DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of T'Sia and is copyright (c) 2004 by T'Sia. Rated NC17.
A Matter Of Trust
He could not breathe. His lungs would not fill with air and he felt enormous pressure on his chest. He tried frantically to draw in the life saving oxygen but to no avail. Instinct took over. His body convulsed wildly, and he gripped the collar of his sleeping tunic in an effort to loosen it more around his neck.
Sarek awoke with a start. It was dark and quiet in the room. The only movement came from the curtains, which flowed lightly in the breeze from outside. His hands were still tightly clutching at the collar of his sleeping tunic. He saw nothing threatening that could explain the twinge of panic he still felt, only the comfortable bedroom he shared with his wife of almost forty years. Then he realized he must have had a very vivid dream and sat up in bed. Slowly, the memory of his dream came back to him. Alarmed, he turned to his wife. Had he lashed out while dreaming? Carefully he leaned over her. She lay curled on her side, facing away from him. He could hear her deep, even breathing and noted with relief his wild movements had only been in his dream.
He shivered, and then frowned. Despite the window being opened a fraction to allow fresh air in, the temperature in the chamber was comfortable. Nevertheless, he felt cold. It was only then that he realized his sleeping tunic was drenched in sweat. A little bit concerned, he sat up straighter and analyzed his body's condition. He normally did not dream this vividly causing his body to react in reality, but his sleep had been restless for several nights, and the continued loss of rest was obviously affecting him. He still felt a slight pressure in his chest but could breathe normally. He relaxed when he realized he was not ill or injured, and thought that the feeling of pressure was an after-effect of the dream.
Slowly he got up and padded through the dark room. He found his way to the adjoining bathroom almost automatically despite his excellent night vision. He entered and closed the door quietly behind him. The sensors in the room reacted to his body heat and the light came on. He started when he saw his own reflection in the mirror. His hair was damp and the dark curls lay flat against his scalp. His face looked drawn, as if the stress his body had endured in his dream had actually taken place. This could not be. He'd had his last medical check-up only two months ago and the healer had declared him perfectly healthy. His gaze traveled further down his body and he found the shirt of his pyjamas clinging to his chest. He could feel the wet cloth pressed to his back, too. The damp cocoon dragged the warmth from his body quickly and he shivered again.
He dumped the soiled clothing in the recycling unit and took a sonic shower. Then he went to the adjoining dressing room where he retrieved a new pair of pyjamas. He returned to the bathroom and switched off the lights before he opened the door. The room was still silent except for Amanda's breathing. He noticed immediately that her breathing rhythm had changed. The flat, slightly irregular breathing indicated that she was awakening. Somehow, she always recognized his absence during the night regardless of how quietly he left the room and her sleep became far less deep. How she did this had always been a mystery to him for she was normally a sound sleeper and did not wake up easily. As silently as he could, he went back through the dark room and climbed into bed. Fortunately, the damp pyjamas had not soaked the bedclothes and he felt comforting warmth emanate from the blanket.
Amanda turned to him now, still half-asleep. "Is anything wrong, honey?" she asked, her voice still heavy with sleep.
"No, there is nothing wrong, aduna. I regret I have disturbed you."
She smiled slightly and opened her eyes a crack to find the way to his mouth where she placed a soft kiss on his lips. "Never, beloved."
He turned on his side and enclosed her in his arms. She breathed deeply and snuggled against him. Soon, her regular breathing told him she was already asleep. He still felt disturbed about the dream and the strange reactions of his body. He hugged Amanda closer to him and felt her calming presence in his mind, nevertheless, it took him considerably longer to find sleep again.
When he got up the next morning, he still felt unwell, but prepared for his lectures at the academy as usual. He collected his materials from his office and was just about to leave for the kitchen when the com unit chimed. Upon returning to his desk he found a written message on his computer. He raised an eyebrow when he saw that the Vulcan Diplomatic Corps sent the message. He had interrupted his diplomatic career to teach at the Vulcan Science Academy one year ago. This message could only mean the government had decided to send him on a diplomatic mission again. He keyed in his identity code and sat down in his office chair while he waited for the computer to decrypt the message. He read it carefully and steepled his hands before him.
He had followed the news about the conflicts regarding Corridan for quite some time and now the planet had requested membership into the Federation. The Federation Council had arranged a conference to decide the issue, and his government had requested him to function as the negotiator for Vulcan. The conference and the negotiations did not disturb him at all. He frowned when he reached the end of the message where the administrative information was listed. The name of the ship that would bring him and the other delegates to the conference burned its way into his memory: Enterprise.
This was the ship where Spock served as first officer. He recalled the painful day when Spock had turned away from him to go to Earth without looking back. He had not only turned his back on his father, but on the Clan and Vulcan in general by applying for membership in Starfleet. Regardless what Sarek had said, he had not been able to persuade the stubborn young man to give up his plans. As much as Sarek was hurt about the son who turned his back on all his teachings and knowledge, he had to admire the proud young man just the same for following his own ways with such unyielding determination.
Spock had always been a target for suspicion and distrust by the people whose ways he chose to follow. Sarek had tried to protect his son by demanding he perfect his controls, but Spock had always chosen his own way, disregarding his advice. Amanda had pleaded with him not to declare their son vre'kasht after Spock had left. In the end, he had yielded to her wishes but the price was an icy silence between father and son for eighteen years. Silence was sometimes a much more effective tool to make one's attitude known than arguing. Therefore, he had refused to speak with his son until the latter realized his mistake. Sarek ignored the little voice in his head that asked him constantly if he was sure that Spock had committed the error and not he, himself.
Finally, he sighed and read the rest of the message. He was to meet with his superiors later today to talk about the details.
He heard movement from the floor above him and switched off his com unit. Then he collected his materials and headed for the kitchen. He would not allow himself the emotional pressure that the upcoming meeting with his son would surely cause him, but his body resisted his mental controls. He felt a little sick and out of breath when he entered the kitchen. Determined to keep his daily routine, he prepared Terran coffee for his wife as he did every morning and brewed himself a Vulcan herbal tea. He took his mug from the counter and went to the large window that overlooked the garden behind the house. He had nearly reached it when a sharp pain sliced through his chest. He stumbled and the mug nearly slipped from his fingers. The pain forced a low moan from him and his hands cramped in agony. The mug broke in his hand and the boiling hot tea spilled over his skin, but Sarek did not feel the burn. His world had narrowed to the pain in his side and chest. He gasped for air while the broken pieces of the mug fell to the stone floor where they broke into even smaller fragments. Bloodstained tea dripped from his hand and formed a puddle on the floor. He sank to his knees and bent forward.
Then, as suddenly as the pain had come, it subsided and he could breathe again. Panting he sat on the floor and braced himself with a bleeding hand on the door that led from the kitchen to the garden. The hand slipped weakly down on the smooth glass surface and left a smear of blood on the transparent material. After some tense moments he sat up straighter and lifted his head. He waited until he was sure the onslaught of pain would not return.
He heard his wife rummage around in the bedroom and knew she would come down to the kitchen soon. He reached out a shaking hand and picked up the larger fragments of the mug. Then he rose and braced himself on the table beside him. Slowly, he felt his strength seep back into his body and he carefully erased all traces of the incident.
He tended to the injuries and brewed himself a new cup of tea. He then set the kitchen table for Amanda's breakfast. He usually went to work without consuming first meal at home, a fact he was grateful for today. Amanda would not be suspicious if he did not eat anything. Today even the thought of food made him slightly nauseated.
Something was definitely wrong with him. He'd never had such chest pain before and it concerned him greatly. He decided to make an appointment with a healer as soon as he arrived at the VSA. He wondered whether Amanda had felt some of the pain he had experienced as he had closed the bond as soon as the pain hit, but it may be possible she had felt something. He heard steps on the stairs and prepared to give an evasive answer without lying if she asked him.
Amanda had finally decided on the right outfit to wear today. She returned to the bedroom and drew back the curtains, wincing slightly when she stretched her arm. She rubbed the sore area and drew her brows together in annoyance. How many times had she stepped in and out of that shower without hurting herself? She dismissed the thought and then smiled. Maybe Sarek could compute the number. Today she hadn't managed to get out of the shower without slipping. Her right side impacted with the door of the shower stall and the stabbing pain had reached from her arm down to the right side of her body. The feeling had still not subsided completely. 'Must have hit a nerve or something,' she thought and exited the bedroom.
She went by Sarek's office, the place where she often found him in the mornings, but the room was surprisingly empty. The delicious fragrance of fresh brewed coffee wafted from the kitchen and she knew where she had to search next.
She found her husband sitting with his back to her and she slung her arms around his neck from behind. She kissed him softly on the tip of one pointed ear and breathed in his pleasant natural scent.
"Good morning, love. I missed you this morning," she purred sensuously and began to place soft tiny kisses along his jaw line while her hand moved down his body. "Didn't you say you would leave later today?"
He froze when her hand descended further. "No, that will be the case tomorrow, Amanda."
"Oh, too bad," she whispered but continued her oral exploration of his ear and neck. "What about a little quickie? Do you remember? During your negotiations with the K'Rielon?"
He did indeed remember. His body instantly reacted, already aroused by her stroking hand that neared its target inexorably. He felt his heart rate accelerate and instantly the pressure returned to his chest. Quickly he grabbed her hand and brought it to his lips. "I am sorry, aduna. My morning classes begin early today," he said evasively and kissed her hand softly.
Amanda instantly forgot her playful manner when she watched his hand, which held hers enclosed. "What happened to your hand? You didn't have those cuts and burning marks yesterday," she said and freed her hand to study his injuries closer. The cuts were not deep but traces of dried blood still showed how heavily they must have bled. The burned skin had a visibly darker green shade than the undamaged tissue. The burns must hurt considerably for he winced despite his controls when she touched them.
"I broke a mug and cut myself on the sharp edges of the fragments," he said, glad that he did not have to lie. "The hot tea burned my hand."
She went around facing him. "You broke a mug?" she asked incredulously and smiled, unaware of the real reason behind the accident. He never broke anything except during pon farr, but he never failed to tease her when she destroyed her own kitchen tools. When he did not react to her teasing manner, her smile faded. He avoided her gaze and she studied him closer, noticing the deep shadows under his eyes. He looked unusually pale, too, and it was not the light which let his face appear devoid the usual healthy, olive-green hue.
Recalling her last thought about pon farr, she counted the years since his last time quickly. She only counted five years. Could it be early?
She sat on the edge of the table and framed his face with her hands. "You are usually not the clumsy type, Sarek, and you look so pale, too. Are you ill?" He did not answer at first. That did not surprise her. The subject of pon farr always made him uncomfortable, even when she mentioned it, illogical as it was. Maybe he did not wish to admit it.
"Is it an early pon farr, Sarek?" she pressed gently.
That caused him to look up in surprise. He took her hands in both of his and shook his head. "No, Amanda. I am only fatigued. I have not slept well recently."
"Yes, I noticed. Are you sure it's nothing serious?" she asked, her blue eyes full with concern.
"I will see a healer today to ensure my health. Does this satisfy you, Amanda?"
She smiled slightly. "Yes, I would be relieved to know that you are not seriously ill."
He moved to stand and she got up from the table to make room for him. He held up his hand in the traditional embrace between bonded couples and she matched her fingers to his.
"I will be late tonight. You do not need to wait for me," he said and sent a warm impulse over the bond.
"Be careful, Sarek. You really look ill. Don't overtax your strength."
He raised an indulgent eyebrow and almost smiled. "Of course." He picked up his materials from the counter and left the house.
It was late when he returned home. He closed the outer gate and approached the front door of the house. When he entered, he noticed light spilling into the stairwell from the floor above. Amanda had probably waited up for him even though he said not to. He closed the door silently but went directly to his office.
He activated the computer unit and reviewed the information he had been given by the Secretary for Interplanetary Affairs. The Enterprise would arrive in a week to pick them up. Reading the information on the upcoming negotiations, he already worked out a first draft of his strategy.
He then leaned back in his chair and as he did this, he felt the package with the medicine from the healer. Sekar had been surprised to see him after the relatively short time since the last check-up. He was concerned about the symptoms Sarek described and did a thorough cardiac evaluation. The healer told him of possible heart defects that could not be monitored and warned him not to put himself under any physical strain until his condition had been monitored closely. His heart seemed to be functioning normally and indeed, Sarek had felt his condition improve during the day. He felt as healthy and strong as ever and even considered cancelling his next appointment with the healer, but the memory of the pain was still fresh in his mind.
Against the advice from Sekar not to participate in the upcoming debates, Sarek decided to make the journey nevertheless. The government had requested his presence and it was very important for the stability of the Corridan system to be protected by a membership in the Federation. This conference was highly important. Such a duty could not be disregarded for mere personal reasons.
Sekar had not shared Sarek's opinion, but he had yielded to his patient's wishes in the end. He prescribed the medicine Sarek held in his hands now and advised him to take it upon the slightest occurrence of side or chest pain.
He studied the package and pondered where to place them. Amanda did not need to know of his condition; there was nothing she could do about it anyway. In fact, she would surely try everything to prevent this voyage. But the matter was too important; he could not allow any interference. Besides, he felt well again and if his condition remained in its current state, the treatment of his heart malfunction could be done after the conference.
He opened the cabinet behind him and searched through the stored items until he found a box. He took the pills out of the original package and put them into the box. He discarded the package and finished this task just before Amanda walked into the office.
She was wearing a nightgown and a loose robe that flowed with her steps as she approached the desk. Her silvery white hair was not bound in its usual style but flowed freely over her shoulders. The soft light of the room let it gleam in different shades of grey and silver, flashing highlights here and there when she moved. She smiled softly at him and came around his desk. She leaned against it and held her fingers out to him in the ritual embrace. He touched her hand and felt the bond flare to life immediately. For some moments they only exchanged tender impulses over the bond, each of them comfortable in the presence of the other, then she took his hand and kissed his fingers softly.
"You look better this evening," she commented after studying his face closely.
"I do," he acknowledged.
She rolled her eyes. "Do I have to drag everything out of you?" she asked in mock annoyance. "What did the healer say?"
"He did not find anything out of order," he answered, hoping she would not investigate further.
"And what are those for?" she queried and pointed to the little box he still held in his hand.
Sarek's thoughts raced. What could he tell her without making her suspicious? He decided to that the truth would be the best cover for their purpose.
"They serve to improve my condition when I do not feel well," he said with the most convincing tone he could come up with. Tensely he watched for an indication that she believed him.
"Well, if the healer thinks they can help you." She sat on his lap, putting her arms around his neck and smiling seductively. "I think you need some relaxation, too." She took the pills from him and deposed them on his desk, then she kissed him softly.
Cautiously he listened to the signs of his body but he did not feel any discomfort, so he leaned back and enjoyed her touch. Sliding his arms around her slender form and up her back he tugged the robe gently from her shoulders. Her skin was smooth and soft and he kissed his way up her shoulder to her neck, outlining the contours of her rounded ear. She sighed softly and pressed closer to him, but he pushed her back gently to study her. Her look of confusion fused into one of amusement when she watched his hungry stare. His eyes were almost black with arousal and burned with a fire that she knew would consume them both soon. A shiver of anticipation ran through her body, causing her already erect nipples to press even tighter against the fabric of her nightgown. Noting her reaction, he held the gown flat over her breasts to emphasize the protrusions, then kissed them through the soft material. She arched her back and ran her hands up his arms and neck. She stroked through his hair and massaged his scalp lightly. Gently holding him in place, she relished the touch of the hot mouth that moistened her gown and felt the blood run to her loins. Instantly, familiar warmth spread through her. Her reaction echoed through the bond and his body reacted in kind. Again, he concentrated on his physical condition but found only his own arousal mirrored back to him from Amanda.
Satisfied, he relaxed and yielded to the wave of emotions and feelings. The bond opened wider until sensations and thoughts flowed freely between them. He removed the straps of the nightgown from Amanda's shoulders and exposed her upper body to his searching lips and roving hands. She moaned encouragingly and his grip on her tightened momentarily. His heart raced with a strong, steady thrum in his side and he felt ready to explode if he didn't find release soon.
He stood abruptly. Reaching behind her he wiped the desk clear of all reports and PADDs, which flew to the floor. Then he placed her on the desk before him and stepped between her spread legs. His mouth found hers and he kissed her with an almost bruising passion. She responded in kind, her hands opening his shirt in haste to expose his chest. He leaned forward and tried to hold her down with one hand while he reached for the clasp of his pants with the other, but she laughed teasingly and slipped out of his grip. Grabbing both open ends of his shirt she tucked it back over his shoulders until his arms were pinned to his sides. She flashed him a challenging smile and pushed him back.
"Not so fast, mister," she purred seductively and breathed a soft kiss on his chest. If possible, his eyes darkened even more and, for a moment, she wondered whether he would submit to her game. He could have freed himself easily but then the corners of his mouth lifted into a slight smile and he stepped back obediently, his arms still caught in the sleeves of his shirt. Amanda stood and turned them both until his back was to the desk. He sat lightly on the edge and let her push him back further. His face turned into a strained expression when the action caused his almost painful erection to push even more against the confining material of his pants.
Amanda noticed his obvious discomfort and her gaze dropped to the hard bulge in the fabric. She smiled and wet her lips, then her gaze rose to meet his again. "Don't move," she whispered. He bit his lip and nodded. Slowly she released the shirt behind his back and grabbed the nightgown that still clung to her hips. He moved his arms to brace himself on the desk behind him and enjoyed the graceful sweeps and curves of his wife's body. She stepped out of the nightgown and tossed it aside. Then she moved between his slightly spread legs, all the time holding him captive with her gaze. Not breaking eye contact either, he forgot his promise and reached for the clasp of his pants again.
"Hey, I said don't move," Amanda said and captured his hand. She kissed it and wagged a finger at him. She placed his hand behind his back, obviously enjoying her game greatly while Sarek had difficulties holding his body in check. His brows knit together in concentration while he tried to control himself. When she saw he was obeying her, she ran her hands over his chest, stroking his muscles. She smiled when they twitched under her hands. She teased his nipple with her tongue and he moaned in pleasure when she sucked it into her mouth and bit him lightly. After several long minutes under this sweet torture, he was almost writhing in her grasp. His breaths came in short gasps and his head was thrown back, his face contorted in sweet agony. Amanda finally decided to have mercy on him. The open lust on his face excited her beyond her own ability to control herself and she opened his pants wide enough to sneak a hand inside. Then she hesitated. His head came forward and they locked burning gazes.
"Aduna, please," he pleaded and already felt his genitals tighten in imminent climax. He jerked when she finally touched his rigid flesh and cried out when she eased him out of his pants and began to pump him with quick strokes. He leaned back in abandon, concentrating on his building climax. She kissed and stroked his chest while she increased her rhythm on him. Her lips seemed to leave burning marks on his skin. Hotter and hotter the burning went until it became a blazing pain. His eyes snapped open when the pleasurable sensation turned into painful stabs in his right side. Just at the same time, the com console beside them gave a loud beeping sound, acknowledging an incoming message. Sarek jerked from Amanda's grasp and leaned forward quickly, more doubling over in pain. Simultaneously, the connection between their minds was shut down. Amanda drew back startled although she did not know what had startled her more, Sarek's strange mental and physical reaction or the loud bleep of the com unit. Had the sound disturbed him? For a moment only labored breathing could be heard in the room.
Sarek stared at the com unit but his gaze was focused inside. As soon as the physical stimulation had stopped, his heartbeat slowed down and the pain lessened considerably until it subsided to a stabbing sensation in his right side. When it had reached a tolerable level he straightened and looked at his wife. She watched him, her look clearly concerned.
"Sarek?" she asked in a fearful voice. "What is wrong with you?"
He looked at the com unit, then back at her. "Nothing," he replied curtly. "A priority one message has come in." He stood from the desk and reached out to view the message hoping that she would believe that only the sound had caused him to break the act.
Amanda drew back, hurt by his hard tone. She frowned and wrapped herself in her discarded robe. She was confused. Her thoughts were racing. What was wrong with him? He seemed to be in pain just moments ago. Or was it just the discomfort and anger about a disrupted sexual act and suppressed climax?
She didn't move and watched him read the message but he was more staring blindly at the monitor, secretly wishing he was alone. The situation was awkward for both of them. If it had not been for the incoming message, he would have given his condition away because of the intense pain. He was sure she had noticed that he had jerked away a fraction before the sound had startled them. His back was to her but he knew she was still watching him carefully. He tried to concentrate on the text but had to read it several times before he understood the content.
Finally he had to turn back at her. He averted his gaze instantly when he saw the hurt expression in her eyes. He cleared his throat. "We have to leave sooner than expected. The situation on Corridan has worsened," he informed her.
She looked even more confused. "Leave? Corridan? Which situation?"
He blinked and realized he had not even told her about the upcoming trip. To cover his embarrassment and his lapse of not telling her earlier, he rearranged his clothing carefully before he turned to her again. "Political instabilities in the Corridan system require instant negotiations regarding their admission to the Federation. The conference was scheduled to take place in three weeks but the situation requires earlier talks which will not be on Corridan itself any longer. The conference location is now a small planet code-named "Babel", near Corridan. We are going to be picked up by the Enterprise tomorrow. That was the content of the message."
Amanda's eyes spoke only confusion. "The Enterprise?" her thoughts raced again. That was Spock's ship. For an instant, she felt great joy flow through her about the chance to see her son after five years of absence. And tomorrow already! When she heard Sarek's voice again she was instantly reminded of the incident just minutes ago. What was the cause for his strange behavior? Was he concerned about the talks? Was this the reason he'd been so tense these past few days? Or was he concerned about meeting Spock? Vulcan control or not, she knew how much the long-standing silence between father and son was eating at Sarek. Then she realized he had spoken to her, but she had not paid attention to his words.
"Uh, what did you say? I wasn't listening," she admitted and blushed when he raised an eyebrow.
"I said I have to prepare my notes now. Please see to the necessary preparations for the trip. I will have no time to help you but you may call T'Lia for help tomorrow. When I have finished my work here I will spend the remainder of the night in meditation," he informed her.
She averted her gaze but he saw the flash of hurt in them. He almost cursed himself. He was practically shoving her out, but he had to be alone to regain his composure. He stood slowly and approached her. She took a step back and turned her back to him, hugging her arms around herself defiantly. He ignored the gesture and followed her. He grasped her shoulders and turned her gently around to him. She resisted only momentarily.
When she looked up at him tears were shimmering in her eyes. "What is wrong with you, Sarek? First we are going to have a most pleasurable evening. Then this message comes in and you are practically rolling over me with the news that we leave for an interstellar voyage tomorrow. Then you're practically ordering me to leave you alone with your work and you'll bury yourself behind the doors of your meditation chamber." Her voice quivered when she stopped speaking.
He didn't answer. He just drew her in his arms and stroked her back gently. "I am sorry, Amanda. I did not mean to cause you distress, but my work requires all my attention now. Surely you understand that, don't you?" He drew back and lifted her chin with a finger to meet her gaze.
"Yes, I do understand." He was concerned, of that she was sure. Something was bothering him but it was useless to beg him for more information. He would refuse, but he would tell her when he was ready. He always did. She placed her hand at the back of his neck and drew him down for a soft kiss. "Everything will be ready for our departure tomorrow."
He nodded and released her. He did not return to his desk immediately after she left. The second heart attack had rocked him to the core. He had felt good this evening, strong enough for a passionate night, but his body had betrayed him again. The pain was still there. Returning to his desk he swallowed one of the pills and waited until the medication took effect. He hoped the negotiations would be over quickly so that his body could heal. He remembered Amanda's concerned gaze and almost detested the method of masking the real reasons for his condition with his work.
Kaiidth. The good of the many was more important than his personal situation. He decided the negotiations would not take place without him.
Three days later.
Amanda stood in the observation deck of the Enterprise. Her posture was rigid, her hands balled into fists at her sides. The room was quiet and she was the only visitor, a fact she was very grateful for at the moment. She couldn't return to sickbay right now, not in her current emotional state. Her feelings were a mess. Only a few hours had passed since Sarek had admitted that he was suffering heart attacks. The knowledge stunned her. She hadn't even been able to speak with him about it.
The emotional rollercoaster had taken its toll on her to the point where she was not able to speak to anyone. First she had to watch her husband suffer a heart attack in their quarters, then there was hope again that his condition could be treated, and now Spock was refusing to help in the name of duty. She had just returned from his quarters. The thought of him made her hand hurt again and she flexed it and studied the reddened palm as if she had never seen it before. She couldn't believe she had actually slapped her son. She had never done that before and never wanted to do it again. When he refused to help, all the suppressed feelings broke free inside her. 'I'm so sorry Spock,' she thought, 'but how can you watch your father die?' Would he change his mind in time?
She remembered the image of a weak Sarek lying in sickbay; he didn't look good. How long would he survive without the operation? Her heart constricted when she realized she could lose him any time now. How would she go on without him? She felt as if he had always been there. A life without him seemed utterly impossible to her. And what about Spock? Could she hate her son if Sarek died, like she told him she would? She was not sure that she had spoken the truth. She wiped a tear from her cheek. This was the hardest test for her family since Spock left for Starfleet. When it came to stubbornness, he was as bad as his father, but would he really let his father die? And what about Sarek? Why didn't he trust her enough to tell her of his health problems? When she thought back to the past days, everything suddenly fell into place. His nervous sleeping and his refusal of intimacy made sense now. Why didn't she pay attention to her instincts that told her something was wrong? Or had she so strongly wanted everything to be right, that she just believed what he told her? She remembered how she had thought he would tell her what was wrong with him when he was ready. He always did. Always, until now. Something had caused him to hide his condition from her. What had caused him to act this way? Had she done something wrong?
The door to the observation deck opened behind her and she tensed. She looked back and saw a young couple enter the room. They didn't see her and wandered hand in hand to a personal booth for two. 'Surely to watch the stars and enjoy each other's company,' she thought. When was the last time she and Sarek had shared a few moments alone? The evening before their departure had been the first opportunity in months. Both of them were so absorbed in their work that they seldom found time to share some private moments. Was this the reason for the crack in the fortress of trust they had build together during the last forty years? She reached for their mental bond but Sarek was still asleep; the drugs relaxed him and eased his pain. But how long could he endure the physical strain? Even at rest, his heart was weak. Dr. McCoy had been concerned about the turn of events. The operation was necessary and it had to be done quickly as long as Sarek was still strong enough for the procedure. But his strength was draining steadily. She could see it in his face and feel it in their bond. The thought of losing him stabbed through her like a knife. It was time to return to him and share all the time they could together. Despite the breach of trust, she loved him more than life itself. Nothing could change that. She composed herself and wiped away the last traces of tears. She exited the observation lounge quietly.
She entered sickbay a few minutes later and stopped short when she saw that Sarek was no longer in his room. A flash of panic shot through her and immediately she reached out mentally to him, but he did not answer. She whirled and searched for someone who could tell her what had happened. She was no telepath, so she couldn't tell whether the bond was gone and she only heard a faint echo of it, or if Sarek was just heavily sedated so that he couldn't answer her. Just then the blonde nurse she had seen before came into the room, carrying a tray of instruments.
Amanda walked over to her. She wanted to run and ask what had happened but the fear she had about her husband made her walk slowly like she was caught in a nightmare. One hand pressed tightly to her heart, she walked to where she saw the nurse putting down the tray.
Christine Chapel spotted Spock's mother at the door and noticed her frightened stare. She set down the tray and met the other woman in the middle of the room. She took her hand comfortingly; it was cold as ice. Christine realized that Amanda probably thought her husband had died, but wouldn't a bondmate realize it when the other died? They were telepathically linked, after all. The frightened expression on Amanda's face finally shook her out of her thoughts. She remembered the numerous times she had feared for Spock's life. She knew what Amanda was going through right now, and wished to ease the fear as much as possible. "Mrs. Sarek," she said softly. "Don't worry. Your husband will be operated on shortly."
"Operated?" Amanda echoed weakly. "But Spock refused."
Christine shook her head. "No, he hasn't." She hesitated. She couldn't tell Amanda that they had to trick Spock to bring him down to sickbay. 'Not now,' she decided. The two had to work that out between themselves. "He changed his mind," she finished.
Tears of relief spilled down Amanda's cheeks and she closed her eyes. Christine wondered whether the older woman was going to collapse and watched her carefully. She stepped closer and supported Amanda with one hand.
The eyes of the elder woman opened. "It's all right," she managed. "I just need a moment."
Christine nodded. Amanda managed to compose herself and dried her tears with the sleeve of her red robe. "Where are they?"
"I will bring you to the operating room," the nurse replied. Then she hesitated. 'She must know the truth,' she thought. "Mrs. Sarek, I have to tell that your husband is not yet out of danger. The operation will be difficult. Are you sure you wish to witness the procedure?"
Amanda's face sobered and she nodded. Her gaze became distant as if she were focusing on something only she could see. "Yes. I am his wife. I will be with him, always."
Christine's eyes moistened for an instant. The infinite devotion of this woman to her husband touched her deeply. She thought about her feelings for Spock and for an instant pain washed over her when she pondered the possibility that he would never give her the chance to be the same for him that Amanda was for Sarek. But she suppressed the thoughts and called up her sense of duty which she would need during the difficult operation. "He is in the best hands with Dr. McCoy. He will do everything in his power to save him." she ensured Amanda.
Amanda looked up to the nurse and smiled bravely. "Thank you, Ms. Chapel. I trust him. I have no choice."
Christine picked up the tray and motioned for Amanda to follow her. She led her to the operating room, where Sarek was already lying on the table. Beside him, Spock was stretched out on a medical bed too. Thin tubes, filled with his blood, were running from his arm to a filter unit attached to the wall. The filtered blood flowed through tubes on the other side of the filter to Sarek's bed. Monitor panels on the wall above each bed showed the vital signs of the patients, but the values made no sense to Amanda. She watched the faces of her husband and son for indications of their status.
Spock had always been lighter in color than Sarek; the typical olive hue of his skin was not as obvious as that of a full-blooded Vulcan, but even he looked pale compared to his usual appearance. The strain was even more visible on Sarek's face. He was outright pale and the dark circles under his eyes spoke volumes of the pain and exhaustion he had endured.
She remained at her place by the door, grateful that she was allowed to witness the operation at all. This was certainly not normal procedure. Her own heart nearly stopped when the ship rocked violently a few times and, suddenly, sickbay was without power. She nearly ran to Sarek when the nurse darted away to retrieve the manual heart stimulator to keep his heart working. Even Spock looked concerned when Sarek's heart failed. The ship continued to rock and vibrate, but she didn't waste a thought about the battle situation the Enterprise was obviously involved in. All that mattered was her family, which was at stake now.
After a time that seemed to stretch into eternity, the operation was finally completed. She sat beside Sarek's bed and waited for the anaesthetic to lose its effect. Spock was still sleeping in a second bed beside his father. He still looked pale, but Dr. McCoy had assured her he wasn't suffering any ill effects of the blood production stimulant. She still wondered what could have convinced him to change his mind. She had asked McCoy and the nurse, but both gave her evasive answers. She was curious what Spock would tell her.
She studied Sarek's face. He did not look as pale as before but he had not reached his healthy color either. She lifted a hand and stroked two fingers lovingly over his cheek. The bond stirred lightly. He would awake soon.
She drew her hand away and leaned back. Now that the fear about losing him was gone, the questions about his silence returned. She tried to suppress the feeling but when he had told her in front of all others he'd had two heart attacks and didn't tell her, she had felt betrayed. Her sorrow about him had clouded the feeling, but now it was returning full measure. Why didn't he trust her? She was his bondmate. If he held his silence about this, how could she be sure that there were no other secrets, now and in future, that he hid from her? She had a right to know if he was unwell. After all he had nearly died.
When her gaze returned to his face she started upon seeing his eyes focused on her. She forced a smile on her lips. "How do you feel?" she asked in a low voice so as not to disturb their sleeping son.
He didn't answer, but lifted a hand in the gesture for mind contact. For the first time in their marriage, she hesitated before she lifted her own hand to match her fingers to his. The reaction did not slip past his notice and he lifted a surprised eyebrow. He opened the bond carefully and found her mind where it had always been since the day of their bonding. He felt her joy about being reunited with him, but he also noticed her reluctance to share everything she felt with him.
//What is it, aduna?//
//Do you really have to ask?//
//I could not tell you of my condition.//
//Why not? We always shared things regardless if they were good or bad news.//
//The circumstances regarding Corridan required my assistance. There was no other way. You have to trust me in this.//
//Trust you? How can I after what you did to me? You embarrassed me in front of all the others. I was practically the last one who learned of your condition. Sarek, I'm your bondmate, but I needed a doctor to tell me that you had a heart defect. He could have very well informed me of your death and I wouldn't have known why. You were this close.// She held up her hand to show the symbolic small distance with her fingers. //Where is your trust in me? Why didn't you tell me first? We could have gone through this together.//
//No, we could not,// he replied.
Her mind voice grew louder. //Yes, we could. Fate didn't force you to keep your secret. That was your decision.// He remained silent. She sighed mentally. //You want my trust but you are not able to trust me.//
He drew back his hand and looked silently at her, neither admitting nor denying his mistake. This reaction was typical for him. He knew he'd made a mistake, but he would not admit it.
She would not budge this time. She spoke in a low voice to him. "Trust is something you do not simply ask for. Not even you can just demand it from me. It is something that grows with time. You must nourish it so that it becomes strong and deep."
Before Sarek had time to answer, a noise from the other room interrupted them. Spock had obviously heard it too, for he stirred and sat up in the other bed. Amanda recognized the voices of the doctor and the captain. She fled the room, glad for an excuse to escape the uncomfortable discussion.
Sarek and Spock stared after her, the latter with confusion on his face. He immediately recognized the atmosphere between his parents to be unusually tense. He had seldom witnessed a fight between them, but he was able to see the signs in both of them.
Before he had a chance to speak with his father, Amanda returned to the room, followed by the doctor and the captain. While they spoke, he tried to loosen up the tense situation between his parents, surprisingly with Sarek's help. But he, as well as Sarek, could see that Amanda was playing along for show than really forgiving any of them. He already dreaded telling her the reasons for changing his mind regarding the operation. He watched her and decided she was good at playing her role; the doctor and the captain didn't even notice. She had often performed the role of the proper wife of the ambassador and Spock knew she would never go against Sarek publicly, but the veiled flash in her eyes told him that his father was in for a fight in private. She would surely make him pay for the mistake of not telling her about the heart defect.
He was able to resume his duties the next day again and he stayed in sickbay as long as he could, hoping to find out whether the fragile peace between him and Sarek was going to last. The operation had strained the elder Vulcan 's body more than Sarek would admit. Only his long periods of sleep told the story of a body that had finally begun to heal. He stood beside his father's bed and stared down at him, asking himself whether the icy silence had found an end with this reunion. His father was still asleep when he had to go back on shift. He cast a last look at the vital sign's monitor above Sarek's biobed and noticed, with relief, that the values had remained within normal ranges, then he left to take his place on the bridge again.
The days after Sarek's recovery were filled with hours of negotiations and preparations for the Babel conference. To his dismay, he seldom found time to speak to his wife. Every time he could spare a few minutes, she was not available. He didn't know whether this was mere coincidence or if Amanda was avoiding him, but she did not wait up for him when he returned to their quarters late in the ship's nights like she did at home. Each time, she was already asleep. Was it true or his own imagination that she lay at the other side of the bed as far away from him as she could without leaving their sleeping quarters?
Although their quarters were warm enough for a Vulcan, he felt illogically cold when he lay beside her and didn't dare to enclose her in his arms. But the cold inside him originated more from the silence in their bond. Even in her sleep, Amanda turned away from him, making it clear that she had still not forgiven him. He knew how stubborn she was.
'Spock must have inherited this trait from her,' he thought one evening after the Babel conference was finally over and they were en route back to Vulcan. Silently, he wondered how he and Amanda could find peace between them again. He missed her. She was lying only a short distance away from him but the space between them seemed to be much greater. All that he met when he tried to contact her through the bond was a wall of rejection. He could have easily penetrated that wall and made contact with her mind, but the thought abhorred him. He simply had to bide his time until she was ready to work this out with him.
* * *
Amanda was not sleeping either. In fact, she had slept very little in the last few days. Spock had finally revealed his motives to her regarding his actions before the conference. She had been shocked to know that the captain and Dr. McCoy had tricked him to bring him down to sickbay.
But had they really? She hadn't asked that question. At first, the news about the reasons for his change of mind had been more than she could bear and she ran away from him. The hours afterwards had been nearly as bad as when Sarek's life was at stake. She couldn't turn to her husband either. The wound of Sarek's silence about the heart defect had still not begun to heal. So the only place where she found solitude had been the observation deck. That was where Spock had found her at last. The talk afterwards had not been easy for him either, and he admitted that he had been relieved when Kirk had taken over command of the Enterprise. He had had his doubts about the captain's health at that time but he simply wished to believe what his friends told him. There was another important factor involved. Spock had always longed for Sarek's acceptance. He felt like proving his humanity to his father by giving in because of emotional reasons. Staying in command of the Enterprise had been the logical thing to do. He would not admit those emotional reasons but she could see it written clearly in his dark eyes that were so much like Sarek's, equally deep and expressive.
She had listened silently with growing insight when he explained his motives. Were all his actions guided by the basic wish of a child to be acknowledged by his parent? She was Sarek's bondmate; she knew he loved his son more than he would ever admit. But Spock didn't know what his father hid behind the wall of icy silence. Obviously, Spock's insecurity about the situation between him and Sarek had led him to believe that only the most logical action would satisfy his father and prove him to be the Vulcan son Sarek had lost. She could not blame him for his choice. After all. he had acted according to the values he had been taught.
They had separated with peace between them. She could never hate him; he was her son, and she loved him more than life itself, but the wounds needed time to heal regardless how desperate his motives had been.
She felt Sarek move in bed behind her and wondered what he was up to. In contrast to their usual habit of sleeping in close contact, he had avoided touching her since they shared a bed again after his recovery. He had probably felt that she wouldn't appreciate it. She had tried to come to terms with recent events but had reached an impasse at how to deal with the situation. The time for a talk would come soon. But what could she tell him? That she loved him but could not cope with him keeping secrets from her? He didn't need to share everything with her; she would not demand this. After all, they were two separate personalities. It was more the fact that he had shut her out from something that could have killed him. She had always thought they were so close that one trusted the other unreservedly. The knowledge that she had been wrong cut her deeply. She could not forgive him. Not right now.
Unfortunately, he chose just this moment for a first attempt at reconciliation. She felt him shift nearer to her and place a hand on her shoulder. She wanted to snap at him but, surprisingly, his touch felt so good that the words of rejection came out as a whisper. "Please don't. Leave me alone," she whispered, her voice quivering slightly. Angry about her own weakness, she pulled her shoulder out of his grasp and moved away from him.
He pulled back and sat up. She almost wished he would talk to her in the tense minutes that followed, but he remained silent. Then he stood and went to the door that opened smoothly for him. She turned slightly and could see his silhouette clearly against the light outside where a small wall panel illuminated the room for orientation. Anybody else wouldn't have seen the hidden pain in his posture, but she knew him long enough to read his body language. He suffered from the separation from her, of that she had no doubt. She wanted nothing more than to forgive him, but before she could speak, the door closed behind him and he was gone. She hugged the pillow tight to her and the tears flowed freely over her cheeks while she cried for them both.
Finally the Enterprise took position around Vulcan. The last reception had been given and Sarek and his diplomatic staff were brought back to the surface. The situation between the ambassador and his wife had not changed although both would never show any signs of their personal difficulties in public.
When the suitcases were finally unpacked and everything was in its place again, Amanda went outside to check on her garden. She couldn't stay in the house a moment longer, although they had arrived only a short time ago. Everything in the house and in the garden was as it had been when they left two weeks ago, but at the same time, everything had changed. She turned and looked to the window of the study. Sarek had retreated into his sanctuary as soon as they had returned. The curtains were closed and she could not look inside.
She turned, lowered her gaze and stroked the soft surface of a rose petal. The flower had already completed its blooming cycle. The filigreed structure fell apart under her touch and the petals sailed to the red sand below. She raised her gaze and saw the curtains in the study move. Had he observed her?
She sighed and walked along the path that wound its way through the garden. When she had reached a place that could not be seen from the house, she sat on a bench and watched the sunset. Her face was serene, illuminated by the soft red glow of Vulcan's sun. Only her nervously playing hands betrayed the racing thoughts inside her.
Had it been wrong to reject his attempt at healing the wounds between them on board the Enterprise? But then, would a silent apology have been enough to set things right? His decision could have caused them to be torn apart forever. He could have died. Couldn't he see that it had been a mistake to keep the news about his condition to himself? But Sarek was Sarek after all. He was convinced he had acted logically and indeed, he was right to some degree. She couldn't have done anything to improve his condition or prevent him from taking this mission. She would have been helpless if he had told her. But that was not the point, was it? For him, not telling her was a matter of logic. For her, it was a matter of broken trust. She was raised to believe that a married couple shared problems. Had they not vowed to care for each other in good and bad times on the day of their Terran wedding? What did this vow mean to him? He claimed to understand what it meant to be there for each other regardless of the situation, but he acted in the opposite way by keeping his critical medical condition to himself.
It was nearly dark now and she started when the fine grit on the path crunched under approaching footsteps. She didn't turn her head but continued to stare at the point where Nevasa had just disappeared below the horizon. She knew it was Sarek who walked over to her. She would have recognized his footsteps among thousands of others. She moistened her lips nervously and could not avoid darting a glance in his direction when he sat down beside her. He didn't talk, nor did he touch her, and she shifted nervously under the heavy load of an awkward situation between them.
"You missed the sunset." She tried to break the silence that threatened to crush her nerves.
He merely raised an eyebrow at her attempt at small talk. He knew it was a human technique used to ease unpleasant situations, but Amanda had never been good at it. She was too straight forward and to the point for distracting her conversational partner with senseless talk.
"It seems I missed a lot more during the last weeks," he answered.
That caused her to look at him. She frowned lightly. "Are you trying to apologize to me, Sarek?"
He turned and gazed at her calmly. "No, aduna. There is nothing to apologize for."
She jumped up. "What?! You risk your life against all reason, don't tell me until it is already too late and you claim to have nothing to apologize for?!" She didn't wait for his answer and paced up and down, shaking her head. "I can't believe it."
"I acted logically. You could not have changed my heart condition. Furthermore, the situation on Babel required my assistance. The failure of the negotiations could have destabilized a whole quadrant."
'Then you were successful,' she thought. 'It didn't endanger the stability of the quadrant, only of our marriage.' She shook her head in resignation and turned to the wall that separated the garden from the desert. She rested her hands on the stones that still held the warmth of the day stored inside. It helped to ease the chill of the approaching desert night but her inner core remained cold. She started when she felt his familiar warmth behind her. She straightened, surprised again that she had not been aware of him until he nearly touched her.
"Maybe you can help me understand, my wife," he whispered, perceiving her thoughts through the bond.
She expected him to touch her and froze but he only rested his hands on the wall on each side of her. She took a deep breath. "This is not a matter of logic, Sarek. Our marriage never was." She hesitated but he didn't interrupt her, so she continued, "This is about trust. I know I couldn't help you improve your condition, but I could have been there for you, to share your concerns, and make it easier for you." Her voice had dropped to a whisper by the time she had finished."
"But you were there for me, aduna."
She turned to him and he stepped back upon seeing the mixture of anger and despair in her eyes. "Are you deliberately misunderstanding me? It wouldn't have been the same if I had known." He regarded her doubtfully. She turned away from him and paced up and down again, trying to order her thoughts and make him understand why his actions had sent a tremor of doubt through her trust in him. She finally stopped and looked at him.
His face was set in his usual Vulcan expression but the small lines on his forehead and the ever so slightly knitted brows revealed his confusion and concern to her.
She walked over to him and took his hands in hers. "Sarek, you know me better than anyone else, nevertheless you fail to understand me. I don't want to turn you inside out, to occupy every minute of your time, or to be the center of your attention all day long, but I do want you to trust me. We have been through many ups and downs during our marriage. Don't you think that I could have handled this, too? It was embarrassing to be informed about your condition by the doctor instead of you but even then it was not my pride that was hurt." She lowered her eyes. "You shook my trust in you by showing me that you don't trust me enough to tell me about a condition that could have killed you, regardless of your reasons. Don't you see that?"
Sarek looked down on her bent silver head and analyzed the things she had told him. From a Vulcan's point of view, he had acted logically. It did not occur to him that she would see it as a breach of trust. A Vulcan wife would have understood the reasons, but Amanda was not Vulcan. He thought he knew what it meant to base a marriage on more than logical decisions and actions. But to know a fact, and to understand and act on this knowledge were two different things. Maybe her devotion to him had once too often balanced the situation between them to his advantage and now it couldn't. They had been close to losing one another. Maybe they still were. The thought sliced through him like a knife and his grip on her hands tightened momentarily. That caused her to look up.
Their gaze met and he leaned down slowly until his forehead touched hers. They remained in this position until Amanda raised her head again. She saw his questioning gaze and felt him search for a way to set things right between them through the bond. She smiled slightly and freed one of her hands from his. It felt good to see understanding dawn in him and their touch made her long for his embrace, but she would need more time and effort to heal than this silent admission. Slowly she stroked her fingers down his cheek and took a deep breath.
"Time, beloved," she whispered. She gazed intently up to him. //And your trust, husband.// She released his hands and walked slowly in the direction of the house. She did not offer her hand to lead him back but stopped a few feet away. She tilted her head slightly sideways in a silent question, and resumed her steps only when she saw him follow her. They walked back to the house, not touching but at least together, making the first steps on the way to recovery.