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Now the Sons Look For Their Fathers/ But Their Fathers Are All Gone

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There is a lot of crying, a lot of shouting, a lot of red flashing lights and orders and alerts and blood, so much blood. Vulcans crowd the already overflowing Medbay, old and young and even younger, and there is too much going on for Leonard to focus.

 

He’s tired, and he’s scared, and he’s irritated beyond all reason, and that’s probably why he doesn’t think twice when the little Vulcan boy steps in his path, face screwed up and green with tears and screaming.

 

He just— picks him up. Scoops the kid off the ground and settles him on his hip, rocking him gently to quiet him before he can renew his screams so close to Leonard’s ear. The actions don’t even register as particularly odd to him, because honestly? It’s been an odd fucking day.

 

What does register is Chapel’s little pause in her report, the way her eyes go wide in surprise as they flicker between the Vulcan boy— who has gone absolutely silent in Leonard’s arms— and Leonard himself.

 

“What?”

 

Chapel blinks and shakes herself.

 

“Nothing, Doctor,” she says. “I just didn’t realize you…”

 

She gestures to the boy, still perched stiffly on Leonard’s hip.

 

Leonard blinks. Right, Vulcan. Vulcans don’t like to be touched.

 

“He was upset,” he says, already moving to set him back down. “It’s a damn reflex, sue me—”

 

The boy lets out an ungodly screech, little fingers finding the fabric of Leonard’s uniform and pulling.

 

Leonard straightens, frowning. The boy’s grip relaxes and he goes quiet again.

 

“Okay,” he says. “Guess you’re staying here, huh, buddy?”

 

The boy stares, uncomprehending, then buries his face in Leonard’s shoulder, hooking one hand into his uniform collar.

 

“He’s probably too young to have started learning Standard,” Chapel mutters.

 

“Probably,” Leonard agrees, tilting his head to peer at the little boy. He seems comfortable and unwilling to be moved in equal measure. It’s probably best to just let him stay. “... What’s the status on mind healers? Are there any onboard?”

 

“... Three,” Chapel says. “Only one is fully qualified.”

 

“I don’t think that’s going to matter much,” he says grimly. “It’s all hands on deck right now. Where are they?”

 

“Your office. They wanted to talk to you about accommodations.”

 

Leonard sighs.

 

“Alright. Have you got a handle on this mess?”

 

“Yeah. Go— the quicker we get the ball rolling, the quicker we might actually be able to do some good here.” And with that, Chapel turns away, leaving over a red shirt who’d awoken to find one eye missing.

 

Leonard sighs and looks at the boy.

 

“Come on, buddy,” he says. “Time for a meeting.”


*.*


The mind healers stare when Leonard walks in, waving the privacy window on with a free hand before moving to take the seat behind the desk.

 

His seat, now.

 

“Doctor McCoy,” greets the one nearest to the desk, offering a ta’al. “I am Sybok. These are my students, T’Pring and Lushek.”

 

Leonard blinks. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen a Vulcan with a beard before.

 

“Nice to meet you,” he says shortly, adjusting the boy so he can sit more comfortably on his lap. “Let’s make this quick: What needs to be done to keep the Vulcans aboard this ship healthy?”

 

Sybok’s mouth flickers into a humorless smile, and Leonard takes a moment to wonder about that before the man begins to speak.

 

“If this were a simple matter of disaster relief, I would say there is nothing that you could do,” he says. “We would have the manpower to care for our people, and all would be as strongly affected. However, the loss of Vulcan and so many of its people goes beyond what we healers are equipped to handle.” His mouth turns down into a frown. “That and the added problems of only having one fully-trained healer aboard, we could be facing… the damage done to us with destruction of Vulcan may only be the beginning, I’m afraid.”

 

Leonard sighs.

 

“Okay,” he says. “What are your projections? How can this get worse?”

 

“Many bonds have been broken,” Lushek says. “Familial bonds and the bonds of marriage. It would not be unexpected if some of our number… fades.”

 

“They’ll will themselves to die,” Sybok explains. “A loss of a partner or a parent is usually accompanied by appointments to a healer, to assure that the emotional control of the surviving Vulcan is not put in jeopardy. However, many of us have lost… entire families have been wiped out, Doctor McCoy, and with so few of us…”

 

T’Pring says something that, if Leonard didn’t know better, would have called a reprimand.

 

Sybok rolls his eyes.

 

“Nonsense, T’Pring,” he says in Standard. “We are not in a situation where we have the luxury of withholding information. No now.”

 

Leonard can appreciate the man’s practicality.

 

“If it makes you feel better, Mister T’Pring, what’s said here is completely on a need-to-know basis,” he says. “I have no desire to allow the Vulcan people to feel anymore vulnerable than they have to be.”

 

She stares at him for a long moment, then nods in understanding.

 

“Of course, Doctor.”

 

Satisfied, Leonard turns back to Sybok.

 

“If we were looking at Humans, I’d say we’ve got to worry about PTSD at a minimum,” he says. “Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, dissociation— those are all typical responses of the Human mind after a traumatic event. Now, I don’t know much about Vulcans— M’Benga’s the expert there— but I know that Vulcan emotions are stronger than ours, and exponentially more damaging.”

 

Sybok nods.

 

“Control is a necessity for the continued health of a Vulcan,” he says. “And many would believe that meditation will be enough to regain the balance that comes with it… I cannot imagine it will be enough in light of this tragedy. We may need to employ more than what a mind healer can provide.”

 

Leonard chews his lip thoughtfully.

 

“I can give you everything we’ve got on Human therapeutical practices,” he says. “I don’t know if it’ll help any, but who knows, you might be able to adapt something to stave off the worst of it until you can work your way through—”

 

“Bonz!” the little boy says suddenly.

 

Leonard looks down.

 

“What was that?”

 

“Bonz,” the little boy says again, looking up at Leonard with large, black eyes. “Bonz.”

 

“What’s that mean?” he asks, looking to the Vulcans.

 

“It doesn’t mean anything,” Sybok says, frowning slightly. “He may have read you. He is young, so it was likely accidental. Control comes with age, you understand.”

 

“Bonz,” he says again, and— oh, one of his hands is resting on Leonard’s forearm.

 

Leonard sighs and gently catches the boy’s wrist, careful to only touch the sleeve of his robes.

 

“That’s impolite, buddy,” he says gently. “You can’t just read people’s minds, you know.”

 

The child frowns.

 

“Bonz,” he says again, clearly unhappy.

 

T’Pring steps forward, eyes focused on the boy as she says something that Leonard doesn’t understand.

 

The boy apparently doesn’t like what she has to say, pushing back into Leonard’s chest. Leonard doesn’t understand his reply, but his voice is pitched high with rising panic.

 

“Hey, buddy, don’t freak out,” he says, curling his arm around the boy’s waist and bouncing his knee. “You’re fine. Mister T’Pring’s a healer, right? She’s not going to hurt you.” Looking up, he shoots her a glare. “What the hell d’you say?”

 

T’Pring arches an eyebrow.

 

“I was simply informing him that it is improper for him to act so familiarly with a stranger,” she says. “Particularly since you are of a non-telepathic species.”

 

“How did you come by this boy, for that matter?” Lushek asks.

 

Leonard shrugs, suddenly feeling defensive.

 

“He was crying,” he says flatly. “And nobody else seemed like they were taking care of him, so I took him. He calmed down once I picked him up.”

 

Sybok hums thoughtfully.

 

“Normally, a child his age would seek physical and mental comfort from a parent or relative,” he says. “It’s considered inappropriate for a stranger to offer those comforts to a child not of their blood.”

 

“Oh. Sorry.”

 

Sybok shakes his head.

 

“Don’t apologize, Doctor, I have a feeling that this will not be the only case of children taking advantage of the kindness of strangers,” he says. “Of the forty-eight Vulcan children aboard this ship, only three of them were able to be reunited with any sort of family.”

 

“... Shit.” That’s forty-five children now alone in this universe. Forty-five children belonging to an endangered species.

 

“That’s the whole of it, yes,” Sybok agrees. “It is unlikely many of the Vulcans aboard will take charge of the remaining children— to form a parental bond at such a point in time would be dangerous, both to the foster parent and the child.”

 

“So what the hell are we supposed to do for them?” Leonard demands. “You said yourself that we’re up shit’s creek as far as the adults go. What are we going to do with a bunch of kids? If control comes with time, how are they going to deal with the fact that their planet’s destroyed and their parents are probably dead?”

 

Sybok sighs.

 

“You now see our predicament,” he says. “I’ve no experience with children. My students may provide assistance to a point regarding adult care, but I’m afraid they can do even less than I until the first issue is resolved.”

 

“The lack of control being exercised by the youth will also prove problematic,” T’Pring adds. “A Vulcan couple is unlikely to take on the potential problems that come with emotionally compromised young. It can be damaging.”

 

“So I ask again: What the hell are we supposed to do?”

 

“There is a temporary solution,” Lushek says thoughtfully. He looks at Sybok. “You are the product of a Human caretaker.”

 

Sybok makes a face.

 

“I’m not a proper Vulcan,” he says. “The elders will have something to say about that.”

 

“The elders have other, more pressing things to worry about,” Lushek says. “And you cannot say that Lady Amanda did not prove beneficial to you after the loss of your mother.”

 

“Lady Amanda?” Leonard blinks. “You mean, Lady Amanda, wife of Sarek?”

 

Sybok nods, unhappy.

 

“Sarek is my father,” he says. “My biological mother left me in his care to pursue Kolinahr.”

 

“So that makes you Commander Spock’s brother, doesn’t it?”

 

“By blood.” Sybok’s mouth tightens. “We have not spoken in many years.”

 

Leonard dips his head.

 

“I’m sorry for your loss,” he says. “Lady Amanda was a wonderful woman, I’m told.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“My point stands,” Lushek says, stepping closer. “A Human does not have the same trepidation at the thought of caring for an emotionally compromised Vulcan child. If provided with instructions, Humans may prove acceptable caretakers until suitable suitable Vulcan parents may be found.”

 

“That sounds like an interstellar incident waiting to happen,” Leonard says. “Anybody got any better ideas?”

 

There is a beat of silence. Leonard curses.

 

“Fine,” he says. “Fine. Do we know where all these kids are right now?”

 

“They were placed together in nurses’ emergency barracks until better accommodations could be found,” T’Pring says.

 

Leonard nods sharply.

 

“Guess my buddy here managed to slip away,” he says, pushing himself to his feet. “Alright. Let’s see what we’re dealing with, here.”

 

He has the feeling that this is going to become a personal project very quickly as they walk down the long corridor that makes up the medical wing. He’s the oldest one aboard, besides maybe that engineer Jim picked up, and he can’t imagine many of these kids— cadets, for the most part, none of them much older than twenty-five— have much in the way of experience with childcare.

 

The little boy tucks his face into Leonard’s shoulder, clinging like Leonard’s all he has in the world.

 

Well, he thinks, sighing. At least he knows he’s being useful.

Chapter Text

The barracks are, in a word, chaos.

 

Most of the children appear to be older than Leonard’s charge, but not by much. A few older children— teenagers, really— sit huddled together in pairs on spare bunks.

 

“We were fortunate,” Syboks murmurs to Leonard as he surveys the room. “Many of the older children were lucky enough to escape with their bondmates.”

 

“The blessings of high school sweethearts,” Leonard says dryly. “Alright— Mister Sybok, do you mind getting their attention for me? I don’t speak any Vulcan.”

 

“Just Sybok please, Doctor.”

 

“Sybok.”

 

Sybok smiles and turns to the room at large.

 

“Hizhuk!” He booms. The room goes silent, all eyes focused on them.

 

Sybok gestures for Leonard to speak.

 

Ah, shit. Leonard’s never been good at public speaking.

 

Luckily, he doesn’t seem to have to.

 

“Au tor Bonz. au tor ves. au dungi palutunau etek s' i' fi',” the boy in Leonard’s arms says— he still hasn’t gotten the boy’s name. He should do that.

 

“Au ri tor Vuhlkansu,” a girl not much older than him replies, crossing her arms. “Au fam yehat nem-tor tun t' etek.”

 

The boy shakes his head furiously.

 

“Du dungi oren-tor,” he says. “Au dungi nem-tor tun t' etek.”

 

“... Right.” Leonard shifts. “What was that, Sybok?”

 

“It seems you have a champion,” He says, grinning. “The boy—” he pauses, posing a question to the child.

 

“Buddy.”

 

Sybok blinks, then asks again.

 

“Buddy.”

 

“... Very well,” he says, looking back to Leonard. “Buddy has told them that you are called ‘Bonz’, and that you are kind and will be caring for them from now on.”

 

“I— Bonz?” Leonard pauses, because… oh. Oh. “He’s trying to say Bones.”

 

Sybok frowns.

 

“Why would he call you that?”

 

“It’s a nickname,” Leonard says, irritated. “Jim— Captain Kirk— calls me that.”

 

“Why— no,” Sybok says, shaking his head. “It’s not important.”

 

“Does he speak the truth?” asks one of the teenagers. “Will Bones be caring for us?”

 

Leonard sighs.

 

“I’m Doctor McCoy,” he says. “And yes, I will be taking care of you until the adults are healthy enough to take over, along with a handful of other nurses.”

 

The boy stares at him.

 

“You are Human,” he says finally, almost dismissively. “You will be unable to provide the care we need.”

 

“Yeah? Well, I’m the best you’ve got,” Leonard says irritably. “Now, besides you, how many can speak Standard, show of hands.”

 

There’s a pause, and then a handful of children raise their hands— all of them teenagers.

 

“Twelve of you? Well, that’s going to complicate things,” he says. “Alright, first things first. Are any of you injured? Er… Sybok?”

 

Sybok repeats the question, this time in Vulcan, which is answered by a smattering of answers.

 

“Not that they can tell,” Sybok says. “They were beamed out before any could come to harm.”

 

Leonard nods. That’s what he’d thought.

 

“I’m going to check you all over anyway,” he says, pleased when Sybok translates for him. “But I want you all to eat something first. Bonded pairs, each of you are responsible for a group of five. We’re going down to the mess hall, and I don’t want to lose any of you.”

 

His tricorder should be enough for now, he thinks as the teens move to gather the younger children around them. Many of them are still quite clearly unhappy, faces blotchy from crying and mouth pulled into deep frowns.

 

Leonard is unsure what to do with that, so he hitches Buddy up higher on his hip and turns to Sybok.

 

“You’re gonna need your strength,” he says. “I don’t have to tell you to eat.”

 

Sybok smiles.

 

“Of course not, Doctor,” he says, tucking his hands in his pockets. “I will join you shortly. I simply must collect my students.”

 

Leonard nods and looks back to the kids. Look at them, all prim and proper, already organized into little lines- two groups even managed to think of taking on the leftover kids, which is great, because Leonard’s too tired to do math. If the situation weren’t so fucked up, he’d think it was cute.

 

“I know my way to the mess hall,” Sybok says, placing a hand on Leonard’s shoulder. “We’ll be along shortly.”

 

Leonard nods.

 

“Alright,” he says, gesturing at the groups. “Follow me- and be careful, okay? The ship’s in pieces.”

 

The teenagers translate quietly, and a moment later he’s met with a chorus of what he imagines is the Vulcan equivalent of ‘affirmative’.

 

He takes a deep breath.

 

“Okay,” he mutters, more to himself than to anyone else. “Vulcan field trip. Awesome.”

 

Sybok chuckles.

 

“Don’t worry, Doctor,” he says. “We’re all out of sorts, today.”

 

Out of sorts is a phrase that could be used. Personally, Leonard is tired. Surgery after surgery, death after death… every bruise, break, cut, and burn is bouncing around in the back of his brain, the faces of the injured and the faces of the grieving bright in his mind’s eye. He wishes this day never happened. He wishes more than anything that Vulcan was saved and that none of this was happening, that all he had to worry about was whether Jim’s time at the Academy was coming to a swift and brutal end.

 

Not for the first time, he wishes he hadn’t been drunk enough to listen to Pike.

 

Well, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride, and Leonard certainly doesn’t have any horses. Neither, he imagines, do any of these kids. They’ll have to make do with a starship without a warp core and a pretty captain who shouldn’t be on the ship in the first place.

 

Leonard should have just drunk himself to death. Then, at least, he’d’ve known what he was in for. Yeah, shitting blood isn’t exactly glamorous, but it would’ve been better than this… uncertainty. This sorrow. This grief.

 

Buddy lets out a little squeak of uncertainty, and Leonard realizes the boy’s hand has found his wrist again.

 

He tries for a smile, smoothing the boy’s hair with his free hand.

 

“It’s alright, Buddy,” he says, rocking him gently. “I was thinking too hard, is all. C’mon, let’s go get something to eat.”

Chapter Text

 

Their group takes up almost eight tables, all huddled together as they eat replicated plomeek soup in absolute, terrifying silence.

 

Therefore, Leonard is circling.

 

He’s checking every kid, making sure they’re eating. He finds napkins to wipe little faces clean of tears and murmurs quiet condolences when they go green with shame.

 

“It’s okay,” he says softly, turning their faces with gentle fingers. “I don’t care if you cry. You’re alright, and that’s what matters.”

 

The younger ones grab at his wrist and the back of his hands, at any piece of skin they can reach, squeezing just a smidge too tightly as he tries to work. He lets them, though, because they’re little and there isn’t much he can do right now to make them understand.

 

“There we go, sweetie,” he says, dabbing gently around a girl’s bruised eye. “You’re safe now, promise.”

 

Long fingers are wrapped around his wrist, a thumb pressed into the meet of his palm.

 

“Eh’man’es,” she says, good eye wide with something… something Leonard can’t describe.

 

He glances at the teen nearest him, a girl with a string of diamonds woven through her hair.

 

“What’s that mean?” he asks.

 

The girl looks at him.

 

“Safety,” she says. Her language is accented and light. “Bonz Ma’koi, you should not let them touch you. It is improper.”

 

Leonard’s lip quirks.

 

“What’s your name?”

 

“T’Ruao.”

 

“Well, T’Ruao, the fact is, I don’t speak Vulcan and she can’t speak Standard,” he says, gently extricating himself from the little girl’s hold. “None of the little ones can speak Standard. So if they have to read my mind to get a little bit of comfort that they aren’t all alone in the universe, I’m more than happy to let it slide. These are extenuating circumstances, you know.”

 

T’Ruao stares a moment, then nods.

 

“I suppose you have a point, Bonz,” she says. “We can only hope that the universe does not align itself for such a circumstance to be created again.”

 

Leonard sighs.

 

“Yeah,” he agrees. “Make sure she finishes her soup, okay? I want you all to have something in your stomachs.”

 

T’Ruao nods and shifts in her chair, attention focused on the girl. He leaves her to it, straightening with a grunt as his back protests.

 

He’s getting old.

 

“Bonz!”

 

He turns at the panicked cry, eyes darting across the tables until he spots the source of the distress.

 

Buddy is weaving between the tables as quick as he can without running, robes fluttering behind him. In his efforts, he doesn’t notice Jim until he collides with his legs.

 

“Oh, hey, little guy, where’s the fire?”

 

Buddy takes one look at Jim’s bruised face and wails.

 

“Bonz!”

 

Leonard moves quicker than he probably should, considering close quarters, but he’s beside Jim in a moment, reaching under Buddy’s reaching arms and pulling him up.

 

“Buddy, you’re supposed to be eating,” he says. “Not running around and colliding with idiots.”

 

“Hey!” Jim says. “I’m Captain, you know. You don’t get to talk about your Captain like that.”

 

“I think the term is Acting Captain,” Bones retorts. “And anyway—”

 

“Bonz!” Buddy says, pushing against Leonard’s cheek so he’s looking at him. “Bonz—” he breaks off into a stream of Vulcan, chattering at Leonard like he understands anything that he’s being told.

 

“Uh, Bones—”

 

Buddy goes silent, turning a glare on Jim that only a six year old can manage.

 

Jim looks between Leonard and Buddy. He settles on Leonard, not quite able to keep the smirk of his face.

 

“New friend, Bones?” he asks arching an eyebrow.

 

“Something like that,” Leonard says, gently tugging Buddy’s hand away. “Buddy, this is Captain Kirk. He’s my friend, and an idiot.”

 

Jim offers a ta’al.

 

“Dif’tor heh smusma,” he says.

 

Buddy blinks, then says something back to him. Jim answers in kind.

 

“What’re you two saying?” Leonard asks, irritated.

 

Jim blinks, looking back to Bones.

 

“I told him I’m the captain of the ship, and that you’re my friend,” he says. “He told me that I can’t be your friend, because he’s your friend— you can have more than one friend, Buddy.” He stops. “Why are you calling him Buddy?”

 

“He wouldn’t give Sybok his name,” Leonard says tiredly. “I’ve been calling him Buddy, and that’s what he’s sticking with.”

 

“Oh. That’s cute.”

 

Jim pauses, glancing towards the tables full of Vulcan kids.

 

“This is everyone?” he asks quietly. “All the kids, I mean.”

 

“There’s three more,” Leonard says. “But they’re with whatever family they’ve got left.”

 

Jim sighs, somber.

 

“This really sucks,” he says plainly. “We’ve got two weeks on impulse power before we’re even close to a spaceport that can take us. That’s two weeks with a bunch of kids who’ve never so much as seen a non-Vulcan. What’re we gonna do?”

 

“Our best, Jim.” Leonard runs a hand through Buddy’s hair. “We’re going to do our best.”

 

Something tugs on the hem of Leonard’s uniform pants. He looks down to see the little girl with the bruised eye staring up at him, arms outstretched to be held.

 

“Hey, sweetie,” he says, crouching down to lift her with the arm not currently juggling Buddy. “Did you finish your food?”

 

“... Bonz,” she says, tucking her chin shyly. “Eh’man’as.”

 

Bones sighs, rolling his thumb soothingly where he’s holding her up.

 

Jim’s eyes are the size of saucers.

 

“They’re calling you Bones?” he says, smile breaking across his face once more. “You’re letting them?”

 

“I’m not doing anything,” Leonard says flatly. “Buddy read it off me and told everybody. I can’t exactly explain it to the little ones— they don’t speak Standard.”

 

“Right.” Jim is far too entertained by this. “Sure, okay. Let’s go with that. That seems like a plausible story for a couple of baby Vulcans calling you Bones.”

 

“It is true, however.” Leonard turns to see T’Pring standing beside him, mouth like stone. “Doctor, if I may have a moment of your time.”

 

“Of course, Mister T’Pring.” Leonard looks at Jim. “You mind?”

 

“‘Course not. Go be Doctory. I’ll hang out with these kids.” Jim jerks his thumb at the group. “If you see Spock, though, send him my way.”

 

Leonard nods curtly and turns to T’Pring.

 

“What can I do for you?”

 

T’Pring’s doesn’t answer right away, gaze boring into his. He tamps down on the urge to fidget, meeting her eyes levelly as he waits.

 

“Sybok would prefer if the children are familiarized with the ship’s schedule,” she says. “Artificial evening hours begin in an hour and thirty minutes.”

 

“That they do.”

 

“They will need to prepare themselves for bed,” she says. “What would you suggest be done to ensure that they are properly prepared for evening rest?”

 

Right. Evening routines. That’s always fun with kids under the age of ten.

 

He sighs.

 

“I want to have them checked before they go to sleep,” he says. “Just in case. I suppose we can do…” He thinks about it. Baths are too much of a hassle, considering that none of them have anything to wash with. That’ll have to be done in the morning.

 

“They’ll go in groups,” he decides. “There’s a bathroom across the hall from the nurses’ barracks they can use. There’s a jar of one use toothbrushes in my office, that should do for tonight. They’ll need pajamas replicated, and… hairbrushes, and combs.” A thought occurs to him. “Do Vulcans believe in comfort objects?”

 

“It would be illogical to deny the existence of such things, Doctor.”

 

Leonard rolls his eyes.

 

“I mean, do Vulcan children have comfort items?” he asks. “Blankets, or, toys— stuffed animals.”

 

T’Pring pauses.

 

“It is not unusual,” she says after a moment. “Particularly among younger children.”

 

“And teddy bears,” Leonard says decisively. “We’re gonna need a boatload of those, too.”

 

The Vulcan doesn’t seem to know what to do with that.

 

“... You believe this will aid in their recovery?”

 

“I think it’ll aid when they wake up from nightmares and their parents aren’t there to tell them everything’s alright.”

 

“Vulcans do not dream, Doctor.”

 

“Yeah, well, it’ll make me feel better.” Leonard looks up, spying an off-duty nurse.

 

“Flores, you got a minute?”

 

The man looks up from his meal, clearly more than a little dazed.

 

“Doc?”

 

Leonard arches an eyebrow.

 

“You busy?”

 

Flores straightens.

 

“Wish I was, sir,” he says. “Can’t seem to turn my brain off.”

 

Leonard knows the feeling.

 

“I want you to go to the replicator in quarantine and get me a few things. You might need a list.”

 

Flores brightens.

 

“Nah, I’m alright. Whattaya need?”

 

I’m going to need thirty-three sets of sleep shorts and shirts sized for kids,” he says. “And twelve in young adult. I need... “ Leonard does a quick count. “Twenty-two hairbrushes and twenty-three combs— make two of those combs picks, actually. Um… hairties, I’m gonna need a good amount of those.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“And plushies. Forty-five of them,” he says, ignoring T’Pring’s look. “See if we have anything that’d serve as teddy bears in the replicator. And if you have the time— toothbrushes, washcloths, towels, shampoo… the whole shower caddy shebang.”

 

Flores nods.

 

“Got it, sir,” he says. “And where should I bring them?”

 

Leonard thinks about it.

 

“The counselor’s office,” he says. “It’s not like she’ll be using it anytime soon.”

 

Their counselor had died in the preliminary fight. Her office will suit their needs for now.

 

“Yes, sir.” Flores trots away, leaving T’Pring and Leonard alone with his charges.

 

“Doctor!” Sybok grins at Leonard when he turns. “Another charge, I see. And what’s her name?”

 

“No idea,” Leonard says. “But she doesn’t seem to mind, do you, sweetie?”

 

Sybok grins.

 

“You’re good with children, aren’t you?” he says. “Are you a parent?”

 

Leonard does his best not to flinch.

 

“I was,” he says. “Not anymore.”

 

The smile slips off Sybok’s face.

 

“My apologies, Doctor,” he says. “I didn’t mean to dredge up unhappy memories.”

 

Leonard shakes his head.

 

“It’s fine, you didn’t know,” he says. “Listen, I went over everyone with a tricorder, but I just want a proper check-up before bed. I think it would be a good time to gather personal information— just in case, you know?”

 

Sybok nods.

 

“Of course, Doctor.”

 

“We can pass out necessities as we go,” Leonard continues. “Flores is replicating everything for the now. As soon as everyone’s done with dinner, we’ll go through that?”

 

Sybok nods.

 

“T’Pring, you wouldn’t mind acting as a translator for the Doctor, would you?” he asks, turning to his student. “The quicker we get through this, the quicker the children can rest.”

 

She inclines her head.

 

“Of course,” she says. “Doctor, I do believe the children have finished with their meals.”

 

“Perfect,” he says. “Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

Flores works fast. By the time Leonard gets the kids rounded up and back in the nurses’ barracks to wait their turn, the counselor’s rooms are filled with neat little packages of necessities.

 

He’d even gone so far as to give them color choices, how sweet.

 

“What’s your name, Buddy?” he asks as he checks pulse and height and weight and all the other things that need to be checked in young Vulcans.

 

T’Pring repeats the question.

 

“Buddy,” he says, frowning slightly at T’Pring.

 

Leonard pauses, waiting for her to repeat the question, but she doesn’t— she just types away on her borrowed PADD.

 

… Okay then.

 

“When’s your birthday?”

 

That gets an answer, a proper one, and so it continues, until Leonard has a chart full of information and a clean bill of health for the kid.

 

“Okay, Bud, it’s over. What color do you want— red, blue, or yellow?”

 

He gestures at the stack of caddies as T’Pring translates. The pajamas are simple— more like gym clothes, really— but they’re good in a pinch, and quite comfortable.

 

There’s a pause, and then Buddy points to the blue stack.

 

Leonard grins.

 

“Man after my own heart,” he says pulling the boy into a brief hug. “Go to the bathrooms near where you’re sleeping and get changed. T’Ruao should be waiting for you there.”

 

T’Ruao had offered to help handle their haphazard evening routine for now. Leonard thinks it might have been to get away from her bondmate for a while, but he keeps that to himself.

 

Buddy nods and slips out the door. A moment later, Lushek appears with Sweetie.

 

Leonard smiles at her.

 

“Hey, Sweetie,” he greets. “Let’s see what we can do about that eye.”

 

Her check up goes much the same as Buddy’s, with the same odd pause when her name is asked for.

 

“Sweetie,” she answers finally, turning uncertain eyes on the doctor.

 

“Sweetie, I mean your real name,” Leonard says gently, kneeling to look her in the eye. “The name your parents’ gave you.”

 

“Doctor, if I may have a word?”

 

He sighs.

 

“Yes, T’Pring?”

 

T’Pring tilts her chin, sharp eyes narrowed slightly with what might be focus, might be tempered fury. Who knows, really?

 

“It is a part of Vulcan custom that when a child must be given a new caretaker, they are renamed,” she explains. “It is to help the child process the loss of their previous guardians and embrace a new chapter in their lives.”

 

“You… that doesn’t seem helpful at all,” Leonard says flatly. “A kid’s already dealing with a new environment, and you don’t even let them keep their name?”

 

T’Pring rolls her shoulders, the Vulcan equivalent of a shrug.

 

“It is our custom,” she says simply. “You have taken on the role of caretaker, so they look to you to name them. When they are placed with a Vulcan family, they will be named once more.”

 

That is... inefficient and cruel. But then, what does Leonard know? He only has a psychology degree and three years of slogging through Jim’s shit under his belt.

 

“So… Buddy is…”

 

“Buddy,” T’Pring says, nodding. “And she is Sweetie.”

 

Leonard looks back to the little girl, meeting her wide, doe-eyed gaze.

 

“I am so sorry,” he says. “But I guess we’re stuck with that for now.”

 

“It is better if you give them something to be called rather than asking their names,” T’Pring says. “Asking will only exacerbate their already-delicate emotional control.”

 

Leonard runs a hand through his hair.

 

“How do we know that they’re even all orphans?” he asks helplessly. “For all we know their parents might be on other ships, or… some other relative, I don’t know.”

 

T’Pring’s face shifts minutely— a hole in her otherwise bulletproof Vulcan control.

 

“They know, Doctor,” she says. “They felt their bonds break as clearly as the rest of us.”

 

And… that’s not a nice thought. That’s not nice at all.

 

“Okay, then.” Leonard sighs, then forces himself to smile. “Sweetie, how about you pick out a color?”

 

Sweetie picks gold, though Leonard suspects her choice had more to do with the stuffed elephant that was in the package than the color itself.

 

“So the names I give them aren’t going to be permanent?” he asks when Sweetie shuffles off to wash up and change for bed.

 

“When they are adopted, their names will be changed once more,” T’Pring says, nodding. “Until then, you can name them whatever you like.”

 

So Leonard does. He names them whatever he can think of, just to have something on record. Terms of endearment, until he runs out. Then he starts on flowers, animals, whatever he can think of. Eventually he runs out of those, too, and starts on country singers. He blames it on exhaustion.

 

By the end of it all, he has thirty-three pointy-eared children with oddly Human names, all dressed in shades of red, blue, and gold, each one clutching their very own stuffed teddy bear, elephant, dinosaur, pig, sheep, whatever. The teenagers got stuffies too, though they seem less inclined to stroke the soft fuzz of the multi-colored fabric or draw them close to their chests like some of the others had done. Instead they study them, something like incredulity.

 

The teenagers all kept their names. Something about T’Pring’s silence on the subject makes Leonard think that’s going to bite him in the ass later, but he can’t be bothered to ask. He’s tired and the kids need to be put to bed. Properly.

 

Running a hand through his hair tiredly, he trudges toward the back of the barracks to find T’Ruao and her bondmate— Ruron, Leonard thinks— seated together on a lower bunk. T’Ruao’s cat is settled on her lap, staring out at the room with large button eyes. Ruron’s hedgehog has been set on the pillow.

 

“Bonz,” she greets, inclining her head. “Is it time to sleep?”

 

“Not quite. I just need to drop off everyone’s files and check on my nurses.” He shifts. “Would you and Ruron mind herding everyone to bed? I don’t care if they want to share, or whatever— I just want them to lay down for a little bit.”

 

“They will not share,” T’Ruao says. “It is improper.”

 

“Will you be staying with us, Bonz?” Ruron inquires. “Or will you be returning to your quarters for the evening?”

 

Leonard smiles wryly.

 

“If I stay awake any longer a little blonde nurse is going to come in and sedate me when I’m not paying attention,” he says. “And that’s just not dignified. So to answer your question: yes, I’ll be returning to my quarters. But I’ll be checking in one more time before I go, and the night nurses will be around to make sure everyone’s alright.”

 

Ruron nods his understanding and pulls himself to his feet. He looks odd, in Starfleet-issue blue pajamas, thin and pale without the pomp and circumstance of Vulcan robes. So does T’Ruao, for that matter, for all that her clothes are red.

 

“We will tell the others,” T’Ruao says. “You need not worry, Bonz.”

 

Leonard smiles tiredly.

 

“You’re good kids,” he tells them. “I’ll be back in a jiffy.”

Chapter Text

Leonard can’t sleep, which is just dumb.

 

He’s been up for thirty-six hours already, running surgeries and patching up wounds and declaring the dead and figuring out Vulcan children and their sleeping arrangements. He should have fallen asleep the moment his head touched his pillow.

 

And yet.

 

He tosses and turns, unable to get comfortable. He thinks of what needs to be done tomorrow, what needs to be done the day after, and after that…

 

There’s a lot of work that needs doing, and here he is, laying in bed in the dark.

 

Fantastic.

 

Sighing, he gives up on the concept of sleep and sits up. Maybe he can get some work done.

 

“Chapel to McCoy.”

 

Of course.

 

“McCoy here. What’s wrong?”

 

“Doctor, we have a situation.”

 

Immediately he stiffens.

 

“Who? Pike? Chapel—”

 

“None of the patients are in danger, Doctor.” Chapel sounds tired, and more than a little frightened. “It’s the kids— I think they’re having nightmares, but they aren’t— do we sedate them?”

 

Well, now, that’s certainly a sign of trauma not typical in Vulcans.

 

“No, not yet—I’ll be over in a minute,” he says, already reaching for a shirt. “Shit— do you know which ones?”

 

“Two girls and a boy,” Chapel says. “They woke up the others, though. Doctor, it’s not good.”

 

“I’m coming. Did you call Sybok or the others?”

 

“I am here, Doctor.” Sybok doesn’t sound good. “I am unsure what to do at this juncture— Vulcans typically do not dream.”

 

“Looks like nobody’s safe from nightmares once their planet’s been destroyed,” Leonard mutters. “Be there in five minutes. Less.”

 

“Thank you, Doctor.”

 

Sybok is a very bad Vulcan, Leonard thinks. He actually sounded quite sincere, there.



*.*



Every child is awake, and save, for the ones that are crying— or T’Ruao, who’s knelt beside Sweetie— is silent, eyes locked on the mess that is a child with a nightmare.

 

Sweetie, at least, has gone quiet, her sobs coming out in little puffing gasps as T’Ruao whispers to her quietly in Vulcan. The other two— Bear, he thinks, and Dolly— are still screaming, eyes wild as their teen minders look on, uncertain and more than a little uneasy.

 

Sybok doesn’t look much better.

 

“I’ve never… I can’t touch them,” he says when he catches sight of Leonard. “Their emotions are… overwhelming.”

 

“Lucky me,” Leonard says, glancing down at his undershirt. He hadn’t bothered with his blues. “Right.”

 

He scoops Dolly up from her bed without warning, hoisting her up and burying her face into his neck.

 

I see a bad moon a’rising, I see trouble on the way,” he murmurs, rocking her gently. “I see earthquakes and lightnin', I see bad times today…”

 

Leonard’s not much of a singer— that was more Jocelyn’s deal than his— but he remembers the songs they used to sing, and they come to his lips more easily than he’d think.

 

Dolly sniffles, going quiet as a song older than his granddaddy fills the room with promises of Armageddon. It’s not the cheeriest song, but shit, it’s not like Dolly understands.

 

He hooks Bear into his arms as he passes by, even though the boy’s already gone quiet as well. Ignoring the ache in his arms, he rocks them both, humming a tune he half-remembers as he strolls between the bunks checking each bed as he goes.

 

By the time he’s done, Bear is nearly asleep again. Carefully, he deposits both of them in their respective bunks, tucking them both in with gentle tugs of their regulation blankets.

 

Sweetie holds out her arms when Leonard goes to giver her the same treatment. Sighing, he taps T’Ruao on the shoulder to move and settles himself on bunk, looping one arm around Sweetie’s shoulders.

 

Vulcan eyes are all fixed on him, glowing oddly in the half-light of the ship’s ‘evening’. The child beside Sweetie’s bed— Jem, he remembers, looks almost wistful as they eye Sweetie’s position.

 

Leonard extends an arm in invitation. A moment later, he has another Vulcan settled on his lap.

 

“Sybok, translate for me,” he mutters. The Vulcan nods.

 

Leonard turns back to the room at large.

 

“What they just experienced is a nightmare,” he starts. “Nightmares are when the brain creates frightening images during the sleep cycle that are so poignant that they elicit an emotional response.

 

“This doesn’t usually happen to Vulcans. According to Sybok, Vulcans aren’t even supposed to dream.” Leonard sighs. “Nightmares can be the result of stress and trauma. All of you— and by that, I mean every Vulcan who survived the destruction of their planet— have suffered beyond anything that should ever conceivably happen to anyone. What you are going through is not normal, and it’s… it’s illogical to think that you should have a normal response.

 

“Many of you will have nightmares, now. Many of you will cry for no apparent reason, jump at strange noises, remember terrible things and respond as if you were living through it all over again. This is what your lives are like now. With any luck, we’ll be able to help you, to lessen the burden that all of you carry, now. But it is what it is.” What was that word? Leonard saw it in a book somewhere. “Kaiidth.”

 

The children go still at the word. He’s probably pronouncing it wrong.

 

“I ask you not to tease each other,” he says. “I ask you to be kind. The universe is changed, and you’re changed with it. So do yourselves a favor, and help one another. You’ve got no other choice but to grow stronger and move forward.”

 

Sybok’s translations echoes a beat after he stops speaking. Running a hand through his hair, he gives Sweetie a final, comforting squeeze and shifts Jem off of his lap so he can stand, turning to tuck Sweetie properly back into bed before doing the same with Jem.

 

The boy in the bunk above Jem’s bed asks a question, voice thin in the heavy silence.

 

“He asks that you stay the rest of the night,” Sybok says, turning to Leonard.

 

Leonard bites his lip.

 

“Yeah, okay,” he says. “I’ll stay tonight.”

 

Sybok nods and gives his answer to the room at large, and the doctor turns to look for a spare bed, collapsing onto the mattress the moment he finds one.

 

“I’ll tell Nurse Chapel that you’re in here,” Sybok says. “She’ll make sure you wake up at a decent hour.”

 

“Thanks, Sybok.”

Chapter Text

Leonard is aware of the fact that he’s lost all control of his life. Only a dumbass wouldn’t be. That being said, he doesn’t enjoy being reminded by a shithead kid who shouldn’t even be on this goddamned ship in the first place.

 

Jim, he’s talking about Jim.

 

Jim— or rather, Acting Captain Kirk, because that’s how the order was signed— changed his schedule, moving him from Alpha shift to Beta without his say-so. On the one hand, Leonard appreciates what he’s doing— Jim knows the doctor probably hasn’t slept and has a whole litter or five of children he’ll be wanting to take care of when he gets up in the morning. On the other hand— goddammit, Jim. He can take care of himself.

 

Chapel’s the one that informs him of the change, poking him awake with a PADD until he pulls his sheets down far enough for his head to poke out.

 

“You get all morning to figure out what the hell to do with these kids when you’re on shift,” she says when he scowls at the schedule. “Take the favor and do something productive— don’t just bitch that he’s—”

 

“Chapel there are kids here.”

 

Chapel blinks, then turns around.

 

“If you didn’t recognize the word, don’t use it, it’s bad,” she says to the room at large.

 

“And if you did recognize the word, you know it’s bad and shouldn’t use it,” Leonard adds. “Jesus, Chapel.”

 

“How come you’re allowed to swear?”

 

“Because religion’s dead,” Leonard says shortly. “Fine. Did you sleep last night?”

 

“I’m working Beta too, so that’s where I’m heading right now,” she tells him.  “Flores went ahead and replicated a few changes of clothes for all the kids— they’re waiting in the counselor’s office, when you’re ready.”

 

“Flores is getting promoted,” he says, throwing back the blankets and pushing himself to his feet. “I have never met another person in Starfleet with so much common sense.”

 

“I’ll make sure to pass that along,” Chapel says dryly. “I’m going to bed now.”

 

“Enjoy.”

 

Chapel flips him off— goddammit— and disappears back out into the hall. That’s about the time that Leonard realizes that he has an audience.

 

“How long has everybody been awake?” he asks, looking over at the teens.

 

“Two-point-four-three hours,” T’Ruao says.

 

“It is fascinating,” Ruron admits, a thoughtful glint in his black eyes. “It is one thing to know that Humans require more sleep than Vulcans, but it is another thing entirely to realize that your eight hours of rest are so necessary that your body will allow itself to become vulnerable. You did not stir once, Bonz. Not until Nurse Chapel physically made contact.”

 

Leonard sighs.

 

“When Humans are tired, they sleep like the dead,” he says.

 

“Like the dead?” T’Ruao sounds horrified. Shit.

 

“It’s an expression Humans use,” he says quickly. “Not to be taken literally. It just means it’s very hard to wake them up without force. Noises, small movements— that sort of thing.” He pauses. “You could also say someone ‘sleeps like a log’, if it’s a regular occurrence.”

 

There’s a pause.

 

“Humans are…” T’Ruao trails off, shaking her head. “Healer Sybok has said that Humans are poetically-minded. Is this what he means by that statement?”

 

Sybok seems to have a really nice concept of Humans. Must have been Lady Amanda’s influence.

 

“Among other things.” Leonard pushes himself up to his feet. “Okay. Brush your teeth, wash your faces, brush your hair, in that order. Then we’ll see about what you’re wearing today. Those of you who are older, once the kids are done, you can go take a shower. Got it?”

 

“Yes, Bonz,” the children chorus.

 

Leonard jumps, turning to T’Ruao.

 

“We thought it best to lessen the language barrier as best we could in the time between our awakening and yours,” she explains. “They will not understand everything, of course, but it is a start.”

 

Awesome.

 

“Alright, well—” he gestures to the door. “Let’s go.”



*.*



One of the other teenagers, T’Urza, is the one that approaches him first, a little girl he’s sure he’s named Kitty trailing after her.

 

“It is customary that a relative of a Vulcan girl braid her hair each morning,” she says, gesturing to the girl’s loose hair. “You are her only guardian.”

 

Leonard sighs.

 

“So I’m doing everybody’s hair,” he says. “Good thing I’ve got practice. It’ll take a while,” he warns T’Urza. “To get through them all, I mean. Plus, I don’t know any Vulcan hairstyles.”

 

She nods.

 

“The simple fact act of assisting her will be enough,” T’Urza says. “We realize our live will not be as they were, but there is comfort for the younger children in such routines.”

 

Leonard nods and looks at Kitty, offering his best attempt at a bright smile.

 

“How do we feel about a French Braid?” he asks.

 

“I do not know what that is,” Kitty informs him.

 

“That’s okay,” Leonard says. “It’s pretty, I promise.” He looks up, glancing at T’Urza. “As the girls finish up, just send them along to me.”

 

T’Urza nods. “Of course, Bonz.”

 

Leonard nods and looks down at Kitty. She’s wearing what looks like a heavily altered Starfleet uniform. It’s purple, for one, and instead of the Starfleet insignia in the left corner of her chest, there’s a small flame. What’s up with that?

 

Well, artistic license, Leonard supposes, pulling up a small chair. And taking a seat.

 

“Where’s your brush?” He asks. Silently, Kitty reaches into the small bag and pulls it out, handing it to him.

 

“Turn around,” he orders. “One French Braid, coming up.”



*.*



Typical Vulcan hair is, generally, very easy to manipulate, even when Leonard finds himself working with coily hair that he’s unused to handling. It also holds its shape very well, which explains why Spock has yet to be seen with a hair out of place. That damned bowl-cut.

 

That being said, even with the ease with which Leonard finds himself doing each style, there are too many little girls for one person. Vulcan hair, apparently, grows obscenely quickly, and most of these girls could sweep the floor if they nodded too vigorously. He’s only finished ten, and he’s been at this an hour.

 

Lucky for him, he had an idea somewhere between Darling’s Milkmaid Braids and Blue’s Fishtail.

 

“Whattaya need, Bones?”

 

Leonard gives Jim a beatific smile.

 

“Can you braid, Jim?”

 

“Yeah. Why?”

 

Leonard turns to the room at large.

 

“This is my adoptive brother, Jim,” he tells the children. “He’s going to help me with your hair, okay?”

 

Jim’s eyes widen.

 

“Wait, Bones, what—”

 

“Vulcan custom involves family haircare,” Leonard says. “And I can’t handle some thirty girls and expect to have them all ready by breakfast. So, you’re gonna help me. It won’t be too bad— I already did the first ten.”

 

“I— Bones, I’ve got captainy stuff to do, you know—” Jim looks terrified. It’s awesome.

 

“You don’t!” Leonard says, and if Jim didn’t know him better he might have said he sounded gleeful. “I had Chapel check first, and you switched your shift to Beta, too. So get cracking.” Leonard catches one of the girls by the shoulder pushing her in Jim’s direction. “This is Buttercup. Buttercup, this is Jim, Acting Captain of the Enterprise.”

 

“Buttercup?”

 

“Yeah, like the princess.”

 

Jim blinks, then looks down at the girl.

 

“A princess, huh?” He asks, smiling. “That’s pretty special. How about we do something special with your hair, huh?”

 

The little girl stares, wide-eyed and uncertain.

 

“It’s okay, Buttercup,” Leonard says, smiling encouragingly. “Jim’s a good guy, I promise.”

 

Buttercup still seems uncertain, but she doesn’t scream or bite Jim’s hand when he touches her, so it seems alright for now.

 

Once there are two braiders, things go much more quickly, even if Leonard does have to take a minute to take into account the fact that he’s going to have to look up how to take care of Honey’s hair. A French Braid might do it today, but he’s not sure what to do in the long-run. It’s not like he has much experience with coils.

 

Whatever. The kids are dressed, clean, and presentable.

 

Time for breakfast.

 

“You too,” Leonard says when Jim tries to slip away. “I know you haven’t had anything since we took off, at least.”

 

Jim ducks his head sheepishly.

 

“I’m not hungry, Bones,” he says.

 

“‘Course you are,” Leonard says bracingly. “You have the metabolism of a thirteen-year-old. Come on, you can make chitchat with all my kids and make them love you more than me.”

 

“That seems highly unlikely, Doctor,” Torek says, looking up from his and his bondmate’s group. “Vulcans do not feel love.”

 

Leonard blinks then leans back, crossing his arms.

 

“Out of curiosity, Torek,” Leonard says, almost genially. “What’s the Vulcan word for love?”

 

Torek blinks.

 

“Ashau,” he says. “Or ashaya, depending on context.”

 

Leonard frowns thoughtfully, glancing at Jim.

 

“Jim, you’re the genius here,” he says. “If Vulcans can’t feel love, why in heaven’s name do they have a word for it? I thought the Vulcan language had settled some six hundred years ago, after all.”

 

“No idea, Bones,” Jim says with a straight face. “I suppose you could call it… illogical.”

 

Sundance snickers once before catching himself. Leonard offers him a broad grin.

 

“Good to know these kids haven’t lost their sense of humor,” he says. “C’mon, let’s eat.”

Chapter Text

Breakfast is almost as quiet as dinner was the night before, save for Jim’s flitting from child to child for short, easy conversations and Bones’ own efforts to try and figure out what the hell he’s supposed to do with a bunch of prepubescent Vulcans while he’s on-shift.

 

“In an ideal world, we would continue their normal lessons so as to further enforce a routine,” Sybok says over a slice of buttered toast. “Guided meditation would also factor into their waking hours, though that will be impossible due to the sheer number of unbonded children. It would be dangerous to meld with them in order to monitor their progress.”

 

“Okay then.” Leonard sighs. “What about Human meditation techniques? Would that work as a stand-in?”

 

Sybok frowns thoughtfully.

 

“In the short term, possibly,” he says. “What do you have in mind?”

 

“Oh, hell, I don’t know. Yoga?”

 

“Yoga?”

 

“It’s physical exercises that are supposed to help center a person’s thoughts. I think…” Bones trails off, looking around the mess hall. “Flores! Come here for a second.”

 

Flores alters course, tray balanced on one hand.

 

“What’s up, Doctor?”

 

“You do yoga, right?”

 

“Sure do— fills the time, you know?”

 

“Would you mind running a yoga class for the kids while I’m on shift?” Leonard asks. “You’re on Gamma, right?”

 

“I am, yeah.” Flores scratches his cheek absently. “Yeah, I can do that But I'm gonna need to take a nap first.”

 

“Yeah, go do that. Meet us at Gymnasium Three at the end of Alpha, will you?”

 

“Sure thing, Doctor.” Flores shoots him a lazy salute, the little shit, and heads towards an empty table.

 

“Well, that’s out of the way,” Leonard says. “As for lessons… T’Ruao and the other older kids have started teaching Standard to the younger children. We could dedicate an hour or two to that— treat it as tutoring, or something.”

 

“That could work.” Sybok hums. “Though we should insist on Vulcan, as well. It wouldn’t do to allow the younger generation to forget their mother tongue, especially in light of yesterday’s events.”

 

“Of course not,” Leonard agrees. “But traditional Vulcan isolationism isn’t going to work for long, either. These kids are going to have to adapt to a far more inclusive world than they lived in before. They’s going to have to learn how to play nice with the less logical species that are going to be helping out.”

 

Sybok gives him a rueful smile.

 

“You don’t think very much of Vulcans, do you, Doctor?” he says.

 

“I think the world of Vulcans,” Leonard says. “I just don’t like the inherent condescension of being told I’m illogical because I let myself feel things. I get that Vulcans have a biological reason for being robots, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to allow someone to talk down to me.”

 

“Your candor is appreciated, Doctor.”

 

Leonard jumps, whirling around in his seat to come face to face with a square blue chest.

 

Spock arches an eyebrow at him.

 

“Pardon me, Doctor,” he says stiffly. “I did not mean to frighten you—”

 

“Oh, I bet you did,” Leonard mutters.

 

“But I would like to have a word with Healer Sybok, if at all possible.”

 

… Oh. Leonard looks at Sybok. The Vulcan seems surprised, uncertain, and… hopeful, maybe. Didn’t he say he hadn’t talked to Spock in years?

 

“If Doctor McCoy doesn’t mind…” he trails off, glancing at Leonard.

 

“Not at all,” Leonard says, waving a dismissive hand. “I’ll figure something out for the kids, don’t worry about it.”

 

Sybok nods and pushes up from his seat, shoving the last of the toast in his mouth and lifting his tray as he goes.

 

“Bonz?” Buddy asks as Leonard watches Spock and Sybok go.

 

“Hmm? What’s wrong, Buddy?”

 

“Who was…” Buddy trails off, pointing at Spock’s retreating back.

 

“That’s Commander Spock, First Officer of the ship,” he says. “Sybok’s his brother.”

 

“Oh.” Buddy leans against Leonard’s arm.

 

There is a moment of quiet.

 

“... Bonz?” T’Ruao starts awkwardly, shifting into the place Sybok had been seated. “What will happen, now that our planet is gone?”

 

Leonard winces.

 

“Well, the Federation will probably try to find a suitable planet for the population,” he says slowly. “And send along builders, and doctors, and whatever else is needed to make sure Vulcans can settle properly. It’ll take a couple of years, I’m sure, but yeah, that’s probably what’ll happen next.”

 

“Many of those who will be sent will be Human,” T’Ruao continues. “Correct?”

 

“Er, probably, yes.” Andorians don’t get involved in this sort of thing and Tellarites… weren’t the kind of people you called for comfort. “Why?”

 

“We do not wish to offend those who are willing to help us,” T’Ruao tells him seriously. “You said to Healer Sybok that our way of interacting with Humans is not looked upon favorably.”

 

Oh, God, he hadn’t meant for the kids to actually hear that.

 

“You’re fine,” he says. “After all this, you can offend as much as you like. Nobody will blame you for it.”

 

“But we do not wish to offend,” T’Ruao says again. “We require guidance in Human custom, Bonz. Can you assist us?”

 

“I…” Leonard looks over at the other teenagers, who despite their apparent focus on their charges have their heads tilted just so, because teenagers eavesdropping on conversations is an apparently universal trait. Also a Jim trait, because his sudden stillness is just as much a tell as the teen head tilts. “... It’s not so easy, you know. We don’t have obvious rules like Vulcans have. Humans are a species of many, smaller cultures. Even if I teach you everything I grew up with, it doesn’t mean it’ll work for every Human you meet.”

 

“That is inefficient,” Korenn remarks from his place on Buddy’s other side.

 

Leonard gives the boy a wry smile.

 

“We gained warp capability earlier than we should have, culturally speaking,” he says. “Unlike most warp-capable species, our peoples were still separated by countries, religion, and race. Humans have no uniform set of attributes, save for the most basic biological traits.”

 

“Fascinating,” T’Urza murmurs.

 

“Regardless,” T’Rao says. “You have amicable relations with most Humans aboard this vessel that we have observed. Despite your perceived cultural differences, there is an understanding all Humans share regarding basic social interaction.”

 

Which… point.

 

“It’s going to involve a lot of frivolities,” Leonard warns. “A lot of emotional and physical aspects that I know Vulcans aren’t particularly fond of.”

 

“Healer Sybok is of the belief that true emotional control should allow a Vulcan the ability to emote as physically as other species do,” T’Parna points out. “That is to which you refer to, yes?”

 

“... Um, maybe?” Leonard sighs. “From what I understand, Sybok’s not considered a very good Vulcan.”

 

“He is progressive in many ways,” T’Parna— Korenn’s bondmate, Leonard’s pretty sure— says. “But I find that I do not disagree with his assessment.”

 

“T’Parna,” Korenn warns. “It is not wise to speak of such things near children.”

 

“I disagree.”

 

“Before this turns into an argument,” Leonard interrupts. “You understand that if I try and teach you, they’re going to learn by example, right? That’s what kids do.”

 

There’s a pause.

 

“Perhaps we must discuss this further among ourselves,” T’Ruao says, glancing at the others. “We shall return to this topic with a decision made.”

 

“Of course.” Leonard wouldn’t expect anything less. “Maybe take into account the positions of some of the older Vulcans on board on the subject? Because I doubt your elders will be very happy with me if they decide I’m corrupting their youth, or something.”

 

“You are the guardian of thirty-three Vulcans,” T’Parna says firmly. “They will not be surprised to see that the children have picked up certain Human habits during their time under your guardianship.”

 

“Forty-five,” Leonard corrects.

 

“Thirty-three,” T’Parna repeats. “As we have not allowed for you to name us, we are considered… emancipated minors. We are to care for ourselves, according to custom.”

 

Leonard blinks at the girl. She can’t be older than fifteen— none of them are, actually.

 

“Well, Human custom says that you’re children,” he says flatly. “And until I’m told to do otherwise— actually, regardless of what I’m told to do— I’m taking care of you, got it? As best as I can manage, I’m taking care of you guys, too.”

 

There’s a beat of silence.

 

“... We appreciate the gesture, Bonz,” Korenn says quietly. “But there is no need—”

 

“Damn right there’s a need,” Leonard says. “Humans aren’t allowed emancipation unless they can prove themselves mentally and financially stable enough to care for themselves. Should a Human child find themselves in a position that they can’t be cared for by their families, they are taken to a home that can. Face facts: you’re my kids now. Deal with it.”

 

“Best not to argue,” Jim pipes up, circling the table to slap Leonard on the back. “Bones is nothing if not stubborn, and he’ll bury every reasonable excuse you have under a flurry of ‘because I said so’s’ before you can even blink.”

 

“Shut up, Jim,” Leonard grunts.

 

Jim gives him an innocent smile.

 

“What?” he asks. “I ought to prepare them, shouldn’t I? Since I’m apparently an uncle now.”

 

“I can unadopt you, you know,” Leonard grumbles, but he doesn’t mean it. The control of a teenage Vulcan is nowhere near as perfect as any of the older Vulcans Leonard’s come in contact with over the last two days, and he can see the pleasure glowing in the eyes of the older children closest to him. They were scared, he realizes, of what it meant that they kept their names.

 

Well, he thinks. Now they don’t have to be.

Chapter Text

“So what’s going on with the kids?” Chapel asks as Leonard checks up on a young Vulcan woman who hadn’t moved or spoken since she’d been brought into Medbay.

 

Leonard shrugs.

 

“Flores is giving them two hours of yoga and meditation,” he says. “Then T’Ruao and Ruron are going to spend two hours on conversational Standard, and then… movies and coloring.”

 

“... You’re serious?”

 

“Yep.” Leonard pops his lips. “I figured they could use some time being kids for a little while.” Though he did have to explain the purpose of movies and coloring. Human children’s films are to teach lessons about morality and principle through allegory, according to the bullshit excuses box hidden in the back of Leonard’s brain, and coloring is meant to enhance hand-eye coordination in young children while also allowing them to express their own creativity.

 

Leonard’s been talking to Vulcans too much. That almost sounds logical.

 

“What are they gonna watch?”

 

“Moana and Toy Story,” he says. “I like the Disney classics.”

 

“You know, if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve seen your medical records, I’d think you were a centuries old grandpa who aged well,” Chapel says. “Everything you like is old.”

 

“The old stuff is better,” he says. “Every time they remake Cinderella it sucks more than the last one, have you noticed?”

 

“Well, seeing as I haven’t seen a princess movie since I was twelve, no, I haven’t noticed,” Chapel says. “Why do you bother with that stuff? It messes with your grumpy doctor image, you know.”

 

Leonard goes quiet.

 

“My daughter liked that kind of stuff.”

 

Chapel flinches.

 

“Oh. Sorry.”

 

“It’s fine.”

 

“Doctor McCoy?”

 

Leonard looks up.

 

“Ambassador Sarek,” he greets, straightening. “How can I help you?”

 

“I do not want to interrupt your work,” the Ambassador says. “But if it is possible, I would like to speak to you.”

 

A lot of Vulcans want to speak to Leonard, nowadays. It’s making him uncomfortable.

 

“You’re not interrupting anything, Ambassador,” Leonard says. “Chapel, you can finish this up, right?”

 

“Of course, Doctor.”

 

Leonard strips off his gloves— he always wears gloves when working with Vulcans— and tosses them into the nearest recycler.

 

“Let’s go to my office, shall we?” he says, directing the Ambassador towards the door.

 

“My son has informed me that you have taken charge of the Vulcan children aboard this ship,” Ambassador Sarek says as Leonard closes the door behind him. “I would ask after your observations of their health.”

 

Leonard sighs, crossing his arms.

 

“We had an incident last night,” he says. “Nightmares, which Sybok tells me is incredibly abnormal, considering Vulcans don’t dream. A lot of touching, too, which I’m also told is discouraged.”

 

“They are young,” the Ambassador says. “And they are seeking comfort wherever they may find it. However, as you do not have any telepathic ability, I would suggest you rebuff their attempts to read you— it is a taboo among our people, to take without permission in such a way.”

 

“They have my permission,” Leonard says flatly. “If that’s what keeps them calm, they can take all they need from me.”

 

The Ambassador levels him a strange, piercing look. Suddenly, he looks a lot like Spock.

 

“You do not fully understand the implications,” he says. “A Human mind is… disorganized, by Vulcan standard. Should a child read too deeply, they may uncover something unpleasant— both to you and to the child in question.”

 

Jo. That’s not a nice thought, not for a bunch of kids fresh out of a tragedy. Still.

 

“They’re grieving,” Leonard says. “Even if they do find something unpleasant, they’re smart kids. The mistake can be explained.”

 

“Vulcans do not grieve.”

 

“Sure they do,” Leonard says, frowning. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be dealing with fifteen perfectly healthy Vulcans who seem to be dying for no medical reason at all.”

 

Ambassador Sarek’s mouth pinches slightly, and Leonard sighs.

 

“It’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” he says. “Like I told the kids, the Vulcans who survived the destruction of their planet are living through something beyond the normal tragedies of life. It’s stupid to think that you could function normally after something like that.”

 

The Ambassador cocks his head.

 

“And what do you believe is the solution?” he asks. “If logic cannot help us, if our emotional control is as frayed as you believe it to be, what are we to do?”

 

Leonard sighs.

 

“Carry on,” he says. “Humans don’t have the benefit of telepathic healers who can help us regain our equilibrium. We have to muddle through it ourselves, with the help of our peers and our interests and the simple fact that the world’s still turning.”

 

“Our world turns no more.”

 

“Metaphor,” Leonard says shortly, hiding his flinch with a scowl. “Life continues as it always has, Ambassador, regardless of personal tragedy. The only thing a person can do is pick up the pieces as best as they can and take each obstacle as it comes. And that’s what needs to happen. Each surviving Vulcan must make the decision to help one another. This is not the time for social niceties. It’s a time of grief, and commiseration, and if you allow those things to take place, only then can there be healing.”

 

“... Sybok said much the same to me,” Ambassador Sarek says after a moment. “He seems to believe a Human approach may be our best option, particularly considering the loss of so many of our healers. So I ask this, Doctor: how do Humans grieve?”

 

“I’m not the best person to ask.”

 

“I am inclined to believe you are lying.” Sarek shifts slightly. “It is clear you have suffered some kind of loss, in your time. Your emotions are very strong, and you project like no other.”

 

Goddammit.

 

“I joined Starfleet a few months after my daughter and pregnant wife were killed in a shuttle accident,” Leonard says flatly. “We had a funeral, and a memorial, and there’s a big stone that says their names in the family plot. I slept a lot, I cried a lot, I worked until I dropped.”

 

“And their passing influenced your decision to join Starfleet?”

 

“I had a patient,” Leonard says. “A little girl, about Jo’s age. Starfleet was her dream, and no matter what I did, she was still dying. Her passing was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Captain Pike found me in a bar in Des Moines and talked at me until I decided the best way to honor that little girl was to join Starfleet in her honor. A damn stupid reason, all told, but it worked out, I suppose.” Leonard pauses. “I met Jim, so that was good.”

 

“Jim… the Acting Captain?”

 

Leonard winces.

 

“Ah, yeah,” he admits. “He didn’t mean anything that he said to Spock, by the way. He was trying to get a rise out of him, that’s all.”

 

“He succeeded,” the Ambassador says. Leonard would call his tone wry. “He is a ruthless man, your Captain.”

 

“He is,” Leonard agrees. “But he takes care of his own, and he does it well.”

 

Ambassador Sarek nods thoughtfully.

 

“And you are one of his,” he says.

 

“He probably would say so, yeah,” Leonard says. “So’s everybody else on this ship, now.”

 

“And the children, are they yours?”

 

Leonard thinks about it.

 

“T’Pring says that I’m their guardian until better accommodations can be found,” he says. “So I guess they’re mine as long as they’ll have me. I’m sure they’ll want the comfort of a normal family before very long— I’m a convenience, for now.”

 

“Children become attached easily,” the Ambassador points out. “As do Humans, in my experience.”

 

“They’re my patients,” Leonard says. “I’ll do whatever’s best for them.”

 

Oh, he doesn’t like the pensive look in the Ambassador’s eye. He doesn’t know why, exactly, but he gets the feeling it’s not a good thing for him.

 

“That, Doctor, I believe,” the Ambassador says. “Thank you for your time.”

 

“... No problem.”

 

Ambassador Sarek sees himself out, leaving Leonard feeling like he missed something.

 

He probably has.

Chapter Text

“Doctor McCoy, it is against regulation to wander the halls out of uniform.”

 

Leonard blinks at Spock dumbly.

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Your clothes,” Spock says patiently. “You are out of uniform.”

 

“Oh.” Leonard looks down at his wifebeater and sweatpants absently. “Yeah, sorry. I’m spending the night in the nurses’ barracks. Can’t have a repeat of last night, after all.”

 

“What happened last night?”

 

Leonard scowls.

 

“Never you mind,” he says. “I just thought it prudent to change in my quarters rather than with the kids, that’s all. I won’t do it again.”

 

“You are residing with the children under your care?” Spock asks. “For how long?”

 

“Probably for the rest of the trip home,” Leonard says. “I want to keep a close eye on ‘em, for now.”

 

Spock seems taken aback.

 

“It is not appropriate for them to spend so much time with—” He stops himself from finishing that sentence, but Leonard knows it was supposed to end with ‘a Human’ anyway, because he’s clever like that.

 

So, he puts on his biggest smile (the shit-eating grin he stole from Jim) and pats Spock bracingly on the shoulder.

 

“‘Appropriate’ doesn’t mean much when there’s trauma involved, Mr. Spock,” he says. “Hey, listen— eat something before you go to bed tonight, okay? Don’t think I haven’t been paying attention to your calorie intake just because I have guardianship of four dozen green kids.”

 

Clearly, Spock didn’t know that last part, because the surprise is clear on his face when Leonard steps past him. He needs to start carrying around a camera, he really does. He’s getting good at making Vulcans make faces at him, and he needs to start documenting it— for posterity, you understand.

 

It’s the little things that make the crushing reality of being on a starship bearable, really.



*.*



Okay, so when Leonard named the kid Hank, he’d been thinking of Hank Williams (take your pick which). But there is something intrinsically funny about a stony-faced Vulcan boy named Hank, particularly when the child in question has decided to spend the last fifteen minutes he has before lights out asking Bones about the logistics of Toy Story.

 

“Human toys aren’t actually sentient,” he promises for the third time. “The story is based off of the fact that Human children often assign their toys names and personalities. It’s a ‘what if’ scenario that somebody adapted into a story about friendship and the acceptance of people who are other.”

 

“I like the Potato Heads,” Blue offers from her bed. “They were amusing.”

 

“I thought so too,” Leonard says, ruffling her loose hair. He’d already informed Jim he would be helping him deal with the girls’ hair again in the morning. “But the little green aliens are always going to be my favorite.”

 

“I preferred Moana,” Butch— another excellent choice of name, good job, Leonard— says. “There was music.”

 

“Disney has lots of musicals,” Leonard says. “And all of them are pretty fun to watch.”

 

“Will you choose more movies for us to watch, Bonz?” Amber asks, cocking her head hopefully.

 

“Probably, yes—”

 

“What is your favorite movie, Bonz?”

 

“Um… well, that depends.”

 

“On what?”

 

“Genre.” Leonard scratches his ear absently. “You know— comedy, action, fantasy, sci-fi. That sort of thing.”

 

There’s no response, only too many glowing alien eyes focused on him in the half light of the barracks.

 

Leonard sighs.

 

“Okay, so, Moana and Toy Story were fantasy movies, right?” he says. “They could also be classified as family movies. Moana could also be called a princess movie, too—”

 

“She is not a princess,” Sweetie points out. “She is the daughter of a chief.”

 

And wow, children are amazing.

 

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Leonard chuckles, shifting when Buddy tries to wriggle himself into the space between Leonard’s arm and the wall. “Anyway, these classifications can overlap— for the most part, they don’t matter, they’re just a way to organize and describe Terran films. But, because there are so many different kinds of movie, it makes it difficult for someone like me— who spends a lot of time watching movies— to pick just one.”

 

There is a thoughtful pause after his explanation.

 

“If that is the case,” Boo says from somewhere near Leonard’s feet— he likes to sit on the ground, if he has the choice. “Then our knowledge of films as of today is mainly in the realm of fantasy.”

 

“... With a little bit of overlap, yeah.”

 

“Then, what is your favorite fantasy movie?”

 

“The Lord of the Rings.” Leonard doesn’t have to think about it. “It’s technically a trilogy, but it’s all one story, so I count it as one. It is… amazing. So’s the Hobbi t , which is a prequel.”

 

“What is it about?”

 

“Oh… well, hobbits, and dwarves, and Men— capital ‘M’— and elves.” Leonard pauses. “Men are Humans, and the rest of the creatures are made up— or they kind of were, at the time? I don’t know. Tolkien’s descriptions of the elves are weirdly close to what Vulcans look like.”

 

“Who is Tolkien?”

 

“The guy who wrote the books that the movies were based off of.” Leonard grins. “It’s kind of cool, actually— he created languages and dialects for all the species of Middle Earth— that’s what the world is called, in the books— and whole cultures for each people met on the road to Mordor— or the Lonely Mountain, in the case of the Hobbit.”

 

“And the elves he described… they remind you of Vulcans?” T’Ruao sounds… uncertain of what to do with the information.

 

“Sure. I mean, a lot of them are blond, but otherwise…” Leonard trails off. “Elves are supposed to be taller than Humans, with a culture that’s drastically different from Humans. It’s not in the books, exactly, but elves tend to be depicted with pointed ears, too, which is a little bit more obvious. They're a proud, regal race, who live longer than Humans, have their own culture and languages, and compared to Humans, aren't not particularly emotive— at least, from the Humans’ perspective.”

 

His watch beeps, flashing blue in the calm darkness of the room.

 

“Looks like it’s bedtime,” he says, tapping Buddy on the back to get him up. “Everyone to your bunks. I’m old and need sleep.”

 

“Bonz,” Waylon starts as Leonard pushes himself to his feet for a round of tuck-ins. “May we watch this film? The Lord of the Rings?”

 

“Well…” Bonz trails off thoughtfully. “I think it might be a little violent to watch, but I do have the books downloaded on my PADD. I could read it to you, if you like.” That’s better, right? Less gory. “I know you’re all pretty new at Standard, but I think you’d enjoy it.” Based on how quickly they were picking it up, he has no doubt they’d understand it better than he did by the end of the week.

 

Waylon blinks up at him as he bends over his bunk, pulling the blankets tight over his shoulders.

 

“I would be satisfied with that,” he says.

 

“Okay. Well, what about the rest of you? Do you guys want me to read to you tomorrow?”

 

There is a murmur of assent, even from the older kids. It makes Leonard smile, just a little bit.

 

“We’ll start after breakfast, then,” he says. “Flores took you to Rec Room Six to watch your movies, right? We’ll go there when we’re done.”

 

Everyone settles into bed after that, quietly accepting his goodnight pats as he settles their blankets under each little green chin.

 

“Good night, guys,” he says. “If you need me, wake me up, okay? I don’t mind.”

 

He gets no answer, but it doesn’t matter. He’s fully expecting a repeat performance of the night before, anyway.

Chapter Text

A crowd has formed outside the entrance of Recreational Room Six. Curious, Spock steps into the crowd, ignoring how easily it parts in favor of searching for the reason for this behavior.

 

Doctor McCoy. That’s the reason. Doctor McCoy and his… charges.

 

The Doctor has pulled one of the heavy armchairs scattered throughout to the front of the room, in front of the great window that allows for such an excellent view of the stars. The children, however, have all ignored the remaining chair, preferring to sit cross-legged on the floor at Doctor McCoy’s feet. The older children— not quite children, as they’ve all kept their names— sit along the edges, attention split between Doctor McCoy and the younger Vulcans that Doctor McCoy has assigned to each bonded pair.

 

(A logical move, on the Doctor’s part. So many children can be difficult to care for at one time, even if they are well-behaved. Having the older, more mature children take responsibility for the behavior of smaller, younger groups is an easy an adept way to ensure that the teenagers have something to occupy themselves with and that the younger children always have someone to tend to their needs.)

 

Doctor McCoy is reading to them. Spock doesn’t recognize the story, be he does recognize the tone in which he reads— his mother sounded much the same, when they were young and curled around a ragged copy of Alice in Wonderland.

 

His mother, however, was not quite so energetic as Doctor McCoy. He does voices for each character, gesticulating wildly as he describes the fantastical surroundings of this particular tale. He doesn’t seem to have noticed the crowd, so focused he is on the entertainment of the children that gaze up at him, rapture clear in their little faces, nor has he noticed the way the crowd has begun to creep in, taking the seats that had been previously ignored by the children.

 

A sudden movement in the edge of Spock’s vision catches his attention. Sybok is seated against the wall near the entrance, gesturing for Spock to take the empty seat beside him. Unsure why, Spock does.

 

“‘It is going to be very dangerous, Sam. It is already dangerous. Most likely neither of us will come back,’” Doctor McCoy says in a voice pitched just a note higher than his own.

 

“‘If you don’t come back, sir, then I shan’t, that’s certain,’ said Sam. ‘ “Don’t you leave him!” they say to me. “Leave him!” I said. “I never mean to. I am going with him, if he climbs to the moon; and if any of those Black Riders try to stop him, they’ll have Sam Gamgee to reckon with,” I said. They laughed.’”

 

“He’s brilliant, isn’t he?” Sybok murmurs, smiling brightly as Doctor McCoy speaks in the voice of Frodo. He uses his own voice for Sam, Spock notes, likely because it’s too much work to switch between voices. “Look at them all— two days ago they lost their families, and yet here they sit in childish wonder, eyes on the stars.”

 

Eyes on McCoy, actually. As aesthetically pleasing as the starry sky is behind him, it’s only the background to a portrait of the doctor himself, looking unusually soft and relaxed as he regales the room with silliness, armchair wide-backed and tall in such a way that the doctor— who stands at six foot one inch at least— seems somehow delicate, dwarfed by the out-of-place piece of furniture.

 

“‘... Wonderful folk, Elves, sir! Wonderful!’” Doctor McCoy’s voice jumps up once more. “‘“They are,” said Frodo. “Do you like them still, now you have had a closer view?”’”

 

McCoy’s face grows thoughtful.

 

“‘“They seem a bit above my likes and dislikes, so to speak,” answered Sam slowly. “It don’t seem to matter what I think about them. They are quite different from what I expected— so old and young, and so gay and sad, as it were.”’”

 

“May I ask,” Spock starts quietly.

 

“You may,” Sybok says immediately, lip quirking.

 

Spock ignores him.

 

“Why has no one removed the children from Doctor McCoy’s care? He is Human, and there are Vulcans not so deeply affected they could not take temporary guardianship over the youngest of our people.”

 

“None of those healthy enough to be asked care to take on the responsibility,” Sybok says, expression somber. “A societal flaw exacerbated by astronomically terrible events.”

 

“What do you mean by that?”

 

“Humans have always had the compassion to take on a child in need,” Sybok murmurs. “Dating back to the apes that once populated their planet, this was the case. Even if the child is not biologically their own, if they have the means, they will care for it. Even if the child is not of their species, they will care for it.

 

“Since Surak laid down his laws and slaughtered his detractors, the very thought of telepathic engagement with someone who was not biologically related to us has been cause for disgust.” Sybok sighs. “Even now, with the knowledge that our planet is gone and our population decimated, they cannot let go of their conditioning. In a way, I understand it— our customs are all we have left, after all.”

 

Spock feels a frown tug at the edge of his mouth and suppresses it. He has spent too much time in the presence of his brother and the Humans of the Enterprise’s crew.

“That is illogical,” Spock says. “Surely custom can be set aside for the greater good of the preservation of our youngest generation.”

 

Sybok shrugs helplessly.

 

“The doctor would agree with you,” he says. “But then, the Doctor is Human, and Humans are nothing if not practical in the face of great tragedy. It is important to him that these children survive, that they are healthy and whole and comfortable. He will go to any lengths to ensure that, and thus, it has been deemed that he is their best option.”

 

“Is the doctor aware of the true reason for his current guardianship?”

 

“The true reason is that even if there were Vulcans willing to take on a child or two, there still would not be enough to care for them all,” Sybok says. “As for why he has so many… I thought it best to keep that information to myself. The doctor does not strike me as a man who suffers fools lightly— and those who would deny a child comfort certainly would fall into that category in his mind.”

 

“... You seem to know the doctor well,” Spock remarks.

 

“I try to speak with him whenever I can,” Sybok says. “He wants to ensure the children will not suffer so long as they are under his care. Why? Am I incorrect in my observations?”

 

“... After I ejected Captain Kirk from the ship, Doctor McCoy saw fit to scold me,” Spock admits. “He asked me if I ‘was out of my Vulcan mind’.”

 

Sybok snorts.

 

“Were you being a fool?”

 

“I was… emotionally compromised.”

 

“Then he was right to scold you, I suppose.” Sybok shifts. “Unfortunately, you did not inherit the pure dumb luck of Humans from Lady Amanda. You inherited her compassion, however, so that’s something.”

 

Dumb luck. Is that what Jim has? It’s certainly what he would call it.

 

“Our father seems pleased with Doctor McCoy’s work thus far,” Sybok says, thankfully steering the conversation away from the dull ache that seems to build in Spock’s side whenever his mother is mentioned. “No matter how illogical the man might be, he said, he will likely be the best candidate to handle the problems that may arise over the course of the next few months.”

 

“Months?”

 

Sybok nods.

 

“Father has spoken with the High Council,” Sybok says. “A planet is already being sought out for our relocation, but that will take time. Besides that…” He trails off, chewing his lip unhappily.

 

“Only ten thousand of our species survived the destruction of our planet, including expats and other off-worlders,” he says. “Of that ten thousand, there are only seventy fully-trained mind healers, and fifty-eight students of the art. Due to the ratio of healer to Vulcan— not to mention the trauma the healers themselves have suffered— It is likely that more of our young will be left behind in the wake of this destruction. Already six of our number have expired aboard this ship due to broken familial bonds.”

 

Spock breathes in sharply.

 

“We are an endangered species,” he says quietly.

 

“We are,” Sybok agrees, somber. “And if we are to survive, men like McCoy will be needed. We can only pray that they will answer the call.”

Chapter Text

“Flores! What are you doing here?”

 

“Captain said you needed a break,” Flores says, smiling sheepishly. “He says you haven’t talked to him once outside of work since before we lifted off, so he sent me down to babysit for a while.”

 

Leonard scowls, but honestly? He isn’t surprised. It’s been eight days since everything went to shit, and Leonard’s been a little busy, what with Pike still in ICU and Vulcans and baby Vulcans with nightmares. Jim’s an attention whore at best. Likely he’s feeling neglected.

 

He looks over at T’Ruao.

 

“Are you guys going to be okay for a few hours with Flores?” he asks.

 

The girl nods. She and her bondmate have made themselves up as something nearer to the aids Leonard would expect in a school or daycare setting, taking charge of the other teenagers and younger children when he finds himself doing overtime in Medbay or sleeping past when he truly ought.

 

Children, no matter how well-behaved, are exhausting.

 

Nodding to Flores, he lifts Tiger from his place on his knee and settles him on T’Ruao’s lap instead. That’s another thing that’s changed— the teenagers have started to touch, gently tucking their allotment of children into bed or picking them up when they go stiff and nervous for no reason at all. They aren’t quite like Leonard, of course, who hugs and kisses and offers his hands to be held without a second thought, but they’re more than what was expected, and he’s grateful for that.

 

“He’s in his quarters,” Flores calls after him as he goes, which— figures.



*.*



Jim’s happy to see him, flinging himself at Leonard as though he hasn’t seen him in weeks as opposed to the— Leonard checks his watch— ten hours it actually was.

 

“Bones!” he says gleefully. “How are you?”

 

“Tired,” Leonard says flatly. “What’s up?”

 

Jim pouts.

 

“I figured you could use a drink and some conversation that didn’t involve current events,” he says, stepping aside to let Leonard pass. “Plus, I’ve got bourbon. It felt wrong to enjoy it alone.”

 

“Bourbon?” Leonard perks. He hasn’t had a proper drink since they were planetside.

 

“Knew that’d cheer you up,” Jim says, slapping him on the back. “Come on, have a seat— I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve got company.”

 

“Good evening, Doctor.”

 

“Hey, Spock.”

 

Leonard collapses into the empty chair opposite the Vulcan, nodding his thanks when Jim presses a glass into his hand.

 

“Three dimensional chess?” he asks, glancing at Jim.

 

Jim grins.

 

“Finally found someone who’d play me,” he says, jerking his thumb in Spock’s direction. “It’s weird, not winning every game.”

 

“Your overconfidence puts you at a disadvantage, Captain,” Spock says.

 

The blond rolls his eyes.

 

“For the last time, call me Jim, Spock,” he says. “We’re off-duty, and you’re my friend now, I’ve decided.”

 

“I do not believe that is how friendship works.”

 

“It does in his world,” Leonard informs him, sipping his drink. “You think I’d attach myself to a freak like him of my own volition?”

 

Spock gives him a thoughtful look.

 

“He is reckless enough that I believe you would,” he says. “Simply because he would have managed to kill himself otherwise.”

 

Leonard snorts.

 

“Yeah, you got that right,” he mutters into his glass.

 

“I am hurt by your assumptions,” Jim says, pushing his lower lip out in a dramatic pout. “I was doing just fine before you came along, Bonesy. I could tie my own shoelaces and everything.”

 

“Yeah, that split lip really drove it home for me.”

 

Spock arches an eyebrow.

 

“Pardon?”

 

“Aw, Bones, don’t—”

 

“We met on the shuttle to San Francisco from Riverside,” Leonard says over Jim’s protests. “I thought I was bad, but then this hillbilly walked in with half his face busted in and blood on his shirt.”

 

“He told me he would throw up on me,” Jim adds, wrinkling his nose. “Then he did.”

 

“I warned, you, didn’t I?” Leonard scratches his jaw absently, unable to help the small smirk that forms. “Aviophobic, I told them, and did they let me dose myself? No.” He sips his whisky. “Didn’t help much I was hungover, either, but that wasn’t that big a deal.”

 

“Don’t let his haircut fool you,” Jim says, catching Spock’s uncertain glance. “He’s as much a mess as I am. Worse, in some cases.”

 

“At least I can function without alienating myself or getting grounded,” Leonard says, sticking out his tongue.

 

Jim makes a face.

 

“No one’s had the balls to ground me since I was twelve,” he says. “Not since the ‘fleet, anyway.”

 

“I am afraid I do not understand,” Spock says, pointedly ignoring any and all involvement he may or may not have had in said grounding.

 

“Getting grounded when you’re a kid means you’re not allowed to go out,” Jim says. “It’s a punishment. You get your toys taken away and your PADD, and you just… suffer.”

 

“We didn’t have grounding in my house,” Leonard says thoughtfully. “You just had to muck out the stables.”

 

“Oh, I had that too,” Jim says. “But that was later.”

 

Leonard knows what happened later, and no matter how casually Jim says it, it makes him go stiff with impotent fury. Except, now, there’s fear, too, because Spock is clearly about to open his mouth and ask Jim to elaborate, and how does Leonard stop that from happening—

 

“Flores to McCoy.”

 

Oh, thank God.

 

“What’s up, Flores?”

 

“Hank, Buddy, and Honey went to the bathroom and never came back,” Flores says through the comm. “We think they went looking for you.”

 

“Ah, shit.” Leonard pushes himself to his feet. “Alright, I’m heading back. They can’t have gotten too far—”

 

There’s a knock on Jim’s door. Leonard freezes.

 

“Jim, you expecting company?” he asks, tilting his head in Jim’s direction.

 

“Nope.”

 

There’s another knock.

 

“Flores, I’ll get back to you,” he says. “McCoy out.”

 

Jim’s already at the door when Leonard turns to get it, and when it slides open he sees…

 

“Hey, Uhura.”

 

“Is Doctor McCoy with you? These kids were looking for him.”

 

Leonard sighs.

 

“Yeah, I’m here,” he says, moving to stand beside Jim. “Sorry about that, Uhura, I don’t know what came over them.”

 

She smiles.

 

“It’s no problem, Doctor,” she says. “Just a bit of a surprise.”

 

“Flores began a game of Red Light, Green Light,” Hank informs Leonard calmly. “We did not wish to play.”

 

“So you decided to wander around the ship on your own?” he says, arching an eyebrow. “You know you’re not allowed to do that, Hank.”

 

Hank looks down, the tips of his ears flushed green.

 

“We wanted your company, Bonz,” Honey says, frowning. “Why did you leave us? You are not on shift.”

 

Leonard shoots Jim an accusatory glance.

 

“Sorry, guys,” Jim cuts in smoothly. “I wanted to spend some time with Bones too, you know. I get lonely if I don’t get to see him regularly— hey, why don’t you come in. Join us, Uhura?”

 

Uhura’s eyes sparkle at the invitation— clearly, she wants to watch Leonard embarrass himself. Oh, right, and Spock’s here, too. This is gonna be great.

 

“I didn’t leave you,” Leonard tells Honey as they shuffle inside, lifting her up onto his hip. “It’s…” He pauses, searching for the right words. “Social interaction is necessary in order maintain Human friendships. It varies from person to person as to how much, but more delicate Humans like the captain—”

 

“Did he just call me delicate?” Jim mutters to Spock as he sits down, pulling Buddy onto his lap.

 

“— need more regular affirmations of friendship than others,” Leonard finishes. “Jim missed me too, Honey.”

 

“A very precise and logical explanation, Doctor,” Spock says. “I was unaware you knew how to express your thoughts in a concise manner.”

 

“I’ll give you concise, you hob—” Leonard stops, looking down at the pointy-eared girl in his arms. “Anyway. Yeah. I was coming back.”

 

“It was illogical to think otherwise,” Hank says, standing by Leonard’s shoulder. He looks unhappy, the edges of his usually flat mouth curved downward. “I apologize.”

 

Leonard sighs, looping his free arm around the boy’s waist to pull him into a hug.

 

“It’s fine,” he says. “You just worried Flores, is all— which reminds me: McCoy to Flores.”

 

“Did you find them?” Flores asks, tone thick with worry.

 

“Lieutenant Uhura found them and brought them to me. You’re fine, no harm done.”

 

“Thank God. Do you want me to send someone to bring them back?”

 

Leonard looks between three young, hopeful faces, then to Jim, who shrugs.

 

“No, I’ve got them.”

 

“If you’re sure…”

 

“I am. McCoy out.”

 

“Your name’s Honey?” Uhura asks the little girl politely.

 

“Yes.”

 

Leonard snorts.

 

“Right, introductions,” he says. “Uhura, this is Honey, Hank, and Buddy’s in Jim’s lap. Guys, this is Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, Chief of Communications aboard the Enterprise. She’s Spock’s girlfriend.”

 

“Doctor McCoy—” Spock starts.

 

“What? It’s true, isn’t it?”

 

“It’s nice to meet you,” Uhura says politely, offering them a ta’al. “Can I ask— who does your hair, Honey?”

 

“Bonz or Uncle Jim,” Honey says. Jim trained them to call him after about three days of braiding. “They are not particularly good at handling the texture of my hair.”

 

“I’ve been looking things up,” Leonard admits. “But it takes practice, so… french braids.”

 

Uhura hums.

 

“If you want, I could do your hair,” she says, looking at Honey. “I used to do my sisters’ all the time.”

 

Honey looks up at Leonard, who blinks.

 

“What, right now?”

 

Uhura shrugs.

 

“Sure. I just need to grab a few things.”

 

Leonard looks down.

 

“It’s up to you, Honey.”

 

Honey hums thoughtfully, oblivious to the way Spock’s eyes widen just slightly in surprise.

 

“I would not mind,” she decides.

 

Uhura smiles.

 

“Give me just a moment,” she says. “I’ll be right back.”

 

Nodding to Spock and Jim, she slips into the bathroom— the bathroom connecting Jim and Spock’s room together, apparently Uhura doesn’t give a shit about her boyfriend’s chronic case of awkward— and returns a moment later with a small red bag.

 

“Alright,” she says, glancing around a moment before settling herself on the floor. “Let’s get started.”

 

“Well,” Leonard says as Honey hops off his lap and moves to take a seat in front of Uhura, who’s pulling lotions and picks and clips out of her bag. “They’re going to be busy a little while. Now what?”

 

Jim scratches his chin absently.

 

“I’ve got a deck of cards,” he says after a moment. “Poker?”

 

“What is poker?” Hank asks, slipping into Honey’s place on Leonard’s lap.

 

“A Terran card game,” Spock says. “I admit, I have never played.”

 

Jim grins like a shark.

 

“I’m more than happy to teach you,” he says. “Right, Bones?”

 

Leonard’s heard that tone before, knows the mischief that’s sure to follow. He smiles back.

 

“What are we playing for?”

Chapter Text

Pike is brought out of his medically-induced coma the day before the Enterprise is due to dock. He spends three hours talking to Jim and Spock, then an hour to Jim alone, then another two hours to Ambassador Sarek and Sybok, before he calls Leonard.

 

Leonard is in the middle of a situation, when the call comes. Amber, typically one of his quieter children, upon discovering that they would be leaving the ship, had started to scream, eyes distant as they welled up with tears.

 

When it showed no signs of stopping, Leonard had pulled Flores off duty to babysit and had taken Amber to another room, doing his best to soothe her as she cried with every calm memory he could think of— fishing with his brother, the smell of apple pie as it cooled in the window, the sound of rain on the window of his childhood bedroom.

 

It takes the better part of an hour before her screams lessen to ragged, wet sniffles interspersed with hitching sobs, but she calms down, curled against Leonard’s side as he rubs small circles into her back. Her grip on his arm is going to leave bruises, he’s sure, but he finds he doesn’t care much. What’s a few bruises in the face of a crying, scared kid?

 

“Chapel to McCoy.”

 

Leonard sighs, glancing down at Amber.

 

“I gotta take this,” he murmurs. “That okay?”

 

She nods, but doesn’t answer— not good, but better.

 

“McCoy here.”

 

“Captain Pike wants to talk to you,” Chapel tells him. “At your earliest convenience.”

 

Leonard bites his lip.

 

“Would he mind if I bring a guest?” Leonard asks. “There’s been a little upset in the nursery.” Everybody called the nurses’ barracks the nursery these days— it lessened the general confusion present on the ship.

 

There’s a pause.

 

“He says that’s just fine,” Chapel says.

 

“Alright, I’ll be there in a minute. McCoy out.”

 

Amber sits up, fiddling awkwardly with one of her braids. Luckily, Leonard already knows what’s going through her baby Vulcan mind.

 

“Nothing to be ashamed of,” he reminds her. “Kaiidth, remember?”

 

“It is illogical to be afraid,” she says.

 

“Fear is what keeps us alive,” Leonard says. “It’s the brain’s way of telling us there could be trouble. Considering what happened, it’s a perfectly logical response to the idea of being planetside again.”

 

“I cannot stay on a starship forever.”

 

“No, probably not,” Leonard agrees. “But it’s something we’ll work on. I’m sure you’re not the only one who’s uneasy at the thought of disembarking, and we’re only stopping at a space station, right now. It’s all perfectly natural.”

 

Amber doesn’t answer, but he really doesn’t expect her to, so he pushes himself to his feet.

 

“Wanna go meet the Captain?” he asks. “Or do you want to go back to the nursery?”

 

“I already know Uncle Jim,” Amber points out sensibly.

 

Leonard snorts.

 

“The other Captain,” he says. “Captain Pike.”

 

“Oh.” Amber’s been spending too much time around Humans. No self-respecting Vulcan says something as plebeian as ‘oh’. It makes Leonard feel quite pleased with himself. “I would like to stay with you, Bonz.”

 

Leonard nods.

 

“Alright then,” he says, sliding his sleeve back down and offering his arm. “We can’t keep the Captain waiting. Sahris.”


*.*


“You know, it’s one thing to hear ship scuttlebutt. It’s another thing to see it with your own eyes.”

 

Pike is weak still, flat on his back in the biobed and exhausted, but there’s humor in his pale face as Leonard pulls the chair over and sits, pulling Amber onto his knee without thought.

 

“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” Leonard says wryly. “Who broke first?”

 

“Jim, of course,” Pike says. “Boy kept his mouth shut for all of five minutes. ‘Bones has got kids!’— like there weren’t more important things to talk about. How many are there, again?”

 

“Forty-five, counting the older ones.”

 

Pike whistles.

 

“Well, go big or go home, I suppose,” he says. “What’s your name, sweetie?”

 

“Sweetie is in the nursery,” Amber tells him seriously. “I am Amber.”

 

Pike’s brow furrows.

 

“Really now?” he asks, looking at Leonard.

 

He shrugs.

 

“Vulcan naming custom,” he says. “Orphans don’t keep their names, and I needed something to put on their files. Since I named ‘em, they’re all technically mine until they can be properly adopted.”

 

Amber’s grip on his arm tightens painfully at the words. Leonard looks down, frowning.

 

“What’s wrong, Amber?”

 

She doesn’t answer, eyes fixed on the floor.

 

“Looks like somebody doesn’t wanna leave their doctor,” Pike says. “I’m not surprised. Rumor has it you’re quite the momma bear, nowadays— though I guess I already knew that, considering Jim.”

 

Leonard makes a face.

 

“They call him ‘uncle’, you know.”

 

“Why am I not surprised.” Pike shifts, wincing when he jars something he probably shouldn’t. “Ambassador Sarek spoke to me today.”

 

“I heard,” Leonard says. “How’d that go?”

 

“It has been recommended to him by Healer Sybok that the kids remain in your care at least until the Vulcans have been relocated to a suitable planet. Possibly longer.”

 

Leonard blinks.

 

“‘Scuse me?”

 

Pike gives him a wry smile.

 

“Apparently, whatever you’ve been doing has been helping,” he says. “The kids are ‘recovering more quickly than anticipated’, and while there have been ‘lapses in their emotional control’, none of them have shown any of the violent reactions that a number of adult Vulcans are currently experiencing. There’s still a long way to go, Healer Sybok assured me, but apparently you’re handling of their previously unheard of trauma responses has made you quite the celebrity, among mind healers.” He smiles. “Sybok’s been passing on his observations of your technique in hopes of replicating the effects of your treatment. Congratulations: you’ve turned Vulcan healing on its head.”

 

That little shit, Leonard thinks. That’s why he’d been so eager to hang around when Leonard was busy with the kids. He was collecting intel.

 

“If he’d asked, I would’ve just told him,” he says sourly. “It’s not like I’m hiding anything.”

 

“There’s plenty of stuff you do that you don’t even realize you do, I’m sure,” Pike says. “You know Vulcans— they’re thorough.”

 

Amber says something that Pike doesn’t understand. Leonard, however, does.

 

“No, I’m not angry at Sybok,” Leonard tells her. “Just annoyed that he was being sneaky about it, is all.”

 

“Since when do you speak Vulcan?” Pike asks. He doesn’t remember reading anything about that in his file— in fact, he has the distinct impression that Doctor McCoy had gone out of his way not to learn any alien languages, preferring instead to take three years of Standard Sign Language.

 

Leonard’s mouth quirks.

 

“The kids have been teaching me,” he says. “I’m pretty useless, past a few sentences, but it makes them happy, so…” he trails off, shrugging.

 

Pike watches him for a long, careful moment.

 

“You’re a good man, McCoy,” he says seriously. “I ask you this: if I recommend that you stay with your patients until relocation, will you accept it?”

 

Amber’s grip tightens further.

 

“You know I will.”

 

“And if I ask you to stay longer?”

 

Leonard sighs.

 

“If Jim’s on a ship, I’m going with him,” he says. “The idiot’ll be dead in hours otherwise.”

 

“Kirk’s gonna be on the ground rebuilding for at least another year, maybe longer,” Pike says. “Relocation will probably happen sooner than that.”

 

“Then yes. Yes, I’ll stay longer.”

 

There’s a beat, and then Pike’s face relaxes again.

 

“Good,” he says. “That’s what I wanted to hear.”

 

“Why’s that?”

 

“Because I’ve already recommended it,” Pike says, mouth quirking. “I’d hate to be getting calls about a bullheaded doctor refusing to do his job.”

 

“This isn’t my job,” Leonard says. “It’s common goddamn sense. Seriously, have you seen these kids? They’re adorable.”

 

There’s a thrill of pleasure in the back of Leonard’s mind, likely Amber’s. He’s gotten used to telepathic feedback.

 

“I’m sure they are, if Amber here’s anything to go by,” Pike agrees placidly. “That’ll be all, Doctor. You can return to… the nursery. It was nice to meet you, Amber.”

 

“And you as well, Captain Pike,” she says, raising her hand in salute.

 

Leonard feels Pike’s eyes on his back as he slides the privacy curtain shut behind him, but doesn’t look back. He doesn’t know what might happen if he does.

 

Fuck, he thinks as Amber leads him through the maze of biobeds. This… whatever it is, it’s not the short, temporary situation he thought it’d be, is it? The kids are attached, at least some of them are, and Leonard… Leonard’s attached, too. Properly, too. He’s been since day one, from the moment T’Pring told him he’d made himself a guardian by giving them all something as simple as a name.

 

That’s just goddamn unprofessional.


*.*


The problem is, there are forty-five kids, and the average shuttle can fit eighteen, tops, provided you squeeze. That, with the added joy of the shared phobia of leaving the ship— even for a space station, not even a planet yet— present among his children, means that Leonard’s best bet to keep everyone calm for the duration of this six-hour layover is to be very, very careful.

 

The older kids will be fine without him. They’ll be uncomfortable, certainly, but they can take a twenty minute shuttle ride without him to babysit, and anyway, it’s not like Leonard’s planning to stay on the Enterprise. Only Scotty’s crazy enough to do that, and that’s because he’s Scotty. Leonard’s properly spoken to the man maybe three times since he came aboard, and that was enough to recognize true love.

 

By Leonard’s calculations, he’s going to have to take the shuttle six times today— twice to bring the younger kids onto the space station along with a trip back to the ship in between, and then a repeat process to get them off said space station and onto the USS Apollo. Now would be a good time to remember that Leonard is afraid of any and all forms of space travel, and while it’s one thing to live with the constant niggling fear that you’re on a giant starship barrelling through space, there is a certain comfort that comes with not actually being able to see that movement because there are no windows. Shuttles, however, have a viewscreen, one that’s readily available to be seen by all its passengers.

 

Leonard fucking hates space.


*.*


“Doctor McCoy, how can I help you?”

 

Sulu’s the picture of professionalism, straight-faced and serious with not a hair out of place. Leonard doesn’t know him particularly well, but he gets the feeling he’s hiding a flood of dirty jokes behind that smooth calm.

 

“The Captain said you’d be flying me and the kids out to the station,” Leonard says.

 

Sulu nods sharply. “I am. Don’t worry, sir. I’m aware that there have been some issues brought up on the topic of space flight. It’ll be a gentle ride.”

 

Leonard’s lip quirks.

 

“Issues on my account, or on the kids’?”

 

Sulu doesn’t flinch.

 

“Both, sir.”

 

“Oh, good. Would you mind if I made a request?”

 

“Depends, sir. What’s the request?”

 

Smart man. Leonard likes him already.

 

“I need to keep the kids distracted…” Leonard tells him his plan. After a moment, Sulu nods.

 

“Send me the file,” he says. “I can work with a headset.”

 

Leonard smiles.

 

“Good man,” he says. “I’ll send it right along. Thanks for the help.”

 

“No problem, sir. I like Queen.”

Chapter Text

Leonard is circling, checking seatbelts and pressing kisses to wrinkled, worried brows.

 

“The trip’ll take twenty minutes,” he says. “And it won’t feel nearly so long if you do what I say. Are you ready?”

 

There’s a murmur of quiet assent.

 

“Okay. Here’s what I want you to do: I want you all to close your eyes, and keep them closed. Don’t open them, not until I say so. Got that?”

 

“Why?” Goldie asks, frowning even as she obeys.

 

“Because I want you to focus on what you hear,” Leonard says. “Mr. Sulu has been nice enough to treat us to a little music for our trip. Terran music, so I know it’s unfamiliar to you. I want you guys to listen, and relax. Hell, maybe even enjoy yourselves.”

 

“You believe this will distract us,” Bear says thoughtfully.

 

“I’m hoping,” Leonard agrees. “So. Are we ready? Good. Mr. Sulu?”

 

Sulu gives him a thumbs up from over his chair, leaning to flick a few switches. A moment later, it begins, Freddie Mercury’s voice with a piano accompaniment filtering through the speakers usually reserved for computerized reminders to fasten your seatbelts as the engine starts to rumble under Leonard’s feet.

 

“Tonight, I’m gonna have myself, a real good time…”

 

Sighing, Leonard lets his head fall back, screwing his eyes shut against the gut-twisting fear as the shuttle begins to rise from its moorings.

 

Deep breath, Leonard. It’s going to be fine.



*.*



“You are ugly, even for a Human, Doctor McCoy.”

 

Leonard looks up from his cards into the pig-nosed face of a Tellarite. Lovely.

 

“Funny. I’d say the same thing.”

 

The Tellarite snorts.

 

“I was told you were a good conversationalist,” he says. “I am Tarniv. I was told you have been put in charge of the Vulcan brats.”

 

Sundance stiffens in his seat beside Leonard. Leonard puts a calming hand on his shoulder.

 

“I am,” he says. “What do you want?”

 

“We have a Vulcan halfbreed aboard the station,” he says. “There’s been no luck yet getting her to talk. Pig-headed, your people might say. She was left here by the USS Colorado after she became involved in several altercations. You were mentioned in the conversation regarding what to do next with her.”

 

“How old?”

 

“Tricorder readings place her at roughly twelve cycles.”

 

Leonard nods thoughtfully.

 

“And she hasn’t said a word?”

 

“She will not respond, no matter the prompting.” Tarniv pauses. “Unless the prompting is physical.”

 

“Okay.” Leonard pushes back his chair, tossing his cards on the table. “I fold. Behave, alright? I won’t be gone long.”

 

“Yes, Bonz,” Rocky says, tossing a strip of ribbon into the pot without looking up.

 

“Alright,” Leonard says, turning to look at Tarniv. “Show me the girl.”



*.*



The girl is half-Romulan, which explains… potentially a lot, but at the very least why she was involved in a few fights before getting dropped off. She doesn’t respond when Leonard offers her a gentle hello, only glares, brow knit with suspicion as he steps closer to where she’s seated on the bed.

 

“My name’s Doctor Leonard Horatio McCoy,” he says. “My friends call me Bones. What’s your name?”

 

She stares blankly at him, so he tries again, this time in Vulcan.

 

“I am a healer,” he says, tongue stumbling over foreign syllables he hasn’t quite gotten used to yet. “I am Leonard Horatio McCoy. Also Bones.”

 

Not perfect, but better. Still, there’s no response.

 

He frowns, reaching for his tricorder.

 

“I’m going to scan you,” he says slowly. “Is that okay?”

 

Her eyes flick between the tricorder and his face, but otherwise, no reaction.

 

Leonard’s gonna take that as a yes.

 

The readings are strange, likely due to her half-Romulan biology, but he doesn’t… he doesn’t see anything wrong… but that doesn’t mean there isn’t.

 

“Are you capable of speaking?” he asks her. “Or sound?”

 

This staring shit is starting to get on his nerves.

 

“Open your mouth,” he says, gesturing to his face as he makes an ‘oh’. “Like this, right? ‘Ah’, there we go.” He smiles, nodding quickly. “Just like that. Now can you make a noise? Say ‘ah’.”

 

She looks bewildered, mouth half-open like she’s not sure she’s understood him properly. He presses two fingers to his throat.

 

“‘Ah’, like me, come on.”

 

The girl stares a moment longer, and then lets out a weak grunt.

 

“There we go! So,” he says. “You can make noise. Can you understand me?” He repeats the question in Vulcan.

 

No response. Is it trauma? Probably, though he hasn’t seen a case of self-imposed mutism yet among the Vulcans aboard the Enterprise. Unless…

 

ARE YOU DEAF? His SSL might be a little rusty, but he remembers that much.

 

The girl blinks, recognition flashing across her stony face.

 

S-I-G-N. She spells, fingers painstakingly slow and clumsy with each letter. Clearly, her needs weren’t met when it comes to basic communication. Was it the deafness, or her clear Romulan ancestry? Probably both.

 

YES. Leonard nods his head along with his fist, then moves to point to himself. L-E-O-N-A-R-D-M-C-C-O-Y-D-O-C-T-O-R.

 

He moves slowly, making sure she’s able to register each letter as his hand moves. She blinks, then nods, apparently bewildered by his name.

 

OR, L-E-O. OR LION. Leonard runs five curved fingers over his scalp. That’s the name he’d been given by his tutor, back in the Academy. LION E-A-S-I-E-R.

 

The girl pauses, then raises her fist to shake.

 

YES. she says. LION.

 

GOOD. Leonard shifts, then points at her. N-A-M-E.

 

S-A-A-V-I-K.

 

Saavik. A Vulcan name, then.

 

T-O-U-C-H-T-E-L-E-P-A-T-H. Leonard asks.

 

YES.

 

M-A-Y-I-T-O-U-C-H-E-A-S-I-E-R.

 

Saavik shifts, uncertainty creeping into her dark eyes, but she nods anyway.

 

YES.

 

Leonard pushes up his sleeve, holding out his arm for her to take. After a moment, she does.

 

Silence-alone-mother-dead-planet-running-ship-anger-hatred-pushing-shoving-fighting-biting-station-stupid-doctors—

 

Leonard grabs her wrist, doing best to push forward his own thoughts.

 

Safety-comfort-Earth-children-together-no-pain-poker-movies-gentle. His memories don’t quite come out in order, they never do, but after a moment, Saavik relaxes, and Leonard has the distinct feeling of strange-Human-guardian-naming?

 

If you want to keep your name I won’t name you, he thinks. But I’ll take care of you just the same.

 

Saavik offers him a timid smile— that would be the Romulan side, he thinks, and lets go.

 

F-O-L-L-O-W. He spells.

 

She does.



*.*



So now he has forty-six children. He has to tell someone that he picked up another, of course, and the first person he runs into that matters is Spock.

 

“Spock! Can I talk to you for a minute?”

 

“Yes, Doctor—” Spock stops, eyes focusing on Saavik, who’s trailing behind him.

 

“This is what I want to talk to you about,” Leonard says, gesturing to the girl. “This is Saavik. She was taken off the ship that saved her to due an unfortunate case of genetic bigotry. I’m taking her now. Is that alright?”

 

“I am unsure that would be advisable,” Spock says.

 

“Probably not, no,” Leonard agrees. “But she’s deaf, and no one on this station has even rudimentary SSL. Plus, you know, it doesn’t look like anybody really bothered to teach her.”

 

Spock glances at Leonard.

 

“She is unable to communicate?” he asks.

 

“She can, but barely,” Leonard says. “She can spell, so I’m assuming she can read.”

 

Spock’s eyes flash, and Saavik shrinks. Instinctively, Leonard holds out his arm, still bare from their earlier communication. After a moment, Saavik touches him, and her expression calms.

 

“Telepathy does wonders, dunnit?” Leonard asks, giving Spock a wry smile.

 

“I will speak to the Captain,” Spock says. “I am sure he will only find humor in the fact that you have gained another… goldfish.”

 

Leonard blinks.

 

“Goldfish?”

 

“That it what the Captain has been referring to the children as,” Spock says stiffly. “I do not understand the humor in such a moniker, but it has caught on with the rest of the Alpha crew.”

 

Goddammit, Jim.

 

“Right,” Leonard says, grimacing. “Okay. I’m going to take Saavik here and introduce her to the rest. When are the shuttles coming to take us on the Apollo?”

 

“Approximately three-point-seven hours.”

 

“Great. I can give a short lesson in sign before we board. Good talking to you, Spock.”

 

“Doctor.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“May I sit in on your lesson?” Spock inquires. “I believe it would be prudent to have more than one officer able to speak to your new charge— in case an emergency arises, you understand.”

 

“Sure,” Leonard says, shrugging. “Does Uhura know SSL? If not, she might wanna tag along, too.”

 

“An excellent idea, Doctor. I will comm her now.”

 

“Sure. We’re in the mess hall, when you find her.”

Chapter Text

Old Spock is hiding in the mess hall when Jim finds him next, as far away from the cluster of children on the other side of the room as possible.

 

Naturally, Jim pulls his chair up next to him.

 

“What’s up?”

 

Old Spock takes a moment to speak.

 

“It is strange,” he says slowly. “My Leonard and I had a turbulent relationship at the beginning of our service together. We became quite close, as years went on, but to see such camaraderie so soon after their first meeting… it could be called surreal.”

 

Jim glances over at the group. It almost looks like Leonard’s regularly scheduled storytimes, except he’s not holding his PADD this time, but rather signing, fingers moving carefully as he shows his fishies the signs for ship, doctor, and Vulcan. The younger Spock is seated not far from him, Uhura by his side, carefully copying each movement alongside the children, and seemingly just as attentive to his lesson.

 

“Did he have a family, where you came from?” Jim asks.

 

“A daughter. He’d been divorced several years before I met him.” Spock shifts. “Is it much the same here?”

 

Jim winces.

 

“Not quite,” he says. “Bones lost his family. Shuttle accident. His daughter, Jo— she died in his arms.”

 

Sorrow flashes lightning quick across Spock’s face.

 

“That is a shame,” he says. “Joanna proved to be quite the officer. She was a nurse, in my time, and an accomplished one, at that.”

 

“Followed in her father’s footsteps,” Jim murmurs. “Bones would like to hear that. Or maybe not.”

 

“Perhaps it would be better to keep that between us,” Spock agrees. “As it is, he seems to be quite the family man, regardless. My father tells me that he has taken guardianship of the orphaned Vulcan children aboard the Enterprise.”

 

“Plus one more,” Jim says, nodding towards the girl seated closest to Leonard. “He found Saavik aboard the station.”

 

“I know Saavik,” Spock says. “She was a protege of mine, long ago.”

 

“Really? Do you sign?”

 

“I do not,” Spock says. “Saavik had no disabilities when I knew her.”

 

“Really? Weird.”

 

“The similarities between our timelines mean very little in the face of the many differences,” Spock says. “In some ways, however, it is a relief.”

 

“I can imagine how it might be,” Jim says. “So, what’ll you do now? I mean, I guess Ambassador Sarek knows about you?”

 

“He is aware,” Spock says, dipping his chin. “I have asked if I am able to aid in the reconstruction of Vulcan. However, that may be… difficult.”

 

“Why?”

 

“It seems the elders of my people have allocated the blame of the destruction of Vulcan to me,” he says.

 

“That sounds awfully illogical.”

 

“They are a damaged people,” Spock says. “But, I believe I may still be able to work towards the healing of my people, nevertheless.”

 

His eyes are focused on Bones again, on the kids that are now carefully signing introductions to Saavik and each other.

 

Oh. Oh. That could work.

 

“They’re going to need Vulcan instructors, once things balance out again,” Jim says. “I can’t imagine many of them survived.”

 

“Three,” Spock says softly. “For five hundred and sixty-eight children, only three fully-trained instructors survived.”

 

“... Much was lost,” Jim says softly. “I grieve with thee.”

 

“Thank you, Jim.” Spock takes a deep breath. “You do not know what it means to me.”

 

Jim thinks of the strange, warm feeling that had filled his chest when this Spock had melded with him, of the pain that felt distinctly like heartbreak when he’d caught a glimpse of a man that wasn’t him but he knew was Jim just the same.

 

They both go quiet, turning their focus back onto Bones, who’s now getting his own lessons in Vulcan. A Georgia drawl just sounds weird in Vulcan.



*.*



The USS Apollo has its own CMO, and have been prepped with the appropriate staff to handle the situation that is the Enterprise.

 

Save for Pike, Leonard’s schedule has… pretty much been cleared. Like, he’s on call, but… he’s not needed.

 

The kids are thrilled, of course, demanding more SSL lessons and card games and movies and reading and… it turns out he’s just as busy, honestly.

 

The three days spent on the Apollo go something like this:

 

Wake up.

Eat breakfast.

One hour of reading (they’re on Two Towers, now. Saavik’s been given a PADD so she can catch up).

One hour of yoga with Flores.

One hour of SSL (Spock and Uhura like to join them for that).

Lunch.

One hour of Vulcan.

One hour of free time (which is usually dominated by games of gin rummy and poker. Leonard may have accidentally created a generation of Vulcan gamblers).

Dinner.

Movies and coloring.

Bed.

 

Honestly, it’s not so bad— in fact, Leonard doesn’t think he’s had this much fun since high school. It keeps Leonard busy, and by extent Jim, who’s losing his mind with nothing to do and is usually trouble waiting to happen in situations such as these.

 

There’s always a little trouble, of course, as is wont to be when children are introduced to something new or different. This trouble, though… Leonard should have expected

 

The fact is, Saavik is very clearly part-Romulan.

 

“It was the Romulans who attacked us,” Blue explains when Leonard breaks up a hair-pulling fight in the bathroom on the second day. “It is only logical that she would be sympathetic to their cause.”

 

Now, as far as Leonard knows, the children don’t actually know it was a Romulan who attacked, and curses whichever crewmen it was that Blue had overheard, thereby taking away Leonard’s ability to explain the situation properly.

 

“Okay, first of all?” he starts, hands flying for Saavik’s benefit, curled up on the chair beside Blue. “It wasn’t the Romulans who attacked us. It was a Romulan, a rogue agent who was also crazy. So there’s that.

 

“Second of all, Saavik also lost her family in the destruction of Vulcan. Not a very good family, as far as I can tell, but she lost her family nonetheless. Vulcan was as much her home as it was yours, Blue. You can’t discount that.”

 

Blue looks down, hands balled into little fists in her lap.

 

“I am angry,” she says, tone strained. “I do not understand why Vulcan was attacked. I do not understand why it is gone. Why?”

 

And this conversation, this one specifically, is the one that Leonard that Leonard was waiting for and dreading.

 

“Sometimes, the universe sees fit to take things from us,” he says softly, translating carefully to make sure Saavik understands what he’s saying. “It is not fair, it is not kind. But it happens to us all, one way or another.”

 

“But why?” Blue says. She’s crying, he thinks. That’s why she won’t raise her head. “I did nothing wrong. Am I being punished? Why am I being punished? It is illogical.”

 

“Logic has no place in life and death,” Leonard says kindly. “The loss of your planet isn’t a punishment, nor is it a reward for the man who destroyed it. It just is, and we have to deal with it as best we can. We take comfort in those who love us, who support us, and we take steps to rebuild, and hope we can create something even better than what we had. To hate all Romulans for the act of one man is illogical. To attack a girl who is just as devastated by the loss of the only home she’s ever known is illogical.”

 

Blue doesn’t answer, and Leonard sighs.

 

“Let me ask you this,” he says instead. “When you attacked her, did you feel better? Did it make your heart hurt a little less, knowing you’d caused Saavik pain and embarrassment in front of your peers? Be honest, please.”

 

“... No,” Blue whispers. “But I wanted it to.”

 

Leonard sighs.

 

“You’ve seen the photo, the one I keep on my desk in my office.”

 

“Your daughter,” Blue says. “Joanna.”

 

“Yes,” Leonard says. “Joanna.”

 

“She is dead.”

 

“She is,” Leonard agrees. “And when she and her mother died, I spent months wanting to die myself. I wanted the pilot of our shuttle to die, to suffer just as badly as I was. I attacked him, you know, when he came to their funeral.”

 

Blue shifts.

 

“He was a young kid,” Leonard continues. “Probably the same age as Jim is now. He was thin and pale, and his arm was in a sling, and he’d come to apologize to me. Even brought flowers for the occasion— it’s a thing Humans do, at funerals. But when I saw him, I… I lost it. My brother dragged me off of him, he thought I was gonna kill him. Because the kid? The kid took it. He didn’t try and defend himself, didn’t try to fight back.

 

“The shuttle crash wasn’t even his fault. It was a mechanical error, a malfunction with one of the coils. But he felt responsible anyway, and thought he deserved anything I could throw at him. I thought he did too, for a long time.”

 

Leonard pauses, considering his next words.

 

“It isn’t about blame,” he says. “Or accountability. You’re alive, and you have the rest of your life ahead of you. Letting hatred fester will only make your days darker, your life crueler. I’m not saying you ought to forget what’s happened to you— Lord knows you never will— but you have to recognize that choosing a path of hatred will only lead to suffering, for yourself and for those around you.”

 

“I will not forgive.”

 

“You don’t have to, though I would recommend it in most cases,” Leonard says. “It’s better for your overall health when you recognize that lashing out in anger doesn’t do anything but make matters worse.”

 

Blue sniffles, rubbing a hand angrily over her wet eyes.

 

“Did you forgive him?” she asks suddenly. “The pilot?”

 

“I didn’t get a chance to,” Leonard admits. “He tied a stone to his legs and threw himself into the lake by his parents’ house about a year after I entered the Academy. He was twenty-six years old.”

 

Leonard hadn’t gone to class the day he’d gotten the news. He and Jim had locked themselves in their dorm room, drinking and crying (in Leonard’s case) and generally feeling like a piece of shit (also in Leonard’s case).

 

“I can’t help but think,” he continues before he can stop himself. “That if I hadn’t attacked him, if I’d just… I don’t know, even ignored him, when he showed up… he might still be alive. There were thirty people on that shuttle when it went down, and only eight of us survived. I wasn’t the only one who’d lost somebody… but it doesn’t matter now, I suppose. He’s dead, now.”

 

“The Romulan who attacked us is dead,” Blue says. “Does it matter how I feel?”

 

“It does if it affects the innocent people around you,” Leonard says firmly. “And Saavik is as much a victim of this tragedy as you are. I told you all on the first night aboard that we must be kind to each other. Saavik deserves just as much kindness and respect as any of the rest of you. Saavik, do you have anything to add?”

 

Saavik straightens, turning slightly to face Blue.

 

I UNDERSTAND, she says. YOU ARE NOT THE FIRST TO HURT ME.

 

Leonard grimaces.

 

THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANT, he says.

 

Blue reaches out to tap Saavik’s shoulder before she can answer, drawing the older girl’s attention timidly.

 

I APOLOGIZE, she signs. MY ANGER IS ILLOGICAL. IT WILL NOT HAPPEN AGAIN.

 

Saavik’s mouth tightens, nostrils flaring as she inhales sharply.

 

NO ONE HAS EVER APOLOGIZED TO ME FOR THEIR ACTIONS, she says. THANK YOU.

 

And isn’t that the saddest fucking thing Leonard’s ever heard? He has the sudden desire to punch… whoever it was Saavik’s been dealing with before now. Maybe he should schedule some time in the boxing gym.

 

The door slides open quietly behind Leonard.

 

“Doctor, I was informed there was an incident involving a few of the children,” Spock says, stopping just behind Leonard’s shoulder. “Has the situation been rectified?”

 

Leonard glances over at the girls, then up at Spock.

 

“For the time being,” he says. “Did you need something?”

 

Spock unclasps his hands from behind his back.

 

“I was hoping Saavik would accompany me to my laboratory,” he says, hands moving alongside his words. “I require the assistance of someone versed in proper laboratory protocol, and as I understand it, Saavik was quite adept in aiding her mother in her work.”

 

Leonard arches an eyebrow. Saavik had told them that her mother had been a scientist, but he doesn’t think she mentioned anything about helping her—

 

Wait.

 

Spock’s a smart guy. Even if no one told him why the fight broke out, exactly, he probably figured out the gist of it just from who was involved. He’s being nice, offering Saavik some time alone to work out her feelings away from the other kids.

 

Apparently he’s not as cold-blooded as Leonard thought.

 

“Breakfast, of course,” he adds. “Will be brought to us. Yeoman Rand is eager to busy herself. I am sure she would be glad to help.”

 

Leonard looks at Saavik.

 

DO YOU WANT TO GO? He asks. I DON’T MIND.

 

Saavik bites her lip, then nods.

 

I WOULD BE GLAD TO HELP, COMMANDER SPOCK.

 

Spock nods.

 

“In which case, we shall meet you at the usual hour for lunch in the mess hall,” Spock tells Leonard. “Come along, Saavik.”

 

He signs the last bit, and after a moment, Saavik slides her feet from the edge of her chair and stands, straightening her crumpled shirt carefully before moving to Leonard’s chair, pausing stiffly to allow him to hug her goodbye. Hugs, he’s found, are one of the things all his kids are particularly greedy for. Saavik, for all her discomfort, seems to want them just as much.

 

It’s adorable, really. His elf children are adorable.

 

“Let’s head to the mess,” he tells Blue, getting to his feet. “T’Ruao and the rest should have gotten down there by now.”

 

“Yes, Bonz.” Quietly, Blue pushes herself to her feet, head still bowed.

 

Leonard sighs. He was never particularly good at the scolding thing, not when it came to Jo, because it sucks. Now Blue feels bad and he’s at least partially responsible.

 

“What’s wrong, Blue?”

 

Blue fiddles with the edge of her t-shirt awkwardly.

 

“You said that, when dealing with matters of loss…” she pauses hesitantly. “You said that we ought to take comfort in those who love us.”

 

“I did.”

 

“My parents loved me,” she says. “I believe they did.”

 

“I know they did,” Leonard says. “You’re their daughter.”

 

“But now they are dead,” she says. “And you have taken their place. Do you love me?”

 

“Oh, Blue.” He reaches out, fingers finding the curve of her shoulder and pulling her close. “Of course I do. I love all of you, and I’ll keep loving you, even when you leave me.”

 

“We will not leave you,” Blue says, voice muffled by his uniform shirt. “Not ever.”

 

Kids are sweet, Leonard thinks as he lets her go. They think in straight lines. What is now is forever, when you’re so young. Leonard wishes he could still think like that.

 

“C’mon,” he says. “I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.”

Chapter Text

 

“Bonz, I have something of a personal to ask of you.”

 

T’Lanar’s voice is perfectly mild, her face a mask of calm in the half-light as Leonard blinks awake.

 

“Hmm?” He glances at his watch. It’s two-thirty in the morning. “What’s wrong?”

 

“I have begun to menstruate.”

 

It takes a moment for T’Lanar’s words to register, then another moment for Leonard to sit up stock straight, eyes wide.

 

“Shit.”

 

“Not quite,” T’Lanar says, because humor is a weapon, and she’s learned to wield it well in her time with him.

 

Now that Leonard’s awake (and panicking, a little bit), he can see the slightest green tinge to her cheeks, can hear the note of desperate irritation in her voice.

 

“Your bed?” he asks.

 

“Untouched,” she says. “I only realized when I had gone to the restroom that it had begun.”

 

“Okay. Um… they keep feminine products in Medbay,” he says. “Do you want to come with me or wait in the bathroom?”

 

“I will wait,” she says.

 

“Okay. I’ll be quick, alright? Don’t worry.”

 

“I will not.” She shuffles away from the bed, knees pressed together as though it might somehow stem the flow, and slips back into the small bathroom attached to the nursery, and Leonard?

 

Leonard runs.



*.*



“Doctor McCoy?”

 

“Oh, T’Pring, thank God.”

 

He grabs the Vulcan woman by the sleeve of her Starfleet-issue black shirt, tugging her into a nearby storage closet.

 

“I need a basic rundown of what to expect from female Vulcan menstruation,” he says. “It’s different, right? From Humans?”

 

T’Pring blinks, not quite able to keep the utter bewilderment from her face.

 

“Doctor, I am unsure why you would need—”

 

“I have a bleeding Vulcan waiting for me in the nursery bathroom,” he says. “Does she need special products? Will she need pain medication? How long is it supposed to last? What do I do?”

 

“... Vulcan menstruation cycles are not dissimilar from Human cycles,” T’Pring says slowly. “She is able to use the same products as any Human woman. Doctor, I thought you were versed in xenobiology.”

 

“Yeah, for surgery, not Sex Ed! I know the exact position of the Vulcan uterus and the necessary cuts for a cesarian and a hysterectomy. I don’t know how long a Vulcan girl typically bleeds every month!”

 

“The typical cycle of a Vulcan woman occurs every three to five months,” T’Pring says. “It will last approximately fifteen days. Any discomfort she may feel should be easily suppressed, assuming the Vulcan in question is not completely inept.”

 

Leonard relaxes.

 

“Okay, good,” he says, then flushes. “I— God, I’m sorry. I must look crazy right now.”

 

“You do,” T’Pring agrees. “There are also, as I understand it, certain sexual connotations concerning dragging a lone woman into a closet.”

 

Leonard’s flush deepens.

 

“Ah— right. I was looking for privacy.”

 

“I believe that is what most who go in search of a closet are looking for,” T’Pring says mildly. “But you are forgiven. First cycles are always uncomfortable, no matter how illogical it is to be embarrassed by normal bodily functions.”

 

“First— T’Pring, the girl’s almost sixteen years old.”

 

“We age differently than Humans,” T’Pring points out. “Menstruation in females begins between the ages of fifteen and twenty, if not later.”

 

“Oh, Christ…”

 

“I believe there is a package of pads on the shelf behind your head,” T’Pring says helpfully, pointing. “Do you have anything in which she may carry those necessities discreetly?”

 

“I— I’ll replicate her something.”

 

“Do that,” she says. “There is no need to embarrass her further.”

 

Leonard probably looks like a tomato as he fumbles for the box. He doesn’t know why he’s so awkward about the whole thing— he’s a doctor, goddammit, and has seen his fair share of lady parts (for medical reasons. Not sexy ones). Maybe because he had to ask, just to be sure, or because he’s never actually had to deal with this particular first. Hell, he still doesn’t know if his sister bleeds— he assumes she does, given the three kids, but he doesn’t know.

 

“Thank you,” he says, box in hand. “Um, I should go. She’s waiting.”

 

“If you feel the need to refresh her memory on the subject of Vulcan reproductive cycles, feel free to call on me,” T’Pring says. “I have experience on the subject.”

 

“I should hope so,” Leonard says before he can stop himself. He covers his face with his hand. “Sorry. I’m leaving now. Thanks.”

 

He flees, before he can say anything else dumb. He’s gotta save what’s left of his dignity somehow.



*.*



He handles T’Lanar’s immediate problem first, passing on the necessities and finding her an extra towel to put on her bed when she’s finished. She’s uncomfortable, painfully so, and Leonard feels sort of bad about the whole thing, though he’s happy to say he didn’t make nearly as big of a fool of himself when he explained through the door how to bend the wings back to attach the damn thing to her underwear. Granted, he was reading off the box, but still.

 

The replicator has an array of options for small ‘bathroom bags’ available, which is good. Leonard chooses at random, settling on a navy zip-up with what looks like pandas patterned across the top, and stuffs the contents of the box inside before passing it under the stall door.

 

“Change it every four hours when you’re not actively sleeping,” he says. “If you don’t, it might get over-full and leak, or it’ll smell. Whenever you change it, wrap it up in the plastic of the new one and toss it into the little trashcan on the wall next to the toilet. Okay?”

 

“Yes, Bonz,” T’Lanar says quietly. He hears the door unlock, and a moment later, she steps out, shoulders hunched.

 

He sighs.

 

“Go wash your hands,” he says. “You’re fine. Just more proof that life goes on, right?”

 

“Life has terrible timing,” she mutters, moving to the sinks.

 

Leonard laughs.

 

“It usually does,” he tells her. “Now, bed sounds like a great idea, don’t you think?”

 

“Yes,” T’Lanar agrees softly. “I… I am tired.”

 

Leonard loops an arm around her shoulders, giving her a quick squeeze.

 

“You’re okay,” he says. “It’s just another one of those things.”

Chapter Text

“There’s paparazzi waiting for us down there,” Jim says when they finally dock at the Terran spaceport. “They want to get pictures of the last of the Vulcans. And me, obviously. Because I’m a hero.”

 

Jim makes a face at the word, like he’s quoting.

 

“Now, see, if you were ugly, this wouldn’t be a problem,” Leonard says, but he’s sympathetic. Poor Jim’s never really gotten a break from cameras, not since he was a kid. It’s probably why his bullshit-smile is so nice.

 

Still, the joke does what it’s supposed to, sort of, because Jim cracks a small, real smile.

 

“Now you tell me,” he says. Then he sobers, leaning closer. “Spock’s not looking forward to it, either. We’re already getting requests to be photographed alone for articles. Some of the questions sent up for him were… not classy.”

 

Meaning they were blunt, callous, and to the point. Because Vulcans don’t have feelings and won’t be hurt by questions about the destruction of their planet. After two weeks and change around nothing but Vulcan feelings, Leonard wants to laugh.

 

“What about the kids?” he asks.

 

Jim smiles thinly.

 

“They’re not getting a pass on the photo op,” he says. “They’re faces are going to be plastered across every major news site within minutes. I can see the headlines now: ‘Generation Last: How Will the Youngest of the Vulcan Species Cope?’”

 

“That’s terrible,” Leonard says flatly. “I’m not letting them walk into that. No fucking way.”

 

Jim shrugs.

 

“If you can figure a way around it, go for it,” he says. “But they’re landing at the same point that the rest of us are— in fact, a special shuttle’s being brought up, just for you guys.”

 

Well, that’s nice, at least. Better than doubling back and leaving his kids to handle the cameras alone. The very thought makes his blood boil.

 

“On a lighter note, you guys watched Avengers?” Jim asks, pushing out his lower lip in a pout. “Without me?”

 

“It was a last-minute decision,” Leonard says, distracted. “But if it makes you feel better, we can watch Age of Ultron once everything’s settled down some.”

 

“That’s the sucky one, though.”

 

“Tough luck.” There’s a thought, a wispy little thing that isn’t… quite…

 

Masks. The Avengers are superheroes. Superheroes wear masks.

 

“Whoa, Bones, where you going?”

 

“Flores!” Leonard shouts over the din of the mess hall.

 

Flores materializes at his elbow.

 

“What’s up, doc?”

 

“I need your replicating skills,” Leonard says.

 

“Sure thing,” Flores says. “Whattaya need?”

 

“Forty six face-masks,” Leonard says. “The ones that only cover the top half of your face.” It’s easier to breathe in, that way.

 

“Like Robin, from the Batman comics,” Flores says. “Yeah, sure. I can do that in like, an hour. I used to repair replicators, back in the day, so I can probably program something quick.”

 

“What do you mean, back in the day?” Jim asks. “You’re younger than I am— there is no ‘back in the day’ for you.”

 

Flores grins.

 

“I’ve lived a full, interesting life, Captain,” he says before turning his attention back to Leonard. “You want these before your crew boards the shuttle, right?”

 

“Got it in one,” Leonard says. “Can you do it?”

 

“Sure,” Flores says, shrugging. “I’ll get right on it. Forty-six Robin-masks, coming up. I’ll bring ‘em with me to yoga to pass out.”

 

“Perfect.”

 

Flores disappears just as quickly as he appeared, because that’s Flores and that’s what he does.

 

“Who is that guy?” Jim asks bemusedly.

 

“Flores? He’s a nurse on my team,” Leonard says. “Good guy. Jack-of-all-trades type.”

 

“I don’t remember him from the Academy,” Jim says. “But he had to have been in school with us, right? I mean, he can’t be older than what, twenty-two?”

 

“Maybe he was at a satellite school or something. Honestly, I don’t care. He’s a helpful guy, so I like him.”

 

“You’re easy to please, Bones.”

 

“If that’s true, why do you always turn out to be so disappointing?”


*.*


The masks fit snugly on each little face as Leonard surveys the group, each child waiting patiently for him to give the signal to the pilot to open the shuttle door. His hands are shaking, just slightly, but that’s normal after shuttle rides, so he ignores it, tucking his hands into his pockets instead.

 

“They’re going to be shouting,” he says. “They’re going to be rude, demanding. They’ll ask questions that’ll make you angry, and sad, and frustrated. Don’t answer them. Ignore them. They’re acting stupid, and they don’t deserve your time or thoughts or attention.”

 

“Can you carry me?” one of the boys asks. Leonard knows it’s Buddy, even with his face half-covered, because Buddy and Sweetie are the only ones who regularly ask to be carried.

 

“... I shouldn’t.” Leonard doesn’t want to think about the potential for drama.

 

“But I want you to.”

 

“People don’t always get what they want, Buddy.”

 

“You may carry him, Bonz,” Rocky speaks up. “We do not mind.”

 

Let it be known that Vulcan children know something about sharing.

 

“It isn’t— I’m worried about how people out there will react.”

 

“But they will be acting stupid,” Reba points out. “And do not deserve our time, thoughts, or attention.”

 

Goddammit, he just said that.

 

“Please, Bonz?”

 

Leonard huffs. He did just say that, didn’t he...

 

“Fine,” he says, holding out his arms. Pleased, Buddy climbs up, settling himself in his preferred position in the crook of Leonard’s elbow.

 

“Are we ready, sir?” the pilot asks politely.

 

Leonard sighs.

 

“Yeah,”  he says. “Open ‘em up.”

 

The doors hiss open, and sunshine hits Leonard’s face, as do the flashes of a dozen cameras.

 

The landing point is absolute fucking chaos. There’s a barricade, to separate the reporters from incoming Enterprise members, but it isn’t doing much.

 

Buddy’s grip on Leonard’s shirt tightens as the questions start flying.

 

“Doctor McCoy, do you have a statement regarding the health of the survivors?”

 

“Are these all the orphans of the attack on Vulcan?”

 

“Why are these children being cared for by a Human rather than a qualified Vulcan surrogate?”

 

“Doctor McCoy, it’s understood that touching is a faux pas among Vulcan society. Can you explain why you’re carrying that child?”

 

“Why are their faces covered?”

 

Leonard turns away, mouth pressed into a thin, furious line. These people have no tact, no common fucking decency. These are children, damn it—

 

“They are very rude,” Buddy says in his ear. “I was led to believe Humans were kinder.”

 

“So was I,” Leonard says loudly. “I’ve never been in a situation where an entire group of people can look at a bunch of little kids and try to make them cry.”

 

“We’re just doing our jobs, doctor, same as you,” says the man nearest them, holding a camera.

 

“Well, you’re doing a piss-poor job of it,” Leonard says flatly. “How dare you speak as if they are untouched by suffering? How dare you be so cruel?”

 

“Vulcans don’t feel, everybody knows that!” Somebody says. Leonard doesn’t know who.

 

“Well, that’s everybody’s else’s problem,” he says. “Now get out of my way.”

 

Leonard may be a doctor, but he’s big. He’s tall, and he’s broad-shouldered, and he’s muscled thanks to years of careful maintenance. Coupled with the fact that he’s very, very pissed off, he seems a good bit bigger— at least, according to Jim. You’d make a good sith, he said over dinner once. When you get angry, you can feel it in the Force.

 

The Force is bullshit, of course, but right now, Leonard can’t throw punches, not with Buddy in his arms, so it’s all he’s goddamn got. So he closes his eyes and lets himself swell, lets his fury boil under his skin and pictures it filling the air like fucking smoke.

 

Buddy stiffens in his grip, but doesn’t try to pull away. His hand slides up the nape of Leonard’s neck, finding skin. Whatever he finds, however— rage, lots of rage, directed at the crowd that seems so close to closing in— makes him quiet again.

 

Leonard feels something like fire against his skin, emanating from the little boy sitting so straight in the bend of his elbow. It’s not physical, exactly, but he feels it nonetheless. Buddy’s angry, too, and he’s taking his cues from Leonard, which is probably not good, but somehow, he can’t bring himself to care.

 

The heat spreads, now at Leonard’s back. It gets hotter, and hotter, and hotter as more of the children seem to catch onto whatever it is Leonard thinks he’s doing and attempt to copy it. Ambassador Sarek said he projects; hopefully, Leonard is projecting his intent.

 

Slowly, the crowd goes quiet, starting from those closest to their little group and moving backward. The cameras stop flashing, people stop talking, and soon, there is nothing but an eery, horrified silence.

 

Leonard takes a deep breath.

 

“I’ll say it again: Get out of my way.”

 

The crowd parts like the Goddamn Red Sea, faces pale and uncertain of whatever it is they’re experiencing. Vulcans are proximity telepaths, to a certain degree. It makes sense that they could project.

 

Leonard leads the children down the path laid out for them, straight-backed as any Vulcan, eyes wild. He probably looks insane, the way he scans the crowd. He probably looks rabid. He is a fucking sith lord, and any person that stands in his way is going to find out exactly what that means.

 

Good.

Chapter Text

“What the fuck is that?” Jim blurts out, head swivelling to try and find the source of his sudden unease.

 

The Vulcan woman seated next to Jim shifts.

 

“It is rage thee feels,” she says. “Vulcan rage.”

 

Her name is T’Pau, and she’s so badass she refused a place on the Federation Council. She is also Spock’s great-grandmother, which makes Jim regret cursing in front of her, just a little bit.

 

“Doctor McCoy has arrived,” Ambassador Sarek says. “It is his children that are the source.”

 

Oh. Yeah, the weird, scary feeling definitely gets stronger when his eyes land on Bones, who looks like he’s a minute from going full on raging bull in a matter of moments. His kids, however, are the picture of calm, each face carefully showing only mild interest in their new surroundings as he herds them towards a handful of empty chairs that Jim’s pretty sure weren’t empty a few minutes ago.

 

“The children must calm themselves,” the Ambassador says, disapproval clear despite his placid tone. “It is improper.”

 

“Watch, grandson,” T’Pau says, nodding. “Their guardian is careful to ensure no lasting damage.”

 

Jim blinks. Bones is circling, now, sleeves pulled up past his elbows. That wild-eyed expression is fading quickly, replaced by quiet, careful smiles and what Jim imagines to be soothing words as the children reach out to touch, fingers brushing against his bared skin as he leans over to talk.

 

“Their rage was focused by thy healer,” T’Pau remarks, turning her head just enough to look Jim in the eye. “An odd ability, for a Human to possess.”

 

“Doctor McCoy is an emotional man, even for a Human,” Ambassador Sarek says. “I was not aware he had any control in that regard.”

 

“He does when he wants to,” Jim says, brow furrowing as he fits the pieces together. “Those reporters were assho— being rude, and Bones is protective. He probably did that sith lord thing— not probably. He did that sith lord thing.”

 

“I do not understand thy words,” T’Pau says. “Elaborate.”

 

Jim shifts, turning to face her fully.

 

“It was a joke, sort of,” he says. “Based by an old Terran film. The heroes of the story were called Jedi, and were on the Light Side, having learned to release the emotions that could compromise their control over their abilities. The villains were Jedi who’d fallen to the Dark Side, allowing their emotions to rule them. They were called sith. One of the things that’s mentioned in the novels regarding the sith is that they would cultivate negative emotions like anger and hatred, using the strength of these emotions to strike fear into the hearts of their enemies.

 

“Doctor McCoy isn’t one for violence, but he’s pretty good at letting people know when they’ve dug their own grave. He’s already huge, after all, which is pretty scary on its own, and puffing up his feathers like that usually cows most people.”

 

“Doctor McCoy has no feathers.”

 

Jim’s mouth quirks.

 

“A Human expression, Lady T’Pau, forgive me.”

 

T’Pau nods regally, eyes thoughtful as they find Bones again.

 

“His application of emotion is fascinating,” she says. “He hath moved from such fury to such calm so easily, and gives it to those in his care so freely.”

 

“Bones cycles through his feelings pretty quickly,” Jim says. “There’s always more than one at work, unless he’s making a point the way I think he did.”

 

“The doctor projects like no other I have ever seen,” Ambassador Sarek says. “It is not unlikely that his emotional state fed into the children’s own compromised states. It is fortunate that appears to have been no incident, particularly considering how severe the loss of control.”

 

“Thou art blind, grandson,” T’Pau says. “What the Human displays is control in and of itself. How many Vulcans can say they hast such power over their emotions, able to move between each feeling as one might turn the pages of a book? Sybok did not exaggerate when he spoke with me of the children’s Bonz.”

 

“How so?” Jim asks.

 

“Sybok is of the mind that thy healer will only benefit the children placed in his care,” she says. “He believes that Doctor McCoy’s unusual practices would do far more for the continuation of Vulcan’s people than what what hath been done thus far by our own. Skilled, our healers may be, but overwhelmed, they are.”

 

She’s got that right, Jim thinks, though he’s polite enough not to say it. Instead, he smiles.

 

“More tea, Lady T’Pau, Ambassador Sarek?”



*.*



“Your lover does not suit you.”

 

Spock doesn’t twitch when T’Pring appears beside him, looking as unruffled as anyone talking about their spouse’s mistress.

 

“How so?” he asks, eyes trained on where Uhura is speaking quietly with a handful of Vulcan elders.

 

“She is not Human enough.” T’Pring glances at him, waiting for a reaction he refuses to give her. “We are not compatible because I refuse to demand anything of you, preferring to take what I need from my own lovers. If a romantic relationship is to be successful for you, you must take on someone who will demand something of you besides what is expected.”

 

Spock shifts, clasping his hands behind his back.

 

“Stonn did not survive, I take it,” he says.

 

“He did not,” T’Pring says. “But perhaps it is for the best. He was strong, but he was far from stimulating beyond sexual congress. Quite dull, it could be said.”

 

Spock’s not surprised. He remembers Stonn from their school days.

 

“I grieve with thee, nonetheless,” he says.

 

“And I with thee,” T’Pring says. “Lady Amanda deserved better.”

 

“Many of our people did.”

 

T’Pring’s silence is one of agreement, and they enjoy it while it lasts.

 

“What do you think of Doctor McCoy, Spock?” she asks, eyes sliding over to the subject of her question. “He is unusual, for a Human.”

 

“He is emotional to excess,” Spock says. “But well-meaning, and thoughtful.”

 

“I have not spoken with him often,” T’Pring admits. “But my interaction with him have been… fascinating. He can be quite challenging, when he wishes to be.”

 

“The captain has referred to him as bull-headed,” Spock says. “Why do you ask for my opinion?”

 

T’Pring pauses thoughtfully.

 

“There was an incident on the Apollo,” she says. “Between myself and Doctor McCoy. I found that certain references and phrases caused the doctor to flush— a response to embarrassment, according to Sybok. I found the entire interaction quite flattering.”

 

“You teased him,” Spock says, arches an eyebrow. “Doctor McCoy does not enjoy being teased.”

 

“Tease. An interesting word to use in such context.”

 

“Many Human phrases are based in visualization and metaphor,” he says. “I do not believe they realize exactly how odd they are to a literal mind.”

 

“Yet you have adapted.” T’Pring shifts. “Our time will come sooner, in the wake of this attack. Our biology wills it.”

 

Spock doesn’t answer.

 

“I will not do my duty to you,” she continues. “Had things been different, I would have called upon Stonn’s strength. Now, Stonn is gone, and yet I still know I will not have you. It is good you have found a lover. With any luck, you will still have her when biology wills madness.”

 

“There is no such thing as luck.”

 

“Not for Vulcans,” T’Pring concedes. “Humans, however, seem to have a great deal of it. You were born half-Human. It is logical you might be… lucky.”

 

“Your logic is flawed, T’Pring.”

 

“I imagine it is,” she says. “Forgive me. I have not had the time to meditate. Even half-trained, my skills are far too valuable to waste.”

 

“My brother speaks well of your abilities,” Spock says. “But your humility does you credit.”

 

“It is not humility. None of us have the skill necessary to effectively treat our people. Sybok has begun repressing the memories of the attack for those most in danger of… fading.” T’pring’s cheek twitches, the closest she’d ever come to an emotional response in Spock’s presence. “Normally, I would argue against such blatant invasion, but it seems to be the only way to create the time necessary to help those who are in need.”

 

“And Doctor McCoy’s children?” Spock asks, frowning minutely. “Will they too be subject to this repression?”

 

T’Pring shakes her head.

 

“They are resilient,” she says. “Strong, in the face of their guardian’s unusual manner of care. In fact, I would say their strength is a byproduct.”

 

“I would dare to say you may be correct,” Spock says. “Doctor McCoy is a close friend of Captain Kirk’s, and I do not believe the Captain would be so intimate with one who is less than extraordinary.”

 

“Intimate?”

 

“Their relationship is of a platonic nature, according to my observations.”

 

“Ah.” T’Pring tucks an escaping curl carefully behind her ear. “I am satisfied to hear that. The Doctor is… quite fascinating.”

 

“Feel free to pursue him as you please,” Spock says. “But be aware that of all the Humans I have met, he is perhaps the most illogical— after the Captain himself, of course.”

 

“Husband, that is what I suspected,” T’Pring says. “It is why I find him so intriguing.”

Chapter Text

 

Leonard is drinking… tea. This has become a normal thing, over the past few weeks, if only because tea is the drink of choice for the little Vulcans, and it’s easier to order forty-seven teas at every meal than to be unique.

 

He has been invited to a meeting regarding the placement of the Vulcans during their stay on Earth. Seeing as he’s the guy in charge of slightly less than a third of the surviving children of Vulcan, it makes sense that he’s there.

 

The meeting itself consists of about twenty people. Ambassador Sarek, Ambassador Spock (turns out he lied to Jim, who’d’ve thunk it?), Actual Spock, Lady T’Pau, Sybok, T’Pring, Lushek, and three other healers Leonard doesn’t know number among the Vulcans. Among the Humans, there are a handful of Admirals, Captain Pike (who’s been put on bed-rest in-between surgeries and is attending via a holoscreen), Pike’s First Officer Number One, and Jim. Somehow, Leonard has found himself seated between Jim and Spock, most likely due to Jim’s own finagling.

 

Apparently, during their trip back, somebody thought to build a town for incoming Vulcans outside of San Francisco, which is good, because no matter how empty the Academy dormitories seem now (and they are so very empty), at best they can fit maybe half of the entire population, and that’s only if the surviving Academy students clear out first.

 

On the subject of sleeping arrangements, he hopes Flores is alright. It’s about bedtime for the kids, and they can get cranky when 

their routine changes. That, along with the shuttle flight and the reporters… he’s not expecting good things.

 

“As to the unique situation of Doctor McCoy and his... charges,” Admiral Marcus says, looking up from his PADD. “We have made arrangements to house the thirty-four children in your care in a small facility within San Francisco. They can be moved—”

 

“Forty-six,” Leonard interrupts.

 

Marcus stops.

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“I’m sorry, sir, but there must be some mistake,” he says. “I have forty-six children currently in my care.”

 

“The twelve bonded adolescents in your care have kept their family names,” one of the Vulcans Leonard doesn’t know says. “By Vulcan custom, they have chosen the path of adulthood rather than find another suitable guardian.”

 

“Arrangements have been made to place the older Vulcans in your care with the others within the encampment,” Admiral Marcus says. “They’ll be well taken care of, Doctor McCoy, I assure you.”

 

“They’re teenagers,” Leonard says, voice deceptively mild. “Ensign Chekov is older than them. How can you call them adults.”

 

“It is our way,” the Vulcan replies.

 

“Your way? Funny. I thought that we were worried about the fact that out of ten thousand Vulcans, three percent of the current adult population has died due to emotional complications.” Leonard arches an eyebrow. “You truly think it would be in the best interests of a bunch of fifteen year-olds to take them away from the only stability they’ve had since the destruction of their own planet and put them in the middle of a situation that even your best healers can’t hope to manage?”

 

“It has been made clear by their proximity to you and other Humans that their control is sound,” the Vulcan woman sitting next to the first says. “They have not exhibited the signs of a loss of control typical of the other surviving Vulcans in their age group. Their need is not as pressing as others.”

 

“Yes, because I’m taking care of it!” Leonard pauses, taking a deep breath. “The reason that my teens haven’t started trying to kill each other is because of the fact that I am making a point to tend to their emotional distress. They’ve shown the same abnormal symptoms as other Vulcans— night terrors, flashbacks, loss of emotional control, I could go on. The reason it hasn’t led to violence is because I’m helping them deal with it.”

 

“It is true,” Sybok says from his place beside T’Pau. “Doctor has made an effort to ensure the adolescents present aboard the Enterprise were stabilized in times of stress or discomfort. By my calculations, his actions reduced the number of incidents by at least forty-four-point-eight percent in comparison to those aboard other ships.”

 

“Properly caring for so many children is difficult in and of itself,” Spock says, glancing at Leonard. “That is why there is typically one instructor to every five Vulcan students when they first enter formal schooling at the age of eight. Beyond Doctor McCoy’s emotional attachment, he has employed each of older children in his care to act as aids in his efforts to ensure the comfort of his charges. I believe that, in giving them partial responsibility over the youngest aboard the ship, he has further ensured the continued health of the adolescents placed in his care. To remove them from an environment where they are both cared for and continued necessary for optimal efficiency would be illogical.”

 

“Those teenagers are as good as mine, now,” Leonard adds, crossing his arms as he glares at the Vulcan half of the room. “You can pry them from my cold, dead hands.”

 

There’s a pause as the others let that particular phrase sink in.

 

Jim leans over to whisper in Leonard’s ear.

 

“Cool it with the sith thing,” he mutters. “I think you’re scaring the Vulcans.”

 

“Good,” Leonard grunts. They should be scared.

 

“I believe the doctor has made his point,” T’Pau says mildly. “If what my grandsons say is accurate, than I agree with Doctor McCoy. It would not do to remove any number of his charges at this time, particularly if one considers the number of Vulcans already in need of care. If they continue to remain without the assistance of mind healers, than to remove them, I see no need.”

 

Leonard needs to remember to send this woman flowers.

 

“... Well, if that’s the case, Doctor, I won’t stop you,” Admiral Marcus says. “Provided that your older kids agree to it, of course. But if that’s the case, our accommodations won’t suit. Thirty-four was tight already— we don’t have the space for it.”

 

“That’s fine,” Leonard says. “I’ll handle it, if that’s the case.”

 

Admiral Marcus arches an eyebrow.

 

“In which case, we’ll just need a report handy when you do,” he says. “If that’s all, then let’s move on…”

 

The meeting goes on, as meetings do, and Leonard settles back down. He can’t quite keep the satisfied smirk off his face, so he hides it behind his teacup.

 

Jim keeps shooting him looks regardless. He probably isn’t doing a very good job of it.


*.*



Flores has made the mistake of playing cards. It’s hard to win against such excellent poker faces, even if they are round-cheeked with baby fat. He suspects the Captain is to blame— rumor has it he’s one hell of a card-shark, and Hank was the first to admit it was the Captain who taught them to play.

 

Darling sets down her cards slowly, eyes strange.

 

“What’s wrong?” Flores asks, looking up from his own hand.

 

“Bonz is unhappy,” she says, frowning. “The meeting is not going well.”

 

Flores blinks.

 

“How do you know?”

 

“It reverberates through our bond,” Hank says, setting down his own cards with a troubled look on his little face. “He is— angry.”

 

“Bonz’s emotions are very loud,” Red adds, frowning. “And very complex. It is difficult to ignore them, when he focuses them so sharply.”

 

Bonds, Flores thinks. Like parental bonds, maybe? Doctor McCoy mentioned that the kids were suffering from broken parental bonds.

 

“Can you guys block it out?” he asks.

 

“To a point,” Darling says. “But…” she trails off.

 

“His anger is abating,” Hank tells him. “Now he seems… pleased.”

 

“Well, that’s good, right?”

 

Hank nods, picking up his cards once more.

 

“It means that Bonz has gotten what he wanted,” he says. “And Bonz usually wants things that make us happy.”

 

The thing with Vulcan children is that they don’t quite have the skill to parse out why exactly Doctor McCoy was angry. The layers of his emotions and the reason behind them are hard to sort through when you’re five, after all. However, it isn’t quite the same with the older children. If Flores had thought to look up, he might have chanced to see T’Ruao look down, wiping at her eyes with the hem of her sleeve.

 

Thankfully for her own dignity— and the dignity of the other teenagers clustered together in the corner of the room having similar reactions— he didn’t.

Chapter Text

 

“So, what’s the plan?” Jim asks when the meeting ends, jogging to catch up with Leonard.

 

“For what?”

 

“For the kids,” Jim says. “What are you going to do with them?”

 

“Easy,” Leonard says. “I’m taking them back to my house.”

 

Jim makes a face.

 

“I don’t think forty-seven people can fit comfortably in a two bedroom apartment,” he says.

 

“Not my apartment, my house.” Leonard glances at his watch. “I’m taking them back to Georgia.”

 

“Your house is big enough for forty-six kids?”

 

“If I put two or three to a room, yeah,” Leonard says. He probably wouldn’t even have to, to be honest.

 

“How big is your house?” Jim asks incredulously, brow furrowing.

 

“It’s not really a house,” Leonard admits. “Well, it is— it’s the old family house. We use it for reunions and Christmas, mostly. It’s a bit big for any one of us to live.”

 

“Family house? Like…” Jim trails off. “You mean like an estate?”

 

“I think the land it’s built on used to be part of a plantation, but yeah, sort of.” Leonard sighs. “I’ll have to call Grandpa Willie and see if he doesn’t mind my taking it over for a while. And I’ll have to call Dot if she wouldn’t mind picking us up…”

 

Leonard wanders away, still muttering to himself as he makes his way towards the staircase, leaving Jim behind without so much as a goodbye.

 

Is this what it is, to be friends with parents?



*.*



“Leo! I was wondering when you’d call— half the family’s of a mind you were awaiting trial.”

 

Leonard blinks.

 

“Why the hell would you think that?”

 

Grandpa Willie smiles at him from the other end of the vidcall.

 

“We saw you on the news cycles, boy,” he says. “You looked like you had half a mind to deck the cameraman.”

 

Leo snorts.

 

“Well, you’re not wrong,” he says. “But I didn’t. I was in a meeting.”

 

“Sounds like fun.”

 

“Yeah, right. Listen, I’ve got a favor to ask.”

 

“Shoot.”

 

“Those kids that were with me when I got off the shuttle? They need a place to stay. Could we borrow the Big House?”

 

Willie blinks.

 

“Well, of course you can,” he says. “How many are coming with you?”

 

“Forty-six.”

 

Willie whistles.

 

“Forty-six? That’s a lotta babies, Leo.”

 

“Yeah, well, as it works out, I’m the legal guardian of most of them, according to Vulcan custom,” Leonard says. “It’s… things are pretty bad, Pop.”

 

“I’d be surprised if it weren’t,” Willie says. “It’s a damn shame, what happened to those Vulcans.”

 

“... Yeah.”

 

“Well, if that’s what you’re asking, I’ll have the house set up,” he says, clapping his gnarled hands together. “You called Dot yet, or are you finding another way out here?”

 

“She’s next on the list,” Leonard says. “I just wanted to make sure it was alright with you first.”

 

“Leo, of course it’s alright with me,” Willie says. “Those babies need help, and I’m damn proud that it’s you who stepped up to give it to ‘em.”

 

“There wasn’t choice.”

 

“‘Course there was— you just made the right one.” Willie sighs. “Call your sister. I’ll get a couple of the boys up to the house to start setting up. When do you think you’ll be here?”

 

“As soon as Dot can pick us up,” Leonard admits. “Ambassador Sarek arranged for us to crash at the Vulcan Embassy for a day or two, but it’ll cause trouble if we’re there too long…”

 

Willie holds up a hand.

 

“I understand,” he says. “Have her pick y’all up tomorrow morning, alright? We’ll be ready for ya by then.”

 

Leonard gives him a relieved smile.

 

“Thanks, Pop,” he says. “I’ll call Dotty right now.”

 

“You’re a good boy, Leo,” Willie says. “Don’t you forget that.”



*.*



“We are meeting your sister, Bonz?”

 

“Yep.” Leonard pops his lips. “Dot’s three years younger than me. After her it’s the twins, Lenny and Reggie.”

 

“Will Uncle Jim be joining us at your family home?” Sweetie asks, tilting her head curiously up at him.

 

“Er… maybe later.”

 

“Uncle Jim is your adoptive brother,” Bear points out. “Would he not enjoy visiting with the rest of his adoptive family?”

 

Leonard bites his lip. He should have known that would come back to bite him in the ass.

 

“Jim’s got stuff to do here, before anything else,” he says. “But he’s coming to see us off today, and there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll visit sooner or later. He’s gotten very attached to you fishies.”

 

“You bet I have.” Jim swoops in from behind Bear, lifting him up by the waist up into the air before setting him back down again. “No worries, guys— I’ll come by and visit sometime, I promise. I’ll bring Spock along too, just for kicks.”

 

“You do not think he would enjoy himself?”

 

“Oh, I think he’d have a great time,” Jim says. “McCoys abound.”

 

Leonard tries to picture it, he really does. Spock sitting at dinner next to his Grandpa Willie in full uniform as his grandfather flips his braids back and tucks his napkin into his collar. His brother offering Spock a rack of ribs as he talks about the worst injuries he sustained during his short-lived rodeo career, Dot handing him a jar of Grandpa’s shine to sip over the bonfire…

 

It’s just weird.

 

I WOULD LIKE FOR COMMANDER SPOCK TO VISIT, Saavik says. That makes Leonard smile. Out of all the kids, Spock’s made the most effort to make her feel comfortable, and the girl’s gotten attached. He gets the feeling she isn’t used to that kind of kindness from most adults.

 

I’M SURE I CAN CONVINCE HIM, Jim promises.

 

“You just wanna see him squirm,” Leonard says. “You haven’t even met my family.”

 

Jim opens his mouth to answer, but his words are eaten up by a blast of loud, classical music. A shadow crosses overhead, and they all look up to see…

 

“What in God’s name is that?”

 

Leonard sighs.

 

“The Party Bus.” He should have known. It is Dot’s biggest transport.

 

The children watch in awe as the shuttle lands in the chosen field, it’s rounded, saucer shape sinking gently into the grass as music blares almost too loud from its outer speakers.

 

“Black thunder, white lightning, speed demons cry, the hell patrol… the hell patrol…”

 

Drums and screaming guitar cut off suddenly as the engine lights flicker off and the door flips open, complete with smoke that hisses out of carefully hidden holes in the door for added effect.

 

Dot steps out onto the grass looking for all the world like an automobile mechanic from the late twentieth century, complete with a grease stain smeared across the front of her white tank top.

 

“Leo!” She rushes him, brown ponytail bouncing as she launches herself into his arms. “Is that gray in your hair? You’re getting old.”

 

“I’ve been old since you were eight, if memory serves,” Leonard informs her dryly, squeezing her tightly before setting her back on the ground. “How are you? How are the kids?”

 

“Good, good— they’re excited to meet you, and all the kids— is this Jim?”

 

“Hello,” Jim says, putting out a hand. “You must be Dot.”

 

“Yes I am,” she says. “Oh, you’re pretty as a picture, ain’t ya? And you know it, too.”

 

“He does,” Leonard says, ignoring Jim’s grin.

 

“And these must be the kids!” Dot says, already distracted. She gives the group a big smile. “I’m your Aunt Dot. Oh, golly, you guys are all so cute.”

 

“Golly?” Jim whispers, grinning.

 

“Shut up, she’s a good Christian,” Leonard grunts back. “Her wife teaches Sunday School.”

 

“Wasn’t she playing Judas Priest?”

 

“Alright, well, we better get going!” Dot says, clapping her hands together. “Everybody, file on in— I don’t technically have permission to park here, so we ought to skidaddle before anybody notices.”

 

Jim looks like Christmas came early, looking from Leonard to Dot with a smile so wide he might tear something.

 

“I am coming to visit,” he says. “There is no doubt in my mind that I am coming to visit.”

 

Well, Leonard thinks as he moves to herd the kids into the shuttle. At least he won’t be short on entertainment.

Chapter Text

“The children have bonded with him,” Sybok says, slipping into the informal Vulcan of his youth. “Could you feel it, grandmother?”

 

“I did,” T’Pau says, answering his informality in kind. “I felt it the moment they entered the room. Your father disapproves of this development.”

 

“I know.” Sybok sighs. “I do believe that it is in the best interests of the children for them to keep their bonds, however. They are the healthiest of us all, now.”

 

“Your belief is aided by their accidental alignment with your theories,” T’Pau says. “I agree with you in this matter, however.”

 

“The Doctor is a study of emotion,” he says. “And for all his emotion, he has a kind of control. It is Human, perhaps, illogical in its application according to our standard, but it is effective, nonetheless.”

 

“They are young, still,” T’Pau says. “Even the oldest of them are so very young. They do not have a teacher to show them the proper way, and are still working against the delicate complexities of the mind. Healer McCoy will do well as their caretaker. He is attentive to their needs and protective in a way not unlike your own father in regards to his children. His methods are unusual, to be sure, but I feel that it is only logical to on occasion take lessons from those unlike us.”

 

“The universe is a vast place,” Sybok says softly. “And yet there is already a call to isolate.”

 

“The call will go unheeded,” T’Pau says. “Emotion has gotten in the way of sense. Our people are afraid, left with only the vestiges of a world we never thought would fall. An illogical notion, in and of itself— all great worlds fade, in time.”

 

Sybok hums.

 

“That lesson is being taught by Doctor McCoy, you know,” he says. “He reads to his children, you know— great Terran works of fiction, that talk of worlds of magic that fade despite their power. The setting of the story is in the autumnal years of a great land, where its protagonist wanders through the ruins of what were great cities and pillars of goodness and light. The elves— an ethereal, immortal race that anthropomorphize those contacts— have begun to fade in the wake of this loss, and leave the land on great ships to be reborn.”

 

“Humans hold dearly their fictions,” T’Pau remarks. “I believe they find comfort in the veil that hides its true function.”

 

“I do not disagree,” Sybok says. “I find it rather charming, in fact.”

 

“Another flaw in your logic, I believe,” she says. “Charm is a useless quality.”

 

“I beg to differ. Among Humans, it can be paramount.” Sybok sips his tea. “James Kirk would not be in the position he is without his charm.”

 

“I do not believe that is quite true,” T’Pau says. “He is also quite aesthetically pleasing— another useless quality that Humans hold in high regard.”

 

Sybok grins.

 

“Not just Humans, grandmother,” he says. “Even we Vulcans fall prey to beauty, on occasion.”

 

T’Pau inclines her head in acknowledgement.

 

“And you, Sybok?” she asks. “You have long since taken pride in your illogical urges. Has a beauty captured your attention since I spoke with you last?”

 

“Of course, grandmother. You know me well enough to know that, at least,” he says. “He is a Human.”

 

“Naturally.” She pauses. “A Starfleet officer?”

 

“Of a kind.”

 

T’Pau arches an eyebrow.

 

“Keep your secrets if you wish, grandson,” she says. “It is of no consequence to me. I project that there will be many such interspecies relationship forming in the years to come, regardless of what the eldest among our kind may say.”

 

“I am not afraid of your feelings, grandmother,” Sybok says. “I remember when Lady Amanda first came to us, and your thoughts on the subject. I know I need not worry.”

 

“Worry and fear are illogical,” T’Pau says. “Particularly between us.”

 

She holds up a hand, fingers half-curled. After a moment, Sybok reaches up to meet her, fingertip to fingertip.

 

“I have missed you, grandmother,” he says softly. “I am happy you survived.”

 

“I am satisfied to have seen you again,” T’Pau says. “I am old, and it would have been a loss if I did not see my grandson once more.”

 

Her hand drops, and after a moment, so does Sybok’s.

 

There are many things that need to be talked about, many choices that need explanation and forgiveness, but for now, this quiet between them, this comfortable silence… it is enough.



*.*



There are currently four generations of McCoys living on the land surviving the Big House. His grandfather, of course, the second youngest and only surviving brother of six, his grandfather’s children— he’d had eight, all boys, but Leonard’s father has been in the ground since before he married and Uncle Duke had died of kidney failure the summer before last— Leonard’s generation, of which there are thirty, including himself, his own siblings, and his cousins— and finally, the children, which number somewhere close to seventy.

 

There are a lot of McCoys, even if you don’t include the cousins who’ve moved off-land (some ten or fifteen, Leonard’s lost track) and while it’s one thing to to be told there are a lot of McCoys, it’s quite another to be faced with them all, in all there McCoyish splendor.

 

The looks on his children’s faces is something akin to fear and excitement when they all step out onto the soft green grass of the lawn. Leonard’s not surprised— his family is eclectic, and strange, and so very Human, all of them far away from the veneer of professionalism and duty that Starfleet instills in its officers or the careless cruelty of the reporters who had awaited their arrival. He realizes, belatedly, that his children don’t know anything about what normal Humans are actually like.

 

Grandpa Willie moves first, pushing himself out of his lawn chair to amble up to the group. He smiles briefly at them all, then goes to pull Leonard into a hug.

 

“It’s good to have you home,” he says into Leonard’s ear, stubbled cheek scraping against Leonard’s cheek.

 

“Good to be home,” Leonard says. And it is. Good to be home, he means. He hasn’t properly visited since before he joined Starfleet, too caught up in his own self-pity and anger to do anything but growl and glower.

 

His grandfather pulls away.

 

“You know,” he says, eyeing the quiet group of Vulcans thoughtfully. “I figured at some point or another I’d be getting more grandbabies. It’s the way of the world. I wasn’t particularly expecting anymore green ones, though, or for them to be half-grown.” He chuckles, pushing one of his long gray braids behind his ear and settling his hands on his hips.

 

“I’m Grandpa Willie,” he says. “But that’s a mouthful. You all can call me Pop.”

 

There’s a pause, and then Buddy steps forward, hand raised in a ta’al.

 

“I am Buddy,” he says, staring up at Willie with wide, black eyes. “It is nice to meet you, Pop.”

 

Willie studies him for a moment, then raises his hand to mimic the gesture, smiling widely.

 

“Well, Buddy, it’s nice to meet you too,” he says. “How about you introduce me ‘n’ the rest of the family to all to your brothers and sisters?”

 

His grandfather is dressed in a worn black t-shirt and jeans that have seen better days, a red bandana tied around his forehead. He’s gnarled and bent and thin, old in a way that tells a story of hard work and a life in the sunshine. Buddy, in contrast, is round-cheeked and pale, his Starfleet non-uniform pristine even if his bowl-cut needs a trim. They look odd together, mismatched, but then, Buddy reaches out, hooking his fingers into the belt loop of Willie’s jeans to tug him closer.

 

“This is Sweetie,” he says, gesturing to the girl. “She likes music and her elephant. She calls him pi’Bonz. In Standard, that means ‘Small Bonz’.”

 

“Hello,” Sweetie says shyly.

 

“Well, hello, Sweetie, it’s nice to meet you.”

 

“This is Bear,” Buddy continues. “He likes when Bonz reads to us best.”

 

This continues, Buddy moving from one Vulcan to the next, introducing each child carefully to Willie before moving on to the next.

 

“Who’s Bonz?” Dot asks, glancing at Leonard.

 

“Me,” he says. “Vulcans are telepathic, you know, and Buddy read it off me. Jim calls me ‘Bones’, and Buddy didn’t speak Standard at the time, so…” Leonard shrugs. “It caught on, and I can’t be bothered to try and change it now.”

 

“That’s adorable,” Dot says, smiling. “They really seem to love you.”

 

Leonard smiles, mouth tilting up just enough to lighten his face.

 

“I guess they do, yeah.”

 

“Don’t worry,” Dot says. “We’ll make sure they feel right at home, here. Promise.”

 

Leonard was worried, had been from the moment he’d realized that yes, he was taking these kids home with him, and yes, he was attached. But seeing Buddy lead his grandfather around like that, open and sweet in that childish way that Leonard has learned is just as natural in Vulcan children as it is anywhere else, that worry dissipates.

 

The kids’ll be fine. They’ll all be fine.

 

That’s what he wants.