Fandom & Pairing/Characters: Star Trek Reboot (aka AOS, ST XI, etc.), Pike/McCoy raising de-aged Jim, so fairly Jim-centric
Rating: PG-13ish? (A couple of bad words but no smut - I know!)
Warnings: Dangerous levels of fluff ahead!
Word Count: around 5000
Summary: "My name's Jimmy. And you're old."
Disclaimer: Any resemblance to anything whatsoever is purely coincidental.
A/N : This one is ivorysilk's help_pakistan fic, for the prompt of Pike and McCoy taking care of a de-aged Jim. It was fabulously fun to write! The title is inspired by the Marge Piercy quote, "Life is the first gift, love is the second, and understanding the third." Thanks to my beloved BFF ennui_blue_lite for the beta. Any remaining errors are, of course, all my own.
Chris watched as the air swirled and sparkled and his husband appeared on the transporter pad, next to a little boy -- Jim, he reminded himself -- who immediately grabbed Leonard's hand when they'd materialized.
Leonard led Jim off the pad and over to Chris. Chris embraced Leonard, a bit awkwardly since one of Len's hands was still clutched in Jim's, then he crouched down to face Jim.
"Hi, Jim. I'm Chris. It's nice to meet you."
Jim was unimpressed. "My name's Jimmy. And you're old."
He heard Leonard snort with suppressed laughter above him and shot him a look. Leonard just grinned unrepentantly and Chris had to smile back. Len didn't smile nearly often enough, and he'd bet that there'd been even fewer smiles since this latest disaster.
Turning his attention back to Jim, he said, "Yep, I'm an old man. You're going to come stay with me and Leonard for a while, okay?"
"Yeah, I guess. I haven't made up my mind about you yet, but Leonard's pretty cool, even if he does have a stupid goddamn name."
This time the look Chris shot at Len included a raised eyebrow, and Leonard's eyes shifted to the side. Yeah, that's what he thought. He stood up -- his knees couldn't take this extended crouching -- then he leaned over towards Jim and said in a stage whisper, "Yeah, his name's kind of dumb, I agree." He ignored Leonard's outraged squawk and continued. "But you know what drives him crazy? Being called 'Bones.' He hates it."
There was a loud "Damn it, Chris!" from Leonard but he blithely ignored it.
Jimmy grinned at him and Chris couldn't help grinning back. He was sure he looked like an idiot, but didn't much care. Then Jimmy slipped his free hand into Chris's and said, "Thanks, man. You're pretty cool for an old guy." Chris's heart just about melted. Oh lord, he was in so much trouble.
Jimmy was settled at the kitchen table, eating a sandwich. Okay, he was flitting around the apartment, getting smudgy peanut-butter-and-jelly fingerprints on everything until Leonard would say, "For god's sake, Jimmy, sit down and finish your lunch." Jim would reluctantly sit back down, pick at his sandwich for a minute or two, and then the whole process would start again.
Leonard and Chris were settled on the couch, discussing the situation. Or trying to, with Jimmy running around like a miniature tornado.
"...been eight weeks, and he can't command like this, obviously, and a starship's no place for a little kid," Leonard was saying.
Chris refocused on Len, trying desperately to ignore the fact that half of his possessions were now smeared with strawberry jam and the other half were in imminent peril of suffering the same fate.
Leonard raised an eyebrow at him. Caught. "You've got a sonic cleaning system installed, right?"
"Yeah, but it only cycles once a week."
Leonard shrugged. "So change it to every day. Better yet, every hour. It's what I had to do in my quarters on the Enterprise."
"So he was staying in your quarters? I've read the official report, but it didn't include that level of detail."
"Yeah, we set up a cot for him. You can't leave a six-year-old unattended. Especially not this one. We, ah, let him stay in his own quarters the first night. He spent the entire night eating ice cream from the replicator and calling up scary movies on the vidscreen. Next morning when Spock and I came to get him, his eyes were big as moons and when he stood up, he threw up all over Spock's boots. I'll never forget the look on Spock's face. No emotions, my ass."
He chuckled, and Chris looked around at Jim, who was ostensibly eating his sandwich but obviously was hanging on each and every word. He pitched his voice low. "Len, don't you think we ought to - " Before he could finish his sentence, Jim was next to him, a sticky hand tugging at his pants leg.
"Hey, whatcha talking about? Can I play the space game?"
Chris looked at Leonard in puzzlement. Leonard was addressing Jimmy. "You have to finish your lunch first. You should be grateful I'm letting you eat that sugary crap and not insisting on any vegetables. When you're done, then you can play the space game."
Jimmy whined, "But I'm not even hungry. I want to play the space game now!"
Leonard just pointed at the table and Jimmy sulked over with an air of martyrdom. He pulled himself up into his chair with a dramatic sigh that would do a sixteen-year-old proud.
"Space game?" Chris asked.
"Yeah, it was Sulu's idea. We loaded Starfleet's piloting certification sims onto a PADD and let Jim play with it. He finished 'em so quick that Sulu and Chekov had to program some harder ones just to keep him busy."
Chris grinned and shook his head. That sounded like Jim Kirk, all right. Then he spoke quietly again. "Leonard, shouldn't we talk privately about - "
"My dad died in space," Jimmy announced loudly from the table.
Chris blinked. "I know he did."
"He was killed by a Romulan, but he saved his crew anyway. He was a hero."
"That he was, darlin'," Len said. Then he turned to Chris, speaking up for Jim's benefit. "He's very proud of his father. As he should be. And we can talk privately about what to do about Jimmy after he's in bed."
"Aw, man," was Jimmy's response.
"And then when we've discussed it, we'll talk to him and see what he thinks."
Jimmy kicked his legs but subsided into silence, taking a bite of his sandwich.
"Jimmy doesn't like it when you keep things from him. Especially when you try to whisper right in front of him. And the kid's got a right to know what's going to happen to him." Again, this was delivered in a voice loud enough for Jim to hear clearly.
Chris's head was spinning just a little bit. Len must've seen something in his eyes, because his face softened. "Don't worry, darlin'. You'll get the hang of it."
"Hey, how come you call him 'darlin' too?" Jim demanded.
"Remember how I explained that Chris is my husband? Well, that means that I love him very much. And I say darlin' to the people I love very much."
"So you love me very much too?"
"That's right, darlin'."
"Cool. Hey, I'm done with my sandwich, can I play the space game now?"
"Wash your hands first. Then you can play."
Jim was ensconced in an armchair, whipping through high-level piloting sims on Chris's vidscreen while biting his lip in concentration, but obviously also following the conversation between Len and Chris. His ears were practically like satellite dishes, tilted to catch every word.
"Good god, I've missed you, Chris," Leonard was saying, and if the look in his eye wasn't unmistakable, then the lean of his torso towards Chris's certainly was. Chris leaned back in alarm. They couldn't do this with Jimmy right there, obviously.
Len just rolled his eyes, snaked a hand around the back of Chris's neck, and pulled him in for a kiss. It didn't last too long, but it was definitely more than a peck, and when Len finally let Chris pull back, he shot a look at Jim. Who was watching them with undisguised interest.
"Watch out there, you're about to lose your flagship," Leonard drawled, and Jim's attention snapped back to the vidscreen.
Shit. There was no way he could do this. Leonard was obviously a natural, but he was in way over his head, even if the situation was only temporary. And there was no guarantee it would be. He suddenly felt like he couldn't breathe. He had to get out of there. He stood up, gestured towards his study. "I'll just be..." and then he fled. He'd faced down invading armies, insane Romulans, and dozens of life-and-death situations in his career, but put one six-year-old boy in front of him and he folded like a bad poker hand.
As he was leaving the room, he heard Jim say, "Where's he going?"
Leonard replied calmly, "I think he's going to go have a heart attack now, Jimmy. I'll check on him in a little bit."
Jimmy's giggles followed Chris until they were cut off by the swish of the study door closing.
Jimmy was in bed, finally. After half an hour of sulking, whining, dawdling, outright balking, and finally giving in with very poor grace indeed. Then there were lengthy discussions about which pajamas to wear, two attempts at brushing teeth after Leonard rejected Jim's first effort, two glasses of water, and three bedtime stories.
Chris collapsed onto the couch in exhaustion, sweat trickling down his temples. Who knew wrangling a kid into bed was so damn draining? Len was backing out of the spare bedroom, delivering a firm, "Good night, Jimmy," over protestations of not being tired at all and how unfair it was to make him go to bed.
After the door closed, Len made his way over to the couch and flopped next to Chris. Chris had intended to jump Leonard the second they had some privacy, but right now he was just too tired. Maybe after he'd recovered for a few minutes.
Leonard let out a heartfelt groan. Without moving his body, Chris swiveled his head. Looked like Len was as worn out as he was. At least Chris wasn't the only one. "You've been doing this alone for the last eight weeks?" He honestly couldn't imagine it.
"Well, some of the other crewmembers helped out during the day, but yeah, at night it was just me."
"How are you so good with him? It's not like you have kids of your own, or even any siblings."
"I grew up around lots of cousins. I was the oldest, so the adults always put me in charge. Plus -- he's my best friend, Chris. How could I not do everything I can to take care of him?"
Chris lapsed into silence. Leonard's close friendship with Jim had occasionally been a sore point between them, but right now that didn't matter. Jim needed them -- both of them.
"How did it happen, Leonard? The official report said it was the leader of a newly-encountered race, but not much more than that."
Leonard leaned his head against the back of the couch and closed his eyes. "It was a gift. A goddamned gift. The Calaxi are a telepathic race. They don't read minds -- they read memories. They can look at you and know your entire history. When Jim negotiated the treaty with them, they saw what he'd done for the Federation, and in gratitude, they did this to him. Basically they said that he'd been dealt a shitty hand and that he deserved to have the normal life that he'd never gotten. So they brought him back to a point when he was still relatively happy. Before everything went to hell. I gather from what Jim's told me in the past that he was about six when Winona sent him to live with her brother Frank."
"I know you commed her -- have you heard back yet?"
"Yeah. She doesn't know what the hell to do. She was the best mother to Jim that she could be, but, well, that didn't amount to a whole lot. She knows it, too. She loves him, but she screwed up. She's terrified of screwing up again, and honestly, Chris, I don't think she could handle this. She says that if it's what we want, if it's what Jim wants, she'll come back to Earth for him. But she also said that if we wanted to take care of him, she wouldn't oppose it. Would sign whatever documents we need. I said I needed to talk it over with you."
"That... sounds like she's thinking long-term. Like you are, too. Isn't there any way to reverse what was done to him?"
Len gave a tired shrug. "No one's come up with anything yet. The Calaxi were horrified when they realized that this wasn't considered a gift in our culture -- apparently in theirs, it's the highest honor they can bestow, to give one of their heroes a second chance at life, to enjoy it rather than to be a slave to duty. They genuinely regret what they did, but they have no way to reverse it. The process involves a hypo drawn from a preserved vat of an ancient potion that they've lost the recipe for, and a ritual whose origins are equally lost in the mists of time. No one on the Enterprise could figure out how to undo it, and we've got a crew of goddamn geniuses. Now that we're back on earth, I'm sure Starfleet will put a team on it, but I just don't know, Chris. I think we've got to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. We may never get Jim back, the way he was."
Now that Chris was listening for it, he could hear the sadness in Len's voice. The fear, the worry, the anger at the entire situation. This had to have hit him harder than anyone. Jim didn't remember what he'd lost, so he couldn't miss it. But Len had lost his best friend, and might never get him back. And not only had he lost his friend, but his friend had been replaced by an adorable but undeniably troublesome and demanding child. And since no one else was stepping forward, Leonard had shouldered this responsibility, potentially at the cost of his career and his own plans for the future. And yet, he would've been insulted by the suggestion that he not take this on, whatever the sacrifice it entailed.
Damn, but he loved this man. He put his arm around Leonard's shoulders, pulled him in. Leonard sighed, relaxed into Chris's side, and rested his head on Chris's shoulder.
"We'll figure it out, Len. Whatever it takes, we'll work it out. If that means we adopt James T. Kirk, savior of the Federation, and raise him ourselves, then that's what we'll do."
Three months later, they were no closer to finding a way to reverse what had been done to Jim. They were, however, now deeply attached to the sunny, irrepressible little boy that he'd become. Even if he occasionally made them want to tear their hair out in frustration.
Chris and Leonard were in the kitchen, half working on cleaning up the remains of a very messy lunch, and half listening to Jimmy talking with his two new best friends in the living room.
"My dad's an admiral, so he outranks you guys' parents," Jimmy was saying, with just a touch of boastfulness.
"I thought your dad was a famous doctor! That's what you said in school yesterday!" That was Shale - the girl that Jimmy had already announced that he was going to marry.
"That's my other dad," Jimmy explained.
"You previously told me that your father was a deceased Federation hero. Please explain this discrepancy." That was Savan, whose parents were New Vulcan's ambassadors to the Federation. Leonard rolled his eyes, and Chris smiled. Apparently whatever his age, Jim would always manage to befriend Vulcans and Len would always find it aggravating.
Jimmy sighed, a long-suffering sound. "That's my other other dad," he said, with an unsaid but nevertheless obvious "DUH" behind his words.
"How many dads do you have?" Shale asked.
"Just three," Jimmy said.
"Do you have a mother?" Savan asked.
"Yeah, she's in space, doing important science stuff."
"You have three dads and one mom?" That was Shale again.
"Yeah," said Jimmy.
There was a moment of silence. "Oh, okay," said Shale, and the conversation turned to the relative merits of monkeys versus robots as pets.
Chris looked over at Leonard, with what he was sure was the sappiest smile he'd ever worn. Leonard was looking a bit misty-eyed. They moved at the same time, wrapping their arms around each other, holding tight.
They were still clinging together when Chris heard the tromping of small feet moving into the kitchen.
"What are they doing?" Shale whispered to Jimmy.
"Chris, Bones! That's gross -- cut it out!"
They broke apart reluctantly, looking down at Jimmy, who was scowling at them with his arms folded.
Savan spoke up. "Surely you do not usually address your fathers in such a disrespectful manner?" He sounded distinctly disapproving.
Jimmy wilted a little bit. Sometimes peer pressure was a wonderful thing. "Dad... and dad? Can we have dessert now? Please?"
Chris and Leonard exchanged a look. It was the first time that Jimmy had directly addressed them by the name "dad." Both of them were grinning like idiots.
Jimmy had obviously picked up on their reaction, and now had a far-too-innocent look on his face -- the one that always spelled trouble. "Dads? You guys are the best dads ever. Can we have ice cream?"
Chris burst into laughter and Leonard rolled his eyes. "You can have fruit. There are apples in the fridge. Wash your hands first!" he added as Jim made for the refrigerator.
The door to the master bedroom slid open. Chris peered blearily at the clock. 0200. Jimmy was already tip-toeing up to Leonard's side of the bed, whispering, "I had a bad dream."
Leonard swung his legs off the bed, ruffled Jimmy's hair. "All right, darlin'. I'll go walk you back to bed." He sounded sleepy but alert -- a result of years of middle-of-the-night medical emergencies. Many of them involving Jim, if the rumors of his exploits at the Academy were true.
This was Jimmy, though, not Jim. "You'll stay until I'm asleep?"
"I'll stay until you're asleep. I promise."
Jimmy clutched Leonard's hand as they made their way out into the hallway. The door swished shut. Chris let his head fall back onto the pillow. This was the third time this week. It couldn't mean anything good.
Leonard was gone for a long while -- much longer than the previous nights. When he got back into bed, Chris turned toward him, propping his head on a fist.
"He's remembering, isn't he?"
Leonard released a shaky sigh, and Chris realized just how upset he was. He pulled Leonard against him until he was spooning him, his arm over Leonard's waist, pulling him in close. Leonard allowed it, but he was still tense against Chris's body.
"Yeah, he's remembering," Len admitted. "He's been dreaming about Tarsus. He doesn't know that's what it is, of course, but he's been dreaming about being hungry, so starving that he eats grass, and then throws up. Knowing all the while that there's someone after him, someone who wants to kill everyone he loves."
"Shit," Chris said.
Chris rubbed his hand up and down along Len's side, trying to soothe him. Leonard was still practically vibrating with tension. There was something else, something he wasn't telling Chris. "What is it, Len? I can't help unless you tell me everything."
"He knows, Chris." Len sounded overwhelmed, almost helpless.
"What do you mean, he knows?"
"I mean, he figured out that his dreams are memories of his other life. God damn it, he's too smart for his own good."
Chris's hand stilled. "What did he say?"
"He begged me, Chris. He begged me not to make him go back. He said he didn't care if he was a famous hero in his other life, that he knew there were other things in that life, things even worse than the hunger. He said he didn't want those memories back. He said he wanted to stay with us."
Chris closed his eyes briefly. "He may not get a choice, Len," he said as gently as he could.
"I know that, Chris. Don't you think I damn well know that already?"
Chris was silent. After a moment, Len sighed. "Shit, I'm sorry. I know this isn't your fault. It's just -- hasn't he been through enough hell already?"
"What did you tell him?"
"I told him that I didn't know what might happen, but that if there was a choice about it, it would be his decision. That I -- that we wouldn't force him to go back, if there was a way to avoid it."
"What do you think's causing it?"
"Hell, I don't know, Chris. Calaxi physiology is completely different than human physiology. I don't know if the memory erasure didn't take completely in the first place, or if it's coming undone, and I don't know if it'll keep progressing or not. I don't know if the physical de-aging will come undone either. There's no way to predict it."
"We're going to have to take him into HQ to get another workup done," Chris said reluctantly.
"Yeah, I know. God damn it."
Two weeks and innumerable tests later, they had one very irritable Jimmy on their hands. Chris's hands tightened on the wheel of the hovercar as they headed home, hopefully for the last time for a good long while.
Leonard was sitting in the front seat, reading through the reports that the research team assigned to Jimmy had put together, and grumbling under his breath.
"So the nanites caused the age reversal?" Chris asked.
"Yeah, they remade him on a molecular level -- same genes, just a younger version. Now that we know how it was done, the gearheads at HQ say they should be able to come up with a way to reverse it fairly quickly."
"And what about the memory erasure?"
"Hell if I know. And hell if we're any closer to figuring it out than when this whole damn thing started."
Jimmy interjected -- without even looking up from his game PADD, where he was tearing through the strategic battle sims that Chris had originally created as the final exam for his Advanced Command Tactics class at the Academy -- "Why can't Savan's mom help? She does all that mental stuff."
Chris was startled -- why hadn't he thought of that? But Leonard was already speaking.
"Absolutely not. No way in hell some goddamn green-blooded hobgoblin is messing around in my child's head."
"That wasn't very nice, dad. You always tell me I shouldn't call people names. And Savan and his family are my friends."
Leonard rolled his eyes but at least Jimmy couldn't see it. "All right, all right, I'm sorry. The point stands, though. I don't like mind-melds, and I don't want anyone mucking around in your head."
"It might be our best shot, Len," Chris said.
Leonard clenched his jaw. There was the rub. Chris knew that Len -- both of them really -- were conflicted as hell about whether they wanted to let go of Jimmy, as much as they missed Jim.
"You always keep your promises, right, Bones-dad?"
"Of course I do," he said reluctantly, clearly suspicious of where this was going.
"Well, you promised me that if the time came to choose, it would be my decision. So I want Savan's mom to try."
Out of the corner of his eye, Chris saw Leonard's eyes close in resignation. "From the mouths of babes..." Chris said.
"I'm not a baby, Dad. I'm six."
Chris cradled Jimmy in his lap as T'Vaya initiated another meld. It was the third one in the space of an hour, each meld lasting longer and going deeper into Jimmy's mind. Jimmy was being remarkably stoic about the situation, but Chris knew from experience that a meld was an uncomfortable experience, to say the least. After the first one, Leonard had mumbled something about catching up on paperwork and retreated to the study.
This third meld lasted at least fifteen minutes, and when T'Vaya pulled out she blinked. It would be too strong to say that there was satisfaction on her face, but Chris was pretty sure that she had made some sort of progress.
"You found something out?" He couldn't quite keep the anxiety from his voice. T'Vaya pursed her lips at this unseemly display of emotion, but she inclined her head in confirmation.
"The beings who did this did not erase the memories, merely erected a block to prevent the mind from accessing them. I can only assume that due to the differences between Calaxi and Human neuro-anatomy, the block was not completely effective. For most telepaths, removing the block would be difficult at best. However, with my level of telepathic ability it should be a simple matter."
"No. I don't want you to remove it." Jimmy's voice was strong and confident, and so familiar, so Jim, that Chris's heart ached.
T'Vaya looked taken aback. "James, your memory has been altered. It is illogical to continue in this state."
"I don't care. Can you block the memories better? Make it so they don't leak out?"
T'Vaya looked pained at this description, and at the very idea. She looked at Chris, who said, "It's his life, T'Vaya. It's his decision."
"Children are not equipped to make decisions of this magnitude, Admiral Pike."
"This one is," he said simply.
She nodded slowly and turned to Jimmy. "Yes, I can strengthen the block, if that is your wish."
"Can you undo it later, if I change my mind?"
"I can. However, if you choose to have the block removed, I cannot then replace it without risking damage to your mind."
Jimmy was silent for about two seconds. "Make the block stronger, then. I want to think about it some more."
T'Vaya placed her fingers once more on Jimmy's face and initiated a fourth meld. When she pulled out, Jimmy smiled, his face shining with undiluted happiness for the first time in too many weeks. "It worked! I can't feel all that goddamn crap trying to bug me anymore!"
"Jimmy!" Chris reprimanded. His heart wasn't really in it, though, and Jimmy full well knew it. He just grinned, and Chris couldn't blame him at all.
"This is awesome! Thanks Ms. T'Vaya!"
He squirmed and wriggled until Chris let him go, then took off for the study at full pelt. As soon as the door swished open, he said, "Hey, Bones-dad, guess what?" Chris heard Leonard's deeper voice saying, "What's that, darlin'?" before the door closed and cut off Jimmy's explanation.
He smiled. T'Vaya caught the expression and didn't even raise an eyebrow in disapproval. In fact, Chris could've sworn there was a hint of a smile at the corner of her mouth too.
It had been two blissful weeks of uninterrupted sleep now that Jimmy's nightmares were gone. Two weeks of holding Leonard in his arms all night, warm and solid and so happy, and two weeks of not being able to do a damn thing about it just in case Jimmy came tiptoeing in with another bad dream. And before that, it had been far too many weeks since he'd done anything with his husband other than the most innocent of kisses and cuddles. In other words, he was goddamn horny and it was driving him up the wall.
Apparently Leonard was feeling the same way, because when he slid into bed next to Chris, he had a predatory look in his eye and an extra dollop of drawl in his voice. "I think the kiddo's gonna sleep through tonight, darlin', what do you think?"
Chris didn't bother with a response -- well, not one involving words, anyway -- and just pulled Leonard underneath him, finally letting go of everything and losing himself in the feel of Leonard's body against his, warm skin and firm muscle under his fingers. He angled his head so he could nip and suck at that spot right under Leonard's jaw that made him gasp in appreciation...
And then the door to the bedroom swished open. Both of their heads turned toward the open doorway where Jimmy was blinking and rubbing his eyes. "Dads, I'm hungry."
Leonard groaned and his head thunked back onto the pillow. Chris smiled and said aloud for Jimmy's benefit, "I think we're going to have to start locking the door to keep out troublesome little boys."
"Da-ad," Jimmy said, and Chris could hear the eyeroll, so exactly like Leonard's, in the words. Chris responded, and it amazed him how easily it came.
"You can have a piece of fruit. Then wash your hands and brush your teeth and get back into bed."
"Okay!" That agreement was far too quick.
"And Jimmy -- don't even think about stealing a cookie. I know exactly how many there are left and I'll know if there are any missing tomorrow morning."
"You know, dad, if I go back to being a grown-up, I can eat all the cookies I want."
"Good night, Jimmy. We love you," Chris said firmly, ending the discussion.
Jimmy grumbled but relented. "Love you too." He turned to leave and the door swished closed.
Chris and Leonard looked at each other. "What do you think he'll decide to do?" asked Len.
"I don't know, but knowing Jim, it's nothing anyone would ever expect. The rest of us are just along for the ride."
Leonard snorted. "Ain't that the truth."
"And you know what? To my surprise, there's nowhere I'd rather be."
"Me either, darlin'. Now, where were we?"
"Right... about... here."
"Fuck, Chris, yeah."
There was a swish and the crunch of an apple. "Eww, dads, that's gross."
"Jimmy, out," they said in unison.