She’d been on board the shuttlecraft for over an hour, in a stable, temperate atmosphere, and she was still cold. She tucked her fingers between her arms and sides and quelled a shiver.
While a little embarrassing to be so close, she was thankful for Pike’s body heat sidled up against her flank. He’d sunk from a light doze to straight head tipped back open-mouthed slouched unconsciousness within ten minutes of lift-off from the planet. Commander Nhan, in the flight seat next to him was similarly quiet, though Michael couldn’t see her face.
Near the pilot seat, Spock meditated in silence, his hands relaxed on his knees.
No sound, save for the constant thrum of the warp engine.
She swallowed. Closed her own eyes. Tried to focus on her breathing.
But again, all she saw was the loop of her mother, yanked heavenwards, away from her, away into time. Over and over.
Stop it, Michael, her inner voice commanded with authority.
The scene changed; now, she was strapped to that /damned/ chair, gasping, choking, dying -
She couldn’t do it. Her eyes snapped open.
She flinched hard; Spock was standing right before her, hands behind his back, watching her, his approach utterly silent.
Pike made a little moaning sound in protest at her movement, his head dropping to her shoulder before he stilled again.
Spock twisted and gently brought himself down to the flight seat beside her, clasping his hands at the waist as he settled. He gazed thoughtfully, patiently, at the window, out at the streaking stars as they passed.
“I am glad the mission was a success, even if it cost us time and energy,” he commented lightly.
Michael’s gaze flickered to the back of the shuttle, where they’d strapped the probe inside a containment field.
They’d discovered two signals simultaneously, the frequency blooming across the galaxy in unison. Discovery had gone after the one near the Orion Nebula – A small away team had taken a shuttle to the other location.
Of course the signal was gone when they arrived, but they’d discovered something hopefully useful on the small iced moon – a probe similar to the one that attacked Pike and Ash and breached their system. This one appeared to be damaged and dead, though the tachyons swimming around it suggested it had definitely moved through time.
Then half the cavern had caved in on them, ice and snow everywhere, and it took most of a day’s solid digging to get the hell out of there.
They took no risks, securing the heavy thing in containment, dragged it back to the ship, and were relieved to be out of the cold.
“I hope the probe has something we can use,” Michael rasped, her throat burnt from the frozen moon’s air.
They sat in companionable silence for a time. Fatigue weighed on her and her eyes closed, but again, the clips of those memories surged forward, unbearable.
Spock flexed his legs, his thigh coming to touch her own. She blinked, looking at their knees. It was an intentional touch.
She frowned, lifting her eyes to his face. He met her gaze with simple curiosity, a look he’d commonly shared with her during their youth. A pang of nostalgia rippled through her – even after all the time that had come between them, the familiarity of him was comforting.
“Tell me of your time on Discovery,” Spock asked.
“In what regard?”
“Anything you’d like to speak of.”
Her tongue felt thick in her mouth, clumsy.
She didn’t want to disappoint him – she’d been waiting for this moment, were they spoke as siblings, not as enemies, about the fascinating things in their lives, but all she seemed to revolve around were the past few days, the red angel, her shattered family –
“I have greatly enjoyed my time on the Enterprise,” her brother overroad her thoughts. “Though I regret our being unable to aid you during the war, we have been privileged to explore and experience a variety of new worlds, cultures, and phenomenon. It has been a fascinating voyage thus far. I hope, should we solve the issue of Control, we can continue our journey.”
“You’re pleased with your choice, then? To leave Vulcan?”
“Absolutely,” Spock said without hesitation. He looked across her to Pike. “The crew has been exemplary.”
She went to glance at the captain, but her cheek collided with the crown of his head, impeding her movement, his hair tickling her ear. A little smile curved her lips.
“He likes you, Spock. He was so protective of you before we could find you.”
He nodded solemnly. “He is a good captain, one of the best. We are lucky to have him. As are you, for a time. He must be… a relief, after what happened with your previous commander.”
“I’m surprised you know about that. Cornwell said it was confidential.”
He tilted his head. “The captain told me what I needed to know. I am staying aboard the Discovery for a time, he felt it best to explain its recent endeavors.”
A sentiment bubbled up within her, something she surprised herself with vocalizing for the first time, let alone to Spock.
“I know he was an enemy… but there was something about Lorca that I think I… I’m unsure. He made me feel like I was still worthy, even after I lost everything. I know he only saw me as his mirror counterpart, perhaps, but… there were times when he was a good captain. I haven’t quite processed that yet.”
He nodded attentively.
“As always, sentient beings and their motivations are a mixture of grays, never black and white. You shouldn’t categorize him as either, but simply take from that situation what you will. There are lessons in every relationship.”
And what about Sarek? Michael found herself thinking, but kept to herself. To have her bother being so vulnerable with her during conversation was a new, fragile thing and she wanted nothing to risk the moment.
“I would have found it fascinating, though – to move through space as the Discovery does. What was your most rewarding moment, thus far, during such travel?”
She furrowed her brow and struggled to organize a timeline beyond the past week.
“We discovered a tardigrade-like species, and used to traverse the network, until we almost killed it, but then we helped it be free, and illegally implanted Stamets with it’s DNA . That was a pretty amazing month or so.”
Spock’s eyebrows rose. He nodded.
Her eyes softened.
“We visited Saru’s homeworld. He hadn’t been back… in a long time. It was amazing to see him so happy, seeing his sister again…” she trailed off. She swallowed.
She risked a glance. Spock was looking out the window again, but the barest hint of a smile touched his mouth.
“A poignant parallel.” His dark eyes closed. “I hope our newfound relationship is of a similar... feeling for you.”
Oh, no, she was going to cry. She blinked rapidly, willing the heat behind her eyes to stop.
“Spock,” she whispered.
“And, this last week notwithstanding, what were your most difficult moments?”
Michael glanced down, eyes tracing the loose form of Pike’s open hands as she tried to return to moments a candle’s length to the horror of signals and the red angel. A hundred horrible things had happened. They almost lost Tilly. They lost Culber. Granted, then they got him back, but it was still a struggle. Ash./ Ash./
“Why this line of questioning, Spock?” Her voice rasped, emotion and exhaustion coloring her throat.
He leaned back against the jumpseat’s headrest and relaxed his shoulders with a conscious effort.
“I honestly wish to know your experiences. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to know them. I also hope you can remember that this moment is one of many moments in your life, Michael, and while this moment is highly distressing and painful for you, more will come, just have others have passed.”
Well, there was no hope now. A hot tear escaped and traveled the length of her face, dropping from her chin.
“I’m glad you’re here, Spock,” she managed to get out.
He shifted his weight just so slightly, his frame meeting her own. He loosely refolded his hands in his lap and softly commanded the computer to lower the lights.
“If you can,” he suggested in the shadows, “Try to focus on this present moment. When you close your eyes, don’t see anything. Simply feel. You are metaphorically and physically braced by people who care about you, and you are not alone in this.”
She hesitated, afraid of the vulnerability of it, bringing a hand up to wipe her face. Then, after a deep breath, she tentatively allowed her head to rest against Spock’s bicep. He did not move away.
“And when this… if this is over, will we… are we still going to be – “
The moment, she said to herself. Just be in this moment.
She heard the hum of the computer, the rhythmic thrumming of the engines, she could feel the small vibrations through her feet, through her spine. She could feel Pike’s deep, steady breathing, ribs expanding into her own, jaw heavy on her shoulder. She could smell Spock, an earthly, rustic scent entwined with his synthetic leather jacket, warming against her cheek. It reminded her of home, on Vulcan, of the hours they spent in his room, building worlds and drawing a thousand creatures on his PADD. She had not expected the sharp pang of comfort the familiarity of him brought her, the reinforcement of others, still here, not lost.
Her eyes slid shut with emotion. This time, they stayed closed without effort or pain, and she found rest.