split his face in two. Bones grabbed him by the shoulders and forced him to stop as soon as he entered.

“Jesus Christ, Jim. Slow down would ya?” Bones let him go slowly, as though he were waiting for hurricane Jim to start tearing through again.

“You said she finally pulled through! I couldn't wait to get down here and see!” Jim was bouncing on his heels, trying to peek over Bones' shoulder to sneak a glance at her. “Can I hold her?”

“She's not a puppy, Jim!” McCoy chastised him. He rolled his eyes when Jim gave him a light-hearted frown. “Of course you can hold her. But you gotta put on the smock and gloves. Just because her vitals have stabilized doesn't mean that we want to expose her to a lot of germs.”

Jim nodded, already going for the supply closet Bones had pointed out. He threw on the smock and gloves as quickly as he could before following after Bones to the crib that held their little Vulcan cargo. Bones gently picked up the baby and turned to Jim. “Do I need to show you how to hold a baby, Jim?”

Jim shot him a dirty look as he reached out to take her from his friend. Once in his arms, he melted. If he thought he loved her before, well, now he knew for sure. Jim Kirk had wanted to start a family with Spock eventually, had for a while, but now he wanted her to be their first child.

“Make sure you support her head.” Bones said, adjusting Jim's arms to a more proper angle.

“I want to adopt her.” Jim replied, rocking her in his arms a little.

“You what?” Bones replied, taking a seat in the nearest visitor's chair, an incredulous look on his face.

“I want to adopt her.”

"You aren't doing this because of what happened with David, are you?" Bones leaned forward in his seat, trying to sound like a concerned friend and not an utter asshole for opening up a still-too-fresh wound.

"You think I want to raise this child because David died?" Jim furrowed his brow, his fingers twitching into the blanket they had infant bundled in. "No, no. I swear that isn't it. I... I want me and Spock to have a kid. That's all, Bones."

Bones studied him warily, but finally nodded and reclined in the chair again. “Have you and Spock found out the adoption process for Vulcans? I mean, they might not use the Federation's suggested plan-”

“I haven't even talked to Spock about it yet.”

Bones resisted the urge to stand up and smack Jim across the back of his head. Instead, he smacked his hand against his face and groaned. “Jim. Jimmy. James. Explain to me how you're going to adopt a child for you and Spock to raise- together- without talking to Spock about it?”

“Bones-”

“That's one helluva surprise to spring on someone. Just wait until they process is over and you show up to your quarters with the kid and say 'Merry Christmas! I got you a baby!'”

“Bones!”

“Or maybe you'll try to hide her under the bed or in the bathroom until she's old enough to talk.”

“Bones, please-”

“Please what? Keep it hush-hush from Mr. Logic until its too late for backsies?”

“No, not that. Just. Just for now. I'm going to talk to Spock about it later. I promise.”

“You better.” Bones sighed, calming himself down. After a moment, he spoke again, a shit-eating grin on his face, “I get to be her godfather, right?”

“More like her crazy uncle who spoils her rotten.” Jim grinned, looking between the infant and his CMO.

“Damn skippy! So you better not let me babysit her. She'll eat nothing but candy and I'll teach her all kinds of ways to bug Spock.”

Jim laughed, an odd, free sort of noise that he was able to let out now that his life had somewhat calmed down. For a while, he had wondered if he would ever laugh again. “Now, Bones, you can't be teaching my little girl to call her father a hobgoblin. Spock would revoke your godfather status.”

“He wouldn't!” Bones looked scandalized and the two started laughing all the harder. The baby shifted in Jim's arms, yawning and blinking her eyes open. They were a light brown- far lighter than Spock's. So light that Jim almost thought he saw gold in them, a color Jim hadn't expected on a Vulcan, but like with other children, he expected that they would darken as she grew.

“Good morning- er, afternoon, I suppose.” Jim greeted her and she let out a small cooing noise in response before closing her eyes again. “Or good night. Babies need a lot of sleep, don't they?”

“Don't get used to it. She's just sleeping so much because she's been fighting to stay alive. Give her a couple days and she'll be screaming her head off every couple hours.” Bones smiled, reminiscing. “Joanna was a screamer, back when she was that little. I never got more than two hours sleep before she'd start at it again and I had to figure out what she wanted while I was half-asleep.”

A silence fell between them for a moment.

“Do you think she'd like having Uncle Bones give her piggyback rides when she's old enough? Joanna used to love that.” Bones still had the smile, but it looked slightly pained now.

“I'm sure she would, Bones.”

- - -

It took a couple hours of Jim opening his mouth and snapping it shut while Spock was attempting meditation for Spock to grow weary of it. “If you wish to speak, my husband, then speak. I know your mind has been troubled as of late.”

“I, uh. It can wait.” Jim stared at his husband, planting a rather fake smile on his face. It really couldn't wait. Not much longer. They were due at Starbase 21 in less than two days.

“Nonsense.” Spock responded, pushing on the floor to stand. He approached Jim and held out his hand, two fingers extended for a kiss. Jim pressed his own fingers against Spock's, feeling a bit more at ease by the action. Spock continued, “If there is something wrong, Jim, I would wish to know your thoughts.”

Jim hesitated, choosing to sit on their bed before beginning to speak. His legs were too rubbery to stand for long. He patted the space beside him and Spock joined him, face etched in concern. “Have we... We've talked about kids, right? About us having kids?”

“I believe so, yes.” Spock tilted his head, studying his bonded. Was Jim really considering...? “If memory serves, we decided it was a considerably large risk to try and raise a child on the Enterprise. Perhaps once we retire, it would be an option-”

“I want to adopt her. I want us to adopt her. The Vulcan baby we saved.” Jim looked down at the bed, hands smoothing over the covers as he pointedly avoided looking at Spock.

“Jim, raising a child on a star ship is a dangerous thing. The injuries she could obtain, the chance of death, the chance of her losing one of us, are astronomically high.” Spock sighed, eyebrows furrowed. He had had a hunch that this was what had been bothering Jim. “She would fare better on Vulcan-”

“That may be, Spock, but I took one look at that little girl and I knew that I wanted her to be my daughter.” Jim frowned, digging his fingers into the comforter Spock tended to use. He was trying to contain his bitter anger from the disappointment of being told no. He had been preparing himself for it, but it still stung. “Even if we had to leave her with your parents and only see her when we could manage-”

“We will do it, then.” Spock placed his hand over Jim's. Jim looked up at him, hopeful that he hadn't misheard him. “We will try, at least. Ultimately, it will be up to the Vulcan council if they will allow the adoption to an interspecies couple. I will message my father in the morning and have him begin the paperwork on our behalf.”

Jim brightened considerably. He moved quickly, pinning Spock awkwardly to the bed and kissed his cheek. Spock shifted, trying to get into a more comfortable position beneath his captain, the corners of his lips turning up into a very small smile. He could deny Jim nothing, especially when it was something he had considered himself since bonding with the child. They could discuss whether the child would stay with them on ship, or if she would be left on planet with his parents later. Now all he wanted to do was soak in his partner's happiness.

“We should name her. Tonight.” Jim said after a moment, tracing circles in the uniform above Spock's chest. “Something Vulcan, but pronounceable for us Terrans. Maybe something I could make a cute nickname out of.”

- - -

“T'Karik.” Spock spoke up, after finally finishing his meditation. Jim cocked his head, looking up from his PADD to look at Spock. “For a name. It roughly translates to 'strong woman'. I feel it works considering her strong resolve to continue living, despite the odds.”

“T'Karik. T-Kar-ik.” Jim rolled the name around his mouth, pronouncing it out loud several times before nodding. “Our little fighter. I like it.”

“I had hoped you would.” Spock stood, loosening his meditation robes as he did. The fabric slid down his shoulders, pooling at his elbows. He lowered his arms and let the robe slip the rest of the way off, catching it and folding it over his arm. “And I believe you could make a suitable nickname for it.”

Jim found himself watching his husband disrobe, eyes tracing along the familiar curve of Spock's back. “I- um- yes. I'm sure I... can...”

Spock smirked, tossing the robe onto the floor and walked to the bathroom. “I am in need of a shower. You are welcome to join me, if you wish.”

Jim dropped the PADD like it was a hot coal and made a mad dash for the bathroom, quickly stripping on his way.

- - -

Spock steepled his fingers in front of him, elbows perched on the desk, while he waited for the call to Vulcan to connect. He had very little doubt, once he got his father involved with the process, that he and Jim would be denied the adoption. It made him thankful to be a part of one of the more influential families on Vulcan. His main concern was if they would insist T'Karik be raised on Vulcan.

There were many benefits for it. Vulcan would provide her with all the education she could possibly need and there were far fewer threats against her life in living on-planet. But he found himself wondering if she would face the same snide remarks he had faced, once the other children found out who her parents were. Even being a pure-blooded Vulcan herself, being adopted by a human and half-Vulcan would not earn her a lot of friends. It may be beneficial to her emotional development to be raised on the Enterprise, for however long he and Jim continued to serve, among a crew who would adore her.

She would not be lacking educational opportunities on the ship, either. Spock could easily set up learning programs in the computer system for her, comparable to that found on Vulcan. And she could receive language lessons from Commander Uhura, physics and basic engineering from Mr. Scott, botany from Sulu, anatomy and medical essentials from the Doctors McCoy and Chapel. And, he thought with a small bit of humor, extensive lessons of Russian history from Mister Chekov.

He schooled his amused expression back to one of stoicism by the time the call connected, his father appearing on the screen, the embassy providing a rather bland backdrop.

“Spock? I was not expecting a call from you.” Sarek looked surprised. To an outsider, he would still look as stony-faced as usual, but Spock could easily read his father's expression for what it truly meant. “Is everything well?”

“I am well, Father. As is the Captain.” Spock laid his hands on the table. Though he knew his father would most likely have no qualms with him adopting a child, it was still was not an easy conversation to have. “I call because I have a request.”

“What is it you need?” Sarek had become more open to his son since the incident at Babel and even more so since Spock had died and been revived. It was odd, considering how strained their relationship had been when Spock was younger, but it was not an unwelcome change.

“Jim and I have decided to start a family. You have no doubt heard about the attack on To'Sai.” Spock did not want to retell a story if his father already knew of the event. He waited until Sarek nodded before he continued, “There was a Vulcan woman with child on board. Her and her bonded did not survive, but we were able to save the child. And Jim and I have decided that we would be honored to take the child in as our own.”

“Does she have any other relatives? We will need to contact them before any thing can be done.” Sarek responded.

“I do not know. We did not have much time to talk with the mother.” Spock frowned. He should have expected this. He could easily lie to his father, tell him that he did not even get the woman's name. But that would be unbecoming of a Vulcan. “I know that she is of the house of Selen. Her name was Giniv and her bonded was Vorik.”

“The House of Selen. I will look into it and forward my findings to you. If there is none who may take her, I will begin the paperwork for you and your bonded.” Sarek held up his hand in the ta'al. “Live long and prosper.”

“Peace and long life.” Spock recited back, trying to hide his disappointment that the call had not gone the way he had hoped it would. He was about to end the transmission when his father spoke up again.

“And, Spock. I truly hope this works out for your family. You and Captain Kirk would make for exceptional parents.”

“Thank you, Father.”

- - -

Spock received a message from his father five point six hours after the call. He stared at the blinking icon on his PADD signifying the new message, but could not make himself tap it to open it. There was a large chance- at least ninety percent- that his father had found the clan and there were members willing to take T'Karik in.

“You gonna open that or not?” Jim said, leaning against the back of Spock's chair and peering over at Spock's PADD. He kissed the top of Spock's head, waiting for an answer.

“It is from my father.” Spock continued to stare at the icon, as though he could will it away with a look. He could feel Jim tense up behind him. “He may have found a member of her bloodline to take her. Will you stay with me while I read it?”

“Of course.” Jim reached down and squeezed Spock's shoulder gently. They could handle anything, so long as they had each other.

Spock took a deep breath and opened the message. Hoping was illogical, but he could not stop doing it.

Spock,

We have researched the Selen clan and have contacted their elder, T'Per. She informed us that there are members of the clan who could take T'Karik in as their own.

Spock felt his heart drop. He knew all along this was the most likely outcome, but, after seeing Jim's enthusiasm about the possibility, had allowed himself to become disillusioned in favor of his fantasy. He prepared himself to tell Jim that they could start a family at a later date. That, just because they were denied T'Karik, they should not give up on forming a family. They would comfort one another and while it would be hard, they would pull through. Just as they always had.

But Jim was squeezing his shoulder and laughing. The exact opposite reaction Spock had expected. Spock looked down at the correspondence and reread it, confused. It was on this reread that he realized he had stopped after the second sentence.

But, after some discussion in the clan, T'Per told us that, if the child was already bonded to a family capable of caring for her, they would not separate her from her adopted parents. We informed T'Per who the family that wished to adopt T'Karik was and she said it would be an honor to allow a member of the House of Selen to be taken into the family of the House of Sarek. As we have been given the clan's approval, I will forward your request of adoption to the council at once.

Spock smiled, a full and genuine smile that he rarely indulged himself in, and tossed the PADD away. He turned his chair and stood, promptly grabbing Jim's face and kissing him.

- - -

The wait to hear the council's decision weighed heavily on his mind, making meditation a difficult task to complete. After failing to properly begin several times, Spock gave up. He looked across the room to where Jim was doing some light reading. “I find myself unable to focus. Would you be opposed to seeing if Doctor McCoy would let us bring T'Karik to the room to spend our off-time with her?”

“Why would I oppose that?” Jim grinned and placed his book back on the shelf.

- - -

Jim watched as Spock held T'Karik, placing his fingers against her meld points. There was something mesmerizing about watching Spock meld with others, and goodness knows Jim loved when Spock was in his mind. It made him feel a tinge of jealousy, however, to know that he himself could not form a mental bond with the child that would be his.

“Perhaps once she is older, she could meld with you and establish a bond that way.” Spock spoke up, shifting his hold on the girl now that he had ended the meld. Jim wondered if he had said something aloud, even though he knew Spock could pick up on some of his thoughts through the bond. “If she is able to form psychic links, that is. She is responding better to my melds, but it will be quite some time before I will find out how strong her telepathy is.”

“Would it be so bad if she was a non-telepathic Vulcan?” Jim replied rhetorically, moving to Spock to take T'Karik from him. He smiled as he held her to his chest and she gurgled lightly once in his arms.

“It seems she has a fondness for you already.” Spock reached out to smooth her hair. “And that is something that can happen with or without a bond, so do not fret over the fact you do not have one with her.”

Jim stuck his tongue out at him before turning his attention back to T'Karik. He had little doubt that the Vulcan council would deny them the adoption, not with Sarek vouching for them and the clan she belonged to giving their approval, so he no longer felt odd thinking of her as his daughter.

- - -

An hour later, while T'Karik slept in Jim's arms, they received a call from Vulcan. Spock accepted it immediately, though he doubted they'd be hearing the Council's decision so soon. Lady Amanda appeared on the screen, her smile wide.

“Spock! Sarek told me all about your news!” She began, forgoing any traditional greetings. “I never thought I'd live to see grandchildren from you two. When do I get to see her?”

“She is not ours yet. Not officially, mother.” Spock responded.

“But you can see her now, if you want!” Jim chimed up from behind him, moving towards the computer. He all but sat in Spock's lap at the terminal to hold T'Karik as close to the screen as he could. “And may I say you are looking as radiant as always, Lady Amanda?”

“Always the flatterer, Jim.” She replied, with her focus almost entirely on the baby Jim held. Her smile widened, “She's such a cute baby! You two are so luck-”

The communication was cut off as the ship rocked. Sirens began blaring soon after. Red alert. T'Karik awoke with a start and began crying. Jim looked at Spock, “Spock, report to the bridge. I'll be up as soon as I can get Yeoman Bixton in here to take care of the baby.”

“Yes, Captain.” Spock was already rushing to the door.

Jim cradled T'Karik and kissed her forehead before paging Bixton's quarters, “Yeoman? Yeoman Bixton. Please respond. I need you to report to Captain's quarters immediately.”

“Yes sir.” Came the response.

Jim continued try comforting T'Karik while he waited for his Yeoman to arrive. He bounced her, talked to her, even tried singing a lullaby. But her crying continued. Jim couldn't blame her. The klaxon was loud and scary to adults, it must be exponentially more terrifying to an infant with superior hearing. Bixton rushed through the door a couple minutes after Jim had paged for them. Jim gave them a sympathetic look as he walked over to them and handed T'Karik over.

“I'm sorry, but I need you to babysit until we take care of...” He waved his hand around, “This. Whatever it is.”

“No problem, Captain. I used to watch my siblings all the time when I was younger.” Bixton replied, holding T'Karik against their shoulder.

Jim nodded, starting out the door, “Thank you, Bixton! I owe you an extra long shore leave!”
- - -

“Status report.” Jim almost shouted as soon as the lift doors opened. There had been another explosion that rocked the ship before he had reached the bridge and he wanted to know the cause.

“A small Romulan ship is attacking us, Keptain. She was cloaked until the attack, or else we would have taken care of her already.” Chekov responded, still focused on his station.

“Any communications from them, Commander Uhura?” Kirk continued as he approached the captain's chair. Spock stood and went over to his station once Jim was there.

“None yet, sir, but I've got all channels open and have been attempting to hail them.”

“Very good, Lieutenant.” Jim pushed a button on his chair, opening communications with engineering, “Status report, Mister Scott?”

“Damage reports from deck 12, but no breach in the hull. Power still holding steady.” Scotty's voice rang through the speaker.

“Shields holding at ninety percent, sir.” Sulu said, turning from his station to face Kirk. “If I may sir, it seems as though they are trying to get our attention rather than injure us.”

“That or they've never faced a ship like the Enterprise.” Jim mused.

“Enemy ship is now hailing us, sir.” Uhura spoke up, punching buttons at her console. “Patching it through to the main screen now.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.”

“Starship Enterprise.” The Romulan- Captain, Jim assumed- on screen spoke after a moments pause. “I am Captain S'Ten. You have something of ours that we want back.”

“Oh? And what might that be?” Jim replied, relaxing into his chair. He already knew what the other ship wanted, but he would play dumb for as long as it took.

“My second in command, Koval.” Captain S'Ten was far less amused than Jim appeared. He was an older Romulan, possibly older than Jim, with a glare far worse than his second in command. They looked similar enough that Jim might guess they were related.

“Koval? Ah, so that's his name. He's been extremely non-vocal since we took him in. We were wondering what to call him.” Kirk crossed his legs, “Perhaps, Captain, you would be so kind as to tell me why we found your second on board a damaged Vulcan Science Vessel?”

S'Ten's glare found a way to grow harsher, “You will hand over the prisoner, Captain Kirk, or we will show you the full strength of our weapons.”

“You may try your best, Captain S'Ten, but you will not bring us down.”

“So you will not comply? Very well.” The view screen went black.

“Sir, they're cloaking again.” Sulu said, his voice loud but steady.

“Maintain shields, fire the moment you spot them.” Kirk swiveled his chair as far as he could, “Uhura, send transmission to Starbase 21. Let them know we are under attack by a Romulan vessel and to send reinforcements if any ship is currently docked there.”

“Right away, sir.”

Kirk hated playing the waiting game. It was a dirty trick, staying cloaked until attacking, but he saw the strategic importance behind it. He just hated having to wonder when and where the enemy would strike. He was tempted to call his quarters real quick, just to check on T’Karik. She should be through crying; the klaxons had ceased their squalling shortly after he reached the bridge, but the alert lights still coated the ship’s innards in an eerie shade of red.

No. He couldn’t call now. Not in the middle of battle. All it would take was one lapse of his concentration for something to go horribly wrong. He hated it, but he’d have to wait to check on her.

“Captain, sensors are showing they’ve lowered their shields.” Spock called out over his shoulder.

“Why aren’t we firing, Sulu?”

“There’s more than one ship, sir.” Sulu replied, “Two ships, flanking us.”

The ship rocked as it was hit, throwing several crewmembers to the floor. This explosion hit harder than the previous ones had. Those sons of bitches had been sneaking another ship along to catch them off guard. And now they were targeting the Enterprise properly instead of giving warning shots. Shit.

“Shields down to seventy-five-” Sulu was cut off as another shot hit the ship, “Sixty percent, sir.”

“Fire on whichever ship is in range!” Jim barked, mentally cursing everything. Why had he expected an easy trip to the starbase? Was it too much to ask? “Spock, how bad are we hurt?”

“No breaches still, but they seem to be targeting Engineering, Captain.” Spock sounded as cool and collected as always and, as always, Jim envied that about him.

Kirk closed his eyes, inhaling deeply to collect himself. He could put on a good mask for the crew ninety-five percent of the time, but inside he was worried, scared. Not for himself, but for his crew. And for the little girl he was trying to adopt several decks below him.

“Captain, we’ve received response from the starbase. The USS Kendra is on her way to provide aid.” Uhura called out from her station and Jim let out a deep breath. Provided they weren’t far out from the base, their cavalry should make it in minutes.

“Outstanding.” Kirk pointed at Chekov and Sulu, “Mister Chekov, do your best to disarm either of the ships attacking us. Mister Sulu, evasive maneuvers, as much as possible. We just have to stall our Romulan friends until help arrives.”

“Yes, Keptin,” Chekov replied, though his eyes never left the screens in front of him. Suddenly, the Russians fingers were flying to input firing coordinates, sending a look to Sulu, who nodded. Jim wasn’t sure how they managed to communicate without speaking- unless one of them was secretly a telepath- but he was blessed to have such an efficient team at the helm. Chekov waited until Sulu moved the Enterprise into place before firing and... “One ship damaged, sir. We disabled one of her engines.”

“Well done, Mister Chekov.”
“Federation starship approaching. Expected arrival in thirty seconds, sir.” Spock announced and Jim relaxed in his seat. They were going to survive this and he could check on T’Karik’s well-being.

- - -

Once the Kendra arrived, the battle ended quickly. The uninjured Romulan ship took off and the Captain of the Kendra, a younger woman named India, prepared her own crew to board the remaining ship to take prisoners.

“Go ahead to the Starbase for repairs, Captain Kirk.” Captain India told him over the viewscreen, “My security team will handle things from here and report back once we are finished.”

“Be careful, Captain.” Jim replied before the transmission ended. He didn’t waste anytime in paging his quarters. He held his breath until Bixton responded in what was realistically only seconds, but felt like longer to him.

“We’re fine, Captain. T’Karik is fine, aside from being spooked by all the explosions.”

“Thank you, Yeoman. Either Spock or myself will be down in a few to relieve you.” Jim sagged in his chair as he ended the call, feeling all the worry he had felt during the battle leave his body.

Spock approached the chair, his face seemingly neutral though Jim could see the concern on it. He kept his voice low when he spoke, “Jim, may I be the one to return to quarters? I need to ease her mind, as it is a distraction to my own thoughts now that I am not shielding them.”

Jim nodded, “Very well. You’re relieved, Mister Spock.”

“Thank you, Captain.” Spock responded and headed for the turbolift.

Kirk turned his attention back to his crew. “You all did fabulous. Now, Mister Sulu, please, take us on to Starbase 21.”

“Gladly, sir.”

“Bones, did we have many injuries?” Kirk paged to the med bay. Business as usual...

- - -

Jim made it to his and Spock’s quarters shortly after they made it to the Starbase. He watched his husband cradle the baby for a moment, a smile on his face, before speaking up, “How is she, Spock?”

“Much better now. And uninjured as you can see.” Spock held her towards Jim, offering T’Karik to him. Jim’s grin widened as he stepped forward to take her from him. “How is the ship?”

“Less than a dozen injured, no deaths, and the repairs we need should take less than a day. All in all, we came out lucky this time.” Jim said, bouncing T’Karik lightly in his arms. She cooed at him and Jim wondered momentarily if his heart could explode from an overabundance of joy.

“This time.” Spock repeated, taking a seat in the chair behind his desk.

Jim it the inside of his lip and met Spock’s gaze. “I know that raising a kid on a starship is really risky, I do. And I’m not sure if I could take the kind of stress like I felt on the bridge again, worrying if she was all right. Do you think it would be better for her to stay on Vulcan with your folks?”

“She would be safer there, and would receive the best education during her time there.” Spock mused, his hands resting in his lap. “And I could guarantee that my mother would shower her in affection on a daily basis.”

“It would be better...” Jim shook his head, looking back at T’Karik. “But we don’t know how much longer we’re going to be in space, Spock. We could miss so much of her life. Her first steps, her first words, so much... Everything that I missed with David and I don’t want to miss that again.”

I don’t want to be an absent father. were his unspoken words. Spock stood and was at his side in an instant, tilting his head up.

“Jim, you will be an excellent father, no matter what we decide.”

Jim nodded, though he wasn’t sure he could believe that. David had grown up hating him, after all.

“Captain Kirk, the commander of the starbase would like for you to bring the prisoner over as soon as possible.” Sulu’s voice rang out over the intercom.

“We’ll finish this discussion later. For now, get T’Karik back to sick bay. She’ll have to stay there until we can get proper bedding in here for her.” Jim handed the infant back to Spock and made his way over to the communication station at his desk. He was in Captain mode now. He had no time to think about his personal problems currently. He pressed a button to respond to Sulu, “Let them know myself and a team of security will be over in less than fifteen minutes with our guest.”

- - -

Jim returned to the ship a few hours later, tired and stiff. Spock greeted him with a glance as he entered their room, kneeling on his meditation pad.

“Did I interrupt your mediation? Sorry.” Jim rubbed at his temples. He hated making pleasant with certain officials, and the Admiral in charge of Starbase 21 was one of them. Especially given the disapproving looks he was given once he revealed he hadn’t gotten any information out of the prisoner during transit.

“No need for apologies, Jim. I was just finishing.” Spock stood, stretching his back. “How did things go?”

“Could have went better, but I’m just glad our friend is off ship now.” Jim approached Spock, burying his face in the Vulcan’s shoulder, “Now we can relax for a few days... unless Starfleet gives us orders.”

“We already received them, Captain.” Spock said, enveloping Jim in a hug and resting his head on top of his husbands. “While you were away, we were informed that we are to transport a pair of Vulcans from Starbase 21 to Vulcan.”

Jim groaned into Spock’s shoulder, “We get rid of one guest only to wind up with two more... Wait, we’re going to Vulcan?”

“Indeed. Rather convenient, as my mother is wanting to meet T’Karik as soon as possible.”

“Well, we’ll have to see if we can arrange to stay for a couple days-”
“Already arranged.”

“Spock, you sly dog.” Jim grinned and looked up at his husband, brushing his nose against the Vulcan’s. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’d planned this.”

“Not so much planned, as took advantage of a coincidence. I merely found out the scientists needed transportation back to Vulcan and I arranged everything from there.”

Jim laughed and kissed his husband.
- - -

They were still approximately three days from Vulcan when Sarek sent Spock a message regarding their adoption’s progress. Jim waited eagerly for Spock to open the communication. Surely, they’d be getting good news, especially with Sarek’s influence.

Spock scanned the document quickly, “The council wishes to speak with us directly before they give their final approval.”

Jim grinned; they had this in the bag. “Well, send a response! Schedule a hearing or whatever we need to do!”

- - -

After ensuring the scientists they were escorting made it to their designated beam-down point, Kirk and Spock began loading their bags onto the shuttlecraft that would carry them down to the surface of Vulcan. While Jim did not have the same reservations with transporters as Bones still did, he did not feel comfortable having an infant being beamed down.

The flight down to Vulcan was short, though not so short that he didn’t have to try to calm a crying infant. But after giving her a bottle, she settled back down in her carrier.

Ambassador Sarek and Lady Amanda greeted them upon their landing, Amanda walking briskly over to them to fawn over T’Karik while the Vulcan men unloaded the suitcases.

“I hate that our transmission was cut off when I first saw her, Captain Kirk. But she is far more adorable in person.” Amanda said, barely taking her eyes off the now sleeping infant.

“Jim. And isn’t she?” He was beaming as he followed his husband and his father-in-law up the trail to Sarek and Amanda’s rather large home. “Just wait until you get to hold her when we get inside. I might have to fight you to get her back.”

Amanda laughed, keeping in step with the Captain, her arm linked with his. “I’m stronger than I look, Jim. And I do adore children. You’ll have a hard time prying her away from me.”

“I don’t doubt it.”

- - -

Amanda hardly set T’Karik down once they were inside and Spock took her out of her car seat. She only handed her over to Sarek to hold when she had to begin to prepare dinner. And, to Kirk’s surprise, the Ambassador was surprisingly gentle with T’Karik, his whole demeanor softening as he cradled her in his arms. He had always assumed that Sarek was not nearly as cold and uncaring as he tried to appear, but he did not expect to see such blatant emotions on the older Vulcan’s face.

They were going to be fine grandparents, and, if they had to leave T’Karik on Vulcan, he was glad they would be the ones to raise her. Not only would Amanda give her all the attention and affection she could, but it appeared Sarek would as well.

“Are you prepared to face the council tomorrow, Spock?” Sarek’s question dragged Kirk from his thoughts. He looked over at his husband and waited for the answer.

“Of course, Father.” Spock replied, his tone cool, but far more relaxed than he had been years ago during the Babel incident. It made Jim happy to see that the two stubborn men had mended their relationship. “Though I assume that the decision has already been made by this point?”

“It is unwise to assume, Spock. But I cannot give any information of what has been discussed behind council doors at this moment.”

- - -

Jim tossed and turned in bed that night; sleep was eluding him as his nerves settled in full force. He wanted the meeting to already have happened. He rolled over to look at the clock on the night stand. Bright red letter glared the time, fifteen past two am. He groaned softly, trying to not disturb Spock, who was still and silent beside him. Damn Vulcans and their ability to meditate their minds into an easy rest.

“Jim, it has only been ten minutes since the last time you checked the clock. You need to sleep.”

“Holy sh-” Jim jumped, nearly rolling off the bed when Spock spoke up. He could have sworn the Vulcan was sleeping. He placed a hand over his heart to will it to cease beating so quickly. “You’re awake? Did I wake you up?”

“Negatory. I have been unable to sleep, much like yourself. Though I am still resting my mind and body, which you seem unable to do.” Spock replied, leaning up on his elbows to watch his husband.

“I’m just too wired to sleep. My nerves are getting to me.” Jim rolled onto his side to face Spock, “What if they tell us no?”

“The odds of our request being denied are less than two percent,” Spock reached out and traced up the side of Jim’s face with his middle and index finger. “It will do you no good to worry yourself all night and show up exhausted.”

Jim shuddered slightly at the spark that followed Spock’s touch up to his temple. “I know that it isn’t logical. But I can’t help but worry.”

“Perhaps I can help provide a distraction.” Spock’s fingers lingered on his lover’s meld point at his temple.

“Please do. I want to get some sleep tonight.” Jim grinned, reaching up to flatten Spock’s hand t his meld points.

“My mind to your mind...” Spock said softly, before he joined with Jim’s mind.

- - -

Jim paced nervously in the hall while they waited for the council to see them. Spock sat still, aside from the comparatively smaller action of tapping his fingers against his knees. Lady Amanda watched them both from across the hall with an amused look on her face, holding T’Karik proudly as her- hopefully- soon to be fathers were too nervous to do so.

“I swear, you’d think they were facing criminal charges, the way they can’t sit still.” She said to T’Karik.

Spock shot his mother a very serious look, “It is hardly our fault that the council is uncharacteristically late for our appointment. We were supposed to appear before them three point six minutes ago.”

“And you’ve been fidgeting for almost five, Spock.” Amanda chided, though her expression never lost the fondness it had held since her son and his husband had arrived.

“You’ll have to forgive us, Lady Amanda. T’Karik is very important to us and I’m- we are a bit worried they won’t let us adopt her.” Jim stopped near her, rocking on his heels as he was unable to stand still. He was so full of nervous energy; he was surprised he had managed to get any sleep. He probably wouldn’t have had Spock not distracted him and gotten him relaxed enough so they could both get at least three hours sleep.

Finally, the large doors leading to the council chambers opened, revealing Sarek behind them. He motioned for Kirk and Spock to enter. Spock stood, straightened his robes, and waited for Kirk to move before he’d walk into the room.
Jim rubbed his face before leaning over to kiss Lady Amanda’s cheek. “Wish us luck.”

“You’ll do fine, boys. The little one and I will be waiting for you when you’ve finished.”

Jim nodded and turned to Spock. “Ready to face the giant, Spock?”

“A Biblical reference, Jim?” Spock asked as they walked down the hall to the chamber. Jim giggled, more of a nervous reaction than actual amusement.

Sarek greeted them with a nod once they crossed the threshold, guiding them to the spot where they would stand before the council. “We apologize for the delay, gentlemen. An emergency arose regarding a drought that needed our immediate attention.”

“No problem, sir. We’re glad for the audience at all.” Jim replied before Sarek left them to retake his place among the council. He turned his attention to T’Pau, seated in the center of the council. While Jim knew of her power and influence on Vulcan and in the Federation as a whole, he was just a bit surprised to see her on the council.

“S’chn T’gai Spock, son of Sarek, and Captain James Tiberius Kirk, you stand before the council today for the decision regarding your adoption of the orphaned daughter of the house of Selen. The child you have named T’Karik.” T’Pau recited, as though she had rehearsed her lines. “And the council is not opposed to the adoption. Spock has brought honor to his family’s name, and Captain Kirk, you have been a friend to Vulcan and the Federation. However, before we can officially give the child unto your family, you must provide us proof that she will receive a proper education and mental training, as all Vulcan children are expected to undergo. Especially if it is not your intention to have her raised on Vulcan with her peers.”

Jim swallowed, hard, about to step forward to declare their intentions, but Spock beat him to it. “Most honored T’Pau, my husband and I would appreciate the chance to raise the child T’Karik ourselves, aboard the Enterprise. I will provide all of the mental training she requires, and have already began the processes to program a series of educational programs into the ship’s database for when she is ready to begin her education.”

Jim watched in awe as his husband spoke. He hadn’t realized how much forethought Spock had put into this, even with them discussing their plans a good deal in the past couple days.

“It is also vital to note that several of our officers aboard the Enterprise are the best of their respective fields, and would provide T’Karik with further options for education.” Spock continued, meeting the gazes of each member of the council. “However, if this is insufficient for the council’s desires, Ambassador Sarek and Lady Amanda have graciously offered their home for her to be raised in, where T’Karik may receive an official Vulcan education. We thank you for your time and consideration.”

The council deliberated in hushed tones and Jim felt as though he would not be able to breath until they gave an answer. He desperately wanted to hold Spock’s hand while they waited, needing a boost to support himself, but he did not want to overstep the cultural boundaries in a place such as this. Instead, he gripped his hands tightly in front of him.

“We have reached a decision.” T’Pau spoke, commanding their attention. “We believe the child T’Karik will thrive aboard the Enterprise just as well as she would on Vulcan. Our only request being that she visit a Vulcan Healer whenever the Enterprise is in the vicinity of Vulcan, so that we may monitor her telepathic progress. And that you keep us updated on her education whenever possible.”

“We will do both, T’Pau. And our thanks to the council for this opportunity.” Spock responded.

- - -

Jim did his best to restrain his glee until he was out of the council chambers and the door shut heavily behind them. Once they were out of sight, he let his happiness loose, grinning so wide he felt his face might split and laughing as he ran to Lady Amanda to hug her, careful to not crush his newly adopted daughter as he did.

“I take it things went well?” Amanda said, peeking over Kirk’s shoulder to look at her son, whose lips were quirked upward in a very Vulcan smile.

“They have approved the adoption and are allowing us to raise her on ship.” Spock replied, touching Jim’s elbow to get him to let go of his mother. The excited Captain just latched onto Spock for a moment of affection and joy. “And Father said he will meet us at the house by dinner. He and the council have other matters to discuss.”

“Less time I’ll have to share my granddaughter then.” Amanda replied, smiling proudly at her boys.

- - -

“Captain, Mr. Spock,” Scotty greeted them as they stepped off the shuttlecraft and back onto the Enterprise. The engineer grinned at the squirming baby in Kirk’s arms, “And wee little lass, if you’ll follow me. Commander Uhura has planned a celebration for your new family. Just a wee affair.”

“For us? How sweet.” Jim responded, adjusting T’Karik before following behind Scotty, Spock trailing behind him.

- - -

“Congratulations!” Uhura all but shouted as soon as they entered the room, her arms wide to give Jim a hug as soon as he was in range. Jim kissed her cheek as she pulled away.

“Would Auntie Nyota like to hold T’Karik?” He asked, offering her the infant.

Uhura grinned and gladly took the child from him, “As if I would decline. Now go on, sit, eat. Everyone here is ready to celebrate with you.”

“Alright, alright. But I want my daughter back before I leave.” Jim smiled and looked around the recreation room Uhura had set up for them. Sulu and Chekov were talking with Bixton by the table with the cake and punch set up on it, Bones sat at a table by himself already digging into a piece of cake, and a few other officers stood and sat around the room. Jim walked over and sat across from Bones, Spock settling in beside him a minute later with punch and a slice of cake for his husband.

“So how’s it feel to be a dad, Spock?” Bones asked, pointing his cake-covered fork at the Vulcan, all smiles.

“I feel no different than I had prior to the adoption becoming official.” Spock replied, pretending to be irritated with the Doctor’s absurd question. “After all, I had little doubt that we would be denied our request, given our credentials and my Father’s influence.”

“Would you listen to this guy? Makes it sound like you were applying for a house, not to adopt a kid.” Bones rolled his eyes, though he was still smiling at the pair of them. “Spock does know that I’m gonna be her godfather, right?”

“Jim had informed me of such.” Spock replied, regardless of the fact that the question had not been directed at him. “And I find that she would do no better in a godparent than yourself, Leonard.”

“Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.” Bones’ expression only brightened, “I think that’s the closest I’ve ever gotten to a genuine declaration of caring from our pointy-eared friend.”

Jim laughed and began eating his cake.

- - -

As the small party dwindled down, and a few officers and crew left to return to their shore leave or duty, Jim leaned back and watched as Uhura danced around the room with his child, singing an old Andorian lullaby. Scotty had joined them at their table a while ago, exchanging stories with Bones and picking off the remainder of the cake that had been left behind.

Jim leaned to the side, bumping shoulders with Spock before resting his head against his partner’s shoulder with a content sigh. Raising a child wouldn’t be easy, especially not for men like them. But they had dealt with everything the universe could throw at them, so long as they had each other.

Raising a kid couldn’t be that much more difficult than anything else they had done, right?

- - -

EPILOGUE
Five Years Later

“One day, your dads are gonna give me a heart attack.” Bones mumbled, adjusting T'Karik on his hip before looking through the binoculars again.

“Doubtful, Doctor. Daddy and Father have put you through far more stressful situations than this and you have survived.” T'Karik replied, eyes drifting from the birds she was trying to identify to her godfather. “Besides, I would not permit it.”

“Oh, you wouldn't? Good to know. Now if you could just convince 'daddy' to stop doing stupid stuff like climbing a mountain with no harnesses, I'd be forever in your debt.”

“I will do my best, but you know how Daddy is.”

“Stubborn as a mule. Your father is too.” Bones grinned. His little goddaughter was learning quick, and that made her Bones' little ray of sunshine of snark. And if they managed to get approval for the extended shore leave so Scotty and his team could finish upgrading the Enterprise, he planned on taking her- and maybe her dads too, if they asked nicely, to see Joanna and her three-month old baby boy. It'd be the first time he'd ever seen his grandson, and he wanted his odd family to be there with him when he did. “And call me 'Uncle Bones', okay? Remind me too much of your father when you refer to me as 'Doctor'.”

“But it is your title.” T'Karik raised an eyebrow at him. Something she clearly picked up from Spock. “It would be rude to address you otherwise.”

Bones let go of the binoculars, letting them thud against his chest, to free his hand so he could tickle her. Luckily, she hadn't learned to control her body enough to block her ticklish spots and she began squirming and squealing with laughter against his side, dropping all sense of Vulcan training Spock had been teaching her since she was a toddler. Bones grinned and kept up the assault, “What do you call me?”

“Stop! St-stop!” T'Karik squeaked between peals of laughter. “Uncle Bones! Please!”

“That's better.” Bones stopped tickling her and kissed her cheek quickly before picking up his binoculars again. He searched the expanse of mountain for a familiar head of curly hair. “Now let's see what trouble your daddy's getting into now.”

- - -

When Kirk began to fall, he wondered if this was he was going to die. A big splat on the ground. Not exactly how he pictured going, honestly. But Spock was there in the nick of time, grabbing him by his ankle before he hit the ground. He grinned up at his husband, “Always gonna catch me when I fall, huh?”

“Sometimes more literally than others.” Spock responded. It was awfully light-hearted considering Jim had almost died. But that was just something they had learned from their years working together. The had to joke about the near-misses with death, otherwise they'd always be miserable.

“What the hell was that?” Bones yelled, tearing through the trees towards them, T'Karik clinging to his back. “You trying to get yourself killed?”

“I'm fine, Bones. See? Still intact.” Jim responded as Spock lowered him to the ground. Once he was set down, he stood and brushed himself off.

“Yeah, everything except your brain.” Bones mumbled and turned his head to look back at T'Karik. “What do you say, Kari?”

“Daddy is fortunate that Father was there to stop his fall.” T'Karik nodded, giving her daddy a mild glare. “And Daddy should take more precautions the next time he decides to climb a mountain.”

“I think we leave her with you too much, Bones. She's starting to sound like you.” Jim gave them a look of mock hurt, moving to them and reaching his arms out. T'Karik let go of Bones and went willingly into her daddy's arms, snuggling against his chest.

“Well someone's got to be the voice of reason in your little family.” Bones replied, already missing the weight of T'Karik against his back.

“We already have you. We don't need a mini-Bones as well.” Jim stuck his tongue out at him.

Bones smiled, feeling touched that Jim considered him part of his family. “What would you do without Uncle Bones?”

- - -

“Dinner's ready! Come and get it!” Bones hollered, clanging the triangle he'd bought just for this trip as loudly as he could while he did.

Spock and T'Karik cringed and covered their ears while Jim laughed and reached out to try to stop the racket. “Bones, Bones! We're already here! You can stop!”

“I know. I always wanted to do a proper dinner call though.” Bones grinned and sat down on the log beside them, setting the triangle down on the ground behind them. He leaned forward and grabbed the ladle, preparing to scoop out the beans he made for everyone's dinner. “Now y'all better enjoy these beans. It's an old McCoy recipe, passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years. And I even made it vegetarian, for you picky Vulcans.”

“Vulcans are not 'picky', Doctor. We choose to avoid most meat in our meals out of respect-”

Bones cut Spock off, “I know, Spock. I'm just teasing you.”

As soon as everyone's bowl was full and started eating, Bones watched them eagerly, waiting for some kind of reaction. “Well, what do you think?”

“It certainly has an... interesting flavor.” Spock remarked, between spoonfuls of the beans.

“That'd be the secret ingredient.” Bones grinned and pulled a flask from his coat pocket, offering it to Jim. “Genuine Kentucky Bourbon. Care for a hit, Jimmy?”

“Really, Bones?” Jim took the flask and took a long drink from it. He wiped his mouth and passed it back, “You're giving alcohol to my five year old. Thought you had more sense than that.”

“Yeah and you haven't taken them from her.” Bones snipped back, snatching the flask away from him. “'Sides, you know Vulcans aren't affected by alcohol the way we are. Her fast metabolism will just burn through it with no consequence.”

“They taste... good.” T'Karik finally spoke up, having finished off her bowl while the adults were bickering. She held her bowl out to Bones, “Another serving, please?”

- - -

T'Karik had settled into Jim's lap after dinner was over. They both were studying the sky, Jim quizzing her on star names. Bones had to say he was impressed by how many constellations she could accurately name. The girl was a genius. Well, by Earth standards. He wasn't sure how she'd compare to Vulcan children. Probably blow them out of the water.

A rustling noise brought Bones out of his thoughts. He now focused on Spock, who was digging something out of his bag. “Whatcha got there, Spock?”

“According to my research, there are several camping traditions that are commonly observed.” Spock replied, holding a container in his hands. He opened it and out dispensed a marshmallow. “One of which involves the roasting of marsh-melons.”

Bones raised his fist to his mouth and snickered into it. If Spock had come across any inaccurate information regarding marshmallows, it certainly wasn't his fault. “Oh yeah. How could we forget about the marshma- melons.”

“Indeed.” Spock reached back into his bag and dug out four small sticks, sharpened to a point on one end. Spock had either bought these ahead of time or he was a damn fast whittler.

T'Karik had squirmed out of Jim's lap by this point, carefully walking on the log to sit by her father. She stared at the marshmallow until Spock finally handed it to her to investigate. She poked and prodded at it for a moment before tearing half of it off and shoving it in her mouth. Her eyes grew wider and she quickly shoved the other half in her mouth. With her mouth still full of the sweet, she mumbled, “Fascinating.”, or at least that's what Bones thought she was saying.

“Have we forgotten our manners already?” Jim commented, passing a water bottle to his daughter before snagging a marshmallow and a stick from Spock. “We don't speak with our mouth full.”

T'Karik blushed, a faint green color spreading across her cheeks, and took a several small gulps of water before sheepishly saying, “My apologies, daddy.”

Jim leaned over and motioned for her to come closer. She did, snuggling into daddy's side as he held his marshmallow out close to the flames. “Marsh-melons are so much better when they're toasted. You'll love it.”

And so they spent hours sitting around a slowly dying campfire, roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories. Bones and Jim occasionally broke out into traditional campfire songs, loud and out-of-key, until T'Karik fell asleep, her head on Jim's lap. They were an odd sort of family, but it was the only family T'Karik knew. And if she were to openly express her emotions, she'd let them know she wouldn't want it any other way.