Actions

Work Header

The Exhale

Work Text:

Meditation required mindfulness. A complete awareness of every physical sensation, every stray thought, every sound and smell. So Sarek concentrated on the feeling of the bench beneath him, the familiar stone, cold in the evening air but warm against him. He concentrated on the air itself, the smell of the sun-baked sand cooling in the night, the breeze that rustled leaves on the garden hedges and chilled him, however slightly. He concentrated on his heart rate, normal and steady, his breath, coming slightly faster than average. His hands resting on his thighs and the feeling of his robes, their familiar texture, their warmth.

He did not concentrate on the wet patch of his shirt that had soaked through to his chest. In fact, he avoided the thought of it. Because Amanda had spent the night sobbing against him and he did not want to think about what that meant. However, the longer he spent avoiding it — the way it stuck to his skin, the cold bite of it in the chill air, the implications of is very existence — the harder it became to ignore.

Meditation required mindfulness. And he could not examine, understand and control his emotions until he allowed himself, or rather forced himself, to be mindful of this.

Because Amanda had spent the night sobbing against him, and part of him thought he could still feel where her fingers had curled tight into his robes and part of him thought he could still hear her crying, though he knew she’d wept herself to sleep a few minutes ago. She was exhausted, after all, having expended all her energy thrashing out of his grasp, a touch that he had meant to be a comfort. She had shouted, wailed, curled her fingers against her face and sunk onto the couch and only then had she let Sarek hold her. Her anger was not directed solely at him. Her anger was meant for the universe, the terrible consequence of coincidence, the understanding that no one was free of loss.

Sarek had not spoken to Spock in eight years.

The thought came upon him suddenly, bringing with it an overwhelming tide of guilt and grief that crashed into him so hard it nearly forced his eyes open with its insistence and surprise. He managed to keep his focus inward, managed to keep his hands steady on his thighs, managed to keep his breathing regular. In. Out. In. Though his heart rate had increased and for some reason he could not control it.

Sarek had not spoken to Spock in eight years, and now Spock was dead. His son. The child he and Amanda had both wanted so badly they had to invent a way to conceive him. The child Sarek had raised and groomed to be …

To be the exact opposite of what Spock actually became.

He had harbored resentment toward Spock, for joining Starfleet, for bucking his heritage. And, clearly, that resentment had festered for far too long. Because now Spock and all the infinite potential of him was gone.

Meditation required mindfulness. Awareness. But he could not think about this. He could not deconstruct this. He opened his eyes and placed his hand on his chest against the soaked patch of his shirt, right where the human heart would be, and felt his wife’s tears against his fingers. His breath shook as it flowed reluctantly into his lungs, and he sat there in the open air of his garden, staring at the ground and drifting in the eddies of his troubled thoughts. Something in him ached, and he feared what he might find if he turned to meditation to ease the wound.

 


 

Amanda’s arms around his shoulders, Sarek tilted his face into her neck, breathing in her familiar and comforting scent and wrapping her in his arms. Her frame was so slight, so delicate in spite of the strength he knew she possessed, and he wanted instinctively to protect her, though she would be the one protecting him in coming days.

“I can’t believe it,” she said softly, wonder and relief choking her throat as he felt her tears falling against his shoulder. She had cried so much in the last two years, but this was the first time in a very long time he had witnessed tears borne of joy. “I can’t believe it, Sarek.”

His grip around her tightened, and he nodded, exhaling something steadying out of his nose.

“Indeed,” he managed to say, pleased his own voice felt so even when the rest of him felt unsteady, barely contained tremors trying to fight through his control. It was all he could do to keep his breath moving. In. Out. In.

Amanda pulled back, settling her hands on his arms and giving him an admonishing sort of snort, though she was smiling through her tears. “‘Indeed?’ Your son is alive after two years, and all you have to say is ‘indeed?’ Sarek, Spock is alive . He’s coming — he’s coming home .” A fresh wave of tears spilled out at that word, and Sarek brought a hand to Amanda’s cheek, thumbing away the streak.

“I apologize, my wife,” Sarek said softly, as Amanda brought her hands up to hold his own, pressing her face into his touch. “I confess I do not know what to say.”

“Neither do I,” she admitted, kissing his palm, then meeting his eyes with the swimming blue of her own. “But that’s alright. We’ll know what to say when we see him. We — we need to see him.”

“I have called for a ship,” he said, though he had already told her as much. This was the easy part. The logistics. Get to Earth. Get to San Francisco. Get to Starfleet Headquarters and then...

“I know, my love, I know,” Amanda said. And now she was the one cupping his cheek, her hand shaking. “Thank you.”

“You needn’t thank me,” Sarek said, surprising himself with a sudden feeling of defensiveness, though he knew that to be defensive meant to be somehow in the wrong. “It is logical to leave immediately so that we might meet him upon his arrival.”

Amanda leveled her eyes at him, and he drew back slightly, wary of the look. But before he could speak, she sighed, sniffing back her tears and looking as though she were trying to regain some control herself.

“Sarek,” she said softly, his name coming out a choked whisper. “Until you called that ship… I wasn’t sure you would want to see him. I — I wasn’t sure you would come. I need to thank you because I couldn’t do this on my own. I couldn’t face our son —” her voice hitched, and she shook her head, fresh tears spilling out the corner of her eyes. “I couldn’t face our son and tell him that his father still refused to speak to him. After all of this.”

“Amanda,” Sarek said, his fingers tightening in the back of her dress, unwilling to let go and unwilling to admit that he needed this closeness, the simple support of her presence, as much as she needed his. “I have confessed my regrets to you. I will not repeat the mistakes of the past. It is illogical to do so. Spock is our son, and he has returned to us.”

“So you’ll let him stay in Starfleet?”

“If that is what he wishes, I doubt very much that I could stop him. I was unsuccessful in my first attempt to do so.”

“But you’ll speak to him, I mean? No matter what?” Amanda corrected, laying her hands on Sarek’s chest. He remembered to keep his breath steady so she could feel the inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Reliable. Hopefully comforting.

“Yes. I do not intend to lose him once again. Certainly not by choice.”

“Nor by a petty emotional reaction to any choice he makes, right?” Amanda asked, smiling in earnest now, though she still looked flushed, bright pink and puffy-eyed.

He did not take the bait in that statement, but rather responded with one of his own. “I respect Spock’s choices as his own.”

Sarek knew now what it meant to lose his son. Though they had spent eight years in silence, the possibility had always been there. The promise of reconnection. Knowing now what it… what it felt like when that promise was taken away, Sarek could not allow himself to distance himself from Spock once again. Life was short, and Spock was family. His choices were his own.

 


 

Seeing Spock again, standing in the doorway of the Starfleet meeting room that Sarek and Amanda had been shuffled into, caused an emotional reaction Sarek did not expect. And as Amanda rushed past him to throw herself into her son’s arms, Sarek stood stock still, attempting to place the emotion that froze him in place beside the room’s wide windows. Spock was taller than he had been when Sarek had last seen him, a whole decade ago, his shoulders broader, his hair — his hair much longer, though he had pulled it into a neat bun. He wore a crisp new Starfleet uniform, a direct counter to Sarek’s own robes, and even though Sarek could not describe the flash of insight, he knew — or rather felt — that something in Spock had changed.

But it had been ten years. And Spock had spent the last two trapped on an alien planet nearly entirely alone. And Sarek knew that would change anyone. Even a Vulcan. Especially Spock.

Amanda seemed to force herself to pull away, gripping Spock’s arm with both of her hands and tugging him forward. Spock seemed to hesitate at the sight of Sarek, a line drawn between his brows, subtle but obvious enough for Sarek to glean its meaning. There was fear there.

Spock was afraid of him. Or, perhaps, afraid of what he might say.

Lifting the ta’al, Sarek attempted to keep himself steady. Breath. In. Out. In.

Dif-tor heh smusma , Spock,” he said, and he found that wishing Spock a long and prosperous life felt more sincere now that that life had nearly been taken from him.

Sochya eh dif , father,” Spock said, gifting Sarek with the ta’al himself. He still looked strained, but Amanda was glancing between them with a wide grin on her face, happy well past tears now.

“Spock,” she said, her voice wavering. “The admiral said you’ve signed your paperwork and are free to go if you’re ready. Your things — your belongings. That you left on the Enterprise ? They sent them to us when — well, a long time ago. So you don’t have to worry about any of that. We have everything you need.”

Spock looked to her, let his hand fall, and Sarek thought he saw something flicker in Spock’s eyes — always so much more expressive than his own. Like Amanda’s eyes, in so many ways.

“Thank you, mother,” he said evenly. “I have elected to spend my medical leave on Vulcan, but you are not obligated to house me.”

“Of course we’re going to ‘house’ you, Spock,” she said, drawing away from him. “That’s … that’s why we’re here.”

Spock looked to Sarek then, tucking his hands behind his back. “You are amenable to this?” he asked softly. And Sarek knew what Spock was asking. He was asking if their past was behind them.

“Indeed,” Sarek replied. “It is time you came home.”

Spock’s back straightened. “I appreciate your hospitality. When we return to Vulcan, there is much to discuss, but I find I am quite ready to leave now.”

“Of course,” Amanda said, laying a hand on Spock’s arm. “And please don’t call it hospitality. We’re your parents , Spock.”

Spock’s eyes softened when he looked to her. His entire posture softened, and Sarek wondered that Spock’s emotional control had slipped so much that Sarek could see it. But he did not comment. Four months on Vulcan, Spock would regain himself. Spending two years with only a human for company may shake anyone’s control. Sarek wondered, vaguely as they moved toward the door, how Spock had managed it.

 


 

Though Sarek often held conversations here in the dining room of his home, this felt more like a meeting than a reconnection, as all three of them were stiff, uncomfortable, and — yes, Sarek could admit in the privacy of his own thoughts — anxious. He could feel the emotion in his wife and in his son, and it affected his own composure, though not outwardly.

“You did not have an opportunity to meet the Kirks, as they left for Iowa shortly before you arrived. However, I believe it is imperative that you do meet. When you are ready, we may arrange a call, but there is much I wish to tell you before then.”

Spock spoke without inflection, sitting in one of the straight-backed chairs at their dining table.

“The Kirks — oh!” Amanda said, shifting in her seat. “The family of the young man you were stranded with?”

“Indeed,” Spock said. And he set his hands flat on the table, as though preparing himself. Sarek did not know for what.

“Well, it’d be wonderful to meet that young Kirk fellow,” Amanda said genially. “He saved your life, after all. I wouldn’t mind shaking his hand.”

“You will no doubt have the opportunity,” Spock said, and he seemed to hesitate before continuing. It was a strange and uncharacteristic vacillation. Amanda noticed as well.

“Spock,” she said gently, leaning forward. “What was it you want to tell us? Does it have something to do with the Kirks?”

Letting out a breath through his nose, Spock straightened. “Yes. Specifically, James Kirk. He — he offered to stay until you arrived, to meet you in person immediately, but I believed it best that we have this conversation before you met. For his sake as well as my own.”

Sarek did not fail to notice the fumble in Spock’s speech. An unfounded expression of emotion that he could not decipher.

“Okay,” Amanda said, almost cajoling in her tone. “Well, what’s the conversation? We’re listening.” She glanced then to Sarek, worry in her eyes, and he placed his hand on her thigh under the table, a subtle gesture that it seemed Spock was too absorbed to notice.

“I —” Spock stopped, and Sarek felt his patience thinning, his frustration with the pure humanity of Spock’s indecision growing. But Spock continued before Sarek felt the need to speak himself. “I have considered the most effective way to communicate our situation to you,” Spock said, the words reluctant on his lips, “and I do not know that this is it. However, I wish to be entirely honest. Suffice to say that James Kirk and I are t’hy’la . We share a bond that I — I am unable to express with any other word. And I intend to take him as my husband and mate in both human and Vulcan traditions as soon as he is emotionally ready to do so. We have agreed to spend our medical leave apart in order to address our individual needs and acclimate once again to our separate societies, but we intend to serve together upon our return to Starfleet.”

The silence that fell over the table was suffocating, and Sarek — though he had a perfect memory — found himself unsure if he had processed Spock’s words correctly. He went over them again in his mind, weighing each one, and did not realize until he had recycled Spock’s speech through his brain three times in its entirety that he had forgotten to breathe.

In. Out. In.

“You have suffered a traumatic incident,” Sarek heard himself saying, though his voice was far away, echoing in his own ears as he heard his own blood rushing. “I am certain this is merely an effect of—”

“It is not,” Spock said, interrupting Sarek with as much force as Sarek had ever heard from him. The tone felt uncomfortably familiar. “You think I do not know my own mind. In fact, you have always thought I did not know my own mind. I am certain of this.”

Amanda, as if recalling the tone of Spock’s voice from the arguments she had weathered between them, put her hand over Sarek’s, which he only now realized still rested on her thigh. He felt her trying to soothe him, though he was not disturbed. He was simply numb.

“You cannot be certain of a t’hy’la bond,” Sarek said. “It is myth.”

“It is not,” Spock replied. “I plan to visit a Vulcan healer immediately to dissolve my bond with T’Pring, and should you desire verification, I will of course look to them, not to you, to confirm what exists between Jim and myself.”

“‘Jim?’” Sarek repeated lamely. The diminutive form of the name James. A familiar nickname that felt out of place on his son’s lips. Jim . The son of Sarek couldn’t possibly bond with a ‘Jim.’ A human male. A Starfleet officer. A product of coincidence and codependence.

Spock straightened, removing his hands from the table as if prepared to leave if Sarek said one word wrong. “Jim,” he confirmed, lifting his chin.

“Spock,” Amanda said, fingers curling around Sarek’s. “I believe you — we believe you, but dissolving your bond with T’Pring isn’t a small decision. Don’t you think you should consider this carefully?”

“I understand it may seem sudden to you,” Spock said, the patience in his tone seemingly reserved for Amanda. “But James and I have lived together for two years. We have had a great deal of time to consider our — our feelings toward each other. Our goals, expectations and our families.” At this, Spock’s eyes flicked to Sarek, and Sarek felt that defensiveness rise up within him again.

That was perhaps his first clue that he may have been in the wrong.

He had told Amanda right before they had left — right before they had gone to collect Spock from Earth and bring him home — that Spock’s choices were his own. But if Sarek had known then what he knew now, that Spock's choice would be to bond with a human man with whom he had no prior connection, he did not know if he would have uttered that statement with any surety.

They were silent for a long time, and Amanda gave Sarek a look before casting her eyes to Spock again. “Do you love him?” she asked softly, and Sarek wanted to contradict her, wanted to ask her to respect Spock’s Vulcan heritage, the suppression and control of emotion that had always been such a challenge for him, but before he could say a word, Spock did.

“Yes,” he said simply, and Sarek felt a fist clench around his heart. He gave no outward indication, only straightened and pulled his hand from his wife’s grasp.

“Love is not necessary in the formation of a bond. Your marriage to T’Pring has long been—”

“My marriage to T’Pring is unnecessary now,” Spock said. “I have selected a mate who has, in turn, selected me. T’Pring may now be free to choose. She has always wished it to be so.”

This was not new information to Sarek. Long ago, he had taken Spock to a healer, when the boy had been suffering massive headaches. The healer had discovered that T’Pring was forcing Spock from her mind, to both of their detriments. It was clear even that early that she did not hold their union in high regard. Even still, Sarek could not imagine the disgrace Spock would face — rejecting a perfect match in favor of a human. Sarek's own situation was different. Marrying Amanda had been logical. He saw no logic in this.

“I will not be swayed,” Spock said, eyes locked on Sarek’s own. “However, I understand that this may be a point of contention between us. Should you choose instead to once again remove yourself from my life, I have prepared myself for such an outcome and will accept your wishes.”

“Spock!” Amanda nearly shouted, her voice ringing in the otherwise silent room and her hands flying into the air in apparent outrage. Sarek turned to her, attempting not to convey his shock. “You can’t think we would disown you for—”

“You have disowned me for less,” Spock said, this time addressing both of them, and Sarek felt that same rush of guilt and grief that had blindsided him the night he had learned of Spock’s death.

But Spock was here now, sitting right across from them, returned to them in spite of incredible odds. And Sarek weighed in that moment what it meant to believe Spock was lost to them forever, and what it meant to know now that Spock was here, but not the son Sarek had ever intended or expected.

The air grew tense as each of them collected their thoughts, and Sarek tried to school his breath back into motion once again. In. Out. In.

“I cannot condone this decision,” he finally said, after what was far too long a pause.

Amanda stood, chair scraping loud against the stone, and she slammed her hands on the table. “No,” she said. “No, don’t you even start. Sarek, this is our son.” She tossed a hand in Spock’s direction, and Sarek looked to him, the widening of his eyes in the face of Amanda’s ire. “And he’s in love. And he’s in love with the same person who brought him back to us in the first place. I know you’re surprised — I’m surprised, but damnit, Sarek.” She turned to him fully now, lifting a finger. Though he usually towered above her in height, now she was standing above him, an intimidating presence. “Don’t you dare. I have spent too long watching the two of you huff and bluster like two children having a tantrum, and I refuse to watch it again.”

She let out a harsh breath, closing her eyes and leveling her hands, as though calming herself into patience. Sarek had not seen such an emotional outburst from her in so long, and he found himself leaning back in his seat, nervous in spite of himself.

When Amanda opened her eyes again, they were steely. She settled them on Sarek, then slowly, torturously slowly, turned to Spock.

“We would love to meet Jim. And it might take us some time to adjust but, Spock, we respect your decision. Don’t we, Sarek.”

This was not asked as a question. Nor did her eyes turn to him. Instead, they were on Spock. Spock, who would have been dead if not for the human he loved. The human he had admitted to loving. How had he done so without any shame?

Sarek stood. “I require meditation,” he said slowly, and Amanda turned to him, her eyes wide and disbelieving.

“Sarek,” she scolded, but he did not remain to fall victim to her anger. Instead, he moved past her, out toward the garden, and did not risk a look back at his son.

 


 

The sound of laughter rang unfamiliar through the house, and Sarek had to pause in his daily stretches in order to absorb it. Then, he had to straighten, move to his bedroom door and place an ear against the cool metal in order to understand it.

It came from the main living room, Amanda’s laugh and someone else’s — someone whose voice echoed as if through speakers. Then someone began to talk, though it was too muffled to make out the words. Sarek straightened, found his robe, and made himself presentable.

He moved out into the hallway, the voice louder now without the impediment of the walls.

“Thank you, Amanda,” a male voice was saying. A human voice, which rose and fell without restraint of emotion. “That — that means a lot to me.”

Amanda’s voice answered. “Oh, Jim, I can’t believe you’re the one thanking me. Spock, you didn’t tell me he was so polite.”

Sarek moved down the hallway, but it took him a moment to bring himself to peek into the living area. He managed to steel himself before poking his head around the corner, looking into the room where Spock and Amanda sat on the couch, and a young man’s face appeared on the large screen along the wall.

He bore a smile so wide it seemed to stretch from wall to wall (though the screen wasn’t near that large) and his bright brown eyes were softened at their edges. Those eyes were turned on Spock, who sat straight, but not uncomfortable.

“I did not deem it necessary to list each of Jim’s positive qualities,” Spock said. “It would take a very long while.”

The man on the screen — James — James’ smile widened, and he settled his chin in his hand. He looked to Amanda. “Your son is one hell of a flirt for a Vulcan, let me tell you,” he said, and Amanda’s laugh rang out once again.

“He gets it from his father,” she said, just as Sarek moved more noticeably into the room, uncomfortable enough with the current line of dialogue that he felt it might be wise to interrupt.

“Speaking of,” James said, straightening and seemingly forcing his smile down as though dimming a light, “is this the man himself?”

Spock and Amanda looked over their shoulders and caught Sarek standing there, his arms in his sleeves. With their eyes, and James’, on him, Sarek felt suddenly like a specimen under a microscope.

“I am Sarek,” he responded as soon as he realized that it would be appropriate to do so. “And you are James Tiberius Kirk.”

James’ smile faltered, but he cleared his throat and leaned back from the camera, his face a more manageable size now. “I am, yes sir,” he said, and to Sarek’s shock, he lifted the ta’al. “I am glad to have met you. I wasn’t expecting… ” his eyes flicked to Amanda, who leaned over the back of the couch.

“I told him you might not be able to meet him today,” Amanda said, settling her eyes on Sarek’s. There was something scrutinizing in that gaze. “If you want to leave…” she left it open-ended, and James’ eyes shifted to Spock, though Sarek was rather focused on his wife. She was giving him an option, he knew. He could leave, refuse to acknowledge Spock’s supposed t’hy’la. Or he could stay, and attempt to get to know the young man his son had chosen.

In the end, Sarek would always prefer having more information than less, so he moved forward, found one of the large armchairs beside the couch where Spock and Amanda sat, and settled into it. Amanda gave him an approving sort of look, and James seemed to relax minutely on the screen. Spock, however, stiffened.

“We were just talking about how Jim saved Spock’s life,” Amanda put in less than subtly, and James put a hand to his face, clearly embarrassed.

“But we don’t  have to,” James offered immediately. “Really, I — I would much rather get to know each of you.”

“As we must ‘get to know’ you,” Sarek agreed. “If you are to be my son’s mate, we must evaluate your compatibility based on more evidence than one heroic act.”

Both Spock and Amanda turned to him, then, and Spock finally spoke up. “In fact, you must make no such evaluation. As Jim and myself have already done so.”

“Spock,” James said softly, and Sarek did not fail to notice the way Spock’s countenance seemed to lose its intensity when he returned his eyes to the screen. “It’s okay.”

With a breath through his nose, Spock returned to his previous posture. James gave him a small smile and turned his attention back to Sarek.

“What would you like to know, sir? I’m an open book, really. I can even send along some reference letters if you’re interested.”

Amanda snorted loudly, and James tossed a shining smile at her. Sarek lifted his chin, fully aware of when he was being teased and finding he didn’t much care for it. “That will be unnecessary. However, there is much I would like to know.”

“Shoot,” James said, and Sarek raised a brow.

“He means to say that you may ask your questions,” Spock translated, nodding at Sarek, who didn’t fail to notice the tension in Spock’s frame. In spite of what James had said, it did not look to be ‘okay’ with Spock.

“Very well,” Sarek said, formulating his questions and organizing them based on priority in his mind. “Why have you chosen my son?”

James’ eyes widened, as if he hadn’t been expecting that, and Sarek felt Amanda’s discomfort from across the room. It may not have been the most appropriate question given human standards of propriety, but it was the most important piece of information Sarek could glean from this conversation. He attempted to convey to Amanda through their link that she needn’t be uncomfortable, so long as James answered the question in full honesty.

“Ah, well, sir,” James said, glancing at Spock as if for reassurance. He seemed to find what he was looking for, and his lips ticked up in a small smile. “Well, simple answer is I love him. As for why I love him, that’s a longer answer. He’s the most compassionate and intelligent person I’ve ever met, and I think we … we understand each other.”

When Sarek glanced to Spock, to gauge his reaction, he saw the beginnings of a smile on Spock’s own lips, something nakedly affectionate, though it may have been subtle to anyone else.

“Very well,” Sarek said, accepting that answer as logical by human standards. “Do you understand the magnitude of the bond he claims?”

Amanda tossed up her hands, “Sarek, this isn’t an interrogation. Can’t you just hold a conversation with him like a normal person?”

“I, too, find this line of questioning to be inappropriate.” Spock put in.

On the screen, James raised his hands up in defense. “It's okay, really. I mean, it's logical, isn't it? To ask? I don't mind if you don't,” he said magnanimously, looking to Spock for confirmation.

“I do mind,” Spock said, “because my father is showing you, and our relationship, disrespect.”

“Or,” James offered with practiced patience, “he's trying to understand it. That's what this is, right, sir?” James asked, looking to him. “You want to understand how your logical Vulcan son came back from Alpha Novus V with a human attached to his hip, right? I get it. My parents had questions, too.”

In Sarek’s periphery, Spock’s lips pursed. “Your parents were very respectful,” he countered.

James smiled. “Sweetheart, you’re Vulcan. Your dad is Vulcan,” at this he looked to Sarek. “I had a feeling there would be a little interrogation. I don’t feel disrespected.”

Sarek leaned back in his seat, the simple endearment James had uttered catching him somehow off-guard. It was so casually caring, and it felt as though it should not have been applied to his son. He cleared his throat, drawing attention to himself once more. “You do not feel disrespected,” he echoed. “How do you feel?”

“Nervous, mostly,” James admitted. “If I'm being honest, sir, I want to make a good impression.”

“You’re doing great, Jim,” Amanda said gently, and she looked to Sarek with venom in her eyes. “Are you done?”

Sarek glanced to her, to Spock whose face betrayed nothing, though his fingers were clenched subtly in his lap, then to James, who was looking at him with a small, nervous smile.

He was so human.

But then, Sarek’s ashayam was human, too. And she was vibrant and quick-witted and exciting and kind. And though he believed her to be the exception, a sparkling example of humanity, it was possible that this young man could be all of that to Spock, as Amanda was to Sarek.

But ‘possible’ meant very little until one had facts. Until it became ‘probable’ and until it became ‘true.’

“You have not yet answered my question, James,” Sarek said, folding his hands into his lap calmly. “Do you understand the magnitude of the bond Spock claims exists between you?”

James’ smile faded, and his eyes turned contemplative, as though he wanted to consider the question with everything he had before he gave an answer. At least Sarek could respect that much.

“I do,” James finally said, his tone more serious than Sarek had yet heard it. But he did not elaborate.

Perhaps he didn’t need to. “I see,” Sarek replied, and he considered the gravity with which James had treated the question.

“Father, I request that you save any remaining questions for another day,” Spock said, standing. “I wish to speak to Jim alone.”

“Of course, Spock,” Amanda said, and she looked back to the screen. “It was great to meet you, Jim,” she said softly. “I hope we will get to meet your parents next time.”

James laughed again, though it was quieter than before. “Absolutely. I’ll make sure of it. It was good to meet you, too. Both of you.” At this, he looked to Sarek. Their eyes met for the briefest moment, and for once Sarek wasn’t sure what he was seeing in that utterly human expression. Maybe it was nerves, as James had said. Or, perhaps, it was understanding. Sarek could not quite figure out why he wished it to be the latter. He did not require this human’s understanding.

Dif-tor heh smusma,” he said, lifting the ta’al.

“Peace and long life,” James responded. Out of Sarek’s periphery, he thought he saw Spock smile, but the expression was gone too quickly for him to be sure.

 


 

“It’s logical , Sarek,” Amanda said, soothing, placing a hand on his arm. They were alone, sitting quietly on the couch, and the house felt empty, almost echoing. Spock would not be back for many hours. “Would you truly force him into a bond with someone who hates him? When Jim —”

“James Kirk is an unsuitable match—”

James Kirk,” Amanda spoke over him forcibly, fingers curling into his sleeve, “is the only match. And after today, there won’t be anything standing in their way.”

The way she said that felt almost accusatory, and Sarek straightened his spine. “will not stand in their way.” he said, though it was without assurance. “I simply ask that he thinks of this logically. He has become emotional. Reckless.”

“He has grown up,” Amanda corrected. “And he has made choices you don’t agree with. Sarek, darling, that is part of having children. I know, after Sybok —”

Sarek stood abruptly, moving from her side and walking purposefully into the center of the living area. He took a long, long breath. They did not discuss Sybok. He had asked that they not discuss Sybok. Amanda knew this, and he felt her regret over their bond.

“I’m sorry, my love,” she said, and he heard her move to join him. She brought her hands to his arm, pressed warm and comforting against him, and laid her head against his shoulder. He felt something in him soften, and he breathed. In. Out. In.

When Spock returned to this house, his bond with T'pring would be gone, after more than two decades. This severance was the end of Sarek’s hopes for Spock, the end of all the things he may become and accomplish. And though he had mourned Spock's loss twice now, once when Spock joined Starfleet and once when he believed Spock to be dead, he found himself mourning anew. Not for Spock himself, but for the life Sarek had envisioned for him.

Kaiidth , he thought lowly, and placed a hand on the soft crown of his wife's head.

 


 

Winona and George Kirk were more exuberant than their son. When they appeared on screen, it was with a gushing “it’s so good to meet you” and “we’ve heard so much about you” and “we just love your son,” and Sarek felt himself pushing back against the back of the couch, as if attempting to put distance between himself and the screen, though the motion was illogical.

He allowed Amanda to speak for them, unable to process the rapid-fire exchange of compliments and pleasantries, and (if he were being honest), entirely unfocused on the conversation itself.

Instead, he found his eyes returning again and again to Spock beside him, and James sitting beside his parents on the screen. Spock and James, who kept giving each other small, happy glances, as if they too were distracted. Months now without seeing each other in person, months now that they had reintegrated into society, and months now that they had once again reclaimed their own lives, and still they looked at each other as though nothing else existed. It made something hollow ache in Sarek’s chest, and he found his attention stolen completely from the topic at hand.

Until Amanda nudged him slightly, as if sensing his distraction, and he realized that he was meeting the parents of the man who would someday marry his son, if he willed it or not, and that these strange, illogical humans would be a part of his family, if he willed it or not.

And that ache in his chest throbbed painfully, because he didn’t want this, but Spock did.

Spock did. And Sarek wanted Spock to remain a part of his life.

“Sarek, George asked you a question,” Amanda whispered under her breath, and Sarek realized he had been staring at James, at the bright smile on his face and the red flush on his cheeks and that look in his eyes that seemed reserved solely for Spock. He had to draw his attention back to the larger figures on the screen, the man and woman with their own wide grins and expectant looks.

“My apologies,” Sarek said. “Please, repeat your question. I — am interested. In getting to know you both.”

The words came out stilted, forced, and he knew they would read as such to everyone, but the words did come out, and that was what mattered.

Amanda smiled, and beside him he felt more than saw Spock’s shoulders relax. It was a small step, but a necessary one. To resist any longer would be illogical.

 


 

The restaurant, and even the street outside it, was busy. According to Amanda, she and the Kirks had chosen it for its casual elegance, ‘perfect’ for a celebration. Though Sarek was unsure what they were celebrating.

In a week, Spock would once again be on the Enterprise. He did not know if they celebrated Spock’s departure, his reconnection with his future mate, or the fact that it was the first time they would meet the Kirks in person, but he did not question Amanda’s motives. She was happy, glowing, and he wished to see her like this always. She had spent two years as a shell of herself when they believed Spock to have died. This was infinitely preferred.

“Amanda! Sarek!” A voice called, and Sarek turned to the sound, scanning the oncoming pedestrians for their dining companions. And out of the crowd emerged George and Winona Kirk, holding hands and grinning ear-to-ear. George had a hand raised in greeting, and Winona tugged him along, laughing.

“It is so good to see you,” she said, releasing George’s hand to open her arms to Amanda, who returned her hug.

“Sarek,” George greeted, lifting his hand in a clumsy imitation of the Vulcan greeting. “Amanda. It’s a pleasure.”

Amanda grasped Winona’s hand as they parted, her own smile bright and, Sarek could admit, mildly infectious. “We meet at last. Well, in person at least. Have either of you heard from the boys?”

“Not yet, but I’m not surprised,” Winona said with a little laugh.

“It is unlike Spock to be late,” Sarek put in, disappointed in spite of himself. It was a silly detail to take issue with, but nevertheless frustrating.

Amanda rolled her eyes, though the gesture was without malice. “Sarek, Spock and Jim haven’t seen each other in months. Give them a minute, will  you?”

“Besides,” George said with a small smile, “this gives us a chance to talk.”

Though Sarek did not relish the idea of standing in the street talking to the Kirks, they had many minutes until a table became available. He shifted closer to the wall, leaving the walkway open to passing pedestrians.“That is true,” he conceded, and Amanda gave him a satisfied smile.

“And without the boys this time,” she said. “I just want both of you to know how much I— we —” she elbowed Sarek less than subtly, “adore Jim. I know he’d be so embarrassed if I said it in front of him, but it’s true. He’s a remarkable young man.”

Winona’s answering smile was like a spotlight, wide and shining, much like her son’s, and George straightened proudly. “We feel the same about Spock,” he said, and Sarek had to restrain a sigh — nearly unheard of for him. Feel. Feel . He was surrounded by emotion, though he supposed pride and affection were better than many alternatives.

Winona chuckled. “Oh goodness, yes. He’s lovely. Smart as a whip, too. You’ve raised him well.”

At this, Sarek paused, frustration fleeing him, his eyebrow rising into his hair. “You — you believe so?” he asked, wondering why a bubble of surprise was rising in him, alongside another emotion he was having trouble identifying.

Winona tilted her head, wearing a little smile. “Of course,” she said, as though it were obvious.

But it wasn’t obvious. Sarek had failed as a father. First Sybok, then Spock — two people who depended on him to guide them. Two people who had gone down paths he did not understand or rightly care for. Two people who, if they had turned out to possess positive qualities, could not have attributed any of them to Sarek himself. They defied him at every turn, resented him.

Maybe they hated him.

Sarek had failed as a father. And yet these people stood before him, and told him he had raised his son well.

Amanda laid a hand on his back, but said something to the Kirks to distract from Sarek’s momentary introspection. He tried to pull himself back into the present moment, thoroughly dumbfounded by his lack of control. And though he tried to manage his breath once more — in, out, in — Something was happening emotionally inside of him, and he was standing on a crowded San Francisco street, surrounded by humans. He could not examine it now.

“Ah—” Winona said, interrupting Sarek’s troubled thoughts. She raised her hand and waved over Sarek and Amanda’s shoulders. “There they are!”

Sarek turned, still trying to pull himself from his own mind, but the world came rushing back to him in a cacophony of sound and sight when he caught sight of his son — and his son’s ashayam — in the crowd. James had his arm curled around Spock’s, dragging him onward. They were in a rush, clearly, but James bore a wide and open smile, and Spock looked truly relaxed for the first time Sarek could recall. His lips were curled slightly, a dusting of green playing over his cheeks, and he had his head tilted downward, listening as James spoke, though the words were indecipherable from this distance.

James, too, seemed relaxed, holding onto Spock as though their proximity were natural. Sarek had seen them together in the sense that he had seen the way they looked at each other, the way their eyes always drifted back to each other during their video calls, but he had never seen them together .

And they were. Together in every sense of the word. As close as physically possible and, Sarek realized, much more than that. Spock had never looked comfortable. Since the day he realized what it meant to be half human and half Vulcan, he had been out of place in his own skin, confused and torn into pieces. Yet here, surrounded by humans, walking alongside this strange and seemingly imperfect man, Spock finally looked at-ease. As if he belonged. After a lifetime of belonging nowhere.

Sarek wondered over what that meant, but he did not have much time to do so.

“Hi,” James called when they were within earshot, pulling away from Spock just enough to lead him onward a little faster. “Sorry we’re late.”

Sarek did not fail to notice that he failed to provide an explanation for their tardiness, but in that moment he hardly cared. Instead, his eyes were drawn to their hands. James and Spock’s hands, resting now at their sides with their knuckles brushing. He wondered what psychic impressions may have made their way through that contact. Reassurance, likely. This might be a strange meeting for all.

“There is no need to apologize,” Sarek heard himself saying. “It is good to see you, James.” He lifted the ta’al, unsure where this greeting had even come from, unsure why he felt himself conceding to the strange human custom of expressing pleasure at the sight of someone.

But James smiled brightly, and raised the ta’al in turn. “Dif-tor heh smusma,” he said, inelegant but with effort. “It’s good to see you both, too.”

Amanda rushed forward, sweeping James into a hug, and both James and Spock seemed surprised for a moment. But James wrapped his arms around Amanda and his smile grew tender, soft, the kind of smile Sarek only ever saw on his face when he was speaking with Spock.

“It’s so good to meet you in person, Jim,” Amanda said, giving him a purposeful squeeze. “Thank you for taking care of my boy.”

When she drew away, James cast a small grin at Spock, who was also smiling in his own small way. “Easiest thing I’ve ever done,” James said, elbowing Spock good-naturedly. Spock gave him an indulgent look.

At that moment, a waiter poked his head out the door. “Grayson? Party of six?” Amanda smiled and took Sarek’s sleeve. “Perfect timing. Shall we, darling?” she asked, and Sarek looked around him, at the group of humans who had somehow integrated into his family, his life, and he looked at his son, who seemed nervous in his presence, but stood tall beside the person he loved.

Just as Sarek did. Perhaps they weren’t so different after all.

“Indeed,” Sarek said, and he motioned for the others to move ahead. They did so, but Sarek caught James as he was passing, a hand on his shoulder that he had not meant to extend. James paused, turned to him, and Sarek could feel the sudden nerves radiating from the young man. He drew away. “James,” he said calmly, tugging his robe straight. For some reason, James smiled at the motion.

“Yes sir?” he asked as the rest of them passed into the restaurant, too distracted by extended greetings to notice their pause. Sarek did not know why he had stopped the young man, but now that James was standing before him, he felt he must say something.

And, perhaps, he must say what was on his mind.

“I apologize,” Sarek forced himself to say, tucking his hands into his sleeves. “I hope you might be patient with me. There is much I must learn and understand. But I do understand that you are the one my son has chosen. And I respect that choice. I … I thank you. For caring for him.”

James’ smile started slow, but it bloomed like a flower, bright and kind. And Sarek thought suddenly that he did not deserve a look so full of compassion.

“Thank you, sir,” James said. “I hope — well, I hope this might be the start of a new chapter. For all of us.”

Sarek felt himself swallow, though he did not intend to. And he realized he had forgotten to breathe once again. He let the cool, humid air of evening flow through his lungs. In. Out. In. “I believe it will be,” he said softly, finally. And James, perhaps forgetting himself, slapped a hand on Sarek’s shoulder. Sarek jolted at the motion, unused to such contact, but let out a little breath when the touch was removed.

“Let’s get in then,” James said. “There’s a lot of catching up to do.”

And Sarek found he agreed. There was much 'catching up to do.' A decade, in fact. And Sarek promised himself then in the orange light of the restaurant windows and the overwhelming energy of the busy San Francisco night, that he would not waste this new opportunity. He did not understand, but he wanted to. He was Vulcan. He only ever wanted to understand.

“Of course, James.”

James laughed as they made their way inside, the bustle of the restaurant nearly suffocating his next words.

“Call me Jim. Please.”

Jim. His son’s beloved. The young man who had brought Spock back to them, perhaps in more ways than one.

“Jim,” Sarek repeated. The name would take some time to become familiar on his tongue, but he would learn. After all this time, he had to.