DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. This story was written for the enjoyment of the author and no infringement of any existing copyright is intended nor is any profit realized or expected. The story contents are the creation and property of Chris Dickenson and copyright 1992 by Chris Dickenson. This story is rated PG. It is reprinted from Federation Classic #1.



Finale

Chris Dickenson



Ambassador Sarek climbed out of his flitter and trod along the familiar path which led to the courtyard of his home. This house, the house of his father and the house of his father's father, had always welcomed him, enfolding him in its cooling shade in the heat of Vulcan's summer and radiating warmth during bitter cold desert nights. For as long as Sarek could remember, this dwelling had been a haven against the world. But tonight would be different.

His stride slowed as he passed beside the stuccoed arch which led to Amanda's garden. Shutting out logic for a moment, he lingered, admiring the neatly clipped hedges and inhaling the perfume of her exotic Earth flowers. The new gardener had arched a brow in subdued Vulcan surprise when he'd first seen this small area. It was not a Vulcan garden.

Sarek was reminded of another garden, it too bearing alien foliage and scents. He could still recall the way it looked so many years ago on a morning which had, at the time, seemed so ordinary.

* * *

Sarek of Vulcan, aide to Ambassador Shome, stood at the wrought iron gates of the Vulcan embassy waiting patiently for the computer to process his pass. Wary of San Francisco spring mornings, he had taken care to dress warmly. But after two weeks in a poorly-heated ambassadorial shuttle, even Sol's weak rays seemed welcome to him. The ubiquitous morning mist was already clearing, burning off, as the Humans would say, and Terran birds were chattering noisily from the branches of glossy-leaved trees.

The trip to Vulcan had ostensibly been for business. Ambassador Shome had sent him as his emissary to speak of matters which could not be handled via sub-space messages. Sarek who had been stationed on Earth for nearly a year, welcomed the chance to go home, even if only for a day or two.

While there, he had taken the opportunity to attend to some personal matters, the foremost being the dissolution of his bond to T'Rea. She had requested the annulment after their last time together. He saw no logical reason to refuse her request. It was obvious she was barren, and Sarek held no illusions that she cared for him. Their marriage had been arranged as Vulcan bonds of the highly-born so often are, without thought for temperament or compatibility. T'Rea had never taken the trouble to hide her impatience with him when he found himself in need of her comfort. And he had taken care to reveal no more of himself to her than was strictly necessary by virtue of his vulnerable situation. Therefore, her request came more as a relief to Sarek than a disappointment. The only nagging inconvenience was his need to replace her before his time should come again.

There was a faint click and whir as the gate to the Embassy opened, and Sarek stepped through it. It was a pleasure to walk unrestricted, to breathe non-recycled air, even if it was laden with salt spray and humidity. Earth was not Vulcan, but it had its own compensations. Sarek took a circuitous, and therefore, illogical, path through a grove of trees to the side entrance of the stately Victorian building. A small garden, complete with a shimmering fountain beckoned.

Sarek paused, readjusting the shoulder strap of his travel case as he inhaled the scent of growing things. Earth flowers climbed white trellises, their heavy blooms hanging low and perfuming the air. A tiny creature, startled by Sarek 's encroachment, leapt from a low flowering bush and into a thicket. Shome had told him these little animals were called rabbits, and Sarek found them intriguing. Once he had studied one, mesmerized by its bright eyes and expressive little face, for nearly an hour as it nibbled on tender foliage.

Sarek was tempted to sink onto a stone bench and meditate. He was strangely loathe to go inside, perhaps a reaction to the confinement of the shuttle. Nevertheless, the morning air was damp and chill. The library would be just as private and secluded at this hour, and warm.

Sarek let himself in through the sliding pocket doors, closing them soundlessly behind him. Nothing had changed during his two-week absence. It was all just as he'd remembered, the polished wood floors, the antique rugs, the heavy furniture which reflected and blended the beauty and diversity of Earth and Vulcan.

The library was Sarek's favorite place on this planet, bright with morning sunlight which flooded from the garden through beveled-glass windows. Here ancient book and modem video screen communed with easy familiarity This time of day it was invariably deserted but today Sarek found a Human female sitting quietly at the reading table. He set his travel bag on a chair by the door and frowned. She was studying a scroll which was strictly off limits to all but Embassy staff. Sarek stiffened, annoyed not just by the unwelcome intrusion, but by her obvious disregard for the property of others.

"Madam," he began, moving across the thick carpeting to stand over her. "I do not believe you are--"

The female cut him short with an imperative wave of her hand, never once taking her eyes from the scroll.

Sarek waited for her to finish, his lips thinning to an irritated line as he studied the top of her head. When several minutes had elapsed and she gave no further notice of him, he made another attempt. "This material is--"

"Hush!" The exasperated voice of the female brooked no argument, and indeed she did appear to be handling the scroll with the proper amount of care. However, Sarek had no idea who this woman was, perhaps the wife or child of a visiting diplomat. That status entitled her to use this room but not to use restricted materials.

Before he could make another attempt to speak, the female looked up, shaking her head. "Let me guess. You want to know who my parents are."

"I merely wished to point out that this scroll is a rare pre-reform artifact written in High Vulcan and is--"

"Is a restricted item, and may not be handled by unauthorized personnel," the female interrupted in a sarcastic sing-song. She met his gaze and then sighed heavily. "This happens all the time."

Sarek frowned. "You make a habit of handling restricted materials without permission?"

The female rose from her seat, her smile brittle. "Look, whatever your name is, I've heard it all before. I've been dealing with this kind of prejudice for years."

Obviously a child, Sarek thought, as he took in her flushed cheeks and the high pitch of her voice. It was extraordinarily difficult for him to deduce the ages of Humans. Their life-spans seemed so compact, and they aged so individually. But this female appeared young even to him. "Perhaps your parents did not explain to you when you arrived--" he began gently.

"My parents are dead, thank you," the female snapped. "They haven't explained anything in a good long time."

Now Sarek was truly puzzled. "But you just--"

"Graelith!" the woman exploded. "I'm sick to death of defending myself. I have every right to be here, sir. And as for this scroll, I can probably read it more easily than you."

Sarek recognized the pre-reform curse favored by linguistics and anthropology students. But he had never expected to hear it enunciated so clearly by a human female. Especially by one so obviously...

"Ah, Miss Grayson." Ambassador Shome appeared, his silver robes sweeping about him as he entered the library. "And Sarek. I see you two have already met."

Miss Grayson stared at Shome, then at Sarek in disbelief. "Sarek?"

"You've just now returned?" Shome questioned his aide, and Sarek nodded. "I am sure you two have a good deal to discuss--"

"Sir?" Sarek looked puzzled.

Shome nodded to Miss Grayson. "She is Miss Ching's replacement."

"I see," Sarek responded coolly. Miss Ching was the teacher who'd taught the Embassy children conversational Standard and Earth history. Sarek had advertised the position as being vacant before he left. Apparently, in his absence, Shome had hired Miss Grayson.

Miss Grayson looked decidedly pale.

"Proceed then," Shome encouraged, oblivious to the teacher's sudden discomfort. "I would like to see you when you are finished here, Sarek. I am eager to hear of the council's rection to your visit."

"Understood, sir," Sarek said.

"How is the research coming?" Shome asked, nodding at the scroll.

"Quite well, sir," the young women replied weakly. After the ambassador left, she sank back into the upholstered seat, cradling her head in her hands. "It's not a good idea to swear at the new boss. Bad form."

"I misunderstood," Sarek said gently, feeling more than partially at fault. "I thought you were --"

"Somebody's little girl," Miss Grayson finished in defeated tones. She looked up, her expression hopeful. "Were you by chance, Sarek, a gifted child?"

"I think not," Sarek said in flat tones.

Miss Grayson sighed. "Don't sound so unhappy about it. It's a blessing to be normal. At least I'm told it is. How old do you think I am?"

Sarek knew enough about Terran culture to be wary of responding directly. "I am a poor judge of Human--"

"I'm twenty," she interrupted. "Turned twenty last week. And I've got a PhD in linquistics and a Masters in Earth history."

"Impressive for a Human."

"Downright weird," Miss Grayson responded with a light chuckle. "And sometimes I get a chip on my shoulder about it. I've been job hunting for over six months. Ambassador Shome is the first person to look at my credentials and not my age."

"Ambassador Shome is an excellent judge of character," Sarek said. "Have you met the children?"

"Last week." She brightened, her face shining with eagerness. "I've put together a curriculum for you to approve. If..." Her voice trailed off. "If I still have the job."

Sarek studied this changeable creature with interest. She was attractive, he supposed. Her vibrancy fascinated him, her bright, inquisitive eyes reminding him of something ... something pleasing."I would advise that you refrain from swearing in front of the children," he said solemnly.

Miss Grayson met his gaze and then tilted her head back to laugh. It was a joyous sound which filled the library with more warmth than the morning sun. Sarek felt something quite unexpected stirring in him as he watched the light from the window play across her soft brown hair. The rabbit, he thought suddenly. That was what she reminded him of. A bright, inquisitive Terran rabbit.

"You are very kind," Miss Grayson whispered softly, gratitude warm in her suddenly serious expression.

Sarek of Vulcan, a man who was grooming himself for a career in diplomacy, found himself suddenly speechless.

* * *

Sarek sighed, reaching out to stroke the cheek of a tea rose which had ignored the trellis and entwined itself about the gatepost. Amanda's plants were as independent and perverse as their mistress. Like her, they had grown and thrived in a harsh environment, blooming in defiance of the odds against them.

A chill wind whipped around the garden wall, stirring dry leaves and loose sand into a miniature dust devil. The cold penetrated Sarek through his cloak, and he suppressed a shiver. Thoughts pressed in on him, and he controlled them immediately, automatically as he had done so many times in the past week. A voice inside him reminded that soon there would be no avoiding, no controlling. Very soon ... tonight he must face it. That he knew.

His steps were heavy, leaded as if with intense gravity as he crossed through the garden and let himself quietly into the living room. As the doors closed behind him he was aware of a surreal quiet. The silence was unnatural. For a moment, he wondered if he had lost his ability to hear.

Nonsense, he admonished himself sternly as he recalled the click of the latch on the door and the sound of his footfalls as he'd crossed the threshold. Concentrating, he heard the faint whirring of Amanda's antique mantle clock. Slowly, he exhaled a breath he'd not been aware of holding. Feeling disassociated, he let his gaze wander about the room, completely aware that he was postponing the inevitable, but stubbornly unwilling to embrace it ... yet.

Like the garden, this room bore Amanda's stamp. Perhaps that's why he'd not entered the house through his study tonight as he so often did. The only light came from her reading lamp as it bathed the corner by the cold hearth in a yellow glow. On the table beside her rocking chair was a book which had been hastily set aside, laid open face down to mark the page. That was how Amanda had always left her books, a quirk of her nature Sarek had once found annoying.

Moving closer, Sarek peered curiously at the title of the slim volume, frowning in confusion. It was one of Amanda's favorites. If T'Ariz had taken it from the shelf to read to Amanda, why was it here?

He picked up the book, his fingertip brushing against the fine leather almost as if he sought to meld with it and possess its secrets. He remembered the day Amanda purchased it.

* * *

Sarek was angry, but only one who knew him well would know it. His carefully neutral expression betrayed him to Amanda immediately, as it always did.

She swept into his study, gay as only Amanda could be over such unimportant things. She was waving a small book, the smug look of satisfaction on her face a good indication that she had bargained a more than fair price from Sedal, the bookseller. "Oh Sarek, what a morning this has been..." Her eagerness to share with him her small victory trailed off as she caught his expression. "What is it?

He rose from his desk, pressing palms together in a prayerful attitude as he considered how to explain the situation. Amanda could be quite volatile where Spock was concerned. "Our son was sent home from class today."

Amanda stared in disbelief: "Why?"

"Insolence."

"That's ridiculous." Amanda laughed. "Spock hasn't an insolent bone in his body."

"I have spoken with him," Sarek continued. "The matter is settled. He shall make his apology to the instructor when he returns to class."

"But I don't understand."

Sarek swivelled his viewer so his wife could see the algebraic problem displayed on screen. "Spock became ... upset when T'Nia told him his solution to this question was in error. Instead of accepting it gracefully as he should have done, Spock argued, becoming stubborn and intractable."

"That's not like Spock at all," Amanda murmured as she sank into a chair to study the equation.

"We must guard against situations of this nature," Sarek said grimly. "Spock's dual heritage makes it imperative that his behavior is beyond reproach."

"He must be twice as well behaved as other children to be thought half as proper," Amanda said absently. "Yes, I know. We've discussed it before, and I do understand, Sarek."

"He has an unfortunate temper," Sarek said gently.

"That," Amanda sighed, "he comes by honestly." She lifted her eyes from the screen to meet her husband's gaze. "As well as his tendency toward being stubborn."

Sarek read the playful insult in her eyes, taking no real offense. "Wife--"

"Husband," Amanda interrupted. "Spock's behavior has been taken by T'Nia and by yourself as poor acceptance of failure, correct?"

"That is the case."

Amanda shook her head. "No, it is not the case. This problem is not worked in error. It is not done by the methods taught by T'Nia, and the answer does not appear to be correct at first glance but Spock has taken it to another level, see?"

Sarek frowned as Amanda tilted the screen toward him, looking at more than just the answer to the problem for the first time.

"He's showing a creative flair for problem-solving which leaps past what T'Nia was attempting to teach him. Strictly speaking, I suppose you could say he's wrong, but the answer as he's qualified it here--" She pointed to a side notation. "--is correct."

Sarek saw that Amanda was right, his pride in Spock mingling with disappointment in himself for automatically taking T'Nia's side against his son.

"I will not have him punished for creativity, nor for defending a correct response," Amanda said firmly. "Spock made no error."

"I shall arrange for Spock to be moved to a more advanced class," Sarek said. "He requires careful handling."

"That is not the issue," Amanda said, a trace of irritation in her voice.

"By putting Spock in a more advanced class, we shall avoid the possibility of further incidents occurring."

"And..." Amanda prompted.

Sarek stared blankly at his wife. "The matter will be settled tomorrow."

"And what about the apology?"

"Spock has already agreed to make his apology--"

"Apologies for being right?" Amanda interrupted. "He was right, Sarek, and no one would listen to him! If there's an apology to be made, you should make it."

"Indeed?" Sarek queried, one brow arching into his hairline.

"You would punish him for refusing to admit to an error he did not make yet you can't find it in your heart to admit that you made an error by not trusting him?" Amanda's blue eyes darkened in a mixture of sarcasm and accusation. "And this is the Vulcan way?"

"Amanda." Sarek did not like the tone she was taking. She had a point, but unnecessary emotion at this juncture--

"Admit it," Amanda demanded, her cheeks turning pink as she rose from her seat. "Admit it to me, and then admit it to Spock. You were wrong."

"I did not have all the facts."

"You didn't listen to him. You're so quick to see the negative side effects of his Human heritage that you're blind to the positive ones."

Sarek withdrew into himself, hearing every word of his wife's accusation, but refusing to accept the truth in it. It was a habit of his to refuse to consider any point she made while in such an emotional state.

"That's it," she taunted, truly angry now. "Ignore what I'm saying the same way you ignored Spock."

Amanda's words pierced his armor of indifference. A warning flickered in Sarek's dark eyes, but Amanda was too upset to heed it, if indeed she saw it at all.

"You were wrong, Sarek," she said in a dangerously low voice. "Why can't you admit it?"

Sarek retreated completely into his shell, more stung than his wife would ever know. She was right, completely right. But he could not tell her so. The words would not come. She waited for him to say something, anything. But he maintained his stony silence, unable to articulate what he was feeling.

"Spock will not make an apology," she finally said, enunciating each word so he could feel the anger behind them.

Sarek finally found his voice, but the calm sound did not reflect the conflict of his soul. "Agreed."

Amanda thumped her book on Sarek's desk with a defiant glare and tilted her chin upwards. "How generous of you, Husband."

* * *

Returning to the present, Sarek's grip on Amanda's book tightened till his knuckles blanched. A Human male might have hoped for the impossible, that Amanda has somehow miraculously risen from her deathbed and walked out here to do a bit of reading in her favorite chair. But Sarek's mind was too ordered even in grief to take such a flight of fancy. However, in his grief, he overlooked the other possible explanation. Pondering only why TAriz would wish to read a collection of poems written by a centuries dead Earth poet, he almost missed the shadowed form in the far corner of the room.

Movement caught in peripheral vision interrupted his reverie, and he turned to greet TAriz. But it was not the young healer who appeared silently beside him. It was Spock.

Suddenly it made sense. Spock had left the book as Amanda would have left it. His son had somehow known, had found a way to return to Vulcan, to be at his mother's side one last time. Sarek met Spock's steady gaze, his own surprise and relief concealed before the emotions could register on his aristocratic countenance. With a slight inclination of his head, the ambassador greeted his son.

"You have seen your mother." It was a statement and question blended into one, the soft tones carefully bland.

"I did not know..." Spock's expression was haunted. Amanda's condition had deteriorated rapidly, and she had not permitted Sarek to enlighten Spock about the serious nature of her illness. "I would have come sooner had I realized."

"She recognized you?"

Spock nodded, swallowing hard as silence hung awkwardly between them. "She ... she has been asking for you." His voice was hoarse with unexpressed emotion.

"It is past my time," Sarek whispered as he stared at the mantle clock, his eyes blank, unseeing. He had withdrawn so deeply into himself to shield against his wife's pain, and his own, that there were times when speech seemed a monumental effort. Each syllable seemed stilted and forced. "I should go to her."

But he made no move towards the bedroom where Amanda lay waiting. He stood staring, only partially aware that Spock still studied him with concern and compassion. Vulcans were taught not to dread that event, to view it as a passing from one level of existence to another. Intellectually, Sarek understood the concept. There was a part of him, however, which rebelled against the calm acceptance of loss. If that life continued in another place, existed on another plane, it did not alter the fact that it was forever separated from the living. Soon Amanda would cross that threshold and leave him behind. Amanda, unlike her son, would have no second chance at life.

* * *

She was waiting for him in the doorway, her fingers twisting a handkerchief. "Sarek?"

Sarek touched his wife's shoulder, shocked by the outpouring of raw emotion which radiated from her. Unable to fully comprehend the intense sensations, he attempted to catalogue the feelings, labeling them as concern, dread and frantic fear as they moved into the small hospital room together. "What has happened?" he demanded as they moved to the bed when his daughter-in-law lay, still and pale, a shadow of her usual self.

"She collapsed at the museum," Amanda said softly as she brushed a stray hair from T'Liba's face.

"Spock?" Sarek questioned sharply.

"They're trying to contact the Enterprise now. He's on a training cruise."

"What is the prognosis?" Sarek questioned

"They are not certain," Amanda whispered, but Sarek could see the fear in her eyes. "He's safe. He's safe. I would feel it if he weren't."

Sarek looked down at T'Liba, the woman who'd taken T'Pring's place as Spock's wife. The child was twice as worthy as her aristocratic cousin, an asset to Spock and his family. She had been content to wait for Spock as he pursued his career in Starfleet, her loyalty in the face of Spock's infrequent attention had earned her both Sarek and Amanda's affection and gratitude. Would she die? And if she did what would that mean?

The comscreen on the small desk beeped, and Amanda started her fingers digging into Sarek's arm, distress visible in every aspect of her posture.

Fighting a sinking dread, Sarek moved to answer it. James T. Kirk appeared before him on the small screen seeming much older and more haggard than when Sarek had last seen him.

"No!" Amanda breathed, sounding utterly unlike herself as she moved to join her husband.

"Ambassador," Kirk said softly. "There's no easy way to tell you this..." Kirk saw Amanda's expression, his eyes widening. "You knew?"

"We suspected," Sarek replied. "You will follow my son's final instructions?"

"Of course," Kirk choked, not taking his eyes from Amanda."Mrs. Sarek... Amanda--"

"We wish to be alone in our grief," Sarek interrupted."If there is nothing further, Admiral?"

"He died a hero," Kirk said, his words for Amanda. "He saved the ship at the cost of his own life."

"Spock," Amanda whispered.

Sarek clicked off the comscreen, turning to face his wife. Her features were frozen in an expression of loss so profound that Sarek's words of comfort died on his lips. Amanda swayed just slightly, like a young sapling in a strong wind. Sarek moved to steady her, but she slipped from his grasp, wrapping her arms about her waist.

She moved to the window which overlooked Mount Seleya. The silence which had fallen enclosed them, tomb-like as long minutes ticked by. She'd been this way when her aunt died, beyond his reach nor wanting the comfort of his touch.

"Amanda," Sarek finally began, wanting to reassure her but not knowing how.

Amanda made no acknowledgment that she'd heard him, clutching the windowsill as her eyes traveled to Seleya's dark outline in the distance. Her jaw was set, her expression vacant.

Sarek wanted to speak to her of Vulcan beliefs, to share with her the hope of those legends. He wished to assure her that the essence of Spock, the spark of life was not yet lost and would be returned to rest in the Hall of Ancient Thought. He wanted to speak to her of the beauty of the Kralieu, and the mythic images painted in pre-reform texts which promised another existence beyond the transitory mortal life. But those things did not truly comfort him, therefore he knew they would not comfort Amanda. Not knowing what to say or how to say it, he took refuge in an automatic response so often uttered that for him it had nearly ceased to have meaning. "I grieve with thee."

* * *

Now Spock had come to grieve for Amanda. Sarek met his son's gaze, and shook his head. "She has not been herself."

Spock nodded. "T'Ariz has explained the progression of the illness."

"Illness," Sarek repeated slowly. "She is dying."

Spock drew himself up, posture erect. "Yes."

"Not to feel that part of me..." Sarek whispered to himself, for a moment not seeming aware of Spock's presence. "Most curious. For so long she has been there. The absence..."

Spock made no comment, waiting patiently as Sarek turned abruptly and left the living room.

The bedroom was lit only by a lamp by the bed. The soft pastel light flattered Amanda, making her look far healthier than Sarek knew her to be. Her breathing was shallow, but she appeared to be in no discomfort. Her sleep seemed peaceful.

T'Ariz rose from a chair by the bed, her sharp healer's eyes missing nothing as she studied Sarek. With a nod, she left him alone with his wife, leaving the door ajar behind her.

Sarek took the seat T'Ariz had vacated, not wanting to wake his wife from her peaceful slumber. She had been so disoriented with the fever, confused at times to the point of agitation. Several times she had called out for her late Aunt Roberta Grayson. Another time, one that had chilled Sarek's soul, she'd engaged in a conversation with the deceased woman, talking to the empty rocking chair with such conviction that Sarek had been forced to look over his shoulder to assure himself that it was indeed vacant.

His hand brushed hers, and he thought again how strange it was not to feel her psionic presence. Even when he had been light years away, attending an ambassadorial duty on some distant world, there had been the reassurance of their link. It was like white noise, not fully appreciated until absent. The severing of the bond with T'Rea had not had this effect on him, perhaps became it had been a bond of pure convenience. Amanda, for all her protestations of mind-blindness had entwined herself so thoroughly in his consciousness that the lack of her presence was like an open wound.

His fingers closed about hers, and he thought of what he would say to her if she woke. Until now there had always been the convenience of the bond. In the past, if he could not verbalize, he could always touch her and express himself telepathically. But now that option was closed to him. To open himself to her now, the risk of madness or even death was too great. When she woke ... if she woke, he would have to speak to her.

Sarek thought of the times he had felt distanced from Amanda. Separated in ways less permanent than what he faced now, but no less difficult to bear at the time. It had always puzzled him that he could feel so close to her when they were physically separated, and at other times be so isolated from her when physically she was quite close. It had been that way when Kirk had brought Spock to Seleya. Never before or since had Amanda kept herself so apart from him.

* * *

Sarek descended the weatherworn steps slowly, pacing his descent so his newly regenerated son could keep up. The adept were still flanking Spock hovering like bodyguards. The Enterprise crew had been ushered ahead, taken to a spacious apartment in the Seleyan complex where they could rest. For Sarek there was no thought of rest, not yet. Ahead still was the final and perhaps the most telling of tests.

The aging patriarch slowed again to allow Spock and his entourage an opportunity to catch up. Turning to look up at them as they descended behind him, Sarek studied the lines of Spock's face. Older. He had aged several decades past his chronological age while on Genesis. There was a blankness in those dark eyes which chilled Sarek's soul. He thought of the fable he had pulled unwittingly from Amanda's thoughts, of the couple who had wished upon a monkey's paw for the return of their dead son ... only to be faced with his mangled reanimated corpse.

Amanda had been shocked and horrified by Sarek's desire for fal-tor-pan. She'd called it unnatural and her tense silence as Sarek awaited Kirk's arrival had spoken more loudly and eloquently than a thousand disapproving words. She wished for Sarek to let Spock go, to accept his untimely death. But Sarek could not do that. He had not done that and now the product of his struggle with death haunted him like a specter. The only face Spock had recalled had been Kirk's. What would Amanda say when faced with this blank-eyed shadow of her son? Would his appearance only confirm her worst fears or would she accept her son and cast her doubts aside? Sarek did not know. At this point the adept were uncertain how much of Spock's knowledge and personality had been restored, how much could be regained with the proper tutorials. Even T'Lar herself would not speculate on the matter, saying simply that time would most certainly tell, and that all which could be done had been done.

Would it be enough for Amanda? Sarek refused to own the pang of disappointment which had closed about his heart when Spock looked at him without recognition. He called him father because that is how Sarek had identified himself to him, but there was no indication that Spock remembered him as he had remembered Kirk. Sarek wondered if Spock would ever again look at him with complete knowledge of what had passed between them before his death and rebirth The incident with Kirk might well have been a fluke, a false hope. Amanda's fable might yet come to pass. If it did, the fault would be Sarek's for refusing to let go when logic and reason dictated no other rational course.

At the base of the steps, they made their way past the elaborate fountain, following in the wake of the Enterprise crew. Amanda was standing on a small balcony overlooking the courtyard, her posture rigid, her expression as blank as Sarek had ever seen it. When she retreated into the apartment, Sarek stared after her, his eyes searching for a trace of her silver robes behind the translucent drapes which billowed in the early morning breeze. But she did not return to the balcony.

Too soon he and Spock crossed the threshold of the apartment. The airy and sparsely furnished central room was deserted. Amanda had gone into the sleeping chamber.

"Your mother," Sarek began then words failed him. There was no way to express the urgency of this situation. Either Spock would recognize her or he would not. As Amanda herself would no doubt say, wishing would not make it so.

She appeared then in the archway which led to the sleeping chamber. A frail hand clutched at the archway while another pressed against her heart. Spock, seeming oblivious to Amanda's apprehension, was studying his surroundings, that puzzled frown creasing his brow.

"This is not familiar," Spock said softly.

"There is no reason it should be," Sarek responded. "You have not been here before."

Spock reached up to draw the hood from his face. The tousled locks of ebony hair combined with his searching expression to make him appear almost childlike.

Amanda took a step forward, anguish mingling with hope on her mobile features as her son studied her intently.

"Spock?"

"Mother," Spock announced quietly. But there was no flicker of recognition as he approached her.

Amanda was trembling, a single tear coursing down her cheek as Spock moved to stand before her. Sarek could not have said which of them appeared more fragile at that moment. Without conscious thought, Sarek moved closer, almost as if by sheer proximity he could force some response from his son.

Amanda's eyes were riveted on Spock's face, her head tilted expectantly as she waited for him to speak. When he made no attempt to do so, she expelled a ragged breath. "Oh, Sarek."

Spock's fingers reached tentatively to brush Amanda's cheek, something lighting up the coal depth of his eyes before they fluttered shut. He inhaled deeply, nostrils flaring as if trying to place a familiar scent. "Matou," he rasped, a near smile touching his lips.

Amanda reacted with reflexive maternal instinct. "Yes. Matou, Spock. Do you remember?"

Sarek watched as Spock opened his eyes again, his fingers tracing over the planes of Amanda's features the way a blind man would caress his braille.

"You called me Matou when you were little, Spock," Amanda breathed through the tears which were falling freely now. "T'Antou was who?"

"Roberta?" Spock whispered. "Snow. It snowed where T'Antou lived."

Amanda nodded. "Do you remember? Do you really remember me?"

Spock frowned, a brow arching into his hairline as he studied her. "Why would you buy me a mockingbird?"

Amanda cast a puzzled glance at Sarek. Their son had sounded so much like his old self, the inflection of his voice not tentative as it had been before, but curiously demanding. Sarek realized that both mother and son were looking to him as if for translation of some strange language.

Sarek cleared his throat. "A mockingbird?"

Spock frowned again, tilting his head as if listening to far off music. "And if it does not sing..."

"The lullaby," Amanda whispered. "Sarek, that's the lullaby that I used to sing to him."

"The mockingbird did not sing," Spock said solemnly. "You sang to me ... in my room." Spock closed his eyes, his expression relaxing as the memories flooded back. "Blue walls, the scent of a flower. Your flowers. They twined up the trellis beneath my bedroom window. And the song, you used to sing it when father was away." Spock opened his eyes and met his mother's gaze. "Matou ... mother."

Amanda nodded, moving into Spock's arms. To Sarek's surprise, Spock accepted her and enfolded her in a tender embrace. He held her, stroking her hair as her tears dampened the front of his robe. When he met Sarek's gaze over the top of Amanda's head, the blankness was gone. Sarek relaxed visibly, nodding his head to welcome his lost son home, but he said nothing. There was nothing to say. Spock and Amanda had said it all.

* * *

Sarek could not take his eyes from Amanda's face. For so many years he had looked to her for the virtual embodiment of expression. And now he found himself confronted with the impending loss of that part of him. It was true that her way was not his own, not the Vulcan way, but Sarek had cherished the diversity.

It was sometimes said that opposites attract. If that were true, then Sarek choosing this woman to share his life made a certain degree of sense. Amanda had grown tired of the inevitable comparisons early in their marriage, impatiently demanding to know why logic and emotion couldn't co-exist. Sarek, of course, agreed. It had co-existed, beautifully so. But that partnership, that meld into a near-perfect unity, was about to end.

The truth was he had forgotten how to be alone. He could remember his life before Amanda, and it seemed in retrospect barren and lifeless. Spock had described to him once his experience of melding with the V'ger entity, of his discovery that logic without emotion, without life, was a cold and meaningless thing. Sarek had understood his son's comments in an intellectual manner at the time, but only now did he begin to see the full ramifications of that revelation. All those years ago, Sarek had asked Amanda Grayson to become his wife. He had been motivated by logic. Amanda was gracious and intelligent, an asset to any aspiring ambassador. She had also been young and fertile, a necessary pre-requisite. Time and circumstance had thrown them together, but Sarek would be the first to admit that there was more behind his proposal than logic and convenience. Sarek of Vulcan was not a romantic, but had Amanda been able to sense his thoughts at that moment, she would surely lift her eyes to his and smile knowingly. Her contentment was not a facade, and she had found their union fulfilling.

Sarek studied the blue veins which traced a delicate pattern on the back of Amanda's hands, brushing his fingertips beneath the pads of her forefingers. Touching and touched. She had touched him in so many ways, given so much of herself that he often wondered where Amanda ended and Sarek began. After tonight, he would certainly find out, and that prospect was one he did not wish to face.

* * *

Sarek stood stock still in the archway which led to Amanda's garden. He'd been drawn here from the study by the sound of her voice. She was singing. It was a sound he had unconsciously missed. It was something uniquely Terran, he suspected to sing aloud purely for the pleasure of it. Amanda sang routinely as she attended simple tasks about the house, her soft contralto filling empty rooms like early morning light.

She was tending her flower beds, sitting on the warm flagstones as she tugged at feathery weeds. Sarek tried to place the tune, but it was elusive. He became reflective, watching her. A faint blush stained her cheeks, and her hair strayed from the casual knot she'd pulled it into, framing her face in delicate wisps. Of course she had aged. Humans aged quickly, but Sarek found it hard to accept the limits of her mortality.

The past month had been a nightmare for her, the batteries of tests, the healing sessions, and finally the diagnosis which they had both somehow expected. Amanda was dying.

He had seen the fear in her eyes as the healer had explained the progression of the illness, describing the loss of function and eventual incapacitation. He'd felt her grief through their link. She did not want to let go of life, but life was not cooperating. Each day would be precious, each moment a gift. But the pall of finality would hover over them now, touching every aspect of their lives. For three weeks she had gone through the motions, the sparkle gone from her eyes, her smiles pale shadows of the smiles which had once curved her full lips. But today, for some reason, the pall had lifted.

As he watched she rose to her knees to tug at a large planter. Perspiration beaded on her brow, and she sagged suddenly against the wide lip of the heavy terra cotta crock. All color drained from her face as she gasped for air.

Sarek was at her side in an instant, drawing her against him. He was alarmed at the heat which radiated off her body. The blush he had found so encouraging was not the positive sign he'd taken it to be, but one of the symptom of her illness.

"Sarek?" Amanda gasped as he lifted her into his arms. "Put me down!"

Sarek held her effortlessly, his dark eyes boring into her overly bright ones, his countenance a study in disapproval. "The healers said you must rest when the fever rises."

"But I don't feel sick, not today, Sarek," Amanda responded, her voice pleading. "I shouldn't have tried to move the planter. But I'm fine now, really. Put me down."

"Your temperature is abnormal," Sarek argued. "What you feel is immaterial. You should be in bed."

"Sarek, let me stay here in the garden," Amanda smiled dreamily. "The sunshine will do me good."

"You are not well, wife," Sarek reminded. "The healers told you to go to bed when the fever --"

"The healers aren't Human," Amanda snapped, her short temper flaring as even more color flooded into her already fever-flushed cheeks.

Sarek ignored her outburst, carrying her toward the doors which led to their bedroom.

Amanda struggled weakly in his grasp. "Sarek, you don't understand!"

Sarek's expression was set and grim. He understood only too well. She was taking a terrible chance with what remained of her health. If the healers had told him to rest when the fever rose, he would not think of disobeying. Amanda's cavalier attitude annoyed him more than he would ever admit. "You will go to bed."

"No!" The panic in her voice stalled him mid-stride and he stared at her, totally confounded by her behavior.

"You are being unreasonable," he admonished.

"And you're being a bully," Amanda accused. "I don't want to go to bed. I can't go to bed. You don't understand, and neither do the healers."

"Explain," he ordered, a part of him unnerved by the desperation in her voice.

"Oh, Sarek." Amanda stared over his shoulder at the garden, the longing in her expression evoking an ache in his chest. "I can't explain. You've just got to put me down, let me stay in the garden. I can't go to bed."

"Why?" he demanded an uncharacteristic hint of impatience making his tone more strident than usual.

"Because," she whispered, suddenly looking him in the eye. "If l go to bed, if I give in..." Her eyes were haunted. "I may never get out of bed again."

Sarek did not know how to respond. Her vulnerability frightened him, threatening the wall of denial he had built about her illness and impending death. This was the first time she had spoken of it openly. He had sensed her fear, shared it. But to hear it spoken aloud ... that was another matter entirely.

"I'm afraid," she breathed, her fingernails digging into the flesh of his arm. "You don't understand," she whispered again.

"You must rest," he insisted "Once the fever diminishes, you will--"

Her frustrated sobs drowned out the rest of what he would have said, her entire body trembling as he held her against his chest. He could feel her fear and her frustration, and it threatened to overwhelm him. He carried her into the bedroom and deposited her on the bed, exhaling a ragged breath as he broke the tactile contact and restored his ravaged shields. Her emotional pain was a palpable thing. Touching her right now was an exercise in masochism.

"You will feel better when the fever subsides," he promised, but his words had a strangely hollow ring. Her sobs disquieted him, and he retreated to the relative safety of his study.

* * *

Sarek returned to the present, looking at his sleeping wife, his chest aching as he considered the power of her prophecy. She had not left this bed since that day, confined by her weakness and delirium. If he had known then, if he had understood what she somehow knew, he would have let her linger in her garden, allowed her to enjoy that last afternoon of strength and lucidity.

"Wife," Sarek whispered, not out of any hope that she would respond, but simply to break the awful silence which had engulfed them. Amanda's fingers twitched, then closed about his. Her smooth brow furrowed as she opened her eyes to look at him.

"Spock?"

"Sarek," he corrected gently as he brushed a strand of hair from her face.

"I dreamed that Spock was here," she murmured through cracked lips.

"He is here," Sarek replied as he held her up and gave her a sip of water. "It was not a dream."

"So much of it isn't real," she breathed, her eyes wide and crystal clear. "They didn't tell me I'd go crazy."

"Febrile hallucinations," Sarek qualified solemnly as he laid her back on the pillow.

"Crazy as a bedbug," Amanda said with a self-depreciating smile. With visible effort, she tilted her head to study his haggard features. "The fever's down. I feel--" The rest of what she would have said was lost in loose cough. Sarek supported her, holding her gently as she gasped for air.

"Better," she sighed when the spasm had passed. She frowned. "Where's Roberta?"

Sarek stared at her in dismay. She had seemed so clear-headed, and she was correct, the fever was gone. Her skin was cool and dry beneath his fingertips. "She is asleep," he lied calmly. He had learned not to try to reason with her when she became confused. It only served to agitate her. "You must rest also," he added.

"You're so good to me," Amanda whispered, slipping her hand up the sleeve of his robe to encircle his wrist. She frowned. "Sarek?"

"Yes?"

Amanda's fingers dug into his flesh. "Where are you?"

"I am here, Amanda."

"No... I can't..." She closed her eyes and concentrated. "I can't feel you."

"I am here," he repeated helplessly. This was the first time she'd noticed the absence of the link. The healers had assured him that its absence would have little affect on her, but he could sense her confusion and alarm.

"Why can't I hear you?" she demanded. Amanda had always expressed their psionic link as auditory. "What's happened?"

"You have been very ill," Sarek announced quietly. "Do you not remember?"

She shook her head, her eyes wild. "Sarek, I'm afraid."

"There is nothing to fear," he assured, glad for the first time for the loss of the link. His anxiety was swelling in proportion to hers. "I am with you."

"No," she sobbed. "I am alone. Talk to me, Sarek. Talk to me."

Knowing that she was asking for the psionic reassurance which he could not give, Sarek shook his head, his voice a harsh rasp, "Amanda ... what you ask..."

"Oh, Sarek!" she said abruptly. Her voice tremored. "I remember now." She closed her eyes for a moment and moaned softly. "Dear God ... this is so hard." Her breath was coming in shallow puffs, but a weak smile flitted across her lips and she squeezed his arm. "Did you know that you always sounded like faint violin music in my thoughts?"

Sarek shook his head, afraid to speak, his vision blurring.

Amanda studied his face as if committing it to memory. "It was always there, always. Even when you were so far away. I always knew you were with me. It wasn't like that with Spock." She sighed deeply and coughed a bit. "I was always jealous of Vulcan mothers because they could hear their children's music." She smiled again, her gaze now more distant. "I imagined it would be like an orchestra -- flutes, French horns, cellos..."

"Amanda--" Sarek finally found his voice. There was so much he wished to tell her.

"But all I had was you," she whispered dreamily. "You've given me so much, Sarek ... I just wish..."

"What do you wish?"

Amanda smiled, releasing his arm to pat his cheek. "I wish I could hear the music one last time."

"Wife." Sarek's tone was filled with barely suppressed grief.

"I know you love me," she assured. "Just like Roberta loves me. She was here a moment ago. Where did she go?"

Sarek leaned his head against her chest, unable to meet her too-bright gaze, his heart aching beneath his ribs. "Amanda."

He wanted to tell her, to express what she meant to him, to return the gift she had just given him, but the words would not come. He'd composed them all a dozen times in his head, but he couldn't say them.

He felt her warmth beneath him, the fever was rising again. He held her tightly, as if he could hold her back from the brink of death. Her heart was beating a rapid tatoo, weak and uneven. When she seemed lucid again, he must tell her. He had to tell her. She had to know.

And then she exhaled. It was that simple. She did not draw another breath. Sarek raised his head and waited but she was gone. His own breath caught in his throat, burning like Vulcan's Forge. He drew her lifeless form against his chest, cradling her, his grief building up in him until he thought he would surely die himself. Then it ebbed just slightly and the word he had been unable to speak before slipped from tortured lips. "Beloved."

Spock stood in the doorway to his parent's bedroom, stalled on the threshold. Logic dictated that he retreat and leave his father alone in his grief, but he could not. So he stood watching, never admitting to himself that he might be lingering for his own sake, to witness this belated expression of Sarek's love for his mother.

It was some time before Sarek finally released Amanda, laying her gently back on the pillows. He rose unsteadily to his feet, and Spock watched him, fascinated as his father donned his Vulcan facade like an enveloping cloak. No one who had not just witnessed the tender parting would ever believe it had actually happened. Sarek turned and saw his son, a flicker of some emotion flashing briefly across his countenance before the mask settled firmly into place.

"I shall miss her," the ambassador intoned with simple dignity.

Spock nodded. There was nothing more to say.

THE END

"I am pleased to see that we have differences. May we together become greater than the sum of both of us." -- Surak of Vulcan, "The Savage Curtain"

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