Cool. Not Cold.
That was how her hand had felt on his fevered cheeks. It was the soft touch of her delicate fingers that had wiped the tears from his eyes before anyone could see them. Before his father could see them. She had spoken of faraway things and of the wondrous sights she had seen on her travels. And she had spoken of everything… including a grandmother who lived on Earth.
For all these years, it had never crossed his mind to go visit Sarah Grayson. But today, he was thinking about this woman he had never met but one whose blood flowed in his veins through his now dead mother.
It was not usual for Spock to be sentimental. In fact, outwardly, he was as calm as ever. It was just that grief did not bow down to logic. And to be fair to him, he was indulging in a reverie, not an act of mourning.
Just then, his communicator rang.
It was the captain and the CMO.
“Hey, Spock, let us go grab dinner together,” Kirk’s jubilant voice spoke from the other end.
Normally, Spock would say yes to such an invitation. But not today. Today was an important day and he needed to dedicate it to something other than a relaxed evening with his shipmates.
“I must decline, captain,” he said as politely as he could. He was still getting to know Kirk. He wasn’t entirely comfortable with him yet. But as a first officer, he wanted to show the proper degree of respect towards the man. Besides, even he acknowledged now that Kirk was brilliant, even if a little brash and unconventional in his thought.
“Oh come one,” Kirk whined at the other end. “It will be fun.”
The urge to say “Vulcans do not have fun” was strong. But Spock managed to respond instead with, “I have personal business to attend to. I will endeavor to dine with you another day.”
And without waiting for the younger man to say anything, Spock cut the call.
He had never observed Yom Kippur.
But Amanda had, even on Vulcan.
Her elaborate candelabra had seemed exotic to him as a child. The strange language she spoke while praying, the tears that flowed from her eyes as she apologized to an unknown entity over and over again-- It had been fascinating to his young mind. But as a Vulcan, he had come to accept that he would never really understand.
After all, Amanda had been human. And Spock was not. Funnily enough, though, she had once said to him jestingly that as the son of a Jewish mother, Spock would always be a Jew. At the same time, however, like a dutiful Vulcan wife, she had raised Spock away from this part of his human heritage.
Religion was illogical.
And yet, Spock missed his mother’s legendary potato kugels and cheese blintzes with blueberry sauce. To his mother, these had been bitter-sweet reminders of home, a nod to her upbringing, and her preferred dishes to break her fast with.
For him, these had been the special delicacies other Vulcan children did not know about. These had been his and Amanda’s secret. And sometimes, in a magnanimous act of generosity, they had allowed Sarek to partake of their bounty as well.
Spock wondered if his emotions were getting the better of him yet again. It was something that had been happening a lot lately. He had often wondered if losing his bond with his mother so suddenly had permanently damaged something.
Rationally, he knew that was not the case. But it did feel like the ground had stopped being firm under his feet. It did feel like the sky was further away than it used to be. It did feel like the sun was not warm enough anymore.
It probably wasn’t.
Sol was not Eridani-40. But Spock would never experience the latter’s warmth on his back again. Sol was all he had left.
And only half of it. Because he was half Amanda and half Sarek. Half Human and half alien. Half terran and half Vulcan.
But Vulcan was dead.
He swallowed roughly as he considered his decision again.
There was no logical reason for him wanting to observe Yom Kippur. He was reasonably certain he would not be comfortable in any synagogue. He also knew that if he chose to observe the holiday, he would need to spend the evening and the next day in prayers.
He would also need to ask for forgiveness from the people he had wronged.
Unfortunately, for Spock, that list was unending. And most people on that list were gone.
Uneasiness enveloped him as fear, remorse, and sorrow surged through him.
But mercilessly, he clamped down on these emotions.
He passed the evening in remembrance and meditation.
He did not know what tomorrow would bring.
He was not even sure she would be there.
He had tried to be considerate about the timing. It was almost dark. But he had had no other options. He had been unable to bring himself to attend an actual service. And so, he had waited for a sufficient amount of time to pass. At this hour, most people would be back home from the service, getting ready for a festive supper with their families and friends. It was custom to do so after an entire day of strict fasting.
He was sure that in all likelihood, fasting was simply not enough to successfully observe this high holiday. But that was the only thing he had been able to do.
There was very little he could do to remedy that situation.
And that was why he was here.
Nervously, he knocked at the ancient looking door again.
Ten seconds later, a wizened woman opened the door.
“Yes,” she said softly. Her hair was completely white and there were more lines on her face than he had ever seen on anyone.
“I… I…” He swallowed roughly before continuing. “I am… here to meet Ms. Sarah Grayson.”
The woman looked at him for a long moment. Her warm, chocolate brown eyes, seemingly covered with a milky haze widened in recognition.
“You are her boy,” she said plainly as if it was an everyday occurrence for her to find the alien son of her daughter at the door. The alien son she had never met. The son of a daughter she had not seen after her marriage. The son of a daughter she would never see again.
“I am,” Spock answered quietly. “I came for Yom Kippur.”
The old lady smiled.
“I do not observe Yom Kippur,” she said.
“But you are Jewish,” Spock said before he could stop himself.
“I don’t believe in God,” she answered. “No mother can after what happened to Amanda.”
“I have come to ask for your forgiveness,” Spock said.
“Come in,” Sarah stepped aside to let her grandson in.
She led him to the living room.
The little coffee table was littered with old-fashioned paper-based newsletters. Some of them like The San Jose Jewish Times and The Jerusalem Post were clearly community newspapers, but there were other magazines like The Space Ledger and the Astro Week as well.
The room itself looked like a memorial of the sorts. Among antique books, matryoshka dolls, papier mache handicrafts, there were pictures of family members Spock had never met. And in the corner, he noticed the edge of an unfinished quilt and a woolen sweater abandoned carelessly with the knitting needles still stuck in.
He could tell no one had touched them in a long time. There were dust motes on both items. And Sarah Grayson did not seem to care.
“You don’t need my forgiveness,” she said to Spock, placing a glass of water in front of him.
“I believe I do,” the Vulcan said, ignoring the glass of water. “I was unable to save mother. I was unavailable to you in your hour of grief. I was a careless son to her. And a thoughtless grandson to you.”
“Why are you doing this?” the old woman asked tiredly. It had taken her the entire year to come to terms with Amanda’s death. Even though she had not seen her daughter for more than three decades, the pain had been so sharp.
And now this child of hers, a miracle, a blessing, a curse… He was reopening all those wounds. Sarah searched the strange Vulcan boy’s face for traces of her daughter. The boy’s ears were pointed like all others of his race. His hair was dark, unlike her light brown mane that had made Amanda so attractive to the neighborhood boys. His face was angular, severe even, with its chiseled edges and those arched eyebrows.
But his eyes.
They were hers.
Looking into them, Sarah could swear her daughter was right here. She could smell her favorite perfume. She could hear her crystalline laughter. She could taste the potato kugel she made every Yom Kippur.
“Did my daughter ever make potato kugel for you?” she asked him.
“She did," Spock said. And blintzes with blueberry sauce," he added, a smile lighting up in his eyes, even though his words were choked.
“Then she remembered,” Sarah said with a fond smile on her face. “I used to make it on the high holidays. But she could not make it very well when she was a little girl. Even then, she wanted to help me in the kitchen. So, since she was four, she and I often made preparations for the dishes together. We kneaded the dough, chopped the vegetables, dusted the dishes. We did everything together. But most times, I had to redo everything later, once she was distracted by her toys or tired after all that work... I bet she did the same with you.”
“I… she invited me to aid her multiple times when I was a child,” Spock confessed. “However, I deemed it illogical.”
He expected his grandmother to get upset at that.
But her response surprised him.
“It is never too late for atonement,” she said serenely. “That is what Yom Kippur is about. Come with me to the kitchen.”
Two hours later, Sarah ate a traditional Jewish feast with her grandson for the first time in her life. And she drank in every quirk of her grandson’s eyebrow, every one of his long-winded sentences, every time his eyes moistened and he hid it within a moment. Watching the young man eat warmed something within her. His alienness melted away to let a little more of her daughter's softness shine through him.
For Spock, the meal tasted of homecoming.
It was fascinating that absolution could come in the form of the humble potato kugel.