Home is the Sailor
McCoy stacked the printouts of Spock's medical reports, and one by one, fed them into the recycler, to be reduced to their essential atoms. He'd never been a huge fan of space service, but exploration was what he had signed up for, not war. He felt even less inclined to see himself surrounded by metal walls than usual. He saw Spock's flyer wink through the shields, and soon enough, Kirk burst into the breakfast room.
"Got your recall, Bones?"
"Yeah," McCoy groused. "From the frying pan of espionage into the fires of war. I do wonder why I ever enlisted, apart from perhaps a secret psychological desire for self-immolation."
"It won't be that bad," Kirk assured him. "I'll have a squadron. Plenty of small craft, and Enterprise is more than enough of a ship of force to head off this sort of insurrection. But I'm going to need Spock."
"He didn't fall off the mountain, did he?" McCoy queried caustically.
"He got a call as we were coming in," Kirk said, face turning sober. "Komack."
McCoy shot Kirk a look. "I'm surprised you're not listening in."
"Our chief suggested – very emphatically, that I didn't," Kirk shrugged. "So-"
"When did that ever stop you?" McCoy asked without heat.
"Quit when I'm ahead," Kirk said, face still set with serious deliberation. "If Fleet didn't want Spock back, do you think Komack would even be calling him? He doesn't make social calls, even for political cache. And now, with this on?" Kirk shook his head.
"Do you think it's wise for Spock to walk into a potential war?" McCoy asked. "As he is now?"
"He's not walking anywhere," Kirk argued. "And this time," he added, "He won't be alone."
McCoy shoved the last of the documents into the recycler, not caring if they choked it, and brushed off his hands. "You're so sure he plans to return?" he asked heavily.
Kirk frowned. "What have we all been working toward?"
"Let's wait for Komack to be done and see what Spock says."
"Komack is usually succinct," Kirk said, frowning. "He shouldn't be very long." He walked back to the garden court door, and found Amanda there, her hand paused on the door worriedly watching her son.
"Who is he talking to on the communicator?" Amanda asked Kirk. Then made a face at his answer. "Lovely."
"You know the Admiral?"
"We've traded words," Amanda said wryly. And then she suddenly shivered.
"Cold on Vulcan?" Kirk asked, even as his skin crawled in sympathetic vibration.
"More a sense of deja vu." She nodded at her son's location, her hand on the transparent part of the portal, tracing the foreshortened figure. "The morning Spock left for Starfleet, I caught up with him, just there. He and his father had just had this unprecedented, epic argument." She glanced at Kirk. "You have to understand, Spock had never outright refused to obey Sarek before. Not since he was very small. Sarek has been rarely - well never till then- completely blindsided. But he was then. He had thought Spock's life was set in stone. He didn't know him at all."
"He didn't choose to know him, perhaps," Kirk said.
Amanda glanced at Kirk. "Careful there, Captain. There are aspects of Spock's life you haven't chosen to know too well either. And it wasn't all due to Starfleet silence about past lives, I think."
"Maybe not," Kirk admitted.
"You've had quite the same revelation Sarek had. But there was Spock walking out the door. I was worried it could be forever. It could have been forever, knowing how stubborn and furious they both were. So I ran after Spock. And I caught up with him," Amanda nodded. "Just there. At that statue."
"It must have been a painful good-bye, under those circumstances," Kirk allowed.
Amanda half-smiled, reminiscently. "Not quite a good-bye; that was the point. Sarek had essentially disowned him. But I couldn't let him leave like that. So I gave him somewhat of a threat. An ultimatum. I couldn't have prevented him from leaving for long. But the delay I envisioned might just have given Sarek time to really stop him." She sighed. "I knew from personal experience, how easily it is, at that age, to leave one life behind and take up another. I couldn't let him do that. So I made him promise to message me once a week, and visit periodically. He didn't like it. He was a little furious, under the circumstances. He was a terrible correspondent under normal conditions, and coming home, even thinking about home at that point, was the absolute last thing he wanted after that altercation with Sarek. But he agreed. Had to."
"What sort of ultimatum?" Kirk asked warily.
She glanced at Kirk. "Don't worry. Even then it would have been a stretch. Now, impossible. He mostly acceded because he couldn't risk even the slightest delay in getting away. Given half a chance, Sarek would have regrouped. Surprise was Spock's best tactic. Getting off-planet quickly his only real chance."
"Amanda," Kirk began. But then they saw Spock fold the communicator shut, resting a moment as if girding himself for a confrontation and then, drawing a breath, his shoulders rising and falling, stand up.
"Here we go again," Amanda murmured.
Kirk gave her an look but there was no time for more. He held the door open for his approaching friend.
"What did the Admiral say?" Kirk asked him.
Spock let that pass. "Where is McCoy?"
"In the breakfast room," Kirk said.
"I must speak with him," Spock said.
Spock turned to Amanda. "I know under these circumstances Father must be deep in conference with many beings. But there is something I must discuss with him, and you. And soon."
"Family," Amanda said, "Comes first." She turned and went off to get her husband, ignoring her son's raised brows.
"In my past experience," Spock said, looking after her, "Not quite that much a given."
"Come on," Kirk said. "I have to warn you, Bones is in somewhat of an irascible mood."
"Is he ever not?" Spock asked.
McCoy was not quite as amenable to Spock's return to the Enterprise as Komack had indicated. "No, I don't agree, Spock. I honestly believe it would be best for you to spend another six, eight weeks on medical leave." McCoy was saying, as Amanda and Sarek joined them.
Spock furrowed his brow at this pronouncement. "I was led to believe you would decree otherwise."
"Were you?" McCoy asked dryly. "I can surmise by whom. But I don't see the need for hurry. There's always another mission, Spock. You've worked too hard to get back to health to risk it all prematurely."
"You didn't see the mountain pass we just traversed," Kirk muttered, and pushed his cowlick off his forehead with a reminiscent shudder.
"Before you are ready," McCoy continued, overriding his Captain. "You should take some time, regain some weight, get your bearings now that you're recovered from that fever. Visit with your parents. Get confident that there are no lasting issues. Be at your best when you do return. After all, you have your own warp-shuttle. You can rejoin Enterprise whenever."
"I am pleased to see you have returned safely," Sarek said in this pause. "Given the unorthodox location of your camping trip," he added, still not quite unable to resist a deserved reprimand, however tacitly expressed.
Amanda looked from Sarek to Spock. "What did I miss there?"
Spock had the grace to flush, but he stubbornly ignored her question. "Jim and I returned early, for the same reason that I gather you were awakened early this morning."
"That conflict," Sarek said, perhaps distracted by work into a wholly unconscious snub worthy of his past interactions with his son, "Is not your concern."
Used to his father's pronouncements, Spock did not even blink. "But you have been called to negotiate."
"I have been asked," Sarek clarified. "Whether my actual presence is a precise requirement is, as of yet, indeterminate." he added.
"Years in Starfleet may not have furthered my study of the Vulcan disciplines," Spock said, becoming terse in turn. "But oddly enough, it has enabled me to fully recognize when technicians are readying a craft for warp drive."
"Spock," Sarek said in tacit warning. "Unnecessary."
"So that is how Vulcans say smart-ass," McCoy commented.
"Those preparations are merely precautionary." Sarek said, ignoring McCoy.
"Indeed," Spock said, unconvinced.
"Bones, are you refusing to clear Spock?" Kirk asked, an edge to his voice as he brought the conversation back to their original discussion. "Are you going to keep him from returning?"
McCoy sat back. "There's a bit of a loophole there," he admitted. "Spock is under weight. Hardly fit as regards strength and stamina. For a Vulcan," he emphasized. He cocked a brow, as everyone shifted or nodded in slow surmise. "But for a human you could qualify. Your Vulcan bones are denser than a human's. Heavy enough that your mass per height reads normal by human standards, when by Vulcan ones, you're seriously underweight, sans normal muscle mass. As a hybrid, technically you can be judged by both standards, regardless that you've always operated under Vulcan ones. You're stronger than a human, even if, for a Vulcan, you are hardly up to scratch."
"That's an intriguing loophole," Kirk said, nodding.
"One he's used before," Amanda said dryly. "With regard to age. I haven't forgotten."
"Nor have I," Sarek added.
Spock looked heavenward, feigning supreme innocence.
"In your last tests," McCoy said, as heavily as if he regretted admitting this, "I found no psychological grounds to keep you on leave. I could make a case for prolonging your sick leave on fitness alone. But the medical board at the Admiralty can pull your case for review if you state you wish to recuperate on board. I think they wouldn't have, before Abraxis blew. But now they clearly want you on this mission. So they'll file my report in your record, in case it's convenient for them in the future to dis-instate you. And hurry to rubber-stamp your commission." McCoy sighed, leaning forward. "I want you to think carefully about this, Spock. Realize that there's no great need to rush back."
"Except that, according to Admiral Komack, there is something of a need," Spock said, quirking a quizzical brow.
"Komack has been wrong before," McCoy said stubbornly. "Even if he is right, you are not obligated to save the galaxy on his orders. You've performed over and above the call of duty for Starfleet. When you are not fully fit, it's time for you to consider your needs. Your parents' needs."
"But my parents," Spock said doggedly, "will not be here."
"That hasn't been decided. At all," Amanda said.
"Even if I am forced to go," Sarek said evenly, "your mother could-"
Amanda twisted to glare at her husband.
"No," Spock interrupting them both before either could continue. "Causing a separation between bondmates is too unVulcan, even for me."
Amanda sighed and put her head into her hands for a moment. "Could we please, please, once and for all, stop judging every action, thought and word by whether something is Vulcan or human? I am sick to death of it."
"A phrase I've heard before," McCoy said. "On a certain journey to another over-rated duty. But yes, it works for me."
"Yes." Sarek said, and sat down.
"And could you both stop fighting?" Amanda said, to Spock and Sarek. "However Vulcanly couched the argument. You're both falling back into old patterns. This isn't a debate. It is a discussion."
Spock's eyes had widened as if astonished at the comment. He sank down across from Sarek, looking at his father hopefully. "Indeed. I am amenable."
"Quite," Sarek said.
"Well, after thirty-six years, I'm glad we settled that," Amanda said dryly. "And not a second too soon." She looked at her son. "I am only too well aware of your dedication to your duty, Spock," she said. "But I don't care which Admiral called. You aren't obligated to go."
Spock turned his head sharply at that, giving her a wary look.
"I didn't mean that as a criticism," she conceded in response to that. "I'm the last person to want to hurt you. But I'm also the last person who wants to see you hurt. Such as could happen if you try to do much too soon. Please try to remember, only a few days ago, you were near death."
"But Vulcans recover very quickly," Spock said.
"Not that quickly," Amanda countered.
"I don't want to see Spock hurt either," Kirk said stubbornly. "What did Komack have to say to you, Spock?"
Spock looked across to Sarek rather than his Captain. "He suggested that my input would be useful in the settling this conflict. Perhaps avoiding its spread to other Federation members."
"A common fallacy of the military. I hardly believe Starfleet's presence will be useful or welcome in negotiating this conflict," Sarek interposed with weary patience. "I myself would council that Starfleet step back and allow diplomacy a chance to work. It is far more likely that Starfleet force and external Federation interference will escalate their existing grievances, at the same time enticing those without legitimate claim to join in and interfere in the local provenance."
"They are already on their way," Kirk said.
"I might agree, Father," Spock said slowly, "except for one thing. Komack has evidence that the initial conflict itself was manipulated by planted external forces. The same hostile forces that were behind the sabotage of my mission and the press manipulation afterwards. It appears," he concluded, "that it may all be part of the same plot."
"Indeed?" Sarek said, not reacting at all. "Interesting."
"But that means that you or Sarek could be walking into another pre-planned trap," Kirk said, brows lowering in surmise. "If that's true..." he drew a sharp breath, reacting enough for both him and Sarek, "then neither of you should be anywhere near this conflict."
"Hear, hear," Amanda said, chin on her elbows, her head following the argument as if at a tennis match.
"No," Spock said stubbornly. "It is my duty-"
"You're already done more than your share of duty in this particular conflict," Kirk argued, his voice hardening. "And it is far too risky to let you fall into those hands again. Why, just think of the propaganda they could spew if they recaptured you. Or got hold of Sarek. Forget even turning you, or killing you, just getting possession of you again, could set the Federation in flames. No. Absolutely not. I won't have you on my ship. Not for this war."
"Jim—" Spock said, turning to his friend and Captain, brows flying to his bangs, clearly shocked and distressed by this mutiny within his own camp.
Sarek stiffened slightly at Spock's obvious emotionalism, visibly forcing himself to refrain from reminding Spock to practice control.
"I won't risk you falling into their hands again," Kirk said, with a form of human stubbornness that could rival even a Vulcan's. "Not after last time."
"Jim," McCoy said, worried for his Captain's mindset now.
"But it is my risk," Spock countered, suddenly flaring. "My life. Not yours." He looked across at his parents. "Nor my father or my mother's. Not Starfleet's. Not even Vulcan's. It is mine."
McCoy half snorted at this. Settling back, slowly applauded. "Pig-headed and stubborn, as usual. I don't think you should go anywhere near this conflict, either-"
"Nor it is your decision, Doctor," Spock said coldly.
"You didn't let me finish," McCoy said. "But you are right. It is your life. And your decision."
Spock stared at McCoy. "But you don't want me reinstated."
"I didn't say that," McCoy said. "I said you should come back when you are fit."
A commotion outside revealed the flying squad of TPau's guard escorting her, she leaning heavily on a cane on one side with a guardsman on the other. "Having become aware of the news," T'Pau said, waving her guard away as she gained entrance, "I came to offer my services for caretaking, if such was needed." She looked across at Spock and Kirk, still dressed in desert trek and climbing gear, and raised a brow in surmise. "But I can see such is not the case. I had not thought to find you so soon recovered, Spock."
"I do thank you for the consideration, Grandmother," Spock said solemnly. "And I am very grateful for the offer. But I am well enough."
"Indeed," T'Pau said, her own Vulcan mask slipping as she scanned him, showing visible relief at the sight of him in obviously travel stained desert togs. "Then I am also well enough." At that, her strength faltered and she swayed a trifle. Everyone near her rose to offer her a hand, but she waved them off irritably. Sarek of all of them ignored her imperious dismissal and supported her into a chair. She suffered this, but then gestured him away. "As I said, I am well enough. Sit," she ordered testily, apparently disliking having everyone looming over her.
Everyone rapidly nailed seats to chairs.
"You are planning to return then," T'Pau said, her immobile face somehow managing to convey a scowl.
Spock glanced fractionally at his parents. "It is a war, Grandmother."
Amanda let out an exasperated sigh. "Like Father, like son."
"I do not approve," T'Pau told Spock, speaking to him as if they were alone in the room, ignoring the others as thoroughly as if they did not exist. Or were inconsequential.
That gave Spock pause. His eyes widened and his mouth set. He hesitated for a long moment, needing more time than usual to work out chess moves in advance where T'Pau was involved.
"And I don't approve either," Kirk said. "Given the circumstances."
Spock looked from T'Pau to Kirk and back again, his brow furrowing, newly reminded of Kirk's refusal. "Indeed I am surprised," Spock said, his voice sharp with a displeasure that was as rare for him as anger. "If it were a question of danger to the Enterprise, or to the mission, due to my unfitness, it would be entirely a different thing. But Admiral Komack has assured me it that I will not be responsible for regular duties until I am quite recovered. Given that," Spock flicked a brow, "I had thought my reputation, at least among those present, would have long preceded me. All necessary requirements being met, I thought that ignoble aspect of my character was long understood." He looked around. "In general, now that I am at least by human standards, an adult," he raised a brow, "I always get - and do - exactly what I want."
Amanda drew a sharp breath.
Spock looked across at Sarek, somehow managing both deference and stubbornness. "Exactly what I want."
Sarek's face didn't change, but his eyes grew opaque in memory.
"The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," Amanda muttered to her husband. "He's definitely your son."
"Indeed," T'Pau said.
"I thought we were no longer exchanging yours and mine respective faults," Sarek muttered back to Amanda.
"Oh, so it's fine to criticize when he's emulating the worst of me," Amanda retorted, "That never stopped you then. But when it's your own faults letting the side down -"
"Spock," Sarek said, cutting her off, "I would be the last to deny the extent of Vulcan ...efficacy... in achieving one's intended goals-"
"'Take not out your 'ounds on a werry windy day,'" Amanda quoted obscurely.1
"You are both hopelessly stubborn," T'Pau observed.
"The pot so calling the kettle black," Amanda retorted.
"Indeed," T'Pau returned severely, not giving inch.
"Kroykah!" Sarek said severely to both of them.
They shut up. Spock raised a brow and sat back, arms crossed, apparently prepared to be more amused by the spectacle of his guardians arguing over him than enlightened by any delivered council.
"I begin to understand why you ran way to sea," McCoy remarked wryly.
"Doctor, please," Sarek said, and McCoy subsided. "Such stubbornness can be dangerous," Sarek warned Spock. "It can lead to an eighteen year estrangement. Or an eighteen year exile."
"Is that a threat?" Spock asked, stiffening, his brows lowering in turn.
Sarek let out a breath. "No. I am merely pointing out that choices can have consequences beyond initial calculations."
"Of that I am hardly unaware."
"And it is an established fact," Sarek said doggedly, "that adolescents - even young adults - do not possess the complete neurological wiring to fully estimate causation and effect. A very good reason why you are expected - even required - to take the council of your elders."
Spock from T'Pau to Sarek pointedly, "Given that all of my elders have been in continual disagreement from day one, I can hardly be criticized for taking my own council."
"Touché," McCoy said, enjoying his own version of a verbal Vulcan tennis match between titans.
"Doctor," Sarek said. "This is hardly your purview."
"Just making a medical observation," McCoy said. "And from a medical perspective, if he can stand up against all of Vulcan present here, I guess he can hold his own against a few Klingons. And the rest of the galaxy."
"Why, thank you, Doctor," Spock said.
"That doesn't mean he is right," Sarek said.
Spock sighed, his shoulders dropping. "What is right, Father? And is it right for you or for Vulcan? Or right for me?"
"Spock," Kirk said suddenly. "If you have always been ...stubborn. And getting what you want, why did you accept your assignment on the Enterprise, when Pike was promoted away? I've always wondered that. Why didn't you ...arrange...something then?"
Spock looked down, for once embarrassed. "There is a history of my first voyages on the Enterprise, with Captain Pike, that is largely untold. Not entirely to my credit. I confess to moments then when I practiced less than perfect emotional control. Some was relatively harmless, a mere loosening of expression. At other times, I was perhaps overzealous in defense of the Enterprise and her Captain. Captain Pike was witness to some of my excesses and justifiably concerned." Spock shrugged. "I did not always follow the letter of regulation."
"You seemed determined to do so with your father," Amanda retorted, still smarting over that fact.
"That was different," Spock said stonily. "He was Vulcan. Vulcan standards applied."
"This is not time for that discussion," Sarek said to his wife.
"This is that discussion," Amanda retorted.
"Pike thought," Spock went on, doggedly answering Kirk, "and StarFleet insisted anyway, that I required alternate command experience. And having witnessed some of my actions when ship or Captain was threatened, Pike counseled that I try to fully reconnect with my Vulcan disciplines in my next assignment. It was only meant to be a short period, until Starfleet was satisfied with my performance - and yours," he added to Kirk. "You were over young for Starship Command, and I had been many years exec on the Enterprise. They thought it a good fit."
"Sure. Nothing like having the two most notorious adolescents in the history of Starfleet check each other in command of a starship," McCoy commented sourly. "But I guess that's part of why you were then so determined to be more Vulcan than Vulcans. At least, compared to how you were with Pike."
"But to counter Sarek," Spock said, looking at his father, "And my Captain, and Starfleet, I was right, however immature. They were wrong. Pike only managed little over a year before he was critically injured. Because I was not there to save him."
"You don't know that," Kirk said.
"All I could do was deliver him to a more amenable convalescence."
"It wasn't your job to save him, Spock," McCoy said.
Spock looked away. "I thought it was. Regardless, I trusted their judgment. It was wrong."
"In space, things happen," Kirk said.
McCoy snorted at this understatement.
Kirk ignored him, concentrating on his friend. "It wasn't your fault."
"Perhaps not. But it was not what I wanted." He looked at Sarek. "I may not be always right, Father. Nor fully Vulcan. But I have been generally successful. And after a long empirical trial, I have come to the conclusion that I must trust my own judgment and my own joint heritage. Perhaps at times emotional. But it has proved most functional for me."
"And what of your commitments to Vulcan and the Vulcan way?"
Spock looked from his mother back to Sarek. "I pledge to follow it at least as well as you do, Father," he said dryly.
"Ouch," murmured Amanda. "That must have smarted."
"That means remaining here on Vulcan," Sarek said with dogged persistence.
"Except where duty calls me elsewhere - as it does with you."
"Your first duty lies to me. And then to Vulcan. You," Sarek said, shaking his head slightly, displaying the first sign of Vulcan heat. "Are mine."
Spock hesitated, wary with this slip of his father's control, understanding the danger of it from his own personal experiences. "Father. I do acknowledge that I am yours. And sealed to Council." He looked from Sarek to Amanda to T'Pau. "But….there's less than a year left of the mission."
"A year left of chasing monsters in a paper boat," Amanda said, after a side glance at Sarek convinced her he needed time to regain his control. "Spock you know that it just isn't safe."
"Safety is an illusion," Spock replied.
"Some things are less safe than others," Amanda countered.
"Not to be impertinent, Mother. But given your history in leaping into the unknown with your marriage to my father, you are hardly the one to preach to me of prudence and safety," Spock said to her.
Amanda let out an exasperated sigh. "You're right. I've certainly lost a certain moral authority there." She sat back. "The ball is in your court, my husband."
Spock turned back to Sarek. "It is not so very dangerous. Nor so very long an absence And I've survived eighteen years of Starfleet, where, I remind you, you once told me that I could not manage mere days."
"I think given your last mission, you have lost any logical authority in that argument," Sarek countered.
"I intend to finish what I have begun," Spock said.
"And if I oppose?"
Spock sighed, closing his eyes. "Do not make me oppose you again, Father. I do not wish it. I don't believe you wish for that either. And let us be frank. You have your own call to duty. One easily as dangerous."
"But one more conducive to the Vulcan way."
"I promise to more fully recommit to the Vulcan way upon my return to Vulcan." Spock looked from his parents to T'Pau. "But I wish to finish my tour of duty. With your full acceptance. Not going off against your will."
Sarek glanced at Amanda. She let out a sigh. His eyes met T'Pau.
"I am a parent as well," T'Pau said to her son. "I understand. But perhaps a compromise." She eyed Amanda pointedly. "I have learned such can be required. Even when dealing with children, whose obedience one might assume is a given. Sometimes the parent must concede."
"Very well. But no more suicide, espionage missions," Sarek told Spock. "And you will return to Vulcan immediately upon the conclusion of the Enterprise mission."
"Well, not too immediately," McCoy said. "You wouldn't want him to miss the after-parties."
Sarek turned to McCoy so swiftly the physician flinched. "Doctor, do not test my fragile and newly established tolerance for the intrusion of Starfleet in my son's life."
"There will be debriefings," Spock demurred. "As well as after-parties. I will return when my Enterprise mission is fully complete."
"That's a big loophole," McCoy noted. "There's been an Enterprise in continual commission, in one form or another for hundreds of years."
"Then I am sure we can have the Enterprise renamed upon its conclusion, Doctor McCoy," Amanda said dryly. "Komack owes us that much."
"Mother," Spock turned to Amanda. "As a human, you must know it is considered unlucky to rename a ship in commission."
"Testament enough that Starfleet is a dangerously contaminating influence," Sarek said.
"If you disapprove so mightily of Starfleet, Father," Spock said, "then why did you allow the dockyard to refit the Enterprise's engines with Vulcan restricted improvements?" He tilted his head. "It was you, Father. Mother does not know one end of a warp engine from another."
Sarek raised both brows, and glanced at T'Pau, as if willing her to provide cover. She merely snorted.
"And Grandmother does not descend to that level of detail," Spock countered, not fooled by this attempt to muddy the waters.
"I object to that," T'Pau said. "But I do not contest that I had nothing to do with it."
"We had planned to release some strategic technological tactics to the Terran Starfleet in response to increased Klingon and Romulan threats," Sarek reluctantly conceded. "in time for their next series of Starship upgrades. To take full advantage of them, Enterprise would have to be fully redesigned. But our technicians estimated some fifty percent of power and warp increases could be made with her present structure. Particularly give the events of the Babel mission, it seems your ship required some necessary upgrades. If you were going to return to Starfleet, as I estimated that you would, I preferred you travel in a craft somewhat faster than an ore freighter."
"An ore freighter?" Kirk said, raising his head in umbrage, but McCoy kicked his ankle under the table.
"Jim," McCoy prompted.
"My thanks," Kirk said tersely. "On behalf of myself, my crew and Starfleet."
"Yes, thank you, Father," Spock said.
Sarek sighed, just a little at this. "Perhaps your memory is as yet impaired. For as I have repeatedly informed you, my son, one does not thank logic."
"Yes, Father," Spock said, cool enough that butter would never have melted in his mouth, in spite of his own Vulcan body temperature and the rising heat of the Vulcan day.
"He is a brat," Sarek said to Amanda.
"Our brat," Amanda said. "Can we bear to part with him, in spite of that?"
"I will come home again," Spock said to her.
"Since you should never promise what you can't guarantee to deliver, I will hold you to that."
"So... it is agreed?" Spock said, looking between T'Pau, Sarek and Amanda as if not quite believing he had all his parental figures in consensus, though perhaps it was indeed the first time in his life they had ever been so. "I am returning to Starfleet."
"I didn't agree to it," Kirk said.
Spock turned so swiftly to his captain that Kirk's combat training kicked in and he jerked back in an automatic recoil. "Jim," Spock warned, eyes narrowing dangerously.
"I am your Captain," Kirk said.
"Only if you accept my reinstatement." When Kirk didn't respond, Spock added, "However, I can always join the mission as part of Komack's special forces."
"Not on your life," Amanda said. "Jim, at least to some extent, I trust."
"Thanks," Kirk said, half distracted by this.
"And I will," Spock said to Kirk. "The Admiral still ranks you."
"He does not rank me," Sarek said. "And your last espionage mission will remain your last."
"If Captain Kirk agrees," Spock said. "Otherwise..."
"I guess I don't have much of a choice, then" Kirk said looking from Spock to Sarek. "But I agree with Sarek. If you're under my command, than you're under my command, Spock. No secret missions for Komack. No cutting out missions without me. Nothing where I don't know in full what you are doing."
"Good luck with that," Amanda said.
Spock ignored her, looking stricken at Kirk's reminder. "I am sorry, Jim. I couldn't tell you. I was under orders."
"You always have a reason, but that's still no excuse. And these are my orders," Kirk said, ignoring McCoy's wheezing chuckles beside him.
Spock drew a measured breath, considering Kirk. "Aye, sir."
"Here we go again," McCoy said, trying to catch his breath. "Am I ready for this?" he asked rhetorically.
Spock eyed Sarek. "You could travel to the scene with us, Father."
"I'll definitely need to check my medical kit for that," McCoy said, his eyes widening.
Sarek eyed Spock as if he had grown three heads. "Mediate peace from the deck of a warship? Certainly not."
"Haven't you heard what mother has said?" Spock countered. "It is merely a paper boat."
"Impossible," Sarek said.
"Very well. But just be aware, Father," Spock said, shrugging off Sarek's refusal, "That if anything should occur in anyway untoward, the Enterprise has full weapons. And I am not so Vulcan as to hesitate in their use, When circumstances absolutely dictate such."
"You still have much to learn," Sarek told him.
"Until I learn it, then," Spock countered, unrepentant but undaunted. "Then if McCoy has nothing further with which to grumble-"
"Hardly," McCoy said, "But nothing reassures me you can take on an army of Klingons more than you standing up against your father and Jim," McCoy drawled. "Together."
"Then," Spock said, almost reluctantly, "I suppose it is time to gather our things."
"No," Amanda protested. "You don't have to warp for another ten hours. You could stay for dinner."
"We have things to do on board ship before breaking orbit, Mother," Spock said. "As as the crews in the courtyard indicate, you have preparations to make for your own journey." He hesitated. "After the success of the mission, perhaps there will be time for you to visit Enterprise again."
"Be still my heart," Amanda said at that prospect.
"Mine already has been stilled by that prospect," Sarek returned dryly.
"Good thing I know how to do a jump start," McCoy said.
"Let's hope for a visit afterwards, in spite of all that," Kirk said, and glanced from Spock to McCoy as if hardly believing himself that the time to leave had come. "Well. I guess we had better pack."
It didn't take long for Kirk, given he hadn't brought much. Even so, he found Spock at his door even before he had finished, with nothing but a rucksack over his shoulder. Kirk could see the outline of the lyre case within its flexible sides, and presumably not much else.
"Packing light, as usual."
"I am, after all, returning home," Spock said.
Kirk sank down on his bed at that. "I still can hardly believe you are saying that."
Spock's look of blank astonishment couldn't have been more eloquent.
"I mean it."
"Why should you find it incomprehensible?" Spock asked quietly.
"Spock, you may not be aware of it, but your parents have done nothing but offer you the sun, the moon and the stars since we've been here, trying to keep you from going back."
Spock flicked a brow at this. "My parents have always disapproved of my position in Starfleet. That remains unchanged. Sarek has only chosen different tactics. I believe there is a human expression for it," he added dryly, "akin to 'attracting more flies with honey.'"
"They have a lot of honey," Kirk said ruefully.
Spock sat down, suddenly somber. "My absence from Vulcan is more difficult for my father now then when I was eighteen. There are duties to inheritance. Some in Council have no doubt expressed that it is past time for me to be here to familiarize myself with them."
"Was that why you went to Council?"
He tilted his head in a Vulcan shrug. "It seemed the least I could do for the predicament I have caused Sarek in my long absence from those duties."
"It certainly was something of an eye-opener for me. You've been really holding out on me, Commander."
"I can't change my heritage. But I am truly sorry if it causes you distress, Jim."
"It's you that I'm concerned about. Do you feel you should be here, learning the duties to inheritance? It seems pretty involved. Much more than I knew."
Spock shook his head. "The opening of Council is ceremonial in the extreme. But truly, one that remains largely the same from year to year. The daily sessions are far more prosaic. And Vulcan is hardly a microcosm. I truly believe that I am learning much in Starfleet that will be useful to my world when I am needed here. Far more than watching my father lead council sessions and serving as an ambassador's aide. In that, I believe I am best employed elsewhere. Though failing to attend the traditional duties while I was here would only have made things more difficult for Sarek. I have no wish to do that."
"You don't worry you might have gotten his hopes up? Or Vulcans'?"
"There is an advantage to being considered by my people to be largely, still, a child. Not quite an adult, anyway, at least by human standards. I have few leadership responsibilities. Those administrative duties that I possess, can be done remotely. I am not truly needed here. And I can still 'get away' with unVulcan behavior that I would have to fiercely defend as an adult. In their eyes, I am still more or less furthering my education. I have taken full advantage of that, and I intend to continue to do so, so long as it suits me. Besides, T'Pau promised me my freedom at least as far as regards Starfleet service. And grandmother, of course, always gets her way, even with my father. Others can grumble and snipe to Sarek, but her will is law."
"What if she hadn't stayed on your side? She was considering switching, I think. She took your illness very hard."
Spock looked at him. "Had she, that would have proved difficult. I am fortunate that she indulges me so. But in truth, she is not on my side. She simply agrees with me that Vulcan would have been better served if I spend some time on my own in Starfleet, rather than under Sarek's thumb as he would have kept me. It was she who interceded for me when I first left, or Sarek would have let nothing stop him from bringing me home by force."
Kirk half smiled, remembering his first conversation with Amanda on Vulcan. "I thought that might have been your mother who interceded."
Spock nodded sagely. "No doubt that is partially true. I do not understand the full story there. Perhaps it is best if I do not. But I have always suspected there is less animosity between T'Pau and my mother than they would have others believe. Politically, of course, she deemed it necessary to oppose my father's marriage, and so she has always let it appear. Her public ostracism of my mother, and to a certain extent, of me before I was sealed to Council, was well documented. Though that towards my mother ceased apparently shortly after I left for Fleet. I have not been privy to what changed in their personal relationship. But their interests often seem to be closely aligned even when overtly they were most at odds. It is a puzzle."
"They love you," Kirk said. "And they weren't at odds this time. Your mother wanted you on Vulcan now. So did T'Pau. If it wasn't for Sarek- How odd this has all turned out."
Spock looked at him curiously. "I did not receive that impression. My mother was concerned about my returning to Starfleet. Rather naturally, given recent events and her lack of emotional objectivity concerning my safety. But she spoke to you of this?"
"She was a little more direct with me," Kirk said. "Now that I think back, she wasn't trying to hold you here against your will. But she did question whether my friendship would extend to letting you make your own choices about continuing as my first officer."
Spock's eyes flashed dangerously. "She had no right to make such statements. I had no idea that a guest in my parent's home would be subjected to such abuse."
Kirk shook his head. "She wasn't being abusive, Spock, she was just asking. And frankly, I think she was partially right. You have no idea, maybe, how much I have wrestled with this the last few weeks, watching you be courted by Vulcan, and wondering which life you were going to choose. Frankly, you seemed so comfortable here, with so much of a place, that I didn't think Starfleet had a chance. I dreamed up arguments, considered pep talks, went over all my recruitment speeches, thought of all the scientific and professional inducements, trying to find something that would convince you to choose Starfleet. But I kept coming up short. And all the time I kept remembering what Amanda had said, that a friend wouldn't use professional tactics to convince you otherwise. And personal blackmail was out too. At the end I was almost resigned that you wouldn't choose Starfleet. There was nothing I could offer you."
"Jim, I had chosen Starfleet years ago."
"Not the same thing. You were just a teen, in contention with your parents and ostracized by your peers. You're not a child now; your parents are falling over themselves to make you happy, and as for your peers, I don't know too many people in Iowa who'd kneel down when I walk into a room."
"It is merely a ceremonial gesture, given only at certain ceremonial occasions."
"Spock. I used to accuse you of wanting my command. And now I've found out you own a Fleet of your own."
Spock let out a little sigh at that. "I never liked you accusing me of that Jim. So perhaps you will keep that in mind the next time you feel threatened in your command."
"Hell, better than that. If Fleet ever cashiers me, I'm planning on turning up at your door, asking for a commission."
"Vulcan Fleet Captains make command decisions based on logical constructs," Spock said, lips twitching.
"My logic is not that bad."
"Agreed." Spock said and then shrugged. "I know I will have to return to Vulcan some day. I have enjoyed being home. But that day is not now. I regret though, that you have been distressed."
Kirk looked at him. "You've nothing to be sorry for. I wanted you to be happy, of course. But at times, I think I was more worried for myself. How I could keep you and still keep my standards pure. How I would handle it if I couldn't keep you. I'm a selfish bastard Spock."
"I do not believe that. You wish for me what I have always wanted for myself. That our wishes happen to coincide is not any more selfishness on your part than it is on mine, and if it is, then we are both equally selfish."
Kirk smiled. "I love your logic, Commander."
"It is only logical for me to provide it, Captain."
Kirk stopped smiling. "We never talked about my role in that mission, Spock. I've wanted to talk about it, but I didn't want to upset you, at first, and then... Well, I should have fought harder to bring you back. I knew something about that mission smelled. What happened to you was my fault. I came too late to realize it was at least in part a setup."
"It was my understanding that the Klingons were responsible for most of my discomfort," Spock said quietly. "And I knew more than you, this time. I couldn't tell you. So your distress, in effect, is at least in part my fault."
Spock shook his head. " You did rescue me, Jim. I was grateful for that. And you did so against Starfleet orders, incurring several reprimands that apparently have damaged your status with Fleet hierarchy."
"Not really. Too much of this mission has come to light for Starfleet to hold your rescue against me. I just feel bad that I didn't go against them sooner."
"You have nothing to feel guilty for, Jim. Starfleet is a hazardous endeavor, and I serve in it of my own free will." Spock raised an eyebrow. "In spite of you and Sarek both." He raised a brow. "How very unlikely an alliance, that."
"Maybe your parents are right, Spock." Kirk said quietly. "You weren't very free in that Klingon's cell. And this could be another setup, especially if you get too close. Maybe you shouldn't go back - at least for this mission."
"Jim, I was more free, even in Klingon custody, than I could ever be kept safe on Vulcan. That is how I can go back."
Kirk smiled at Spock, his eyes a little too bright. "I told your mother safety wasn't everything."
"And what did she reply?" Spock asked, after a moment.
"She said she'd thought I'd say that. I don't think she was too impressed."
Spock lowered his lashes, considering that. "I think my mother understands the limitations of safety very well. She has taken risks in her own life, when safety and prudence would dictate otherwise. As a parent," Spock looked at him, "or a friend, it may be difficult to accept risks, when it would be easier to deny them. But I do not believe either of you would begrudge me them for safety's sake. And neither of you has." Spock looked at him measuringly. "Perhaps you and my mother are, in some ways, also very much alike."
Kirk smiled. "Well, we have a few things in common. Neither one of us are too happy about the prospect of giving you up."
Kirk said his formal goodbyes to Spock's parents with a great sense of relief. Sarek drew Spock away for a more private farewell, and Kirk found himself relatively alone with Amanda. He smiled at her ruefully. "Now that I'm leaving, I can tell you I had a wonderful time."
It was perhaps her years on Vulcan that limited Amanda's response to giving him the faintest of smiles. "Right."
"Actually, I have," Kirk said. "It's been an education. An enlightenment to see Spock's Vulcan life."
"But you are happy to be leaving."
"Not in that sense. I really have enjoyed seeing Vulcan."
"Especially as you know it has an end for now."
"You aren't going to give up, are you?"
"I feel like we've been competitors, you and I," Kirk admitted. "Since I first came when you laid out your ...challenge."
Amanda straightened at that. "Careful, Captain. Don't use that word, here. Not with Vulcans. Or with me, either."
"Sorry. I was at Spock's wedding. I know it has deeper meanings on Vulcan."
"More than you know, even of that," Amanda sighed a little. "I never intended to Challenge you, Captain. If I did, I'll have to work on my approach. It's dangerous here. And proves I haven't learned much."
"I don't understand," Kirk said, frowning. "And time has run out, this time, for me to understand more of Vulcan. But I do want to apologize. I've been in such a dark place since that mission. Fighting everything except Spock. And I think he's finally won. But I don't want you to lose."
"I haven't," Amanda said reflectively. "I'm familiar with dark places, Jim. This isn't one of them."
Kirk looked at her searchingly. "I'm sure you meant what you said before. When we first arrived. But Spock isn't staying, and you don't seem too upset. Now."
She paused, considering. "I never said I wanted Spock to stay exactly. I wouldn't choose to keep Spock at home against his will. If you knew me a little better you would understand that," she smiled ruefully. "But only Sarek understands me that well. No, I wanted him to stay if he wanted to stay." She met his eyes. "I've always known what he did for Captain Pike, you see. Where he gives his love, my son can be loyal to a fault. I suspected he was that way with you. He would be perfectly willing to make a similar sacrifice. If you pressed him to remain in Starfleet, for your sake, I believe that he would move heaven, Earth and Vulcan to do that for you. I wouldn't allow that, if I could prevent it."
Kirk looked away. "My motives aren't so pure. I've been…almost… hating all of you for weeks, you know."
She shrugged lightly. "And perhaps I haven't treated you properly as a guest in my home. I had no alternatives, though. I wanted Spock to have a real choice. And I needed to be sure about you." She smiled, a trace wickedly. "Spock has never told me all that much, you know, about his Starfleet life. He writes me, under duress of course. That doesn't mean he reveals much. I am usually reasonably good about reading people. But I was rather distracted when I first met you."
"He's really not a child, you know. Vulcan lifespan or not. You can trust him to make his own decisions. He's been making them on his own for quite a while. Not too unsuccessfully."
"He's my child, Captain. Someday, if you are ever a parent, you will understand the difficulty of letting your children grow up."
"I understand a little. I saw your data store," Kirk confessed.
She looked at him puzzled.
"In the backpack. Spock was napping and I was looking for something to read. When we first took the flyer. I saw the pictures of him. You. Your family."
"Oh," Amanda bit a lip, thinking, then shrugged. "Well, keep that to yourself. From Spock I mean. He wouldn't thank me for the sentimentality on my part that let you pry into his past life."
"That was nothing. I know a hell of a lot more about his real life now than I ever did before."
"Well, he has chosen a very different lifestyle than what we intended for him. You can understand that as parents we aren't thrilled with one that can result in our child suffering torture in a Klingon prison."
"Starfleet isn't a bad life. Certain missions aside," he added. "After all, Spock's been on active ship duty for fourteen years. I won't say it's safe - we both know better. But he has proven he's more than equal to beating the odds."
"You needn't beleaguer your argument, Captain," Amanda said wearily. "I'm satisfied that Spock is content to return to Starfleet for his own reasons. Not yours."
"Did you think I'd pressure him against his will?"
"I wasn't sure. I knew of your silver tongue, and how he cares for you. What he did for Chris Pike. I think you could have tried. Perhaps I've been testing you, a little. I wanted to see if how you would react."
"Not in too gentlemanly a fashion."
"But you let him make his own choices. Even tried to dissuade him, in the end."
"I wanted to make them for him." Kirk replied. "How I wanted to."
"So did I, Captain." Amanda smiled. "So did I."
Kirk smiled back. "I'm beginning to believe what I heard about you at the Babel conference."
"And that was?"
"That when you're not being unobtrusive, you're formidable."
"Well," Amanda shrugged, "I don't have to lecture you on tactics. It never hurts to have the enemy underestimate you."
"That's what I always say."
"Perhaps we think alike, Captain."
"Spock thinks so."
Amanda looked surprised. "I love my son very dearly, Captain, but he never fails to find new ways to vex me."
"I tell him you said so. And I think, since we're so much alike, you should call me Jim."
Amanda smiled and tilted her head at Spock, who was coming toward them. "Goodbye, Jim. Take care of yourself. And please take care of Spock too, whenever you can." She narrowed her eyes in emphasis. "I want him back."
"Believe me, I'll do my best, Amanda."
"I haven't never doubted that of you, Captain."
Spock meanwhile was saying goodbye to Sarek, under the lematya statue that had once seen him saying farewell to his mother, before an eighteen year estrangement from home. But he was distracted by the technicians now supplying Sarek's craft.
"Take care, Father," he said.
"I am not the one leaving in a warship," Sarek said, puzzled at Spock's fractional but visible distress.
"The pursuit of peace is sometimes even more dangerous."
"Reconciliation between two parties in opposition is at times dangerous," Sarek admitted, "but it is always worthy." He held out his hands in a familial embrace he hadn't used with Spock in more than two decades.
"Yes, Father." Spock said. "And thank you." He ignored the exasperated brow he knew his last statement had engendered and turned toward his mother. "Farewell-"
"You're not getting away with just that," Amanda said, and enfolded her son in a hug. "Stay safe. And come home."
"And message. Once a week. Remember."
"But, Mother, we are both going to the same-"
"Spock," she tilted her head in warning.
"Yes, Mother," he said resignedly. "As always." He nodded to his Father again, swallowing hard.
McCoy was watching this farewell from a little distance, a duffle in one hand, his medical kit in the other, wearing a loopy little grin. "Those are the kind of farewells I like to see."
"We are greatly in your debt, Doctor," Amanda said, blinking back tears she had managed to control with her son. "Again."
"No need for that," McCoy said. "I've had a marvelous time. I might even learn to like Vulcan."
"Then it is past time for the Doctor to leave," Spock said, pausing on his trek away.
"You just go on and find your Captain, and let a man say his good-byes in peace," McCoy told him.
Spock raised a brow and went on.
"My wife is correct," Sarek said. "We are indeed in your debt."
"As a physician, I consider myself truly compensated when my patients follow my advice and get well. I think you've all done that. Healed from a number of wounds, new and old. So I'm well satisfied."
"I hope you will come and stay with us again," Amanda said. "After the mission, when you have time for a nice long visit."
"I can't deny, there were some aspects of medicine here I wouldn't mind having more time to investigate," McCoy allowed. "When I'm not distracted by a certain Vulcan."
"You may be distracted by another one," Amanda said. "T'Pau has requested you return after the mission, to serve as one of her advisors."
"You can't be serious?" McCoy blurted out, but one look at Sarek, who nodded fractionally, convinced him. McCoy put a hand to his own heart, blanching. "Convey my appreciation to her," he said. "I'm honored. But honestly, right now, I can't think past getting through the rest of this mission. And then I'm going to want to spend a little time on Earth. But then, maybe—"
"Just think about it," Amanda said.
"I'll do more than that," McCoy said, with a catbird grin. "I'm going to tease your son about it mercilessly."
"Oh, dear," Amanda said, swallowing a smile of her own.
"I fail to see the purpose in such a pursuit," Sarek began frostily.
McCoy chuckled. "Don't worry, Dad. I won't hassle your son."
"I will never understand human humor," Sarek muttered.
"Not until he's up to it anyway," McCoy added.
"Leonard," Amanda said. "My husband really doesn't understand. Watch out, or you may find yourself facing a very irate Vulcan. If not Sarek, then T'Pau."
"Okay, okay," McCoy said. "I stand reproved. And after all the time and care I took to get Spock well, not to mention Sarek, do you think I would seriously hassle either now?"
"I don't know," Amanda said dubiously looking at her husband. "It can be awfully tempting."
"Later," McCoy said, and kissed Amanda on the cheek, and when Sarek raised a brow in affronted disapproval, he managed to force his fingers into an approximation of the Vulcan salute. "You take care, Sarek. I don't want to return your hospitality by having you again as a guest in my sickbay."
"Indeed, not," Sarek said, with a slight shudder. "One sojourn there was quite enough."
"Just keep that thought," McCoy said. "Only social meetings from now on," he said, and turned.
"Doctor!" Amanda called, and then hesitated, embarrassed over the plea she longed to make.
"I don't outrank him," McCoy said. "Either of them unfortunately. I can't make them stay safe. Never could. But I'll do what I can to keep them from running headfirst into danger where I can. And if I can't, you know I'll do my best to patch them up afterwards."
"I know," Amanda said. "And thank you."
McCoy nodded and went after his friends.
"Hold me," Amanda said to her husband. "Tight."
Sarek took her hand in his, and then, after a moment, slid it around her shoulders.
"Where are you going?" Kirk asked, when Spock went past where he was standing outside the hangar.
"Outside the force-shield, to the transporter platform," Spock said innocently.
"Transporter platform!" Kirk exclaimed, horrified.
"Are you more interested in reclaiming your officer? Or possessing a certain warp shuttle?" Spock asked.
"My officer. And his warp shuttle," Kirk answered. "Come on, Spock. You wouldn't want McCoy to suffer the effects of a transporter beam when he could fly."
"If we were meant to fly," McCoy said, coming up to them, "We'd have wings. I can't say I'm all that in favor of new-fangled vehicles. Or the dare-devils that drive them."
"Bones," Kirk warned. "I'm the dare –devil that drives it."
"It's my craft," Spock said. "By your logic, that makes me the dare-devil."
"Well, with those ears," McCoy said, "you've got the devil part right."
"Shift a consonant," Kirk said. "And it's dared evil. And Spock certainly did that. And we're going back for more. We're going to rout this threat to the Federation."
"One of many, Captain," Spock said somberly.
"One at a time, Commander," Kirk said. "One at a time."
"And then we go home," McCoy said. "When this mission is over – and it will be soon – home will come the sailors, back from the seas."
"And the hunters," Spock said, "back from the hills." He gave one last look up to the hilly peaks of the Llangons, and back down to the Fortress. "But at least it is home. Again." He looked at McCoy, "Thank you, Doctor. " And then turned into the hangar.
"Well, I guess that's a job well done," McCoy muttered to himself. But he was distracted by Kirk's calling from inside.
"What, you're not going to let me drive, Spock?" Kirk asked. "I swear, I have the hang of it now."
"Do you have any of those anti-nausea potions, Doctor?" Spock asked.
"Right here," McCoy said. "Alongside my stone knives and bear skins. And ice water."
Home is the Sailor
1 Peter Beckford's Thoughts on Hunting, 1781