The Babysitter Wars

By

Pat Foley

It was an otherwise quiet late afternoon on Vulcan. Quiet now, that is.

After her son had wakened from a post lunchtime nap, Amanda had…

Fed him a snack…

Cleaned him up from the snack…

Taken him outside to let him run in the garden while she did some weeding and planting…

Answered fourteen questions with the honesty, accuracy and patience of a Vulcan…

Rescued a treasured row of Mars Daisies - which the Rigellian Ambassador had brought her as a gift across a dozen parsecs - from the attack of the pixie toddler…

Answered another eight questions semi-honestly and semi- patiently…

Went to the vegetable garden to pick some fresh vegetables for dinner…

Went back to the house for a basket to lug in the fourteen large plomeek the child from hell had snapped the stems on while she was picking a few peas…

Answered four more questions dishonestly, since by this time her patience with politic half-truths had vanished…

Rescued her son after he tripped and fell in a rose bush and came out peppered with green marks as if he had developed a bad case of Vulcan measles…

Dragged him back to the house on top of the basket, wailing, (she was quite ready to wail herself at this point)…

Doctored his scratches with mercurochrome under his skeptical and super critical eyes, so that now he looked like a bad case of Vulcan measles in Indian war paint, and redressed him in clean clothes…

Answered seven more questions partially honestly…

Replied to a message (dishonestly) from a colleague who enviously and foolishly asked her how she was enjoying maternity leave…

Restored a few shelves to Sarek's office walls which Spock, with only the aid of a six millennia old heirloom Pre-Reform dagger had removed from the walls while she was checking her mail…

Answered ten more questions dishonestly…

Settled him with another snack…

Came back from getting a much needed glass of water for herself just in time to grab him by the scruff of his collar before he hurtled from the stair landing to the stone flagged floors apparently in an attempt to test if Newton's elementary laws of gravity applied to Vulcans on Vulcan…

Cleaned up the spilled water she had dropped in favor of rescuing her son…

Dried him off and then gave up and redressed his shivering self in clean dry clothes…

Refused to answer any questions at all in favor of threatening said child with death and destruction if he moved from the spot she had placed him in…

Drank a much needed glass of water and rushed through certain personal functions necessary after drinking a lot of water on a heavy gravity planet…

Discovered said child missing from said spot…

Tore through the house searching for him in increasing panic only to spy, by a wisp of color through the window, said son flat on his belly over one of the fountain pools, her best silk scarf in both grubbing hands, using it as a net to try and catch some of the ornamental fish…

Grabbed him by his ankles before said child slid into the pool and revealed the answer to the interesting question about whether a Vulcan/human hybrid would have an instinctive knowledge of swimming, or if she would have had to tell his father he had drowned on her watch… and on Vulcan, a planet with practically no natural surface water…

Cleaned him up and undressed him again from what she discovered had been his last clean dry set of clothes. She would have to run some through the fresher

And taxed beyond her abilities, gave up and yelled for her backup, the Vulcan guardian angel most skilled of all in her family in the care and maintenance of said family's most precious natural resource...

"I'Chiya!"

You wouldn't think practical Vulcans would keep around the house an animal a large as a grizzly bear with even larger fangs. But sehlats are considered by Vulcans to be perfect nannies. I'Chiya did adore his young master. But he was old, and fat. He invariably took a siesta through the worst of Vulcan's midday heat, going to nap after lunch when she put Spock down, but not usually rising again until some four hours later. By his calculations, I'Chiya believed he had another hour to nap, and that she, the human caretaker, was still on duty, a duty that she ought to be able to handle.

His head popped up from his resting spot well back in the shadiest part of the garden and he roared, both in protest and in commentary over the fact that, from the day Spock had first started crawling, she'd expressed unease over allowing the huge creature any access to her son, much less Sarek's absurd notion that a sehlat could function as the perfect baby-sitter.

"What if he hurts him?" she'd asked Sarek.

Whuffling over the baby's interesting not-quite-Vulcan smell, I'Chiya had huffed under his breath. Even Sarek had registered shock, for all his vaunted control.

"That would never happen," Sarek said firmly.

"I don't mean deliberately of course," she said, giving the sehlat an apologetic pat.

I'Chiya whurred and turned away from her, big head still hung over the baby, but giving her the literal cold shoulder, making it plain he had not only heard and understood, but had not forgiven.

"It's just that he's so big, and Spock is so little. He could do it without realizing it."

"He will not hurt him."

"Sarek, I think it is sweet that you love your pet so much. And of course I'm fond of I'Chiya too. But you're not thinking logically. He's only an animal. And my baby's safety has to come first."

"You do not understand, my wife. I'Chiya was my sehlat from infancy and my father's before me. He has thus been part of our family for generations. My trust in him is implicit. He knows very well how to manage a Vulcan child."

"Meaning I don't?" Amanda asked, her eyes suddenly narrowing.

Sarek's brows rose to his bangs. A career in diplomacy had taught him the benefits of not blurting out the literal truth, however implicitly held. And of course at this point, he did not know for sure. A 99.9 per cent conviction was not entirely absolute. "The one does not necessary imply the other. I am aware," his hand closed on I'Chiya's massive shoulder, a gesture of equals, rather than one of owner to pet, "that I'Chiya's appearance on face value is that of a wild animal. But appearance is not the sum of his abilities. He is an excellent, experienced and facile guardian."

"What is this? 'Peter Pan' with a sehlat in the role of Nanna?" At Sarek's confusion, Amanda gave up. One disadvantage of marrying a Vulcan. They didn't understand her cultural referents. She put her statement in plain facts. "But that is why I am giving up teaching for a while. So I won't need a baby-sitter. Much less an animal one."

I'Chiya wuffed in offense at this characterization and gave her a look with a sneezing sniff that made it clear, Vulcan to human, he wasn't perhaps the only odd-smelling animal around.

Sarek just shook his head ruefully, making it clear she was on her on her own in this faulty course of action. "You will," he assured her. "You most certainly will."

"I won't."

"I would," Sarek muttered, with a personal experience of his own life of crime as a Vulcan child, however inexperienced he was as a parent. But since she was so sure and determined, he left her to find out his truths for herself.

And since Spock had first learned to crawl, she'd learned.

And the sehlat wasn't beyond rubbing her nose in it.

Now, as I'Chiya's head disappeared back into the garden she gave him the same capitulation she'd been giving since Spock had taught her the real reason why Vulcans keep thousand pound ursine creatures in their homes. Because even as Vulcan kids are a handful and determined to wear their parents to the bone while simultaneously driving them crazy, a sehlat is a Vulcan too, to the very tips of his long guard hairs.

And even Vulcan pets are Vulcan enough to never be conquered. Are Vulcan enough to be determined to win any argument.

She walked further into the garden after the sehlat, leading her terrorist son by the hand. "I know," she called. "You were right. Sarek was right. I was wrong. Wrong! Okay?

His eyes still shuttered with sleep, I'Chiya ignored her.

"Oh, get over it. I've never had a Vulcan kid before. And Spock is reportedly the third generation for you. You had the advantage of me. Come on, I'Chiya. I need a break. Please!"

Sighing hugely, I'Chiya rose only grumpily. But he rolled to his feet and came.

But now she was far enough into the garden to notice what had happened to a damp patch of ground where she had been trying, with the aid of an underground irrigation system, to grow some sweet peas.

She had put some sticks and strings to protect that area from I'Chiya's wallowing in it, to let him know the area was off limits. But her few little sticks and strings had done nothing to deter a half ton of sehlat, and the damp Terran-like ground was too tempting for I'Chiya. Nor did he regard any part of the grounds as off limits to him.

As he rolled toward her on his huge ursine pads, she could see his coat was black with dampened, expensively composted earth, so different from Vulcan sand, that there were broken sticks and sweet pea tendrils caught up in his dense coat. And a string, one of the strings she had been training her plants on, dangled from one long tusk.

She dropped her son's hand, and drew in a shocked breath. "You monster!" she railed. "How dare you dig up my garden again? We talked about this! I laid down the law! I spent hours planting that bed. My garden is not your wallow! I swore I'd take the kitchen broom to you again if you did this one more time!"

I'Chiya paused, gave her an evaluative look, sneezed, shook his massive coat, and turned around, lumbering into the house

And she knew exactly where he was going. I'Chiya had discovered the ultimate sehlat action of destruction the evening he'd usurped her place in the tub she had been running for herself one evening before dinner. When she had come back from settling Spock in his crib, she had discovered I'Chiya wallowing in it. It had been a bit of a tight fit for the sehlat, but the tub was a massive one Sarek had imported for her all the way from Earth, big enough for two or three people. Just barely big enough for I'Chiya. She'd gasped in horror, but the sehlat was undaunted and from his expression of bliss, the trespass had been worth it. She had been unable to exhort him to leave. He was deaf to her orders. And then she saw his bulk was blocking the overflow drain and her access to the taps, and water was beginning to spill over onto the floor. In desperation, she had grabbed the kitchen broom. Poking him with its bristly end in his bristly end, she had managed to chivy him out of the tub, but had failed to realize what havoc a sopping wet sehlat would do to the bedroom. And I'Chiya had shown no inclination to leave. Finally losing her temper, she had whacked him on his broad posterior with the broom's flat end. It wasn't the tap of the broom, which was negligent to the massive beast, but the insult to his dignity that he had resented. That got him moving. Sarek had come home in the middle of her chasing the sehlat down the stairs and out the garden door, clutching her robe around her with one hand while brandishing the broom with the other, as water from the overflowing tub poured down the stone steps.

"Life with you is never boring, my wife," Sarek had opined.

And of course, nothing the sehlat did was wrong in her husband's eyes.

And now when she and I'Chiya went head to head, he headed for her tub.

Amanda stood before him, warningly. "I'Chiya! Don't you dare!"

He stood his ground, facing off at her.

They stood toe to toe for a moment. But Amanda had had a long day, and I'Chiya had had the advantage of a long nap.

"All right!" Amanda capitulated "You win! You can sleep where you like in the garden! Just stay out of my tub. And watch this other monster for me while I get him some clean clothes."

I'Chiya took a few steps to the house and then looked back over one shoulder.

"Please," she said.

He gave a crotchety growl. Instead of coming back, he walked past her into the house.

Grabbing Spock, Amanda rushed after him. "I thought we had a deal?"

I'Chiya returned with the broom. The head had been fashioned of plomeek tendrils. The handle had already been chewed off. He dropped the broom head on the sand before her. With one motion of fang and clawed pad, he shredded it into a loose bundle of useless fiber. Honor avenged.

"Very funny," Amanda said, not without amusement. "All right. You stay out of my tub, and I'll let you wallow in at least part of the Terran gardens. But you have to let me grow a few plants, I'Chiya, or we don't have any reason to keep the garden irrigated the way you like it."

I'Chiya wuffed in disgruntled assent.

The sehlat sank in a heap by her son, who reached out to grab the animal by the fangs. I'Chiya simply butted Spock off his feet.

"Darn Vulcan monsters," Amanda said, no longer reacting in panic to the sight of the huge animal tussling with her son . "Both of you. You deserve each other, you know that?"

Spock tried to throttle the massive neck. I'Chiya butted him again and then simply sat on him. After a few aborted attempts to get back up, Spock gave up and squirmed around to rest against the sehlat as if it were a massive bolster. Now both the sehlat and her child were covered with dirt.

"You're both beasts," Amanda said.

I'Chiya growled in concurrence.

And then, almost against her will, Amanda laughed and settled down on the ground beside her son. The sehlat did make a good pillow. And she was awfully tired.

"Maybe we're all beasts," she muttered, before she drifted off.

And when Sarek came home, he found them all napping together in perfect Vulcan tradition and harmony. In a truce worthy of Surak, the Babysitter Wars had finally ended.

fini

-The Babysitter Wars

By

Pat Foley