Disclaimer:  Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom.  This story is the property of Johanna Cantor and is copyright (c) 1976 by Johanna Cantor.  Originally published in Independent Entity #3.

 

Duty of a Parent

Johanna Cantor

 

"Well, what do you know?" McCoy said.  "I finally got the last word."

This healer was certainly an eccentric, Sarek thought.  He looked inquiringly at Spock, but Spock was looking over at his captain.  They exchanged grimaces, then Spock settled back as ordered and closed his eyes.  Sarek was steadying his face when a feeling of dislocation swept over him so strongly he was forced to mask.  His son seemed so grave -- even old.  Spock must be tired, Sarek thought, rationalizing the strange sensation.

Perhaps Amanda had felt it too.  She crossed to Spock's bed and lightly touched his temple.  "Forgive me."

"Mother, there is nothing to forgive."

"Oh, but--"

"No.  Please."

Suddenly Amanda was crying.  She apologized, knowing how much her human reactions embarrassed Spock.  But Spock shook his head and reached out to her.  He held her hand until she quieted, then beckoned to the nurse.

"Come on, Amanda," Nurse Chapel said.  "I'll take you back to your cabin."

"I don't want to leave."

"They'll be here in the morning."

"Go, my wife.  And sleep."  Sarek watched the women leave, but his thoughts were on Spock.  Of course Spock seemed older.  It had been eighteen years since he had really looked at his son.  In their rare meetings the two men had remained politely distant, the ties linking father and son severed by the son's disobedience.  Now that time seemed to have telescoped -- a disorienting sensation.

"You are a comfort to your mother, Spock," he said.

Spock acknowledged formally, remaining impassive.  But he relaxed slightly, just as he always had when his father expressed approval.  Suddenly, Sarek was remembering a hundred such interchanges.  Memories repressed for years almost swirled around him.

He took a deep breath.  "You have done well today, my son," he said.  "Rest now."

The gentle expression eased Sarek, but he saw Spock swallow hard.  They were both on the brink of emotionalism, so simultaneously, they turned away to rest.

Sarek finally shut out the strange noises and scents.  But meditation was still difficult.  Like a human convalescent, he was troubled by a sense of violation.  A paranoid fear that the aftercare he needed would be neglected threatened his control.  But the Vulcan managed these reactions logically.  The alien who had opened his body had done so to correct a malfunction.  And Spock trusted him.

Sarek opened his eyes to find McCoy smiling down at him.  "You had a good sleep," the doctor said.  Sarek nodded and looked over at Spock.  He seemed to be sleeping.

"My wife?"

"Your aide looked in on her a few minutes ago.  He says she's still asleep.  Asked me to assure you he'll remain with her until he receives your instructions."

Sarek nodded and made himself relax as the doctor examined him.  "Excellent," McCoy said.  "You can start rehabilitation."

"Rehabilitation?"

"Wrong word, actually.  Series of exercises to keep your strength from deteriorating while you're recovering.  Let's see how you feel when I've finished the rounds."

Sarek nodded assent, but his attention was caught by Spock.  He was awake now and apparently almost arguing with the head nurse.  Now she nodded, crossed to the dispenser, and brought him a small container.  She smiled at him, then walked away.  Spock closed his eyes, and Sarek could sense him gathering control.

"What is that?"

Spock turned at his father's voice and examined his face carefully.  Sarek felt a quick twinge of amusement that a child should thus scrutinize his parent.  But he masked it and said gravely, "I am recovering, my son.  What is that?"

"Koltapor."  Spock picked up the spoon tentatively  and swiftly put down.

"If you are not hungry, why do you eat?"

"Nurse Chapel has great faith in Koltapor."

Sarek could not quite interpret that tone.  "It seems illogical--" he began, as Dr, McCoy re-entered the ICU.

"Most illogical.  Doctor, would you dispose of this, please?"

McCoy took the container without breaking stride and put it in the disposer.  Then he returned to Spock.  "Nauseous?"

Spock nodded.  McCoy examined the diagnostic panel and asked a "few questions.  Then he attached another indicator, causing Sarek a twinge of alarm.  It must have showed, for McCoy smiled at him.  "Purely precautionary," he said and went to the captain's cubicle.

Sarek found he was not reassured.  He kept watching Spock.  It was sensible of Spock to remain motionless, of course.  But was this stillness control, or lassitude?

When a red-shirted officer entered, Spock touched the panel button to sit up.  But as soon as the officer had finished reporting to the captain, he lay down again.  The man crossed to Spock.  "How are ye feeling?"  Sarek was too absorbed in the accent to hear Spock's reply.  The officer was speaking Terran, but it was surely a dialectal variety.  Interesting that on such a small planet such factors could survive.  Now the man was speaking again and Sarek listened curiously.

"Queasy?  How about some nice ichthian oil to settle your--" Spock made a queer choking sound and went rigid.

"I'm sorry, lad."  The human did sound contrite.  "I didn't mean to make you turn up your toes."

"Will you remind me that I owe you one, Engineer?" Spock said tightly.

"Aye."

Sarek could make no sense out of Spock's question at all.  He was still puzzling over it when McCoy said, "Scotty, can you stay for a few minutes?"

"If I can be useful, Doctor."

"Right.  Ambassador, feel up to being moved?"

"Certainly.  But Spock feels ill."

"He'll be all right.  Scotty'll stay with him."

By the time Sarek had assimilated this and controlled his outrage, they were in the corridor.  "This Scotty goaded him and made him choke!"

"He teased him and made him laugh," McCoy corrected firmly.  "Spock choked because he tried to swallow the laugh."  The doctor gave Sarek an appraising look, then explained.  "It's a plebe joke from the Academy.  Silly, but when a man feels sick, it does him good to have a friend make him laugh."

"But Spock is not--" Sarek stopped himself.  Where one did not fully understand, it was unwise to protest.  Instead, he turned his attention to the routine McCoy was showing him.  He performed it several times, while the doctor watched the readings.

"Very good," McCoy said, making the flexible tube retract.  Sarek relinquished it gratefully and lay back.  Disgraceful to be so tired by a simple exertion.  McCoy grinned at him and reactivated the gravity shielding.

Even before they re-entered the ICU Sarek was craning his neck to see Spock.  Spock lay on his side and the officer called Scotty as sitting next to him.  Sarek thought how disagreeable it must be to have an alien tormentor so close, but then he saw that Spock was relaxed, his breathing even.  The officer smiled at them and held a finger to his lips.

"You sleep, too."  The doctor's voice was low.  "You've had an active morning."  Sarek obeyed.

Hours later, he jerked into wakefulness, instantly aware that something was wrong.  McCoy and the nurse were bending over Spock.  Amanda stood nearby, hand to her throat.  A technician entered hurriedly, and McCoy grabbed her board, studied it, then ripped out a Terran expletive with such force that even Sarek started.  "All right, Christine," the doctor continued tightly.  "Drop everything here and get down to the lab.  Commandeer anything you need."

"Acknowledged."  The nurse was gone.  McCoy spun to the communicator.  "Uhura, please call all medical and lab personnel to duty."

"What is it?" Sarek asked.  Amanda hurried over him.  Her hands were trembling, and he reached out to her.  "What is it? he repeated.

"Alphan fever.  It was latent; now it's flaring up.  They can't use arxas."

"Spock still has the kitanin in his system," McCoy explained tensely.  "If we give him arxas now, they'll combine to produce as lethal a narcotic as anyone could want."

It took Sarek a moment to think past McCoy's phrasing to what he had said.  Then the sense of it clutched at him.

"All right, we're not beaten yet."  McCoy spoke more gently as he crossed to Spock's bed.  "I'm giving you an antipyrin, Spock.  Assimilate it.  Make it work."

"Understood."  Spock was calm.  But as the fever rose and the ague began, his breath came faster and more harshly.  The fever continued to climb.

"Spock, you've got to keep that fever down."

"I am trying," Spock whispered.

"Doctor, move my bed over so I can touch my son."

"No."

"Doctor McCoy, you do not understand.  I can help him control the fever."

"I do understand, Ambassador.  But a meld is absolutely contraindicated.  His metabolism would influence yours; it would be suicide for you."  McCoy strode over to Sarek's bed.  "You job is to recover, yourself.  I'll have you moved."

"No.  I will disengage.  But I prefer to remain."

"All right."  McCoy returned to Spock.  Amanda sat down by Sarek.

"My wife, care for our son."  Sarek shut his eyes.  When he was calmer, he turned his head toward Spock.  Amanda was standing by Spock's bed and the captain had come over to stand next to her. 

"Spock, can you hear me?" the captain said.

"Jim?"

"Good.  As long as you can hear me, you can control the fever.  Listen to my voice."

"Breaking through, Doctor," the nurse reported. 

Kirk ignored her.  "Listen to my voice," he repeated.  "Take my hand."

Spock took the outstretched hand and pulled the captain toward him.  "Jim," he whispered.  "My mother."

"Understood.  Now hold tight.  As long as you can hear me, you can control the fever."

The captain kept talking, but the fever gained.  Sarek looked away, unable to bear his impotence.  "Turn your thoughts," he instructed himself.  "Then to Salkanafor did S'kal reply in song..."

Across the room McCoy was testing the temperature of a large tub of water.  "Okay," he said, and to Sarek's horror, Spock was stripped, lifted, then carried over and lowered into it.  He cried out and they all grabbed him to hold him down.  Kirk kept calling Spock's name and eventually the voice seemed to penetrate.  Spock still fought for breath, but he stopped struggling.  Sarek saw his hand reach up and Kirk took it and held it tight.

"Just a few more minutes, Spock."  McCoy's voice was sympathetic, but Sarek found great difficulty in waiting until his shivering son was dried and put back to bed on a thermal.

"Not the most sophisticated method," 'McCoy was saying, "But still effective."

"Ghastly, though," Kirk.  replied.  "Better now?"

Spock nodded, too exhausted to speak.  Sarek focused on him, shutting out the flurry of activity to drink in the sight of his son.  Then he froze.  What he saw was impossible.  It must be a trick of the light.  He blinked and looked away.  But when he looked back, the body hair was still coarse and black.

"Spock."  Sarek stopped immediately, acutely aware of the harshness of his voice.

McCoy hurried over, soothing.  "We broke the fever, Ambassador.  The attack's over."

"Will he be all right, Doctor?" Amanda asked.

McCoy hesitated, then .faced her frankly.  "We bought some time, Amanda.  But we have to find a way to get the kitanin out of his system.  Otherwise he'll have another attack in six hours."

There was nothing they could do.  Sarek forced Amanda to take a tranquillizer and lie down.  He remained composed, but lay turned toward his son.  If only he could meld -- but that was illogical.  There was nothing they could do.

Four hours passed.  Suddenly Nurse Chapel was there, beaming in triumph.  McCoy grabbed her board.  "Excellent, Nurse!"  Then his face clouded.  "We'll have to filter mechanically, though."  Chapel was already activating a large machine.  McCoy went to Spock and gave him injections in his right arm and leg.

"Doctor?"

"Just relax, Spock.  We've found out how to filter the kitanin."  Spock nodded, turning away as McCoy inserted the tubing.  The machine began to whir.  McCoy did not take his eyes from the indicators as he raised Spock's feet.  "Christine, see if Jim's awake."

"He's asleep, Doctor.  Shall I--"

"Do not wake him," Spock said.

"Spock, we have to do this fast.  It's going to be rough."

"Understood."  Amanda went to Spock's side and took his hand, but again the bitter frustration of helplessness threatened Sarek's composure.  Spock was tranquil, but his face was greying, and Sarek saw him set his jaw.  Abruptly, Sarek began to recite Sana's letter to Spol.  When he was sure Spock could hear, he began the preparations for the Third Exercise.  Soon Spock was breathing in the proper rhythms as Sarek recited the steps.  Sarek nodded reassuringly to Amanda.

"Completed.  Twenty units, Christine."

"Twenty units."  The nurse had a hypo already prepared.

McCoy checked his chronometer.  "Damn.  There's not much time."

"You mean he might still have the attack?"

"We'll just have to wait and see, Amanda."

Now they waited again.  Spock was conscious, breathing in pattern, gathering his strength.  "Your courage honors our ancestors, my son."  Sarek had forgotten how it felt to say that.

"Serving honors me, my father."  Spock too was remembering, and he turned away.  Sarek closed his eyes.

"Doctor."  Spock's voice trembled ever so slightly.  Sarek opened his eyes in time to see him brush a beading of perspiration from his forehead.  Chapel gave a long sigh.

"Well!" McCoy was caustic.  "You do go to considerable trouble to make a monkey out of me, don't you?"

"It is no trouble at all, Doctor," Spock assured him politely, and fell asleep.

McCoy snorted, then whirled.  "Call Uhura, Christine.  Tell her the fever's broken.  The crew will want to know."

"Interesting," Sarek thought.  His eyes closed without volition.

The next time Sarek awoke, he found Spock also awake.  Spock looked stronger, but he was still festooned in tubing and indicator wiring.  "You look like a servo mechanism," Sarek observed.

"As the cactus said to the thorn," Spock countered.

"The two of you!"  Amanda sounded indignant and Sarek turned to raise an eyebrow at her.  "Well.  Obsequies?"

"Ambassador Gav.  Do I look all right?"

"You will uphold our dignity in every respect," Sarek assured her gravely.  She winked at him and was gone.  Spock smiled to himself.  He hadn't heard Sarek tease his mother for years.

Sarek turned to his son.  There was so much to say.  But he stopped himself.  Spock was still very ill.

He gave it 24 hours.  Spock was out of danger now and was even allowed to move into the captain's room for brief visiting hours.  From the splendid isolation of the ICU, Sarek listened frankly.  Everyone spoke to Spock in tones of respect -- there was no question about that.  But. The captain, the officer called Scotty, the communications officer -- they all teased him.  Interesting..  He was sure now that Spock felt rested.  Nevertheless, he began tentatively.  "The crew are your comrades, my son?"

"We serve together."  The accepted phrasing did not satisfy Sarek's curiosity.

"Why do they tease you?"

Spock looked at him in surprise.  "It is a way of making contact.  You know--"  He stopped, on the verge of disrespect.  But Sarek only nodded.

"I see.  My son, do you feel well enough to talk for a moment?"

"Of course, sir.  The cautious formality of the response distressed Sarek, and he found himself almost stammering.  "When you -- that is--"  Sarek of Vulcan stopped himself and took a deep breath.  "Are you mature?"

Spock's mask was complete.  "Yes, he said baldly.  "You did not know?"

Spock turned away.  Sarek continued carefully.  "I was also not aware that T'Pring now graces our kinsystem."

"I divorced her.

Sarek was silent, stunned.  The insult to T'Pring's house -- the gossip…  He forced these thoughts away in the interests of justice.  But his voice was very cold.  "May I know why?"

"She challenged."

"She dared?"  Sarek`s initial astonishment changed to a towering anger.  Spock watched him almost curiously.  He had never seen Sarek frankly angry.  Strange, he thought, that a father's anger should make a full-grown man feel so secure.

"She challenged," he repeated.  "And named my captain her champion."

"Why?"

"I do not know.  She said she preferred Stonn."

"Stonn!  There is no reason to prefer Stonn over you."

"None.  Except that I am half alien."

Both were silent for a long time, the old hurt lying heavy between them.  Finally Sarek spoke tonelessly.  "Is that what she said?'

"No."  Spock's voice was equally uninflected.  "Only that she preferred Stonn.  And that she did not wish to become my consort because I have become a legend on Vulcan.  That cannot be true."

"It should increase her pride in you."  Spock turned away again.  Sarek remained silent for some time, struggling with his thoughts.  "I should have been at his side."  T'Alya -- he had been bewildered when she had ignoored two calls.  No wonder.  She must be deeply humiliated by her granddaughter's behavior.  And what did T'Pau think of the insult to their house?

Slowly his thoughts cleared, but he could not find peace.  Finally he realized that what was agitating him was neither the insult nor the formidable social complications.  It was the impact on Spock.  A strange reaction.  But undoubtedly Szurak was right: a parent is by definition emotionally involved.  Sarek roused himself.  There was duty to perform.  "My son."

Spock turned to face him.

"My son."  He repeated himself deliberately.  "When you told me you wished to join Starfleet, you said you were not accepted on Vulcan.  I thought then that you were exaggerating an emotional reaction that could have been contained by the exercise of logic."

"I know."

"It appears I was wrong.  I have been derelict in the duty a father owes--"

"No," Spock interrupted, heedless of etiquette.  "It was my fault.  I argued when I should have explained, complained when I should have communicated.  I have been derelict in the duty a son owes his father."

Again both men fell silent, but now the silence grew warm.  Sarek relaxed.  There was peace in his house.

But curiosity remained.  "Spock, I claim no right to question you.  But unless you object, I would be interested to know what happened."

"I recognize your right," Spock said formally, and proceeded to explain about how the mating fever had begun years before he had expected it; how he had not recognized it until far too late to contact T'Pring or do anything but request leave on Vulcan; of the changed orders, and the captain's decision; how he had invited the captain and doctor as witnesses, only to plunge him into T'Pring's plan; of the doctor's stratagem.  And how and mating fever had overcome him, so that he woke only to find himself strangling a lifeless friend--

Spock broke off, immobilized.  McCoy entered hurriedly, and Sarek realized that Spock's diagnostic panel must have triggered an alarm.  Silently, he signaled that he would calm Spock.  McCoy hesitated, then left, Sarek reached out painfully.  He could just reach his son's temple.

His touch jarred Spock out of it.  "You must not!"

"I will not attempt to meld, my son."  Instead, Sarek moved his land down to cover Spock's heart with his palm, in the age-old gesture of comfort.  The heartbeat gradually slowed to normal.  "You should take this pain to a healer, my son."

"I should, obviously.  I thought I had it woven."

"Recalling to me ripped the memory from the web of consolation.  It will sometimes happen thus.  On your next leave?"

Spock nodded.  He was relaxed now.  But neither man moved until McCoy re-entered.

"Spock, I'm glad you're better.  But it's hurting your father's side to extend his arm like that."

Instantly Spock eased Sarek's arm back to his side.  Sarek did not resist, but he kept a tight grip on the hand.  After all, a son had two parents.  "On the contrary, Doctor," he corrected gravely.  "It is--"

"Ah-choo!" Spock interrupted.  His apology was cut short by another sneeze.  McCoy swore and Sarek studied him in bewilderment.  The doctor looked like a picnicker watching his sandwich crawl away.

"Have you anything for a cold, Doctor?" Spock inquired politely.

"Shut up!"  The frustration in McCoy's tone was so savage that Spock refrained from further goading.  Sarek, understanding now, almost laughed.  But he succeeded in controlling his unseemly response, so once again, the doctor had the last word.

 

THE END