DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2022 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.
It's in the Spaces Between That We Fall in Love
Part 11: How We Said Goodbye
Spock stares at the emergency alert going across the monitors in the departure lounge.
Jim is dead.
He can feel the moment Christine realizes it too, the sadness buffeting him as she opens up and shares. Then his communicator pings.
"Where are you?" she asks.
"Starbase four." He keeps waiting for the ticker to change announcements. Say it is all a mistake. But it does not.
"There's no body, Spock. He disappeared before into that dimensional rift, but we got him back. Couldn't it be like that?"
"Perhaps. Yes." He feels hope surging through him. "Yes, I must go look for him."
"Jan commed me. Said Excelsior was being sent. They'll be close—if you contact Sulu...?"
Not for the first time he is gratified she spent so much time working emergencies. Even without her normal access, she is ready with solutions. "Yes, I will contact him."
And a short time later he is beamed aboard Sulu's ship, heading out at best speed toward the Enterprise-B. Harriman seems useless and Spock wonders why Jim changed his mind and attended the launch.
He cannot stand Harriman. And Spock feels the same at this moment—Harriman has lost valuable time by accepting that Jim is dead instead of merely lost and in need of rescue.
Harriman lacks experience. He should not be in command.
But as he scans with Sulu's science officer for any anomaly, he has to admit that there is nothing in the immediate area that could be harboring Jim.
They follow the energy ribbon but scans reveal nothing with a life sign.
Sulu walks over, his expression saying what he seems incapable of verbalizing. The search is over.
Jim is truly gone.
"I'm sorry, Spock." He sighs. "Where do you want us to drop you?"
"The middle of the vacuum." He says it so softly that only Sulu can hear, and is not jesting and he can tell the other man understands. "Wherever is convenient, Captain."
"How about Vulcan? Christine commed to let me know she is there."
He nods. "She is a great comfort in times like these. I will be in my quarters until we arrive." Quarters he has barely used other than to shower. He is exhausted but he cannot risk lying down and letting his control slip. Instead he meditates until Sulu comms him to let him know they are within transporter range.
She is waiting for him when he materializes on Vulcan. She does not rush to him, does not hug him, lets him walk to her, but from the moment their eyes meet, she is enveloping him with her love through the bond. Not shielding in any way as her own grief over Jim competes with her concern for him.
"Let's go home." She turns and leads him to the family flitter—someone he does not recognize is driving it. Probably a cousin newly in from one of the far provinces. His father is always bringing in relatives to ensure family solidarity. "This is Somla. Son of T'Kera."
A cousin he barely knows but he greets the young man as genuinely as he can.
"I grieve with thee, cousin," Somla says and is silent the rest of the trip.
Christine reaches down to touch his hand but he shakes his head. He thinks he will break in this flitter, in front of this new addition to the family unit, if she does that and she pulls her hand away with a gentle nod.
Understanding flows to him. She knows he is not rejecting her, merely trying to maintain control.
His parents are waiting in the main room, his mother's look full of sympathy, her murmured, "Oh, my darling, I'm so very sorry," almost undoing him.
Sarek shares a look with him. "He was a man of outstanding character. The Federation has lost a hero."
He is not sure his father believes that, but it is exceedingly kind of him to say it.
"Are you hungry?" his mother asks gently.
"Yes," Christine says for him, "but he's exhausted. He needs sleep."
He is so exhausted he is pulling her into sleep with him: the more support she send him, the more energy he is siphoning from her. "We both will need sleep."
"Understood. We are in no hurry to return to Earth." His father shares a look with Christine. "If you need anything, you have only to ask."
Why is his father not asking him, but then he realizes his eyes are drooping and Christine is nearly holding him up.
"A little help, Father," she says as Spock loses consciousness.
The concern running through his father's hand to his is the last thing he feels before blackness claims him.
He wakes in his bed but he is unsure when—Christine has turned the chrono so she can see it and he does not want to try to move it and risk waking her as she lies curled against him, her breath that of deep sleep.
He closes his eyes, falls back to sleep, and is suddenly on the ship, Jim calling him to check on something as he laughs with McCoy. Spock looks down at his terminal but it is in a language that he cannot read.
He turns back to Jim, who is consumed by fire, screaming.
Spock runs to him, trying to put out the flames but his hands go right through him.
"Help me," Jim says and then he is gone.
McCoy glares at him. "You gave up so damn fast, Spock. That's what I don't understand."
"Spock! Spock, wake up!"
He struggles to stay where he is. "I can find him. I can still find him." He dives deeper than sleep, into the beginnings of a healing coma—he will solve this. He will save Jim.
But then there is the smack of a palm across his face and his eyes snap open.
"I'm sorry, but I had to do that." She pulls him up, shaking him just enough to keep him from trying to return. "You can't save him."
"You do not know that. I gave up too early. I must go back."
"No." She is holding onto either side of his face, her palms on his cheek a death grip. "No, there is nothing to find, Spock. Nothing. He's gone." And then she begins to cry and the pain is so immediate that he feels tears running down his cheeks too. "He's gone, Spock."
He holds her and manages to push her pain away enough to stop crying, but his own pain floods in then to take its place. He prefers her pain because it is grief unencumbered by guilt.
His is not so untainted.
"You did everything you could," she whispers, as she rocks them both gently. "He's gone. And neither of us can do anything about that."
Hopelessness fills him. He knows Jim was going to die eventually. But he was still vital—he proved that by saving the ship. He should have had years left.
"Not yet," he whispers. "Not just yet."
"Some things are beyond our control."
He does not want to believe that and pushes her off him, and she does not fight him. Just looks at him the same way she did in that corridor, after he smashed the panel, infinite compassion and understanding in her face.
"It's going to be all right, Spock. It's just going to take time."
"It will never be the same."
She tenderly strokes his hair and he does not pull away. "No. No it won't."
He is sitting at the kitchen table in the apartment when the chime rings and then the door opens.
Only his mother gives notice she is at the door but then comes in anyway, so he gets up to say hello but sees immediately that something is wrong by the look on her face.
He sits heavily without intending to, almost crashing onto the armchair as she sighs. "How long?" he asks.
It is a given that this is bad. She would not come to him this way, with Christine gone, with his father gone, the way she used to when he was a boy and she had a human secret to share with her half human son.
He does not want this secret. Not after Jim's death. Not after Scotty's only a few weeks later. He does not want this.
She walks toward him and hugs him, pressing his face into her belly, gently mussing his hair the way she did when he was young and looked too perfect. "Not long," she whispers as if giving the truth more volume would make it unbearable. "I've been sick for a while now, Spock. We've tried a number of treatments. One of them seemed to be working—but not anymore. We're out of options."
"You must talk to Christine. She has contacts at Stanford who will help you."
"My physician has consulted with the best on this world and several others. What I have—well, I picked it up ages ago on a world that I probably shouldn't have been on but back then I couldn't bear to leave your father, not even for a dangerous mission." She lets him go and sits next to him. "It's not painful, the dying from this. I'll get sleepier and sleepier until one day I just won't wake up."
"Of course he knows, Spock. We're bonded—do you think I could keep this from him? He feels when I'm flagging. He'll...he'll experience all of this. But at least there won't be pain." She turns to him and he sees she is crying.
And he holds her and murmurs the things she used to tell him when he was broken inside. That everything will be all right.
Even though it most definitely will not.
The memorial is packed. Spock sits with Christine and Saavik and La'an. Manua sits on his lap, apparently deciding he is the one most in need of her help.
Help that in this stage of her development is minimal, but still he treasures that she is drawn to try to comfort him. She is a sweet soul and he has never regretted letting La'an take her, even if it was toeing the line across the Prime Directive.
The Prime Directive, in this case, can go to hell.
He wraps his arms around her and she cuddles into him, her head in the crook of his neck, murmuring words that Saavik and La'an must use with her when she is upset. Saying them so quietly, no one else around them will hear.
He reaches through the bond for Christine and feels her pain, her sorrow. She loved his mother so much. They were having so much fun with Manua. Her grief is true and powerful and she tries to shield him but he lets her know it is all right by reaching for her hand.
His father has a seat next to him but is up and down, introducing speakers, talking for a brief moment about his mother—his love coming through the Vulcan formality—and then, to Spock's surprise, his father is providing time for others to get up and speak about his mother. He does not expect many of them to. She followed his father, supporting him.
But he is wrong. "I was hurting and she was so kind." "I needed to get to my home planet for a family emergency and she arranged for my shuttle to be prioritized at the spaceport." "I was new to the Embassy, my first time on Earth, and she helped me acclimate."
And the most common, "I was afraid/lost/grieving/hurt and she took care of me."
He wishes Michael could be here to talk about how his mother took her in, loved her as her own. But Michael is gone and he has never felt her loss more deeply.
Christine gets up and walks to the podium. She smiles gently at his father, then at him and the rest of their family. "We are gutted at her loss. It will leave a hole in our family I am not sure will ever be filled. She was the kindest woman I've ever met and I will miss her beyond words. I know my children and my husband and my father will miss her just as much." She takes a deep breath and he can feel her fighting for control. "The best way to remember her—to honor her—is to be like her. To be kind to others. To be generous with our time and our attention. To love without reservation." She seems to want to go on but her voice is giving out and her eyes are filling up. "I'll miss her forever."
And then she is hurrying off the podium and back to him, and Manua crawls over him to get to her, a low singsong sound coming from her that Spock finds extraordinarily comforting.
And then the service is ended with a final word from the chief of protocol of the embassy, directing them out of the auditorium and to the gathering hall, where refreshments will be provided.
Spock knows he should be available but does not want to leave Christine.
"Saavik will stay with her," La'an says as she rises and urges him out of his seat too. "They'll come when they're ready."
He looks at Saavik and realizes she is fighting for control. "Let go, if you need to, Saavikaam. It is no shame to mourn."
Then he follows his other daughter—and his friend—to the reception, to begin the final acts of officially bidding his mother farewell.
The beach house isn't the same without his mother. The life has gone out of the place for him but he tries to find some pleasure in it as he walks the hard-packed sand with Manua, looking for shells and sand dollars.
Christine walks out and joins him, taking his hand and leaning her head on his shoulder as they walk. "It's not the same."
"No, it is not." It is not just his mother missing. He sees where Jim and Valeris surfed. Their laughter in his memory a haunting reminder of what has been lost.
He remembers a reunion he held here one year—at Jim and Christine's urging—for the crew. How Mister Scott looked at Nyota, long before Sybok loosened their pain and fear and brought them together.
"Is McCoy all right? He was not at the service."
"He's off world right now. Working with a physician's organization, helping in areas that need extra medical hands." She sighs. "He'll be next, I bet. He's getting so frail. When he told me he was off for parts dangerous and dirty, I was very worried."
"He has always been stronger than he appears." But silently he agrees with her. Leonard is the most likely to be lost to them next. "I would like to put everyone I care for in a padded room with a forcefield to keep danger out."
She leans up and kisses him. "You and me both. Unfortunately..."
Spock walks with Christine, trailing behind his father as they tour the educational facility recently constructed by the Lavarians.
It is state-of-the-art and full of smiling children. Most of whom appear to be from the same ethnic minority.
"They really want us to believe they have no interest in subjugating the Khalee." She glances at him. "Meanwhile they bomb their camps with drones. And the Khalee reciprocate with suicide attacks. This was exactly the kind of place I hated to be when I was in ops."
He can feel her unease through the bond. "Hence our presence here to negotiate a true peace not whatever this is. Although, these children look content."
"Looks can be deceiving." She has the med kit she always carries and surreptitiously scans the children they are passing. "I'm out of range. I'm just going to wander closer."
He stays near her so her activity will not stand out, and she says, "There, Jesus, happy-juice city." She keeps scanning as they enter the main auditorium. Dignitaries from all across the planet have gathered for this ceremony and Spock knows it is to try to impress the Federation delegation.
If they did not have so much dilithium and critical metals available, the Federation would not be interested in talking.
There are children lining the staircase and Christine walks over to several, scanning them and then crouches to talk to them. He sees her load a hypospray and casually shoot it into the arm of the child closest.
The girl's contented look fades and she scans the room, a strange smile on her face.
"Hey, I just want to talk to you." Christine touches her arm gently.
"You're going to die," the child screams at her, then she dissolves into laughter that is equal parts triumph and hysteria.
His father whirls, there is general agitation from the dignitaries, and then the room erupts in noise and fire.
Spock thinks it is missile fire but then realizes from the way the floor is collapsing that it is more likely explosives, buried under the—under the staircase.
He looks for Christine but there is only rubble where she and the children were standing.
"Christine," he yells but there is no answer.
He can feel her, though. She is there—under there.
He pulls out his communicator and calls the shuttle that is waiting outside, "Lock onto Commander Chapel's biosigns and beam her to the shuttle."
"Aye, sir." Then a moment later, "Sir, there is interference. I can't get a lock."
He scans the area as his father joins him. "There is aranlan residue. Whoever made the bombs did not want survivors beamed out." He meets his father's eyes. "They must be dug out."
"She is alive?"
He nods. And then his communicator goes off. "Spock, here."
"It's me." She sounds calm. "I'm in some sort of air pocket. So beam me out please."
"We cannot. They used aranlan."
There is a long silence, then she softly says, "I hate fanatics. I really, really do."
"I will find you." He scans and although the aranlan affects the accuracy of the tricorder readings, it does not diminish it altogether.
She was near the top of the stairway. As emergency crews rush into the room and start moving people out, he slips by, heading for where she is.
He finds her, five to six meters down—he cannot get more accurate than that. "I have you."
"It will take hours, Spock, to dig me out. I don't have hours. The air pocket will be compromised in forty minutes."
He meets his father's eyes.
"I will ensure you are left alone to be with her, Spock." He takes the communicator from him, holding it close as Spock sinks to the ground five to six meters above her.
Five to six meters—could he not dig with his bare hands? He is about to try when he senses her saying Don't through the bond.
"Christine, I must try. I can do this."
"Things are shifting, Spock. I don't want to be crushed." She sounds sincerely afraid—she feels that way too. Is this her nightmare. "I've seen too many people die that way. It's horrible."
"All right. I will not move anything."
"Christine," his father says. "Is there anything you want to say to Saavik? I have it set to record."
"I love you, baby. I'm sorry I won't get to see Manua grow up. La'an—take good care of Saavik, okay? And Sarek—thank you. For saving me."
"I did not save you. I was supposed to keep you safe."
"You did save me. This time—well, if I hadn't been curious, I would have been safe with Spock." She laughs and it's slightly hysterical. "See it really does kill you."
"I will leave you, my son." He hands the communicator back to him. When someone tries to get past him, to move Spock, he says, "You will leave him in peace." He sounds fiercer than Spock has ever heard him.
The man retreats.
Christine says brokenly, "I'm sorry, Spock."
"Do not be. You have given me life, Christine." He feels fear from her and sends all the comfort he can to her through the bond. "I am here. I will be here with you to the end."
"I'm so sorry, Spock. I was supposed to die in bed. An old woman. Way too old for a hottie like you." She laughs but it is a heartbreaking sound to him.
"It is in your nature to try to help."
"And to interfere when I should just mind my own damn business." She laughs again and this time the sound is more normal.
"It would not be you if you did not investigate anomalies. You are, to the end, a scientist.
"Yeah, I guess I am. " The emotion changes from her. "You shouldn't be alone, Spock. If you want to be with Nyota or anyone else, it's fine. I want you to be happy."
"Please, I do not wish to speak of that now. Only of you—of us."
"But I don't want you to be lonely."
"Christine, I will be lonely to the end of my days without you. I wish no other."
"But be open to it at least. You have a long life ahead of you. I won't mind if you want to share it with someone else."
"Let us speak only of our life, Christine."
"Okay," and she feels defeated, as if she has failed in making him see reason. But he does not want to entertain replacing her when she is his world and he still has her, even if only for minutes.
Her words are harder to make out. "I wouldn't do it differently. I know we made mistakes along the way. But I love you so much. And I'm so proud to be your wife. To be the mother of your daughters." She sobs and he feels the emotion through the bond too. Her utter despair at leaving all of them. "Tell Valeris in person that I'm gone. Don't make her hear it second hand, all right?"
"All right." But he knows he will not keep this promise.
"I can feel that you're lying." She is quiet for a moment but he can sense she is just trying to calm herself.
"I will speak for a while, so you do not use up your oxygen. I remember the first time I saw you, Christine. That day in sickbay, when you were going to manipulate our genomes. I was fascinated. I think—I think that was the moment I fell in love. Only I did not realize it, of course."
"Because you're an idiot."
"Yes, as you have told me more than once. I, also, would not change a thing, Christine. With you, I have known the kind of love I did not even know I craved until I had it."
He hears machinery being started up, but knows it will not get to her in time—he can already feel her slipping away.
She seems to be reading his thoughts. "I just scanned. I was overly generous with my time estimate. I'll be unconscious soon. It'll be gentle, at least. I'll just...slip away."
It is the ultimate irony: that this act of violence can end in a gentle death.
"Do you want us to tamp down the bond so you won't have to feel this so much?" He can feel how much she wants to protect him from further pain.
"No. I will not leave you. Not even for a moment. We will take this last journey together."
Her relief is immediate. "I love you, Spock."
"I love you, Christine."
"Tell me more about us. I want to fall asleep to the sound of your voice."
So he does, he tells her every happy moment he can remember, tells her how proud he is to be her husband, how beautiful and kind she is, how deeply intelligent.
And as he does, he feels her slipping away from him. "Christine," he says, and he can no longer see because tears are falling down his face, and he does not care who sees him silently crying.
He reaches out for her, the small spark, caressing it with his mind, sending I will love you until the day I die to her.
And then she is gone.
He makes a sound, part moan, part whine of protest. His father hurries to him, not touching him but shielding him as he mourns, as he touches the floor and whispers her name over and over.
But there is no one there.
She is gone.
The days that follow pass in a blur. His father takes over, taking possession of Christine's body once the emergency crews extract it, getting them off the planet and back to Vulcan.
Spock protests that she did not wish to be interred and Saavik, who has come to Vulcan with La'an and Manua, says she knows. That there is a place called Hurricane Ridge where they used to run, that Christine said she wanted her ashes scattered there.
"But she can be cremated here, Spock. It is fitting." She touches his sleeve, careful not to touch him skin to skin, and he thinks she does not want to inflict her own grief on him during this time.
He puts his hand over hers and lets them share the overwhelming sorrow they both feel. She begins to cry and says, "I heard the recording. It meant everything that she wanted to leave me with her love."
"I will take care of Saavik," La'an says, at his other side without him hearing her approach. "And you. Which is what she didn't say but no doubt meant. You're family, Spock. You always have a place with us."
Manua slips between them and he picks her up. As always, he cannot read her and it is a blessing—to just be close to someone, to feel the warmth of this sweet child, and have no idea if she is sad or not. If she understands that her grandmother is gone or not.
"There should be a service," he mumbles, suddenly so tired he can barely stand. "I should plan it but I..."
"I can help you with that, my son," his father says. "We all can."
Spock realizes his father might relish doing it, working off his own lingering sorrow over his mother and this fresh guilt that Christine died on his mission. It is time for grace so Spock lets him do it.
It is what Christine would want. She loved him too.
Once they are back on Earth, after he accompanies Saavik to scatter the ashes, he goes through the pictures he has kept all these years and picks his favorites of her for the service.
"I've never seen those," La'an says from the doorway. "Are they too private to share?"
"No. Please join me."
She climbs onto the bed and sits crosslegged next to him. "I remember this one." She pulls out one of a party Erica threw for—he can't remember the reason. "I mean I remember the party—I don't remember you two being quite so...close."
"I was in love with her before I realized it. Craving her company. Feeling...whole."
La'an leans against him gently. "I know. It's why I gave up on her. She was just as gone on you."
She picks up one of Saavik as a child, running with Christine. The two both red in the face since they were racing for a finish that ended up a tie. "This is adorable."
"Would you like copies? For you and Saavik and Manua?" He meets her eyes. "Would it be wrong to keep her grandmother alive that way for her? With pictures?"
"No, it wouldn't be wrong. It would be nice." She rubs his shoulder gently. "Your instincts to honor her are good ones, Spock. Don't second guess yourself."
"She would have said that."
"I know. Where do you think I learned it?"
He gets calls from former crewmates and ignores them. He knows he should answer but he just cannot. It is all he can do to keep moving, one foot in front of the other, without her by his side.
But he sends the information about the memorial to people he knows will make sure it gets distributed: Nyota, Leonard, Rand, Erica.
He wishes he could send a message to Talos IV, let Chris know. It is because of him that he even met Christine.
The memorial is packed. He elects not to say anything, knowing it would be insufficient or misunderstood as cold. But if he were to get up to speak, he would say simply, "She was everything to me."
Would anyone understand how true that was? How little interest he has in his life now other than the pictures and the few people he considers family?
His father sits him down after the ceremony and reception, once the others are asleep. "What will you do now, my son?"
He shrugs and thinks it is not a gesture his father will appreciate, but he ignores it.
"I suggest asking for difficult negotiations. Throw yourself into the mission. The pain will not go away but you may be able to ignore it somewhat if you have challenging situations to finesse."
He nods. This sounds wise. Starfleet has offered him several excellent positions at command but he finds the thought of them exhausting without Christine to come home to. "You speak from experience?"
Full time diplomacy will require only limited interpersonal interactions with his peers and he will have just a small team to manage. His role will be to get others to talk to each other, not to have to carry the conversation himself. "Yes. But Starfleet wants—"
"I do not care what Starfleet wants, Spock. If you wish to pursue diplomacy, I will make sure you are allowed to."
"Thank you, Father."
Sarek nods and then looks down. "I feel guilty, Spock. I know it is illogical, but she died on my watch. After I took her out of what was supposed to be a more dangerous situation."
"She died on her own watch, Father. And I do believe you saved her when you got her out of ops. We would have lost her well before now."
"You truly believe that?"
Sarek looks visibly relieved. "I did not want you to blame me for her death."
"I will never. I may blame myself however. If I was closer to her when it happened..." He would have saved her or he would have died with her. Either would have been preferable to this. He looks down. "I am so tired."
"Sleep, my son."
He nods and goes to his bedroom, preparing slowly for sleep, thinking as hard as he can about Christine. Hoping for a dream, even if it is a nightmare.
He just wants to see her again. Loving or angry, forgiving or blaming him. He does not care. Just one more look, one more conversation.
His sleep is dreamless.
His father is right, diplomacy is the thing to help him focus—to quiet the pain until he is alone again.
His bed never seems as welcoming now, even if that is illogical since they were separated much of the time with him on the ship. But still...that is how he feels.
He focuses on the mission at hand, pouring all of himself into preparing, into running the scenarios Christine used to do for him, trying to imagine any outcome and how he will react.
Days turn into weeks turn into months. Soon half a year has gone by and he is—if not thriving—surviving.
He walks into the embassy, another mission handled successfully and sees a woman with white blonde hair walking into his father's office.
For a moment, he cannot move, cannot even breathe.
Then she comes back out and he sees it is not Christine. Of course it is not Christine.
She sees him and smiles, standing at the door to the office that used to be Christine's. Unsure why she is there, Spock moves closer.
"Your father said I'd meet you today." Her voice is nothing like Christine's. And she is much younger—sixteen perhaps? "I'm Perrin Landover. I won a competition for high schoolers, the prize was interning here, with the ambassador."
"What kind of competition?"
"An essay, on the value of peace, the cost of war, and the challenges of diplomacy."
"A broad topic."
"Indeed. The challenge was condensing it all into a cogent piece."
"But you did it."
"I was determined to win. Your father is a hero of mine."
"Ah, Spock, you have met the newest addition to our team." Sarek meets his eyes, his expression gentle.
"And the youngest."
"It is the young who inherit the future. She will keep us honest. I will let you read her essay—you will understand why she is here." He gestures for Spock to come into his office and close the door. "I wish to speak to you of other things. Dangerous things."
Spock nearly frowns.
"The Romulan you met during Khitomer. The one who keeps showing up where you happen to be."
"Pardek?" He has shown up exactly three places Spock has been over the time since the Khitomer Conference. For a fellow diplomat, that is hardly unusual.
And the man has intriguing ideas—about unification between Vulcans and Romulans. Ideas Spock finds he supports. "What of him?"
"Has it occurred to you he may be Tal Shiar?"
"I assume any Romulan outside Romulan-controlled space may be Tal Shiar."
"Then you must be careful how you deal with him. Discrediting you—trying to show you as a Romulan mole—may be his goal."
"Or he may be interested in more positive things, more...unified things."
"You cannot be serious. They left Vulcan for a reason. They stay away for the same reason. They are not Vulcans."
"No, and we are not Romulans, but we started out as one people. Terrans came together ultimately, why not us."
"Terrans stayed on the same planet and did not diverge genetically as much as we have from the Romulans. Spock, I understand a cause such as this must be attractive after losing Christine, but please take care."
"I will take the care I normally take as a Starfleet officer. I am not going to be duped by the Tal Shiar, Father, the way I once duped them."
"Do you think they have forgotten that insult, Spock? How do you know this Pardek is not a relation to the commander you humiliated?"
"I do not. Perhaps time will tell." He wants to get out of this office, start prepping his next mission. "Was there anything else?"
"I know Perrin looks like Christine did when she was younger."
"From the back, at any rate. Her face is quite different."
"There were no visual images of the entrants. Seeing her—I was thrown initially. I imagine you might have been as well. I regret that."
"It is nothing." Besides, the girl will be gone eventually. Internships last only so long.
Spock is wandering around the kitchen in the apartment, trying to decide if he wants to cook or just order something, when the chime rings. "Come," he says moving to see who is at the door.
La'an comes in, holding Manua with one hand and a bag from his favorite Chinese restaurant in the other. "Saavik is at some science seminar. We were hungry for Chinese and figured you might be too."
Before he can agree, she is moving past him into the kitchen, setting the bag on the counter.
Manua hugs him tightly. "Grandfather."
As ever, he cannot resist her, and picks her up—she is growing so much, too heavy at this point for La'an to pick up. He is satisfied to see her thriving so. "Hello, little one."
The food smells wonderful and he realizes he was hungrier than he thought.
La'an pours herself and Manua glasses of water and nods toward the table. "So sit."
The food is as good as he remembers and he eats more than he intended to. As he helps La'an clean up after they set Manua up in the living room with her toys, he says, "Thank you."
"You may not want to thank me once we're done here. But I made a promise so..." She hands him an old-fashioned envelope with Christine's handwriting. "It's been over a year since she died."
He nearly frowns.
"Read it. I promised her I would watch you read it. But you don't have to read it out loud." She turns a little, he thinks to give him some kind of privacy.
Spock, I don't know how I died but obviously I did. And if you're reading this now, it's because you're alone. I don't want that for you. It also means Nyota is alone too. She loves you—she's always loved you, Spock. Give it a try. Love again. I'm so sorry I left you. I love you enough to want you to be happy with someone else. - Christine.
He looks at La'an. "Nyota is not alone. She is seeing someone. He was with her at the reunion McCoy held last month."
"The one I had to drag you to? Yeah, but they're on and off. So in my book she qualifies. And anyway, I had to make sure she was free-ish before I gave this to you by, you know, asking her."
"Did Christine have an alternative if Nyota had been otherwise engaged?"
She shakes her head.
He puts the envelope down. "I understand you promised to do this. But you must understand that I did not, ever, promise I would seek another partner."
"I know. And I get it. I waited for Saavik even though there wasn't much hope—and I had Jim after me, which I have to admit was hard to say no to. I get not wanting to move on. But what can it hurt? Nyota is a wonderful person. The worst you get out of it is a lovely dinner."
He is about to protest but she says, "It's what Christine wanted, Spock."
He nods, capitulating despite himself. He feels little excitement at the idea but if this is what she wanted for him, he will honor her wishes—at least as far as one dinner. He promises nothing more.
"You are in favor of this, clearly, but what will Saavik say?"
"Oh, she'll be pissed as hell—at first. But she'll get over it. I will help her get over it." She looks fierce. "Christine was right, Spock. You shouldn't be alone. There has to be more to life than just mission after mission."
"I have goals—dreams even—I am pursuing." Pardek has reached out and Spock has responded—with appropriate caution. But he is not worried: no Tal Shiar would speak of unification with the reverence Pardek does. "They just do not happen to involve romance."
She crosses her arms over her chest. "I've seen reports of some of the people you meet with in your free time. Be careful, Spock. Not everyone in Security thinks you're a hero. Some think you might have been part of the conspiracy."
"I know. I am bemused by this attitude."
"You were the only one in Valeris's mind. It was deemed too dangerous for any other Vulcans to go back in given the damage a second meld of that nature might do."
"Damage that resolved quickly." T'Pring has told him this: Valeris's headaches disappeared quickly and any cognitive decline was temporary. Do they think T'Pring is lying, that she is also part of the conspiracy? The suspicion is exhausting and he has learned to ignore it. He knows he is occasionally followed and does not care.
What could Starfleet security possibly do to him that would be worse than losing Christine?
La'an seems to realize she is getting nowhere. "Okay, so let's go play with your granddaughter. I've given you Christine's message and now it's up to you."
"I do not play." And yet he finds himself on the floor with Manua, lost for the moment in her simple world. Every so often she takes his hand and smiles at him in the most loving way possible as she tells him about the game she has made up. "Her empathy has not diminished." There was fear that it might if she was not among her own people.
"Yep. Too bad she can't make whatever's wrong better."
But Spock thinks she does, just by being there with her lovely eyes, sweet smile, and whimsical rules for games he barely understands.
The restaurant is packed but the tables are arranged so conversation can be easily heard at normal speaking levels. Nyota looks lovely but uncomfortable.
"That wacky Christine and her ideas, huh?" she said when he picked her up in a flitter.
"Indeed." He found himself unsure what to say to this woman he has served so many years with.
Just as he is now.
"Would you be here now if she hadn't told you to be?" she finally asks, reminding him of how blunt she was when he first met her—how she learned to temper that tendency over time, as she grew into her role and rank.
"I am not sure. Perhaps I—"
"No, bullshit, Spock. Would you have asked me out of your own accord?"
He looks down. "No." He allows himself to sigh. "Would you have wanted me to?"
"I've wanted you to ask me to dinner since I met you. But unfortunately she was all you could see." She sees the waiter coming and leans in. "Do you even want to be here? I'll tell him we've been called in if you want to flee."
"No. I am hungry. And she wanted us to do this."
"Yeah, that's not so comforting on my end. That this is all for Christine, not for me. But I get it." She smiles up as the waiter arrives at their table. "I'll have the ribeye, medium well, and a side salad, lots of blue cheese."
He orders something off the vegetarian side, barely paying attention.
Once the waiter leaves, she takes a long sip of her wine and then says, "Maybe if we'd had a chance to get to know each other before you met her. Maybe then we would have worked. Were you at all interested in me?"
"I was not. I did, however, find you attractive and engaging."
"So if she hadn't been in the picture...?"
"I was still engaged at the time."
"Oh, yeah. Her. The captain killer." By her tone he can tell Christine did not share all the things T'Pring did for them after his death. Does she even know about the baby?
Christine loved Nyota but she did not share confidences with her the way she used to, on that first voyage.
"So imagine a world where there is no fiancée and no Christine to hook you before I even get a chance? Would I have had a shot?"
He senses she needs to hear she would. He thinks back to the cadet he first met. "You were far younger in the service than I was. Perhaps if we had met when we were closer in experience."
"Yeah. That's what I think too." She smiles gently. "Although I used to flirt. God, I used to flirt." She laughs softly.
"Also with Jim."
"It's possible to have two impossible crushes, you know." She takes a deep breath. "So if I'm reading the room right, we're going to take a big old pass on romance, right?"
"There's a certain fellow I've been seeing who's going to benefit from that. I may have been holding him at arm's length waiting to see if there was any future for you and me."
"And he stayed anyway?"
She shrugs. "He loves me."
"Do you feel the same?"
"There are all kinds of love, Spock. I think I'd have rather explored romance with you than him. But it's not like I don't enjoy spending time with him. Stringing along someone you really don't care about just so you aren't alone is a horrible thing to do." Her smile is gentle. "Don't you get lonely?"
"I miss her very much."
"That's not exactly what I asked. But I think it's the only answer that matters. That you interpret the question to lead you back to her instead of forward to someone else."
"May I ask you something deeply personal and none of my business?" When he nods, she says very softly, "If Jim were still here—would you be with him?"
"Jim and I were never lovers, Nyota."
"But you loved each other."
"They are not the same thing. As you well know. He was the brother I wished I had. The friend who taught me most how to prosper in the world past Vulcan—along with Chris Pike, of course."
"He died," she says so softly he almost misses it.
She nods. "Don't ask me how I know. I have weird access in this new job. His body was buried on Talos IV."
"The Talosians could have kept him alive indefinitely."
"The report said he was tired and asked for release." She takes a deep breath. "I liked him so much. He taught me so much."
"Indeed. He was one of the finest men I have ever known." He meets her eyes. "There was a woman on Talos IV with him."
"Vina. She asked to die too. They were buried together. He sent a note to Commander Chin-Reilly. He never knew she died, I guess." She swallows visibly. "So much tragedy."
"Indeed. Too much." He feels more alone than ever—the idea that Chris was out there, living his illusory life, always comforted him. "Have I hurt our friendship, Nyota, by my...rejection of Christine's plan for us?"
"No. I don't think being a couple was ever in the cards. But in some alternate universe—maybe even that crazy one where you have a beard and the uniforms are much more scanty—I choose to believe we're together."
"I am sure that Spock is very happy."
She smiles, probably because he has chosen such a human word. "I'm sure that Uhura is too."
Spock walks with T'Pring down the corridors of Ankeshtan K'til. "It has been years," she says, "since I have been in this section."
She is no longer an administrator, has become a council member, in charge from afar of this facility and other, less drastic rehabilitations.
"I did as you asked, Spock. I did not tell her that Christine died. But I cannot verify that someone on the staff might not have told her. There is...resentment that she was part of this."
He nods. He should have done as Christine asked. Should have come here immediately after her death to let her daughter know she was gone.
Their daughter. Since the conspiracy, he barely thinks of her as his niece, much less his daughter.
He took such pride in her accomplishments but always felt the prickling of fear over her character. And he was right. Could he have stepped in—were he and Christine "absent parents" as Cartwright had said?
Cartwright is still alive. Spock sometimes wonders if Christine put something else in the pill she gave him. Something that would ensure he stayed healthy enough to suffer a long, long time.
He finds he would not be averse to that. Would Christine have been looking for conspiracy the day she died if it had not loomed so large in her mind? If her mentor had not proven to be a traitor?
Would she be alive now? Would he be holding her?
Useless avenues to go down.
"Are you all right?" T'Pring asks softly, no judgment in her voice.
"I do not think so."
"She has left a hole in your life."
He knows she is not referring to Valeris. "She has. And...and she thought I should not be alone. Left a letter encouraging me to pursue a mutual friend."
"Will you do it?"
"No. The mutual friend was also encouraged to pursue me, but she wants to come first, to be everything."
"With the exception of your mother, second wives rarely are everything." She stops him. "If Stonn were to die, I would not seek to replace him in my life. Not unless you were interested."
"Truly? After all I have done to you?"
"Some feelings do not abate, no matter how much we beat them away with logic and meditation." She half smiles. "Fortunately for me, Stonn is in excellent health and in a field that has little inherent danger. Because I do not think you would want me."
He considers that. "I believe we make better friends than we did romantic partners."
"You are no doubt right." She walks on, turning, then turning again, until they hit a row of rooms that are guarded by two burly men and have forcefields instead of doors. "Her father is to blame for the introduction of more stringent security measures. I do not agree with the forcefields—they create too much of a sense of punishment when we are supposed to be here to rehabilitate."
"It is hard to rehabilitate a patient if they have escaped."
"Ultimately the winning argument." Her tone is wry.
"And how does Valeris fare in the rehabilitation effort?"
"She is resistant."
He nods and walks alone to the cell T'Pring points him to.
Valeris does not even look up. This is no doubt the only power she can claim for herself in this place. Who she will acknowledge and who she will not.
"Hello." His voice comes out more ragged than he means it to. Will she look at him? After what he did to her? The violent way he tore through her mind—the anger that accompanied the action.
She looks up immediately and her expression changes. "I have heard about Christine. One of the guards seems to hate me. Perhaps T'Pring should have her checked out as far as logic goes. I am sorry for your loss."
"It is your loss, too."
"Is that so? Because it is over a year later that you deign to visit, to tell me in person. I think this is not my loss—not as far as you are concerned. But I imagine that you told Saavik immediately." She walks to the force field. "I loved Christine. You owed me more than this." She practically spits the words at him. "Send me to Rura Penthe. I do not thrive here and never will."
"It is not my choice." He looks around for a stool or chair, something to indicate that he will stay longer than a brief visit, but there are none. Do these prisoners receive no visitors who wish to tarry? "Christine told me to tell you in person, right away, not now, a year later. But I did not."
Her face changes.
"Even in death, she was looking out for you." He takes a deep breath. "If it makes it better for you, I feel as if I am half a person without her."
"Makes it better for me? You think I want revenge on you? I loved you—and her, and even Saavik. I would have thrown myself in the way of the weapon that took her."
"It was a bomb. She was trapped in the rubble. She died from lack of oxygen. I could not get to her in time. There was no saving her or I would have done it."
"So the person who told me lacked facts." She moves even closer to the forcefield, the static from it making her hair move slightly. "Will you tell me more of her last day?"
He does not want to, but he moves just as close to the field and begins to talk, telling her of that day, of Christine's curiosity and skepticism, of the steps she took to prove she was right, of how those steps put her in danger.
Of how she died on the comm with him. Of how his voice telling her only good things was the last voice she heard.
Valeris is weeping silently as he finishes. "I am so sorry, Spock."
He is suddenly empty of the rage and resentment he has felt for her—sees only the young girl he so wanted to save. The bright mind—the effervescent spirit. Why must she be here? In this dismal place with no chairs for visitors?
"You must cooperate here. You must work to find out why you were so easily led. You must be freed."
"Why? I have no career, no friends, no one to love me."
"You have me."
"This is your first visit to me since I was sent here." She shakes her head, a small smile playing. "This is you trying to save me to give you something other than Christine's loss to focus on. I won't be your mission, Spock. I've been that and look how it turned out."
"You had such promise. You still do. I would like you—I would like you on my team." He meets her eyes. "I...I was obviously not there for you when you needed me. Cartwright groomed you and we did nothing."
She backs away, but there is no anger in her face. He thinks instead it is some form of compassion when she says, "He did not groom me, Spock. His anger for the Klingons was an abstract thing, made of equal parts fear and loathing but nothing he would ever have done anything about."
"I do not understand."
"Do you think I didn't see Angel fuck with someone's mind? Do you think I didn't see how my father could lead a person to do bad things in the name of good? Do you really think that I couldn't have pushed him the way I wanted? You stopped your meld too soon. You stopped when you saw him telling me what to do, but had you gone further, you'd have seen me suggesting to him what to do."
He steps back. One step, then another.
"I was the mastermind, Spock. I was the manipulator, not the manipulated."
"Because they killed my mothers and ruined my life. Or do you mean why him?" She seems to see his confusion. "Because he was the only thing that was truly mine. And in a way that I never had to worry would turn sexual, unlike the people I grew close to on Angel's crew. He would never try to force me and I would never have to stop him by laying a phaser on stun against his forehead—did you think he taught me that trick? I learned it from Angel. But he was safe; he only loved me as a kindred intellect."
The words she used with him. He remembers the ceremony they shared. How sure he was of her.
When it was clear only one man could be sure of her. Another man she used.
He backs up even more.
"I am sharing this because you shared her death. It is my gift to you: so you can live your life and stop worrying about me now. Stop making plans you and I both know will never come to fruition. You can stop this train of guilt you seem to be on. You can walk away and never see me again." She turns her back on him. "I thank you for all the times you tried to help me. But your assistance is no longer required. I am where I belong—unless you wish to send me to Rura Penthe, where I can be with the man I betrayed even more than I did you."
"To atone to him?"
"Or to help him escape?"
"Both options have allure."
"You will remain here."
"As I suspected." She sits on the bed, her back to the wall, her knees pulled up. She does not look at him. "Live long and prosper, Spock."
"Peace and long life, Valeris." He turns and walks away from her.
He knows he will probably never see her again.
He can live with that.
Months have turned into years and he counts the passage of time by how tall Manua is growing, by how many missions he has been on, by who he is training and how long they stay on his staff.
He makes no effort to engage with old friends or to befriend peers, to add new names to the list of those he considers close.
He cultivates his relationship with Pardek, the cause of reunification more appealing than opening himself up to feeling affection—or pain—again.
Eventually, La'an retires and decides she and Manua will accompany Saavik on the Communidad, a concept mission, the first ship to include families. It does not surprise him that La'an is quickly reeled in as a security consultant for the families—spouses and partners who have not been trained in the Starfleet way or children who are too young to be mindful of security practices. She prospers as does Saavik, who becomes first officer.
They comm him regularly but it is not the same as having them near. He is often off world when they call, often cannot speak to them in real time, only watch the video messages.
He misses having Manua around, the only person who seems capable of reading him anymore, who makes his spirits lift when he sees her.
He begins to feel isolation creeping in.
He begins to welcome it.
He feels as if he is back at Gol, peeling off his emotions like the skin of an onion.
But without Christine, with his children gone, with his father bringing Perrin back as a fellow now, even though she is only an undergrad—breaking all the rules for her and Spock knows why.
He can see the worship on her side and the need for a replacement for his mother on his father's.
And that is all Perrin will be. She deserves better. He tried to warn her when she first showed back up at the embassy.
He remembers when he walked into the embassy and again saw white-blonde hair Anger filled him—both at her and at his father. He knew the way she moved, the almost imperious way she was talking to the interns.
He strode forward. "Are you visiting, Perrin?"
Her smile was guarded. "No. I'm on a fellowship. I'm at Berkeley. Did your father not tell you?"
"He did not."
She shrugged and in her eyes was something he did not like. Power—she thought she had it.
He went into his father's office but it was empty.
"Is my presence so unnerving for you? I know I look like your wife."
"You actually do not. Other than your hair." He did not turn to look at her, stood at the window staring out. "I will wait for him."
"You will wait a long time, then. He is at Starfleet Command."
He turned to study her. "There is no fellowship position here for Terrans."
"Not until now, no. Sarek created one. I am useful to him." Her defiant expression eased. "Spock, please. Be welcoming. I could be of use to you too. I'm ready to be put to work—to make a difference. I know you worked with Christine."
"You may refer to her as Commander Chapel."
She frowned deeply. "That's how you want to do this?"
He moved past her but she stopped him with a hand on his arm.
"Spock, please give me a chance."
He stared down at her hand on his sleeve. "You know better than to do that in this place."
"I would like us to be friends."
"Because when I'm old enough for this not to be of note to gossips, I intend to marry your father."
He knew his eyebrow was rising.
"I see no reason to pretend. I am in love with him. And he needs me."
"Need and love are not the same thing."
"Need can grow into love."
He saw something he recognized. The desire to be, just once, first in Sarek's heart. "Sit."
She did and he took the seat next to her. "My mother cannot be replaced."
"She is gone. Of course she can."
"Physically, yes. You can fill her role, her space in his life. You can perform her duties. But you will not find your way into his heart, which is, I think, what you most desire."
"You don't know that he doesn't—or won't in the future—love me."
She studied him. "You think just because you can't let go of the woman you lost that he can't either. But you're wrong. I'll prove it."
"I would rather you did not try. It will hurt you both." He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "You are very young, Perrin. When I was young, for a short time I fancied myself to have feelings for an officer who mentored me. But it was not real. It was..."
"A crush? You think I don't know what I feel?"
"I do think that. But this is your path to walk. Just do not embarrass him in public and keep your plans to yourself and I will leave you alone." This was not his business.
His father never mentioned bringing her back. So Spock sat back and watched it happen.
He stays away from the residential part of the embassy now; he sent a gift for their wedding but was off world for it, and sent another when she bore Sarek a son—perhaps the one he has always wanted—but his brother Setek holds no interest for him.
It irritates his father that this is so—Sarek tries to hide it but he cannot. With the girls gone, with Manua gone, his father has no allies other than this woman who does look too much like Christine for Spock's comfort.
And at his core, that bothers him. Makes him pull away more and more from his father.
Did his father feel more for Christine than he should have?
Did he relish having her to himself on those missions?
If he did, Christine never knew. Spock would have felt it from her. Some sense of unease if Sarek pushed anything or new love if she had felt the same.
But his father could well have been in love with her. Too honorable to do anything about it, of course. But now, when faced with a woman he might see as Christine's replacement—with her energetic intellect and ability to spot anomalies—and his mother's kindness and care, why would he not make her his wife?
Two birds, one stone, as the Terran saying goes.
It should irritate Spock more than it does, but he has never confronted Sarek about it. What good would it do?
And he does not want to dredge up old feelings—either good like his love for Christine or negative like his ancient resentment of his father—that he is burying deeper and deeper every day.
He is at Starfleet Medical, sitting with Saavik and Manua as La'an breathes with effort.
The ship was in danger, she locked herself in a chamber with leaking gas so the others would be spared, while two engineers fixed what was wrong. The gas will kill all three of them but not immediately.
The other two lie in comas on ventilators. But she is still awake—her genes once again serving to keep her conscious when others might succumb.
But not forever. Just long enough to say goodbye.
She has said she was only paying her brother's sacrifice forward. But he can see that brings no comfort to her wife and daughter.
La'an motions him over. "Do you remember the meld you did with me when we were fighting the Gorn?"
"I would like another one. I am losing Christine, Una, all of them. I would like to take a walk through my memories as I did that time with you when we searched for Manu and the codebook. I think it would be good for you too."
He stiffens. "Good how?"
"You are so distant, Spock." Saavik comes up next to him, her hand on his sleeve rather than his skin. "Would it not be beneficial to experience Christine as you first did. The woman who made you whole?"
"Am I not whole to you?"
Saavik looks down, which is an answer in itself.
"I can't read you anymore, grandfather. There is so little of you left." Manua gets up and walks out. As if his journey toward his own internal Gol is a personal attack against her.
"Please do it, Spock. I will leave you alone for privacy." Saavik leans up and kisses him, but on the hair, not on the cheek.
Does she not wish to inflict her emotions on him or is it that she finds his own sense of logical purpose repugnant?
And why does he not care more?
He sits with La'an, but does not reach for the meld points, does not take her hand to feel her need—whether it is real or if she is just worried for him.
It does not matter. He is not going to relive the only time he was happy. Not now when he has found equilibrium. Even if it is one that pleases no one but him.
"I will not meld with you."
La'an's eyes are forgiving. "I told them you wouldn't. They don't understand. Even though Saavik went through all the things she did, she still has such a capacity to love in her."
"But you and I do not."
"If they were taken from me, I too would become the robot you seem to be heading towards." There is a note of realism in her voice as well as a slap.
She does not approve but she also understands.
"Who will care for your daughter and granddaughter when I am gone, Spock, if you will not embrace the ability to love that I know is in you?"
"Saavik will find love from her new grandmother. I may not wish to associate with Perrin, but she will welcome them. If only because it will seem like a victory over me. And Manua will find her great uncle Setek intriguing—his mix of human and Vulcan will be an empathic puzzle for her just as she will be an interesting influence in his life as he matures. Point your family to Sarek's house, not mine."
"My family? You would disown them?"
"No, not disown. Is it not care to send them on a better path than what they would get with me?"
She sighs. "Yes. It is care. But, I think, a selfish one." She begins to cough, and he waits as the fit subsides.
"I have upset you."
"You have not. You are who you are, Spock. Will you come to my memorial?"
"If I am on Earth, yes."
"Will you plan to be off planet if you can?" Her eyes hold his, making lies impossible, even if he could tell them.
"You are wasting time and love with your family."
"I am progressing, La'an, the only way I can." He feels something, an old spark: it is pain—he does not want it.
He starts to get up, but she reaches out, her skin on his, her emotions flooding him. Love and irritation, pain but acceptance that it is her time.
He is breathing too hard. He is feeling too much.
"I love you, Spock, but do not come visit me again." Her grip tightens as he tries to pull away. "I will contact Perrin, and I will use this time to get to know her, to determine if I will bequeath her my family. Because you are not going to be there. No matter how much I think you should."
She finally lets him go, and he retreats a few steps.
"I am sorry, La'an. I...I cannot."
"She would not want this, Spock. You have to know Christine would not want this."
"I cannot find my way without her in any other manner."
"Do you still have the pictures?"
He nods. But he no longer looks at them, even if they travel with him on each mission, buried in the false bottom of his satchel.
"Thank God for that." She meets his eyes, hers kinder than he deserves. "Goodbye, Spock. I wish things were different."
"But they are not."
"No, they are not." She closes her eyes, her last gift of mercy, letting him slip away without her watching.
He hears weeks later that she has died.
He ensures he is off world for the memorial.
He seeks out photos from the event and sees Saavik and Manua sitting next to Perrin.
Perrin is holding Saavik's hand. Saavik is crying—free to express herself with her grandmother.
He lets go of the last vestige of care—his daughter has a new source of love. His granddaughter will grow up with his brother.
He is free now to pursue the only thing that interests him.
It stings, that Spock was played so effortlessly by Pardek and Sela.
Even as he stays on Romulus, even as he tries to muster his old enthusiasm for working with these people, for the cause that became the only thing in his life, a part of the shell he has built is breaking apart.
The meld with Picard was a mistake. Feeling the love and regret his father had for him was like a pickaxe hitting over and over again on snow waiting to turn from a sheet safely covering a mountain to an avalanche. The more it rolls, the larger—and more powerful—it becomes.
Especially when he learns Jim was not dead after all. That he was right. That he was in the energy ribbon—if Spock had just searched harder, as his dream had told him, he might have rescued him.
Everything might have been different. Including losing Christine.
And he has started dreaming of her. Now, when he no longer wants to see her, she visits him in his dreams.
But not directly. She is just out of sight, her white-blonde waves disappearing around a corner, her laugh ringing back to him.
She is across the room at a Captain's Breakfast, smiling at him in the way she did from the beginning, coaxing him to dare to be human.
She is on the deck of a villa on Risa, when he is on the beach below. He can see her leaning over, the chiffon of her sarong blowing in the soft breeze. She motions for him to come up, but there is no path.
And finally, he begins to dream of her with the family he abandoned. Her arm around Saavik as they cooled down after a run. Her holding Manua when the child first came and was uncertain that love could come from so many strangers.
And then he sees her standing with La'an and his mother, a soft glow around them. Disapproval rife on her face. You've forgotten how to love and that's not okay.
He wakes to those words. Wakes in the caves on Romulus, a place he no longer wishes to be but has no way to escape at the moment. It will take months to put together an exit plan that will not endanger those he has worked with.
And he does not want to endanger them. He...he cares for them.
"Are you all right, Spock?" the women guarding the door asks as he wanders the main area of their "dwelling," seeing it with fresh eyes.
He pulls out his satchel, suddenly desperate to see the pictures he has not looked at in decades but has never abandoned.
Emotions flood him as he holds first one, then another. And he looks up at this woman whose name he has not bothered to learn because it is safer that way for both of them, and says, "These are people I loved."
She looks shocked. "Love? An emotion?"
"I am leading you down a road that must be moderated. Emotions are not the enemy. Pure logic is not the ideal." He meets her eyes. "The truth lies somewhere in the middle, where both are in balance, an everlasting exercise in discipline and openness."
"That sounds more attainable than pure logic, Spock." She actually sounds relieved. "I have to admit, I was about to leave your service."
"I do not wish to detach the way you appear to have." She sits in front of him and smiles gently. "I would like to see your pictures."
So he shows her. He tells her of the people. And then he picks up the picture of Jim and Valeris surfing.
"You have shown me Kirk in other photos but who is she?"
He touches Valeris's face on the picture. "My other daughter."
"You have two? Is this then a daughter you regret?"
"No, I regret abandoning her."
"Just as she regrets betraying you. Father."
He looks up quickly. Realizes this woman's guarded smile and willing eyes are familiar. A mixture of confidence and seeking approval. "Valeris?"
"Christine's disguises still work. With some tweaks to make them last longer and muddy features more."
"Valeris." He is unsure how she is here. Is it for revenge? Will she turn him in?
Does he not deserve that for giving up on her?
He drops his head and says, "I am your prisoner."
"Don't be stupid." She moves the pictures aside almost reverently and takes him in her arms, holding him tightly, sobbing as she tries to tell him something. But all that comes out is, "I love you."
And he finds himself clutching her, holding her as if she is the only thing that will save him, the only thing left to him. And he says, "I love you, too."
"Put your pictures back and pack anything you want. It is time to go."
"Trust me." She points to the pictures and he dutifully puts them in their airtight package.
He looks around and says, "I have nothing here I want other than these."
"Okay, then." She pulls out a communicator that looks but does not sound Romulan when she activates it. "Cousin, two to beam up."
The cave disappears and he and Valeris materialize at the back of a small craft. It smells of too many cargoes that were not terribly fresh when they were delivered.
A smuggler's vessel?
Valeris leads him out of the cargo bay and he is immediately embraced by a woman he cannot read.
She is lovely. Her smile almost angelic as she says, "I was sensing you this whole time. So detached. I got amost nothing, nothing, nothing and then...a spark. And then an ember. And finally...a fire." She touches his face so gently he closes his eyes. "You were ready, so we came."
"Who is we?"
"Way too many people who don't really get along," she mutters, then laughs. "You have no idea how awkward a trip can be when you feel everything. But it was for you so..."
He follows her to the small bridge. Saavik is there along with two Vulcan males he does not recognize.
"Are you the Spock I knew?" she asks, her look so wary it hurts him.
"I am not. I am paritally that Spock and now some new one, with all the experiences since. But I am a Spock who loves you. Saavikaam." He holds his arms out and she rushes into them.
He meets Valeris's eyes over her shoulder and he mouths, "I love you, too, Valerisaam."
She looks down, but he sees the tears begin.
Saavik eases away. "So, uh, there's no way to say this that isn't weird. Our exceptional transporter tech here is Solem. He...he wanted to meet his biological parents."
"And T'Pring allowed it?"
The boy gives him a look that reminds him so much of T'Pring it almost makes him smile. "Allowed might be stretching the truth. But after I successfully worked with my cousin, how could she say no?" He gives Valeris a look of approval that is open and lacking any sign of wariness. "She is now free to live as she wishes, and she wished to help us retrieve you. Spock."
He understands that this man will never call him "Father" and that seems fitting.
"Saavik perhaps would wish I was not here but as she gave me no choice in where my future went, I am giving her no choice in where I go."
"Obviously, he and I don't get on as well as he does with my sister. Perhaps I lack the villain gene he loves so much."
"Jealous brat," Valeris says, and there is a joy in her tone, as if this is a game they now play.
"Rehabilitator's pet." Saavik goes to stand by the other Vulcan. "And this is Commander Setek. He is here because he did not think any of us had the skill to sufficiently pilot this piece of shit ship to Mars much less all the way to Romulus."
"That is indeed the truth. Also, Brother, I represent Starfleet and the Federation. They have work for you to do with the Romulans, but on their terms, not yours. I am here to pre-brief you and ensure you understand your role—and your restrictions."
"I have no role—or restrictions. I am retired."
"Ah, I see that you, like so many other of your generation, failed to read the reserve activation clause before you entered the Academy."
"The what?" Although he remembers McCoy grousing about such a thing during the encounter with V'ger.
"A common failing. Your human side perhaps, lacking the caution a Vulcan would show."
"You are human, too, brother."
"Yes, but I wear it better." And then he smiles, ever so slightly, the way Valeris used to.
He has integrated the same way she did. Perrin and possibly Sarek have shown him the way. As Jim might say: the third time was the charm.
Spock looks around at his—at his family. "I am...somewhat overwhelmed at seeing all of you."
"Again, a human failing."
"Oh, shut up, Setek. You're so fucking pompous." Manua takes Spock's hand. "Ummm, please don't be freaked out by this but I can talk to him that way because he's my husband."
"Of course he is." Spock sits down in the chair Valeris points too.
"They're not related," Saavik says.
"Which is a good thing because they have two children," Solem says with a trace of the same dismay Spock feels. "I must admit I had to draw a family tree to chart the relationships here."
Spock may have to do the same thing. "Kaiidth," he finally says.
"Indeed," his son/not-son says.
"So I am to work with the Romulans in an official capacity?"
"Not everyone in this space is cleared for details, Brother."
"Again, so fucking pompous." But Manua looks at his brother the way Christine used to look at him.
And the look Setek gives her is full of the love Spock once no doubt showed Christine, even if he thought he was hiding it from outsiders.
He feels as if they have come full circle.
He feels as if a future lies ahead of him that is not in a cave, alone, teaching people who want to learn but can only do so much.
He feels anticipation, at getting to know this brother who is so confident, this son who seems to want to get to know him on his own terms, this granddaughter who reminds him of the love he has lost. And to once again interact with his stepmother and T'Pring, both of whom have raised his family in his absence.
And most importantly, he wants to become reacquainted with the daughters he so selfishly abandoned. Both of whom appear to have forgiven him.
Both of whom he loves—he has always loved them, even when it was too painful to let that love be anything but buried under the rubble of his own—egocentric—pain. He wants to reach out.
He wants to love them fully again. He no longer wants just a cause to engage him. He had his cause and it left him empty.
He can imagine Christine saying: Progress. You're learning, as she so often did when they began.
He feels—he feels hope.
And it feels good.