Title: The Rose Garden (AOS)
Author: Aashlee Elizabeth
Codes: S/U, f
Summary: M'Umbha "Faizah" Uhura is concerned when her daughter reveals that she has a boyfriend. When the couple comes home for a visit, will she be able to welcome him, as she promised Nyota she would?
Archive: Please ask.
...THE ROSE GARDEN...
They had arrived last night, late.
The pair that Mbaruku and M'Umbha "Faizah" Uhura welcomed into their home appeared gaunt, drained, tired. Other than a couple glasses of water, they wanted nothing other than sleep. Their daughter, Nyota, was simply exhausted. Her companion—boyfriend—tried to maintain a neutral demeanor, but even he could not hide how much the events of the past six weeks had sapped the last of his reserves. Faizah—thin and lithe like her daughter—quickly escorted them to their rooms while Mbaruku closed down the house for the night.
Two weeks ago, her daughter's revelation had shocked Faizah. "Boyfriend? Nyota, is that what are you saying?"
"That is the closest term in English," Nyota replied, carefully controlling her reaction, deliberately avoiding her mother's real questions.
Nyota knew her mother well, as the elder woman examined her daughter's expression—especially the eyes—on the comm screen. "Do you two know what you are doing? Does Spock know what he is doing? I know that you are both adults, but I…I am having a difficult time wrapping my head around this." Her daughter was intelligent, driven, beautiful, but perhaps she was a bit naïve and idealistic. She was young.
"Do you object?"
Faizah caught notes of hurt and disappointment in her daughter's voice despite the control of her facial features. Faizah also caught a resoluteness in Nyota's clipped word choices.
Faizah thought about the one time that she and Mbaruku had met the tall, slim Vulcan after the Starfleet Academy graduation ceremony. Nyota had introduced Spock to them, but she introduced him as "Commander." Now Faizah sorted through the memory with a new filter, but in the excitement and activity of the day, she could not recall the details that, had Nyota introduced Spock as boyfriend, Faizah would have otherwise sought and retained. Many more details.
Did she object? No, not outright. Commander Spock had been pleasant, polite, and deferential to them, and he had a deep, charismatic aura of intelligence that, no doubt, appealed to her daughter. But she could not deny her shock and concern. She tried to calm her racing heartbeat, and her lips thinned as she considered the flurry of thoughts and emotions that collided in her head.
"No, my dear, dear, sweet child, I do not object," she said finally. "I just never anticipated this kind of…thing. I cannot lie and say that I don't have concerns about two people from Earth and … another world in this kind of relationship." Then Faizah's voice softened as she saw a pain grow behind Nyota's eyes. "But understand, you must be patient with your father, once he hears about this, and me—this is all very new to us, and we do not know him, not yet."
Nyota nodded. It made sense.
Faizah continued. "It does not matter who he is and where he comes from, we will always worry about any man in your life. So please do not be offended if I have to ask you all the questions a mother must ask. How serious is this, and how long has it been going on? Nyota, tell me!"
In her letters home Nyota always talked about her coursework, her fellow cadets, interesting sights of San Francisco. Now Nyota began to fill in the details she left out. The relationship had started innocently enough as top student and brilliant instructor discovered a mutual passion for their studies that eventually grew into one for each other. They denied it until the degree of denial became too awkward and painful, and, logically, they had to acknowledge their situation to one another and make a decision. After the Battle of Vulcan, they could no longer hide their need for one another from outsiders.
Since their return to Earth, life had been difficult, chaotic. No Enterprise crewmember, especially Spock, could walk beyond Academy grounds or any Starfleet installation without the smothering inundation of prying media or adulation by Earth's indebted citizens who insisted on expressing their gratitude or their sympathies. Spock had, after all, saved their lives and their planet after witnessing the destruction of his own, and he found himself the object of heightened interest. Even other Starfleet personnel hardly could restrain themselves. Although outwardly Spock maintained dispassion, she knew that inside all the attention was tearing him up. As private a person as he was under normal circumstances, the sudden and intense celebrity was too painful, too intrusive for now.
Nyota wanted to shield him and give him a chance to regain his emotional and mental balance. And Africa was a long way from San Francisco. "Mother, we have leave in two weeks, and I would like to bring him home," she said. "But I need to know that he will be welcome—not just tolerated, but welcome."
Faizah's heart melted at her daughter's desperation to protect and comfort, qualities she had rarely seen in Nyota before. Clearly, as her daughter said, the relationship was serious.
"We will welcome him. I promise."
So, who was he? Former instructor, yes, but they knew little else outside of official records and media reports that outlined a stellar record—literally and figuratively—of a legend, or someone on his way to becoming one. Despite a thorough search, the Uhuras found few personal details. Mbaruku, a professor of history himself, voiced some concern about an instructor who would become involved with a student.
But he also knew his daughter, how high her standards were. She would never enter a relationship lightly, and no instructor could intimidate her into one. If Nyota found a man who actually met those standards, he had a difficult time standing in the way. And, who else but a brilliant man could truly appreciate his daughter for the keen mind behind her beauty? He decided to withhold judgment until he could speak with Nyota and Spock themselves.
Faizah, on the other hand, could not "wait and see" as her husband did. She read everything she could find about Vulcan culture, customs, and history. Vulcans lived in a closed society, full of ritual and an adherence to logic. Many of the things that gave humans joy were avoided and discouraged on Vulcan—or, at least they had been before the planet's destruction, and she could not see the remaining Vulcans changing anytime soon. Would her daughter find happiness with someone whose culture forbade the kind of self-expression that Nyota could seldom contain?
When Nyota and Spock finally arrived, Faizah and Mbaruku looked for the clues and revelations that would set their minds at ease. But their meeting had been too brief when their guests were too exhausted to do more than exchange greetings and pleasantries. It would have to wait.
Few things cleared Faizah's head like working in her rose garden. Back before she sold her architecture firm and retired to do volunteer work, she used her garden to relieve her stress after long days at the office. When she was not running her firm, meeting with clients, or designing, she had found respite and inspiration here.
And so, after a nearly sleepless night, dressed in old jeans and a blousy gardener's smock, she returned to her place of solace. Too many thoughts cluttered the mind under her wide-brimmed hat. Perhaps the rhythmic weeding and pruning of the vines along the high wall around the home would help reset her thoughts. No one else was awake yet, and it was an ideal time to take care of matters before the rising African sun's rays intensified on this section of Earth. Spring pruning for the vine roses…yes, Faizah needed to attend to that.
She had barely kneeled on her pad, donned her gloves, and picked up her favorite pruners when she noticed a pair of boots at eye level. It was he. He wore simple trousers, a green long-sleeved tunic with simple embroidery along the cuffs. His pleasant features seemed calmer, more rested than they had last night. But Faizah thought that the sadness she had seen in his eyes the night before remained. Were his eyes always so sad?
He nodded in greeting, but the words he spoke were not the ones she expected. "Rosa banksiae lutea?" he asked.
It took Faizah a second to realize what he was asking about. "Lady Banks roses, yes," she answered. "You know roses?"
"Not on an expert level," he quietly replied. "My mother had a rose garden, and she grew this variety. It was one of the few that tolerated our climate."
Faizah brightened at this surprise. "Really?" A revelation. A connection of sorts. "I knew Lady Banks yellows were tough enough to grow in our heat here, but I never knew they could handle a climate like Vulcan's. Your mother must have been a talented gardener." Normally Faizah allowed no one else to touch her rose garden, but an irresistible idea tugged at her. Let's see where this goes, she thought. "Did you ever help her with pruning?"
"Good, then you can help me. There's an extra set of gloves and pruners in my garden bag."
If he were surprised at her suggestion, he did not show it. Without hesitation, he put the gloves on and picked up the pruners.
Faizah handed him a kneeling pad and pointed. "You can start on that vine at the end, next to the fountain."
"What degree of pruning do you prefer?"
"What do you mean?"
"Lighter pruning produces more blooms. A higher degree produces fewer blooms, but stronger stems."
Her eyebrows lifted. "So, you do know roses," she laughed. "Go with the lighter touch. I gave these vines a good pruning last year. I'm letting them grow out a bit this year."
He nodded. True to his word, Spock expertly began to work. He remained silent, however, as the minutes passed.
Looking up now and then, trying to observe without staring or slowing down her own progress, Faizah noted that Spock was decisive in choosing where to cut, but he gently handled each segment as he cut perfect 45-degree angles. She caught him pause once, though, as one bloom in particular caught his interest. The sadness in his eyes intensified for just a second before he resumed his progress.
Was he thinking of the rose garden on Vulcan? Faizah wondered what that garden had been like.
She tried to lighten the mood. "I must tell you that I rarely let anyone else touch my rose garden, but you sure know what you're doing. I may have to loosen that restriction—at least where you are concerned."
Spock recognized the compliment. "Thank you," he acknowledged politely. His eyes and hands remained focused on his task, stacking the clippings neatly in the bucket beside him, methodically starting at one side of the vine, working his way to the other side.
As they continued again in silence, Faizah sensed that Spock's thoughts wandered elsewhere. Although his eyes seemed to focus on the vine in front of him, that faraway look was there, too. What did he see? Ghosts of the departed? Images of places that no longer existed?
Since it happened, the news reports obsessed on The Battle of Vulcan. The footage of its aftermath was everywhere along with the painful stories and images of Spock's people quietly accepting their circumstances. Even if the myths that Vulcans were an emotionless people were true—and Nyota said that they were not—the physical foundations of their culture were gone. They were a lost people. Despite carefully controlled expressions, their shock was evident. The subtle became subdued. Their calm had been replaced by an inward retreat. They went through the motions of gathering and beginning the long process of rebuilding their civilization.
Faizah could not imagine the enormity of the loss, especially for this man whose mother, her daughter told her, had been literally pulled from his hands. Spock's presence brought Vulcan's losses from the abstract to reality. The more she thought about it, the more her heart ached.
In the last few days she had stopped listening to the ongoing news coverage. The weight of Vulcan's loss overwhelmed her, the near loss of Earth frightened her, and the anxiety about meeting Nyota's very famous Vulcan boyfriend drained her. But for now, as she and Spock trimmed the dead canes and shoots to promote new growth, she found some peace. Then another thought occurred to her: Perhaps he did as well.
"Ma'am?" His voice interrupted her thoughts. Again, very deferential.
She looked up.
"I am finished with this vine. Should I continue?" He indicated a bush next to him. "Pardon me, I do not know the variety."
"It's called 'Touch of Class,' descended from Grandiflora Queen Elizabeths," she said.
He considered the lineage, then nodded slightly at making the botanical connection.
"I have never seen anyone work a vine so quickly. You must have had a great deal of practice."
He moved his kneeling pad and bucket to the new bush. "For a short time … in my youth. My mother was an excellent teacher." Faizah caught the slight pause in cadence after the word "mother." But he moved on, scanning the next rose bush, assessing his approach.
Faizah took a different tack. "You must have been good at taking direction…much better than my daughter."
Spock looked up, quizzically, his eyes meeting hers.
"She never had the patience for gardening. Fire in that girl, she could never sit still. I wouldn't put pruners in her hands if I wanted to see any of my bushes bloom again within the year." Faizah waited for a reaction to see if there was one.
He returned his focus to the bush, cutting a spent cane—carefully, to avoid the thorns along its length—then gently placed it out of the way. "Mother had a similar…concern."
"No. With my father. Botany was not his specialty."
Faizah chuckled. "Oh, no, what did he do…?"
For the first time since she met him, his eyes lightened just a bit, but he considered his words. "Mother had to hide the pruners," he said finally.
Faizah set down her own pruners and laughed out loud. Some things were so universal. Spock noted her reaction. Faizah wanted to hear more. "Did your father wonder why he couldn't find the pruners?"
"I do not know. I did note that he spent a greater percentage of time thereafter tending the tomato plants."
"He probably knew what was good for him," she observed, smiling.
Spock nodded. "Father had advanced survival skills."
She could not hold in more laughter, especially as Spock delivered his observations so innocently, or was it with a touch of humor? She was not sure, but now she could imagine what Nyota saw underneath that Vulcan exterior. He works hard, he knows how to properly prune, and he shows respect for his elders, she thought, then laughed silently at her own thoughts. She, too, had "standards." At least that is what she told herself.
After a few more minutes, enhanced by a few more snippets of pleasant conversation, they were finished. Faizah and Spock stood up and gathered the pails of clippings and Spock returned his pruners to Faizah's gardener's bag. "Oh, no, Spock. I can finish up here," she said. "Say, was Nyota awake when you came out here?"
"Her door was still closed," he said.
"Ah, she was never an early riser," Faizah recalled as she turned to one of her rose bushes, clipped off a stem, then trimmed it of its thorns. "Go wake her up now. Give her this."
He tilted his head to the side, and one eyebrow rose slightly. "Ma'am?"
"It's Faizah," she said, handing the bloom to him. "She probably misses my garden, although I don't let her touch it. This will be a nice surprise."
She waved toward the house. "Go now, breakfast will be on soon."
He bowed to her slightly, then turned to walk to the house. On his way along the path, he met Mbaruku, who was on his way out to check up on Faizah.
Mbaruku saw one of Faizah's roses in Spock's hand. "Good morning, Commander," he said. It was almost a question.
"Good morning, Sir," Spock returned as they passed.
At the end of the path was a smiling Faizah, which confused Mbaruku even more. "What happened here?" he asked. "How did he get you to part with one of your roses?" He considered the scene: two sets of buckets and kneeling pads. "He won you over, didn't he?"
Faizah, who was reluctant to admit to anything, especially after all her worry during the past few weeks, merely sighed. "Yes, I think he just did."