The nights on Vulcan's Forge are cold, compared with even the mildest day. Spock had spent enough time there during the trials of his youth to know, deep in his bones, that he disliked being chilled. From that vantage point the inaccessible snows of Mt. Seleya were blinding by day or night. Meditating on the distant, forbidding peak, Spock thought of frozen water, crystal structure and the harsh quality of the whiteness. Intellectually he understood snow, and considered that to be enough information about the phenomenon.
Until he left Vulcan he remained ignorant of his own ignorance.
His arrival on Earth was unheralded. He had, of course, been forbidden to contact Star Fleet Academy from his home world; his father was adamant that Spock would not join the Fleet. So the Academy admissions clerks were stunned, and rather doubtful, when the thin, chilled young Vulcan presented himself at their doors and respectfully requested late permission to write the entrance exams. Hurried communications were held, Spock's credentials inspected, and to Spock's horror his Earth relatives were informed of his unorthodox presence in San Francisco.
Within an hour of his arrival he was staring across a conference table at Commodore Glenn Santos, Dean of Admissions and Dr. Maynard Grayson, his mother's brother. Spock had explained, concisely and without preamble, the reasons for his request for admission. The Dean was eager to have him - Spock's records from the Vulcan Science Academy were enough to gain him admission even without his obvious physical fitness. Better yet, the cachet of finally getting a Vulcan into the active Fleet would reflect well on the Dean. He didn't want to get into any sort of trouble with Vulcan, though, especially not the renowned Ambassador Sarek and his clan. Rumour had it that they were as close to royalty as Vulcan had; if this was the crown prince sitting before him, Dean Santos did not want an inter-planetary incident on his hands.
"Mister... or Doctor Spock... which is the correct appellation?"
Spock inclined his head, and Santos thought again of the crown prince. "My mother assures me that my given names are unpronounceable for humans. Just "Spock" is perfectly acceptable. Vulcans do not use academic credentials outside of the Academy."
"Very well. Spock. My chief concern here is not with your credentials but with your motivations. If this application is made in some way to spite your father..." he trailed off, disconcerted by the lack of expression on the young man. A human man would have shown some reaction to such an accusation. Spock might have been carved in stone. "I think, in all fairness, I must review this application with the Admiralty, and possibly the office of the President. There are certain political ramifications for the Federation. It may be a day or two before we can respond."
Spock sat in silence for a moment. "Very well. I shall obtain a local residence and remain in contact with your office."
"No need, Spock." Dr. Grayson sat forward and smiled. "You're my nephew. Family looks after family. You can transport back to Seattle with me, and be my guest." Again, there was no sign from the youth. Grayson had dealt with Vulcans on one or two occasions, specifically this Vulcan's father, so the stillness neither fooled him nor perturbed him. "It would be my honour," he concluded and sat back.
"Very well, sir. I am honoured by your welcome."
Santos stood up and offered his hand to Spock who gazed at it then back up at him, face unreadable. Grayson realized, from his time with his sister and Sarek, that this was a very intimate gesture to an untutored Vulcan; possibly an obscene gesture. He cleared his throat. "Dean Santos, Vulcans do not shake hands. It opens them to the emotions and thoughts of others."
"Hmmm. Rather awkward, that. Is there an appropriate means of greeting and taking leave?" Santos responded.
Spock stood up and raised his right hand, fingers split in a wide 'V'. "Live long, and prosper, Dean Santos."
Santos managed the salute, and gave a bob of his head. "You too, Spock. We'll be in touch, we have Dr. Grayson's comm info."
"Wait for me in the corridor, Spock, if you will. I need to talk to the Dean on several matters."
"That is satisfactory." Spock moved toward the door. Once he was gone Grayson sank back into a chair.
"Thanks for calling me, Glenn. Leaving Spock alone on Earth would have been cruel. I'm sure he wasn't taught any human culture... or too little, at least. My sister is very much under the spell of her Vulcan husband. The few times I've seen her since her marriage she could practically out-Vulcan Sarek."
"That's what bothers me, Mayn. How does a boy like that, raised in the most formal of Vulcan traditions, get the idea to go against his father's wishes, reject his clan and planet, and make his way here? He says he wishes to explore the frontiers of science, and that he supports Star Fleet's policies on policing and defence; something Vulcan has been trying to stay out of since our inception as a Federation!"
Grayson steepled his fingers, in an unconscious imitation of Spock. "First, it would be a mistake to consider him a boy, Glenn, despite his youthful appearance. He's almost 35 Standard now. This is not a sudden or unconsidered decision. And from what I've seen of Vulcans I expect a half-breed, like Spock, would not have commanded much respect or had much scope there. From what he says of Sarek's insistence on controlling Spock's future... I support Spock in this." He sighed deeply. "Going against his father's will could, in fact, have exiled him from Vulcan. I don't think he expects he'll ever go back. Logic they claim, but I know they're a stubborn bunch."
"Perhaps. Which has its place, as you know." He stood up and shook Santos hand. "Don't make him wait too long, Glenn."
"I'm on my way to the Admiralty. First time I've had an excuse to burst in on Nogura since he took the big seat. I'm looking forward to it." He grinned suddenly and widely. "Did you see his transcripts and CV? I don't think I've ever admitted a student who already held three doctorates. He's a candidate for the fast track to command, if we ever had one."
"Command requires some understanding of personal interaction, Glenn. Most Fleeters are humans remember? Don't get your hopes up."
Grayson looked at his nephew with concern. Spock was sitting ramrod straight at the terminal in Grayson's main room, reviewing data at lightening speed. He rarely spoke, ate little, and seemed not to require sleep. Two days had passed since that short interview at the Academy, and since then Spock had no news on his admission. What he had received were two rather fierce interviews. The first was with Nogura probing deeply into Spock's motivations. The second had been from the Chief of Federation Security Council, who was the main advisor to the President himself. That had been adversarial; or it would have been, Grayson mused, if Spock had been willing to argue. He was glad he hadn't been trying to conduct those interviews. Spock wasn't... slippery, exactly. But he was brilliant, reticent, and set on his course.
It would have discouraged a full human. Or even a half-Vulcan, raised human. Spock merely answered the questions in as few words as possible and waited. He never excused himself, never refused to answer, and never showed even mild distress at falsehoods designed to unsettle him.
Grayson rather admired him. But worried, nonetheless.
It was Saturday now, early morning, and it seemed unlikely to Grayson that they would hear from anyone in the bureaucracy before Monday. Grayson was determined to get Spock out of the house and begin preparing him for life among humans.
"Uncle." Spock didn't look up. Grayson crossed his arms and leaned against the door to the main room. He was learning, quickly, how to approach Spock to elicit the response he wanted. He cleared his throat.
"I have made an inventory of your clothing. It is distinctly inappropriate for the climate of San Francisco. You will require a larger assortment of warm clothing and rain wear."
Spock looked up at that. "I do not expect to spend a great deal of time out of doors."
"Never the less. Are you aware that I have increased the ambient temperature of this house by 10 degrees since your arrival? You will find it distractingly cold, even indoors, among we more temperate-dwelling people. I suggest that we use a portion of today to acquire the appropriate clothing."
"I will be required to wear a uniform at the Academy."
"I am aware of that. However there is no regulation that states you cannot wear insulating clothing beneath those rather thin uniforms. Furthermore, you require at least one warm coat or cloak, one raincoat, hats and hand protectors. Also, a selection of clothing to wear when you are not wearing your uniforms, and some sleep wear. There is a tailor who does nice work in the Vulcan style, though in materials more appropriate to Terran winters. I am in a position to offer you assistance in choosing the correct items."
He saw Spock chew over that, and find no fault with it. Grayson was rather pleased, but didn't show it. Spock reached out and dimmed the terminal. "Very well. I agree with your assessment. I have very little currency, though."
"Luckily your Grayson relatives are wealthy, if not as wealthy as your Shi'Kahr kin. I am honoured to offer to purchase these items for you, and provide you with an allowance to maintain proper dignity of person at the Academy."
There was something then. A flicker of something in the dark, dark eyes. Grayson knew he had touched a nerve and refrained from saying more. Spock rose silently and gave a nodding bob of the head that indicated acceptance, if not gratitude. "I am prepared to accompany you at your convenience."
"Let's go, then. I'll loan you a coat of mine for now, though it'll be a bit large on you. We'll take my groundcar."
It was a dry day, but heavily overcast, and the temperature was hovering around zero. Grayson kept the heat blasting in the car, but upon their arrival at the indoor shopping plaza he noticed Spock drawing the coat tightly about himself. Grayson stopped short of offering any commiseration, and nodded toward the tailor's shop. "That way, nephew."
Spock took direction and followed Grayson into small, warmly lit shop not far from the entranceway. Inside the walls were lined with bolts of cloth, and the floor held several racks from which pre-made clothing hung. He gazed around, and Grayson sighed. Not a single question. Were tailor shops on Vulcan like this? Did they have tailor shops? Grayson advanced to the small counter along one side and pushed the lit button, heard a faint chime from the rear of the display area.
"Good morning, Doctor Grayson, sir! A pleasure. How can I help you today?" A man padded toward them, a rather rumpled and disorganized looking fellow, rather shorter than his two prospective customers and somewhat younger. Messy brown hair and extraordinary light brown eyes. Grayson smiled and jerked his head toward his nephew.
"Omar, this is my nephew, Spock. He arrived on Earth rather precipitously and needs some good clothes to withstand a San Francisco winter."
Omar stopped and stared up at Spock. "Welcome to Earth, sir. You require?"
"Clothing," Spock replied. Grayson sighed.
"By which he means everything, Omar. And I do mean everything. You've outfitted Vulcans before, I know."
"On several occasions, Doctor, of course. If your honoured nephew would step behind the counter, I have a dressing room designed for those who find our temperatures too cold. You too, Doctor. Coffee for you? Tea? Brandy?"
Grayson watched in bemusement as Spock simply did as he was told, moved into the overly hot room, with a well-hidden relaxation of the shoulders, and began to disrobe. Grayson himself removed his coat and sweater before sitting down to referee the proceedings. Spock, with what Grayson assumed from Omar's complete lack of comment was a normal lack of modesty for a Vulcan, stripped to his skin and waited. Grayson noted that despite being a bit thin, his nephew was well built, well muscled and... yes, a stunningly attractive man.
"Mr. Spock, do you have any preferences in insignia?" It was Omar, opening bolts of cloth on the side table. "House Sigil that you can..."
"No!" It was a bark. Spock had tensed! Grayson felt his own eyes opening. Then Spock relaxed again, or whatever one could call his returning to his normal, stony, composure. "No, I have no House Sigil. The meditation symbols of Surak are acceptable, as are the common proverbs."
Omar merely nodded. "Very well, that saves having to print the cloth. I must take a few measurements, sir. I will avoid touching you, but any touch that I must make I trust you will not find too uncomfortable."
Spock merely stared at the far wall, raising his arms when told to, spreading his legs, holding one end of the tape when requested. He refused to make any comment on his preferred colours, declaring such choices as illogical. After a few minutes the tailor swept him a bow and padded away, indicating a thick robe on the door that Spock could don 'for his increased physical comfort'.
Spock did so, then swung himself onto the tailor's stool and met his uncle's eyes. "That was not pleasant. However, Mr. Omar does seem to know his business."
"He has catered to Vulcans, and other non-Terrans, for about 10 years now. He is quite successful."
"He seems young for it."
"If a young man pursues a vocation that suits him, toward which he finds himself drawn by talent and deep interest, he will succeed."
Spock stared at him sharply, then for the first time he visibly relaxed, almost to a slumping of the shoulders. "You do understand my motives. I was not sure."
"I do. I think you have made a respectable choice."
"My father does not think so. He has declared me... clanless."
Grayson nodded. "So I gathered from your reaction to the suggestion of a House Sigil." He stopped short before asking how Spock felt about it. Spock was still for a long moment, and then glanced at Grayson again.
"I do not think all humans will accept my choice so easily."
"No, I do not think they will either. But you show great strength. You would not be here if you did not have deep commitment to this course of action. So be it. You will succeed."
The change in Spock's body language was even more dramatic this time. More than a relaxation, this was as if the man's lungs had suddenly remembered how to breathe. Spock's face didn't change in any particular, but was instantly softer. More approachable. "I was concerned."
"I know. Don't be. Concentrate on the task you have set yourself, and allow those you trust to help you. Such as I." Spock nodded, and his motion as he looked up at Omar's return was less stiff than it had been before. Grayson saw a natural grace in the movement that his nephew had lacked up until now. *Damn, he's gonna break a lot of hearts* he caught himself thinking, and smiled. If Spock did, it wouldn't be Spock's fault.
"Doctor, Sir, I have taken the liberty of choosing several patterns and colours which I think will..." he struggled for a moment, staring at Spock and then Grayson. Then he brightened and continued, "will add dignity and a sense of calm to Sir's wardrobe. If anything displeases you, of course we will exchange it if Sir can indicate a preference."
Spock blinked. He turned to his uncle and Grayson wanted to smile as Spock raised one delicate eyebrow at him. "Indicate a preference for... clothing. Vulcans do such things? I have never heard of it."
"It is not uncommon, Sir," Omar replied. "Many people, Vulcans included, dress to provide an advantage in a given social situation. Quite logical, especially when dealing with humans, for whom first impressions are so important. We do tend to judge hastily, illogical as it is! Just imagine the impression you'd make on an important human showing up in a coat like that one, two sizes too big and a year out of date; and in a colour really unsuitable for Sir! Completely unacceptable, if one can improve one's standing immediately with appropriate clothing! Now, I have had my assistant assemble appropriate under garments, including several sets of silk underclothes - most Vulcans find our temperatures far too low, of course, and silk is our best terrestrial insulator suitable for clothing. The other clothing, if you will approve the list..."
Spock peered at the sheath of paper that Omar offered him, and then turned to his uncle. "I have no idea what you think appropriate, Uncle. I appeal to your superior knowledge in making this decision."
Grayson took the list, complete with swatches of cloth attached beside each description. He thumbed through it, the handed it back. "I approve of all of it. Add a second cloak in similar fashion, a complete additional set of rain gear and some decent footwear, including heavy boots. Spock, let him measure your feet. He has a partnership with an excellent cobbler."
"As you say, uncle."
Five minutes later Grayson was turning up the heat in the groundcar again and setting them on course for home. The clothing for his nephew would be delivered the following day after suitablealterations and, in some cases, fabrication by hand.
**Grayson enjoyed an almost gregarious evening with his nephew. Though Spock would speak little of his life on Vulcan, he told Grayson several tales about Amanda that eased the human's heart somewhat. He had a sort of perpetual gnawing that his little sister was in some weirdly abusive life. Spock, without realizing it, reassured him that Amanda was well and happy. After a dinner of pasta primavera he invited Spock to the living room.
"I want to introduce you to easy means of avoidance to a couple of human customs. You need this information. I saw your unease when the Dean offered to shake hands with you."
Spock turned slightly green. "I... I have read about the custom. But when he offered I couldn't bring myself to touch..."
"I know. I do understand that among your people this is a sexual gesture." Spock turned greener, but nodded. "Try to look at it from a human point of view. The gesture is deeply important. It shows the empty hand. The weaponless hand. The non-threatening hand. And it offers the other a means to show that he, or she, is also weaponless. It is an ancient gesture, practiced in many forms on this planet. It says 'I will not harm you'."
Spock nodded his understanding. "There is another aspect, however. You were correct in telling the Dean that I would read his emotions and thoughts were I to touch him. Surely humans are reticent about that."
"Yes, they are. But they instinctively offer the human gesture of peace in this fashion. Your best response would be a polite shake of the head, a quick remark about Vulcans not touching others for their own privacy, and the offering of the more traditional Vulcan greeting. Here, let me show you how I have seen several Vulcans avoid handshakes."
He moved to stand before Spock. Spock merely stared. "Offer me your hand to shake."
"But I do not wish..."
"As a practical demonstration. You'll need this at the Academy, believe me. Offer me your hand."
Spock very slowly did so. Grayson glanced at it, put his own hands at his sides, and said "Sir, Vulcans avoid casual contact that might invade another's privacy, as we are touch telepaths." Then Grayson lifted his right hand and gave the "Live long, and prosper," greeting. Spock blinked. Looked at Grayson's hand, his eyes, and then his own extended hand. He brought it up to the 'V' and held Grayson's eyes.
"Prosperity, and long life, Uncle. You have taught me a valuable lesson."
"You're welcome, Nephew."
"You seem quite certain I will be admitted to the Academy. May I ask, whence comes this certitude?"
Grayson waved at the couch and Spock settled back, curling his feet under him to keep them warm. That grace hadn't left him again. Oh yes, hearts would break. Spock would attract a lot of amorous attention from the women at the Academy! Men too, Grayson supposed. "You are a brilliant man, Spock. They do want you, but only if it won't cause a rift in our relationship with your father's planet. Your family is important enough to keep you out of the Academy... unless you, yourself, show yourself worth taking a risk over."
"How may I do that? And is it even advisable to try? I prefer to be taken on my own merits, and I believe that my accomplishments prove me a worthy ab-initio intake prospect."
"Hmmmm... Well, Spock, if it weren't so irregular I would suggest that on Monday morning, if you haven't heard from them, we go to visit the President's office. I think you need to be seen, and not just heard."
Spock managed to look puzzled, without significantly changing his facial expression. "I understand the logic of that, but not your reluctance. In what way would it be irregular for me to seek an audience with the President? Our constitution states that all members of the Federation have the right to appeal directly if normal routes have failed them. It appears that his office is one of my barriers to my goal, and I believe it is because they do not understand my conviction to my course. You stated that... the course is sound. Obviously I believe so. The comm interviews were entirely unsatisfactory. I am willing to go there, if you think it will help my case and allow my enrolment. The spring term begins in 8.4 days and I do not wish to miss any classes."
"You are right, young man." Grayson kept the glee out of his eyes. "Well, your new clothes come tomorrow. I suggest that we return to San Francisco on Monday morning and... there is a human expression... beard the lion in his den. If you don't write your entrance exams next week, it will be half a year before the next intake. Let's do it."
"Very well." Spock looked around the room and Grayson rejoiced to see one eyebrow climb. "I believe that with that expectation, I would like a fortifying beverage."
"I'll get us some brandy." Grayson didn't mention that, as Sarek's son and an important Vulcan citizen, Spock would have no difficulty in getting an audience. Grayson also suspected that the President would be very glad of a reason to allow Spock to stay. It would certainly show Vulcan that the Federation was capable of welcoming them to all walks of Federation life that they chose to pursue.
**Breakfast the next morning was silent, Grayson grading his graduate students' theses and Spock at the terminal again. Not ramrod straight anymore, Grayson noted. Slightly rounded. Relaxed.
The temperature had dropped and the sky thickened further. Grayson was doubly glad that he had pushed Spock into the new clothing. It looked like snow, and soon.
The door chimed just after noon and Grayson helped a deliveryman bring dozens of bundles into the main room. Spock looked a query at his uncle, and received a nod in response. "Your clothes. Let's have a look. We need to make sure there are no errors."
Spock rose and watched, hands neatly behind his back, as Grayson undid the first couple of bundles. Grayson lifted out a dozen pairs of short trousers, half a dozen sets of complete long limbed undergarments in various colours. Then pants, socks, tunics. Indoor and outdoor cloaks. Rain wear. Three pair of silk sleep wear. Most of the clothing seemed to have black as the base colour, many with scarlet or silver or sky blue designs printed or embroidered, but overall, black. Grayson smiled to himself. Omar was a clever fellow. With his colouring, smooth black hair and dark eyes, not to mention his austere good looks, Spock would be spectacular in black.
"Well, try stuff on, Spock! Here, take these..." he handed Spock a pair of boxers and an undershirt, a tunic, trousers and over cloak, then remembered a pair of socks. "Go in the 'fresher and change."
"I can change here."
"I do not wish to close the blinds, Spock, and humans... most humans, would be offended if they accidentally viewed you publicly naked."
Spock glanced at the window, and the darkening day. Then Spock gave him an eyebrow again, and Grayson smiled softly. At that Spock wheeled away and vanished into the 'fresher.
Grayson hadn't long to wait. The Spock that emerged from the 'fresher was an utter stranger to him. Omar had done his magic. This Spock appeared to be the 35 standard that he was, in stance and attitude, but retained all his youthful beauty. He appeared sure and confident instead of ill at ease. The flowing black and silver complimented his shining hair and controlled grace. Grayson felt his mouth fall open. "There is a man who can speak to the President."
"It's amazing, Spock. The difference in your appearance is quite astonishing. Come with me."
Grayson led him back into the 'fresher' and bade him look into the mirror. "What do you see?"
Spock stared, opened his mouth to speak, and then stopped. Peered at himself. Turned and looked at himself from all angles. "It is... inexplicable. Were I to see myself on the street, I would wish to bow to myself, as if I were an elder."
"Precisely." Grayson nodded twice and waved toward the mirror image. "There is a man who knows his purpose."
"Done with clothing. Peculiar. But I knew my purpose before."
"Then, you had only yourself to deal with. Now you must convince others. This will help. You will intimidate them. No, no..." he saw the objection in Spock's eyes. "Deep purpose always intimidates humans. We can't help it. But it helps us recognize it, when we see its external face. That is what the clothing provides you."
"Fascinating." Spock turned around again, then looked up at his uncle almost shyly. "I would like to investigate the other items."
Grayson chuckled. "Me too. And have a brandy. Let's go."
An hour later the afternoon was deepening toward the early night of early January. Grayson was distracted from the sight of his nephew modeling the last set of trous and tunic when the last of daylight vanished, but an eerie glow continued to come in his window. He set down his third brandy and exclaimed aloud. "Spock! It's snowing!"
Grayson leapt up and moved to the window. Grayson had always loved snow; more now that he'd moved to the temperate coast and saw so little of it. He gazed out through the glass. The falling crystals were tinted slightly orange by the shaded streetlamps, and the grass was already covered quite deeply. "It's sticking!"
"Sticking?" He heard a rustling behind him and turned to see Spock, wide-eyed, his nearly empty brandy snifter in one hand, sidling up to the window. "Snow?"
Grayson smacked his forehead with his palm. "You've never seen snow before, of course!"
"I have, certainly." Spock faltered. "At a great distance. I have never seen it fall. Those snow particles..."
"Thank you, flakes. They seem far to large to be single crystals."
"You're right. They are clusters. The air here is too warm and humid for single crystals to reach the ground.... oh, come out and see. You'll like it."
"Humidity... of course. They come into contact as they fall and due to the anabatic temperature differential as they descend in the troposphere..."
"And the super cooled nature of a crystal formed close to the tropopause. Exactly. That nimbostratus layer has to be right to the tropopause. 3 degrees per thousand change, likely. So they clump. We just call them big flakes. I gotta find my boots, just a second." Spock stared out the window, captured by the spectacle. There were millions of 'flakes', just within his vision, which meant there were hundreds of millions of crystals... no that was faulty logic, he could not estimate from here the size of the individual crystals or what how many had bonded into these larger communities, but if it continued to fall at its current rate he estimated .2 to .6 centimetres accumulation within the hour, oh it was frustrating not to have any exact figures...
"You can do that kind of math in your head?"
Spock reviewed the last few seconds and realized he had been talking aloud. "If I have the data yes. Otherwise you get the nonsense you just heard. You propose to go outside? Do you suggest that any of the clothing I have will protect me?"
"The bigger cloak. And pull on those mittens, and the cap. And your boots, of course." Grayson was almost hopping. He wanted to see his nephew's reaction to the soft, cold mass of a handful of snow. To feeling the flakes melting on his face. He charged out the door into the 3-centimetre accumulation and held his arms up to the sky.
Grayson spun, laughing, then stopped as he saw his nephew at the top step. Gazing around, obviously frozen in place. Grayson let his arms fall and watched as Spock peered around him, the look on his face as human as Grayson had ever seen. There was naked wonder in the black eyes. As if Spock were actually gazing on a miracle. Grayson, inexplicably embarrassed, smiled back up at the sky. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"
"It's... is it safe to descend? It looks slippery."
"It is slippery. Hold the handrail and mind your balance."
Spock took small, careful steps, pushing the damp snow aside with his foot before settling his weight. He concentrated on getting down the steps and then stood for a moment at the bottom. Grayson caught his breath at the sight. His nephew, in the flowing Vulcan robes and dark cap, the high laced boots over the loose trous, looked like a storybook Czar in the swirling snow. While Grayson watched, Spock bent and took some snow in his hand, then held it up high toward the street light, as if to see its structure. It was a mirror of a high benediction. Grayson realized, suddenly, that he loved his nephew. He knew he would do anything to get this incredible man the position and training he deserved.
"Spock." Spock turned to see his uncle's smiling face, and he held out the handful of snow as if to explain himself. Grayson felt another lurch of his heart, as if Spock had suddenly, inexplicably, become his own son. He swallowed the lump in his throat and nodded. "It's beautiful, I know. I'm... glad you're here, Spock. Glad you decided to come to Earth."
Spock gave him that unfathomable look again, then one side of his mouth actually quirked up. "I, too, am glad that I came here, Uncle. Thank you." He glanced at the snow in his hand. "Is it... I want to lick it, that is so illogical!"
He sounded completely outraged. Grayson laughed aloud. "Illogical or not, I have never met anyone that didn't want to lick snow the first time they saw and held it! Lick away. It won't harm you."
Spock quirked his brow and dipped his face into his mitten. His eyes grew round, then slowly returned to normal. "Fascinating. I would like to take some indoors to view the crystalline structure."
"Too bad I don't have an appropriate cold room, or a microscope on the premises. Let's just play for a few minutes, then go have supper. I'm starved, and you'll be cold soon."
Spock nodded absently, already reaching for another handful to lick. Grayson laughed again and decided to make a snow angel.
"Mr. President..." his aide's voice came tentatively over the intercom. President Xiao looked up from his morning briefing and snapped back.
"Thereus, it's Monday morning and you know better than to disturb me!"
"Sir, I wouldn't if I didn't think... sir, Admiral Nogura is on his way over with Professor Maynard Grayson and Spock cha'Sarek, sir. And they asked me to have Dean Santos present."
"Blindsided! Damn them! How long until Nogura gets here, Mr. Thereus?"
"They... uh. The party has just entered the office, sir. They... Admiral, you can't just..."
Xiao braced himself, but the door didn't slam open. Instead, it slid open easily, and Hiroyoshi Nogura smiled as he walked in. Behind him came Grayson, one of the planet's leading academicians in Xeno-historical anomalies, deep in conversation with Dean Santos. And following that distinguished group...
One of the single most compelling figures Xiao had ever seen. He found himself rising from his seat. "Gentlefolk, may I ask what is the meaning of this intrusion?"
Three human mouths opened to speak, then the enigmatic fourth figure raised a hand in the familiar vulcan gesture. "If I may, gentlefolk. President Xiao, it is an honour to meet you. Live long and prosper. I am Spock, late of Shi'Kahr, come to attend Star Fleet Academy. I have been informed that there is some question about my acceptance to that august body."
Xiao, rattled, belatedly raised his own hand. "Prosperity and long life, Spock of... Vulcan." He took in the flowing robes, the complete control, the penetrating gaze. Damn, he'd been mislead. This was no green boy, no young man trying to spite his clan. This was a formidable man. "The difficulties seem to be mainly technical, Mr. Spock. There were some objections from the Vulcan Council. However..."
"However," Spock interrupted, and Xiao felt he had never been so smoothly over-ridden. "I am a full adult by any criteria of any culture within this Federation. My decision is made. I wish to complete the entry exams in time to begin my new studies with the current intake. That is all."
"All." Xiao dropped his hand, then his eyes. "Sit down, all of you. Hiro, you know better. Damn it. Thereus, bring coffee for everyone... uh. Mr. Spock, I don't expect you drink coffee."
"That is a correct assumption, Mr. President. I require no refreshment at this time."
"Very well, then, Mr. Spock. You realize that the Academy entry exams begin a month ahead of course commencement for a reason. No one can be expected to obtain a reasonable score given... six days? Six days, to complete 29 different exams, including 3 of a full day each."
"I am perfectly willing to try, Mr. President. As a Vulcan I have little need for sleep. Furthermore I assume that computers administer most of the exams, barring the day-long ones; which I assume require invigilators due the necessity for relief breaks that most humans would need. That would not be a requirement in my case. However, if it is an Academy requirement, the examiners for those particular exams must have completed the normal intake and are likely available this week."
Grayson was hiding a smile. Nogura was conveniently involved in stirring his coffee. Santos was staring at Spock, not trying to hide his greed. Xiao sighed. "Mr. Spock, I have heard directly from your father. He states that he does not wish you to enter the Academy here. I must take his wishes into consideration."
Spock cocked his head, and raised one eyebrow slowly. "On what grounds? Does the Federation discriminate against the offspring of diplomats?"
"Certainly not! But Vulcan..."
"Vulcan has renounced me, Sir." The voice was quieter, and Xiao could hear pain there. "I cannot return. I made my choice. My father's voice has no weight in this forum. Do you think he would endanger Vulcan's standing in the Federation over one errant child?"
Silence fell, as did all human eyes. Spock stared out the window, where a grey rain was falling over the San Francisco landscape. "Does it ever snow here?"
"Rarely," Xiao replied. He cleared his throat noisily and glanced sharply at Grayson, then Nogura. Both faces held a look of shuttered misery. Then Xiao sat up and thumped one hand on the desk, "Santos, enrol this boy. If you have to pay triple time to finish the exams before classes start, do it, papers to me. I want to see his exam results by Sunday. Now get out of here, all of you. I have a Federation to run."
Leaving the office, Grayson felt only a light feeling of joy, tinged slightly by his sorrow at the knowledge of what his nephew would face over the coming years. But he would face it. Spock could face anything. Anything at all.
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