Spock entered the Terran embassy on Vulcan with a certain amount of curiosity concealed as rigidly as a near equal amount of trepidation. He had never been here before. A young human female looked up from her work and smiled at him.
"How can I assist you, sir?"
Spock's eyes widened a minute at that form of address, but he said cautiously, "I am here to request Terran citizenship."
"Terran...citizenship? I don't understand. Perhaps you mean a visa to travel on Terra?"
"No." Spock hesitated before he plunged on. Admitting the heritage he tried so hard to conceal was difficult, and personally somewhat embarrassing, but necessary to his goals. "My mother...is human, and a citizen of Terra...Earth. I am entitled, under Earth law, to claim Terran citizenship." The girl merely stared at him. "I intend to hold dual citizenship, Vulcan and Earth."
"You must be Dr. Grayson's son," the girl said, delighted to finally place this difficult customer.
Spock took a deep breath, mentally cursing having famous parents. But it was an unavoidable fact of his existence. He, himself, knew of no other Vulcan/Human hybrids, and his parents, unfortunately as it seemed at times to him, were both highly placed in their respective societies. And even in each other’s. "That is correct."
"I'll need a fax of your Federation birth certificate," the girl said, finally settling down to a respectable professionalism.
Spock produced the required document. The girl studied it and began punching keys while Spock waited. He caught himself shivering a little in the chill room and suppressed the response firmly. "Hmnn..." the girl finally murmured. "There's a slight problem."
"A problem?" Spock swallowed hard, seeing his plans crumble into dust.
"Well, not a big problem. I guess I can let you apply for this now. But I can't give it to you until Friday."
"Friday?" Spock asked numbly. He struggled to place the significance of the word. It was a day in the Terran calendar but he knew of no one who followed the Terran system of days on Vulcan. He wasn’t even sure what today would be in the Terran weekday. “And that would be?”
"Why it's your birthday, silly." The girl smiled at him. "The seventeenth of Tasmeen?” Shaking her head at her customer finally nodded. "You have to be of age to apply for Terran citizenship, or you have to have the parent holding citizenship apply for you. If you need this sooner, I can contact Dr. Grayson--" she reached for the comm.
"No!" Spock put out a hand to stop her, and then froze, flushing. “Friday...will be satisfactory.” The girl looked at him puzzled, then smiled.
"Oh, I see. It's a birthday surprise for your mom, right? You're going to claim joint citizenship on your birthday. Is that it?"
"Yes." Spock had no idea what he was agreeing to, but anything was better than this girl contacting his parents.
"That's sweet. Well, don't worry, mum's the word."
Spock stared at the girl, more confused than ever, but she went on punching keys unnoticed. "I'll have this ready for you on Friday. Here's a copy of your application to verify."
Spock took the copy from her. "It appears to be in order."
"Good. You keep that, it's proof of your application. Just stop by anytime on Friday. And if I'm not at the desk then, Happy Birthday, Spock."
Spock looked up from perusing his form to the smiling face of the clerk. This whole transaction had been unfamiliarly alien, but he knew the appropriate way to close it. And however illogical he found the phrase, he knew that where he was going, he had better get used to using it. "Thank you very much for your assistance."
Spock of Vulcan stepped out into the noonday heat of Shikhar, holding in his hand the copy of his request for Terran citizenship.
Back at the Science Academy, Spock appeared, exactly on time, for his meeting with his educational mentor.
"The term is not up for several weeks, Spock," the elder Vulcan had no spectacles, but he frowned down at his pupil in a manner easily recognizable to any Terran, though it was completely lost on his Vulcan pupil. "While you are an excellent student, and I suspect you will encounter no difficulties in your examinations, why would you wish to take them now?"
"I have finished the course of study, and see no logical reason to delay," Spock said evenly.
"Surely even you will benefit from the extra preparation time?"
"I have prepared." Spock met his mentor's eyes evenly. "I am confident that I am ready for the examinations. I accept full responsibility for my performance if unsatisfactory."
"I would advise against it," the teacher said dryly. "This request is most unprecedented. Still, this is your second advanced degree. You are well aware of the structure of the examinations you are facing. If that were not the case, I would refuse. But in this case... Very well, Spock, I accede to your request. Tomorrow, at the eighth hour."
"Yes, master." Spock made good his escape before the venerable instructor could think of a reason to refuse. Back in his student's cubicle, Spock delayed his final review for his examinations by bringing up a coded mail message on his terminal. The message flashed across the screen, while Spock's eyes devoured every English word. "Spock Xtmprszqzntwlfb has been accepted into Starfleet Academy, this acceptance commencing at his eighteenth birthday and legal Terran majority, assuming the necessary Terran citizenship has been obtained; acceptance in minority requiring verified permission by any and all parents or guardians..." He tore his eyes from the message, and punched up his final review preparations for his mren-to in astrophysics. His mother would call it a doctorate, but regardless of the term, Spock knew from his previous mren-to in computer science the exams were grueling. He had no time to waste, and he had to pass. He wanted to be free before the seventeen of Tasmeen. What had the girl called it? Friday. Of course. He knew the Terran names for weekdays, he had just never heard of anyone on Vulcan ever using a Terran calendar, or even trying to refer to time in that way. But the word was suddenly intoxicating, luring, compelling. Friday Yes. He would be free by Friday. Unconditionally.
Spock entered his home and stopped just inside the doorway. He looked around, curiously. This was the last time he would see his home this way -- through the eyes of dependent child. Whatever happened this evening, whether his parents approved or disapproved of his plans, whether he left with his parent's understanding, or having severed all his childhood ties, after this evening he would never be a child again. And it had nothing to do with how many days he had lived, or some obscure Terran law claiming he could now make independent decisions. Tonight, he would inform Sarek he would not follow the path Sarek had defined for him. Tonight, he would defy Sarek, for the first time. He did not count the defiance of an infancy he barely remembered, though he imagined, like all two-year-olds, he had demonstrated some. This would be the defiance of a independent person intent on his own goals. And for the first time, thanks to Terran citizenship and Federation law, he had the means to accomplish what he had long desired, and had so long repressed.
"Good evening, Mother."
Amanda turned to look at the section of stone he had been fixedly regarding. "What is so fascinating?"
"Nothing, Mother. My thoughts were elsewhere."
"I see." Amanda said, not unkindly. "You're home early. Shouldn’t you still be at school?"
"I have taken my exams. Two days ago."
"But the term isn't over yet."
"You are correct. I finished them early."
"But..." Amanda looked puzzled, then she shrugged and smiled. "Congratulations. I'm very proud of you Spock."
Spock lowered his head, flushing uncomfortably.
"Your father will be pleased."
"Hardly." Spock said evenly.
"Spock," Amanda chided, then looked at him worriedly. "Spock! You did pass?"
Spock flung his head up, startled. "Of course."
"Well, that's what I expected, especially with you taking them early, but you looked so hang dog."
Spock didn't understand 'hang dog' but he had no wish to listen to comments on his expression. "I passed with highest honors, as usual,” he said, perfunctorily. “Sarek will hardly be expecting otherwise." Spock did not comment that his father would tolerate nothing less. "But I am sure he would have preferred I take the examinations at the traditional time."
"You are too hard on your father." Amanda sighed and then relented. "Almost as hard as he is on you. You are probably right that he would have preferred you follow tradition. Still, he will be proud of you, Spock, even though he'll never show it. You're both incorrigible in that regard. Well, he will be home soon, you can tell him then."
"I shall." Spock said grimly.
"Don't look so worried, honey. Your father will be pleased, you'll see. Though I don't know what you are going to do before the next term starts. Have you thought about that? About what your plans are for the future?"
"Good. I'm sure your father will want to discuss them with you tonight."
Spock took a deep breath, feeling unaccountable butterflies at the mention of that discussion. He touched the flap of his carry bag surreptitiously just for the reassuring crackle of the heavy parchment, official looking document, hidden inside, that proclaimed his Terran citizenship. "If you will excuse me, mother, I must meditate on my plans."
"Of course, Spock. Until dinner. And don't worry about Sarek."
Spock climbed the stairs to his room, wondering grimly if there was anyone in the Federation, besides his mother, who would face the prospect of an interview with Sarek unconcerned. Well, perhaps T'Pau. His grandmother was formidable enough herself. But then, she had raised Sarek. Spock wondered, not for the first time, how his mother came to marry his father, and why she was the only being in his experience who treated his father, at least in the privacy of their home, with such a shocking lack of deference. And why Sarek tolerated it. It was a mystery he would never be given the information to solve. And it was improper even to speculate about it. Spock resigned himself to ignorance, and sitting down at his desk, once again lost himself in contemplation of his exciting future. "Spock Xtmprszqzntwlfb, upon..."
Spock entered his father's study firmly suppressing his trepidation. He was not an errant child reporting for discipline, but a VSA graduate, twice over. Surely he could make a decision about the school he wished next to attend. But as Sarek walked behind the desk where he had delivered so many lectures and punitive corrections Spock felt himself tense. The elder Vulcan did not sit down, nor gesture his son to a chair, but fixed him with a disapproving stare. "I have been informed Spock, that you have completed your current studies. I am at a loss to understand why you would choose to terminate them early."
Spock seethed inwardly at this evidence of Sarek's information network, but replied evenly, "The requirements were completed. There was no need to delay."
Sarek raised an ironic brow. "And you consider it suitable to merely satisfy minimum requirements?"
"They were not 'minimum'. Since you were informed of my completion, I must assume you were also told I received highest honors."
"Do not be impertinent, Spock. A researcher seeks to complete his work as soon as feasibly possible, but a student does well to respect the conventions of his role. You do not know that significant discoveries might not have come to light before the end of your term, discoveries which would have benefited your understanding of your subject."
"Significant discoveries will be made, both before and after the end of this term. I see no reason to base my decisions on such circumstances."
"Obviously," Sarek said dryly. "You may be intellectually gifted compared to your peers, but that will avail you little if you continue to demonstrate such a lack of respect, discipline and regard for the intellectual process. You would do well, in the time remaining before the start of the next term, to review your study of the disciplines."
Spock caught himself lowering his eyes like a pre-Kahs wan child at Sarek's acerbic tone, and raised them, inwardly furious, but attempting to keep his expression neutral. "I completed that study, 5.8 years ago, also with highest honors."
"And if your practice of those disciplines equaled your supposed understanding,” Sarek replied calmly, every word a barb, “ I would not need to make such a recommendation."
Spock flushed, but held his ground. "I have other plans," he said slowly, "before the start of the next term."
Sarek gestured his son to a chair, and sat down himself. "Indeed. I am listening."
Spock ignored the gesture. "I have no plans to take another degree from the science academy."
"I have been told that you have been offered a research position there.”
Spock said nothing, waiting.
“I am also told,” Sarek said slowly, since it was clear Spock would not speak. “That you refused this honor. Have you reconsidered?"
"I am curious," Spock said, controlling his words along with his temper, "if you were informed of the offer prior or subsequent to my being informed of it."
"That is irrelevant. I am mystified at your reasons for refusal."
"What mystifies me is why the offer, my refusal, and my reasons were communicated to you at all. It was a private matter between those involved."
"Academy appointments are a matter of public record, Spock. Such a refusal is extremely rare. I could understand, and accept, your prior refusal in favor of a choice to take a second degree. But this second refusal is unprecedented, reflects upon you poorly, and is insulting to those who offered it. I expect you to reconsider. Immediately."
"Would not such a reconsideration reflect even more poorly upon me," Spock said softly, almost dangerously. "It would indicate prior poor judgment."
Sarek frowned. "On the contrary, it would indicate that you took the counsel of your elders. You are very young, Spock. Allowances will be made for that. This time." The warning was plain, and Spock firmly repressed an inward shiver. He had not given Sarek cause to administer any major discipline in some time. Although he had come to consider himself beyond that, from the warning he’d just given Sarek apparently thought otherwise. The realization only moved his spirit of independence to something close to rebellion.
"I have no desire to take a position at the Science Academy," Spock said flatly.
Sarek raised an dismissive eyebrow. "Desire has little to do with this. You should be considering your duty, and what is proper. You are being accorded an honor, Spock. Many renowned researchers contend for positions at the Academy. You seem unaware of what you are refusing."
Spock lowered his eyes. Considering his own last statement, Sarek's reproof was a model of patient control he had not expected. Gratitude with the generous leniency of Sarek's statement warred with is own envy of that control, and his own doubt that he could ever truly emulate it. And soon he would prove himself unworthy of even as much leniency as Sarek had shown. "I have considered, but I have chosen otherwise."
"And what choice is this?"
Spock sat down abruptly, the better to hide his suddenly clenched hands. He wanted to deny Sarek the right to know his plans, to avoid the upcoming conflict, but he knew it was inevitable. "I have applied, and been accepted, to start the next term at Starfleet Academy."
Sarek was silent a moment, two, three. Spock was aware the length of his father's silence was a measure of his disapproval. Finally, Sarek drew breath and spoke, an edge to his voice Spock had not heard for some years, and that filled him with quiet dread. "We will not discuss Starfleet again. It is obvious you have been given far too much time and freedom, to waste it in such disreputable pursuits as applying to that institution. I have seriously underestimated your maturity. That will be remedied, I assure you. I, myself, will communicate your acceptance of the Science Academy appointment immediately, commencing tomorrow. For now, you are dismissed, Spock. I’ll inform you of my intended discipline later. "
Spock rose out of habit, but did not leave. "You can dismiss me, but my plans remain unchanged. I did not appraise you of my decision to gain your approval, but merely to inform you, as a courtesy."
"A courtesy." Sarek paused. "Then I will accord you the same courtesy, and inform you of an alteration in your plans. You will attend the Science Academy tomorrow, and take up your new duties. I have no intention of allowing my son, or any Vulcan of our clan, for that matter, to attend the institution of that barbaric, war-mongering arm of the Federation. You will discount whatever propaganda resulted in your taking leave of your senses long enough to even consider such a course. Whether you seek my approval or not, you do not have my permission."
"I was not taken in by propaganda. I am capable of unbiased research into an option, and rational decision, and I have done both. Further, I do not require your permission."
"You are barely a child. You are subject to my authority. And mine alone," Sarek added the latter, almost as a warning.
"By Vulcan standards, that is true, but by Terran standards, I am no longer a child."
"You are not Terran, Spock." Sarek said tersely.
"No, but I am half-Terran." Spock wondered what possessed him to say that to Sarek, who had always informed his son he was Vulcan, demanded the strictest of Vulcan standards, and ignored the obvious facts of his son's heritage. As Sarek raised shocked eyes to him, Spock continued quickly, before his father completely excoriated him. "I have claimed dual citizenship. By Terran standards I became an adult upon reaching my eighteenth standard year, which commenced today."
Sarek's eyes flashed. "You claimed--" The elder Vulcan rose abruptly. His father's height, his flashing eyes, the silver-slashed black tunic with the clan markings designating him both head of clan and High Council, the swift motion and palpable anger as Sarek rose to his full height intimidated Spock as effectively as if he were still a pre-Kahs Wan child facing a lematya. He had spent too many years wary of this man. Despite himself, Spock flinched backward. Sarek immediately caught himself. Whatever he had been about to do, he settled for glaring down at his recalcitrant child. "I forbid this," he said with finality.
Spock had mastered his instinctive reaction, engendered from years of harsh discipline. He felt less shame at his slip than pride that even at their joint history, he could and did face Sarek down evenly now. "It is done."
"It was done without my consent, and it was ill-judged. That citizenship will be revoked at once, and your refusal of the Starfleet appointment communicated. Your behavior only further convinces me of your immaturity. I can see your education has been seriously flawed. That flaw will, I assure you, be addressed."
Spock sat down slowly, refusing to acknowledge the cold chill that flooded him. "Would it not be extremely insulting to the Terrans, to commit those actions, perhaps have them communicated to the interstellar press? It would hardly further Vulcan interests in the Federation."
"You intend holding a press conference?" Sarek asked caustically, "Perhaps you believe the interstellar press will be interested in the story of a recalcitrant child being prevented from an ill-judged action?"
Spock refused to allow the emotions he felt to show on his face. He had no doubt Sarek regarded him as merely that. "I have already confirmed the Starfleet appointment. Such a confirmation, from an individual holding Terran majority, which I now do, is a legal commitment. With their acknowledgement, Starfleet communicated their intention of holding such a conference, to announce their first acceptance of a Vulcan." Spock lowered his eyes. "I do not claim your competence in political matters, but I do believe the actions you contemplate would not be politically opportune."
Sarek stared at his son for a long moment as if Spock had displayed an unexpected attack in a here-to-now uninspiring chess game. "Indeed. You have, then, created a situation in which diplomatic extrication would prove difficult. But not impossible."
"Extrication is not necessary. And even if successful, will not change my intentions. I wish to study scientific phenomena in the field, not the laboratory, and I wish to explore my mother's culture as well. I do not wish to and will not teach at the Vulcan Science Academy."
"You disappoint me. After many years of patient instruction, the differences between duty and desire appear to continue to be lost on you."
"Hardly.” Spock replied, barely controlling his temper. “I have fulfilled my duty for 18 standard years. I have exceeded at every task you and Vulcan have set for me --"
"That is debatable."
"Very well.” Spock acknowledged coldly. “Although your personal opinion differs, officially I have gained highest honors in every discipline and course of study either you or the council have set. I have completed my education as regards Vulcan, obtaining not one but two advanced degrees. But I have a personal duty to myself as well as a duty to Vulcan. I intend to fulfill that now by a course of study in what is important to me."
"Duty does not end with the cessation of formal education. You have a responsibility to disseminate that knowledge which has been granted to you."
"I cannot teach others when I find myself so ignorant of my own heritage. And as you have pointed out, sir, there are many eager for such distinction. My contribution will not be missed."
"A duty unfulfilled is always missed."
"Then I must be delinquent, which no doubt will fulfill the opinion you have always had of me."
"You intend to deny your responsibilities, against my stated objections?"
"I did not make my decision unaware of what your opinion would be, of myself or of my duties. Your arguments I have anticipated and previously considered. I have made my choice."
"As a scientist, Spock, you should be aware of the folly of choosing before one is truly in possession of all the relevant data. Consider this, before you act upon this folly. You are my son, my heir, the heir of Vulcan's ruling clan, trained in the disciplines, having chosen," Sarek virtually thundered the word, "Vulcan as a life's path. If you turn your back on the heritage you have been raised within, a heritage you have previously chosen, then you turn it irrevocably. I will not have a 'Terran' child. Xtmprszqzntwlfb will not have a Terran heir. Act upon this new course, Spock, and you will be disowned, and disinherited of your position in this clan. Your former life will be closed to you.”
This was worse than Spock had hoped, but not more than he had considered might happen. He had always known Sarek might play that trump card. That Sarek drew it so quickly and so early in this discussion merely told him how adamantly his father opposed his plans. He had never counted on Sarek’s acceptance, but he had hoped for something less than total rejection. Hating himself for it, he tried for a conciliatory attitude, while still holding firm to his plans. "I do not turn my back on my heritage. My claim of citizenship is no more than what is my right, but I am Vulcan. I will go as a Vulcan to Starfleet. I had planned to return home after my tour of duty."
"There are no Vulcans in Starfleet."
"Then it is time for a first."
"That first will not be my son. I repeat, Spock, that if you go to Starfleet, you are no longer my son."
Spock said nothing for a moment, then after a moment of forcing himself to accept what he had known might come to pass, he remarked calmly. "If you insist. It is your right."
"One I intend to invoke should you defy your duty. I suggest you immediately reconsider. Now, child!"
Spock stood abruptly, and pushed back his chair, tacitly refusing Sarek’s order. For more than a decade, he had immediately come to heel like a whipped sehlat at that tone of voice. And for good reason; Sarek had infinite persuasions to ensure that he did. But Sarek had to learn it was no more. And he had to learn it himself. He was no child engaging in willful rebellion, and this oddly enough made his defiance harder, because it was so deliberate and so final. He could renege on his agreements, accepts Sarek’s disciplines and all would be unpleasant, but his life would not significantly change. Or he could close the door once and for all on his childhood, for both himself and his father. And with that door closed, he had something to say that as a child he had never been able to say. Internally he was shaking, but his voice was surprisingly firm. "I suspected, but did not truly believe until today, that IDIC was a myth preached but not lived. From my earliest memories, you have warned me that any deviation from your standards would forfeit my acceptance as your heir. I have long suspected that I have never been your son, by my right or your desire. The forfeiture you have long predicted has come to pass. The heir you required me to become was as much of a myth as the belief in IDIC I once held. It is regrettable we have wasted so long in pursuit of a false ideal, but its exposure was inevitable. It is as well we discovered the discrepancy now."
"You are insubordinate, child."
"I am insubordinate, but I am no longer a child. However, I will not remain to trouble you further."
"I do not dismiss you."
Spock halted, and swung around to face his father. His face was carefully blank, his expression as controlled as his father's, but his eyes were dangerous. "You have no rights in the matter. I expect you to formally disown me, but I dissolve the relationship now. I freely acknowledge from this time forth that I am no longer your son, and have no rights as your heir. With that, you have no claim over my actions."
"You are reacting emotionally."
Spock's expression did not change. "Perhaps. But emotion does not invalidate truth." He turned again.
"Spock, come here. Spock!"
The door to his study closed behind his son, and for the briefest of moments, Sarek considered following him, then rejected it in favor of confirming his son's assertions. Within moments, he had confirmation both his son's Terran citizenship, and his confirmed appointment to Starfleet.
Accustomed to the intricacies of Terran diplomacy, Sarek considered the problem his son had presented him with. There was, of course, no precedent for the established end of minority for a Vulcan/Terran hybrid. Spock was the first. It might be possible to claim his son too immature to be legally bound to his actions, but there was the fact of his Science Academy appointment, twice a matter of record, and his educational status. Perhaps, if Spock contritely cooperated with Sarek's plans, the attempt might succeed, though not without some damage to Vulcan integrity, but his behavior made it obvious that would not occur. Spock's reference to press conferences was a tacit threat to that required cooperation. Vulcan's opposition to Starfleet was an issue of long contention in its relations with the Federation. Spock could not have chosen an institution more prone to trumpet their acceptance of a Vulcan, or more likely to generate conflict over his unwilling withdrawal. Spock had indeed chosen well.
In the privacy of his own study, of his own mind, Sarek's temper flared. Undisciplined, unworthy child! The years of effort he had spent in ensuring his son's acceptance as his heir, thrown away in one ill-judged action. An action with interstellar consequences. And as much as he wanted to act on his own convictions, this was not solely a personal matter. T'Pau would have to be informed immediately. Even if his actions did not involve the disposition of her eventual heir, the political implications alone required her to be informed, and it were best done in person. Sarek strode out of his office in pursuit of his aircar.
In the sanctuary of his own bedroom, Spock paused just inside the door. His emotions were barely under control, and it took him some moments to subdue them to a level where he could function. He had never expected anything but Sarek's disapproval, but while he had considered Sarek might take this final, irrevocable step, he had hoped, illogically hoped, it would not come to pass.
All the years he had struggled to meet Sarek's standards, vainly sought Sarek's approval, always rejected, yet hoping that if he just worked harder, drove himself more sternly, he would attain that elusive goal. He had known better. Intellectually, he had long calculated Sarek's behavior, and determined that the goal was insurmountable. But emotionally, he had still hoped. And now, after fulfilling all Sarek requirements to the highest standards, to be disowned, discarded, like a hopelessly flawed item, was incredibly painful. Spock vision clouded against unexpected, long-denied tears, and he closed his eyes tightly, rejecting them. It took another minute of emotion controlling exercises to suppress his reaction, and when he had done so, he put his emotional reaction firmly aside. He had learned emotional control early, and practiced it often. It was surprisingly easy to bury emotion, if one did not think about the situation that caused it, and one buried oneself in work. And he had work. He did not want to take much, but he had to pack something, for he was leaving in the morning, perhaps even tonight. He doubted Sarek would succumb to any such dramatic gesture as immediately expelling him from the house, but it was possible. It was best to be ready to leave at the earliest opportunity.
T'Pau kept late hours as she aged, and she was just taking tea on her terrace. She responded to his news with no discernable emotion. Sarek, who knew well how her caustic comments and flashing eyes could accent her controlled expression, was surprised at how calm and indifferent she seemed to Spock's plans.
"It is a great temptation, this interest in Terrans," she remarked, carefully pouring hot water over her favorite blend of leaves, as unmoved as if Sarek had just told her Spock preferred kava to quist juice with his breakfast. "But, it is not unprecedented that one, of even our best youth, would desire to study among them. In fact, it is an affliction that seems particularly prevalent among our best youth. Nor is it unprecedented that one should go. At present 57 of our youth are so engaged." T'Pau met Sarek's gaze with her own compelling one. "I am not surprised that Spock should be so affected. He has more reason then they to be interested in Terrans. And he has the example of one in his own family to succumb to that interest."
Sarek flushed at this reference to Amanda. "Spock has obligations beyond those others."
"He is fulfilling his obligations at present, is he not?” She glanced at Sarek, setting aside her tea to steep. “He seems to have excelled in his studies, which in a child of his age, is all one can expect. Surely he has no council duties. Unless you plan to relinquish your hereditary seat to your child now,” she gave him a dry glance, “he has many years yet before his services will be required.”
“This is not an area in which he should express interest.”
“Indeed.” T’Pau was unmoved. “Your interest and actions did not disqualify you from your position as my heir. I see no reason that Spock's interest should disqualify him. He wishes no more than to attend a Terran school, a desire which is shared by many of his generation, and which some have acted upon."
"There is the situation he has been awarded at the academy, a position of honor which he has declined, now, for the second time.
T'Pau tilted her head slightly, the Vulcan equivalent of a shrug. "He is only a child, overly young for such a position. Few of his age have yet to finish formal education, much less a first mren-to. His wish for further instruction before undertaking such responsibilities as teaching is understandable.”
“If that were the case, he can pursue further studies at the Science Academy.”
“We have justifiable pride in the Academy,” T’Pau acknowledged. “Perhaps it is, as the Terrans themselves have said, an institution unequalled in the Federation. But he has taken two degrees with two different mentors there, has he not? I was informed he just passed his second mren-to with highest honors -- and much before the end of the term. Which must effectively silence those who claimed the first must have been obtained via favoritism or influence. I can well believe that a third course of study at the same institution lacks...” she paused, considering... “a certain value. Children seek varied instruction. It is not surprising Spock has sought diversity elsewhere. He will have many years yet to devote to instruction and research at the Science Academy upon his return. However little I may regard Terran science, or their institutes of education, he will undoubtedly learn something there of value."
"It is what he will learn there that lacks value that concerns me, T'Pau."
T’Pau sipped her tea, appeared satisfied, and set her cup aside. "It is a minor indulgence, Sarek, which I cannot see any particular reason to deny. He is a scientist. You, yourself, have been instrumental in promoting such scientific exchanges with the Federation. Surely you do not disagree that our best young researchers, which Spock must be so considered, are more than well-equipped to meet Terrans on their own ground."
"Our best researchers are not children and your heir."
"If he were not your son and heir, you would not be opposed,” T’Pau pointed out. “Spock is very young, but he is not unworthy. He has taken responsibility for his actions since his Kahs Wan, and brought honor to our clan. I have not a single censure with which to regard the child, which, considering his heritage, is a commendation I never expected to grant. In view of his excellent performance thus far, I am thus inclined to approve such a request. Indeed, I fail to see why you oppose it."
"It is more than a school, T'Pau, it is Starfleet Academy."
"That is true.” T’Pau nodded in sage consideration. “Vulcan has heard much of both the merits and flaws of this institution and its role in the Federation. But our data has always been acquired second-hand from humans. It has been a source of much conflict and concern, this militaristic branch of the Federation. It will be useful to have an internal opinion from someone trained in the disciplines. Spock will be of great service to Vulcan in that regard." She glanced at him wryly. “I wonder that you did not consider that benefit.”
"His training in the disciplines may not protect him from contamination of those standards by human values,” Sarek argued. “He is young, T'Pau. Too young for this action."
"He is no younger than the Terrans who would also attend,” the matriarch pointed out. “Do you doubt the strength of our disciplines against such Terrans?"
"Would you have Terrans teach your heir, T'Pau?" Sarek challenged.
"I have a Terran as mother to my heir, Sarek,” the matriarch countered dryly, with a flash of her black eyes. “While I did not choose it, and would not have had it, the choice was forced on me. And Spock, against my wishes, has proven himself worthy. How can this then affect him? If Spock has survived his half-human heritage, and his mother's influence all of these many years to master and surpass our disciplines, and excel as he has done, how can a few years in a Terran school affect him?"
"He has excelled in testing as a child, on Vulcan, in essentially a virtual situation. With proper mentors at hand,” Sarek added. “This reality may prove otherwise."
“Do you consider achieving two mren-tos the actions of a child?” the matriarch countered. When Sarek had no immediate answer, T’Pau shrugged. "Let us speak plainly. He has succeeded where many, where most, full Vulcans fail, to a standard few Vulcans meet, and with handicaps no full Vulcans have faced. I will not refute his accomplishments or deny him his position, earned by birth and merit, because you are momentarily displeased with his plans, Sarek. I am not your pawn, and he is my heir.”
“That remains to be seen.” Sarek said. “I will speak plainly, T’Pau. I will have no son in Starfleet.”
She fixed her son with a baleful look. “You have no other heir, full Vulcan, or otherwise, to present to me.” She shrugged again and raised her hand in a dismissing gesture. “No. I will not refute him for such a trifling reason as this. He is bonded to T'Pring. His heirs will no doubt be acceptable. His life is here, regardless of whether he is educated by Terrans for a few of their years. I have no concerns, Sarek. If you do, then provide another heir, preferably one full Vulcan this time. And train him quickly and well. Very well. Although I was forced to acknowledge Spock in Council, acknowledge him I did. Nothing he has done has broached his honor or my obligations to him. Regardless of my own wishes, I can not, in honor, see him put aside, even for a full Vulcan heir you might present to me. Unless such a one proves himself far more accomplished than your first."
"You require the impossible, T'Pau." Sarek grated. What T’Pau was demanding was essentially that he put aside his bond with Amanda, take a second, Vulcan bondmate, and raise a new heir. Even then she was not promising to accept such an heir in lieu of Spock, but intimated she would evaluate the two. Unless the boy were very gifted, or Spock became far more noticeably human and flawed than his present condition indicated, the outcome was by no means predictable. In addition, by that point Spock might well then have heirs of his own, and there would be T’Pring’s position and family to consider as well. The conflicts between two potential heirs among the council, with dissention split among T’Pring’s politically powerful clan, would be immensely disruptive. And this all assumed that he himself could even survive his first pon far with someone other than his chosen bondmate. The price T’Pau was exacting was incredibly high, far more than Sarek was willing to pay. It required Sarek destroy his marriage, risk his life in a dangerous rebonding and pin his hopes on the abilities of a yet unborn child.
"Then resign yourself to the inevitable, Sarek, as I was forced to do. Spock has proven himself honorably, against far stricter standards than have ever been required of the heir to our clan. He fulfilled his obligation, and I have acknowledged that. I will not sully my honor for this… trivial dispute … between yourself and your child. And that is all that this is, nothing but normal adolescent curiosity and precociousness on his part, and lack of tolerance on yours. An heir can pursue far worse actions than wishing to attend an unorthodox school against his father's wishes."
"It is unworthy and disrespectful of his position as heir to even consider it, and disobedient to pursue it."
"On the contrary, I am actually relieved to discover he has some interests other than what you dictate.” T’Pau gave him an even glance. “ An heir must be able to lead, Sarek, and not merely obey, as you apparently would wish. I knew Spock once had spirit, but I seen little evidence of it lately, unless diligence in study could be so regarded. I feared it had perhaps been crushed under your authority. That would have been a source of far more regret to me than this minor defiance." T’Pau looked at her own stubborn heir with the barest trace of affection, the first since they’d begun the discussion. “You had spirit enough to defy me, Sarek, and to force me to accept this child. Do you not expect to see such a trait in him as well?”
"What I expect is an acknowledgement of his duties,” Sarek said, rejecting T’Pau’s personal argument. “Spock's actions are unworthy of the responsibilities in which he was raised. I cannot and do not accept them. Nor will I acknowledge a son who acts thusly,” Sarek shook his head decisively. “Know this, T’Pau, I will have no son in Starfleet.”
T'Pau flicked an eyebrow. "I cannot prevent you from undertaking any personal action. Your son is yours to train. You may chastise your child as you please. You may even disown him as you suggest, if your disciplinary actions fail and you choose to refute the parental relationship. That is your choice as parent.” She glanced at him meaningfully. “But his status as your official heir, and thus as my heir, was sanctioned by Council and sealed by me. It is beyond personal matters. In the absence of proper cause, and without a suitable replacement, I find no reason now to refute his status. You may bring the proposal up in Council, but I caution you now that I will not support his removal, unless in future, Spock proves himself truly unworthy. Deny him if you choose. If you have disowned him, he will then answer solely to me, for I will not deny him. My approval is hard won, but once given, I do not lightly cast it aside."
Your refusal to act now, T’Pau, could bring that action to pass,” Sarek said ominously.
"Perhaps. But such is life. Children can be difficult, Sarek, and unpredictable. But I acknowledge that I have had more practice in accepting such deviant behavior than you. After all, you have not had a son and heir of yours yet marry a Terran and present you with a half-Terran heir. If you had, perhaps you would accept such inconsequential trifles as this in stride."
Sarek's eyes flashed, but he
turned and left his mother without further comment. T'Pau allowed herself a slight sigh before returning to her own
Spock raised his head from his packing at the knock on the door. He didn't need to ask who it was. It was a Terran custom and one his mother occasionally succumbed to, when her mind was distracted by other concerns. He pressed the door release.
Amanda entered, and took in the sight of his packing with surprising equilibrium. "Perhaps someone might tell me what is going on in this house?"
"To what do you refer?"
Amanda smiled ruefully. "Your father suddenly disappears after your discussion, when he had no meetings scheduled. I have an inkling where he might have gone. But you,” her gaze fell on his carrybag, “appear to be leaving as well, and going on a rather longer journey. Perhaps you might deviate from your father's example enough to tell me where you're going?"
Spock flinched inwardly as his mother unknowingly touched a nerve, but replied calmly. "It would be best if Sarek informed you."
"Oh dear." Amanda sat down on the bed, but she was still smiling a little. "That sounds serious."
"Sarek and I have had a disagreement."
"So far that is nothing new." Amanda shrugged, folding her arms and waiting patiently. “Based on the little you told me this afternoon, I was rather expecting something of this sort.”
"The disagreement was about my next course of study."
“So I assumed.” Amanda looked down at the quilt covering the bed, smoothing it absently. “You want to take a doctorate in 5th dimensional mathematics instead of molecular engineering? Or is it something really terrible, like English Literature?"
Spock was not in the mood to be teased. "I applied to Starfleet Academy."
For a moment, Amanda didn't react at all, the slight smile still playing around her lips, looking up at him quizzically. Then she sat up a little straighter, a line appearing between her brows, her hands now flat on the quilt. "You're serious, aren't you?"
"Of course I am serious,” Spock said, mystified over such a response. “And I was accepted."
"Good God." Amanda put one hand to her forehead. Spock watched her curiously, always amazed at how expressive his human mother could be.
"And I have accepted them, and they have confirmed,” Spock continued calmly, resuming his packing. “It is quite irreversible."
"But that's impossible,” Amanda was shaking her head slowly. “You're not of -- Sarek would have to--"
"I applied for Terran citizenship. Dual citizenship. Legally, I am of age, as of today."
"You applied for — " Amanda stopped shaking her head, her eyes, which had gone wide in astonishment, suddenly closed as she imagined Sarek’s reaction to this. "Oh, my God. No wonder your father was upset."
Spock said nothing, waiting for her own personal reaction.
Amanda opened her eyes, a rueful smile playing around her lips and regarded him levelly. "Terran citizenship?" she asked skeptically
"It — it was the only way--" Spock stammered, confused.
"Of course." Amanda shook her head again. "Only true desperation would drive you to such an act."
Spock frowned at her disapprovingly. He was never quite sure of his mother's reactions. There were times when she had rigidly upheld Sarek's standards to the point of issuing her own disciplines to enforce them. Then, at times, she seemed disappointed when he did not act more human. He wasn't sure now whether she disapproved of his actions or not, but, obscurely, he felt that she should. "I do not think you realize the seriousness of my actions,” he lectured pointedly. “Sarek was very displeased."
"You knew he would be, before you did it. Why Starfleet? You've never betrayed by a syllable -- " Amanda was silent a moment, considering. "No, of course not. That would have been...very foolish, wouldn’t it?” She looked at him knowingly.
Spock said nothing, refusing to meet her eyes, pretending to be absorbed in folding a garment.
“How long have you been considering this?"
"For some years,” Spock admitted.
Amanda shook her head again. Spock looked at her out of the corner of his eyes, wondered what it meant, whether disapproval or disbelief.
"Why Starfleet?" Amanda asked finally. "You could attend any school you wish. Many have programs as good or better than Starfleet. If you just want to study on Earth, there is Oxford, the Sorbonne, Johns Hopkins, even Harvard, if you don't mind your mother's alma mater. I wouldn't mind teaching out a term there again myself. We could even all go together. I'm sure Sarek could relieve the currently assigned Terran--"
"No." Spock halted the flow of words decisively. "No.”
“ It is not just that I wish to study on Terra, though there is that as well," Spock said slowly.
"They practice IDIC. Or they claim to. Not the Vulcan philosophy of course. But apparently similar enough in principle. They claim," Spock hesitated slightly, "to take any qualified applicant, from any Federation member world, into their organization, and to respect their differences, while still accomplishing joint Federation goals in exploration and research." Spock looked away from his mother's too discerning eyes. "No doubt the claim will be flawed in application, and marred by some intolerance. But it is still a worthy goal. It would be fascinating," Spock met his mother's eyes cautiously, "to experience such a practice of IDIC."
Amanda's eyes were very soft. "Yes, of course. I can see why you would be interested. But Spock," Amanda hesitated. "They are a military institution. You might have to--"
"Yes. I have considered that. But I will be a scientist, Mother, not a soldier. Starfleet requires both."
Amanda cut to the chase. "What did your father say, when you told him?"
Spock lowered his eyes. "I would prefer he discussed that with you."
"Something tells me your father's practice of IDIC was more than a little flawed and intolerant."
"No more than usual." Spock said tightly. Then he bit his lips. "Forgive me, mother. That was extremely impertinent."
"Which tells me that your father's reaction was about ten times worse in magnitude."
"He can not stop me." Spock asserted, and then bit his lip again, shaking his head in unconscious imitation of his mother.
"Which means that he's trying to,” Amanda sighed. “Well, I don't doubt your grandmother will be displeased, and the Council will follow their lead, but since you are packing, it looks like you believe whatever you planned out will work."
"You have not told me your opinion, Mother."
"I don't want you to go, of course."
Spock flinched, and looked at her sharply.
"Not for the reasons your father is objecting, I'm sure. I'm going to miss you." Amanda smiled ruefully, "Not that you have much time for me, but, still, I like having you around the house.”
“Mother.” Spock shook his head again, exasperated by her attitude.
“But you are grown up, and I was half expecting something like this. Secondly, Starfleet is dangerous, even for scientists. I'm going to have to worry a lot, and you are a terrible letter writer. But, it's also true that once you've sent your five year old child on a ten day Vulcan survival test, you can't quibble over his choices thirteen years later." She sighed. "I can also see that your father and I are going to have one whale of an argument over this, and that's something I'm not anticipating with any pleasure. He can be so tiresomely stubborn. And things have been going so well that I'm out of practice for a big fight."
"I wish you would not." Spock interrupted.
"Miss you, worry, write letters or argue with your father?"
Spock did not respond to his mother's teasing. "It serves no purpose for you to be in contention with Sarek over my actions. Sarek will not change his opinion, and you will not change your opinion. It is enough to have Sarek displeased with me, there is no cause for further disagreement."
"Except it is a wife's duty to tell her husband when she believes he is acting like a jerk -- excuse me, irrationally, as you would phrase it."
Spock colored, and looked away from his mother. "You should not-- It is disrespectful to speak of Sarek so, before me."
"Heaven forbid I should be disrespectful of my revered husband," Amanda said mock demurely, "heir to the rule of all Vulcan, current head of the Vulcan High Council, Vulcan Ambassador to the Federation, etc., etc., Even when he is acting like a --"
"My dear son, you have known for a long time your father is not perfect. What purpose would it serve for me to pretend, before you, that he was?"
"You have never spoken to me so, before today," Spock noted curiously.
"And you have never been eighteen before today." Amanda shook her head slowly. "Here lies one of the true horrors of Vulcan culture. That I should be oblivious to the day my only child becomes an adult."
"Terran standard years do not correspond to Vulcan. Nor am I an adult by Vulcan standards. And Vulcans do not celebrate birthdays."
"All very true, but none of which is an acceptable excuse. Humans regard this birthday as very important, something like a Vulcan Kahs-Wan. And it's importance is always marked by a very special gift. So, my son, in honor of your birthday, and your Terran citizenship, what gift do you choose?"
"I have no need--"
"Yes, I know. But, the only way I'm going to forgive myself for forgetting your birthday is if you'll indulge me in this minor whim. Think of it as a practice in IDIC."
Spock regarded his mother doubtfully. "Very well."
"Now what would you like?"
Spock looked away from his mother. He rarely allowed himself to indulge in desires of any kind, and to be told to consider some material thing he wanted was so foreign to him it was almost impossible. But he had to think of something, and quickly. And to be in the spirit of IDIC it had to meet the criteria his mother had set, something special, important. Considering he was in the process of leaving almost everything he owned behind, and that whatever he took had to fit in very small baggage, the idea of adding yet another possession when so many must be left was ludicrous. He was beginning to panic a little, when the answer suddenly came to him. Leaving everything behind. But it was presumptuous; it was wrong. He hesitated, looking at his mother, and she smiled in genuine delight.
"You thought of something!"
"Perhaps. If it would not be--"
"Spock. What is it?"
He swallowed hard, and looked away again. He could not ask, it was not only presumptuous, it was wrong, and emotional, and unVulcan...
"I would like...to have...a copy..." He half stuttered, trying to get it out.
"Yes?" Amanda waited patiently.
Spock closed his eyes, and just said it. "of the holo of you and father. The one that sits on his desk" He waited for the long-dead masters of the Vulcan disciplines, whose works he had so painstakingly studied and applied, to appear to consign him to the Vulcan equivalent of a Stygian hell for emotional excesses. None materialized though, and after a moment he grew tired of waiting for them and opened his eyes to view his mother’s reaction.
Amanda stared in puzzlement for a moment, and then her brow cleared. The holo had been taken very early in her marriage, by a newsnet reporter, when their relationship was still considered fodder for all the intergalactic gossip rags. It had been taken at a star terminal. Sarek had been standing below, in the terminal waiting area when she came through the gate above. The holographer had captured the image of both of them as their eyes had met. Sarek hadn't been smiling, not exactly, but his eyes were, and his welcome was plain regardless of his expression, or lack of one. And she was smiling too, of course.
Their unguarded expressions, the intimacy of the look, even the holography, which left the rest of the crowd slightly out of focus, contributed to the intensity of the moment. That holo had made every major Federation newsnet, as well as all the gossip rags. Some legitimate story was drummed up to justify it, but it had been the holo that was news. With one snap, some obscure reporter had made a large hole in the Vulcan pretense of non-emotion, and that in itself had been news. What had been even more astonishing was Sarek's reaction. She wasn't surprised when he managed to somehow stop publication of the holo and obtain the original. What did surprise her was that it had occupied a place on whatever desk he used since then. A curiosity considering that Sarek, with his eidetic memory, had little use for holographic aids. She had a copy made from Sarek's holo, and less disciplined than Sarek, had kept it in many places over the years:sometimes on her desk at the academy, sometimes in her office at home, sometimes on her bedside table. She had never seen her son so much as glance at it, and had no idea it had held any meaning for him.
"Wait here." She told Spock.
She went to her bedroom. She had brought it home the last time she had moved her office at the academy, and had yet to take it back. It had been a long time since she had really looked at it. She thought how grateful she ought to be to the holographer. In one quick snap, he'd caught something essential in her marriage, at the very beginning of her marriage, that thankfully was still there. She kept the holo in a silver frame, she wondered vaguely how Sarek had framed his. And another odd thought, she wondered, after all these years of the holos being looked at, one by a Vulcan male, and one by his very human wife, could they really be still the same? Perhaps years of Sarek's discipline had transformed the figures in Sarek's holo to little stick automatons, who betrayed nothing, while hers had gotten all the intensity leached from its twin. She smiled at the absurdity of the thought, and said out loud, to the empty room, "I'll have to go and look."
She crossed back to Spock's room, where her son was waiting for her, unmoving, barely breathing, exactly as she had told him. She slid the holo into his hand, and leaning down to kiss the top of his shining hair, said, "Happy Birthday, sweetheart. I am very, very proud of you." Then she went away, before she really embarrassed her stoic son by a display of tears.
Alone in his room, Spock sat down on his head and slowly turned the holo over. The images were just as he recalled them. Though it had been sometime since he had seen them, the intensity hit him just as sharply as it had when he was a child and had first come across it.
It had been a strange talisman of his childhood. His father preached non-emotion, and his father allegedly did not love, yet, if Spock had ever been asked, of his limited experience, to describe a picture of love, this would have been it.
But more than that fascinating contradiction, the holo had also personified, to him, his own existence. His childhood had been a lonely one. He had never been close to his father, and after his infancy had passed, he had never been allowed to become close with his mother. Yet he was not so insensitive not to perceive the depth and intensity of his parent's relationship. Between them was a bond, physical, emotional, intellectual, and yes, even sexual that he could not help but perceive, yet one he could never share in. Nor could he escape it, at least not while he was forced to live in their home. He was always on the outside, looking in. An observer, but never a participator.
He had been very much aware, throughout his childhood, that Sarek regarded his heir as very much a necessary inconvenience. And even his mother, whom he knew loved him, occasionally regarded him as such. Denied any emotional relationship, he had been forced to live in close proximity to one where his sole role had been as a necessary hindrance. At times he had felt like a starving child outside a bakery window, and that emotion came back as he studied the holo. It did not sadden him. Like any childhood recollection, it stirred nostalgia, but not real sadness. He had internalized Sarek's lessons far too long ago to even consider wanting parental love, or any love. His desires had tempered to craving acceptance of himself, but even that he had deemed was probably an unobtainable goal. He used to look at the holo and wonder when his turn for acceptance would come. Now that he was an adult by Terran standards, and about to be disowned by his father, he had come to realize it would never come. But he wanted the holo anyway. Somehow, this holo not only portrayed his parents and their relationship, but his childhood too. He had never belonged any place, and there was no way he could have found a place for himself in this relationship. Like Sarek, he did not need the holo as an aid to memory. For him, it was an aid to emotion. When he remembered the holo, he remembered the emotion. When he saw the holo, he felt that emotion. And he could almost feel, looking at the holo now, through the eyes of an adult, that perhaps he was mistaken, and perhaps one day he would find that acceptance. But even if he never did, the holo was proof that it existed. Emotion was real, and it was even possible for a full Vulcan to find it. Perhaps some day he would as well. But not here. That was one thing the holo made clear. There was no place for him here.
But having such a feeling over a talisman was illogical, emotional and foolish. He wondered what Sarek's reaction to the holo was. Could it stir emotion too? Emotions his father claimed not to have? Why keep it on his desk for all these years?
Somehow, having the holo made packing somehow easier. Very little seemed important after that. He packed his lyre, his IDIC, a few warm clothes, and very little else. Then he looked at the holo one more time, and went to bed.
Asleep, Spock dreamed he was in the holo, but out of focus, and no one saw him. If he could just get the holographer to retake the holo, he would fit in. But he couldn't find the holographer. He had to search, and he knew the search would be long, and many would regard it as foolhardy. But someday he would find someone who could retake the picture, and the holo would be remade. It would be different. It would be new, not like the other. But he would be in it. And then everyone would see where he fit in.
Sarek returned late to his ancestral home, having taken a detour to meditate in the desert after his unsatisfactory interview with T'Pau. The massive stone edifice was darkened, except for one small glow in the master suite. He could not see Spock's suite from this vantage, and a thought crossed his mind that Spock might already have left. His meditations on the desert had not swayed his opinion, but he hoped that with similar reflection Spock had come to realize the errors of his present intended course.
He flew through the security screens surrounding the house, each one dropping obediently and briefly as he approached, and then rising up again -- a Federation ambassador, even on his home planet, must take precautions -- and felt a moment’s regret they were not designed to prevent egress.
He took a moment to return to his study, and access the house security program, long enough to assure himself Spock was still within. Perhaps the child had reconsidered.
He walked through the darkened house. His eyes, bred to Vulcan's moonless nights, did not require lighting. And he had been born and raised in this house, and long familiarity made lighting unnecessary. He entered his own suite, passing through the darkened outer rooms, his eyes adjusting momentarily to the increase in illumination as he reached his bedchamber and walked through it to the small sitting room off of it where Amanda often worked in the evenings. Across the room, Amanda raised her head from whatever she had been perusing, her blond hair, loose in the privacy of their quarters, spilling down her back, gleaming in the lamplight. She pushed it impatiently back, behind her round human ears. Sarek paused in his doorway, as struck by her appearance as if he had found a wild lematya in his quarters. Even after all these years, he could still be occasionally startled by the enormity of what he had done, to take an alien to wife. T’Pau’s words had brought some of that feeling back. But as always, he felt no regret for his actions. He was more than satisfied with his choice of wife. If only heirs could be so chosen. He closed the door carefully behind him as Amanda sat back from her work.
"Good evening, my wife. I am pleased to find you still awake."
"Sarek." Amanda studied him, her blue eyes wide as she tried to gauge his mood. He did not seem angry or upset now, and she wondered if he had decided to reconcile himself to Spock's actions, however unlikely that seemed. "I was a little concerned. You don't usually take off so unexpectedly."
"Indeed." Sarek didn't care to be reminded of something he hoped to banish for an interlude, and he held out his hand to Amanda. Still eyeing him warily, she gave hers, and let him draw her to him. The kiss was both expected and unexpected. She wasn't surprised at his actions, but the timing was wrong. Wasn't he supposed to be angry with Spock? After a moment, she squirmed away, before the kiss could deepen to something she couldn’t stop. He allowed it, pulling fractionally back to raise a quizzical eyebrow at her uncharacteristic behavior.
"I talked to Spock this evening."
"Indeed." Sarek ignored the opening, and lowered his head again.
"He was a little upset-- Sarek, stop." She wrenched back from his close embrace. Sarek loosened his grip, letting her take a step back, but didn’t actually release her, his hands still firmly possessive. It was never a wise thing to interrupt a Vulcan male in such pursuits. Because of that, she had little experience with what she’d just done. Trying to do so in pon far was, of course, a virtual death sentence. Like any Vulcan wife, she’d learned her pon far lessons very well, which dictated that one simply never, never, never resisted. Not if you wanted to keep your neck unbroken. She’d never seen the murderous fury of a male in uncontrolled pon far. But she’d heard the rumors, and gotten the lectures. Gradually, habit became reflex, almost instinct, both in and out of pon far. Because of those carefully learned reflexes, she came out of the worst of pon fars now with nothing more than the inevitable bruises. It was therefore incredibly difficult for her to deliberately stop Sarek now.
She knew that. Sarek knew she knew it. Therefore his swift embrace, without even the barest preliminaries, was a deliberate attempt to manipulate her. He didn’t want to talk, and there was no better way to avoid it than to take her to bed. No doubt a Vulcan wife would have dutifully let herself be manipulated. However, she was human enough to refuse to be duped. Had he been even six months close to his next pon far, she would have been much more careful to risk his temper with what she’d done. But Sarek was fairly regular in that cycle, and his last one had been barely three months ago. Under such circumstances, she wasn’t going to be intimidated against saying a temporary no. She pushed back her unruly hair, while Sarek frowned down at her, his fingers tight on her arms. She gave him credit for stopping with that. He occasionally forgot his own strength, but in general Sarek was invariably careful with her. Gentle. Even in the mock rough games they occasionally played, he’d never hurt her, always tempering his strength. Only when he reacted instinctively did he forget she bruised a lot more easily than her Vulcan sisters. She looked up at him, gauging his mood. He didn’t seem angry, but he did seem determined. His next words proved it.
"Amanda, I have spent the entire evening in conversation with, or about, Spock. I really do not care to discuss him further now."
"Well, I do."
"Very well," He released her so abruptly, she nearly stumbled.
Game over, Amanda thought, rubbing her upper arms, where she would almost surely have bruises the next day. At least that one.
Sarek sat down on the chair she had vacated as if he were holding court, leaned back, folded his arms and fixed her with a commanding stare. "Proceed."
For a moment, Amanda frowned at him, both flustered and frustrated. Then, almost against her will, her lips twitched. How very like Sarek to seize whatever advantage he could. But she wasn't going to stand before him as if she were the recalcitrant schoolchild. She fixed him with a glare, tossed her unbound hair defiantly over her shoulder, wishing she hadn't unbraided it, and crossing to an opposite desk, perched on its edge. It put her a little at a disadvantage to be barefoot and casually dressed against her husband's formal council trappings, but she could at least maneuver for a better position. Let him look up at her.
"Spock told me about Starfleet."
Sarek neither reacted nor commented.
"He didn't tell me what your response was."
"I disapprove." Sarek said the words with his legendary calm, as if his disapproval was as obvious a fact as Eridani’s dawn the next morn.
"Obviously. I'm curious what you plan to do regarding that disapproval."
"Do you intend to plead his case?" he asked coolly, raising a wry eyebrow, and eyeing her from her unbound hair to her bare feet.
Amanda smiled, not taking the bait. "Come, Sarek. You know, Spock knows, and I'm sure T'Pau knows by now. Don't you think your wife has a right to know your plans in this situation?"
"I trust now that Spock has had time to reflect on my disapproval, he has reconsidered his actions."
Amanda thought of Spock's close to completed packing when she had left him, but didn't betray by a flicker of expression her son's intentions. "That's no answer."
"Do you approve?"
"You haven't answered my question, yet," Amanda said, crossing her legs, one foot swinging impatiently as she tried to keep her temper.
"You are aware of my disapproval. I have yet to be informed of your opinion."
Amanda looked away a moment. In the verbal chess game they were playing, Sarek had a point. "My feelings about it are...mixed."
"I did not ask for your emotions."
Stung, Amanda flung her head back to her husband. The caustic remark she had been about to deliver died on her lips. Sarek's thoughts were turned inward, and he seemed to have lost interest in the argument. He looked so pensive her heart went out to him. "I understand his reasons."
Raising his head, Sarek look scandalized, as if she had told him Spock had fallen in love. "His reasons? There can be no reasoning worthy of such an irrational, self-destructive act."
"Did you even discuss his reasoning? Or did you just condemn him out of hand, without even listening? As usual, I might add."
"Any such reasoning that would lead him to such an action must be flawed,” Sarek said dismissively.
Amanda thought of her son's shy confession, and knew he would have never broached such a discussion with Sarek. Nor could she betray his confidence by discussing it with Sarek. The breach between her husband and son always saddened her, and never more so now, when with Spock away, they would have even less opportunity to resolve it. And of course, it was patently impossible to consider that they could resolve it before Spock left tomorrow. Certainly not with Spock unable to talk to Sarek because of her husband's attitude. She met Sarek's eyes, gauged how uncompromisingly he intended to hold his position, and smiled sadly. "You know, I'm not up to this. I must be out of practice, or something."
"Spock is right. Neither of us are going to change our opinions about this, so why should we argue about it? You're going to do what you want to do anyway. If you want to talk to me about it, go ahead. I'd far rather you listened, really listened to your son, but that seems an unlikely first after all these years."
Sarek's eyes widened as Amanda slid off the desk. Rising swiftly, he caught her wrist as she turned away.
Amanda halted before him, unwilling to be drawn into this argument, tired of being caught between her husband and son. Right now she wished she’d let Sarek manipulate her into bed. She’d welcome a rush of desire canceling out her own ambivalent feelings. She wondered, absently, if that hadn’t been part of why Sarek had reached for her. If only everything could be that simple.
"Amanda, you cannot possibly approve of his plans."
"I haven't approved a lot of things in Spock's raising that you've done, Sarek. And you’ve never cared."
"That is not true."
"Well, it's rarely influenced you. I can't believe what I think is important to anyone now. I’ve learned acceptance. Perhaps it’s time you did.”
Amanda sighed. Sarek was always precise with words. If he said never, it meant exactly that. Her heart ached for her husband and her son. But though she had ached more for her son in the past, now, obscurely, she felt more for her husband. Forced to leave without his father’s acceptance, Spock would be hurt. But he’d grown to adulthood living without Sarek’s acceptance, and he would leave whether he had it or not, wounded inside, stoic as always outside. Still, new experiences would help to soften the pain of that rejection.
But Sarek. In the battles Sarek had been engaged for Spock’s acceptance as a Vulcan, or against his son’s humanity, Sarek had never lost. Whether he’d been in contention with T’Pau, or the Council, or even his son’s very nature, he’d always triumphed. T’Pau had been forced to accept Spock as heir. The Council had sealed him. Spock had passed his Kahs Wan. He’d been successfully bonded to T’Pring. He’d developed the psi skills, physical and mental development necessary to his acceptance in Vulcan society. He’d not only passed every discipline Sarek had set, but he’d passed them often before his full Vulcan contemporaries and with higher honors. And now that Sarek had won every battle, his son on the verge of moving into proper adult Vulcan society, one rear-guard action from within his own camp had, in one fell swoop, robbed Sarek of the entire war. She had no doubt that when Sarek said never, he meant it, and the entire force of his considerable will would be directed against the son for whom this had all been done. She hoped Spock was up to the battle. But she suspected, being his father’s son, that he more than was. His very silence regarding his interest in Starfleet, an interest he’d concealed for years, attested to his worthiness for this battle. Sarek was going to lose, and she had a terrible feeling it was going to devastate him. She wondered how long it would take Sarek to realize how very much his father’s son Spock was, proven by these very actions..
“Never is a long time, Sarek.”
Sarek hands tightened on her, turning her to him. “You surely do not condone his behavior.”
She looked away, not wanting to meet his face, thinking this was unfair. “I find it hard to believe why you think my approval or disapproval would have any influence over him. If you recall, you discredited me as a source years ago. It’s a little late to invest me as an aid now that the tide has turned." She tugged at Sarek’s unyielding hold on her wrist.
Sarek’s grip tightened involuntarily, his eyes narrowing. “You would never — You could not have —”
“Put him up to this? No, though I almost wish I had.” She flinched as Sarek’s grip became bruising. “You’re hurting me.” Sarek released her, seeming surprised at his possessive grip, taking a step away, and Amanda rubbed ruefully at the bruises. “Spock is the one leaving. You don’t need to break my wrist.”
“Spock is not leaving.”
Amanda looked up, concerned. “Did T’Pau agree to block his departure?” She wondered, briefly, traitorously, if she could somehow get word to Spock to leave quickly, before the formidable matriarch could get her forces mobilized. Then she realized how futile that was. If T’Pau wanted Spock to stay on Vulcan, her son didn’t have a chance. She shook her head slightly in regret. And T’Pau had seemed almost cordial to Spock over the last few years, at least, what passed as cordial for her. The matriarch had nothing but the most formal of relationships with her grandson, not doing much more than distantly acknowledging him at occasions of state. But she did acknowledge him. For Amanda, who had first-hand experience with T’Pau’s lack of acknowledgement of her daughter-in-law, and had seen T’Pau’s caustic behavior with those High Council delegates who had displeased her, those distant, formal, yet congenial nods had told her much. At least until now, Spock had somehow been in his grandmother’s favor, which was not at all an easy position to achieve.
Sarek turned away. “His grandmother refuses to act.”
Amanda concealed a smile, feeling a not unfamiliar rush of kinship for her mother-in-law. T’Pau had never truly reconciled herself to her son’s marriage, and Amanda had once feared this would mean she would be as adamantly opposed to acknowledging her grandson as she was in accepting her son’s wife. But then a quirk of genetics had played a hand.
Spock had nothing of his mother’s features, and in fact bore only the most superficial resemblance to his father. The person he most strongly resembled was his paternal grandfather. Amanda had never met the man, who had died some years before her marriage to her husband. She had been unaware of the resemblance until she had accidentally come across some holographs. Vulcans did not stand around a baby’s crib and talk fondly about where a child got each feature. But as Spock grew, the resemblance had been uncannily obvious.
It must have been particularly galling for T’Pau to see her bondmate’s features irrevocably stamped in the face of a half-human grandson she had allegedly never wanted to accept as heir. And not just his features. Spock allegedly has his grandfather’s build, his stride, his voice, so subtly different than his father’s, his mannerisms and even apparently his aura. Just weeks ago, Ambassador Threngen, one of a race of long-lived telepaths, had commented privately to her that Spock had a quiet, reversed, deep resonance that resembled his grandfather. “You husband has an aura that radiates calm,” Threngen said, with a smile born of irony, “but a calm born of strength and power firmly leashed and controlled. Quite suitable for the types of negotiations we are often engaged in, where such strength of power is formidable. But your son, Lady Amanda, if you may forgive me, has an aura with the calm of quiet consideration, like a stone falling into an immensely deep and still pool. Very much like his grandfather. When he has matured to marshal that power, I believe he will be quite as formidable as his father. Perhaps more so.”
Amanda had thanked him for the insight, but kept Threngen’s observations to herself. Sarek, she knew, considered his son almost a cipher, even at the same time as he had rigidly disciplined him and ground him down into showing barely a flicker of any personality or spirit. Spock dealt with the contradiction by simply avoiding his father as much as possible, and no doubt projecting that lack of spirit whenever they were forced to associate. And T’Pau’s attitude was one of watchfulness, as if she was expecting something from her grandson, waiting for something to show. For many years, Amanda had taken her attitude to mean she was waiting to see if Spock’s human heritage would disgrace him, if some telltale human attitude or nature would break through. Now, she realized T’Pau had understood her son better than either of his parents and had long been expecting some action on Spock’s part. Something to break free of his overbearing father’s unrelenting discipline, an action difficult to achieve on Vulcan. Now it had happened, and T’Pau apparently had no intention of interfering.
Amanda looked searchingly at her husband. If T’Pau had refused to back Sarek, it meant he was essentially on his own. Years of little more than issuing orders and dispensing discipline had left Sarek with no real personal relationship with his son, nothing with which to appeal to him. If Spock had finally defied his father, had refused to obey him, as he had certainly done when Sarek had forbidden this venture, then what could Sarek do? For years, Amanda suspected he had little influence with his son other than the sheer weight of parental authority and the acknowledgement due him as the male head of the clan. Spock respected, perhaps even revered his father. But any personal fealty Spock might have felt had long ago been burned away by Sarek’s uncompromising treatment.. If this were three or four years ago, Spock might have been still vulnerable to some discipline through the parental bond, perhaps might even be appealed to if Sarek would ever unbend enough to ask him to stay. But now he was assuredly able to shield against any punitive corrections issued that way, and he’d assiduously avoided Sarek’s presence or notice for years, doing whatever Sarek required to ensure that he escaped Sarek’s notice whenever possible.
As matriarch, T’Pau could do anything she liked, probably up to and including having her grandson executed for treason. Spock held his grandmother in a certain amount of regard, perhaps because unlike his father, his grandmother treated her grandson with distant but definite respect. Their paths generally crossed only at ceremonial functions, but never once since she’d acknowledged him had she slighted him or treated him as anything other than her dynastic heir, no mean feat when she had never acknowledged his mother. No doubt Sarek had expected their combined disapproval to bring Spock quickly to heel. But Amanda felt suddenly certain of something. Before he had even begun this, Spock had known how T’Pau would react, had known his grandmother would give him his head. Without exchanging a word, or even, in this telepathic society, a thought, Spock and T’Pau had understood each other. Even Amanda had known T’Pau disapproved of Sarek’s heavy handed dealings with her grandson and heir. T’Pau had never sullied her hands by actually interfering in what she clearly considered was neither her place nor her business, leaving the raising of the son to his father. But now that Spock had reached an age to be free, she obviously had no intention of aiding and abetting Sarek in continuing the treatment of which she had so long disapproved. And knowing her mother-in-law, Amanda had no doubt T’Pau had twisted the knife as she had slipped that truth home to Sarek. No wonder Sarek looked so bleak. Her poor husband had been attacked on all fronts.
And Spock. Her dear son had cleverly lost every skirmish before it ever became a battle, blanked his personality, swallowed his temper and bided his time, yielding to Sarek’s unremitting discipline, convincing Sarek he was malleable clay, when all the while he was concealing an ambition that, had he been so foolish enough to reveal even a few years before, Sarek would have ruthlessly broken Spock’s will to eradicate, if it had come to that. Oh, she had no doubt her dear husband would have done such a thing if Spock had been so foolish as to tip his hand. All in her son’s best interests, of course. Her husband wasn’t deliberately cruel, but he was formidable and assured he knew what was best for his son. And Spock had calculated that, and acted accordingly, never revealing his plans until his time. What a genius that boy was, to have played possum as long as he had, only to pitch this definitive battle. What brilliance he had, to dupe his savvy father into an untenable position. But then, he’d had a good teacher, watching his father and his formidable grandmother bend whole star systems to their will. Spock had had years to assess his father’s considerable strengths and search for vulnerabilities. And he’d found just where to attack his father’s chief weakness — Sarek’s own lack of regard for his son’s abilities. And had been playing up to it with a vengeance all these years.
Sarek had never suspected, probably still did not really understand yet, what his son had just engineered. How the boy had waited, how long he had planned everything: his academic career ending so conveniently, his surreptitious applications to Starfleet, his quiet claiming of Terran citizenship, all concluding on a birthday he’d been careful to ensure even his own mother had overlooked, the first day in his eighteen standard years he could legitimately strike a blow for freedom. How long had he been planning it? And how had he managed the humiliation of these past years, under his father’s harsh hand, suffering in waiting for this time to come? In itself, it must be breaking her son’s heart, that his father so misjudged and under-rated him. But T’Pau knew. Not ahead of time, of course. Spock wouldn’t have risked that. But of course, T’Pau must have instantly understood Spock’s actions leading up to this final show of hand as clearly as Amanda saw them now. That old matriarch must be vindicated tonight. Her bondmate’s grandson had finally lived up to his genes. And her expectations. She had indeed been waiting, watching all along, for something like this.
Amanda wondered what she could possibly say to her husband in light of all this. To press Spock’s case meant leaving Sarek alone and beleaguered. It occurred to her that she had asked Sarek twice now what he planned to do regarding Spock, and he had evaded answering both times.
“How are you going to keep Spock from leaving?”
Sarek turned to look at her.
“You said Spock wasn’t leaving,” Amanda reminded him. “What did you mean?”
Sarek looked impatient. “I have forbidden it.”
She blinked, not quite believing her husband didn’t understand how the situation had changed. “Sarek, Spock is long past the point where your lack of permission is going to stop him,” Amanda pointed out as delicately as she could. She wasn’t entirely sure Sarek realized how easily his control of Spock had slipped from his hands. It was true, a week ago, when Spock was still biding his time, the lightest order from his father would have instantly been obeyed at any cost, a reproof would have been accepted with humble shame and lowered head. She had never been entirely sanguine about Spock’s behavior, his obedience often seemed more calculated to seem submissive than be so, and the shame that occasionally colored his face now had a wider meaning. Once it had been genuine, once Sarek’s reproofs had cut him to the core, and he’d lived only for his father’s approval. When had that slipped away? When had Spock begun playing his pose, the shame coming from subterfuge rather than embarrassment? She thought about the times she’d caught her son watching Sarek when the elder Vulcan wasn’t observing. Spock had always lowered his head when that happened, something he still did to conceal his emotions. As much control as he’d mastered, she’d become expert in reading the faces of her husband and son, even at their most unrevealing. Spock had been deceiving her as well. She wondered how she felt about that, but it seemed trivial compared to what Sarek must be feeling.
“I have already told your son, that if he attempts this course of action, I will disown and disinherit him.”
Your son. The words raised the hackles on the back of her neck, even as the harshness of the ultimatum sickened her. But those words overshadowed even the force of that ultimatum. It was like the raising of an old gauntlet, the opening of an old wound. Years ago, when Spock had been much younger, Sarek had used those words. When Spock met his standards, Sarek had referred to him as his son. When he hadn’t, he’d quickly been delegated to your son. At first, god help them, they’d actually found it rather amusing. A sort of private joke between indulgent parents. But as Spock grew out of babyhood Amanda had discovered how serious it was for Sarek. By the time Spock had been eight, the joke had worn thin, and they’d had a pitched, very definitive battle that Amanda had played for keeps over those words, among other things too, of course. She had nearly walked out of her husband’s life, pon far be damned, threatening to take her son with her. Not that Spock would have gone with her, not willingly. Not then. Then he was still determined to be his son. It had been the worst period of her life, and no doubt Sarek’s as well. And she could only imagine the scars it had left on Spock. He’d been miserable at home, but the thought of leaving Vulcan, the only culture and heritage he’d ever known or heard validated, for a Terra he’d never seen and generally heard spoken of only in derision, must have panicked him no end. Of course, she’d had had as much chance of getting her son off Vulcan as she’d had in sprouting wings. Regardless of Sarek’s vocabulary, he played for keeps with offspring, as did the High Council and, not incidentally, T’Pau. The old woman might not have wanted Spock, but she would as soon let her husband’s grandson leave with a human as she’d have willingly given her son in marriage to one.
As a human, Amanda had known she’d had less than a snowball’s chance in hell of winning custody of Spock, or in even getting a Federation Court to hear such a case. But she’d grown tired of Sarek’s tennis court attitude toward his son’s acceptance. She’d also suspected that hearing himself proclaimed as Sarek’s heir before all of Vulcan publicly, but verbally tossed from parent to parent in private based on his behavior of the moment was tearing her child to pieces. Not that the fallout from that argument hadn’t taken its own toll. It had left her and Sarek with scars. They’d resolved their differences, and Sarek had eradicated the phrasing from his vocabulary. Until now. But to Spock, the idea that he might lose his home and see his parents live apart because of laxness in his own control had extracted a heavy burden from him. She dated his deceptive concealment as repercussion from that the worst period of their lives, those horrific events. From that time forward, Spock had become a stranger to her, his face a wooden mask, cleaving even tighter to his father’s standards, and never showing even the slightest desire to be anything other than his son. Also until now.
“My son?” She asked dangerously.
Sarek’s features flickered briefly, before he said coolly, lightly, as if the words would not carry the flick of a lash. “He has proven himself as such after all, has he not?”
Amanda closed her eyes. I have lived most of my life with this man, she thought. No, not with a man. He is Vulcan. With this Vulcan, then, have I lived all my adult life. And I love him. I do love him. Tonight he has taken one of the worst blows of his life, maybe the worst he ever will, and he is in pain. It’s natural to strike out when you’re in pain.
But then her anger rose within her. But by God, he doesn’t have to strike out at me. She opened her eyes, carefully not looking at the Vulcan across from her, and walked out of her study.
She ignored him. She didn’t know where she was going, or why, but surely there was a better place for her than this.
She felt herself seized from behind, stopped, held in an unyielding embrace. Who said Vulcans were always in control? Something ingrained and Vulcan in her told her not to fight those possessive hands. That if she could just relax and go along with it, it would all turn out well. But something human in her, some insane she-demon, immensely human and very ancient, pushed out with Vulcan fury and said. “Leave me alone!”
“Amanda, please.” It was Sarek again, not the cool bastard who’d just excoriated her with a few well-chosen words. But she knew the bastard was in there too, somewhere. Not for nothing was Sarek T’Pau’s son. His arms were around her, Vulcan-strong but not with bruising strength, his breath against her neck, Vulcan warm. “Please don’t.” He didn’t say the word leave, but she felt it. She pushed against him, but not with fury this time, more to test the strength of his resolve. And hers. He didn’t let her go, but held her closer, his lips warm against the pulse point of her neck.
“Amanda, don’t.” Leave me. Please don’t leave. Not you, too. His arms were like columns, holding her against him, close and tight. Holding her in. The way he couldn’t hold their son in. One hand drew her hair away from her throat, his lips trailing across it, across the curve of an ear to her cheek, just brushing her lips before she turned her face away, rejecting the kiss.
“No.” I can’t do this. Not again. It’s too damn hard to keep doing this again and again. Maybe everyone was right, we should never have gotten married, Vulcan and human mixed and always fighting and Spock miserable and wouldn’t it be grand if Vulcans lived the way they really claimed to live and never really felt anything at all, oh no, I couldn’t live that way but is this better, how can it be anything but worse and far more than worse, I simply cannot bear this, not one more day, not one, and --
“Let me go,” she whispered.
“Never,” he whispered back, and she knew he meant it, the same way he’d said Never when he’d spoken of their son. Vulcans played for keeps, always and forever. She knew that. Before she’d gotten married, she had been delicately, then not so delicately, warned of it. And her husband wasn’t just any Vulcan, oh no, not for her. She’d innocently and ignorantly picked the quintessential Vulcan, the hereditary ruling head of the High Council, a Vulcan first, foremost and always. He was fully capable of keeping a human wife at the same time he discarded a Vulcan son, a son more like him than he’d ever known. When he said never, nothing on the face of any world, neither Vulcan nor Terra, would ever sway him. That was the man she had married. The man she loved.
She cried then, her face buried against the stiff embroidery of her husband’s Council tunic, ruining Vulcan tradition with human tears. She cried for the son she was losing and had largely never known, for the pain he’d never been allowed to express, for the love she’d kept herself from showing. She cried for Sarek, for the son he’d forsaken years ago, and the one he was shortly going to lose, no doubt with harsh words and recriminations on either side. She cried for herself, because she’d known, even before she’d said ‘yes’ years ago, that Vulcans always played for keeps, and she’d willingly let herself become one of those keeps to play for. She cried for her happiness that she’d willingly given into the hands of a logical Vulcan, the life she had gambled on that, both hers and Sarek’s and because she wished now, with at least half of her son’s divided soul, that she’d had the strength to say no that long ago day when she’d still had a choice. She cried because she felt so torn, and for the purely Vulcan horror Sarek felt because she did feel that way. She cried in envy for all the Vulcan woman who apparently felt nothing but unconditional love for their bondmates, or if they didn’t, never, never distressed them with regrets. She cried for the human husband she’d never know, and the human children she’d never have, and for the good Vulcan wife Sarek deserved. She cried for Sarek, who was watching the heir he’d raised walk away from his carefully arranged life, with no promise of returning. She cried for both of them, because they and their marriage could never be the same after this. But most of all she cried for her son, who had to leave his home to find the acceptance he deserved. Surely, surely, when she and Sarek had pledged their lives together, they had in mind something better than this. How in the world, any world, Vulcan or Terra, had they reached this place from where they started, with their grandiose dreams of IDIC and acceptance? What had happened to them?
“Amanda, don’t,” Sarek kept saying. “Please don’t.”
She looked up at him finally, her face wet with tears. She didn’t remember Sarek carrying her to bed, but somehow that’s where they both were, she still cradled in his arms, his Council tunic a ruin of bleeding colors, his face strained with worry, both of them crushing the ancient tapestry coverlet that adorned their huge bed. T’Pau no doubt would be livid if she could see it. Amanda felt horribly embarrassed. It had been years, a decade, since she’d lost control like this, longer since she’d lost it in front of Sarek. But then memory flooded back and she pulled away from him, wiping her wet face with her bare hands. “I cannot do this,” she said brokenly. “I simply cannot do this anymore.”
“Yes, you can,” Sarek assured her, one hand tangled in her hair, carding through the long strands.
“Yes.” Sarek countered. “You can. Of course you can.”
“No,” she struggled to sit up, amazed at how exhausted she felt. As if she’d been running a long race in heavy gravity. But of course. She had, for eighteen years. And lost it, too. She felt hot tears trickle down her cheeks again, and wondered where all this grief was coming from. She hadn’t felt this way when she and Spock had spoken in the afternoon. But then she remembered. Your son. Oh, no. There was nothing in the universe worth going through that pain again, not even for Sarek, whom she’d given up so much to love. Including her beloved son. No, she could not, would not, fight that battle again, torn between husband and son. It had nearly killed her ten years ago. It would surely kill her this time.
“No. I just can’t, Sarek.”
“Yes, you can. I’ll help you.” Sarek closed his arms around her, holding her, trapping her, pulling her down beside him. “Amanda.” His mouth closed over hers, possessive, demanding and this time she didn’t resist it, didn’t evade the hands stripping her, the body covering her. What does it matter? What’s one more time? She thought as she felt herself melt against him. A goodbye?
No. She felt Sarek reject that thought. Never.
But that word was like death enveloping her, a chill remembrance of her husband’s indomitable will. The last time, she’d fought it for her son, but it had still turned out to be her son’s expense. What had she saved her marriage and her home for, when it had resulted in her son being raised as a virtual stranger to her. She’d stayed with Sarek, expecting Sarek would make the necessary compromises to make it work, but it was Spock who’d been sacrificed, after all, a child who’d healed the rift by becoming a pawn in a war he’d never deserved. And now he was grown and the battle was still not over, it had just been in truce all this time. War was breaking out again, and the casualties were too high and too dear to risk. It was all her fault for saying yes. She should have left Sarek years ago, and not just left him, but made him hate her so he’d never pursue her again, never think to want anyone even remotely like her, live his life with a Vulcan wife in her place, one who could stand up to never and not be torn to shreds by it. She felt chilled in spite of Sarek’s arms around her, holding her against her shivering, his warm breath brushing her face as his mouth covered hers, the scalding heat of his hard body against her, in her. She pressed close, seeking some respite from the coldness of that never, at least for a moment. Never was such a long time to exist in exile. Sarek’s lips left her mouth and trailed down her throat and she put one hand behind his head, feeling his hands and mouth on her like a brand and whispered, “this doesn’t change anything”
Sarek shook his head, denying it but not her. She looked past his head, past his claim on her body, the response he could still evoke in her even as torn as she was, watching as stars came down from the heavens, bright in Vulcan’s moonless night, one shooting star falling in a kaleidoscope of light. She imagined it as being Spock, somewhere flying free.
When she woke, hours later, the room was dark and silent, and she was alone. She flung off the sheet Sarek had drawn over her, and rose stiffly, aching in every muscle. She forgotten what a workout a good cry could be. She scrubbed at the residue of dried tears on her face, and after a moment, stepped into the fresher. A few moments sonic shower got rid of the traces of the last few hours of tears and semen from her skin and took care of the worst of her aches as well. She pulled on house clothes, shorts and a short-sleeved tunic, and braided her hair carelessly in a long tail down her back. Slipping her feet into sandals, she went looking for her husband. She still felt tired and worn, as if something had broken within her. But she had to know what was happening.
His study was dark and empty, starlight streaming through the long windows, his desk precise and neat as a pin. That left only one strong possibility, his favorite spot for meditation. She went to the top of the house, through the long galleries to the outside parapets. Her husband’s ancestral home was a former fortress, snuggled into the rock walls of the Llangon foothills, with the sheer cliffs behind for defense. Sarek stood at one of the main sentry ports. Before him stretched the length of desert, with the city of Shikahr spread out like glowing jackstraws beneath his feet, and the spaceport to the left. Directly opposite, across the city, the navigation warning beam at the highest point of T’Pau’s palace glowed like a dull red eye. Above them the stars stretched from horizon to horizon, marred only by the hulking curve of the Llangons that ringed the city from the west. Amanda had always liked the orientation of the city, seeing the sun rise in ruby mist from the eastern deserts only to sink like a glowing fireball into the jagged mountains at sunset.
Amanda sank down on one of the ancient stone copings and watched her husband. It was impossible to sneak up on a Vulcan. With his keen hearing, he certainly knew she was there, probably had heard her before she’d seen him. She wrapped her arms around her, shivering a little in the pre-dawn chill, and watched the city twinkle beneath the glowing stars, both bright in the clear desert air. She’d often thought Sarek’s favorite mediation point had its special dangers, wholly apart from the height. It was too easy to feel omnipotent with a view like this at your command. But it was an illusion. Sarek was certainly not feeling omnipotent now.
“It won’t be forever, you know,” she heard herself saying. “He will come back.”
Sarek turned to where she sat in the shadows, the city gleaming behind him. “He will not need to come back. He is not leaving.”
She sat up straighter. “How do you plan to stop him? You can’t keep him here by force.”
Sarek said nothing, turning to face the city’s sprawl again, his back stiff and brooding.
Amanda tried again. “Even if you could, could you force him beyond that? You can accept the post at the Science Academy for him. You can pull strings and get him withdrawn from Starfleet. But you can’t force him before a class and make him teach every day. Do you plan to keep him a prisoner in this house until he does as you bid?”
Sarek gave her a look. “Don’t be ridiculous.”
“If he refuses to stay, and you coerce him to, by whatever means, how is it any different? And what will the Council say of your methods, when they get wind of it? Spock is technically responsible for his own choices, however you regard him. Would they want an heir who had to be kept here by force?”
“What they want is immaterial,” Sarek said, dismissing 5000 years of Vulcan tradition with a curt gesture.
Amanda sighed at this sign that Sarek was truly in his most haughty mode. Being born a hereditary ruler had its disadvantages. But on the other hand, he’d long ago gained enough control of the council that he probably didn’t consider that much of a hindrance. She tried again. “You might control the Council, but Spock is another matter. He’s not going to come to heel easily. Not this time. Don’t you see that? Wouldn’t it be better to let him go?”
“You are suggesting that I allow this to happen? A course of action he will almost certainly come to regret?”
“You can’t make his choices for him anymore.”
“I can and I will, when he is so obviously incapable of making them for himself,” Sarek growled back, and she shivered again at that dark intent.
“Sometimes we have to choose our own regrets,” Amanda said.
Sarek turned his head, glance cold, not forgiving her for that. A tacit promise of retribution later. But she would not apologize.
“How would you have felt if T’Pau had said the same to you?” She questioned evenly.
Sarek turned around completely this time, peering at her in the darkness. “How did you come by her argument?”
Amanda shrugged, wondering how Sarek couldn’t see something so obvious, and not wanting to get caught in that dynamic between mother and son. “The situations are not that dissimilar. In fact, considering everything, what you did was far worse than what Spock wants to do.”
“The difference is, that I knew what I was doing,” Sarek said coolly, finally coming over to her. “Spock has no comprehension.”
Amanda shook her head slowly. “Did you really? Twenty years ago, did you foresee this?” She left the question in the air a moment. “And what do you know of what he comprehends? Did you discuss his decision with him? Or just forbid it outright?”
“It would be impossible to have a serious discussion on such folly. Only a child would even propose such an action.”
“Children grow up. You can’t control Spock any more than T’Pau could control you. It’s time to let him go, even if he wants to do something you dislike.”
“There is no similarity. I was an adult. Spock is yet a child.”
“Vulcans have a long adolescence,” Amanda conceded. “But he was made responsible for his life choices at Kahs Wan. That’s adulthood, at least in that respect. It’s a little late to rescind that responsibility fifteen years later. I don’t see how you can do it.”
“If this is an example of his choices, then I concede the responsibility was given prematurely. And I am prepared to take back what was improperly bestowed. I will not have this, Amanda. Do not try to dissuade me.” Sarek turned again to contemplate the distant city.
Amanda sighed and dropped her forehead to her knees, massaging her temples with one hand. “He’ll leave anyway, you know. He past being swayed. He’s made up his mind, and he’s as stubborn as you. You’d have to use force to stop him, and I can’t see you doing that. Can’t you just let him go? Let him try? If you are right, if he does find it a poor choice, he’ll be home soon enough.
“If he defies me, this will never be his home again.”
Amanda flared at that, rising to her feet. “Oh, no you don’t,” she warned. “If he’s not welcome here, neither will I stay. If you disown him, Sarek, you do it for yourself, but you don’t speak for me. My son will always be welcome in my home, or I will be living elsewhere.
Sarek turned, his face grim and shadowed against the starlight streaming behind him, making him appear larger than life, and utterly menacing. Amanda faced him unyieldingly, long past being cowed by Sarek in his darker moods.
“I expect you will support me in this,” Sarek said coldly.
“Think again.” Amanda challenged.
“You are my wife.” Sarek said flatly.
Amanda sighed and rubbed her forehead. That relationship obviously meant something different, something both more and less than what Amanda considered it to be. Vulcan males didn’t outright own their wives and children as they must have done millennium ago, but old habits die hard, particularly in Vulcans. Intellectually, Sarek regarded her as a complete individual in her own right. Personally and instinctively though, Sarek regarded both her and his son as extensions of himself, as incapable of independent action as if his hand began refusing the commands of his brain. They rarely hit this wall, but when they did, it was always on the really big issues.
“Spock is my son,” she countered.
Sarek shook his head, not in denial, as a human would, but as if he was trying to clear it. It was hard for him to understand how she felt. Apparently Vulcan women just didn’t feel the same kind of fierce compulsive love for their children. Or if they did, it was secondary to their acceptance of their husband’s primary role. When it came to discussions regarding Spock, Sarek always expected her to yield, and inevitably seemed impatient that she even thought to question. It invariably took him a moment to realize his human wife balked at accepting what every other Vulcan woman would have taken as given.
“All the more reason you should agree with me in this. I can not imagine you want him in Starfleet either.”
“No.” She held her hands out, warding Sarek away when he would have approached. “I will not be the ammunition you use against him, Sarek. Not this time. Not ever again. He is my son, and that’s irrevocable. Whether he goes or stays, whether you accept his decision or not, he will be my son and welcome in any home I live in. If you expect me to stay here with you, then that had better be true. Now and forever.”
She’d drawn a new battleline, she could see it in her husband’s face. So he had been serious about handing out the never darken my door routine with his only child. Deny him any chance of returning to his home if he disobeyed him now. Part of her was furious with her husband, part understood his apparently resorting to desperate straits in the face of what must seem like utter incomprehensible rebellion from a son who’d bowed his head to his father’s lightest whim for the last ten years. Spock had never been off Vulcan without his parents, and not off Vulcan at all in years. To threaten to bar the door irrevocably after him would give Spock pause, no matter how determined her son was. She refused to let Sarek do that. That she would robbed her husband of one of his most effective deterrents. She didn’t think it would have stopped Spock, regardless – Spock would have anticipated this from his father -- but Sarek could not be sure of that. She watched her husband wrestle with her unwelcome news and this rebellion from a new source.
“You are my wife.”
“Not if you do this.”
“You are not serious.”
“Just try me.” She threw her trump card. “Even if he isn’t welcome here, Sarek, do you think T’Pau would refuse him her home if you deny him this one?
Even as she spoke the words, she knew it was too much, pitting all of Sarek’s family in league against him. Without a word, he brushed past her, leaving her alone, cold and aching, with only the stars for company. Where he went after that, she did not know.
Spock actually came down to breakfast as if this were any other morning, dropping his carrybag just inside the door. It was pitifully small; he clearly was taking very little of his past. Amanda, striving for normalcy herself, handed him a glass of juice. Spock took it, sipping it without sitting down, eyeing his father measuringly.
Brave, but foolish, Amanda thought, almost wishing Spock had stolen away in the night. She understood and even respected Spock’s intention to treat this as if this were a normal day, as if he had every right to do what he was doing, and as if Sarek was able to respect and, if not approve his actions, at least send him off with his best wishes. Or, if there was to be a final confrontation, not to shrink from it. He’s giving you every chance to prove your philosophy, Sarek. In fact, he’s demanding that you live up to it. Don’t disappoint me, and him. But she knew better.
“If you do this, I will disown you,” Sarek said the words coolly, as if he were continuing a conversation. “You will cease to be my son; you will not be my heir.”
Spock’s breath caught for a moment, but he took the blow like a Vulcan, with no change of expression. His eyes lowered a moment, long ingrained response to Sarek’s disapproving tone. Then he put the glass of juice carefully on the table, as if it were somehow symbolic of everything he was rejecting. “So be it, then.”
Amanda looked between them helplessly, wanting to bang both their stubborn heads together. “Sarek, please--”
“No,” The elder Vulcan rose quickly in rejection of her outstretched hand. Now the two of them were faced off, one against the other, with Sarek across the table, the light of the breakfast room windows streaming full upon him, and beyond him the view of the gardens, with the Llanglon mountains rising behind. He seemed larger than life and utterly Vulcan. Spock had only the shadowed doorway behind him, his non-descript travel clothes a direct contrast to Sarek’s Council uniform and clan shield, his body so slight compared to his father’s presence. Yet he’d raised his head, and there was a light in his eyes that met Sarek’s on equal terms, and his voice was cool and even as he challenged, “Say the words. Father.” The last was almost a taunt.
Amanda frowned at her son, and glanced quickly at her husband’s darkening visage. “Spock, don’t goad him into making this worse than it needs to be.”
“There is nothing else for it,” Spock replied, waiting, his eyes on his father. “He has warned me of the results if I choose my present course. I have accepted them. It remains to be done. Say the words.” Spock repeated. “Mother is enough of a witness,” he added dryly. “Custom doesn’t specify that only a Vulcan can perform the function of a third party witness to a renouncement. Though it is an ancient custom; no doubt they never foresaw this particular instance.”
“Don’t be impertinent,” Sarek warned.
“Let it go, Spock,” Amanda said. “You don’t really want him to do this.”
“It is done, Mother. His stated intentions are clear. It remains whether I am served with a legal document by Council messenger, or hear them directly. I would prefer to hear my father speak them. I looked up the precedent,” Spock added archly to his father. “If you have not yet made yourself directly familiar with the form of the renouncement, I can provide you with the text.”
Oh my god, Amanda thought, shocked beyond words. You aren’t merely goading him. You have to twist that knife as you stuck it in All this time, Sarek had thought you’d be cowed by this. Instead, you’re almost enjoying it. You are definitely T’Pau’s grandson, far more than even I suspected. But for your father’s sake, I almost wish you weren’t.
Clearly, from the brief look of surprise that crossed Sarek’s face, he hadn’t expected his only son to so easily call his hand and relinquish his position. But Sarek recovered from the surprise quickly . “As you have chosen then,” Sarek said, and Amanda closed her eyes at the icy tone in her husband’s voice, a clear sign of his fury. Damn you. You had to make him angry enough to do it. I might just have changed his mind. He might have softened. You could have given me enough time to try.
And expect Spock to live with the uncertainty? No. He had clearly made his decisions, for good or ill, and now only wanted his status made absolute before he walked out the door. And there is something else driving this confrontation Spock had engineered. Once Sarek says those words, Spock really is free. Sarek can’t go back on his word to force Spock home. Not to retrieve a son he’s disowned. He’ll have to let Spock go, once and for all. Spock isn’t goading Sarek for no reason, or for some emotional satisfaction. He’s doing it to tie Sarek’s own hands, keep him from taking further action against him. He’d calculated Sarek might react this way, and what he’d need to do to stop him. Once he heard Sarek wasn’t going to accept this, once Sarek threatened him, he knew the gloves were off. And he’d determined not to leave Sarek with any hold on him, no matter what it costs.
But what a price for freedom! And though Spock showed no outward sign, she could well imagine what it was costing him.
But Sarek never changes his mind. Never. The word tickled in her memory, like desert sand through her hands, yet she knew it was true. Still, with something this important perhaps Sarek would reconsider, especially if he didn’t take this ultimate step. T’Pau had been inexorable too, but she had learned to accept her son’s heir, if not her human daughter-in-law. Perhaps, Sarek might yield too. After all, what choice would he have?
Spock straightened slightly, readying himself, raising his chin as if to take a blow, the gleam of his eyes a direct challenge to the older man. Amanda saw her husband draw a deep breath..
“No. Sarek, don’t do this now.” Amanda struggled to get eye contact with her husband, even as she felt Spock frowning, shifting, having lost the focus of his father’s attention. “This isn’t the sort of action you take without consideration.”
Sarek turned slightly, his cool dismissal of his son somehow more damning than his icy fury of a minute before. “Spock is the one acting without consideration. He must take the consequences.”
“No, he’s not! You don’t understand! He has considered this, very carefully. Not just what he wants to do, but how you--”
“Mother!” Spock said, the barest trace of alarm in his voice, as if he realized she was about to reveal his manipulations. For the first time, her son looked shaken.
“Spock, this isn’t necessary to your plans.”
“He has made it so,” Spock said quietly. The he added, “Don’t interfere, Mother.” He said the last with Vulcan arrogance, in a perfect imitation of his father’s voice when Sarek was in one of his “put down his human wife” moods. Spock had never spoken to her in that way, and she stared at him, not quite believing it. Sarek wasn’t the only one to face losing a child today.
“Indeed,” Sarek picked up on the tone without thinking through what it meant, effectively joining Spock in a ‘Vulcans only’ club. “Spock’s behavior has made my decision inevitable.”
Amanda looked from husband to son. Spock met her eyes evenly, not a trace of regret over what he was doing. Still she had to plead, one more time. “Give him a chance to accept this. To get used to the idea.”
“Sarek has told me he will have no son in Starfleet,” Spock replied. “I am attending Starfleet Academy. Therefore I can no longer be his son.” He turned to Sarek expectantly.
The elder Vulcan looked at his son piercingly. Sarek was no fool. However the tables had turned on him today, he was quickly reevaluating the opposition. Amanda saw that he had a new look in his eyes as he studied Spock, as if he was belatedly realizing just what his son had done. But it came with no forgiveness.
“As you choose Spock,” Sarek said.
Spock straightened, raising his chin as if facing a firing squad. Only Amanda turned away as Sarek said the words renouncing his son.
After it was done, Sarek met his ex-son’s eyes expectantly. Waiting.
But, without a flicker of emotion on his face, as if Sarek had said nothing extraordinary, the boy picked up his carrybag and walked out the door.
She went after him. “Spock!”
He hesitated, then paused. “Mother, I must go.”
“Did you have to go like this?”
“Yes.” The words were harsh. “You know why it had to be done.”
“I didn’t renounce you, Spock. You’re still my son. And you are welcome to come home, at any time.”
Spock blinked, and frowned. “Can you imagine me ever returning here?” his voice held a more than a trace of irony. “After what has come to pass?”
“Do you expect to never see me again?”
Spock shifted his gaze away from hers again, dark eyes confused. She saw he was impatient to be gone. As well he had every right to be after his long preparations for it. And reluctant to be drawn into another tense scene. But this had to be said now. Once gone, a host of other competing ties as yet unknown, would lay claim to him. He was at the stage of life where he was ready to relinquish ties. It was easier than one might think, to lay down one’s old life at eighteen and make a new one. She knew, she’d done that herself, and ended up living on an alien world. The difference being that if she didn’t make him sure of his place still here, he might think that door irrevocably closed. And the wound, for it had to be wounding to leave as he’d done, might close with no chance of letting this door be opened again. Certainly he had no claims of great past happiness to draw him back here. “Spock even if you don’t want to visit here, you can go to your grandmother when you return. You are still her heir. She has not denied your inheritance because of this. Not even at your father’s request.”
Spock drew back a little, eyes widening. “He told you that?” He shook his head a little. “I suspected he would try. I did not suspect he would tell you if she refused.”
“She was rather unsympathetic. Apparently she reminded your father that you are not the first Vulcan to have a great curiosity regarding things human. And that attending a Terran school was not the worst thing an heir could do.”
Spock blinked once. “I thank you for that information, Mother. And I will confess to some … relief at the news. T’Pau and my,” he drew a sharp breath as he swallowed the title so recently relinquished, “and Sarek in league together would have been difficult for me to thwart.”
“So you must promise, Spock, to come back. Or--”
“Or what mother?” He turned slightly, bristling, hypersensitive from his encounter with his father.
“Or I won’t let you go,” she said, not knowing even as she said it that she would.
He raised his head, his dark eyes astonished at this unexpected threat. “You won’t let me go? And how would you plan to stop me when even my father can not?
She swallowed hard, staring at him, wondering what tie she could have. She wondered if he knew, if he had really thought through that even without his grandmother’s support, if she had not laid down her ultimatum, Sarek would have found some way to keep Spock on planet, even if he’d had to have him arrested and thrown into custody on some trumped up charge. She did not count her husband out, no more than her son did. But with her tacit threat of leaving him, Sarek had, at least for the moment, backed away from those most drastic of courses. But it wasn’t fair to Spock to burden him with guilt. He’d borne too much of it already in his short life. What could she say though, in answer to the impatient question in his eyes. Then it came to her, like the answer to a riddle.
“I could deny you were my child,” she said shortly. “With no human mother, that would leave you with no Terran citizenship, no Terran majority at eighteen standard years to give you legal right to apply to Starfleet. Then you’d be stuck here, still under your father’s thumb, until you had his permission to go.” She smiled as she said it, delighted with her own perspicacity. “Which would be never. You might thank me. Being a full Vulcan was once what you’d always wanted.”
“Mother!” Spock shook his head, scandalized. Then he looked at her speculatively, as if gauging her deliberation to take such a course. He tilted his head, considering, then shook his head in rejection. “I did not think of that.” He said, frankly admitting his contrivances to her, answering her smile with a brief curving of his lips, faintly amused in turn by this unexpected check, as if they were playing an elaborate game of chess and she had surprised him. “You would only delay me, but it is a delay that would serve Sarek only too well. It is well Sarek did not think of this. Not that he would, under such circumstances as I have given him. But even for you, mother, it is a little late, don’t you agree, after all these many years, to deny me?”
“Don’t push your luck, my son,” she said, but something in his air made her wonder what percentages he now calculated against her doing it. Well, her loyalty deserved some price. “Just acknowledge that I have a weapon, which I will withhold only on condition.”
Spock grew wary, evaluating her much as he had just done with Sarek. “And what conditions are these?”
“I get a visit on your first leave. I know you’ll be a terrible correspondent, you always have been when I’ve been off planet. But I get a message telling me you arrived at Starfleet safely, and then one message a week, after that. So that I know you are well.”
Spock hesitated, still studying her speculatively, clearly less than thrilled with her restrictions. So near to cutting all ties, fully free, he didn’t appreciate being tied to a weekly check in. It occurred to her that while he had done a fair job of anticipating his father’s actions, he was less confident of hers, one advantage of being an unpredictable human. He finally nodded in tacit concession, albeit with visible reluctance. “Very well, Mother. I will correspond as you request. I will not promise to the visit, but I suppose I must concede to try, since Father has already beaten you to denying my parentage.” He shrugged his shoulders in an almost human gesture as he reconciled himself to the necessity of her conditions. “I would as well not be renounced by both parents in the same morning.” He said the latter with arch irony.
She drew a sharp gasp, not realizing how closely her teasing threat might have hit a wound so recently made to both of them. She put a hand out to him. His eyes darkening with regret, he took her hand in his, more to ward her off than to embrace her. But then, as if on impulse he leaned down and brushed his lips to her cheek, something he had never done before. In the muddle of her emotion and confusion, she heard his voice, a clandestine whisper, close to her ear, as if the subject were too forbidden to him to be spoken of openly. “I suspect you might have given up something to stop him from his worst,” he said, under his breath. “Or might be induced to in future. But no more, Mother. I will not have you fight my battles for me. Not when I have leverage enough, finally, to wage alone. The cost of that in the past has been too high for both of us to bear.” He let go of her hand as if it had burned him. Then he raised his head and she looked up, shocked into his suddenly grave, closed face, his eyes warning her to silence, a slight shake of his head warning her he wanted to hear no more of this.
“All right, my son. Just don’t forget that you are my son. And despite your father’s words this morning, his as well.”
He tilted his head, neither acknowledging her words nor rejecting them. He simply said, “Goodbye Mother.” in a tone that took that subject, all of his past life, rolled it up and buried it in the sand. Then he whirled and bounded down the steps, his footsteps lighter as if those had been the final words that had freed him.
He turned at the bottom, squinting into the sun, impatient to be gone.
“He will relent,” she promised.
His face closed and he shook his head, slowly. “No. I do not think so. I know him, in this, better than you. He will not. But then,” he tilted his head, and his lips curved again in that faint, barely perceptible smile, “neither shall I relent. You were right, Mother. Even renounced and exiled, I am still my father’s son.”
And then he was turned again, and bounded the rest of the way down the staircase and made off, through the formal gardens, to the gate that separated the grounds from the desert path, where an hour’s walk would bring him to Shikhar and the spaceport. She sat down on the pedestal that held a stone carving of a lematya, and watched his dark head pass through the gardens. There was a security force at the gate. A single command at his computer console and Sarek could block her son’s exit, hold him prisoner. She didn’t think after this morning, that he would try it, but she thought she might as well sit there, and wait and see. Then she saw Spock’s hand on the heavy metal gate. It opened, and he closed it carefully behind him. She felt tears began to spill from her eyes, realizing that as appalling as the action would have been, some part of her had held its breath in hope. The tears obscured the sight of her son leaving the only home he’d ever known.
The summons from T’Pau came three days later, an innocuous message on her office computer terminal after returning from teaching her morning class. She stared at it, surprised even through the numb misery that had taken hold of her. T’Pau had never once issued an invitation, much less an order, to attend her. But that mattered little. As a tacit daughter, even one never previously recognized, she was as much a member of T’Pau’s clan as any Vulcan. Unless she planned on getting Sarek to divorce her to get out of it, much as Spock had required his father to disown him to be allowed the freedom to disobey, she was obliged to yield to T’Pau’s tacit order.
She wondered why T’Pau was suddenly recognizing her. Once it would have meant a great deal. But since Spock had gone, Sarek had shrouded himself in a distance she herself had made no effort to close. Nor was she sure she wanted to. He had not forgiven her for her lack of support, and she had not forgiven him for renouncing their son. They were not speaking, and she had seen practically nothing of him since Spock had left home. She felt stale and weary from lack of sleep. And yes, from loneliness. Perhaps that was what T’Pau wish to speak of. Perhaps Sarek’s silence and distance implied the dissolution of her marriage. She tried to feel something about that, but it all seemed so far removed.
As listless as she was, it felt easier to obey than not, and she posted herself out for afternoon office hours and nosed her flyer to T’Pau’s palace. Palace was rather an extreme word; it was an ancient fortress of the same crumbling desert sandstone as her own home, and about the same age, meaning that in human terms it was ancient and impractical for anyone living in it, but used because of tradition. Someday, at T’Pau’s death, she and Sarek would be required to move here, and Spock and T’Pring would take over his birth home, until the time it came for him and his children to move to the palace.
She was escorted by the uniformed ceremonial guards to an inner courtyard, still wearing her everyday attire, her hair up, not bothering to change into the long dress, sandals and artfully arranged hair that was customary for a formal family visit. The high stone walls and carefully cultivated trees offered shade and various fountains and pools filled the air with humidity and her ears with sound of water, water as always the ultimate indication of wealth in a desert culture. A flock of birds was thoroughly enjoying themselves flying through one mist-filled fountain, in another pool, a large lizard like animal blinked solemnly at her before scuttling deeper into its depths. It reminded her that Spock had lived here once, when she and Sarek had been off-planet, and the school where he’d been left had suffered an off-world epidemic. It had been particularly devastating to Vulcan children, many of whom had died. Spock had become ill himself, and T’Pau had removed him to her palace, had him nursed by the best Vulcan healers and human physicians on the planet. Not that she’d ever shown any trace of emotion about it afterwards. No more than she showed now, raising her head from the table where a servant was laying out tea things. Amanda reminded herself firmly that she had much to thank T’Pau for, and knelt obediently at the old woman’s feet, bowing her head and offering her hands in the traditional embrace.
T’Pau took them lightly, her fingers cool in spite of her higher body temperature, no doubt due to an old woman’s circulation. “It is past time you attended me, daughter,” T’Pau said with asperity.
Amanda raised narrowed eyes to the matriarch’s face, and then nodded coolly, giving as good as she received. “Only folly could have prevented me from more expeditious service.” She left off the title, not quite believing T’Pau would countenance the family title a “daughter” was entitled to use and which T’Pau’s form of address to her tacitly demanded.
T’Pau’s face wrinkled like an old apple, and she gave a sniff that was closer to a snort. “Tactful as always, not to allude to whose folly it has long been. Get off your knees, child. You are hardly dressed for such ceremony and these stones are too rough for bare skin. And does not my son provide you with a more suitable wardrobe for waiting in attendance?”
Amanda swallowed a smile. Rocking back on her heels Vulcan-style, she rose gracefully to the indicated chair in spite of the heavy gravity. “Your summons said to attend you at once. I came from teaching and didn’t take the liberty of changing.”
T’Pau gave her a hawk-eyed look. “It is of change I wish to speak.”
Amanda bowed her head, wondering what T’Pau had to say. The old matriarch snorted again. “How meek you look, daughter. You carry your role well.”
The word carried the weight of twenty years of isolation on the fringes of T’Pau’s inner circle, but Amanda merely inclined her chin a little more. She had to swallow hard at the callous challenge thrown at her, but her voice was even as she replied, “I am honored if it has pleased you, Mother.” She used the title as deliberately as the sword thrown at her.
“Enough of this.” T’Pau set a cup of tea before her. “Sit up, child. I did not come to converse with the nape of your neck, lovely though my son apparently finds it. Drink this. You should be serving me,” she reproved caustically but waved Amanda’s hands away. Never mind. We are not playing games before the court. I didn’t call you before me to pour my tea badly, or to watch you lower your head in mock shame. We have business to discuss.”
Amanda tasted the tea politely, as etiquette required, but her eyes were speculative, trying to imagine what T’Pau wanted. But she said merely, “I come to serve.”
“That is what we are here to discuss. My son is in a bitter mood over his son’s disobedience.”
“I am not unaware.”
“He has claimed, to me, that he has formerly disowned his child. And that you were witness.”
Amanda breathed out slowly but answered. “Yes. I was witness.”
“You were the only witness?”
Amanda tilted an eyebrow, not sure where this was leading. “Except for Spock.”
“Whose idea was that?”
Amanda raised puzzled eyes. “Whose…idea? Sarek’s of course.”
“I know he planned to renounce his son as his heir. I meant who thought to choose you as witness?”
Amanda blinked, puzzled. “I don’t know that it was so much chosen as happenstance. Sarek warned Spock if he left, he’d be disinherited. Spock--”
Amanda shrugged. “Spock called him on it. He told Sarek to renounce him, that I was enough of a witness.” She struggled to remember the exact words. “Something like custom didn’t demand the witness be Vulcan, that no one could foresee this particular incident. He knew the form of the renouncement,” she added. “He gave the text to Sarek.”
T’Pau’s eyes glittered. “Indeed.”
“I don’t understand.”
The matriarch looked at her sharply. “Do you not? Were you not aware of Spock’s intentions? Did he not obtain your aid and assistance?”
Amanda shook her head, numbly. “I only found out the day he told Sarek. I wish I had known.”
“Indeed. And would you have stopped him had you known? Would you have told your husband – or me – of his intentions?”
Amanda clenched her fingers on the teacup. “ I’m not sure. I would have tried to dissuade Spock. To compromise with his father, attend a school with which Sarek would not so strenuously object. Maybe I could have talked to them both, stopped Sarek from his action.” She looked at T’Pau. “I know Sarek is very displeased with Spock, but I hope they can be reconciled. That Sarek can take back his renouncement.”
“He cannot take it back.”
Amanda lowered her eyes not wanting T’Pau to see her distress. “I see.”
“No, you do not. Sarek cannot take back what he has not yet done.”
Amanda looked up. “I was there. I witnessed it.”
“Did you indeed? Tell me, T’Amanda, do you relinquish you son?”
She drew back a little, at T’Pau’s intensity. “Of course not.”
“As both mother and wife to the clan heirs, are you aware you can not be forced to serve as witness to your own child’s disinheritance? Unless you also chose to disown your son.”
“I would never do that.”
“Very well. Legally, your testimony to such a renunciation cannot be compelled.”
Amanda bit her lip at this. “Naturally, I don’t want to testify to it. But I accepted the role as witness. By not leaving or refusing I agreed to serve as such. It would be an injustice to both my son and my husband for me to refute that role now.”
“If you choose to fulfill this role of witness, then the disownment must be joint. You are not a disinterested witness. You cannot witness a disinheritance of your own child unless you also disinherit him.”
Amanda shook her head. “No. I won’t do that.”
“Then Sarek has not legally disowned him.”
Amanda stared at T’Pau. “But Spock had to have known -- he looked up the law.”
“It is an ancient, a very ancient codicil in our clan alone, applying only to the hereditary clan ruler, or his heir. A son in the direct line, an only son and heir, cannot be disowned and disinherited by one parent alone. To break the chain of hereditary rule the renouncement must be joint. The duty of the sole heir to the clan is too strong to be dissolved by a single parent’s displeasure.”
Amanda frowned, looking doubtful. “I’m sure Spock wasn’t trying to mislead Sarek. It’s also unlike him to not be thorough.”
“T’Amanda…Spock was in the clan archives, researching these ancient texts, twice in the last year. Once many months ago. And again, the day before his announcement to Sarek.”
Amanda met T’Pau’s eyes, stricken.
“The means to understand his future actions and when he would take them, and the means to thwart him was there to be found and used if I wished it to be found,” T’Pau said archly. “And if I did not wish it to be found…” T’Pau shrugged.
Amanda drew a shocked breath at the implication. “Why that little—“
“It is a very ancient codicil. Sarek would not, in the heat of his anger against his child, think to search for a reason to invalidate his disownment. I am not so blind. Naturally, I investigated what my heir was researching in the library. He left…” T’Pau paused, “a very plain trail … for one so otherwise circumspect with his plans. His second visit was obviously intended for me to understand the action was imminent.”
Amanda didn’t know what to say. She was beginning to think she’d never known her son.
“He knew to leave the decision to me.” T’Pau said. “As it should be left. My son’s heir is my heir. This is not Sarek’s decision alone. I had the means to vest or invalidate Sarek’s disownment, if I so chose. And I do not so choose, and have informed my son of such. Unless you agree to disinherit Spock as your child as his father has done, he is still in the hereditary line, and remains his father’s heir. It requires one or the other of us to renounce him along with Sarek’s renouncement for it to be official.”
Amanda shook her head, still amazed at her quiet child’s perfidy to do this right under his formidable father’s and grandmother’s nose. “The boy is a genius. He got what he wanted, off the planet, scott free. And still tied his father’s hands in the bargain. Even if it isn’t strictly legal, his father will never renounce what he has vowed. I would not have believed it of Spock.”
“Perhaps not entirely what he wanted.” T’Pau said.
Amanda nodded, remembering Sarek’s fury. “I’m sure he didn’t wish to defy his father.”
“You think not? I consider it over-due. I had been expecting something of the sort for more than a year. But when he took a second mren-to, with not a flicker of resistance to his father’s will, ” T’Pau shook her head. “I considered that perhaps Sarek had broken his after all.”
“He gave every impression of being broken, didn’t he?” Amanda asked, grim and a little resentful.
“He played his role as well as his mother has played hers.” T’Pau said richly. “So humble. My son has always claimed his wife is an excellent teacher. Apparently, your son has found it so.”
Amanda ignored that. “I am glad his spirit wasn’t broken, but I don’t know if this isn’t worse. I know Sarek never left him much choice, but I don’t care for this… blatant manipulation. That is not the child I know.”
“And tell me, what other choice of action would Sarek have allowed, other than the path he set for his son?”
Amanda shook her head and then glanced up at the woman. “I wonder, T’Pau, that you aren’t displeased with Spock, that you countenance this…deception… so well.”
“Do you? Tell me, T’Amanda, would you have married a man who dropped his head like a whipped sehlat at a parent’s slightest displeasure?”
Amanda flushed. “No.”
“My son has all the drawbacks of an excellent education, a fine intelligence, a strong will and indulgent parents. He is fearless, and believes victory is always his by right. He was an excellent choice to meet the Terrans on their own ground, and to fight for our planet’s position in the Federation. And he has done so. But we are all,” T’Pau tilted her head in amusement, “conquered by our children. I would not have a Terran as daughter, yet my son forced his choice on me. And Sarek would not have a son in this Starfleet. But his son has walked out and done that very thing, and Sarek will be forced to live with that. No, I am not displeased with Spock. I have had deep concern for some years that his father was intent on destroying the will of a prince in trade for a pawn as a son. If Spock had to be cunning to preserve himself from his father’s grinding will, then I celebrate the wisdom and skill – and the discretion – with which he executed his plans. As for the deception,” T’Pau shrugged. “Spock was correct in deducing that it is my decision as to whether his actions merit disinheritance, and he left it properly in my hands, to act as I choose. Spock did not deceive me – his research trail could not have been plainer. It was almost an insult to my intelligence. I believe your child thinks I am doddering.”
“I don’t think so, T’Pau.”
“As for Sarek, after years of such treatment as he has given Spock, I believe the father deserves what the son has dealt. If he has been deceived, it was his own arrogance that led him to it. Let the child, as the Terrans say, rub the father’s nose in his very disaffection.”
Amanda shrugged. “I am afraid, though, that Sarek will not take that well. He disinherited Spock, legally or not. I can’t believe he’ll let Spock thwart him in that.”
“Aside from the three of us, none know that Sarek denied Spock as heir. None know that Sarek opposed his son’s plans. I consider the subject settled.” She gave Amanda a cold look. “As I told my son, an heir can do worse things than attend a Terran school against his parent’s wishes. He can take one to wife.”
Amanda held herself against a sharp retort to that, then lowered her head and let the title she was entitled to use dig in return. “This is true, Mother.”
T’Pau eyed her, seemingly satisfied. “Should you choose to disinherit as well, I would have greater lengths to go to retrieve the situation. I would have to act officially to reseal Spock as my heir against his parent’s wishes. It would require a full Council session and open a debate I would not choose to have raised. As an obedient daughter, I expect you to assure me now that you will not tax me so.”
Amanda smiled, still stinging from T’Pau’s previous comment. “Have I been more of an obedient daughter than an obedient wife these many years?”
T’Pau gave her a shrewd look. “You have been both. Do you think I was so foolish as to shun you without reason? In the eyes of the council, your son has grown up little overshadowed by his mother’s humanity.”
“Out of sight, out of mind?”
T’Pau brushed the subject away. “That is past. Your child is grown. He is gone, no longer here for comparisons to be made. He is sealed to the Council as my heir. No one – not even his father, can deny him this position now. Your role as outcast is no longer required.”
Amanda blinked sudden tears out of her eyes, feeling the ache of Spock’s departure all over again, magnified by Sarek’s distance. “So now, with Spock gone, you can afford to acknowledge me?”
“Let us agree it is a luxury we now can both afford.”
“So I have now traded your son’s favor for your own?”
T’Pau frowned. “What does this mean?”
Amanda looked away, regretting her hasty words.
“So my son holds you responsible for Spock’s actions? For refusing to refute the child along with the father?” T’Pau sounded displeased, if not overly surprised. Her sharp eyes lingered on the bruises on Amanda’s wrists, bruises which extended up her arms.
Amanda shrugged, refusing to acknowledge the pointed direction of T’Pau’s gaze, and the question inherent in it. It was extremely improper – an unheard of breach of all polite manners -- for her mother-in-law to even notice such things. That was between her and Sarek. “Not entirely. He is indiscriminate right now in his displeasure.”
T’Pau looked vexed. “I have been aware of his anger, but not the full extent of its range. Though I have suspected. Another reason you attend me today. He was always a stubborn child, and his parents were over-indulgent. Unlike your son’s.”
Amanda said nothing, this being dangerous ground.
T’Pau eyed her shrewdly for a moment. “It will not last. He is a Vulcan. You are his wife. You have…” T’Pau hesitated, then shrugged delicately, “the ultimate advantage of gender. Provided you understand your role.”
Meaning, Amanda supposed, that Sarek’s relentless Vulcan biology would bring him back to her regardless. “I wouldn’t want him on those terms.”
T’Pau drew back a little, startled, as if considering her for the first time, eyeing the bruises anew. “You did not reject the father when he rejected the son.” It was not a question.
The words flayed Amanda with guilt, and some of the pain of that conflict, renewed. She lowered her head. Her pain didn’t threaten to consume her, instead it had been making her angry. None of this conflict should be necessary, except for her stubborn husband and her equally stubborn son. She retorted, meeting the matriarch’s eyes. “Do you expect me to act the fool as well because my husband takes an ill considered action?”
T’Pau did not answer her, and after Amanda had regained control, she considered that perhaps the venerable matriarch was offended by the insult against her son from a barely acknowledged daughter-in-law. She flushed and looked away. She started at the touch of gentle fingers on her temple, and looked up, a bit warily, as the matriarch met her gaze evenly, and then drew her hand away, in a near caress.
“No. I would not expect it of thee, T’Amanda.”
At this unexpected approval, the tears she’d been burying for days suddenly burst. Amanda was appropriately horrified by her own lack of control, in front of T’Pau, of all people. But T’Pau, of all things, poured her more tea.
“Drink, child. You have been in an unenviable position. Well am I aware that my son’s disapproval can be punishing.”
Amanda wiped her eyes. “So you called me here to make sure I wasn’t going to walk out on him too?”
T’Pau’s black eyes flashed. “Don’t be impertinent, daughter. I would not attribute such a vile action even to a human. Certainly not to a daughter who has served my son well these many years.”
Amanda swallowed back a caustic comment that a moment before T’Pau had implied nearly that very thing. In the family, all was silence, and she would not call attention to her mother-in-law’s perhaps justifiable lack of total faith in the actions of her human daughter-in-law, particularly given the trouble her Vulcan son and grandson were presently giving her. Instead picked up her teacup.
The matriarch studied her a moment then sighed. “But I acknowledge that you are human, and perhaps lack vital knowledge. Any time of trial engenders concern for one’s family. Spock, I trust, will do well. He has, after all, achieved some long deserved freedom. Sarek, however, is unused to and unpredictable in defeat. Particularly one in which he has found no allies.”
“I cannot ally him in that,” Amanda said flatly.
“Nor did I. But you will forgive me, T’Amanda, if to ensure your son escaped with his freedom, I place certain ultimatums on the father.”
Amanda met the matriarch’s eyes. “And am I to know them?”
“Merely that if Sarek intended me to disown this son, he must present me with another heir, more worthy than the first.” T’Pau studied her. “He did not speak of it to you?”
“It was …” T’Pau hesitated, “a logical requirement. But I did not intend it to cause discord in your household.”
Amanda pushed her tea away. “Did you think it would cause anything but?”
“Come, child. I know my son well enough to believe he would never give you up,” T’Pau said simply. “Certainly not for his son’s disobedience, as he viewed it. And, indeed, he refused, as I fully expected.”
“Then why speak of it now, to me?”
“He is yet angry.”
‘I can’t help that.”
“I do not wish him to take out such anger on you. Nor be influenced by…” T’Pau hesitated again, “as must now be said, an ill considered act on my part.”
Amanda lowered her head. She must becoming Vulcan in some respect, because she understood what T’Pau was saying, in her roundabout way. The matriarch was actually concerned that an ill advised threat meant to consolidate Spock’s position might actually drive Sarek to consider divorcing his human wife for a Vulcan one. And a Vulcan heir. It was a bit of a shock to her to realize T’Pau might now regard as undesirable something she had once demanded, but perhaps not all that much of a shock. Sarek and she were closely bonded. Death was not an unheard of consequence of divorce, in this society. “If he chooses that, there is nothing I can do.” It amazed her how little she felt at the moment.
“T’Amanda, do not compound this folly by an ill considered act of your own. He does not choose this. But he is at present, beleaguered. I would not have Sarek fighting a battle on all fronts, especially if he has come to realize he cannot win against the son, and there is yet a war to be won against the mother. You must remember, under our veneer of civilization, Vulcans are a warrior race.”
“What are you saying T’Pau?”
“Only this. He cannot fight me. Spock is gone. You are nearest to him. He is Vulcan. And he is angry. Offer him a battle now, and in his present state, he could well fight you.”
“And you are saying he will win.”
T’Pau shrugged. “You are only human. Little more than a child yourself. You do not understand. He would never win in this. But whatever would come of the conflict, he would defeat you. And in so doing, himself, for he does not truly want another.”
Amanda was too tired to take offense at this perhaps unintended lack of faith in human ingenuity. “I should think the result would be welcome to you. My son, gone, and myself as well.”
T’Pau’s eyes flashed in anger of her own. “This is the folly of which I speak. This is not a personal conflict alone. Would you have your son bear the weight of his parent’s dissolution? Or would you have it be the source of Sarek’s bringing him to heel? Or worse, can you countenance the ultimate loss of his father in a fate worse than death?”
“Spock is not responsible for his parents’ acts. This has nothing to do with him.”
“Precisely. Your son is gone. And you are here. You are here by your husband’s choice. And by your own.”
Amanda said nothing.
“You are here, Amanda,” T’Pau reiterated. “Your husband is here. You cannot reconcile the husband to the son – at least, not for the present. That will take time. But as you are here, reconciliation must be the order of the day – for you.”
“I have been unable to reconcile Sarek to these events.”
“No. But unless you wish to see Sarek further destroyed, you must reconcile yourself to him.”
Amanda looked away, fighting away a surge of emotion.
“It is your duty. It cannot be escaped. You must accept it.”
“I am not reconciled either, T’Pau.” She deliberately did not use the family title.
“Why do you think you are here in my garden, daughter?”
“Do you think to command me to love him?” Amanda threw at the matriarch.
“I do not need to command what exists. And thee well knows it, daughter. Nor do I need to remind thee of my son’s desire for thee. He did not release thee, and thee have stayed even as your husband has renounced your child.”
Amanda drew herself up, smarting at the bitter accusation.
“Have you not?”
“That being the case, you have made your choice. There is no point in further acrimony.”
“Except he’s acted like a jerk.”
“Yes.” T’Pau did not bother to misunderstand the idiom. “But his views have been unchanged for many years, and thee has stayed regardless. Thee bears some responsibility for the situation.”
“Meaning I made my bed, and I must lie in it.”
“T’Pau, I have tried my best to keep the peace between my husband and my son, and I will not deny that perhaps I sacrificed the son to the father in pursuit of that peace. Perhaps I have made poor choices in the past. Or made them without being aware of all the facts. But my son is now free. Whatever my past reasons, and Spock’s, for submission to my husband’s sometimes unreasonable requirements, they are now past.”
“Come, child. My son has suffered a terrible loss. It is a loss we both agree he must suffer, for his own good, and for the good of your son and my heir. Must it be a loss he suffers alone?”
“He is not alone. Or if he is, it is by choice.”
“Alone in that he has no allies in his refutation of his child. I do not ask that you join him in that refutation. But you must not compound his grief by denying him his wife as well.”
“I haven’t. So far.”
T’Pau eyed her meaningfully. “I speak of things normally left unsaid, but you are human. It is true I have indulged my own son perhaps too much in the past. That is an indulgence for which we both have paid. But I do not say this to indulge him now, but because there is danger. To you both. This is a fact of which you must be aware. He will not go to you now, no more than he will forgive his son. You know as well as I how my son is. He is stubborn and he is angry. I would not see that anger harden into something implacable, against his heir, his wife, and perhaps all of the humanity with whom he must deal. You are the key to prevent this. Vulcan cannot afford to risk lose his wisdom and intelligence in larger matters. Nor will I allow him to refute you against his own imperatives and risk his life. You are his bondmate and he will have need of thee. He has duties that take precedence over this petty dispute. You are here still. You have made your choice. Therefore, you must go to him and ease what you can of this situation, at least in relation to yourself. And if you can, after his anger has cooled, for your son and my heir. This is your duty as a Vulcan wife.”
“I’m not a Vulcan, T’Pau.”
“Yet you are wife to one. That is yet your choice, T’Amanda,” T’Pau said. Her eyes fastened on Amanda, her meaning plain. “And your decision. I have heard much of you, from my son and others. But never heard it said that you were unwise.”
Amanda bowed her head as custom demanded. “I am honored, Mother.”
“Enough for now. I will not keep thee further from thy duties. Daughter.” The matriarch rose, extending her hand. Amanda dropped automatically to her knees to accept the matriarch’s formal familial embrace. She stayed there, staring unseeing after T’Pau, until the feel of the cold stone under her bare knees brought her to her feet.
She could have gone back to the academy; it was still early afternoon. But since she had already cancelled all her afternoon classes to attend T’Pau, and she was too unsettled to consider teaching, she went home.
The house was empty. With Spock permanently gone, it seemed to echo with silence. She changed from teaching clothes. For the past few days she had, as if the weight of Vulcan had become too much, been wearing such casual Terran clothes as she owned around the house. Sarek was not so provincial that he seriously objected to what she wore, but she suspected there had been some underlying statement in her Terran garb. Now she dressed in a light Vulcan house shift, suitable for a wife to wear in the sole company of her family, and left her hair braided but down, also suitable.
She was not sure herself, but it was a sign, a symbol. That at least she was willing to try.
Neither she nor Sarek had been interested in eating lately, but today she forced herself into the kitchen, and began resolutely to prepare a meal, ignoring the tightness in her throat. Something light. It was past time she and Sarek sat down together. If he chose not to, at least she would know where they stood on that. She set the table, and then went to the house computer, to retrieve the day’s messages.
And one, addressed to her, was emblazoned with a Starfleet chevron.
With shaking fingers she hit the play button.
“Mother. As per your request, or more precisely your order,” a ghost of expression in his voice told her her son was lightly teasing her – that he was, at least, in good spirits, “I am hereby notifying you that I have arrived safely at my destination, and that I am well. I will confess I find Terra stranger than I anticipated, but interesting.” His tone sobered perceptibly. “I have formally committed to Starfleet. However you may tell my--” he stopped abruptly, flushing slightly and then continued resolutely-- “You may tell Sarek, if you wish, that I have prevailed upon my admittance conditionally so that there will be no press announcement of the same.” He swallowed, and then nodded once, as if he had paid some debt. “I trust your receipt of this finds you well, Mother, and I bid you goodbye.”
Amanda felt her eyes fill with tears again, and she took a shuddering breath. It took her several moments for her swimming eyes to focus, while the console played an irritating trill of notes seeking her decision to save or delete the message. “Oh shut up,” she told it, wiping her eyes on her sleeve, and reaching out blindly, only to encounter another’s reaching past her. Sarek flicked the console on hold.
“Sarek.” She scrubbed at her eyes again. She’d meant to meet him cool and collected, not red-eyed and in tears, with her nose running. Of course Sarek would tell her that humans had no sense of timing. She wondered how much he’d heard, and then realized with his hearing he’d undoubtedly heard all of it.
He stared down at her, his face grave and severe, unforgiving. But somehow, even that didn’t compare to the enormity of Spock’s first message. It was as if it hadn’t been quite real to her. “He really is gone,” she said, and humiliatingly, her tears came again, blinding her.
“Amanda.” She felt Sarek’s arms come around her, but somehow none of that mattered. She’d been numb for three days, but now her position came back to her. Her son’s estrangement from his father, T’Pau’s ultimatum, and Sarek…what would Sarek do? What would she?”
She got control of herself and pulled back from where she’d been making a ruin of her husband’s council tunic yet again. “I’m sorry.”
Instead of replying, Sarek’s fingers traced the line of tears down her cheek, his expression still unforgiving. Unforgiving of her? “I can yet bring him back, Amanda, ” he offered. It was threat and promise combined. And more, a tacit request for approval. For her support.
Her tears congealed, and she looked up at him. “No.”
Sarek dropped his hand. He seemed about to speak, then he turned on his heel and left.
Neither one of them were interested in an evening meal. Sarek simply didn’t show and she couldn’t have eaten either. Her head was aching from the tears she’d shed and from the tears she refused to shed. How was she supposed to make peace with Sarek, when they were so diametrically opposed?
It is your duty, T’Pau had said, and from a Vulcan perspective, she was right. She had a decision to make.
She went looking for her husband, still not sure what she was going to say. She found him in his usual meditation spot. The lights of Shikahr still spilled jackstraws across the desert, the stars above bright and clear. But this time, Spock was in Starfleet. Was her son looking at the stars too? She wondered how difficult he found it to meditate with all the familiar stars, all his reference points, all the guideposts of his past, swung around to a new configuration. Or perhaps it was easier. Underscoring his new life. Certainly it must be easier for Spock than for Sarek, who found all his familiar reference points unchanged, and yet whose life plans had been upset by a boy whom Sarek had completely underestimated.
She knew that Sarek knew she was there. So she asked, without preliminaries. “What did he mean, Sarek? No public announcement?”
Sarek didn’t turn and she wondered if he was going to resolutely ignore her, but then his voice came.
“As Vulcan has been diametrically opposed to many of their policies, Starfleet has long been seeking Vulcan involvement. It would be logical for them to make every effort for them to capitalize on what they can only regard as a political victory.”
“He spared you that, at least.”
Sarek said nothing.
“Can’t you give him even credit for trying?”
“I will give him credit, Amanda, when the child returns, admitting to error, seeking forgiveness and guidance in recovering from this folly, and submitting henceforth to the strictest parental discipline until he has been judged trustworthy. I will accept nothing less.”
Amanda shook her head, staring down at her hands. Three days of meditation obviously hadn’t reconciled Sarek to his son’s behavior. He seemed unable to accept that he’d lost the iron hold he’d kept for 18 years over his child’s life. He would only accept Spock back if the boy submitted to an even more encompassing control than that he’d just eschewed. Not likely. Vulcans are a warrior race, T’Pau’s words echoed in her mind. Give him a battle, and he will fight you. As Spock had done, and Sarek would not accept anything now but his son’s complete surrender. But still she couldn’t seem to stop herself from commenting. “That’s harsh treatment.”
“No more than his behavior has earned. The child will reap what he deserves in the fullness of time. I can afford to wait for him to fail. As he obviously must. And will.”
“I hope you’re prepared to wait a long time, Sarek, because Spock has never failed at anything.”
“That is a matter of debate.”
She could tell from the tension in his shoulders that he was not half as sanguine as he pretended. He wasn’t just angry over Spock’s perceived disobedience, he was terribly worried. With a sudden flash of perception, she asked, “Was it so difficult for you, the first time you were assigned to Earth?”
His head snapped up to meet her eyes. “How do you—how dare you --”
Another terrible thought occurred to her. “Or are you just afraid he’s going to meet someone and fall in love, like--”
“Enough. You will not assign your ill conceived illogical, emotional motivations to--”
“Enough is right. Stop treating me like the enemy. I’m your wife -- the mother of our son for whom we are both concerned.”
“I… have …no… son.” Sarek weighted every word. “None, Amanda. I have warned you before of this and you persist in defying me. You will not speak of him again to me. I will not have it.”
“Your son -- who you can’t keep wrapped in cotton wool forever because of your fears of your own perceived mistakes! Why don’t you admit it!”
Sarek pushed himself away from the parapet, so violently he sent a column of ancient rock falling hundreds of feet to the desert below. “Be careful, wife. I will tolerate this behavior from you no better than from your son. I have renounced your son, and will hear no more of him. Continue this, and you will reap what you deserve,” he snapped, taking a step toward her, sheer power in every movement.
Uncowed, she threw at him. “Be careful of me, husband. ‘I always deserve the best treatment, because I never put up with any other.’”
He crossed to her swiftly, real threat in his movements. But then he stopped, as if pole-axed. For a moment Sarek froze, a sheeted expression across his eyes, as if her response had puzzled him. Then he tilted his head, and breathed out carefully. “Jane Austen.” He said it in almost a normal voice.
“Emma, to be precise.” She said coldly, trembling, inches from his fingers, and not knowing what she would have done. A moment before he’d been angry enough almost to kill her. If she’d run, he would have caught her, and if she hadn’t. Oh, if she hadn’t… He stood looking at her curiously, his formidable Vulcan anger somehow gone, as if it had never been. She didn’t understand him, and she turned away fractionally, trying to find her own composure.
She felt him come up behind her, not touching. “Emma was nearly always wrong, as I recall.” His voice was suddenly so normal, ironic, even amused, she found the entire turn of conversation unreal.
“It wasn’t meant as a quote. Don’t think you can draw any convenient parallels.” She said coldly. She was still shaking in fury and trembling in a fear she refused to acknowledge.
“Never the less,” he laid hands, very gently, on her arms, “my very human wife, your perceptions are incorrect,” he turned her to face him. “I do not regard our marriage as a mistake.”
“I was right, too. You are afraid.”
For a moment Sarek tensed, as if resisting answering her. Then he relented again, though not without a visible effort. “Amanda, he is only a child. I had deceived myself as to how young he really is. He is not even ready for the teaching position he has been offered. A Terran school would be impossible in itself, though under certain controlled conditions I might accept something of the sort. But I cannot even consider allowing him to enter a Terran military organization. It is impossible. Unacceptable. It cannot be.”
But he already has entered! She wasn’t to rail against this blindness, but T'Pau’s warning echoed in her head. She could not argue. For some odd reason, perhaps her throwing out a human reference in a very Vulcan argument, she had Sarek back, not the forbidding Vulcan warrior who had almost turned his back on their marriage. She understood now what T’Pau meant. Sarek would not accept her ambivalence toward him, nor her resistance. At least not in his wife. He made some small concessions to her humanity, a humanity she had inadvertently reminded him of in a critical moment. But if she was not going to rouse that implacable Vulcan temper again, her scope of influence was necessarily small. She substituted a plea for an argument instead. Her role, as T’Pau had hinted at. Warned her of. In view of Sarek’s behavior tonight, she couldn’t ignore that warning. She must necessarily eschew contention for persuasion. “Even if you are right, what logic is there now that he has joined, in making it difficult for him to return home if he chooses? Can’t you relent now, Sarek? Isn’t it logical to accept what has happened?”
But she had miscalculated. Pressed too hard, for he turned to granite again. “Do not ask me to accept such disrespectful, disobedient behavior. I will accept Spock as a son only when he refutes Starfleet and returns to the authority of his parents. Until then I will not discuss him further. Do not speak to me of him again. I warn you for the last time.”
She sighed and bent her head, refusing to challenge him further. At least, for now, he would not relent, and she had as much chance of changing him as the wind to change the Llangdon mountains. Only time, and slow studied pressure did that. And to have that time, she had to stay with him. “You are stubborn, my husband.”
“I am right, my wife. Furthermore, you agree with me.”
She shook her head. There were limits to even her role as a good Vulcan wife. This was the mistake she had made the last time, trusting in her husband’s promise to raise Spock as a Vulcan. She had not realized that the emotions Sarek allowed himself, he would not allow his son. She did not care what happened to her, and while she did not want her son in Starfleet either, she would not agree to Sarek’s position regarding it. “No.”
His hands tightened momentarily on her. She had, in that one refusal , called up the Vulcan again. “You are here, my wife.” He looked down at her, her Vulcan clothing, her Vulcan styled hair, the way she stilled, unresisting, under his newly possessive, almost painful, grip. “You are here.” He said it again, in a whisper.
He drew a breath, and his shoulders relaxed, his grip loosened perceptibly. “And why, if you so disagree with me, are you here? My wife.”
“Because I love you. Anyway.” She admitted it readily, as one would confess a fault. And then she did something she had never done before. She dropped to her knees in ritual fealty, as she had done to T’Pau, and offered him the two fingered touch of bondmates. It was all she could think to do. She could not fight him, not and have either of them survive. It was a promise, of sorts. She could not give him the unconditional, uncontested support he demanded. But there was a Vulcan marriage between them, and her human love. At least for now, it would have to serve.
For a moment, he stared at her, and she at him. Nothing in his culture allowed for a wife in league with a son against a husband. Nothing in his culture countenanced love as a motivation, or a basis for a marriage. And for the moment, she didn’t feel love, but a sense of commitment more encompassing than love, if that could be true. For nothing in hers could really accept his total rejection of her child, or his expectation, near demand, that she follow him in that rejection. And yet she did love him, and she knew, given time, she’d feel it again. For the present, she was denying him his expectations of her as a wife, in order to fulfill a purely Vulcan need even more encompassing – and demanding. And, for a moment, she felt that he nearly rejected that offer as too strange to bear. But then he blinked, once in assent. “So be it, my wife.” He offered her two fingers in the traditional Vulcan touch between mates. “So be it.”
And then he drew her to her feet. “My wife, attend.”
She followed him to their rooms, knowing what was coming next. A Vulcan wife did not deny her husband, anything. Standing before their wide bed, Sarek began to strip, looking at her almost challengingly. If she denied him in one way, he would see she didn’t in others. A test, of sorts. It was his right. Her owns hands shaking, she turned away a little, untied the fastener of her long braid and slowly began to unbind her hair.
As he picked her up and carried her to bed, a myriad of whispers filled her thoughts.
T’Pau: if you give him a battle, he will fight you.
How could I fail, she thought. I’ve tried so hard!
Voices of friends and family through the years, arch and askance over her marriage to a Vulcan: Can you really -- I mean, well, my dear, he’s not human.
Close only counts in horseshoes, Mandy. He’s an alien. Do you really want to risk the rest of your life with someone you can never really understand?
And last of all her dear son’s voice, hushed and close to her ear, speaking of something too forbidden to discuss except in whispers: I suspect you might have given up something to stop him from his worst…
As Sarek moved to cover her, his face stony in determination, she bit her lips, thinking: He is punishing me for his own defeat at Spock’s hands, and for my aiding and abetting that defeat. I could hate him for this. I have as much a right, as a Human, to hate him for this as he has as a Vulcan to do this to me. For what he has done to Spock, and what he is about to do to me. I could hate him for the rest of my life for this monstrous betrayal of all we promised each other. There is no biological imperative in this act, he is doing it out of spite. How dare he!
And yet that niggling of doubt. What if what T’Pau implies is true – that Sarek would not have another? She loves him too, and she wouldn’t lie, not about something like this. If he does not resolve this breach, and he risks his bonding, in a way he can never recover from what will you feel through the rest of your life, even as his is cut short? You don’t have to refuse him to reject him. He is not a monster, and he will know the difference.
Oh, no. She reached for her husband, wrapping her arms around his neck and holding him close through the first, untempered, deliberately cruel thrust, kept them tight and close, in spite of her tears at his continued callous use of her body. I will not let you do this to us, my husband. Not for all your temper and your stubbornness. I love you anyway, in spite of all of it!
Sarek paused, and then her drew back fractionally as if momentarily confused. She felt his warm breath, his lips searching through the tears on her face to find her own lips, and then he kissed her, as gently as he had just roughly taken her. She kissed him back, and pressed against him. This was no time for ambivalence.
And then they lost themselves, in what little comfort they could find in a part of their life that was as yet, still there for them.
After yet another shuddering climax, Sarek shifted slightly away from his wife, though he didn’t release her. He drew air into his starved lungs and felt the rapid pounding of his heart begin to slow. Beneath him Amanda was not in much better shape, her limbs were wet with sweat and he’d given her more bruises than if this were a Pon Farr. But he felt no shame, nor need to apologize for his behavior. Amanda had brought this on herself, on them both. Her loyalty, her fealty, was due to him. She had no right to align herself with any others, not even her child, against his Need. And he had every right to make sure of her, in light of recent events. He felt his anger flare again, along with his desire, and he drew back down against her. He could feel her exhaustion, it mirrored his own. Neither of them had slept much in the last few days. But she yielded to him willingly. For a moment, Sarek held her against him, savoring her pliant body. But it was enough. He would not use her again tonight. She had proven herself. At least for now. He wouldn’t deny that his anger still smoldered. But it was directed now more toward the errant child who was the true source of it, not to his essentially blameless wife, no matter how she had favored the child. He kissed her once more, drew back and away and slid out of bed.
“Sarek?” Even as tired as she was, Amanda stirred.
“Rest, my wife. I will return in a moment.”
She sighed and almost in the same breath, fell asleep.
Sarek studied her a moment, then turned. On the way to the bath, his bare feet encountered something, he picked it up and discovered her ruined tunic. He had forgotten that madness. He didn’t think she would forget the roughness of their initial encounter, but there was no point in punishing her further with unnecessary reminders. Not that he regretted his actions. She had seen him at his worst, tonight, and she had forgiven him for it. It was an assurance he had required of her, and he felt some of his needed calm return at that certainty. He tossed the ruined garment in the recycler. Right or wrong, his actions tonight had cleared some of the horrible uncertainty from his mind. His wife’s love was no certainty in his mind. To a Vulcan, the only certainty was what she had just demonstrated. Based on that proof he felt almost at peace. Stepping out of the shower, he hesitated. As tired as he was, he had not eaten in some time. Now, with the return of some calm in his life he felt for the first time since Spock’s announcement, that perhaps he could. Or at least, it was time to try. To return to at least as much of normalcy as life would offer, he thought, as he padded to the kitchen.
Sipping fruit juice, he was choosing among some keevas in a bowl on the table when the house computer caught his eye. For a moment, he stared at it, resisting the temptation. Then he squared his shoulders and stalked to it. A moments search brought up the message Spock had sent to his mother, and a moment later he was playing it.
His anger rose again as he listened and watched. So his son was in high spirits, even amused by the havoc he had created with his treacherous behavior. How dare he!
Sarek had spent the last three days dwelling on the disciplines which would be necessary to eradicate his son’s lax logic when the boy came under his control again, but watching him anew, he realized he had not even come close to what would be required. When he returned, his son might teach and do research at the Science Academy during the day, but outside of that august institution he would be treated at home as if he were no more than a pre_Kahs Wan infant. And Sarek could see that before even that could occur his son would have to be stringently retrained in the disciplines of logic and obedience. It might be even as much as a year before he could take up the Academy post.
Shaking his head, Sarek snapped off the message and no longer interested in food, returned to his bed. He paused at the sight of his wife. He was reminded anew of her treachery. And Spock’s message had implied she had possessed some control over him. He wondered what that was. His heart thudded rapidly and painfully in his chest, his breath came short as he thought of this unlikely alliance. He had ruthlessly repressed his son’s childhood relationship with his mother, raised him in the strictest Vulcan disciplines to minimize her influence. So how, how – did Amanda possess an advantage over the child of which he was unaware? He would ask her. But what if she refused to tell him? She had not told him when the information might have been of best use. His fingers extended then clenched in a fist as he thought of seeking that information from her mind. He drew nearer to the bed, and sat down on it, raising a hand, forcing his labored and exhausted mind to concentrate. He went deep into the disciplines, striving for the control necessary.
He started out of his near trance, blinking to clear his vision.
Amanda partially sat up. “What is it? Are you ill?”
“I am in perfect health.”
“You looked…so troubled.”
He felt unequal to meeting the concern in her eyes. “I am merely tired, my wife.”
“Sleep then. Please?”
Sarek studied the delicate fingers she placed over his own blunt ones– fingers that had nearly been used in the violation of her mind. A crime which, even between bondmates, was unforgivable. He spoke softly, almost diffidently, fingers tracing the fine bones of her wrist. “Amanda, what advantage did Spock refer to in his message to you, where he claimed you had the power to order his compliance?”
Amanda stared at him, then shook her head, blinking. “It was just a joke, Sarek. He wasn’t being serious.”
“What was it?” He reached out and took her hand, and as she hesitated his fingers on her wrist tightened. “What …was… it?”
Amanda drew a sharp startled breath. “Truly, Sarek, I had just been teasing him.” He waited, unmoving and she sighed. “I told him that if he didn’t promise to message me regularly, I’d deny him my parentage. But obviously, I wasn’t serious.”
Sarek was as puzzled as her son had been at first. “What hold could that have over him?”
She wasn’t surprised Sarek was as blind as her son in seeing the disadvantage. Eighteen years of discounting her left them both blind. “No human mother, no eighteenth birthday. Thus no Federation passport, and no Terran majority. He couldn’t have left.”
Sarek drew a sharp breath, hand tightening so abruptly, he pulled her forward against him. Like his son, she’d found a Vulcan blind spot he’d never even suspected existed. “Why did you not tell me this? You had a flawlessly logical means of preventing his departure, and you did not tell me this!”
Amanda sat up and pushed back her hair from her face. “Hardly flawlessly logical. Sarek, a blood test would confirm that Spock is my son!”
Sarek met her eyes. “But the legal work could have dragged on for years.”
“Do you think I could do such a thing to my only child? I love him. I love you both!”
Sarek shook his head. In his arms, he could not deny the strength of her emotions. But he didn’t comprehend them. “I do not understand you, my wife.”
Amanda sighed. “I don’t always understand you either, my husband. But it has been a difficult time and we are both tired. We’ll be more able to consider solutions after some rest.”
For a moment, Sarek hesitated, searching her eyes for the betrayal he felt she had engendered. But search as he would, it wasn’t there. He reached out his hand to cover hers, forcing himself to an acceptance of fate that would barely serve, but would have to do. For now. “Flawlessly logical again, my very human wife.”
Across the Federation, Spock Xtmprszqzntwlfb curled up for warmth under a thermal blanket. His Vulcan status had granted him a single dorm cubicle, which he could at least partly adapt to Vulcan conditions, at least in the sense of adding some heat, but nothing could dissipate the humidity, the yellow lights, or the unshielded pulse of other’s minds. He had not slept in the days traveling in double accommodations to Earth, nor had he eaten much either. But now, with the yellow lights dimmed, and the quiet that descended even into the telepathic band after lights out, and the warmth he’d increased in the cubicle and under the thermal blanket, he finally slept, exhausted but content, a great weight lifted from his slender shoulders. The cube was bare of anything personal but a carrybag, a Vulcan musical instrument, and a few Vulcan clothes. And a holograph, eyes meeting in silent communion. And next to the holograph the son of that union slept, alone, seeking a place of his own in the universe.
It was not the best of times. It was not the worst of times. But for the present, it would have to serve.
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