A long journey
Ironic that the first thing I said to him on the Enterprise, after four years apart, was a reference to smiling. Sehlat jokes aside, it hadn't been a voyage where we'd had much reason to smile.
And I wouldn't smile myself, until I had gotten through something that filled me with more than a little trepidation.
After Spock was released from sickbay, when Sarek was sleeping, I went to his cabin.
The same soft-voiced Come came in response to my door signal. But I didn't enter. I didn't feel quite entitled to. He came to the door then, curious. And I saw the minute expressions that crossed his face briefly when he saw who his visitor was. Surprise, wariness. Sudden control.
"May I come in?" I asked, stressing the I.
He didn't look any less wary, but he stood aside, shoulders a little stiff with the memory of what had been between us here before.
I came in. Slowly this time, not rushing. I still wanted something from him, though the urgency was less. It seemed that I always did want something more than he had to give, always had. But I had never been less sure that I had any right to ask than now.
"I came to apologize," I said.
No give in his reserve. "Why?" His voice was a little cool. Remote. Controlled. Wary. Letting me know he had not forgotten. Nor, entirely, forgiven. I couldn't blame him.
"For the way I behaved before."
He looked down, looked away, fingers absently ordering a series of computer cassettes. "Your beliefs have not changed," he pointed out, still unforgiving.
He was right about that. I'd have moved heaven and earth to save Sarek when he was dying. Before Sarek had been critical, I had tried to kid myself that I wouldn't have risked my only son's life in the process. But that illusion hadn't lasted long. When it came down to the wire, when Sarek was dying, I would have traded anything, including Spock's life, to keep him alive. I tried to imagine how Spock would feel about that. But I couldn't say I ever really understood how Vulcans feel. I only knew that as a human, as his mother, my plea, knowing all the risks, had been nearly inexcusable.
But feelings never took precedence over Vulcan biology. As I'd discovered, even with me. "I had to do anything I could to save Sarek. You must understand that."
His eyes met mine for the briefest glance, Vulcan to Vulcan, for once including me in that tacit understanding of the forces of Vulcan biology, of bonding. "Yes. Of course. You had no choice." There was Vulcan forgiveness there, if there was such a thing. But then he looked away again, stiff with the awareness that his admission, his acknowledgement was still not nearly enough.
Because we were neither of us fully Vulcan. And between us, even for him, was still a world of human hurt. And not just for the last few hours.
That I loved Sarek first. That I always had. That I had sacrificed Spock before to his father's wishes. And even forty years later had been prepared to go on sacrificing him, his strictures, his values, his duty, his career, uncaring of all of that, up to the point of risking his life. It hardly a characteristic trait of human motherhood. I hadn't realized that even I had become quite that Vulcan.
"Thank you for helping your father," I said, still awkward with that consciousness of shame. "I know it compromised your duties."
"You should thank Captain Kirk, and Doctor McCoy," he pointed out, his voice cool and detached. Remote. "It was they who devised the ruse to get me off the bridge."
"I have thanked them. But I have to thank you too. You let yourself be deceived. You must have known, suspected at least, what they were doing. And you went along with it. You didn't have to."
He still didn't look at me. "My Captain gave me an order," he said shortly. Dismissively.
Perhaps it hadn't been meant to be couched in quite that way, the simple statement of fact. In some respects almost an insult. A taunt. His captain had given him an order. And he'd simply obeyed. Oh, so easy an explanation. And so facile a lie.
Because it wasn't that simple. And he knew it. Once Sarek had given him orders. I had recently begged him, in this very room. Pleaded, cried, raged. He'd disregarded both of us in favor of Starfleet. Its service. Its rules and regulations. Its duties over that of Vulcan clan and family. His allegiance made plain.
"Touché," I said, not without a trace of irony. And resentment of my own.
He looked at me, but didn't pretend to misunderstand. Nor could I. And the world of human hurt was suddenly between us again, caught up with us, leapt and rose in the Vulcan warm air like a suddenly combustible fire flashed into being by some ignited incendiary, the tongues of flame catching in our lungs, making it impossible to breathe. To bear. To live.
I closed my eyes against sudden tears and swallowed hard against the ache deep in my throat, turning a little away, denying the tears, the cries that tore through me and forced them back down, to silence. This was not about my pain, real though it was and had always been. This was about my son.
"Spock, I am so sorry," I said. Meaning it for more than the harsh words I had said between us before in this bare little cubicle of a room with its pseudo Vulcan warmth, its red drapes mimicking Vulcan's sky, its fire idol. All of it just a cracker box replica. A fraction of the Vulcan he could have had on his father's planet. But had rejected. Or been rejected.
The chicken or the egg. Who could say which had come first? Probably both, in tandem, over and over again, rejection upon rejection, until he could bear the pain no longer.
Because the scene that had happened here, that I so regretted, had just been a more intense version of what had been played out between us before. I had chosen Sarek first. I had always chosen Sarek first. And had hoped Spock would survive, however compromised. There was a forty year history between us of that, for which I didn't think any apologies would ever serve. But still, I had to try.
"I am so sorry," I said again.
He had left off meeting my eyes, unable to bear the emotion. His or mine. His hands were crushing the tape cartridges between his fingers.
"I chose too," he confessed, looking down at his hands. Characteristically blaming himself as much as me. For my failure. And worse, for the terrible crime and fate I had laid upon him if Sarek would have died, to bear alone.
"I do love you. What I threatened before: it wasn't true. It was never true. I would have hated you, yes, for a little while, if Sarek had died. I couldn't have helped myself. But I would have loved you still. Please believe me."
His shoulders rose and fell as he took a shaky breath. "I know," he grated, his voice very low. "I do."
I drew a relieved breath of my own. But I knew what he wasn't saying. What he couldn't. That that love was not enough. And not the same, of course. I was grateful he'd acknowledged the truth of my confession, but it wasn't the whole truth and we both knew it. That Sarek had always come first for me. No matter how I tried to get around that, when it came down in conflicts between Sarek and myself over Spock, no matter how much I fought for my son, for his humanity as well as his Vulcan soul, when it came down to hard choices, I had chosen Sarek, always. Chosen Vulcan, or logic, or non-emotion. Duty. Convincing myself for whatever reasons, and they were often good ones, that it was the best choice.
And given that, how could I have blamed Spock, slapped him, for making his own choices, however they hurt, however flawed they seemed.
Spock too, had chosen the Vulcan way, until he couldn't bear to be in the middle, between us, any longer. What can an immutable force do when faced with an immovable object but to get out of the way?
"I am Vulcan too," he added, as if it were an excuse.
Even in Starfleet. Yes, he'd made that plain, sticking to duty even in the face of his father's death. As if he had had any choice. Little wonder he had never really believed in human emotion. Vulcan always triumphed.
Except that, here, on the Enterprise, with the help of a couple of good human friends, it had been duped. Or allowed itself to be duped. Vulcan standards weren't always unbreachable. I knew that, even if Spock did not. They could be circumvented, gotten around, in certain circumstances.
"Your father is very proud of you, you know," I said.
He looked up at me, a faint line between his brows, both at the non-sequitor and at the heretical notion of his father ever expressing such a sentiment. Disbelieving. But deep underneath, a trace of illogical hope still lurking, like an unacknowledged, bastard child hiding in the shadows, overlooked and ashamed.
"And he loves you. And so do I," I continued firmly, determined to keep saying it, as if somehow I could make him believe. "You've done very well. In spite of your parents' mistakes," I added, and was rewarded to see his brows rise in astonishment at the notion that, for once, we had been the ones falling short of his requirements, rather than the other way around.
"It seems about time someone admitted that," I added, knowing he would not misunderstand me.
His shoulders had dropped just a little in relief even at one iota less of blame being laid upon him, even as he was shaking his head a fraction, human style in some rejection. "I can't concur that Sarek would ever agree."
"You would be surprised then," I said. "I'm not sure that you really know your father." Seeing him mentally dig in his heels into the mantle of Vulcan propriety, still the bedrock of his existence, I threw him a little bombshell. "Would you believe that your father has told me that he loves me? Often." I added with a certain ruthless enjoyment for finally telling Sarek's son the truth, heretical though it would seem. "And in his right mind." So that Spock would understand it was not some Pon Far feverish induced lack of control in his father.
I had shocked him, I knew. He froze, disbelieving, until he worked through his own resistance to all that he had known, seen, had long suspected. And yet with a child's resistance, hadn't wanted to accept, or believe. Do as I say, not as I do, was practiced by Vulcans too, if unacknowledged. Then, after many long seconds, his shoulders dropped again and he met my eyes evenly. "Yes. That I believe."
My eyes widened. I hadn't meant it in that context. Hadn't been fishing for a compliment that, in these terrible circumstances, I hardly felt I deserved. "He loves you too. I just haven't gotten him to admit it yet. But I do know it without the slightest doubt. I know. Believe me in that. And one day, he will say it to you."
"I don't need to hear it," he replied. Not with a child's resentment, but with Vulcan calm, as if he had mastered his emotions, moved beyond all that. But I suspected it was too huge a truth, too heretical a notion for him to quite believe. And the risk that Sarek didn't, couldn't, was too huge a hurt for him to bear. Yet. Hence the practiced Vulcan calm. But it was important for me to plant at least that seed in his mind, against the day when he could believe.
"Perhaps you don't need to hear it. Not now. But sometimes, you know you do need your father's approval. Still."
He actually winced at that, tensing. Shuddered in reaction. The world of pain was suddenly back between us. I hadn't meant to hit so close to home. I had too deep an advantage in knowing how to place those barbs. I had used that knowledge ruthlessly with him, and more than just when I'd been determined to have him help his father. I regretted that too. And it seemed I still had much for which to apologize.
"Spock," I returned to the reason for my visit. "I am so sorry, for what I said. For what I did, here on the Enterprise. And all the years before. I won't pretend that I have changed, or even can change. But I am so very sorry for all I've cost you. Can you ever forgive me?"
He had looked down, characteristically, at this painful admission, emotion. His fingers still traced the edges of the ruined tape cartridges. "How can I not love you?" he asked, a real question, even though his voice was so low it was barely audible to human ears.
I caught my breath, hardly believing what I had heard.
"How can I not?" he asked again, not a question this time, and daring to meet my eyes. "It is only by loving what is Vulcan in him, even when it goes against all human standards, that you can love that when you find it in me."
I drew a relieved breath, and the opposite corollary. I had not forgotten this visit was not about me. "And in loving what is human in me," I dared to point out, to challenge, "your father can love it in you."
For a long moment, he stood frozen in thought. Reluctance. Resistance. And finally, acceptance. His shoulders dropped again from their painful stiffness. Relaxed. Then he gave a deep sigh and said, "Perhaps."
I sighed, relieved in turn and smiled at the irony, of all that that little seed of a perhaps could mean in my family. A nothing word to human ears, an indecision, a possibility, still it was a long, long, long way from the Never that Spock would once had returned to such a heretical notion about his father. That his father had so often espoused to me upon my needling him about human emotion. That Vulcans could change. That little perhaps was beautiful to my ears.
"This has been such a long journey," I said fervently, in an acknowledgement of my own pitfalled road taken to get here, a scene played out, perhaps appropriately, in this pseudo Vulcan room. It wasn't where either Sarek or I had expected to be, or our son to be. But I was grateful that at least this journey had ended here, in this way. An ache in my heart that I'd been carrying for forty years suddenly vanished for me. And perhaps it had for Sarek too. Literally, as well as figuratively.
A shade of puzzlement crossed his eyes. "The distance from Vulcan to Babel is--"
"Oh, shut up," I said, impatient at Vulcan denseness. That they could comprehend the most cryptic of logical arguments, obliquely expressed, and then fall down with such a thud on an emotional corollary. Purely deliberately, I was entirely sure.
He raised a brow.
"Just because we love each other, doesn't mean I have to put up with that sort of nonsense," I said.
He flicked the brow back down and relaxed. "Indeed, I believe it actually means that you do."
"Oh, all right," I allowed. "I do." And then I held out my hands in a Vulcan familial embrace. A little cautiously, remembering how I had used that same hand just hours ago, to slap him silly, and not doubting he'd remember.
But he took them. And took me completely by surprise in also leaning down to brush my cheek with a real kiss.
I drew a surprised breath, and then relaxed in turn. And couldn't help but tease, lest I fall into emotions neither one of us could bear. "Well," I said tartly. "You may not have learned to smile. But you've clearly been learning something else on this ship."
And then, of course, he did. Smile, that is. Just a quirk of his lips, but a real one. And so did I, before I leaned up and kissed him back. Hugging him tight and feeling, just for a moment, his arms come around me.
And the flames of that world of hurt for both of us was perhaps, just perhaps, and just a little, finally quenched and vanquished in that mutual embrace.
It had been a long, long journey to get here. And I had no doubt, that having gotten this far, we would make it all the way, find our way back to each other, Sarek and Spock and I. And banish that world of hurt forever.