She’s lost so many people and she’s lost so much and has had to fight to even get scraps of it back. She’s fought against fate, self-hatred, and self-blame so she might be herself again, so she might feel like herself again and have a place in the universe again. There is no turning away from what she has done and the lives lost to her decisions will always weigh upon her and they deserve to not to have been lost in vain. Running away from one’s mistakes serves nothing and no one but to take them on and to work to make things right no matter the cost is not noble but necessary if one is ever to hope to seek reconciliation. The pain and the loss she has felt means little in the face of her responsibilities, the futures and lives of those who have given her a second chance, who have found it in their hearts to trust her again and see her as an equal, an ally. They could have all lost their lives because of her and she reminds herself of this everyday. Slowly but surely she’s let herself back into this life as they have let herself back in but she cannot forget the faces of those she loved, lost because of her. Each blow feeling as though it was all her fault, just her fault. Her fault.
Now, she’s being asked to do the impossible or, rather, the most painful. She insists to herself that she can endure for his sake but finds her hand shaking as she brings the knife to his head. Time seems to slow down as she moves in, her breathing coming out in gasps with the anticipation of watching yet another loved one wither away before her eyes. Even if it isn’t her fault this time, the blame comes in waves along with thoughts of what more she could have done, of all the things that still needed to be said but couldn’t be said, not now, not when he’s leaving her. She can’t do that to him. Then, the ganglia wither and dry on their own as if hearing her thoughts and fall away making her flinch back and all but throw away the knife in her hand. Shock and awe alight her eyes as she stares down at a still-breathing, vibrant Saru while words barely sensible to her own ears spill out. His hand comes up to touch the spot his ganglia had been with confusion but no fear, no, not anymore. Their eyes meet and relief floods through both of them and she smiles at him as tears of joy replace those of sorrow. She leans down and places her head against his chest to feel the beat of his heart and the even rise and fall of his chest to truly know he’s alive. He’s alive and she won’t lose him, not now, not ever.
A little bit later in the medbay, Saru is given the all clear by Doctor Pollard and they have a moment alone to take in the news and to breath easily. Saru takes her hand gently with a smile that’s full of excitement but behind that look is something like trepidation.
“What is it, Saru,” Michael asks him, the beginnings of concern lacing her voice.
“I’m happy to be alive, believe me,” Sarus breaths and looks around the medbay as if seeing it for the first time, “but do you know what this means? For my people? For me?”
Michael shakes her head, bringing both her hands to Saru’s.
“What my people have accepted as the truth, what we, my people, have believed for so long…” he shakes his head in disbelief, “is wrong.”
Michael looks at him, searching for the right words but all reassurances and boosts for confidence escape her.
“Our lives, the way my people have been living… is a lie. I have to live with this truth, Michael and I’m not sure what to do, what I can do. My people are still restricted by General Order One. I can do nothing.”
Michael leans in close and keeps her gaze steady, “We’ll find a way to make things right, I promise, Saru. Within the bounds of Starfleet protocol we will find a way to help your people learn the truth. We’ll find a way to tell them that they don’t have to live in fear anymore.”
“Thank you, Michael,” Saru says, his voice full of warmth and his eyes are still bright with his new found strength.
“Now come on,” Michael’s eyes turn soft as she teases, “We have work to do.”
Work was indeed the right word to use because before they knew it they were rescuing Tilly from the mycelial network, plunging the ship halfway into the next reality. Why can’t her loved ones just stay safe and happy? It’s a selfish thought, she knows this but cannot escape it. In the end, she’s glad that such trial came into the path after the fear and desperation passes to unveil hope and the continuation of a love thought to be lost. Her heart sings as she watches Stamets reunite with Doctor Culber and at the connection that Tilly is able to make with a species still so foreign and magical to them. Yes, in the end she is glad of it and knows they are all better for it but something needles its way into her and makes something turn sour. She carries on, believing it to be nothing more the aftershocks of such an intense situation.
Some time later after spending time working normally over the course of several star days, Michael finds herself in an observation deck, watching as the universe goes speeding by. She might have been following the same schedule and going about her days as usual but something had shifted making her feel unusually claustrophobic. Tension thrums under the surface of her skin and she can’t find any way to calm her fraying nerves. She’s paced around her room so much that Tilly was starting to get pent up to after she had asked what was wrong and Michael had confessed that she didn’t know. The pacing didn’t stop but when Tilly had started to pace right alongside her she knew she had to get out for a breather which had led her here. Michael had tried every trick in her book to keep herself calm and collected but she was starting to feel herself give and she doesn’t know what to do.
A tap startles her out of her reverie to find Captain Pike standing just behind her with a bemused look on his face. He moves to stand next to her and turns his gaze to the vast expanse of space as Michael tries to relax. The captain looks at her carefully from the corner of his eye before letting out a breathy half-laugh which does nothing to help settle her nerves.
“Captain?” she lets out, finding herself impatient to hear what he has to say while hoping it may be some task that could help her keep busy.
“Tense are we, Commander?” he looks at her with that, open friendly smile of his, the one that made her pause at first when she had first met him as it had reminded her too much of the mirrored image of Lorca.
“Yes, Captain, but I couldn’t for the life of me be able to explain why,” she shakes her head and brings her hands around to the front and tenses them in front of her chest, “There’s just something tensing inside of me like getting ready for a fight but I’m not… angry. I’ve tried everything I can think of: work, exercise, mediation.”
“Meditation?” Captain Pike gives her a look of amused, intrigued surprise.
She gives him a look, “The Vulcans pride themselves on their ability to remain focused as much as they do with their ability to remain logical in even the most arduous situations.”
“Right, Vulcan meditation, understood,” the captain nods succinctly in mock authority, “So, you find yourself no less stressed after your normal relaxation routine.”
“That is correct, sir,” Michael sighs and puts her hands to her temples, as if to will the built up feelings away.
“Well, you did get involved in a rather intense situation recently,” Captain Pike rests a hand on her shoulder, “You could still be reeling from it. I wasn’t there myself but from what I could make out from our little window to the otherside the entire thing was bizarre. Like a Van Gogh painting gone wild.”
“I wasn’t the only one there, Captain,” Michael looks at him dubiously.
“Everyone reacts differently to different things,” he shrugs, “It’s just what it sounds like to me is it’s that you’re recovering much in the same way I’ve seen people recover after a near-death experience.”
Michael just shakes her head, “No, I’ve had a near-death experiences before. I know what to do to help me… get back on my feet afterwards. But this? I’ve never felt like this before. I don’t know what to do.”
“Well, then maybe it would be a good idea to go talk to Dr. Pollard,” Captain Pike puts both hands on her shoulders in much the same way her mother would making something both sting and soften within her, “She might be able to help you figure this out or recommend someone who can.”
“I don’t feel that it’s that serious,” Michael argues and his eyes soften with that well-meaning smile of his.
“It doesn’t have to be,” the captain gestures to some nearby chairs, “but if you want to try to talk it through with me first, I’m all ears.”
“I’d like that,” Michael nods and sits herself down and Captain Pike settles down into the chair next to her.
“So, break it down for me,” the captain eases back with a grunt, a sign of his years, “When did you begin to feel like this and what are possible factors that might be weighing into it.”
“Just after Saru recovered from what he believed to be a terminal affliction we had to…”
“Nosedive into the mycelial network?” Captain Pike offers.
“Yes, and save Tilly after we thought she had been eaten,” Michael makes a face and swallows hard, “I think it started just after I thought I almost lost Saru but didn’t notice it because I was so worried about the possibility of losing Tilly and I…” Michael blinks back tears and Captain Pike rubs her back in soothing circles.
“Have you let yourself cry, really cry about it?” the captain asks and Michael looks over to him miserably.
“It feels like I’ve been crying too much lately,” Michael gasps as the tears begin to flow freely, “With my brother, my mother, Saru, and Tilly. I don’t know how much more my heart can take.”
Captain Pike stands up and gently pulls Michael to her feet and wraps her up in a tight hug and she begins crying in earnest. The captain holds her tight and lets her cry out all of the pent up feelings she’s been carrying around, rocking her ever so slightly and gently. The gentleness of the gesture, the warmth of his strong embrace nearly breaks her as jealousy bubbles up through the other feelings of pain and longing she’s been feeling. To think so many other human daughters had gotten to feel this support from their fathers but her? She’s Vulcan.
She pulls away as her heart steadies and her tears slow, “Thank you, captain. I feel a bit better now.”
“But you still don’t feel as though you’ve fully landed on your feet yet,” he says without a hint of a question.
She nods her head as she wipes the tears from her cheeks and feels a tinge of embarrassment upon spotting the tear stains that now stand out on his uniform.
“Maybe you should talk to Saru about how you feel, and then maybe even Tilly,” he suggests, a hand landing gently on her elbow, “Maybe if you let them know how almost losing them has affected you, you might be able to ease some of this pressure you’re feeling.”
“I think that might be a good idea,” Michael smiles up at the captain who smiles warmly back.
Michael begins to leave then pauses and turns to look back at the captain.
“I’m sorry about…” and she gestures vaguely to his uniform causing him to look down.
“Oh! No worries,” he smiles brightly, “All in a day’s work, Commander.”
She smiles and waves farewell, heading off to find Saru. Michael finds him in his room, tending to his plants and humming softly as he does so having broken concentration only to call out to let her know she could come in. She takes a moment just to watch him work, each motion careful and loving as he takes care to look for any damage or dry spots in his small garden. A calm she has not felt in days settles on her shoulders and she just sits down to wait for him to finish up, content to just spend time with him in the quiet. He eventually sets down his knife that has new meaning now as it was the one she had almost taken his life with then sits down across from her patiently waiting for her to share her thoughts. She likes that about him, how patient and considerate he is.
“I’ve been…” she starts to speak and he tilts his head at her curiously, “I’ve been feeling uneasy. Like everywhere there’s a problem I can’t solve and the tension from straining myself to try and figure out what those problems are has been tearing me apart.”
“I can relate,” Saru nods emphatically and twirls his fingers in reference to his lost ganglia, “I know all too well what it’s like to constantly be waiting for a threat that may or may not come.”
“Yes,” she reaches out and runs her fingertips over where the ganglia had once been housed, “I believe that. I wanted to let you know that I’ve been feeling like this since I almost lost you. I know I told you that I care for you before but I think a part of me feels that that wasn’t enough.”
“Not… enough? What more could possibly be said?”
“I don’t know…” she sighs and he takes her hand in his, much in the same way he had when they thought he had been dying.
“I am.. Anxious to get on with helping my people which has created a, ah, tension as well but I know I can’t simply rush into the problem which, in a way, only makes it worse,” he tilts his in towards her and offers a supportive grin, “A problem that I feel I already know the answer to, one that I have already solved but it’s not solved yet. That is incredibly frustrating. Perhaps, you may be experiencing something of a similar nature?”
“I think I might be but it’s more…” and she lets out a quick puff in frustration.
“It’s more…” he gently coaxes her to continue.
“More that I feel the answer is staring at me, that it’s right in front of me but I just don’t know what it is. I can’t see it.”
“Well, what is it connected to? What really is the problem? If you can answer that then maybe you’ll find your answer.”
“The problem- The problem is that I almost lost you Saru,” she tightens her grip on his hand, “I almost lost you and then almost lost Tilly and I don’t think my heart can take that. You being here, you, being alive and well should be enough but it isn’t but I don’t know what more there could be.”
Saru looks softly at her then turns his attention to their hands and softly lays her hand open and places his other hand on top of it and hums contemplatively. Her eyes search his face to try and guess at what he might be thinking.
“Is there something missing between us?” Saru asks and it knocks her off balance.
“Missing? I don’t think so,” her eyes flash around as if looking for an answer to this very troubling question.
“Are you sure,” he looks back up at her, “because from what you have said it sounds almost as if you feel there is something that is needed, that there is something else that we need. Or, rather, there is something you find lacking about our relationship.”
“Relationship…” she repeats and a realization hits her like a brick.
Memories and traces of touch and sensations come flooding back to her. All the words and caresses from Ash that she had felt, that she had experienced in their brief time together that she still longed for at times. The reasons that it still burns to look at him, stronger and more sure of himself after coming to terms with his link to the Klingons. That’s not what it’s like around Saru, though. He isn’t hot and bittersweet like Ash, nothing like the sheer feeling that came from being with him, nothing like the fire-like passion. Perhaps that’s why she hadn’t seen it before. Saru is cool and calm, soothing instead of instigating and the feelings she has for him are nothing like what she felt for Ash and that’s why she didn’t recognize what she feels for what it truly is, love. Not as she had thought before, no, she knows she loves him but she had no idea how romantically she really loves him. The sudden clarity shakes her to her core and now she doesn’t know how to put into words.
“Michael,” Saru gently calls to her, “Are you alright?”
“I- I don’t know,” she looks away suddenly unable to meet his eyes, “But I think you’re right. I think I do find that there’s something missing between us.”
She gets up quickly, pulling out of his grasp and all but rushes for the door. Before she can get there a strong hand catches her elbow, not roughly but just enough to give her pause and she flips around to look up at Saru, his face full of worry.
“What do you think might be missing?” he asks her and she can hear small bits of desperation and worry underlining his tone.
“Nothing I can ask for,” she shakes her head, feeling dizzy as her heart begins to ache.
“Ask, Michael,” he steps forward and picks up her hands as if picking up glass figures.
“Please, Michael,” he says softly and leans down to be at her level, “I want to know what I can do to help. I want to be there for you but I can’t do that if you won’t let me in so, Michael, I ask you, please tell me what you think is missing.”
She can’t stop herself after hearing that, it’s one of the most instinctual things she’s ever done, she pushes up on the balls of her feet and presses her lips against his in a chaste kiss. Her mind spins as she pulls away just as quickly as she had kissed him and sees the dazed look on his face. Fear pricks at her heart as he continues in stunned silence and she wants to flee, apologize, hide, anything but look at him now in this muddy situation. Then he’s pulling her close to him and she leans into the touch, sighing into the embrace.
“Well, that is certainly one way to get one’s feelings across,” he teases and she laughs feeling lighter than she had in days, “I think I feel the same and, if you so wish, I would be more than happy to see where this goes with you.”
She pulls back just enough to see his face, “You really mean that?”
“Of course,” he smiles sweetly, “I’ve grown far too attached to you to let you go now.”
“I feel very much the same,” she smiles back then her lips fall slack slowly as he begins to lean down.
He captures her lips in a kiss and it’s awkward and poorly executed for they both lack experience in kissing one as such as their respective partner but it’s sweet and loving which makes it perfect. He holds her close and rests his his forehead against hers and she feels a kind of completion she’s never known before, washing away all the tension and the ache she didn’t know was there away. She revels in the safety and the happiness she feels in his arms and decides she’s never going to leave. In a swift movement she plants a kiss under his chin and nestles into his chest. She feels completely and totally at home.
“I love you, Saru.”
“I love you as well, Michael.”