A/N: Spock was clearly uncomfortable discussing "the birds and the bees" with Jim Kirk. Can you imagine how much more difficult that conversation would have been with his parents as a young boy? A Spock childhood story.
In the Weeds
He would do some surreptitious research on his own, and if that proved fruitless he would ask his mother, he decided. Safer than questioning his father, who would be certain to couch the explanation within a stern warning, admonishing him that he had chosen the Vulcan way, would now be expected to adhere to and honor that choice. The taunts of his classmates still rang in his ears: "I do not know why they bothered to bond you. It is not like you will ever be Vulcan enough for it to happen to you, although if it does the emotional unraveling will be much easier for you to bear than it will for those of us of pure blood. In fact, you would likely notice no difference at all." Had they been human, laughter would have erupted from the group at this point, however the stoic youngsters continued to mercilessly, inexorably make their point.
"Just because you completed your kahs-wan does not mean you are a true Vulcan," another voice from the small crowd had jeered as the students made their way to the school cafeteria for lunch. "You still carry the taint of your human blood. Odds are the attentions of your future wife will be wasted upon you at that time.
"T'Pring promises to be an aesthetically pleasing female someday, with the potential to bear many strong children. Why her parents would waste that potential on a non-pure specimen is beyond my comprehension. It is possible that it was only done to bring added stature to her family. Typically it is the male who attempts to better himself by marrying above his station, but there are those among us who will do anything to increase their status, even at the expense of their daughter."
"Perhaps there were no other families who were willing to risk his inevitable failure in exchange for the possibility of furthering their prominence in our social hierarchy," a third voice added sagely. "If no offspring are produced as a result of the union, then the increase in status will be moot." Murmurs of agreement rippled through the group, fading into the background noise as he moved away from them, slipping into a seat at an empty table. He cleared his mind, choosing instead to focus on the meal before him, and the presentation he was scheduled to give later that afternoon.
At the time he had been careful to remain silent, displaying only emotional detachment and complete indifference to the comments. He had believed the bonding ceremony to be a private affair between his family and that of T'Pring, but it seemed all aspects of his life were open to public scrutiny.
When it became evident that they would not elicit an emotional response from him his tormentors soon lost interest, but now the words weighed heavily upon him as he trudged home alone through the dusty, red soil. What wouldn't happen to him, he wondered. When he had been bonded to T'Pring last month, it was done virtually without explanation, his father only stating that this was how Vulcans had chosen their mates since the Time of the Beginning, and that when it was the proper time for them to be married, the bond he and T'Pring now shared would grow and intensify, drawing them one to the other.
And yet, the implications made by his older classmates suggested there was more to it than that. What, he longed to know. He thought that by completing his kahs-wan several months ago he had proven himself to be Vulcan beyond a shadow of a doubt, particularly since some of the participants in his class—full-blooded Vulcans no less—had failed to successfully finish the ten-day traditional Rite of Passage. Unfortunately that was not the case, and it seemed he would continue to have to prove himself, on what would become almost a daily basis.
Some of the words his classmates had bantered about continued to rattle around in his brain: Pon Farr, and koon-ut-kal-if-fee most notably. He had not heard either term before, so had no point of reference through which to decipher their meaning. He was able to translate the ancient tongue easily enough—The Time of Mating and marriage or challenge—but had no concept as to how they pertained to present-day Vulcan society.
Arriving home he slipped quietly inside, careful not to disturb his mother who was tending to her garden. Seating himself at a computer terminal he immediately began searching for the unfamiliar terms, but found nothing beyond the translations he had come up with on his own.
As he snapped off the terminal, his mother entered through the patio door, a large bunch of fresh-cut flowers in hand. "Spock! I must have lost track of time. Why didn't you tell me you were home from school?"
"I did not wish to disturb you, Mother," he replied simply. "I am a man now and do not require constant attention."
She grinned at that, ruffling his hair. "Okay, my grown-up Vulcan son. But just because you're grown doesn't mean you don't get hungry. Come into the kitchen and I'll fix you a snack."
He dutifully followed her, stopping at the sink to wash the thin film of powdery red dust from his hands and face. "Be a dear and fill this vase with water for me," his mother asked, handing him a tall, opaque ceramic container. He placed it on the kitchen table before settling into a chair.
"So how was your day?" she asked as she dropped the colorful bouquet into the simple vase. Vulcan tastes didn't allow for anything ostentatious. Form and function were the driving forces where Vulcan art was concerned. "Did your presentation on how to construct multiphasic mnemonic matrices go well?" she continued as she moved about the kitchen, preparing his light meal.
"Affirmative," he answered politely, reluctant to elaborate lest it be mistaken for boasting. "However, I heard a term today with which I am unfamiliar, Mother."
"Well, enlighten me my son and I'll do my best to clarify it for you," she said brightly, setting a plate of chollum bread, cheese cubes and risaka melon before him.
He took a bite of the bread, chewing it slowly as he contemplated the best way to begin. After a few moments he met his mother's eyes. "The word was Pon Farr, within the context that it was something I would never experience."
His mother visibly paled before regaining her composure and sliding into the seat opposite him at the table. He could not remember seeing her at a loss for words before. "It means The Time of Mating," she stammered, clearly uncomfortable and stalling for time.
"Yes, I was able to translate the archaic words, but do not fully understand their connotation within our contemporary society and require elucidation," he replied calmly. "I was also led to believe it was something T'Pring and I would experience together due to our bond."
"And just who told you that," his mother snapped in reply, anger flashing briefly behind the steely blue eyes.
"I overheard several older boys discussing it at school today." Not truly a lie, merely an omission of all the pertinent facts. He knew his mother found it distressing when the other boys tormented him, and wished to spare her all-too-human feelings of exasperation, regret and despair that she was unable to protect him from this unsettling behavior on the part of his contemporaries. "It was a simple leap of logic to extrapolate the details and apply them to the unique connection T'Pring and I currently share."
His mother went red, inadvertently displaying her discomfiture. Unlike the average Vulcan, she is unable to regulate her involuntary autonomic responses, he noted idly. How easily the emotions show. I must remember that, and carefully guard against allowing others a window into my innermost thoughts and feelings.
Wringing her hands nervously, his mother began to speak: "I'm not sure I'm the one who can adequately explain this to you, Spock," she began uncertainly. "Pon Farr is a uniquely Vulcan phenomenon. It would be best if your father explained the particulars to you, since he has first-hand experience with the physiological condition."
"But you are his wife, bonded to him as I am now bonded to T'Pring. Surely you must have some understanding of what will transpire, and what will be expected of me." The sentence came out sounding more desperate than he intended. This conversation was rapidly moving in a direction most uncomfortable for him. He had hoped to avoid discussing it with his father, at least until he had a better grasp of the situation, and just what the "condition" entailed.
"I'll speak to him when he gets home; it really would be for the best if he provided you with the particulars," she reiterated.
Despite his best attempts, his face must have still been betraying his distress, for she reached out and patted his hand. "Don't worry, my son, Vulcans have been subjected to Pon Farr for millennia. It is more challenging for males, but by bonding you to T'Pring, your father and I have guaranteed your safety. Besides," she continued, "this is something you needn't trouble yourself with just yet. It will be many years before you experience Pon Farr."
Somehow, he didn't find that explanation reassuring, given the look of uncertainty that still lingered in his mother's eyes.
A KNOCK at his bedroom door drew his attention away from his homework, as an uncomfortable fluttering began in his gut. Dinner this evening had been even more quiet than usual. Vulcan custom dictated that meals be eaten in silence, but that rule had been relaxed somewhat in their household in deference to his human mother. In general nothing significant was discussed, with his mother being the primary contributor. At this time of year she usually prattled on and on about her garden, now in full bloom, but tonight her silence had been deafening. One glance at his parents' somber faces indicated a discussion of the topic he had brought up to his mother earlier would be on the agenda for later this evening.
Foolishly, he found himself wishing that his older brother Sybok, banished from the family several months before Spock undertook his kahs-wan, was still living with them. Spock had gleaned from the literal translation that Pon Farr had to do with procreation, but somehow it seemed to involve more than just that. He was certain that if his brother had the information, the fourteen-year-old would have fully explained everything to him without placing any expectations with regard to Spock's behavior upon him. In his life thus far, Sybok had been the only person who understood him completely, grasped without censure the unique personal struggles he dealt with on a daily basis.
"Come," he called softly, willing his voice to be steady, unemotional.
His mother poked her head into the room. "Spock, your father wishes to speak to you in his study."
He rose to his feet as she opened the door wider, granting him egress. Eyes full of love and compassion met his as he slipped past her, his footsteps echoing hollowly on the smooth stone floor as he made his way toward Sarek's study. He swallowed nervously. No good had ever come from him being summoned to that room. Upon reaching the closed door he knocked politely, respectfully. "Enter," came the muffled response. Lifting his chin and squaring his shoulders, Spock composed his face and walked inside. He stopped before his father's oversized wooden desk, hands clasped loosely behind his back.
"Your mother informs me you have questions regarding your bonding," Sarek began without preamble. "Please specify."
Is this a test, he wondered. Surely his mother had been explicit regarding his concerns, and questions. Would his father only provide information with respect to specific areas of interest? He chose his words carefully. "It has come to my attention that at the proper time, I am to undergo a uniquely Vulcan phenomenon known as Pon Farr, and that an erosion of emotional control accompanies the condition. I wish to learn the specific details, so that I may adequately prepare for this inevitable and unavoidable lapse in control." Surely that would be agreeable to his father, would prove that he wished to deal with this unknown experience in proper Vulcan fashion.
"I am displeased that this biological function was disclosed to you at this time in your life. It is something with which you will not have to contend for many years yet. It is not a topic Vulcans readily or openly discuss among themselves, and a topic which I had planned to address when you were older, and better equipped to understand the unique constraints the condition will place upon you."
The fluttering was back. Spock did his best to squelch it. It seemed in a roundabout way his father was refusing to provide him with the information at this time. Why? Should he press for further edification or simply let the matter drop? And yet, Sarek continued: "The physical and emotional demands placed on Vulcan males come down to us from the Time of the Beginning, without change. Needless to say, this includes an emotional turmoil which we find unsettling as, as a race, Vulcans have eradicated all emotion since the Reformations of Surak came into existence two thousand point zero three years ago. As Pon Farr is a biological function inherent to our species, this impedes our ability to adequately control the emotional aspect of this physiological condition. It is difficult for the average Vulcan male to manage. It strips our minds from us and brings a madness which rips away our veneer of civilization. In your case, this may prove more difficult still, since all vestiges of your Vulcan control may be usurped by your human physiology at this time, and there are those who will fault you for your behavior, regardless of whether it parallels that of full-blooded Vulcans."
Spock absorbed that in silence, hoping he was successful at keeping the panic that gripped him from reaching his face. It seemed no matter how hard he worked, no matter how adept he became at managing his emotions and caging and tightly controlling the human part of himself, he would never meet the expectations of what it truly meant to be Vulcan in the eyes of his peers. He would always be "in the weeds" as it were.
And yet, another jeer from the crowd surfaced in his mind: It will never happen to you. Precisely what did that mean? Projecting an outward appearance of calm, he met his father's eyes, wanting—no, needing—clarification, yet reluctant to ask the question that now terrified him. Since completing his kahs-wan he had worked so hard at being wholly Vulcan. Gone were all traces of human behavior. Would that now change when he was afflicted with this unknown condition? Was it a permanent struggle he would now have to master in adulthood as well? A furtive glance at his father made him realize the condition must be temporary; the adult Vulcan males he knew did not appear to be grappling with their emotions on a daily basis. But would it be different for him? He licked his lips, before asking quietly, "Is there a chance, due to my hybrid physiology, that the condition will never affect me?"
His father hesitated before answering, dropped his eyes briefly as if searching for the proper words. "You are the first Vulcan-human hybrid to be born on our planet. As such, we have no data on which to draw with regard to this biological phenomenon. You shall be the first, the 'test case' of sorts," Sarek answered evasively.
"And how will it impact my life if I never experience Pon Farr, Father?" the youngster pressed.
"Speculation at this point would be futile without concrete facts to go on. It would be best if we continued this discussion when you are older, and closer to experiencing your first Pon Farr," Sarek responded decisively, dismissively. It seemed the conversation was over.
Spock immediately seized on the tacit command. "Understood, Father. I shall give the matter no further thought, or consideration, until such time as you deem it necessary to continue the discussion," he answered respectfully, contritely.
Sarek seemed pleased by that statement, or at least relieved. "A wise decision, my son. It would be illogical to waste time and intellectual effort on that which cannot be determined, or adequately prepared for, at this time. We shall speak of it again as the time draws nearer for you."
"One last thing, if I may, Father. When should I first expect this biological phenomenon to occur?" he wanted to know, feeling his palms begin to sweat.
"Typically a Vulcan male will initially experience the siren call of Pon Farr in his early twenties, at least fourteen years for you yet, my son. It is a seven-year cycle, so after your first time, you will have a number of years to understand how it affected you, and reflect on how best to master the situation during future iterations.
Spock filed that information away for evaluation at a later time, but he had learned the most important thing: The fact that he was now seven meant that Sarek must have undergone Pon Farr close to a year ago, for his father would have had to succumb to the biological urges it presented not at the time of Spock's birth, but his conception. He may have missed the opportunity this time, but would be carefully scrutinizing his father in another six years, in order to entirely understand that which he would be facing. "I thank you, Father, for undertaking this discussion with me at this time. It has enlightened me enough to know that this is not a pressing concern." He dipped his head slightly in deference and turned to go, relieved that this ordeal was finally over.
SEVERAL HOURS later another soft knock at his bedroom door indicated his mother was back. Despite the fact that he viewed himself now as completely Vulcan, that brought him an odd sense of comfort. While his father had provided him with virtually no guidance, had seemed almost aloof and indifferent to his concerns, he knew his mother had come to ascertain how he was coping with this newfound knowledge. This time she entered without waiting to be invited. "It's getting late, Spock. Time for bed. Is your homework done?"
"Have you washed your face and brushed your teeth?"
"Yes, Mother," he intoned.
"Then climb in," she said, turning down the sheets and patting the mattress.
He sat on the edge of the bed, swinging his legs up and sliding them between the sheets.
"Did the talk with your father help to alleviate your fears?" she asked casually.
"Fear is a human emotion. I am no longer governed by my emotions," he replied at once.
"Of course you're not," she conceded. "Did it help to ease your mind, then?"
"My father chose not to go into detail at this time, as it will be at least fourteen years before Pon Farr is upon me. He assured me it is not worthy of my concern or attention at this time."
"And I agree with that, Spock. You needn't trouble yourself about it now. Like I said before, your father and I will do whatever is necessary to protect you. By bonding you to T'Pring we have ensured that there will be no problems for you when your first Pon Farr does happen, and we'll discuss the details of the condition with you as your time draws nearer." She paused, tugging the covers up to his chin. "I know Vulcans don't express this emotion, but we do love you, Spock, and will always do whatever it takes to help you successfully navigate the life-path you have chosen."
"Yes, Mother, I am aware," he replied, leaving her to decide if his answer applied to the former or latter part of her statement, or both.
"Then sleep tight, and don't let the bedbugs bite," she quipped, eyes full of mischief.
"I must admit to not knowing how to 'sleep tight,' and was not aware that we had a C. lectularius infestation problem," he answered truthfully, radiating just a hint of bewilderment.
She laughed at that, and he was secretly pleased. Just because he could no longer permit himself to indulge in human emotions, it did not mean he minded seeing his mother do so. It was, after all, her nature. "It's just an old Earth idiom," she explained, "meaning that we wish you a restful, uninterrupted sleep."
"Would it not be wise to simply state that, then?" he asked innocently.
He watched as she suppressed a grin. "Then sleep well, my son," she finished, rising to her feet. "And don't trouble yourself about Pon Farr. We'll cross that bridge as a family when we come to it." She made her way to the door, turned off the light, and pulled the door closed softly behind her.
Alone in the dark, his mind once again began to race. Is it true, then? Does T'Pring resent the choice made for her by her parents? Will she be displeased with me if I do not experience Pon Farr like a typical Vulcan male? He did not know the girl at all, had met her for the first time on their bonding day, in fact. She lived in a different part of the city, attended a different school. On that day, his mother had assured him they would spend time getting to know one another during their teenage years so that when the time came for them to be married, they wouldn't be strangers to one another. All that mattered now was that they were bonded, promised to each other as Vulcan youth had been for countless millennia.
He probed the spot in his mind that housed the newly-formed bond. For now, it presented as a locked door at the end of a long, dark tunnel. He could walk up to it and stand before it, but for now the girl's thoughts were hidden from him. Are mine hidden from her as well, he wondered. Will the door slowly open as we become more comfortable with one another, granting us access to each other's thoughts, or as a full-blooded Vulcan can she already peer into my mind at will? He realized these were questions he could not ask his parents at this time, but found unnerving nevertheless. This trepidation, this sense of foreboding wouldn't do, he decided. If she were able to look into his soul, he would ensure that what she saw was wholly Vulcan. He would prove those older boys at school wrong. Someday, T'Pring would be grateful for the match her parents had made on her behalf, he vowed silently. He would do his utmost to guarantee the veracity of that sentiment.
He realized his parents were correct—wasting time and energy worrying about this now would be counterproductive. He would redouble his efforts to conduct himself as a true Vulcan, making certain that she would have no reason to be displeased with him, he resolved. This would guarantee her approval of him, as well as the approval of his parents. Rolling on his side he closed his eyes and cleared his mind. Having finally settled on a course of action, sleep took him swiftly.