Campus is quiet. At this hour it always is, though now perhaps especially so, the Academy empty in the days before the new semester begins. The only other figures in the murk of fog Spock walks through are the odd instructor and a small huddle of Ops officers carrying padds and coffees.
He has grown accustomed to shuffling aside in the turbolift to avoid wayward elbows and the brush of stray thoughts. He finds himself alone in it now, floors passing by in stripes of white light and silence. Down the length of hall to his office, his footsteps echo, as does the hiss of the door.
The room is as he left it. His desk is organized as it was the last day of the prior term and his course books still line the shelves in the order he placed them, though now with a fine layer of dust from the intervening weeks. A stylus rests beneath his desk lamp where he had set it when he had last risen from his chair, some time ago now.
To procure tea.
He had stood to pour himself a cup of tea. Placed his stylus just there, pushed his chair back and then in again, tucking it neatly to the desk. Logical at the time, to exit his office in favor of accompanying Cadet Uhura to the break room, and later he had chosen not to return but had instead walked to his quarters amid the noise that heralded the end of the term.
The other desk in the room is empty.
He does not look at it as he pulls his chair back and sits, brushes away a speck of lint that has alighted on his work surface, and returns the stylus to its proper place next to his padd.
On the first night of Nyota’s deployment not incidentally - nor surprisingly - Amanda comes into the kitchen shortly after he turned off the lights in her bedroom.
“I’m thirsty,” she announces from the doorway.
“Please return to your bed,” Spock says.
“I risk dehydration.” She comes to stand next to him, staring upwards in a manner he believes his mother would have termed baleful.
Nyota too, were she here.
Spock continues to sort spoons from forks.
“Try to rest,” he says.
“When will Mother call?”
“In the morning.” Spock lays his hand over Amanda’s dark hair. “Which will arrive all the sooner if you go to sleep.”
“It will arrive in the same span of time regardless,” Amanda says. “Being unaware of the passage of time does not alter the fact of it.”
Spock does not allow himself to smile. Gently, he cups her cheek. “Amanda.”
“Vulcans do not require very much rest.”
“Seventy five percent of your genetic structure determines otherwise,” he says and lifts her up with a hand beneath each of her arms. “Come.”
Hubble perks up as they pass the living room. Spock shakes his head at her and the now-raised ears.
“Stay,” he instructs.
Amanda has kicked the covers off her bed and Spock deposits her on the mattress while he untangles them. Her mouth pinched, she watches him from her perch next to her pillow. It is askew. Carefully, he rights it.
“Will you read to me?”
“If I read to you, we will inevitably engage in a debate over the appropriate number of pages, which will only serve to further delay your rest.”
Someday, perhaps, she will decide to subdue that response. He did. Buried it down deep enough that he was certain nothing could wrench it forth.
Though it was not a thing that chiseled cracks in his impassivity, but a who, the fissures appearing well before he knew to be aware of them.
“Amanda,” he says and receives the full force of her displeasure through the push of their bond. He lays his hand over her forehead and she twists away.
“I’m not tired.”
“I am aware.” He pulls the sheets straight and sits next to her. “While I do not believe such reasoning will sway you, I can assure you that you will feel better in the morning. Lay down, please.”
For the second time that night, Spock pulls the blankets over her shoulders. Likely it will not be the last.
“Your mother and I traveling for work is at times inevitable,” he says softly.
She tugs the blankets higher in a small fist.
“I know,” she whispers.
“Your mother’s absence is a disruption to the normalcy of the household. It is not illogical that it would cause distress.”
“I am not distressed,” Amanda says and the corner of her eyes crease. “I simply cannot sleep.”
“I see.” Spock gently strokes her hair. “I stand corrected.”
“You are sitting.”
Pedantic, Nyota would say were she here to say it. She would smile and lean forward and touch her nose to Amanda’s until Amanda smiled back.
But Nyota is currently on a shuttle to the Antares and Spock knows as full well as Amanda does that it will be forty four very long days before she returns.
“Amanda,” he says softly and once he may never have allowed himself to give voice to such, but now he touches his thumb to her cheek and says, “I miss your mother very much.”
“She has only just left. It is not reasonable to miss someone so soon.”
“Reasonable or not, it is very much the state of things,” he says and leans down to gently kiss her forehead.
He leaves her door ajar and Amanda still tossing in her bed. She will undoubtedly return downstairs again. Last night, the house was full of Nyota’s conversation, the pad of her steps up and down the stairs as she packed, the scent of matoke that he had made her for dinner. He closes his eyes and lets out a breath. Then, he returns to the dishes and the task of cleaning the kitchen, pausing only when he comes upon Nyota’s coffee mug.
Illogical to imagine it is still warm. An entire day has passed, full of the intervening hours since she set it in the sink, picked up her duffle bag, and exited the house. The mug is heavy, the ceramic far thicker than the delicate cups he prefers for tea. So the coffee stays warm longer, she had said to him once, years ago now. He is unsure now if she had adequate time for her morning coffee, what with the rush of Amanda getting to school and the ensuing farewell, last minute forgotten items, and the hour at which she had to report.
Hubble pads into the kitchen with a click of paws.
“I have already taken you out for the night,” Spock tells her, then presses his mouth closed. He does not - as a rule - speak to the dog.
Her response is a wet nose pressed to his thigh and a soft whine until he pats the top of her head twice.
Spock sets the mug in the cupboard. After tomorrow, it will be forty three mornings.
He retreats to the couch, and Hubble returns to her bed, and together they await the inevitable footfalls that will come down the stairs soon enough.
He did not need a teaching assistant.
Nor did he want one, so the return to being the sole occupant of his office and the only one assigned to his courses should be… welcome.
Normal at least, especially considering the number of semesters he worked alone when held in comparison to the fourteen weeks he was furnished with such unnecessary collaboration
“Cadet,” he nearly says halfway through the morning.
Though he does not. Verbalize the word, that is. For he certainly thinks it, and goes as far as to look up from his padd at the still vacant desk.
Which Cadet Uhura is not at. Quite clearly so, from the empty work surface if not the lack of her presence in the room, the building, campus entirely.
The planet, he informs himself, rather unhelpfully.
He moves his chair closer to his desk. Rests his forearms alongside his padd and returns to his reading. There is no need to look around the room again, so he does not do so. Neither was there a particular need to ask her the question that had formed- he can look up ancillary Klingon past participial verbiage himself. Should in fact. And will do so now.
He lets out a breath and calls up a xenodictionary he has not made use of in some time - a semester, if he is to be accurate, fourteen weeks and then the additional three since the previous term ended. He is quite capable of readjusting to the companionless rhythm of work he was once so accustomed to, and any resistance to such he swiftly sets aside. It is not useful to dwell on what was but is not now. He scrolls through the document without paying any mind to the quiet of the room, nor the additional inquiries that were she there, he would pose to her.
The pillow across the bed is empty. Spock frowns.
Then, he blinks, pushes himself up on his elbow, and closes his eyes again.
The sheets on Nyota’s side of the bed are still tucked in. As they have been since the previous morning when she had straightened them after arising.
Yawning as she did so, and pushing her hair behind her ear with none of her usual fastidiousness. He has always found that so charming, how untidy she is when she awakes.
For a moment, Spock continues to lay in bed. The shower will not turn on thirty five minutes from now. Nyota will not come downstairs when he is halfway through his message queue and mug of tea. After breakfast, Hubble will not enjoy Nyota’s morning walk, which is far more of an amble than that which Spock provides. And Amanda… she will have to suffice with being brought to school by Spock, a change to her schedule she is aware of and yet will likely weather with if not outright defiance then certainly some… consternation.
He can quite relate.
He was aware today would come. And has anticipated it for some time, considering the deliberation Nyota gave the assignment and the weeks that passed before her departure. It is however an entirely different matter to actually have to live through the reality that for so long was a distant enough future as to not be immediately pertinent.
He sets his feet on the floor and does not repress the sigh that forms. It will be, as Nyota would say, a very long morning.
The handouts for his morning lecture have not been copied onto the necessary filmplasts.
He realizes this only when he reaches for the stack of them on the corner of his desk and is faced with the improbable - illogical - fact that the surface is empty. The aborted movement to pick them up leaves his hand hanging in the empty air. Quickly, he tucks it into his lap.
The handouts have not been copied to filmplasts because he has not yet copied them. To expect otherwise is… irrational.
Class begins in thirteen minutes. Which is time enough to prepare the filmplasts if he begins now, though it will mean that he will arrive to the lecture hall as the bell rings, not before, which will mean he will not have the time he has grown accustomed to, to answer students’ questions before the lesson commences.
Helpful, to do so. To be available to them. They absorb more class material if he addresses their concerns, a lesson he learned far more recently than he likely should have.
He will rearrange his schedule so that this does not happen again. The awkward standing next to his desk, but moreover the now twelve minutes before his class that will be rushed in a way he does not particularly enjoy, and the oversight regarding the handouts.
He pushes the awkwardness aside. It does not do to dwell on such emotional reactions.
From his desk, he collects his padd, his mug of tea, and after a brief - and unexpected - hunt, the datachip with his slides. It is in his desk drawer, not on top of the filmplasts, for the filmplasts are not there. Another adjustment. It is no matter.
“I am aware of your plight,” he says to Hubble when she once more whines. “Amanda, dinner.”
From the living room, she calls, “I’m coming.”
“Hubble,” he says. “Attempt to practice patience and if not that, then some measure of composure.”
Hubble lifts a paw to the door and stares up at him, her tongue flopped out the side of her mouth.
“The squirrels will be there after we have eaten.” He sets two plates on the table. “Amanda.”
Hubble barks. Spock frowns.
Were she here, Nyota would have taken Hubble running after returning from work. Spock likely should have, but faced with laundry to be put away, dinner to prepare, Amanda to retrieve from school, and a report he must complete by morning, the logical decision had been to delay Hubble’s daily exercise. Clearly, an error in judgement. What he will do to rectify the mistake, he is unsure. He cannot talk her for a walk or run with Amanda, for Amanda needs to complete her worksheets for school, nor can he leave Amanda at home by herself.
Hubble crouches down on her front legs, lifts her hind end in the air, and wags her tail back in forth with what Spock is certain is entirely unnecessary drama.
“Fine,” Spock says and unlatches the door to their small yard. “Please do not bark, for you will disturb the neighbors’ dinner.”
For a moment, he watches Hubble dash across the yard. Then, he turns and walks through the quiet kitchen.
“Amanda,” he says again. “Your dinner will be cold.”
“I am coming now.”
“I see no evidence to support your assertion.”
“I am,” she says but when he reaches the living room, she remains curled on the couch in the same position she has been all evening. The only change is that instead of being in her lap, her homework is on the coffee table and has been replaced by a book.
“Did you finish your work?” he asks.
“Are you hungry?”
“Yes,” she says without looking up from her reading.
“How do you propose remedying that situation?”
“I am nearly done with this chapter,” she says.
Nyota would tell her to put the book down. Spock should, if not only for solidarity in parenting decisions but the additional task of instilling the necessary lesson of coming to the table on time, then far more illogically for the fact that Nyota would take a failure to do so as further evidence that Spock is, as she so often says, completely ‘suckered’.
Which he is not. He has the stove to wipe down, cupboards to straighten, and dishes to wash, all tasks that Nyota - were she home - would help him with.
Though the number of dishes they produce has lately decreased by a third. A small measure of fortune, perhaps, though it certainly does not feel particularly gratifying.
“Come eat when you have reached the end of you chapter,” he says and turns towards the kitchen, only to pause and then say, “And do not begin a new one until you have eaten.”
She nods, her eyes still moving over the page.
She’s getting too old to read to, Nyota had said only the other week.
Not entirely perhaps, but soon. How absolutely wonderful and terrible it is to watch her grow.
Spock presses a kiss to the top of her head and walks back to the kitchen. In the yard, Hubble has both paws pressed to the trunk of a tree, her tongue hanging out the side of her mouth as she stares upwards. He turns on the sonics and begins running dishes under it, one after the next.
When Spock returns from getting a new mug of tea, there is someone in his office. Someone in his office waiting for him. With their boots propped on his desk.
Gaila grins. “Hiya.”
“Hello,” he says. “Please remove your feet.”
“You’re late.” She holds up her padd. “Commander Spock. Tuesdays, 1300 to 1530. Says it right here next to this frankly phenomenal picture of you.”
“Your boots, Cadet.”
“My personal dictionary left me for the allure of a semester in the Lexington’s communications bay,” Gaila says. “I can see that there’s a line wrapped around the hallway waiting for the joy of your company, but maybe for those of us who aren’t your illustrious students, you could shed some light on the Klingon dative case?”
Spock does not sigh. He had expected a quiet afternoon, and this intrusion is… inconvenient. And moreover, unexpected. Only one person has ever come to his office hours and he well knows not to expect a visit of the same this semester.
“Is your instructor not capable of helping?” Spock asks.
“Didn’t ask,” Gaila says and shrugs. “But really, I just miss the dulcet tones of terribly boring xenolinguistic facts I couldn’t care less about, and I have the feeling that Lieutenant Carter just isn’t going to deliver in the same way you can. And anyway, if you can help me make sense of why the good Ms. Carter somehow- somehow - didn’t like my work, I’ll tell you how Ny is doing.”
Spock straightens the filmplasts Gaila’s heel has knocked askew. “I am certain she is enjoying herself.”
“But you don’t know, now do you?”
“A logical deduction.”
She was so excited. Clearly so, what with the pace of her words with which she spoke of her upcoming deployment and the frequency she raised the subject. How often her hands would gesticulate in emphasis, and how her eyes would light. That smile of hers.
“But logically,” Gaila says and Spock looks up. “How would you know if you haven’t been in touch with her?”
“Your padd,” Spock says and ignores the smile pulling at Gaila’s mouth as she gives it to him. He feels his eyebrow threaten to climb as he reviews it, a reaction he quickly staunches. “Did you even attempt a proper translation?”
“Kind of,” Gaila says. She laces her fingers together over her stomach and leans backwards in her chair. “No.”
“Such disregard for the assignments furnished to you is-“
“-I’m not disregarding it,” Gaila says. “I’m here, aren’t I?”
She is. And her feet remain on his desk. He presses his lips together before he realizes he has done so.
“Your office is somehow entirely silent. Better focus than in the dorms- not that my room isn’t also a bit dull these days. And anyway- I’m motivated.”
“You are,” he says flatly.
“I am,” she says. “It’s a long, long semester, Commander. And fortunately - or unfortunately, maybe - I’m incredibly bad at xenoling.”
“I am aware,” he says and finally picks up his stylus. Aware of the grade she has received, that is. He is not aware of any way in which this semester is longer than any others. A span of weeks, is all. And they will - eventually - pass.
The house feels empty.
The Terran saying resounds far more readily than he once would have given it credit for. For a long time, he sits at the kitchen table, watching the branches of the tree outside shift against each other. Were Nyota here, he would tell her of this- this fact. Observation. Feeling. And she would smile.
His comm rings. He allows the jump of his heart beneath his ribs before stilling the thrill of delight. Nyota is on shift. It will not be her, when he answers.
“Enjoying bachelorhood?” Jim asks and it is not Nyota, not at all, but Spock is tempted to smile all the same.
“Hardly accurate,” he says.
Across the room, Hubble scrapes her teeth along the side of a bone. It is both synthetic and replicated, and yet Spock still inwardly cringes at the fact that she will inevitably leave it on the stairs, in the hallway, in front of the kitchen sink, and he will be forced to move it.
“You want to hit up the town? Live a little? Stretch your wings? Sow your-“
“-Amanda’s soccer practice ends in thirty minutes.” Spock says quickly.
“You lead an exciting life these days, Commander,” Jim says, but meets him at the edge of the park regardless, McCoy as ubiquitously in tow as if it were not Spock’s neighborhood but Observation Deck 2.
Immediately, and with considerable strain on her leash, Hubble rears up to plant both paws on Jim’s thighs. She is rewarded by having her head grabbed and wrestled side to side.
“Who’s a good girl?” Jim asks as Hubble attempts to gnaw on his wrist. “Who is it? Is it you? Is it?”
“That seems unnecessarily violent,” Spock says to them both. McCoy snorts. “Hubble, down.”
“It is! It is you, you’re a good girl!” Jim bends to better facilitate Hubble’s attempt to cover his face with her tongue. “You are, yes you are!”
“You are a Starfleet captain,” Spock says.
“Being dirtside is addling his brains,” McCoy says. He gives Hubble three solid smacks to the side of her stomach and Hubble squirms with so much delight that her footing - precarious already with the rate her tail is moving - nearly is lost altogether. “And now he’s jealous of Uhura, too.”
“To be fair,” Jim says as Hubble throws herself against his knees, “I’ve been jealous of Uhura since I met her.”
“How’s she doing up there?” McCoy asks.
“She reports that she undertook her assignment without remembering how poor the quality of replicated food is.”
McCoy groans, a tendon pulling tight in his neck. “That, I’ll never forget.”
Once, he found this form of discussion - small talk - to be so unbearable as to be rigorously avoided. Now, he releases Hubble’s leash to Jim and asks McCoy, “How is your work?”
Odd, truly, to not know, a fact that catches him nearly unaware every time he sees Jim or McCoy or any of the others he spent every day with for so long. Nostalgia rises through him in a thick swamp and he breathes deeply as it does so. No, it is no surprise that Nyota chose to accept the deployment, for even the slightest chance to step back into what they had all over again.
McCoy’s forehead creases and some things, as Nyota would say were she here, never change. “I’m teaching a class I once took. Xenophysiology- the textbook, let me tell you, could use some updating.”
“Last semester Nyota taught a class she took from me,” Spock says.
“And you’re on dog walking duty,” McCoy says. He shakes his head.
Amanda arrives from her practice in a whirl of shinguards and a backpack that she drops near to Spock in an attempt to bodily throw herself at Jim.
“Like a Gorn attack,” Jim cries and allows her to clamber over him as he makes a show of fighting her off.
Beside him, McCoy joins in watching the two of them. There will be grass stains on Amanda’s shorts and already Spock knows he will pick the detritus of leaves from her hair in the bath that night.
“How’s she doing?” McCoy asks softly.
“When occupied, she is fine,” Spock says. Hubble circles Jim and Amanda where he’s tossed her up on his shoulder, barking at them and twice spinning completely around. “At other times…”
McCoy nods when Spock does not finish his sentence.
“Sounds about right,” he says. Over Jim’s shoulder, he offers a palm that Amanda smacks. “Hey, kid.”
Jim allows himself to be wrestled to the grass and once pushed flat on his back, Hubble proceeds to lick his face, along with Amanda’s where she kneels on him.
“Unsanitary,” Spock says to McCoy.
“It sure as hell is,” McCoy says and grimaces. “How are you doing?”
“Hubble,” Spock says. “Please.”
“Well trained, huh.”
For a time, their quiet corner of the park is filled with Hubble’s panting and a peal of Amanda’s that Spock can only term a giggle. It is the same sound that comes from Nyota’s throat, too.
The disquiet of the ache that settled in Spock’s chest before Nyota even departed - the ache that has grown steadily stronger since then - swells to a level that is extraordinarily uncomfortable.
“I am also better when occupied,” he finally says.
McCoy nods. “That’s generally how it works.”
Jim throws both arms above his face in an attempt to stop Hubble’s licking. Amanda tugs his wrists down again, urging Hubble on with a push. Her delight pulses at the edge of his mind.
It so very unfortunately is.
Nobody in the Ops division has come to take away the extra desk.
Every morning when he arrives to his office, it is there. Every evening when he orders the lights off and closes the door behind him, there it remains.
How utterly inconvenient he found it when it was first placed there. Obtrusive and ill placed, altering the already poor balance of the room and overly large considering the size of his office.
Now, it sticks like a constant reminder in the corner of his vision as he works. He pushes the distraction aside. It is unhelpful to be preoccupied by a piece of furniture, even when it is so enduringly conspicuous in its emptiness.
A pair of Nyota’s sandals sit beneath the coat rack in the front hall. Above them, her rain jacket still hangs. There is hardly a need for it on an environmentally controlled ship.
On the coffee table, a novel Jim lent her sits, and in the bathroom, her towel remains on its hook next to Spock’s own.
Eventually, he pours green tinted water from the vase of flowers she purchased just before her departure and brushes away dry, brittle petals where they’ve scattered over the kitchen counter. Later, he empties the jug of orange juice that has been shuffled to the back of the refrigerator. Nyota enjoys it, he and Amanda do not.
He gets a reminder than the padds she and Amanda checked out of the library are due to be returned. In the evening, he reads them aloud, Amanda’s weight slight against his side and their legs tucked beneath a blanket Nyota long ago bought. Were she home, Nyota would lean over the back of the couch and kiss them each. When they do not finish the books in time, he renews them all, even those they have read.
Monday ticks into Tuesday, which in turn brings about Wednesday, and for years, Spock has been forced to make efficient use of Friday afternoon to ensure that his work does not spill into his weekend hours.
It is normal, this progression of days that become a completed week, that then lead in turn to another month passing by. He does not put stock in the notion of time passing ‘quickly’, but he has found a certain rhythm to the turning of semesters all the same.
The chronometer reads 0947. Spock does not frown. When he looks again - needless and superfluous given his ability to tell time without the aid of a mechanized device - the screen displays 0951.
Surely, more than four minutes have passed.
Rain trickles down the window pane in a slow, inexorable march of gravity. Soon, the bell will ring, signaling the end of the class period and the beginning of the next. When it does, the halls will be crowded with quick moving, subdued students. Midterms approach as they always do, in a relentless and inevitable wearing on of days.
Interminable, he thinks more than once.
A hand shakes his shoulder, waking him.
He pushes himself upright and blinks.
The room is dark. Wind batters the windows so that they rattle in their frames. Lovely, Nyota had called the old, rippled glass. Spock rubs his forefinger into the corner of his eye.
“Amanda?” he asks.
“We were on New Vulcan for six weeks.”
He clears his throat. “Yes?”
“Mother is gone for forty four days.”
“Why are you not asleep?”
“May I call her?”
He blinks rapidly, attempting to focus on the dim outline of her. Dawn is still far off and the neighborhood around them casts few streetlights through the curtained window. He sits up straighter and blinks again.
“She told you she would call you after school tomorrow.”
Today, perhaps. It is only hours until Amanda needs to be up and dressing.
“I want to speak with her now, please,” Amanda says, her voice firm. How like Nyota, she is. Though she stands there not with her hands on her hips but with her stuffed sehlat clutched beneath her arm. Lately, it has rested on the foot of her bed and if not there, on top of her dresser. It has been some time since she has carried it like that, tucked so close to her.
“She is working,” he says. Hopefully, a true statement. “She will call you tomorrow after-“
“-I don’t want to wait.”
Spock reaches out and lays his palm on her cheek. “I know.”
“Will Hubble remember her?”
“But dog’s memories are not as accurate nor as long lasting as-“
“-Hubble loves your mother very much,” Spock says. Or at least has a deep appreciation for the fact that Nyota is routinely the one who fills her food bowl. “She will be quite excited when your mother returns home again.”
“But it is so long from now.”
Spock rubs his thumb over her cheek. “Less so than it was when she first departed.”
Amanda shuffles closer. “Father?”
“Will you be excited, too?”
“Yes,” he says. Undoubtedly so. Though she is correct that the time between now and then seems remarkably longer than he factually knows it to be. “However, Hubble’s displays of enthusiasm are admittedly unequaled, so I will not attempt to contend with her spectacle upon your mother’s arrival.”
“Will she come home early?” Amanda asks. “Because then, Hubble-“
“-Amanda,” Spock says. “She will not be able to come home early.”
He should get up and carry her back to her room. Tuck her into her bed and sit with her until she is ready to sleep again. Enough, Nyota had finally said one night, their door creaking open and soft footfalls stepping across the floor, the promise of a night’s sleep interrupted by a small body that took up a remarkable amount of space.
He moves backwards and lifts the blankets, and Amanda climbs up with a knee on the mattress and her selhat dropped on Spock’s pillow.
What was his pillow. He retreats to Nyota’s side of the bed, the sheets cool and the blankets still tucked into the mattress.
“I wish she were home now,” Amanda whispers.
“I know,” he says and pulls the sheet up under her chin.
Soon, he will have a knee pressed into his thigh and likely an elbow in his side. Gently, he rubs her back until her eyes fall shut, and then continues drawing slow circles with his palm until finally, her breathing evens out.
After Amanda is asleep, but long before he will be, the door edges open. A dark nose, and then the glint of eyes, and finally the click of nails on the floor. Hubble sniffs at Amanda’s foot where it pokes from beneath the blanket.
“Return downstairs,” Spock whispers.
Hubble turns in a circle three times and lays down with a huffed sigh.
She is not also on the bed, at least. A small fortune, that is.
In the dark, Spock listens to Amanda shift in her sleep and the jangle of Hubble’s tags as she scratches her neck. Six weeks is not an insignificant amount of time. Nor are the hours until morning.
“A false equivalency,” Spock says. In the back row, two students are whispering to each other. Illogical, to presume that distance from the lectern somehow decreases his ability to clearly recognize their distraction. “Despite disasters such as the Kelvin, statistically you are far more at risk crossing a busy street then serving on a starship.”
A hand goes up in the third row. Spock nods.
“What about being assigned to away missions, sir?”
“Given the stringent safety protocol employed by Starfleet officers, intelligence that reconnoiters encounters before personnel are deployed, and the availability of emergency beam-outs, the fact remains that the banality of your days here at the Academy remain more dangerous, as a matter of probability, than your career ahead of you.”
A second hand, in the fourth row this time.
“Yes?” Spock asks.
“But even the Kelvin aside, sir, aren’t there as many every-day instances that can befall a starship crew on deployment as there are here? Or anywhere else?”
“Perhaps Cadet Wirtz, you could offer your opinion on the matter,” Spock calls. At the rear of the room, Wirtz snaps upright in her chair, her cheeks flushing red. “And if you were too preoccupied with your discussion, then perhaps you were listening while also speaking, Cadet Wajngort.”
Spock does not enjoy the silence that follows, nor the number of students who turn in their chairs to look into the back rows. No, he is Vulcan, and enjoyment is not logical.
Neither is worry. Starships are safe. As his following lecture will demonstrate to a class that is - hopefully - listening.
Nyota’s Saturday morning scheduled call does not come.
Instead, the monitor remains steadfastly dark and when Amanda dials her routing number, a recorded audio file announces that the signal cannot connect.
In the corner of the room, Hubble licks her front left paw over and over again. Sunlight shifts through the leaves and falls in a haphazard pattern across the living room rug. Again, Amanda dials her mother’s number.
“It is time for lunch,” Spock finally says and presses ‘mute’, silencing the recording mid sentence. There are only so many times he wishes to listen to it, and Amanda is nothing if not tenacious.
When she does not move, he takes her shoulder.
“It is also time for Hubble’s walk,” he says. “Therefore, it would be advantageous to go to the cafe and eat there.”
“No.” At his tap to her arm, she refuses to rise. “I don’t want to miss it.”
“The call will be rerouted to my comm,” he says. She knows this. The corner of her jaw flexes.
“It is not the same as speaking over a video monitor.”
“Your mother is likely on shift.”
“If she were working, the call from here would connect and I would be able to leave her a message.”
“Perhaps she is in the process of fixing the communications array,” Spock says.
“She would have told me, had she known she would not be in contact this morning.”
Gently, Spock presses her shoes into her lap.
“Unexpected malfunctions are quite common,” he says. “Do you think Hubble would prefer one of the dog treats the cafe sells, or should we bring her one from here?”
“I want to tell her about Hubble’s hole.”
“The pit Hubble continues to dig beneath the hydrangea will be all the bigger when you finally speak with your mother,” he says and her face twists in a frown. Spock crouches down to her. “Amanda.”
“Why has she not called?”
“I understand your distress.”
“I am not distressed.”
“We are going to have lunch,” he says and holds out his hand to her, palm up. “And then you will go to the Embassy, as scheduled.”
“I do not need to learn Vulcan. I can read and write in Standard.”
“You will appreciate the effort when you are older.”
“I intend to remain here until I speak with Mother. I will not go.”
“You do not have to enjoy it.”
“I don’t want to,” she says.
“You do not have to want to, but I cannot allow you to sit at home all afternoon waiting.”
“What if she-“
“-Amanda,” he says and cups his hand around her small arm. “If she calls, I will tell you.”
Which she will do. Ideally rather soon. And if not soon, then… Spock does not allow a thought otherwise to form, all too aware of the flare of Amanda’s consternation and how it rubs at his mind. Unwise, to let any sliver of anxiety slip between them. Far better to let Amanda stew in her frustration with him and her day’s schedule.
“Rather than go to the cafe, we can go down the hill and have pizza for lunch,” he says and taps at her shoes.
“You are attempting to placate me.”
“Is it working?”
“No,” she says. “And it will not.”
“Understood,” he says. “I shall make further attempts, regardless.”
Amanda does not smile, but she does relent enough to follow him outside, Hubble’s leash clenched in her fist. All the way down the street, the set of her jaw is that of her mother’s.
It is not that he cannot work. It is simply - or perhaps not simply, but at least factually - that he cannot work as well as he would like. A common enough issue the previous semester when faced with Uhura tapping her stylus against the edge of her desk as she read, or how she so loudly stacked padds together, or her habit of rising throughout the morning to refill her mug of tea.
His own mug as well, as she so frequently offered.
No, he can work. He simply cannot focus and that is more specifically the problem. And a significant one, at that. For what was an acceptable reason for his distraction as she worked so near to him - took up space in his office so fully and utterly - has shifted to an unacceptable one.
He is Vulcan. He should be able to control how his thoughts slip so continuously from the tasks before him.
And if he cannot exert that control, then he should at least have the wherewithal to keep his mind from lingering on the subject it has chosen to divert to.
Cadet Uhura is not here. So therefore, it is not prudent to dwell on her. Neither past conversations nor imagined future ones, and certainly not conjured images of what has not yet come to pass, images that are increasingly laborious to wrest his attention from.
He takes a measured breath. Closes his eyes, opens them, and bends forward over his padd. His eyes on the page before him, he reaches for his tea.
Replaces the mug.
It is empty. He does not sigh. Instead, with renewed determination, he begins reading once more, resolved to not allow his mind to constantly plague him with such unnecessary and unending ruminations.
McCoy snaps his fingers an inch in front of Spock’s face.
“Unnecessary,” Spock says and pushes his wrist away, mindful of the cards in his own hand and Jim sitting next to him.
“You didn’t calculate your turn already?” McCoy asks. “You’re losing your touch.”
It is typically Nyota’s turn to play after Jim does. He was not waiting for her per se, but he was… contemplating what she might have done.
That, and the absence of her knee resting against his beneath the table.
He pulls his attention from the middle distance it threatens to slip towards again.
“Mr. Scott, I will raise you,” he says.
Sulu whistles. McCoy says, “Damn.”
“You’re more fun when your lady is here,” Scotty says and tosses his cards on the table.
Spock is never ‘fun’. But he is… perhaps more himself when Nyota is present. A fact he could never hope to actually articulate, nor does he believe he would wish to.
To the allotted group, at least. To Nyota- yes, he would tell her that. And will. In person. Maybe not soon, but soon enough.
It is not strictly necessary to go to the gym as often as he does. Nor is it always useful to spend as much time there as he tends to.
He makes his way through the stack of padds on the corner of his desk. When he finishes them, he begins the task of grading papers and, once they are completed, begins on a series of quizzes he has given. Wirtz performed better than he might have anticipated. Wajngort, however, did not.
The department is hiring new faculty for the coming academic year. Spock volunteers for the search committee and is thanked by three different professors for his contribution. Needless, truly. He has the time available, and it is logical to fill it as usefully as possible.
His work waits for him in his office, when he has not distracted himself elsewhere on campus. Often Gaila waits there too, a curl of hair twirled around her finger and the room suddenly full of her chatter.
He avoids his apartment. The rooms are always so quiet, ambient noises distracting in their amplification.
Time passes idly, at its leisure.
The need to remain at work later than normal does little to alleviate the fact that when he opens the door, Nyota’s feet are not propped on the coffee table and her steaming mug of tea is not cupped in her hand.
Were she home, she would still be awake. It is not so late, not yet.
Illogical, to wish that his work tasks had meant a longer night in the lab. Demora has her own evening to return to, and he should not delay her.
“Do you need an air cab? Hubble, down, please,” Spock says. He pushes the dog aside as Demora gathers her schoolwork from where she has spread it over the dining table. Once, Sulu or Ben would have come to collect her. Now, she shakes her head and pulls her hair from beneath the collar of her jacket.
“Amanda didn’t want to go to sleep, but I think she’s down now,” Demora says and slings her backpack over one shoulder. “I’m good, I have a ride.”
With some interest, Spock watches her jog down the front steps and climb into the passenger seat of a car idling at the curb. He can surmise that the driver is the young man Sulu has made mention of -two years Demora’s elder, a participant of her speech and drama club, and a student in her school. The car pulls out with a sweep of headlights through the living room and across the sweater Amanda has left lying on the arm of the couch. More than once, Sulu has lamented the fact that Demora used to wear pajamas with feet and read with a finger pressed beneath each word.
The absence of the car leaves the street empty and dark. The house is just as silent, even Hubble retreating to her bed with a subdued huff.
The need to send Demora on her way for the evening - and Amanda upstairs - aside, Spock cannot help but think that he does not particularly want to have to endure the hush of the house. The lab was at least filled with the last lingering techs still finishing their projects, and even when they left, it held the diversion of equipment he might well have lost himself in for the night, given the chance.
He rarely watches holovids. With Amanda when she is ill, and at Nyota’s occasional request.
He turns the monitor on, thankful at least for the sounds that fill the room, if not also the distraction it provides while he stares at it.
He could send it to her. It is only a journal article and well within the data allotment for the next broadcast stream to the Lexington. And it would arrive readily, as the communication relays to that sector have recently been upgraded. And while not specifically on the topic of her term paper for his class, it is certainly related. And therefore perhaps even more interesting, as she will not have read it during her initial research.
He picks up the data chip. Examines it under the light streaming in the window.
The Lexington is not far from Earth. Not near, but close enough that he can send it later should he chose to, and it will still reach her. That he wants to send it now - immediately - is a… a gap in his control nearly, the strength with which that desire swells in him.
“Hey ho, Commander,” Gaila says from the doorway.
He tucks the chip into his palm. She flops into the chair in front of his desk with a smile and he slips the chip beneath his padd.
Illogical, perhaps. But Gaila is so constantly steeped in the antithesis of reason that Spock supposes that this lapse is perhaps - if not acceptable - then at least explicable.
“I can do it by myself,” Amanda says when Spock reaches to help her. “See?”
One of Nyota’s phrases. See? she would ask him, a padd tipped towards him, a translation completed, a paragraph she had finished writing.
“That one’s good,” Amanda says. While the lump of dough she places on the baking tray is technically in the correct shape, it bears the asymmetry of inexperience. She knots a third one, twisting it in her small hands. “And that one.”
Flour dusts her shirt and covers her hands to her wrists. Were Nyota here, she would likely smear a streak down Amanda’s nose.
The kitchen is - generously - a disaster. The oven will be too, considering the sprinkle of flour waiting to fall from the tray as soon as Amanda moves it.
“Admirably done,” Spock says. “If you would like, we could place some of these in the refrigerator when they are baked.”
“No, I will eat them.”
“They will still be fresh when your mother returns,” he adds. Fresh enough, at least. “You can show her your achievement.”
Amanda’s hands still. Her eyes narrow in thought. A calculation whirs behind her eyes and arcs between them in the hum of her mind across their bond.
See? he would so like to ask of Nyota. Look at her. Look at what we made together.
“I will consider it,” she says and deposits a fourth krei’la on the tray, scattering flour over the floor and Hubble’s head where she noses at Amanda’s thigh.
Spock brushes a powdering of flour off Amanda’s dark hair. “I greatly anticipate your decision.”
He will call her. When she arrives back to Earth in only a few days.
Or message her.
Or seek her out in the break room when classes resume.
Rain slips down his office window. Beyond the glass, the quad is gray and empty.
He will call her. And tell her… ‘welcome back.’ A Terran custom. Perhaps she will appreciate the effort.
And he will inform her that even though their professional relationship terminated the end of the previous semester, he is still available to… That despite the termination of their professional relationship, it would be logical if they continued to… That should she wish to, while not professional in nature, a continued communication could… That the end of their former relation as professor- supervisor - and cadet need not be the end of…
He does not sigh. He is Vulcan. There is a thread of logic to be found here, and he simply must seek it out.
He has a number of days. Enough to decide his approach.
Though perhaps fewer than might be necessary to settle upon one.
He removes Hubble’s dog bed from the corner of their bedroom. At the market, he buys the nectarines and grapefruits she spend so many years the Enterprise lamenting the absence of. He remains awake far into the night to clear his work schedule and in the morning changes two meetings so as to occur before Nyota’s return rather than directly following.
Days, only now.
Amanda tugs at his hand the entire walk to school and asks, “But will she leave again?”
No, he would so like to say.
“Perhaps in time,” he tells her. “Though not with any immediacy.”
“If, Amanda,” he says. He checks for oncoming cars and squeezes her hand to prompt her across the street. “It is not certain she will accept another deployment.”
“She accepted this one. Therefore, logically-“
“-When your mother returns home, I very much doubt she will want to be gone again.”
For two blocks, Amanda is silent, her chin tucked into the collar of her coat and her eyes on her feet.
“Will she still go to work?” she finally asks.
“Yes, and you will go to school, just as it was before her departure.”
“Do I have to?”
He rubs his thumb over her small fingers. “I am certain that should you ask, she will resume other more enjoyable activities with you. Such as the trips you two take together to the library.”
Again, Amanda presses her mouth into her collar, this time with her forehead furrowed.
“The sea lions?” she finally asks. “There, too?”
“Quite a logical destination, as I imagine she has missed them.”
“You are certain?”
“I can assure you that she will want to take you to see them. As for her longing to see them in her absence, you will be able to inquire in person.”
Spock squeezes her hand. “Soon.”
He does not immediately recognize her with her hair down.
The fall of it over her shoulders, and the dress she wears that is neither red nor regulation.
“You have returned,” he says before he is aware he is going to.
His voice cuts through the silence of the bookstore. She turns and her eyes widen. Immediately, he wishes to retract the statement. Agitation claws at him. He is flustered with her attention so suddenly on him. Unsettled. Nervous, he realizes and quickly pushes the response away.
To be calm would be so preferable. To at least appear calm. At his sides, he holds his arms still, refuses to let his feet shift.
“You’re here,” she says. Quickly, she tucks her hair back behind her ear. “Hi.”
He folds his hands over the book he holds. “Hello.”
“Just yesterday. We just got back,” she says. “The term’s over, I didn’t know you were around, I would have-”
She stops herself. Abruptly so, her mouth flattening into a line and then into a small smile that is followed by her eyes darting around the room.
The silence stretches. Speak, he tells himself. To be so stymied, now of all times. How inopportune, his control so utterly failing him.
“I decided to stay in the city between the semesters. Work,” he says finally. “I have work to complete.”
“Oh, of course.” She nods twice. “I should have- Of course you did.”
He is unable to settle his heartbeat. It is disconcerting, how it jangles and dances against his ribs.
“How was your deployment?” he asks.
“Amazing,” she says and her smile.
He swallows. “Excellent.”
“Yeah.” Quickly, her tongue darts out to lick at her lips. “How was your semester?”
“It was-“ Miserable “Fine.”
True, at least. In some sense of the word.
Outside, she shows him the book she has purchased and quite despite himself, he steps closer to her to take it. To look at it more carefully. She is just there, a hand's breath away. When she was lightyears from here, this corner of pavement.
How terribly he missed her. And how easy to fall back into her now, the way he is with her that he’s nearly forgotten. The ease of her, and the ease he feels in himself when she is near.
How utterly and excruciatingly rare it is.
“Well,” she says when he returns the book to her. “Maybe I’ll see you around.”
“Perhaps,” he agrees. Though in all likelihood, the chances are… He does not calculate them. Minimal, at best.
Unless some action is taken otherwise. To increase that probability.
Which he could do.
Now, before she can complete the gesture of waving goodbye to him, her hand already half raised and her turn away already begun and her attention already shifting to-
“I was wondering if you would be amenable to joining me for dinner,” he hears himself say.
“Yes.” This, so quickly.
His mouth is dry. Unacceptable, that is. “Very well.”
“I’m-“ She tucks her hair back again. “I’m excited.”
He is too. Unbearably so, in a way that rises thickly through him despite his attempts to subdue it. But it is impossible to do so, what with the smile that is beginning to cover her face and the buzz of his thoughts.
Heads turn. Heedless of the attention - the stares, the pointed looks, the blatant curiosity - Amanda winds her way through the crowd at a not insignificant speed.
No one has yet told her that such displays of enthusiasm are not expected of Vulcans.
Though perhaps there is a certain logic in closing the distance between herself and her mother as quickly as possible.
Across the crowd of the room, Nyota drops her bag and bends down to receive the barreling, catapulting run of her daughter.
“I thought-“ she says, standing again, now with Amanda clinging to her. “I thought- oh sweetie, hi.”
That Nyota would meet them at home. That is what she thought. Between them, he can feel the arc of her delight.
“Hi,” Nyota whispers again, this time into the top of Amanda’s head, Nyota’s arms tucked tight around her small back. “You’re so big.”
Far more demurely, Spock pushes his way through the recently returned officers around them. It takes some effort to not return Nyota’s smile.
“Your daughter,” he says to her, “should I have taken her to school, would have singlehandedly deciphered the public transit system of this city and arrived here regardless. I thought it prudent to simply accompany her.”
“Logical,” Nyota says, her cheek pressed to Amanda’s hair and her eyes on him. Holding her like that, Amanda does seem large. She has grown, Spock knows. Noticeably in the last year, and even these weeks. “My sweet, sweet girl, how are you?”
“We missed you,” Spock says softly. Nyota’s eyes are bright and repeatedly she kisses Amanda’s forehead where it is tucked against her cheek. “Clearly.”
“You have no idea,” she says and steps into him, lifting her face for a kiss.
There are people all around them. He does not hesitate as he leans down to her. It is the same, that feel of her lips, no matter how brief and with Amanda uncomfortably wedged between them.
“Father wouldn’t bring Hubble,” Amanda says when Nyota finally pulls back. “She wanted to come.”
“There’s a present in there for you,” Nyota says and sets Amanda down next to her bag. “I’m sure she did.”
“I missed you,” he whispers to her.
This time, he kisses her properly, her face held in his hands and her soft exhale shifting over his cheek. How he has waited for this moment, and all the ones to come now that she has returned. Gently her hands close over his, her palms soft and her lips careful and slow against his.
“I cannot find it,” Amanda says.
They pull apart slowly, reluctance curling their fingers together. At their feet, Nyota’s bag is halfway disassembled.
“Amanda,” he says and Nyota laughs. Where she leans against him, he can feel the chuckle pressing into his side, the shake of her shoulders beneath the hand he cups over the back of her neck.
“Keep looking,” Nyota instructs, wrapping her arms around his waist and shifting her weight more fully into him. “I’m happy to wait.”
He does not resist pressing another kiss to the top of her head.
“I made ugali for you,” he says into her hair.
“For dinner?” she asks. “Oh, yum.”
“And Amanda made dessert,” he says.
“Ice cream,” Amanda says. “It is not done. But I will stay up late to finish it.”
“Only so late,” Spock says. He smooths his hand down Nyota’s back. “Quite unfortunately, your mother and I have to discuss combinatorial xenolinguistic polysemes tonight.”
Amanda frowns. “What is that?”
“They are incredibly uninteresting,” Spock says.
“Why tonight?” Amanda asks.
“It is a pressing matter,” Spock says. Nyota ducks her smile into his chest, her arms tightening.
“Aren’t you supposed to be at work?” Nyota asks.
“I took the day off. Tomorrow as well.”
Her hand finds the small of his back, then slips beneath his shirt.
“How fortunate,” she says. “Maybe we can continue our discussion then.”
“I had thought as much.”
She is still smiling and he cannot not kiss her again.
“I love you,” he says to her as Amanda continues to sort through her bag. How very long it took him to first say that. Unthinkable, that he ever passed a day in her company and did not tell her this. “And I am quite happy that you are home.”