Chapter Eight: Sins of Omission
Disclaimer: Don't own much, and certainly nothing here.
"Special delivery, Commander."
To Spock's surprise, Ensign Uhura stood in the corridor outside his quarters holding a package, something bulky but apparently not too heavy. She hefted it in her arms and prepared to hand it to him when he recoiled reflexively, taking a half-step back.
"Oh!' she said, her eyes widening, an unmistakable expression of dismay flushing her face. "I forgot! I'm sorry, Commander—"
"Please," he said quickly, waving her into the room. He should have had his shields up before answering the door; now he had offended her—or at the very least, made her uncomfortable. His lack of foresight and control were disappointing—the stress of the extra duty in the run up to the Enterprise's launch from Spacedock? Unlikely, though he resolved to meditate on it after his shift.
"When I signed for this I saw that it's marked fragile," the ensign said as she walked in. "The logistics engineer is busy so I volunteered to carry it up. Otherwise I wouldn't have bothered you."
The note of apology in her voice made him uneasy, as though he was required to do something that eluded him.
"I am not bothered," he said, partly to reassure her, but also, he realized with a start, because it was true.
He knew Ensign Uhura better than he knew most of the crew members, which was not much at all. Although she had taken his xenolinguistics course at the Academy, he knew little about her personally—except, of course, that she was academically gifted, with a self-discipline that made her stand out in a classroom. When she followed up on his suggestion that she apply for a position in the communications division on the Enterprise he was pleased—not just because he valued her contributions to the ship, but because he felt she would benefit from the experience, that a stint on the Martian telemetry station would be a waste of her time and energy.
"Good!" she said, flashing a smile. "I guess I should warn you that there are several other packages on the way up on the antigrav sled. I didn't want to risk putting this with them."
Again Spock had the sense that some response was required—an acknowledgement of the ensign's offering him information, a recognition that she had gone out of her way to be helpful.
"Thank you," he said. He glanced at his desk and she followed his gaze.
"Here?" she said, and he nodded as she crossed the distance and set the package down. Turning, she gave another smile—a smaller one this time, as if she was hesitant—and said, "Well, I hope it's something interesting." She started toward the door.
Curiosity killed the cat.
His mother's voice, remembered like a sage—or a prophet.
"From my mother," Spock said, and the ensign stopped and swiveled back. "Her attempt to make the Enterprise feel more like home."
The ensign lifted one brow in query and he motioned to the package on the desk.
"It is almost certain to be the family ka'athyra," he said. "The size is suggestive. Her usual packages of foodstuffs are much smaller."
It was a statement of fact, nothing more, but the ensign laughed as if he had said something amusing.
"My mother sends me food, too! That must be a universal constant of motherhood."
For a moment they stood in awkward silence, and then Spock astonished himself by saying, "Would you care to see it?"
Later when he sat cross-legged in front of his asenoi and tried to empty his mind of distractions, he tried to tease apart the reasons for his impulsive behavior, why he invited the ensign to observe him unwrapping what turned out to be, in fact, the ancient ka'athyra that was usually kept in a cabinet in his family home in Shi'Kahr.
"My father is the better musician," he told her as he freed it from the packaging material, deflecting her request that he play something.
"Since I've never heard him," Ensign Uhura said, "I won't be able to judge."
He recognized her comment as humorous—saw what she did next as a punctuation mark to it. Without looking down, she planted herself on the chair at his desk.
I am ready to listen, she seemed to say.
He let his fingers flutter over the strings as he tuned the modulator slightly, the atonal scale oddly comforting, reminiscent of hours of music lessons and practice.
When he looked up he caught a glimpse of the ensign's face, her head canted to the side in concentration. Was she pleased or put off by the sound? Even his mother, who claimed to enjoy most types of music, sometimes complained that Vulcan sensibilities set human teeth on edge as far as the ka'athyra was concerned. He let his hand fall to his side.
"Oh, please don't stop!"
"I am keeping you from your duties."
"My shift ended before I came," Ensign Uhura said as she got up from the chair, and too late he realized that she had taken his words as a dismissal. "Thank you, Commander."
For the second time he startled himself by being so uncharacteristically impulsive that only now, in this mind meld with Lieutenant Uhura several years afterwards, is he sorting out the reasons for his behavior back then—
"If you are interested," he had said as Ensign Uhura stepped through the doorway, "I would be willing to give you the fundamentals."
"If you wish to learn to play the ka'athyra, I could teach you."
A flash of teeth, a crinkle of her eyes—and she nodded and said, "I would like that. Very much!"
So that's how this started, Lieutenant Uhura says, her voice soft and hazy in the meld.
Yes, he agrees, willing her to understand that he isn't just talking about music lessons.
The scene dissolves and is replaced by the conference room, the captain and the department heads seated around the table.
Feeling a wave of uneasiness, Spock lets her know that this is a year ago, at a discussion about promotions.
"The Charlestown is scheduled to rendezvous with us at 2100," Dr. McCoy says. "I've put Chapel in charge of getting Donnelly aboard. The medical facilities at Starbase 11 have been alerted."
"What about Donnelly? Still no change?"
To a casual observer, the captain appears angry—his forehead creased, his jaw squared—but Spock has served with him long enough to know that if the captain is angry, it is with himself. No matter that Lt. Donnelly being injured during a landing party was no one's fault—the communications officer had slipped and fallen from a narrow rock shelf. The captain blames himself.
"Jim," the doctor says, obviously sharing Spock's perception of the captain's distress, "the medical staff at Starbase 11 know what they're doing. With the mining colony right there, they see all sorts of injuries worse that his—"
"I know that, Bones," the captain says, cutting him off. "But it shouldn't have happened in the first place." Turning to Spock, he says, "Notify Starfleet that Lieutenant Junior Grade Uhura is being given a field promotion to Lieutenant and is being reassigned to the bridge. Set up her training schedule as soon as possible. Now, about the—"
All eyes around the table are on him, and to his horror, Spock realizes that he isn't certain what he will say.
That over the past year he has come to regret his impulsive offer to teach the ka'athyra to Lt. JG Uhura, not because the time they spend together once a week is unpleasant, but because it is not?
Sometimes meeting in her quarters, sometimes in his, but most often in a quiet corner of the rec room, they've developed an easy familiarity that troubles him. Once in an unguarded moment as he leaned forward and adjusted her fingers on the strings, he slipped and called her Nyota—a breach of protocol so alarming that he canceled their lessons for a few weeks until he had regained a measure of equanimity.
A promotion will put her at the station beside his on the bridge. The reality that she will be in daily proximity gives him such an instant flush of anticipation that he tamps it down, almost panicked.
"Yes, Mr. Spock? You have an objection?"
"Not an objection, Captain, but a concern. Ms. Uhura is certainly a capable communications officer."
"But? She doesn't merit a promotion?"
Of course she does. If Lieutenant Donnelly hadn't been hurt, she would have been up for promotion in another year—two at the most. Time enough, Spock had thought, for him to quiet the gnawing uncertainty about T'Pring, hopefully formalizing their marriage and putting his worries about that to rest.
And with it, the lingering, aching longing that sometimes disrupts his sleep after one of the ka'athyra lessons—
When he doesn't speak up, Dr. McCoy says, "So what's your concern then? Not every communications officer is going to go fall off a cliff during a landing party, in case you're worried about that."
The doctor's comment catches him completely by surprise. For a moment he puzzles over it—the hint of sarcasm, the implied paternalism, and more, the suggestion that Spock's feelings are on display.
"Don't give me that look," the doctor says. "I was just asking."
Taking a breath, Spock says, "I have no objections, Captain. I will send the promotion notice immediately."
Get it off your chest, his mother sometimes encouraged him when she wanted him to divulge his private musings. You'll feel better if you stop trying to hide things from me.
For the most part that was true. Keeping secrets from his mother had involved spending a great deal of energy—passively keeping his shields in place as well as actively diverting her attention when she became too inquisitive.
Nevertheless, this revelation—that he had spoken out against the lieutenant's promotion—is something he has not wanted to tell, has not wanted her to know. The room for misunderstanding is too great. Lt. Uhura may take it for what humans call a vote of no confidence about her abilities. Or worse, she will see what it really is—an attempted dodge, a testament to how drawn to her he is, how difficult it is to see her as nothing more than a competent officer.
He feels her puzzlement through the meld, her barely articulated, "This is what you wanted me to see?"
Instead of answering, he pulls them both forward in time to a few months ago. The scene is the corridor outside her quarters, the dimmed lights and sparse foot traffic of delta shift when two-thirds of the crew are off duty. She is, too—possibly, probably—asleep.
He stands in front of her door like a sleepwalker, struggling not to press the chime.
If he could talk to her for a moment, he might be able to feel settled enough to sleep—or failing that, meditate until he can think clearly again.
A noise from around the corner snaps him out of his reverie. Lowering his hand, he sees a tremor that echoes the shakiness he feels inside. As a security officer comes into view, Spock catches his eye, nods, and continues down the hall as if he had never paused.
Heading to the turbolift, he feels relief and disappointment—but by the time he reaches his own quarters he is also afraid.
What had he been thinking, going to her quarters that way?
An imagined image of her opening her door and inviting him in, slipping her arms around him and raising her face to his—
And suddenly he knows—this is how it starts. For so long he has assumed he would be immune, that his dual heritage would protect him from the frenzy of pon farr.
His heart hammers in his side as he cancels his duties for the next three days, as he sets up a do not disturb quarantine on his quarters and encrypts the locks so that he can't leave until he engages a password, trusting that he will remember it after the fever passes. The memory of appearing at Lt. Uhura's door rattles him so thoroughly that he considers confiding in the doctor and asking to be confined to sickbay—or the brig.
But instead he hunkers down and waits. Not surprisingly, he is soon flushed and nauseated—yet strangely restless with difficulty focusing. To distract himself he flips through old vids and photos of T'Pring, hoping to sense her in his mind. She's never been a particularly strong presence—not the way he suspects his mother and father are for each other. If he ever sensed her at all, it was as more of an irritation, her barely concealed skepticism about their union, about him, always there, like a pebble in his shoe.
Still, he reaches out for her now, needing her to steady him.
No wonder he had drifted, half unconscious, to Lt. Uhura's quarters.
He hadn't counted on Christine Chapel using her medical override to get into his quarters and check on him. Through a haze he watches her advancing into his room, a tray in her hands, saying something about plomeek soup.
After that he remembers little until he is standing in front of T'Pau, surrounded by the ancient stones of his family's place of koon-ut-kalifee, T'Pring and Stonn in the distance.
Dr. McCoy standing over the captain—
At that memory Spock stumbles and lets his mind go dark.
I understand, Uhura says through the meld. You don't need to live that again.
To his astonishment the weight in his side eases as she speaks, as if his mother is right after all, that getting it off his chest lessens the burden.
My turn, she says. The edge of his awareness brightens and flares as she rides forward on a synaptic cascade, her memories tumbling into place like falling dominoes. This is what I remember, she says as she tugs him forward.
A whirlwind of color and sound—snippets of images of the Academy and the Enterprise—his xenolinguistics seminar, her station on the bridge, talking with crew members in the rec room.
You are recovering what was lost, he tells her. Your memories are returning. The meld is working.
His presence is no longer essential. As he prepares to break the meld, she calls out. No! These are not my memories.
They are, of course, and he starts to tell her so, but before he can, she says, You'll see what I mean. Come with me.
Curiosity killed the cat? He surrenders gently to her command, hearing her silvery laughter like a distant echo.
This is the way I remember things, she says, and again he experiences the dizzying assault of noise and color, but this time he is also buffeted by something else—waves and washes of emotions—happiness and fear and enchantment and worry, tied to the images like lead weights, pulling him down, down into the memories, like sinking into the sea…
The nervousness she felt the first time his xenolinguistics seminar met, her anxiety rising as she struggled to read his expressions, his inflections.
Her relief when she began to parse the meaning of a raised eyebrow, of a stony silence, of the calculated pause before calling on an unprepared student. The way his unblinking stare signaled his undivided attention and not arrogance or judgment as other students assumed.
And later when she joined the crew—her excitement and pleasure with everything on the ship, her gentle impatience with anyone whose enthusiasm flagged, the camaraderie that felt like family at times, the eagerness to test and prove herself.
Negative emotions, too—illustrated in scenes that winked past. Her dismay when Lt. Tomlinson was killed on his wedding day, Nyota unable to think of a single comforting word in any language to say to the bride.
Her irritation and physical discomfort when her ankle gave way during routine PT, forcing her to miss three days of duty.
Her uneasiness and sorrow as Christine Chapel sat with her in the mess hall, hands cupped around a cooling cup of tea, saying, "I know it's ridiculous, but I can't stop thinking about him."
Unnamed and conflicting emotions as well—Lt. Donnelly's injury and Nyota's subsequent promotion conjuring such an amalgam of grief and guilt and pride and satisfaction that even now the closest word is wonder.
The boring comfort of routines and drills and habits. The fear that was equal parts terror and determination when the ship was under attack or facing a crisis.
The shock she felt the first time Spock touched her—his fingers accidentally brushing hers when she moved too swiftly to take the ka'athyra from his hand, her body going hot and damp with an arousal that she realized was not just her own—
Her resolve not to act on her feelings—the torment and the delight—
Suddenly she is weary beyond measure, her energy faltering.
Rest now, he says, and she lets go and her attention disperses like fog, like dust motes in the sunlight. She's almost asleep when she rouses herself enough to thank him—For coming back for me, she says. For making me whole.
X X X
The hover bus is so crowded that Spock hesitates before the automatic door, rethinking his decision to board it. Another bus will be along in 11.45 minutes. There is, however, no guarantee that the next bus, nor the one after that, will be less crowded. Repressing a sigh, he steps up and makes his way down the aisle to one of the few unoccupied seats.
The human woman he sits next to looks as uncomfortable as he feels. After darting an uneasy glance at him, she turns her face away, suddenly interested in the scenery outside.
The old hurt, the one he recalls from his own universe.
Settling back in his seat, he watches the streets of San Francisco slip past. Oddly familiar and yet not—the terrain as he recalls, and many of the older buildings—but some differences catch him up short every time he sees them.
Starfleet Academy, for instance, sprawled along the Presidio on the city side of the bay. In his universe, in his timeline, the Academy and Starfleet headquarters sprang up on the site of old Fort Baker on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito just over the ridge. Why the two universes evolved differently he'll never know—nor do such questions really interest him. This is his world now, even if he feels like an interloper.
No use to dwell on what he has lost—his world, everyone he knew, even his name—at least not consciously. His infrequent dreams are troubled enough.
The ride out to Old Fort Point is longer than he anticipates, an overturned flitter holding up traffic at the end of Marine Boulevard. When the driver finally manages to navigate an alternate route around the accident, the sun is touching the top of the hills on the other side of the bay. If the fog hasn't already started rolling in near the bridge, it will soon.
Sure enough, when Spock exits at Old Fort Point the top of the Golden Gate Bridge is partially obscured, and to his surprise, he feels a flicker of disappointment. From this angle the bridge appears to be a series of red arches leaping over the water—or they would if the mist weren't impeding his vision.
Even so, the view gives him comfort. At one time he would have been ashamed to admit that, but no more.
In the past four months—since the day he slipped through the black hole and watched his world die—he has divided his time between Earth and New Vulcan, working with Starfleet and the Vulcan survivors to get the colony established—or at least off to a stable beginning. Each time that he visits San Francisco he comes here, to Old Fort Point, drawn to the technological simplicity of the bridge, to the power of the water coursing through the narrowed inlet of the bay. As he walks the shoreline he does a sort of meditation, emptying his mind and bracing himself against the cold wind. When he returns to the housing at the Academy grounds he feels depleted and still.
Today, however, as the sun sinks behind the horizon, his mind is racing, his heart thrumming loudly in his side. The view offers little solace. The chilly wind is more miserable than cleansing.
Of course he knows why. Earlier in the afternoon he had been at Starfleet headquarters when he rounded a corner and saw his young counterpart, the Spock who serves now with Jim Kirk on the Enterprise, walking ahead of him, his arms tucked behind his back, one wrist clasped around the other in such an uncanny resemblance of himself that he had almost stumbled in surprise.
Even the cant of young Spock's head is familiar, the way he angles his chin down and over, as if this helps him listen more attentively to the person walking at his side.
For a moment Spock—the one whose Jim Kirk was long ago buried, whose Enterprise disintegrated in a fiery blaze over a dying planet in another universe—starts to call out, but something gives him pause.
The woman. Young and lithe, she wears a red uniform, her long dark hair pulled up into a ponytail, her boots making a soft tattoo on the floor. Her face is tipped up and she is speaking, though from here her words are almost undecipherable. With a start, Spock—or Selek, as he calls himself in this timeline—realizes that he is straining to hear what she is saying. An interloper, indeed. Quickly he turns around and heads in the other direction.
But not before he overhears part of the couple's conversation. Nothing personal. Nothing private. A comment about a duty roster—she needed some point of clarification and Spock was offering it.
It is not what he heard that keeps him from being able to meditate later along Old Fort Point but what he saw—a glimpse so swift, so half in shadow that if he hadn't been looking for it, he would have missed it—Nyota Uhura's face shining with such tenderness that she seemed lit from within; Spock's obvious delight with her tricked out in the way he inclined his body slightly in her direction, his eyes following her like someone unable to look away.
And that, too, Selek recognizes as his own.
He presses his hand to his side and slows his breathing.
It is a day for surprises. No sooner is he back in town for the evening briefing with the other Vulcans than he sees that Sarek has joined them. Again he almost stumbles, but this time his misstep doesn't go unnoticed. Sarek turns and watches him approach.
As he always does in the presence of Sarek, Selek feels a keen disconnect, not only between the two of them, but within himself. How odd it is to stand here next to a man who appears to be his father, feeling nothing—no tendrils of a family bond, no shared history. They have spoken together in private only once—shortly after the Enterprise limped back to Spacedock after the Battle of Vulcan.
"I grieve with thee," Selek had said then, and Sarek let a glimmer of his anguish show—a brief nod of his head, his brow furrowed.
"All of Vulcan grieves," Sarek said, and Selek felt dismissed, as if his comment had been examined and been found wanting.
Since then they have occasionally been at the same gathering or seen each other in passing. Each time Selek considers seeking Sarek out—offering to share stories of the father he knew, of the son he was—but never giving in to that impulse.
"I saw your son earlier today," Selek says now by way of greeting. Sarek inclines his head briefly, his eyes dark and impenetrable. "At Starfleet headquarters. The Enterprise must be here for maintenance."
For a moment Sarek's expression threatens to cloud over.
"So I have been told," he says. His face resets to neutral—a skill Selek has never fully mastered. His human heritage, no doubt. He is long past regretting it.
They are in a small alcove outside one of the meeting rooms at the Vulcan embassy—Sarek dressed in traditional Vulcan robes, Selek in Terran civilian clothes. A human worker starts down the hallway and both Sarek and Selek fall silent until she passes. Then Selek continues.
"He was with one of the crew members. A young woman—"
"The communications officer," Sarek says in agreement. "I met her. After—Vulcan—when the ship brought us here. I spoke to her in his quarters. They were—together."
Such hesitation is not characteristic of Sarek—at least not the Sarek he knew.
"They are important to each other," Selek says, a bald fact stated as such. He waits to see if Sarek will contradict it.
"That is not my concern," Sarek answers. "And at some point in the future, it will not be Spock's concern either."
"Although he chooses to remain in Starfleet for now," Sarek says, "Spock 's responsibility is to the Vulcan people."
"Service in Starfleet is a way of serving the Vulcan people," Selek replies. He struggles to keep his tone even, not to show the old irritation he often felt when debating his Sarek.
"But not the most important way," Sarek says without hesitation. "Spock needs to come home—to the colony—to begin a family. Otherwise there will be no future for Vulcan."
"And he agrees? He has told you that?"
Sarek lifts one eyebrow.
"Spock keeps his own counsel," he says dryly. "He was always much more inclined to share his thoughts with his mother than with me."
The mention of Amanda casts a pall on the conversation, steers it into darker waters. With a shrug, Sarek adds, this time with a note of sadness in his voice, "Whether or not he agrees, he will come home, sooner or later."
He lifts his eyes and starts to turn away.
Taking a step after him, Selek calls out.
"Do not ask this of him."
Sarek stops and turns back to face him.
"Duty requires it."
"Does it?" Selek says. "What about Spock's duty to himself? You would ask him to give up his career, his place where he finds fulfillment and meaning?"
"Nothing can be more meaningful than preserving a people."
"And his companions? People who accept him the way he has never felt accepted before? You would ask him to give them up?"
"There will be other companions. On the colony. People who share his task to rebuild our world."
Selek squares his shoulders and takes another step forward.
"And the woman he has chosen? You will ask him live his life without her?"
Finally Sarek shows a crack in his equanimity, giving himself away with a tiny tremor in his hand, like brushing away a fly. Selek presses his advantage.
"You would ask him to face the same loss that you suffer? Is that what you want for your son?"
Blinking, Sarek looks away for a moment.
"He is young. His…emotional attachment…is new. He will recover."
"No," Selek says. "No, he will not."
How to tell this man who both is and is not his father that he speaks from experience, that his logic is grounded in the kind of regret that comes from not doing something, from not valuing something, from letting someone slip away? Sins of omission, his mother called them. The worst kinds of regrets.
"If you separate them," he says, more forcefully this time, "Spock will not recover. Just as you will not recover. He is, after all, your son, too—and is like you in more ways than you know."
That's all he has to say. All he can say. Either Sarek will listen or he won't. Will ask Spock to leave Starfleet, to leave her, or he won't.
And even if he does ask, Spock might follow his heart instead. Might, in this universe, celebrate his emotions and accept the possibility of happiness, in a way Selek never could.
He hopes so. The odds are high. In this universe Spock has already taken many chances to pursue a relationship with Nyota Uhura—chances that on the surface seem daring and foolhardy but in the end have sustained him and altered him in such a fundamental way that even now Selek finds their differences more fascinating—more wondrous—than their similarities. Surely this young Spock will choose his own course, no matter what his father says, what the Vulcan Council advises.
If this Nyota Uhura is like the one he knew long ago—like the one who still inhabits his dreams—Spock will never give her up.
"Live long," Selek says, his hand raised in the ta'al, "and prosper."
Slowly Sarek returns the gesture before continuing down the hallway.
Later, Selek walks across the dark Academy commons and looks up at the night sky. The constellations are the ones he remembers, are the ones sailors still navigate by, as if the universe in all its possibilities refuses to be moved too far. Some things do not change, he muses. Some things must.
Those two thoughts lighten his step, like a reader turning the last page of a familiar novel and discovering, to his astonishment, that the ending is a happy one after all.
A/N: Thus this little story comes to an end. I apologize that this chapter was so long…I started to divide it into two, but I felt the two halves needed to be read together….I hope that wasn't a miscalculation and I ended up losing readers along the way!
Thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed! When I drifted into TOS land after writing mostly Star Trek 2009 fiction, I was astonished at the response. You have been terrifically supportive…leaving helpful, encouraging notes and reviews. Thank you so much!
I've now written two scenes where Spock receives his ka'athyra in the mail—one in this chapter, and one in one of my ST 2009 stories, "What We Think We Know." While they have some similarities, they have more differences—mostly because the two timelines have sent Spock into two different trajectories—an idea I find fun to explore in fiction. If you are interested in that ride home from The Battle of Vulcan where Sarek sees Nyota in Spock's quarters, that's in "Truth and Lies."
I'm not sure where my muse will take me next. In the meantime, if you haven't read my ST 2009 stories and want some more S/U action, take a look!