To five-year-old Spock, his father seemed a powerful and daunting figure at the best of times. Now, sitting behind the spacious expanse of his low desk, justly annoyed at yet another childish prank from the fruitful soil of his young son's imagination, he appeared awesomely intimidating. None-the-less, despite that overwhelming impression, Spock faced his father in the pose of youthful respect, back straight, eyes forward, hands clasped behind him, his features schooled to calm equanimity.
"This will not do, Spock." Sarek began without preamble, his eyes dark and incalculable, a result of his efforts to keep his considerable ire in check. "This behaviour must end - and now. You are my son and, therefore, must show all Vulkhanir that you are a responsible member of our society."
"Yes, A'nirih." The answer was appropriately subdued, and if a slight quaver shook the young voice, it was scarcely obvious.
Sarek leaned forward, fingers steepled on the lacquered surface of the desktop, his face successfully masking the painful humiliation that he experienced on behalf of his son. One winged brow arched upwards as he studied the boy, a facial expression that Spock always found intriguing, but could not emulate.
"You are aware," Sarek continued evenly, still using the formal 'you' instead of the familiar 'thee' to impress on Spock the seriousness of what he was saying, "that as my son you must bear responsibilities that are necessarily greater even than that of your contemporaries. Many eyes watch you, and judge you from your actions. I recognize that it is, at times, a difficult position to occupy, however, if you are a worthy Child of Vulkhanir, I am confident that you can, and will, prevail---"
For an instant, Sarek perceived doubt in Spock's steadfast gaze. The boy's eyes wavered, flickered to the tiled flooring, before refocusing on Sarek's face. "I regret my conduct, A'nirih. It was thoughtless of me not to consider the logical outcome of my actions and, therefore, to cause concern to both thee and Mother---"
"Indeed." Sarek agreed. He rose gracefully from the floor-stool and paced over to the large window arch that opened out onto the wild, luxuriant growth of the private grounds beyond, his hands clasped loosely in the small of his back.
The peaceful scene always had the power to calm him and he remained there a moment longer than necessary, well aware that his small son waited most intently for the outcome of the foolishness that had summoned him so promptly to the study. At last he turned to observe the boy, almost hesitating as Spock's innocent gaze met his own. The child was so young, little more than an infant, so much like himself at that age - and yet so very different. Not entirely Vulkhanir or fully Tehr'n, but an amalgamation of both; it was an impediment he could not entirely comprehend. However, if he was lenient with the child now it might well ruin any future life Spock might have on his home planet. Vulkhanir was a harsh world, an unforgiving instructor to the rash or foolhardy, where any imprudent action could mean death. Any false kindness on his part would only serve to increase the dangers later. There had to be discipline and self-control. Honour and duty were the major tenets of every Vulkhanir. Their present culture had been constructed upon the bedrock of obligation and responsibility. He would not falter in those same doctrines to save his son from a consequence his actions deserved.
"Spock-neha," His voice softened as he used the uncharacteristic endearment, "Child, you understand do you not, the gravity of this thing you have done? To call out a healer without due cause for an amusement, a --- practical joke. It cannot go unpunished."
"It will not happen again, A'nirih. I promise."
"Until the next time." Sarek stated brutally. "No, Spock. I am unable to trust in your word. Or your honour."
The hurt was quite plain to see on the child's expressive face until he swiftly concealed his distress beneath an air of stoic calm. He swallowed hard. "I understand, A'nirih."
Sarek considered the boy closely. For the last year and a half, Spock had received strict formal training from Master Shaanak in the Way of T'lala. Sarek had insisted that his son become skilled at containing his volatile emotions and under Master Shaanak's tutelage, Spock had learned a rudimentary control. However, Sarek was aware that Spock still resorted to disturbing emotional behaviour when under stress, a shortcoming that condemned him in the eyes of his peers and associates. The defect was the starting place from which all Spock's other problems and difficulties sprang. However, even more disconcerting was the newly arisen circumstance where Spock tried to conceal his inadequacy behind an artificial impassiveness. He was beginning to excel at the deception to such an extent that even Master Shaanak was misled. Sarek had deliberated long and hard on a logical solution to the dilemma but, so far, without total success.
Looking at his son, he resisted the urge to sigh, human fashion. However much he respected and admired Amanda, his Tehr'n wife, on occasions such as this, he sometimes questioned his judgment on bonding with her. It would have been infinitely more reasonable to have complied with his Family's wishes and taken a consort from one of his own species.
More logical perhaps but considerably less interesting, he silently conceded. Kaiidth. What was, was. He had no real desire to change either his wife or his son, whatever the difficulties and complications. Nevertheless, Spock must be taught an important lesson, one that he would find impossible to forget - a lesson in logic.
"Tomorrow is Ienh'ssel, the Feast of Children, is it not?"
"It is, sir."
The boy's tone though curious was also uncertain. He regarded his father with wide-eyed speculation and Sarek sensed quite clearly his small son's abrupt nervousness.
He continued with relentless determination, voice low and pleasantly modulated. "And you were to accompany your mother and myself to Nevas'ashar, our sister-planet, for the celebrations there --- "
The hushed voice was less curious and a little more tentative Sarek noted with appreciation. The trip to Nevas'ashar coincided with Spock's natal day. Sarek had meant it as a special commemorative gift to his son. The boy had talked of little else for weeks.
He changed tactics, satisfied that he had planted the correct seed within Spock's resourceful mind.
"Please sit here, child." He indicated the vacant stool behind the desk and waited until Spock dutifully complied, sitting with back straight and feet tucked decorously beneath him. Sarek walked around to the other side of the low table and knelt opposite. Their eyes were now on a level.
"Suppose if you will, that it was I who called out Healer Sumhrok without need and that it is now your duty to exact suitable punishment. What form would that punishment take?"
The boy considered him with unguarded wonderment before he managed to school his expression. He dropped his gaze to inspect the reflection mirrored in the desk's lacquered surface, tracing his own bright image with a less than sanitary finger as he gravely pondered the question.
Sarek watched in silence. He certainly recognized the many options open to the boy, yet he trusted that Spock would not shirk this responsibility, that he would select an inadequate retribution. However, as a precaution, among the several alternatives that Spock might logically pick he was prepared to accept only one.
There was a long pause before Spock met his father's sombre gaze once more. "I --- believe I would curtail some valued privilege, A'nirih."
"Such as?" Sarek prompted serenely and saw Spock's brow furrow in additional thought. There were many things that his son cherished; his lessons in computing; the hour before his bedtime when he played with the family's pet sehlat, Ee-chiya in the wild garden; his music instruction or the Tehr'n storybooks he loved to read. Sarek did not consider any of them sufficient recompense for what Spock had done.
"If I gave back the Festival Gift of the new sand kart, A'nirih---?" It was an eager suggestion, one that in any other circumstance, Sarek might well have accepted.
"You believe that adequate compensation?"
"I do, sir." The boy looked at him hopefully, no doubt for signs of reprieve. He found none in his father's cool regard.
Sarek's eyebrow rose a quarter inch. "I do not."
"A'nirih, I am truly repentant." Spock tried not to squirm before Sarek's dark-eyed gaze that surrendered nothing, quite aware of his father's ruthless purpose but still reluctant to comply with it.
"Indeed?" The look Sarek bestowed upon him was sardonic, imperturbable and without mercy.
The boy sighed, reluctant to pronounce his own sentence, yet understanding that Sarek was not prepared to accept any other alternative. It came extraordinarily hard but he thought it better to capitulate willingly than lose what dignity he still possessed. In the face of Sarek's antagonism, the outcome could only be the same.
"Thee wishes me to give up the trip to Nevas'ashar, A'nirih?"
Sarek allowed his hard mouth to soften subtly in approval, a look Amanda recognised as not quite a smile. He beckoned Spock from behind the desk, observing the openly displayed disappointment, making a mental note to speak with Master Shaanak on the matter. "I believe that is an appropriate recourse, child."
Gently, he reached out to lift the boy's chin with one long finger. "However, it would be a pity to waste that excellent sand kart. Tomorrow you may have it as promised. Perhaps in the future you will remember your lessons in logic and think before you act, neh?"
"I believe you owe an apology to Healer Sumhrok."
"Indeed, A'nirih." Still with an air of dejection, Spock headed for the door.
"And Spock, one more thing---"
"I am proud of thee."