Title: The Gift
Characters: Spock, Kirk, Lady Amanda, bit of McCoy
Word Count: 2,988
Warnings/Summary: Missing scene from the end of Journey to Babel. I like Lady Amanda Grayson-Sarek, and think she was an exceptional woman. While the slapping scene in Babel made me cringe in a this-is-wrong-on-so-many-levels sort of way, I still wanted to see more of her interacting with her son (and Kirk), and this half-character sketch/half-fluff - coupled with a request by Tharin in my Star to Steer Her By ficlet series for more Journey to Babel fic - is the result.
Being married to a Vulcan, and living amongst them for decades, carried both its advantages and disadvantages. The latter were few, but those few were highly unpleasant; however, the Lady Amanda Grayson had decided long before marrying Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan that the advantages of becoming one with such a brilliant mind far outweighed those societal discomforts she experienced due to her humanity. Very few humans could understand or even tried to understand the depth and intensity that characterized Vulcan marriages; one that would envelop and nullify any other discomfiting factor in the world with its inexplicably powerful force. She would not have traded it for the universe.
However, one of those smaller discomforts was the fact that her only son had been forced all his life to watch both sides of the cultural equation, human and Vulcan, and had eventually made his decisions in the only way he properly knew how; logically. While Sarek required Amanda to act as a proper Vulcan in public settings, he would never have even contemplated, nor wished to contemplate, forcing her to repress all emotion while they were alone.
Nonetheless, she had been expected to hold that emotionalism somewhat in restraint when it came to their son, and that dual nature had, she knew, been a factor in Spock's conforming to being even more Vulcan than several full-blooded of the race that she was acquainted with. Human nature – or even half-human – is to overcompensate in certain areas when other areas are perceived as weaknesses, and her son illustrated that principle all too well.
Lady Amanda knew all this, and always had, but had been so distracted by the idea of losing one or both of those men she loved that she had behaved abominably, even as a human – much less as the wife and mother of a Vulcan – to Spock this voyage. And so it was, that when he stopped by the day following his release from Sickbay to check on his parents (out of a purely logical desire for exact diagnosis, so he said, though she knew better) that she was nearly in tears of relief as she apologized for her reactions three days previous.
"Apologies are unnecessary, Mother," he had said, with his usual reassuring serenity.
She shook her head, casting a glance at her peacefully sleeping husband to see if she might give more of a display than he would approve were he conscious. "But they are, Spock," she replied. "You are and must be who you are; and a mother should never become so distraught over something that she vents her emotion upon her son – Vulcan or human."
Spock bowed his head slightly. "While I still maintain that you need not trouble yourself over the…incident, I am able to understand the…distraction," here he paused, and she saw her eyes flick toward the door of the Recovery Ward, where the Captain was, "…that would prompt an uncharacteristic response."
She had smiled at that, and let the matter drop as his uneasiness was obvious even to an untrained eye, much less a trained mother's, and soon afterwards he had taken his leave and gone to sit with his Captain, as he had the day before, the moment his shift had been over.
She had never been so glad of anything in her unusual life as she had been to discover that her so-very-Vulcan son had accepted such a friend as Captain James Kirk appeared to be. Half the content of his communiqués home were accounts of this one man, as well as a few select others (including the crotchety physician who appeared to love teasing Spock about anything and everything, much to her amusement and Sarek's slight disgust). Those letters of missions were more character sketches of a competent commander, but the shorter, more personal, missives, delivered at her request and acquiesced to reluctantly for only that reason, spoke of happier times – though not in those words – of lazy evenings aboard ship, and shore leaves which her son had previously abhorred with every cell of his Vulcan mind. She doubted that Spock himself even realized how every other line spoke more about his human companions than about himself or his work – and that in itself was remarkable, and a distinct change from the introverted young man he had been in Academy days, and even as Science Officer under Christopher Pike.
It was incredible, in that no true Vulcan would ever accept a human as a friend except in circumstances so rare as to be literally unheard-of; human affection, human love, and all their derivatives were so fickle and flighty that no Vulcan worth his mental shields would ever have trusted a typical specimen of the race enough to form more than a shallow acquaintance with him or her. Amanda was pleased that her son had rejected that unimportant part of his Vulcan heritage (one of only a few that she disliked from that much better way of life) and had instead embraced the facts as Truth – that he was half-human, and that there was no shame in admitting, however indirectly, to caring about humans.
Still, humanly speaking, as a mother she would give anything to be able to see him act just a little more human, even if it were just with her. It had been so long since she had even spoken personally to him until this voyage, much less that she had seen him; and because of the tension between him and Sarek, Spock had been even more cold and expressionless now than she remembered even from his childhood, when he would struggle so hard to act as a full Vulcan without the advantage of being one.
A small trickle of laughter filtered through the entryway of Sarek's recovery cubicle, and on impulse she left her husband still sleeping quite peacefully, and moved over to the door of the next ward.
Across the room, Dr. McCoy glanced up, half-scowling at something on his computer, and then grinned at the sight of her, eyebrows twitching. He held a finger to his lips, pointed another one at the room holding his two superiors, and then went back to his work without another sound.
She took the hint and remained silent, half-hidden in the shadows of a bulkhead, to watch the occupants of the small medical cubicle.
Captain Kirk had not healed as quickly as the physician had hoped he would, for the simple reason that he fought being incapacitated with every fiber of his soul; stubbornness was one trait she had noticed the Captain sharing with her son, possibly one reason they functioned so well together. In addition to causing damage by his impromptu heroics on the Bridge during the battle with the Orions, Captain Kirk had been caught twice trying to sneak out of Sickbay (once by McCoy, once by Spock who had been coming by to bring him strawberry waffles from the Officers' Mess, much to the CMO's dismay) and neither time had been beneficial to his slowly-healing lung and back injury.
Now the physician had permitted Kirk to sit up in the bio-bed, pillows propped carefully behind him in a side position that would not aggravate the healing wound, and at present he was eyeing a half-empty chess board that her son had set up on a small table next to the bed. Spock's back was to the door, his eyes on the table, while the Captain lay on his side facing them both, as the two men combined business with pleasure and discussed the ambassadorial situation.
"Nothing of consequence," Spock was saying, while moving a bishop to the third level. "Dr. McCoy actually was the one who accomplished the cessation of verbal hostilities this morning."
"Oh?" Kirk's eyes shone with a warm golden light; she could see the affection in them from where she stood, and it was no wonder that look had thawed a frozen-granite Vulcan façade shortly after taking command. "Do I want to know how?"
"Do you recall the information we were given about the Gra'aitians' high regard for 'colorful and profane metaphors', in any language?"
The Captain laughed, reaching out for his closest knight and handing it to his First Officer; he could not reach the majority of the board without stretching. "King's level two, please. Don't tell me Bones out-cursed a Gra'aitian ambassador?"
Listening closely, Amanda would have sworn that Spock should have been smiling as he spoke next; but she of course could not see his face and had only the tone to judge by.
"Quite well, I believe, and in both Gra'aitian and Standard. I have heard rumors of Ambassador Chi'idth wishing to induct the Doctor as an honorary member of his advisory council."
Kirk flopped over onto his back with an arm over his eyes, howling with laughter, and Amanda smiled in response; whether Spock fully knew the medicinal value of laughter or not, he obviously was aware that it was healthy for a human soul and was using that knowledge to his advantage.
"And he said he'd pay me a heck of a lot better than Starfleet does, too, Captain!" she heard McCoy bellow good-naturedly from behind her (evidently one of the man's finer arts was the ability to eavesdrop from the next room), and she quickly shrank back to avoid being seen. She was not quite fast enough, however, to avoid Kirk's amused but weary eyes flicking over in amusement toward the entryway.
He looked at her, questioning but giving nothing away upon his face so that Spock would never know, and as she met the glance she would have sworn he winked cheekily at her before turning his attentions back to the game at hand. Spock had waited patiently for the return of his focus.
"Um…" the man rubbed his forehead for a moment, squinting at the board. "There. Check," he added with a sly smirk, after pushing a rook into place on the lowest level.
She did note that her son's head had not bent to look at the board, but instead was tilted directly toward the Captain's face for several seconds. Finally, as the human looked up quizzically, gingerly turning more toward his First, Spock's long fingers reached out and hastily moved a knight to a different level.
A wide smile, if somewhat strained at the edges, creased the captain's face, and he stretched out an arm to grasp at his queen, leaning forward. Then all at once the color washed down from his face, and he swayed slightly on one elbow.
"Captain, Dr. McCoy expressly said to refrain from stretching your injury!" Spock responded instantly, picking up the piece before Kirk reached it but keeping his eyes on the injured man.
"I'm…I'm fine, Spock," Kirk exhaled slowly, though his face had turned another shade of pale and a sheen of perspiration had begun to form on his forehead. "How am I ever going to get better if he won't even let me sit up by myself?"
"At a much more rapid rate than if you persist in foolishness of this nature," Spock answered severely, and Amanda stifled a laugh at his tone, that of a parent toward a wayward child.
The Captain leaned back, breathing heavily, and waved a limp hand. "Okay, okay…bishop to queen's level three," he sighed, indicating the place on the board and then closing his eyes.
"Are you certain?"
One eye opened again, glaring sourly at the board. "You're going to beat me anyway, Spock…I'm choosing a quick and painless death instead of dragging it out for hours on end."
She could not see her son's expression, but she noticed that he set the piece down in its original position, and then rose gracefully to move the table out of the way.
"Hey, what –" Kirk protested faintly.
"We will finish this another day, Captain," Spock said quietly, and moved the table safely out of the main traffic areas, against a spotless wall. "If you, the man who has before dragged a game out for a total of seven hours, thirteen minutes, and forty-nine seconds, and concluded it by winning with an impossible combination of pieces, are willing to simply accede a match to me when you have at least three acceptable alternatives, then you are not as well as you pretend to be."
"I'm fine…just…too tired to think about how to get myself out of it right now," Kirk murmured, rubbing a sleeve over his eyes and forehead, mopping away the perspiration.
"Precisely why we shall finish it at a later time, Jim," was the gentle answer, and Amanda felt her eyes widen both at the tone, and at the unheard-of informality; with Spock, it had always been "the Captain," even during the crises of the last few days. Occasionally in communiqués of a personal nature he would slip and refer to the Captain, and even McCoy once, by their first names, but never had she actually heard him do so. She could not even think of another person whom Spock would ever have contemplated calling by his or her first name, including all his days at the Academy or serving under Captain Pike.
"You require rest now, sir," her son was speaking quietly, "and I promised Dr. McCoy I would see that you ceased activity when it became more detrimental than beneficial to your recovery."
She heard a faint protest, but her view was partially obstructed by Spock's bending over the bed to help the Captain, removing the propped pillows carefully and placing all but two of them in a neat stack on the nearest empty bed.
"I'm tired of resting…I need to get back on my feet, that's what I need to do," Kirk muttered plaintively, squirreling his legs under the garish crimson sheets. "This ship, and all these ambassadors at each others' throats –"
"Neither of which is in any way worth endangering your health in a premature return to duty. Surely once a week of that particular activity is enough, even for a starship captain who believes himself to be invincible?"
Lady Amanda nearly gasped aloud, hiding a smile behind her hands, for it was blatantly obvious that that last was unabashed chiding – teasing – from her Vulcan son, no less. Sarek would most likely have died of horror, but it was sweet music indeed to her hearing.
Kirk's low, appreciative laugh turned into a half-strangled choke as he tried to maneuver himself down to a reclining position. "Bad idea," he gasped wryly a moment later, partially curled up on his side, face twisted into a grimace. "Very very bad."
She still could not see her son's face, but she knew from experience that Vulcans rarely showed what they felt with any features other than their eyes anyway. The Terran saying, Actions speak louder than words, had a close Vulcan equivalent – and her son epitomized both.
"Jim, if you will permit me…?" Spock asked softly, and she saw the Captain close his eyes after a stubbornly reluctant nod.
She watched as he settled the younger man gradually down into the bed, making certain the injury was not strained in any way, and then pulled the thermal blanket up from the foot of the bed, stopping just below the pale, lined face.
"Captain, I believe you should sleep now, but I will fetch Dr. McCoy if you require something else. Are you in much pain?"
As he breathed heavily for a moment, Kirk's eyes flickered open with a small shake of the head. "No…I'm good. Don't bother him, Spock."
"I have the Doctor's permission to bring you a meal at 0900 hours if you wish it, after I have relinquished responsibility of presiding over the social functions to Mr. Scott."
His friend smiled sleepily up at his First. "That'd be great…think you can smuggle some apple pie past Bones?"
"NOT ON YOUR LIFE, CAPTAIN!" McCoy yowled from behind her, and she scurried back into the shadows as both men looked in annoyance at the open entryway.
"Party pooper," the Captain grumbled, and at the sudden puzzled and slightly appalled look on the Vulcan's face he giggled hysterically into the nearest pillow. "Don't ask, Spock…just another one of those expressions…"
"I had no intention of asking for clarification. Sir." was the dry reply, and Amanda could see the corners of her son's mouth were twitching suspiciously. "I shall return at 0900, then…with whatever I am capable of bringing past our Chief Medical Officer's watchful eye."
A weary smile. "Thanks, Spock. Yes, I know 'one does not thank logic'…but I don't think you spending all your free time in here trying to keep me from shredding everything in sight constitutes logic."
Momentary silence, and then a quiet "As you say, Captain."
Kirk grinned followed by an enormous yawn, obviously struggling at this point to remain fully awake, and Amanda watched Spock stand from where he had been bending over the recovering man, to check the indicators over the bed to satisfy himself.
A moment later, the captain's eyes fluttered closed again, and his breathing deepened as he gave up the struggle to slip into the vulnerability of sleep. She watched as for the fraction of a second Spock's fingers brushed gently against the human's temple, no doubt ensuring that his slumber would be deep and restful. Then he stood upright and straightened his tunic, composing his expression into the usual serenity, and turned to leave.
She would never tell either of them that a mother's eye could instantly see Kirk was slightly exaggerating that pain and exhaustion, she knew for the sole purpose of allowing her to see her son's emotional reaction to his friend.
Lady Amanda melted back into the shadows of her husband's room, realizing Captain Kirk had given her a rare gift, and not about to mar its value by informing her son she had been spying upon his humanity for a few precious moments in time.