“No, Lalia.” Jim’s voice was gentle but firm. His younger daughter, T’Lalia, looked up at him as if he were an ogre, her tiny rosebud mouth quivering, her big green eyes starred with tears.
“But, Jim…” she quavered. Each of Jim and Spock’s triplets had a different name for Jim—he was ‘Papa’ to T’Pralena, ‘ko-mekh’ to their son Selik, and ‘Jim’ to T’Lalia. He knew that there were those who thought it faintly disrespectful that their four-year-old daughter called him by his first name, but Jim didn’t care. Hell, Selik called him the Vulcan word for ‘mama,’ and Jim was fine with that, too. However, he hated to hear ‘Jim’ spoken in that sad little voice. He dropped to his knees, putting his arms around his youngest daughter.
“Sweetheart, I am sorry,” he said gently, “but you can’t have a real kitty on board the Enterprise. The rules don’t allow it.” Besides, Jim was violently allergic, but there was no need for Lalia to know that.
“But Papa,” Lena piped up, “you’re the king of the ship.” Jim smothered a grin, both at his designation and at the determination of any member of the Deadly Vulcan Assassination Squad (as Jim thought of his trio) to make sure that any other member got what he or she wanted, no matter how impractical.
“Ko-mekh.” Selik stood as he always did, stiff and straight, both small hands clasped behind his back, a darling little Spock in miniature. He was so damned cute he made Jim’s heart hurt. “Ko-mekh, if the feline is obtained, I would gladly attend to its feeding and the regular elimination of its waste through the acquisition and scheduled maintenance of a sand-filled box.” Jim knew he meant it, too. Of all his children, Selik had a deepest sense of responsibility—and the Vulcan respect for an oath sworn and upheld. For just an instant, Jim wished he could break down. All three members of the DVAS looked so sad because Lalia was sad. But it couldn’t happen.
“I’m sorry,” Jim said again, kissing Lalia’s forehead. “Rules are rules, sweetheart.” He rose with her in his arms, a sad little bundle. “Now,” Jim said with forced cheerfulness, “who wants ice cream?” Both Lena and Selik brightened immediately. Sad sibling or not, the lure of ice cream was hard to ignore.
“I’d rather have a kitty,” Lalia whispered sadly against his neck. However, she was persuaded to eat one scoop of cherry ripple, but only one.
“I hated breaking her heart like that,” Jim confined to Spock later that night, after the triplets were tucked into their beds and he and Spock had retired to their quarters. “Poor little thing. She wants a kitten so badly.”
His mate kissed Jim’s neck. “T’hy’la, you are unfailingly indulgent to our children,” he said gently. “However, they must learn that they cannot have everything they wish.”
Jim snickered. “This from the man who pouted…”
“I do not pout….”
“Pouted until Scotty figured out how to build and install a hot tub in our bathroom,” Jim chortled.
“The benefits of hydrotherapy make the hot tub a useful and functional piece of equipment,” Spock said with utter dignity.
“Not to mention that you just love me sucking you off in it,” Jim said wickedly, loving the instant wash of green that spread across his bond mate’s cheeks.
“That was an…unforeseen benefit,” Spock murmured.
“Uh huh. Keep telling yourself that, my sneaky Vulcan love. It’s a damned good thing I was a champion swimmer in high school; I can hold my breath for a looong time.” Jim’s hand wandered beneath the covers, finding a certain favorite part of his certain favorite Vulcan, noting that it didn’t take hot water to get Spock sizzling—a fact Jim already knew and appreciated. “How about a dry-land test run?” Jim murmured, diving under the covers.
“Gladly,” Spock breathed, feeling Jim’s warm, wet mouth on him. “And then I shall….ohhhh, yes, ashaya!….reciprocate by demonstrating my lack of a gag reflex.”
Jim’s answer was enthusiastic but non-verbal—no surprise, since his mouth was otherwise occupied.
“It is not fair.” Lalia sat in her bed, clutching her stuffed kitty, Janice. “I want a real kitty. I need a real kitty.”
“I know,” Lena told her sister. Lalia was the strongest empath of the three; when she set her heart on something, the longing was almost painful. But their Papa had said no, and if he said no, their sa-mekh Spock would not say ‘yes.’ Lena’s heart ached for her sibling’s unhappiness, but she didn’t know what else to suggest.
Selik sat up in his bed as well. The three of them shared a room; at this age, Jim and Spock saw no reason for gender segregation, and it wouldn’t have worked anyway—the three were always happier together than apart.
“Nearly every problem will yield a solution if one thinks about it from the right angle,” he said thoughtfully. “I will consider this problem, Lalia.”
She brightened immediately. Lalia had absolute trust in both her siblings; if there was a way for her to get a kitty, Selik’s clever brain would find it, no matter how long it took.
In this case, however, Selik did not come up with the solution. Lalia found it all by herself. She simply recruited her siblings for assistance, which they gladly offered. It was part of the Code, after all, the Code the three of them had established. The Code had never actually been writing down, but if it had, Article Two would read: ‘Whenever one member of the DVAS gets into a boatload of trouble, the other two shall man the oars.’
Jim looked at Spock. Spock looked at Jim. They both looked at their three little pointy-eared angels, who had been called on the carpet for their latest mind-blowing escapade. Selik and Lena stood on either side of Lalia, who clutched a small, furry, cream-colored, blue-eyed purring bundle of fluff in her arms. Surprisingly, it wasn’t making Jim sneeze, but then, he was keeping his distance and had been, ever since Spock’s sharp eyes had spotted the bundle diving under Lalia’s bed. Jim pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to keep his temper—or trying to keep from laughing, he wasn’t sure which.
“Lalia,” he said gently, “where did you get the kitty?” They’d been to a couple of planets in the last three weeks, but Jim didn’t think that any of the crew would have smuggled a cat on board. He didn’t think any of them would. It was hard to know for sure; the DVAS had a way of charming Jim’s crew into acts of terrible mutiny.
“It’s…it’s not a kitty, Jim,” Lalia whispered.
Spock regarded his younger daughter with disappointment. “Lalia,” he said quietly, “lying is not a logical action, especially when empirical evidence contradicts your statement.” Translation: No use lying once you’re caught, Jim thought with an inner grin.
“It’s not a kitty, sa-mekh,” Lena spoke up. “Not a real one.”
“It’s mechanical?” Jim asked, looking more closely at the purring bundle of fluff. It didn’t look like a toy; it looked damned realistic. He saw Lalia swallow hard, saw Selik and Lena exchange quick glances.
“Not…exactly,” Lena replied.
“My children,” Spock spoke with enormous patience, “exactly what is this creature?”
“It’s…it’s a droid kitty,” Lalia whispered. She raised her eyes to Jim. “But it won’t poop, and it won’t make anyone sneeze, and it won’t even shed, and I love it, I love it, its name is Peanut, don’t take it away…” With that, half-Vulcan or no, Lalia burst into tears. Immediately, Lena and Selik both hugged their sister and started crying as well, the DVAS turning into a knot of really unhappy four-year-olds, with one purring droid kitty in the middle of the huddle. Not even bothering to disguise his complete collapse of parental authority, Jim grinned wryly at his bond mate and walked over, knelt down, and wrapped himself around all three of his offspring.
“It’s all right, sweetheart,” he soothed Lalia. “No one will take your kitty away from you, I promise.”
“Yeah,” Lena sniffed, wiping her nose on her papa’s shirt. “And Papa's the king of the ship.”
“She made a droid cat.” Jim lay in Spock’s arms, the DVAS having been soothed, moped up, fed, and made ready for a night’s sleep. Peanut the droid kitty was now ensconced at the foot of Lalia’s bed.
Spock sighed. “She did—creating her own drawings and specs, I might add.”
“She broke into the micro-engineering lab and made a droid cat.” Jim shook his head. “Spock, she’s four.”
“Four years, three months, and twenty-four days old,” his mate confirmed.
“How did she break into the micro-engineering lab?”
Spock sighed. “Selik wrote a computer program that analyzed and generated a list of possible passwords for the lab’s security lock,” he explained. “Apparently, the brand name of Mr. Scott’s favorite alcohol is well within the capabilities of Selik’s program.”
“Remind me to send out a memo telling all department heads to change the passwords on everything, and make them really difficult,” Jim said.
“The children should be punished.”
Jim sighed. “I know. I already told them no ice cream for three weeks. I don’t think they care. They’re just happy Lalia’s happy.” He laid his head on Spock’s shoulder.
“Did you have to give me three little geniuses?” he murmured.
“Did you have to give me three little repeat offenders?” Spock whispered back.
Commander Spock was a practical individual. Three weeks later, he filed paperwork for a patent covering the creation of the universe’s most realistic droid kitty, a pet for the new millennium, papers filed in the name of his daughter, T’Lalia Amanda Kirk.
The resulting royalties put all three members of the DVAS through college and graduate school. There was enough left over to build a vacation home for Jim and Spock—with a hot tub.