The clock sits on the table with its hands ticking away at a pace slower than her aging eyes can take. And yet, she wishes for the time to slow down. The unbearably hot weather outside is scorching to her on a normal day. But today is far from normal. Her skin feels too cold. It is a snowy day on Vulcan even though the dry desert sands are as brown as they have always been.
It is winter in the house of Surak. It is a day of endless wait and dashed hopes in the heart of Amanda, wife of Ambassador Sarek.
But when she answers her front door an hour later, it isn't as a diplomat's wife. It is as the mother of Commander Spock, the half-Vulcan son of a human mother, the only son of a lonely but proud woman.
It is strange for her to welcome Jim Kirk to her home without her son at his side. It is odd to her that among the blues of the Enterprise's science department, her son's tunic is conspicuously missing. It hurts to know that the blue tunic that looks so perfect on her grown child's frame is now folded among the things that his shipmates have brought to her.
"Ma'am," Kirk's soft voice breaks into her thoughts. "Starfleet has decided to take him off the Missing-In-Action list. They…they have declared him….." he swallows roughly before saying the distasteful word…. "They have declared him deceased."
A lone tear slips from his left eye, baby blues dimmed with grief. But as if mimicking her brave son's mask, Amanda's face remains serene. Only her eyes change. Just like Spock's too human, brown ones used to.
"I thank you for bringing me his things, Jim," she says with a slight, almost unnoticeable tremor in her otherwise steady voice. "I apologize that Spock's father couldn't be here. He had to attend to some business for Lady T'Pau….." her words trail away as she sees the doctor's face transform.
In a purely venomous voice, Dr. McCoy lashes out.
"This is about his son," he says in a low, tortured cadence. "And it is routine business for the great ambassador Sarek?"
Amanda wants to say that they misunderstand her husband, that this is just how Vulcans are. Somewhere, deep inside, she knows how much her husband is hurting. But she cannot bring herself to defend him to Spock's friends. His human friends. His friends who welcomed him when no one else had, all his life.
Unbidden, an image from her baby's childhood comes to her. The uniquely Vulcan bullying ways of the children who studied with him at school. Their cruel words… and actions cut her deeply even as she knows that it has been years since her boy was hurt like that.
"Would you like a cup of tea?" she asks, embarrassed that in her grief, she had forgotten her manners.
"No ma'am," Jim says. "We do not wish to impose."
"I'd like it if you did," she says, half hoping that they won't register that. But she is so very scared of opening the bag they have brought. Sarek will not sit with her to open it, she knows. He will meditate on his pain. And she will have to open and sort through her son's last possessions all alone.
Even she can't do it. No mother should ever have to. And a part of Amanda is begging the young captain to just stay with her while she opens the bag.
"Please…" she whispers brokenly.
And understanding washes over the captain's cerulean eyes.
"If you insist, Lady Amanda," he says cautiously, himself not sure if he wants to sit through such an intimate ritual of a mother packing away her son's only remaining possessions.
Besides, even though the world doesn't believe it, Jim Kirk is not a masochist. He knows that when the reality sinks in, he will go to pieces. Something tells him that sitting in this Vulcan home, with a mourning human mother is going to push him to that. And he sure as hell doesn't want to break down here. Not like this.
But he is glad that Bones is here. Trusty, little Bones. Always around to haul Kirk's ass back to his quarters. But Bones is not himself today. He looks like he is ready to bolt. Amanda's tormented acceptance of her son's passing is too much for him to handle. And perhaps because he is a doctor, he cannot believe that the green-blooded hobgoblin is gone.
While Jim is watching Bones intently, Amanda is busy fixing tea. Her antique tea set made from actual porcelain looks as delicate as the flowers painted on it. With surprisingly steady fingers, she strains the tea into the cups and pours cream and sugar into each cap, fully aware of how Spock's friends take their tea. She is careful to not fix one for her son.
Wasting things for sentimental reasons is illogical, she tells herself. But it would be so easy to simply pour him a cup too and wait for him to appear from the door and pick up his cup with those fine, long-boned hands of his.
Like a good housewife, she carries the tray back to the living room. She wants to put off the inevitable opening of the bag. She wants to make small talk with his friends. She wants to pretend that this is simply another afternoon visit on a rare shore leave that they have chosen to take on Vulcan.
But somehow, she feels that conversations about the weather would cheapen the memories of her son.
However, small talk doesn't always have to be meaningless.
"Do you have baby pictures of him?" Jim asks quietly, almost looking ashamed of himself. Poor boy thinks he is going to be slapped for being so insensitive. Dr. McCoy looks like his friend just sprinkled salt all over a dying earthworm.
However, she is glad for the young man's loud-mouth. She has never been able to share her boy's baby pictures with anyone. People on Vulcan already see her as an oddity. No self-respecting Vulcan mother takes pictures of her baby. But Amanda is human and she has hundreds of Spock's baby pictures. It is just that she has never shared them with anyone, not even her husband.
"I have some pictures of him as a baby," she says with a hesitant smile in her otherwise hoarse voice. "Would you like to see… if you have a few more minutes to spare?"
"Of course, we do," Jim answers instantly, relief evident in his tone.
A minute or so later, the three humans can be seen laughing at a particularly endearing image of a Vulcan infant with two enormous ears on his tiny head. They look at more pictures and for a few precious moments, the sound of pure, unadulterated laughter is heard throughout the otherwise quiet house.
There are images of the bewildered child in a panda onesie. There are pictures of him smiling broadly, slanted eyebrows disappearing into his hairline.
"He looks so adorable in that….oh my dear God…" Jim Kirk says as he points at a photograph in which Spock, aged three, is seen trying to put on his mother's stiff headdress—an accoutrement that refuses to cooperate with his still-too-big pointed ears.
And as Jim wipes tears of mirth from his eyes, he feels the tears of grief welling up.
"Amanda… I am sorry," he chokes, killing the temporary bonhomie within seconds.
He stands up to leave, giving Bones his cue as well. But just as he does, Amanda holds his wrist.
"Just let me put away his things," she says in a tiny, desperate voice.
"I can't…" Jim says but Bones stops him.
"We will stay ma'am," he says and forces Jim to sit down.
Bones understands how hard this is going to be on his friend. But he doesn't have the heart to leave the older woman to do this alone.
With shaky fingers, she fumbles with the satchel of the duffel bag.
"These things are so complicated these days," she says with a nervous chuckle. It takes her a few tries but she manages to open the satchels. With still trembling hands, she opens the zip.
Her hesitation is momentary but there are a thousand lifetimes of loss in that moment.
The urge to run away is still strong, but the good doctor keeps his feet planted to the stone floor.
With an aching slowness, she reaches into the bag and pulls out his wallet.
Brown, with slightly fraying edges, the little purse is rather old-fashioned and very terran in appearance. Amanda's fond smile says that there is a story hidden in it.
"I bought this for my baby boy on his 12th birthday," she says with a faraway look in her misty eyes. "Vulcans don't use wallets. Even human men don't these days. But it was custom in my family to gift a wallet to every boy on his 12th birthday. I did not know Spock kept it safe with him… all these years…" her voice falters at the last phrase. But the two men don't say anything.
Next, she pulls out a tiny Rubik's cube, another one of his childlike possessions. There is probably a story for this object as well. But if Amanda refuses to share it, then they will respect her choice.
After that, she pulls out his journal—a heavyset Moleskine notebook. By its condition, it looks well-used. The dark smudges on the edges indicate that it has been written in regularly.
She opens the first page. For a moment, there is complete silence. But then she lets out a loud, heartbreaking sob.
They don't wish to even know what it is, but she holds it out for them anyway. And they read.
"The best of who I am, is the best of whom I love…."
And underneath the seemingly interrupted phrase are just four names.
Sarek, Amanda, Nyota….. and Jim.
It is surreal to the young captain that Spock had come to value him this much in such a short space of time. And yet, the evidence is right here in front of his eyes.
He is about to turn to the next page when Dr. McCoy's hand stops him.
"Don't torture yourself more, kid," he says gently.
Kirk only nods and returns the little diary back to Amanda.
The last item she takes out is his only other blue science tunic. He had probably washed it recently. As she hugs the fabric close to herself, she can only smell the detergent it was washed in. She wants to imagine that Spock is still in there somewhere.
And had she still been on Earth, her mind would have probably played that fanciful, if cruel, trick on her.
But Vulcan's severe logic had robbed her of her privilege of imagination. And sadly, all she is now left with is the crisp, neutral scent of regulation-issued detergent.
For a long moment, she cradles the tunic close to her bosom as if trying to send an embrace to her lost child. But time calls to her in the way of Kirk's comm. unit going off.
"Kirk here," he answers, only to be told that he needs to return to the ship now. Besides, his security detail and a few of the science crew who had chosen to beam down with him are all ready to go back to the ship.
Wordlessly, she sees them to the door.
"Live long and prosper," she says, holding up the ta'al, knowing that it still looks and feels foreign on her hand.
The two men only nod respectfully before they dissolve into golden shimmers.
Amanda goes back inside, dreading her return to the last of her son's belongings. Each thing will need to be wrapped properly before being kept inside. And while she knows that he is probably not coming back, she is not sure she wants to pack up his things for good.
But she must do it anyway. There is no one on this planet who would encourage her unhealthy and unrealistic fantasy.
So she does what a dutiful Vulcan would do.
But even as she folds the blue tunic to place it at the bottom of the closet, she is almost certain that she just heard a warm voice whisper in her ears, "Ko-Mekh….."