"I'm sorry." McCoy apologized even though there was no reason for him to. It wasn't like this was his fault. But it was the only thing he could think to say though he was sure it didn't come close to making the couple feel better. To his surprise, Nyota simply shrugged. And Spock, well, he never saw a reaction out of that machine so he wasn't surprised.
"There is nothing to apologize for, doctor. You did not make a mistake in a procedure nor could this be your fault. The doctors on Vulcan speculated that I would be unable to reproduce offspring, and you have only confirmed their suspicions. If you do not mind sending them a copy of your report, I believe they will find it most enlightening."
McCoy really hoped that the human part of Spock was hiding somewhere underneath the calm, matter of fact façade because while he might be taking the news well, human women didn't usually appreciate being told they could never be a mother. To his surprise, again, Nyota looked relieved. Not the reaction he was expecting though at least she was capable of them.
"Guess that means no more pregnancy scares." She laughed and looked down at her stomach. "I was really worried this time."
Spock locked his hands behind his back. "I am aware."
McCoy did not need to know that. He knew that the two were in a relationship and probably did normal couple things like have sex, but he didn't want to know. Or think about it. And now he was. But he was ending that line of thought right there. Spock and sex were two things that should never go in the same sentence, thought, or image.
"I'm not upset, Spock." Nyota went to place a hand on Spock's arm but he pulled back, giving her a significant look. She sighed. Vulcans were touch telepaths, hence the reason they avoided body contact, but she had hoped that as their relationship progressed, Spock would become more comfortable with simple touches. So far that wasn't the case. "I mean, we've talked about children, and you know I didn't want them until after my career anyways, and now that I've been assigned to the Enterprise who knows how long that might be in the future. I was never even sure I wanted them at all."
"There is no need to comfort me." If possible, Spock sounded even more detached than he usually did. "I have no feelings; therefore, no need for comfort. If you are content with this situation then it will be put to rest. Come, I am sure the doctor has work he would like to accomplish and our presence is only hindering him."
Spock held out his arm and Nyota was careful to wrap hers around where their uniforms touched. Spock wanted his privacy at the moment and she could respect that. She wanted hers as well sometimes. While dating a telepath had many joys; they could share a connection more intimate than any human was capable of, she was human and was used to having her mind be a private place. Spock had been very understanding of that. Obviously there were certain instances where body contact was unavoidable but for the most part he only tried to touch her with fabric between them. It still transferred emotions but Spock was getting better at blocking them out.
She often thought she was being unfair, keeping their relationship from being the most it could be, but Spock never let her think that way for long. She was human and he was Vulcan, they had different expectations for relationships and it would be selfish to force his on her. Instead, he strove to find a medium that made her happy and that was all she needed. She didn't mind not having children because she wasn't sure she needed them to make her happy. She had Spock and didn't think her life was missing anything.
"Your break will be over in approximately 2.53 minutes," Spock informed her when they reached his quarters. "You should return to the bridge before you are tardy and the Captain inquires after you."
"Okay." They were standing outside his door and she searched his face for what she knew she wasn't going to find. On occasion Spock let glimpses of his feelings flash across his face, for her benefit, but now was not one of them. She wondered if it meant that he really was feeling nothing or that he was trying very hard not to show her something. He seemed completely relaxed despite his perfect posture and she deduced it must be the first. When fighting back strong emotion his body often tensed, his fingers curled, small signs that he was having an inner struggle. "I'll see you when your shift is over."
She leaned in as if to kiss him and he raised a single eyebrow. They were in the corridor of the Enterprise. She remembered one of the few rules he set down for their relationship. No public displays of affection. She pressed her lips together and gave him a nod, his preferred way of greeting and dismissing people. He nodded back and entered his quarters, leaving Nyota to return to the bridge.
Spock had planned on going over the submissions to Starfleet Science, a journal that he was not only a contributor to but editor for, but that did not seem wise at the moment. He found that when he was not perfectly calm and rational his criticism on entries became increasingly harsh. His fellow editors had informed him that while constructive criticism was necessary in order for a writer to get better, he ought to limit his to only one or two suggestions. And that finding a different field of expertise was not an acceptable comment.
He walked over to his mediation corner and sat down. Many things had happened today, and his mind was jumbled. He must put it in order before it was time for his shift. He had suspected that he would be unable to produce children, had been told that it would be improbable that he would ever have offspring, but McCoy was the first to tell him that it would never happen. Definitive. No room for the illogical feeling he attributed to his mother's influence. Hope.
He briefly wondered if his father would be disappointed. The ancient line would end with Spock, unable to produce the necessary heir to carry on the family name. Though, with Vulcan being destroyed and their ancestral lands gone, perhaps titles and bloodlines were no longer as important.
He strove to view the situation in rational terms. It was a positive. He would not be obligated to live on the Vulcan Colony and contribute to the rebuilding of his people meaning he could continue to serve in Starfleet. Nyota did not appear to want children so this would not produce a disagreement that could lead to the dissolution of their relationship. That did not necessarily mean that she would not change her mind. And if she did decide on wanting children, he could not provide that for her and that would make him an inadequate mate. A feeling of anger directed at himself surged up in him, and he fought to keep it down. Meditation was supposed to suppress his emotions, not stir them up.
He took several deep breaths in order to bring himself calm. He could not have children. It was an unalterable fact. There was no sense in dwelling on what it would have been like if he could. All he could do now was accept and adjust his lifestyle and goals in accordance with that fact. It was the Vulcan way. It was the only way.
Two days later Spock was taking advantage of Nyota's absence to catch up on his submission readings. He had accepted two and declined seven when his doors signaled that someone was outside.
"Come in." He glanced up from his work, curious to see who had come to visit him. It was an extremely stressed couple who worked in engineering. Lawrence and Grace Marker. Grace was holding an infant in her arms. Spock recalled Nyota telling him a few months ago that she was attending a baby shower. Spock had chosen not to attend. "May I assist you?"
"We were looking for Nyota."
It was a sign of their distracted state of mind that they had not thought to use the computer to search for her. Spock thought it wise not to point out that fact. "She is on duty. Is this a problem that only requires her expertise?"
The reaction was instantaneous. Spock did not even have to be touching Grace to feel the panic pouring off of her. "She was supposed to watch Natayla for us because Kirk assigned us duty together." One of the reasons relationships, and especially families, were frowned upon on starships. In order to avoid favoritism, shifts were assigned by a random generator which often caused problems when it separated couples so they were never off duty together. It appeared that this was a case where being on duty together was a problem.
"Am I correct in assessing that you need someone to care for your child while you attend to your duties?" Spock asked.
Grace nodded, looking like she was ready to burst into tears. Lawrence had a stiff arm around his wife, trying to appear more put together.
"As Nyota is unable to fulfill her promise, I will assume her duties. You may leave the child in my care."
"Do you even know how to take care of a child?" Grace asked, looking like she would crumble if he said no. Desperation was shining through her eyes and it made Spock answer in a way he might not usually have.
"I will be fine." That was not a lie. It was a statement based on fact. Spock had never failed before and he was confident that if he put in the necessary research he would not fail in this situation either. The Terran infant was asleep which would give him the time necessary to research how to properly care for one before it awoke. The other Spock, his older counterpart had shared with him the knowledge that implication was not the same as lying and in some cases, outweighed the truth. This appeared to be one of those cases.
His hypothesis was proved correct when relief washed over the couple's faces. He was handed two bottles with explicit instructions on how to prepare them, and the sleeping infant was laid down on his mediation mat. He said nothing as they thanked him and left. He was busy contemplating whether the infant's parents believed her capable of meditation.
He had been told to tell one of them if he was feeling overwhelmed or needed assistance, and they would leave their station to relieve him of the child. He did not bother responding to the statement despite its many flaws. First, he did not feel so there was no possibility of him feeling overwhelmed. Second, he would not require assistance as he was accessing the database now for all relevant information on the care of Terran infants. Third, he could not allow them to neglect their duties even if he proved inadequate at caring for an infant child. But, as he previously stated, he would not be inadequate. All it would take was some research.
The infant napped for precisely 2.3 minutes longer than he required to sufficiently research the most efficient ways to care for her. When she awoke, Spock's sensitive ears were assaulted with the loud, assailing wail of the child. He looked at her, momentarily frozen as he tried to understand how such a small life form could make so much noise. Deciding to investigate that line of thought later, he went about preparing a bottle for her. According to his research, a baby cried when it required something; usually feeding or attention. Coupled with the information from Grace that the infant had not fed in some time he would assume that it was the latter that plagued the infant.
He had also come across a footnote that indicated that Terran infants did on occasion cry for no reason at all and would not be pacified despite all attempts. This he found very illogical but by nature humans were illogical, and therefore it was logical that from birth they would engage in illogical behavior. Even for Spock that sentence was an overuse of the word logical and he pushed the thought out of his mind and focused on lifting the infant in the proper fashion according to the diagrams and videos he had looked at.
He almost dropped the infant when they first made contact. His mind was swamped with need. All consuming, almost overpowering and he hastily threw up walls that were nowhere near perfect but would have to suffice at the moment. He looked down at the infant who had stopped crying, apparently recognizing the position that she was in and what it meant. Such strong emotions for such a small life form as well. Spock lowered the bottle to the infant's mouth and decided that this foray into the caring for a human child was most illuminating.
As soon as the need began to feed need began to ebb in favor of contentment. It flowed through her skin and into Spock's settling in his mind and putting him oddly at peace. He looked down at the creature in his arms, tears still wet on her lashes but staring up at Spock with wide open eyes. Completely trusting despite the fact that he was a complete stranger. Fascinating.
When he approximated that the bottle was half empty he removed it from the infant's mouth and laid her over his shoulder so he could engage in the procedure known as burping. He was supposed to lightly pat the infant's back until it released an air bubble that had in all probability formed while she ate so fast. He wondered if he ought to try and communicate with the infant, inform her that if she did not try to consume her bottle at such rapid speeds, she would not have to be burped. It would seem logical for her to try and implement this because as soon as the bottle was taken away she began crying again.
"I will return your necessary nutrition to you as soon as you have released your air bubble," Spock informed the infant but she didn't pause in her crying. "If you did not eat at such a rapid pace you would not have this problem." His words appeared to have no effect on the infant. He was not surprised. She was only human after all.
After her release of air, which was as loud as Spock had expected given the fact that she was consistently making sounds larger than her body would suggest she was capable of making, he returned to feeding her and she pacified immediately. She did not, however, reduce the speed of her liquid intake until it was nearing empty. Spock took it as a sign that her stomach was almost filled, not that she was heeding his advice.
When the infant had finished consuming her bottle, Spock engaged in burping her again. This time there were no tears. Spock was appreciative and let the infant know through their bond. It appeared to be the infant's preferred way of communicating. The lazy contentment was spreading through the child into Spock and he raised an eyebrow at her.
"You do not require much for your happiness. Simply to be fed and held. I believe I envy you. Illogical, as I am far superior to you in strength, intellect, and in every aspect. However, I believe in this instance I find the complexities of my nature that allow for such superiorities not as desirable as the simplicity of yours."
The infant gurgled and smiled, showing off her gums. Something stirred in Spock. An emotion that he attributed to the infant. Perhaps holding her was not the best course of action. He could not, however, bring himself to put her down. It would be cruel, he reasoned with himself. According to his research, human infants needed to be held, to experience human contact. Therefore, he would hold her. He would simply endeavor to block out the emotion she was transferring.
Though that was illogical as well. The infant was human, requiring love and other nurturing emotions. Spock could deny himself those emotions, they were a danger to him as Vulcan, but he would be neglecting his duties as a proper caregiver if he denied them from the infant as well. Which made it only logical that he lower the barriers he'd constructed between them. The infant needed to know that she was cared for, that while in Spock's care he would let no harm come to her.
He hadn't anticipated the power of her emotional response to his. His mind was flooded with emotion and for a moment all he could feel was happiness. Pure, undiluted joy. It was a feeling he'd never experienced, that he wasn't sure even adult humans experienced. The emotion took over his mind, destroying his control, and it took him a moment to realize the person he heard laughing was himself.
As the deluge began to retreat, Spock was left with total calm. A calm that no meditation had ever achieved. He did not understand. He looked down at the infant in his arms.
"What have you done to me?"
She smiled up at him and that was when he identified the strongest feeling she was sending his way. Acceptance. It was something he'd never had. A child of two worlds, a stranger to both. He was rejected by Vulcans for being too human and rejected by humans for being too Vulcan. He had never even learned to accept himself for what he was, always striving to prove himself a Vulcan despite the fact that half his genetics said he could never be that. Yet, here was this Terran child who accepted him. As a caregiver. One who would feed her, change her, look after her emotional and physical well-being. She did not care that the man holding her had pointed ears, slanted eyebrows, or sometimes had the illogical desire to wriggle his toes in the sea. She only cared that he was holding her.
"Thank you," he whispered, reaching a finger out. She wrapped her tiny hand around it and even though Spock did not think she understood his words he felt a gentle wave of an emotion he did recognize wash over him. Love. He often got this same intensity of emotion from his mother. Or he had. He felt a sharp stab of pain at the reminder of his mother but it was instantly soothed away. He looked down at the infant, incredulity in his eyes.
"Fascinating," he murmured. He did not speak again until her parents came to get her. He did not even know how much time had passed.
"I hope she didn't cry much for you," Grace said as she took the infant from Spock's arms. Spock forced himself to part with her; these were her parents after all. He had anticipated the hollowness he would feel when the contact with the infant was lost and managed to keep his face impassive.
"Approximately 0.37 minutes as I prepared her bottle, 0.78 as she was burped, and 1.23 besides that. I would not define that as much."
The Markers stared at him in shock. "Three minutes?" Grace cried and Spock decided this was one of those times where he did not need to correct her precision. "Three minutes? You're joking, right?" Spock raised a single eyebrow. "Of course not. Three minutes." She shook her head in wonder. "Forget Mr. Scot, Mr. Spock you are the true miracle worker on this ship. Three minutes."
"Forgive my wife's wonder. Natayla, like most infants, spends most of her time crying. It can get to be very stressful."
Spock could tell from the dark circles underneath the mother's eyes, despite her attempts to cover them up, that she must not be getting much sleep. The father as well seemed tense, not his usual self. Spock decided there was only one logical solution.
"As your superior officer, it is my duty to look after your wellbeing. As a Vulcan I do not require as much rest as humans though the Captain insists on giving me the same length shifts as the rest of the crew. Therefore, I find I have time in my day where I am not engaged on the bridge or in necessary recovery. If you require rest that you cannot achieve with your infant then I will offer my services as a caretaker as often as you need them, provided the Captain does not need me on the bridge."
There was a long pause as the couple tried to process what he'd said. "Are you offering to babysit again?" Grace was achieving such a high state of emotion that if she had not been holding the infant, Spock suspected she would have tried to establish physical contact that humans often referred to as a hug.
Spock gave a slow nod and endured their effusive thanks as long as he thought appropriate before putting an end to the conversation. If he was going to be looking after this infant again he would have to go in search of some of the amusement objects he had seen pictured during his research. He believed humans called them toys and he wondered where he would be able to acquire some.
Spock was standing in line with the rest of the officers on the ship, hands clasped firmly behind his back. They had arrived at Earth and were saying farewell to two of their crew. Spock had known this day was coming and had sufficiently prepared for it. He would display no emotion. Grace and Lawrence Marker made their way down the line toward where Kirk, Spock and McCoy stood at the end, saying goodbye. Families were not permitted on Starships and after Grace had become pregnant, Lawrence had started searching for different positions for them. He was going to be an instructor at the Academy and Grace was going to raise the infant.
Eventually it was Spock's turn. The Markers smiled at him, thanking him again for helping them manage having a baby on a Starship, but he wasn't fully listening. His attention was on the infant. Natayla. Spock touched his index finger to her hand, silently thanking her. She had provided him with internal peace, with brief glimpses into emotion that not even humans could comprehend. She would not remember him but she had made a lasting imprint on Spock.
"Your child is beautiful." Spock pulled his hand away, directing his attention to the Markers now. Beside him he felt McCoy smirk.
"Don't you mean aesthetically pleasing?" Yes, the doctor sounded very smug. It was his typical reaction when he believed to have caught Spock doing something illogical. Spock did not see why McCoy got such pleasure out of these assumptions as he was often proved wrong only a moment later.
Spock shifted slightly so he could raise an eyebrow at the doctor. "I do not. That only refers to physical appearance and I am speaking of something deeper than that. Though yes, she is also an aesthetically pleasing child." He had read that human parents appreciated being told that their child was special or physically attractive. Since he was not telling a lie, Spock thought it would be prudent to please the Markers.
"Thank you." Grace smiled and reached out to give Spock's hand a squeeze and then thought better of it. "If you ever want to come see her, let me know. We'll be more than happy to see you."
Spock gave a deep nod and tried to fight the green flush working its way to the tip of his ears. His gaze, and thoughts, returned to the infant as Kirk began speaking. He would like very much to see her again though what he would prefer would be to have an infant of his own. He knew it was impossible but the desire had been ever present in his mind since he first cared for the Marker's infant. It would never happen. He must accept that fact and move on. It was illogical to hope for things that could never be. As the Markers disappeared into their shuttlecraft, McCoy refused to let them take the infant through the transporter, Spock felt a sharp pain spread through his body. It started in his chest and travelled through his blood stream, stinging and piercing as it went.
"Mr. Spock, are you all right?" The Captain was watching him, concerned. Spock looked around to see that only he, the Captain, McCoy remained. Both humans were watching him intently.
"I will be."
"Which means you aren't right now." Kirk met Spock's stare evenly. He was beginning to understand Vulcans, Spock realized. He would have to endeavor to be even more cautious around the Captain.
"That would be a correct assumption." Spock left it at that. The Captain, however, did not depart from his standard behavior and continued to pry.
"Mr. Spock, what's wrong?" Kirk, seeing that Spock was preparing to evade the question again, shook his head. "No. You will answer my question. That is an order."
Spock paused. That was an unforeseen difficulty in avoiding an answer. He must answer the question if he wished to fulfill his Starfleet obligations. He took a moment longer to think before answering. "There is no word or phrase in the Vulcan language for how I am feeling at the moment. I am afraid I must resort to Federation Standard Speech. I believe what I am experiencing is referred to by humans as heartbreak."
Neither the Captain nor McCoy had a ready response to that and the three men lapsed into a long silence.