Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom. This story is the property of and is copyright (c) 1980 by Johanna Cantor. Originally published in R&R #12, Johanna Cantor editor. Rated R.

The Severing

Johanna Cantor

"Sarek! Sarek!"

Sarek heard his own voice groaning; pain and need were increasing unbelievably. He must meld, and he reached for Amanda. The movement surprised him -- in the act of touching he realized that his hands were free, and Amanda was shaking him. "Sarek! Wake up!" He opened his eyes, and she smiled. "Thank goodness. My poor darling, you were having one hell of a nightmare!"

"Nightmare?" He felt his color rising. "I beg forgive--"

She cut the apology off with a hand over his lips. "A tumescent must be forgiven," she said serenely.

"How do you know that phrase?!"

"I've been studying. Did I pronounce it right?"

"Almost. "

"Well, you understood it." Her face grew serious. "As you will understand when you need to, my husband."

"Amanda?"

"It's going to be better this time, Sarek. The last time -- it's no wonder you have nightmares. Oh, don't be embarrassed. I left the room, that's all. And you need to know I'm nearby. I should have stayed with you. But I thought you were meditating."

"I was trying to. I ..." Again his color heightened, but he forged ahead. "I fell asleep," he admitted.

"Poor dear. Well, I won't leave you again."

"You need not be imprisoned for--"

"Pooh! If we could bond, you'd feel secure. We can't, and that's that. But at least I can--" He hugged her so tight she stopped with a squeak. It was a moment before he could bear to loosen his hold, but Amanda soothed him, pushed him back onto their bed, snuggling close. "Oh! Almost forgot." She reached for him very gently, and slid her leg under him, supporting and comforting in the time tested way of a wife. There was no need for this yet, but it felt so nice that Sarek could not resist snuggling close, as she obviously intended.

"It is not uncomfortable yet," he pointed out, in the seervice of fact.

"No." She patted him affectionately, and he squirmed a little; "Don't worry. It will be, soon enough." He lifted his head to look at her narrowly, and she laughed at him. "What I mean is, there are no small parts. Only small actors."

"Amanda! Amanda, I believe you are--are--!"

"Looking forward to it. Yes, I am." He stared unbelievingly, his nightmare yammering at the edge of consciousness. She must have seen something of it in his face, for she grew serious again. "I know it's bad at first. I'm prepared for that. But even then there are things I can do to help. Ways to reassure you, things to say. And things I didn't even know about last time. Where to touch you to--" This time it was his hand that cut off speech. Amanda removed it firmly. "All the things that are not spoken of. Well, I've been speaking of them. I had to. I damn near killed you last time. This time--"

There was only one answer to that, and she squeaked again. "But Amanda," he protested. "How?"

"How--hey, ease up a bit. Whew! How what?"

"How did you--Amanda! T'Me1?"

"Of course. Oh, don't worry. It was her idea. She brought it up. Even last time, she tried. But ... I couldn't concentrate then, Sarek. Even the vocabulary she tried to teach me wouldn't stick in my mind. I don't know why--"

"You had a bad time then, my wife. Largely due to my stupid--"

"No, it was my--" They broke off together, and in the privacy of their bed Sarek did not think it improper to return her smile. "Well anyway," Amanda resumed, "it's going to be better this time. Just as everything else is better." She kissed his forehead quickly. "Now you get some sleep. It's not going to be easy for you, saying goodbye to Spock tomorrow."

"No," he admitted, then quoted: '''Fatherhood contains certain illogic.'"

"And motherhood. And that's an understatement, even for Surak. I see Spock after you do; that's the custom, right? Why is that? Oh!" she answered her own question. "Because the father is tu--what's the adjective?"

"Tumescent," Sarek supplied. '''And a child should leave with a quiet mind."

"Oh dear. Well, I'll try."

"You will do well, my wife. Your management has been admirable."

"Maybe I've learned a few things there, too."

Or accepted them, Sarek thought.

"Not that I wouldn't like to give him a good hug, sometimes."

Sarek put his lips very close to her ear. "I too," he admitted, and Amanda hugged him.

* **

Sarek rose early to meditate, preparing for the coming farewell. "'A father's duty is clear,'" he quoted aloud. '''The child should leave without looking back.'" He went to his study to await Spock's knock.

"Father?"

"Enter, my son." Sarek had to concentrate to control his pride as Spock walked in. The boy was still on the slender side, but years of rigorous self discipline had built body and mind to a strength that could hold its own with his pure Vulcan peers. Recently even Sofek had become a firm friend; and Sarek knew that told something of Spock's achievements. The confusion that had hampered Spock's early development had been put aside now, by his own decision, and even the unconscious reesistance Amanda occasionally still revealed was not allowed to disturb her son. It was a Vulcan youth who recited the traditional words.

"Father. Thy teachings have guided my childhood. Thy duty has protected me. For these things, I thank thee. I ask now permission to further my growth. I ask thee to send me to the birthplace of our kinsystem, for the attaining of the mindlight of a youth."

Something inside Sarek ripped a little. He ignored the pain. "Son," he responded, "thee has attended well to all my teachings. Thy growth has been a pride to me, to thy mother, and to our house. I rejoice in thy request. Go." They reached for the parental touch.

Duty was done. "Sit, my son."

Spock relaxed a little at this sign of approval, and sat. Sarek followed suit, and Spock made an impulsive, instantly controlled movement as if to ease him down. Troubled eyes searched his father's face.

Duty was clear. "I am not uncomfortable, my son." Sarek sat for a moment, summoning memories, allowing himself time to re-experience a son's concern. It was difficult for a boy to say farewell to his father so soon after the teachings had told him what was to come. The father must reassure the son, as his father had reassured him on the day he himself had left to train for youthhood. Memory began to ache--he had never again seen his parents alive.

Sarek took a moment to put that pain aside. The child must leave with a quiet mind. "It is true that there will be discomfort, Spock. But for now, it is minimal."

Spock nodded, but his eyes were still troubled. Sarek, remembering, understood. "When thee returns as a youth, thee will begin the year of witnessing. By its end, thee shall have learned that the need, which one day must come to thee, finds comfort."

"For thee also?"

That was no part of ritual! Sarek stared at a boy who was trying not to tremble at his own daring, then conscientiously calmed himself. Tradition could not reassure a boy whose mother was human. In this case, a father must find his own words. "For me also, my son."

"My mother--" This time Spock stopped himself, but his eyes expressed the question it would be improper to speak.

"Thy mother comes to me. As she swore to. And her oath is as true as any Vulcan's." Sarek studied Spock. The dark eyes were too large, and Sarek understood that his son was feeling the same fear that he himself could never entirely overcome. "I live, Spock."

Spock grimaced at his own illogic. "Of course." He gave a little sigh.

That was all right, then. Sarek rose. "Thee must go to thy mother, Spock. And I must say--" Dizziness hit, hard enough to make him stagger. Instantly Spock was at his side, with a strong arm to steady his father and traditional words of comfort and reassurance. Sarek had an odd feeling that the world had reversed itself; then sheer embarrassment almost caused him to pull away. But he put this emotional reaction aside. Spock was holding him correctly, like a witness, and Sarek could both sense and remember the comfort of comforting one's father. His hand clasped the supportting hand, and he reached ... no.

Spock sensed the reaching and the sudden decision. For a moment, bitter rejection leapt; he controlled, but not quite in time. "No, my son," Sarek reassured him. "Do not draw conclusions in advance of your data." Spock relaxed, accepting that. "Walk with me until the dizziness passes."

"Yes, Father." They went out into the garden.

Soon Sarek felt quite well, and more than a little ashamed. But his father, too, had failed at the moment of farewell. Probably it was often so. "I am recovered, Spock." Spock let him go, and they walked companionably, side by side. "I do not think it wise to meld with thee at this time, my son, for one reason, and one reason only. Thee knows..." It was difficult to speak of these things. But a child must leave with a quiet mind. "Thee knows thy mother is nontelepathic."

"Yes, Father." Spock's tone held nothing but respect, but Sarek shook his head.

"A foolish remark, and not what I meant to say. She is... This difficulty was illogical; he overcame it. "We are not bonded."

"Because she is nontelepathic?"

"Precisely. It seems that without a telepathic pledge on both sides, a true bond is not possible."

"I see."

"As a result, I experience ... more than the usual difficulty at this time. Thee will never experience that. Therefore, I do not wish to communicate my reactions before thy witnessyear. As a witness, thee will see only what will one day come to thee. That is as it should be."

Spock was silent for some time. "I could wish to assist my father," he mused, finally.

"The wisdom of our fathers is correct. To assist one's father before witnessing others could make the difficulty of retaining perspective insuperable." Spock bowed in acceptance, and they turned back. Sarek watched him, wondering if he had said enough. The boy was firmly in control. But..."Spock, the difficulty is not long. Once past the cry... Thee need not be concerned." There. That was better. Sarek took a deep breath. "Thee must go to thy mother, Spock. And I must say farewell. Go in safety."

They stopped; Spock saluted. "Farewell, Father." He walked into the house.

* * *

Amanda heard Spock enter, then stop in the hall. She waited patiently. Probably he was composing himself; it had been years since he had let her see anything but the Vulcan mask. Her own fault, of course. She'd made emotionalism so painlinked for Spock that he had simply put aside feelings--any feelings--except as they were comfortably encased in Vulcan mores. At first she had worried about the possible consequences of repression. But Sarek, and Sel and T'Mel, had assured her that Vulcan discipline would prevail. It had, and now she was beginning to worry that Spock had succeeded too well. Would he ever be in contact with those elements of self? Consulted disscreetly, mother to mother, T'Mel had been reassuring. Spock would find his way. The intense training of the youthgroup would help, increasing both his control and his confidence in it. T'Lah had gone through a similar stage, T'Mel had confided, turning from her parents to the youthgroup, and Slon was already showing signs of it. It was part of growing up.

Footsteps approached. Amanda sat down, making herself as tranquil as she could. A knock.

"Mother?"

"Enter, my son."

Spock greeted her respectfully, but began immediately. "Mother. Thy teachings have guided my childhood. Thy duty has protected me. For these things, I thank thee. I ask now permission to further my growth, I ask thee to send me to the things, I thank thee. I ask now birthplace of our kinsystem, for the attaining of the mindlight of a youth."

Six months! I won't even know him! "Son, thee has attended well to all my teachings." What a lie. "Thy growth has been a pride to me, to thy father, and to thy house. I rejoice in thy request." Another lie. "Go." There. She'd done it. And she reached for a parental touch.

Spock was so astonished that he almost fumbled her hands. Amanda smiled. "Sit down, Spock."

Spock obeyed, saucer-eyed. Amanda gave him a moment, as Vulcan courtesy prescribed. Then she crossed her fingers in an entirely human gesture and began. "Spock, it is my duty now to speak with you for a few minutes. I will require your attention."

"Of course, Mother."

"I said your attention. Not your forebearance." He looked at her, attention truly caught, and she moved her chair closer. "Spock, I cannot treat you now as a Vulcan mother would."

"Mother--"

"Don't ward me off, please! I am not becoming illogical. My point is that there are things it is important you should understand. And the only way I can make you understand is to speak of them in my way. And you must listen."

"Yes, Mother."

Amanda took a breath of relief; it was working. Spock was bracing himself, but the mask that shut her out so courteously but so implacably had not appeared. "Good. All right. First, don't worry about your father. He'll be all right. I promise. And I keep my promises, Spock." Their eyes met and she nodded at the expression in his. "Vulcans sometimes find it difficult to take a human's word," she challenged.

His gaze did not waver. "With reason, in some cases."

"In some cases. Agreed. I am glad to see that you do not make the mistake of leaping too quickly from the particular to the general."

Spock bowed acceptance, but Amanda was not entirely satisfied. She couldn't read him; there was nothing to do but ask. "Spock, speak truth. Are you quite sure that your father will be all right?"

He looked away in embarrassment; she waited while he regained control. "Yes."

"I see that you have had fears. That is natural. We will speak of them." She made it a command.

Spock did not dispute her authority; probably at some level, he was glad of the chance. "It is logical to postulate that human emotionalism might prevent a human from fulfilling even that which has been solemnly promised." His eyes searched her face.

"Admirably phrased," Amanda approved. She was sure she detected a slight relief. "But you needn't worry. Last time I was furious with your father--you guessed that, I'm sure .

"Yes. Because of me."

"Hm. I thought you might think so. But that's my second point; we will speak of it in a moment. In the meantime, let us pursue the logical order. My first point is that even when I decided to leave Sarek, it never occurred to me to leave him to die. If I had returned to Earth, as I planned, I would have come back whenever necessary."

Spock was studying her with a look of respect she had never seen in his face. "To let a man die for lack of what one can provide would be illogical," he summed up.

"Precisely. And I don't think I could hate anyone enough to--it would be murder. And I couldn't. It's Vulcans who are capable of killing, Spock. Logically! And I realize, from your father's fears, that Vulcan women must be capable of condemning a man to die in that way. But I can't even imagine it. Even if a hated a man ... No. Your father does not face that danger."

Spock nodded again and this time his face told Amanda that he believed her.

"Good. Point two. You." Spock braced himself again. "You are going to something even more dangerous than the Kahswan. Aren't you?"

"Yes." His eyes searched again. "May I ask how you know that, Mother?"

"You may. Because every time any of you has ever discussed it with me, you've all told me that youthtraining is perfectly safe." Spock looked confused. "As you agreed to do, among yourselves. Didn't you?"

"Yes." Spock hesitated. "We did not wish to worry you," he said.

"Didn't want me to throw another fit, you mean. Well, I won't. In fact, that's my point. I know you face genuine dangers. Physical and, I think, mental?"

"I shall succeed."

"I have no doubt of that. In fact, I expect to hear that you returned at the head of the group." Spock did not reply, but something in his attitude told her that she had guessed his ambition. "And you do have my permission to go, Spock. My full permission." Their eyes met. "And good luck."

"Mother!"

"Point three." But she couldn't help smiling; it had been years since she'd gotten deep enough to provoke a protest. "I do not agree with your decision. I still believe that you will have to come to terms with what you think of as your human half. Also that you are missing a lot by cutting all that off so sharply. But ... but, Spock, I have accepted the fact that the decisions for your life must be yours. I reserve the right to speak my opinion. But I will respect whatever decisions you ultimately make. Or at least I'll try to," she added honestly.

Spock very nearly smiled at that. "You used to tell me I should choose the Vulcan way. You said you wanted me to."

Amanda shrugged. "I lied," she admitted. "And for the same reason that you all lied so carefully about the dangers of youth training: I thought it would be best for everyone concerned. But it was a mistake. It just made things more difficult for everyone, especially you. I'm sorry. I meant well. But I am sorry."

"Mother!" Spock colored, controlled, and spoke firmly. "You have always done your duty." Amanda rose and walked away quickly, to conceal her tears. It felt like half a loaf. But in Spock's terms, he had paid her a compliment.

"Mother?"

She turned, managing a smile, to Spock's evident relief. "That is all I wished to say. Unless you have a question?"

Spock thought it over. It had been years since he'd felt it possible to talk to his mother.

There was much he would like to ask. But one question stood out. "If it is permitted?" She nodded, but she didn't know what he was about to ask. "If I put myself forward, I beg forgiveness."

"Speak, my son."

"Before I left for the Kahswan, after Cousin Selek saved my life ..." He stopped, looking at her anxiously. Amanda only nodded. Spock was relieved, and more than a little surprised, that she could apparently recall that time in tranquility. Her reactions then had haunted his nightmares for months. "You were upset," he prompted.

"I was fit to be tied. Surely you can understand that."

"Yes. That is not my question. You reserved a space on the Terra shuttle. 'A trip' you told me, but--"

"But I intended to stay. Yes."

"Something happened. One day--do you remember?--you were singing then with a group of humans. A 'madrigal group.' You went to a rehearsal, and came home weeping. You--"

"My teacher died, Spock." Her face quivered. "He was my dearest--"

"No," Spock interrupted, surprisingly. "That was what Sarek had to tell you when you reached home. But you were already most upset. And when Sarek asked you why, you said you were too Human to be Vulcan, and too Vulcan to be Human."

"Oh, I remember, yes. It was a stupid thing. But I was almost beside myself in those months, and stupid things can get out of proportion."

"Please explain."

She looked at him curiously, but did her best. "Well, the rehearsal was terrible--heaven deliver me from amateurs! And all Grace had to say was that we should sing with more feeling, said that if we could get the notes, the meaning would take care of itself."

"Indeed!" He eyed her respectfully.

"Oh, it's a quote," she disclaimed. "From a human. But everyone in the group was simply furious. It made me feel that I'd become an alien to my own people. That I wouldn't belong on Earth any more than I did on Vulcan. Why?"

"Because ... something happened. Sarek took you to his study and told you of your teacher's death. You began to cry again and he played a message from your teacher."

"And where were you?!" she stared at him. "Listening at the door?"

"No, the window." Amanda gasped, and he went on quickly. "I remember what your teacher said. He said that you were not to grieve. That he had given his life to music, and that he'd had 'the best of the bargain.' And Sarek said he was a true philosopher, and that he mourned the death of such a man."

"Yes." Amanda was close to tears, but Spock was eyeing her doubtfully, so she managed a smile. "Go on. What else did you hear?"

"Nothing. You went to your room. And Sarek went with you. You let him in and he stayed with you all night. The following day you cancelled your reservation.

And where were you all night? In the hall? "Yes."

"Why?"

"I see." She thought a moment, and chose her words carefully. "Because Sarek' s kindness made me realize that he cared for my feelings, when I had become convinced he did not. Because as we talked, for the first time I saw hints that he was unhappy with the estrangement between us, and that--I'm sorry, Spock. I realize I'm embarrassing you, but I can't say this in words you consider speakable. It just isn't possible. What if I say that I began to think, as we talked that night, that we might be able to achieve understanding. Can you accept that?"

"Because he mourned with you?"

"Yes, you could put it that way. Perhaps the fact that he could pay a high compliment to a Human--"

"Sarek has the highest respect for humans of achievement!"

"He didn't always show it."

Spock shook his head. "I wish to understand. But--"

"It is difficult, I know. But I hope you will never lose your wish to understand. It is one of the qualities I admire most in your father. I am pleased to see it also in you."

Spock's eyes shone with pride, but it was quickly suppressed. He rose. "Mother, permit me."

"You will write," she couldnlt help asking.

That surprised him. "Of course."

Dutifully no doubt. "Go, my son. In safety."

His eyes widened yet again, but he gave the proper response, and left.

Amanda heard him exhale slowly as he paused again in the hallway. Well, she'd given him a lot to think about. More than she'd intended. At the window, indeed; damn the brat!

But she rather thought that she had managed to reassure him.

* * *

Spock left the house, walking proudly. He caught sight of Sofek waiting at the corner, and his stride lengthened. He might have felt two pairs of eyes fixed wistfully on him. But he did not look back.

* * *

"Sarek?"

"Here, my wife." Sarek walked toward her composedly; she eyed him, instantly suspicious. "Off to the university?"

"Not quite yet." She went to him and placed her palms flat on his shoulders. "Basingstoke," she commanded.

"Oh damn." He deflated, the mask crumbling. "Basingstoke it is," he conceded. Amanda sat down, reaching to him, and he sat to draw her close. "It is that obvious?"

"Of course not. Oh, Sarek, I hated to see him go!"

"And I actually came close to refusing my permission. In the face of all logic and tradiition!" He shook his head, disgusted with himself. "Surak spoke truth. The parental bond cannot stretch far enough. It must be severed."

"It will never be severed," Amanda comforted him. "I told Spock I saw something of you in him. You should have seen how proud he was."

Sarek snorted, disclaiming, but she knew he felt better. "This is a difficult time for you, Husband. You should have another child to prepare for the teachings. and be looking forward to your third. If I--"

"No, Wife. Your decision was correct."

"We could adopt."

"Yes. But we will be traveling. Other duties will fill our days now, and there are no granddparents to suffer the emptiness of ..." He paused to control the sudden feeling that he was doubly abandoned.

Amanda hugged him. "Sel will be here soon."

"Sel?"

"A man receives a visit from his father after the severing, right? So I invited Sel to come over. He'll stay with you while I'm at the university."

"Amanda--" he began in astonishment.

"There are just a few things I have to finish off. I'm sorry, but I do need to go. You'll be all right with Sel here, won't you? For just a few--"

"My wife, of course I shall be all right." He studied her face. "It was kind of you to invite Sel," he hazarded.

Amanda nodded, answering his unspoken question. "I--listen. That'll be Sel now." She put her arm around him carefully, though he was still far from needing support, and walked him to the door. There she greeted Sel ritually, excused herself as etiquette prescribed, and left. Two Vulcans stared after her, frozen with astonishment.

Sel recovered first and extended a supporting hand. "I am in no difficulty," Sarek assured him, wishing the odd boneless feeling would go away. She will return, he told himself.

Sel shook his head. "The garden?"

Damn. Sarek nodded and let go, allowing Sel to lead him to the shaded side. It was good to feel the father touch, to rest his head on a supporting shoulder, to allow his mind to be drawn with gentle skill into the shelter of unfevered calm. Within that structuring, he could see the order of all things. To every man there is a time to be born and a time to die. A time to rejoice, and a time to grieve. A time to beget, a time to say farewell ... Comforted, he fell asleep.

The healer smiled as he felt the quieted mind slip from his. "It is good," he murmured, and placed his hand to shield his son's eyes from the flame of the sun.

Sarek slept for an hour. Then he began to be troubled. Sel felt his disquiet, reached, then changed his mind. Sarek could still achieve rationality. It was best to let him depend on his own resources as long as they endured. "Sarek." He shook him slightly. "Waken."

Sarek's eyes flew open, then focused. "I beg forgiveness!"

"No need. Thee needed sleep. But we must work now; thee is disquieted."

"No." Sel's brow furrowed at the obvious lie, and Sarek hastened to explain. "That is, I am rational. I fear abandonment. but I know the fear is illogical. And I fear the madness. But accept what must be."

Sel addressed himself to the points in order. "Even a bonded male has fears, at this time."

"Truly?"

"Indeed. It is inevitable. I ... one knows that a bondmate must be drawn, at the time. But even a man who has always been dutifully served can fear the bitterness of nonvolitional ..." His voice trailed off, and he studied Sarek.

Sarek nodded, understanding Sel's meaning. "That is not the difficulty. Even last time, in the face of problems that had grown to estrangement, Amanda came to me. And her willingness ..." He thought for a moment, remembering. "In fact, once past the cry, even when I was still in difficulty..."

"Even when thee was still in difficulty?" Sel prompted.

"It became ..."

"Became--" Sel repeated sternly.

"Pleasant!" Sarek finished defiantly. Sel nodded, not shocked, or even surprised, and Sarek's eyes widened. "Thee understands? Thee--Oh! I beg forgiveness!"

"No need." Sel met his look frankly. "I have always experienced a generosity that made even the necessity a ..." He shook his head. "There are no words."

"Perhaps not. 'Body molten with the flame of life, then--"'

"Er, yes," Sel interrupted. He took a moment to overcome his embarrassment, then looked up again. "I am pleased, my son. I would have used this knowledge to comfort thee, except that I feared thee might never experience this ... consolation."

"I have experienced it. I will again experience it."

"What, then?" Sel looked at him sharply. "The cry itself?"

Sarek nodded, ashamed. "I know it is not long. I will come to myself, and know that it is past, and--"

"To speak comforts that do not comfort serves no purpose." Sarek hung his head. Sel paused, considering. "Amanda ordered me from the house, last time."

"I know. It was her decision. I agreed."

Out of fear, Sel thought, but he nodded. "She was furious with me during those months, thee recalls? Even T'Mel could not approach her." He shook his head, unable even in retrospect to think how to cope with the virago Amanda had been. "But it was obvious that she intended to--that she did not intend to abandon thee, and also that she had some plan. I thought it best to comply with her wishes."

"I should have told thee what we had agreed. Thee was only trying to do thy duty."

"It is not easy to speak of such thi ngs. But we will speak of them now. What was the plan?"

"I was .. restrained. I convinced her that was necessary."

"How?"

"By--Sel, I cannot."

Sel waited, hoping Sarek could pull himself together enough to speak. No? "Very well." He reached.

"No!"

"Sarek! I am thy mentor, and thy healer. Permit me to do my duty." Sarek resisted, but even at optimum his shields would have been no defense against a trained healer's probe. Sel broke through. Memory was close to the surface, achingly vivid. "Show me."

Sarek gave a despairing cry. He was on his back, ankles bound to the bedframe. Even the soft pressure of the mattress was growing unbearable where need mounted. One wrist was lashed to the frame, then a hard tug pulled the other. He set his jaw against a scream as blackness swirled. He was helpless. She would leave him, and the madness would take him-- "Ai!"

"I'm sorry, Sarek." Even the sound of her voice heightened necessity. "You'll be all right. I promise."

He must catch her; hold her. But he could not move. Panic rose. She was Human. Humans lie! And so angry... Her hand took his, and he gripped frantically. But as the moments passed he lost even the awareness of that reassurance. He knew he was moaning. but he could not stop, any more than he could stop the mounting fever, or the urgency that was driving pain to a height he would not have believed possible.

Suddenly the pressure pulled together. "Ai!" Now! He could not make his lips form the word. A heavy weight pressed him, and he screamed again. It had to be time. He tried to reach, to meld, but his hands were bound. "Amanda!"

"Amanda!" Sel screamed too, demanding, imploring; then sheer self preservation took over, and the healer fought his way out of the meld, struggling back to individuality, sanity ... light. He was on the bench in Sarek's garden. Sel observed his trembling hands with a healer's eye, made his diagnosis, and slapped himself twice, as hard as he could. Then he took Sarek in his arms and melded again, forcing the nightmare aside. //Attend me, Sarek.//

Sarek gasped; then he grabbed Sel with mind and hands, following him back. //Brave child. Come with me. Yes. Good.// "Good," he said aloud. "Rest now."

Sarek took a deep breath, pulling himself together. Sel tightened his supporting hold and for a long time they sat quiet, regaining strength.

"Better?" Sarek nodded. Sel let him go. "How long was it before thee achieved a meld, and the cry?"

"I do not know." Sarek looked away. "Forever, it seems. But it cannot actually have been long. Amanda was touching me, as she had promised. It was only that I could not think, or even understand that she was there, and urging me to meld. I--" he shuddered, looking down at fingers that were still extended, as though to reach.

"Thee must not endure that again. I forbid! As thy healer, I forbid!" Sarek shook his head helplessly. "Sarek, I am sure Amanda cannot wish thee to suffer so. Even when she was angry, she did not wish thee pain. And ... things are better now between you, I think?" Sarek nodded. "Good. Then we will tell her how great the difficulty--"

"She knows. She experienced. In fact, she freed me immediately, while I lay stunned. Long before it was safe." Sarek shuddered again. He had not really hurt her, he reminded himself. Gripping her shoulders, he had concentrated on the fragility of those small bones as long as he could think at all. And perhaps even a half-meld had protected her, when he was past knowing. But her shoulders had shown the marks of his fingers for weeks.

"She must be persuaded to accept my presence, Sarek! Or some other witness. But I am a healer. And I do not think she resents--"

"Oh no. But her objections are more than resentment. Amanda has her own premises, Sel. And sometimes," he smiled faintly, "her own logic. But it is not invalid. She has accepted living among Vulcans in order to fulfill her duty to Spock, to me, and now to her students. But she demands the right to live among us as a Human, maintaining her own beliefs, and following her own customs when ours are unacceptable to her. And I must respect that."

Sel opened his mouth to object, and closed it. "That is logical," he admitted. "But--"

"Listen!" Sel could just hear the faint sounds in the house. "Amanda!" He stood with incautious speed, and Sel grabbed him. "Amanda! I'm in the garden!"

Amanda ran through the door, alarmed; then went quickly to Sarek, hugged him, then held him off to study the strained face. "What the hell?!"

She rounded on Sel, and Sel's heart leapt. Her anger was personally painful, but she was angry on Sarek's behalf! He straightened, and met the flashing eyes with professional calm. "I regret, Madam, to report that your husband is disquiet. He cannot achieve the calm he needs at this time of severing."

Amanda's chin rose--a danger signal Sel remembered well. Sarek recognized it too. "Sel!" he pleaded. "Please do not--"

Amanda looked at him swiftly, and calmed down. "Hush, Sarek. It's all right." She put her arm around him, and turned to Sel. "May I know the cause of this disquiet?"

Excellent. "Indeed, it is my duty to place the facts before you, Madam."

"Oh, come off it, Sel." Amanda grimaced, then faced him frankly. "I'm sorry."

Both men stared at her. Sel rallied. "I also beg forgiveoess. You are concerned, as you have always been concerned, for the well being of your husband. I respect you."

Amanda's face quivered, but she caught herself. "Thank you. And you--you and T'Mel both -- have always done your duty as you saw it. I cannot always agree with you. But I respect -- oof! Ease up, will you?"

"I beg forgiveness," Sarek mumbled. But his embrace did not loosen.

Sel gave him a moment, then went to the rescue. "Ease, Sarek. She is here. Thee need not restrain her. Let go, and sit down."

After a moment Sarek obeyed, but he pulled Amanda to him, settling her in his lap. Amanda squeaked a protest, eyeing Sel; then she stared at him. Sel realized that his face was expressing emotion, and quickly replaced a pure satisfaction with a professional gravity. "The problem Amanda, is the restraints. The combination of--"

"I know," she interrupted. "You needn't explain, Sel. I felt it." She turned to look up at Sarek. "Never again," she promised.

Sarek reached to wipe something on her cheek. "But the danger remains, my wife."

"Yes. But I've been thinking about it. I meant to discuss it with Sel before I mentioned it to you. But T'Mel thinks this would work. Sel, the witness does not stay in contact throughout, does he?"

"Oh no. It would be impossible to endure--"

"Right. Well, I wouldn't mind your staying with Sarek as long as you can comfort him. Next, we know that Sarek can form the meld he needs, though I think we could make that easier."

She was building a logical structure! "Go on," Sel approved.

"Next--well, I have to show you. Sarek, let me up." She stood, faced him, and took his elbows. "What if you were bound, just here?T'Mel says it's harder to meld without using the hands. But this way you could reach me--touch my body."

"With no possibility of harm," Sel added. "Excellent. But--"

"And one other thing," Amanda cut in hurriedly. "And I know it sounds horrible. But T'Mel says it's actually traditional. Something for you to bite down on. To keep you from ... I know it's just that you have to hold on. But I remember feeling how badly you needed--"

"It is quite instinctive," Sel concurred. "The bit would protect you, and it would also relieve much of Sarek's anxiety, while helping him, as well. Admirable."

Amanda was studying Sarek. She had expected revulsion. What she saw was only gratitude, and a profound relief. So, T'Mel was right. She sat down, linking arm and hand with his. "Next. T'Mel says it would be possible to teach you--condition you, actually--to meld at my command. She says last time you probably couldn't even hear me, much less understand. But if I said it in Vulcan, and pronounced it correctly ... ?"

"We will begin tomorrow," Sel decreed. He went to Sarek and established a diagnostic meld.

The first touch told him all he needed to know, and Sarek helped him ease out of the link. "I leave him in your hands, Amanda. Until tomorrow, Sarek." He patted his son's shoulder, to signify that he need not see him out, and left him with his wife.

Amanda smiled a friendly farewell, then turned to study her husband. He looked tired, but the strained expression had disappeared. He felt her scrutiny, and turned toward her, holding out his arms. She snuggled comfortably, thinking that at last he was beginning to understand that a cuddle, now and then ... Who knows? I might even teach you to kiss ...

"Amanda?"

"Mm?"

"Thank you."

She smiled, but poke red up as she met his eyes. "One does not thank logic."

"You have your own ideas of logic, my wife. I must thank you, and I do. I do not know how I have deserved such ... luck."

"Luck?" She was shocked.

"Luck," he repeated firmly, ignoring her giggle. "I should have died on Tenedos. But you were there. I trapped you by pledging, and again I should have died. You would have had every right to abandon me, then or at any time. No Vulcan would fault a woman who--"

"No Vulcan, maybe. But any Human. Anyway, you didn't trap me. I trapped you. I didn't know I was doing it, but it was my fault. And I do not regret it, my husband."

"Truth?"

"Truth. Oh well, most of the time. And particularly when you hug me." His hold tightened and she gave a contented snort. "And you like it too, don't you. I mean, it's not just the time?"

"Well--"

"Basingstoke!" she said awfully.

"Basingstoke it is," he capitulated. "Yes."

"I thought so." She kissed his neck.

He grimaced. "But that, I fear, will always seem unhygenic."

"Oh well. They say it is bad for the throat."

He touched her throat gently. "You could have been a great singer, Amanda. A diva. With the leaders of worlds at your feet."

"Or a bit player racketing around the galaxy clawing for work," she laughed. "That's more likely. "

"Amanda, speak truth."

"Oh well, I won't deny I'd like to have tried my luck. But you can't have everything. Everyone has to choose."

"Yes. But the choice was not given you, my wife. It was made for you."

"No." She met his surprised look frankly. "Oh, there have been times when it suited me to say so. But I chose. Don't you remember? That day when l made you leave Sel and T'Mel and come with me?" She smiled at his bafflement. "I promised I'd make it better for you, Sarek. And I keep my promises. "

"I know," he said sincerely And Amanda hugged him tight.

THE END