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He is ten years old. He has just put his fist through the wall of his classroom after a squabble with another child. The other boy pointed at Simon’s ears, called him ‘defective’.

His principal sighs in his office. “He’s a highly intelligent child. Perhaps with a more structured environment, he could thrive.”

His mother nods, smiling politely. All parties know Simon is being expelled again. This will be the eighth school he has been removed from. There will be three more before the year is over.

“This cannot continue, Spock,” his mother tells him too many times to count.

“That is not my name.” The anger is back, clawing its way into his throat, making his speak when he shouldn’t. The anger is always there, a silent presence he cannot send away no matter what he wishes.

His mother shakes her head when he is around, cries when she thinks he can’t hear. Simon doesn’t let himself feel bad about much but he does regret the sadness which always seems to cloud his mother’s eyes.

Simon’s grandfather offers to help his daughter many times. The last in a long line of military men, Maxwell Grayson believes strict routine and discipline could turn the boy around. Amanda tries everything but finally, when Simon is thirteen, she tries her father’s advice.

Every day on his grandfather’s farm begins at 0400, with PT and chores. Simon’s classes are digital. Anything less than superlative results, as with all misbehavior, ends with punishments. Curse word leads to push ups. Talking back causes endless laps around the barn. Eventually Simon turns the physical activity on himself. The anger begins to hid in the background, present but easy to ignore.

There is never enough money so Simon takes a night job cleaning a local laboratory. The scientist never seem to notice him but Simon is always listening. The digital classes always seemed useless and tedious but seeing the old facts become energy, cures, and technology pull at him in ways he has never experienced before.

By the time he is fifteen, he has enough credits to enroll at a college. Scholarships help pay his way, and with some adjustments, he can still work in the lab back home. He commutes two hours both ways but the time passes quickly when there are ideas to consider and knowledge to gain. He writes papers, does research, and spends every spare minute he can finding more.

At first, he wants to join Starfleet for the stipend. Being at the Academy would offer him a monthly credit allowance which he could send home. After he is commissioned, he can give even more back. His mother and grandfather would never have to worry about rent or utilities for at least four years.

There is more, of course. Out in the vastness of space, he would be more than his father’s shame, more than his anger, more than his mother’s hidden sadness. Still, Simon doesn’t think much about that. He can’t allow himself to be touched by such thoughts.

Most of all, he just wants to get away. On Earth, he is an uncontrollable child, an outcast who is kept away from others. He could be more, of that he is certain. He will make all of his mother's sacrifices worthwhile.

At first, like with everything, Starfleet is everything he desires of it. His classes are rigorous but stimulating and he excels. He is soon chosen to be the assistant to the Chair of the Physics department, which offers him the opportunity to work on the Universal Translator.

When he tells his mother, she is proud of him. He can hear it in her voice and see it in her face. He sends her every paper he can find which bears his name. When he returns for his first break, he finds she has framed them and hung them on the wall for any visitor to see.

And she does have visitors, for the first time since Simon can remember. Since he has been gone, she has made friends at her job at the library and while doing errands about town.

Her friends don’t seem to visit when Simon is home but he knows this is no fault of his mother’s. Simon happily leaves her to her life.

At the Academy, he has dates for the first time too. Not friends. He is too inept for that. Yet he finds some heated exchanges which do not require many words. He can feel their attraction for him through the temporary bonds which are formed in those moments and it is as close to being accepted as he has ever known from a human outside of his family.

It is only after he loses his virginity and then some that he learns something. He is on a list. A small group of of students have set a goal of trying to sleep with an individual from every species in the Federation.

After this, he sees things he never noticed before. Eyes linger on his ears. When they talk to him, there is a strange rigid formality and guardedness to their words. Their mannerisms are foreign and awkward as if they think he expects something from them.

The worst is the other Vulcan students at the Academy. They speak about him when they think he can’t hear. He still remembers Vulcan, understands bits and pieces of what they are saying. It quickly becomes clear that they know of him.

He remembers his time on his father’s home planet. His parents had never been married but for a short time, Simon and his mother had lived there, hidden away until Sarek and his family couldn’t bear their presence any longer.

The planet had been hostile, unrelenting and unforgiving. Simon can recall the burning of the sun on his skin, the sand cutting into his skin during storms. Over everything, he remembers shame in his stomach like a sickness.

He gets a night job to make the money he will need and finds a surgeon. By the end of his third semester at the Academy, he is not Vulcan anymore, at least not in any way most others can see.

He is recommended for a summer assignment on board of the USS Titan, an experience which affirms his desire to serve as a Science Officer. He does not allow himself distractions.

She is most unexpected, of course.

The first time he sees her, in an empty study lounge long after midnight, she is enraged. He cannot remembered seeing such an emotion in another, so uncontrolled, and he finds himself starring.

Which naturally, also causes him to notice she is extremely attractive.

Then, to his horror, she sees him. He remembers her tone long after. Later, that same manner of speaking would be a sign he had angered her. “Do you need something?”

Her anger is nothing compared to the full weight of her attention. She has an intensity and a depth that immediately intrigues him. In that moment, he can only think to say what is obvious, “You appear distressed.”

To soothe her ire, she had been practicing Klingon and her voice was raspy from the harsh phrases. In spite of his obvious fear, she shrugs flippantly. “What of it?”

He is struck by this response. His next words are equally as simple as his first, “I believe decorum states I should ask why.”

She pauses, just long enough that he knows her next words are a lie, “It’s nothing.”

He tries to respect her privacy but he allows himself to hear the rumors and innuendo which haunt the department. In essence, as he learns she was not chosen for a project with an esteemed communications professor, Commander Kohsla, despite a strong interest and relevant experience from her previous undergraduate degree.

The reasoning behind this decision are unclear but seem to be dubious at best. Some say the commander tried to pursue her and was rebuffed. Others say she received a suspiciously high grade in a class and was thought to have cheated. There is no proof behind any of these claims but they are treated as if they have the highest level of evidence.

He finds her again in the lounge where they first met. It is nearly dawn this time and she is working on a term paper. She glances at him when he enter, her eyes following him until he sits down at a chair across the room from her. He watches her out of the corner of his eye, which she quickly notices as well.

“Oh?” she snaps. He does not answer soon enough for her and she adds, “What? Did you hear something about me?”

“I did,” he says because it is the truth and he can think of nothing she deserves more than such.

She opens her mouth, rearing to rebuttal with, “People think I’m a bitch and spread stupid rumors. I was not selected because I am only a first year. I didn’t sleep with anyone and I didn’t cheat. Tell your idiot friends.”

She begins to put her things away but he stands up and says, “Sometimes anger is justified.”

She stops packing her things but does not meet his gaze.

“Humans think the only emotions which are justified are one associated with achievement, happiness and excitement. They are incorrect and their logic is faulty. So long as they do not impede functioning, other emotions like anger, sadness, nervousness should be accepted.”

It feels like he is talking to himself, hearing what he himself has always wished to hear from another. He has never experienced such an ease of words with another.

And she is listening and she is accepting his words.

“I can be more, better than I am now. I just need a chance to - ” Her body becomes tense and she forces her face into a neutral mien. When she looks at Simon again, her mask has slipped back into place. This he can appreciate. He too has often felt compelled to act a certain way, lest he displease someone.

“Then do so,” Simon says. He returns to his work and she does as well. This time, however, he finds her looking at him.

He finds himself in that lounge every night. She is always there. They do not speak often but he brings her small gifts. Freshly brewed tea, from the supply his mother sent him, or sweets from campus store. He gives the gifts without expecting anything but she still looks at him as if she thinks he will demand something in return.

A month later, she applies for another grant and is rejected by Commander Khosla again. This time, the rumors are even more vicious.

“Commander Khosla should be reported. His decision are arbitrary and unsound,” Simon tells her. He feels her anger.

“No matter what anyone says, it’s a matter of proving myself worthy of this position. He’s picking older students because he thinks they’re better. I can earn his respect,” she says.

“You should not have to,” Simon replies, “His reasoning is capricious.”

She smiles at him, ruefully, “I know.”

He sighs. “Then earn it. I have faith that you can do what must be done.”

And she does. She finds positions working with multiple professors, assisting with a variety of classes and research projects to show her dexterity. She excels in her classwork, in spite of her other obligations. She takes every opportunity which comes her ways.

Simon does what he can to support her. He retrieves the rare textbooks she requires for her publications. He brings her food when she forgets to eat and encourages her to sleep when she has reached her limit. He listens when she requires a friend. He revels in being needed by her.

One night six months after they meet, he finds her waiting outside his dorm room. She is wearing a lovely silver dress, her face painted nicely with makeup, and he can’t tear his gaze away from her. Her eyes are bright and happy.

“Commander Beckett choose me to be her assistant on Mars over the summer. We’ll be working in a long range sensory lab, the best in the Federation,” She comes to stand so close to him in his doorway, he can count the delicate hairs of her eyelashes. She is smiling but he can barely breathe.

To his horror, he asks, “What of Commander Kohsla?”

“Screw him. Commander Beckett seems me for the asset I am. I don’t have to jump through hoops. This is a great opportunity,” she says, “I’m happy.”

“You will be gone for three months then,” he says.

She leans forward, “Are you going to miss me?”

He nods and her grin widens. She tilts her head up, her lips softening, but she doesn’t take the final step. She waits for him.

He is nearly paralyzed. Yet, he finds that he trusts her and leans in to accept her kiss.

They speak every day that she is gone, sometimes for several hours. She very much enjoys her time on Mars and he forces himself to reflect her joy but he misses her. He finds work to pass the time but she is never far from his mind.

When she does return, she comes straight to his room. She pulls him into her arms, tells him how much she had ached for him. They go slowly at first. She undresses herself first. Each part of her is more beautiful than the last. Then she reaches to take his clothes off and he stops her.

“I will be inside your mind,” he confesses to her, “I am not - ”

Many words float through his mind: hybrid, half-breed, lesser. He does not know what to say. He had rejected that part of himself for so long. The moment is so precious, he can barely bring himself to ruin it.

She touches his ear, over the scar from his surgery. “I know. There’s a whole other world in your eyes.”

There is no shame, for once. He wants to say more but she puts a finger to his mouth.

“Tell me all about it some other time,” she says. Then she is pulling at his clothing and her skin is pressed to his and he is free from all other thought. He can feel her love and affection and lust for him. It is strong, genuine, and he can think of nothing else that he could possibly want.

They spend every moment they can together after that. Her presence sheds away loneliness and shame he had not realized he carried so heavily. He watches proudly as she achieves accomplishment after accomplishment. He takes her home to meet his family. His grandfather adores her and his mother smiles with her eyes when she sees her son in love. Amanda is happy and Simon realizes he has everything he has ever needed.

She gains a commission on board the USS Enterprise. The next day she proposes to him. She will not go anywhere without him.

A century with her would not be enough time. They have beautiful days and ugly days but the years are happy and fulfilling. They build a life together. They have meaningful careers. They makes plans for a future.

When he cannot protect her, he is lost. She was the sun of his life, illuminating everything around her, giving life, the focus of his existence. Without her, he is adrift. Nothing, not his work or his existence matters. Killing the Orphan is all he can think of. It will be a hollow retribution for his loss. Yet it is all he can do to continue.

In spite of everything, in another universe, he finds her. She is the same yet she is not his. Still, when he takes her hand and looks into her eyes, he feels a peace he did not think he would ever know again.

He is angry and broken but he would not give back a single moment he had with her.

He tells her what is the truth as he once did. “Thank you for choosing me.”

It gives him no sense of completion or satisfaction but the words must be said.

And in spite of everything, in that other universe, she understands.