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The journey from ship to planet took only a few infinitesimal seconds, the transporter process creating a familiar sensation he had once thought destined to remain a faint memory. Within a matter of minutes he had left Space Central in a hired skimmer, speeding silently out into the burning dry heat eased in the buildings by efficient air-cooling systems.
Once his course and destination had been plotted into the skimmer's controls, there was little else to do but sit back, watching the red-orange landscape of his home world rush by. He did so, his keen eyesight noting the cracked, parched look to the earth. Even through the protective tinted windows he could feel the heat of the ball of fire which seemed to do its best to dehydrate Vulcan as much as possible before the season of rains began. They would come soon, and like every desert, on whatever planet one should choose, the red sphere would overnight explode with vibrant colour and life greedily sucking the nourishing water. The thought reminded him of his mother's futile attempts to introduce earth-type plants to this alien world. "A desert is a desert is a desert," she had once replied to Sarek's bemused protestations about the uselessness of it all. Neither father nor son had ever quite found the logic in that particular statement.
Spock's eyes shifted from the blazing sands to the black outfit he now wore. After much thought, he had chosen it over his uniform, discarding the gray outfit which for so long had been almost a second skin. He had a feeling that to have worn that symbol of Starfleet might have been akin to ramming his choice down Sarek's throat. He smiled faintly at his choice of words. A curious Human expression, but like many of their sayings, aptly expressive. The smile disappeared as his thoughts moved on. No, overcoming Sarek's disapproving animosity would be hard enough without any added psychological handicaps.
A change in the landscape and the skimmer's reduced speed alerted him to the fast approaching city of ShiKahr, and as he expertly guided the vehicle through orderly, quiet streets, he felt a quite illogical desire to turn about and head back to the Enterprise. Firmly he reminded himself that the ship would be in this area for two days only, and if he did not take this chance, another might be a long time in coming. Jim Kirk had agreed without a murmur to his request for time off; Spock suspected he'd worked out the reason anyway. It was not a prospect he relished, recalling other such talks with his father, but his abrupt departure after his return from Gol had to be explained. There had been little time for explanations before he left, not that he would have been able to, anyway.
With a faint whisper of sound the skimmer came to a halt outside the high wall surrounding the house and garden. Spock carefully climbed out and strode with the confidence of one in familiar surroundings through the engraved gate into the garden beyond, making for the house he knew so well.
Standing in the shade of the Terran-style porch were his parents, as he had known they would be. As he approached, Amanda gave up her half-hearted struggle and broke into a wide, happy smile. The chances of Sarek doing likewise, Spock reflected drily, were as remote as those of getting a Royal Fizzbin with the first hand. Instead, the former Ambassador greeted his son with the grave dignity so typical of him, his voice revealing none of his inner feelings.
With sudden cold clarity Spock saw his parents as the older people they were. The insight was not pleasant. Amanda seemed smaller and more fragile than ever before, the briefness of the Human lifespan all too apparent. Sarek carried his years well, but the passage of time had left its marks; marks which Spock saw only too well.
In the next breath, the moment was past, forgotten as they walked together into the cool house, exchanging pleasantries with that curious restraint which always became more obvious at times such as this.
The day passed pleasantly enough, with Spock answering his mother's questions as fully as he knew how. In her typical Human way she chatted, imparting pieces of gossip and gathering news without touching on the bone of contention lurking behind Sarek's apparent interest in Spock's career. Listening to Amanda's skilful weaving about the subject, Spock found himself wondering which of his parents would prove the more skilful diplomat if put to the test. The evening meal came and went, and eventually Amanda excused herself with the excuse that all the excitement had worn her out. With her departure, Sarek and Spock moved to Sarek's study, all the while watching each other like wary antagonists.
The older Vulcan opened the conversation as was his right. "So... you have settled in on the Enterprise again?"
Spock sat back in his chair, his hands folded loosely in his lap. Memories of similar moments in this very room flooded back. "Yes," he confirmed. "It has become almost a second home."
"Ah, I see. Presumably the Enterprise is on a short tour of duty. I do not think even the famous James Kirk would be given his old command without conditions..."
Spock experienced a small twinge of annoyance at the faintly sardonic tone to Sarek's statement, but he ignored it. "We are working a trial period, yes. More to test the new designs than anything else," he asserted firmly, although that was not exactly true. He knew as well as Kirk that Starfleet Command had not been happy with their former Admiral regaining his Captaincy, no matter how profuse they were in their gratitude.
Sarek nodded wisely, accepting his son's explanation. "Your tape on the Voyager incident was most interesting, although your mother persists she still does not fully understand what happened."
They looked at each other, sharing the private joke, then Sarek doggedly came back to the issue barely hidden in their exchange. "I do not fully understand either."
Spock stared at the smooth brown flooring, understanding his father's point of view. Sarek had just begun to accept his Starfleet career when he had returned without preamble to throw himself into the disciplines of Kolinahr.
Then, when it seemed he would finally become a Vulcan son Sarek could be proud of, he had left almost without notice, the only communication since, a tape stating his intention of remaining with the Enterprise. There was so much to explain, and Spock was not sure he could do so to Sarek's satisfaction.
He began hesitantly, all too aware of the barrier between them, the transparent wall which would never be completely broken down. "Father, I regret I did not have sufficient time to explain my actions before I left. I did not wish to leave so abruptly. Indeed, I had not intended to leave at all."
"Nevertheless, you did," Sarek said pointedly. "There was time, if you had taken it."
"Perhaps. Then again, perhaps it is something which can never be explained, no matter how much time we give it."
Sarek's expression grew frostily distant. "You said you sensed the Voyager being before and during the final ceremony... I confess, I cannot see the how or why."
"Neither do I, exactly," Spock murmured. "I can only describe it as a brief affinity between us - something in me drew V'ger, and in that contact I sensed the answers I came back here to find. So... I left."
"I see," Sarek said, who did not see at all. "You left - and did you find your answers?"
There was a familiar stubborn line about his father's chin. "What answers were so important and unique that you could not find them in the achievement of Kolinahr?"
"The answer to who I am," Spock replied, noting the flicker of surprise followed by faint irritation on Sarek's face.
"Still this soul search for - what?" Sarek muttered. "I never felt the need for such soul-searching as you."
"You are not half Human, father."
"Should that make a difference?"
Spock sighed, studying the floor once more. "Father, if you don't know the answer to that question by now, I think you never will."
One eyebrow crept upwards in a way crewmembers of the Enterprise would recognise instantly, even if they had never met Sarek. He clasped his hands behind his back, walking towards the window. "Of course... You're right, but such a... feeling is outwith my experience. It is hard to understand, as hard as understanding your apparent rejection of much that is Vulcan."
A slightly sardonic smile fleetingly curved Spock's lips. "That, I fear, is an issue which will never be resolved between us. Suffice to say I have spent most of my life striving to reach what is, for me, an impossible ideal. Now I must accept it is unattainable and follow another path. I am sorry to disappoint you, but I will never be the Vulcan you wished me to be."
"Indeed?" Sarek intoned gravely. "Your encounter with Voyager taught you this?"
"It opened my eyes to what I have denied for too long."
Sarek nodded tightly, turning to stare through the glass at the night-enclosed garden. Spock watched him silently, part of him wishing he had never come. Some minutes passed before his father spoke again.
"My son, I confess I have not often understood you or your motives. Many of your actions, your views, have alternately distressed or confused me in the past. As you say, it is an issue we shall most likely never resolve. I do not pretend to see your side of it even now, but - but now... I would know the answers you have found."
It was Spock's turn for surprise. He had anticipated anger, disdain, sarcasm... but not this. Perhaps, he thought, recalling past incidents, perhaps misunderstanding could occur on both sides, with neither one completely at fault. Their father/son relationship had always been one of conflict -could they change that now?
His gaze rose to meet Sarek's, and slowly, growing in confidence as Sarek listened without comment, he spoke of his new-found awareness and of the friendship he so nearly lost because he was frightened of its simple truths.