Mr. Spock, I've got your mother on a low-urgency subspace frequency, asking to speak to you. Would you like me to patch her through?
"If you would, Commander Uhura."
A moment later, his mother's face appeared on the computer screen in his quarters. She smiled. "Spock!"
He held up his hand in greeting. "Hello, Mother."
"Your father gave me your message." She sighed. "I'm very happy to hear it, but you might have delivered it yourself. It's been months since I heard from you."
It was common for them to go months without speaking--when he was younger, it had sometimes stretched to years. It was illogical that her words should make him feel guilty. "I apologize if I've been remiss in my filial duties," he said stiffly. "In the future I shall endeavor to--"
"Oh, don't go all stiff-lipped and Vulcan on me!" she said pleadingly. "I only meant--I miss you, Spock."
He frowned, although it was unkind and human to take offense. He had missed her too. "I can hardly 'go Vulcan' on you when I am Vulcan."
She made a moue. "Only half."
"Mother," he said abruptly, "do you--do you regret spending your life on Vulcan?" With a Vulcan?
Her lips parted and her brows drew together. Now that he had looked in a mirror with his katra newly joined and seen his face as a stranger would, he could see that despite his Vulcan eyebrows their frowns were identical. "You can't think I meant--Spock!"
"I do not mean to accuse you of intolerance, Mother," he said. "I merely--I have long wished to know."
She chewed her lower lip, thinking. "Well," she said, "for one thing, I haven't spent my life on Vulcan. Your father's an ambassador, Spock. I've travelled all over the galaxy, seen and done things most women have only dreamed of."
"As my father's consort, yes." Spock respected his father, naturally; he felt natural affection for him and valued his approval. However, he would rather have given up Starfleet than travel the galaxy in his father's company, and while it was clear his mother felt differently, it was incomprehensible to him.
"You don't really see it that way, do you, Spock?" she asked, clearly dismayed. "I know how your father is, but--don't you know how we met?"
"You were Earth's representative in the renegotiations of Vulcan's membership in the Federation."
"Vulcan was going to leave, Spock. I convinced your father to put a stop to it. When I asked him to marry me, I didn't see it as giving up my work. I saw it as continuing it, together. Vulcans are not natural diplomats. They have too little patience with the failings of other species. Of course nothing was official--I was human, so it was your father who always spoke in Council--but we were Vulcan's ambassadors together. Your father and I stopped more wars and forged more alliances than even you, Spock. Vulcan's traditions of reason and peaceful conflict resolution were not always so respected in the Federation. Now there are schools of Vulcan thought on planets all over the galaxy. And I hope I've helped Vulcan be a little less narrow, too."
"I didn't realize," he said, utterly at a loss. "I apologize."
She sighed. "Oh, Spock, I'm sorry too. I wasn't always very happy when you were young, was I? But it wasn't because of your father. Or--I won't say a word against him, because he's loved me and stood by me for fifty years now, but I wish--I think he married me because I was the first person ever to win an argument with him. And I wish I'd won more arguments with him when you were a child. I wish we'd had more arguments when you were a child. I wish I'd tried harder to understand what it meant to the two of you to be Vulcan, and that I'd made your father understand what it means to be human. I don't know if I did right by you. But you always seemed to do so well when you were older, and I'm so proud of you--"
She dashed away a tear. "I made a hard choice, and I'm sorry if you regret it, I am. But I don't regret it. I can't. I got my life, and I got you, Spock. How could I regret that?"
Spock was glad his white-knuckled hands were hidden from sight. He had never dreamed she thought he was doing well. She always seemed so worried when they spoke. She always asked him how he felt, or why he didn't smile more.
"You needn't look so surprised! When you were dead, I--people sent me letters. Lots of people. People you had worked with, people you had helped, and they all thought you were wonderful too! I even got letters from some mixed-species children, telling me how much they admired you, that when they heard your name or saw your picture they knew there was a place in the world for them too, and I was so proud and I love you so much--"
Her voice was thick with tears now. His reaction was familiar--shame and awkwardness, combined with a secret satisfaction and pride that his mother cared so much. "I'm sorry, I'm embarrassing you," she said, blowing her nose. "I'll stop."
"You have never embarrassed me, Mother," he told her formally. It was all he could manage to say.
She laughed. "Oh, don't lie, Spock! I'm your mother, I wouldn't feel I was doing my job if I didn't embarrass you at least three times in every conversation. I don't mind, I know you love me too."
He had never said it. As a child it had been simply not an option, and later, when he would have liked to tell her, he had never been able to. He could not now. "I wish--" he said instead.
She smiled shakily. "I'm your mother," she said again. "I've known you from the moment you were born, and if there was one thing I was always sure of, it was how you felt about me."
He could not quite believe how much lighter he felt. He wished he knew how to do the same for her, but then, she was his mother. Perhaps some things could only go one way. "Thank you," he said. "I am--I am happy to hear it."
"Are you?" she asked, a little anxiously. "Are you happy?"
"I think so," he said slowly. "I hope to soon be happier."
"Good," she said. "Good." She smiled at him again, bright and warm as she always had, his whole life. Spock realized, quite suddenly, that he had had more, or different burdens than the other Vulcan boys, but he had had benefits to compensate. Perhaps there was no best path; there was only the one you trod.
"I will try to contact you more often," he offered.
Her smile widened. "Thank you," she said, eyes misting over again. "Here, I've used up my three times. Live long and prosper, Spock."
"Live long and prosper, Mother."
Her face winked out, and for the first time in years he did not feel relieved to be alone again.
He sat and thought. The unacknowledged fear he had carried with him for so long, that what he was could never compensate for all the things he could never be--it would return, he knew, but for now it seemed to have evaporated. The moment seemed propitious to speak to Jim.
Come in, Spock.
The captain's door slid open, and Spock went inside. Jim looked up from behind his desk, his glasses perched on his nose. It startled Spock, for a moment, that they were different rooms than they had been. This was the Enterprise, and yet not the Enterprise. How many lives had she had, now? There would be time for this, too, to seem right and familiar.
"Jim," he began without preamble, "I told you once that when I felt friendship for you, I was ashamed."
The captain frowned. "That was a long time ago, Spock."
"It was," he agreed. "But I do not believe I ever told you that our friendship has always been a great source of pride to me, as well."
Jim beamed at him. "Thank you, Spock. You know, of course, that I--well, that I feel the same."
"I have never doubted it," Spock said truthfully, understanding now how his mother could be so sure. "Indeed, you have given me so much that it seems greedy to ask for more--or not more, but something different as well; the way in which humans create hierarchies of emotion has always been opaque to me--" Jim was staring, and Spock gave up. He could not do this the human way, but there was a Vulcan way, too. He held out two fingers in the traditional salute to one's mate.
At first he thought Jim did not understand, or did not remember what the gesture meant. He stared at Spock's fingers for eight and a half seconds--because the human brain perceives time in a relative manner, it felt much longer--and then he ignored them, coming round his desk (when they were younger, he would have jumped over it) and throwing himself past Spock's outstretched hand, barrelling into Spock's chest with a shout of gleeful laughter and kissing him energetically. He broke it off a second later to pound Spock on the back. "I didn't think you had it in you, Spock!"
Spock's smile seemed to be using muscles he had let atrophy. "Nor did I, captain."
Jim kissed him again. "If I'd known I would have said something years ago! Think of all that time wasted."
Spock raised his eyebrows. "I do not consider our many years of friendship a waste."
"Of course not, Spock, I only meant--never mind. You're right. Everything is working out perfectly."