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Story Notes:

'Utter ridiculousness' should be a warning. This was basically written to see how many adorable de-aged scenarios I could fit into one fic. Quite a few, as it turns out.

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Ensign Smith of the USS Enterprise hadn't gotten any sleep the night before her first away mission, her nerves jangling too much to let her rest. She had to say that she felt silly for her anxiousness, because Epsilon Gamma II was a very nice, quiet Class M planet. It felt great to breathe fresh air and feel the heat of twin suns warming the back of her uniform as she walked.

Ensign Tellan stopped a few steps ahead of her, his antennae twitching in annoyance as he looked at his tricorder. Smith squinted; he seemed to be sunburning to a darker blue.

“Nothing,” he said. “This planet's a bust. Let's go back.”

Smith shrugged, but felt a little put-out at having to go back aboard so soon. She pulled out her communicator to hail the captain and Commander Spock for a rendezvous. “Captain, Smith and Tellan here.”

She waited. Nothing.

“Captain? Commander? Smith reporting in.”

She shared a look with Tellan at the continued radio silence.

“The captain's probably just ignoring his communicator,” Tellan said dismissively. “Broke it or dropped it or threw it in the stream or something. Bet he's taking a nap.”

“The Commander wouldn't stand for that,” Smith said, her lips twitching at the insubordination as they turned back, falling in step. The suns felt delicious on her face.

“Captain Kirk is nothing if not resilient.”

She laughed out loud and he smirked back at her as they made their way back to the meadow where they'd beamed in. Smith shielded her eyes from the sun as she looked around for their superiors, startled at not seeing them.

Tellan's hand landed on her shoulder, giving her a little shake. “Smith. Smith, look.”

She turned, following where Tellan was pointing, and her communicator dropped unheeded from her slack fingers as she processed what she was looking at.

“Oh, fuck me!”

***

Sulu crossed his arms, looking like he was biting back a smirk. “How old are they, exactly?”

McCoy sighed and tossed his completely unhelpful tricorder onto a counter. “I can't tell from Spock, hobgoblin physiology being screwy and all, but the captain seems to be about six. Guessing that they've both lost the same number of years, Spock must be about the same.”

“Well,” Sulu said, raising his eyebrows at the ceiling, “it could be worse.”

McCoy glared, wondering if he was about to line up a volunteer babysitter, based on whatever horseshit was about to come from the lieutenant's mouth. “How is that, Lieutenant?”

“They could be babies.”

“Get out of my sickbay. Don't you have a ship to run?”

Sulu's eyes widened just a little, and he hightailed it for the turbolift without another word.

“Whole goddamn bridge crew is just asking for it,” McCoy muttered, still glaring at the turbolift. He was distracted from his funk by the sound of Nurse Chapel's voice; she was cooing at something. McCoy turned on his heel and made instinctively for the curtained-off area where Jim and Spock had been left for examination.

“Aren't you just the sweetest?” Chapel was smiling at Jim, who was giving her a six-year-old echo of his best charming smile. Spock sat further up the bed, watching quietly.

McCoy rolled his eyes heavenward; some things never changed.

“Just what he needs, female attention,” he snapped, barging into the scene. “Don't you have inventory to do, woman?”

“Yes, sir,” Chapel said with a sharp sigh, ruffling Jim's hair lightly before turning to go do something productive for a change. Jim watched her go intently, and only when she was out of sight did he turn his attention to McCoy.

“Can we go now?” he whined.

“No. You're both perfectly healthy but you can't just go wandering around the ship without someone to look after you. You'll have to wait in here until I line something up.”

That calculating look on a kid gave him chills. “Why can't you look after us, Dr. McCoy?” he asked.

“Call me Bones, please,” he said before he could stop himself.

“Why?”

He hesitated. “I'm used to it.”

“But you are a doctor,” came Spock's small, calm voice from the corner of the bed. “Why should we not refer to you by your correct and respectful title?”

“Call me whatever you want then, you gr—Spock,” he corrected himself. “I've never gotten any respect around here anyway, why start now?”

Jim grinned at him, and McCoy hated that he wasn't immune to that charm when it was coming out of six-year-old Jim. He'd worked hard to be able to see right through all his bullshit, dammit.

“I need a drink,” he muttered, looking hopelessly at the two of them—wearing borrowed uniform clothing from Keenser because it was all that would fit—and striding away as quickly as he could.

***

In the end, Sulu and McCoy came up with a babysitting rota that was meant to both keep Jim and Spock under constant supervision and make everyone share the misery equally while the medical team worked on a cure. The general amusement level of the crew did drop sharply as the two kids cut a swath through their babysitters, but apparently several of them had a loose definition of 'constant supervision'. The Enterprise wasn't meant to accommodate families and so there wasn't much for two bored children to do; bored genius children proved to be a worse problem.

Initially, they could be seen playing what appeared to be typical Earth children's games, like Tag, which worked about as well as one would expect with only two players. From what the crew could see, being made 'It' in their version didn't so much result in a change of chasing order as a brawl on the floor, wherever they happened to be.

Tag lasted two hours into Alpha shift, when Jim caught Spock in the middle of the bridge and the resulting fight was broken up by Uhura jumping to her feet and saying, “James Tiberius Kirk,” in a thundering voice that made every man in the room suddenly stop slouching in their chairs. McCoy was there at the time and would always fondly remember the sight of her picking up both boys by their collars and marching them into the turbolift. The dressing-down she proceeded to give Yeoman McKenna, who was in charge of them at the time, would be recounted for months to come among the rest of the crew.

The boys changed hands shortly after that fiasco, and a peculiar calm settled over the ship for several hours. Just as one might have begun to think that maybe the insanity would pass, Jim wandered onto the bridge.

“Um,” he started, then went quiet.

“What is it?” Sulu asked gently, leaning forward in the captain's chair to face him.

“I can't find Spock.”

McCoy was called up from Sickbay, because of course these things were apparently his problem, and Jim actually looked a little upset as they tried to work out what was going on.

“You lost Spock? Who's supposed to be looking after you?” McCoy growled.

“Chekov,” Uhura snapped from her station, still facing her screens.

McCoy pinched the bridge of his nose as a lieutenant consulted the computer for Chekov's location. “He's in his quarters, Doctor.”

“Great,” McCoy said. “C'mon, kid, let's go find your babysitter so he can help look for your partner in crime.” With a push to Jim's shoulder, they made for the turbolift. On the way through the residence deck, McCoy toyed with the idea of leaving Jim in the hallway so he could tear a decent strip off Chekov, but decided that the deep satisfaction he'd get from being able to yell at someone probably wouldn't be worth the risk of leaving the captain unsupervised for two minutes.

Chekov was lying on his bed with his nose in a book, and looked startled to see that Jim had even left the room, let alone been brought back by McCoy.

“They were playing quietly! I gave them a chess board!” he insisted as McCoy dragged him into the hallway to begin their search.

“Goddammit, Ensign, six-year-olds don't like to play chess!”

“Spock does,” Jim piped up. “It was boring, though, so we started thinking of other stuff to play. Or, well, I did.”

“It wasn't 'Let's Give the Doctor an Aneurysm', was it?”

Jim scowled up at him. “No! I taught him Hide and Seek.” He paused, giving McCoy enough time to develop a strong sinking feeling. “He didn't get it, though. I spent like half an hour explaining it to him. I didn't think Hide and Seek needed explaining. But then he said he got it, so we started playing.”

McCoy looked down at the kid, blinking up at him from under his too-long, shiny blond hair. The penny dropped.

“You're 'It', aren't you. And he's hiding.”

Jim nodded.

McCoy wanted to punch something; maybe Chekov. Chekov looked like he realized this, because he started cowering.

“Where have you looked so far?” he finally managed, sighing deeply.

“Even my little brother Kostya was not this much pain,” Chekov muttered.

Jim led them to the turbolift as he rattled off the list of places he'd already searched. It was a longer list than McCoy had been expecting, because apparently he'd spent over an hour looking on his own before resorting to adult intervention. McCoy gave Chekov another acid glare for good measure as he punched the button for the main engineering deck.

Three operations personnel joined in their search and it still took another three-quarters of an hour to track down Spock, who was sitting in a small hole created by the network of criss-crossing pipes, his knees huddled under his chin.

Jim bent over to peer at him and the boys blinked at each other for a moment.

“You have found me,” Spock said finally. “I confess I had expected it to take less time. Why is this game enjoyable?”

“God, you are so weird,” Jim answered, grabbing Spock's hand to haul him out of his hiding place. He kept hanging onto it as he pushed past the cluster of bemused adults, dragging Spock back toward the turbolift. Even from behind him, McCoy could see that the Vulcan was staring in confusion at the grip on his hand.

Feeling an impressive headache start to build, he turned to Chekov. “Well, Ensign? You've got two more hours left. Try actually watching them this time.”

Chekov took off at a jog and McCoy glared after him before dismissing the engineers from the search party. He wondered if he could go hide in his quarters, or if he'd just be dragged out screaming and kicking again, the next time something batshit crazy happened. He already had a kid of his own, dammit. He did not enlist in Starfleet for this.

He decided he should go check on the research team's findings before going to ground. Maybe the scans from the planet had been finished. Then he had a date with his emergency bourbon.

***

The scans had uncovered a tiny lead worth investigating, and McCoy celebrated this with three whole hours of uninterrupted hiding in his quarters, nursing a drink and scowling happily at medical journals. The lack of people clamouring for his attention was refreshing and unnerving, and after a while he began to wonder if maybe everyone else on the ship had suddenly died, leaving him as the lone survivor. Eventually he decided to venture out for dinner and test this theory.

The mess was noisy with crewmembers coming off of Alpha shift, so apparently there had been no mysterious deaths to speak of. He spotted Jim and Spock sitting with their current minder, both boys quiet and picking at the food in front of them. Jim's legs were swinging wildly back and forth under the table, in contrast to the calm he was displaying to the room at large. Spock was completely still, which was frankly creepy in a kid of his age. McCoy shook his head and went to sit several tables away, nodding through his first mouthful of pasta as Scotty slid into the place across from him, already talking.

“Bloody spag bol again,” Scotty complained, picking up his fork. “All right, Doctor? Found the cure for the captain and Mr. Spock yet?”

McCoy shook his head. “Making progress. It'll probably be another day or two.”

“I hear they've been a bit of a handful,” Scotty grinned.

He couldn't help cutting a glance toward the kids before he answered, catching sight of Jim carefully twisting an inhumanly large amount of spaghetti onto his fork while Spock watched from behind his barely-touched salad.

“Nothing too bad,” he found himself saying, turning his attention back to Scotty. “You know they're both too smart for their own damn good, and there's not much on a starship like this to occupy a kid.”

“Aye,” Scotty nodded. “Well, I've got a light day tomorrow—routine maintenance and the like—so if you want them out of the way a while, they can come down to Engineering. There'll be some bits and bobs lying about that they could tinker with. Very entertaining for a child.”

McCoy thought that probably best described Scotty as a child, and moreover that Scotty was still like a child in many respects. “Thanks,” he said anyway. “That may be a good idea.”

“Are you taking them now, then, or giving them to the next victim on your bloody babysitting calendar?”

McCoy blinked.

“For sleep,” Scotty clarified.

“Fuck.” Somehow he'd forgotten that they'd have to be in one place for however long they could be convinced to sleep. Joanna at that age had managed seven hours of sleep most nights, but Jim at any age was the best pain in the ass he could be, apparently, and who knew how long a Vulcan kid slept. He rubbed at his eyes, thinking.

“I'll put them in beds in Sickbay,” he said at last. “The night staff can keep an eye on them. Give them something to do besides gossip.”

Scotty nodded. “The captain'll love that.”

“Yeah, well.” McCoy stabbed his fork into his food. “If he complains, he's grounded.”

***

McCoy had had to pull rank on the Gamma shift head doctor to override her protests, but they'd gotten the boys tucked into biobeds in a quiet corner with relatively little bloodshed, and his step had been jaunty as he'd left Sickbay for his own bed. All the same, he was prepared for mutiny when he went to relieve them the next morning, and was startled at the peace and quiet when he'd been expecting some kind of ambush.

He'd just caught sight of the cluster of nurses and aides in the far corner when Dr. Yamada noticed him and started beckoning him over, with no visible trace of her hostility of the night before.

“You have to see this, sir. Be quiet, though.” He allowed himself to be dragged by the elbow over to the gaggle of medical staff, who parted obediently to show him what all the fuss was about. He could do nothing but stare for a moment.

“We put them in separate beds last night, I know we did,” he managed finally. He kept his voice low without really meaning to.

“The Commander had a lot of trouble sleeping, I think,” one of the aides murmured. “He cried out a couple of times. Poor little guy.”

McCoy's brain did not roll over and die at this, but it was a near thing.

“He calmed down, though, and Nurse Lorem went to check on them, and they were like this. They've been sleeping quietly for hours.”

McCoy sighed, tilting his head as he considered them. If they'd been anyone except Jim and Spock, he probably could have allowed that they looked cute, snuggled up together like that. But, sleeping kids or no, that was Jim and Spock, and he was still weirded out.

“I'll be in my office,” he said, turning on his heel. The tower of paperwork on his desk was looking very appealing all of a sudden. “You all have shift checklists to be doing,” he barked as an afterthought. He didn't miss Yamada's eyeroll before his door swooped shut.

He'd managed to pass two hours productively, before there was a knock on the door that sounded suspiciously close to the floor in origin.

“Come in.”

Jim was freshly scrubbed and had even had his hair combed. He also had his extra-stubborn look on, and he marched right in and climbed into the chair facing McCoy's desk.

“What do you want, Jim? And where is...” he poked at his computer terminal, calling up the babysitting rota, “...Petty Officer Stone?”

“He's trying to get Spock to eat something,” Jim said dismissively, looking far too nonchalant about getting away from his handler yet again. “We have to talk.”

McCoy might have laughed, but the kid's freckled face was dead serious. “About what?” he said instead, deciding to humour him.

Jim folded his hands in his lap, which was kind of scary. “You all seem nice and stuff, so we haven't said anything yet about how crazy it is that we got kidnapped onto this ship, especially by Starfleet people, but it's been a whole day now and it's time to stop. Spock wants to know where his mom is.”

And he'd been really, really hoping this wouldn't happen.

Spock does? What are you, his spokesman?”

Jim just gave him an unimpressed look.

“What about your mom? You don't care about her?” he tried finally.

Jim shrugged. “She's always away. I'm used to being alone.”

“You're six,” McCoy blurted, disbelieving.

“Six and a half,” was the snotty response. Jim shrugged again. “And I like starships. This ship is pretty cool, even if no one will let me touch anything. I never get to go into space with Mom, anyway. She keeps telling me I'm too young.” It was clear he thought this excuse was bullshit. “But we're not talking about me, we're talking about Spock.”

McCoy felt a sudden urge to send Mrs. Kirk some flowers. Or a big bottle of Saurian brandy. “Alright, look. We're escorting you both to Earth, where Spock is going to meet up with his parents. Your mom is expecting you, too,” he added for good measure. He thought wildly. “The Ambassador is in an important conference at Federation Headquarters and can't be contacted before we get there, though.”

“How long?” Jim asked, his eyes hard.

“Another week,” McCoy said, desperately hoping that would be more than enough time to fix this.

Jim studied him for a moment, considering, and then nodded and jumped out of the chair. “Cool. Talk to you later, Bones.”

McCoy started reaching for the communicator to yell at Stone. “Where do you think you're going?”

Jim grinned up at him, already reaching for the door control. “I'm gonna tell Spock, so he'll finish his damn breakfast. Then we're gonna go find Scotty.” He ran off without another word.

McCoy stared at the door for a moment and then reached for the communicator, anyway. He was starting to debate the merits of a full staff meeting where he would explain what 'supervision' and 'responsibility' meant to the crew, perhaps with diagrams and demonstrations. Better yet, someday he'd write a book on The Care and Feeding of Jim Kirk. He could probably retire on it.

***

Scotty was a genius at more than warp physics, because Jim and Spock happily spent all afternoon in Engineering, playing with bits of broken computer equipment and hardly getting into trouble at all. By the beginning of Beta shift, reports from that deck had them doing some of the tedious, minor repairs to the environmental sensors that Operations kept putting off in favour of playing with the warp cores. McCoy couldn't say he disapproved of putting them to work in some capacity, since the bridge was going through hell covering all of their combined duties. Sulu, he noted with no small satisfaction, looked more haggard with each passing hour.

Uhura took charge of the boys for the evening, taking a load off of McCoy's mind. As he worked overtime through Beta shift, examining the strange energy waves the research team had recorded on Epsilon Gamma II, they reportedly spent the whole evening behaving themselves, worn out from spending the day playing with circuit boards.

They slept in Sickbay again that night, and McCoy found himself awake and back there long before his shift was supposed to start the next morning, watching them sleep spooned up in one biobed again. Spock's small hand had a fistful of Jim's sleeve, and he couldn't stop staring at how unlined with worry their faces were. Running a starship took its toll, but sneakily, so that you didn't notice until one day you woke up and realized you were old.

Rolling his eyes at his own morbidity, McCoy went to grab some coffee from the replicator in his office before sitting down to analyze those energy readings some more. He was probably going to have to modify a tricorder, at this rate.

***

Day Three was eventful in many ways. By lunchtime, McCoy had successfully isolated an interesting waveform from the patterns he'd been obsessing over, and bullied Sulu into sending a team back down to the planet's surface for more precise readings. Ideas were forming in his brain and he started sending messages to Scotty, culminating in a very exciting lunch meeting in Conference Room Three where the Chief Engineer had filled a datapad with schematics and a lot of equations that McCoy could barely follow. He dared hope they were getting somewhere.

Meanwhile, a hysterically babbling junior officer from Communications had been escorted to Sickbay with a fork sticking out of his thigh. McCoy was thankfully not around to see the dramatic scene firsthand, but Chapel had faithfully relayed the story in detail when he got back from his meeting.

Spock was still eating next to nothing, apparently not liking Earth food much as a child (maybe he only tolerated it as an adult), and the officer tasked to deal with them, Lt. Harding, had taken it upon himself to get some food into Spock. He'd tried reasoning (which wouldn't work on a six-year-old, not even a Vulcan one, if they didn't want to be reasoned with), and then he'd tried exercising his authority with no success, and the battle eventually made Spock so flustered that Jim had taken it upon himself to intervene. He'd stabbed Harding in the leg with his fork, aiming with alarming accuracy for the femoral artery. Luckily, the fork had short, dull tines, and he hadn't had the strength to drive it in deeply anyway.

Someday, McCoy was going to work up the nerve to ask Jim how the hell he knew where that artery was at six. Sorry, six and a half. For the time being, he thought he'd just demand of the universe how Jim and Spock could apparently be Jim and Spock no matter what the circumstances, and work double-time on getting them back to what they classified as 'normal'.

That evening, he was sitting in the rec room on Deck Three, finally taking an hour off to kick back and chat with Uhura, who was off for the night and knitting something or other while they talked. It was a bit hypnotic to watch her fingers and needles move on autopilot as she spoke.

“A strange waveform?” She paused her knitting and he snapped back to reality suddenly. “Do the twin suns have something to do with it?”

He scratched his fingers through his hair. “Mr. Scott thinks so. That kind of physics is a little beyond my purview; I'm flying blind, here.” He frowned. “I know I'm freaking out, as anyone in their right mind should, about Jim being a kid all of a sudden, but how do you feel? With, you know, Spock?”

She sighed. “Honestly?” she said, with a sly look up at him. “I'm feeling better about breaking it off with him. Having my boyfriend be spontaneously turned into a child, maybe indefinitely, isn't a life experience I've been waiting to cross off my list. It's bad enough as his friend.”

“Did he listen to you when you were watching them? I have a theory about them remembering impressions of their relationships with people.”

“They both listened to me, because I scare them.” She smirked down at her knitting. “It's a lot like dealing with them on the bridge.”

McCoy laughed, and just then the topics of their conversation wandered into the room, their current babysitter thankfully close behind them, and made for the cupboard full of games in the corner to root through it for something to do. They were talking as they sorted through the games, just loud enough for the sound to reach the sofas where McCoy and Uhura sat, and he realized with a start that he couldn't understand what they were saying.

He shot a glance at Uhura. She was staring at them, her mouth working soundlessly.

“What is it?” he hissed, leaning toward her. Spock held up a game and said something that made Jim laugh.

“They're speaking in Vulcan,” she hissed back. They turned again to stare in tandem, and she added, “And the captain's good at it, for the amount of exposure he's had.”

Having chosen a game, the trio left the room, and McCoy raised his voice again, maybe overcompensating just a bit. “Vulcan? That miniature hobgoblin taught Jim Vulcan? Already?”

Uhura had started muttering to herself, knitting furiously. “Six is within the limits of the Critical Period Hypothesis, I guess....”

He looked at his chronometer. “I'm going to squeeze in a couple more hours of work before bed,” he said, getting to his feet.

“Good luck, Leonard.”

“The sooner, the better,” he agreed.

***

A couple of hours of work had turned into four, but McCoy was fine with losing sleep in this instance. He had managed to successfully replicate the interesting wave, in its entirety, from the more detailed analyses of Epsilon Gamma II's atmosphere before his brain had obstinately shut down on him and he'd had to drag himself to bed. He wound up being a few minutes late for the beginning of Alpha shift and moved hastily through his morning rounds and a handful of scheduled appointments, so that he could get back to his research.

He had one scheduled physical to go and was going through the chart of a patient with a fractured fibula to pass the time, when there was a tug on the hem of his shirt. He looked down to see Spock staring up at him, folding his hands behind his back.

“What's the matter?” He could only assume that there was a problem.

“What are you currently engaged with, Dr. Bones?”

He gritted his teeth a bit at the name. “My rounds?” he said suspiciously.

“I see. Perhaps my actions are ill-advised.”

“Look, Spock, if you have something to tell me, you'd better just say it.” McCoy hooked the chart back on the bed and led the way to his office, taking the opportunity to grab some coffee as they sat down. When Spock was sitting primly in the chair Jim had occupied only the day before, McCoy raised his eyebrows expectantly.

“Where's Jim, anyway?” It was getting rarer and rarer to see them apart.

Spock's eyes narrowed and he recognized it as a scowl. “There was a deficit of sufficiently engaging activity this morning, and so we elected to play tri-dimensional chess.”

McCoy leaned back in his chair. “And?”

“Jim is incapable of understanding the game. He felt that it required... new rules.”

If McCoy hadn't known how good grown-up Jim was at chess, no matter how many dimensions the game was in, maybe he could have believed that he was 'incapable of understanding' it. Apparently even while he took it upon himself to defend Spock from the world, he still had no reservations about trying to piss him off for his own amusement.

“Spock, I think he was just messing with you.”

“I do not understand.”

“It's not that Jim doesn't understand how chess works; maybe he hasn't played it before, but I know he could follow the rules. He was just bored and trying to make his own fun. Teasing you,” he clarified.

Spock appeared to think about this. “You are very confident in your knowledge of his personality,” he said finally.

Shit. “I know his mom. She talks about him a lot.”

The kid looked mollified by his explanation, and he relaxed, feeling relieved.

“So is that why you're down here? Trying to get a break from him?”

Spock blinked and looked down at his hands. “His behaviours are very perplexing. Vulcans do not behave in this manner, nor do they approve of it.”

“It's pretty normal for human kids.”

He got a look of stark disbelief for that—toned down, of course.

“Human kids run and play and make a lot of noise and are typically little brats. It's generally expected of them to be constantly on the go.”

“Your assessment seems to align with my observations. Fascinating.”

McCoy didn't quite want to say what he did next, but it came out of his mouth without asking for permission first. “If you need a break from your observations of human behaviour, you can stay down here for a little while. I wouldn't leave Jim unsupervised for too long, though.”

“The potential for chaos is quite high,” Spock agreed. He looked around the room thoughtfully. “It would be best if I returned.” He hopped down from the chair, reaching up to key open the door himself. “This was a most enlightening conversation, Dr. Bones.”

“It certainly was,” he agreed. “Hey.”

Spock paused.

“If you're bored, go find Mr. Scott. He probably has more stuff for you to mess with.”

Spock's eyes lit up in a way McCoy would probably never witness again, and he hurried away in the most dignified manner an excited Vulcan child could manage.

***

“It's done,” he told Uhura two days later.

“It is?” she asked. “What's done?”

“The cure,” he said, patting the large machine next to him. “Scotty finished building it this afternoon.”

She gave it a doubtful look. “Not what I was expecting.”

“Well, genius comes in unexpected packages. It was definitely a strange energy wave from the planet's atmosphere—maybe some kind of distorted radiation from the dual suns, I don't know—but it comes through variously and if conditions are optimal, it de-ages people. No wonder the planet was uninhabited.

“So I was able to isolate and invert the responsible wavelength, and Scotty built this machine to generate the new wave. We're gonna put the captain and Spock in the MRI room, since it's shielded, dose them, and cross our fingers.”

She raised an eyebrow. “You haven't done any testing?”

“We can't. It might only work on people. Who are we gonna test?”

“Alright, then. If it works, they're back to themselves?”

He crossed his fingers behind his back. “Yes.”

“If it doesn't work?”

“Hopefully, nothing whatsoever will happen.”

She gave him a look that made him understand the plight of Jim, Spock and the rest of the crew that was forced to work on the bridge.

“...Or it's possible that it'll de-age them even more. At this point, I would say that the results would be them ceasing to exist.”

“How likely is this to happen?” she demanded.

McCoy smiled. “Not very. Bring them in.”

“They're about to have dinner, I think.”

“Good timing. We'd better do this before they eat.”

Uhura hailed their babysitter, as well as Sulu and Scotty, and after giving the boys a quick check-up and informing them that they were being screened for a new, contagious type of infection, lined them up in the MRI room in front of the machine. Upon entering the observation room, McCoy had to shoo away several med techs and an alarming number of off-duty crewmembers who had just 'happened' to be in the area, but then it was time for action.

He switched the machine on via remote. It began to emit a low hum, mostly from the fans.

“Is it working?” Sulu asked.

“Well, it's doing what it says on the tin, anyway,” Scotty said, his eyes glued to the observation window.

McCoy looked at his chronometer and switched it off again after two minutes. He gave it another minute before opening the adjoining door.

“How are you feeling, guys?” he asked, kneeling to check their pupils and take a pulse; everything was normal.

They were also still children.

The others began to spill into the room behind him. “Wasn't it supposed to be instantaneous?” Sulu asked. “I mean, that's how it happened on the planet, right?”

“We don't know,” McCoy said testily. “No one was there to see it happen.”

“What's going on?” Jim demanded.

“Don't worry about it. Side-effects of the screening. Go eat your dinner. Let me know right away if you start feeling strange at all.” He stood up and left the room quickly, to go shut himself inside his office where he could swear at the walls as loudly as he liked.

They were kept in Sickbay that evening for observation, but there was no change in either of the two kids as they were put to bed that night.

***

Jim woke up feeling very warm. It was nice. Except apparently his pyjamas had somehow shrunk, because he felt constricted all over. He opened his eyes to inspect the situation, not knowing how he could have put on clothing that was obviously too small for him.

He was in Sickbay, curled up sideways in a biobed. He was squeezed into one of the small-size hospital gowns.

Also, Spock was sleeping very peacefully, three inches from his face.

He tensed involuntarily, and since his arms were wrapped around his first officer, he woke up. Jim watched in morbid fascination as Spock's eyes sleepily blinked open and cleared, and they stared at each other for several (very fast) heartbeats before springing apart. Jim very nearly fell off the bed.

“What—I—who—”

“This is highly illogical,” Spock said. He looked really alarmed and kept glancing around the room, as if looking for an exit. Jim noticed that he was also in one of the small gowns. It was tight across his frame and looked as uncomfortable as Jim's felt.

“Gonna go find Bones,” Jim blurted, sliding off the bed and staggering away. Thank God these gowns at least closed in the back.

***

Surprisingly, after the initial excitement of their changing back to normal, the incident was hardly discussed on the Enterprise again—at least not in earshot of the captain, Spock or McCoy. Everyone was mostly just relieved to have them back in charge, at least to ease the workload on the bridge.

“Do they remember anything?” Uhura asked McCoy one night, in the rec room. Her scarf or whatever it was seemed to be almost finished.

McCoy paused, staring down at the journal article he was editing. While neither Jim nor Spock could remember any of the actual events that had happened while they were experiencing their second childhood (proven by their acceptance of stories that had been totally made up, to everyone else's amusement), there was something... different... about how they'd acted since changing back.

The closeness, for one thing. He wasn't sure how anyone else could have missed that Commander Spock's bubble of personal space had suddenly been reduced at least by half when it came to Jim. Maybe all the underground photos of them spooning in their sleep in Sickbay had desensitized the crew to weirdness.

Then there was the fact that he had definitely seen Jim more than once uttering a Vulcan word at Spock, or nodding at something briefly said to him in that language (if he told Uhura about that one, she'd likely have a field day picking apart the linguistic implications).

“Nah,” he said dismissively. “They're back to normal.”

“For some value of 'normal'.”

Well, that was pretty much a given, on this ship.


THE END

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