"These... notes you've taken," Sarek says, scrolling through Spock's device. The handwriting is messy and uneven and interspersed with relevant drawings. "Would it not be more logical to arrange historical events by their chronology?"
Spock shifts his weight. The discomfort of having his father comment on his work is evident. Sarek wonders if he will ever be able to fully mask his emotions.
Finally, Spock says, "Sometimes the chronological order of events can obscure their meaning."
Sarek is five years old the first time he goes to Earth with his family. He is the youngest of six and the Human family they stay with dotes on him. The Human father bakes him shockingly sweet desserts. The Human mother takes him on walks and tells him the names of trees and animals. The Human children play games with him that he doesn't understand, but he likes to be included.
When they leave Earth to return to Vulcan, he remembers the moment with a clarity that only comes from beautiful or traumatic moments. He hides in the room he shares with two of his brothers on the transport ship, sitting with his back to the door. When he hears his brothers coming back, he wipes his face quickly with his sleeve so they won't catch him crying.
Over the next few months, he receives messages from the family they stayed with. His father seems to sense the way Sarek looks forward to these messages, so he doesn't allow him to respond.
"To be an ambassador, one must be clear-minded and objective. One cannot become too attached."
Sarek has heard his father say this before. He knows that his father believes that his own father cared too much for Humans, became too entangled with them. He knows that he believes Sarek has shown signs of the same weakness.
"Your sister understands this. Although she works closely with Andorians, she does not become personally involved, nor does she fully immerse herself in their culture. She--"
Sarek's father stops and looks at him. He is surprised to be interrupted by his youngest son, who should know better, yet never has.
"The fact that I have been named an ambassador does not mean that I intend imitate your methods, nor the methods of my grandfather."
His father's eyes are cold. Sarek hopes that his own expression reflects that coldness.
"You will one day consider yourself fortunate if you are as successful an ambassador as I have been."
"Perhaps," Sarek says, inclining his head. "But I will do so in my own way."
The first night after Spock is born, Sarek holds Amanda close as they watch their child sleep. There are doctors and machines and scientists taking notes.
Every time Sarek blinks, a scene plays out behind his eyes of this tiny, fragile being going pale and silent. Of all the doctors giving their condolences. Of Amanda crying against him. Of all his colleagues, who will imply, yet again, that his desire to have a child with his Human wife is illogical, perhaps even selfish.
"He's strong," Amanda whispers. She's exhausted and in pain, but she still tries to comfort him. "Like his father."
Sarek looks down at her, and shakes his head. "No, not like me."
She smiles softly and he kisses her forehead in the Human way, even though he can feel the eyes of one of the scientists on them.
The day that he marries Amanda, he speaks to his parents for the last time.
"You are determined to go through with this?" his mother asks.
His father asks, "Regardless of the consequences?"
Sarek lifts his eyes and stares evenly at his father. "Yes."
His mother frowns. "Your argument that you are marrying a Human because you are an ambassador to her planet is illogical. Vulcans and Humans alike will not approve of this union, and other alien races to whom you are an ambassador as well will assume that you have a preference for Human interests above their own. If anything, it will hinder your ability to perform your job adequately."
"I doubt many Humans will disapprove of the marriage. As for my fellow Vulcans... this marriage is merely one possibility out of infinite combinations, is it not?" Sarek asks.
"You have always been a foolish and self-centered child," his father says. "I had hoped that you would become more considerate of others in your adulthood, but you still behave as the youngest child."
"The woman I was betrothed to has died," Sarek says. "Before that, I did not neglect my obligations to her."
His parents look at each other, but it was his father who says, "Merely impregnating her did not fulfil your obligations."
"I was willing to marry her when the time was suitable."
His mother's eyes are piercing when she says, "A Vulcan does not lie."
Spock is missing again. Out walking somewhere, just to get away. He does not tell them where he goes.
Amanda tells Sarek not to worry. Sarek reminds her that his thoughts are not controlled by emotions such as worry, and she gives him the look that she often gives him when they discuss Spock. It is a look which could easily lead to an argument, so he withdraws to a quiet part of the house to meditate.
Later, at dinner, Michael whispers "Spock's back" a moment before he enters the room with his muddy shoes dangling from his crooked fingers.
Sarek is eight when he begins to study various Human languages. He begins with French, because it's the language of the family who hosted him that first time he visited Earth. Even though his father is an expert on the translation of Vulcan into various Earth languages, Sarek learns the language in secret, when he should be studying mathematics, which he does not care for.
By the time he's twelve, he's fluent in French, Spanish, Italian, English, German, Farsi, and Chinese as well as a variety of languages from other planets. No one knows except his best friend at the learning center.
One day, his mother comes to him. "Your scores in mathematics are unacceptable," she says. "Your elder sister will tutor you for five hours per day until you have improved sufficiently."
"My mathematics scores are within the acceptable margins," he says.
His mother raises an eyebrow. "For an average child. You have always exceeded the acceptable margins in every category. You will continue to do so."
Sarek clenches his jaw. His face feels warm with what he recognizes as embarrassment and anger. He allows the emotions to recede.
"I do not care for mathematics. That is why my scores are lower. I do not need tutoring to raise them."
His mother stands, already leaving. "What you care for does not matter," she says on her way out. "Your sister will come begin your first tutoring session in one hour. If your scores do not improve in a month, your father will tutor you."
Sarek sits very still. He closes his eyes and takes deep, even breaths, so that when his sister comes to his room, his emotions are no longer so dangerously close to the surface.
Amanda holds Spock more than a Vulcan mother would hold her infant. She sings to him and reads to him and talks to him, even though he does not yet have the cognitive ability to understand her. He watches her with his huge, black eyes, like he is in awe of her.
Sarek knows, however, that he is ascribing something to the child that he could not possibly feel. Spock cannot know what awe is. He is simply absorbing sounds and sights as his mind builds itself.
Sarek listens to Amanda sing songs he's never heard to his son. Strange Human turns of phrase which he can only vaguely grasp.
Now, send the sunshine down my way whenever you call my name
I know what you mean to say to me, oh it's all the same
He doesn't know if it's his understanding of her language or her humanity that confuses him, but he turns the words over and over again in his mind. He whispers them, sometimes, when he stands over Spock's crib by himself at night, hands behind his back. He does not hold their infant as much as Amanda does.
Spock watches him too, but Sarek doesn't see the same awe in his eyes.
When he is seventeen, he and his best friend from the learning center-- the only one who knows that Sarek has now studied eight-five Human languages--are sitting together on a bench in the gardens near the center. They both avoid going home for as long as they can once lessons are over.
"You are betrothed to a princess, aren't you?" his friend asks. His eyes are bright in the late afternoon sunlight.
Sarek doesn't like to think about his betrothal, so he shrugs.
"My family was not important enough to arrange a betrothal for me, and I am their eldest child."
"You are fortunate," Sarek says.
"Fortunate?" His friend asks.
"Yes." Sarek rests his hand on top of his friend's hand. "I would prefer to set my own path."
His friend looks at their hands, then up at Sarek. His chest is rising and falling more quickly with his breath. "Perhaps you can?"
A few weeks later, their brief relationship is found out, and Sarek's family no longer allows them to spend time together. Sarek does not make any more friends at the learning center.
"I know you aren't as familiar with the Vulcan education system, but..." Sarek frowns at the reports. "His scores in language are extremely low."
Amanda narrows her eyes, and Sarek finds he can't look at her directly.
"It is something to be concerned about," he says.
"He's only six years old," Amanda says. "Give him time."
"The scores are relative to his peers."
"What peers?" Amanda's already raising her voice. She is generally good as at controlling her emotions as can be expected from a Human, but she seems immediately angry. Defensive, perhaps. This is, after all, becoming an common argument between the two of them. "All of the children at the learning center are Vulcan."
"He is also Vulcan."
"And Human. We can't expect him to learn exactly the same way and at the same pace as the other children. People learn differently, Sarek. I studied education and worked in education for years before I met you. I do have some idea what I'm talking about."
"I am aware of your expertise in teaching Human children. However, we agreed to raise Spock on Vulcan. He must keep up with Vulcan children or he will fall behind."
"He's ahead in everything else. He's far ahead in most categories. He struggles in one area, and that's all you've been talking about for weeks. I think it's a mistake to force him to focus so much of his attention on the one area where he struggles."
"That is the area in which he must improve, therefore, it is logical that--"
"It's not logical to laser focus on his flaws and ignore his accomplishments. Have you once mentioned to him that you're proud of his scores in other areas? How is he supposed to build confidence when you won't give him any praise?"
Sarek is quiet for a long moment. "You are... upset with my handling of this situation."
"Yes," she said through her teeth. "Yes, I am upset. I do not want my baby spending hours a day feeling like he's being punished for something just because he fell a little behind some arbitrary benchmark."
"It is not arbitrary. It is an uncomfortable fact that our son has deficiencies which must be corrected."
Amanda takes a deep breath, drawing herself up. She opens her mouth to speak, but she stops herself and begins again. "I can't talk to you right now, Sarek. I'll say something I regret. But I need you to think about what you just said and how it reflects on the way you view our child."
She leaves him lone, standing straight, hands clenched behind his back.
Spock is in his room, packing his things. Amanda told Sarek to leave Spock alone, to wait until they've both had time and distance and can speak of this without saying something they'll regret.
Her argument is logical. However, Sarek ignores it.
"You are making a mistake," Sarek says from Spock's doorway.
Spock's back is to him. "My mistake was failing to do this sooner."
"You have spent your life on Vulcan. You are not suited to the company of Humans. If you are under the impression that your mother and sister are indicative of what you should expect in Starfleet--"
"Starfleet is not merely a Human organization. Their mission involves understanding other cultures, even living among them. It is better suited to me than this place.'
"This place is your home."
"That was your choice; not mine."
"I would prefer that you would look at me while we have this conversation."
Spock takes a deep breath, then turns toward Sarek. He clasps his hands behind his back but his posture is careless, as usual.
Sarek moves into his room. It feels empty, even though Spock has packed very little. It is as if Spock is already gone, as if Sarek is only speaking to a facsimile of his child. Did that start when he found out that Spock had signed up with Starfleet, or was it sometime before?
"It is illogical to run from your problems," Sarek says. "They will follow you."
"Will you follow me, Father?"
Sarek furrows his brow. "Obviously not."
"That is sufficient." Spock says, and he turns away again to finish packing his things.
"How does it work?" Spock asks.
He is sitting very close to his mother, working on his reading skills. Sarek watches from his desk, where he's reading some reports. They know now that Spock has L'tak Terai, and it is being managed. Soon, Sarek is sure, it will not be a problem at all.
"What do you mean, sweetie?" Amanda brushes back his hair from his forehead. Sarek isn't sure that her terms of endearment are good for Spock, but he can't make himself tell her to stop using them. He is fairly sure she would't, even if he asked.
Spock nods at the computer. "We haven't started computer science yet at the center. I want to know how it works."
Amanda looks up toward Sarek, and smiles when she sees that he's already watching them. He can see what she's planning before she says it. She has sensed a distance between Sarek and his son lately. She wants to bridge it.
"Your father knows a lot about computers. Maybe he can teach you."
Spock looks at his father with his big, dark eyes, then back to his mother. "Father is busy."
"He has time for his son," she says.
Sarek takes a deep breath and says. "When you have completed your reading lessons each day, I will give you a computer lesson. Is that acceptable?"
He sees Spock's lips twitch, quickly suppressing a smile. "Yes. I will finish my reading lesson."
"It's been a year," Michael says.
She's visiting Vulcan on a brief leave while the Shenzhou is in the area. There is concern evident in her eyes. Spending times with Humans in Starfleet has caused her to regain some of the Human traits she had previously suppressed.
"He made it clear that he did not wish for communication with me. If that changes, I am sure he will inform me."
Michael takes a deep breath. She was kind enough to wait for Amanda to leave the room before broaching this topic. She knows it causes conflict between them, and like any child, she doesn't like to see her parents argue. "He's just being stubborn."
"That is a Human trait."
"Father," Michael says flatly. "I've known a stubborn Vulcan or two."
"I assure you, Michael, it was his decision. I am respecting his wishes."
"What he says and what he wants aren't always the same thing."
Sarek lifts an eyebrow. "Then his behavior is illogical."
Michael shrugs her shoulders. "Maybe, but--"
She cuts herself short as Amanda returns with a tea tray. She looks between the two of them, but she chooses not to ask what they were discussing. She already knows.
"Sarek?" Amanda whispers.
They are lying in their bed on the transport ship heading for their rendezvous with the Enterprise. She has her head tucked under his chin and an arm around him with her hand curled over his heart.
"This is our chance to have our son back," she says.
Sarek draws a slow, even breath. "You never lost him. Besides, he was always closer to you."
"That's not true. He adored you."
Sarek does not respond.
Amanda props herself up on her elbow and looks down at him. "Listen to me. He hasn't visited us in four years because of the tension between the two of you. He and I communicate as often as we can, but there is always something unspoken. There always will be, so long as you refuse to forgive him."
Sarek closes his eyes. There is no one he has ever met who is able to reach him the way Amanda does. Sometimes, it is difficult to govern his reactions. "It... is not Spock that I have not forgiven."
"Well..." She brushes her finger against the edge of his ear, and then down to his jaw. "I'm glad you figured that much out."
He looks at her. Her eyes are too knowing, too sure of him. "Please, do not expect that we can fix nearly two decades of damage in one visit."
"I don't... but we can at least start."
Sarek nods, but he does not make promises he cannot keep.
The first serious argument he has with Amanda is about Spock.
Spock is not quite three years old. He is healthy. He is strong. There is no longer the constant uncertainty lingering between them that their son would not survive to childhood.
But he has not yet begun to speak.
Amanda tells Sarek again and again that delayed speech isn't uncommon in her family, but Spock is a Vulcan. He should be speaking.
He brings it up one too many times while they are getting ready for bed one evening, and she gives him a look that he has never seen before.
"Stop it, Sarek. Stop."
He blinks at her. "What do you mean?"
"I don't care how many words the average Vulcan child has learned by 12 months. I don't care whose child is already forming sentences. All I care about is that my child doesn't have to visit the doctors and scientists everyday anymore." She shook her head, tying her robe tightly around her body. "He can run! He can jump! He can climb the stairs! Why is everyone so obsessed with whether or not he speaks? Don't you think I get enough of this from the Vulcan mothers who already look down on me?"
"I can see that you are upset..."
Amanda rolls her eyes. "Yes, of course. I'm upset. Just an irrational Human who can't control her emotions because everyone is looking at my little boy and trying to decide if he's good enough, if he's some kind of genetic mistake. Even his father."
"I do not think that Spock is a mistake."
"But you don't know if he's good enough, do you?"
Amanda is close to him, standing as tall as she can to look him in the eye. He can see that she is angry, but he doesn't know the correct way to react. She has never directed her anger toward him before.
"I... am merely concerned that he is not developing normally."
"Normally? What do you mean normal? I told you it's normal for my family to start speaking later than average. But you don't care about that normal, do you?" There are tears in her eyes. He does not know what to do. "If you wanted him to be Vulcan, you should've taken a Vulcan wife."
He tilts his head. "I believe that developmental delays are a concern we should be cognizant of, considering his--"
"I asked you to stop!" Her voice is shaking now. "I just asked you to stop, but you don't. You never do." She drew away from him, crossing her arms over her chest. "I can't stay in here tonight. I'm going to sleep in the baby's room."
"Is that necessary?"
She glares at him. "I'm afraid it is, husband."
When she leaves, he sits on the bed. He tries to meditate, but his mind will not allow him any reprieve from his thoughts, so he waits for dawn. At first light, he finds Amanda in the sun room, watching Spock play on the rug.
When she hears him she turns to him, then she gets to her feet. "Sarek..."
He doesn't wait for her to finish. He puts his arms around her and holds her. "Please, do not leave."
Amanda puts her hand on Sarek's chest and gently pushes him away enough that she can look at him. "Leave? Sarek... It was just an argument. I'm not going anywhere."
"You are the wife I want, and Spock is the son I want. I do not criticize because I do not care for you or him." He swallowed. His throat feels tight. "I do."
"Is this what you thought about all night?"
"This is what I think about all the time."
He cups her cheek. There are things he wants to say. That he is the reason they are there. That if she is unhappy or Spock is not thriving, it is his fault. That every flaw in Spock, every mistake Spock will inevitably make, Sarek can trace it back to himself, to his own flaws and mistakes.
Maybe Amanda understands this, maybe she doesn't. She puts her hand over his and presses her lips against his palm. "I know you care, Sarek. Sometimes I just need to hear you say it. Call it a Human failing if you like..."
"It is not your failing," he says. He holds her close again, and over her shoulder, he watches Spock trying to straighten a stack of building blocks with his tiny hands.
When Spock begins to speak, his first word is m'aih. His sixth word is its equivalence in Amanda's language, mother. His fifty-second word is a'nirih.
Sarek never mentions this fact, and neither does Amanda.
Spock and Sarek sit across from each other. On the table between them are the parts of one of the new duotronic processors, which Humans had chosen to share with the Vulcan Science Academy.
Sarek watches Spock putting it together. Although he has not yet seen the schematics of such a device, he only needs the occasional guidance from Sarek, and so for the most part it is silent between them.
"Father," Spock says. Sarek expects that Spock will ask him a question about the device, but instead, he asks, "Do you think that I will be accepted into the Vulcan Science Academy when I am older?"
If he were not half Human, this would not be a question, but this fact is evident. It doesn't need to be put into words.
"It would be illogical to reject you."
Spock glances up from his work, but only for a moment. "I would like to become an ambassador one day, like you."
Sarek sits very still, watching his son pick up another piece of the processor and look for a place where it will fit.
"That would be... acceptable," Sarek says.
When they are finished, Sarek sends a message to his own father, thanking him. He tells his father that he taught him well. He tells him that he is grateful. He asks his father if he would like to finally meet his grandson.
His father does not respond.
"Explain the logic of eschewing chronological order," Sarek says.
Spock sits next to him and scrolls back up to the top of his notes.
"This is the birth of Surak." Spock points to his words scribbled in the center of a circle. As he continues, he points to the circles that surround it. "Here is the division of the Vulcan people and those who would not accept logic. This is the war with the Andorians. The is first contact with the Klingons. This is First Contact with the Humans. In chronological order, they are merely events on a timeline. But these are the connections." He runs a finger over the lines of words that connect each circle. "Our logic has led us to conflict with many, but harmony with others. I am... attempting to understand why. What are the differences between a people who will accept us and those who would reject us? How do those differences relate to the conflict that still exists among our own people?"
Sarek watches his son. There is a vulnerability there. One which the other young Vulcans at the learning center often take advantage of. One which Sarek wishes he could teach him to hide for his own protection, but which he would miss if it were gone.
"Do you believe organizing your notes in this way will help you find the answers that you seek?" Sarek asks.
Spock's eyes are dark, distant. "I am not sure there are answers. However, it would be illogical to presume there are none, and therefore not try to find them."
Sarek nods. "There is something I would like to add, if you would like to hear it."
"Of course, Father," he says, although there is uncertainty in his expression.
"Conflict exists even among a logical people, but all conflict comes to an end. Although someone may be rejected at first, they can be understood in time."
Spock furrows his brow. Sarek can see he doesn't believe him, but he hopes that one day, perhaps, he will.