DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Saidicam29 and is copyright (c) 2004 by Saidicam29. Rated R.



THE ADEPT

Saidicam29



Sarek banged the ancient gong, summoning the adepts from the depth of the rock caverns. A moment passed, and then another as Sarek stood in the dry Vulcan heat waiting for permission to see his wife. So much had occurred recently, so much so that he hardly recognized his life anymore. Would he recognize his wife, either? He hadn't seen her in months, and her letters were hardly more than progress reports now. If it weren't for their bond, the bare thread of it that remained, he might think she were as dead as... No, he mustn't think of that right now. The wound was still too raw for him to consider it without betraying his control; and it wouldn't do to lose control in front of them.

Finally the stone door swung open, and out walked an aged adept, covered head to toe in his ornamental robe; his face partially obscured by the large hood covering his head.

"Identify yourself," he intoned.

"Sarek, child of Skon, child of Solkar. I am bondmate to student adept Amanda, and I require an audience with her."

The adept glanced up, giving Sarek a measured look. Sarek met his gaze, silently daring him to deny his request. In the mood he was in now, he'd almost welcome the challenge.

"Remain here." The adept returned through the stone portal, closing the entryway behind him.

"Ponfo mirann," Sarek muttered, then decided it may be best to use this moment of privacy to reinforce his control. He needed to remember where he was, and who he was surrounded by. The adepts spent their lives perfecting the mental disciplines, and teaching it to others. Many of them had been students at Gol, and some were actual Kolinahru. It is said they had the ability to manipulate one's mind from across the room. He had to make his shields strong, for while their philosophies prohibit them from invading without consent, he didn't want to chance any "eavesdropping" on their part either. They'd taken much from him, but he would retain his dignity ... at all costs.

The door opened again, sooner than Sarek would have preferred at that moment, and the adept instructed him to follow. Sarek had never been inside Mount Seleya. Only the adepts, or students committed to becoming adepts themselves, had access to this part of the complex. This was where the adepts lived and worked. It was very rare that an outsider was allowed past the ceremonial altars and general classrooms into the lairs below.

As they entered Sarek glanced around the dimly lit catacombs but could see no sign of his wife. There were few people moving through the halls, and no noise at all. 'Like a tomb,' Sarek thought, and almost shuddered at the thought of his vibrant wife living here for the past six months. They walked through a smaller entryway, and down another corridor lined with doors on both sides.

Finally stopping at one, the adept opened the door, but did not move inside. "T'sai Amanda is deep in mediation, but you may wait in there." Sarek watched him go back the way they had come, leaving him alone in the underground maze.

He entered the room -- nothing larger than a closet really -- just an entryway leading to another door, but it did contain a bench just big enough for one person to sit. Sarek left the first door open, giving himself the illusion of space as he remained standing while he waited for his wife. As time passed Sarek found himself recalling the events that led him here.

* * *

Spock handed his father a steaming cup of tri'hla tea before seating himself, with his own cup, on the sofa adjacent to the chair Sarek occupied. "You didn't even know Mother had asked me to come?"

"No," Sarek muttered, lost in his own contemplations regarding his wife's secret activities.

"And you have no idea what this ... surprise she has might be?"

Sarek silently reviewed each of the encounters he had with his mate over the past month ... the time it would have taken for her to ask their son to come home and for him to arrive. "None."

'How could she have hidden something from me that was so important she would make Spock come all this way? How could I not sense something was going on? Could our time apart be causing negative effects on our bond?' Sarek shook himself mentally. He was embarrassed to admit even to himself that Amanda springing this surprise on him had him somewhat shaken. They hadn't spent much time together in the past few months as he was busy with his ambassadorial duties and Amanda was working hard on her studies at Mount Seleya. She had even taken to spending most of her nights there as well and only coming home for a few days every other week to see him. Sarek wasn't pleased with the arrangement, but had to admit that it was logical to do so rather than travel all that way each day, especially when he was often gone until late at night anyway.

"She seemed quite excited when I spoke with her, so I'm sure it's something agreeable," Spock rambled, trying to engage his father in an activity other than contemplating his mother's surprise. "Perhaps she has completed her studies at Mt. Seleya early?"

A light momentarily brightened Sarek's eyes as he finally focused on his son rather than the floor, but was gone as fast as it had come. "No, it's only been fourteen months. I find that to be a very unlikely possibility. The average time of study for a Vulcan is approximately two years, and Amanda was expecting to spend closer to three years there to master all nine levels of study." He sipped from his mug thoughtfully, "Unless she has decided to end her studies completely?"

Spock looked at his father dubiously. "It would be very out of character for Mother not to finish what she had begun. Besides, her letters all seemed to indicate that she very much enjoyed her time among the adepts."

Sarek shrugged offhandedly, "Perhaps."

The low hum of a shuttlecar drew both men's attention to the front door. They had no more than stood to greet her when Amanda came running into the house to throw herself into the arms of her men. "I'm so glad you came, Spock!" she gushed as she wrapped a hand behind his neck and pulled him down for a peck on the cheek. "You look good. You've gained some weight though. Must not be getting as much exercise teaching cadets as you did on duty aboard the Enterprise. Either that or the food on Earth is better than on the ship," she teased.

"Some of both, I expect, Mother."

"You, however, look as flawless as ever, my wife," Sarek complimented.

"Oh, I doubt that." Amanda laughed as she approached her husband of over fifty years. She framed his face between her hands and pulled him down for a quick kiss on the lips before hugging him tight. "I missed you," she whispered.

Sarek folded her into his arms loosely, allowing this display of affection even though their son was present. Now, with her in his arms, he felt her through the bond as strongly as the first night he had initiated it. He quickly dismissed his earlier concerns as incongruous; a result of not having her beside him all the time. Perhaps Amanda was correct when she accused him of becoming sentimental in his old age. "I, too, felt your absence greatly." When she pulled away he looked toward the entryway expectedly. "Where is your luggage?"

"Oh, we'll worry about that later." Amanda stepped back and addressed the Vulcans equally. "Right now you two have got to sit down because I'm just dying to tell you my news! It's been killing me not to share this with anyone yet."

"Then you do indeed look well for a woman who has been dying for over a month," Spock quipped.

"Ha, ha; now sit down so I can tell you!" Amanda remained standing, bouncing slightly on her heels and twisting her clan ring around her finger. She took a deep breath, and then another, as she tried several times to speak. "Shoot, I've wanted so long to tell you and now that the time's here I don't know where to begin."

Neither man said anything as they both waited patiently for her to organize her thoughts. Amanda closed her eyes and immediately her breathing calmed and her fidgeting stopped. When she looked up again she radiated tranquility as much as she had radiated unabashed excitement just moments ago. It took both the Vulcans by surprise as they had never known her to be quite so proficient at the mental techniques required to master her arrant emotions. "All right, you both know I've been studying at Seleya for a little over a year now."

"Fourteen months, 23 days, 16 hours, 45 minutes and approximately 12 seconds since you first left," Sarek amended.

"Correct," she intoned. "But what you might not know is how very, very well I have been doing there. I have progressed farther in the curriculum, and mastered the lessons much easier, than I had dared to imagine. Adept Surpik says that I have far exceeded his expectations for me."

"Then I believe congratulations are in order, Mother. However, I cannot honestly say this comes as much of a surprise to us." Spock got up to pour each of them a goblet of teig'luks'i, a beverage they generally used for celebrations.

"Indeed. This is most gratifying news, my wife." He took his goblet from Spock and held it poised for drinking at his wife's initiation.

"Wait." When she took her glass from Spock she immediately placed it on the coffee table. "There's more." Ignoring the quizzical looks from her men she plunged on. "A few months ago, at the urging of Adept Surpik, I broadened my studies at Seleya from just the academics to actually learning some of the mental techniques they teach. And I've managed to do quite well at them, especially considering that the last time I was ever evaluated I had practically no psi ability. Of course, that was shortly after moving to Vulcan, and I'm sure being in a bond all these years has enabled me to develop some aptitude." She glanced briefly in Sarek's direction but his face was devoid of any expression. "At any rate, a couple of months ago, again at the urging of Adept Surpik, I applied to be considered for one of the student positions to study Kolinahr at Gol ... and I was accepted!"

"Mother," Spock breathed.

"I think it's because I've lived most of my life here on Vulcan. I've adopted the Vulcan philosophies and lived by Vulcan etiquette. Mostly I think they're curious to see how much I'm capable of ... how much humans might be capable of."

Spock stood and held his hands up, palms out, for a traditional Vulcan embrace to which Amanda immediately and gratefully responded. "This is a great honor."

"Yes!" she enthused. "I'm the first human to ever be invited to Gol. I'm terrified that I'll be absolutely useless there, and the thought that they might base their expectations for all humans on what I can accomplish is petrifying, but I'm so excited to learn about them. I have been ever since you left to achieve Kolinahr." It hadn't occurred to her that the reference might be a reminder of Spock's failure at Gol, but if it was, he didn't let it show. All she saw was extreme pride in the eyes of her son. Movement out of the corner of her eye caused Amanda to look in Sarek's direction, eager, and somewhat anxious, to hear his reaction. He stared at his wife, his expression impossible to read. "Sarek?" Amanda's grip tightened on Spock's hands.

"I am ... uncertain of what to say." He bowed his head apologetically. "If you'll excuse me, I need to check on our dinner."

Watching her husband walk away, Amanda slowly lowered herself to sit on the coffee table. "He didn't exactly seem pleased, did he?"

"I'm sure it's just the surprise." Spock squatted to speak to his mother face to face. "I probably should not mention this, but I got the impression he was hoping you'd be coming home to stay this time."

"I know," she sighed dejectedly. "Even though he hasn't actually complained, I know he isn't exactly sanguine about me being away from home this much. But this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, Spock. If I pass this up I'll never have the chance again."

"Which is why you won't pass it up. It's only temporary, and Father will adjust. He'll have no choice."

"I know ... but I don't know if I can go if it's hurting him."

"Mother," Spock's voice became stern. "How many times has Father left you to go on various missions, even when you didn't want him to?"

"That's a little different, Spock. Sarek's work affected the lives of millions of people. This is just for my own edification."

"Sarek is not the only qualified diplomat on Vulcan. He could have chosen to stay, to focus instead on his career in computer sciences, but being a diplomat was what he wanted to do. He expected you, as his mate, to adjust and take care of the family in his absence. Now it is his turn to allow you the same freedom."

"I suppose that's true." Amanda drank some teig'luks'i to calm her nerves. She caressed his cheek affectionately. "When did you become so wise?"

"Well," Spock held her hand against his face, "to be honest, that was basically the same thing you said to me when I told you I wanted to join Starfleet." Amanda's laughter was music to his ears. Pleased he had lifted her spirits Spock stood and collected the tea cups from earlier. "I'm going to take these to the autocleaner, then set the table for end meal." While she was still chuckling as he left the room, Spock didn't miss the weary way she rubbed her eyes when he left.

* * *

When Spock entered the kitchen Sarek was methodically, and very precisely, chopping some vegetables for a Vulcan version of a salad. He never paused nor looked up at Spock's entrance, but he knew his father was aware of his presence. "This is a great honor for Mother." Spock spent much more time loading the autocleaner than was required.

"Indeed."

"She brings our clan honor with her achievements, does she not?" Spock moved over to take the dinner dishes out of the cupboards.

"Certainly," Sarek's answers were short, but sincere.

"The first portion of Kolinahr training only lasts approximately one year. It's mainly academic with a lot of focus on meditation and some of the introductory purging techniques are taught. There is a lot of melding with the Masters as it is during this time they evaluate the students and choose who has the ability to continue and attempt to achieve Kolinahr." Spock paused, took a deep breath and plunged ahead. Ordinarily he'd never address either of his parents about their marriage, but this was for his mother, and for her he'd risk Sarek's offense. "I can not speak from personal experience as I was not bonded, but I'm certain the Masters will take great care to shield their activities with her so they do not cross the bond and interfere with your thoughts."

Sarek paused in mid-cut, took a deep breath, then resumed his activities. "I'm well aware of that, Spock. This isn't the first time a wife of mine has studied at Gol."

Taken aback, Spock stared at his father's back. He'd forgotten about T'Rea, Sarek's first wife. Sarek had never really spoken of her, and the little Spock knew of Sybok's mother came from his own mother when she tried to explain the situation at the time his half-brother had come to live with them. Spock was saved from responding by Amanda's timely entrance.

She stood by the door, observing the situation, before planting an obviously false grin on her face and approaching her son. "Is that the china from my mother?"

"Yes." Spock held the plates out for her to look at. "This is a celebration, is it not?" Her look told him that she wasn't too sure of that yet. Following her unspoken request, Spock left the room to set the table, and allow his parents some privacy.

Amanda took the potholders from the counter beside Sarek and pulled their dinner from the oven. Placing the keekar yarok, a Vulcan cheese-spinach loaf, on the counter she sniffed the meal appreciatively then leaned with her back against the counter, allowing her to watch Sarek's face carefully. "This looks great. You've really honed your culinary skills in the past year."

"Only out of necessity, I assure you."

Amanda tried her best not to laugh but Sarek's dislike for the kitchen and all the duties associated with it had always been well known throughout their marriage. She hid the laugh, but the smirk escaped and his glance told her he saw it as well. "I can finish that for you, if you'd like. You've already done the hard part." Sarek silently handed over the knife and Amanda was pleased to see him take her position against the counter beside her. She finished slicing the last of the vegetables and tossed them in the bowl along with some spices she knew Sarek liked on his salad. Together they began cleaning up the remains. "You know, it's only another year, and since I'm finishing my studies at Seleya early it's really not any longer than I had originally intended to study."

"Amanda," Sarek implored.

"Yes?" She watched him, looking for a sign, hoping for some indication of what he was feeling. "What is it?"

"I ... if you don't mind serving yourselves, I'm really not hungry at this time. I have some matters that need attending." Tossing the scraps in the recycler, Sarek left the room.

"Do I have a choice?" Amanda whispered to herself then loaded her arms to take the meal to the table. She saw Spock looking down the hall after his father. "Did he go to his study?"

"No." Spock stood to relieve his mother of her load. "He's in his mediation chamber. What did he say?"

"Nothing." Amanda served up both their plates. "Just that he had 'matters' to attend to." She sat and busied herself with her meal. "When has that man not had 'matters' to attend to?"

Spock didn't answer, but neither did he particularly feel like eating at this point.

Their meal was silent, but little food was actually consumed. Each was busy mulling over the situation, trying to find a solution to Sarek's reaction. Suddenly Amanda straightened in her chair. "Well, this is good, really. I mean ... he's meditating, which means he's working through whatever he's feeling so he'll be able to discuss it with me logically and rationally. Right?"

"Of course," Spock assured her. 'Or else he's trying to avoid you and knows you'd never disturb his meditations.' Spock wasn't sure which was more likely to be the truth, but knew Sarek would never ignore her for long. By tomorrow things would be settled between the two of them; they always were. The question was, what would be the outcome? Spock was afraid it was much more likely that Amanda would sacrifice her place at Gol to appease Sarek before he would accept her leaving for a year. His mother was simply too giving to hold out for too long; a trait he knew was common to the human female, and one he'd watched Sarek take advantage of many times over the years.

Spock stood and began clearing the table. Amanda joined him and together they went to the kitchen to load the autocleaner and put away the leftovers. Opening the cold storage unit Spock spied a ha rageel, a cake-like Vulcan desert, sitting on a shelf untouched. Reaching into a nearby drawer, he pulled out a fork and quickly stole a bite of the treat

"Spock, use a plate!" Amanda reprimanded.

"I only wanted a taste before I leave. I'm going to stay in the city tonight." He wiped his hands with a towel and put his fork in the autocleaner with the other dishes.

"You don't have to leave." Amanda filled a glass with water and handed it to her son.

"I think it will make things easier for both of you if I'm not in the way. You need privacy." He finished off his drink and relinquished the glass to Amanda's waiting hands. "I'll be at the townhouse."

She grabbed Spock's arm as he moved past her. "You're never 'in the way'." Pulling him down to her she again kissed him firmly on the cheek. "Forgive me, but it could be another year before I have the opportunity to do that again."

Spock nodded solemnly. "In this case, I hope it is. You will keep me informed of your progress at Gol?" At her nod he placed a hand on one of her shoulders and squeezed slightly. "Good night, Mother."

"Good night, dear." With Spock gone Amanda looked helplessly around the kitchen for something to do but, not surprisingly, everything was kept clean and organized. Turning out the lights, Amanda headed for her bedroom.

* * *

It was late into the night before the bedroom door opened softly and Sarek entered their domain. Amanda was sprawled out on her stomach across their bed, dressed in her favorite nightgown, with her personal PADD opened before her. Glancing meaningfully at the clock, she sat up and studied her husband expectedly.

"I did not realize you were studying. If you prefer I can go to another room until you're finished." He remained rooted to the spot by the door.

"No, I was just keeping busy while I waited for you." She closed down her programs and put the PADD on her bedside table. "Do you want to talk now?"

Sarek nodded, and when Amanda patted the bed invitingly he closed their door, out of habit, and removed his outer robes before seating himself on the bed. They both sat crossed legged on the bed, facing each other, each giving the other their full attention. Sarek rested his arms on his knees and held his hands out, palms up. In response, Amanda placed hers palms down atop his. Through this he opened their marital bond completely; a first step which encouraged open verbal communication to follow. As the warmth of their bond washed over her, Amanda couldn't stifle her yawn.

"We can do this tomorrow if you are too fatigued," Sarek offered.

"No. I'll never be able to sleep until we deal with this." Sarek nodded in understanding, and Amanda squeezed his hand encouragingly. "Well, since I'm the one who sprang the surprise on you why don't you start?"

"Very well." Sarek paused a moment, took a deep breath, then commenced firing. "First, why did you decide to learn mental disciplines from the adepts? Second, why did you not tell me about changing your curriculum? Third..."

"Whoa, wait a minute!" Amanda broke their connection to hold her hand up defensively. "I realize you have this conversation all mapped out, and I'll answer any questions you have but one at a time, please."

Sarek dipped his head apologetically. "Of course." He took her hands and placed them on top of his again. "Whenever you're ready, Aduna."

"Okay. Well, the answer to your first question is somewhat involved. I didn't just wake up one morning and decide to start studying the mental disciplines; it was more ... accidental. I had been having some meetings with Adept Surpik regarding my progress, and one day he started asking me questions about my psi ability and our bond and whatnot."

"Our bond?"

She felt him tense, both physically and mentally. "Actually, I brought up the subject first, I suppose. I mentioned that even though I know most Surakian Vulcans have them, the marital bond doesn't really seem to fit in with Surak's philosophy of complete emotional repression. I don't see how it corresponds with his six Virtues. To me it sounds more like something his student, Nirak, might have encouraged."

"You have studied Nirak on Mount Seleya?" This surprised Sarek somewhat, because even though all the major Vulcan philosophies are taught to schoolchildren, he didn't expect the adepts, who study and practice Surak's teachings, to be fluent in the other sects as well.

"Oh yes, quite thoroughly. It didn't make sense to me either, but when I asked Surpik about it he said something along the lines of they teach the other 'paths' first so that once you've learned the way of Surak you'll know for yourself 'his is the most logical path to follow.'" She had deepened her voice to badly imitate her mentor. "A tad arrogant, I thought."

"Arrogant, perhaps, but accurate." He pulled his hands back, caressing the palms of Amanda's hands with his fingers before settling beneath them again. "Your mind is chaotic tonight, my wife, and you have not answered the question."

"Hmm? Oh, right. Anyway, basically I questioned what the purpose of the bond was in Surak's school of thought and he turned the question back on me; what purpose did I see in having a bond with a Surakian Vulcan, and whatnot. Then the discussion just sort of veered off into what I am able to feel through our bond, and next thing I knew he was asking to meld with me to test my ability. I didn't see any harm, so I let him."

"And he thought you possessed adequate ability to master the mental disciplines?" His dubious tone might have seemed offensive, except they both were well aware of the vast amount of time and effort Sarek had exerted in trying to teach Amanda various mental techniques with very little success. Amanda was capable of preventing her emotions from being broadcast to the public at large, and could receive impressions of thoughts and emotions from him through their bond but could very rarely ever intentionally use the link.

"Not exactly. He felt there was potential, but that it was very crude. At that point he asked me if he could begin tutoring me privately. He suggested that we begin with the shielding techniques." She grimaced self-consciously. "I figured he was trying to politely tell me that my lack of shielding ability was annoying everyone around me."

"You can shield adequately."

Amanda smiled at his defensive tone. "Most of the time, yes, but I have a lot of distractions there. I probably don't focus enough on my shielding when I'm concentrating on my studies all the time, or when I get tired, and the like."

"So you agreed to the mindmelds," he stated.

"It's the most effective way to learn mental techniques. You've always said that." When he nodded in reluctant acceptance, she continued, "He's helped me to strengthen my shields, and I'm getting better at keeping it up subconsciously instead of just when I'm focusing on it."

"That is commendable, Amanda ... and whose idea was it to begin shielding yourself from me?"

"Adept Surpik." Amanda failed at trying to stop the blood from rushing to her face. "I didn't think you had noticed." She felt some echoes of his hurt even though he had quickly masked the emotion.

"I noticed ... something was different. It had never occurred to me that you might be responsible for it."

"I never tried to block you out. Any time I thought you were reaching for me, I made sure to keep myself open to you." 'That sounds defensive. Calm yourself, Amanda. Find your center and remain focused.' She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. And then another. Strengthening her resolve, she opened her eyes. Looking into Sarek's dark eyes, she could see the disappointment radiating from their depths where there was once golden sparks of color. Staring at a spot in the distance behind Sarek, a defense mechanism she'd picked up while training at Seleya, Amanda avoided his gaze. "Adept Surpik said it wasn't normal, or wise, for one bondmate to have sole control over a bond. He said that it would be practical for me to learn to use our link properly." Pleased with her calm, rational, response, Amanda stole a look at her husband. Big mistake. "He said you would be pleased if I learned to shield. That it would be a relief for you not to always have to be the one to shield against my emotions." 'Say something!' she screamed silently. "You've been shielding me off and on throughout our entire marriage." 'Oh, good, Amanda; that was both defensive and immature.'

"I see." He paused, head bowed in contemplation. "In other words, you decided that an adept, a man who is not, and quite probably has never been in a marital bond, is better qualified to decide how our bond should be managed than we are?" He looked up trapping her gaze with his. "I do not understand that reasoning, Amanda."

"No, that's not the way it was." Amanda let out a frustrated sigh. "Frankly, Sarek, I don't understand you either." Amanda fidgeted on the bed, flexing her feet and adjusting her position. What she really wanted to do was pull her hands back, to separate herself from him and close the link they had opened, but that wasn't allowed. The rule was they both had to remain as they were until everything had been settled between them. No running and no hiding no matter how uncomfortable the subject matter. Odd how, when they had made this pact, she had thought it was to her benefit but more often than not, it has been she who wanted to run from him. "I mean, for as long as I've known you you've always teased me about how emotional I am and my lack of control, and now that I'm finally managing to do something about it you're still not happy."

"I never said I wanted you to change, Aduna."

"I just--" She flabbergasted for a moment, then finally just released her breath, and along with it her anger and some of her resolve too. "I don't know what to say."

"I was perfectly aware of what, and whom, I was marrying when I chose you. I have never asked you to be anything other than what you are."

"I know," she whispered. "But, Sarek, I'm not trying to become someone I'm not; I'm just ... improving myself." She cleared her throat and raised her voice to normal tones. "Honey, I just need something ... new in my life; something different. Doctor Corrigan recommended that I take on a new hobby, remember?"

"Yes, but if I recall correctly his suggestions were basket weaving or pottery, were they not?"

Amanda chuckled. "I think so but, really, how many uses can you find for lopsided vases?" She grew serious. "I want to do this, Sarek. I can't exactly explain why, but I really want to go."

A hitch caught in Sarek's throat as her words threw him back to another time, long ago, when another wife had once uttered those same words ...

T'Rea had just completed her first year at Gol, and, unlike Amanda, she hadn't bothered to come home to break the news to Sarek; not that he would have been likely to have been there anyway. He was a budding Ambassador, just starting out, and very eager to prove himself to his family and his government. Her call had surprised him, as they'd had very little contact during their marriage due to their separate, and rather opposite, career paths; although if he was honest, he had to admit her request wasn't all that surprising.

Her face was stoic, her voice cold, even by Vulcan standards. However, this wasn't particularly unusual for his young wife, whom Sarek felt epitomized the concept of emotional repression. "I have been invited by the Masters to remain at Gol to achieve Kolinahr; however, this requires that I sever all emotional ties in my life, including my bonding. I am prepared to do so, and I request that you release me from our bond and my commitment to you." She paused, waiting for his reaction, but none was forth coming. She began to speak again but hesitated fractionally, and Sarek caught the briefest glimpse of emotion cross her face. "I wish to go, Sarek."

He had expected a logical argument about why he should grant the divorce, nothing more. He was surprised, and touched, by her sincerity. Even if he'd had a reason to deny her, he doubted he'd have found the heart to. But, as it was, theirs was a marriage of necessity only. He had great respect for his wife, and they had always gotten along quite well, but there was never anything ... affectionate between them. Allowing the divorce was no more than a slight inconvenience on his part, and he had a long time to search before he would require a wife again. There was no hesitation on his part when he agreed to her request.

Coming back to the present, Sarek knew that as easy as that decision had been, this would be equally difficult. Could he let her go? He wasn't sure, but it certainly wasn't an option he was willing to consider at this point. Sarek unconsciously licked his suddenly parched lips. "If you go, we will have no communication while you're there."

"That's not true. We won't be able to see each other, but we can write all we want. Spock used to send us a letter now and then his first year, remember?"

He made a non-committal sound, stalling while he considered his next words. "What if you do complete your first year and they invite to stay longer?"

Amanda laughed incredulously. "They won't. There's no way I could ever devoid myself of all emotion, I doubt any human could. Besides, I have no desire to try. Even Spock has said that total logic is not the path to fulfillment. It took V'Ger to teach him that, but it's something I've known all my life. It's not an issue, I promise."

Although her vow was sincere, Sarek was only slightly reassured. "Before I consider this, I have a request."

"Okay." Her voice was only slightly apprehensive. "Shoot."

"My request, my wife, is ... a mindmeld." He watched the emotions play across her face; first surprise, then puzzlement, and finally curiosity.

"A mindmeld? Why would you want to mindmeld? We're bonded."

"I know, but while a bond is permanent, it is not always as ... revealing as a meld. In our case this had been particularly so recently. I wish to have your thoughts, all of them. I want nothing unrevealed left between us."

Amanda considered his proposal and pondered his reasoning. It made no sense to her, however, "Okay, if it pleases you. I'm an open book."

"Then you are prepared?"

"Absolutely. Start whenever you like." She tilted her head back, fully exposing her face, and closed her eyes while waiting for him to begin. He removed his hands, breaking their contact, and she felt the bed shift as he found a more comfortable position. Soon his hands were on her face, first one, gently roaming the side her face and nose as he sought the exact location for the meld, then the other. Once her psi points were found, he applied more pressure, sealing his fingers to her face.

"My mind to your mind," he whispered hoarsely, concentrating deeply on the task at hand, "your thoughts to my thoughts."

She felt him enter, first gently, then quicker as he felt her acceptance. Amanda almost laughed out loud, feeling giddy as she felt him move through her mind. This was different than their bond, much different. She felt him quickly pass by some old memories, memories they had shared, but he did pause occasionally to relive a particularly sweet memory with her again. It was incredible to see the same events they shared from his eyes, in his mind, as she relived it through her own.

Practicing some of her new melding techniques, Amanda placed her hands upon his face as she eagerly began to learn her husband's mind. Surpik had taught her that all melds, while basically the same, were different in that each person had a unique "map" to follow. Once proficient at melding, one can learn and navigate through these maps rather quickly to find the particular area they wanted, but for the novice there was no choice but to learn through trial and error. As she began her own exploration she felt Sarek's surprise, and instinctively he began to shield himself from the unexpected intrusion, but immediately lowered his shields as he silently encouraged her to touch him in a way she had never been able to before. He stopped his own search, allowing her free reign of the meld. She found his memories, some of which she had seen before when they had originally bonded, but those were just random glimpses. Now she had control. She skimmed some childhood memories, flew past most of the work-related stuff, then accidentally found some thoughts of his first wife. She backed away from those, until one particular memory loomed larger than the rest. She watched, feeling somewhat invasive, but as there was no objection from Sarek she followed the path.

It was a comm call. He was young -- they both were -- and he was both pleased and apprehensive upon receiving her page. She wanted a divorce. He agreed and, to Amanda's surprise, he wasn't upset by it. She cringed inwardly when she felt Sarek's amusement at the gratification this intimate knowledge gave her. Continuing along that path, she then found herself watching Sybok, Sarek's first son, at his sentencing before the Vulcan tribunal. It had been exactly three years after T'Rea death when Sybok had been found guilty of murder and mind rape, as well as perpetuating a philosophy that so embraced the ways of pre-reform Vulcans that he was actually considered a menace to the Vulcan people. She felt Sarek's misery, and shame, as he watched as his oldest son was cast off his planet and declared dead by his clan. Amanda hadn't been there that night as she was home with Spock trying to keep as much of the particulars away from their young child as possible. Sybok had stood proud, shedding not a single tear, nor pleading for mercy, but actually laughing as his sentence was cast. He never once looked at his father, but calmly left the arena under guard to his shuttle which took him out of their lives forever. Sarek had never told her the details of the hearing, only the outcome as he explained to his family how they would never see Sybok again, and were to never utter his name. Spock had been so devastated; they all were, because, despite Sybok's eccentricities, he was a truly kind and gifted person, just ... misguided.

Moving on, Amanda found herself looking at Spock. She didn't find that too surprising, but what did surprise her was that of all the memories she could have found of their son, the one she ran across next was of his last visit home before leaving for Gol. Neither of them had had any idea of his intentions and were completely caught off guard when Spock had told them of his acceptance. At first Amanda didn't understand, having very little knowledge of the Masters, but when Spock explained that after the first year he was planning, and hoping, to achieve Kolinahr, and that he would never have any contact with either of them again, she had been overwhelmed. She knew his life had been difficult, that being half human was a trial for him, but to hear that he was actually attempting to kill the part of him that was her was more than she could bear, and she had run from the room crying. Now she saw what came next. Sarek's fear of losing Spock again, his anger at him for causing them pain, how he practically begged Spock to reconsider. Sarek had tried to console her, had tried to convince her that Spock's decision had nothing to do with her, or with his human half, but it didn't help. For the first time she actually understood how Sarek felt all those years ago when Spock had renounced his career in diplomacy to join Starfleet, a military organization.

Sensing a pattern, Amanda looked for the path that would take her from here to his memories of her. Her suspicions were confirmed when she immediately came to a memory of tonight, of her announcement in the living room. She ignored the memory, focusing instead on his feelings at the time, the feelings he masked so well. He and Spock had spent a pleasant evening together, had played some kal'tow, a Vulcan version of chess, and had a few drinks while they caught up on each others' news. She felt his anticipation as they waited for her, his joy when she came home, then his shock when she had told her news. 'Why does everyone in my life leave me?' The question loomed in his mind, loud and clear and Amanda's heart skipped a beat as everything became obvious. He was scared of losing her, and miserable at the thought of spending his life without her. Mostly he was wondering why ... what had he done, or not done, to drive her away like all the rest?

"Enough." Sarek's voice resonated through her ears as well as her mind as he withdrew from the meld.

Amanda took a deep breath, then ran her hands wearily over her face. Her hands came away damp, startling her as she had been completely unaware of crying. "Sarek?" her voice was hoarse, her throat still tight from the raw emotion she had experienced from him.

"Your progress is indeed startling, my wife. Most impressive." Sarek was standing beside the bed, facing away from her as he took a moment to collect himself as well.

"Sarek, I..." Her voice faded out, for she could not find words suitable to accompany the powerful exchange they had just experienced.

"I think I shall take a stroll through the gardens for a moment. It is quite peaceful there this time of night."

She let him go giving him the privacy she knew he needed most at this moment.

* * *

Amanda came out of the bathroom and into the darkened bedroom, preparing to retire for the night. She made her way to the bed, by memory more than by sight, and turned down the covers. Suddenly a pair of strong arms wrapped around her waist and warm breath caressed her neck and shoulder.

"I thought you were still outside," she whispered, her racing heart having little to do with being startled.

"I need you," he murmured, pressing his dry but soft lips against the soft spot behind her ear, then down the length of her neck.

"I know." She always knew. Whenever he was troubled, what he couldn't say with words, he always said with actions. Turning her in his arms, he removed her nightgown and laid her across the bed. She encouraged him as he kissed and caressed her body; telling him what she wanted; letting him know the pleasure he gave. When he mounted her she was more than ready, and together they climbed the exotic precipice and tumbled over the abyss into climatic bliss.

Afterward they lay together, him with his head against her chest, her holding him while she toyed with his hair. They said little as they enjoyed the simple pleasure of physical touch. Stirring slightly, Sarek raised his head to look at his wife as he gently squeezed her breast. "If you go to Gol, you won't want this anymore."

She laughed doubtfully. "What are you talking about?" She rolled him over onto his back to straddle him. "How could I not want this?" she nipped his chest playfully.

"I am serious, t'hy'la." He took her face between his hands, forcing her to look him straight in the eye. "Gol will change you whether you want it to or not. Once you're there, they will ... surround you in their world, their beliefs and customs, and soon it will seem completely normal to you."

"You make it sound like brainwashing."

Sarek paused thoughtfully. "No, not brainwashing, but they are very ... persistent in their teachings."

Amanda gently removed his hands and placed them around her waist. "Sarek, do you blame Gol for ending your marriage to T'Rea?"

"No," Sarek answered quickly and confidently. "Kolinahr was something T'Rea had wanted for a long time, and it ... suited her."

Amanda lay down fully upon Sarek. "Well, it doesn't suit me, and I don't want it. I love being your wife. What can I do to convince you I'm only going to learn about them, not become one of them?"

Sarek could only shake his head uncertainly. Thinking about their meld, Amanda reached a decision. "I would never do anything to intentionally hurt you, you know that. So, if you tell me you don't want me to go, I won't."

Sarek turned them so they lay on their sides, still belly to belly. "I do not want you to go. However, if this is something that is so very important to you, I do not think you should allow anything to prevent you from pursuing it." Her face lit up, and his stomach plummeted as he wondered what exactly he had just done.

Excited, Amanda wrapped her arm around his neck and pulled him in for a kiss. "I love you so much! And I promise, nothing is going to change, you'll see. I'm just going for a little education." She kissed him quickly on the lips. "Education is good," she kissed him again, "education is useful," she planted another little peck, "we like education."

This time when she kissed him he kept her close, deepening the kiss. "Want to see something else I've learned so far?"

Humoring her, Sarek nodded his consent. Amanda pushed back on him slightly, putting him on his back again, then she propped herself next to him. She took his hands and placed them against her face, then did the same to him. "You'll have to help me get started, but I've been wanting to try this ever since I accidentally came across this little gem of knowledge."

"What are you trying to do?" Sarek asked, puzzled.

"I want to show you, if I can. Just help me reach you, maybe through a meld, but I think this is supposed to work through the bond." Her eyes were closed and she was concentrating deeply when Sarek felt the tendrils of her consciousness attempting to reach him through their bond. He reached out as well, finding her and guiding her towards his consciousness. Once there she set out on her own, and while he knew not what she was searching for, he was most impressed with her abilities. Suddenly he gasped, instantly aroused as she mentally stimulated an erogenous zone of his mind.

This was a mating technique, unique to telepathic species; what humans sometimes referred to as "Vulcan mind sex". For Vulcans, it's their version of foreplay. Sarek had attempted to perform it on Amanda before but, not being a telepath, it had little effect on her. This was the first time she had ever been capable of doing it to him. She was relentless, and her ministrations soon had him panting and aching, for unlike physical arousal, this was much more difficult to control and Sarek hadn't felt this type of pleasure in a long, long time. He pulled her to him, wanting to help her experience pleasure in the only manner humans were capable of, but he was already too far gone. He groaned out loud and threw his head back as an orgasm overtook his body as well as his mind. Panting and spent, Sarek could only lay there stunned as Amanda celebrated her success.

"Wow! That was fun, eh?" she laughed, pleased as punch with herself. Amanda reached down and grabbed the blanket from the bottom of the bed, covering them for the night. "See," she said as she planted one last good night kiss on Sarek's forehead and laid down beside him, "I told you my education was useful."

Sarek nodded silently, the ability to form words still beyond him.

* * *

Coming back to the present, Sarek ruminated on their last evening together. The next day she had returned to Mt. Seleya, and shortly thereafter he received a call that Adept Surpik had convinced her to begin training for her time at Gol early and she wouldn't be coming home anymore. That was almost six months ago and now that he was here, his internal clock told him he had already been kept waiting for more than an hour. Sarek found his patience was wearing thin. He was just contemplating entering the second room to investigate when the door opened and out came another adept clad in the same robe, but with his hood down.

"You honor us with your presence, Ambassador. I am Adept Surpik. I come to serve." The adept bowed his head slightly as he gave the traditional hand greeting.

Sarek declined to return the greeting, not caring about the breach of etiquette as he carefully scrutinized the man before him. This was the adept who was mentoring his wife; the man whose name appeared in every letter he had received from her; the man who had first convinced Amanda to pursue the position of adept here at Seleya. "I will see my wife now."

Not taking the hint, the adept turned around to close the door behind him, and remained standing in Sarek's path. "Ambassador, I was against permitting your visit to Mount Seleya at this time but Amanda insisted. I suggest you make your visit brief. This ... unfortunate event has greatly jeopardized her progress, and I have been extra diligent in ensuring that she remain focused on her objectives and continue using her shield and control abilities at all times. She has only one final trial before she will be prepared to begin her studies at Gol, and right now what she requires is meditation to work through her emotions so she may put them aside."

"I'm sure Amanda appreciates your efforts, Adept, but I am well aware of my wife's needs."

The adept watched Sarek carefully, his face not revealing a single thought or emotion he may have been experiencing. "Ambassador, the death of a child is a challenge to any Vulcan's discipline, however, as Tu-Surak states, only a senseless death need be grieved. Spock died saving the lives of hundreds of his colleagues. His death was the epitome of Surak's Virtues. I have been aiding your wife in accepting this truth, in seeing the logic behind his death. I could assist you also."

"That will not be necessary," Sarek asserted tersely, unconsciously clenching his fists at his sides.

"As you wish, Ambassador," the adept responded evenly, "In that case, T'sai Amanda awaits you." Surpik stepped through the opened portal, allowing Sarek access to the inner door, but remained watching from the corridor.

Sarek opened Amanda's chamber door, stepped through and after giving the adept a defiant stare, shut the door with a hard, and somehow satisfying, thump. When he turned around he realized he was in a small and austere living room. There was a desk and chair in one corner, bookshelves lining one wall, and two small benches sitting in the middle of the space. Otherwise the room was bare; no rugs for comfort, no wall hangings for atmosphere, just stone. It was completely unlike the home they shared in Shi'Kahr, which Amanda had decorated and landscaped over the years in an image that equally celebrated both their worlds. Beyond this room was an opened doorway through which Sarek could see the end of a small bed, and another door that probably led to a meditation chamber.

"Aduna," he called out softly, listening for movement behind the closed door.

Almost immediately she responded. The door opened and she stepped through into the soft light of the living area. There she stopped, several feet away from him, watching him as he drank in the sight of her. She was paler than before, from the strain or the lack of outside activity he didn't know; she looked thinner to him as well, but her neophyte adept's robe made it difficult to be sure. It was her eyes that spoke to him, her eyes held the hollow glaze of a woman in pain, great pain; a pain that only he could share with her.

Sarek held out his arms, expecting her to come to him, to seek comfort from him like she had many times over the years. But she did not move.

"Are you okay?" she asked, her voice low and flat.

"I am ... adjusting. And you?" He moved toward her but she immediately moved away, avoiding his touch.

"Please don't. I'm trying ... but if you touch me now, I'll ... " Her words trailed off unfinished, her gaze focused solely on the floor now. "Adept Surpik is assisting me with my control right now until I get past the ... the shock of what's happened."

"I wanted to be the one to tell you ... personally but my initial requests to see you were denied."

"It doesn't matter whose mouth the words come from, the message is the same," she murmured, a phrase he thought sounded suspiciously scripted. "They're concerned your visit will make things worse instead of better. It took me awhile to convince them I could handle it." She took a deep breath, wrapped her arms around herself as she began to pace. "Your last letter said you were on Earth. You had just spoken with the government about the circumstances around Spock's death."

"Yes."

She looked at him now, those doleful eyes staring directly at him. "You found Kirk then; he's bringing Spock here?"

"I found Kirk, but it is McCoy who holds our son's essence."

"Why didn't they come here first?"

"The transfer ... did not go as intended. McCoy is not accepting the katra well, and the message was lost or at least misunderstood. But they know now, and Kirk is trying ... Kirk will bring them both to Mount Seleya as soon as possible. T'Lar has offered to complete the transfer herself, and has requested that we allow Spock's katra to rest in the Hall of Ancient Thought rather than our family shrine. I agreed; I thought Spock would consider it an honor."

"Of course," Amanda mumbled, chewing her bottom lip contemplatively. "Sarek, about the transfer ... there's something I want to ask of you."

"Certainly," Sarek affirmed, becoming somewhat disturbed when Amanda stiffly walked past him to the front door where she opened it, peered into the entryway then closed it behind her before moving into her bedroom to rummage through her trunk. She finally came back and took a seat on one of the benches, her arms full of antique books and loose papers. She motioned for him to take the other bench, which he did, still perplexed at her odd behavior.

Making no explanations, Amanda leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees as she steepled her hands before her -- a gesture familiar to him and their son, but not one he'd ever witnessed Amanda doing before. Looking evenly into her husband's eyes, Amanda kept her voice low and steady. "In your letter, you vaguely referred to some sort of phenomenon that destroyed the Reliant, and would have destroyed the Enterprise had Spock not done what he did to save them."

"Yes. I could not be specific in my letter, as the information is still sensitive, but it is called the Genesis device, an experiment the Terran government had been working on to make barren planets capable of sustaining life. The Reliant detonated this device, and it destroyed them instantly. Had our son not acted as swiftly, and selflessly, as he did, they would all be dead." He watched her tense shoulders and taut face, and wanted desperately to ease her in some way. "Starfleet is calling him a hero; and Vulcan, an icon." He had been hoping to comfort his wife, but if his words had any effect on her he couldn't tell.

"And this device worked, correct?"

Sarek nodded. "The ship carrying the Genesis device was in the Mutara Nebula which subsequently coalesced into a planet once the device was detonated. This was the planet that Spock's burial tube soft landed on," Sarek explained.

"And on this planet," Amanda continued, "life was instantly created there, right?"

"The effect is still occurring, and the true success is yet to be determined, but that seems to be what is happening. Amanda, what--"

"Sarek," she stood up and began to slowly pace the length of the small room, "have you ever heard of fal-tor-pan?"

He thought a moment, then shook his head minutely. "I cannot recall precisely."

"It's called The Refusion. It's an ancient ceremony where a living katra can be returned to its body."

Understanding dawned on Sarek, and a great sadness swept through him. Despite her brave front, it was now obvious that their son's death was affecting his wife far more than he had realized. "Amanda, Spock is gone. Our son is dead." His voice wavered slightly on his last word. He had never said it that way before, with such ... finality.

"Is he?" Amanda knelt on the floor before him, her desolate eyes now ignited with desperate hope. "If this ... thing ... can bring life to a nebula, why not to a dead body as well? Spock was in perfect health until he entered that radiation chamber. What if he was regenerated along with his surroundings?"

"Amanda," Sarek closed his eyes, taking a weary breath, "even if that were true, the fal-tor-pan is nothing more than a myth."

"No, it isn't!" She grabbed the book from her bench, opened it to a previously marked page and practically shoved the volume into Sarek's hands. "Look, I found proof, documented cases of this having been performed in the past. I found this buried in the confidential section of the library. Students aren't supposed to have access to these, but I had to check. Here are my notes." She handed him the pages used to keep her place in the thick volume.

Sarek gave the document a cursory glance, then put it aside. "My wife, do you realize how old these records are? You can hardly rely on the Vulcans of this period to keep factual records."

Amanda picked the sheets, presenting them to him again. "They know what they did, what they saw. You can't just completely dismiss these."

"They are stories, Amanda; fables." He gentled his tone considerably. "If Vulcans could bring the dead back to life, do you not think it would be practiced today?"

"Not the dead, Sarek, the living. Fal-tor-pan refuses a katra with its living body. How often do you think this happens? How often would a body continue to live after the katra is gone?"

"Never, Aduna." He brushed his fingers against her face lovingly. "Which is why what you're hoping for is impossible." He saw her chin tremble, her eyes fill, but not a single tear did she allow to fall.

Amanda nodded slowly, thoughtfully, then rose to her feet to take her seat on the bench across from him. All signs of the turmoil she felt was again under strict control. "Maybe you're right, Sarek. And when they arrive if Spock's body does not breath, then I will accept his death. But if I'm right -- if he is alive -- we have to do everything, try anything, to bring him back to us." She leaned forward, holding his eyes with her own. "I want your promise, Sarek, that if he's alive you will ask for fal-tor-pan. I'd do it myself, but they'd dismiss it as the emotional whim of a grieving human."

Sarek's eyebrow raised slightly, his look clearly conveying that, in this instance, he agreed with the Master's opinion.

"Please, Sarek," she reached out to grasp his hand beseechingly.

Sarek stared at their united hands, silently at war between doing what he knew to be logical, and what he knew would please his wife. He should refuse; make her see that it is not logical to hope that their son could ever be fully returned to them the way he was. On the other hand, since the possibility of Spock being returned alive was so impossible, what harm was there in giving her that promise?

"Very well, my wife, if it will bring you comfort then I promise. Should Spock be brought to Vulcan alive, I will request T'Lar to perform the fal-tor-pan, although she is just as likely to dismiss my request as well." He placed his free hand atop of hers. "Regardless, Spock will not be completely lost to us, Aduna. Once his essence is placed in the vre-katra we will be able to visit him, to feel him near us, possibly even share his memories. I will help you."

She afforded him a brief smile. "You know, there are plenty of Vulcans who say even that is only a legend; that you are merely projecting your own memories and emotions of the deceased toward these vesicles."

Sarek gave a single nod of acknowledgment. "We shall see."

Amanda closed her eyes, expression intent, then opened them with a disappointed sigh. "I think our time together is about to be cut short. Adept Surpik must have felt my lapse earlier." She collected her books and returned them to their hiding place in her room. When she came out she still had the papers, which she handed to Sarek. "Take this home with you, but make sure no one sees that you have them. They're all my notes on fal-tor-pan. I want you to read them through; really read them."

"As you wish." Sarek placed the papers in an inner pocket of his cloak. As he stood to leave, Sarek watched his wife carefully, again noticing her strained, weary posture. "Amanda, I think you should come home now, where you can grieve properly. You can finish your studies later if you wish, after your mourning is complete."

"No, Sarek. I think I'm better off here right now. The thought of being home, waiting ... " She shook her head desolately, "I don't think I could deal with that." She saw the disappointment flicker across his face. "I'll be waiting here for you though. You'll tell me, as soon as there's news?"

"Of course." Hearing movement in the outer room, Sarek moved towards the door, wishing to leave before being told to by the adepts.

"Sarek." She noticed he had completely closed himself off, his face as devoid of expression as she had ever seen him. "Thank you."

He nodded curtly, dismissing her gratitude, and reached for the door.

"Sarek?"

He stopped, but didn't immediately turn back. Her voice now a bare whisper to ensure they were not overheard, Amanda continued, "If it's so illogical, why do the Masters still study it?"

Now he turned back, his expression contemplative, but before he could answer, there was a discreet knock at the door. Knowing their time was done, Sarek declined to respond, but as he was escorted off the premises, he found himself cradling Amanda's notes protectively against his body.

* * *

After leaving Mt. Seleya, Sarek had returned to his empty home to immerse himself in his work. There had still been no news of Spock, and his visit with Amanda had been ... unsatisfactory, to say the least. Eventually not even work was enough to occupy his mind, and his thoughts began to wander. Reflecting on his visit with Amanda, Sarek remembered the papers she had given him. Out of curiosity more than actual interest, he got up to retrieve the documents from his cloak and began perusing them as he prepared his end meal. The first few pages were the same as those he had glanced at in Amanda's room; just accounts of the few occasions people were to have actually witnessed the ceremony. Beneath those, though, was a long essay detailing how the ceremony was performed, the conditions required, the techniques used, and the outcomes expected. It was a difficult procedure requiring many long hours. The mental power needed to guide a katra from its possessor to its owner was astounding, and even then, with all those conditions met, success was rare. Even so, Sarek had read and reread the information so thoroughly that by the end of the night, as shamed as he was to admit it, he was believing in it too.

Kirk and his crew, as well as Spock's body, had arrived in the dead of night, in a Klingon bird of prey, and against monumental odds. When he had first approached his son, face and hands now devoid of the scars his exposure to the radiation should have left, and his chest rising with each shallow breath he took, Sarek nearly forgot to contain himself. He had grabbed his son, reached for his meld points, but found nothing but an empty void awaiting him there. Not wasting another second, Sarek allowed the adepts to take his son to the altar where T'Lar already waited. Sarek followed them down the steps and across the vestibule as far as he was allowed. Spock was placed on one of the waiting slabs, and once the adepts had taken their positions, T'Lar placed her hand over his son's face and chanted the ritual words that began the conveyance service. Then she addressed him, giving him the opportunity he needed. There was no hesitation on his part when he stood before the Master and made his request. Even when she had chided him, questioning his logic before a room full of Surak's disciples, Sarek never once questioned his own resolve.

"Forgive me, T'Lar. My logic ... is uncertain where my son is concerned." Sarek briefly wondered what his son would have thought had he been able to understand those words. Clenching his hands together to keep them from betraying his true emotions, Sarek silently hoped she would not deny his request. And she didn't. After only a second's hesitation T'Lar asked for the keeper of the katra, McCoy, and the ceremony began.

It was well into the next day when it was over. T'Lar announced that it was done, and she was carried in her sedan chair to her quarters to rest. Sarek climbed the altar, needing to see his son; to know whether they had been successful or not. Neither McCoy nor Spock had moved throughout the entire procedure, but as Sarek approached, he could hear the human speaking softly with the adepts who were attending him. Spock, however, was silent. The adepts moved to make room for Sarek, and as he bent over his child, Spock opened his eyes. Sarek waited, breathless. At first it seemed there was nothing there, but as father and son stared into each other's eyes something happened, a connection took place and suddenly Spock reached out to grasp Sarek's arm. "Sa'mekh?"

Sarek closed his eyes; relief and exhaustion overtaking him at the same time. Spock was back. He was alive, and he recognized him. Laying his hand over his son's, Sarek nodded silently. This seemed to satisfy Spock, for he closed his eyes again and drifted off in a light slumber, but he never let go of Sarek's arm and Sarek never moved the whole time he slept.

* * *

Sarek strode through the Seleya corridors, hot on the heels of the adept guiding him, eager to find his wife again. They had made history today, and he was sure even the adepts would be chatting about it this evening.

Nearing Amanda's door, Sarek was met by Adept Surpik, who was accompanied another male; a Master, based on his robes.

"Adept Surpik, Master." Sarek bowed his head respectfully, offering them both the traditional hand salute. Nothing could dampen his mood today.

"Ambassador," Surpik returned. "This is Master Ta'kut. He is here to administer Amanda's final test before she will be permitted to study at Gol."

"Indeed." Sarek opened the chamber doors, then motioned for the others to precede him into the room.

Standing by the door, Sarek allowed Adept Surpik to summon Amanda from her meditation room, but when she emerged she stopped dead at the sight of her husband. "Sarek?" her eyes were wide, her voice full of apprehension.

Surpik looked from his student to her bondmate. "Perhaps now is not an appropriate time for a visit, Ambassador. Amanda has been in seclusion all day preparing, and our exam will be complete in a few hours. Surely you can wait until then."

"No!" Amanda's outburst surprised everyone in the room. "I need to know now." She took a few steps toward Sarek. "Tell me," she implored, her hands wringing fretfully at her waist.

"Amanda, Spock is ... alive." She gasped, and her eyes filled with tears that silently spilled down her cheeks. "The refusion was a success, and he is alive, and he asks to see you."

"He asks ... he's ... " Her breath was coming in gasps, her words unfinished, her face flushed. "Oh, my God!" she screamed as she sailed across the room flinging herself at Sarek, almost knocking him off of his feet.

"Amanda!" the adept reprimanded sharply, but Amanda wasn't listening.

"Thank you ... oh, Sarek, thank you!" She kissed him repeatedly on face, anywhere that was within reach. Sarek attempted to capture her arms, trying to calm her enough so they could talk but she was beyond even his control.

"I believe we are wasting our time here, Adept Surpik," the Master said sternly, apparently rather vexed that the adept had called him here for someone who was so obviously unfit for Gol. They left, and finally alone, Sarek held his wife tight against him.

"I think you may have ruined your chances for Gol, Aduna."

"Did I?" Amanda finally took a look around and realized they were alone. "Well, that's okay. I won't have time to go to Gol now anyway."

"You won't?"

"No, I won't." Amanda released him and went into her bedroom, where she pulled out her valise and began unceremoniously packing her meager belongings. "I'm in charge of Spock's retraining now, after all."

"You are?" Sarek stood by the bedroom door, watching her nonplused.

"I am," Amanda declared, closing her case with a decisive snap. She turned to him, arms crossed and giving him a defiant stare.

Sarek nodded thoughtfully. "You are." He walked in, grabbed her suitcase, and together they walked out of the depths of Seleya into the bright red skies of their world.

The End

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