Perrin brings him soup in the morning, like she always does. It's a routine he remembers, a touchstone in the mist, but she doesn't stay with him after bringing it anymore, so time spirals out and eventually, the soup is ice cold.
He eats it anyway. He wants to stay alive long enough to see Spock again. It's becoming clearer and clearer that he won't, but it is another touchstone. Perrin in the morning and the hope of Spock at some point in the future and the chaos is in between.
He finishes his soup, some unknowable time after Perrin brought it. The outside is blocked off in his room, even the sunlight, and the door that seems open is covered by a force field. There had been a time when he wandered out, tried to make his way to the mountains, so that he could understand. They'd brought him back here, made him stay in his room.
"It's not safe for you, Sarek," Perrin had said, in the stern voice she used to get through to him, as if he were a child. "You must stay here."
Sarek closes his eyes. He wants to meditate. He knows that he cannot, yet he continually tries. Illogical. But logic has abandoned him along with whatever comfort it had given him through those years of mistakes and missteps in his personal life placed in stark contrast with his professional achievements.
He tries to remember what meditation felt like. Those peaceful moments. The way he'd meditate for days after another disaster in his home life. After the attack on the Vulcan Learning Center. After Sybok had been banished. After Michael had been rejected by the Science Academy. After Spock had left. After Michael had been lost to him forever. After Amanda had died.
Now all that came were those memories, long suppressed. The trauma that he'd never let himself really inspect. He'd suppressed his memories of Michael after she'd jumped through time. When Amanda realized what he was doing, she'd cried on his shoulder, but she never told him that what he was doing was wrong. She never told him that he shouldn't let himself forget.
He remembers Michael now, as he tries to meditate. He remembers that moment after the explosion. The fear in him. The certainty that she was dead.
He hears something in the room with him--Perrin must have returned to take away the empty bowl--but when he opens his eyes, he does not see Perrin.
She has her back to him, looking around in confusion. Her hair is long and braided, her uniform is unlike any he's ever seen, yet he knows her.
"Michael?" he murmurs.
She spins around, phaser pointed at him. The room around them has gone dark, washed in blue, but when she looks at him, she recognizes him, too. Her arms slowly fall to her sides. Her eyes are wide.
He gets to his feet and goes to her. He puts her hands on her face so that he can be sure. He's had hallucinations, an effect of being unable to meditate, but nothing so solid.
"How are you here?" he asks.
"I don't know." Her eyes are bright, both happy and sad. He'd always found it so hard to look directly at her; the depth of her emotion used to unsettle him. "I'm supposed to be on an away mission."
He rests his hands on her shoulders. He doesn't want to let go."You've been gone for so long."
"It's been almost two years for me." He can see tears beginning to well in the corners of her eyes.
"Over one hundred for me." His head aches, thinking of all the years between now and when he last saw her. "I apologize, Michael... I made myself forget you for so much of that time."
Michael's brow is slightly furrowed. She lifts her hand to brush a tear from his cheek. And then she's gone.
He's alone in his room again.
He doesn't realize he's shouting until Perrin is grabbing his arm, telling him to be calm.
"Michael was here," he says, again and again. "She was here!"
"I don't know who you're talking about, Sarek. No one was here."
"She was. I saw her."
"Yes, dear," she says. He feels a cool spot on his arm, and then a wave of exhaustion. He sees that she'd used a hypospray on him. "You need to get some rest."
"No, I don't... I don't want to forget."
Perrin is guiding him down to his bed. He can't resist her. The medicine she gave him is too strong.
"When I wake," he murmurs. "Remind me that I saw Michael."
Perrin says nothing, and before long, he is asleep.
Perrin brings Sarek his soup. He eats it to keep up his strength so that he can live to see Spock again, even though he knows he will not. Illogical, but the repetition helps him remember...
This time, he remembers Michael. He remembers that she was here. That she'd appeared in his room.
And he remembers nights that she'd woken from nightmares, screaming and crying. He sat with her. He taught her to let her mind be still. He taught her to govern her emotions, so that they would not govern her. Sometimes they sat together until dawn.
"Close your eyes," he said to her. "Let your thoughts flow through you. Do not get lost in their chaos."
He closes his eyes and tries to meditate, even though he knows he cannot.
"Sarek. Sarek, you're back."
He opens his eyes, and she's looking at him, her eyebrows steepled with a depth of emotion that he used to find difficult to look at.
"I have many things to tell you," he says. "Many things to say before you go again."
"You seem sick," she says softly.
"I am. My mind... I can't meditate. Can't focus. Can't suppress..." He touches the side of his head, trying to fend off the chaos. He needs to be clear-minded for her. "I wish that Amanda could see you, but she's been gone for so long. Logically, I knew she would die before me, yet I wasn't prepared. She never gave up on you, Michael." He clasps her hands in his. "She never forgot you, the way I made myself forget you. She was so much better than I could ever be. I am so diminished without her."
Michael's eyes are full of tears, but she's smiling as she squeezes his hands. "It's okay, Sarek. I understand."
"It wasn't because I didn't care. I do care. I miss those days when it was the four of us. Before you and Spock had your falling out. When Spock did not yet hate me."
"Spock never hated you. He loves you. And I love you. And so did Amanda." She lifts her hand to touch his hair, long faded to white.
He shakes his head. "No... no, I could never be what all of you needed me to be. I made too many mistakes. I could not even tell you how much I cared. But I care. I care, Michael. Please tell me that you know how much I care."
He touches his hair where her hand had been, only a moment ago, and there is an ache inside of him that he can't escape. He wants to cry out, but he doesn't want Perrin to come back with the hypospray, so he lies down on his side and crosses his arms over his chest, and shakes with silent sobs.
Sarek eats his soup. He closes his eyes to try to meditate.
Michael does not return.
He isn't sure how many days it's been. It feels like another century has passed, but he knows it can't be there. He doesn't even have a single year left in him.
She does not return, but when he closes his eyes, he remembers all those things he'd made himself forget. The first time he'd taken her home, introduced her to Spock. The way Spock would follow her around with his dark eyes wide and bright, and for a while, Sarek had been sure that he'd finally been able to give Spock what he needed. That he'd finally found a way to protect Spock from the pain of the outside world without sheltering him. And in the process, he'd found himself bonding with Michael as if she truly were his own daughter. He found himself bonding with Michael the way he'd watched his wife bond with Spock.
He remembers her face when he told her that she was rejected from the Vulcan Science Academy. Every emotion there that he could not allow himself to look at directly, because they were reflected a thousand times inside of him. He remembers her face again when, years later, she learned the truth of what happened that day. Still unable to look at her. Pushing her away, because the bond between them now filled him with shame for all the ways he'd failed her.
He remembers the last day, saying goodbye to her on the Discovery. Barely able to will himself to pat her shoulder while Amanda hugged her. He'd retreated to meditation for several days until, finally, he made the decision. He started to dismantle each memory, starting from the last one and moving backwards until he reached the memories of sitting with her in her room, teaching her to meditate as her tears dried on her cheeks.
Each day he closes his eyes to meditate, and instead he thinks of the past.
Each day he opens his eyes to look for her, but she is not there.
Sarek doesn't get out of his bed anymore. He's become too weak. Perrin injects him with nutrients each day. She barely speaks to him.
He wonders if she will forget him, when he is dead. He wonders if she's already begun to forget him.
He spends the day in and out of sleep, with little to differentiate between consciousness and unconsciousness. He dreams of the past. Sometimes he dreams of the future. Spock's future. Michael's future.
He feels a hand over his hand.
"Sarek," Michael says softly.
He opens his eyes, and tears run down the sides of his face. The room is so dark that he can barely see her.
"You came back," he whispers.
She nods. "I tried. To reach out to you, or... I think it's your katra in me, pulling my mind back to you. Everyone on the outside says I just zone out for a little bit."
"I won't pull you back much longer," he whispers.
"I know." Michael sniffs, clearly trying to hold back her emotions. He knows it is for his sake.
"I wrote a message for Spock, so that he'll know you're okay. I know it will mean a lot to him."
"He's not with you?"
"He's on Romulus. Things are... still complicated with us, and he still chases his idealistic fantasies."
"Romulus..." Michael repeats, smiling softly. "I'm technically breaking some temporal laws telling you this, Sarek, but he succeeds in that particular idealistic fantasy. In my time, Vulcans and Romulans have reunited."
Sarek stares at her for a moment, then he breathes a laugh. "He always has to make a point of proving me wrong."
"Yes, he does." Michael is laughing too, but after a moment, the laughter fades. "Sarek... What you said before. I know you care. I always did. Always."
She leans down over him, pressing her forehead to his forehead. And she says,
"Close your eyes. Let your thoughts flow through you. Don't get lost in their chaos."
"You remember those nights too?" he whispers.
"Of course I remember."
He closes his eyes. He holds her hand tight. "Goodbye, my daughter."
"Goodbye, father," she says, her voice tight.
This time, he does not open his eyes.