Title: Playtime (2/?)
Fandom: Star Trek AOS
Summary: AU. Fun times ensue at Little Star Academy. Pike begins to realize that while he may be the adult, he’s definitely not the one in charge.
Previous Part: 1
The first day goes rather well; introductions are tedious as expected. One child—little Mr. McCoy—informs his classmates in response to “Tell us your name.”—
“Lenny and I hate ya’ll.”
Pike doesn’t quite sigh, though he wants to.
James T. Kirk says his full name, complete with a slowly pronounced Ti-bear-ee-us (which makes Rand go all soft-eyed), then states that he likes running, eating, jumping, cookies, the color blue, ice cream but not the yucky kind, starships, orange juice, climbing trees, his mommy—
Pike shuts the kid up because the attention span of his audience started to wane drastically once no one could decipher the jumble of words after his name.
Everyone else fidgets or Pike has to coax them to speak out loud. Scotty (why his parents nicknamed him after his last name is beyond Mr. Pike) won’t talk at all, merely blushes bright red while his eyes dart for an escape route. Pike has to introduce the child himself.
He persuades his troopers to spend the next hour coloring pictures of their favorite things because he needs a breather in which to plan the rest of the day. (The lesson plans he had carefully created in his first year never seem to work via real-world application; it’s too perfect and the rest of the world is not. But he hopes on, hopes ever.) For now they can use crayons; paints and chalk will come later, once they are instilled with an understanding of “why we don’t leave messes for others to clean up.” Finger painting, in particular, is a beloved activity, but it has to be earned. They’ll catch on soon enough, he knows.
Only one fight (name-calling argument) breaks out during snack-time. That it’s over vanilla versus chocolate pudding is another matter entirely. Despite that the children are very newly acquainted with one another, Jimmy Kirk manages to align the group into two factions. His side of the table thinks chocolate pudding is delicious and vanilla is icky; it’s vice versa across the table. The leader of the other side is, surprisingly, little Pavel Chekov. Pavel says, adorably, “I wike wanilla!” and cannot be persuaded that chocolate has any standing at all in the world of desserts. That wins all the little girls to his cause, but Pike suspects it has less to do with the goodness of vanilla and more to do with the fact that Pavel looks like a baby doll with a cherub face. (Pike plans to keep an eye on him in the near future, just in case the girls play house and he ends up in a dress.)
The Chekov child is the youngest of everyone, at the innocent age of four years old. His motor skills are finely developed (unnervingly so) for his age, and his parents are rather famous scientists which leads Pike to believe that there may have been a bit of genetic bio-engineering involved in their son’s conception. But it’s not Pike’s place to judge the parents; it’s his responsibility to care for their child from the hours from 0700 to 1800 during weekdays.
Interestingly enough, there is one adamant non-participant: Spock. Spock, of course, is forbidden to have chocolate. Amanda Grayson was very agreeable in providing Pike with all the information he needed to properly care for her physiologically unique son. That does not preclude or account for the ways of a certain mischievous toddler, however. Pike turned his back once and Kirk was trying to coax the baby Vulcan to taste his chocolate-covered finger. Luckily, Spock found this display as disgusting as the giggling Christine and stubbornly maintained a three-foot distance from the bright-eyed Terran boy at all times.
Pike wiped off Jimmy’s hand, told him, “No, Jimmy. Chocolate will upset Spock’s stomach.”
Wide blue eyes assessed his words for truth, then turned to the Vulcan and grew wider. “Weally?”
“Mmhmm. We don’t want to make Spock sick, now do we, son?”
Kirk had stared at him for a silent moment before he remembered that he should answer. So his blond head shook vigorously in the negative.
Jimmy seems to understand and has not attempted to persuade Spock to join his crew of chocolate pudding-teers again. (A small favor, really, in a long day.)
Chekov had no better luck recruiting the Vulcan to the loveliness of vanilla. Spock detests pudding, apparently, in any form and immediately removed himself from the fray—to the end of the long table.
So the first day journeyed from a lively morning to nap-time without a full-blown disaster. Nap-time, Pike explained carefully to all his little ones, is the most important part of the day. Their bodies need plenty of rest so that they can grow up to be strong adults. It’s always appropriate, in his experience, that the first few nap-times must be presented as “fun” and “that special time” to a bunch of rowdy children; eventually they’ll be coaxed to settle down, if only because running in circles for hours has to tire them out sooner rather than later. (Kirk insists that he can run in more circles than anybody else; Pike believes him, gets dizzy watching him do so.)
Unfortunately, naps are universally hated by all. Even Spock insists that he finds “this nocturnal activity to be illogical during daylight hours.” (Pike is still getting used to having a child that doesn’t quite reach his shins talk like a well-educated adult.)
“I understand, Spock, that you do not require naps as a Terran child does.” Pike explained carefully in a soft voice, “But if you refuse, then all the others will too. I need your cooperation, at least until your classmates fall asleep.” He vaguely wondered if bribery would offend the boy.
Spock, thankfully, is agreeable to “present the illusion of ‘napping’ for the sake of establishing order.”
The teacher conveniently forgets (does not embarrass Spock) that the small Vulcan does indeed fall asleep for twenty minutes after he curls onto his side and closes his eyes. When Janice points out that Vulcans are adorable when they sleep, Chris corrects her. Half-Vulcans are adorable, especially when one naps with a thumb stuck in his mouth.
Pike is co-owner of Little Star Academy, and the only owner in residence who works closely with their “clients.” Little Star Academy is not just a daycare-educational center for young children; it is one of the few places in San Francisco that does not exclude different species. Granted, most off-worlders tend to keep their children close to them on Earth, but there shall always be the few who do not have the resources (or distrust the Embassy) to care for their loved ones. It’s still rare that Little Star Academy has non-Terran children enrolled; Pike can count on both hands from memory each child that was not of full Terran descent. It is even more rare that he has two at the same time. This year poses to be a special one, because Pike will be caring for the half-Vulcan Spock and the Orion beauty Galia. Spock, of course, is currently present—though still isolated from the others by choice (a habit Pike plans to break). Galia is not due for two more days. That shall be interesting because the majority of these children have not been purposefully exposed to other races. It’s only a matter of time before one of them notices that Spock’s ears are not round. That difference remains subtle, due to his young age, because the points are very tiny and almost hidden by crops of black hair. Galia, on the other hand, has lovely green skin. Pike knows he will have his hands full then.
He takes pride that he can influence these children in the ways of acceptance and tolerance. He hopes that, years down the road, even if they do not remember specifically or vividly this early childhood lesson, its message will linger with them subconsciously. He firmly believes that all creatures of the universe are equal, and if tolerance is to be learned, it should be from the beginning and not towards the end.
After nap-time comes Play-Time. Generally, this is in the form of a playground suitable for very small children. That is, no piece of equipment is too high or too dangerous—though Pike knows all too well how a safe object can become dangerous due to carelessness. With this in mind, he and Rand never leave the children to play unsupervised. Pike especially has his eye on that blond-haired one, because the kid flies around the yard like he has booster rockets attached. And Jimmy has no qualms about poking his curious head into other children’s games. On this first day, he is the sole child that seems comfortable wherever he happens to be.
Tomorrow, partnering begins. Pike will spend the rest of his night thinking over the list of children he has met today and then decide who to partner with whom for the rest of the week. After that first careful pairing, the weeks thereafter will be of pairings randomly drawn from a big black top hat. As he watches the children idle around, cautiously exploring their new playground, he notes those which seem most afraid and those (like Jimmy) which have no fear of the unknown. (The days ahead will be interesting.)
When he catches Janice’s eye, as she brushes sand off Nyota’s knees and straightens her dress, the young woman smiles back. It’s good to have an assistant that enjoys more than a steady paycheck. Miss Rand is fresh from a local college, but he went with his instinct after the first two interviews and hired her. And his instincts still hum true; that pleases him.
The day wears down and the little ones have just about reached their grumpy stage of “where’s my mommy?” It’s instinctive, really, for those who have an inkling of their parents’ work schedules. Pike soothes them as best as he can, keeping them occupied in the last hour. Janice slips out the door at the appointed time. The children remain gathered at round tables, attempting to entertain themselves with various toys or crayons and paper.
There’s the first cry of “Mama!” and so it begins. Curious heads turn as a dark-haired little boy pitches himself from a table and into his mother’s skirt. Pike ends up, as always, dividing his time between the anxious parents who want reports on their children and the children who need to be consoled that they have not been forgotten. Eventually everybody will get used to the routine and nerves will calm down. Until then, he does his best, almost literally alternating between patting adult and child shoulders and backs.
Pike is shaking the hand of Pavel’s father (a wiry, curly-haired man) when Rand slips up to his side.
He nods at her to wait a moment and finishes his conversation (his assurance that Pavel is socializing appropriately with the other children). Then Pike turns to Janice with a smiling admonishment. “Call me Chris, Janice.”
She blushes. “Ms. Kirk called. She’ll be thirty minutes late.”
“That’s fine.” He glances over at Jimmy, who is biting on the end of a crayon and staring at the boy across from him. The other boy looks unhappy—very unhappy—to have Kirk’s undivided attention. He decides he’d better intervene.
Pike squats down at their table.
“Hello, Leonard. Jim.”
Pike smiles and adjusts his glasses. They are merely prescription reading glasses, but he likes to wear them in the classroom. Glasses make him seem more approachable, more fatherly to some children. (A child once called him Santa Claus, but that’s a different story altogether.)
“Jimmy,” Pike says, “your mother called to tell me that she is on her way. And she’s looking forward to hearing all about your day.”
“Mama can meet my new fwiend Bwones!”
Pike is surprised when the other boy hisses “Stop IT! My name is Lennnnny!”
“Alright!” Pike rubs his forehead. “Jimmy, you should not call people names that they don’t like. Lenny doesn’t like the name Bones.”
Kirk’s lip pokes out. “But he’s drawing bwones.”
Pike feels his eyebrow go up. He cannot help himself. He peers over at Lenny’s picture. “May I?” he asks. The boy shrugs. Christopher takes one look at it and bites his lip.
“How very… different, Lenny. Why the skeleton?”
“‘Cuz that’s what we look like when we die,” Lenny says matter-of-factly.
Oh boy. “Okay,” he agrees and decides that his blossoming headache is a sign to stop asking questions. Lenny accepts his drawing back with the most expressive unhappy face Pike has seen in a while. Then that scowl lightens considerably when Lenny recognizes his father at the front of the room. McCoy forgets about everybody and everything else in lieu of attaching himself to the grinning man like a burr and announcing, “Wanna go home! They’re all stupid-heads!”
“Not a stwupid-head,” Jimmy says darkly. Pike takes the crayon out of the boy’s mouth and slips the slobbery (now-unusable) item in his pocket.
He pats the kid on the back and assures him, “No, Jimmy, nobody is a stupid-head. Now finish your picture.”
Things are calm enough when Pike catches Spock slipping up to the door with his hands clasped behind his back. He’s about to tell the little Vulcan that waiting by the door is unnecessary, but then he notices the way the child’s head is cocked to the side and his eyes are riveted to the door. It’s little wonder, then, that his mother appears not a moment later and smiles down at her son. “Hello, love. Ready to go?”
Pike watches as Spock places his small hand into her extended one. “Yes, Mother.”
Ms. Grayson looks up at Pike as he approaches. He informs her, “Your son is exemplary, madam. We’re lucky to have him with us at Little Star.”
She is still smiling as she replies, “I know.”
Spock seems to recognize that Pike wants to say more (ask more) because he displays the first sign of impatience all day as he tugs on his mother’s hand. She touches his small face with gentle fingers, and Pike lets them go without further delay. (He hopes Spock continues to attend his class; he truly does.)
One by one, the children go home. It is simultaneously the best and saddest part of Christopher’s day. He and Janice are straightening chairs and collecting scattered papers. There are only two boys left. It’s obvious that Jimmy doesn’t like to be alone because he has long since slid from one empty table to sit beside the other boy. Pike stands close by, idly thumbing through a folder while he eavesdrops.
Jimmy’s talking to Hikaru Sulu, a child hastily enrolled by his father at a last minute’s notice. The boy is quiet and very intent on his piece of paper. Pike can see the tip of Hikaru’s tongue peeking out at his concentrated efforts. Jimmy ignores the fact that he is being ignored. Chatters on about his house and how he wants a puppy but his mother is mean to him and won’t get him a puppy and the puppy’s name would be Puppy because that’s what it should to be.
Eventually, Hikaru begins to make monosyllabic responses that sound more like grunts—and he’s definitely taking quick peeks now at Kirk and his drawing—until the youngster puts down his own black crayon and asks Jimmy quite clearly, “What’s that?” He points at Jimmy’s picture.
Jimmy looks proud. “I’m Capt’n and that’s my ship!”
Hikaru looks confused and leans over to peruse the “spaceship.” Pike’s seen it too; the craft resembles a silver pancake topped with a stick figure in a squiggly cape.
Then little James T. Kirk asks, “Can you fwy?”
Pike listens no more. Ms. Kirk steps into the room, looking harried but happy. He greets her, and she says she hopes that her son wasn’t too much of a hassle.
Pike grins. “Well, I’m not ready to throw in the towel quite yet.”
They both laugh. Jimmy catches the sound of his mother’s laughter and drags her away to meet his new friend Hikaru who’s going to pilot his spaceship when they’re battling bad guys.
Pike tucks a hand into his sweater and thinks that, perhaps, he might survive his new whirlwind of a class after all.