A/N: Written for Whumptober Day 31 - Embrace

So this is set a few weeks before the Spock-centric TNG two-parter, 5x07/8 Unification, but you don't need to have seen it to understand this. It's just something I've wanted to explore in the AOS timeline for years, and wanting to use Spock & Bones for this Whumptober prompt finally gave me a way to dabble in that. Enjoy!

"You're joking."

Spock sat on the patio of his estate in Kenya, sipping tea as he watched the sun set over the sprawling savannah. A herd of elephants meandered by beneath the brilliant light, and just for a moment, he allowed himself to pretend he could still hear Nyota awwing at the pair of calves frolicking together, reminiscing about the days when their daughters were that young and playful. "I still do not joke, Leonard."

Sitting across the table from him with a glass of bourbon before him, Leonard was wrinkled and white-haired and still every bit the sarcastic, stubborn man Spock had met over a century ago. "Don't do that dance with me, hobgoblin, not when you're talking about this sort of nonsense."

"Reunification is not nonsense," Spock said. "It is more important now than ever."

Leonard ran a hand through his hair. "But you, of all people. Beneath those pointy ears and that green blood, you're just as human as I am, Spock, and you hate Nero now just as much as you did back then. How can you want to go live amongst his people?"

"They are not Nero's people," Spock said. "Not quite yet, at least. Perhaps I can succeed where my counterpart failed, and save both our species in the process."

He sighed. "You're not responsible for saving anybody, Spock. Vulcan or not, you're nearly as old as I am, which makes you damn old and deserving of a happy retirement with your human family, not running off to risk your life on behalf of two species who don't really like you all that much."

"My children and grandchildren are long since grown and my wife is dead, Leonard," Spock pointed out. "I was content to retire to her homeland for as long as she was by my side, but my life is once again my own, and it could easily last for another six decades. I choose to devote that time to trying to save future generations from what others have suffered, not sitting idly by watching the elephants, wondering when my great-grandchildren will visit."

Leonard narrowed his eyes. "There's something more to this, isn't there? Something beyond duty."

Spock set his tea down but kept hold of the mug. "There is."

"Well, spit it out, then."

"My daughters and grandchildren have been insulted time and again for looking Vulcan and acting human," he murmured. "They have the name 'Romulan' spat in their faces as a vile curse, and they have suffered for it. I want their suffering to end, and for others like them to never have to suffer at all. Our peoples were one once, and while that cannot happen again, if there is a chance we can build bridges to become brothers, I will pursue it for the sake of my descendants."

Leonard's voice was still exasperated but infinitely softer as he said, "You just had to bring the girls into this, didn't you?"

The corners of Spock's lips twitched up into a tiny smirk. "I know your soft spots just as well as you know mine."

The door to the house opened, and Joanna leaned out. "Dad? We have to go soon."

"I'll be there in a minute," Leonard told her.

There was a bittersweet tang to her smile as she looked from him to Spock. "Goodbye, Uncle Spock."

He dipped his head to her, letting his voice soften. "Goodbye, Joanna."

She retreated inside, and as the door closed behind her, it hit Spock anew that he would likely never see many of these people again. Whether he was killed or simply died of old age on Romulus, working towards reunification would be a dangerous, complicated, time-intensive task, and thus the odds of him returning within their lifetimes were slim. In deciding to build a future for his family, he was leaving most of them behind.

"There's no talking you out of this, is there."

It was a statement, not a question, but Spock still shook his head in response. "My decision is made. If it comforts you," he added, "Suna and Tycan will be accompanying me."

"So I can expect their goodbyes soon too, then," Leonard surmised wearily. He scrubbed a hand across his face. "At least I know those two have the chutzpah to keep you from doing something really stupid."

Spock tipped his head, remembering all the times he had been thoroughly put in place by his daughter and her son. "Indeed they do."

Realizing after a long moment of silence that, even though he had an appointment to keep, Leonard wasn't going to be the first to move, Spock stood and offered his hand. "I will miss you, Leonard."

Leonard eyed the hand, and Spock suspected he took it more out of sentimentality than actually needing help getting up. "Yeah," he said. "I'm gonna miss you too, Spock."

Even after the older man was securely on his feet, Spock found himself reluctant to let go. This was his last goodbye to make before leaving for Romulus, and when he was gone, the part of Spock's life that had set him on the path of self-acceptance that had led to these last several very happy, very peaceful decades with Nyota on this beautiful estate would be over. Jim and Scotty were long gone, killed in freak accidents; Nyota had succumbed to her terminal illness; and Hikaru had retired to San Francisco, Carol to Harrogate, and Pavel and Jaylah to Saint Petersburg. Though none of them had served aboard the Enterprise for quite some time, this moment suddenly felt like the true, irreversible end to the family he had found aboard that ship.

Leonard's eyes were misty. "You know… I think one hug won't kill us. So long as we never speak of it, that is."

Spock let his walls drop, let himself smile even as tears brimmed in his own eyes. "I suppose one hug is allowable."

They needed no further invitation, melting into the hug faster than either one of them would ever admit. Leonard patted his back, his grip fiercer than Spock had expected. "This ain't the end, kid, so long as we remember each other."

"I will remember," Spock promised quietly. Even if I live long enough for my mind to grow feeble, I could never forget you.

"Then I'll never die," Leonard joked, easing out of the hug. "Good luck, hobgoblin. I'll watch over the kids for you."

"Thank you," Spock said, wishing there was time for more. After so many decades of depending on Leonard to take care of him and his family, and knowing now that he would continue to do so until he drew his last breath, those two little words felt hollow. "I wish you well."

Leonard lingered a moment longer, a century of history passing heavily through their looks, and then took his leave, wiping away his fallen tears.

As the sun set on this final goodbye, casting his lone figure into shadow, Spock closed his eyes and let his tears fall.