The Lady Amanda Grayson, wife of Sarek, Vulcan ambassador to Terra and various other Federation planets, was not accustomed to receiving live communiqués from her son.
This was not, as many might assume, due to the still strained relations between Spock and his Vulcan father; for while the two were by no means close, they had in time overcome the barriers which had been erected over the decades and were now, if not cordial family, at least friendly acquaintances. Sarek had been quite impressed with Captain James T. Kirk and his crew during the events surrounding the Babel peace conference (he had never said as much, but she knew her husband better than he probably knew himself), and as such he had accepted Spock's "illogical human friendships" with resignation rather than disapproval. Sarek and Spock would probably never be close, but they had relaxed into the friendly working relationship which most adults have with their adult children, at least in Amanda's experience (admittedly as a human).
No, she did not receive much live communication from Spock simply because they led such completely discrete lives; he on an exploratory starship in deep space, and she as the wife of a politician who was constantly in motion to one governing body or another. Save for the very few times when the Enterprise had docked at Vulcan for repairs or new technology installation at the Vulcan Science Academy (half of which she fondly suspected were contrived specifically by Captain Kirk so that she could see her son), she rarely was privileged to receive live communication from him. Spock wrote her with almost ridiculous punctuality every three weeks, but she did miss speaking with him; part of successful interaction with the Vulcan race itself required being able to interpret body language and facial expression rather than taking words at face value.
It was with some surprise, therefore, that she received a notification while at home one evening, that Spock was attempting to reach her via live communiqué. Sarek dismissed the abnormality with his customary indifference, and she left him in the study to take the vid-conference in her private library.
She was of course overjoyed to see and hear from Spock, as it had been nearly six months, yet she stopped mid-sentence in saying so when the monitor flickered into life, a little slow from subspace relays.
"What on earth have you gotten yourself into, my son?" she finally asked, trying desperately not to smile and thereby embarrass Spock at the sight that greeted her.
Spock looked dolefully at her over the top of a squirming bundle of cherubic, golden-haired human toddler. "It was not on Earth, Mother," he answered with the Vulcan equivalent of a dismal sigh. "Rather, a planet named Insontis, on which -"
"Never mind, Spock," she interrupted gently, holding up a hand to forestall the explanation. "It is…pleasing, to see you, my son," she added, smiling.
"And I you, Mother," Spock returned, with less perfunctory dismissal than a true Vulcan would have.
"Hi!" The little one perched on Spock's knees piped up, waving at the monitor with one chubby hand. The gap-toothed grin looked oddly familiar, she thought… "Issat your Ma, Spock?"
There was only one logical explanation for why her son was holding a human child without looking entirely put-upon. Well, then. She had certainly seen stranger things in her travels as the wife of a primary diplomat for the United Federation of Planets.
"Hello, Jim," she answered, returning the smile. "How are you?"
"Fine," the child declared shyly, one finger in his mouth.
"Mother, how did you -"
"My son, need you ask? I have yet to see you voluntarily become attached to more than two humans besides myself, of whatever size," she returned archly, refraining from smiling at the blush that suddenly colored Spock's mortified face. She continued, to keep him from having to answer that with incriminatingly human platitudes. "Whatever happened to him, Spock?"
"A ritualistic transformation on the aforementioned planet, Mother," Spock replied with a sigh. He tolerantly removed a tiny questing hand from smearing the computer monitor with fingerprints. "The Captain rashly promised to participate in the ritual in order to successfully complete First Contact negotiations. The results are as you see."
"I take it from your lack of panic that the transformation is not permanent?"
"Vulcans do not panic, Mother."
"Yes, yes, of course, my son." She had seen Spock bowl over three nurses when he burst into Sickbay carrying his injured captain, who was blue-lipped and struggling to breathe after being stabbed during the Babel voyage. "Forgive my human phraseology. I had forgotten you call it logical concern for Starfleet's losing a highly efficient captain."
Spock looked a bit affronted.
She swallowed a laugh. "How long has he been like this?" she asked instead, leaning closer to look at the toddler, who was busily engaged in tracing the braid on Spock's uniform cuffs.
"Two weeks. Dr. McCoy projects an estimated three months, possibly more, before he eventually reverts to his proper age."
Her eyebrows rose, a reflex now after years of Vulcan inundation. "That is quite a long time, my son, for someone who has no experience in child-rearing, is it not?" she inquired gently.
"It is…an interminably long time, Mother," was the dismal answer. "I have no experience nor data from which to draw correct procedures and methodology in this situation. Jim, desist from destroying my uniform."
The child had found a loose thread and was tugging on it, trying to dislodge the embroidered braid. Now, as Spock tapped his hands warningly, he looked up, lower lip protruding in a dramatic pout and large puppy eyes welling up with crocodile tears. "I am entirely immune, pi'khart-lan," Spock added dryly, and the little one then scowled at his failed attempt at manipulation.
Hiding another smile at the term of endearment, Amanda wondered briefly if she could extract holopicture stills from recorded transmissions, because this was probably as close as she would ever get to having grandchildren and it was nothing less than adorable.
"And so, you have logically decided to call your mother for human child-rearing advice, Spock?"
Jim squirmed, flailing his small arms in an effort to struggle down out of her son's hold. "Lemme down, Spock!" he whined, sliding off Spock's knees, shirt rucked up under his arms as he did so.
Amanda did smile then, as her son made an incoherent sound of exasperation and plopped the child down onto the floor. "Go and find Monty, Jim, and play quietly while I speak to the Lady Amanda," he said sternly.
She saw the tousled blond head wander off-screen to their left. "Can I play wif your tricorr?" the child's voice called distantly.
"Tricorder, and you may not," Spock corrected firmly. He turned to the vid-screen at her soft inquiry, and explained, "The last time Dr. McCoy permitted him to 'play' with a bone-scanner in Sickbay, Jim deconstructed it into its various components within fifteen minutes. Maintenance is still endeavoring to reassemble it. A starship is not equipped with Terran children's toys."
She laughed softly, and saw the lines of tension around her son's eyes ease slightly. "You should be pleased, my son; he obviously is still a Starfleet officer at heart," she said, smiling. "At that age, Spock, you in contrast were constantly examining any and all plants and insects you could lay your little hands on. I still remember the perfectly monstrous arachnid you enthusiastically showed me, little knowing the appalling human female's tendency to scream at the sight of enormous spiders."
Spock's eyes gleamed with amusement, a welcome sight. "I do recall it in vivid detail. You were…most vociferous. I daresay Sarek was mortified."
"He got over it," she returned, unconcerned. "He is, surprisingly, at home this evening, Spock. Would you like to speak with him also?"
Spock was (she suspected thankfully) saved from answering by a resounding crash off-screen. Spock jumped slightly, and whirled in his chair.
"James Tiberius, what did Dr. McCoy instruct you just last night in regards to trying to climb the partition concealing your sleeping alcove?"
A distant scrambling of tiny feet. "Ummmmm…"
"Excuse me, Mother."
She waited until Spock had left the vid-screen before muting her end of the connection and dissolving into a fit of 'appalling human female' giggles; obviously Spock was doing just fine without any 'data from which to draw' in his endeavors. The sound of laughter was so unusual in this household that a few moments later her husband entered, an expression of slightly put-upon tolerance upon his severe features.
"What is it that you find so amusing, my wife?" he asked calmly, glancing with a raised eyebrow at the blank vid-screen, from which a child's plaintive whining could be clearly heard over the more familiar, calm tone of what he presumed was his son's admonishment.
Her laughter under control now, Amanda un-muted the connection. She was about to answer when Spock returned, a scowling human toddler clutched unceremoniously under one arm like a Terran football.
Sarek's eyebrows disappeared into his hairline.
"My apologies," Spock said with perfect composure, re-settling the child on his knees with a stern look at the upturned little face. "You have no one to blame but yourself, Jim," he said severely, tapping the child's nose with one long finger.
Jim wrinkled up his nose and defiantly blew a raspberry at him from over the head of an enormous stuffed panda bear clutched firmly in two little hands.
Amanda stifled another laugh, as Spock's eyes closed in a silent prayer for patience. When they opened, Sarek had moved into their line of vision, and she saw the sudden stiffening of her son's posture, an unspoken act of instinctual defiance that still had not vanished in the sight of new-found familial cordiality.
She should not have worried, however.
"Is there something you wish to tell us, Spock?" Sarek inquired without expression.
Spock's eyes widened in a combination of shock and horror, even as his pint-sized captain began humming quietly, leaning back against the blue Science tunic with that instant forgiveness which so characterizes the innocent love of a child.
"Who you?" Jim questioned, blatantly pointing at the screen.
Spock hastily grabbed the tiny finger, pulling the child's hand down, but Sarek answered before he could make any answering introduction.
"I am Sarek, Vulcan Ambassador to Earth, youngling. And who is this, Spock?"
Spock swallowed. "A slight…diplomatic incident, Sarek, resulting in this age-regressed version of Captain Kirk."
A greying eyebrow inclined. "Indeed."
"Well, Sarek," Amanda said mischievously from beside him. "Do you not have some wise, Vulcan child-rearing advice for your son?"
"Considering my own…less than satisfactory performance in such matters, I do not believe so, my wife," was the dry reply.
Tired of the adult conversation, Jim chose that moment to lean forward and experimentally lick the computer screen. Spock's look of utter revulsion sent Amanda into another fit of giggles, whereupon the two adult Vulcans looked at each other with matching tolerant expressions.
"I have no useful advice for you, Spock," Sarek reiterated solemnly. "You were...the model Vulcan child, with a few notably memorable exceptions."
Even two years ago, it would have been an insult; now, Spock recognized it for the half-apology, half-compliment it was, and nodded in gracious acceptance.
"Why, precisely, did you choose to communicate tonight, Spock? It could hardly be that you require Vulcan parental advice for raising a human child."
Spock inclined his head, responding with almost odd formality. "I believed the situation would be of…some amusement, to she-who-is-your-wife, Sarek."
Jim was now giggling into the top of the plush toy's furry head at what Sarek vaguely believed was a Terran child's game, most incomprehensibly called peek-a-boo.
"Obviously, your conclusions were most logical."
"I am honored."
Sarek never did understand how the strange Terran healer he had been so mystified by during the Babel conference learned of their vid-communiqué, but the human must have, somehow; for two weeks after Captain Kirk's re-transformation, his wife received a parcel by courier from the Enterprise. It contained a month's worth of hidden video footage of Spock and his tiny charge in various activities which Amanda assured him were a highly necessary part of a human child's growth and development.
Well, to make one's bond-mate happy was only logical, after all. If enduring an hour of watching Spock patiently teach a human youngling how to tie his boot-laces performed that task, then who was he to deny his wife the dubious pleasure of what the healer McCoy had called grandchild-by-proxy, whatever that meant.