Disclaimer: Star Trek characters belong to Paramount. Garen is mine.

Author's note: I have been intrigued by Sarek's words ever since I first heard them and I knew that one day I would have to investigate. But plans remained plans, until a good friend of mine prompted me to write it. Dear Vero, this story is for you. It may not be what you expected, but I hope you'll like it still.

Beta/Editor: SLWatson. All remaining mistakes are mine.

Codes/Rating: S, General

Summary: Not everything Spock had learned of the Vulcan way had been a lesson from his father. Not everything he had learned of the Vulcan way had been the Vulcan way. A childhood story.

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Learning to Be

By

Anna Amuse

--

--

Foreword

'I never knew what Spock was doing. When he was a boy, he would disappear for days into the mountains. I would ask him where he had gone, what he had done. He refused to tell me. I insisted that he tell me. He would not. I forbade him to go. He ignored me. I punished him. He endured it silently. But always, he returned to the mountains. One might as well ask a river not to run. But secretly, I admired him—the proud core of him that would not yield.'

Sarek of Vulcan, Unification Part 1

...

'But then, he was a very strange small boy. On the other hand, he was probably doing things comparable to the same mischievous pranks you played when you were a boy.'

'Mischievous pranks, Captain?'

'Yes. Dipping little girls' curls in inkwells, stealing apples from the neighbors' trees, tying cans on… Forgive me… Mr. Spock. I should have known better.'

'I shall be delighted, Captain.'

Captain Kirk, Commander Spock, The Squire of Gothos

--

The passageway was concealed masterfully, by whim of nature or deliberate intervention of a sentient lifeform—it wasn't clear which. It happened so long ago that there was nobody left to even ask themselves this question, for this old, barely discernible road hadn't been used for thousands of years. Ever since the city of Voron'Klar had been swept away by the last eruption of the ancient volcano, people had deserted those lands and moved to the neighboring Shi'Kahr and other cities.

The road that had been connecting the two cities in the old times was used no longer, and gradually decayed, unable to protect itself from the wrath of electrical storms and a long-time abandonment. And since nobody had been using the road anymore, and there were very few who even remembered its existence, the passageway that it abscised was under no threat of being found.

Yet it had been. T'Kuht was only preparing to replace Eridani in the slightly reddish, strangely dry skies, when the passageway had been found and used by a most unlikely creature to be met this far from populated territory.

It was a boy, a very little boy at that, seemingly no older than six or seven. However, the certain rhythm of his gait and his somewhat too precise, confident movements implied that he was, in fact, older. But even if he was and even taking into account that Vulcan children tended to be quite independent fairly early in their lives, it was still way out of the ordinary that a child this young would be wandering this far away from any civilized environment all by himself.

Yet there he was, climbing up determinedly and showing no signs of fatigue or apprehension. He carried a common looking water flask clasped to the belt of his short breeches, which were the only item of clothing present, as was habitual for children his age. His skin was flushed slightly from the long walk, but his breathing was even in a way that suggested him being used to this kind of physical strain. He didn't take any notice of his surroundings, proceeding determinedly forward, which was a clear indication that he had been here before.

The boy stopped briefly to take a sip of water and glanced appraisingly at the evening skies. He frowned, the uncommon expression creasing his soft angular features in an amusing way. Then, as if remembering that he wasn't supposed to show emotion, he willed his expression to return to neutral. He was in a hurry now, his pace becoming more rapid, even as the barely discernible path, which could hardly be even lined into a pattern, took an abrupt turn upward, making him climb rather than walk.

It was very quiet.

Apart from the soft, muffled whisper of stones and sand being disturbed by the boy's boots, there was hardly a sound to be heard. The sun slid down seamlessly, swallowed by the distant horizon, while the satellite hadn't yet risen. Silent, mildly menacing dusk reined over the tired mountains, with the first stars barely starting to show.

Then, there were sounds.

Tentatively at first, wary of the still lingering crushing daylight heat, the cicadas began their high-pitched chatter that they had been saving since the dawn. Weariness and certain impatience could be heard in their voices, as their metallic song had picked up the pace. A bird cried out somewhere behind the dark rocks, and another one answered from the opposite direction. The air was filled soon with unidentifiable noises of stretched wings, soft hisses and squeaks rising from the ground. A singsong, melodic cry came from a distance, signaling the awakening of a le'matya, who was announcing the beginning of his evening hunt.

The last sound gave the boy a short pause, as he straightened up and looked—quite nervously—in the direction it came from. His frown returned, and this time he was clearly too preoccupied to pay it any attention. He tried to walk even faster, but his fatigue was finally beginning to catch up with him in the rapidly cooling air. Goose bumps rippled his skin, but he ignored them, resisting the impulse to rub some warmth back into his arms. He was late and he needed to climb on. The rest was unimportant and irrelevant.

In all truthfulness, he was supposed to deal with his fear rather than try to outrun it, but the urge to get to safety was hard to fight down, especially combined with a more important issue of being late. After all, he had spent nights in the mountains before. The statistical probability of him getting eaten this time was hardly any higher now.

A definite sigh of relief escaped him, as he had finally reached the mountain ridge. He was breathing heavily now, panting; the atmosphere was very thin here in the heights, and the cold air was making each breath a struggle. But the hardest part was behind him; from now on, his condition was bound to get better with each step of his descent. For a moment, at the top, he swayed and leaned heavily on a rock to steady himself, but then he straightened up with an air of grim determination, and resumed his route.

The path was much more discernible on this side of the crest and far less lifeless. Not a hundred meters down, some stubborn, rubbery grass began to smooth the way; then, reluctantly almost, some scrubby bushes appeared on either side, serving as a natural pointer. By the time T'Kuht was up in the sky, the boy had reached the boundaries of a forest, not particularly dense, but dark and whispering.

His heart was hammering loudly in his side by then, as the fear that he had come too late consumed him. There wasn't time to worry about his surroundings, though he knew that if he would indeed be too late, all those mysteries the darkness held would come haunting him full force. He was past tired now, recovering some of his strength as the air became slightly more enriched with oxygen. His pace turned into a run, his night vision allowing him not to stumble over cunningly exposed roots and stones. The path was familiar.

He nearly cried out in joy spotting the bright, warming light of the fire trough the trees, and had only just checked himself. There was no need to run now. No one on the whole planet would have left open fire unattended; some lessons ran deeper than blood. He tried to catch his breath and assume a more dignified stance, before walking towards the clearing. He knew he wasn't doing a convincing job, but couldn't simply abandon the effort.

There was a fire indeed, and a very old Vulcan sitting beside it. His skin was darkened by decades of exposure to the sun and winds; his hair, assuming he used to have it, had left him completely without a trace a very long time ago; he was barefoot, wearing only rather peculiar looking pants made of animal skin—the type of material no sane Vulcan would touch willingly, much less wear, and a wide leather bracelet on his left arm; the leather had distinct marks of teeth on it. He was smiling softly as he looked into the fire, and the expression that would have been completely alien on any Vulcan face seemed to fit this man and this place perfectly.

As the boy entered the clearing, he glanced up, getting slightly more somber.

//Spock.//

"Garen," the boy breathed out.

The old Vulcan raised his eyebrows in disapproval.

//Aloud, Spock? I would have thought you'd learn the rules of this place by now. There are those who cannot abide by them. You have no such excuse.//

The boy blushed furiously; tried to control it, which resulted only in his cheeks attaining even more color, then abandoned the attempt. Instead, he concentrated hard the way Garen had taught him, and entered the conversation properly this time.

//I ask forgiveness, Garen.//

Garen pursed his lips and shook his head.

//You ask forgiveness too often, I notice. That is not a desired quality in a man.//

//I…// But this time, Spock stopped himself short. He shifted his weight uncertainly from one foot to the other, suddenly weary, and chilly again, now that the adrenaline was beginning to wear off. //May I join you at the fire, Garen?//

//I do not own this fire, child. I merely attend to it. Come sit if you wish.//

That was hardly a most welcoming invitation, but Spock was long used to the old man's manner. He walked slowly towards the tempting pool of warmth and lowered himself gingerly to the ground in front of it. A shiver of pure physical pleasure ran through him, as he stretched his arms towards the fire. Garen was watching him with an enigmatic expression on his face, flames dancing in his amber eyes.

//You have come a long way for nothing, child. I cannot stay with you here. The month of Es'deehr is over. I must leave this site at dawn.//

//I know.// Spock looked up at him hopefully. //I thought I could go with you. Just for a few days. Then I can return on my own.//

Garen frowned in response.

//You cannot spend this much time here. Your parents will be looking for you.//

//No, they won't!// There was unmistakable triumph in his mental voice, as Spock dropped his hands to his knees in an almost imploring gesture. //They think I'm on an excursion to T'Kuht with my class. They will not expect me home for two more weeks.//

Garen raised his eyebrows.

//But your teachers will be looking for you then.//

//No.// Spock shook his head, looking down ruefully. //I did not give them the form that would allow me to go off world which father signed. They believe I have gone home.//

The old Vulcan laughed out loud, making Spock blush even further.

//Such admirable deviousness in one so young. Truly you are a son of Vulcan.//

Spock's head snapped up at that, and it was clear that he was confused and pleased, and trying to control both reactions. Garen shook his head at him, but his eyes were smiling.

//You do know they will discover the truth sooner or later.//

//I will tell them the truth myself.// Spock lifted his chin up stubbornly. //Not about you, but that I didn't go to T'Kuht. But only after it will be too late for them to stop me.//

//And you are willing to go with me?//

//Yes, Garen. There is still so much I wish to learn from you.//

Garen sighed.

//Our time together is running short, Spock. Perhaps it will be best indeed if you accompany me in this journey. There is one thing I'm certain you will benefit from seeing.//

//What is that, Garen?// The boy straightened up eagerly.

//You will see.// Garen rebuffed him calmly. //Now you need to rest. I will not slow down my pace for you tomorrow. Here, drink this.//

He handed Spock an old leather flask. Spock opened it and smelled the contents curiously. His eyes flew up to meet Garen's in alarm.

//This contains alcohol!//

//Indeed.// The old Vulcan smiled serenely at him. //Take a sip, it will warm you up. Do not be afraid, boy, I am not trying to poison you.//

Seeing no choice, Spock lifted the flask to his lips cautiously and took a small sip. The liquid turned out to be thick and sweet, with an unfamiliar biting taste. Immediately warmth started to spread through his limbs, and Spock looked at the flask, almost startled, before handing it back respectfully to Garen.

//Good. Now go to sleep. And if I wake up before you, I shall leave alone.//

Obediently, Spock stretched on the firm ground in front of the fire and closed his eyes, trying to reset his internal alarm. But it had been a very long and demanding day and the mysterious liquid washed away the last of his reserves. Sleep claimed him almost before his head reached the ground.

Garen smiled to himself, watching him succumbing to sleep so completely. Then he stood up, pulled a large, roughly woven blanket and covered the boy with it, moving him slightly further from the fire. He smiled again and went to get more wood.

--

Spock woke up with a jolt in the yellowish glow of dawn. He jerked himself into a sitting position, whirling around wildly, trying to locate his companion. Garen glanced at him from where he was packing his thin bag.

//Are you hungry?//

Relief overwhelmed him, and Spock struggled to say anything coherent, taking but a moment too long.

//If you cannot reply at once, then you are not.// Garen concluded. //Go wash yourself up, while I eat. And do not waste time.//

Spock leapt to his feet at once, still slightly disoriented from sleep and abrupt awakening, but eager to execute the order immediately. He knew Garen hated untidiness, and the only reason why he didn't make Spock clean himself last night was probably his obvious overwhelming fatigue. Ordering his pulse to slow down as best he could, Spock stumbled into the trees, behind which he knew a stream was running.

Quickly, he disrobed and stepped into it, gritting his teeth against the tremendous cold. Even the merciless Vulcan sun failed to warm these waters, running mostly deep within the mountains, only seldom coming onto the surface. Spock made a deep breath and knelt, ignoring the wild shivers running up and down his body, and with another decisive breath, bent over, allowing the icy water to engulf him completely. Blood rushed through his veins, with deafening pounding, while he brushed and scrubbed his skin with handfuls of sand. He kept trying to relax, realizing it would make things easier, but that was something much easier said than done. By the time his hands reached his head in their cleansing quest, his fingers were trembling so violently and felt so numb that he could hardly tell the difference between his hair and his ears.

Finally satisfied, he straightened up with a jolt, gulping the air greedily, feeling slightly dizzy. He desired nothing better than to jump out of the biting cold with all possible prowess, but stifled the urge and rose up with deliberate grace instead, ignoring his chattering teeth and his heart which was going berserk. He walked out of the water and stretched his muscles, feeling pride at his own accomplishment and pleasure at his body being rejuvenated by the savage equivalent of the sonic shower.

He combed his hair with his hand and put his clothes back on, enjoying the way his skin was glowing with energy. Suddenly realizing he was taking more time than was absolutely necessary, he hurried back to the clearing to find Garen covering the fireplace with sand and pebbles. If anyone happened upon the clearing now, they would never guess it had ever seen a sentient presence.

//Have you not changed your mind?//

Spock shook his head determinedly.

//Very well. Follow me, then.//

As always, they were walking in silence. Far from appreciating the changes in the terrain, which was turning greener by every half a mile, Spock's thoughts dwelled on the moment he had first met Garen. The words the old Vulcan spoke the night before about their time growing short filled his being with most unpleasant anticipation. There were very few people in his life to whom he felt real connection, and among them none such as Garen. Spock was old enough to know the axiom of kaiidth, but he didn't find it any easier to accept such a drastic change nonetheless.

Three years ago. That's when it happened. His parents were off world. Sarek had been called off unexpectedly to some vital negotiations, and Amanda felt it was her duty to accompany him. Spock didn't ask any questions. He noted that his father was unusually agitated, though trying to conceal it, while his mother was openly apprehensive. He wondered as to a reason, but Amanda limited his contact with Sarek to practically non-existent in those few days, and forbade him to make any inquiries. He would know everything in his own time, she had said. Spock was a curious child, but he had learnt the true meaning of the word 'no' fairly early under that roof, and withdrew silently.

It was a very short notice, and they had no one to take care of him, except for Sarek's cousin Rivek and his wife T'Ellem. Rivek was much younger than Sarek, and he was very newly bonded. Sarek never put much trust into him, but he had no choice. And so, utterly bewildered and confused, Spock went to live with Rivek and T'Ellem in their country-house for 'a few weeks.'

They were kind people. Far from having any problems with Spock's dual heritage, they treated him far less strictly than his own parents, and although he had found the change extremely confusing, he had soon decided that it was not so bad. The only problem with Rivek and T'Ellem was that they were, in fact, so deeply engrossed in the process of creating their own children that they paid very little attention to their temporary ward.

His lessons with his personal social studies teacher and martial arts instructor had been suspended, as they could not travel that far every day. He had discovered suddenly that he had had a lot of time without any kind of supervision. Partly, he had used it to practice his telepathic skills, which were still regrettably poor. But without Sarek's guidance, he could not progress very far, and had spent the majority of his free time exploring his new surroundings.

Unfortunately, the uneventful life of a lonely household situated well outside the city did not present much opportunity to satisfy the curiosity and agility of a natural explorer, especially since he was only six years old, for more than a couple of days. Spock knew he would never be allowed to say it, but the truth was that for the first time in his life he had been bored. Rivek's country-house didn't have a library or even a computer terminal. It was a resort for solitude and contemplation, neither of which interested Spock in the slightest. That was why when Rivek, apparently being unable to leave the bedroom for any considerable amount of time, had asked him to make a trip into town and buy provisions, which had been running low, Spock eagerly agreed.

The task was common for most Vulcan children. Not every house, like Sarek's, had a housekeeper who took care of those things. The chore was habitual to the majority of Spock's peers, and he had been teased at certain times for the fact that his mother didn't trust him with a shopping list.

As if this opportunity to get even hadn't been enough, there was an additional attraction of piloting a flitter on his own. True, Rivek would enter the course and engage the auto-pilot so there wouldn't be much actual piloting involved, but still, Spock would be alone in the cabin. And if something went wrong with the automation, he would be solely responsible for the outcome.

It was also the day when he had learned the truthfulness of his mother's favorite saying.

Be careful what you wish for.

Though, in all fairness, the auto-pilot didn't go wrong. Spock disengaged it. His cousin Rivek would have thought it impossible, but then, his cousin Rivek didn't know him all that well, did he? Nor could he envision the true scale of Spock's boredom. There was no way that he would let the machine bring him safely to the city and back. He had watched his parents, his brother and a lot of other people operating flitter controls a hundred times. How hard could it be? He studied the board carefully as the flitter was picking up the altitude, and decided that every control looked familiar enough to disengage the automated mode.

For a while, it went on pretty well. Spock could barely keep his excitement within, even less so considering that he was alone. What he hadn't known about old machinery, however, was that it sometimes behaved not exactly in accordance with technical specifications. And Rivek's flitter was very old.

He had lost control in minutes. The flitter skyrocketed in some unpredictable direction, and no matter what logical or recommended-in-the-manual approach Spock tried, it would not listen. Very soon he was dizzy and overcome by motion sickness, and could hardly see where the crazed machine had been taking him.

Luck was also one of the illogical and completely incomprehensible concepts that his mother was so fond of, and it was luck that saved him from a premature death. Even though neither the engines nor the navigational controls would answer his commands, there was still at least one system that didn't fail. The proximity alarm activated the ejecting safeguards, and Spock was thrown out of the cabin encircled along with his chair in an autonomous containment field moments before the flitter crashed into a mountain.

The containment field collapsed almost instantly, but although he got a full collection of bumps and bruises as he rolled off on the ground, he was still alive and sustained no serious injury. Dazed and shaken, he collected himself slowly together and made a full survey of the crash site before the shock had finally caught up with him and made him lose consciousness.

He came to in the darkness of the desert night, shivering. The first thought that had greeted him back to the world was that the flitter had been completely destroyed, its pieces scattered all over the place. It was of no use to him. Even the transceiver was demolished, making it impossible for him to set up a distress signal.

If ever there had been a time to feel profoundly scared, that had been it. With an upsurge of pure terror, Spock realized that he had no idea where he was. He tried to remember exactly the time he had spent in the air to at least narrow his options, but the sounds of the desert and complete darkness around him made it very difficult to concentrate on logical analysis. Not that he didn't try though. It was his only defense, the only modus operandi known to him. He tried to envision his father in a similar situation and his supposed actions. For some reason, it didn't help very much.

It was the darkest moment of his life as it was to that point, and the darkness was brutally literal. Little could be gained by succumbing to fear, and Spock tried hard to initiate meditation in order to examine and dissolve it. He wasn't entirely unsuccessful. Though by the end of his attempt he was far from reaching a state of tranquility and acceptance, he managed to get frustrated enough for his fear to dissipate. Practical, as he had learned to be in most cases, he turned his thoughts on the possibilities that lay before him.

Sitting guard beside the remains of the flitter would do him little good. He remembered well from his nature study class that the mountains on his home planet were rich with metallic ores. The probability of several pieces of refined metal and plastic being detected was extremely low. That was, of course, if his cousin had even noticed that Spock was missing already, which seemed unlikely. But the search had to start sooner or later, and a smoke signal could considerably increase his chances.

Starting a fire would not present a problem. Once the sun was up, all he needed was a piece of plexiglass, which could be found in the wreckage in abundance. The wood though...

Slowly, Spock got up to his feet. He had made enough trips through the desert on different occasions to know that very little could be found there of help for quite possibly tens of hundreds of square miles. The mountains behind his back were a more promising area of exploration. They might also contain caverns, and caverns sometimes meant water. He licked his dry lips at the thought. Adult Vulcans could go without water for several days, but he wasn't an adult Vulcan. He wasn't even a fully Vulcan child. He had no idea how long he would be able to hold on. Two days? Probably three?

This consideration had finally prompted him to motion. He picked up several pieces of glass, putting them carefully in his pocket, and began to climb up, never minding the continuous darkness.

Luck, however, appeared to have lost any interest in him after saving him from the crash. Spock continued his ascent through the early hours of morning and excruciating day heat to no avail. Stubbornly, he refused to cease his actions. Fear had caught up with him again, but this one was of a different kind. He was hot, hurt and thirsty, his head was spinning and his lungs seemed to be on fire from overstrain, but he kept his eyes away from the tempting shadows of rocks whenever they crossed his path. He wanted nothing better than to crawl in one and sleep, but forbade himself to give in to this impulse. He was convinced that once he stopped he would not be able to resume his journey.

He was walking long hours without any direction, when suddenly he felt an urge to look at one unexciting slope more carefully. He didn't know if he was really seeing a path or if the heat was playing tricks on his imagination, but he decided that even an imaginable trail was better than none. He followed it. Up and up he went, until finally reaching the crest.

Garen was waiting for him there. Startled, Spock tripped and fell down to his knees. He had heard of such Vulcans. Hermits, his father called them. Those who had retired to the lonely life in the desert or mountains in pursuit of their personal quests. To interrupt such contemplation for any reason was considered unthinkable. The thought that he had done just that filled his heart with utter terror.

//I ask forgiveness, Master! I did not mean to disrupt your studies! I was only looking for… trying to make a fire. Forgive me. Please, Master, please, please forgive me…//

He continued to blurt panicked thoughts until his consciousness had mercifully left him at last.

He came to at the same clearing that he had later come to know so well. It was night again, and he felt somewhat fatigued, but comfortable. His bruises didn't hurt as much, and his thirst was quenched, though he had no memory of drinking water. Remembering he wasn't alone, Spock started visibly, but Garen calmed him down with a glance.

Spock tried to ask him questions, but he wouldn't answer. It was a frustrating exercise, and by the end of it, Spock wasn't so much afraid anymore, as he was annoyed. Suddenly, a deep dry voice sounded right under his skull.

//I am Garen. What are you called?//

Spock started. "I am Spock," he said.

//Speech is not allowed here.// The voice sounded again. //You are a telepath. Speak to me in your mind.//

"But I'm not!" His desperation flared, and without noticing, he slipped into another layer. //I'm not a telepath, Master. I cannot even maintain a link. I'm worthless.//

And it was pouring out of him in waves. Every big and little disappointment that he had been carrying with him for so long was now streaming out, being suddenly set free. His father's quiet frustration with his ineptitude in mind disciplines. As he could not believe that his own blood would be this helpless, he concluded that Spock wasn't putting enough effort into his studies. He believed his son to be stubborn and willful, and was fighting both those deficiencies of nature rather aggressively. But Spock did study. He just couldn't grasp control over the simplest techniques. He couldn't even perform a nerve pinch, something, which his classmates had learned to do in their cradles, no less. They knew his weaknesses, and wouldn't leave him alone. He was a keen student, his marks were always in the upper register, but that only accented his inability to perform as a Vulcan and brought him more scorn. Even physically he was deficient, too small for a child his age, too weak. If a healer was present during a sporting event, everyone knew it was for his sake, and the attention was humiliating.

Like a dam going down, every little misery, every grief he'd ever had was now released and floated freely to Garen, who examined the confusing, stumbling stream of consciousness carefully. The child had been provoked into it so easily. It must have been burdening him for some time, and he was too proud, Garen could see it, to share with anyone. He held up a hand, stopping the flow of images.

//Be quiet, boy.//

Spock stared at him, wide-eyed, as if only now realizing that Garen had read his every thought. He didn't know he was transmitting. //But I didn't even touch you. How could I—//

//Mind-melds.// Garen snorted in disgust. //Touch telepathy. This is not the way of our people, but our people have forgotten their way. So you are not a telepath?// He asked suddenly sharply. //If you were not, you would never have been able to enter this valley. True, I was guiding you. But you heard me.//

Spock was simply staring at him in awe.

//I did?//

//Yes, you did. Up there, you instinctively spoke to me from within your mind. Your mind to my mind—this is what it truly means. Your mind speaks to mine now. Is it difficult?//

Spock took a moment to think about that, then shook his head, surprised.

//No. I simply concentrate and... It is not difficult at all.//

Garen smiled at his obvious wonder. //It is not difficult for you, Spock, because the ancient drives are still strong in your blood. Very few on this planet would have heard me. They have forgotten what it means to be a Vulcan.//

//But I...// Spock bowed his head, his face flushed with another remembered grievance. //I'm not a true Vulcan. I'm...//

//Part human?// Garen watched him calmly. //How is this relevant? You know of logic, Spock, do you not? Analyze facts. I called to you and you heard me. You are still hearing me now. You are talking to me now. I do not ever speak aloud. It cannot get any simpler than that.//

Spock regarded him warily, wishing with all his heart to believe, and yet hardly daring to. But there wasn't any logical argument he could offer Garen at the moment, so he chose to ask a question instead.

//You say this used to be the way of our people. How come it is not anymore?//

Garen frowned. //Thousands of years ago, all life on this planet was telepathic. Vulcans of the past spoke to each other freely. We had no barriers between us, no secrets. Do you know why they became vegetarians, Spock? Because it was difficult to eat something that thought back at you. We lived in harmony. But then, some decided we should have rules—to guard our privacy. Rules were made. We started lying to each other, keeping secrets from each other, and eventually killing each other. What you know as ancient Vulcan was that Vulcan. But they do not explain to you how it came to be. They simply say we were savage, brutal creatures. They have forgotten why we had become thus. And now—now they need to touch one another to hear each other's thoughts. They had been deafening themselves for generations, and when they touch, for a brief moment, they cannot help but hear again. But they try to avoid even that, don't they? Our people had willingly crippled themselves.//

Spock listened with apt attention, and couldn't help but shudder at the words. His curiosity was piqued however.

//How do you know all this, Master?//

//Do not call me Master. I know all this because there were some Vulcans who refused to abide by the new rules. There were several settlements that chose to seclude themselves to the world and remain true to the ancient ways. They were well hidden and were soon forgotten by the rest. This was the last one. And I am the last of my people.//

//There isn't anyone else left?// Spock gasped.

//There is not.// Garen sighed, stirring the fire. //We were all connected to one another, Spock. We felt each passing... Now we are no more. I am alone.//

Spock shifted slightly, trying to assimilate all this. His mind was working feverishly, rearranging the pieces of the puzzle to accommodate new bits of information and create a non-contradictory picture. There was still something very personal that bothered him, however, and although he knew he was being selfish, he needed to get an answer.

//Master... Garen. If I am a true telepath, like the ancient Vulcans used to be, why can't I initiate a mind-meld? This should be easy for me, should it not?//

Garen pursed his lips, looking at him strictly.

//Spock, a mind-meld is a cane, which a blind man uses to know his bearings. You cannot use it because you are not blind.//

Spock stared at him, stunned. Could this have been the reason for his difficulty? It made sense. Far from being reassured, he felt as if he had suddenly grown a third eye in the back of his head, or an extra set of legs. No wonder everyone was staring at him. Not only was he half-human, his Vulcan half was an atavism, something that the rest of his kin had gotten rid of millennia ago. He had always been scorned for being a hybrid. What would happen when they learn he was a mutant? The thought scared him to pieces.

...

From across the fire, Garen was watching him silently. The old Vulcan was frowning in disapproval, but refrained from further comments. Some particularly wise pang of intuition or the deep understanding of how things were meant to be made him realize that with this one there was no use pressing or pushing. He would either come to a correct conclusion on his own or he wouldn't, but he would not appreciate assistance with the process.

Garen smiled to himself, realizing that the boy's father wasn't completely wrong about him. He was stubborn. But what his father did not understand was that this stubbornness wasn't a whim of a capricious child, but a deep, inborn need to make his own decisions. The boy wasn't good at explaining himself or even understanding himself, that was clear. Which meant that this kind of misinterpretation would be his permanent companion in life.

//Sleep.// Garen ordered him then firmly. //You are going home in the morning.//

Spock's head snapped up. //How?//

//You will see. Now go to sleep.//

Still curious, but knowing he wouldn't be getting any answers, Spock complied.

In the morning, Garen woke him up silently, offering some fruit for breakfast. Then, he hid the traces of the fire and motioned Spock to follow him. They went back the way they came into the valley, and when they reached the crest, Spock realized he was meant to return to the crash site.

//Your people will find you there within the hour.//

He turned to look at Garen. //How?//

//Do not ask questions. Go.//

//Will I be able... that is, may I come to see you again?//

The hermit glanced at him strictly.

//You must tell no one of me. If you do, they will not believe you. If they come looking for me, they will not find anything.//

//I will not tell them.// Spock repeated firmly. Somehow, he knew that it would have been terribly wrong, even without Garen's warning. //But may I come to see you again?//

//If you wish. But I will not defend you before your father or any other authority. It is your choice.//

//I understand.// Spock bowed his head. //I am grateful, Garen. Live long and prosper.//

He began his way down, which surprisingly turned out to be quite easy. Had he managed to remember the surroundings so well, when he had been ascending? Or was it Garen still guiding him? Whatever the reason was, but Spock found the crash site with time to spare. He sat down in the shade of a big rock and waited.

A presence started to grow within his mind, a persistent, powerful call. Astonished, he realized that it was Garen, reaching forward with his mind, locating the nearest search party and urging them to divert to this location. Spock had never heard that such things were possible. The presence dissipated slowly, as Garen withdrew, but his goal was accomplished. Spock could hear the low-pitched wail of a patrol flitter approaching. He stood up then and waved, making it easier for them to notice him.

--

That year was a year of unpleasant revelations for Spock. When he was returned back to his cousin's country-house, he had learned that Vulcans did lie when it suited them. Rivek was relieved to see him alive and well, but when Spock told him what had happened, he became quite emotional. For the first time in his life, Spock witnessed an emotional display from an adult Vulcan.

His cousin was angry. Further observation proved that he was also scared. Spock thought he couldn't blame him. His father's wrath, quiet and logical as it might have been, was not something most people wanted to face. Spock knew that his father would punish him first, and was prepared for that. But he also knew that Rivek would be facing some unpleasant consequences as well. Sarek had left Spock in his responsibility and, even acknowledging the fact that his son was the perpetrator here, he would not be willing to dismiss Rivek's part in it so easily.

Rivek clearly knew it, too, and he didn't fancy one bit the prospect of informing Sarek of Vulcan that his six-year-old son had nearly died in a flitter accident while being left in his care. But even being aware of all that, Spock was still stunned into silence when his cousin offered him bluntly not to mention the accident to his father at all.

At first, he couldn't grasp it. He couldn't understand how Rivek could suggest a lie at all. Not a lie, his cousin told him blandly. An omission. That made little difference in Spock's view, and judging by the guilty look on his cousin's face, it was a view he had shared. But as the first wave of astonishment faded, Spock began to see Rivek's point.

The accident was exclusively Spock's fault. Spock knew it. Rivek knew it. But Sarek wouldn't see it that way. Was it fair, Spock asked himself, that another should suffer for his deeds? And the answer came to him in no uncertain terms. It was not fair. It was not logical. But since Sarek would not accept this logic, an omission was indeed the only choice. Rivek and T'Ellem had been so kind to him. He could not repay them thus for their care. The destroyed flitter was bad enough. Spock decided he would search for a way to replace it. But even if he couldn't do that immediately, shielding them from undeserved displeasure of his father was not only logical, but in fact his direct duty.

It went easier, too, than he had expected. Sarek attributed his heightened anxiety to the fact that Spock had made little progress in mind disciplines, and never came to suspect there was another reason. Life settled into a familiar pattern, and Spock found himself returning in his thoughts to that most unusual encounter.

Garen and his unique abilities intrigued him. That he could summon a flitter from that far away simply by reaching out to its pilot was something Spock never imagined possible. No one he knew was capable of that. He began, very cautiously, to consider that his 'abnormality' might not perhaps have been a solely negative thing. Such abilities might prove useful, even as his studies of 'classical' Vulcan mind disciplines were progressing so slowly. Spock found himself making peculiar requests in the library banks, trying to discover more of what Garen had told him of ancient Vulcan.

By the end of the year he had found himself searching for a way to return to the hidden valley. He had eventually uncovered one.

Garen was not surprised to see him return. In fact, the old Vulcan greeted him as if they had parted a day ago, not a year. Spock was apprehensive at first. He had finally begun to feel his way with the required mind techniques, which allowed his betrothal to T'Pring to proceed smoothly. Remembering Garen's words about a cane for a blind person, Spock was worried that he would no longer be able to 'see' the way back to the valley. But it presented no difficulty in the end, and his dismay dissipated.

//So. What do you think of your fiancée?// Garen asked him with a sly twinkle, as they were sitting by the fire once again.

Spock thought about it. He thought more and then some. Finally, frowning, he shrugged.

//She is a female. I do not understand females.//

Garen laughed so hard, it was downright disturbing. Even being used to his peculiar behavior as Spock had been by then, he tried instinctively to draw back. But even the mental waves were ringing deafeningly with laughter.

//Oh, Spock…// Garen managed finally. //I have never heard of a male who did. In this world or beyond.//

They talked about ancient times. Spock's curiosity seemed to be insatiable. What bits of knowledge he had been able to find on his own were drastically insufficient. Even when Garen offered him to learn better ways to develop his telepathic abilities, he only reluctantly agreed to be steered away from the conversation.

Spock spent three days with Garen then. When he returned home and refused to give account of his activities, he was naturally punished and conceded to it without objection. From that moment on, it was a common story. He didn't have a lot of opportunities, but what little number he had, he took without reservation. Usually, he managed to spend several days every few weeks in the mountains with Garen, hardly more.

Sarek was displeased, Amanda—worried. Spock remained equally impervious to his irritation and her concern. He submitted to punishment with such blatant indifference that Sarek began to seriously question the effectiveness of the very idea. He couldn't understand what was happening. Spock never challenged him openly. He was generally submissive, even when disagreeable. He had never, to the best of Sarek's knowledge, disobeyed his father's will.

Until then.

No amount of reasoning, persuasion or even emotional appeal brought any result in this particular regard. It began to become clearer by the month that, short for locking Spock up for life, little could be done to make him comply with this specific request for information or interdiction; Sarek had no desire to turn his house into a prison.

He addressed the matter logically. Since Spock showed such remarkable reluctance to concede to his will, the only way of making him do it was to leave him virtually no choice.

Sarek did his best to fill Spock's hours with as much tasks and studies as he could, knowing that Spock would never walk out on one of those. More teachers were hired, more instructors invited. It even came to allowing Amanda to introduce him to some scrupulously selected subjects of Earth's culture. Spock had always been curious about his mother's homeworld, of which Sarek knew very well. He had made it extremely difficult for Spock to have any unsupervised time. In fact, Spock's schedule became so tight that his schoolmates could rarely see him in the streets anymore, outside school grounds.

Spock found the means anyway.

Garen enchanted him. They spent hours studying the ways of the mind, and as time unfolded, Spock began to merge his natural abilities with what was considered the norm. It was almost as if a puzzle had been asserting itself within his mind, gradually and slowly, but with each piece directly in place. Moments of enlightenment were rare, but they felt wonderful, and he tried again and again to recapture that feeling.

He had also found that Garen was a bottomless well of knowledge about the universe, which he understood on a very different level than anyone else Spock knew. Most of all though, he still enjoyed his lessons in ancient history, being fascinated by the world Garen described.

//What about t'hy'la?// He asked Garen in the middle of one of these discussions. //They told us this sort of bonding is extinct, now that we no longer need it. They say it was a savage way to use mental energy.//

Garen's face contorted in obvious distaste.

//You are repeating the words of ignorant fools, boy. T'hy'la is the last sparkle of the ancient ways, when our people didn't have to lie to each other. In this bonding, trust is shared between the two, and the two only, but it is still implicit and limitless. Trust is something that frightens our people now. I cannot tell you why.//

//It does not frighten you.// Spock noted reasonably.

Garen gave him a thin smile.

//I have no one left to trust, Spock. Except you, the sole witness of the final days of our people. First they stopped hearing each other, then trusting each other. I am grateful I will not see what comes next.//

Spock was openly alarmed by these words. End of the world scenarios filled his mind with the full force of untamed child's imagination. Noticing his sudden silence, Garen shook his head.

//Forgive me, Spock, I sometimes forget how old you are. You should spend more time with children your own age, rather than listening to an old tired man.//

Spock didn't answer, but his disagreement was obvious. Apart from the fact that most children his age wanted nothing to do with him, he could not imagine anyone as fascinating as Garen to spend his time with. The old Vulcan confused him, it was true. When everyone else said something was white, he said it was black and had an annoying way of making his point.

The result was that Spock ceased taking any new information at face value. He now questioned everything and needed proof of everything. His teachers were far from being pleased by this new development. They declared something an axiom, and Spock would not accept it, would not rest, in fact, until he either proved or disproved it. If he was unable to do either, he refused to take it for granted. His school reports now often included words like, 'argumentative', 'disruptive' and 'disrespectful.' The last one was due to his tendency to refuse to accept something on the word of some higher authority if the said authority could not provide a logical basis for its theory or belief.

Sarek frowned more and more, while Amanda started to call her son doubting Thomas as a joke. In fact, the only people who were actually pleased with this development were Spock's natural sciences teachers. Apparently, the boy's newly discovered zeal for searching for logically sound proof for everything was exactly what was required to succeed in those areas. Sarek listened to their praises of Spock's progress in developing a truly analytical mind indifferently, but in the end remarked flatly that perhaps the boy would make a better scientist than a diplomat after all.

Spock himself was hardly aware of any change. To him, it all came gradually. Garen's words were not impeccable truth for him, although he was at all times certain of the old man's sincerity. But his presence in Spock's life made him realize one universal truth relatively early: There was always more than one point of view on any subject. Even to the most profound truths, no matter how many people believed in them.

There were always alternatives.

He strode confidently behind Garen, as they descended deeper and deeper into the valley, where Spock had never been before. Garen's words worried him, and he tried to deal with the feeling on the way. He was so fully engrossed in his reflections that a shadow falling squarely across his path came up as a surprise he didn't expect.

Spock raised his head and stared into the evil yellow eyes of a le'matya.

--

He stopped short. The big feline was crouching in a low stance, eyeing him greedily and showing its teeth. Spock froze, staring into its eyes and trying to remember what he was supposed to do. Nothing useful came to mind. Garen had obviously gone too far ahead to suspect trouble. Spock was alone.

The beast gave a low purr, which had nothing to do with pleasure and everything with hunger. Spock felt the hair on the back of his neck standing straight. And yet, the le'matya was not attacking.

This was puzzling. Nothing prevented it from springing at Spock from where it stood. A cunning hunter, it must have been aware of that. Then Garen's words from a long time ago came back to him. Not sentient and therefore not precisely telepathic, the beast was susceptible to the aura its prey projected. And Spock's must not have fit the habitual picture.

Indeed, he thought vaguely, maintaining eye contact, which was getting harder by the minute. When the le'matya appeared he was more surprised than frightened, and that momentary confusion had saved his life. All he had to do was concentrate on preventing fear to color his aura in a way the beast would recognize.

And of course, the moment he thought about it, he was scared. It was the fear of the fear now, but it hardly mattered. For the le'matya, it made no difference. Scowling at him, it gave a loud, triumphant roar and launched itself in the air.

Spock watched transfixed as the beast slammed full force into some invisible barrier. It yelled and whined, rolling off and away, and finally disappearing into the forest. Remembering he could breathe again, Spock looked up to see Garen standing in front of him. The old Vulcan was scowling.

//Idiot.// His mental voice sounded angry. //You knew what you had to do. Why couldn't you? I will not always be there to protect you.//

//I ask forgiveness.// Spock muttered, bowing his head.

//My forgiveness will not save you on your way back.// Garen snapped.

//No, Garen.// Spock felt his lips trembling, and tried to control it. //I will try harder.//

There was a hand on his shoulder, and Spock winced, unaccustomed to casual touch. He looked up again, his eyes wide and misty, and Garen turned away abruptly, but not before Spock saw a glimpse of pain in his face.

//Pay attention.// came a dry order. //Do not fall behind.//

They resumed their walk in silence. It wasn't as if Spock had asked all the questions he wanted to ask, but something told him that now was not the time. He did his best to keep up with Garen and was so single-mindedly concentrating on the task that he almost missed the moment when they entered the caves. They stopped at the entrance to make torches.

//These walls are... unusual.// Spock noted, his head spinning around almost unceasingly, as he tried to make a thorough survey of his new surroundings. //I am not familiar with this material.//

//It is dry lava.// Garen explained, handing him a torch and motioning him in. //It covered the bottom of the mountain for thousands of years. Winds and water washed away the sand and the ground. And this remained.//

//It's like a dome.// Spock said in awe, looking up at the high 'ceiling.' //It is huge.//

//Very big, indeed.// Garen confirmed. //Follow me, Spock. There is something I want to show you.//

Eagerly, his earlier fright forgotten, Spock followed suit, attempting bravely to tame the overwhelming urge to gaze around. It was cool in here, with the natural roof preventing the sun from reaching these grounds. But warmth was emanating from the earth, as if there was a source of heat concealed underneath. With a jolt, Spock realized that there was. They were walking at the feet of a very old, but clearly not yet dead volcano.

After a while, Spock began to sense a mild cooling breeze blowing in his face. It was getting stronger and he wondered as to its source. Clearly, the cavern had at the very least two exits. But it didn't explain the coolness.

It came into view suddenly, with no warning.

Water. A great amount of water. Spock had never seen as much water in his life. They were standing on a brink of a huge underground lake. Garen smiled at Spock's obvious awe.

//In this place, the ancient river of Ersen used to begin. Now it is running underground. This lake is the only spot where it comes to the surface.//

Spock knelt at the water's edge and tentatively reached to touch it. It felt cool and pleasant to his skin.

//Can you swim?//

He looked up at Garen, startled.

//Swim?//

//Yes, Spock, swim. A highly useful skill. And an enjoyable one.//

//But on our planet—//

//Do you plan to always stay on our planet, Spock?//

Spock blinked. How did Garen come to know his secret, most deeply hidden wish?

//No.//

//Then I suggest we begin.//

At first, the experience proved rather frustrating. Garen started with trying to make him float, but Spock's body seemed to have a will of its own and it seemed like its most sacred ambition was to drown.

//I am too heavy.// He said, panting with effort.

Garen dismissed his plea as irrelevant.

//I thought you said you were good at physics.// He admonished the boy softly. //Remember the buoyancy principle? Calculate the exact amount of water necessary to keep one of your mass afloat.//

Spock did. The calculation, after all, had been very simple. He felt slightly relieved, realizing that the lake most certainly contained more water than was necessary. More confidently this time, he pushed himself off the bottom and tried again.

And sank.

Garen sighed.

//Spock, please do not try to change the laws of physics. I know you are determined, but there are some constants in our universe which are not prone to becoming subjects to your determination.//

//What am I doing wrong?//

//You are holding yourself too stiffly. Relax. Remember your breathing gymnastics. Use it to relax your body completely. The water will hold you.//

Spock looked at him dubiously. There was no logical argument he could summon to his aid, but there was also no denying the fact that the water didn't want to hold him.

//It is disquieting.//

//I know.//

//How did you learn to swim, Garen?//

The old man looked at him with a sly twinkle in his eye.

//I fell into the water. It was an accident.//

Spock pursed his lips.

//Perhaps I should wait till I have such an accident, then. This method seems to be more valid.//

Garen shook his head in exasperation. //I am going to start the fire and make dinner. You—continue until you do float.//

//The water is getting cold.// Spock pointed out.

Garen remained unaffected. //Not crucially. Continue.//

With that, Spock was left in the lake alone. He continued his attempts diligently, but his concentration was drifting. Why was Garen suddenly so intent on him learning to swim? If that was their final meeting, why not teach him more telepathic techniques? Or share some vital knowledge? Why this?

Swimming—what good would that do? It would be years before he could leave the planet. And it wasn't as if leaving Vulcan meant automatically settling on some ocean planet, either. Spock had only known about one ocean planet, at any rate,—Pacifica. And to the best of his knowledge, it was still an undeveloped, scarcely colonized world. So why insist on this particular skill to be mastered? Surely, there were more pressing goals for him to accomplish?

//Spock.//

And then he realized it for the first time. There was no bottom under his feet anymore.

He was floating.

Instantly, his body filled with extra weight, and with a gasp, he went down. Thought fled. Pure instinct made him move his arms and legs frantically, trying to push him back to where the air was. He emerged out of the water, filling his lungs greedily, only to go down again. Up again, then down. Up and down, until finally, he realized he could keep his head above the water. He held it there fast, his arms and legs still moving erratically to support him. As he grew weary, the rhythm of his movements slowed.

Strangely, it was still sufficient to keep him afloat. Spock marveled at this silently, his lungs burning with effort. He locked his eyes on the shore and awkwardly, unsteadily tried to direct his motions to take him there. It was still a fight, each meter, a desperate effort. But he was closing in, slowly, but definitely. The moment he felt the bottom under his feet, he let out a relieved sigh. Shaking with tension, he walked out of the water, falling exhausted onto the warm pebbles at Garen's feet.

The old Vulcan placed his palm for a moment on Spock's head, then turned back to the fire and the kettle.

They ate in silence. Spock was in an unusually contemplative mood. For once, no questions about anything were popping up in his head, and he didn't feel like talking. Garen regarded him closely in the sparse light of the fire. Finally, he shifted, and Spock met his gaze.

//What have you learned today, Spock?//

The boy dropped his eyes to the merrily humming flames.

//I have learned how to float.//

//Correct. However, is that all?//

Spock looked up at him again. //I do not understand.//

Garen nodded his head towards the water. //What do you see?//

//The lake.// Spock answered, uncomprehending.

//The lake.// Garen repeated pensively. //And I see your mind.//

Spock stared at him. Then, his glance slid to the dark silent mass. The surface was tainted inspiringly by the reflections of the fire.

//In that case...// Spock thought about the analogy. //I have learned that if I dive into the depths of my mind without the necessary skills, I might drown.//

Garen favored him with a dry smile.

//Quite so. What else?//

Spock had a distinct feeling that the answer was very important for Garen, yet he couldn't come up with one.

//Were you scared, Spock? When you realized you drifted off from the shore?//

//Yes.// He thought about it. //Yes, I think I was.//

//You think?//

Spock blinked, reexamining his feelings. //I believe... I was not afraid of drowning. I was afraid to go under water, but I do not believe I was afraid for my life.//

//Correct.// Garen nodded. //You were not. Do you know why?//

Spock frowned, searching for an answer.

//As a Vulcan, I am not prone to fear.//

Garen shook his head. //Of course you are prone to fear. Everyone is prone to fear, Spock. If Vulcans did not experience it, they would have died out centuries ago. Fear is a key factor of self preservation for every lifeform, from you or me to amoeba. Remember your biology classes. You must be aware of that.//

//I am.// Spock said slowly.

//Then, I ask you again, why were you not afraid for your life?//

Spock looked at him squarely and went for the obvious.

//Because you were here.//

Garen raised his eyebrows. //I was not with you in the water.//

//No. But you were close. I knew you would not permit me to drown.//

//How could you have been so certain?//

Spock was watching him, puzzled. //I trust you.//

Garen smiled contentedly then, his eyes gleaming.

//Correct, Spock. You have accomplished something today, which you have never tried before. You were apprehensive of water. You failed in your attempts to even float, much less swim. Yet, when the moment came, you accomplished both because your fear was not in the way anymore.// He leaned forward, closer to Spock, his eyes inflamed. //Which brings us to the simplest universal truth, Spock. There is no limit to what you can do when you have someone you trust at your side.//

--

Spock slept uneasily that night, dreaming of fiery waterfalls and Garen. But the night had passed, and so did the disturbing visions.

//We shall stay here for several days.// Garen told him. //Now that you are no longer afraid of water, you do need to learn how to swim.//

Days slid by unnoticed. His fear gone, Spock turned into a keen student. He practiced the motions Garen had shown him, and was growing bolder by the day. By the end of the second day Garen even allowed him to swim on his own into a neighboring cavern. Spock returned tired, but extremely pleased with himself.

They roamed the far passages of the cave to let Spock study the patterns of decay on the bare bones of the mountain. They talked little. A most unpleasant sensation of some unclear alarm was becoming Spock's permanent companion. He caught himself stealing glances at Garen when it was uncalled for, and even willing to touch him to make sure he was still there.

But when the night to say good-bye came, Spock did not protest. They shared a meal in silence, both knowing it would be the last time. Some well-grounded, deep instinct was telling Spock that things could not be changed, but he still wished illogically they could. Or at least to know the reason.

//I know I can trust you to find your way back, Spock. You are old enough. Consider it your kahs-wan training. But remember I will not be able to come to your aid, should you need it. You will be alone.//

//I understand.// Spock bowed his head curtly. //Where will you go, Garen?//

The old Vulcan was looking at him fixedly, and there was doubt in his gaze, as if he could not decide whether he was seeing a child or an adult. He replied finally, deciding for honesty in the end.

//I will travel to Mount Seleya.//

Spock winced, staring at him, his eyes shiny with the upcoming grief. He understood. Silently, Garen waited. Spock didn't say anything, only nodded briskly and turned away.

The next morning, he woke up alone. He looked at the lake with a strange, tugging sensation in his chest, experiencing a shortage of breath. If he drowned, would it feel like that? He carefully erased the signs of the camp, returning the area its untouched, undisturbed air the way Garen had always done. Then, he filled his flask with water and set off back the way they came.

His route was uneventful. The next night caught him at the clearing, which he knew he was seeing for the last time. The next night he was not making a stop at all, being in the middle of his way back to Shi'Kahr. Either he got lucky, or there was something more than luck guarding him, but he met no dangers on the road and no obstacles. He was greeted at home the way he was usually greeted after getting away without permission. He listened to his parents' words impassively, and endured the punishment in silent compliance. It felt as if he wasn't even there.

Life gradually returned to normal, but Spock was not the same. He was restless, even antsy, and it was during these first several weeks after his return that he had learned what insomnia was from personal experience. He could have been spotted occasionally gazing unseeingly into the evening skies, always facing the west.

Then, slowly, everyday concerns had crept back into the focus of his attention. He began real preparations for his kahs-wan test and the worry about his ability to perform had successfully ousted other emotions and concerns off his mind.

Nearly six months later, Spock had found himself one evening sitting on the steps of the mansion, facing the sunset again. It was still unmercifully hot outside, but Spock didn't notice. For a moment, he felt chilly, almost frozen, as gentle breeze touched his hair playfully, whispering softly in his ear.

We felt each passing…

That was the day and the year when Spock had learned what it felt like to say good-bye to a friend.