Thanks to my betas, T'Aaneli and Greywolf for their time and effort.
Spock sat by the window, looking out onto the valley below. It was midday, and the sun shone down brightly, spilling sunlight onto his hand resting on the window sill. He fingered a data chip in his other hand.
"Master, forgive me for the disturbance but it is time for our lessons."
Spock turned his head slightly towards the door. Instead of rising, he placed the data chip on the ledge.
"A moment, F'iirik."
There was the sound of shuffling, then he heard F'iirik depart. Spock ignored a flutter of unease, sensing his student's confusion over his master's unusual behavior.
He would explain his actions to F'iirik later. Not now. Now he needed to be alone, with just the sunlight for company. F'iirik would understand. In time.
He clenched his hands into fists, concentrating on the contrast between the warmth of his skin and the chill of the room. How they had changed over the years, his hands.
He suddenly wondered how he had survived all these years to find himself still alive now. And was that a blessing, this long life of his? An illogical thought, since his longevity was a biological fact of his Vulcan inheritance. Yet he could not help but think no, not a blessing. A burden.
Yes, a burden, and one he felt he had used wisely. He was content, here among the Rihannsu. Re-unification was still the goal, despite the changes in the political atmosphere; his energy focused on bringing the teachings of Surak to the children of S'Task. His students were responsive and eager to learn. Times were difficult, yet the number of students grew each year. He was pleased.
There were worse burdens he could have, he supposed. And as Vulcan's go, he still had several more years ahead. He did not doubt that he would live to see every one to its end. It was not his lot to die young, obviously.
He pushed the sleeves of his robe up, answering the desire to feel the warmth of the midday sun hit his pale forearms. He had a sudden urge to climb out the window and make his way up to the roof to let his whole body soak the rays of the sun. But, he could not do that. He would surely fall.
Of course, he could take the stairs, he thought. There was no time now, his students waited. Perhaps, tonight he would do that. He would climb the stairs and sit under the light of the stars and enjoy the summer night air.
He recalled the last time he had done that, decades ago, with Jim. They had been on Dursus VI, a planet with a rich field of stars. Every night Jim had sat underneath their light. Every night, Spock had joined him. Sometimes they spoke, but mostly they had sat in silence. He breathed in deeply as the memory flowed over him.
A breeze blew in, carrying the smell of the Yaru plant, honey sweet and spicy. He breathed in deeply, feeling the gentle wind ruffle his hair.
Yes. Tonight he would go to the roof and meditate underneath the stars.
Movement caught his eye. He looked down onto the courtyard and saw F'iirik running towards his father. Spock saw concern on his face as he turned and looked up, pointing to the open window. Spock withdrew slightly from the edge.
Inwardly he sighed. It was time to leave this room. He could not afford to lessen his image in the eyes of his students. Rising from his stool, he let the sleeves of his robe fall back into place and turned to close the window, sealing it tight so as to keep the small hira insects from entering and biting him when he slept. He regretted the necessity. He would have preferred to sleep with the scent of the Yaru blossom.
The data chip caught his eye, resting on the ledge.
It had come this morning by special courier, undoubtedly sent from within the Federation. But it was not from Starfleet.
A small mystery. The contents were no mystery, he felt. He knew what it was going to tell him. But who sent it? Regardless, it could wait till later.
He turned to leave, walking towards the door. Then stopped. Standing still in the middle of the room, he closed his eyes. After a beat, he walked back to his console and picked up the data chip. Curiosity won.
Before he could change his mind, he entered the chip into the data port. "Computer, display contents." His voice rasped against his ears.
One message, two Starfleet reports, and what looked like log entries.
A moment passed, and then the face of Joanna McCoy appeared before him. He breathed in slowly. She had aged since the last time he had seen her, but she was still a handsome woman.
"Ambassador Spock. I hope this message finds you in good health. I regret that I must inform you of the recent passing of my father, Admiral McCoy, on stardate 50623.2, shortly after the events on Veridian III. In his will he stated he wanted you to be informed of his death, if you were still alive. He also left you all of his personal logs. I've sent them along with this message." She paused a moment, searching for words. "He missed you very much you know. When you disappeared...well that was the beginning of the end, if you ask me. But Dad was nothing if not stubborn and hung on for a while longer. I guess the shock of losing Uncle Jim a second time proved too much." She looked down a moment, then raised her head. "I've included his obituary and--", her voice faltered, "--the report that was sent to him from Starfleet. I'm sure I'm not supposed to do that. Especially since this is going into Romulan space, but I did it anyway. I hope this gets to you. Live long and prosper, Ambassador." The screen went blank.
Sitting, staring at the blank screen, Spock felt his heart beat strongly, like a drum at his side.
Swiftly he ran through the first of the two reports. It was McCoy's obituary with a clip of his funeral and a banquet held by Starfleet in McCoy's honor. He skimmed it quickly.
He started the second report and began skimming. Details flew past him; the Enterprise-D, Soran, a pair of Klingon females; none of it held his interest. He was not finding what he wanted to know and began to wonder if it was included. Then, there it was, the scientific data and the report given by Captain Picard.
An inter-dimensional vortex. An energy ribbon. The Nexus. This was the first he had heard of it.
He paused the report, freezing Picard's face mid sentence. He suddenly could not hear the words, did not wish to hear them.
The beating at his side continued, insistent in its loudness.
I am a fool.
He had felt the passing of McCoy, like a strum across his being. But this--he had not known, had not felt, had not glimpsed.
After near eighty years of fact, how does one re-learn to accept what was unacceptable in the first place?
He stared at the frozen figure of Picard standing next to the wreckage of the Enterprise-D. That man had buried his best friend in a lonely grave on a distant world. Something that had been denied him not only once, but twice.
Anger rose in him. Anger at the illogical nature of the entire situation. McCoy's death was expected, this...this was not.
He closed his eyes.
Outside his room he sensed his students, waiting anxiously. He opened his eyes and looked towards the closed window. The sun still streamed in lazily, raising the temperature of the room.
What was he to do now?
The logical answer was nothing. He would do nothing, for there was nothing to do.
His burden called him.
"Computer, end playback."