The Last Unicorn
He saw her, as he had uncounted times before. In her rose gardens, long ago created by Sarek, tended by her. She was just beyond the spray of an ornamental fountain. He had to narrow his eyes to see her through the mist that filled the surrounding air with haze. She was familiar, and yet unknown. But he had come to always expect that of her. It was the perennial state of a human living on Vulcan, among Vulcans, to be familiar and yet always unknown.
"Mother," he breathed, a bare whisper. He was half afraid to disturb what had to be a fragile, tentative vision. Vulcans so rarely dream. Even with a half Vulcan like himself, discipline practiced to reflex made the dreaming state almost impossible to sustain. No matter how he willed it to be so. He did not want to lose this one. Not until he had seen her, spoken to her. But she did not turn. Of course, she had not Vulcan senses. She could not hear him so far away as she was, not over the fountain's fall of water.
"Mother," he called, daring reality, pushing through the untrimmed garden, heavy with flowers and thorns, dripping with buds. The petals dropped in showers over him, the heavy humidity from the fountain, laden with rose scent, caught in his throat. Sodden branches dripped rivulets on his hair. It seemed to take forever, that crossing. "Mother," he called, determined to reach her.
She turned, looked up from the water, pushing back her curtain of fair hair. Fair. Not dark. The emotional shock of that difference rocked his Vulcan soul to its core.
"You're not—she," he choked, caught in his own betrayal. He had dreamed. He had hoped. Dared even to love, and it was all…false…
"Look again," she said. Familiar and yet unfamiliar.
The voice was different. It was wrong. And somehow right. He chose bluster. Hiding behind Vulcan authority. "What are you doing here? This is her garden."
"It was mine before it was hers," she said calmly. "And mine again. Certainly mine, in this here and now. As are you, my son."
Her simple conviction, her absolute certainty and acceptance, warred with his doubts. "I don't understand,"
She sighed, long suffering and amused. "It doesn't matter. I love you anyway. I always have." She shook her head lightly. "Now don't quote your father and tell me it isn't logical."
"My mother is dead," he told her. Coldly. Cruelly. Was he trying to wound her, or himself? "I killed her."
"Oh, what nonsense," Amanda said, exasperated. "It was a transporter accident. No one's fault, given the circumstances. Why must Vulcans always be so melodramatic under all their logic? Even she wouldn't approve, imperfect copy though she was. I'm sure she'd be enough like me to recognize that."
He drew up at that, and she saw it. Her face softened and she took a step forward. "I'm sorry. She was all the mother that you remember."
"Who are you? What—Where?" He looked around at a Vulcan he had thought – he had watched - be destroyed.
"Don't you know? And you your father's son?" She tilted her head in skeptical evaluation. "When did you start studying astrophysics, at seven, eight? Humans understood the concept back in the twentieth century."
"A parallel universe?" he said in sudden understanding. "A divergent one."
Her eyes crinkled in amusement. "You're the one on the divergent path, my dear. At least from my point of view. Although now that my son has joined you in that path… And now that I see you, of course I realize that you're my son too. How could you not be? And right now, motherless. How could I ignore your call?"
"The theory of alternate universes," Spock said slowly, "is valid. But how did you come to be here?"
"Oh, please don't go all theoretical on me," she said. "I can't give you the science. You know you and your father have always believed I can barely do basic arithmetic, just because humans aren't lightning calculators like you Vulcans. Anyway, I'm no physicist. Look to your father for answers, if you can't find them yourself. But I rather prefer the metaphysical. Like in the 'The Last Unicorn'. Don't live in a house bricked in by seconds and minutes, never going outside until you die. Just walk through the walls. Then any time at all will be the right time for you. That's not an exact quote, but close enough."
"I don't understand," Spock said. "That's a fantasy."
Amanda sighed. "Well, I tried. You'll come to it in time. Or you won't." Anyway, we're hardly divergent now, are we?" Seeing him still frozen, transfixed, she said, "I'm here. I've always been here with you, in that respect. And now that we've met, I always will be. We're a part of each other."
Spock shook his head, looking around at what was unmistakably his home. "But Vulcan no longer exists. You no longer—"
She made a mew of impatience. "Spock, this isn't going to work if you are going to go all technical. That was just one space/time. It wasn't even the real one."
"Am I not real?" he challenged.
She laughed a little at his stance, Vulcan obstinate. "'As large as life and twice as natural'", she quoted, with a wicked human grin that was so familiar and so missed he had to close his eyes against an emotional pain that suddenly almost overwhelmed him. She reached out as if to touch, then let her hand fall. "I apologize. I suppose we all think our own space/time is the real one," she continued. "But you have to admit, that mine was the original. As am I. I am your mother."
He looked down at her, blinking moisture away from his eyes, rationalizing it not as a lapse of control but as a flaw of Vulcan eyes being unable to deal with the fountain's mist. But one thing he was now certain of, past all logic. The emotional connection, the bond that had been between them since before his birth, that he had thought forever broken, was there again, alive, real. "It is you," he said.
"Six impossible things before breakfast," she said. "I knew you had it in you."
Still almost unable to handle the reality of her, he looked away, seeking some diversion from emotional response. Back at the Fortress, gleaming white and somehow impossibly intact. At Vulcan around them, the humping spine of the Llangons' mountain range rising in the distance. The wheeling arc of a raptor, riding on a thermal of heated Vulcan air, barely moving its huge wings. All this was real. All that he thought had been lost, amazingly intact, alive. His ancestral home. The Forge. His mother. "We must tell Father," he said urgently. "He'll want to know."
"He's at Council. But of course you mean your Sarek. He knows. Of course he does." She looked pensive and a little sad. "There will be trouble there in a little while." She smiled again resolutely. "But let's not worry about possible futures. This is your time now." She hesitated and tilted her head. "For however long it lasts."
He knew then, that it wouldn't. He looked from his beloved mother back to his home, once lost to him in adolescent choice, now lost to him forever, and back to her. If a Vulcan heart could break twice, his did. "This is a dream then? Not…not a parallel universe?"
"Don't," she said. She came close then, close enough for him to see her clearly through the mist, see the differences between this woman, and his mother. But he knew it was still she, whatever subtle changes in visage. He expected her to embrace him, hug as she always did. As she always once had, his mother. But this Amanda did not touch. He told himself it was due to her, finally, having learned to respect their Vulcan customs. But his shattered heart gave him another, feared, explanation. Could two beings who met in a dream, universes apart, actually touch? He stared at her hands, less than a meter but more than a universe away, once denied him through Vulcan discipline, now forever lost to him.
She perceived his regret. "Don't grieve, my son."
"How can I not?"
"Oh, Spock. You don't understand." She sighed, long suffering impatience.
"You do know therewent a few million credits wasted on an expensive education? The VSA and Starfleet Academy, yet I have to explain this to you?" She shook her head ruefully and the mist blended with the tears in her eyes. "This isn't quite a dream. Though it's not reality either. Not your reality."
"Something beyond either. Darling, right now we were both just …browsing through time and happened across each other."
He lowered his head. "I -"He drew a frustrated breath. "I tried to rescue you."
"I appreciate that."
"But I lost you. I lost Vulcan."
"I know. But maybe you needed to."
"No," he denied. Perhaps for the first time in his life he could say it. But did it count? Was it real? Was it easier to say because it might not be real? "I need you. Alive."
"You could just say you love me," she prodded, exasperated again, half teasing, half serious.
"I know. It's not easy."
"Father admitted it to me. Afterwards." He thought about that. "When it was too late."
She blinked at that. "Good for you both. It's more than my Sarek has done. I'm glad he could. And it's never too late. But that's what I mean. Maybe you needed this, needed to be hurt, to be really badly hurt, to learn you could say it." She shook her head. "You made some darn fool mistakes in my universe, my son, for lack of that ability." She looked at him. "This was meant to be. You need this."
"I think maybe you do. Every universe requires its own particular catalyst to self development. This one is yours, drastic as it has been. Hold onto the feelings it's brought forward. Don't waste it by pushing them away again. Promise me. Even when it hurts."
"I cannot. I won't."
She shook her head. "You must. Make something good come of all this. Marry that pretty Lieutenant… Uhura? I always liked her. Beautiful singing voice. Lovely smile. Make some gorgeous babies with her."
"Hostages to fortune, you'll find. But worth it. Teach your children to love without needing a catastrophe as a catalyst. That's your life, maybe your legacy now. With the Enterprise, with her. And Jim." She shrugged skeptically. "Though I'm not so sure about this Jim; he's even more brash even than the Jim I know. But I do like this Nyota. They are your family now. Your life. You'll have to go back and live it."
He looked around again. The raptor swooped down, letting him see it clearly, identify it. It was Wol, his father's pet. He felt an ache as he thought of a sehlat, his own childhood pet, perhaps sleeping somewhere in the cool of the Fortress. "I don't want to lose Vulcan again," he confessed, quietly. "Nor you. Not again. Not if it is forever. I left it too soon, not knowing what I was leaving behind. Then I lost it; I thought forever. I can't leave. Mother…please?"
She bit her lip in frustration. "Why is it that the few things you ask of me are always the ones I can't give? Even as a little boy. You never wanted a hug, you know, until I had to go away on some diplomatic trip with your father. Then, at the last minute, you wanted me. I always was haunted, leaving with your silent reproach. And then, when I came back, when we had time, you were all Vulcan again and would have none of me."
"I want you now. I want this. Please?"
She shook her head sadly. "It's not possible, my son."
"Then I will find a way, a logical way, to bring you across the universes," he ventured. "It has been done before. Spock, the older Spock – it has been done. It can be done again."
"But not with me. I have my Sarek here. You understand why I can't leave him." She winced at his wooden faced control. "Don't. You're making me feel like you're five and I'm leaving you all over again. You're grown now. You understand why I have to choose your father over you. And you have your father with you."
"But not Vulcan. Not you."
"I promise you. I'll be here when you need to visit. And Vulcan. Everything you remember. We'll be here for you. In your dreams."
"Can one hug, in dreams?" he asked, half bitter, half accusatory.
"One can try," she said soberly.
He knew this was final. He drew a breath, steeling himself. However wanted, an embrace was still something of a violation of his disciplines. He allowed them, tolerated them from her as he grew to adolescence and beyond, but had stopped initiating them with her as a very young child. And part of him didn't quite believe, if not in parallel universes, than in dreams. But he took the step forward, reaching for the hug this time, rather than, as always before, passively accepting it. Partially he initiated it because he thought she might not be able to, being the visitor across dimensions. Or was he the visitor? Regardless, he thought she might melt like mist under his touch.
But she did not. She was real.
He crushed her close, feeling her breath huff from her as his arms tightened, remembering belatedly to be mindful of her human frame and relax the pressure. He could feel her warmth, hear her breath, the slow thudding of her human heart. She smelled of water, and roses, and then, of tears. He could even see her, if his own eyes were not blurred from tears of his own. All the senses.
How could this be dream?
"I'll always love you," she whispered.
He looked down at her, blinking away moisture again. Was it the fountain's mist that blurred his vision when he needed it most? Who knew when he would see her or his home again? He raised his head briefly, took one last look at Vulcan before committing himself to an inescapable human, if long suppressed truth. Daring to say the words he'd once thought forbidden, still afraid, even now, they might break the Vulcan spell of his own existence. "I love—"
And then the world exploded in a cacophony of noise, painfully assaulting his ears, flooding his eyes with bright red light.
"Red Alert. Red Alert." The speaker by his bed intoned, while his entire quarters flashed off and on in crimson glow. "This is a drill. On duty personnel only. Red Alert. Red Alert. This is a drill."
The lights flashed off, leaving him sitting up in his quarters, alone in the darkness. He unclenched hands that had closed in reflex with the alert, even as his muscles relaxed from their battle stations' tension. Off duty as he was, he was not required to report. He let out a shuddering breath and sat back, the dream still so real he felt if he closed his eyes he would be home, could see her, speak to her again.
Then he remembered. "I never had the chance to tell her—" He sat up, and something tumbled off his sleeve. He looked down, his eyes widening as they adjusted in the dim light. There could be no logical explanation. Yet "as large as life and twice as natural" spilling across his sheets were rose petals, buds, whole flowers. Some were still dewed, as if from the mist from an otherworldly fountain. Some slid from his fingers, crumpled from where they'd been crushed in his grasp. Their scent hung heavily in the air. The perfume caught in his breath. His nostrils flared with it. Sight, scent, touch. How could they not be real?
He stared at the roses, thinking. And then he knew what he had to do.
He rose, dressed. Gathered what he needed.
The turbolift took him swiftly, smoothly to the bridge. The bridge was busy, working down the red alert drill. In the con, Chekov made as if to rise for him, but Spock jerked his chin to the left in a Vulcan negative, and the ensign settled back down. The shift was almost over and behind Spock came crowding in the watch replacements, the young Captain among them.
"Spock, this isn't your watch. Or is it. Is it?"
"I'm waiting for her," Spock said, eyes on the comm officer who was still caught up in closing down the myriad reports from the drill.
Kirk's eyes fell on what Spock was carrying and he looked quickly away, nodded in an attempt at military decorum and said. "Uh…yes. Very good, Commander. Carry on."
Uhura finally finished, turning over the board to her waiting relief with a few parting instructions. She turned and saw Spock, smiled her famous smile in welcome. Spock straightened and brought up what he had partially concealed at his side.
He offered her the flowers: a few long stemmed roses, still glowing with dew from their other worldly journey.
"Marry me?" he murmured, his voice pitched just for her.
"Marry you?" She had buried her face in the blooms, and she forgot to moderate her voice in her shock at the unexpected proposal. Every head on the bridge turned eagerly toward them.
"Uh-hem, gentlemen," Kirk officiously reminded his distracted crew. "Steady as you go."
Every head self-consciously swiveled back to screen and board, though every ear still pitched, or in the case of some of the felinoids and the Andorian, physically pointed toward the turbo alcove.
"Marry me," Spock repeated, leaning down over the roses still between them.
Uhura met his eyes in challenge. "And why should I marry you?"
"Because I love you?" Spock asked, still pitched below all the straining ears and antennas.
"Is that a question?" Uhura stalled.
"Not for me," Spock said firmly. "I love you."
"Funny how that works," Uhura said, fingers splayed across his chest to stop him from the next step. "I love you too. But why the suddenness? Why propose here?"
"I didn't want to risk losing you to time," Spock said, quite seriously. "Not any longer." His eyes met hers, and questions faded from her thoughts.
They faded back toward the turbo doors, which opened obligingly, beeping politely when no one entered. Spock managed to hit the close button without pausing in their kiss.
Word had passed from the keened eared to the rest of the bridge personnel, and everyone on the bridge began applauding.
"Congratulations, Commander, Lieutenant," Kirk said, coming over, holding a hand out to Spock, and shaking it regardless of Vulcan ceremony. He waggled his brows at Uhura. "Do I get to kiss the bride-to-be, Nyota? Yes? For luck?"
"No," Spock said, deadpan.
"Oh, you," Uhura said, and gave him a light brush of the lips on his cheek, while Kirk grinned, delighted at winning even this much of his long running game.
"You've got to admit, he has luck," Uhura said to Spock, stepping back and sliding an arm around his waist.
"Highly illogical," Spock said, but he leaned his cheek down to rest on Uhura's hair contentedly. "If you'll excuse us, Captain?"
"Yes, certainly," Kirk said, backing away to the bridge.
"There's only one thing I have to know," Uhura was heard to say, as the couple entered the turbolift. "Where did you get the roses? They're real, not fabricated and we have none on board."
"'I found them,'" Spock said, wickedly quoting from memory. "'But what I mean by finding is not what you mean.'"
"Where?" Uhura insisted.
Spock sighed, and a bittersweet smile teased his lips. "A princess gave them to me."
"A princess? But there's no princesses on board. We're not carrying any passengers. Where did she come from?"
"She came to me riding on the back of The Last Unicorn," Spock said. "As a princess should."
And that was all he would say as the turbolift swept them away.
The Last Unicorn
By Pat Foley