Who's Holding The Baby

Spock, dressed in a long Vulkhanir robe instead of his familiar uniform, entered the sleeping area of his cabin, where he sank down on his knees before the glowing fire-pot, allowing the fragrant smoke and the steady pulsing of the crimson embers, to calm him preparatory to entering the first level meditational state he desired.

The Enterprise, in orbit around Starbase Six, was undergoing a long required overhaul and only Lieutenant Uhura as the duty officer and a skeleton crew of engineers remained on board with him. The rest of the crew of four hundred and thirty, including the Captain and Doctor McCoy, were all on the planet below, enjoying a hard-earned shore leave. Typically, the First Officer had declined to beam down to the base or the trade city that had sprung up rapidly around it. No matter how much the passing years had increased his understanding of human behaviour, he still could not share his shipmate's apparent passion to waste time and energy on the various recreational pastimes they pursued so relentlessly. Instead, alone at last, he found his own best renewal here, in the tranquil privacy of his quarters liberated from the demands of duty, the Enterprise hushed and as restful as a sanctuary on his home planet of Vulcan.

Steepling his hands before him, he bowed his head, the nictitating membrane sweeping over his pupils as he softly intoned one of the many Ways of T'lala - only to be interrupted almost immediately by the buzz of the intercom. One winged brow ascended. Communications had explicit orders not to disturb him except for the direst of emergencies. Ergo, aware that his authority was paramount, this intrusion could be none other than said emergency. Agile as a cat, he rose in one smooth movement and crossed over to the console.

"Spock here."

"Spock! Thank God!" The Captain sounded unusually breathless and, quite astonishingly, panic-stricken. "I'm in trouble, Spock. I need your help."

Spock's brows drew together in a frown. Kirk had beamed down exactly two point three five hours ago, in great good humour, confiding that he had an 'old friend' on the Starbase. The anticipatory gleam in the Captain's eyes had left Spock in no doubt as to what form and shape the 'old friend' took. Obviously, it would be a female and most likely gratifying to the human male libido. "My help, Captain?" Spock murmured, keeping the uncertainty out of his voice, dubious of his qualifications in such an area of human relations. "Would not Doctor McCoy be more suitable…"

"No arguments, Mr. Spock…" Kirk's voice rose in renewed desperation as a frenzied howl erupted somewhere near by, cutting across his anguished demand. "I need you and I need you now, shore leave or no shore leave. That's an order, Mister. These are my coordinates…" He rattled off a series of numbers that Spock memorised instantly, and if the despair in his Captain's filtered voice was not enough to galvanise him into action, that piercing, ear-shattering wail certainly was. Without wasting time to change back into his uniform, he left the peace of his quarters at the double, picking up a phaser on his way to the transporter room, his mind running through various scenarios that could explain Kirk's distress. Had that 'old friend' of the Captain's turned out to be something other than expected, her form usurped by some masquerading shape-changer perhaps, as in the case of Nancy Crator and the salt creature? If so, was the creature now intent on destroying him?

Prepared for almost anything, phaser set on stun and levelled at chest height, Spock materialized into what appeared to be a quite ordinary Base Six native habitat. He looked around in some confusion, noting the absolute lack of any sign of recent mayhem. In fact, the room was immaculately neat and tidy. The only indication of recent occupation being the imprint of what could only be a humanoid body upon the luxurious cushions of a streamlined divan. Someone, the Captain most likely, he deduced, had rested there only shortly before.

"Captain?" His distinctive light baritone was muted as he called out softly, not expecting an answer. Nonetheless, a sudden, ear-splitting wail from some inner chamber spurred him quickly forward.

Stealthily, he crept up to the door and without pause, burst through into the interior compartment from where the blatant howls issued so loudly. However, just one swift glance around told him all he needed to know regarding the Captain's dilemma and the reason for it. Spock coughed tactfully, "Captain…?"

Kirk started visibly, and then whirled to face his First Officer, running a hand through his already tousled hair.

"Spock, at last," he cried distractedly, gesturing to the swaddled infant squirming and kicking with futile rage within the confines of its crib. "Where have you been? I can't shut it up. Nothing works and believe me I've tried everything…"

Spock inclined his head, pocketing the phaser he held. In contrast to the main room, the bedroom was a disaster area. It looked to Spock as if a whirlwind of mighty proportions had swept through the inner apartment. Some kind of foodstuff splattered the walls and part of the ceiling, various implements littered the floor, including, Spock noted absently, a used wooden spoon and a metal container normally utilized for food preparation. A decorative wall light fitting played holder for a feather duster, along with a scanty item of female under apparel that Spock recognised only vaguely, and which made him hastily avert his eyes. If the shambles was anything to go by, his Captain had certainly been zealous in his efforts to silence the infant.

Kirk, noting his First Officer's glance explained tersely, "I thought something of its mother's might reassure it."

"Indeed, Captain." He joined Kirk and bent over the crib, fascinated by the infant's contorted red face and tiny mouth, opened now to full capacity, revealing toothless gums within. "It does not seem to have had the required effect."

"No," Kirk grimaced, hands over ears. "Nothing does."

"Interesting," Spock mused, almost to himself, "that something so small could have such an overwhelming impact. The red alert klaxon on board the Enterprise does not have such a powerful output as this one child."

At the sound of Spock's voice, the child in question stopped screaming as if suddenly turned off at the mains and stared up at the First Officer with teary dark blue eyes. Obviously, it had never encountered a Vulcan before.

Kirk sighed deeply in blessed relief at the sudden silence, resisting the urge to slap the Vulcan on the back. "Thank God. I knew with a name like yours, you'd be able to do something, Spock!"

Spock's eyebrow elevated as he made the connection. "I regret the relationship is purely illusory, and is only based on a chance rendering of Vulcan phonemes into the Roman alphabet. Nor have I had cause to research the good doctor's work, Captain. Those usually within my jurisdiction have progressed beyond this stage of development…"

The First Officer refrained, with some effort, from meeting Kirk's eyes but the Captain remained oblivious to the veiled sarcasm and failed to associate Spock's remark with its intended target. Instead, he was staring down at the hapless infant with alarm.

"Uh-oh. I think your novelty factor is wearing off, Mr. Spock. It's going to scream again…"

And scream it did, very loudly and very woefully. They backed off hurriedly while the Vulcan tried to consider the options open to them, not an easy task in the circumstances, with so many decibels assaulting his sensitive eardrums.

"Perhaps it requires nourishment, Captain." He suggested, hurriedly. "The survival instinct must be dominant in an infant of this age."

Kirk shook his head, indicating the mess on the wall. "Nah, that's the first thing I tried. And anyway, Dar'klire said it wouldn't need to eat for another two hours at least." Distastefully, Spock inspected the brown substance once more, frowning as he recognised the stuff. "I believe milk might have been a better alternative than chocolate chip cookies, sir."

Kirk frowned. "Milk? You only give that to newborns, don't you? This kid must be, oh, four or five months old, at least."

Spock regarded him, head on one side. "Three months at the most, Captain. May I ask why its mother left it in your care? And why she failed to give comprehensive instructions for its welfare?"

"Dar'klire was in a bit of a fix. She asked me to look after it while she went for an audition at the Star trooper's Arms," Kirk murmured, hurt by his First Officer's incredulous tone. "A nice, intimate place. Good liquor, great…. Well, you get the picture, Mr. Spock."

"I…believe I do, Captain." Spock said with alacrity. "Have you tried picking it up, sir?"

"Is that necessary?" Kirk asked, clearly alarmed by the suggestion. What if he dropped it, or held it too tightly? Dar'klire would never forgive him. He would never forgive himself. "Can't you remember what made you cry at that age?"

It was Spock's turn to be affronted. "Vulcan children do not cry, Captain."

"Never?" Kirk questioned sceptically. "Oh, come on, Spock. You must have at some time. You'll be telling me next that you never wet your diaper…"

Both men exchanged an apprehensive glance.

"You aren't thinking what I'm thinking are you, Spock?"

"Almost certainly, Captain." The First Officer's usually enigmatic features twisted in a fastidious grimace.

"But Dar'klire bubbled and changed it just before she left."

"If it is of any help, I do have some early memory of my mother claiming that infants on average produce double the liquid they imbibe, sir."

"Uh-huh. That's just dandy, Mr. Spock." Kirk nodded distractedly. "Diapers, diapers, where are the diapers?"

They hunted frantically for anything that resembled said diaper but without success.

"What do we do now?" Kirk asked, his eardrums threatening to burst, his temper rapidly fraying.

"We need some kind of absorbent cloth." The Vulcan suggested helpfully. "There may be something appropriate in the fresher, sir."

"I'll get 'em." Kirk intervened quickly as Spock prepared to disappear into the smallest room. "You get the baby. After all you're the one wearing the dress and, in this instance, rank does have its privileges."

"Yes, Captain." Spock sighed inaudibly, glancing down at his long Vulcan robe. Dress, indeed! He stared after Kirk's retreating back in resignation. It appeared incontrovertible that he had drawn the short straw once again and been left holding the baby. With stoical Vulcan calm, he peered over the crib-side at the enraged child within. Where did all that sound come from, he wondered for the hundredth time since his arrival there. However, he knew that he was only prevaricating. There was nothing for it; he had to pick it up. He slid tentative hands under the small back, fascinated by how large they were in comparison to the child's minute body. Gently supporting the wobbly head, he lifted the infant from its bedding and brought it close to his chest, sighing deeply in relief when he achieved his objective satisfactorily. The child quietened almost immediately as it gazed at him from out of those mesmerizing, not quite violet eyes. Spock looked back, practicing a wary smile. Where was the Captain?

Measuring the expanse of carpet with a cautious eye, and noting the whereabouts of the changing table, he carefully negotiated the toys and other bric-a-brac littering the floor until he could safely lay the baby down. It gurgled uncertainly up at him, waving chubby fists, its eyes round and expectant as it blew a watery bubble.

"Captain?" Spock called out in a stage whisper. There was no reply but Spock could hardly blame Kirk's desertion considering that he had deliberated on exactly the same strategy. He continued to stare down at the infant, expecting at any moment for the demonic wails to start up. However, to the First Officer's surprise, the child merely produced a wide, if somewhat vacuous smile, a pronounced dimple appearing in the small chin as it did so. Spock knew instinctively, nevertheless, that peace would not prevail overlong if he failed to distract it. Arms folded before him, he searched his memory for some buried clue as to the correct procedure but, like the Captain, babies hardly came within his experience. Cautiously, he leaned forward and prodded the child gently in the stomach. It chortled up at him, tiny fat legs kicking like miniature pistons. Spock, pleased by success, prodded again.

Then, at last, he remembered something he had heard McCoy say, on a different occasion. He murmured quietly, "Koochie, oochie, koo."

No, that was not quite right. He tried again, "Oochie, koochie, koo."

The infant crowed with joy, and hiccoughed loudly, just as Kirk made his appearance, four neatly cut towel squares over his arm. Without a moment's hesitation, Spock relinquished command to his senior officer.

"Sorry, I took so long," Kirk apologised, looking not in the least sorry. "I couldn't find the scissors. Hey, what did you do? It's smiling."

"I …merely… conversed with it in a reasoned and logical manner, Captain…"

Kirk looked at him with thoughtful good humour, evidently not believing a word. "Uh-huh. Well, whatever you said it certainly worked. I knew you had it in you, Spock." He, too, bent over the child, trying to fathom a way into the blue garment it was wearing. "Hey, little fella. Whose gonna be a good boy for Daddy?"

It was the wrong thing to say seemingly, for the child's face crinkled and it started to grizzle once again. However, it was Spock's sharply indrawn breath that made him glance at his First Officer, who stared back in a decidedly disapproving manner. "Captain, do you mean to say that this child is…?"

Kirk blinked, thought for a moment, and then sighed in what Spock took to be relief. "Don't be an assho… er… asinine, Spock. I told you it belongs to Dar'klire. Anyway, the math doesn't add up. Twelve months ago we were delivering supplies to Tantalus Five."

"Of course, Captain." Spock granted, gazing once again into the child's deep blue eyes, consideringly. "I believe the garment is fastened between the legs, sir. Perhaps for efficacy in removing the soiled linen."

"Hmm." Kirk agreed, steeling himself to unwrap the wet, redolent bundle while keeping the wriggling child from toppling off the changing table. He wondered silently how women managed these things. They only had two hands, mostly, the same as he did and yet every time he came close to undoing the tapes, a tiny limb seemed to intervene.

He glanced at the Vulcan watching in fascinated awe. "What about giving me a hand here, Spock? The kid's as slippy as a greased polecat and I need suggestions from my Science Officer as to what we do with all those creams and potions?"

The soiled diaper had finally come away from the infant's wet bottom, but before Kirk could pick up the fresh one Spock helpfully held out, a stream of something wet and warm struck him full in the face. He staggered back with a cry of disbelief as the torrent continued for several seconds before finally declining.

"Oh damn … " The Captain glanced down at the designer leisure tunic, donned brand new in honour of the evening he thought he was going to have, now dripping with baby urine. " Damn, damn, damn!"

Ignoring the Captain's abrupt glare that dared him to make even one fatuous remark, Spock opened his mouth to commiserate. After all, but for the grace of the All, he might have been the infant's target instead of Kirk. "The child appears to have a good aim, sir. Perhaps a career in Starfleet would be advised when it reaches the appropriate age."

Kirk frowned before slowly nodding as he thought the comment over, bouncing back to good humour almost instantly as Spock handed him a towel square.

"Maybe. Your mother was certainly right about the amount of liquid babies can get through, huh?" He murmured. "D'you think you ever did that to Sarek, Spock?"

The thought was certainly extremely intriguing and might go some way to explain the enmity existing between father and son. However, if such an incident had taken place, he had no memory of it. " I…never discussed the matter with him, Captain."

"You didn't? Well, perhaps the next time you see him… I'm going to wash up, Mr. Spock. If you'll take over here…?"

Spock's eyebrow arched as he glanced at the infant who was again kicking its legs while sucking on a minute hand, the whole of which appeared to be in its mouth.

"Is that an order, Captain?"

"Only if you wish to stay out of the brig, Mr. Spock. Why not try talking to it again." "Very good, sir. I will…do…my utmost."

"Thought you'd see it my way." Kirk turned in the doorway to the fresher, already having shrugged out of the offending tunic. "Oh, Dar'klire said there's some water for the kid in a bottle in the kitchen. You might as well try it out while you're about it."

Then he was gone and Spock was alone again with the child. They stared at one another judiciously for an instant before the baby crinkled up its blue eyes and laughed at him in a decidedly familiar way. Despite his initial reservations, Spock felt strangely drawn by the tiny scrap of humanity and without further hesitation picked out the various potions, powders and creams he needed to complete that particular assignment. He accomplished the mission to his own and the child's satisfaction within a relatively short, if somewhat random fashion, and after placing it in the middle of the big double bed he went in search of the kitchen area to fetch the water Kirk had mentioned.

Proceeding in what he deemed a systematic and logical manner, he consulted a text he found on the household com. set entitled appropriately enough 'Bundles of Joy. A Book for New Moms', and read it through before following the instructions he found there. Calmly he set the feeding bottle to warm in a bowl of hot water in the living room before returning for the child who, tantrums evidently forgotten, gurgled up at him, still wide-eyed and alert, communicating in the only way it could.

"Are thee thirsty, child?" He asked, picking it up gently and carrying it as if it was the last and most delicate of dilithium crystal he possessed. The infant burbled, creasing up its tiny brow. Continuing to pout, it turned towards his chest instinctively trying to suckle, seeking what only its mother could provide.

Protectively, Spock retired to the deeply cushioned lounger and skilfully arranged the infant in the crook of one arm, enclosing it safely against his lean chest. He offered the water, duly rewarded when the infant took the nipple and started to suck. All the while, it watched him from out of those uncanny eyes, and with the minimum of effort, Spock allowed his mind shield to drop, sending it thoughts of tranquillity and peace.

Long after the baby had consumed the water from the bottle, Spock continued to hold it, watching in fascinated awe as its mouth opened wide for an overwhelming yawn, the delicately veined lids at last dropping over the amazing eyes. The infant's breathing deepened as trusting implicitly in his care, it slept. The First Officer sat very still, breathing in the particular scent that all babies seemed to have, meditating on the child's future, wondering how parents managed to cope with such an awesome responsibility. And yet, now that he had experienced the problems, even in such a limited way, he felt less terrified by the moral obligations the arrival of a child would bring. When his time came, if it ever did, he knew that this experience would be to his advantage. Somewhat reluctantly, he stood up preparatory to returning the infant to its crib. Only then did he recall his Captain. What had become of him? Surely a shower, even in such circumstances, should not have taken so long!

Very quietly, still holding the baby, he crossed the room but long before he entered the sleeping area his sharp Vulcan hearing picked up the muted sound of gentle snoring. It did not take him long to verify his suspicions. Kirk, wrapped in a white, fluffy towel, hair tousled boyishly, lay full length in the middle of the double bed, his mouth open slightly, clearly exhausted from the days exertions.

Spock tiptoed towards the crib and placed the child tenderly within it. For a moment he thoughtfully looked from sleeping child to sleeping man. Perhaps the resemblance was only illusory. After all, twelve months ago, the Enterprise had been orbiting Tantalus Five, and yet…

He pushed the thought swiftly aside as he heard the sound of the outer door opening. A woman's voice called lightly,

"Jimmy, where are you, darling? Didn't I tell you he wouldn't be the slightest trouble? Jimmy…?"

Time to go, Spock thought. Now that the mysterious Dar'klire had returned he knew the child, and his Captain, would be in safe hands and he would only be in the way. Kaiidth. What was, was.

Feeling like a thief in the night, he crept into the fresher and hurriedly flipped open his communicator. "Spock to Enterprise."

"Enterprise, Lieutenant Uhura here, sir."

And as the pink sparkle enveloped him he saw, through the open fresher door, a very beautiful young lady tiptoe over to the bed where Kirk lay in weary slumber, and kiss his Captain on the nose.