XII."Remember then, With Fondness Over Grief"
The one year mark of their time aboard the Enterprise was superseded by another, more somber anniversary.
The anniversary of the fall of the planet Vulcan. A year since the galaxy had started to equate the name of Enterprise with that of heroes; days saved and stars won. A year since she had watched Spock suffer through the loss of his mother, his people; a tangible pain so great that she still felt it as her own in the back of her mind. A year since she received a position on the Senior crew (Kirk was not the only one to break records amongst the youngest officers in history) . . . A year since Kirk won her respect, and so much more . . . A year since she embarked on her life long dream.
The stars were everything she would think them to be, and more, but today . . . Today was a day when all that one looked back on was what one had lost.
The days before had built up to this day in a lethargic fashion. Instead of being allowed to observe the first anniversary of the 'Hole in the Stars', as the HoloNet had come to call it, in relative peace, the Enterprise was to be the guest of honor in the new monument that had been built in the empty space where Vulcan used to be.
Already, she had been to many of these ceremonies. Too many. She had seen the unveiling of the monument on the Academy grounds that honored the fallen cadets; had listened to the speeches of those dignitaries gathered, while she found her classmate's names on the engraved marble. She had been by Spock's side when he had visited the unveiling of the monument in the capitol for the fall of Vulcan and all those she held. Similar homages popped up all over the galaxy, that she had not attended.
Spock had declined going to the unveiling of the monument on New Vulcan that honored those in Starfleet who had fallen by Nero's hand while trying to aide the planet below. Spock Prime had filled his younger counterpart in on the events he had missed in a weathered tone. Even after years of service and seeing friends pass on, he had still been burdened by the senseless loss of the young of Starfleet, as well as his own people.
Sarek had convinced Spock to come to the unveiling of the rebuilt Katric Ark, just a month prior. Nyota hadn't attended out of scheduling difficulties, and Spock had spoken little to her of the experience. He had been more solemn than was his norm ever since then.
And yet, those were token signs of remembrance. This was different . . . this was big.
When Admiral Kyat, a spacial architect before becoming an officer, had proposed the idea to Starfleet Command, they had then taken the idea up with a council of Ambassadors from the worlds that would be necessary for assisting in the building. Ten months later, the memorial was built.
In the blank space that used to house Vulcan, a giant metal contraption had been erected. The material shone gold in the lights that bathed it; the metal beams turning and crisscrossing elegantly in a simple curving design. Together, the beams formed a giant sphere that outlined the exact shape and placement of Vulcan. Inside the empty space a revolving repolsor glowed white like a small star, keeping the whole structure upright and spinning in a mimicking of the planet's actual path. Over the giant golden beams, names were inscribed in the Vulcan language – every person who had perished with the planet; and every officer who had perished in defense of her. Inside of the 'core', three metal boxes rotated, these containing valuable items rescued from Vulcan before its destruction – priceless things that would be there for future generations to see and cherish.
The size was mammoth – the brainchild of some of the best building minds in the galaxy, and the first of its kind. Even Nyota had stared in awe at it when she had seen the plans and puzzled over the sheer amount of work that had to go into something that's sole purpose was preserving a memory.
The whole thing was nostalgic . . . very human, very grand, very opulent. And while every Vulcan gathered there looked on with carefully blank faces, the feeling of healing over sorrows clung to the air like mist.
When she had asked Spock as to his people's reactions he had simply said that it was logical to let other species show their grief over what had happened. It was an honor for a proud race who was very much now forced to rely on the aide of other planets. And, while no one there would admit it . . . the act of remembrance itself was something cherished, if only within the confines of their minds.
Now, the Day of Remembrance was upon them.
Orbiting the memorial was an observation post. The post was elegant in tones and silver and gold, with pastel shimmering where gel like observation stations were. In the core of the post was a small museum and guided tour on Vulcan history; outlining their gifts to the galaxy and their planet's fall. Here, high Vulcan members and select guests from a hundred different planets gathered to commemorate the memorial's opening.
The post offered a tangible way to let views show their respects; a more personal way that was so human in nature that she had to raise her brow at it. Along the walls were small glass spheres which each held an everburning candle in it. Each sphere had a small guidance system built in to it that would cause it to orbit the repulsor. Together, each cast candle would form a glowing core at the planet that would shine on for years to come. The gel walls were really a membrane that allowed one to press their candle out to be claimed by the space beyond. The whole setup was ingenuous.
For playing such a role in Nero's defeat, the Senior crew of the Enterprise would be of the first to present and light their candles.
She wasn't exactly sure how she felt about that, yet, if she was completely honest with herself. While she appreciated the lengths that were gone to to give the Vulcan people a tangible place to mourn at, she wasn't so sure about paying her own respects in front of a few hundred people and a few billion more that would be watching due to the HoloNews representatives that would surely be there.
This should have been something small, something private to let such a highly private race grieve.
At that point, she was fighting to keep her hands still as she buttoned up her dress uniform. For this, she had opted against the skirt, and wore a severe red jacket that proudly displayed her rank over a perfectly pressed pair of pants. Her dress boots shone, and the smart creak of leather was music to her ears. The white gloves that went with the ensemble clearly showed any smudge, so she was trying to wait for the last moment to don them.
She was twisting her hair up in an elegant bun while next to her Spock was polishing his rank insignia. She tried to watch him discreetly out of the corner of her eye, looking for the small, telltale indicators of his mood. His face was perfectly blank; his presence at the back of her mind carefully serene and calm.
He could not have been feeling only that. All day he had been silent, his whole manner pensive. The morning through he had spent with Sarek, who was one of the speaking dignitaries; and the few hours she had spent with him had been spent without words passed between them. She knew that he had to be more conflicted than he showed. When she had entered from her shift earlier, she had found him sitting cross legged on the floor, a box of possessions out before him, and something that looked suspiciously like a jewelry box in his hand that he was staring pensively at. He had said it was nothing, and shielded it from her view, but she knew that if he was getting nostalgic then he was more effected by the proceedings than he let onto.
"You don't have to shield from me," she whispered softly, knowing that he would know what she was talking about without having to elaborate. "I want to know how you are feeling . . . I want to help."
He rolled his shoulders elegantly. "There is nothing to share," he murmured softly, his eyes staring straight ahead.
She looked at him, letting her gaze linger and become painfully obvious.
Finally, he returned her gaze, and she was offered a hesitant assurance from his mind. It wasn't enough, but she was out of time to question it as the intercom announced them pulling into Vulcan space. Spock noticeably stiffened, his whole matter straight and severe.
He said nothing to her inquiries as they boarded the shuttle with a noticeably sympathetic Kirk (who, at one point, had patted his first officer on the back in an awkward attempt at comfort.), and a grumbling McCoy who was pulling irritably at his tight collar. Even while his manner was gruff, his eyes had settled sympathetically on Spock, who was doing his best to stare straight ahead and ignore the emotion that was cloaking the air like smoke. Off to the side, Chekov, Sulu, and Scotty kept up a light chatter to try to lighten the weighty mood.
Chekov was wide eyed as he purposefully prattled on about the mechanics of the Sphere, trying to get Spock to unleash one of his notorious lectures. At her side, Spock remained silent.
When their shuttle landed there was a telltale flash of yellow from the bulbs outside of the landing pad. She observed them with a grimace, wondering why they couldn't just leave well enough alone.
Immediately they were accosted by questions and flashing cameras. There was a clamor of energy from reporters from a dozen different species, and she had to fight to stay one step ahead of them. Ahead, Kirk had cozied up to a leggy blonde woman, and she rolled her eyes until she realized that Kirk was shooing them all on relatively clear of the vultures as he spun them in circles.
It would have been easier if she didn't stick to Spock's side, no doubt. As the half-Vulcan member of the celebrated crew, he was zeroed in on like blood in the water. His terse 'no comments' turned into neutral statements that let him eventually bow out gracefully.
She could feel his ire and annoyance at the back of her mind, and it was one of the strongest things she had felt from him in days.
She bit her tongue to keep herself from asking him how he was holding up, but it was a hard thing to do. Instead she brushed her first two fingers against his, and passed as much of her love and support to him that she could. He would briefly press back before drawing into himself again, his whole manner outwardly Vulcan even as everything human in him simmered tempestuously.
They were welcomed by Admiral Kyat and T'Pau of the Vulcan high council. T'Pau cast a cold glance over her and Spock before pointing out Sarek in the sea of dignitaries. Spock nodded his thanks, and spent the remaining time before the ceremonies greeting those he recognized and meeting those he didn't. He was every inch a diplomat's son in that moment, and from the way Sarek regarded him, she wondered if most of his grace and poise was purely Amanda's doing.
If she wasn't connected with him as she was, she would think him to be perfectly fine, his whole manner perfectly poised and collected.
Through the speeches that honored the memorial she stood sandwiched between Scotty and Chekov as Kirk and Spock took up closer positions to the podium. McCoy stood on the end of their line, after Sulu, and she wondered if the placement was purely for color coordination's sake only.
The speeches went on for seemingly ever. The head of Starfleet, Admiral Kyat, and several Vulcan dignitaries spoke. All recycled the same words about steps forward and futures incoming as those behind were remembered in the best way modern minds could imagine. She found herself just caring about the ceremonies end as she kept a close eye on Spock the whole way through, and wished that their bond was more open so she would be able to ascertain if his stiffness was anything more than a military pose.
She bit her lip as Kirk took the podium, wincing as she imagined his speech compared to the last speaker – an Ambassador Mior who was quite an elegant orator. Surprisingly, her Captain surprised her once again when he spoke with short and simple sentenced that were full of feeling as he went on about the race's stubbornness in rebuilding – voicing what he had seen on the Enterprise right after the attack, what he had seen on New Vulcan, and what he had seen with one of Vulcan's very own working at his side for the last year.
When Kirk spoke, she felt Spock's pride through their bond, and she fought to keep from smiling at it. Kirk had made more than one close friend amongst his crew, that she knew.
Kirk's honest and simple words won a hearty round of applause (and whistles from a few of the younger ladies). When he walked back to take his place next to Spock, Spock bowed his head in acknowledgment, while Kirk wore that grin that said that his friend would not have escaped a more human display of affection had they been anywhere else. She could feel Spock's relief clearly.
After the last speaker concluded, Admiral Kyat came out to demonstrate how the honorary system worked. He lit his own candle, while at his side the Senior crew lit theirs in mirror movements. Her fingers were tight against the small glass orb, and the gasses inside that would keep the orb permanently lit responded in dancing colors of violet and emerald against the surface. When she lit the spark, it flared into glorious color, and she stared for it for a moment; entranced.
At her side, Chekov fumbled with lighting his in front of the cameras, his face flushing pink as he mumbled a curse in his native tongue under his breath. She distracted herself by leaning over to assist the young genius who found trouble with most things outside the realm of astrophysics. He mumbled a thanks in his own tongue under his breath and she returned it in time. At Chekov's side Sulu was fighting to hold in a laugh, and she knew that the pilot would have a hard time getting around the Enterprise after the youth reprogrammed all of his passcodes – again.
The whole assembly lit their spheres, and the lights dimmed, transforming the auditorium into a sea of stars. The effect was beautiful as they moved forward to place their orbs against the gel membrane. The surface shimmered as it drew the orb through, and as soon as the spheres were free they were claimed by space, pulled by gravity to orbit in a stream of bright light before settling amongst they repulsor core of the memorial. Eventually, when everyone had left their flames, and the ones that continued to be left over the years, the hollow structure would be filled with the small stars.
She was reminded of being a little girl again, ten, as she stood at her grandmother's funeral. The ashes had been spread into the winds of the Indian ocean off of the Kenyan shore, and her whole family had placed floating candles in the water to light her way to her rest. When she was young, the simple act was beautiful. It had yet to loose its significance now.
Spock stared at his orb for a long moment, and she could feel the swirl of emotion in him, even as he sought to hide them from her. After a surreptitious breath, he passed his orb though, and watched as it was reclaimed by the stars.
She watched him with sorrow in her eyes as he took a quick step back, the register of his voice an octave lower as he assured the Captain – yet again – of his being 'quite alright.'
Kirk flashed a glance over to her, and she offered him an uneasy smile.
In the end, she was glad when they were permitted to leave. By that time the rest of the assembled audience had lined up to offer their respects, and outside the transparent ceiling the orbs floated majestically on by. She ran a finger under the collar of her dress uniform, loosening it as she caught up with Spock. She didn't say anything – Okeon knew that he had had enough well intentioned inquiries from the crew and others alike throughout the day, but she did press her fingers against his in an unspoken support once again. There was relief in his mind as he returned the gesture, and she fought to keep from cracking a small smile at it.
The lighting ceremony was followed by a large banquet, and she wished – how she wished – that they could have spent this day quietly, just the two of them, once again.
The banquet was filled with more of the same – pretty and empty words and a parade of well wishers and dignitaries going through the motions. At some point during the evening Sarek claimed Spock's attention, and the two deep in conversation was enough to scare even the most hardened ladder climber away. She had to fight to keep her smile away as she could easily see Sarek's subtle pride and amusement – sometimes there were advantages to living so closely with Spock. It allowed her to more easily see the unseeable in others. The two shared many of the same mannerisms, and she wondered what Spock would say if she told him that.
After the banquet, that lasted much too long in her opinion, they boarded a shuttle to return to the Enterprise. The whole of the crew was tired in the end, and McCoy didn't even wait for the craft to completely lift off before he was undoing his collar with a grumbled curse under his breath. Kirk teased his friend good naturedly even as he loosened his own uniform. She settled for peeling off her gloves before subtly reaching over to take Spock's hand in hers, and for her that was all the relaxing that she needed.
When they debarked, Spock squeezed her hand once before drawing away. She turned to the right to go to their quarters, and blinked when Spock softly told her that he wished to walk for a little while to clear his mind. She acquiesced, and watched him leave with sad, heavy eyes.
Kirk patted her shoulder once before flashing her a sympathetic smile. And she returned it to the best of her ability.
After a moment of dallying in the corridor, she debated going after Spock or not. Finally she decided to go and change out of her dress uniform before going after him. She didn't want to push herself onto him, but at the same time, she didn't want him to wallow alone . . .
Mind made up, she returned to their quarters and gratefully discarded the overly starched uniform for a pair of sweats and a slate gray hoodie that had the Starfleet emblem embroidered in the left corner. Feeling infinitely more comfortable, she set out after Spock.
In the end, she didn't even have to consult the computer to find out where he had gone. She figured that she had a pretty good guess.
By that time, the observation deck was deserted. Behind her she gave the computer her own code to keep it that way for the next hour or so.
The lights on the deck were dimmed to a low glow, letting the brilliance of the space beyond shine through. From here it was easy to eye the floating candles that people had released into the dead space, each one marking a loved one . . . a lost one . . . or simply an acknowledgment for what had been lost for very little gain. The gravity of the monument drew in the smaller floating candles until they gathered at the 'core' like a small sun. The effect was breathtakingly beautiful in its simplicity and majesty.
She tapped a hand against the viewport, right beyond her fingers one of the small flames past, flickering in the great light that was given off by the Enterprise. She felt something sharp and painful gather in her chest, behind her heart, as she gazed at it.
From one of the low slung couches she heard him whisper, "Nyota," and she turned to the voice to offer a wobbly smile.
Spock was sitting on the couch closest to the center, leaning forward so that he could rest his elbows on his knees and in turn his chin on his steepled hands. His dark eyes were liquid as they focused on the memorial beyond, the starlight and shinning gold throwing his form into sharp planes of lights and darks. She let her eyes linger on him for a moment; pride and adoration sweeping through her as she admired the strong lines of his form and the way his dress uniform squared his shoulders and enhanced the long flow of his body. He was beautiful in that moment to her, even as his grief ate at her mind from where he was letting the shields in their bond slowly fall away.
Without saying anything, she walked over to him, and sat down on the couch next to him. She rested her head on his shoulder, and twined her hands through his after he removed his gloves.
She stayed that way with him for a long, long time.
For Spock, the days leading up to the Day of Remembrance had been slow, and slightly out of synch. If he were prone to defining them as such, he would say that he almost hadn't been aware of time's passing, so surreal was the day coming up to them.
It hadn't really set in to him until he had visited New Vulcan the month prior to witness the unveiling of the rebuilt Kartric Ark. The mingled grief and hopes for the future had been a tangible thing in that room that day as a normally stoic race wore their feelings right below their faces. It had been an eye opening day for him, in more ways than one.
He knew he had been more withdrawn since that day, but in all honesty he was unsure of just how to correct it. Nyota and the Captain had worked to assist, and he was grateful for that . . . He believed that he finally understood the human term 'in a funk.'
That morning he had woken up with an odd sort of pain in his chest . . . a tightness that he had thought he had done with months earlier. Jim had given him the Alpha shift off, for which he was grateful, and he had spent most of the morning in meditation, seeking to remedy the emotions brewing tempestuously right below the surface . . .
When that had not worked he had gone through his Suus Mahna routines, which had helped, to some extent, if only to take off the edge of nervous anticipation that he felt as they drew nearer and nearer to Vulcan space.
But, most of the time, he just found himself remembering.
He remembered his mother, he remembered his home. He remembered odd moments growing up, moments that he had not thought of collectively in years. He thought of places in Vulcan – places he would have loved to show Nyota. He thought of things about Amanda that he wished that he had been able to show her . . .
Finally, after meeting with his father briefly, he brought out a storage box from the closet, the box that he had kept his mementos in from his time spent with Nyota. Inside there was a silver jewelry box. A box that he had had since before Vulcan's destruction.
Amanda had sent the trinket to him after voicing her suspicions about Nyota (too many slipped words, and an answered comm call, and that thrice cursed Kimdorian boot . . .). Her face on the message had been all smirking innocence, her head bowed as she insisted that she had no idea what he was talking about even as her eyes, her eyes (human and full of life and feeling), had winked at him.
"I said to give them to a girl you deeply care for," Amanda had said neutrally. "I didn't say which girl – after all, you haven't told me about one, so I assume that you don't have one in mind." Those were her words, but her eyes said differently.
In face of her very human ability to manipulate truths and half truths along with Amanda's own teasing nature, he found himself to do little other than accept the gift.
It was a pair of Andian firestones. The stones were a smooth and polished black, created as they were by volcanic gasses and soil. Within its depths, the stone was cut to reveal an inner fire that danced like the light that one saw when one traveled too close to a star. To the touch the stone was warm, even more so to his sensitive fingers. The earrings were a rare matching set, twins cut from the same originating stone. The necklace was a large teardrop shape pendant than shone even more brilliantly than the earrings. The craftsmanship was perfect, cut by a Master from Andia's moons, and reflected a true artist's loving hand.
Growing up, he had known Amanda to wear them at the finest occasions she attended – even over diamonds and pearls.
"Even if there was . . . someone," and the half-truth tasted human and heavy on his tongue, "I would not be able to accept these. They are too much."
Amanda smiled crookedly. "Really now, it is my job to pass on treasured and nostalgic items to the next generation. I am simply fulfilling a cultural obligation."
"A human one," he pointed out gently, and even he could hear the teasing in his tone.
"A very human one," she said seriously. "A very important human one. And, as that, it is up to you to assist me in carrying it out."
He had looked at her thoughtfully. "I shall endeavor to do my best," he said, his tone equally grave.
"I thought you would," Amanda said, and that twinkle in her eyes was back.
Her eyes flickered down to the pendant he held in his hands through the transmission, and her gaze softened as a wistful smile touched at her lips. While years amongst his father's people had made a graceful, soft spoken woman out of Amanda, there was still a wealth of feeling in her that she never completely hid – for anyone. In latter years, it was something that he knew Sarek cherished her for.
"You know," she said softly, "Sarek got those for me about a month before he proposed a bonding. Apparently, so my sister told me, it took him quite some time to find something adequate. Earth's gems are beautiful, but he thought them clichéd, and the galaxy is vast. Sandra was shocked by just how many different 'options' he sent to her before settling on these." She was lost in the fondness of the memory. "Prior to that, we had debated – we never 'argued' by his definition," this was said with a roll of her eyes, "over the logicality of gifting with such a useless trinket as jewelry. I won, by the way. In a very Vulcan way he dedicated himself to fulfilling the task to the best ability that it could be done." Her eyes were misty as she spoke, far away in some memory cherished by her.
Spock listened in silence, even as he fought the more human urge to let his lips twitch upwards. While cool to the eyes of other humans, and almost disgracefully full to his father's people, Spock knew that his parents were well suited to a most baffling extent.
"Anyway, he's gotten better over the years," Amanda remarked. "Eventually I had to convince him not to pick something up at every different planet he visited. But this . . . it meant something. I want it to mean something for you."
He looked down and saw the cool stone mingling with the flames that danced so violently that the whole piece seemed to pulse with a breath of its own, and understood why it had caught his father's eye. Gently, he placed both pieces back in the case, and looked back up at his mother.
"I shall endeavor to use it wisely," he said softly.
"I know," Amanda said, her eyes catching his. This time, while knowing, there was nothing teasing about the gaze. She was happy for him, he knew. And she was giving her blessing.
Amanda had perished a week later when Vulcan had fallen, and he had still not found it within himself to gift them to Nyota. He had found himself bringing them out more and more often as of late, remembering Amanda, remembering her joy and the high hopes and wishes she had felt for him . . .
He wanted to give them to Nyota now, but a part of that felt like moving on.
He had brought the firestones with him to New Vulcan that month prior, believing it would be proper to ask Sarek his permission before giving them to Nyota. It had felt right at the moment.
Many things with his father were starting to feel that way.
The first thing he had noticed upon spending that week with his father was that Sarek went through candles more quickly than he ever had before. The first day he had visited, the trio of koh'linar candles had been new, while the next day they had been at half mast. By the third day, Sarek was changing the candles again when he came to visit.
Sarek had followed his gaze. "I find myself meditating more and more as of late," he murmured. While his tone was neutral, Spock could feel a vague sense of puzzled grief from where he was tuned to his father's mind. A great master of the mental arts, his control had to be low to let his son into that much of his true emotions.
Spock had nodded as he stood there awkwardly in the center of the room, the stones held like glass in his right hand. He held them out to Sarek. "Mother gave them to me for . . ." he started to explain before his voice tapper off. Sarek nodded his understanding. "For Nyota, although she only had suspicions at the time. And yet, you have little left of Mother. I wish to offer them back to you."
Sarek's face was carefully neutral, his hand still as he took the stones from his son. Gently, as Spock would examine one of his science experiments, Sarek turned them over in his hold, watching the way the flames played with the black encasing it with captivated eyes. Amanda had held the stones that way often, and Spock wondered if he could feel the emotions left behind on the stones . . . he himself was not Vulcan enough for that kind of control over his empathy, but Sarek was.
After a moment, Sarek enclosed his hand over them completely and looked up at his son. After a breath just deep enough to be noticed, he handed them back. "Amanda wished for you to have them. I would not impinge that wish, or that memory."
Spock looked down, "Father," he started, and suddenly he wanted to argue that Sarek take them. The level of understanding he shared with his father, as new as it was, was refreshing, and he wished to deepen it. "You have nothing left of Mother . . . " Any keepsake from Vulcan would have been gone, save for the little Amanda had offplanet on Earth and in other smaller locations.
Sarek looked at him for a long moment. He looked as if he would say something, but then thought better of it. He raised a hand to tap his temple. "I have enough, here. Your mother and I . . ."
Spock nodded, and had to work to cut down on his own emotions. Amanda, human though she was, had taken to her bond with her husband with a surprising compatibility. It would take time, even after that bond was snapped, for her presence in Sarek's mind to completely fade . . .
Sarek blinked, as if shaking away whatever he had been about to say. "I am not nostalgic. I do not need an actual object to remember her. To do so would be . . . " he searched for the right word.
"Yes," Sarek gave. "Either way, it was Amanda's wish that you give these to Miss Uhura, and I would find honor in the act as well. Do so with them as your Mother intended."
Spock looked at his father for a moment, weighing his options, before nodding. "Thank-you, Father," he said softly.
Sarek nodded, short and clipped, and Spock turned to take his leave.
Before leaving, Spock turned to look over his shoulder to find Sarek already turning to the meditation mat he had out in the middle of the common area. Sarek paused after lighting the koh'linar candles, and then tilted his head, as if in thought. A moment later, he went over to bring out a forth candle, a rich tan wax that smelled like Kallin vanilla and cinnamon – a candle that Amanda had often lit on Vulcan, giving their home a warm, earthen scent. Gently, reverently, Sarek placed it down next to the dwindling trio of Vulcan candles, and then lit that one as well.
It smelled like memory, and for a moment, Spock stared, caught in a grief that was even larger than his.
The memories had been heavy in his mind as they boarded the shuttle for the observation platform. The Sphere, as it had taken to being simply called, was a bright and elegant piece of craftsmanship, and he felt his emotions weigh heavily on him as he had gazed upon it for the first. It had been odd flying through the space around Vulcan . . . an invisible graveyard for billions, with nothing to show for it save what others had built to commemorate it.
His hand had shaken as he had lit his own sphere, even though he believed he had hid it well enough. While he felt almost ridiculously sentimental as he pressed the sphere to the space beyond, a part of him had felt a relief in the small act of remembrance.
He had waited to leave until his father had lit his own, and had fought a pained upturn of his lips when he realized that Sarek had requested a sphere with Kallin wax at the center. The small token was an indulgence brought on by years with a human wife, but no one – Vulcan or otherwise, dared to say anything to it.
The rest of the proceedings had passed like a blur, his eyes and thoughts on the great metal monument above even as the rest of him went through the motions. The whole of the time through he had registered Nyota and her support as a vague feeling of warmth outside his senses, and for that he was so very grateful, even though he believed that he did little to convey that to her throughout the evening.
By the time they returned to the Enterprise, he was mentally drained and physically on edge. He needed to walk, and was not surprised when his feet took him to the observation deck. It was as if he could not keep his way from where his world used to be . . .
He was not surprised when Nyota joined him a few minutes later, dressed comfortably in her normal after-shift wear. He could feel her eyes on him, concern and sympathy leaking to him from where he was fighting less and less to keep their bond devoid of any intense feeling. (His own way of keeping his composure the whole day through). She understood, as she always did, as she walked over to sit next to him. Her head on his shoulder, and her hands twining through his, letting him reopen their mental connection through the touch . . . He didn't realize how much he had come to depend on her, at times.
She smiled, and he could feel it against his skin. She was close enough that he could feel her chest rise and fall with each breath, he could feel the pulse at her wrist, and it helped anchor him.
A moment later she asked, "How are you holding up?"
And he was able to answer, "As well as can be expected."
"That's good to hear," she whispered, and she tilted her head up to better see the Sphere they were orbiting.
"It's lovely," she said gently. "I didn't think it would be so . . . but it is."
"It is . . ." he found himself devoid of a word to aptly describe what he was feeling. "Acceptable," he finally gave.
"Over the top?" she questioned.
"Fitting," he finally settled on.
"Most decidedly so," he agreed, and felt her shimmer with a silent laugh.
"We used to do something similar," she said softly, her breath a warm thing against his uniform. "I remember when my grandmother died . . . she wanted her ashes to be scattered over the ocean – she was the first traveler in our family, you see. I remember that everyone who gathered to see her off lit a candle and floated it over the waves with her . . . like we were following her, as illogical as that sounded."
"A tradition I have heard of," he gave.
She smiled a crooked smile. "I'm just glad you have a place to mourn at . . . remember at. For all of you. Even those of you who say you don't need it."
He imagined the roll of her eyes, even as he squeezed his hands over hers. Her subtle humor was catching, pushing his grief into that odd fondness of memory that he wasn't quite sure how to handle yet . . .
A part of him says that this is moving on, looking at the empty space over Vulcan, and feeling only an aching sort of pain and a more pressing pass of memory . . .
It was that thought that moved him to reach inside the pocked of his uniform and withdraw a long silver box . . . the same box that he had hid from her earlier. He had meant to wait a little longer . . . til perhaps a time where he wasn't so caught up in his losses and she wasn't quite dressed in sweats . . . But this felt right; fitting, even. He wishes to fill this day with happier things, and remember those things in years to come.
Nyota was watching him with careful, considerate eyes. "What do you have there?" she asked lightly.
"Something I have been meaning to give to you for quite some time," he said softly as he passed the case to her.
Tilting a brow, her lips a thin line as she darted a glance at him and then at the box she was holding, she felt along the smooth surface with a curious finger. "Spock," she breathed, and he felt her unease . . . she wasn't expecting anything from him, and now, of all times . . .
"Open it," he implored, pushing an assurance towards her mind, "and I believe you will understand."
Her curiosity won over, and she thumbed open the lid with a careful hand. Upon seeing what rested inside, her eyes widened as her breath caught. He felt her rush of amazement and astonishment against his mind, and had to fight a smile of his own.
"Spock," she breathed. "These are . . . these are Andian, aren't they? Not some knock-off . . . they must have cost a fortune . . . the lines in these . . . a master hand."
He raised a brow of his own.
She flushed. "Gaila . . ." she murmured. "She had a liking for things like these."
"Your friend had wise taste," he commented.
She glanced up at him before returning her attention to the box in her hands. "These . . . they are too much . . ."
"That is what I said."
She looked at him with a question.
"They were my Mother's," Spock explained, and felt as her amazement dipped under the weight of that knowledge.
"Spock, I can't possibly," she went on to protest.
"And Amanda wished for me to give them to you."
Nyota gazed at him curiously. "Me?" she repeated.
"Yes," he confirmed.
"But . . ." she faltered. He knew that she had been aware of Amanda's suspicions, but not the height or breadth of them . . .
He reached over to draw the pendant from the case, and moved the stray strands of her hair gently out of the way as he clasped it around her neck. As he did, he spoke, "My father gave these to my mother while they were courting. In many ways I believe that they were symbolic of middle grounds, and things of the like . . ."
She looked at the cool tones encasing the violent flames, and understood.
"When she made her assumptions about you, she sent them to me before I had time to challenge or correct them . . . She died before I gave them to you, and since then . . ." his words faltered off, but he didn't need to finish. She understood.
He watched the awe on her face as she gently touched the pendant. "How did she know?" she asked softly.
"Your roommate's boots were left behind once," he said on a small whisper. At the time she had had enough belongings in his quarters for her to slip out in something more comfortable than she had came in with. "One was in a more obvious place, and seeing as how they were quite far from my tastes in footwear . . ."
"On you anyway," she replied teasingly. "I believed you rather enjoyed them at the time."
His eyes flashed as memory flickered across his mind . . . long legs made longer by red leather and that dappled, almost faux pattern . . . His hands undoing the buckles one at a time . . .
"They were adequate," he said neutrally.
She laughed lightly, and the sound was welcome after a day of weighty things. "I believe that I still have them somewhere," she mused thoughtfully. "Gaila gave them to me even before . . ." her voice tapered off, and she bit her lip. But past the grief that entered her voice whenever she mentioned her roommate, there was also a fondness there. The adoration of memory over the weight of grief.
It is a balance he wishes to learn from.
"You know," she mused thoughtfully, "I haven't worn them since we left Earth . . . Maybe I could bring them out again."
"I would not object," he said levelly.
"Of course not," she purred as she leaned in to kiss him. He was quick to return the gesture, twining his hand up into her still styled hair while she sighed against his mouth. In the end the moment was soft between them, healing things over thoughts of the future and the weight of the past . . .
He doesn't tell her that while he misses Vulcan – will always miss Vulcan - he doesn't miss it like a wanderer would miss a home. He doesn't miss it like beginning point to return to after straying away. He misses it like a memory, a representation of everything that had made up his years before Starfleet.
He doesn't miss Vulcan like a home, because he had long before since found a home in her.
She heard the thought from his mind more clearly than if it had been uttered by his lips, and she pulled away to look fondly at him, her eyes full.
When she curled up against his side again to watch the candles float to their destination past the viewport, he held her to him, stroking a hand fondly through her hair. The firestones were warm between them, catching their heat and amplifying it. Nyota kept on holding the pendant between curious and reverent fingers, even as her eyes flickered closed and he could feel her mind drift off and away from him.
He continued holding her, watching the Enterprise gave a low shudder as she jumped to warp.
Then gently, the stars faded away.