The Judgment of Solomon
The next morning, having been assured his wife was recovering well under Sjekur's care, Sarek had inherited her babysitting duties until she could return. Amanda had insisted upon it when he had spoken to her. She had sounded and looked perfectly well, rapidly recovering after her dosage had been adjusted, Sjekur assured him that as soon as he was sure she had stabilized she could return home. Sarek had no doubt that the future difficult course of Amanda's pregnancy would require that other child care options must soon be explored. But for the moment, he chose not to distress her by doing other than what she wished.
Sarek settled in the garden with a sheaf of Council documents that required his attention and a portable reader. For Spock, he borrowed a leaf out of his wife's book and brought a blanket, a basket of fruit and juice, and a box of logic puzzles and a few carefully selected Vulcan texts suitable for a young child. Spock circulated between puzzles and books and food in a most disorganized, undisciplined way, but Sarek was not concerned with that.
For an hour, except for having to pause every few moments to answer a question, Sarek's role as babysitter went well. Due to a Vulcan's natural ability to concentrate, he had no problem simultaneously answering questions and keeping his mind on his work. He wondered why Amanda complained so about Spock's constant questioning. He regarded this as an opportunity to increase Spock's facility in Vulcanur. To sum it up, Sarek believed taking care of a Vulcan child, as Amanda might have phrased it, was child's play.
But inexperience tripped him up. There came a short period where Spock ceased to ask him questions and Sarek let himself get drawn into a detailed Federation document. When next he looked up, Spock was gone.
He was Vulcan. He did not panic. For one thing, I-Chiya was with the child. For another, the grounds were walled and secure and Spock could not get far, especially since I-Chiya would stop him from going out on the Forge. But given his wife was risking her life to give him a second child, Sarek felt it incumbent on him to ensure he preserved intact the first one she had given him.
He listened keenly, but he heard nothing, and had to resort to following the tug of the parental bond to find his child. He heard Spock before he found him. First a few giggles, and some smacking sounds. Then his son's voice.
"Mine, I-Chiya. Mine. You get your own. No, mine! Oh, all right. You can have these." More giggles. Good, huh? Want more? Ouch! Watch thorns."
"Spock?" Sarek turned a corner and saw his son, sitting beneath a large rose hedge. Around him the ground was littered with buds and petals.
"What are you doing?" Sarek asked in horror.
Spock looked up at him with a pink tinted, rose-petaled grin. "I-Chiya and me, we have our own picnic."
"You're eating them?"
"Taste good, Yum, yum."
"Spock, no," Sarek pulled him up, opened his hands and extracted the crumpled sandy flowers from his grubby fists over Spock's resistance.
"Spit them out!" Sarek demanded. "How much have you eaten?"
"Won't! Good food!"
For a moment Sarek was ready to rush, for the second time in two days, a family member to an emergency medical center. He bundled Spock under one arm. But then, half panicked, had the foresight to think to strip a rose hedge of a sampling of buds and petals for a poison analysis. Then ready to plunge headlong for the aircar, it occurred to him that before he descended on the healers he could analyze the flowers himself. Mindful to be careful, lest he poison himself and fail to get Spock aide, nevertheless he ripped a petal in quarters so that it was barely a few millimeters, and tentatively tasted the plant, letting his own tastebuds check for toxins.
"Taste good, huh?" Spock asked, watching him.
Sarek let Spock slide from his hip to the ground. "Yes," he said in reluctant surprise.
Spock reached to grab for more flowers. "See, we have picnic."
"Wait," Sarek commanded, and went to take them from him.
"No. This my bush," Spock said. "You get your own. Lotsa flowers here; this one's mine."
"Spock you mustn't eat things you find growing in the garden," Sarek said. "They could be dangerous." Just to be sure, he took another petal and tasted it carefully. And let out a sigh of relief. It was innocuous. Not a single toxic substance. He hadn't allowed his son to be poisoned through negligence the first day his wife was incapacitated by her pregnancy. And Spock was right. The flavor was mildly sweet, vaguely floral. To a Vulcan's tastebuds, quite delicious.
"You eaten em."
"Nevertheless you must not put in your mouth whatever you find. Only what your mother and I give you to eat. And you have had enough of these roses. They could still be unwholesome if taken in quantity. I will later have them analyzed in detail."
"I-Chiya still hungry."
"He has had enough too."
"This our picnic." Spock said stubbornly.
Sarek debated carrying him away and putting an end to this argument but reflected that while it would be easier for himself, Spock was old enough to restrain himself, to begin learning the discipline of obedience. And necessary for him to begin now. Amanda could hardly continue carrying him during a high-risk pregnancy. "Spock, I have told you to leave the roses and attend me."
Uneasy at the standoff, I-Chiya whined.
Dark eyes surveyed him coolly and discounted him. "You not the boss of me," Spock challenged, deliberately in English, rather than the Vulcanur Sarek had been speaking to him all morning. And equally deliberately he crammed the contents of both fists full of rose petals into his mouth.
Sarek's brows rose to his bangs. "I don't know where you reached such an erroneous conclusion, but I assure you it is entirely incorrect."
"No! Not!" Spock said, spitting out a few petals in his fury.
"You will do as you are told," Sarek said.
"You bad, bad. No logical. I hungry, I eat."
Sarek drew a breath, prepared to nip this incipient mutiny in the bud as it were, regardless of the means necessary to do it, his own temper beginning to fray. But then meeting his son's equally determined, stubborn eyes, he was suddenly struck by the force of Spock's will, flashing from his eyes, spilling across the parental bond. Sarek actually took a step back, startled, staring at his son. If he had ever had a moment's doubt that Spock was fully his son, his heir, regardless of any human heritage his mother might have given him, that doubt had now been extinguished.
Spock raised his chin, a hint of cool triumph in his eyes, seeing Sarek disconcerted. "I eat," he said, willfully stubborn, and reached for another rosebud.
"Drop it," Sarek said in emphatic mode, in a tone that would have given every clan leader in Council pause.
It didn't faze Spock in the slightest. He stuffed the petal in his mouth.
Sarek took him by the hand and hauled Spock back to the house and put him, howling and furious, into his crib. The Vulcan method of discipline would have involved withdrawing the parental bond, but at the moment, Sarek was not sure he trusted his own mental shields to retain the proper detachment during the process.
"You can stay there, as the infant you have proven yourself to be until you are ready to behave as your age dictates," Sarek said.
Spock kicked and shook the side of his crib in fury. "Want Mama! Want Mama! Want Mama!" he yelled, the last loud enough to pain even human ears.
"And don't even think about getting out of that crib." Sarek warned.
It was more likely Spock would tear it down, but the boy stopped short of that.
Sarek walked out of the room to a renewed storm of toddler tears. Once out of the room, he paused and drew a deep breath, marshalling his control. From the room, Spock was still crying as if his heart would break, enough to touch even Sarek's heart as his own flare of temper cooled. He had to remind himself of his little son's determined disobedience.
"I want Mama," Spock sobbed, and Sarek drew a deep breath into his lungs and let it out in a weary sigh.
"So do I," Sarek muttered, resisting the urge to lean against the wall. "So do I."
Spock didn't get out of his crib. In a few minutes, the sobbing stopped. Sarek went back in, to see if Spock were ready to behave. But his son had fallen asleep. Amanda would have been horrified, Sarek thought, to see how he had gone to sleep, in dirty, sandy clothes, still wearing shoes, his face tear streaked, and a grubby thumb thrust into his mouth in a mannerism Sarek hadn't seen him effect in a year. He reached down and gently eased Spock's thumb from his mouth, remembering how Amanda had been worried he'd ruin the shape of his developing teeth.
Spock sobbed once, still asleep, and then clutched his pillow. "Mama. I-Chiya," he pled brokenly, caught in painful dreams.
Sarek sat across from Spock in the rickety rocker, thinking soberly about the fact that Spock had cried for his mother. He had cried for his pet. He had not cried for him.
A little, niggling thread of doubt made him wonder if Amanda's prediction from the other night could possibly come true.
But he banished the thought in the next instant. The Vulcan way was right, correct. Even Amanda admired the philosophy. It was the heritage his son deserved. One he meant to give to him. Whatever the cost.
Even if the cost to them all included a few tears. And one sorely frayed father.
To be continued….