Kirk braced himself as he entered sickbay. Negotiating disagreements was one of his least favorite jobs as captain. This time it was Scotty - and it was almost always Scotty - and Bones. Which was unusual because Bones tended to get his way. This was all over a baby in a canister that had only been on the ship for an hour. According to Chapel they'd been having the same argument for twenty minutes before she called him.
"I told you, you can scan it after the baby's born." Bones was standing beside the canister, holding a protective arm out over it.
From the other side of the canister Scotty waved a closed tricorder round saying, "That won't tell me what it's doing now."
"Gentlemen." Since Kirk couldn't physically get between them he tried matching his voice to Admiral Pike's tone when he was pissed. It worked: they both turned to him. However, they then both proceeded to argue their case at the same time.
Kirk raised his gaze to the ceiling for a moment, before putting his hands up. "One at a time," he said in the same tone. Bones at least had the grace to stop, but Scotty carried on for another few seconds before he noticed Kirk's expression and stopped in the middle of his sentence.
Considering it best if he had Scotty's side of the story first, he turned to his chief engineer. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Bones grimace and fold his his arms. Kirk ignored him.
"All I want is to get a look at the canister. It's not every day you see a…" Scotty waved a hand. "Womb in a jar. And he won't let anyone near it." He jabbed a hand in Bones's direction.
Carefully keeping his expression neutral, Kirk turned to the other combatant.
"He's going to disturb the baby."
Kirk raised his eyebrows at the doctor.
"I mean, we don't know how sensitive it is. It could go into premature labor." Bones waved a hand at the canister in front of him.
All three of them peered down at it. It was about a meter tall and half as wide. On what Kirk had been thinking of as the back of the canister, were markings in different colors. He recognized it as the Kedzian's language, but since no one had translated it yet, they didn't know what it said.
The front side, which was facing the wall, was glass. This was the side Kirk had seen first when it had been beamed onto the bridge. To say the baby floating inside it came as a surprise was something of an understatement.
From what he could see, nothing about the canister had changed since it had been moved down here. However, he knew better than to say it.
"But if we don't examine it, we won't know if something goes wrong." Scotty turned an appealing expression on Kirk.
"Scotty's right," Kirk concluded, with an apologetic look at Bones, for all the good it did, especially given Scotty's smug expression. "We ought to check it's all working and the transport from the Kedzian Ambassador's ship didn't do it any harm."
"Fine," Bones said with a huff.
Kirk thought it was best to ignore that. "You can both report your findings at the senior staff meeting at seventeen hundred."
"I've translated the writing on the canister." Uhura sent a picture of the writing on the canister to the main briefing room screen.
When the canister had arrived on the bridge Spock had been quick to scan it. It meant Uhura could work from those. Kirk was glad for small mercies.
"For the Kedzians it's a traditional gift given at the end of every negotiation."
"Gifts I get, but a baby?" All he'd given the Ambassador was a pot plant - she said she used to be a botanist and had been excited about the pungent purple flower that had been a gift from the Narrisanari after the Enterprise had saved some miners a month earlier. Spock had protested - Vulcans clearly didn't understand regifting. But it meant they had one less thing to store on the ship that would never get used.
Uhura shrugged. "They signify the beginning of a bond between their people and ours."
"A plant would work for that." Kirk couldn't resist a smug look at Spock, who remained impassive, as always. "Any response to our hails yet?"
She shook her head. "They dumped the baby on us, then warped out of range. We haven't been able to track them."
Kirk didn't know what it was about the Kedzian's warp engines that meant their trails were impossible to follow. It was part of why they'd remained hidden from the Federation despite being so close. Right now it was downright annoying.
"It is clear they do not intend to return for the baby."
Trust Spock to state the obvious.
"All right, so we're keeping this baby." Kirk turned to Bones. "What do we know about it?"
"She's a perfectly healthy, nearly full-term, human baby." Bones's tone suggested this was the sort of thing he came across every day.
"She?" Kirk asked, at the same time as Spock asked, "How can a Kedzian baby be human? The Enterprise was their first contact with humans."
"I wish I knew." Bones glanced over at Scotty, who shrugged.
Kirk desperately wanted to say 'I told you so' about Bones working with Scotty on this, but resisted because they were in a briefing. And because Bones would give him an earful even if he waited until they were alone. "Another mystery to add to the list," he said instead. "Have you learned anything interesting about the canister?" he asked Scotty.
"It appears to act like a human womb." The picture on the screen changed to one of the canister with markings overlaid. A lot of markings. All too small to read at that resolution. "All nutrients provided every few hours. Presumably the baby will be born when they run out."
"Which is in two days," Bones put in.
"It even has inertial dampeners," Scotty said excitedly.
"Put it in the report, Scotty." He didn't need all the details right now. And two days were long enough to study it, since it was clear they weren't going to get any help in that area from the Kedzians. "Any word yet from Starfleet?"
Uhura shook her head. "Nothing, except to stand by."
Kirk didn't let his frustration show. "Maybe they'll have made a decision in two days. Any interesting developments, let me know."
It was good thing that sickbay was empty of patients, given the number of people crammed in for the baby's birth. Kirk counted blue and red shirts and came to almost all of the medical and engineering staff. And Kirk, but in his case he was there because he felt responsible for the baby. And he was curious at how canisters gave birth.
"Give me some room, can't you?" Bones groused as the lights on the top of the canister cycled round, growing brighter.
There was a little shuffling from the crowd, but they all wanted to get a look. Kirk's rank had gotten him a front row seat, but the canister was small and not many of the people in here would have such a good view. Which meant they didn't need to be here.
"All right, Scotty, choose two engineers to stay, the rest out. Doctor McCoy, do you really need this many doctors and nurses for the birth of one child?"
After some grumbling they were left with Scotty, two of his engineers, Bones, Nurse Chapel and Kirk. The clear-out was timely, because the lights on the canister all went out and it cracked opened at the top. With gloved hands, Bones reached in and pulled the baby out.
The baby cried, Chapel cut the cord, the engineers flocked to the canister, tricorders out.
After that anti-climax Kirk stepped back, out of the way. But not far enough, because Bones attempted to hand him a small, slime-covered, screaming baby.
"She's your baby."
Since Bones wasn't giving up, and Kirk didn't want to drop her, he was forced to hold his arms out to take her.
Somehow Bones wrapped her in a blanket at the same time as handing her over. Kirk found she was also wriggly and he was convinced he was about to drop her. People holding babies usually seemed comfortable and this was not.
"You were the one who did the hard diplomatic work," Bones pointed out, as he adjusted the position of Kirk's arms.
And then it was comfortable and the baby was warm against his chest. She stopped crying and stared up at him with wide, blue eyes. He stared back at her. "Hello." What were you supposed to say to newborn babies?
He hadn't noticed Bones had left, until he returned with a medical tricorder and started scanning the baby. "So, what are you going to call her?"
"I don't know." He'd never had to name a person before, never mind on the spot. Bones could have at least given him some warning that he expected Kirk to come up with a name.
"We can't keep calling her 'the baby'."
"I guess she can be…" But Kirk's mind went completely blank. Except for one name. "Georgia?"
Bones lifted his gaze away from his tricorder. Their eyes met over the baby. Kirk had a weird rush of love for Bones that he didn't want to dwell on right now. "That's a good name," Bones said softly.
Kirk was used to visiting sickbay every day to chat to Bones, or drag him out for dinner or a drink. Since Georgia had been born she became another reason to be there more often, to check on how she was doing. Although Bones was happy to provide a report he was always too busy for anything else. Every time Kirk came round he was always feeding Georgia, or changing her, or rocking her, or had just gotten her to sleep and couldn't talk now.
He'd tried raging about it, he'd tried sulking about it, he'd tried pretending he didn't care. None of it had worked. Bones only had time for one person and from Kirk's perspective it wasn't the right person. He was frustrated in more than one way.
Today was different. Bones was still occupied with Georgia, but he was walking up and down sickbay, singing and rocking her. Kirk thought he recognized the song, but couldn't say where from. Since Bones was looking down at Georgia, Kirk could safely stay by the door without being seen, while he listened. It was a rare chance to see the softer side of Bones he usually only got to see when they were alone.
After a few verses Bones put Georgia down in the crib Scotty had built. When he turned he spotted Kirk and stopped singing. "How long have you been standing there?" His voice was gruff, but Kirk knew it was from embarrassment, despite his good singing voice.
"I was enjoying the singing." He came away from the door now, over to Bones. "Sounded like Georgia was too."
Bones sat and fanned out a stack of PADDs on his desk. "Did you come for anything specific or just to enjoy the show?"
Kirk shook his head as he slid into the seat opposite Bones. Bones was pretending to ignore him, staring at a PADD instead. Which suited Kirk because he knew Bones wouldn't take his news well.
At length Bones set the PADD down with a sigh. "Spit it out. It can't be all that bad."
He took a deep breath. "Starfleet want the baby at Starfleet Medical. They're sending the USS Valiant to meet us."
Bones studied the desk for a moment, then reached into a drawer, and pulled out a bottle and two glasses.
Kirk would have settled for a chat over a drink in sickbay any time these past few days. The irony of it accompanying what Bones considered bad news wasn't lost on him. From Kirk's perspective it couldn't come soon enough, since it would mean getting Bones back. Although he knew it wouldn't be the same Bones he'd had before the baby turned up.
"Bones," he began, as the doctor poured them each a glass of a green liquid. Kirk frowned. "Wait, what is that?"
"Aldebaran whiskey." Bones pushed one of the glasses across the desk.
"Where did you get it?" Kirk gave it a tentative sniff.
"Scotty." Bones had a sip, then knocked back the whole glass.
"Where did he get-- never mind, I don't want to know." Experience had told him that asking where Scotty obtained anything on the ship was a terrible idea. He cautiously tried a sip and was surprised to find it was good. "You know she can't stay here," he said, returning to the original topic.
"Of course she can't." Bones turned the empty glass around in his hand. "A spaceship's not a safe place for a child."
Kirk had another sip while he watched Bones refill his glass. "I know you miss Joanna," he said softly. He'd been in Bones's quarters often enough and seen the photos of her he had in there. And he'd seen how much happier Bones was after he'd spoken to her.
Bones slammed the bottle on the desk, making Kirk jump. He held his breath and was relieved when Georgia didn't wake.
"I know she's not Joanna." Bones knocked this glass back too.
Before Bones could pour any more, Kirk reached out for the bottle and pulled it over to his side of the desk, out of Bones's immediate reach.
Bones glared at him, which he ignored.
"Starfleet will have to do something with Georgia once they've tested her for everything. Maybe you could find her some understanding adoptive parents." Starfleet's message had come in an hour ago, so waiting for the end of his shift to tell Bones had given him some time to think.
"I'd take her myself if my ex-wife wasn't on the same planet." Bones managed to find a few drips in his glass to swallow.
Kirk sighed. "I'm trying to help." It came out a little more combative than he intended.
"Well, maybe this is one no-win scenario you can't cheat your way out of." Bones stood and grabbed the bottle.
"Fine." Kirk left him to it.
After that Kirk avoided sickbay. He had regular reports from Bones, so he didn't need to go down there to know that Georgia was still in perfect health. If Bones wanted to talk, he knew where Kirk was.
After two days of avoiding each other, save for essential ship's business, Bones turned up at Kirk's door, held up half a bottle of Aldebaran whiskey and said, "Can I come in?"
Kirk smiled and stood aside. He'd missed Bones and had been on the verge of giving in.
"Turns out there are a lot of babysitters on the ship," Bones said, answering Kirk's unvoiced question.
It didn't surprise Kirk: he'd seen all the medical staff cooing over her, as well as any visitors to sickbay. With the exception of Spock, who he didn't think was capable of cooing over anything.
"I wanted to apologize." Bones set the bottle down on Kirk's desk, while Kirk fetched two glasses. "I know I've been wrapped up with Georgia."
"I understand." He didn't really, but complaining about it was only going to put Bones's back up and Kirk didn't want to give him an excuse to leave. Especially not when Bones was pouring more of that delightful drink.
"You don't," Bones said, but he was smiling as he handed a glass to Kirk. "But one day you might."
That was a discussion for another time. If this experience had taught him anything it was that he wasn't ready to have a baby around. He also wasn't ready to leave the Enterprise in order to have a baby around. "I've been speaking with Admiral Pike," he said instead. "And my mom."
Bones frowned. "Your mom?"
"Pike pulled some strings," he continued, after a sip. Aldebaran whiskey really was very good. "My mom said she'd take Georgia, once Starfleet Medical are done with her." He looked up at Bones whose jaw had dropped. "So you can see her whenever you like."
Bones's answer was to come around the desk and kiss him, risking them both emptying their glasses onto the deck.
Afterwards Kirk laughed. "So I did the right thing? I solved the no-win scenario. Again."
"Yeah you did the right thing." Bones took Kirk's drink out of his hand and set both glasses onto the desk. Then he took Kirk's hand and led him over to his bed.
Kirk still didn't get to drink any more of the heavenly green drink, but he didn't protest.