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Having, Wanting

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The odds that he should know any of the universe's surviving Vulcans - his father and his younger self and the Council members excepted - are astronomical, though with no human comrades to irritate or amuse with this pedantry, he doesn't quote them. And yet, two days after the refugees begin to arrive at the Federation's hastily-prepared camp in Earth's Tunisia, he sees her; a young woman, distantly beautiful, part of the group forsaking food and sleep to wait by the shuttle ports.

On the sixth day, when it has become clear that no-one else is coming and this vigil has dwindled to a stubborn few and then to just one, he brings her water. "My gratitude, Elder," she says in their most formal dialect. Only another Vulcan would detect the tremor in her hands as she takes the pitcher. Any Vulcan would understand why she puts it aside without drinking, and any Vulcan would keep silent and leave this one to her useless penance.

Spock, as he has been reminded for all of his long lifetime, is only half Vulcan, and perhaps it is his human half that bids him sit beside the woman on the sands; almost certainly that part of himself, too, that feels amusement when her chin lifts a fraction in swiftly-concealed annoyance. She is all-Vulcan, and the difference in their ages means she will not, cannot, refuse any counsel he might wish to give.

"You act illogically," he says.

Her eyes are cool, and without a trace of recognition. "I await further survivors."

"Do you believe they'll arrive here faster than the subspace news of their existence?" He expects no reply, and gets none. "The compound is moments away. You can wait for ships just as efficiently with sustenance and shade."

"I respectfully request," she says with rigid control, "that you allow me to pursue my life as I see fit."

Curious, the echoes that carry between universes. "We are so few," he says. "So very few. Would you reduce our number by one more, T'Pring?"

He counts a full seven Earth minutes before she speaks. He waits, fully prepared to stay silent at her side for hours; the noonday sun, punishing to humans, is only pleasantly warm in its wrong-colored sky.

"If you know my name," she says finally, "then you know why I live."

Yes. He doubts that anyone in their much-reduced community does not know why T'Pring lives. Only one evacuation ship escaped from Vulcan, and its passengers were almost humanly eager to tell why T'Pau had not been aboard.

Even a human would hear her voice waver. "I was to ensure she boarded the craft safely. She said she would not leave Vulcan. There were only seconds before the doors closed. I allowed her to persuade me to take her place." She switches suddenly to Standard, her native tongue lacking the words: "I was afraid."

"I knew T'Pau," he tells her in their own language, using the prefix that indicates a family member - T'Pring's eyebrows rise - "and I believe it… satisfied her to know that another lived in her place."

"A stranger."

"But the only person close enough to the ship to save. What do you imagine you should have done? Thrown T'Pau bodily to safety and closed the airlock behind her? No, T'Pring," he says, "there was no other possible outcome." He can see by the set of her jaw that this is an unacceptable answer. It has long since occurred to him that the students of the Vulcan Science Academy could benefit from the Kobayashi Maru test.

"My mother and father died," she says softly, and he wonders if this is the heart of the matter at last. "My parents' parents, their siblings. My younger sister. He who would have been my husband. All his family." Perhaps for the first time in her life, something like a smile tugs at her mouth, nothing but despair in it. "When I was the age to be bonded there was talk of joining me to Sarek's son. My father wouldn't allow it. Yet he and Sarek are both alive - I would have had two kinsmen."

Doomed in any version of history, he thinks, to wish for more than the universe allows her. Almost no-one has been so fortunate as to find one surviving family member, however distant, let alone two. "We are all without families," he says, though he found many decades ago, on the Enterprise, that families can form despite a lack of blood ties. It is a lesson he hopes the rest of his people will learn, in time.

Spock looks at T'Pring. In another life...

But that other life is irrelevant, now, and this young woman has never harmed him. She is alive only because Vulcan's greatest matriarch is dead, and he is all too aware that she faces a lifetime of censure from those who would utterly deny that they resent her that life.

Assuming, of course, that she has decided to live.

"I revered T'Pau," he says. "It would pain me to think that her last act was wasted."

When she speaks, he has to strain to hear her. "She was Vulcan. And I am... I am no-one of consequence."

"Then your life's work can be devoted to becoming someone of consequence." They will need teachers, healers, leaders. Replacements for the lost. And T'Pring will need someone, he thinks wryly, who understands the unwavering, illogical disapproval of Vulcans. A tutor. Perhaps even a friend.

"Drink," he says, holding out the water, and is gratified when at last she meets his eyes and puts the pitcher to her lips.