Spock is a medical marvel.
He is acutely aware of this the moment he has his own sense of consciousness.
For as long as he is able to remember, there have always been visits from doctors, scientists, and more.
Some prod and poke at him in ways that make him uncomfortable, but he doesn't tell anyone.
Not even his mother, as he does not want to see her hurt.
So he swallows back the initial feelings of being no more good than as a science experiment, and let's the years pass.
Eventually, the doctors realize he is stable, and they leave.
Spock knows that Sarek will occasionally send them his yearly health report, the ones where they watch for the rate at which he and his body grows, whether his teeth will grow sharp like his mothers or soft for the history of his father, and does not mind it. It is better than the prodding that made him feel like cattle.
Spock is accustomed to being the baby of the family, the one that Sybok annoys with his emotionalism and typical brotherly antics.
And so one day, when a little girl with two cloud like buns on her head arrives?
He doesn't know what to make of her.
She is illogical, and cries all the time.
He tells her she will never be a true Vulcan until she stops letting her emotions get to her.
She laughs in his face and calls him a hypocrite.
Spock is eight, and forgets to eat the first time his parents are gone.
There is just so much to do and learn, and Michael is old enough to know how to use the replicator.
She never says anything about him forgetting, and some small Human part of him is illogically thankful.
Spock comes home crying and bruised more often than not. He immediately seeks comfort in the warm folds of his mother and her sweet smelling robes.
When she is gone at the market, he hides under his bed, pretending that nothing can hurt him as he is Vulcan, and bitterly and pathetically lying to himself.
The first time Amanda sits him down for a lecture about his bullies, he panics and makes an excuse to leave.
The second time, she is smarter. The second time, she has offered him the things he sometimes glances at longingly.
Her dresses as a childhood girl that she has put into storage are taken out and aired. They are now laid out on her bed, clean and soft and smelling like the lavender detergent she favors. In the corner of her vanity, he can see a long, glossy wig sitting on a stand.
He stands up to run away, but not before his mother can catch his arm and tug him back to her for one more piece of advice.
She runs a hand down his cheek, cupping his face in her warm hands, and tells him something that makes his world go see-saw.
“When you are too afraid, too alone and angry, to face the world alone, put these clothes on so you can feel more powerful like your ancestors were.”
Spock gets it, somewhere deep within him, it resonates. But he is barely ten and all he can see is an endless future where he will always be a freak of nature, with a father who scorns more than loves, and he is too afraid to make it worse.
So he runs, and keeps running, until James Kirk arrives.
When Spock makes eye contact with James, stars burst in his field of vision, and trace back to the deepest parts of him, where he will always be the scared little boy who likes to sit (not hide) in the garden at odd hours of the day, watching the horizon and lost in thought with his sehlat slumbering at his back.
Later that night, when the rest of the household is downstairs dealing with a James shaped incident, he palms one of Amanda’s old sweaters and tries it on.
A weight is lifted, and he locks himself into his bedroom the rest of the night, hiding under his bed and ignores his mother’s pleas to come out.
Illogically, he cannot stop crying.
He must be the perfect Vulcan, even if it tears him apart and kills him.
Some nights, on the bad nights, he wonders what could possibly be out there besides a future of heartbreak and pain.
His heart is heavy, those nights. He pretends his heart was swapped with one made of sand and dirt, and that is why he is feeling pangs in his body no Vulcan should.
And sometimes, he pretends he is full Vulcan, and is applauded and praised.
He dreams of Vulcan and her sunsets, of his mother’s smiling face looking down upon him and engulfing him in hugs that are no longer appropriate. He dreams of stars and planets yet undiscovered.
He dreams he is a statue in a courtyard, immobile and yet celebrated. He is trapped, and alone, and still so very scared.
He is still painfully shy about borrowing her clothes, not that he would admit that, stating that shyness is too Human for a Vulcan like him.
It's all in the baby steps, Amanda reminds him gently, letting him touch and look at his own pace.
He is only eleven, and they have time.
He is twelve and comes home crying for the last time.
Sarek berates him in full view of the rest of the family, until Spock snaps.
He is overfilled with years of rage, of hurt and loneliness, and he cannot bottle it up any longer.
“You would never understand! No Vulcan would ever dare to call you a freak, or your mother a whore, and that she should never had bred you! You will never be held down by your classmates and forced to mind meld! You will never know what it is to tear yourself apart to be perfect! You will never know what I experience!”
Sarek has his mouth still open from his tirade, and the room has gone silent in his shouting. Spock feels like he may have just ran a marathon, from the way his chest is trying to collapse from his pants.
Sarek raises one hand towards his shoulder, and Spock cannot help the flinch away.
Amanda makes a sound like she is dying, and Spock does not know what to do.
So he goes to find the robes his mother bought him as a feel better gift, and scales the balcony in his bedroom the way James taught him for easy escapes.
He cannot come back for a while, he must hide and meditate. Before he is aware of it, he is near the L’langon Mountains, and I-Chaya has followed him.
As illogical as a beast he is, Spock is grateful for his loyalness.
His kahs-wan is not scheduled for another 3.4 Vulcan months, but he has been preparing- studying philosophers over the centuries, training his body to survive harsh environments. This way, he can now meditate and prove he is just as deserving to be here as the rest of his classmates.
Futilely, he can feel the bonds tugging at him in worry, to please come home.
He must do this. It is the only way.
The first day passes quickly. He finds shelter in a cave system, and as Vulcans do not need water or food as often as Humans do, he orders I-Chaya to keep watch while he enters a trance.
When he comes to, it is 6 hours and 25 minutes later, and I-Chaya is whimpering next to him. At first, he assumes the worst with a thudding heart that something attacked him while he was away, but no, even from here Spock’s ears perk up at the sound of crackling.
He recognizes those sounds. There is an electrical storm approaching.
There is not much space further back, but if he takes his outer robe and fastens it at the mouth of the cave, they should be far away enough from the entrance of the cave to not come to harm. His robe, however, may become singed by the end of the night. It is no matter.
Spock came here to meditate on his follies, then chose to complete his kahs-wan prematurely, and ended up comforting I-Chaya through the night as the storm passed overhead.
On the fifth night, he can no longer ignore the hunger pangs. I-Chaya has been leaving for short periods of time to return home for food, and has been increasingly distressed at his attempts to deflect said food.
There is not much that grows on the Forge, minus a few hardier berries and plomeek roots.
It is not enough, but it will have to suffice.
On the tenth and final day, he is resting against I-Chaya’s soft belly and meditating on who he wishes to be, who to follow in his principles, still no closer to an answer, when I-Chaya rudely dislodges him.
Just as he is about to reprimand him, he hears growling. I-Chaya’s hackles have been raised, and off in the distance, Spock can see the le-matya I-Chaya must have smelled.
Spock swallows back the fear, and makes to move back into the cave very carefully.
As they are in the desert, every move he makes produces an equal sound, and so the hungry le-matya lands it's beady eyes upon him.
The le-matya is fast, but I-Chaya is faster even in his old age. The two come crashing together, and land on the orange sand with a cloud.
There is scrabbling, and Spock has his heart in his throat, imagining the worst.
There are howls of pain that make him flinch, and he is helpless to help but watch as they fight to the death.
Finally, finally, after agonizing minutes of watching them, they stop moving. I-Chaya makes his way up onto his paws, and wobbles to his master.
He sniffs at him, and seems satisfied that he is not harmed in anyway. With that solved, the sehlat can no longer hold himself upright, and Spock is illogically afraid.
“I-Chaya? It is not time for a nap. We must go home soon.”
I-Chaya just blinks watery eyes up at him, and Spock can see the trail of blood coming from the belly he was just leaning against.
He shudders a breathe inward, and goes to place I-Chaya’s head on his lap. It is heavy, but he has felt worse.
“Come now, I-Chaya. Let me tell you a story.
“It begins with a mighty sehlat. His name is I-Chaya, and he is the most ferocious of beasts in all the lands. One day, there is a Vulcan boy, and he is very alone and afraid. His name is Spock.
“Spock, while traveling, comes across the sehlat I-Chaya. They are fast to bond, and quicker to protect each other.
“Many think Spock is illogical, in more ways than one. The newest, however, is for allowing himself to bond with a beast. But Spock knows, that he will never find a great friend like I-Chaya again.”
Spock inhales shakily as I-Chaya’s breathes start to labor.
“One day, on a hot, sunny day, they go on an adventure together. The young Vulcan has now grown, and with it so has the bond he shared with I-Chaya.
“But this adventure is unlike any of their others. It is more dangerous, and they are underprepared in supplies. But it is no matter to the ever loyal sehlat. He will follow the boy wherever he goes, even death cannot stop him.
“The sehlat is now old, but he is still a fierce warrior. He is the most beloved companion on the planet, perhaps on any planet. He died true and brave, and in return will be reincarnated as a mighty warrior once again.”
I-Chaya’s watery blinks stop, and they fall with a close and do not get back up. Spock gasps and thrusts his hands into his still warm fur.
There is not much water within him to spare for tears. Even so, he sits there until the sky is dark and his eyes have adjusted.
The le-matya is starting to stink of burned rubber, and Spock knows his trials are over.
He is still no closer to figuring who he wants to be or follow.
When he returns home, it is quiet. He can barely hold himself upward, but he follows the tugs on the bonds and makes his way to the public parlor, trailing dirt and sand behind him.
His grandmother spots him first, and is quick to usher him further into the room.
The entire family is here, James and Michael included, and he can see the wanness on his mother’s face at his disappearance.
She is quick to look him over, exclaiming over the dried blood on his clothes and skin.
“It is not mine, mother. I-Chaya fought valiantly, and died bravely to protect me.”
Spock knows no one blames him for the sehlat, as he could not control the actions of an animal who was dictated by loyalty. That does not mean he does not blame himself.
“Have you decided who you wish to be?” T’Pau cuts in, cutting off Amanda’s endless questions.
And, under all the eyes watching him, waiting, he answers without thinking.
“I wish to follow in the footsteps of my fore fathers.”
Spock very much pretends he did not feel the surge of disappointment from where his mother is still touching his bare arms.
It takes him weeks to remember how to eat without throwing up, and in the mean time the entire house is in disarray. James is having his screaming nightmares again, making everyone prove that there are no cameras following him, and Michael is even more cutting with her words than she had been.
Spock can see the helplessness in Amanda’s eyes as she cannot even help her children.
After the kahs-wan, he is no longer pushed and berated by his peers. Instead, they take the harsher approach, and completely ostracize him.
There are a few peers who do not completely shun him, those with parents who are either poor and cannot afford to cut off ties, or those whose parents are scientists and live by the infinite diversity code.
Spock does not make an effort to seek them out, not wishing for his bullying to transfer onto them.
As Jim dies, so does a part of Spock.
The bond snaps back at him with so much force he collapses where he stayed at home that day.
His mind is in disarray, and it is scrambling for a quick fix. It is trying to leech off of anything it can reach, whether it be other bonds or memories.
Suddenly, there is a presence in his mind. It is cool like water, and makes him feel like he is floating.
He thinks he hallucinates the smell of Terran honey.
It is his mother, and she has come to soothe his wound.
He lets his eyes and mind shut.
If he had wondered before, this just cemented it. There is a bond between them, and Spock fools himself into thinking it is a telsu bond.
James is gone, is not coming back, and Spock flounders.
It is so very cold, and he must be getting sick, because Vulcan is known for its extreme heat.
Perhaps his mother will know what is wrong with him.
He is heartbroken, she says.
Vulcan's do not experience heartbreak, Spock retorts.
She laughs and laughs and laughs, until Spock is perturbed and walks away.
Spock is fifteen, and he breaks.
He does not remember the last time he felt warm, and when his parents leave for a diplomatic mission, he hides in his room for most of the day, only coming out for school.
Spock has heard tales of emotional beings who self harm to feel something, but he does not think he can do that to himself. Cannot do that to his mother.
He hauls her old dresses that are now an acceptable length on him, and hides in his en suite bathroom that day.
Michael does not knock to say much, except to make sure he is alive and does not need sustenance.
He does not answer and waits for her to walk away.
He is so cold, and he… misses James.
He misses James, and in the privacy of his quarters, he is weak enough to admit it.
A week passes, and Spock is no closer to receiving any answers.
One night, when the household is asleep, Spock realizes he is in need of a haircut.
The hair has grown to his chin, and the only reason he hasn't gotten it cut beforehand was because things had kept coming up. Reasons and excuses to push it back.
He thinks, perhaps, that it was his subconscious telling him not to cut it. He brushes it out with his fingers, then pulls it back with one hand.
He will not admit it, but he enjoys the way it makes his cheeks look sharper. He decides to let it keep growing.
The next afternoon, when Amanda comes up to him bearing scissors, he politely refuses and does not elaborate. She is confused, yes, but by the time Spock has changed out of his outer robe and dusted off his shoes, there is a glimmer of understanding on her face.
Spock is sixteen and forcibly putting together the pieces.
They do not all fit, but he will force them to even if it hurts.
His peers have continued to leave him alone, and it is alright with him, as it gives him time to study and plan.
He can sense the worry in his parents, but it does not matter.
He pretends he can not feel the scars in his mind, ones that were given many fortnights ago, when he was younger and sadder and less able to defend himself.
He is seventeen and now the family legacy rests on his shoulders.
Michael has been denied by the Vulcan Expeditionary Team, and they all pretend they cannot hear her crying when it is late at night.
His father may be able to cut off his emotions from leaking through the bonds, but he has lived with him long enough to know the way he carries guilt- in the sag of his shoulders, the crinkles around his eyebrows, and how he will not look his wife or daughter in the eye.
He is arguing-debating, he excuses- with Sybok- and he determinedly pretends he does not see Samuel Kirk peek into the camera ever so often- when he is delivered the news.
James will be here, and soon.
He feels a stylus break in his hand, but pushes it off to Sybok managing to give him Human emotions.
He pointedly ignores Sybok’s pointed looks when he signs off, stating he must clean up.
The bond sings and soars, and Spock can no longer fool himself.
He is seventeen, and Michael is gone.
She has been escorted to Starfleet by their father, and even Spock could see the reluctance in her.
He hopes, foolishly, that she can find happiness. At least one of them deserves it.
He does not know what he expected. He should have expected the bigotry of his elders. After all, children learn by example.
It feels as if he has been speared in the gut- not the heart, because that would be an emotional response, and he is not emotional.
He does not know what he expected, but he knows it is not this.
He thinks back to his dreams as a boy, of being a statue in a courtyard, ostracized yet appreciated for what it can do, and knows what he must do.
He can feel a sliver of pride and a wash of disappointment that drowns it out through the bond, and prepares himself.
San Francisco is cold, as cold as he once was, and yet. No one looks at him as if he is a bug under their shoe, to be crushed into obedience and molded into a box.
Instead, they come to him, asking him for help, with questions and answers, and even when they do not understand him, they do not push him away.
He does not speak to his father again, and cannot bear to.
James is here, is within arms distance, and yet.
He sees the way he smiles with Doctor McCoy, and he cannot take that extra step. He cannot touch them.
So he stands on the sidelines, and watches.
Nyota Uhura is the greatest star in his life.
He has never had a real friend, as James and Michael did not count, and the closest thing to a best friend he has had is his mother or I-Chaya.
She is interested romantically in him for a short while, until she sees beneath his bluster and stoic face, and realizes what he really needs is a friend.
A friend. By definition, it is: a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection.
Off the record, he does not know how to be an adequate one.
Doctor McCoy does not like him, and he expected to feel nothing at that revelation.
And yet, he is jealous of the man who speaks freely with his words, who gestures with his hands in wide circles and does not blink twice when told he is being too loud, too much.
He is not disappointed. He is not.
Doctor McCoy was laughing at the joke of another Cadet, and he saw Spock, and he no longer was.
Spock must visit the infirmary for gastrointestinal problems.
He is too human, too human, he cannot be Vulcan enough, he will never be Vulcan, he is the son of a whore, of a traitor.
Spock wakes with a gasp.
It is a cold night, but he feels feverish.
James tries as hard as he can to foster goodwill between the two most important people in his life, and Spock tries, he really does, but trying is not enough.
Spock corners Doctor McCoy, and demands an answer.
It escalates, until Spock’s voice cracks with anger and the not-shouting he is engaging in. It escalates until the flower print sundress he chose to wear that day is wrinkled between his hands, the fabric over his stomach and chest crinkled from the strain of his fingers.
It ends when Spock finally calls the Doctor a xenophobe, when Doctor McCoy flinches back as if struck, and pales like he has seen a ghost.
It ends when Spock gets into his face, and hisses that everybody has ghosts, everybody has dust clinging to their skin, and he is no different.
It ends when Spock shudders that just because he is hurting, it does not give him the right to be cruel.
Spock thinks, distantly, that this is karmic retribution for when James and he were children, when he would tell him he did not belong on Vulcan, that he was too human.
Spock would be ashamed of his emotional outburst, but he has not seen his father in years, has not seen Vulcan in as long, and time has a way of settling old wounds.
He passes by a holo of Michael one day, when she is serving a new captain only a year after having started her prison time.
He thinks that she looks different, even without the new hair. She looks sadder, more worn down from age and time. But those lines around her mouth and eyes, the way she walks and holds her balance, that will never change.
He keeps walking.
He is not technically supposed to be on a starship under Captain Pike, but technically he is qualified by this stage.
Nyota is nearly purple with envy, and Mr. Scott gives him glares that could burn holes every time she brings up that he is leaving again.
Humans, a species he finds ever so illogical, yet brilliant in its own right, will never make sense to him. Mr. Scott very visibly does not enjoy this topic, and yet he listens to her without pause. The only one who gets this kind of attention from him is ships or their semantics.
He comes home, and he cannot stomach the thought of Nyota giving him her soft, warm hugs. Once, he would have given anything to have James and McCoy look twice at him, with any sort of positive emotion, but now-
He does not want to be acknowledged.
He will never see his mother smile again. He will never feel her hugs, or her love and pride, or her gentle reprimands.
Her clothes do not do her justice, and yet he cannot bring himself to donate them.
Memories do not do Amanda Grayson justice.
I married her because I loved her.
He understands now, the urge to do oneself harm to forgo the acknowledgment of other feelings.
But his mother would not want that.
Instead, he counts the stars from where he sleeps, sandwiched between grown men who are afraid of the dark yet more afraid of the unknown and never knowing it.
Spock finds refuge at the shoreline, skipping rocks like he once skipped meals. He digs his bare toes into the sand, counting the waves that crash against his ankles in beat with his very human heart.
The city is polluted with light, but it does not matter so much when he can look down and see life forming around him, deep below where he rests on his knees in sand that shifts not quite like Vulcan once did.
Vulcan did not have a moon, so he now understands why Terran's have written poetry dedicated to that topic for centuries.
He comes home the next morning, smelling faintly of sea salt, hair tangled, and sand in all the little crevices of his body.
Some days, he brings home seashells that he places around windowpanes and odd surfaces. Some days, he comes home with hands that are no longer shaking and eyes that see now and not then.
He does not remember how Doctor McCoy became McCoy, and McCoy became soft, not exasperated sighs of Leonard.
Once, when they are alone and James is off being himself and getting into trouble, Leonard admits that he has never heard his name said with such tenderness, not since his Ma died, not even from his ex wife.
Most days, he remembers to eat. Most days, apologies come in the form of plates of warm food, of bedtime hair brushing and being sure to not tug on the knots, in helping him stand up when he is too afraid to come out from underneath the bed.
Some days, he remembers the sands of Vulcan, the hot breezes that would cause his second eyelids to shutter close, the distant roar of a sehlat in the market, and the soft chiming of bells his mother insisted on hanging around the house.
Some days, he is comfortable with light surface touches, just enough to be given fleeting sparks of emotions. It is easy, and comfortable, and does not require much emotional labor to give into their curiosity.
On the bad days, he cannot bring himself to come from under the bed, the closet floor, once a cupboard in the kitchen; any space he can squeeze himself into and pretend he does not exist for a while, play pretend with his mother’s antique dresses and her vintage scarves, pretend they still smell of her perfume and detergent and her garden mixed with the spices that were once native to his land and not of James and his insistence on using detergents that smell like cotton.
On the bad days, they steer clear of him, until he is ready to come out and have his hair brushed and be held through the tremors.
He does not remember how he came to be from point A- being a child afraid of everything, a child afraid to be touched, a child who could recite everything from memory after one time seeing it, but could not decipher who he was- to point B- a man with a future to look forward to, a man with two friends who love him, a man with a best friend with the aspirations of a queen, a man with a love of the stars so deep and profound that it changes him in ways he did not think he needed changing.
He wakes up one day, and they do not yet have the Enterprise, so they are bidding time in James’ house, in their shared house, and he wakes up to the newly formed skylight to see the constellation of where Vulcan once was.
There is an ache where his heart is, and he is now strong enough to admit that yes, it is his heart and not his stomach nor another organ failure, but he looks at the two men snoring around him-
and he closes his eyes, and falls back to sleep.
He is a toddler, and his mother has bought him a human set of play toys- colorful, hardy blocks meant to withstand the damages children naturally bring.
His father watches him play with hooded eyes, and comments lowly on his techniques.
“A circle will never fit within a square, Spock. They are as similar as Humans are to Vulcans.”
Spock is a toddler and cannot understand why his father is reprimanding him, but knows it is to do with the toys he is playing with, so he refuses to touch them the day after, and the day after that, until Amanda gets the hint and donates the toys to another family.
He is nearing thirty, and thinks his father was wrong.