The Lady Amanda Grayson was unaccustomed to receiving private communications from anyone. This, due primarily to being the wife of a prominent Federation ambassador, and due to Vulcan tradition in referring all communications to the head of house rather than directly to family members. All of her correspondence, personal and business, filtered to Sarek, who then of course promptly passed that correspondence on to her; and the only exception to this rule was contact from her son.
Spock, aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, had discarded Vulcan tradition in this particular area some years after his first assignment to that vessel, and for that disregard she was more grateful than words could express. Her son was her primary reminder that she had helped to produce an, if not balanced, at least culturally content young man who was willing to bend his primary culture's strictures in order to make a human female happy. This spoke well of his future prospects in making human acquaintances, and possibly – she had hoped for well over a decade – even friends, anathema though it might be for a Vulcan to so speak publicly.
Then this enigmatic Jim had begun to creep stealthily into her son's communications with her, and she had known just from those tiny glimpses that this remarkable human had already broken down the barriers which for years had kept her strictly-Vulcan son from forming human friendships. Over the years, she had learned about and finally met this unusual human, Spock's new captain, and a few select others aboard this new Enterprise; and now, four years after Spock's new appointment as Chief Science and First Officer, she had extended that informality of contact to James Kirk.
Captain Kirk had never abused the privilege of bypassing Vulcan culture to contact her directly, though Sarek was decidedly indifferent on the matter and would not have interfered (Amanda privately thought he was pleased to not have to sort through human correspondence), and indeed the man had only twice in the years since she had met him used the method of contacting her via Spock's private communique channel to Vulcan. Both times Kirk had done so, had been in emotional distress, notifying her that Spock was, once, seriously injured on an away mission; and another, deathly ill from the Vulcan-dreaded choriocytosis. Both professional courtesy calls, and deeply appreciated by her; for Kirk was under no obligations to notify her of her son's health or condition (Spock's medical directives were decidedly lacking in human compassion), and Spock himself would likely have died before informing her, simply not seeing the logic in exacerbating human emotion when nothing could be done from such a distance.
To receive, therefore, a notification that a live communique was awaiting her via subspace relay from the captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, was both unusual, and at first alarming, given that she had yet to receive good news by those methods.
But Kirk's first words were "Nothing's wrong with Spock, Lady Amanda," as he well knew her first instinct would be concern, and she smiled in gratitude at the gesture.
"That is reassuring news, Captain Kirk. How have you been?" she asked kindly, seeing immediately the young man's fidgeting. Obviously he did have a purpose in calling, no doubt something to do with her son. "You are looking…more yourself, since the last I saw of you."
Kirk blushed, pinching the bridge of his nose in obvious embarrassment. "I licked the computer screen while Spock was talking to you, didn't I," he said, with an air of amused resignation.
She smiled, refraining with ease from laughing and therefore further mortifying the poor man. "I believe it is a common reaction from young children, Captain. Spock himself was the type to insert his fingers into every crevice and substance he could not readily identify at that age. It is merely a difference of primary sensory perception."
The captain perked up visibly at the tidbit of his friend's childhood, a grin twitching at his lips. "I can just imagine how curious Vulcan children must be, in their desire to know all things," he mused, almost to himself.
"Vulcan childhood is considerably different from human childhood, mainly due to the encouragement of mental development rather than physical affection and social interaction," she readily agreed. "Though even to a Vulcan, a child is precious, and is treated as the most valuable gift ever to be bestowed upon a family unit. That is why child abuse is unheard-of in Vulcan culture, and why such an offense is immediate grounds for the severest punishment possible under Vulcan law."
"Interesting," Kirk murmured. He was leaning with one elbow on the armrest of his chair, a crooked finger unconsciously tapping thoughtfully at his lower lip. "May I…ask a personal question about Vulcan child-rearing, Lady Amanda? Or is that considered offensive, from an outworlder?"
"James," she immediately reproved, and received a somewhat shy smile of boyish charm in return. "You affront my own heritage, and your friendship with my son. You may ask what you like; if I am able to answer, I shall do so."
The captain blew out a slow, thoughtful breath, and then leaned forward, elbows on his knees. His sandy brows knitted together with concentration, and what she perceived as slight concern. "I thank you," he said formally, and she warmed at the thought that Spock's High Vulcan courtesy had unconsciously rubbed off on the man. "Then…may I ask – did Spock have a happy childhood?"
Amanda sighed, and idly rearranged a fold of her lightweight Vulcan robe. "You would, of course, strike straight at the heart of the matter, would you not, Captain," she answered ruefully. "That is not an easy question to answer."
"I meant no offense."
"And I have taken none," she chided gently, and saw the captain relax. "I would like to say, Captain," she continued thoughtfully, "that he had as contented a childhood as any Vulcan could. And yet…"
"And yet his differences would not allow him the traditional happy childhood, just by virtue of his dual heritage?" Kirk finished softly. She nodded, knowing that this human at least, of all her acquaintances, would understand. "Was it really so obvious?" he asked quietly. "I can hardly believe that such a logical species would embrace such an outdated concept as racial purebloodedness."
"It is not simply a matter of race or species, so to speak, Captain," she responded, carefully choosing her words to offend neither of their cultures, both of whom she loved equally. "You must understand, Captain, that Vulcan clans and families are extremely close, far closer than any human families. A controlling of emotion does not negate its existence, that we both know; and the ties that bind families in Vulcan culture transcend all other ties, mentally and physically and otherwise."
Kirk's face betrayed his surprise at this.
"This should not be surprising to you, Captain," she said pointedly. "You of all people are no doubt aware that my son offers his loyalty very sparingly, and his friendship even more so. To accept you as he has…in our culture, that is akin to declaring you a part of the clan of Sarek. You and your Dr. McCoy, to be permitted attendance at his Time a few years ago – that was, at that time, considered to be sacrilege, essentially declaring two human outworlders as members of the family. It is simply not done."
The captain's eyes widened. "I had no idea," he admitted, looking thoroughly shamefaced. "The sacrifice that must have cost him –"
"It was no sacrifice to Spock, Captain," she said sharply. "To a Vulcan, those relationships permitted under the laws of Surak and the Vulcan Way are the most precious bonds in the universe, the preservation of which takes precedent over all other considerations. Such deep bonds are rare indeed, Captain, and it is no sacrifice to ensure their survival against all opposition."
The young man's eyes dropped in acquiescence. "I've offended you, Lady Amanda. I apologize for my ignorance," he said quietly.
She smiled then, a genuine and rare display that felt no less natural than her bland Vulcan expressions. "James, you are as much a diplomat as my husband. I am unoffended, I assure you." Kirk raised his eyes, one eyebrow quirked at the screen. "I merely wish you to understand that, to a Vulcan, such a thing is no sacrifice. Spock would never wish your compassion for what he sees as a perfectly logical action."
"I see," Kirk replied, obviously thinking deeply about this. "Then Vulcan culture cherishes its relationships as much as humans do; they simply have different methods of showing this."
"Indeed. If anything, a Vulcan cherishes his relationships even more so than a human is capable of doing; because such a sharing of emotion is an immense personal gift of lowered barriers and shared boundaries. It is not a gift to be taken lightly, and – to return to your original question – both Sarek and I attempted to emulate that with Spock to our best abilities when he was a youngling."
Kirk obviously recognized the closing of the conversational door, and respectfully moved on. "And yet…?" he questioned.
Amanda sighed once more, a human expression of regret. "And yet, Spock was different, Captain. That much, we both know, as even today he still struggles to be fully Vulcan yet still adapt the benefits of being partly human. Such a struggle can never be won, without either fully accepting both, or choosing one at the expense of the other. Something a mere child had no hope of doing."
"He tried too hard to be Vulcan, and never won that struggle in the eyes of his peers, is that it?" Kirk asked quietly.
"You have a remarkable grasp of his thought processes, Captain," was her diplomatic answer. "I believe you could correctly predict the type of childhood he had. Because familial ties are so very important to Vulcan culture, to make those ties, those bonds, and the possibilities generated by them, less pure due to outworldly influence – that is why Spock's dual heritage is frowned upon in our world, Captain; because his prospects of mating, of taking a place in Vulcan society, and of continuing the purity of thought which characterizes Vulcanity, have been compromised due to his dual nature. It is not a matter of specist prejudice; rather, it is the knowledge that such a union produces a weak link in a highly proud culture."
"I see no difference," Kirk muttered, eyes flashing with controlled anger.
"And yet it exists, Captain," she replied, unruffled. "I am accepted as the bond-mate of Sarek, and possess full rights thereof; my son is the heir of the house of Sarek, with full rights thereof. Politically, there is no difference due to our mixed blood. It is there, in the eye of society, that the differences show in personal opinions. Spock's half-human mind is at severely high risk to never find a compatible bond-mate. His dual nature is considered a weak link in Vulcan culture, a culture of pure emotional control."
"I find such subjective judgments highly illogical," the captain stated with a scowl, and she hid a smile at the unconsciously Vulcan inflection.
"However," she continued, in a tone designed to sooth, "Spock is renowned in the Vulcan Science Academy as a brilliant scientist; they keenly recognize the value of adding human intuition and instinct to scientific processes, and regard him as a miracle of science itself. It is the common people, and their common children, who still hold to the outdated beliefs that his mixed heritage makes him a weak link in our world's society."
"May I ask…" Kirk paused, and after a moment's hesitation plowed onward with a determination that amused her greatly, "may I ask – if you could change something about his childhood, what would that be, Lady Amanda?"
She regarded him shrewdly for a moment. "Are you asking out of personal curiosity, Captain, or because your recent childlike experiences have afforded you too much time for reflection – or for another reason entirely?" she asked, fixing him with a sharp gaze that made him fidget in his chair.
Hazel eyes finally met hers with a determined glint. "We've been assigned a new mission by Starfleet Command. To further negotiate with the Insonti people, and specifically to gain more insight into this Regenratron device. We are to see if we can convince them to join the Federation rather than simply bartering a mining agreement, as no doubt the technology is the more valuable asset," he said bluntly. "Spock has…let's say, become somewhat obsessed with the process and its purpose."
"I can't help but wonder if he's going to come to me in the next few days with a request for another guinea pig for the thing," Kirk continued, a rueful grin quirking at his lips, "and some load of bull about not being willing to have another crewman take the risk, a variable of a different species being the most logical choice, blah blah blah. All in the name of Science, of course."
Amanda hid her smile at the human's quick perception of Vulcan misdirection. "You believe he is going to ask to be the next test subject, Captain?"
"Either that, or he will confer with the Insonti High Council as part of our science team's research and they'll take the initiative to just shove him in the thing for his own good," Kirk admitted, with only a trace of humor. "They do tend to be a bit presumptuous in thinking it's a good thing for everyone. I…wanted to make certain that it would be that, for Spock, rather than being traumatizing to a carefully controlled Vulcan mind. I wanted to know if a second childhood would be at all beneficial to him; if it would not, I will not hesitate to lay down an ultimatum to the Insonti high priest about my First Officer being off-limits to their technology."
Lady Amanda straightened slightly in her chair to meet Kirk's eyes, her heart going out to this remarkable human whose sincere affection for her son fairly shone out of his honest face. "You are a good man, Captain Kirk," she said simply. "And to answer your question: if I could change one thing regarding my son's upbringing, it would have been that Spock could have had one person in the galaxy whom he knew would accept and love him wholeheartedly for being Spock. Not of Vulcan and Terra, not of the clan of Sarek, not a child of two worlds – just Spock."
Relief suddenly flashed across the young man's face, lightening the deep worry lines around his eyes and between his eyebrows.
"I can do that," Kirk said with a charming grin. "You'll want to see pictures, I assume?"