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An Echo of Roses

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The mint tea her mother had made for her while she waited at the bus stop was too bitter, but Perrin drank it anyway, the hot scalding liquid feeling momentarily good as it slid down her throat, warming her slightly from the chilly, winter day.
Why is the bus taking so long? She thought, clapping her gloved hands together and peering down the street. The emptiness was disconcerting. Her sister was too young for school and her father was thankfully at his job, as was her mother. Which left her to wait for the school bus on this dingy corner, with only a few roses poking out beside the wedges of concrete.

Not only that, but she didn’t want to go to school today in particular, because it was supposed to be ‘take your parents to school day’ and Perrin didn’t know what would be worse- showing up without her parents or showing up WITH her surly father who dragged her mother around more like a pet than a wife.

Sometimes she hated him for it and sometimes she hated her mother for allowing it.

With a sigh, she downed the last of her tea and picked at the rim of the cup, the outsides still warm against her small palms. It was going to be one of those days, for sure….

She heard footsteps and looked up to see a man approaching her, a dark blotch against the paleness of the clouds and mist that hovered around them. He was tall, taller than her father, and he was bundled up more than even she was.

After a couple of moments, she saw the ears- pointed and larger than humans like her had- and realized he was Vulcan. They’d once been a flourishing species, with a rich and vibrant home-world and culture until the planet had been destroyed many decades ago. She’d learned it, vaguely since she was in elementary school and her teachers thought her and others her age were too innocent to know the details, last year in her history lessons and it had given her a nightmare or two, a disturbing one that pushed aside the normal nightmares of her father, the ones she could tolerate.

When the Vulcan man came to a stop, she realized she was blocking his way by standing in the middle of the sidewalk and scuttled out of his path, fear tapping into her. Was he going to hit her? Her father did, especially when she got in his way, like when she tried to protect her mom. Just yesterday, her mother had had a headache and didn’t need her father’s wrath, but Perrin’s dad hadn’t cared that her mom wasn’t feeling good and had been up all night with the baby. All he cared about was getting his way.

The bruise on her stomach from that strike still ached when she morbidly pushed at it.

“Why are you out here all by yourself? The temperature is dropping and you are to young to be wandering alone, especially as a human child.”

Perrin started, clutching her now empty cup to her chest as she looked up into the man’s face, framed by dark, graying hair. She had never seen such…calmness in a man, or even just another person, before. He radiated such serenity that she was immediately simultaneously jealous and enthralled.

“I’m ten, I’m not a child,” she said and was embarrassed by how petulant her tone sounded to her ears. The man, unlike how her father would react, merely blinked. A knot in her stomach loosened and she felt all the tension she didn’t know was lancing through her slacken. When she next spoke, she was composed, voice at peace and not coming strangled from her choked back tears.

That’s what she sounded like when she wasn’t, like she always was, scared?

“I am waiting for the school bus. My parents are gone. That’s why I’m out here.”

The man nodded and seemed ready to depart, face already turning away. But something in Perrin seized up; she didn’t want the calm presence he’d elicited to leave her and before she knew what she was doing, she reached out a hand and snagged his sleeve. Blood thundered in her ears at her recklessness and she floundered, a tight fear surging through her with a vengeance she found staggering. She moved to let go and as she did, her hands briefly collided with his wrist and she felt like ten of her father’s had punched her in the chest. Tears were slipping down her face, a strangled sob stuck in her throat. She couldn’t breathe, it was all too much.

Home was gone, so many were gone, SHE was gone. He couldn’t save her, he couldn’t save any of them-

A scarved woman dropped into an abyss, the brown stretches of a planet turned inward, devouring itself down into nothingness.

This wasn’t her pain, Perrin realized as someone lifted her into a seated position from where she’d fallen on the ground. This was his. How could he be so calm with that loss inside him?

Her gaze landed on the roses, brittle and ready to droop from the cold winter air, but still holding on. She always wished others would notice the pain she was in and almost no one did. How much more difficult must it be to never have it, to not even be able to expect it, if her understanding of Vulcan culture was right.

Crawling forward, she gingerly grasped them, wary of the thorns, and pulled, the plant springing from the ground almost effortlessly. The Vulcan man was staring at her placidly as she turned and held the blooms out to him. She wasn’t sure, but she thought she saw something flicker in his dark eyes.

“I’m sorry about your home and…your wife.” Wordlessly, he nodded again, taking the stems in his large hands and holding the rose before his face as if to smell them.

“Sarek of Vulcan thanks you, little one. Do you need any assistance, I sensed something was amiss. Are you scared of being out here alone?”

She wanted to tell him she was always scared but she wanted to be brave, like he was being. So she pretended he was right and nodded.

“Then I will wait with you.”

Snow started to fall and Sarek held his cloak over her head until her ride came roaring up the slushy road.

+++

 

The crush was getting worse.

Perrin glared at herself in the cracked, clouded mirror, her bony shoulders hunched towards her ears, and seethed, hugging her arms around her lower stomach in an effort to calm the heat climbing through her.

After her meeting with the ‘Sarek of Vulcan”, who had kindly taken care of her in a way she’d always wanted, she’d looked into him on her PADD. Apparently he had been the Vulcan Ambassador to Earth and while his world no longer existed, his people did, so he’d managed to keep his position but on a much smaller scale. His wife- a human much to Perrin’s surprise- Amanda had perished on Vulcan when it had been destroyed. Perrin had found a photo of the ambassador with Amanda, as well as another, younger Vulcan man who she surmised was the pair’s son. The woman had been kind looking and apparently had been a teacher.

Perrin had wished, from the time she was ten to when she hit puberty at 13, that the women could have been her teacher.

But then hormones had hit her and her fascination and fondness for Sarek had turned into something..else.

She dreamed about him, imagined that he would hug her and brush her hair from her forehead when she was scared or upset. When she proposed and they lived together, her dream self knew he would never, ever hit or scream at her. Not like her parents, with her father towering over her mother as she cowered and as her sister screamed and she frantically tried to make it all stop. Vulcans didn’t show emotions like humans, this she knew, but they had to love to some degree, right? He’s been married and been devastated by the loss. Sometimes, in the darkest hours of the night, she imagined he loved her, unlike her parents who hated her and her sister who glared at her like their father’s rage was her fault rather than his.

Any children they had would be safe and happy, she’d see to that.

They’d never have to step in front of a punch or be pushed into a wall.

With a hiss, she turned from her reflection- hating the bruise on her arm from when her father had made her move when she’d, like she always did, tried to protect her mother and sister. This was why she hated the stupid crush- how was she to know he wasn’t just like her father or the other male teachers at her school who looked the other way when she came to school dressed in baggy and large clothing to hide the bruises, even in the middle of the hottest days of summer.

She wanted to rip this crush out of her and be calm like Sarek had been that winter day, but it thrashed in her at every moment she was able to push her constant fear away.

Perrin stepped into the shower and was just about ready to turn the water on when a loud thump resounded on the door.

“Get outta there this instant, missy!”

Swallowing hard, Perrin pushed past the shabby curtain and tugged back on her baggy jeans and worn sweater. Her hands trembled as she opened the door and the furious look on her father’s face when she looked up at him sent a bolt of weakness through her knees. She clenched her hands around the door frame to keep from sinking to the floor.

“Did you know about your mother and sister leaving.”

Her throat tightened, a numbness seeping into her brain, a PADD when it finally gave out, both a graying, fuzzy blur.

After everything, her mother and sister had just left her with this monster? Who could do such a thing- leave their child in a home they knew was dangerous.

“She left a note for you. How did you not know?”

He held the note out for her and she opened it.

I’m leaving with your sister. I can’t take you with us, you’ll just anger the man I’ve found who will take me in.
Your mother.

The unsaid ‘your fault’ rang in Perrin’s head and she let the note drop to the floor between her and her father’s feet. She swallowed again and again, throat thick and sore as she tried not to cry. She couldn’t, she had to be strong. Perrin was alone now and if she lost it now, she’d turn from the shadow she was and become dust.

When the first hit came, she didn’t even flinch, didn’t even weep.

She’d been right, everyone was a menace at heart.

+++

As she raced through Regent’s Park, not caring that she was missing school and her father would be pissed at her for returning home later than normal, she ignored the judgmental stares she was getting. All they could see was a wild-eyed fourteen year old rushing through the park during school hours. Homeschooling was pretty popular, especially in London, so thankfully no one questioned her presence in the park, but she still could feel their eyes on her back. Suspicious, instead of worried.

She hated the lot of them.

The cold air bit into her eyes and she shut her lids, ducking her head as she sprinted helter-skelter along the wide path, the loose soles of her boots threatening to turn an ankle. She didn’t care, the pain would probably do her good and remove this angry storm screaming in her head.

Then she heard a voice and stopped in her tracks, skin tingling with warmth even in the frigid air.

Sarek.

Opening her eyes, she saw him several feet away, talking to a human man and pointing, looking as if he were giving directions. Once the man had smiled, nodded, and jogged away, the Vulcan turned and began walking towards her and she felt the fury, the crush, and the fury at her crush, raise to a boiling point.

Taking off again, she placed herself directly in front of the ambassador, shaking hands clenching into fists, the hood of her jacket she’d pulled up earlier over her tangled hair falling away. Sarek came to a stop, his gaze calm and steady on her face, hands still at his side, fingers spaced apart and away from his palms, completely un-threatening.

He was still taller than her by quite a bit but she wasn’t looking up quite as much up at him as she had back when she was ten.

And he was even more handsome.

She hated him for it in that moment, how even now her mind yearned to get to know him, to bury her face in his chest and cry.

“What is the matter?” he asked her, voice wary, and she felt the urge to scream and tug her hair from her scalp wriggle betwixt her ribcage. The wind whipped around them, rustling his cloak, the cold making her aching body shudder, the taste of blood from when her father’s sloppy fist had collided with her jaw a harsh bitterness behind her lips and she suddenly wanted all of it to end. She couldn’t live like this anymore.

She couldn’t trust anyone, not even the man of her dreams. For that’s what they were- fake, illusionary, not the reality in which she lived. In the end, he would turn out like the rest of them and leave or hurt her. And she’d be left, alone, on the floor of a forgotten room somewhere, insides scooped out and replaced with this yawning emptiness that threatened to consume her.

Before she knew it, she was on him, fists swinging widely and wildly. Sarek deftly dodged them and his hand soon held one wrist and she heard herself screaming “I can’t, I can’t, please, I just can’t.” Her fingernails met her own cheek and raked them, trying to make the screaming stop but it only got louder. The hand clawing at her skin was pulled away seconds later. A rush of calmness was flooding her, but she knew it was from him and made herself push back against it.

She’d known she couldn’t trust him and she continued to struggle but, being a Vulcan, he was stronger than her father and held her easily.

Flinching, Perrin stilled and waited for the blow, but it never came. When she opened her eyes, she realized he was leading her away from the path and to a bench several feet away.

 

“I sense much turmoil in you, more than I normally see in the average human. As ambassador, I am acclimated to human emotions enough that, logically, I believe I can help you.”

Blinking up at him as he gently placed her hands on her knees, she felt the rapidness of her heartbeat lessening, the scream in her throat dying down from a hurricane to a soft, trickling breeze. His presence was soothing and she wanted to lean into it and never awaken.

His words had meaning and, as she listened to him explain how to center herself, how to control herself so that she could figure out the best solution through her mind and not her emotions, she realized her ten year old self, standing out in the cold, had been right.

The sun shone overhead above them and as she glanced at his face, watching the light play over it, she knew what she would do.

She would apply for another school, win a scholarship, pull herself out of this. Perrin would leave her father

And, someday, she would achieve the serenity Sarek had achieved. Even if she never saw him again, she’d always have herself. And that, in the end, would be what mattered.

That she’d saved herself.

+++

College and grad school in the United States had been difficult, but she’d gotten through it and as she walked through Regent’s Park in her old home town once more, she smiled into her mint tea cup. Her job prospects were looking up and while she still had the occasional nightmare or flash of phantom pain , she’d listened to Sarek’s words and read The Teachings of Surak cover to cover several times. No longer did she feel such rage as she had on that day and the ones following it as she’d stumbled along in her attempts to better her life.

One thing she hadn’t been able to shake off had been her loneliness. As time had passed, Perrin had managed to make some friends but never any close enough for her to feel comfortable talking about her past with them. For all they knew, she was an orphan, a fact that had become true within the last year. Nanda, her little sister, had contacted her and the two had begun a budding rebuilding of their fractured relationship. Perrin didn’t know if they’d ever be close like regular sisters were, but it was logical to try, especially since Nanda seemed willing, if cautious.

But still, something was missing.

As she rounded a set of bushes, she saw something in the distance that hadn’t been here back before she’d left. It was a monument of sorts, and, from the slight gate around it, a private one. On closer inspection, it looked like a mausoleum, erected for someone who had passed. Curiosity a small flame in her chest, Perrin approached it, wondering why someone would place something personal in such a public space.

Leaning against the small fence, she saw that someone was standing before the monument, hands clasped behind his back, a long cloak trailing behind him. Even though his hair was grayer than it had been before, she would recognize him anywhere.

Seeing him, all the feelings from when she was fourteen rushed back into her but this time, there was a maturity to the sensations, a gentleness to it that had sprouted and grown as she’d begun her own personal mastery.

Holding it within like a precious, fragile flower, like the dying roses she had gifted him in her sympathy so many years ago, she approached him, a magnetic pull seeming to compel her to do so.

As she drew close, she saw who the structure was for.

Amanda Grayson. She remembered the face she had seen in the photographs she had found- the beautiful, kind woman who had been a teacher.

Amanda, who had died alongside Vulcan. Amanda, who still lived deep in the Vulcan’s heart.

Her heart bled for their separation. Vulcans, from her understanding, may not show affection through words, but from the beautiful and intricate details on the mausoleum, as well as the myriad of roses dusting the edges, she could tell that much love had been poured into it.

He turned to her, his gaze even, and she stopped, breathing in the scent of the roses that surrounded them. Sarek didn’t seem sad or angry at her for intruding. He nodded, gesturing that she should come closer.

“I never asked before, what is your name?” his voice held an odd quality in that moment, something tremulous and almost human. She was reminded of that deep, writhing sadness within him and wished she could take his hand. But she refrained, instead clasping her hands behind her back.

“Perrin. Perrin Landover.”

At the pronunciation of his name, Perrin thought she saw something akin to shock in his dark gaze. But whatever it was, he didn’t elaborate upon it and instead held up the ta’al.

“A pleasure to meet you, Perrin Landover.”

She returned it with a small smile and stood beside him as the sun set, the roses swaying sweetly in the growing wind.

+++

When Sarek- who was now her boss- had invited her to visit the sight of his doomed home-world during her allotted vacation time, she’d readily accepted. She’d been sure it would include more work, just in a different setting, and she’d been all right with that. The work they did, helping the small, but beginning to thrive, percentage of Vulcans still living spread out and continue to grow in numbers, was an important one and Perrin was glad to assist with in anyway she could. Things had improved as, a few decades ago, they’d managed to create more Vulcan children through science and test tubes, but the current population still wasn’t ideal and it wouldn’t be for a long time, as the attempts didn’t always succeed and the ratio of non-related Vulcans was lower than desirable.

But when they’d arrived in their ship, Sarek had sent for her to meet him at a large window instead of one of the science labs. The faint light of the stars trickled over his face and she thought in that moment they looked like a mist of tears on his weathered cheeks. When she blinked, it was gone.

“I could have saved her.”

Perrin held her breath and waited for him to tell her he required solitude. To her surprise, he continued.

“If I had been standing closer to her, I could have done something. I should have been able to have done something but I didn’t anticipate…I didn’t anticipate what ended up occurring. I knew I would out live her when I married her. It is illogical, but I never thought it would be so soon and-” he cut off, staring at her, gaze strange and piercing.

“Losing her would have been hard enough, but to lose Vulcan and all we stood for? So few of us remain and while we are grateful for help, there is nothing left and sometimes things seem so lonely and-”
Tears stung her eyes and she swallowed, wishing she could hug him; how hard it must have been. The pain she had felt at ten was still there, yet this time she knew a gift of roses wouldn’t do any good. Nothing could ever truly heal the hole in the galaxy the destruction of an entire planet had caused. To her surprise, he glanced at her and dipped his head, having apparently somehow read her thoughts.

Sarek held out his hand to her and she accepted the touch, the broiling of emotions roaring through her, igniting her old wounds, ripping them open until it was like they were fresh once more. She caught snatches of his, some old and some new to her; of Amanda falling to her death, of the entire world being sucked into nothingness, how everyone who had been left had been barely holding on, his own son eventually cracking under the strain.

How Sarek had almost envied his lack of restraint.

Perrin knew he saw some of hers, how her mother had abandoned her and her father had hated her, how everyone ignored the fact that her family was cruel, pretended the bruises and stiffness in her was nothing, not there, some kind of far away dream.

I’m sorry, mine is nothing compared to yours.

Pain is pain. I grieve with thee.

And I with you.

Together, they fanned the flames of grief until they were embers and the hand holding had become a tight embrace, a cocoon to protect them from the echoes of their pasts.

We can continue to rebuild. I know we can.

+++

“Perrin, wake up.”

She jolted awake to find Sarek standing over her, a china cup in his hand. Awkwardly, he held it out to her.

“You were having a nightmare and while I was making morning tea for everyone, I heard you in your sleep and thought I’d wake you.”

They were visiting the main Vulcan colony, situated on a small desert world not too far from Earth, in order to see to the population. Though larger than the ones scattered across places on Earth, the still low numbers- even now with many years having past since the planet’s annihilation- were hard to look at. But the process of creating children outside the womb was starting to become more easily workable and the amount of Vulcan children born had nearly tripled since the last round of births. She was thankful for the last five years and the work she’d been able to accomplish after she’d ran into him in the park on that day.

Things, while dire, were looking up for the first time in a long time.

Perrin sat up and took the tea but didn’t drink it, instead staring up into the haunted look in his eyes.

“That can’t be the only reason you wanted to speak with me at such an early hour.”

Sarek shook his head.

“Perceptive as always.”

With a sigh, he turned from her, hand locked round wrist, and stared at the window for so long Perrin thought maybe he’d slipped into a meditative state. Standing, she cautiously reached out to touch his shoulder. Things had been odd between them, some sort of tension that she dared not put a name to, in order to not get her hopes up. When her hand met the soft sleeve of his shirt, and the firmness of his shoulder, his large hand came around to curl around her own.

“I’m sure you know that I met an older version of my son.”

“Spock? Yes, I heard about all of that, the time travel.” She’d met the younger one, the one who was still a star fleet officer once, at a distance, but knew little about him, other than he served on the Enterprise. The older one had passed away recently, before Perrin had been appointed her current employment, but he had helped Sarek with ambassador duties

“He mentioned..your name to me.”

She was so startled, she nearly dropped her cup into the center of her crossed legs. Why would Spock know who she was?

Unless…

“You and I apparently know each other in an alternate timeline. He said I should find you, but I didn’t think I could ever do that, it would have been too strange. But it seems like the universe has a way with these things.”

He turned back around and set at the edge of her bed, gaze not meeting her own, locked onto his folded hands where they lay on the white of her bedspread.

“I never could tell Amanda I loved her. She knew- I know she knew- but I regret-”

Glance finding her for a moment, he ducked his head from her stare.

“Enjoy your tea.”

Confused, she brought the cup to her lips and took a sip.

Mint tea. He had remembered. A detail so small during their first meeting but still something he’d cared enough to take note of.

In that moment, she understood what he had been trying to say. Maybe he’d been trying to say it all along.

He loved her. For the first time in her life, someone genuinely, uncomplicatedly loved her

Standing, not caring that she was still in her pajamas and was in a place full of modest individuals, she rushed after him, grabbing his arm and turning him around. She felt it then, the confirmation of what he hadn’t been able to say outright, the way it caressed her mind, warmed her so much that she could feel her past selves sigh in relief, their pain finally evaporating completely.

Before she could move or say a word, he had taken her face gently in his hands and kissed her.

And she was home.

 

+++

Perrin smiled down at the child in her arms, thankful that the birth had been a success. She felt a soft hand on her wrist and she looked up, smiling through her tears, at Sarek- now her husband.

The wedding had been a simple function but more than she had imagined back at fourteen and now, after much trial and error and pain, they had a daughter. She looked Vulcan in many aspects, what with her pointed ears, but she knew she would be human in other ways too. She couldn’t wait to find out.

“What should we name her?”

Glancing at the roses the doctors had brought to put in their hospital window, she thought back to the rose she had handed him all those years ago and the roses that had decorated the shrine he’d erected to honor his previous wife.

“Amanda,” she whispered, bringing the little girl close to her.

“I love you.”

She took his hand, fingers touching, and knew that her family, this time around, would be happy.

Closing her eyes, she prayed that the good feelings would echo back in time, and warm her childhood self until she could find the light.