Home is the Sailor from the Sea
And the Hunter from the Hill
Kirk gloomily took his eyes off the aircar controls to survey the unprepossessing Vulcan landscape. To some, the panorama of arid deserts blending into jagged mountains might seem starkly beautiful. To Kirk, at least in his present mood, it seemed inhospitable, uncomfortable, even ugly. A sinister landscape in a threatening world. But then, he had no wish to be here.
Kirk glanced over at his first officer, worried that Spock might have caught the brief expression of distaste that had slipped the blank-face he'd been doggedly maintaining. But his concern was unjustified. Far from being interested in the sight of the home he had not seen in years, Spock had closed his eyes. His pale visage bore mute testimony to the strain this trip had been to his recovery.
Kirk ignored McCoy's sympathetic glance and turned back to the controls. Only with difficulty did he refrain from gunning the motor of the little aircar to get Spock home that much sooner. And yet part of him also wanted to turn tail and run. To put it bluntly, he was conflicted as hell. But he wasn't the real point of all this.
After almost three weeks in Klingon hands following a mission that had gone badly wrong, Spock had spent the next week in an intensive debriefing. Starfleet had been far more concerned with the possible breach of security Spock's capture might have caused than in allowing Spock any chance of recovery. Even before Spock had been released, exonerated and reinstated, Kirk had demanded, argued and bullied Starfleet into granting himself and McCoy leave coexistent with Spock's required medical leave. He had planned it in detail while Spock was being interrogated by Starfleet's finest bureaucrats, and with no small trouble. And after having finagled the Enterprise into maintenance dock three months early, and forced his and McCoy's leave requests down his superior's throats, one communiqué from Vulcan had brought his plans to ruin.
He would have given a great deal to know who the Ambassador's contacts were and how they had passed internal and confidential Starfleet reports. Sarek had obviously been well informed of his son's capture, subsequent escape and physical status. The Vulcan ambassador had issued an invitation for Spock to spend his convalescence at home. Kirk's explanation of his plans had caused Sarek to waver only in that the invitation was extended to include himself and McCoy, if that was their wish. Having fought both Klingons and Starfleet to achieve his few weeks of peace, Kirk had been totally unprepared for this setback. He had been close to treating Sarek's untimely invitation in a way guaranteed to cause irreparable damage to Vulcan/Federation relations. Only his own sense of fairness had made him leave the decision up to Spock. If his first officer actually wanted to spend his leave at his former home, a home that he had, until recently, been all but unwelcome at, a home that he had apparently walked away from at eighteen with few regrets, a home he rarely spoke of and apparently had never much missed, well, Kirk wouldn't have denied him. But he'd also moved Klingon berserkers, heaven, earth and Starfleet admirals to get Spock back, and work out his own leave plans. After all that,he felt more than able to take on Vulcan, too.He was, in effect, still spoiling for a fight. But Starship Captains know control too.
Kirk had mentioned his own plans when he'd presented Sarek's message tape to his first officer and friend, but had not pressed the point. Unwilling to presume his own choices on Spock, he had not stated his own preference. He hadn't quite believed he needed to. He hadn't realized, until too late, that Spock's physical condition had been such that the petty details of where he convalesced had been immaterial to him. Like any seaman who'd reached safe harbor after heavy weather, Spock was uninterested in criticizing the scenery. Faced with his captain's apparent indifference and Sarek's expertly worded invitation, Spock, uncaring, almost beyond the ability of making choices and decisions, had allowed himself the luxury of yielding where yielding betrayed no military secrets, endangered no political systems, catalyzed no galactic repercussions. And Kirk, knowing Spock had endured deprivation, interrogation and torture to get to that safe harbor, had felt his own too late protests die in his throat. He would not cause Spock a moment's confusion or concern for his own regards. He would lose by default. And while he resolved not to let Spock discover his own disappointment, he felt a measure of resentment. Not at Spock. And he tried not to feel it for Sarek. Instead he told himself it was at the circumstances. He didn't like to lose, particularly in the final battle. He'd wanted, he'd needed time, for Spock, himself, even McCoy to be together after the last month of horror. To heal. He felt they needed it. All of them.
Now they were going somewhere where he feared feelings would be given little credence. Or perhaps it was something more.
Coming up on the final approach to the coordinates he been given, their destination grew from a fuzzy blur into clarity. Spock had never said more than a few sentences about his life and family prior to Starfleet, and even with those engraved on his memory, Kirk had been unsure exactly what to expect. From Spock alone, it would have been difficult to judge any part of his family life. After meeting T'Pau, realizing that she was somehow related to Spock, and was apparently motivated of her own volition to intercede with Starfleet in his first officer's behalf, he'd been given the first inkling that Spock had not sprung from the Vulcan equivalent of middle-class suburbia. Planetary rulers did not generally divert starships from the inauguration of other planetary rulers without good cause. After that incident, he'd been curious about Spock's background. He had the ability to go digging through Spock personnel files and find answers to his questions, but he'd respected Spock's privacy too much to do so. Someday, Spock might share it with him, but until then, he'd been satisfied with the little Spock had mentioned. His mother was a teacher, and human. His father was an ambassador. Somewhere, a planetary leader named T'Pau was linked in. He hadn't been sure if Spock's parents were alive or not, but since Spock's few references to them had been in the past tense, he'd made the 'logical' assumption.
It wasn't until Spock's unexpected revelation at the Babel mission that he'd put two and two together. Spock hadn't referred to his parents in the past tense because they were dead. It was the relationship, not the people, that had been the casualty. His curiosity about Spock's past had surfaced again. Anyone, Vulcan or not, who believed they had justification for rejecting Spock had to either be a fool, like T'Pring, or something close to mythic. And Sarek had come close to that, not only in reputation and obvious political power, but personally. He fairly exuded high rank and personal privilege, exactly as T'Pau had, and he apparently had the clout to match the attitude. There appeared to be little resemblance between Sarek's attitudes and his first officer's generally modest, self-effacing habits. Oh, Spock had his moments of Vulcan arrogance. The apple had fallen far from the tree but was still recognizable as such. But in Kirk's experience, in general, Spock never asked for anything beyond research equipment and occasional research opportunities, did all the scut work required of a first officer, and most of his captain's. Spock eschewed all credit except as relating to his scientific duties, which as science officer he could scarcely defer, but he also gave a great deal of credit to his subordinates as well. Far from seeking laurels, either as an officer or a scientist, he had made a practice of staying out of the limelight as much as possible. That his name was renowned in scientific communities seemed to mean little to him. That he could, if he chose, have a ship of his own to command someday obviously meant next to nothing. That kind of self-effacement was rare in someone of Spock's abilities, but placed next to Sarek's and T'Pau's general attitudes it was something of a major reversal. Kirk wondered privately how much it was due to Spock's reaction to the breach in his family, and how much was equal parts his own modest temperament, 18 years of Starfleet standard issue, and the knowledge that he'd walked away from his former, evidently privileged life of his own free choice.
After Babel, Kirk had a fair idea of what Spock's home life had to have been. Even so, the sight of the ancient, sprawling edifice that was their destination was an unpleasant shock. He certainly hadn't expected an Iowa farmhouse, but, even prepared, he apparently hadn't expected anything like this. It didn't look like a home where anyone could live in, could grow up and be happy in. It looked like the sort of place you put on holocards, and escorted tourgroups through. But then he didn't need evidence to prove that Spock had not been happy there. He had Spock. His first officer had left this place.
And yet it wasn't entirely that alone that made him reluctant to bring Spock home.
He set his jaw, and glanced at McCoy to see if the physician shared any of the conflicting feelings that plagued him. But McCoy seemed both unsurprised and unmoved by the sight of their destination. Of course, McCoy had far more reason, even a duty, to peruse Spock's personnel files, and he'd undoubtedly known what to expect.
Next to McCoy Spock sat stiffly, his eyes still closed and face drawn with control, if not actual pain, obviously caring for nothing beyond the conclusion of their journey. Of the three of them, he seemed least interested in the sight of his home. He hadn't looked at all.
Kirk felt both anger and relief at that. But it took all his self control to steer them through the protective force shields surrounding the complex, to land the flyer on the hard-packed desert sands. And not to turn around and get them all the hell out of here.
Either way,he had his own demons to face here, and wasn't entirely sure of victory.And felt he was walking into this fight shorn of weapons. Spock had left here once before.
But would he wish, would he be able, to leave here again?
To be continued...