Actions

Work Header

Build Me Up Buttercup

Chapter Text

2253.215

Jim had always sort of known that karma would catch up with him one day. After all the shit he’d pulled, he’d have been more surprised if someone up there didn’t eventually go “welp, that’s long enough” and end his streak of good luck.

He’d expected to make it a little longer than twenty, though.

He also hadn’t expected karma to catch up with him in the form of a three-week-old baby girl with pointy ears.

Jim’s mom exhaled loudly for what had to be the eighteenth time at this point. She’d been rubbing her temples, and Jim could’ve sworn that her hair was actually getting greyer by the second.

“Okay,” she started. “Okay. Jimmy.”

“Yes, Mom?”

“Tell me one more time. How, exactly, did you end up with a baby- a baby, mind you, that looks to be half-Vulcan?”

The baby stirred in Jim’s arms slightly, and he hushed her gently.

“Okay, um, well... y’know that girl I met last year? T’Vin?”

“I remember you making goo-goo eyes at her for two hours at the symposium.” His mother quirked an eyebrow. “I also remember telling you that a snowball’s got a better chance in hell than you charming the pants off a Vulcan.”

Jim grinned sheepishly.

“Yeah, uh, well... about that...”

“... James Tiberius Kirk.”

“I know, I know. It was irresponsible, but she kept talking about this- this vee-tosh kah-tor thing, and how emotions were supposed to be embraced and-!”

“Okay! Okay, I get it, you don’t need to go into more detail.”

At some point, the baby had wrapped her tiny little hand around one of Jim’s fingers, and he could hear her thoughts through the... T’Vin had called it a “parental bond,” which was weird, but he kind of liked knowing her thoughts, although they weren’t much more than “warm,” “safe,” and “love,” at this point.

He couldn’t help but smile down at her, brushing a few dark strands of hair away from her forehead.

He heard his mother sigh again.

“Oh, Jim...”

“I... I know it’s sudden, Mom, but...” He smiled again. “I don’t think I could give her up. Not now.”

After a long moment in which Jim didn’t dare to breathe, she sighed again.

“If you’re gonna keep her, then you’re gonna have to learn how to take care of a Vulcan baby.”

Jim couldn’t help but grin.

“Don’t worry, Mom, T’Vin left plenty of tips before she went off to do... uh... cole-in-ar?”

“And you’re probably gonna need to learn Vulcan, too. She’s half-Vulcan, so she should know something about her own culture.”

“Yeah, yeah, I got it.”

“And Jim?”

“What, Mom?”

His mom arched an eyebrow.

“Don’t you think there’s one more thing she needs?”

“Uh... diapers?”

“Jim. A name?”

He blinked, then laughed sheepishly.

“Sorry, Ma...”

“Don’t apologize to me, apologize to her. Were you just gonna keep calling her the baby all her life?”

“Wh- No, of course not! It just... slipped my mind.”

His mom quirked her eyebrow again, which meant that she didn’t believe him for a second, but since the baby had finally woken up all the way, Jim really didn’t have the time to care about that.

Not when his baby girl was looking at him with such curious blue eyes.

“... Alice.”

His mother seemed surprised.

“Alice?”

“Yup. I like Alice.” He leaned down, pressing a kiss to her forehead. She squealed in delight. “And I think she does too.”

His mom sighed.

“Man, you’re already wrapped around her little finger, aren’t you...”

 


 

2255

Jim sighed heavily as he sat down in the transport, rubbing his temples and wincing at the fear and panic buzzing in the back of his head.

Dada dada dada where are you where did you go come back dada miss you come back dada dada DADA

His heart ached with guilt. By far, saying goodbye to Alice had been the hardest part of this adventure so far. No matter how many times he’d assured her that he’d see her again in a few hours, or how much she loved her grandmother, the fact was that at just under two years old, she was still going through some pretty bad separation anxiety. He couldn’t really blame her- having your mom dump you with a strange man and leaving forever couldn’t be easy, especially when you haven’t quite got a handle on object permanence yet.

He really wished Starfleet would have let him take her with him on the transport. At least he’d have had something to distract him from the looks he was getting. He just knew that they’d all figured out who he was by now, and it was making his stomach churn to think about how they all probably assumed he’d be just another legacy, costing by on the memory of a father he’d never even known.

Yeah. He could really use an Alice hug right now.

“You okay?”

“Eh? Oh.” He smiled at the cadet he’d met last night- she’d told him her name was Uhura after he’d tried to get some jackass to back off. He’d ended up getting punched in the face, and she’d ended up kicking their asses, but she seemed to appreciate the sentiment. “Yeah, I’m fine, just... I, uh, I have a daughter, and she was not happy when we said goodbye. I’m gonna see her again in a few hours, but... I dunno, I just feel kinda guilty.”

Uhura blinked, clearly surprised.

“You’re a parent? You?”

“Yeah, I was as surprised as you are when I found out. But yeah, I’m a dad. Her name’s Alice.” Jim dug around in his pocket until he found the photo of her he always carried around with him, handing it to Uhura. “That’s her.”

“Oh, she’s adorable! How old is she?”

“Almost two now. Already a little chatterbox.”

Uhura cooed again, then blinked.

“Uh... her ears... is she...?”

Jim sighed.

“Yeah, she’s half-Vulcan. It’s... a long story.”

“I see...”

The obvious question went unspoken, but Jim just knew she was dying to ask. Everyone always asked, always wanted to know that one thing.

“Is she, y’know... healthy? Given her physiology?”

Jim understood the curiosity, really he did. After all, everyone knew about the story of poor Elizabeth T’Les Tucker, the first alien-Human hybrid who’d died within a month of being born. What everyone seemed to forget, though, was that Elizabeth was a binary clone rather than having been conceived the normal way, or with help, and her death was due to a flaw in the cloning process. There was nothing keeping a Human-Vulcan baby from being perfectly healthy.

Especially since, y’know, Elizabeth had lived a hundred years ago anyway, and by now there was at least one fully grown Human-Vulcan hybrid out there, though damned if Jim could remember his name. It had come up when he’d been looking into possible issues, as all worried new parents probably did, but all he could remember was that it started with “Sp” and ended with “k.”

Speck, maybe? No, what parent would be that cruel?

... He thinks, after having named his daughter Alice Georgina T’Vaakis Kirk.

“You need a doctor.”

“I told you people, I don’t need a doctor! Dammit, I am a doctor!”

Jim blinked as he lost his train of thought, glancing over at the transport’s restrooms. A flight officer was arguing with a disheveled-looking man, who was yelling about being afraid of dying in something that flies. The flight officer eventually won, and the man took the seat next to Jim just as Uhura handed Alice’s photo back, giving him a sympathetic look.

“I may throw up on you,” the man muttered by way of warning as he strapped in.

“Eh, don’t worry about it, I’m used to being thrown up on. Besides, I think these things are pretty safe.”

The man snorted.

“Don’t pander to me, kid. One tiny crack in the hull and our blood boils in thirteen seconds. A solar flare might crop up, cook us in our seats. And wait til you’re sitting pretty with a case of Andorian shingles. See if you’re still so relaxed when your eyeballs are bleeding.” He shook his head. “Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.”

Jim glanced at Uhura, who just shrugged.

“Well, uh, I hate to break it to you, but Starfleet operates in space.”

The man sighed.

“Yeah, well, I got nowhere else to go. The ex-wife took the whole damn planet in the divorce.” He took out a flask he’d hidden somewhere in his jacket. “All I got left is my bones.”

The man took a swig from the flask, then offered it to Jim.

“Uh, no, thanks, I-!” Another wave of panic and despair rolled through his mind, making him wince. “Actually, yeah, that might help. Jim Kirk, by the way.”

“McCoy. Leonard McCoy.”

 


 

His mother and Alice were waiting when they got off the transport, and Jim knew the minute that his daughter saw him.

Partially because he could see her, and partially because he could feel her joy and hear her thoughts.

Dada dada dada you’re back you’re here dada love you dada don’t leave me again ever dada dada

“Buttercup!” He cried as he ran over to them, scooping up his daughter in his arms and pressing a dozen kisses all over her face. “Oh, I missed you so much, honey!”

“It’s been five hours,” his mother commented. “Also, what am I, chopped liver?”

Jim rolled his eyes, leaning over and pressing a kiss to his mother’s cheek.

“Thank you, Mom,” he replied dutifully.

“You’re welcome. Although, I might have to borrow her more often, y’know. Apparently I’m even scarier with an angry baby Vulcan on my hip.”

Jim bit back a laugh, then gave Alice a stern look.

“Buttercup, were you and Nana mean to any Starfleet officials?”

“Grrr,” Alice responded, giving Jim a stern look of her own before bursting into giggles. Jim laughed, pressing another kiss to her forehead.

“That’s my girl. Oh, hey!” He shifted Alice into one arm, waving to Bones and Uhura. “Guys! Over here!”

Uhura saw him first, smiling and waving back before grabbing Bones by the arm and dragging him along with her.

“Who’s that, Jimmy?”

“Well, Mom, it just so happens that they’re my new friends.”

His mother quirked an eyebrow.

“You made friends.”

“I can make friends!”

“Since when can you make friends?”

He opened his mouth to reply.

“Friends that you don’t sleep with, and that aren’t your baby daughter.”

He closed his mouth, pouting.

“You know, I think I see why most Starfleet officials are afraid of you, Ma.”

“Damn straight they are.”

Alice giggled, then turned toward the two new arrivals with a sound of curiosity.

“Buttercup, this is Cadet Uhura. Can you say hi to Uhura?”

“Hi!” She pointed at Uhura’s face. “Pretty!”

Uhura blinked in surprise before smiling beatifically.

“Well, aren’t you a little charmer? You can call me Nyota, sweetie.”

“Nyota!” Alice chirped.

“Wait, how come you told her your first name?”

“Cause she’s cute and charming.”

“I’m cute and charming!” Jim protested.

Uhura just rolled her eyes.

“Okay, well, as we’ve established, Uhura is a meanie-face-!”

“No, Dada! Pretty!”

Uhura laughed, and Jim pouted.

“You’re supposed to take my side on stuff, buttercup.”

Alice stuck her tongue out at him, then giggled. Jim rolled his eyes.

“Fine, fine. Geez, I thought your rebellious phase would come later... anyway, that’s Uhura. And this fine gentleman over here is Bones.”

“It’s Leonard,” Bones corrected insistently.

“Bones, c’mon, she’s not even two yet. You really expect her to be able to say ‘Leonard?’”

“She just said Nyota!”

“Bones!” Alice chirped. “Bones, Bones, Bones!”

Bones blinked, then pursed his lips tightly, clearly trying to suppress a grin.

Jim smirked.

“Booooones,” he drawled, holding Alice out in front of him. “C’mon, Bones, you know you can’t resist Alice’s cuteness.”

“Bones!” Alice chirped again.

Finally, Bones broke, grinning just a little.

“Alright, fine, I admit it. You’ve got a cute baby, kid.” He gave Jim a stern look. “Doesn’t mean I’m gonna let you call me Bones, though.”

“Eh, we’ll see about that.”

 


 

2258

Jim decided that he really, really didn’t like this- this Commander Spock douche.

Which was really too bad, since he was pretty sure that he was the guy that had been mentioned in the report he’d read on Human-Vulcan hybrids back when Alice was a baby.

Of course, Spock was nothing like Alice. Alice was bright, exuberant, peals of excited laughter with bouncy brown curls and curious bright eyes. Spock was... reserved. Collected. Harsh, stoic criticism with black, straight hair and dark eyes full of distaste.

The biggest difference, though, was that his four-year-old daughter knew better than to bring up Jim’s dad.

This twenty-eight-year-old Starfleet Commander apparently didn’t.

“Your father, Lieutenant George Kirk, assumed command of his vessel before being killed in action, did he not?”

Jim grit his teeth, biting back a retort that would have gotten him expelled for sure.

“I don’t think you like the fact that I beat your test.”

“Furthermore, you have failed to divine the purpose of this test,” Spock continued as if Jim had said nothing at all.

“Enlighten me again.”

“The purpose is to experience fear. Fear in the face of certain death. To accept that fear, and maintain control of oneself and one’s crew. This is a quality expected in every Starfleet captain.”

Jim glared at the commander, his anger dissipating just a little when he felt a wave of concern in the back of his head.

Daddy? Are you okay? You’re really angry.

Daddy’s fine, buttercup. Don’t worry.

“Cadet Kirk? Your response?”

Jim blinked, grinning a little sheepishly.

“A-Ah, um, sorry. I-!”

Just then, a messenger entered the room, interrupting whatever Jim would have said. Within seconds, the hearing was dismissed, with all cadets ordered to respond to some crisis on Vulcan.

“Who was that uptight bastard?” Jim muttered when Bones joined him.

“I dunno, but I like him. Woulda thought you would too, considering what he’s got in common with your kid.”

Jim rolled his eyes.

“Not all half-Vulcans are alike, Bones.” He gestured in the general direction that Spock had gone. “Quite frankly, if not for the ears and the complexion I wouldn’t have believed they were the same species.”

Before Bones could reply to that, Nyota ran up to them, clapping both of them on the shoulder and pushing them towards the door.

“Come on, you two, no time for gossip. We’re supposed to leave in the next ten minutes!”

“Alright, alright-! Wait, shit, I need to call my nanny if I’m going off-planet!”

“Call her while we’re moving, now hurry up!”

 


 

By his own count, Spock had not hugged his mother in eighteen point three nine years. He had argued that he was a Vulcan, and Vulcans do not hug, therefore there was no logical reason for his mother to embrace him anymore.

His mother had looked... deeply saddened, but conceded the argument.

He did not feel saddened by this. He was a Vulcan, and therefore he could not feel saddened by anything.

Logically, he could not feel joy, either. And yet, in this moment, with his mother’s arms wrapped tightly around his torso as they rematerialized in the transporter, he had no other explanation for what this warmth in his chest was.

His mother was shaking, whimpering. He could not properly ascertain why, until he finally realized what was missing.

He could no longer feel his father’s presence in the back of his mind. He reached, but there was no response.

Spock turned, but the place where his father should have been standing was empty.

All at once, an overwhelming wave of emotion overtook him. The bonds in his mind were screaming, crying out so loudly even from so far away.

Anguish. Guilt. Regret. Relief. Triumph.

Sybok.

Pain. Pain. Pain. Realization. Anguish. Despair.

Michael.

Heartbreak. Anguish. Fear. Relief. Guilt. Anger.

His mother.

“Spock,” she whispered. “Spock, look at me, please.”

Spock found that he could not comply with that request. The crew members present in the transporter room were all staring at him. Ensign Chekov looked as though he was taking personal responsibility for this. Lieutenant Sulu’s eyes were full of something that Spock realized must be sympathy.

Cadet Kirk-

He did not have time to measure the cadet’s reaction, as he suddenly lurched forward, gripping at the console in front of him.

“Kirk?” Sulu inquired, putting a hand on his shoulder.

“S’okay, s’okay, y-you’re okay, buttercup, please, you’re okay-!”

It was at this point that Kirk collapsed. Spock quietly ordered that he be taken to sickbay with the rest of the- the survivors.

“Spock, please-!” His mother started as he headed toward the turbolift. He held up a hand to stop her.

“Mother, I realize that you are concerned. However, I am fine.”

“Fine has variable definitions. Fine is unacceptable.”

He turned toward her, arching an eyebrow.

“A logical statement.”

“You stated that. When you were eight.”

“It remains true. However, in this instance I am... stable.” He stepped into the turbolift. “Please report to sickbay. I must procure a change of uniform before assuming my duties as the acting captain.”

The doors of the turbolift closed before his mother could respond to that.

 


 

Jim was still flat on his ass long after the creepy giant insect... thing had run off. He was panting hard, trying his hardest to catch his breath.

Alice had gone quiet at some point, though Jim could still feel her in the back of his mind. His heart ached with the memory of her anguish and confusion; as smart as Alice was, she was still only four, far too young to understand the pain of losing a home she’d never known.

He needed to get home. He needed to see her, to hold her tight, he needed to get out of this cave and back onto the Enterprise and probably punch Spock in the face a couple of times, he needed to-!

There was a man holding a torch in front of him.

Alright. Right now he needed to figure out who the hell was in the cave with him and if they wanted to kill him or not.

Just then, the man turned, revealing himself to be an old Vulcan.

A strangely familiar old Vulcan, whose eyes had widened like saucers when he saw Jim. He saw warmth, relief, surprise, and something strangely tender in those brown eyes, and he wasn’t sure if that creeped him out or comforted him.

“James T. Kirk.”

Jim blinked.

“Um. Ex... Excuse me?”

“How did you find me?”

Jim frowned, slowly getting to his feet.

“H-How do you know my name?”

The old Vulcan’s eyes crinkled, and somehow Jim knew that he’d be smiling if he were human.

“I have been, and always shall be, your friend.”

Jim blinked again, then chuckled awkwardly, taking a step back.

“Um... n-nice to meet you too, I guess? Cause I really, really don’t think I know you.”

“I am Spock.”

Jim blinked, then looked the old Vulcan over.

“Bullshit.” The word was out of his mouth before he could stop it.

The old Vulcan- who was not Spock- hummed, his eyes crinkling again as he turned away, gesturing for Jim to follow.

Jim wasn’t entirely sure why he followed, but hey, it was either follow not-Spock or try to brave the frozen wilderness outside.

“It is remarkably pleasing to see you again, old friend,” Not-Spock told him after he brought him to a little alcove and made a little campfire. “Especially after the events of today.”

Jim really wanted to scoot away from him, but the fire was warm and he was finally starting to be able to feel his fingers and toes again.

“Sir, I... I really appreciate what you did for me today, really I do, but uh, if you were Spock, then you’d know that we’re not friends. At all. You hate me. You marooned me here for mutiny.”

Not-Spock’s eyebrow arched in a strikingly Spock-esque fashion.

“Mutiny?”

“Yes.”

“You... are not the captain?”

Jim blinked, then sighed.

“No, uh, you’re the captain. Pike was taken hostage.”

“By Nero.”

Jim paused, fixing his gaze on not-Spock.

“... What do you know about him?”

“He is a particularly troubled Romulan.” Not-Spock got up and walked over to Jim. “Please, allow me. It will be easier.”

The old Vulcan started to reach for Jim’s face, and he lurched back.

“Uh... what are you doing?”

“Our minds, one and together.”

Jim was a bit too distracted by how that was almost exactly how T’Vin had described his bond with Alice to stop not-Spock from touching his face.

“One hundred and twenty-nine years from now, a star will explode and threaten to destroy the galaxy.”

Suddenly, Jim’s mind was filled with images, not-Spock- no, definitely Spock’s voice telling him about the destruction of future Romulus at the hands of a supernova, how he’d stopped said supernova thanks to something called red matter, but created a black hole that led both him and Nero back in time, where Nero swore revenge. He saw the destruction of the Kelvin, this old Spock being captured and marooned on Delta Vega, where he saw Vulcan be destroyed again.

But there was something else. Other memories leaked into his head, and Jim saw- he saw his own face, a little older, with brown eyes instead of blue. Laughing, smiling, arguing, fighting, crying, but more than anything else- loving.

It was another life. Another life, full of joy and adventure and... and happiness.

Happiness with Spock, of all people.

Suddenly, the visions ended; Jim gasped as he came back to himself, his head throbbing a little. His eyes were wet, and he sniffed, wiping at them as surreptitiously as he could.

“Forgive me. Emotional transference is an effect of the mind-meld.” Spock was looking at him with a fair amount of shock, which Jim was pretty sure wasn’t from him. “You are... forgive me, but when I looked into your mind, I sensed the presence of a telepathic bond.”

Jim blinked.

“Of- of course there’s one. It’s Alice.”

Spock blinked, looking surprised even by Human standards.

“Alice?”

“Yeah, Alice. My daughter?” Jim quirked an eyebrow, then dug the slightly-wrinkled picture of Alice out of his pocket to show him. “If we were as close as you claim, I’d think you’d recognize her.”

Spock’s brow furrowed.

“... Jim. I must confess that... I have never seen this child before in my life.”

Jim blinked, his mouth falling open.

“You... you what?”

“It seems that it is not our only friendship that has been altered.”

“Altered? You mean... going back in time, you changed all our lives.”

It was a little harder to breathe, suddenly. He was vaguely aware that Spock was speaking, but the words seemed far away and muddled, warped as if he were underwater.

She hadn’t existed. Before, back where- when this Spock came from, his Jim had never had Alice. He’d never gotten to see her smile, or tell- well, try to tell- a joke, or laugh, or woken up with her hair in his face and her clinging to him like an octopus, but not even caring because he loved her so much.

But... if this Spock came from another timeline, then maybe...

“Wait. Where you come from, did... did I know my father?”

Spock paused for a moment, something like sympathy flashing in his eyes.

“Yes. You often spoke of him as being your inspiration for joining Starfleet. He proudly lived to see you become captain of the Enterprise.”

“Captain?” He kind of liked the sound of that. Captain James T. Kirk...

But.

“But I didn’t have Alice, did I?”

Spock shook his head.

“You did not.”

“You’re sure? There’s no way he could have... that I could have kept her from you?”

Pain, sadness, and a little bit of anger flashed in the old Vulcan’s eyes.

“Jim. If you had been at all aware of her existence, there is no way I would not have known.”

Great. So either Alice didn’t exist, or he never knew her.

Yeah. Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise wasn’t worth that cost.

With a small sigh, Jim started to follow Spock again, wishing more than anything that he could just go home and see his daughter, because an Alice hug sounded really good right about now.

 


 

“You wanted to see me?”

Spock turned, then rose out of his chair.

“Yes, Doctor. I am aware that James Kirk is a friend of yours,” Spock said as he and McCoy walked to a more private part of the bridge, “and I recognize that supporting me as you did must have been difficult.”

McCoy scoffed.

“Is that a thank you?”

“I am simply acknowledging your difficulties.”

McCoy gave him a hard look.

“Permission to speak freely, sir.”

“I welcome it,” Spock replied as they came to a stop.

“Do you? Okay, then.” McCoy glared at him as he leaned in slightly. “Are you out of your Vulcan mind?”

Spock blinked.

“Pardon?”

“Are you making a logical choice sending Kirk away? Probably. But the right one? You know, back home, we got a saying. ‘If you’re gonna ride in the Kentucky Derby, you don’t leave your prize stallion in the stable.’”

“A curious metaphor, Doctor, as a stallion must first be broken before it can reach its potential.”

McCoy looked rather disgusted.

“My god, man, you could at least act like it was a hard decision!”

“I intend to reestablish communication with Starfleet. However, if crew morale is better served by my roaming the halls weeping, I will gladly defer to your medical expertise.”

McCoy snorted.

“Should’ve guessed you’d be fine. You’re not the one who has to tell a four-year-old girl her daddy’s been marooned on a frozen wasteland when we get back.”

Both of Spock’s eyebrows rose, but before he could inquire as to what McCoy meant by that statement, the doctor stormed off muttering something about a “hobgoblin.”

How strange. Spock had read Kirk’s file thoroughly in preparation for the academic hearing, and yet there was no mention of him having a child.

He did not have much time to ponder this further, as his mother arrived on the bridge soon after McCoy’s departure, and she resumed trying to speak with him about his father’s death.

She was still under the mistaken impression that he needed to talk about it, it seemed.

Spock, of course, had no time for such illogical behavior. He had a ship to run.

And there was nothing his mother nor the mystery of Kirk’s alleged offspring could do to dissuade him from that mission.

 


 

A shiver that had nothing to do with the cold ran up Jim’s spine as they entered the outpost.

“Okay, spooky green lighting, that’s cool. Nothing ominous about that, not at all.”

Someone yelled in a language Jim didn’t quite understand at the other end of the hall. He looked at Spock, who simply arched an eyebrow and gestured at the hall. He sighed, then took a deep breath.

“Hello!”

Metal clanking, followed by something appearing in the doorway at the other end and running to them.

Something green and scaly that was about a head taller than Alice, as it turned out. The creature stared at them when it arrived, pulling off its goggles to reveal its beady little eyes. It said nothing, turning and motioning for them to follow it back down the hallway.

“Okay. Now there’s a weird tiny creature leading us somewhere. Totally doesn’t feel like a horror movie at all.”

Spock’s eyes crinkled again, amusement flashing in his eyes.

“You seem to have a habit of narrating things.”

Jim flushed, wrapping his arms around himself.

“Well, y’know, Alice was a baby once, and, and you’re s’posed to narrate stuff to them when they’re little...”

“I did not say that I found it displeasing, Jim. I simply meant that it was not a habit you ever exhibited before.”

Jim blinked, but before he could respond, the creature turned into a room- actually, it was more like a poorly maintained lab. It walked up to a desk, where a man was asleep in a chair, and smacked his shoulder.

“What?” The man groaned as he sat up, his eyes going wide when he saw Jim and Spock. However, his expression quickly turned unamused. “You realize how unacceptable this is?”

Spock arched an eyebrow, seeming almost happy for some reason.

“Fascinating.”

“What?”

“Okay, I’m sure you’re just doin’ yer job, but could you not have come a wee bit sooner? Six months I’ve been here, living off Starfleet protein nibs and the promise of a good meal! And I know exactly what’s goin’ on here, okay? Punishment, isn’t it? Ongoing. For somethin’ that was clearly an accident-!”

“You are Montgomery Scott,” Spock interrupted, sounding inordinately pleased.

“Wh- You know him?”

“Aye, that’s me. You’re in the right place. Unless there’s another hard working, equally starved Starfleet officer around.”

Jim tried not to flinch at the word “starved,” pushing down memories of that horrible, horrible year. Thankfully, Spock didn’t seem to notice, and Scott and the creature had started to argue.

“But you’re here now, so... thank you. Where is it?”

“You are, in fact, the Mr. Scott who postulated the theory of transwarp beaming.”

Scott scoffed.

“That’s what I’m talking about. How d’ya think I wound up here? I had a little debate with my instructor on the issue of relativistic physics and how it pertains to subspace travel. He seemed to think that the range of transporting somethin’ like a grapefruit was limited to about a hundred miles. I told him that I could not only beam a grapefruit from one planet to the adjacent planet in the same system, which is easy, by the way, I could do it with a lifeform.” Scott leaned back in his chair. “So I tested it on Admiral Archer’s prize beagle.”

Jim blinked. Spock arched an eyebrow.

“I know that dog. What happened to it?”

“I’ll let ya know when it reappears. I do feel guilty about that.”

Right. So this man was never getting anywhere near Alice. Or possibly any small creature.

“What if told you that your transwarp theory was correct, that it is indeed possible to beam onto a ship that is travelling at warp speed?”

“I think if that equation had been discovered, I’d have heard about it.”

Spock, to Jim’s surprise, actually smirked, leaning in conspiratorially.

“The reason that you haven’t heard of it, Mr. Scott, is because you haven’t discovered it yet.”

Scott blinked, then started to stutter, clearly trying to wrap his head around what Spock had just said.

“Are you from the future?” He finally managed, getting up out of his chair.

“Yeah, he is. I’m not.

“Well, that’s brilliant. Do they still have sandwiches there?”

Things were a little hectic after that. Scott- or Scotty, as he insisted upon being called, never seemed to stop talking now that he had someone other than Keenser to talk to. Jim hadn’t heard so much engineering talk since... well, since the last time he had dinner with his mother, but still.

“You’re coming with us, right?” Jim asked Spock after the latter finally managed to shut Scotty up with the reveal of the all-important transwarp equation.

Spock’s eyes softened, and he looked almost sad.

“No, Jim. That is not my destiny.”

Jim gave him a look.

“I know that Vulcans have a lower average body temperature than humans, Spock. I really don’t think your destiny is to freeze to death on this frozen rock. He... the other Spock, he’s never gonna believe me. Only you can explain what the hell’s happened-!”

“Under no circumstances can he be made aware of my existence!” Spock stated sternly. “You must promise me this.”

“You’re telling me that I, that I can’t tell you that I’m following your own orders?!” He paused. “Well... actually, when I say it out loud, I guess I would kinda look like a nut. But still! Why not? What happens?”

Spock sighed.

“Jim, this is one rule that you cannot break. To stop Nero, you alone must take command of your ship.”

“How? Over your dead body?”

Amusement twinkled in Spock’s eyes.

“Preferably not. I doubt your Alice would be pleased if her father ended up imprisoned for that. However, there is Starfleet regulation 619.”

“Any command officer who is emotionally compromised by the mission at hand must resign said command... okay, yeah, but see, you’re still, y’know, all... Vulcan-y.”

“Jim. Surely by now you must know that Vulcans have emotions. Even I am capable of becoming emotionally compromised, as is my younger self. I just lost my planet. I can tell you that I am emotionally compromised. What you must do is get me to show it.”

Right. Get an emotionally constipated half-Vulcan that hated his guts to show emotion.

No biggie.

Maybe he should just quit Starfleet and start a farm in Iowa. Alice liked cows and pigs and chickens, she’d be delighted.

Couldn’t be any harder than the task at hand, right?

Jim leaned out of the little cell thingy.

“Y’know, coming back in time, changing history? That’s cheating.”

Spock’s eyes softened again, his gaze tender and melancholic.

“A trick I learned from an old friend.” He turned, pushing some buttons, then turned back around, holding up his right hand and spreading his fingers in a V shape. “Live long and prosper.”

 


 

He couldn’t think.

No, that was inaccurate. He could think.

Just not logically.

This man, this- this presumptous fool had taken that from him.

“How does it feel, huh? How does it feel now that you’ve lost your father too? Do you even care? Does it even compute for you? You lectured me on sacrifice, but now that you’ve lost your own father, you can’t even stop to grieve. You never loved him-!”

He punched him. It felt... cathartic.

The next few moments were a blur of motion, ending with Spock’s hand on Kirk’s neck. His thoughts were racing, and as Spock’s grip tightened, they turned into one line of thought.

Alice buttercup I’m sorry I’m so sorry I didn’t mean it I’m sorry Alice Alice Alice

“Spock!”

Please don’t kill me please please I’m sorry I didn’t want to please I need to get home I need to see her please

“SPOCK!”

Spock came back to himself all at once, quickly releasing his grip on Kirk’s throat. The other man gasped, barely conscious as he slumped against the station and coughed.

His mother looked horrified at his actions. Guilt swept through him, and he kept his head down as he approached McCoy.

“... Doctor. I am no longer fit for duty. I... I hereby relinquish my command based on the fact that I have been emotionally compromised. Please note the time and date in the ship’s log.”

He all but ran off the bridge after that, his mother chasing after him.

“Spock... Spock!”

He kept walking, trying to up his speed. His mother was only human, after all, and at her age she couldn’t reasonably-!

“S’chn T’gai Spock, you stop this instant!”

He stopped. She was more than a bit out of breath when she caught up to him, but had enough strength to force him to turn around, though not enough height to make him look her in the eyes.

“Now do you want to talk about it?”

“... That would be unwise.”

“What is necessary is never unwise.”

“... An insightful statement.”

“Again, you said that. When you were eight. Spock, please. Talk to me.”

He hesitated for a moment, then sighed.

“I am... I am as conflicted now as I once was as a child.”

His mother’s eyes softened.

“Spock... you are, and always will be, a child of two worlds.” She smiled. “And I’m so grateful for that. And for you.”

Spock swallowed, bending over slightly to allow his mother to touch his cheek, as she often did when he was still a child.

“I... I feel... anger for the one who took Father’s life. An anger I cannot control.”

She smiled again, shaking her head.

“Don’t try to. Spock, do you know why I married your father?”

“Because it was logical. You were both diplomats, and as such it was a favorable move to-!”

“Spock. It was because I loved him. And he married me because he loved me, no matter what nonsense he told you about logic.” She pulled him down, pressing a kiss to his forehead. “You feel angry? Good. Use it. Find the bastard that did this and make him pay for it.”

“Mother...”

“And if I were you, I’d get on it before Michael beats you to it.”

Spock could not help but roll his eyes.

“Mother, Michael and I have long since outgrown our childhood-!”

“Kidding, sweetheart. But seriously, get going. I think they’re gonna need your help.”

He nodded, moving back toward the bridge.

“And Spock?”

He paused, turning back toward his mother.

“Yes?”

“Try to keep an open mind about the captain, please.”

“... I will endeavor to do so.”

It would be quite the endeavor indeed.

 


 

“Daddy!”

Jim’s heart leapt at the sound of that sweet little voice, a huge grin spreading over his lips as he got off the ship. Alice was barreling towards him at top speed, and he kneeled down so that he could finally, finally get that hug he’d been waiting for all day.

“Hey, buttercup-! Oof!”

Alice knocked him right onto his back, wrapping herself around him and clinging to him like her life depended on it.

“Ow... heh, did you miss-!”

Her head popped up, a rather shocking glare on her face as she put a hand to his chin.

Angry sad worried you left you were gone and didn’t tell me where you were going and then everything hurt and then there was a light and a drill and I was scared ANGRY

Jim blinked when she pulled her hand away, guilt washing over him. He sighed, sitting up and cradling his daughter so that she was close to his chest.

“I’m sorry, Alice. I know that all of this must have been really scary for you.”

“Maia said that my mother’s planet is gone now...” She looked up at him, her eyes heartbreakingly big and dewy. “Does... does that mean that my mother is...?”

Jim smiled sadly.

“I’m sorry, buttercup. She’s gone.”

Predictably, Alice teared up at that, burying her face in Jim’s shirt. Jim hushed her gently, rubbing her back and humming a bit.

“It’s okay. It’s okay, Alice, I know. I’m here, I’m here, I’m not going anywhere...”

She hiccuped, looking up at him with big, watery eyes.

“P-Promise?”

He smiled gently, leaning down and pressing a kiss to her forehead.

“On my honor as captain of the USS Enterprise, I swear that I will never, ever leave you, Alice Georgina T’Vaakis Kirk.”

She finally smiled at him, wrapping her arms around Jim’s neck.

“... Wait a minute, Daddy. When did you become captain of the Inner-prize?”

“Oh, right, you don’t know about that yet. It’s a long story.” He blinked, realizing where they were again. “Uh, one that I probably shouldn’t tell you in the middle of the hangar.”

“Oh, yeah, I think we’re blockin’ traffic. Those people have been standing there for a while.”

Jim flinched, whirling around to see the entire bridge crew- save for Spock, because of course he’d left already- standing at the entrance, watching them with expressions that ranged from completely baffled to... well, to Chekov, who looked like he might very well be on the verge of bursting into giggles.

“Wh-? Why are you all just standing there?”

“Cause you’re blocking the path, genius,” Bones remarked before turning to Alice with a smile. “Hey, munchkin.”

“Hi, Uncle Bones! Was Daddy a dummy today?”

“When isn’t he a dummy?”

“Hey!”

 


 

 

There was absolutely no logical reason for Spock to be hesitating this way.

None at all.

And yet, standing outside the door to Kirk’s apartment, Spock found that he could not bring himself to knock.

It was... irrational to be worried that Kirk would not want to speak to him after everything that had occurred. Kirk had even been quite friendly to him when the Enterprise had landed in the hangar.

And yet.

He had marooned him on Delta Vega. He had nearly strangled him in front of the bridge crew. He had repeatedly brought up George Kirk’s sacrifice, which he now understood must have been a painful subject for the younger Kirk.

Kirk had no reason to forgive him.

And yet.

“I could not deprive you of the revelation of all that you could accomplish together, of a friendship that will define both of you in ways you cannot yet realize.”

If what his older self had said was true, that he and James Tiberius Kirk were meant to become great friends, then...

It would be illogical to not at least try.

And so, Spock lifted his hand and rapped his fist against the door three times. He heard a tiny gasp, followed by something clattering to the floor and tiny footsteps.

“I’ll get it!” A voice Spock did not recognize called. It was female, and very, very young. Something was set down in front of the door with a clunk, followed by the sound of the lock turning. Finally, the door opened, revealing...

Spock blinked in surprise.

The small child who had answered the door blinked back, then brushed some of her curly hair out of her face. Her eyes were big and blue, the same as Kirk’s, but her complexion was much paler than his, with green and yellow undertones.

And of course, there was one trait that- quite literally- stuck out more than all the rest: her ears, pointed just as Spock’s own were, though hers were a little big for her head.

“You're not Nana,” she commented. “Who’re you, mister?”

Spock blinked again, then cleared his throat.

“I... I apologize, miss, I believe I may have the wrong address.”

“Who’re you lookin’ for?”

“I am looking for one Captain James T. Kirk-!”

“Daddy!” She suddenly yelled, turning away from him. “There’s a tall man with ears like mine at the door!”

“Alice I am in the shower!” Spock just barely heard the captain shout from the other end of the apartment. He could hear water running.

“Well get out of the shower then! You said it’s rude to keep people waiting at the door!” The child- Alice, almost certainly the Alice that Kirk had been thinking of- sighed, getting off her step-stool and pushing it to the side. “Sorry, mister. Daddy’s really smart about books and numbers and stuff, but he’s kinda dumb about people.”

Spock arched an eyebrow.

“I was unaware that the captain had any social deficits.”

“Well, he acts cool and stuff, but he’s not very good at keeping friends. I think Uncle Bones and Nyota just stuck around at first cause me an’ Daddy are a package deal.” She blinked, then flushed slightly. “Oh, I’m sorry, mister! Please, come in!”

Spock arched an eyebrow as the girl led him into the apartment.

How odd. McCoy had implied Kirk’s daughter to be only four years of age, yet this child spoke with much more clarity and emotional maturity than most children her age and even a few years older would.

“Um... would... would you like some tea?” Alice asked after she had directed Spock over to the couch. He arched an eyebrow once more.

“Are you able to make tea?”

She flushed, fisting her hands in her dress.

“Um, well, no, but... that’s what Daddy does when people come over. O-Or coffee. Or water. I’m too short to get a glass, though.”

“I do not require refreshment at this time, Miss Kirk.”

“Oh.” She cocked her head a bit. “Um... who are you, anyway? You’re wearing a Starfleet thingy, so I don’t think you’re a bad guy.”

“I am indeed a member of Starfleet. My name is Commander S’chn T’gai Spock.”

Alice smiled. She had the same smile as her father, whenever he smiled genuinely.

“My name is Alice Georgina T’Vaakis Kirk! It’s nice to meet you!”

Spock arched an eyebrow, a bit surprised.

“T’Vaakis?”

“Mm-hm. Daddy says that’s the name my mother told him she liked before she left. It means ‘lady of boldness,’ right?”

“Indeed.” And a fitting name it was for this strangely bold Vulcan child. “You were not raised by your mother, then?”

Alice’s smile fell, and she shook her head.

“When I was three weeks old, my mother brought me to Nana’s house and gave me to my daddy. He says that she told him she was, um... vee-tosh kah-ter?”

Spock blinked, his eyes widening.

“Do you mean v’tosh ka’tur?”

Alice nodded.

“Yeah, that’s it!”

Spock resisted the urge to groan. It seemed that Sybok was even more of an idiot than he had previously believed.

“Anyway, um... when I was three weeks old, my mother went back to Vulcan. Daddy said it was because her father died... he also said my mother went to do something called co... coal-in-nar?”

“Kolinahr. It is a ritual through which all emotion is shed...”

Alice’s smile wavered a bit.

“Yeah, so... I guess she just didn’t want to be my mother anymore...”

Spock felt his throat tighten a bit.

“I see... was she... was she on Vulcan when...?”

Alice nodded.

“I... I felt our bond go away when she... it was s’posed to be dissolved soon anyway, but...”

“... Tushah nash-veh k’du,” Spock murmured after a moment.

Alice blinked, looking up at him with wide, curious eyes.

“What does that mean?”

“It is a Vulcan phrase. It means, ‘I grieve with thee.’”

“Oh.” She cocked her head to the side. “Did you lose someone too?”

Spock couldn’t help but flinch.

“Yes. My father was killed when the planet collapsed.”

“Oh.” She bowed her head slightly. “I grieve with thee.”

Spock blinked, then felt his lips quirk slightly.

“Thank you, Miss Kirk.” He hesitated for a moment, then opened his mouth to, for reasons he still wasn’t quite sure of, offer to teach her how to say that to him in Vulcan.

He never got the chance, however, as it was at that moment that the door to her father’s bedroom opened.

“Alright, buttercup, so who was at the... door... uh.” Kirk cleared his throat. “Commander.”

Spock turned to face the captain, only for words to fail him when he made a certain discovery.

That discovery being that the captain indeed prefered water showers to sonic showers. And also had quite broad shoulders, as exposed by the tank top he was wearing.

“Spock? You okay there?

Spock blinked, then most certainly did not blush before clearing his throat.

“I... I apologize for visiting at an inconvenient time, Captain.”

“Eh? Oh, no, it’s not...” Kirk shifted awkwardly, tugging on the towel slung around his shoulders. “Uh... buttercup, can you give us a minute?”

“Daddy, I can’t give you a minute. Time isn’t something that anyone can give or take.”

Spock’s lips quirked upward slightly as Kirk rolled his eyes.

“Okay, smarty-pants, how about this- go play in your room while Commander Spock and I talk about boring grown-up things.”

“Okay,” Alice agreed easily, practically bouncing over to her room. She paused just outside the door to her room, turning around to give her father a suspicious look. “But, Daddy? You better be nice to him.”

“Wh-! Hey, shouldn’t you be telling him to be nice to me?”

Alice pursed her lips for a moment, then shook her head.

“Nah. I think he’ll behave himself.”

With that, Alice went into her room, leaving behind a rather irritated Kirk and a rather amused Spock.

“Geez... sorry about that. She, uh, she’s got a bit of a big personality. Hope she wasn’t too much of a bother.”

“On the contrary, Captain, I found your daughter to be rather pleasant company.”

Kirk blinked, then quirked an eyebrow.

“You? Found a four-year-old to be pleasant company?”

“She is quite precocious and well-spoken for her age,” Spock replied by way of answer. “As such, if not for her small stature I would have assumed her to be older than she actually is.”

“Really? I thought all Vulcan kids were like that.”

Spock quirked an eyebrow.

“Like what, Captain?”

“Well, y’know, like,” Kirk paused, gesturing at the upper half of head. “All smart and wordy and stuff.”

“Indeed, most Vulcan children tend to have larger vocabularies than their Human peers. However, Alice possesses an emotional maturity most children of either species do not exhibit at her age. I doubt most children her age would think to offer me tea, for example.”

“... Alice doesn’t know how to make tea.”

“She admitted as much, but as she has seen you offer refreshment to visitors in the past, she believed that it was important to do so in this case.”

Kirk grinned at that, pride evident on his face.

“That’s my girl,” he said before clearing his throat. “Now, um... not that I’m not happy to brag about my daughter, cause I’m pretty much ready to do that at any given moment, but is there a reason that you came to see me at my apartment?”

Spock cleared his own throat, standing up and walking over to the captain.

“There is. I wish to apologize, Captain.”

“A... Apologize?”

“Yes.”

“... uh... for what?”

Spock blinked, then arched an eyebrow.

“For my actions last week. I apologize for marooning you on Delta Vega-!”

“Spock, if you hadn’t done that, I never would have met Scotty, and Nero probably would have destroyed Earth. It was for the best.”

Spock blinked again.

“Then I wish to apologize for assaulting you on the bridge-!”

“Hey, that was pretty much my fault, I goaded you into that. If anything, I’m sorry for using your father’s death to get a reaction out of you.”

Spock clenched his fist behind his back.

“Then... I wish to apologize for accusing you of cheating-!”

“I did cheat, though. And I didn’t deny that at any point, remember? I was protesting the existence of a no-win scenario, not defending myself against accusations of-!”

“Then I apologize for taunting you by mentioning your father!” Spock blurted before he was able to stop himself, his frustration with the captain’s inability to accept his apology reaching a peak.

Kirk froze, staring at him with wide, startled eyes. His lips were slightly parted, as if he wanted to say something but was unable to speak.

“... well. Yeah. I, uh, I guess you did do that...” Kirk muttered after a moment, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Yes, and I apologize for it. I now realize that my words were inappropriate and unnecessarily cruel.”

“Spock...” Kirk sighed, shaking his head. “Look, you... you’ve read my file, right?”

Spock blinked, then arched an eyebrow.

“I read it in preparation for the academic hearing, yes.”

“And since you read it, you know that Alice isn’t mentioned in it.”

“I am. I must admit to some... curiosity in that matter.”

Kirk grinned, a mischievous glint in his eyes.

“Why, Commander, I didn’t know you had it in you to be curious.”

“A desire for the acquisition of new knowledge is a standard aspect of Vulcan culture, sir.”

Kirk rolled his eyes, then cleared his throat.

“A-Anyway, um... the reason that Alice isn’t mentioned in my file is because... well... because I don’t want people to know about her.”

Spock blinked, then narrowed his eyes, his stomach churning with barely suppressed anger. He did not want to assume anything about the captain, especially since doing so had proven to be a less than optimal course of action recently, and also considering that what little he had seen of Kirk and Alice’s interactions appeared to be highly positive, but...

Well. His own previous experiences were rather illustrative of the cruelty of both Vulcans and Humans in regard to his and Alice’s shared heritage.

“Please elaborate, Captain.”

Kirk grimaced.

“It’s just... I grew up in my dad’s shadow, y’know? Not even really his shadow- it was more like the shadow of what he did. I was the- the Kelvin Baby, a miracle born from tragedy or whatever flowery bullshit the tabloids used. My mom and Grandpa Tiberius did their best to shield me from it, but... well, you’ve read my file. I didn’t exactly live up to my dad’s legacy.”

Spock would have pointed out that Kirk’s recent actions had saved the lives of every single living creature on Earth, and therefore had surpassed his father in the amount of lives saved, but the captain did not give him the chance to speak.

“Anyway, I guess I just... I don’t want that for Alice. I want her to be free to define her own legacy, whether that’s in Starfleet or... I dunno, painting? Last I checked her big life goal was to punch the moon.”

Spock’s lips quirked upward involuntarily.

“An ambitious, if physically impossible goal.”

“Hey, don’t doubt her, she’s one determined cookie. But yeah, whatever she eventually does with her life, I don’t want her to have to fight to get out of my shadow. And I certainly don’t want people treating her differently because she’s... y’know.”

Spock arched an eyebrow.

“Half-Vulcan, sir?”

Kirk blinked, seeming surprised.

“Well, I was gonna say because she was born out of wedlock, but... yeah, I guess that’s true. And, well, I guess you’d know a lot more about that than I would.”

Spock resisted the urge to flinch at that.

“In the interest of accuracy, Captain, I would point out that Alice is much more in touch with her Humanity than I am.”

“Yeah, I kinda noticed, Spock. And I’d point out that unlike you, Alice hasn’t had any real Vulcan influences in her life since she was three weeks old.”

Spock felt a strange pang in his chest as he quirked an eyebrow.

“Since you have stated that Alice was born out of wedlock, I assume that you and her mother were never bonded, either?”

Kirk blinked.

“Bonded?”

“... Captain, after four years of raising a Vulcan child, I should think that you would be aware that Vulcans-!”

“I know about telepathic bonds, Commander.” Kirk quirked an eyebrow. “What, did you think T’Vin just dropped off Alice without telling me anything?”

“T’Vin?”

Kirk flinched, then sighed.

“T’Vin was... she was Alice’s mother. And no, we weren’t bonded, we barely even knew each other. I may be the type to rush into things, but I know what marriage means for Vulcans.”

Spock quirked an eyebrow.

“Then... it is true, then? That Alice’s mother was part of the v’tosh ka’tur?”

“Huh? How do you know about that?”

“Alice informed me, although her pronunciation was a bit... off.”

“She’s four, man. Were you pronouncing words like that when you were four?”

“Yes.”

Kirk rolled his eyes.

“Well, I guess you know what they are then, right?”

“Indeed. Vulcans without logic. The term is used to describe anyone who disagrees with the ancestral teachings of Surak. One group of such Vulcans is known to have left the planet in 2143 aboard the starship Vahklas. However, the movement lost most of its popularity around 2154, when the Kir’Shira was discovered.”

“Wait, what? Spock, I know Vulcans live longer than Humans, but T’Vin did not look like an old lady.”

Spock’s lips quirked involuntarily; it seemed both Kirks had the uncanny ability to nearly break Spock’s stoicism.

“I very much doubt that T’Vin was over one hundred years of age, Captain. It is more likely that she was influenced by the revival of the movement than the original.”

“Revival?”

“Yes. Around ten years ago, there was a new wave of Vulcans who disagreed with Surak’s teachings, despite what is now known about them.” Spock bit back a grimace. “They were all banished from the planet, along with their leader, a Vulcan by the name of Sybok.”

“... Um. Wow, uh, you... you look really uncomfortable. Not even just for you, like, uncomfortable in general. Do you know him?”

“That is... correct.” Spock took a breath. “He is my brother.”

Kirk was silent for a moment, clearly stunned by this revelation. After a moment, his hand slowly rose, and he pointed right at Spock.

“Y... You have a brother?!”

Spock blinked, then quirked an eyebrow.

“To be specific, Sybok is my older half-brother. He is my father’s son from a previous marriage.”

“Wait, what? Isn’t your mom Sarek’s only wife?”

“Technically, yes. Sybok’s mother underwent kolinahr, and as I’m sure you are aware, that ritual involves the dissolution of all telepathic bonds, including the marriage bond. Thus, my mother is considered the only wife my father has ever-!” Spock grit his teeth, trying to suppress the wave of emotion that rolled through him. “The only wife my father ever had.”

“Spock...” Kirk looked as if he wished to say something else, but evidently decided not to, instead sighing. “Geez, I thought my brother was bad.”

Spock quirked an eyebrow.

“You have a brother, Captain?”

“I thought you said you read my file. Yeah, I have an older brother. His name’s Sam. He ran away when I was ten and we haven’t spoken since.” He blinked. “Wow, that was... that was fifteen years ago, wasn’t it?”

“Considering that you are twenty-five years of age, I believe so. Am I to assume that you have not told him about Alice, then?”

Kirk snorted.

“I don’t even know how I’d get word to him. I’ve heard some scuttlebutt that he became some kind of researcher and moved to the colony on Deneva, but who knows?”

“Indeed. It appears that neither of us have had a pleasant experience with brothers.”

“Yeah... kinda makes me wanna get Alice a brother, so she can share in our pain.”

“Can we name him David?” Alice called, her voice muffled by the door.

“It was a joke, and you’re not supposed to be listening, buttercup!”

“Aw...”

“Where would I even get a baby from anyway, huh?”

“The stork! That’s where Nana told me babies come from!”

“The stork-! Oh, come on, Mom, you couldn’t think of a better line...?”

“The... stork, Captain?”

“Eh? Oh, yeah, it’s, uh, it’s an old wives’ tale. Storks would find babies in like, caves or whatever, and they’d bring them to people’s doorsteps.”

Spock quirked an eyebrow.

“Captain, pray tell, how do the infants appear in the caves in the first place?”

“I... I don’t know, Spock, it’s... you know it’s not true, right? It’s just something people made up so they wouldn’t have to tell kids where babies actually come from.”

“I am aware of the process of sexual reproduction, sir, but it seems strange that such a story has a rather large hole in its plot.”

“That’s because you’re supposed to tell it to little kids, Spock, not twenty-eight-year-old Starfleet Commanders. A little kid’s not gonna question something like that.”

Spock quirked an eyebrow.

“In your four years of parenting experience, would you say that Alice has never questioned anything you or any other adult has told her?”

Kirk opened his mouth to reply, then blinked and closed it, grinning a bit sheepishly.

“Well, I guess you got me there.”

“Indeed.” Spock straightened slightly when his comm went off, pulling out of his pocket and checking it. “Ah, I apologize, Captain, but it appears I am needed elsewhere.”

“Aw, and here I was thinking I might convince you to stay for dinner.”

Spock’s heart did not beat irregularly at that admission.

Not at all.

He was simply not getting enough rest. That was all.

“That is a generous offer, Captain, but I must be going.”

“Alright, alright... oh, uh, Spock?”

Spock paused as he reached the front door, turning around to face his captain once more.

“Yes, sir?”

Kirk was clearly hesitating, biting his lower lip briefly and scratching the side of his face.

“Just... y’know, the... the Enterprise doesn’t launch on a new mission for another couple of weeks.”

“I am aware of this.”

“And, well, I’m officially her captain now...”

“I was present at the ceremony, sir. I am, however, uncertain of what you wish to convey here.”

He saw Kirk’s adam’s apple bob slightly- most likely due to him swallowing excess saliva.

“Just... the, um, the first officer position’s still open. If... if you’re interested.”

Truly, Spock must not have been getting enough rest if his heart continued to palpitate in this manner.

He was unable to adequately explain why the tips of his ears had begun to burn, however.

“I...” Spock cleared his throat, straightening his back. “That is an... interesting offer, Captain. I will have to... consider my options carefully.”

This was as close to a lie as Spock felt himself capable of telling. While it was true that Spock had quite a few options to choose from, it was not true that he was considering all of them equally.

Or indeed, that he was considering any option but one with any degree of seriousness. His alternate self’s advice to “do what feels right” was... oddly compelling.

Even more so with how the captain’s face fell at Spock’s response.

“Oh, uh... y-yeah, sure. I guess that... that makes sense. Just... y’know, the offer’s open. Til... til we take off, I guess.”

Spock nodded.

“If you’ll excuse me, Captain.”

He left without another word, telling himself that the irregular pace of his heart was due to a lack of rest.

He had a harder time convincing himself of that when it started beating irregularly once again, this time at the captain’s overjoyed smile when he took on the role of First Officer just before take off.