How do you feel?
How do you feel?
Spock stares at the screen. The hollowness that has existed in his chest since the fal-tor-pon throbs. But it is shrouded in darkness and Spock cannot make himself confront it directly no matter how often he tries to turn his attention there.
“I do not understand the question.”
“What is it, Spock?”
Spock turns toward the entrance. He had not noticed Amanda’s approach but warmth spreads in his stomach when he hears her voice.
“I do not understand the question, Mother.”
“You're half human. The computer knows that.”
The warmth twists a bit and becomes painful. Spock pushes it down.
“The question is irrelevant.”
“Spock, ...the retraining of your mind has been in the Vulcan way, so you may not understand feelings. But as my son, you have them. They will surface.” Amanda’s smile is patient, tolerant. She sounds like she’s explained this before.
He suddenly wants to ask her why she married his father, why she raised a Vulcan son, and why she’s remained on Vulcan all these years. He does not. The most he can give is a small concession.
“As you wish, since you deem them of value. But I cannot wait here to find them.”
There’s no sadness in her eyes, at least none Spock knows how to read. “Where must you go?”
He thinks that is rather obvious. “I must go to Earth. To offer testimony.”
Amanda steps closer. Closer than a Vulcan would stand to another Vulcan in casual conversation, but Spock finds he does not want to step away. “You do this… for friendship?”
In that pause, Spock’s heart beats a little harder against his side. “I do it because I was there.” It’s an excuse. Spock knows it’s an excuse but cannot remember what he’s trying to excuse.
“Spock. Does the good of the many outweigh the good of the one?”
Spock raises an eyebrow. He knows humans jump quickly from topic to topic in conversation. He knows he used to be able to follow those jumps with ease. He’s still getting used to that again. “I would accept that as an axiom.”
Amanda spreads her hands. Something deep in Spock’s psyche stirs. It recognizes this as a sign of impending victory. He can see her, much younger, making the same gesture. “Then you stand here alive because of a mistake ...made by your flawed, feeling, human friends. They have sacrificed their futures because they believed that the good of the one, you, was more important to them.”
Jim… Your name is Jim. His throat is dry and his tongue sticks to the roof of his mouth. “Humans make illogical decisions.”
Amanda smiles at him. It’s full of wistful sadness and motherly affection. Spock recognizes those emotions on her face. He wonders how often he’s seen them. “They do, indeed.” She steps forward again and places her hand on Spock’s sleeve. It’s too familiar a gesture for any adult Vulcan, but Spock still doesn’t want to step away. “You should think about why these particular humans made those illogical decisions.”
James Kirk’s smile, the way his tense face collapsed into lines and wrinkles as his lips spread, flashes in Spock’s mind. “How am I to understand such irrational motivations?”
“I think you may find you understand them just fine.” Amanda squeezes his arm before departing. Spock’s skin tingles through his sleeve.
How do you feel?
Meditation is a key component in Spock’s recovery. He spends more hours in meditation than he does at rest.
He uses that time to piece together the fragments of memory that seem to float unbidden to his consciousness. Those memories are only scenes, or sometimes just a smell or a line of conversation. In meditation, he can pull more to the surface.
In his mind, he sees James Kirk aboard the Enterprise. He’s younger, with a golden glow to his skin and hair and a sly grin that spreads slowly across his face.
“I’ll have you in four moves, Mr. Spock.”
In the memory, Spock’s feels warmth in his chest at Kirk’s smile. He wants to tease, to keep that smile on Kirk’s face, to make Kirk laugh. He arches an eyebrow. “That is supposition, Captain.” He moves a bishop.
Kirk responds immediately by moving a knight. “Three moves.”
That golden smile is a bit brighter. Spock almost thinks of losing just to keep it there. He studies the board again and sees his mistake. Jim’s strategy is erratic. It changes every game and is nearly unpredictable. There’s no way Spock can win this match. The corners of his mouth soften, almost turn up in the shadow of a smile.
“I concede. Your strategy follows no logical pattern.”
“Do you find that distressing, Mr. Spock?” Kirk smirks and that halo of golden light around him shines brighter. Spock can feel it in his chest.
He arches an eyebrow. “I simply wonder if Dr. McCoy should administer a psychological battery to determine that your decision making is not compromised.”
Kirk laughs and Spock cherishes the swoop in his stomach.
He stares at Janet Lester in Sickbay. Her insistence that she is Jim Kirk marks her as unstable by everyone else, but Spock can see Jim’s expression in her features and hear the cadence of Jim’s speech in her voice.
“You are closer to the captain than anyone in the universe. You know his thoughts.”
Janet Lester’s skin feels different under his fingertips, but it is Jim’s mind that meets him. Finding Jim’s mind in another body is… disorienting.
When they flee Sickbay, Spock wraps a hand around Jim’s wrist. He touches both the sleeve of Lester’s dress and the delicate skin exposed when that sleeve rides up. He pushes down fear that tastes like copper in the back of his mouth and lets the soft hum of Jim leak through their connection.
It’s only later that Spock realizes Jim did nothing to separate them.
He’s in Sickbay, in near darkness, and Captain Kirk lies on a biobed, unmoving and pale. The monitors beep and flash and Spock is comforted by them. There’s a dim light coming from under Dr. McCoy’s office door, but Spock knows McCoy is deliberately leaving him alone with the captain.
Spock breathes deeply and turns inward. He needs to work on his controls. They are tenuous. Sorrow and shame burn behind his eyes and, if he were not Vulcan, he would cry.
He cannot remember why Captain Kirk is in Sickbay, but he knows he did not do enough to prevent it. He will do better in the future. He has to. He cannot lose Captain Kirk.
Embarrassment, shame, and dread crash over him. He is back in his quarters on the Enterprise. He slumps at his desk and twists his hands together so tightly it feels as if his knuckles might shatter. He cannot make eye contact with Jim as he tries to describe pon farr with something as pedestrian as salmon. Birds and bees and fish cannot compare to the yearning for connection and the drive to possess that Spock feels. No amount of meditation will control it.
Everything Spock has worked his entire life for has been burned to the ground in a matter of days. He is no longer a creature of logic. He is more emotional and out of control than any full blooded human could be. He has failed and every childhood bully’s taunt is validated.
“I haven’t heard a word you’ve said. And… I’ll get you to Vulcan somehow.”
Jim’s kindness is more than he deserves. He raises his eyes only after the door slides closed behind Jim. Spock yearns.
His dress uniform scratches at his throat. His parents will be stepping onto the ship at any moment. He watches Jim and McCoy. He hasn’t told them who Ambassador Sarek and his wife, Amanda, are to him. His father won’t acknowledge the connection, but his mother could easily make it known. Warmth spreads in his chest at the thought of his mother’s smile. He allows it to sit there for 3.7 seconds before he pushes it away. He straightens his spine as his parents approach.
He remembers nothing of pon farr. He remembers T’Pring demanding the kal-if-fee, he remembers hot, abrasive sand under his hands and knees, and then Jim is dangling, lifeless, from his ahn-woon.
For the first time in his life, Spock does not have to work to suppress his emotions. They are gone. He feels nothing but a yawning emptiness. His chest is hollow and his limbs are nearly too heavy to move. He moves through that foggy blankness all the way to Sickbay. He knows exactly what needs to be done.
“Don't you think you better check with me first?”
There is no Vulcan training that could have stopped the crashing wave of relief, joy, and love that engulfs Spock as he grabs Jim’s biceps and spins him around. The expression he feels on his own face is foreign, he has no idea where it comes from, and it falls away in the face of Dr. McCoy and Nurse Chapel’s scrutiny. But, the hollowness that has rung in his chest since his earliest memory now feels a little less empty. Something smolders in its center, small and delicate and in danger of being snuffed out.
Spock thinks, Oh, that’s love.
Jim’s nudging and prodding at Sarek to accept Spock is unnecessary. Spock knows it will do no good. But little bits of joy and pride blossom low in his gut every time Jim challenges Sarek, because Jim does it for him. Spock lies in Sickbay with his father in the biobed next to him, his mother between them, and Jim shining brightly across from him.
Jim smiles and rolls his eyes at Sarek just for Spock to see, even as he suffers because of the lie he told to make sure Spock could save his father, and Spock thinks, Oh, that’s love too.
Spock comes out of his meditation with a gasp. The memories run together but all of them are Jim. Jim’s smile, Jim’s hands gripping his arms, Jim holding him up when he is in pain. The golden halo that emanates from Jim’s hair, his skin, his hazel eyes is the ember that smolders in his chest. He feels it pulse and shine with every remembered smile, every coveted touch.
That is love.
“Computer. A hypothetical scenario.”
“If a Vulcan were to die but be revived after an extensive period of time, would his mating bond be severed?”
There are 22 recorded instances of Vulcan bondmates experiencing the continuation or spontaneous reconnection of a bond after one party was deceased but resuscitated. There are 17 recorded instances of Vulcan bondmates experiencing a severed bond under similar circumstances.”
The hollowness in Spock’s chest throbs.
“Is time between death and resuscitation a factor in the reconnection of a severed bond?”
”There is no correlation between time deceased and bond reformation.”
Spock folds his hands in front of his face and steeples his fingers. “Computer, were any of these bondmate pairs between a Vulcan and a member of a psi-null species?”
There’s no evidence that he and Jim shared a bond that was broken upon his death, but it is logical. From his recovered memories, Spock knows they shared a mutual affection and attraction. They worked together as a seamless team. There would be no logical reason for them not to bond.
The only logical conclusion Spock can draw is that somewhere, likely near the end of their five year mission, he proposed a mating bond to Jim and Jim accepted.
Spock’s Vulcan retraining mandated that he learn things for himself, figure out who he was largely on his own. It’s only logical that no one told him. Not even Jim.
The golden ember in his chest brightens and chases some of the darkness away.