The Comfort of Words
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine!
No one who has seen Spock and his father Sarek together would ever say that Spock is unexpressive. Compared to Sarek, Spock broadcasts emotions freely, his eyebrow raised in skepticism, his eyes narrowed in annoyance, his head angled when he is concentrating with more than his usual attention.
Sarek, by contrast, is a blank slate. Even to Nyota Uhura, who prides herself on her ability to read Spock's posture and inflection, Sarek is silent and contained. Several times lately she has looked up from her station on the bridge and noticed his gaze, as if he were appraising the equipment where she works without seeing her at all. His eyes are so dark that they look black—impenetrable, inscrutable, almost reptilian. That is an unfair comparison, Nyota knows. In the week since Amanda's death, he has been attentive, tirelessly serving the Vulcan elders being ferried back to earth on the limping Enterprise.
But then, so has Spock. In addition to organizing the crew rotation and coordinating the towing procedures to get the Enterprise safely to Spacedock, Spock has met with the Vulcan elders when he is off-shift, setting up communications protocols to contact all survivors and register them in a comprehensive database.
He eats sporadically and sleeps less. Most of his meals are taken in his cabin, a featureless double room where he has not bothered to unpack his duffel or set up his personal computer.
On the first night after Spock and Jim Kirk had returned from the Narada only to see it slicked backward into the singularity, Nyota had come to his cabin to check on him briefly—she knows he needs to be alone to meditate, and she herself needs quiet to think about what she has pieced together about his suicide run in the Jellyfish.
On board the Enterprise, Nyota had caught her breath when she realized what he intended—what his outbound signal suddenly doubling back on itself implied, and then when Jim Kirk had called for the transporter—well, she had shouted out to Hannity, a cadet she had known from one morphology class, to take her station, and she had bolted for the transporter room, arriving in time to see Jim and Spock and a badly broken Captain Pike beaming back. Her relief was palpable—and she had reached without thinking and met Spock's outstretched hands briefly-enough to pick up his own...amazement...yes, that was his feeling...his amazement to be alive.
He had expected to die, and he hadn't, and now he was amazed—and grateful to see her standing there beside the rushing medical team.
But as glad as she was then, the moment she ruminates on again and again had come before, when Spock had been the most human she has ever seen him, when he had kissed her on the transporter pad, indifferent to anyone around them, with a freedom she had thought they would never have. But even that pales to what matters more to her—"I will be back," he had said, knowing it was probably a lie, or at the least, something he would never say-something so unverifiable, so devoid of statistics and certainty that saying it amounted to an abnegation of who he was.
At that moment, he was offering her comfort in a way he had never done before. It was the closest he had ever come to saying I wish, the closest he had ever come to saying I love you. Nyota thinks about those words—replays their intonation, rehears their tone—so often all that she has to do to flash through them again is to imagine her eyes closed, her forehead pressed to his.
When she veers too close to remembering the suicide run, she stops herself and thinks about the lie, the promise, instead, just as she has since that first night when she had shown up at his door. I will be back, she knows, means I cannot bear to leave you.
That first night when she had shown up at his door, he had answered too swiftly to have been meditating, and when she spoke to him, instead of replying, he stepped back into his cabin. She understood that she was being invited to stay.
Except to attend to her shift, she does not leave for the next week and a half. If anyone notices or is surprised to see her come and go, they do not mention it. She is probably the only one aboard who finds what she is doing remarkable.
They are almost never in the cabin at the same time, but when they are a day out from earth, Nyota is drifting to sleep when she is dimly aware that Spock is undressing and pulling back the duvet. She rolls over, opens her eyes, and feels a pang of despair at the nakedness of his expression, the flush of anger and grief she has seen only once before. He must have assumed she was asleep, because when she looks again, Spock's face is more composed—the rage and sorrow muted, and for all that, sadder to Nyota. She reaches up to touch his face to let him know that she understands his need to hide his grief, and to offer him a chance to show it to her if he will.
Instead, he pulls her hand away from his face and Nyota cannot hide her disappointment. Does he sense this? He squeezes her fingers briefly before letting go of her hand and turning over.
For a time Nyota tries to still the hurt and the embarrassment she feels about it. He has lost his entire world and she is looking for attention. She is mortified to be so self-absorbed. Finally she falls asleep.
She has to climb through several layers of confusing dreams to recognize the door chime hours later. As she slides from beneath the duvet, she is surprised to see Spock still asleep beside her. Usually he sleeps so lightly that any noise disturbs him, but the door chime sounds again and he doesn't stir. She grabs her caftan from the chair and slips it over her head before padding on bare feet to the door in the adjacent room.
If Sarek is surprised to see her, his face doesn't show it. Nyota, on the other hand, is completely discomfited.
"Ambassador!" she says in a register too loud. "Come in."
Sarek does not move and Nyota realizes that she is blocking his entrance. She turns and walks toward the compact loveseat, motioning to Sarek to sit. He is wearing his usual heavy textured overcoat and dark pants and jacket—Nyota starts to offer to take his coat but remembers Vulcan sensitivity to the cold. Instead, she treads lightly across to the control pad on the wall and dials up the heat.
"Spock is asleep," she says as she walks back to the loveseat and lowers herself in a facing chair.
Again she watches Sarek's face for...what? Surprise, disappointment? Has Spock told him about their relationship? Or has Amanda? Nyota had met her only once on earth—but that was when her relationship with Spock was but a few months old and they were especially careful with each other in public. Nyota wasn't even sure how long Amanda had been on earth that time—they had spoken for a few minutes, and then only in passing—and after she had asked Spock to introduce her, which her did, quietly, quickly, as one of his former students who was considering a position as his assistant. Had Amanda given her a knowing look then? At the time Nyota had dismissed it as her fevered fantasy, a wish for an open acknowledgment of their growing intimacy. Now she isn't so sure.
Sarek sits, immobile and centered, and Nyota feels herself becoming annoyed and anxious. If he disapproves of her being here—well, that's too bad, she decides. When she is jittery she often talks too much, and to her horror, she finds herself opening her mouth.
"Would you care for some tea, Ambassador? We have some Vulcan tea, I think, or I can get something else from the galley if you are hungry-"
Nyota feels her face flush as that "we" hangs in the air. Forget that she is sitting here barefooted in sleeping clothes. Forget that having tea bags and mugs is not exactly setting up housekeeping. But she is speaking of this man's son in the familial plural—does he notice?
He doesn't seem to. Instead, he tilts his head slightly, a ghost—no, a distant echo—of what Spock does when he is finished calculating something and is ready to tell the results.
"I must speak to Spock," Sarek says, not imperiously, the way Nyota imagined he would, but insistent and direct.
"Do you want me to wake him?" she asks, but before Sarek can answer, Spock is at the doorway, his hair tousled, his black sleeping pants and loose shirt wrinkled.
Sarek and Nyota both stand immediately, and later Nyota will think back to this moment as a summons she responded to instinctively without realizing its import.
"I should get dressed and head on to my shift," she says, and although she is not scheduled for duty for another 2.4 hours, Spock does not correct her. Sarek stares at her, devoid of emotion. Both men stand, their arms behind their backs, as she awkwardly gathers up her uniform and retreats to the wash area to change. Once she thinks she hears Spock's voice as she slips on her boots, but when she comes back out, neither seems to have moved.
She hates to leave Spock here with his father. She doesn't know all the details, but she does know that theirs has been a strained relationship since Spock turned down his appointment at the Vulcan Science Academy. On the other hand, they have both lost so much in the past week—surely they can offer each other some sort of companionship not fraught with personal animosity now? Especially since they will reach earth tomorrow and Sarek and the other Vulcans will be on their way. With a sigh, Nyota hopes that the two men will be able to say their farewells better without her in the way.
"I'll see you on the bridge," she says to Spock. Without thinking, she trails her hand along his forearm and at last he looks at her with more than a passing glance. He seems to be about to say something, but instead he follows her to the door and they exchange a look before he turns back towards his father and she goes down the corridor to a day of work.
Author's Notes: This chapter is from Nyota's POV—up next, what Sarek saw. Thanks to StarTrekFanWriter for her encouragement and suggestions. It is a pleasure to be her beta!