Michael walked with Sarek. His hand was gentle on her arm, and she was grateful for the touch, for a link to anything outside her mind. His strides were long, and in Vulcan’s heat, she tired quickly, but he was pulling her to the future, away from the screams and the laughter that furnished her nightmares.
The city around her was dazzling. So much glass, some coloured, some clear, all reflecting the bright sun, almost too much to bear. She had read somewhere that Vulcans have a second eyelid that keeps out the glare, but her very human eyes were unprotected. She wished she’d brought sunglasses, but that would make her even more conspicuous. As it was, people were staring, and Michael instinctively moved closer to Sarek.
‘It’s all right,’ Sarek said. ‘No one is going to hurt you.’
Michael peered up at him. ‘Then why do they look like they hate me?’
‘Vulcans do not hate, Michael. It is illogical.’
Skeptical but too hot to argue, Michael dropped her gaze to the stones of the street. She watched her sandals pad along next to Sarek’s. She was already starting to pant in Vulcan’s thin air, and soon sweat streamed down her back and forehead.
‘I’m sorry,’ Sarek said. ‘The weather must be taking a toll on you. We should have taken a hover craft.’
‘I’m fine,’ Michael said swiftly. She did not want him to think of her as frail. Vulcans valued strength, almost as much as Klingons did. They claimed superior bodies as well as superior minds.
‘Are you sure?’ Sarek said. ‘Amanda – my wife finds walking even short distances exhausting in this heat.’
‘Not all humans are the same,’ Michael said.
Sarek raised an eyebrow. ‘I did not say so, and it’s not just humans who find Vulcan inhospitable. In any case, we’re almost home.’
Home. Michael swallowed. If she had not asked her parents to stay those extra days, she would be home now, her real home. Earth. She gritted her teeth together, trying not to think about it. Maybe Vulcans were right about the whole purging emotion thing. Right now, feeling nothing seemed perfect.
Sarek opened the doors for Michael when they went in. He sat her down on a sofa in what appeared to be the living room section of a vast open floor plan. He got her a glass of water and rested his hand on her forehead.
‘I think you’ll be all right,’ he said.
Michael nodded and sipped the water. ‘Thank you.’
‘Are you hungry?’ Sarek looked down at the empty coffee table in front of Michael. ‘Amanda will not be back until the evening, but Spock should be home from the Learning Center soon, and he usually has something to eat before dinner.’
‘A snack?’ Michael said. She could scarcely imagine the esteemed Ambassador Sarek making an after-school-snack for his kid.
Sarek nodded. ‘Spock chooses to do most of his physical training near the end of his school day. It builds up his appetite.’
‘Ah.’ Michael leaned back against the sofa, allowing herself to relax just a bit. She was still not entirely sure what Sarek wanted of her. But a theory was forming. Perhaps, the ambassador desired a companion for his son. After all, the marriage of Sarek and Amanda and the begetting of Spock had been controversial on both Earth and Vulcan. Maybe it was difficult for them to find a playmate for him – if Vulcan children even played. Then again, how Vulcan was Spock anyway?
‘How old is Spock?’ Michael asked.
‘He is 7. 407 of your Earth years.’ Sarek had moved across to the kitchen section of the room and was rummaging through the fridge.
Michael frowned. Spock was four years younger than her. The age gap was a bit large for filling the role of companion.
While she was still speculating, the front door slid open, and a boy came in from the outside. He was about a foot shorter than Michael and had round cheeks, pointed ears, and soft, inquisitive, brown eyes. He spotted his father first, and his eyes brightened, his lips twitched. ‘Father, you’re home! You’re safe.’
‘Obviously.’ Sarek did not bother glancing at Spock, and Spock halted halfway towards him. Michael shifted on the sofa, and suddenly Spock’s eyes were on her.
‘Who are you?’ Spock demanded.
Still buried in the fridge, Sarek waved his hand as a form of introduction. ‘Michael, this is my son, Spock. Spock, this is my new ward, Michael.’
Spock’s lips trembled as if his mouth was trying to drop open, but he bit his lip, effectively sealing his mouth in a line. ‘But why?’
‘Why do you need a ward?’
Sarek frowned at Spock. ‘Do I sense jealousy?’
‘No, father.’ Spock lowered his eyes.
‘Good.’ Sarek got out fruit and set it on the counter, starting to slice it for a salad. ‘Because I trust you to be gracious and courteous to Michael in every way. She is going through a tough time. She just lost both her parents. They died violently at the hands of the Klingons.’
Michael cringed at such a blunt reminder. Of course, Vulcans were well known for their honesty, but sometimes, it just seemed cruel.
‘I am deeply sorry to hear that,’ Spock said quietly.
Michael nodded. ‘Thanks.’ She hugged her knees, despite the heat, and willed herself away. She felt completely drained. All she wanted to do was curl away in some forsaken corner and sleep for a long, long time.
‘Michael is without any close, living relatives,’ Sarek continued, sprinkling some sort of spice over the fruit salad. ‘So, I have decided she will stay with us, for the time being at least.’
‘I see.’ Spock sucked on his lip. He looked Michael over again. ‘Is she…human?’
‘Yes, Spock,’ Sarek said, wryly. ‘She is indeed human. You have seen human children before. There are some at the embassy right now.’
‘They never stay long,’ Spock said.
Sarek nodded. ‘No, I suppose not.’
Michael bowed her head to her knees. She felt the tears come, and she couldn’t stop them. She didn’t want to be here. All alone, unconnected and inconvenient, a topic to be discussed.
Sarek stayed where he was. He did not come to comfort to her, only stared. Spock at least had the decency to look away. Michael’s shoulders shook, and she sobbed until her chest ached. When she looked up again, Spock was standing near her, holding out a handkerchief.
‘It’s my mother’s,’ Spock said, as way of explanation. He pressed it into her hand and then stepped back quickly, as if he feared her emotional outburst might be contagious.
‘Thanks.’ Michael wiped her eyes and nose. Blood burnt in her cheeks, as she noticed that Sarek was still watching her.
‘Maybe you would like to go lie down for a while?’ Sarek said.
Michael nodded and pushed herself up off the sofa. Sarek moved towards the exit but stopped when the PADD in the front pocket of his shoulder bag suddenly flashed. He scrolled down through the incoming message. His eyebrows rose higher and higher as more messages flashed to life on his screen.
‘Spock,’ he said, ‘why don’t you help Michael pick out a room? Your mother just sent that word that she will be coming home early, and she seems upset that I did not inform her that I would be returning today.’
‘Yes, father,’ Spock said quickly. He led Michael out of the wide living space and into a broad hallway. There he hesitated. ‘I do not know what you desire in a room. Mother likes the rooms on the northside. She says they’re less bright, less blinding. Perhaps, you would like a room there?’
‘Okay,’ Michael said.
Spock licked his lip. ‘Currently, there are three rooms empty on that wing. Well, technically, there is a fourth, but it is reserved for T’Pau, so I would not suggest it.’
Michael shrugged. ‘Anything will do. I’m just so tired.’
‘Of course.’ Without another word, Spock led her to a spacious bedroom that overlooked a garden of blood grass and dragon trees. He showed her the bed, which was wide and low lying, and gave her a light weight night shirt. After wishing her ‘sweet dreams,’ he quietly exited. Michael collapsed onto the bed and, despite all her worries, was soon asleep.