DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of M. L. "Steve" Barnes and is copyright (c) 1977 by M. L. "Steve" Barnes. This story is Rated PG.

The Parting

M. L. "Steve" Barnes

"My dear, you know he's leaving in the morning..."

Again the unspoken words, the suggestion left unfinished. Sarek turned away, pretended he had not felt their touch.

But he had been aware of them and was taken by surprise at the odd feeling they aroused in him. Unable to concentrate, he rose from his desk and stepped out through the open archway into the garden.

It was Amanda's creation, this place of verdant splendor. And like Amanda, it had strength mixed with its beauty. Here on Vulcan, flowers were faced with a struggle to survive but she had selected wisely and cared for the plants tenderly. Even the Terran rose had finally thrived. Against the sandstone wall it spread its scarlet beauty. Defiantly -- like so many things that originated on Earth.

Hands clasped behind him, Sarek strolled. To the uninitiated eye he might have been any other middle aged man taking his afternoon ease among the scents and blooms of a sheltered Vulcan garden. But to his wife, the Lady Amanda, peering cautiously from behind the translucent window hangings of her home, the tension was obvious in every line of her husband's body.

Why do they both have to be so stubborn, she asked herself. An old Spanish proverb leaped unbidden to her mind -- 'tal padre, tal hijo'. It was true. Spock was as unbending as his father. And the warfare between them threatened to break her heart. As she turned away from the window she caught a glimpse of her son, lean and silent, as he mounted the stairs to his room. How long had he stood there, she wondered. By the very fact that he was retracing his steps she had her answer; he had walked into the room in time to see her observing Sarek and had seen the anguish on her face. He had thought to spare her, this tall, quiet son of hers, and that was why he had left without announcing his presence.

Just once, Amanda thought, I wish he would stay, share the moment with me. Even distress can become a lighter load when it is divided between those who love one another. She smothered the thought as unbecoming a Vulcan mother and walked dejectedly out to the kitchen to supervise the evening meal.

Sarek continued to pace, his mind filled with a myriad of details. This insurgence of Spock's was coming at a very inopportune time for him. Sarek was head of the committee charged with dedication of the new Science wing or the Vulcan Academy. He had expected, when the wing was designed years before, that his son would be at his side, a member of the Academy staff as his own father before him. Now it appeared that Sarek's twenty year old dream was about to be smashed. Spock had rejected the offer of a teaching position and had enlisted in Star Fleet instead.

Is there anything of me in him at all? Sarek wondered sadly. He could not see it. He had never seen it. Even as a child, too easily prone to be hurt by the words of his companions, Spock had given ample evidence of his Terran inheritance. After all, the father reasoned, words were only words. It was not logical to allow them to penetrate one's serenity and wound one. Sarek had endeavored to explain to the boy more than once that he was unique, not like the others, and there was no point in taking offense at their juvenile descriptions. Spock had only looked at him out of dark, silent eyes and Sarek had gone away feeling oddly troubled as if he had somehow failed his son.

What could I tell him, the father wondered now. I don't know what goes on inside him. Amanda could tell him what it is like to be human, but tradition demands that I only show him what it means to be Vulcan.

Part of Sarek's concept of being Vulcan was to deny pain and thereby nullify its impact. If I say there is no pain, he told himself, there can be no pain, my mind can banish it.

But if he were to acknowledge this latest problem, reveal it to the light of day, he would be forced to act on it. And inwardly Sarek trembled at the thought. How can I risk a confrontation with my own son, he wondered, when he is a stranger to me? Yet his pride must be as strong as mine, his will as immovable. Would we not be forced into a very un-Vulcan, emotional scene that would benefit no one?

And he thought of Amanda, caught as she must be, in the center of such a conflict. No. The idea was unthinkable. Let the boy go away. Better that Spock should waste his talents in Star Fleet, unknown and unappreciated, than to give her another moment of distress.

It had not been easy here for the first Terran wife of a Vulcan. She had been alone and friendless and he knew by now how Earthwomen valued friendship. She had been young and very vulnerable when he had brought her here twenty-two years ago. And she had not complained at the regimen in which he had immersed her, nor at the rigid protocol of a Vulcan marriage. Yet he had seen the sadness in her eyes at times and had heard the sound of sobs more than once during those early years.

Perhaps that was why he had indulged her about the boy so often. He had never been able to bring himself to completely obliterate what he saw of her in the child, had been unwilling to destroy that part of Amanda that looked at him from Spock's eyes.

Well, he thought, I'm paying for that indulgence now with the weakness in my own son. It would not have been easy for him to remain on Vulcan, to shape his life as any other citizen, but Sarek had expected him to, regardless of the price. Instead, his son had rejected the hardships, was fleeing his responsibilities.

Sarek's health was not what he would have liked. It would have been reassuring to know that Spock was here at the Academy, reaping honors and near at hand if Amanda should ever need him.

Impatiently he turned on his heel and returned to his office.

At least in this I shall be steadfast, he vowed. I will not wish him well in this foolhardy undertaking. If he insists on throwing away his birthright, then he shall do so without my blessing.

Spock did not join his parents for dinner that evening. Once again, as in years past, the expanse of the table stretched emptily between them. Afterwards, Amanda linked her fingers with Sarek's and drew him out into the night-time perfume of the garden.

"Once, long ago," she said quietly as they strolled. "I walked in another garden with a most handsome but reticent gentleman. I was forced to take the initiative to get him to express what was in his heart. Must I do so again?"

As always he was disturbed by her assumption that his heart was as emotional as her own. It was not a thought that he found acceptable.

"What is in my heart tonight," he said calmly despite his inner turmoil. "Is precisely what is in my mind -- Spock is making a mistake. He may well ruin his life by this decision."

She stopped, unlinked their fingers and touched his arm. Often she felt the need for closer communication than that offered by the stylized Vulcan way. He had learned to gratify her whims.

"Surely, Sarek, it is his life." There was no ascending inflection to the words, no hint of question in the tone. To her it was a statement of fact.

He let out a pent up breath. Lately he had found stressful situations wearying, unusually draining. Yet she waited silently for some response.

"My wife, perhaps when you have lived on Vulcan another twenty years you may finally understand how deeply we value tradition."

She withdrew her hand then, let it drop to her side. Her face looked stern, older somehow.

"Perhaps in another twenty years, my husband," she said. "You will understand how courageous your son really is. But by then it may be too late."

And she turned from him and walked back to the house.

An unnerving sense of separation edged the fringes of his conscious mind. The distance she had put between them was more than a physical manifestation. She had learned the Vulcan method of shielding the mental side of her life very well. He was troubled that she did so now. She had needed the comfort of his presence very much on this particular evening, yet she had resolutely forsaken it to make her point.

He did not want to be alone tonight, either, he realized. But his pride prevented his calling out to her. In silence he watched her go.

He stood in the garden, surrounded by the sudden stillness of solitude, and let his eyes seek out the various blossoms in the faint starlight. They were a symbol of the durable nature of the Terran woman he had wed. There was an iron will behind her gentle facade, he admitted to himself. It was not the first time he had been made aware of it. It influenced everything she touched, from her flowers to her son...

He broke off the train of thought, startled at the concept. Amanda had implied something to that effect a moment ago. Had he been misjudging Spock's act as one of weakness when in fact it had been a sign of strength?

The idea left him shaken to the very core of his being. Perhaps it would have been easier for Spock to remain here after all. Perhaps the way he had chosen was the more difficult, the more distressing for his son. In all fairness Sarek had to admit it would have been so for himself. To be thrust among non-Vulcans, to be constantly exposed to their alien thoughts and emotions would have been excrutiating for him. But from somewhere inside him, Spock had found the determination to do it.

For the first time it oocured to Sarek that his son might not be so unalike him as he had thought. And with that thought came another-- When I was his age, Sarek wondered, would I have had the courage to do what he has done?

If he could not understand and approve his son's action, then he at least respected the fortitude behind it. And he knew at once that what was rising in him was a very illogical sense of pride.

Quietly, so as not to disturb Amanda, Sarek made his way to Spock's room. In his head was the unformed idea of at last bridging the gap between them, to somehow say the things Amanda had wanted him to say.

But the room stood dark, the door ajar. Spock's belongings were gone and his bed unrumpled. Once again his son had taken the lonely and more difficult path, choosing to leave unheralded rather than risk further dissension.

Sarek rested his hand on the opened door, his fingers adapting a splayed pattern as if in contact with living flesh. He was aware of a sense of great loss for the moment that had been missed and which now would never be shared. The passage of the years would make the words impossible for him to utter; his inflexible code of life would eventually prohibit his acknowledging he had ever felt this way.

His head bowed as he searched the dark void between Spock's mind and his. There was no answering warmth and he knew the distance between them was too great, might always be too great, to ever achieve the link.

Spock was gone, on to a life Sarek could neither accept nor understand, but it would be Spock's life.

He stood outside the room for another long moment, his mind filled with the thoughts only a father can know. Then as if in silent benediction, he quietly closed the door.