Continuing Tales

Conversational Vulcan

A Star Trek Story
by Blue Moon3

Part 13 of 16

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Conversational Vulcan

"We've already said goodbye

Since you've got to go, oh you'd better go now"

In the way of most diplomatic events, there were delays. A sudden break in ceasefire on the Neutral Zone border meant that Ambassador Sarek's attentions – as well as most of Starfleet's – were required elsewhere. This delay meant that the re-scheduled visit would fall into a period of 'illness' for one of the more important members of the Ambassadorial party. Spock had been made privy to the knowledge that Sylok would be celebrating his fifty-sixth birthday, and all the distasteful implications that went there-with – but of course, this was not mentioned to any humans. Following this, there was an epidemic scare in Perth, where the reception was due to take place, and arrangements had to be changed so the party would be accommodated instead in Auckland. All in all, it was two months, rather than two weeks, before Spock actually laid eyes on his mother.

He had, as humans would put it, made an effort. There were no regulations that required him to wear his Starfleet uniform during the two week summer break, but he generally did anyway. Most of Spock's clothes were Vulcan, and he preferred not to mark himself out as different. While San Francisco might be host to a number of extra-terrestrial species and far more accepting of new cultures, both human and alien, than many other regions of Earth. A year ago, however, his mother had very pointedly sent him a parcel containing a pair of jeans. They had never been worn and, as such, never been washed and the blue dye was still quite vivid. The Academy intranet had provided a shirt, reasonably priced and expediently delivered.

It was in these strange, alien clothes that Spock waited in the foyer of the Ramada Hotel, awaiting his mother's arrival. To the best of his knowledge, she had already checked in, should have done so by midday. They had arranged that Spock would allow her an hour to settle into her accommodation, before he would come to collect her. He had stepped through the glass doors promptly at thirteen-hundred hours, and had stood in the large, gleaming reception area for nine minutes. She was late.

To add to his discomfort, the denim was too stiff for his liking, and hugged too tightly around the hips. His shirt, at least, was crisp and cool, reminding him of the garments worn on Vulcan. It was strange, but in these clothes, designed to help him blend in with the human population, he felt more conspicuous than ever. He found himself ducking his head slightly, avoiding eye contact with the staff and guests, pacing uneasily across the marble floors.


He turned his head toward the sound of her voice, achingly familiar. Lips twitching into a not-quite-smile, he walked briskly towards her. As was Amanda's custom, she opened her arms to embrace him. He brought his own hands to the small of her back, squeezing gently. It had once suffused his emotional centre with sea-green embarrassment, this unnecessarily bold gesture of affection. On Earth such things were done all the time. On Earth, it felt almost normal, and he allowed himself to enjoy it.

Pulling away after four seconds of contact, Spock asked, "Was your journey satisfactory?"

She smiled and nodded, "It was fine. A bit too long and a bit too cramped – but I never liked those shuttle things. Small and loud and smelly." She took a deep breath, forcing a smile onto her face. "It's nice to be planet-side." Taking her son's arm, she steered them towards the exit. "Take me to the Academy," she muttered under her breath while glancing around at the crowded foyer. "Or to somewhere down-town. I'm going to be stuck in stuffy receptions all the way back to Vulcan, I could do with being in the real world for a while."

Sweet strawberry red gases danced through his glass cube, and Spock felt his fingers tighten around his mother's arm. It had been an odd two weeks, waiting for definite dates from his mother and for news from Nyota. Both had given firm eventualities on the same day – his mother would arrive today, and Nyota would stay in US Africa until the end of the break to be with her family during their time of bereavement.

"You look very nice," his mother said, and Spock glanced at her forcing his thoughts to the present.

"I am glad you approve, but these clothes are proving to be very uncomfortable."

"You're not used to them," Amanda said, leaning her head back and breathing deeply as they stepped out into the fresh air. "You should wear them when you go out with Miss Uhura," she said, eyes closed but her mouth curved slightly at the corners in an expression of mischief. "If you go out with her, I mean."

"Our meetings are conducted in my rooms. We sometimes pass each other during the course of the day, but for the most part she remains in or near the Communications Block, and I am in an entirely separate part of the Academy."

He watched his mother from the corner of his eye. Spock thought he saw her amusement grow, but the expression was quickly suppressed. His mother, too, had learned to fit in on Vulcan.

"Is the Mess Hall satisfactory, or would you prefer somewhere more formal?" he asked.

She chuckled softly. "'Formal' is precisely what I'm avoiding. The Mess Hall would be just fine, if you're not too embarrassed to be seen with your mother."

Spock shook his head slowly, turning them towards the Bay. "Not at all." He took a step away, and Amanda loosened her grip so Spock could walk with his hands behind his back. The cut of his pants were impeding his normal stride but, he supposed, this allowed his mother to keep up with him more easily. In nine years, he had grown accustomed to setting his own pace.

"Will Miss Uhura be there?"

His right eyebrow rising slightly, in a manner so similar to his father's, Spock's tone was perfectly even as he said, "You have an uncanny interest in Cadet Uhura. May I ask why?"

Amanda grinned and looked down at the sidewalk, shrugging. "I don't know. I've seen her in your room twice. I never saw your room-mate that often, and you were living with him. She seems nice, and I thought ... perhaps ... that she was a very good friend of yours?"

Blues and reds twirled together as Spock's lips quirked once more. "Your implications that we are romantically involved are deeply inappropriate, mother. And not very subtle."

"'Romantic'? That's an interesting choice of word. Very human. And I noticed you don't deny anything."

Spock could feel his pointed eyes flushing, and looked straight ahead towards the Academy monument, just discernable beyond the rooftops of squat stores and stalls. "I have no comment on the matter."

His mother sighed, shaking her graying head. "You're cruel to your mother, Spock. Fine, if you won't crack I'll just have to work on her."

His step faltered slightly, greens overpowering the more pleasant emotions of only a moment before. "That will not be possible. Nyota will be absent from the Academy until she has finished her bereavement rituals."

Amanda frowned. "Bereavement?"

"Her mother recently died."

Amanda stopped immediately and laid a hand on her son's shoulder. "Oh Spock, I'm so sorry."

His head tilted slightly to the right as he regarded his mother. "Apology is not necessary, Mother. Indeed, it is a highly illogical reaction."

Shaking off his Vulcan logic, Amanda continued, "Please pass my sympathies on to Uhura and her family. I know we don't really know each other very well, but I know you and I know you're closer to her than you're telling. Could you sign my name to your condolence message?"

"Condolence message?" Spock repeated.

She stared hard at Spock as they walked across the quad. "Spock, please tell me you're intending to send a formal transmission of condolence? Or a transmission of any kind?"

Spock held open the door to the main building, stepping aside to allow her to pass. Following her, he led the way to the left, towards the Mess Hall. "I was advised that this was a time for Nyota to be with her family. I cannot claim to truly understand the grieving rituals of humans. It is highly illogical, to believe that the dead pass to a higher plane of existence, and yet to also mourn the loss of them. It was my intention to wait for Nyota's return and to judge from her behaviour what course of action was most advisable."

The corridors of the Academy were largely deserted, so Spock did not argue when his mother failed to moderate the volume of her voice. "Spock, you really are as hopeless as your father!"

"I am assuming you refer to an emotional deficiency."

"No, an empathic one. Which is really unforgivable in a species that boasts telepathy. In here?" Spock nodded, and they entered the mess. Amanda took a seat immediately, gesturing for Spock to sit opposite. "She cares for you. A lot." It was a statement rather than a question, and not one that Amanda was going to give her son enough time to query. "As an empathic Vulcan, and as an emotional human, you should know that bereavement is for the living, not the dead."

"You imply an act of self-pity?" Spock asked flatly.

Amanda made that familiar huff of frustration, which had been so common when he was small. "It's not self-pitying to miss someone you love; when you know they can't come back." His mother gripped his hands, fingers pressing firmly against the flesh of his palm. She was pressing her mind to his in a practiced gesture, learned from years of living with Vulcan men who couldn't or wouldn't understand her. He felt Amanda's pain at the loss of her own mother, the piercing pale green sorrow and bleak brown emptiness that thinking of her still evoked.

"This is what Nyota feels?" he asked, trying to gather the traces of her mind, as he had done every night during meditation. She was, perhaps, too far away, or it had been too long since he had touched her. He had felt nothing like this from her mental remnants.

"Her pain is more recent, more intense." Amanda shook her head slightly, and Spock felt the soft blues of her love for him. "It's only a gesture and it doesn't do any practical good – which I know you don't understand – but I strongly advise that if you want to help, you send her a transmission with your sympathies."

"I do not feel sympathy," Spock said, but he knew he was arguing semantics.

"'Sympathy' as a figure of speech rather than an abstract noun, Spock. Send a message of condolence. It will help her."

Even his mother's visit would not change Spock's routine meditation. She had not seemed offended when he asked her to leave him alone for three hours, but had said she would amuse herself on the computer, possibly raise a communication with his father.

Emerging from the bedroom, pulling the uniform black under-shirt over his head, he saw her sitting at the console. Running a hand over his head to ensure his hair retained its regular shape, he glanced over her shoulder. "You are writing?" he said

"I'm writing to Miss Uhura," she said without looking up. Her fingers continued to work at the touch-sensitive keyboard, her movements fast and assured.

His head tilted to the side. "That is an out-moded form of communication. I can set up a recorded transmission if you would prefer."

Amanda looked over her shoulder at him. One eyebrow was raised and her lips were slightly quirked, though her eyes were narrowed insinuating that her expression was not entirely positive. "Thank you, Spock. I know how to set up a recorded transmission. I used to set them up for you when you were a toddler, you may recall." She shook her head slightly, fingers moving over the console keyboard once more. "There's something more caring about a written message. Recordings are quick and cheap. People say whatever floats into their head. But writing a really good letter requires intelligence and forethought. Your Miss Uhura strikes me as the kind of woman who would appreciate the effort."

Spock nodded slowly, moving away so his mother would not think he was reading over her shoulder. Amanda valued privacy as much as any Vulcan. "An intriguing thought. Please let me know if she replies."

Though her back was turned to him, Spock could hear the smile in her voice. "I will."

It had been a long hard day filled with too many people and not enough silence. Uhura took a deep breath, smoothing down her knee-length black skirt as she looked at herself in the bathroom mirror. Even though her skin had darkened to its furthest extreme in the San Francisco summer, she could still make out the faint, blue rings beneath her puffy eyes. Even to her own eyes, her face looked thin. Or perhaps it was only because she wasn't smiling, hadn't smiled in sixteen days. She ran fingers through the thin, traditional braids Winda had painstakingly plaited the previous night. They made her hair feel thick and heavy – just the way she felt inside. A deep breath. Breathing was one of the harder things to remember to do. As a linguist, and a Xeno-linguist at that, she knew that breathing was everything in speech. And yet, as she spoke to relatives she'd forgotten she even had, and let them clutch her hands, she felt the air rushing out of her and had to consciously remember to suck more back in.

Too morose, Uhura. Pull it together.

Another deep breath, and she hitched up The Face. It wasn't the forced smile she often used at the Academy. Such an expression would be deeply inappropriate, and at the moment she was incapable of even a false smile. But her eyebrows rose into a look of polite interest. Her mouth hardened into a flat line, instead of drooping at the corners.

She looked like Spock. The thought would be amusing if the circumstances weren't so painful.

Twisting the door handle, she exited the safe haven of the bathroom. To be fair, most of the attendants had left. Only family – true family – remained. Her sisters, their partners and husbands, some children left dozing on the sofa or playing out in the yard. Winda took her hand almost immediately. "You OK? You were in there a while."

"I'm fine," Uhura replied, like she had at least twenty times a day since she arrived. Because Winda was her little sister, and she had to be fine for her. "Have they all gone now?"

"Finally," she said, voicing the opinion they both held but Uhura was too polite to say. "And Chanika and Dasini are taking their entourage back to the hotel."

"Just you and me, then." Uhura tried, she really did, to raise a smile for her sister. She thought she probably managed a grimace, but Winda didn't seem to be complaining.

"Do you mind if I just hide in my room tonight?" Winda had a way, which Uhura had always admired, of straight-forwardly asking for whatever she wanted. She supposed it was to do with being the youngest, and maybe a little bit spoiled. But thinking about that brought up memories of Winda's ninth birthday party, when Momma had bought her a scooter, and Uhura had never been allowed a scooter until she saved up to buy one herself. The memory of her face when Winda bounced up and down beside the extravagant gift was too much.

Breathe. Breathe again.

"Of course not."

"I'm not going to be crying or slitting my wrists or anything. I just ... there were a lot of people today."

"I'll second that," Uhura replied.

They stood together on the deck and waved as the two cars disappeared around the corner. Uhura sighed and dropped her arm, finally relaxing if only for a moment. She turned to Winda – shorter than Nyota, and prettier she supposed, with her short scruffy hair and fuck-the-world attitude. They had never been an overly affectionate family, but Uhura hugged her sister all the same. "I'll say good night now," she said, thinking how strange it was to spend so long together speaking her native Swahili.

"Night night, Nyo."

Utterly alone at last, Uhura steeled herself. There was one last duty that had to be performed, before she could lie on her bed and be as miserable as she wanted. She flicked the computer console on and waited for it to boot up.

Condolence after condolence, what should have been a comfort instead came across as a burden. Friends of her mother's, old colleagues, old lovers probably – it was amazing the kind of people that crawled out of the woodwork when people died. One day she would go back to these people, eager to learn more about the mother she had lost. But not just yet.

One message was from Gaila, as bubbly as the others had been. It was a small salve, and she saved it to watch again tomorrow when she would, hopefully, be in a better mood. Perhaps Winda would like it. She had a feeling the two shared a similar sense of humour.

And two messages from Spock. Sixteen days without a word, then two messages all at once. Apparently, Vulcans were like public shuttles.

She pressed her thumb to the AV-transmission, and sat back as a box grew and Spock's grainy image burst into life.

"Good evening, Nyota." He paused a long time. Spock didn't know what to say. That must be a first. "I had intended to offer you my support, but now that it comes to making such an offer it seems highly illogical. You wish for your mother back, and I cannot provide that. I have been ... I believe the human vernacular is 'praying' for you. Though, it is really more a means of supporting your mental capacities to help cope with overly stressful or emotional situations. It is the first time I have attempted such a thing, so I am unsure as to my success."

He paused again. Uhura noticed she had shifted forwards, leaning in towards the screen.

"It is very ... odd, going so long without your presence. You seem to have become part of my routine, and your absence has disturbed the equilibrium of my day." Any other woman might have been offended and turned the transmission off, blocking the feed from Spock's coordinates in case he send anything similarly untactful. Uhura, however, came the closest she had to smiling since that sunny Saturday afternoon when her biggest problem had been Spock disagreeing with her. Not many women would recognise that this was Spock's way of saying he missed her. "I look forward to your return with something approaching an emotion."

"Approaching," Uhura snorted under her breath. "Yeah, you miss me bad."

"I will allow you to return to your family." Spock leant forward, then paused. "Additionally – and I understand that this may seem untactful, but it is right to inform you – my mother is in San Francisco and expressed a desire to send you a letter of condolence. I allowed her to do so, but if it will upset you, please do not open the second communication file from these co-ordinates." He nodded slightly. "Good night, Nyota."

"Good night, Spock," she murmured as he leaned outside of the camera's field before vanishing into dead airspace.

"From one of your friends?" Winda said softly behind her.

Uhura bolted upright, turning in her seat to see her sister leaning against the doorframe, dressed in an over-sized T-shirt and sweat pants. "I thought you wanted to be alone?" Winda shrugged narrow shoulders, and crossed her arms across her stomach, slouching towards her sister. "Yes, he's a friend. Sort of."

The transmission had looped to a still frame of the beginning. Spock's image sat perfectly passive in his straight-backed chair, uniform perfectly pressed, hair perfectly flat. "He's cute," Winda decided, leaning over Uhura's shoulder. "If a bit grumpy-looking."

"He's half-Vulcan, and he doesn't exactly embrace his human side."

Winda ran her thumb over the console, flicking through the messages, presumably checking for anything from her own friends. "He sent you two messages?" she asked.

Uhura shook her head slightly. "The second one's from his mother."

"His mother?" Winda looked sharply at her older sister. "You been holding out on me?" Uhura realised that something must have flickered over her face – some pre-emptive expression of denial, or maybe and involuntary quirk of the lips or eyebrows – because all at once Winda was wearing that same brilliant smile that she'd had when they were teenagers sharing a room giggling over the boys they liked at school. It was the only time they looked alike, when they smiled, and Uhura felt her own lips quirk upwards. "I want to know everything," Winda announced.

Uhura sighed, trying to be the grown up. "Da, this subject is rather petty for a time like this, don't you think?"

"I think that something this happy is the only thing to discuss after the day we've had."

Uhura sighed. As a older and rather competitive sister, she always found it difficult to admit when the baby of the family was right – which was a pain, because lately it seemed to happen more and more often. "OK, grab some of those left-over brownies and head to my room, and I'll paint your nails and you can ask anything you like."

Winda smiled. The pain certainly hadn't gone but was, at least, temporarily hidden. The youngest Uhura sister stood and headed for the kitchen. Nyota turned to the console one more time before shutting down in order to transfer the two files from Spock to her data PADD. She would review them later, when she was alone. Then she followed her sister to their old bedroom.

Dear Nyota,

I hope you don't mind me calling you that. I've listened to Spock calling you 'Nyota' all day, and I'd feel a bit foolish sticking to the formality of 'Miss Uhura'.

Perhaps this isn't the best time for me to establish a correspondence between us. But I, too, lost my mother when I was very young, and I remember how difficult it can be dealing with other people's pity graciously – especially from a stranger. However, please understand that I have lived with Vulcans for the greater part of my adult life, and I send this to you with Vulcan empathy and human understanding. I will not offer the commonplace epithets – your mother has gone to a better place, her pain has ended – because you will hear them from plenty of people who will say them with a lot more sincerity than I could muster.

As I explained to my son only this afternoon, bereavement and the grieving process are for the living, not the dead. So my only assurance to you will be that the memories of your mother will not fade away, as you fear. They get stronger and brighter the more you recall them. It is difficult, but make the most of your family while you have them together, and remember your mother to each other. Talk to Spock about her when you return, because I know he will be interested, although he may not express it in the normal human way. I would love to hear more about her myself, when and if you feel ready to reply (I have included my communication number on Vulcan, in the event that you want to write back when I have returned home.)

I was so sorry to hear that I wouldn't be able to meet you on this visit. It took some prompting, but now Spock has gotten over his initial shyness (don't be fooled, Spock gets shy like any boy in love) he talks about you with a very high regard. What with his not being one to exaggerate, I think you must be quite an extraordinary young woman.

This is becoming overly long, and I have no desire to burden you at such a time. In the way of our race, please accept my heart-felt condolences to you and all your family. I very much hope that I will hear from you in the future.


Amanda Grayson

Conversational Vulcan

A Star Trek Story
by Blue Moon3

Part 13 of 16

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